Category Archives: Faith

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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
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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.
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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.

thinking about you


It’s a miracle. I wrote on my blog. ;) My weekend was filled with many happy moments. Lots of laughing with my mom, Aunt Pat and Tonya on our Girls Days trip. Good meals. Catching up. Shopping. Playing Nutsy every night. Being silly. Enjoying the beautiful weather.

On the 4th, I joined up with Jake and the kids, who were already at Heather + Jeff’s. We sat outside on their deck and watched several of their neighbors shoot off fireworks. It was a pretty impressive display. Sunday was Scarlett’s 5th birthday party. One of the sweetest moments was when she saw me curling Chloe’s hair and she asked if I would curl hers, too. My heart melted into a puddle. ;) She sat so patiently while I made little loose ringlets all around her head. So sweet. I love being an aunt.

While I was sitting here thinking about the fun weekend we just had, I started thinking about all of you. I wondered what your holiday looked like, what stories you would tell if we got together for coffee this morning.

Did you have to work the whole weekend? Were you under the weather and in bed the whole time or at the hospital with a sick loved one? Did you just go through the worst breakup of your life and cried your night away while the fireworks boomed loud outside? Or maybe you just got engaged? Or celebrated a birthday or an anniversary? Were you annoyed by your neighbors shooting off fireworks late into the night? Were you happy? Were you sad? Were you grieving? Were you falling in love?

Last night, I jumped back into writing on the new novel. I tried to put myself in Michelle’s shoes and write all of her emotions during a very tough scene. I think that’s why I’m thinking about you guys so much today. I’m trying to think about other people and how they deal with things. And I feel very strongly right now that some of you out there might just need prayer or need to vent or want to share something exciting. If that’s you, then feel free to comment below or email me if you have a prayer request. I’m thinking about ya’.

much more than 50,000 words

As I’ve mentioned, Goodbye, Magnolia was written back in November of 2008 during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. From their website: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

I have always loved to write and felt like I was much better at saying what I wanted to say on paper than verbally. In high school, I was all about writing notes to my friends. There were no cell phones or even emails back then, so that’s what we did. My school was in a different district than a lot of my close friends from church, so we would write each other during the week and exchange notes on Sundays and Wednesdays. Some were just quick descriptions of what I did that week or what my biggest crush said or did, and some were my deeper thoughts and feelings poured out for my friends on a weekly basis.

As far as writing creatively, I can remember writing silly stories for fun when I was maybe ten or eleven, and I think I was 9 when I won a creative writing contest in the 4th grade and got to go to a nearby college to receive a certificate. I vaguely remember that, but I know it was a medieval story about two brothers and a princess. Pretty sure my mom has that packed away in a tub somewhere. If I ever find it, I’ll be sure to share that masterpiece here. ;) But I never saw myself as someone who would pursue writing someday.

Jake took part in NaNoWriMo once or twice before I did. He’s always been a creative writer – stories and lots and lots of poetry – and has had a zillion stories in that brain of his for as long as I’ve known him. We joke now about how he was the one we always thought would publish a novel someday, but now his interests lie elsewhere, and I’m the one writing novels.

Honestly, that first year (2008), I only did it to see if I could actually write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It was one of those things that you challenge yourself with just to get that feeling of completing a task. But I never expected to fall in love with writing like I did. I never expected it to make me happy, almost giddy at times. I never expected to be sitting at my keyboard with tears streaming down my face, like Joan Wilder in the movie Romancing the Stone.

This photo was taken at the halfway point. November 14, 2008. I was already way past half of the required word count, which I was pretty excited about.

At that point in my life, I thought photography was it for me. It’s funny how something comes into your life and changes things. Changes you. I knew from the moment I wrote this book that it was special. Maybe every author says that about their own books, but I don’t care. I’m saying it. I’m a sucker for a good romance and Goodbye, Magnolia is just that.

One of the themes in the book is trusting God with your future, trusting His plan. It’s kind of exciting, right? I’ve had things happen in recent years that threw me for a loop, for sure. But when I got past them, I was a better person, stronger for having gone through them. And I could look back and see how God led me through it. That’s how I feel about this whole writing thing. Writing is healing for me. Writing is hard work and frustrating at times, but so worth it.

one sunset


Last night’s sky. These were taken almost exactly 5 minutes apart starting at 6:35 pm. The progression of the change in clouds and colors was so amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a completely different sunset every few minutes.

And I needed that. I want winter to be over very badly. Overcast and gloomy and snowy, well … I’m over it. And last night, it was like God was giving me so much beauty all at once. I couldn’t even handle it. I was kind of giddy about it.

An author I follow posted a question yesterday on her Facebook asking what 5 things (besides your people) bring you the most joy in life. Beautiful sunsets were right up there on my list.

I had just hit “post” commenting on her question and I noticed the sky. I pulled my phone camera out for that first shot thinking it was a pretty sky. I think that’s exactly what I posted along with that photo on Instagram. Then five minutes later, I glanced up again and quickly snapped a few more pictures, thinking, “Wow! I thought it looked pretty before.” And then … well, God was just showing off. ;)

And I felt like it was all for me, because He knows how much I love His beautiful sunsets and He loves me that much.

AJAXed with AWP