Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, 2016!

At the beginning of this year, I deemed it the year of purpose.

I was finally going to learn to live intentionally.

I was going to become organized.

I was going to become...


And I created 16 lofty "goals".

Not resolutions, because I knew I didn't have the self-discipline to truly "resolve" to change.

Reflecting back on the last 365 days, I didn't meet my goals...

but I learned a lot in the process.

I learned about purpose... my purpose.  Still not sure exactly what it is, but Micah 6:8 keeps coming back to me.
My purpose is to serve God by loving others... however that may look. And I believe that I achieved that in 2016... but my purpose isn't finished as long as I'm drawing breath. As long as there are people who need encouragement. As long as we're here on this earth, we still have work to do.

I also learned that we're not promised tomorrow. 2016 was a year of loss.. I'm not going to go into all of the sadness, because I'm ready to just move on from that. I do know that just because this year has drawn to an end, it doesn't mean there will be immediate happiness. We will face tough times in 2017 just as we did this year... Jesus promised we'd have trouble, and just because 2016 continually knocked the wind out of our sails doesn't give us a free pass to just float through life... but another thing I learned through loss is that God is faithful. Even when I doubt. Even when I question. Even when I ache... He is faithful.

No, I didn't exercise as much as I wanted to... but I did move quite a bit. I discovered that I love hiking and being in the outdoors, even though I never would have thought that I would. At the beginning of the school year, I discovered Pound, and even though I've not been a regular the past couple of months, group exercise is good. Moving your body, even when you don't want to, is good.

In the past 365 days, I counted over 1,000 gifts and rediscovered that gratitude truly is the secret to finding peace in the difficulties. Some days, we just don't feel thankful, but to intentionally search and find something truly does make things look a little brighter. Some of my joys included my little people- Melody, Will, Braylee, and Lily... sunshine, Diet Coke, reading, and the legacies of my loved ones. And I learned that my people- Wallace and Caleb and Lauren Green and the Bowlings/Bates and the Griffiths and the Clemons Clan and the Jackson Church of God and the Providence Pentecostal church family...

My people are the best.

 I learned that His Word is alive and active and is truly a balm to the soul.  I set out at the beginning of the year to focus on was being in the Word... and I didn't do so great on this one. While I know that in times of turmoil He truly is our peace, there were a lot of days when I just wasn't feeling it... and that's ok. What does amaze me is that throughout the past year, His Word spoke to me at just the right time... even when I wasn't looking! While I wasn't as intentional at reading and studying the Bible like I had hoped, He was faithful.  I'm seeing a theme here.

I didn't write as much as I had wanted, again because many times this year I just didn't have the words. Didn't have the heart. What I did have was a chance to reflect... internally... and this was good.

I learned that kindness really is paramount, that laughter truly is the best medicine, and that rest can make bad days seem better.

I learned that even though small towns can be boring and meddlesome, they are also pretty awesome in difficult times.

Mostly, I learned that I should live in the moment... a lesson I'll fully take into the new year with me.

So, 2016... thanks for the All A 14th Regional Tourney wins and hiking in the Gorge and sunny days on the lake with my skin hot and a good book in front of me. Thank you for laughing with Caleb while singing in the car, the breeze through my sunroof, Melody laughing and talking, Will dancing and facetiming me, Beauty and the Beast with my Mom and sisters, new flavors of Oreos (especially Smores!), good books, Bethel Camp with my Clemons people, including a hike to the firetower that I thought would kill me and a trip to see the wild horses; heartfelt graces by kiddos in Tennessee, sweet voices singing at church on Sunday mornings, smiles and watching Caleb play football and getting to hold baby Scarlette for the first time and a Halloween themed wedding for Brandon and Nicole.

I'll take your lessons... lessons learned the hard way... and try to do better in the coming days.

So, I bid you Adieu...

