Monday, December 19, 2011

Love Lifted Me by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck

Love Lifted Me - book 3 in a six-part series. This book can be read as a stand-alone novel. It is well written and you won't feel left behind wondering what happened before, if you have not read the first two books.

This novel continues the story of Jade, her husband, Max, and little Asa.  It's a beautiful story.  The beginning of the book seems a bit like a movie script, and honestly, it took me a little bit of reading to really 'warm' up to the story because of this - it seemed a little like jumping into a movie after you missed the first ten to fifteen minutes, but it was easy to get into after that.

Jade Benson embraces unexpected motherhood when her husband Max gains custody of his young son. As she and Max work out their newly formed family, an invitation to coach Texas high school football sends them on a journey.

Then a stranger reveals a painful secret, and Jade faces her hardest challenge yet. When she surrenders her heart to God and to her husband, Jade discovers the joy of love lifting her above her fears.

Love Lifted Me is a story of strong and surrendered love that learns not to look back but living and loving in the "now".  It's a story of dreams, realities, heartache, pain, joy, gladness, surrender and finding peace.  And like Sara Evans states: "All my songs tell a story. But this one is special. My first book series is about looking backward while moving forward. It's about chasing dreams, endless country roads, and tender faith."

I wish to thank Book Sneeze, the blog review program of Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Okay Faithful Blog Readers it's time for....drum roll please......
My First Book GIVE-AWAY!

Here's all you have to do:

1) Read my review of "When the Heart Cries" by Cindy Woodsmall and leave me a comment - be sure to include your name.


2) If you're my friend on FaceBook, share the link of my review of "When the Heart Cries" by Cindy Woodsmall to your FB page, then send me a private message telling me you did this.

That's it! Pretty Simple!

I'll draw the winning name from all those who enter by one of the two methods listed on Wednesday, December 21st!  So HURRY....time's limited!

**If you're one of my local friends - you'd definitely have the book in time for Christmas gift giving!  :0)

When The Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

This was not your usual Amish fiction was an edge-of-your-seat, heart pounding story set among the Amish.  I was drawn into this book right from the start and it was a "sit down, hang on tight, roller coaster ride" through the book.  I just couldn't get enough!  Most books, even when in a series, kind of try to wrap things up nice and tidy, while a secondary character may come more to the forefront for the next installment...but not with this book!  I was so sorry to see this book end...and it left me on the train with Hannah Lapp, so curious as to what will cross her path in the next book of the series.

I really don't want to give too much away with this story, but it's definitely a HIGHLY recommended book.  Cindy Woodsmall is one of the best storytellers of Amish fiction I've come across!  She doesn't just focus on her main characters, but her secondary characters are so well rounded and fit into the story in ways that sure don't keep them in the shadows.

My emotions throughout this book went from the happiness of Hannah's love with Paul, to stark horror at the tragedy that befell her on her walk home, to anger with her sister (I'd like to grab her sister by the collar and shake her up, while giving her 'what for'), to sorrow at the way Hannah is treated by many of her other family members and her community, to understanding her reason for getting on that train.  I was touched by the undying friendship of Mary & Matthew, while at the same time appalled at the actions of Hannah's brother, Luke and her sister, Sarah.  This was an incredible start to this series and I can't wait to get into the next book to see what happens. 

Bravo, Cindy Woodsmall!

Thanks to the wonderful folks at WaterBrook-Multnomah, through their Blogging for Books program for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

NEW From The "Girlfriends In God"


New From The Girlfriends in God Comes a Book about trusting God... No matter what! You don't have to understand God to trust him

In a culture where we tend to take control of our own lives, trusting God has become a religious platitude rather than a life-changing attitude. We say it, but do we really mean it? And what does trusting God really look like?
In this book you'll find:
  • A unique 12-week devotional study
  • A Bible study guide and journal page at the end of each week's study
  • The flexibility to study on your own or with girlfriends…or both!
Learn how to trust God—one step at a time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Naomi's Gift by Amy Clipston

Naomi's gift is a charming Amish Christmas novella that could easily be turned into a full-fledged fact, I would love to see that happen.  I was so drawn into the story and fell in love with the main characters, that I'd love to see what else happens in their lives!  (Oh, the ideas that are running through my writing mind!)

This story revolves around Naomi King, a 24 year old character re-introduced from another Kauffman Amish Bakery series book. (I've only recently discovered Amy Clipston but I'm really enjoying her delightful Amish tales) Naomi has been burned by love twice before and has all but given up on ever find her 'one true love'.  As Christmas nears, Naomi becomes even more certain that she'll live out her life as an old maid, but we all know that Christmas is a time of miracles....

Widowed, Caleb and his delightfully lovely 7 year old daughter, Susie come back to Lancaster County to spend some time with Caleb's family for Christmas.  Young Susie remembers that it's only proper to bring your hostess a gift when you go visiting, pleads with her father to stop at a local farmer's market to find just the perfect hostess gift for her aunt.  While browsing the items, Susie is attracted to beautiful quilts and is reminded of her mama, who passed away two years prior.  When Caleb notices that Susie's missing, he begins frantically searching the area for his daughter.  Susie, while not realizing she's 'lost' engages in some lively conversation with Naomi about the quilts.

As time continues, Susie develops quite an endearing friendship with Naomi, as well as her cousins.  Naomi begins to take notice of Caleb but fears that it's useless to get to know him since he'll soon be returning home to Ohio so she guards her heart from more heartbreak.  In the meantime, Caleb's sister, Sadie is determined to get her brother and his daughter to move back to his hometown area and to settle down with a new wife.  She feels it's imperative that little Susie have a mother figure in her life.  Sadie plays matchmaker trying to get Caleb and Irene together.  It's obvious that Irene really has no desire to have a 'ready made' family and shows little interest in Susie.

The story was delightful, but I do have a couple of complaints with the story - (1) Sadie's harshness with Naomi - she gossips about her, talks negatively about her, and her extreme interference in her brother's life which anyone familiar with the submission of Amish women to Amish men can see that this is carried to an extreme - Sadie truly pushes things way beyond what would be acceptable behavior; and (2)  the over usage of Pennsylvania Dutch words and phrases...a little goes a long way.  After a while, it distracts from the story.

There was a family tree included in the beginning of the book - which didn't really add anything to the book, as far as I was concerned.  I did enjoy that the author included a recipe as well...those all seem interesting.

I wish to thank Zondervan for the complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Plain & Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston

Anne Mae has been shunned by her Old Order Amish family for her decision to marry Englisher, Kellan.  Anne Mae's expecting her first child and her heart's desire for Christmas is to reunite with her family, so that her child will get to know Anne Mae's parents and siblings.  Through a series of letters between Anne Mae and her sister-in-law, plans are made for Anne Mae and Kellan to come back home for Christmas.  Anne Mae's arrival is not the warm reception she hopes for, especially with her father, the local Bishop.  After several uncomfortable encounters, Anne Mae feels that there is no way reconciliation will happen and she and husband, Kellan decide to go back to Baltimore to celebrate Christmas there.  After their vehicle slides off the road, into a snow bank, a Christmas miracle is about to happen....

