Friday, March 20, 2015

You're Loved No Matter What - Inspiration from Holley Gerth

If you are like me you work hard to be perfect in every way. Life can be a challenge and we women are busy trying to please our families, our friends, our coworkers and most everyone we come in contact with. I found a lot of encouragement in Holley's latest book You're Loved No Matter What; encouragement that makes me feel like I can forgive myself for not being perfect. It is just not how we were created to be. We are made to be loved unconditionally by God who forgives us as only He can as our heavenly Father.  
Don't we all need to know this is true? I can't count how many times I have said if only I worked harder, looked thinner or was better than I was last week my life would be perfect. If only my life were perfect I would achieve perfection all of the above wouldn't be a problem. The problem is forgetting that I am loved already for who I am not an unrealistic earthly goal. I have been reminding myself to ease up and remember that I am loved for myself since starting this book and I have to share that it has been an aha experience for me.                                                                                                    Holley's book can be read straight through or in pieces to study. However you choose to read it, know that she is like having your good friend sitting across your table sharing a cup of coffee. Strategies and tips are available within the book that help you let go of perfection in different areas of your life. If you lead a women's study group there are discussion questions in the Go Deeper Guide at the back of the book for your group.                                                                                                                  p.s. If you’ve ever struggled with feeling like you need to be perfect, my friend Holley Gerth’s new book will encourage you. You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reviewing Meek and Mild

I am a fan of Amish Fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport. The story is about the Amish but is rich with complex issues you aren't looking for in the plain lifestyle. Clara Kuhns' is in love with Andrew Raber but is hesitant to wed. Clara's mother passed away in childbirth, leaving her worried and anxious about having children of her own.  Her family is part of an Old Order Amish community. Her mother's family is part of a growing Mennonite group who believe in teaching Sunday School.  The Bishop of Clara's community has made it difficult for her to visit with her aunt and cousins by instituting the age old custom of shunning people with different beliefs.  As the story developed, I felt impatient with the old order because of this practice.

Truth about a change that began by a vote when Clara was very young comes to light and sends the community on the brink of big change.  Reading about what happened was not predictable and the outcome was surprising enough to lead me to appreciate Olivia's writing style. The characters are very well written and I found myself disappointed to put the book down.

I really liked this book because of how it dealt with the heart of the young heroine who has so many questions about life and her faith and feels quite alone.  Her stepmother seems to be pushing her out of the home by making her feel unneeded for even the simplest task around the house.  Andrew has been tempting fate and the Ordnung with his acquisition of a car found by the side of the road bearing a note asking the finder to please take the car. Cars are not part of the simple life and Clara is worried it may get Andrew Shunned. Andrew takes everything in stride which worries Clara more. It is a twist of fate that changes her heart toward love and marriage.

This new glimpse into the Amish people has given me a chance to do a little extra research afterwards. Suffice it to say that not only is this a wonderful love story, it is a nice work of historical fiction on a difficult period for the Amish. They have succeeded in continuing to live good lives of strong faith and adherence to a lifestyle that has survived since it began in 1693.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reviwing Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies, by Janette Oke and her daughter Larel Oke Logan is a wonderful book for those who love following Elizabeth Thatcher of When Calls the Heart. Some of my first experiences with Christian fiction were reading Mrs. Oke's novels. She has a way of hooking us in with her characters who seem to come alive with the pages of her books.

Cover ArtWhere Trust Lies gives us a closer look at the Thatcher family. Fresh off the train from Coal Valley, she is informed of a leisurely cruise she will be taking with her mother and sisters Julie and Margaret. With her heart full of Jarrick (Jack) Thornton, the dashing Mountie from Coal Valley, she would be content to stay home and relax instead of rushing off for more travel.

Once aboard the cruise ship and headed for the St. Lawrence River and beyond to the states, she discovers there is a lot more to her family than she could ever realize being tucked at safely at home.

Julie, her vivacious younger sister is intent in spending time with her new American friends. Their exciting ways entice Julie to want to spend time away from her family and be more like them. Beth is concerned but cautious with her sister and tries to keep a watchful eye.