And will spend the next few hours binging on Gilmore Girls and reading and reflecting...

ready to embrace whatever 2017 has to offer.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Books I Read in 2016

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 125 books. According to my Goodreads page, I've read 118.  I usually keep a written list of books I've read, too, and there's 120 on that list. The discrepancy comes from a couple of books that I couldn't find listed on Goodreads.

I also set out to complete a reading challenge, that identified different genres of books; different topics; different periods... a way to ensure variety in my reading.

I failed miserably...

Probably because of netgalley. And also Celebrate Lit, which allowed me to get free advanced copies in exchange for an honest review...

Which became priority reading.

With that being said, here's the books I'd pick as my top books of 2016:
1. Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman
I was blessed to serve on the launch team for this book and it was amazing!  In our self-driven world, Ehman's message of spreading kindness hit spot on.  She gives thoughtful ideas for real-life application, as well as ways she has personally lived out this message, all in a scripturally-based background. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to start 2017 out in a kinder way!

2. The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
This Bible study is one of the best I've ever completed. Based on the armor of God in Ephesians 6, Shirer draws out key points and writes in an engaging manner. I'd highly recommend you to kick off your new year with this study if you've not completed it yet!

3. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
Genova is a true neuroscientist, and I have loved every book that I've read by her. Love Anthony was no exception. This book tells the story of a nonverbal autistic boy, written by a woman who is battling turmoil in her personal life. Oddly enough, the story she has written reflects an actual person, and his grieving mother finds comfort in the tale. Beautifully written, with well-developed characters, this book is a deep read that makes you think.

4. Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson
I loved this book. That's all. I laughed. I cried. I nodded emphatically and said, "Amen".  A must read for women questioning friendships.. those who have a good friend, or those who need a good friend, or those who think they don't need anyone. Sophie's your girl. (I served on the launch team for this book, as well, and was ecstatic!!!)

5. Me Before You
This book was made into a movie and I was given an ultimatum to read this book so Kami and I could watch the movie. I read it in three days, even though it deals with a heavy subject matter. Young girl, whimsical, her own personality, meets young boy, paralyzed and angry. She tries to show him his life is worth living... and learns that hers is, too. The elephant in the room is assisted suicide. It's definitely controversial, but this book makes you think while you're crying in your cereal bowl. And while the subject matter maybe isn't the best, the characters are delightful and they draw you in. The movie was good, too...
The sequel, After You, is on my long to read list for 2017...

6. Southern Heart Series (3) by Janet Ferguson
Leaving Oxford, Going Up South, and Tackling the Field are three delightful books. I became acquainted with this author through Celebrate Lit and became a true fan. There is a fourth book in the series that I have on my to read list in 2017. These are quick, easy reads, with well-developed characters, catchy story lines, and an underlying Scriptural foundation that is encouraging for the reader. I'd highly recommend!

7. Harry Potter Series (5)
I'm not sure how it took me so long to start this book series. but it's amazing. I'm currently on the fifth book, and have read them throughout the year. They are long... but good reads.

8. A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber
Macomber has always  been one of my favorite authors. Her books offer hope with just enough sadness to make them true to life. This book is no exception. In this story, a young lady and her mother-in-law find themselves unlikely partners as they both face the single life... together.... They weather the storm of becoming single, making sure kids have their needs met, and facing new love possibilities while seeing their own relationship as friends grow. A heartwarming read!

9. The Hannah Swensen mystery series
I discovered this series thanks to my sister's book club, and I have fallen in love. There are 20 or so books in the series, and I'm just on number 6 or 7. They are funny, easy to read, and if you aren't like me and like to bake... come with recipes! Remind me of Janet Evanovich's books, except they are clean and don't have bad language. Good for reading when you don't want to think!

10. The Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck
Who doesn't like reading about Christmas, and weddings, and royalty? This warm read by Hauck is all three! Part of her Royal Wedding series, we find ourselves in Brighton where American Avery is still in love with Prince Colin... but his father isn't so sure of the match. Throw in a historical legend and this whirlwind romance becomes fairytale material. Love all of Hauck's books!
It was hard to choose these books... I read a lot of really good books this year. Thoughtful, insightful, funny, heartwrenching... a wide variety even if I didn't meet that particular reading challenge. Here's to next year and happy reading!!!

