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Sunday, July 31, 2016

What I Learned this Summer

1. Emoji etiquette
I'm kind of late to the tech game, and don't know a whole lot about emojis.  I do think some of them are cute... but I'll admit that as I stare at some of them on the keyboard I have no idea what any of them represent! They've become a craze, though, and some are easily recognizable.. but I had not idea that emojis can be overused. And also, there is such a thing as an emoji expert. How can one get that job? Check out this clip for emoji etiquette!

2. The making of sponges
I read a book set in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where the sponge docks were a key location, and that got me thinking about sponges. I guess because I mainly purchase synthetic sponges to wash my dishes... but sponges are real, live things. I feel like I should have known this because of SpongeBob Squarepants, but... I mean, they are created... but there are also REAL sponges harvested from the sea.  And they are high quality.

3. Peppers are a fruit. I feel like I should have known this as Paul Griffith's grand-daughter.

4. Natural Bridge, Kentucky has more than one trail. See Our Summer of Hiking for more.

5. There's nothing like being outside to clear your mind. The more time on the lake I spent, the more time in the hills breathing in the fresh air as I avoided tree roots in the path, the better I felt. This summer has rejuvenated me.

6. It doesn't matter how much you're ready, losing somebody hurts. My Papaw had been sick for several years, and hadn't been able to get out and do things that he wanted to do. It was hard to see him in the nursing home bed the last few months, knowing that he'd rather be at home watching his TV, or better yet, out on his tractor... but even knowing that, and knowing he was ready to go, it still hurts. A month later, and I still catch myself wanting to walk over to the nursing home during Caleb's football practice to peek in on him. I thank God for the time that I got to spend with him, though, and am reminded that I mourn with hope and that we should live each day to the fullest.

7. The beach does make some things better. As I sat at the ocean's edge and contemplated life, how big God was and how very small I was the week after Papaw died, I knew that in His infinite wisdom He has a plan for all things, and that while I may not see them working out now, I will eventually.

8. Teenagers are fun. I knew that, but was reminded of it this summer as I watched Caleb and Lauren Green laugh and joke. Tonight on my walk, Lauren was in the hammock and Caleb was standing in the yard dancing, and it was pure joy for me to watch.

9. I am too old to tube on the lake...
I learned this when my cousin's inner tube came unplugged, causing Wallace and I to flip head over heels and hit the water... hard.
I've been head over heels for him for years now, but this brought all new meaning to it.

10. Family is the most important thing. Spending time with my Clemons Clan gang, my Griffith family at Green River or at my cousin's baby shower welcoming Baby Scarlette, or the Bates/Bowling group on Twin Cedar Road this summer has been like balm to my soul. Hearing Melody laugh and seeing her begin to toddle, or listening to Will talk, or just holding Wallace's hand as we rode around Hollybush... well, knowing you belong is comforting. Having someone who knows you, who gets you, who lets you just be you, is invaluable. God made us for relationships, but too often we humans mess them up. May I continue to grow in grace and love, and continue to appreciate these gifts that have been loaned to me for this time.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Our Summer of HIking

So if you know me you know I don't care much for exercise, but I've been trying to be more active. I do love the outside, minus the bugs and the Kentucky humidity...

But nature is gorgeous and I'm amazed and in awe when I'm out in the woods.

So naturally, because I'm such an outdoors girl and love to move so much, Wallace and I decided to take up hiking. I've lived an hour from the Gorge all my life, and have never really spent much time there. Oh, sure there's been the requisite trip to Natural Bridge most summers, and we spent a lot of time at the picnic shelter and in the creek there when I was young feeding ducks with Mamaw Na, but I'd never really hiked...

because, you know.  Bugs and snakes and sweat...

So, anyway, we researched a little bit and found a site that had 10 top hikes in the Gorge, and we set out to go see them... because Kentucky is beautiful and it's something we can do together (and we have limited cell service, which is a plus for me!)

We had hopes to get them all accomplished this summer, but then got sidetracked at Natural Bridge because who knew there was more than one trail there???

And also, rain and humidity and hot weather because who wants to die hiking in 90+ degrees?

So, our plan is to finish up this list during the fall on weekends when there isn't volleyball or SMS football or UK football.
  1. Indian Staircase and Indian Arch (3.5 miles – unmarked – difficult) *to be completed at a later date
  2. Whittleton Arch (2.5 miles – easy)
This one actually doubles on our to do list because it connects the Natural Bridge to the Gorge. On June 28, Wallace and I walked 7.1 miles- parked and walked Lakeside Trail at Natural Bridge, up to Hemlock Lodge, around to Whittleton Campground, and then followed Whittleton Trail to Hwy 15, and went to the overpass looking at the Mountain Parkway at Slade Hill. On our way back, we sidetracked to Whittleton Arch, which is one of the prettiest arches I've seen. Lots of huge rock formations along the way. (And, of course, we then celebrated our hike with some Miguel's Pizza!).



3. Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph (5.6 miles – unmarked – moderate) *to be completed at a later date
    4. Gray’s Arch (4.0 miles – easy)
June 6, 2016- Wallace, Caleb, Lauren Green and I hit the trail for this one in the afternoon after summer practice. It was a nice 75 degrees, so not too hot. Beautiful scenery, even though I struggle with looking at my feet and missing out on what was around me because I'm a clutz and I was afraid I'd trip. One time, though, about a mile into our walk, I looked over and saw that we were on top of the ridge line and it was gorgeous. We walked and stayed on the trail and did pretty good until we were about 3 miles in. We came upon a staircase and Caleb said "God told me to take that." Which was quickly followed by "This is the staircase to Heaven because I feel like I'm dying." (Noone has ever said Caleb isn't dramatic). Then, halfway up the staircase, "If this doesn't lead to where we are, I'm going to be mad." At the top of said staircase, Wallace decided that we had taken a wrong turn, so back down we went. We made it to Gray's Arch, and it was beautiful. Truly beautiful. We climbed up directly underneath the rock and ran into a friendly snake (as friendly as snakes can be) who let us just proceed on our way... except there was nowhere to go. So, after being convinced that we were lost and needed a helicopter to come pick us up, we backtracked to the staircase and decided that maybe Caleb had been right. I've never seen him so relieved to see the car...

5. Auxier Ridge & Courthouse Rock (5.0 miles- moderate) *to be completed at a later date
6. Natural Bridge & Laurel Ridge Trail (3.0 miles – easy)
5-30-16 We were more familiar with this one, obviously. After dropping Caleb and Lauren Green off to ride the skylift up to meet us, Wallace, Helen and I parked at the parking lot closest to the swimming pool and I may or may not have commiserated on how I missed the paddleboats (because y'all know how much I would have used them!) Again, no surprises here, because I had hiked up to the bridge... but at the top there was a family who were singing from the Sound of Music and How Great Thou Art and as I looked around it was just fitting. We made our way to the skylift and met up with the kiddos, and then headed over to Lookout Point. I honestly don't know that I have ever walked that trail, and it was awesome to look across and see the view of the bridge. Then we followed the trail on to Lover's Leap, and again the views were awesome. We hiked back to the bridge, and followed the trail to Balanced Rock, another trail I had never been on before. After what seemed like a million steps, we met up with Papaw William, Greg, Regina, and Will and had lunch at the lodge. Great family day!


When we walked at Natural Bridge, Caleb was given a map that showed ten trails around Natural Bridge. I'm pretty sure the only one that I had ever walked was the original trail... so we decided that we'd conquer all of those trails, too. We did 3/10 on this hike.
June 14- We completed two more, walking Battleship Rock Trail and Rock Garden Trail for a hike that was about 3.5 miles. We traveled up Needle's Eye Staircase, which was erected in the 1930s and has a fitting name. We were also pleasantly surprised to find ourselves below the skylift. We had often seen people underneath as we rode up but didn't know their was a trail.
And we rewarded ourselves with Miguel's Pizza!
 
June 19- Wallace and I hit the trails and walked to Henson's Arch, near Whittleton Campground. We didn't climb down the sinkhole because a couple we met on the trail said they had just seen a copperhead that snuck back into the leaves, but it was beautiful.
We then rode the skylift up to the Bridge to hike down Hood's Branch Trail. I was not reassured when the lady selling tickets at the lift told us that the trail was more wooded so we'd be more likely to see snakes, and when she asked if we had on boots it worried me even more. Wallace was not reassured when she asked what model of car we drove and then wrote it down... but it was a nice hike and we finished it quicker than we had thought we would. It truly was a walk through the woods, with some lovely footbridges and a trek over rocks and fallen logs.
 
* At Natural Bridge we still have two trails to finish up. One is a 7 miler, and the other is just 0.5 mile
7. Silvermine Arch & Hidden Arch (5.1 miles – moderate) * to be completed at a later date
8. Turtle Back Arch & Rock Bridge (4.0 miles – unmarked – moderate) * to be completed at a later date
9. Rock Bridge Loop (1.5 miles – unmarked – easy)
This was the first one Wallace and I decided to do, on a spontaneous drive through the Gorge. Creation Falls is beautiful. An easy hike until we started back up the hill =)
We hope to do this one again with Caleb and Will and let them hang out at the swimming hole.
10. Chimney Top Rock, Princess Arch, & Half Moon Arch (1.8 miles – easy) * to be completed at a later date

Plus, driving through the Gorge I saw several other trails that I wanted to do... including one to Copperas Falls.
Eastern Kentucky... it's beautiful! We have it right at our fingertips. Get out and explore!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Change of Heart: A Review And a Giveaway!


Twenty years ago I visited Amish country in Pennsylvania and became fascinated. I have loved Amish fiction every since.

For fans of Amish fiction, Good writes an easy to read story that brings likeable characters into play, causing the reader to hope for love even in the midst of their trials.

Lydia is the "good" big sister, watching over the family and making sure that everyone else is doing what they need to do. When her sister leaves with an Englisher, she finds herself struggling with how to convince her to come back to the family.

Caleb doesn't appreciate Lydia's sister distracting his brother from med school, so he is an unlikely ally for Lydia. However, there's just something about him.

As her Mammi has surgery, her family faces the flu, and tragedy occurs, Lydia must try to stay true to herself even as she struggles with finding Caleb attractive.

I would give this book four stars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction and a good lighthearted romance. The book was well-written, easy to follow, and the characters were likeable and well-developed.


