Category Archives: Faith

Click on the title of the blog post to view the entire entry.


my fallow heart


Honesty time. I’ve never been good at setting aside time in my mornings to spend in God’s Word. I’m not a morning person. I used to sleep in until 9 or 10. I’d roll out of bed and go straight to my computer, losing hours on work or, more often than not, social media and other sites that were adding nothing to my life.

Oh, I had good intentions … sometimes. I would tell myself that tomorrow I’d stop and have quiet time before I turned on the computer. There was definitely a longing in my soul to dig into His Word, and I knew my spiritual life was suffering because of the constant distractions, pulling my attention away to things that didn’t do anything to nurture my heart and soul.

Not that I wasn’t finding positive things along the way – Christian friends online, encouraging blogs and websites I subscribed to, Bible quotes on Instagram. The good is there, too. But it’s so easy to skim on the internet. A glance at a quote. A few sentences of a post read because I knew I had other things to do. Never really staying on anything long enough to let it truly sink in and have an impact on me. Very much on the surface.

Sometimes I think I have the attention span of a three year old.

I shared here last fall about how I’d lost some weight after changing my eating habits. By year’s end, I had lost almost thirty pounds, which was awesome and made me feel so much better overall. But I still felt like I needed more of a change … on the inside.

For Christmas, my mom got me the She Reads Truth Bible and Matthew study book. They were things I had put on my wish list for her, but I had no idea if she would choose them for me or not. I love She Reads Truth, a wonderful online community I’ve mentioned here before that focuses on women getting into the Word daily, and I’ve done a few of their studies in the past on different books of the Bible. But many times I would just read the verses quickly and only read the daily emails they send that go along with the study. I wouldn’t sit with the verses and take time with them. I’d rush through.

But I don’t want to rush when it comes to what God wants to teach me through His Word.

The world is so much about hustle these days. Go, go, go. Got lots of work to do. And I get swept away in that. Wanting to succeed, to release more books, to make a little more income and help contribute financially to my little family. That can cause desperation and anxiety and that feeling that I need to hustle.

On Monday, January 1, I got up and cracked open my brand new Matthew study guide and my new Bible and began what has been a month of mornings started in God’s Word. That and reading through the Bible In A Year guide in the back of my new Bible.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

In the beginning, I had to be very intentional about reading through the verses, slow myself down and really think on what the verses were saying, rather than my old habit of reading quickly/skimming. I had to try to clear my mind and not think about the list of things I needed to accomplish. Because I just knew in my heart that this was WAY more important than anything on that list.

Each day, it’s gotten easier, and I’m happy to report that this wonderful new habit is one that I’m so excited about when I get up every morning. I get out my notebook and Bible, open up the She Reads Truth site to the day’s study, read through the verses slowly, then read the daily post that goes along with them and jot down any thoughts I have or verses or quotes that stood out to me.

I only wish I’d stopped just thinking about doing this and actually done it a long time ago.

So many of these verses and stories I have heard throughout my life in Sunday School and Sunday sermons and church camp and college and beyond. But reading through them again, slowing down, focusing on what I’m reading, sitting with it for a bit as I start my day, asking God to show me what He wants me to learn, makes every chapter and verse seem brand new.

Sunday ended the study on Matthew and now we’re on to I & II Thessalonians. I’m also reading the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and listening to the podcast “The Next Right Thing” by Emily P. Freeman. I’m finding that so many of the themes in the things I’m reading and listening to are directly coinciding with the scripture I’m studying that day or week, which seems like it was perfectly timed by God just for me.

“The remedy for my fallow heart is the Word.”

This is a quote from the Matthew study regarding The Parable of the Sower on the She Reads Truth website. I liked it and jotted it down in my notebook because it felt like me. My heart has been like a fallow field, plowed and ready, but left unseeded for a season.

Time to do some planting. ;)

crying at christmas


It’s been a while since I wrote an actual post here. Mostly, I’ve been taking all the words I’ve got and pouring them into my books. But this blog started out as a place to share my thoughts, my pictures, things I was going through, in the hope of connecting with family and friends and others who came across my blog. So my hope is to get back to that a little more from now on and share a little more of me.

A few weeks ago, I went to a Christmas musical with my parents at the church where I grew up. It was lovely, the message wonderful – Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas! If not for Him, there would be nothing to celebrate. Toward the end, I felt a little like a few tears might escape, but I held them in.