(And if you're looking for suggestions, I'm linking up with Five Minute Fridays this week, where everyone is writing about what they read in 2016!  A book lovers dream linkup!! Check them out!!!)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Every Day

My Christmas tree still stands lit in my living room. I've never been the kind that has started taking it down the day after Christmas.

Maybe because sometimes it's just been up a week, and I enjoy looking at it.

Even after all of the presents are gone from underneath the tree, there's something beautiful about that Christmas tree that gives me hope.

The day after Christmas can be an empty one.

For weeks, we've looked forward to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day...

maybe because of the family get-togethers, or the good food, or because we've had our eye on a piece of jewelry that we just KNOW our significant other is going to purchase.

We tend to idolize Christmas sometimes...

even though past experience tells us that it'll be loud and chaotic and chances are there will be arguing and a general lack of goodwill at some point, Christmas offers a sense of hope in mankind.

But then the gifts are open and the food is all ate and the lights seem a little dimmer...

And nothing was what we thought it would be.

I wonder if Mary had this same sense of lackluster.

The miracle birth surely wasn't what she had expected.

Alone and young and probably cold, surrounded by stinky animals, this surely wasn't the birth plan she had envisioned when the angel came and told her she was favored by God.

And in the days and weeks that followed...

Simeon telling her that a sword would pierce her soul. Fleeing for their lives from a crazy king.

Christmas, come in the form of a babe, love coming down...

it surely wasn't what she imagined.

Truly, though...

nothing really is.

It's funny to me that the New year comes directly after Christmas. We spend a month or two months looking forward to the magic of Christmas, are often let down, and then are immediately given the opportunity to anticipate making ourselves better.

We tend to live our lives in a whirlwind of looking for the next big thing... the next great event... the next opportunity to have a "better" day or week or month or life.

Even before the paper has been bagged up, we're thinking of returning the packages that we don't like.

Looking ahead to the "new and improved" us that will surely come with the new year...

and then a week goes by... or two... and it's the same old same old...

Except it doesn't have to be. Christmas doesn't have to be over just because it's no longer December 25. That hope and joy?

We can truly have it all year long...

when we let go of the expectations and start looking for the unexpected.

The unexpected Savior, who appeared in a manner no one would have imagined...

The unexpected opportunity to love each other, to love someone greater than ourselves, to love more than we expected we could.

The unexpected light that breaks through the darkness, even after the one bulb blown on the strand of Christmas lights has caused the entire strand to become dark.

Christmas is not a day.

Christmas is a way of life.

It's a way to look for the small...

The dirty...

The less than...

And realize that they are all enough, because love came down.

And it didn't just come down for one moment in time...

It came down, and then was raised up on a tree, taking on all of the darkness and unmet expectations of a sin filled world...

so that we could have hope, and anticipate a better life.

An eternal life.

So the tree will stay up for a few more days, and the nativity set will stay on my entertainment stand throughout 2017, not because I'm lazy...

but because I want to remember that even in the days that don't meet my great expectations, He does.

I want to remember that love came down, and it's now my responsibility to foster that love in those who come in contact with me.

I want to remember that He chose the foolish things... the things that don't always make sense... to bring forth His plan.

The little babe, lying in a manger, is now a soon coming King, and when He returns, everyone will see Him for who He is.