About the Book

Lydia Esh’s younger sister Emma is running wild during Rumschpringe, causing the family major heartaches. Although it means risking her reputation, her job as a schoolteacher, and her courtship with Jakob Zook, Lydia attends parties to watch over Emma and protect her sister’s virtue.
When Emma begins a relationship with Kyle, an Englischer, Lydia teams up with Kyle’s older brother, Caleb, to keep the couple apart. As Lydia and Caleb spend time together keeping an eye on their siblings, Lydia falls for this forbidden love. Will she stay true to her faith even if it means giving up the man she loves?
About the Author

Rachel J. Good, inspirational author, writes life-changing, heartfelt novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. She is the author of Amish romances in the Sisters & Friends series. She grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for her novels. A former teacher and librarian, she completed her MA from Vermont College while raising five children. She is presently an MFA student in Writing and Illustration at Hollins University. In addition to having more than 2200 articles and 30 books in print or forthcoming under several pseudonyms, she also juggles freelance editing and illustration careers. To buy the Amish Quilts Coloring Book: http://amzn.to/1T35q5p  Visit Rachel at:
Website: www.racheljgood.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/racheljgoodnovels/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelJGood1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14661177.Rachel_J_Good
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/racheljgood1/

Guest Post from Rachel J. Good

Hi, I’m Rachel J. Good, inspirational author of heartfelt tales of faith, hope, and forgiveness.
I’m excited to launch the first book in my Sisters & Friends Amish series, Change of Heart. Although I’ve been writing for many years and have about 30 books out now, this is my first inspirational novel. I’m busy editing book 2, Buried Secrets, and writing book 3, Gift from Above. And I’m planning the next three books in the series.
I’ve been asked how I came to write Amish novels. For that, I have to credit my agent Mary Sue Seymour, who suggested it to me. I loved the idea because I’d lived near Lancaster, PA, and had always been interested in the Amish. Although Mary Sue went to heaven a few months ago, just before the book launched, I feel her presence in my life as I write. She believed in me as a writer and encouraged me to work on this novel, which she quickly sold.
Lydia’s story in Change of Heart has several connections with my real life. The first is that I’m the oldest in my family and have two sisters, and so does Lydia. We both feel responsible our younger sisters. Lydia’s younger sister, Emma, gets in trouble during Rumschpringe. (And no, her wild sister doesn’t resemble either of my two younger sisters.)
The second connection with my life is the spiritual lesson Lydia learns in the book. I wanted Lydia’s journey to be not only a struggle between faith and love, but also a personal inner journey from self-righteousness to seeing with God’s loving eyes.
Oftentimes, goodness and spirituality can be a source of pride, and it can also be used to justify being judgmental. Lydia’s sister Emma points this out to her, but in my case, it was my young daughter who piped up, when I was complaining about someone at church, and said, “She sounds just like you, Mommy.” Ouch!
That day I came face to face with the truth that often what I criticize most in another person is often a flaw or a sin I’m overlooking in myself. As Matthew 7:3 (NIV) says: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I wanted Lydia’s story to reflect that truth.
The Amish try to avoid the sin of hochmut (pride), but Lydia, without realizing it, is secretly proud of her own spirituality. It often saddens me that, as Christians, we spend more time criticizing others outside the faith or with different lifestyles or beliefs, but very little time examining our own unloving and judgmental behavior. I’d like to see us become more like Jesus, who ate with the “publicans and sinners,” and showed love to everyone, instead of condemning them.
Lydia is also forced to choose between staying in her faith or leaving it for love. I, too, faced a similar challenge many years ago, so I wrote those scenes from my heart. I hope Lydia’s story touches hearts, and that readers come away reassured that although we can’t always see the larger picture, God can, and He’s working out a wonderful plan for us. Our present circumstances might seem dark, but He knows the final results. We need to trust Him even during the challenging times, because “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

Blog Stops

July 14: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations
July 15: Bigreadersite
July 16: Blossoms and Blessings
July 17: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
July 18: Bukwurmzzz
July 19: Christian Bookaholic
July 20: Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner
July 21: Singing Librarian Books
July 22: Quiet Quilter
July 23: Texas Book-aholic
July 24: A Greater Yes
July 24: Carpe Diem
July 25: Red Headed Book Lady
July 25: Cassandra M’s Place
July 26: His Grace is Sufficient
July 27: cherylbbookblog

GIVEAWAY!!!
To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away lots of fun prizes, including copies of her books and even a box of Whoopie Pies from Bird-in-Hand Bakery. Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/9ed1

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dance and Be Glad: A Review And a Giveaway!


Mike is a doctor whose brother's untimely death has left his raising his niece alone.

Jill is a dance instructor who lost her husband in the military, leaving her and her young daughter to face life alone.

The two were high school sweethearts, except Jill's father didn't approve. Now, years and life circumstances later, the two meet again.

As these two are trying to adapt to their new lives in their new roles as single parents, the complication of a relationship may be the last thing that they want... but the thing they need most.

And isn't that just how life is? The beauty of life is that we find ourselves working through different phases at the same time.

I loved the plot of this book, as there is nothing better than high school sweethearts finding each other. The characters are really sweet as well, and I really, really wanted things to work out for this couple as well as their kiddos. It's always a plus when you like the characters you are reading about.

This book is the second in a series, but could be read as a read-alone. And this author is fabulous. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review through Celebrate Lit, as well as the first book in the series, and when I couldn't get the version to work on my Kindle, she emailed me several times to get me a book that did work. That means a lot to me!  You can visit the author page at this link to purchase both of these books, as well as others by Wardwell: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Wardwell/e/B00T17KNGE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1469279085&sr=8-1

The only thing I didn't like about this book is that the flow wasn't great all the time. There were times when it would switch to the past, when Mike and Jill were in high school, and it would take me a few minutes to figure out who was talking and when it was set.