This is something I had been doing a lot over the past year since we found out my dad needed a liver transplant. Maybe longer, I don’t know. I’d been holding things in, trying to stay strong, and for whatever reason, I had turned off my emotions and felt a little numb. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel like it was OK to cry about this. I just couldn’t.

But that night after I got home, some little family drama unfolded here. Nothing major really in the grand scheme of things. Just bickering and such. Words were said. Doors were slammed. Teenage attitude reared its ugly head. And when everyone had retreated to their little corners of our house, I sat alone by the Christmas tree and started to cry. And cry. And cry. And cry.

I went to bed early and cried. Woke up crying. And then I sat down and started writing this post, totally weeping. So much so that I stopped writing, saved it for later, and stepped away from my computer.

This past year was difficult, and I really felt like I should’ve been celebrating rather than crying my eyes out. Because my dad got his liver on November 7th! He’s on the road to recovery. God answered our prayers. Dad was able to attend that Christmas musical with us and see many of the friends who had been praying him through all along.

There was a mishmash of reasons I was crying. But mostly I think it was tears of joy over all God brought us through. When my bout of crying ended, I felt so much better for having finally let it out after holding it all inside for a year.

I guess I just wanted to share this because it’s what I was going through. It’s real and honest and true. And because I know I’m not the only one who was crying at Christmastime, but I know it’s OK that I was.

“For everything there is a season … a time to cry and a time to laugh.”
— Ecclesiastes 3

don’t worry!

all3woodfloor
Something I’ve been dealing with the past week or two has been letting go of things I cannot control, which has always been a challenge for me. When I wrote Goodbye, Magnolia, I put a lot of myself into the character of Maggie, one of those characteristics being that she just can’t seem to let go and trust that God has a plan, that He sees the big picture when we can’t. It’s something I’m constantly re-learning in my life, something I fail at often. Because even though I know that God’s in control and truly believe it in my heart, I’m still human and I make mistakes and I’m not too proud to admit that. Every time I go through times like this, my mind returns to the verse that says “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Nope! But I still do it.

My husband’s car broke down last week. I worry about it getting fixed so I don’t have to drive him back and forth to work.

Dad’s got a heart catheterization coming up to make sure his heart is all good and can handle liver transplant surgery. I worry about that, for sure.

My daughter is currently without a gym as we chose to leave the gymnastics team she competed with last season. I worry about finding a new gym for her for this year.

I’ve got a sale coming up on my 3-book set at the end of the week. I worry about promoting it well, whether it will be a successful sale, and if I will make the money back that I paid to advertise it.

These are only a few of the things weighing on my mind these past weeks, and everything kind of came to a head this weekend, leaving me feeling quite overwhelmed.

But when I step back and look at each of these things individually, I know they will all work out. One thing at a time. Jake will get his car fixed. Dad’s heart doctor will tell us if he finds anything troubling and it will get fixed. We will find a gym for Chloe. And even if only one person buys the book set during the sale, then that person was probably the only one that was meant to read it and that’s OK. ;)
So, I’m learning and growing (hopefully), and I’m praying that next time I feel the worry coming on, I’ll say, “Nope! Don’t need to worry about that. God’s brought you through a lot worse than this.”

I’m sure I’m not the only worrier out there, so here is the passage I mentioned in case you need to be reminded of this today, too:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.”
Matthew 6:25-27

Have a blessed week!

A Second Chance at Romance

a-second-chance-at-romance

Second Chances. If we’re honest, they’re not only something we want. They’re something we need . . . most every day. A fresh start. A do-over. A chance to learn from our mistakes and seize the opportunities we missed in the past.

There’s something intrinsically beautiful and redemptive about seeing that theme come to life on the pages of a compelling romance, isn’t there? With the start of a brand new year, we can’t think of a better time to celebrate that theme than a sale and giveaway of some of our favorite second chance romances.

Sales, Gift Cards, and Giveaways!

Each day, Jan 16-20th, one author will be highlighting a clean romance we’ve put on sale for you this week. Be sure to visit each author’s website and Facebook page to catch every deal, see what each author’s giving away, and enter the grand giveaway of five signed paperbacks!