More than we could ever expect.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Meddlin' Madeline: Sweet on You; A Review and a Giveaway

Madeline is a lovely young society lady. Her father is the mayor, and as such, she is accepted into social circles. Madeline isn't interested in that, though. She has bigger thoughts than who is wearing what to the next party, and isn't afraid to pursue those outside interests, much to the dismay of her aunt and other society individuals.
When a fellow member of her circle appears to be an interesting personality, Madeline's family and friends are duped by good intentions. Madeline, on the other hand, recognizes that he may be of questionable character and sets out to prove her suspicions, much to the chagrin of her aunt. Her exploration leads her to the darker side of town, where inappropriate actions take place, which prompts further exploration by Madeline into societal wrongs.
Madeline is far from a typical society girl and her character is well-developed in this story. She is unafraid to speak her mind and goes after what she wants. I enjoyed this historical novel, set in the early 1900s during the temperance movement and before women were given the right to vote. Historical details such as the adding of electricity into society homes made the story seem realistic.
I did receive a free copy of this through Celebrate Lit for an honest review. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys lighthearted mysteries and historical fiction.
About the Book

It is my hypothesis that social conventions are created to test our fortitude. 
Rockland circa 1900-
As the mayor’s daughter, Madeline Brown enjoys a rich social life that many might envy. But a sharp mind but a growing talent for observation leaves Madeline torn between avoiding social censure and exploring the world around her.
With an aunt who considers higher education and employment equally unsuitable for the mayor’s daughter, there is little to amuse her save endless committee meetings, evening socials, and her favorite pastime: curling up with an exciting detective novel. The temperance and suffrage movements hold little interest for a young woman who has just endured the rigors of her father’s mayoral campaign.
So when a young man shows interest in her friend, Madeline’s interest piques–until his actions hint that he might not be the upstanding gentleman everyone presumes him to be. Unable to ignore her concerns, Madeline finds herself in the middle of an investigation into his character and discovers a side of Rockland she’s never encountered.
Will her new hobby reduce the tedium of her life, or will her “meddling” create tension for herself and her father?  Will she be forced to squelch this budding skill of hers or has Madeline finally found her calling in life?
Meddlin’ Madeline: Sweet on You.
Welcome to Rockland’s infancy.
Sweet on You is the first book in the Meddlin’ Madeline Mysteries. Watch for the second book in the series, Such a Tease, in winter, 2017

About the Author


I am fortunate enough to live in the great state of California (in the Mojave Desert) with my husband Kevin and five of my nine children. My eldest is married with five children, so I have the fun of a son-in-law and grandbabies to enjoy. I’ve graduated six out of my nine children from our home school, and they’re all doing quite well in their lives. My younger children keep me from getting too selfish, and someday I’ll be fully retired as their teacher. I have to say, I’m lookin’ forward to it. Teaching about gerunds was fun the first time… not so much anymore. I salute all of those in the education field. You are my heroes.

When I’m not writing (which I admit isn’t often) I enjoy blogging (a totally different kind of writing, trust me), paper crafts, sewing, smocking, photo editing, and old music. No, really, I like OLD stuff… the Beatles are too newfangled for me. Yeah,I know they’re before my time… but I like stuff before my PARENTS time.