I'd give this book 3.5 stars and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves light, easy to read romances.




About the Book

Jillian Matthews is a widowed mom and owner of a dance studio in a small farming community. When her husband died nine years ago in the desert of the Middle East, a piece of her died as well and she lost all joy in the day to day blessings. Tiny dancers and her daughter, Katie, are her main focus until an old flame, Michael Emerson, waltzes back into her life, awakening things she thought dead and gone.
Dr. Michael Emerson told himself he was happy with his bachelorhood after a messy divorce. He thought his life as an ER doctor and yearly missions work left  no room for a wife and family. When tragedy strikes and he is left with an unforeseen situation, he must evaluate his life and make some major changes.
About the Author

am an independently published author of Christian romance.
I wear many hats from one day to the next. I am a devoted wife, basketball and dance mother, teacher, taxi service, friend, caregiver, daughter, sister, and now, published author. Seeing all that is enough to make my head spin. But more importantly, I am the Daughter of the Most High King.
I was raised in and still reside in a little farm town in Mid- Michigan called Corunna. It’s quiet and simple, just the way I like it. If I can’t live out in the country among the corn fields and trees then living in this small town works for me.  My husband and I have been together since high school and have 3 children, all of whom we homeschool. It has been quite the journey, but I couldn’t ask for a better life.
I decided to give writing a try because I needed something to occupy my down time, but after reading my first draft of my first book, What God Brings Together, I then understood that God had a much bigger plan.  God does not give His children a desire just so that it can go to waste. I never anticipated the journey God would put me on through writing, but I am excited to see what He has in mind for the future.
I have always felt a call to reach out to women and mothers, to encourage them in their lives. So naturally, all my stories revolve around women who are mothers: single mothers, widowed mothers, young mothers, married mothers, and even women who have a mother’s heart but no children of her own.
My greatest hope is that each story touches your heart, gives you hope, or just gives you a moment away from the chaos of life. Lord, knows we have earned it.

Guest Post from Melissa Wardwell

When I wrote the first book in this series, “What God Brings Together”, it wasn’t supposed to become a series. It has seemed to have a mind of its own and is spiraling into other books.
You met Dr. Michael Emerson in the first book as the third wheel to Emma and Ryan’s crazy triangle. As soon as I finished it and read through it one last time, Mike’s character begged to have his own story. I felt bad giving such a nice guy a sad ending. So an idea formed for a story focused on him but it took me a while to decide on who his other half would be. I was sitting in front of the dance studio two of my kids attend, and it hit me. A Dance teacher and studio owner. From there the story went out of control- in a good way. The dance studio is the actual studio my kids dance at, and much of the descriptions of the location are the same as the space. The town is even the real town this studio is in. It is such a quiet place and I love it.
I live in the area this series takes place. The county has a funny name as it is a Native American name – Shiawassee. It is nothing but small towns and farm land. New Lothrop, the main location for this story, has a population of approx. 600. I spend many hours there because of dance and I have grown to love the quiet little farm town.
I like to bring light to actual business in some of my work, so when I chose to write in Infinity Dance Company I had to include the location. There is also a neat little coffee shop that I talk about in this book that is also an actual coffee shop.
I am all about promoting local business, so if I can plug a cool business in my books, I will.
You will see a bit more of another character from the first book, Tiffany, and you’ll get some insight into her story as well but you won’t get the full picture until the release of “I Know the Plans” which is set to come out no later than next spring – hopefully. I also introduce a new character in “Dance and Be Glad” whose story is heartbreaking but you won’t know much more until book four “Redeemed Through Grace” comes out in 2018.
“Dance and Be Glad” is about finding joy in the middle of uncertainty and the scary moments in life. We can let the sudden changes bring us down or we can look at them as an opportunity to learn something new. I have witnessed a lot of tragedy and sudden losses in my personal life to learn that God still has me in His hands even when I feel like my world is crumbling. My prayer is that each reader can have a similar revelation.

Blog Stops

July 13: Carpe Diem
July 14: Sue Stinnett
July 15: KarensKrayons
July 17: Petra’s Hope
July 17: Splashes of Joy
 July 24: Quiet Quilter
 
Giveaway!!!
 
To celebrate her tour, Melissa is giving away a wonderful package that includes a hand-crafted necklace. Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/9ec0
 

 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Solution

The cursor blinks on this white page, mocking me.

There's so much that I want to say, but I don't know how to formulate the words.

My world has been reeling the past three weeks. The highs and lows and I've gone through the motions.

Blessed to go on vacation, allowing me to forget the hurt in my heart...

or at least have it numbed a bit.

And then the terror in Dallas and Nice and Baton Rouge.

The pettiness and cattiness of this local wet/dry election.

The points made about the drug epidemic.

It's real, y'all. I see it every single day, and yet I'm helpless to stop it.

It seems that we are all helpless to stop it.

So it wrecks homes and separates families.

And sometimes it becomes a mockery, because isn't it easier to joke about something that to face it?

Our world is hurting. It doesn't matter where you're at. What you look like. What your job is. What color you are.

Life hurts.

I wish I didn't sound so jaded. I know in my mind that it's me trying to process this hurt... this sense of loss...

but it still seems senseless to me.

Let's be real, y'all.

I know the answer is Jesus.

I know that He is already victorious, and that He's going to wipe away every tear...

but sometimes my heart is still too heavy.