Day 1: Melanie Snitker – Join her at https://facebook.com/melaniedsnitker
Day 2: Stacy Claflin – Join her at https://facebook.com/stacy.claflin.author
Day 3: Crystal Walton – Join her at https://facebook.com/crystalwaltonwrites
Day 4: Krista Noorman – Join her at https://facebook.com/bykristanoorman
Day 5: Sarah Monzon – Join her at https://facebook.com/sarahmonzonwrites

Don’t miss out on the giveaways each author will be offering. And enter the grand giveaway at the bottom of this post for your chance to take home five signed paperbacks!
 

Today’s Feature • Until Then

While thinking about which of my books would be best for the second chances theme, my mind immediately went to Until Then. On Michelle’s first day of college, she meets handsome, tall, blue-eyed, basketball star Sean. What happens between them changes Michelle’s heart in a profound way and alters the course of Sean’s future, sending him on a bit of a downward spiral and out of Michelle’s life.

Sometimes a lot of time must pass before that second chance comes along, and it can be downright painful with all the past hurts, uncertainty, unanswered questions. All the whys and what ifs. But God’s plans are better than ours, and in this book, they’re better than anything Michelle could possibly dream up for herself.

Here’s a little excerpt for you from the moment Michelle finally sees Sean again.
 

   Michelle arrived at the game and took a seat low on the bleachers to watch. Cornerstone scored several baskets in a row, and the crowd roared.
   Her eyes wandered the room. There were familiar faculty members there, a whole section of rowdy cheering students, and cheerleaders on the sidelines. People filtered in and out of the entrance. She looked closer at a small group of people just outside the doors. There were two dark-haired men standing with a teenaged boy and girl. One of the men looked very familiar to her. He stepped through the door into the room, holding the teenaged girl’s hand.
   Michelle squinted. No! It couldn’t be!
   They walked toward her. The man was speaking to the girl as they passed by. He looked a little older, and his hair was shorter, but she would recognize those eyes anywhere. Sean!
   She watched them walk toward the far end of the gym, closer to the rowdy students, where they found a seat near the top. She couldn’t believe he was actually there. Her heart raced, and her palms began to sweat. Her nerves kept her from jumping up and running to their end of the gym. It had been more than fourteen years, after all. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize her.
   She glanced in their direction again. He seemed to be looking her way, but she couldn’t tell at that distance. He could have been watching the action in the game. She turned back to watch a foul shot and played with a loose thread on her sweater.
   Oh, Lord, what should I do? He’s here. He’s actually here. Should I go talk to him? Or should I just let the past stay in the past?
   “Michelle?”
   Her prayer was interrupted, and she looked up into those blue eyes she remembered so well. “Sean.”
   “Oh my gosh, I thought that was you.” He shook his head back and forth and blinked a few times, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
   She stood and awkwardly held her hand out to shake his.
   He let out a little nervous laugh and hugged her instead.
   Oh, man, he smells good.
   The noise of the crowd around them grew louder. He turned his head and spoke into her ear. “It’s so good to see you.”
   She smiled.
   He pulled back, keeping a grip on her forearms. “You look great.”
   “So do you,” she managed.
   He motioned toward the bleacher behind her, and she gave him a shy smile as they sat down together.
   He kept shaking his head, another nervous laugh escaping his lips. “I’m sorry, I just … I can’t believe it’s you. You’re here. I thought about you when we got here today. I wondered if you still lived around here or if you ever went back to Chicago.”
   “I’m still here.”
   “I think I was secretly hoping I might run into you, but I thought that was pretty much impossible. I’m … I don’t know. I have no words.” The smile never left his face.
   “I actually saw you come in, and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me or something.”
   They sat in silence for a few moments, his attention turned to the game. He made a few comments on the game play, but she wasn’t listening. She was distracted by his presence, by how good he still looked, and by the glint of gold on his left ring finger. She knew he was married. Simon had told her so years ago.


 
You can read Michelle’s story, Until Then, for just 99¢ from January 16-20.
Kindle eBook
Nook
Apple iBooks
Kobo

This book is part of my Cornerstone series and, while you can read this book without having read the first two, I highly recommend reading them in order because this book gives away the ending of the first book. You can start reading the series for FREE right now with Book 1 – Goodbye, Magnolia. (Find it on your favorite eBook site HERE.)
 
 
 
GIVEAWAYS

Amazon Gift Card
I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card during this event. Enter below by answering the question. Extra entries can be earned by liking my Facebook page, following me on Bookbub, and tweeting about the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Five-Paperback Giveaway
a-second-chance-at-romance-1

Love clean romances? I do. I’ve read and loved all of these books. For a chance to win these five paperbacks from authors: Stacy Claflin, Sarah Monzon, Melanie Snitker, Crystal Walton, and myself, ENTER BELOW by joining our mailing lists and be the first to hear about the latest inside scoops, giveaways, and behind the scenes looks at the sweet romances you love.