Guest Post from Chautona

The idea for Madeline came while I was searching for photos for another book idea (one I still haven’t fleshed out yet!). I came across an intriguing picture of a girl wearing a bowler and loved it. I wondered who she was and what she was reading. Well… then I turned the page and… wow! Dozens of photos appeared—all in the same general theme. Bowler hat, gloves, late Victorian/early Edwardian clothes…. I could just see her riding through town on a “wheel” and solving crimes. And well, the rest was born. I had to narrow down about twenty pictures to five. I couldn’t do it. So, I did six. I just hope I can limit myself to six.
Fun Facts:
Fact #1:
This is a historical novel, so that meant lots of research. Well, in the sense that it takes place in another period, anyway. Research proved much more difficult than you might imagine. You see, the world was in a state of flux in 1901. Victorian mores gave way way to a new, modern era—a new century! Though an exciting time in history, because everything was in a perpetual state of change, finding truly historically accurate information was almost impossible!
Additionally, the writing style is very different. This is partly due to a quirk of Madeline’s, but it is also because people used broader vocabularies back then. I wrote the book with a style that fit the era. It was difficult not to lapse into modern vernacular or even something a bit more twenties. After all, the series title was inspired by a song from the 1920’s!
Fun Fact #2
This book begins a journey of self-discovery for Madeline. One of the things I wanted most to do with this book was to explore the “birth” of a detective—to show what it might be like for someone to realize that he or she notices things that others don’t. Through Madeline, I explored how people would react to having their secrets exposed, and I tried to show just how difficult it would be to investigate suspicious things without becoming deceitful or putting oneself in compromising positions. It’s easy to assume people would appreciate knowing if they were being taken advantage of, but would they really? Would pride not get in the way of things? I suspect it would.
Each book does have a definite “mystery”. But, these aren’t traditional mysteries. There won’t be a murder until the final book, but each one will increase in difficulty for Madeline and the reader to decipher the truth and will add a new element of danger and self-discovery. Addtionally, there’s an overarching story over the entire series that won’t be resolved until the end.
Fun Fact #3
We have five more books to go! We’re just getting started with Madeline’s adventures. A sneak peek into the rest of the series: we’ll get to learn more about her best friend, Amy. I haven’t decided just what kind of girl Amy is, but I suspect she’s quite beautiful. I think that’ll play a part in a future book. She’s also likely to meet someone in her European tour. Will she be the friend with the suspicious letter in book four? Who knows? Not me!
Madeline’s Unofficial Glossary
One of the best parts about writing this series is playing with words that I grew up using and reading, but most people don’t use anymore. I had parents of a literary turn of mind, so I grew up being told to, “Slow down and enunciate.” This began at age 3. So, while other kids were told to “go potty,” I was told to “use the facilities.” I’ll never forget in second grade telling a classmate, “That’s your prerogative,” when she said, “I don’t like you.” She was… confused, I think.
Add to that the fun slang of the day, not to mention a quirk I’m not giving away, and I can honestly say I had a blast writing this book. However, I know not everyone is fond of sesquipedalian words or erudite language. So, with that in mind, I decided to write this glossary of words you will find in the book. Please note: definitions are mine and written with my tongue super-glued to the inside of my cheek.
Diffidence: noun
Pretending to be reserved in an attempt to hide the truth. Desperate. A misguided notion that pretending not to notice someone will create interest.
Vicissitude: noun
  • The quality of never being able to make up your mind. A woman.
Multi-eloquent: adjective
  • The misguided notion that one must be like Nellie Olson in These Happy Golden Years and allow one’s tongue to go “flippity-flop.” Example: Gossips are often multi-eloquent.
Jitney: noun
  • Slang for a nickel. Also, a horse-drawn “cab.” Because it has fewer syll–nope. Not that. Because people like to confuse one another in speech. “Hey, do you have a jitney?” Gee… let’s see. I’ve got a nickel, but I left my horse and carriage in my other pants at home…
Copacetic: adjective
  • Doesn’t matter, because I had to remove it from the book. I didn’t read the entire dictionary entry when I chose the word, and only saw 1880 mentioned. Alas, the first known use is 1919. Eighteen years after this book takes place. I consider the coiner to be tardy, and would appreciate that in the future, words be coined by the dates I need. Thank you. (Do you see the amount of research I must do. I have to check if words were even IN USE before I use them. And I still almost flubbed it.)
Recalcitrant: adjective
  • Madeline… wait. That’s not quite right. But close enough. Okay. Madeline Brown when she has a bee in her bowler. Resisting authority or convention.
Dialogue de sourds: noun (French)
  • Literally: a worthless conversation where both parties speak to a glass wall, hearing only themselves. Example: political conversations, theological conversations, ideological conversations, Facebook wall “discussions,” and arguments with toddlers.
Asinine: adjective
  • Ridiculous or silly–like the assertion that someone saying the word is using foul language.
Penurious: adjective
  • Marked by an inability to part with money. A lickpenny. (see how I did that?)
Scintillating: adjective
  • A word meaning amusing or extremely interesting that lends itself more to sarcasm than plain speaking.
Hawkshaw: noun
  • A nosy person who gets away with it under the guise of “helping.” Sometimes known as a detective.
Fustian: noun
  • Um… yeah. This glossary. Madeline does lend herself to the fustian.
There you go. It’s just a taste of what’s ahead. Happy reading!