I wish that I could do something.

In this world you shall have trouble...

Because isn't that our first response? To do something? To act? To talk about it? To point fingers and blame someone else?

Take heart...

Even when you feel like your heart is broken. Even when you don't understand why good people get messed up doing bad things or why you don't understand why loved ones have to die even when they were ready to go. Even when you don't know what the answer is to the economic downturn in the place that you love. Even when you feel hopeless...

I have overcome the world.

Keep looking, keep clinging, even when you feel it slipping away. He's the Overcomer. He is in control...

So why doesn't He stop things?

Why doesn't He step in and make the shooting and the drugs and the hurtful words stop?

We aren't supposed to question Him...

but I've wondered this.

And I know others have, too.

I followed a post on Twitter yesterday for the hashtag Jesus Changes Everything.

Y'all, I believe that with all my heart. I've seen His change. Felt it. Two years ago when Grandma died He held me... and He's held me this year through the loss of Uncle Dennis and Papaw.

His work on the Cross has given me hope, so that I can take heart.

But there's a lot of people out there who don't know Him, and all they see is the evil. How can He just stand by and let it happen?

I don't pretend to be a Biblical scholar, and there are times when I hurt so bad I don't even want to open my Bible. I forget to pray. I get stubborn, even, and pout like a little kid...

But I know He sees me. And He sees every aching person. He's not ignoring it.

He's taking count of every single action against the innocent.

And He will repay.

It doesn't make it any easier.

So our job, as we work through this chaos and pain called life, is to be the light in the darkness. Salt of the earth. A city on the hill.

The example.

And sometimes, the world needs to see that we hurt, too...

It's ok to not be ok.

It's ok to be confused.

As long as we know that He is not the author of confusion.

And then, as we are that light, we love.

Love by accepting others.

It's a recurrent theme on this blog.

Love is stronger than fear.

Love is a verb.

Love is looking at the problem and trying to be a part of the solution.

And knowing that the ultimate solution is Him.

And His grace is sufficient, even in our chaos and confusion.

Lord Jesus, help us.

And all the weary people, questioning people, hurting people said...

Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Going Up South: A Review & A GiveAway!


I consider myself a Southern girl, even if Kentucky is a border state. I don't like sweet tea, but I do love college football and Southern talk.

And I love books set up in the South.

But don't all of us have a slight obsession with celebrities, too?

The glamour of Hollywood, the excitement of the rich and famous?

Ferguson's book Going Up South combines both.

The Hollywood bad boy meets the small-town lawyer, Cassie, as she tries to recover from a nasty divorce and stay partial in the custody case.

In the middle, Dylan's one night stand, Jill, who finally found love with Nick, a widower.... only to find out she was pregnant with Dylan's child. Jill has the baby and doesn't tell Dylan, which maybe isn't the best move, but she's afraid because of his Hollywood connections.

This is where the story opens up...

Life is complicated, and Ferguson writes it well.

This second book in the Southern Hearts series can be read as a stand-alone, but characters are familiar from the first book in the series, Leaving Oxford.

The book touched my heart as well as it intertwined international missions. I've never been on a mission trip, but my sister did and I've been fascinated by it ever since.

The story line is excellent, and it's an easy read and hard to put down. The characters are extremely likeable. You can imagine yourself sitting down with them and having a conversation, or supporting them in their mission field, or cheering for Coach McCoy's football team.

Drama. Love.  Finding oneself in the midst of fear.

I'd highly recommend this book as well as the first book in the series, and I'm looking forward to  the third book in the series (look for a review!) Tackling the Fields.

I did receive a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review for Celebrate Lit, but I enjoyed the book so much that I will definitely be checking out other titles from this author!


About the Book

No one told him he had a son.
Actor Dylan Conner is furious. Not only has he been left out of his child’s life, the baby boy has been given another man’s last name. Determined to be a better father than the sorry guy who’d left him and his mother, Dylan fights to ensure a significant place in his son’s life. Unfortunately, his bad-boy reputation overshadows his good intentions. Only one woman in this small town sees beyond his Hollywood image. And he’s falling for her. Too bad she’s the custody mediator.
After her scandalous divorce in the small town of Oxford, Mississippi, attorney Cassie Brooks has no intentions of practicing law again. The humiliating experience left a bitter taste for love, marriage, and her profession.
Now friends need Cassie’s help in a custody negotiation, and her role demands she remain objective. She never expected to be drawn to Dylan Conner—the actor who everyone warns is bad news. Not only is the mediation at stake, but so is her heart.
About the Author

Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

Guests Post from Janet W. Ferguson

Hi, I’m Janet W. Ferguson, and I’m so excited to meet the readers of Celebrate Lit!
I’ve always been an avid reader, but I’ve had an odd career path prior to writing.
With a Banking and Finance degree, I took my first job working at a brokerage firm handling their mutual fund trades. After the market crashed in the late 80s, I took a job managing a large, upscale apartment community. During this time, I married and became a stay-at-home mom and church volunteer. My volunteering eventually led to a staff position as children’s minister. After five years, I felt my calling had changed, and I left the job, not really sure what God had in store. Haphazardly, my husband suggested I apply at our local schools. Not long afterward, I certified in teaching and became the library media specialist at the large public high school near our home. I met so many wonderful young people as children’s minister and high school librarian.
During my times as a librarian, I had a story idea for about seven years, but never made time to try my hand at writing. Finally, after my elderly parents passed away, and I felt it was time. I wrote every evening for three months, and finished my first story which was Leaving Oxford. I spent the next three years learning about the craft of writing and editing that story. Yes, there was much to learn! In the meantime, one secondary character from Leaving Oxford demanded his own story… From that, came Going Up South.
I tend to write what I know, and I’m from the peculiar and wonderful state of Mississippi. My first story was set mostly in Oxford, Mississippi. The charming town made the perfect backdrop for book 1. So book 2 is also mostly set in Oxford, although the characters go on a mission trip to Honduras.
The hero of Going Up South, Dylan Conner, is a funny and charming actor that made a number of appearances in Leaving Oxford. From outrageous costumes to intense flirting, he just had a personality as large as the characters he portrayed on the screen. In Going Up South, he realizes that he fathered a child, but he had been left out of the baby boy’s life. Though he’d never planned to have a family, due to his disappointment in his own father, seeing the child, his child, changes his mind.
Dylan’s not sure how he’ll raise a child or what to do, but he finds help in his new friend and custody mediator, Cassie Brooks.
The scripture theme for this series comes from Isaiah 61. This particular book draws on “He binds up the brokenhearted.”
The heroine, Cassie Brooks, is still hurting from her scandalous divorce in a small town. Unlike my last heroine in Leaving Oxford, Cassie had done things the way she’d been taught, avoiding alcohol, drugs, and sex outside of marriage. And her heart was still broken by an unfaithful husband. I wanted to show that life just hands out some tough blows, no matter how hard we try to do the right thing, but God is there in the midst of it all. He does bind up our broken hearts.
I pray that you are uplifted by this story, and whatever hurts life has dealt you, that you find comfort in the arms of our faithful Father. Blessings!

Blog Stops

July 8: Bigreadersite
July 11: Pause for Tales
July 17: Quiet Quilter
GIVEAWAY!!
 
To celebrate her tour, Janet is giving away some fantastic prizes including a $50 Amazon gift card! Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/9e33

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Eternal Life Matters

Last week I sat on the edge of the ocean and thought about God.

It never fails, as I've written before on this blog.

I can't help but gaze out at that water and think of how small I am, and how infinitely big my Creator is.

Yet He loves me.

He died for me.

In this world, we have things all mixed up. I've been increasingly saddened by the sheer craziness of this world. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter.

Those words sparking debate where there should be none, because over 2000 years ago Jesus settled the case for mattering, when He allowed them to nail Him to the cross so that He could die so that we could live.

Because we mattered to Him.

Here on earth, we're all about equal rights...

and I think that is ever so important. Noone is better than anyone else, and everyone deserves an opportunity.

But again, we seem to have it upside down...

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."- Philippians 2:7-8

He was God but did not consider equality with God...

but MADE HIMSELF NOTHING.

If Jesus made Himself nothing, what does that say we should do?

God despises the proud.

He upholds the humble.

Humility is desired.

Love your neighbor and pray for those who despitefully use you.

And the greatest shall be the least of these...

So hard for our minds to wrap around, how the true leader is the servant.

And in this upside down world, I can't help but think that having our own agendas is doing nothing to serve each other.

I can't pretend to know exactly where you come from... but I know that we are more alike than different. We all have fears. We all have insecurities. We all have dreams.

and we all have a God-sized hole in our heart.

This world will never be perfect...

But there will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess, and a great multitude of all tribes and tongues and nations will gather around His throne.

And we'll worship around His throne forever, y'all.

And the only life that will matter will be eternal.

And y'all, as I gazed at that ocean last week, I thought about Heaven.

No more sorrow. No more dying. Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man...

We can't even imagine it.

I jokingly posted last week that red velvet donuts from the Donut Hole are sure to be served at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

And they're good...

but if I know that's good, and I can't even imagine what He has in store for me???

It excites me.

It makes me want to love a little more...

because love is the only way to get there.

Love, and Jesus...

Who made the way for all of us.

Because to Him, the abundant life matters.

He IS the abundant life... here...

and forever.

And it's free for you, for the taking. Just ask Him.




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Let's All Smile

So...

life is tough.

This world is pretty much crazy.

Every time you turn on the TV, there's somebody new protesting something...

or somebody's getting shot...

or there's a natural disaster.

And I KNOW that we aren't supposed to let the troubles of this world trouble us, because we're born for something more, but sometimes it's hard.

It's hard to stay positive.

It's hard to love.

It's hard to see good.

So, today I posted this status on my Facebook page:
"So my newsfeed is pretty much arguments over the wet/ dry vote and coverage of protests and lying politicians so...
What's something good going on in your neck of the woods?
Melody Belle is walking AND blew me bye bye kisses so I challenge you to top that! Come on, make us smile!!"


And, seeing as how my facebook friends and family are so daggone awesome, they didn't let me down. They commented about their lives and even posted pictures of their babies and their families and it sure did make me smile.

See, it's about the little things. It's about making memories, so that when we are faced with the dark and depressing, we can pull those babies out of our back pockets and soak it up.