 
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today! And be sure to visit SARAH MONZON’s BLOG tomorrow for the final day of the event.

Blessings and happy reading!

the majesty and glory


I’ve always loved stargazing. When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to travel to space and see the earth like I imagined God does, all big and powerful and far away in Heaven, looking down on our tiny little planet. Also, I think I watched the movie Space Camp one too many times. ;) But as cool as it would be, I don’t need to travel to space to understand how big God is. All I have to do is look up at the night sky and see just a fraction of the millions of stars he created and know. The majesty and glory of His name fills the heavens. It’s overwhelming to think about the size of the universe and a little hard to wrap my mind around. And to think that God loves us so much. Us. Tiny little humans in a gigantic universe. But He made us in His image and set us above all the other creatures that live on this earth. And He’s here with us, caring about each of our lives, not just watching from afar. Pretty amazing.

My Bible reading this morning was in Psalms and when I got to Psalms 8, I paused at these familiar verses. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.” As I read these words, my mind immediately returned to my college choir, Chancel Singers, to my very favorite song we ever sang called “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” by Tom Fettke. I still get goosebumps when I hear it sung by choirs.

So I hopped over to Youtube and found this video posted by someone named Alistia who shared a choir singing it beautifully over a slideshow of images. If you want to be blessed, click play, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and soak it in. It’s my favorite, and I wanted to share it with you all this morning.

Blessings on this wonderful Wednesday. :)

The Bible in a Year

It’s a new year. I always love the fresh start feeling of a new year with all its goals and plans and resolutions. I’m not really one to make resolutions, but one thing that I am determined to do this year is read the Bible. The whole thing. I attempted this using the She Reads Truth app a couple years ago and let life distract me about four months in, so I never finished. And honestly, I think I was just doing it to be able to click “mark as read” on each days’ chapters. I didn’t dwell on what I was reading, didn’t really try to learn something from it. Some days I did, but not every time. Not on days when my brain was elsewhere, thinking about things I had to do or wanted to do.

My prayer is that I will approach each days reading with an eagerness to understand and learn more about who God is and who I am because of what He has done and continues to do for me.

If you would like to join in, download the She Reads Truth app on your phone. The Bible in a Year plan is free. Or follow along on their website HERE.

I also found their 30-day study of the book of Genesis on their site and am going to read that this month to go along with my daily reading as well. Click the image to read Day 1 of Genesis.
01genesis
Happy New Year!

a gentle breeze


photos taken April 2014. Look at my little girl. She’s grown so much in two years!

I’m antsy. I can’t seem to shake it. Maybe it’s because the book is coming out a month from TODAY! Maybe it’s the fact that we are in a bit of a transition with Jake starting his new job. Maybe I’m just letting the every day stuff worry me too much or I’m sitting at the computer too much and not getting enough fresh air. I have no idea. I get this way every once in a while, and I hate it. But since I know this about myself, I know to relax and get a change of scenery.

It is a beautiful day here in Michigan, so I went outside and sat on the back porch for like half an hour. Chloe came outside and sat with me and was making videos on her phone (one of her favorite things to do). The sun was warm and there was a light breeze gently blowing my hair, which is one of my absolute favorite things. When I was a teenager, I would sit on the hill behind our house listening to music on my headphones, and I loved it when there was a gentle breeze. It calmed me and, for whatever reason, always made me feel pretty. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s how I always felt and still do when the wind blows through my hair.

Sitting on our little back porch today for those thirty minutes, I closed my eyes and felt the breeze and prayed for God to calm my crazy, chaotic emotions. I wasn’t instantly calm or anything, but it did help. And even though I had no makeup on, my hair was still slightly damp from my shower, and I was wearing comfy clothes and slippers, that gentle breeze God sent my way made me feel pretty. He knows me well.

When I went looking for a picture to share with this post, I came across the above photo of me and Chloe from 2014 sitting in the exact same spot we sat today. The flowers are blooming right now, just like they were then. And I’m pretty sure we were looking at her iPod videos that day, too. ;)

muscle memory


Many years ago, I wrote a song entitled “He Knows” based on one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11. Thanks to a wonderful friend at our church, we have a recorded version of the song from shortly after I wrote it, but I never wrote the music out. It was just in my head. And over the years, I played my piano less and less and when I would sit down and try to play it, it just wasn’t there.