Blog Stops

December 13: Bigreadersite
December 13: Jeanette’s Thoughts
December 14: Daysong Reflections
December 14: Baker Kella
December 15: Back Porch Reads
December 15: Moments Dipped in Ink
December 16: Pause for Tales
December 16: Quiet Quilter
December 17: cherylbbookblog
December 18: ASC Book Reviews
December 19: A Greater Yes
December 20: Lane Hill House
December 21: Reader’s cozy corner
December 22: Two Girls and a Book
December 22: Blogging With Carol
December 23: 1983
December 24: Neverending Stories
December 24: Carpe Diem
December 25: Bibliophile Reviews
December 25: The Scribbler
December 26: For The Love of Books
December 26: Ashley’s Bookshelf


To celebrate her tour, Chautona are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this blog post to claim nine extra entries in the giveaway!



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top Posts of 2016

I didn't write as much in 2016 as I had hoped to... story of my life.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year... highs and lows. Ups and downs. Getting the wind knocked out of you, climbing the rickety hill to appreciate the view from the top, only to get knocked down again. That's represented in my top blog posts from 2016.

1. From Humble Beginnings

This post is the eulogy I gave at my Papaw Jr.'s funeral. A simple, humble, happy man, my Papaw passed away in November. He lived a beautiful life and left a legacy of hope for his six children, ten grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

2. "Feeling with My Fingers"

This post is the eulogy I gave at my Papaw Paul's funeral in June. Papaw was truly the smartest man I have ever (and will probably ever) know. His kind heart and generosity have prompted me throughout this year to look for ways to serve others.

The Legacy of Great Men-

I thought a lot about legacy this year. Death has hit us hard, but I know that it doesn't have the final victory. While this was not one of my top read posts this year, I want to add it in, because Uncle Dennis's legacy speaks for itself.

3. To My Seniors

My reflection on the three seniors on our Ladycat basketball team. I always say I've been blessed with one son and too many daughters to name. Here's a look at three of them. We didn't win that regional title... made it to the semifinals and lost a nailbiter to Leslie County, who went on to be Regional Champs... but I'm forever proud of my Ladycats.

4. My Prayer for 8th Grade

To say that I can't believe that Caleb Bates is an 8th grader is an understatement. Watching him grow up has been the best part of my life... but also the scariest. This post, written on the first day of Caleb's 8th grade year, tried to portray a little of that. And all the crazy Mamas said... Amen

5. Tackling the Field

This was one of my favorite books I've read in 2016... the entire series, to be matter of fact. I'm so thankful I discovered Celebrate Lit and the authors and books featured there. I've been exposed to a lot of great writing that I may not have otherwise discovered.
6. Honeybee Sisters

This was another post I completed for Celebrate Lit. This series was well-written, with likeable characters... well, except for the characters you weren't supposed to like =) Beckstrand's portrayal of three Amish sisters raised by a slightly eccentric aunt make for delightful reading.
7. Surround Me

This was yet another book I reviewed for Celebrate Lit, the second book of the Revolutionary Faith series. I enjoyed "traveling" to pre-Revolutionary War Charlestown.
8. What I Learned this Summer
Other than my Papaw passing away, my family enjoyed the best summer of our lives... or at least one of the best. We took the boat to the lake, went hiking, visited the beach, spent time in the hills on the side by side, and basically just enjoyed being with one another. Here's my recap of what I learned in the summer of 2016.

9- Hold Me Close
The first book in the Revolutionary Faith series, set in an era I rarely read about, so this was refreshing. Thank you, again, Celebrate Lit.
10. Change of Heart

This was another book featuring an Amish family that I reviewed for Celebrate Lit. A good read, with warm characters and engaging dialogue, this storyline made the reader think about what is truly important in life.
11. Damsel in Distress
I wrote this book in January after reading the book of Ruth. Ruth is one of my favorite books of the Bible and she is also one of my favorite characters, but her faith and trust in a God that she didn't even really know amazes me. Here's my take on her famous speech to Naomi as they stand at the crossroads of their lives.