This is a sweet story for anyone hoping for a little escape from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and enjoys Christmas miracles.  There's also an interesting recipe included that really sounds good, in fact, I will probably try it!

This was the first Amish story I've read by author Amy Clipston.  It was an enjoyable, quick read.

The only draw back I had with the book, was the numerous times the author used Amish phrases throughout the story.  Clipston includes a glossary of the words and phrases in the front of the book and it got a little frustrating flipping back and forth to figure out the meaning of the words and phrases.  It seemed like she was trying to impress her readers with her knowledge of Amish words and phrases.  This seemed to take away from the flow of the story.  There was one major mistake in the text, a mix-up of the character's name in one of the's not a big deal but was enough to draw attention to the error and disrupted the flow, making it a bit disappointing that it wasn't caught in the proofreading process.

I wish to thank Zondervan publishers for the complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

The Christmas Singing Book Trailer Link & First Chapter Preview!

Follow this link to see the book trailer for Cindy Woodsmall's "The Christmas Singing"
You can also read the first chapter of "The Christmas Singing" by following the link below!

**If you enjoyed this preview, you can take 30% off and free shipping on The Christmas Singing (and any other title) when your readers use promo code CHRISTMAS11 at checkout on The coupon code expires on December 20th, 2011.

The Christmas Singing - Cindy Woodsmall

Mattie loves her new life in Ohio.  She's trying her best to put Gideon behind her and start her life over.  Gideon was Mattie's first true love....and heartbreak.  She still questions what it was that caused Gideon to find interest in someone Englisher, of all people.  But Gideon holds a secret. He believes he's done Mattie a favor setting her free.  But is this a decision he ends up regretting? After Mattie's bakery burns down and leaves Mattie injured, Gideon rushes to Mattie's side but his secret still surrounds the walls of his heart.  Sol, Mattie's new love, is confused as to Gideon's return after breaking Mattie's heart.  Mattie goes back home to Pennsylvania to visit Mamm and Daed for the holidays, while recovering from her injuries.  Being closer to Gideon, brings about more heart wounds than she bargained for.  Mattie needs to decide where she'll spend her favorite night of the year, Christmas Eve...her order to enjoy The Christmas Singing.

This was a delightful Amish Christmas tale.  Author, Cindy Woodsmall, weaves a touching story in this novel.  A nice bonus at the end of the book are two delicious sounding Amish cake recipes....I can't wait to try them!

I would like to thank WaterBrook-Multnomah's Blogging For Books program for supplying me with this complimentary copy for my review.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NLT Life Application Bible Contest!!!

Wanted to let you know about a great giveaway happening over at the New Living Translation Facebook page, and also give you a chance to enter a Tyndale Blog Network exclusive giveaway.
Here are the NLT Facebook page giveaway details:
Starting on November 29th until December 24th at the New Living Translation Facebook page we're giving away lots of great prizes and something free for you just for singing up.
By visiting the giveaway entry page (located on the NLT Facebook page, the link is under the profile picture) and entering your name and e-mail address you'll be entered to win the following prizes:
  • One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).
  • One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!
Everyone that signs up gets a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rescued by John Bevere & Mark Andrew Olsen

After taking John Bevere's Messenger Module through the International School of Ministry, which combined John's books Breaking Intimidation, Driven by Eternity and Extraordinary, I decided to delve into more of Bevere's books and I came across this "novel", Bevere's first.  It's very similar in teaching to Driven by Eternity - it deals with the Judgement Seat of Christ and eternity - but as a novel.  It's plot is more expanded than the story of Affabel contained in Driven by Eternity, but in many ways it is similar.

In Rescued we follow the story of Alan Rockaway, his wife Jenny and his oldest son Jeff.  Rockaway is the pastor of one of the largest churches in Colorado.  Rockaway's son, Jeff agrees to do a video documentary of the pastor and a group of his congregants, who take a couple's cruise together as part of a teaching series on strengthening marriages/relationships.  Parts of the trip are beamed live to the congregation back in Colorado from time to time.  As part of one of their excursions, the group gets to experience a dive in a submarine and as the passengers begin to board the sub, Pastor Rockaway decides to send a live message back to his church, who are gathered for Sunday service.  Just as the submarine begins it's descent an unspeakable accident happens - an out-of-control boat hits the sub trapping all of it's passengers.  Those gathered for Sunday worship are horrified at seeing the accident.  Members of the Barbados coast guard, whom Jeff thinks have come to help in the rescue, actually cause more harm, by sinking the renegade boat in an effort to cover up the real reason for the accident.  Destroying the boat only causes further damage to the sunken sub and adds peril to the lives of the trapped passengers.  As oxygen levels begin to diminish, many of the passengers lose their lives...and learn of their eternal destination after facing Judgement.

Without giving away the end of the story, this book will make you take a look at your life and begin to become even more aware of eternity.  Stressed throughout the book is the fact that often times grace is preached our churches today in such a way that believers never realize that how you'll spend eternity is as important as where you'll spend eternity.

The message of Rescued is phenomenal!  While there were parts of the story (especially early on) that were a bit slow, once you get going, it's a hard book to put down!  I would highly recommend this novel to anyone and everyone.

At the time I purchased my copy of this book, Christian Book Distributors was selling the book for $2.99 in paperback.  At that price, it would make an excellent book on everyone's gift giving list this Christmas...what a better gift to give than to be sure that those you know and love gain more insight and understanding into eternity.  Who knows, this one book could be all it takes for them to fully accept Christ as their Lord and Savior...and secure their eternity!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trusting God - A Girlfriends In God Faith Adventure




Trusting God

“Just trust me.” Those are the words we hear in movies just before something bad is about to happen. And yet, we are told to trust God. In a culture where we’re taught to take control of our own lives, trusting God has become a religious platitude rather than a life-changing attitude. We say it, but do we really mean it? And what does trusting God really look like?
The Girlfriends in God ministry team–Sharon, Mary, and Gwen–have been there. They’ve traveled the tough roads of life to discover the peace and power that comes from grabbing the hand of God and trusting his plan. They’ve combined spiritual truths with practical application to make trusting God a reality for any woman willing believe. Through the devotions and action steps found in these pages, Sharon, Mary and Gwen invite you to lock arms with them and other women around the world to experience the exciting journey of discovering personal peace in the ups and down of life.
Trusting God combines inspirational devotions with a 12-week Bible study guide. The life stories bring laughter and sometimes tears, but always spiritual growth. Each of the 12 weeks concludes with a Bible study guide and journal page, inviting you to share with other women in a small group setting or individually in your own personal quiet time with God. When you find the soul-rest you’ve been longing for at the feet of our sovereign God, you’ll never want to go back and take control again.