Here's what's making me smile right now (other than Melody Belle and my fabulous friends sharing):
1. Caleb Bates. Even though he infuriates me some days, he also makes me laugh my head off until my belly hurts.
2. Will Bates. My favorite? The other day I was eating Fungyuns in the front seat of the truck. Will said, "I smell something yellow." I said, "You want a Fungyun?" Will said, "Yes me do."
I never knew that yellow had a smell...
3. The USA Gymnastics Trials. I get excited during Olympic time, even though I don't really follow the sports the rest of the year.
4. Cinnamon roll Oreos
5. Today we went on a ride around Hollybush Farm. It is one of my favorite places on earth.
6. Today we also had a water balloon fight. Wallace and I were picked on slightly, as both Will and Caleb wanted to pelt us good... but it was good fun.

Ok, let's hear it. What's making you smile?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Into the Waves

We are first rocked to sleep in the waves.

I can remember coming home from work after a 12 hour shift. I'd get comfortable in the bed after my bath, and then he would start.

Kicking, hard, right in the ribs.

I guess that walking up and down those hallways lulled him to sleep...

Thirteen years later, I still sometimes feel like I'm being kicked in the ribs.

And then... we are born from that comfort into bright lights and cold air.

Is it any wonder that the first sign of life is that deep breathed squall?

There's the first bath...

where we're afraid to rub too hard because we may hurt their skin.

And then the kiddie pool...

where they wade in just enough to get their feet wet, and somehow we end up soaked from head to toe.

Ah, the joys of parenthood...


He's floating in Mamaw's pool, holding Mommy's hand...

and then floating in my arms, kissing me on the cheek.



And finally, I'm allowed to stay on the deck with a book in my hand, but I don't get much reading done.

Because there is infinite questioning about God and water and the clouds and the flowers and thunderstorms and pretend games.

He's just barely able to stand with his head above water...


If I close my eyes right now I can see him, at the water's edge.

He's got his water wings on, and his legs are brown as biscuits.

His front tooth had somehow gotten chipped and he can't really see, but I don't know that then.

He tiptoes up to the edge, just close enough for the sand to be wet, and then as the waves come crashing in, off he runs, trying to keep his feet dry.

Laughing, over and over...


a fun game.

I don't get too far away because he's a pretty brave boy and doesn't care to follow into the deep places.


Kind of like life...

meandering at his own pace with his own ideas and his own opinions and his own styles.

And I'm still watching him, breathless with fear, only not really afraid of him drowning anymore.

I'm afraid because this is a scary world and there's things that I can't control and I know that being a Mom I shouldn't really even try because part of them growing up is letting them face their fears.

So I sit at the water's edge and pretend to read my book while I soak up the moment...

He's got this girl.



She's a sweet girl, and I'm afraid he may be in love.

He says so, anyway.

And as I watch them in the ocean, as the waves crash against their tubes and he holds his Yeti cup of Coke up high and holds onto her hand...


I'm amazed and fearful and overwhelmed all at the same time.

He's beautiful, and so is she.

Young, with a lifetime of opportunity ahead of them.

Smart.

Both fearful and fearless at the same time, a living, breathing contradiction.

And I snap a picture as the wave comes and knocks him out of the tube, and then another wave knocks her down, and I know...




Life will be like that. Take the air out of their sails. Knock them in the water, and it will cause their nose to sting. Salt burns an open wound.

I hope that I've taught him about floating... treading water... and not sinking.

I hope that I've taught him that love is an anchor, and it will hold you strong even when the waves toss you to and fro.

I hope that I've taught him that it's ok to say you're sorry and that a girl needs to know every single day how beautiful she is. I hope I've taught him to respect his elders and veterans and people who may be at a disadvantage.

He's young, yet, and sometimes I don't see those lessons manifested...

And a lot of the time I make him do things that he doesn't want to do.

A lot of the time, I struggle to breath because I'm just not sure...

And I feel like I'm drowning in motherhood a lot more than I care to admit.

But then the sun shines bright, and glistens off her blonde hair, and he gives her a hug and the waves crash around them and I'm thinking he's too young but he's too old and I'm reminded staring at the vastness of that ocean that I really have no control at all...

but He has a Father who loves him way more than me.




So when evening comes and it's picture taking time, I wade out in the water and tell him to pick me up...

because I don't want to be that Mom who just stands in the shadow.

and we laugh as we both fall in the waves...


He offers me a hand and I take it, much as I did 10 years ago as we waded back out to the sand.

I breathe it all in...

knowing His grace is sufficient and I am too, too blessed to be Caleb's Mama.





Friday, July 8, 2016

Ante Up: A Review

I enjoy book series.  I like to see the stories evolve, watch the characters mature, and see how they approach life's challenges.

This was true for Chautona Havig's Ante Up, the fourth book in the Aggie's Inheritance series.

The series starts out with Aggie, a young college graduate who inherits her sister's eight children when her sister and brother-in-law dies. Aggie struggles to learn how to be a mother "on the job", and somewhat intimidated this mother of one!

I'd recommend reading the books in order so that the reader can fully appreciate the progression of Aggie and her family, but since this book takes place a few years after the initial novel, it can be a stand alone. The book is easy to read and conversation flows well, making this a good choice to read when the reader is looking for a way to escape without overthinking.

This last book in the series finds Aggie much more mature, but struggling in her faith. When faced with parts of herself that she may not necessarily like, she struggles to find herself in the midst of the chaos of regular life. Aggie and her family are relatable in the challenges they face, and the cast of characters of Aggie, her husband, and the children, and Aggie's best friend Tina are delightful. Aggie and her family show us that even in tough times, God has a plan and is with us, even when we don't feel Him there. Throughout this book, I laughed, I cried... but I found hope and grace.