So there you have 'em, the top read posts of 2016. Thanks for visiting, and here's praying 2017 is filled with lots of writing!
Linking up with Kate Motaung (pic courtesy of her blog).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fear Fighting: Beating The Beast of Worry

I'm thrilled that I was recently selected to serve on the launch team for Kelly Balarie's book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears.

Let me just make a disclaimer and say that I've never been someone who necessarily considered myself a fearful person. I mean, I am afraid of some things. Snakes. Getting lost. Wrecking (because I have a bad driving record!).
However, in the world in which we live in, especially with a teenage son, it's hard not to be a little fearful.
So, I'm soaking up Kelly's words and looking to God for my peace...

Here's a guest message from Kelly to you... a great little strategy to help you fight fear and worry.

Go look up Philippians 4:8.  I did a month long series on it a a couple of years ago.
Then come back...

From Kelly:
I woke up in the middle of the night, my mind tossing and turning worse than my body had been ten minutes ago.

Everything hit me at once: I'm not taking care of my family well enough. Good moms make their kids homemade meals, they don't buy the boxed variety in the aisle's of Trader Joe's. They also don't have picture ornaments hanging on their Christmas trees without the faces of their loved ones in them. Most of all they don't forget birthday parties and gym day at school. Not only this, they don't leave their houses complete wrecks; they tidy them. I'm the worst mom. I've got to do better. I can't do better though, there is hardly any time for anything. My kids are bound to hate me one day.
Worry is like a spin cycle that never ends. It turns and turns and turns and turns until you are nauseous from its movement.
I should know; I sit in worry often. Do you?
The worst thing about worry is that all its circles get you nowhere. They clean nothing up, they spic and span no dish sitting in the sink and they fix no task before you.
So, why do I worry so much? You may be asking yourself the same question. 
I've sat up countless nights circling this question. Kelly, why are you worrying? Why are you shredding a good night's sleep with this stupid process? And, why can't you stop thinking about what you are thinking about?
Nothing of value is every accomplished in one's mind the middle of the night. I've determined this. 
So, what is a peace-hungry woman supposed to do? 
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil. 4:8
That's what! Do you know how it looks for me in the middle of the night, when the sneaky enemy prowls around like a ravenous beast? 
It looks like me saying the ABC's of God's goodness. 
It goes like this:
A is for Always by my side, God will be.
B is for Before me, God goes.
C is for Carry me He will, when I am weak. 
D is for Delight in him, he will give me the desires of my heart.
Can I tell you all something? I've never made it all the way through the alphabet. Never. Ever. Ever. 
I've always fallen asleep - in peace.
When you focus on the goodness of God, you find the good thing you were always after. When you trust him and his ways, he leads you to the best way. When you stop worrying that you are worrying, you make space to start praising his name.
It works. It works anywhere at any time in any place. Start singing. Start thanking. Start noticing creation as you drive on a traffic-filled street full of cars that will never let you arrive at your destination. Still, it works.
With this, tonight, rather than dozing off to the doozy that is my motherhood-style; I'll doze off to the truth that God has good in store even in the center of all I cannot control.
About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears: 
Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.
About Kelly Balarie:
Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

All Things Christmasy... Well, Kind of.

So today is my last official day of work in 2016, which always brings much excitement to my life.

Until I look around my office and realize that in three weeks, I'll step back into the chaos of disorganization, only three weeks removed, meaning that I will have forgotten the location of the things I thought I had placed where I would never forget.

Surely I'm  not the only one?

However, nothing gets one in the Christmas spirit quite like remembering that you only have one Christmas present purchased.

So, to celebrate the season, I download every Christmas book I have purchased throughout the year and lose myself in the magic of fairy tale Christmases.

The first Christmas book I've completed this year is A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury.