Visit the Girlfriends In God website at:

Friday, November 25, 2011

God's Story, Your Story - Max Lucado

Max Lucado has done it again!  It seems that every book Max Lucado writes is a blessing.  In God's Story, Your Story, Max shows how God's story of life story is interwoven beautifully with our own story.  Each chapter is filled with Scripture passages and references to show how if we only keep our eyes on God, His story will come alive in us.  Many of the messages are what we've heard many times, as seasoned believers, but who doesn't need a gentle reminder from time to time.  This is one book you'll want to keep handy to share insight from with others. I was totally blown away about the comparison of graduation and death, as well as where he shared about the plans that Winston Churchill made for his own funeral.  Those were incredible word-pictures that will live on in me.  I also love Max's easy-to-read style.  It's like sitting down with an old friend in a down-home, folksy style.  There are even discussion questions at the end, for further in-depth thought or to use in a small group setting.  There is also a youth version available and I think it'd make a great teen study.

I wish to thank the kind folks at Zondervan for my complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roadside Assistance - Amy Clipson

Amish fiction author, Amy Clipson, presents the conventional spiritual journey of 17 year old Emily, in her first teen novel.  Emily's life has been turned upside down since her mother died from cancer, her dad's auto shop folded, and they lost their house to foreclosure.  Emily also had to sell her beloved Camaro that she had fixed up. Emily's moving in with her wealthy aunt and uncle makes her feel like a charity case and she really dislikes being compared to her beautiful cousin, Whitney.  Emily avoids Whitney and her friends, her new church and even her father, finding solitude in writing journal entries to her mother in the quiet of her room.  She also ponders her relationship with God.  Through Emily's struggles with grief, she develops a friendship with Zander - the cute neighbor.  Zander shares her passion for cars, but Emily finds his strong Christian faith a bit unnerving, but Zander fills the need Emily has for friendship and a budding romance.  The characters are very well developed and the story line is enjoyable.  I hope to see more teen fiction from Amy Clipson. Recommended for any reader 13 and up.

Thanks to Zondervan/ZonderKids for providing me with this complimentary copy for my review.

Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks - KD McCrite

 April Grace's world is changing so fast.  Her friends from elementary school have changed into....well, strangers.  She barely recognizes "who" they've turned into as they head off to middle school.  After an automobile accident, Isabel St. James needs help putting together the church play, so Mama insists that April Grace and Myra Sue will help. Now April's autumn is devoted to spending every afternoon with Isabel and Myra Sue (who's an even bigger drama queen that Isabel). If all of this isn't enough, Isabel's wreaking havoc in the community trying to get the road paved and the new boy at school won't leave her alone. Even April's mom is acting different...and she drops a bombshell on April Grace...she's no longer the baby of the family! 

April Grace is a wear-your-heart-on-her-sleeve kind of girl, learning there are things in life that she can change and things she can't.  She's learning to be patient and tolerate the things she can't change. Tween girls will easily relate to April (despite that the story is set in the 80's, which to tween girls today, will seem like 'ancient times' and for me, April Grace reminded of the youngest Walton daughter, Elizabeth.) and love her sense of humor as she deals with boys, siblings, and the changes that come with growing up.  Written in an open and honest tone about the difficulties of growing into the teen years.  A great read for moms and their tween daughters to share together or for a mother/tween daughter reading group.  I chose to review this book on the suggestion of my 13 year old daughter, who wanted to read the book as well.
I would like to thank BookSneeze for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

The Christmas Singing - Cindy Woodsmall

Mattie loves her new life in Ohio.  She's trying her best to put Gideon behind her and start her life over.  Gideon was Mattie's first true love....and heartbreak.  She still questions what it was that caused Gideon to find interest in someone Englisher, of all people.  But Gideon holds a secret. He believes he's done Mattie a favor setting her free.  But is this a decision he ends up regretting? After Mattie's bakery burns down and leaves Mattie injured, Gideon rushes to Mattie's side but his secret still surrounds the walls of his heart.  Sol, Mattie's new love, is confused as to Gideon's return after breaking Mattie's heart.  Mattie goes back home to Pennsylvania to visit Mamm and Daed for the holidays, while recovering from her injuries.  Being closer to Gideon, brings about more heart wounds than she bargained for.  Mattie needs to decide where she'll spend her favorite night of the year, Christmas Eve...her order to enjoy The Christmas Singing. 

This was a delightful Amish Christmas tale.  Author, Cindy Woodsmall, weaves a touching story in this novel.  A nice bonus at the end of the book are two delicious sounding Amish cake recipes....I can't wait to try them!

I would like to thank WaterBrook-Multnomah's Blogging For Books program for supplying me with this complimentary copy for my review.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Cry for Justice by Shelley Hundley

A Cry for Justice by Shelley Hundley is a powerful story of the incredible transforming power of Jesus, when we just let Him into every broken, shattered and destroyed part of our life.  Shelley's shares her story of horrific abuse and the hate and hopelessness that filled her life until she gave God "one small chance" in her life...she shows that is all it takes to change a life is to give God "one small chance".  Anyone who has experienced pain and disappointment in life will be able to relate to this story.  Shelley is refreshingly honest about her journey and tackles difficult questions about suffering. Shelly amazingly uses words that truly give language to emotions, feelings and fears that many can't do justice in describing.  Most importantly, Shelley infuses hope into the hearts of the brokenhearted as she tells of the miracle healing she encountered because of her personal walk with Jesus. Shelley's story will bring encouragement and hope to anyone who takes the time to read it!

I wish to thank Charisma House publishers for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wait No More (One Family's Amazing Adoption Journey) - John & Kelly Rosati

The Rosati's never expected to adopt four children from the foster care system, but God had other plans.  In  Wait No More, Kelly and John share their amazing story of the blessings and challenges they encountered in their journey to adopt, as well as the journey through the child welfare system.  God's faithfulness throughout their story shows that what was once meant for evil (child abuse, abandonment and neglect), God can turn for good (how God brought their family together).  Their story reveals how their beliefs challenged, enriched, and completely changed their family’s life.  John and Kelly Rosati do an amazing job of keeping it real - the good and the bad - they tell the true story of their experiences with the kids, the biological parents, the system and every aspect of their walk - the pain and the joy.  This part of the story is so important. The Rosati's story is one of hope amid challenges, beauty from ashes, and faith that sustains. It's a beautiful picture of what family truly looks like.