It’s amazing how the mind works, though.

We recently moved my piano out of our house into my parents’ and after it was in place in mom and dad’s family room, I sat down and started playing around. Chloe told me to play my song and I told her that I didn’t remember it anymore. She has a copy of the recorded version on her phone and she sat it on top of the piano and hit play. I started to pick it out a bit at the beginning and then … my fingers suddenly took off. There were a couple places that I got stopped up and had to pick out the notes, but the whole thing came back to me. It was the most incredible thing. Mom and Chloe were cracking up at my face, because I was staring at them with wide eyes, mouth hanging open, not even looking at the keys as my fingers played the song completely from memory. Muscle memory.

I am in awe of the way God created our complex brains.

Maybe when I sat down at home to try to play it before, I was blocked for some reason. Maybe I just needed to let my mind and fingers find it at the right time. Whatever the reason, it was a fun moment to share with my mom and my daughter.

adoption day


Look at this little guy! Isn’t he adorable? He has the best smile and such big, bright eyes.

In all the busyness of the week of Thanksgiving (and since), I haven’t had time to share pictures from Adoption Day, which was November 24th. My mom and I were invited by our dear friend, Erinn, to come and celebrate with them as the adoption of their sweet son was finalized. I took a bunch of pictures for them throughout the morning at the court and at their home afterwards, which is where I captured baby Nathan in all his happiness (above) bouncing in his bouncer, smiling, and being loved on. This kid is so blessed to have such wonderful parents and two big brothers (and many more family members and friends) to love him.

It was wonderful to be a part of this important day in their lives. God truly worked out all the little details for this moment to happen, and it was a blessing to witness.

hello, monday


When we dropped our kids off at church last Monday morning for camp, I had a flashback to leaving them at school on their first day of kindergarten. I wasn’t expecting that. It was their first time away from home for a full week somewhere other than with grandparents or cousins. And I experienced those familiar momma feelings you get when your kids are out in the world for the first time and you just have to trust God to hold onto them.

The goal for our kid-free week was to renovate our bathroom. The bathtub and shower surround have been in horrible shape for a long time, and we knew we needed to gut that area and install a brand new one. So as soon as we dropped the kids off, we pretty much hit the ground running. Monday was spent purchasing the things we needed for the reno. Tuesday morning, we picked up a few more necessary items and spent the afternoon on demo. The rest of the week was installation.

We underestimated the amount of time it would take us to finish this project. We thought we’d have it all done by Friday and would go to dinner at Olive Garden to celebrate. Nope! A few hiccups along the way slowed our progress. Jake kept having to run out to Ace to get little things (tools, screws, caulk, etc.) that we needed or ran out of. And we didn’t take into account just how exhausting it would be for two forty year olds who are not very physically fit to complete this renovation. Our stairs were climbed dozens of times in the span of three days, and by Friday, we were big blobs of aching muscles. And that lovely celebration dinner at Olive Garden never happened. We did order Applebee’s take out, but it wasn’t the same.

The project still isn’t complete. The big stuff is done. We are just finishing up little things like installing the light switch plate, putting another coat of paint on the trim, waiting for caulk to cure, etc. I will share some photos once it’s finished.

Jake took the entire week off of work so we could do this and have a “vacation” week together. It was not what I would call a relaxing vacation, but one thing I realized throughout the week is that we worked well together (for the most part) and accomplished a lot when we put our minds to it. We don’t have the best history when it comes to working on projects together. I tend to micromanage, which drives him insane. But this time around, things went pretty smoothly. Maybe it’s the fact that the kids were away and I didn’t have to worry about coming up with meals or dividing my attention between them and the bathroom project. Whatever the case, I’m proud of what we accomplished together. It looks a thousand times better than before.

This week also reminded me of the pre-kid days when it was just the two of us and made me think ahead to the days when the kids will be grown and it will be just us again. I’m not in a hurry for that, but I know that when it happens, we will be OK. We still like each other after twenty years of marriage. We still want to spend time together. We still plan and hope and dream together. I’d say that’s a very good thing. :)

And as far as the kids, they had a great time at camp and came home with many wonderful stories and tender hearts full of love for God and all their new friends. It was a successful week for all.

AJAXed with AWP