 Kingsbury is one of my absolute favorite authors, and I was delighted to find out she was bringing back the Baxters. This book is everything you want in a Christmas novel. It's got a production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, family get-togethers, recipes, and a little bit of smooching under the mistletoe...

But it's also got a very serious message behind it. A message that family is everything. That we keep on impacting others even after we've taken our last breath here on Earth. That our heart will go on... (channeling my inner Celine Dion).

Family patriarch John Baxter gets it. He's loved and lost, and found true love again  in his second wife, Elaine. The Baxter family has had their shares of ups and downs in the past, which is what makes this beautiful novel all the more heartwarming. Following the loss of his daughter, her husband, and their three daughters, John wants to open his home to the recipient of her heart on Christmas Eve.. The family is split about whether it's a good idea...

but the story that follows leads the reader on a true tale of redemption.

I loved this book. That's all. Once I started it I couldn't stop it. Go out and buy it yourself!!! Click this link.

I did receive a free advanced readers copy from and agreed to post my honest review, which this is.

10 Book Reviews Professional Reader

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Surround Me: A Review and a Giveaway

I recently reviewed the first book in the Revolutionary Faith series, Hold Me Close, so when this book became available on the Celebrate Lit book tour, I was quick to request a copy.  (I did receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review of this book).

In this sequel, we find Louis returning to Charlestown from a trip to France. The colony is still in upheaval as colonists choose sides. Elizabeth has pined for him the entire time he's been gone, but they are unsure of how her Father will react to their love.

Set among a time ripe with drama, this story finds the two main characters searching for what they truly believe and at times having to make difficult choices. The situations they face try their faith in God and in each other, and remind the reader about what it is like to be faced with difficult decisions and to fear the future. Both characters are nicely developed, believable, and provide the reader with tension throughout the novel. The author also does an awesome job of describing the pre-Revolutionary world. Her vivid writing allows the reader to imagine they were right in Louis's living room or the mercantile his uncle runs or in Elizabeth's family home. I would recommend this book if you enjoy romance or historical fiction.

About the Book:

Returning to Charles Town, Louis faces obstacles surrounding his engagement to Elizabeth and a city questioning its role in a volatile resistance to British rule.
As the dark curtain of the rumors of revolution threatens to descend, Louis Lestarjette pursues his relationship with Elizabeth even as the emotion and physical struggles set the course for a life of changes. Will his commitment to God stay firm or will the tide of change cause fear and flight?
The chance of reconciliation with England moves further out to sea leaving Elizabeth Elliott on the shores of surrender to a greater challenge. Although others of unwavering courage give her strength, she must choose to allow God’s love to surround her. How can she enter into a marriage during a time of uncertainty? Will selfish, safer options take her away from Louis and his love?

About the Author:

Marguerite Martin Gray is the author of Hold Me Close—Revolutionary Faith Book One. She enjoys the study of history and writing fiction. An avid traveler and reader, she teaches French and has degrees in French, Spanish, and Journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and a MA in English from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Marguerite is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Abilene Writers Guild, and Daughters of the American Revolution. Originally from Louisiana, she currently lives in Abilene with her husband.

Guest Post from Marguerite Martin Gray

About ten years ago I stood in the front bedroom of my parent’s antebellum house listening to my father tell stories about his ancestors–my ancestors while waving around a silver candlestick–my eight times great-grandfather’s gift to his bride. A story was born and I was off to Charleston, S.C.

Blog Stops

December 2: A Reader’s Brain
December 3: Moments Dipped in Ink
December 4: Lane Hill House
December 4: Karen Sue Hadley
December 6: A Greater Yes
December 7: Proverbial Reads
December 10: Bigreadersite
December 10: Bibliophile Reviews
December 12: Pause for Tales
December 13: A Path of Joy

To celebrate their tour, Marguerite is giving away a print copy of Hold Me Close and Surround Me, a print copy of A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson, a $10 Amazon Card, and a Yorkshire Gold Box of Tea! Click the link below to enter. Be sure to comment on this blog post to claim nine extra entries in the giveaway!