Thank you, Tyndale, for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Whisper of Peace - Kim Vogel Sawyer

One key to any good book is realistic characters and that is easily found in this novel.  Each of the three main characters in this book struggle with feelings that any reader can identify with - trying to live up to a parent's expectation, abandonment,  rejection, guilt, anxiety, broken relationships, forgiveness, reconciliation and the love of God all weave together in this novel.

Lizzie Dawson's father (a white man) left her and her mother when Lizzie was twelve to go back to San Francisco, where he felt Lizzie's mother wouldn't fit in.  When Lizzie's mother becomes seriously ill, Lizzie's mother's dying request is that she would make peace with her grandparents before going to live with her father, but Lizzie's not sure how to bridge the gap that separates her from her tribe. Lizzie lives alone in the mountains of Alaska and continues to practice the ways of her people, despite being an outcast among her own people...and she really doesn't fully understand why. 

Missionary step-siblings, Clay and Vivian set up an Alaskan church among the native people.  Clay is extremely driven and passionate and trying to follow in his father's footsteps, bringing many native Alaskans to God.  Vivian is seeking to be rid of the burden of guilt she's carried since the death of her father - she blames herself.  Vivian also struggles adapting to a new way of life, with fatigue, homesickness, and the culture shock that a missionary to a foreign field truly feels.  She surprises herself by befriending the people and the children of the village. She feels useful when she becomes friends with a village outcast - Lizzie Dawson.  Lizzie is very self sufficient and can care for herself quite well—she can hunt, trap, fish, harvest food, tend her sled dogs and survive just fine except for one thing—the terrible loneliness that eats at her soul day and night. Lizzie doesn't realize the extent of her loneliness until she meets Clay and Vivian. Vivian and Lizzie become friends as she teaches Vivian to cook.  Vivian teaches Lizzie how to behave like a white woman for when she leaves.

When Lizzie's grandparents find out that the missionary siblings have befriended their excommunicated granddaughter, Lizzie, they must make a choice: never speak to Lizzie again or leave their village.  Can they risk disappointing the church that sent them into the mission field?  They struggle just as hard, if not harder, at the thought of giving Lizzie up.

This was the first time I've read anything by Kim Vogel Sawyer, but it won't be my last.

I wish to thank the wonderful people of Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Fierce Beauty: Choosing to Stand for What Matters Most - Kim Meeder

 Take a good, long look in the mirror, what do you see?  Look a little a thorough self-examination.  Now, what are you worshipping...your own designer-influenced image or God?  In Fierce Beauty: Choosing to Stand for What Matters Most, Kim Meeder shares short stories from her own life of adventure, love and loss including her parents' shocking death when she was only nine years old and her struggles with self-acceptance (don't we all struggle with this at one time in life?), knowing God and standing for Him, that will leave you challenged.  You'll begin asking yourself these questions and will challenge women to to let their lives have the unique value and purpose that aren't found in worldly standards.  This book will empower women to choose who they will honor with their life and pursue their true destiny found in Christ alone.  Personally, I've never been a real "girly girl", so many women are bombarded with the lie that how we look is far more important that who we are but this book gets back to the real truth: Real beauty isn't in a look, it's an action - laying down our own ambitions and desires and taking up the sword of encouragement and fight for those who are losing their battle for hope.  When you step into this way of living, fierce (true, real) beauty shines through along with bonuses like lasting value, fulfillment and JOY!!!  Through it all, you’ll discover life lessons about trust, transformation, surrender, forgiveness, and genuine purpose.  Ultimately, life comes down to one question: Will you serve yourself or your King?  (As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord - Joshua 24:15)
Thanks to Blogging for Books for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pearl In The Sand - Tessa Afshar

At age 15, Rahab is forced into a life of prostitution (termed zonah in both the Old and New Testaments) by her father in order to help save her family during desperate times.  Rahab detests the thought of this life-style, knowing it is not right and thus decides that instead of having many lovers, she would take men on a contractual basis for up to three months or more at a time and so begins her "inn" in the walls of Jericho.  Through all of this she learns to distrust men and hates herself for what she's become.  After saving the lives of the two Israelite spies, she makes them promise to save her and her family, when Israel conquers Jericho (this is a familiar story to any bible reader).  Once Jericho is conquered, and Rahab and her family are safe, they decide to join the Israelites.  Rahab and her family are put into the tribe of Judah, under the respected leader, Salmone.  As the story unfolds, we see a stormy relationship develop between Rahab and Salmone, but much like the walls of Jericho, the emotional turmoil falls and the true source of each other's worth in God and healing from fear and rejection are born. 

Afshar created a beautifully woven story, based on biblical and archaeological sources, whenever possible and she stresses that this is a fictional story based on a historical woman who holds great importance for both Jews and Christians. The Hebrew Bible discloses that after the destruction of Jericho, Rahab settles in Israel permanently, but we aren't given further details about her life.  Outside of the story of the destruction of the walls of Jericho, the only other mention of Rahab is in one portion of a verse in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus.

This is a tender tale of restoration, Godly love and forgiveness.  I highly recommend this book!

Thank you Moody Publisher's for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Captive Trail - Susan Page Davis

Captive Trail is second in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.  Although a series, each book can be read on its own and it was surprising to learn that each installment is written by a different author. 

Twenty-one year old, Taabe Waipu, "Sun Woman" in Comanche, flees her village in North Central Texas on a horse she stole from a dowry left outside her family’s teepee.  The horse has an accident and she is left on foot, injured and exhausted. She is found on the roadside by stagecoach driver, Ned Bright, who is carrying two nuns returning to their mission station.  They take the woman, who is nearly dead from exposure and dehydration to the nun's mission.  Ned sets to work to discover Taabe's identity while the nun's begin helping her inner and outer wounds to heal.  Taabe begins to learn the language and traditions of the white people; she becomes special friends with delightful, 9 year old, Quinta and develops a special love for Ned.  This is a great read right from the beginning.

I wish to thank Moody Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.

The Encounter - Stephen Arterburn

In "The Encounter" by Stephen Arterburn, we meet Jonathan Rush, an entrepreneur, tortured by bitterness towards his mother who abandoned him when he was four years old.  After counseling with his pastor, Jonathan travels back to Alaska to do research on his birth mother and get to the root of his anger and resentment, which is effecting all areas of his life.  Jonathan meets local female report, Erica Bingham, who is curious about Jonathan's story and decides to help him in his search, 'off the record'.  Jonathan also meet an old woman known as Mercy, who has the information Jonathan is seeking but she's reluctant to talk to him.  Jonathan needs to find a way to persuade the frightened woman to help unlock the secrets of his past.  As the story continues, it simultaneously takes the reader through the emotions of both Jonathan (his feelings of abandonment and anger) and those of his mother, Ada (the inadequacy she feels at being a mother and shame). The story nicely intertwines the story of both mother and son with how God loves and accepts us, as we are, in the moment we're in. The book includes an invitation to the readers to verify the facts of their own stories, to accept the reality of their existence, especially the most painful ones, and to live in forgiveness. The end result is a healthy new way to look at life with an ability to share hope with others for the future. Healing is possible but requires truth, acceptance, and forgiveness, including of oneself.  Arterburn tells of two true stories that merged in his mind to create this parable. He talks about lessons he’s learned along the way and asks follow-up questions to help the reader consider more. This is a quick read, but it really draws the reader in and keeps you there throughout the entire story.