And that's always a good thing to find in a book!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through Celebration Lit. I had previously purchased the first three books in the series.


About the book

Out with Murphy and in with O’Reilly!
O’Reilly’s Law: Murphy was an optimist!
Marriage has been good to Aggie. After a few years and a baby under her belt, she’s confident that she can take on anything–including adding child number ten to the home! Blessings aren’t always easy, and Aggie is about to discover that in a whole new way!
When their near-idyllic life was turned upside down by senseless vandalism, Aggie and gang spent a week on “Aunt” Willow’s farm. Luke worked day and night to get them back home for Thanksgiving. But when things, once more, seem to pile up, Aggie flounders. Her pregnancy grows precarious, and her husband doesn’t recognize her anymore.
Only the Lord can soothe her rumpled spirit, but will she allow Him to comfort her as only He can?
Aggie’s sure that she just needs to “knuckle down” and “ante up” to keep from losing ALL her marbles.
Ante Up! is the fourth book in the Aggie Series

About the Author

 

Chautona lives in a small, remote town in California’s Mojave Desert with her husband and six of her nine children. When not writing, she enjoys paper crafting, sewing, and looking forward to retirement from home education. Chautona writes stories of fictional people who have real problems, weaknesses, and triumphs. Through their stories, she tries to share the Hope that is within her.

Guest Post from Chautona Havig

“You have eight kids? How do you do it? I can barely manage with the one (or two or three) that I have! I could never do eight.”
How many times had I heard those words? Ten? Fifty? A thousand? I suspect it was between fifty and a thousand. I guarantee it felt like a million. And the reason wasn’t that people were rude or unkind about it. It was simply because they assumed things that weren’t reasonable. They acted as if I’d woken up one day with eight kids and never had a problem with adapting to it.
The cold, hard truth? I never planned to have children—ever—much less the eight I had then or the nine I have now. I didn’t like children, and even now, I really just prefer mine and others’ in very small doses. I’m naturally a very selfish person. So the comments that made me sound excessively patient and maternal were, in a word, ridiculous.
I had one answer I always gave—just one. “I didn’t get them all at once. I got them one at a time, the old fashioned way. And with a minimum of about eighteen to twenty-two months of getting used to having two, three, six, seven before I got the next.”
But that thought haunted me for weeks. What would happen if someone did get eight at once? How would she handle that? Not like the women with multiples—five, seven, eight at a time. No, I was thinking of what it would be like for someone to have my kids just dumped on someone all at once with all those different ages to deal with. I think I should have known at that moment that my childhood dream of being a writer would come true, because my next thought was, “And what if she was single?” From there, I added more. A grandmother-in-law to rival any horror stories of mothers-in-law, home renovations with kids (every mother’s nightmare), grieving, and accident prone kids who can’t stop calling 9-1-1 and you had all the worst things I could think of without becoming ridiculous.
I had originally decided that Aggie would remain single. Yeah, that didn’t happen. So, I gave her personal convictions to follow. I added to that her sister’s convictions, just to keep things interesting. I wanted to show that people have convictions for a myriad of reasons, and just because they hold one, doesn’t mean they look down on those who don’t. That original story grew from a sixty-thousand word single book into a trilogy—each book being over one hundred twenty thousand words! I was sure people would hate the length, hate the story, and ride me out of the country on the proverbial rail. I just hoped I landed in the southern Atlantic—nice and warm.
Instead, Ready or Not has been my best selling book—an Amazon bestseller. The first promotion we did resulted in the book being downloaded every 3.6 seconds in a twenty-four hour period. I was flabbergasted. I did the math a dozen times to make sure. When the last book came out, fans bemoaned the loss of their favorite character. I added more of her to another series, Past Forward. That helped—a little.
Eventually, I agreed to write a fourth book. I waited, and I’m so glad I did. Nearly five years have passed since Aggie inherited her eight nieces and nephews, and nearly four have passed since she married and began a new journey with him. She’s a mother now, not “just” an aunt. She’s a wife. Her life is rich and full of the craziness readers have come to love. So in this book, I decided to explore what happens when life throws just one too many curve balls. I decided to show the children growing up and facing new trials and temptations. And, I wanted to give just a little bit of joy in the extended family front after three books of trials there. I thought it was about time.
My goal for these books has always been to point my readers to the Lord. I did that through one character’s wisdom, another’s steadfastness, and of course, through Aggie’s songs and bite-sized prayers (p-mails). In this book, I wanted to point readers to the Lord through Aggie again, but in a different way. I hope it is as encouraging to them as it was to me. I learned so much in the writing of this book. It laid open my heart before the Lord and I saw things in myself I didn’t want to see but needed to. The Lord is so good to us.
Don’t forget—for those who purchase before July 7, 2016, we’re giving away a FREE bonus devotional, Tune My Heart: 25 Hymn-Filled Moments with the Lord. Each chapter corresponds to the book and examines some of the themes of the book, so you don’t want to read it before you’ve read the book! To get your free copy, just forward your Amazon receipt to THIS EMAIL.

For more reviews on this book, visit the other Celebrate Lit blogs:

Blog Stops

June 30: Quiet Quilter
July 2: Mary Hake
July 7: Cassandra M’s Place (spotlight)
July 10: Karens Krayons
July 11: cherylbbookblog (spotlight

In connection with this book, the author is giving away a Kindle Fire!  Just enter at this link: https://promosimple.com/ps/9d3a