I would like to thank BookSneeze for the complimentary copy of this book for my review.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaching Tuesday

So the BIG question today is: If what you did in the next 24 hours was how you'd spend the next 1,000 years, what would you do?  Think about this carefully.

People today are planning better for their retirements than they are planning for eternity.  That's a bit scary.

Everyone is going to face judgement...including Christian believers.  Many Christians don't think this is so, they think because they are born-again, saved, they won't face any judgement.  They think they've got a one-way ticket to heaven.  But that's not what the Bible says.

Believers won't be judged by their sins - the cross cancelled out their sins - they are counted as though they never happened.  God wiped them off the record.  Believers will be judged by what they were called to do.  Each of us, as believers, has been called to do something - its our job to seek God to find out what that call is and to do it.  God called each of us to the task He's assigned, before the very foundations of the earth!  And if we don't do what we're called to do - God will find someone else to complete it and we'll be judged in light of not doing what we were called to.

Knowing this, don't you think you should be thinking eternally?

These are just a few of the things we've been teaching every Tuesday.  First, we learned how to Break Intimidation, now we're being Driven by Eternity, so that we can move into living an Extraordinary life.

Just some food for thought, in between classes today.  Once we've completed the entire teaching series, I'd like to reteach those lessons stay tuned and in the meantime, give some serious thought to how you'd live the next 24 hours of your life, it was to determine how you'd live the next 1,000 years because what we do in this life, will determine how we'll spend eternity.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

Being a book review blogger has afforded me the opportunity of reading books by authors that I've never read before...this is the case with Susan Meissner.  A Sound Among the Trees is the first book I've read by Meissner.

I chose to review this book because I've grown to love historical fiction, stemming from my interest in researching my family's history.  As a school-aged child and well into my teens, my least favorite school subject was history.  But when I discovered the roles my family's descendants played within our nation's history, it took on a whole new light.  When I read the snippet description of this story it intrigued me because I've been following the family's descendants and their roles in the Civil War - this story was billed as a modern-day story interwoven with a Civil War story.

I wasn't expecting it to read so much superstition and "ghost story".  It wasn't just a case of a 'ghost' haunting the house, but the house itself taking on the role of being the 'unhappy spirit' - so to me the book really stepped out and away from the Christian aspect of the genre. Let me just say, I'm not big into "ghost stories" of any kind. I don't think that "ghost stories" (paranormal stories) mesh with a Christian perspective, especially in this story with the medium, a seeming compulsion to ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. To me, this was a big let down.

In most of the books/stories I read, I make a connection with the characters, but that didn't happen in this story. In fact, finding out some of the background of this author, especially that she's a pastor's wife, sort of left me wondering what she was thinking with this story line and with the characters - mainly due to the type of language found in the story, especially in the way the Lord's name was used in ways that didn't bring glory to His name and so forth.  I actually lost a lot of interest in the story itself.  It was a chore to finish the book.

In my opinion, this story really does not fit into the category of Christian fiction. It only contains the slightest mention of God with no reference to salvation or living a Christian life. While I don’t think a book needs to be overly preachy to get the point across I expect more for one to be called Christian fiction. 

I don't like to give poor reviews, but there are times when a book just doesn't set well with me and in those rare times, I must be true to my feelings.  Just because I didn't enjoy this particular type of story doesn't mean that everyone is going to feel this way - to each his/her own, I say.  But for me, this just wasn't what I'd expected in a good Civil War historical fiction story and I wouldn't recommend this story to my friends.

I do wish to thank WaterBrook-Multnomah and their Blogging for Books program for providing me with this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where Has The Time Gone?

WOW! It's hard to believe that October is almost over...and I haven't been back here most of the month. How did that happen?  I know how that's called "study overload"!  I never in my wildest imaginations would have thought I'd have to put so much work into my latest Bible College class.  It gets kind of wild, teaching it, as well as taking the class.  I do more work on the course than all the other students, because I have to not only keep up with the current studies, but I have to do so much preparation and reading ahead in order to be fully prepared to teach!!  On top of all of this, we have had a lot of medical issues this month - translation: many more doctor office visits = a lot of time lost to other things :(  And, unfortunately, we still aren't finished...there are more doctor visits this week.  How sweet it will be when all the appointments are behind us.

We did manage to take some time this past week to go to the Halloween ZooBoo event at the Erie Zoo - as always, it was a lot of fun...but bittersweet at the same time, as Sami is now at the cut-off age for such fun.  Next year, she'd never pass for a child young enough to participate in the event.  She did have a great time this year, especially watching the magician in the kids edZOOcation building...she picked up on the secret of a couple tricks and she's going to be practicing them, so she can perform them for the children at Champions Children's Ministry.

Needless to say, with the busy schedule, I haven't gotten through many of the books in the latest stack, so I'm behind in my book reviews too.  Can I just say, that I'm not a fan of being this far behind in my normal routine?  I know, this too shall pass...I just need to be patient and enjoy the ride.

I did enjoy this weekend because it was filled with anointed teachings by my friend, Woody Woodson.  He taught at church Friday & Saturday evening, as well as in both Sunday morning services today.  What an amazing time.  His prophecies spoken over me, my daughter and my mother were confirmations of what we've been dealing with...and the encouragement we received revived us all.

I appreciate you being patient with me during this hectic time, please stick with me in this...there is some good stuff coming. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

Is there life after death? Just ask 4-year-old Colton, who emerged from life-threatening surgery with astounding details about heaven! Colton's account includes floating away, looking down on his dad praying in the hospital, seeing God's throne, and meeting relatives---including his sister who died in a miscarriage (and whom his parents had never mentioned).
I was introduced to this book, when my cousin talked about buying for a friend of his who'd just had a miscarriage.  He'd bought the book to share with her.  After him telling me about this incredible story, I just had to read it for myself.  Since then I've heard several comments both good and bad about the book.  Personally, I don't waste my time with the bad comments I've heard.  There are just times in our lives when we need to not get too caught up in the theology of life, but remain innocent and childlike in our relationship with God.  Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down.  Since I completed my reading of this book, I suggested it for a highlight book in our church's book store and we've sold several copies.  Everyone's buzzing about it!  It's a definite must read.
I wish to thank BookSneeze for the free copy of this book in exchange for my review!

Walking as Jesus Walked: Making Disciples the Way Jesus Did by Dann L Spader

As a current Bible College student with only one more semester to finish to get my Bachelor's degree in Biblical Study and Ministries, I was excited to not only read this book, but perhaps to use it in conjunction with my studies.  I was not disappointed!  This will make a wonderful group study.  The only way to make disciples the way Jesus did is to study His life.  We need to pray the way He prayed.  We need to invest in the types of relationships He did.  We need our priorities to line up with His priorities. More than any of that, we need to know that what we do with Jesus matters.  Dann Spader has put together this 10 week study to help us really begin making disciples the way Jesus did.  In order to do this review in a timely manner, I simply had to read through the book, so I didn't have time to actually go through the 10 week course, but as soon as I have a semester break for the holidays, I plan to begin a more in depth study of the material contained in this book.

I wish to thank Moody Publishers for supplying me with this free book as part of their Blogger Review Program, in exchange for my honest review.

Lone Star Trail by Darlene Franklin

This was the first time I've ever read anything by author Darlene Franklin.  I always approach a new-to-me author cautiously, but after reading Lone Star Trail - the first in Darlene Franklin's six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896, I can't wait to see how the series continues. 

In Lone Star Trail, (Jud) Morgan’s father dies for Texas’ freedom during the war for independence.  So when a group of german immigrants attempts to colonize a New Germany in his country, he takes a stand against them.

We're also introduced to Wande Fleischer - after her fiancĂ©e marries someone else, she's determined to make new life for herself in Texas.  Jud’s sister Marion helps Wande learn English and before long she becomes a trusted friend to the Morgan family.

While Wande cheerfully serves the Lord, Jud takes a liking to her, despite the fact that he dislikes the German invasion. Can he put aside his prejudice?

I can't wait to see what takes place in the next book in the series!

I'd like to thank Moody Publishers for sending me this free book as part of their Blogger Review Program. I wasn't required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

Beautiful Autumn Saturday

Hello All!  It's such a beautiful autumn Saturday here in Northwest PA!  Almost too nice to be indoors.  There won't be many more of these kinds of days before "Ol' Man Winter" awakens.  While the autumn colors are beautiful - although not as vibrant as I've seen other years, most likely due to the hot, humid summer we had - it's been a melancholy, reflective time for me.  The past two autumns, as I eagerly and excitedly raked up leaves in my backyard, I'd be on the lookout for the most bright, vibrant leaves to package carefully in air-tight storage bags to be shipped to my dear sister/friend, Leslie...but this year that won't happen.  So seeing the autumn leaves this year is a reminder of what I've lost.  As I sit here looking at the autumn colors, I'm reminded of the hysterical laughter of the first year's package.  I don't know if I laughed more at the fact that I was crazy enough to send something like leaves through the mail or if Leslie laughed more at receiving them!  I clearly remember the look on the mail clerk's face that first year, when she asked me if there was anything fragile, flammable, perishable or liquid in the package and I said, "Nope, just fall leaves".  I'm sure she thought I was crazy.  I probably was...heck, I probably still am...but knowing that it made for a special surprise for Leslie made my craziness worth it.  Then last fall, I packaged up more of the colorful leaves and sent them again - this time it was a delight for Leslie to share with her grandson, Tyler.  She took pictures of the leaves scattered on her living room floor with Tyler amidst them.  She even shared the leaves with the Kinder-kids in her class.  So while it's been kind of bittersweet looking at the leaves and knowing that I won't be packaging up any to send through the mail this autumn, it's been nice to remember back to how rewarding something so simple delighted so many.

Stay tuned readers...I have a few new book reviews to share...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Time Just Keeps Marching On

You've heard that old saying, "Time flies when you're having fun", well if that's true, then time REALLY flies when you're having fun and staying busy! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  I couldn't believe when I came here today and realized I hadn't posted anything since my September 11th tribute. Wow!  It's hard to believe how our life has been in "fast forward" for the past two weeks.  Actually, when I do think about it, my head spins. (I'm not a fan of using that phrase, it always brings to mind that scene from The Exorcist...thankfully, that's NOT the head spinning I'm referring to here. LOL).

Anyone who homeschools or goes to college, or like me does both, you know how crazy the start of a school year can be.  Our kick off this year began on September 12th, as we got our homeschooling under way - it's hard to believe that my daughter's in 8th grade already!  She's working way above her grade level!  We always get excited about the beginning of a new school year and this year is no different.  In addition to her regular homeschool routine, my daughter was given two incredible opportunites through earning youth scholarships!  One is for a writing workshop provided by a local published author, who will hold weekly writing classes.  The most amazing part of this is that the author is so impressed with my daughter's writing talent, that she's agreed to mentor her!  The second big opportunity is a youth scholarship for bible college classes.  She will be one of only 5 kids in the entire world to complete this program and earn an Associate's degree!  Bible college classes resumed on the 13th - not only am I a student, but I teach the class, and to top that off, I do all the registrations and paperwork for the bible college.  It's a lot of preparation, study and work, but I love it so much!  I wouldn't change a thing.  I'm teaching the largest classes I've had, since I began doing this and the material for this semester is AMAZING

We've had such jammed packed days, that it's surprised me that I found time to study for my first test of the semester and get some pleasure reading you can see from my book review posts. If all this school-related stuff weren't enough, we've been dealing with illness, doctor appointments and medical testing.  There's nothing like showing up to have some spots removed by the doctor and having the doctor almost pass out as she was preparing to do the procedure!  Stuff like that can only happen to me :)  So that appointment got rescheduled till next week. 

Today, as a break from the hectic whirlwind we've been living in, my daughter and I decided to take some time to see the new movie, "Dolphin Tale".  What an amazing, true story!  It was awesome...ranks right up there with many of my recent favorite, touching movies.  I'd highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone!

FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son.” ~Ann Voskamp~

So that's what been happening in my life these past two weeks...stay tuned, there's always something going on around here :)

There You'll Find Me - Jenny B. Jones

When my teenage daughter and I first began as a blogging book reviewers, we were introduced to Jenny B. Jones.  Before that time, we'd never read anything by her.  We started off with her Katie Parker series - we've been fans ever since. 

This book, much like the Katie Parker series, isn't just for teens.  Jenny B. Jones proves this by introducing her readers to Finley, an older teen, whose personal growth is smothered by the overwhelming loss of her older brother.  This story contains bits of Jenny's trademark humor that are found in her previous novels. 

In her past novels, Jones has tackled issues like: foster homes, changing family dynamics, and illness.  This time around, she tackles the effects of grief (as well as some other challenges) that many young women battle each day in a very realistic manner. (As one who has personally dealt with grief issues from the unexpected loss of my husband, to the loss of my father just 9 weeks after his cancer diagnosis, to just recently losing my best friend from melanoma, I can definitely say that each grief situation is different). You don't need to be a young adult to identify with the characters, Finley and Beckett. They struggle with fears and insecurities felt by young and old alike.  Jones also bridges the generation gap in a beautiful way, through the supporting character, Mrs. Sweeney, whose own story impacts Finley and adds emotionally stirring depth to the story. 

Only the most talented of authors can craft a novel that incorporates romance, humor, grief, illness, and family relationships relevant to any age group.  Jenny B. Jones knows and understands teens; she also knows we remain part of who we were yesterday. This is why, since I began reading Jenny B. Jones novels, I've become hooked on this author!

I wish to thank BookSneeze for this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.

When the Bottom Drops Out - Robert Bugh

At some point in our lives, we all experience disappointment. It's just a fact of life. No one is immune.  Often times, we face such horrible moments, that it feels like the bottom totally drops out of our life and we're not only devastated, but left floundering for answers.  Everyone reacts to these times in different ways. 

I was so able to relate to Pastor Robert Bugh's book, as I myself have had the bottom fall out of my life.  I lost my husband, unexpectedly, just days after our daughter was born.  I lost my dad to cancer within 9 weeks of his diagnosis.  And just recently, lost my best friend to melanoma - a deadly skin cancer.  The most devastating loss, was of course, that of my husband...that's when the bottom fell out from my life.  I floundered, questioned, feared, raged...and eventually found amazing grace, love, comfort, and a strong, deep relationship with God.

When the Bottom Drops Out chronicles Robert Bugh’s journey from loss to restoration.  It shows readers how to find and hold tightly to Christ through even the most painful episodes of life. Bugh’s story is proof positive that while pain and disappointment are an unavoidable part of life, God is nonetheless faithful, holding us close at all times and in all circumstances.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review..

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11-2001 ~ 9-11-2011

Sometimes there are events in life that no words can adequately describe. The terror attack of September 11, 2001, is one such event.   In my grandparents' time, it was Pearl Harbor; in my parents' time, it was the assassination of President Kennedy; in my time, it was September 11, 2001.

I've spent a lot of time this weekend, watching coverage of the new 9-11 memorials, watching old footage and news reports from the actual day and like most of the world, I've been churning over my thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions.  We've all heard and seen the accounts on our t.v. screens and in newspapers, time and time again, from the moments of the actual attack to the coverage of the anniversary. The facts will forever remain the same. The lives taken that day, will always be missed. On this ten year anniversary of the worst terror attack on US soil, I have chosen to take a little different approach to remember.

Since I believe that the children are our future and that God's word even tells us that the children will lead, I'm taking the snippets of my child's words to include because in reality, they echo the thoughts, feelings and words that most adults have had.

  • Watching Dateline on 9/11... My first time ever watching the attacks. They're worse than I thought : O
(Written by Samantha Morgan on 9/9/2011 on her FB wall after watching the Dateline Special: 9/11 American Remembers)
  • "Why did those bad people fly planes and make the building smoke?"

    I said that when I was three, and the 9/11 attacks had just happened hours before. I was confused that day on my way to Disney World, and I'm still conufsed this very moment as to why the terrorists would do such a horrible thing to our country. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were affected. May God touch many on this anniversary.

(Written by Samantha Morgan on 9/11/2011 on her FB wall)

I, like anyone who witnessed this event, will never forget where I was, what I was doing, how I was feeling that day....

Visual Reminders:

Before the world changed....

Terror and unimaginable horror....

Like a scene out of a movie...

Sights and sounds that no one could ever imagine...

Could this really be happening, here in America???

Who could hate us so much???

Why would they destroy so many innocent lives???

And yet, out of the horror, heroes emerged from all walks of life...

In times of tragedy, we will unite together and be resilient...

Forever thankful for those civilians who took action...

To stop more destruction, they gave their lives to save countless others...

Americans are resiliant, we are overcomers...

Because we are one nation, under God...

We will not forget....ever...

God, continue to bless America

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Attracted to Fire by DiAnn Mills

This was the first book by author, DiAnn Mills that I've read and I must say, it was better than I expected it to be.  It was interesting how, Mills, shifted narrative perspectives from one main character to another as she moved from chapter to chapter.  I've read other writers who do this with their stories and I, personally, feel it adds great depth to a book - seeing the story from the point of view of more than one character.

Special Agent Meghan Connors, gets assigned to protect the Vice President’s daughter, Lindsay. Lindsay has an alcohol and drug problem and is sent to a working ranch in Texas to rehabilitate...and to stay out of the sight from whomever is threatening her.

The main characters certainly are not all perfect, which makes them easy to relate to and understand. The two agents' bravery and tenacity provide a sharp contrast to a fearful and confused Lindsay. The added romance that Mills throws in doesn't distract from the storyline but improves it by carefully not becoming overly sappy.

This book touches on mystery, romance, adventure and's got a little bit of something for everyone.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, for my honest review. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hermie, A Common Caterpillar (eBook) by Max Lucado

Hermie and his friend Wormie have always felt common.  They don't have stripes or dots, they aren't very strong, and they can't find anything special about themselves.

What an amazing lesson they learn as each time they pray, God tells them that He loves them all the time, just as they are and that He isn't finished with them yet.

As Hermie becomes a beautiful butterfly, he realizes the plan that God has in store for him.  But that's not the end of Hermie's story...he goes on to encourage his friend, Wormie, to hold fast to the hope that God isn't finished with him either.

This classic story has been revised for kids to read and enjoy on their own (it's now a Lever 2 Reader) with fresh new art and a story kids can read themselves.

This is a must have book for any young reader and/or Children's Ministry!

I received this e-book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Gabby God's Little Angel (eBook) by Sheila Walsh

Gabby is a guardian angel in training and she's starring in this first children's book in a new series from author Sheila Walsh - Women of Faith speaker and Bible teacher.

When Gabby is given a new assignment to watch over little Sophie, she realizes watching over this gal will be harder than she thought!
The book is filled with captivating, beautiful pictures.  Sheila Walsh has created a delightful character in Gabby. The book is humerously written.  It will easily keep a child's attention the whole way through.  The story will create a great opportunity to talk about guardian angels and what the Bible has to say about them.
I received this e-book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Grace. It's what we crave most when our guilt is exposed. It's the very thing we are hesitant to extend when we are confronted with the guilt of others-especially when their guilt has robbed us of something we consider valuable.  Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It's this struggle that makes grace more story than doctrine. It's the struggle that reminds us that grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness. That struggle is the context for both. When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything.  This struggle is not new; it has been going on since the beginning."  -Andy Stanley

This is the second book by Andy Stanley that I've read and reviewed and I'm finding him to be one of my long list of favorite authors.  He has a great writing style. The Grace of God is a nice light read that I found enjoyable and informative.  The information wasn't too in-your-face or too intensely deep. It was insightful and lifted the spirit.  What exactly is Grace? Grace is not getting what we truly deserve. There are more complicated, deeper explanations, but this is a book that will help you to understand various nuances. Andy Stanley uses several people from the Bible to demonstrate the grace they received and, in doing so, gives greater clarity to the true meaning of God's favor to us. Examples like Moses, Abram, Jonah, Rahab, Matthew, Nicodemus, and the Prodigal Son are but a few of the familiar stories he uses to demonstrate God's marvelous grace. There are 13 chapters that reveal aspects, such as chosen, redeemed, rescued, puzzled, accepted, saved, and other delineations. Each example given renews the awe at how gracious and loving our Heavenly Father is to His children. 

I received this book free from BookSneeze as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Leslie: The Queen of HOPE

 (3/26/1962 - 8/18/2011)
How do you sum up a life?  I've been working on this tribute since Leslie left for her home in Heaven, but it's so hard to know exactly what to write.  The words have come time and time again in my head, but when I try to apply them to paper (or here on this blog) they just seem so jumbled...they don't do justice...and many times I've thought, I should just keep my thoughts and feelings tucked inside, close to my heart and cherish them...but when someone touches your life the way, Leslie, touched not only my life, but the lives of countless others, you just can't keep it to must be shared.

So after some intense thought and much prayer, I have decided that the best way to honor her memory, is to not just make one tribute, but to share her with you, my readers, often and over the course of many posts.  Anytime memories come, lessons were learned, love shared...I'll be sure be sure to share them here.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind or heart that Leslie is sitting in a righteous place in Heaven.  She influenced a great many people in her lifetime.  She knew she was on her way to Heaven and she made sure she'd take a lot of others along with her.  I personally, don't know of anyone else, who did so much to influence the Kingdom of God.  Yes, we're all familiar with the likes of big name Preachers and Evangelists, who have done tremendous things to influence the world for Christ, but this lady wasn't known in this way, but what she did in her life, impacted everyone she ever came in contact with.  She was a true living example of what the hands and feet of Christ were like her on this earth.  I know that when she reached the Throne Room of Heaven, God would have joyously said, "Well done, My good and faithful servant, well done!"  I'm sure she even got God to "Happy Dance" with her...she was just that kind of infectiously joy-filled person.

"I Love You"
Now I don't want to paint her as a "perfect person" because she'd be the first one to tell you that she was far from perfect.  All humans are flawed.  But she knew she was a forgiven person...and that makes all the difference.  When you're forgiven by God, you don't even have to worry about being perfect.

Leslie always lived a life of thankfulness and in all ways she exemplified this.  I will never forget when she and I first our first of what turned out to be, many cards/notes, emails, chats and phone calls...when I was chosen to be her ChemoAngel in February 2008.  My introductory card/letter was written to her on Valentine's Day...which over the years became known as our "Friend-iversary".  (As a ChemoAngel volunteer, we're matched with a cancer patient and weekly send cards/letters of support and encouragement to them throughout their cancer journey.  It is NOT a pen pal service...we take on these assignments knowing that there is no obligation on the cancer patient's end to ever contact their angel.)  So you can imagine my surprise...okay, shock...when a week after my introductory letter, I received a card in the mail from Leslie, thanking me in advance for what I was agreeing to do for her.  She wanted me to know the depth of her thankfulness while she was still feeling well, (her chemo treatment wouldn't begin until the end of that month), and to let me know that she felt such a connection to me through my introduction.  From that moment forward, Leslie and I forged a friendship like no other.  It went way beyond the normal ChemoAngel/Patient relationship...I should know, I've been doing this for 10 years and this is the first, and only, time a relationship like this has come about.  (I've become friends with all my ChemoAngel buddies...and I stay in touch with many of them to this very day...and have seen the 'ripple' effect a little kindness shown at a time of such trauma has had...but this superseded all of that.)  I was never able to put my finger on it, until just the other day, when God spoke to my heart as I was writing to a few other friends (who I met as a result of my friendship with Leslie).  God said, "What I have forged in Heaven will endure for all time."  So not only do I rest in the fact of knowing that the friendship God forged between Leslie and I will endure for all time, but so will the 'ripple effect' friendships that happened as a result of all of us knowing Leslie and becoming interconnected with one another through her.

We always marveled at the strength and depth of the friendship we had, despite the fact that we never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face in this world.  We found out together how deep affections for others could grow through praying for one another.  God was always teaching us these kinds of lessons.

Leslie wanted to come to Pennsylvania to meet me, especially in the fall to see the beautiful fall leaves...I smile as I think of this.  Her desire to see the fall foliage here, motivated me to do the craziest thing:  package up beautiful fall leaves from my back yard and mail them to her to enjoy.  I didn't just do this once...I did it two years in a row!  The first year it was done, while she was in treatment for her melanoma, as a way to brighten up her day.  The second year, it was done to not only brighten up her day (she wasn't in treatment the second year) but it was so she could share the colored leaves with her little side-kick...her much anticipated, much loved grandson, Tyler - whom she most graciously shared with all her friends through (almost) daily photos on her blog.  It was Leslie's great desire to get through her latest treatment and come east when she treatment was completed...which would have been in October (just about the right time for fall leaves!).

She often talked about our first meeting and how "grand and glorious" she wanted it to be.  She was true to her word - it was and will be "grand and glorious".  What do I mean "was" and "will be"?  At the exact time that Leslie went to be Jesus, she stopped by my house.  I learned of her passing about 30 minutes after the fact...and at the moment she would have left for Heaven, there was a rainbow over my back yard!  That's the "was" of our "was and will be" meeting.  The "will be" portion?  Well, that will come when she greets me as I make my journey to Heaven...and it will be grand, it will be glorious, and most will be forever!  There won't be any short visits, no having to go back home after a week's visit, no missing one another until the next will be a daily visit, every day for all eternity.  It can't get any more "grand and glorious" than that.

She Loved the Beach
I could go on and on about the wonderful attributes of this phenomenal woman and what she meant to me...those things will come, in bits and pieces.  I just know that I am the person I am today because my life was intermingled with hers.  For that, I'm forever thankful.

While my heart is still hurting at not having her in this physical world anymore, I cling to the HOPE of the future.  Leslie was the "Queen of HOPE"...she had HOPE in God, she had HOPE in faith, she had HOPE in all good things, she had HOPE in belief...and she made all those around her hold on to HOPE as well.  I loved her acronym for HOPE - Helping Other People Endure.  She was all about helping others endure whatever they were dealing with and instilling in them HOPE for the outcome of those situations.

So often we hear of what people take from this life, but when it comes to Leslie, we are hearing about what she brought to this life and what she brought to the lives of those she touched.  So as you can see, there is no way one single tribute can sum up her life.  Stop back often, because her lessons...her love...her kindnesses...her memory will continue to fill the pages of my stay tuned.