Elizabeth, with her mind recounting her time spent with Jarrick in Coal Valley discovers his true feelings for her only when he leaves her at the train depot with a box of long stemmed roses. Along her journey, she takes a petal each day and wraps it in her handkerchief to keep him close to her.  She longs to receive the letter asking her to return to Coal Valley and be closer to him.

Chance brings her family heartbreaking events that nearly rocks her faith. Each member of her family is tested while the story reveals a resilience that only faith can restore. As I read the story I was reminded once again how much I like Janette Oke's writing.  It is heartwarming to me that she collaborated on this story with her daughter Laurel.  The bond of mother and daughter is strong in this book and only such a strong bond could have made such a successful collaboration.

Thank you Bethany House for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Anna's Crossing! Worth the Wait!

10372283_867099466646927_3112724279182889122_nI waited for what seems like a long time to read Suzanne Woods Fisher'Anna's Crossing. It started as I finished up Christmas at Rose Hill Farm. Two reasons for this anticipation besides being a fan of Suzanne are learning more about the Charming Nancy, the ship on which Anna crosses the Atlantic and to find out about the real story behind Rose Hill Farm's famous rose.

What I didn't anticipate was learning so much more about the history of the Amish people. Anna Konig symbolizes many of the Amish who came to Penn's  Wood with the promise of a brighter future and plenty of land to start a new life.  It took courage to cross the ocean under the conditions on ships such as the Charming Nancy. This was no passenger ship with staterooms for families. It was dank and dingy and full of bunks stacked high in order to cram more passengers on board.

Anna is a reluctant heroine and Bairn, the ships carpenter the reluctant hero are drawn together by circumstance. He has no use for the Amish, or the "peculiars" as they are often referred to. She cannot befriend a man who is without faith. Yet their destiny is entwined as Anna is the only passenger who can speak English and is called upon to translate for all.  It is through Felix, the young son of her neighbor Dorothea that both Anna and Bairn can cooperate and make the crossing more bearable. 

Long delays, wild storms, an encounter with slave traders, surly crew members and growing disappointment would make any group of people difficult to live with. The under belly of a ship with no accommodations is unthinkable in our modern world of indoor plumbing.

I admire Suzanne's thorough research for her works. If you look for more information on the Charming Nancy you will find that in 1737, Captain Charles Steadman was at the helm of the same said ship carrying 21 Amish families to America.  He and his brother Captain John Steadman were both regarded as the best to sail with. 

I read a lot of American history and this book did not introduce me to the Charming Nancy.  In later years, The Charming Nancy was the ship that carried an exiled Margaret Kemble Gage, wife of General Thomas Gage back to England during the Revolutionary War. Her sympathies with the colonies, it seems gave her husband much displeasure.  The Charming Nancy was a ship rich with history.

Anna carried a rose from her home in Germany on board all the way to her new home in the colonies.  The rose gave me hope for Anna, and for all the people in the story who captured my heart. Suzanne has such a way of weaving her story line through her characters to create a community that for all its faults and misunderstandings come together when it is most important.   The ending had me saying "yes" while wanting for more. I hope there will be more books in this series that will include the same families and that Suzanne will tell us what could have happened next.

Many thanks to Suzanne Woods Fisher for writing this book and to Revell, who advanced me a copy for an honest review.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Faithful Friday

30 "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."

Proverbs 31 is about a virtuous woman! I would love to be that woman who seems to be perfect but alas, I am but a human. My failings are real and yet I get up each day and try again.  My weight is down this week. It was not hard since I was sick for most of the week. However, I believe I will try hard next week to keep these pounds off.   Let me be virtuous and care for my body. Caring for my body is caring for my family. Beauty is fleeting for sure and at my age I have many of my own thoughts coming from my mouth than to worry about pleasing as much as I used to.  It is worth it. I do have a healthy fear of the Lord but I am not looking for earthly praise.  

Let's be honest. We tie so much of our worth to our beauty, friends and um....our weight or collection of flab. I have avoided shopping to avoid buying larger clothes. Vanity.  My goal is really to get healthy and to have more energy for my family.  I am on the mend today and that means that my quest for all around good health and energy is on the way!  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reviewing Where The Rivers Part

Where Rivers Part, Texas Gold Series #2   -     By: Kellie Coates Gilbert
Dr. Juliet Ryan, noted scientist has the job of her dreams with Larimar Springs. She has a vested interest in food safety as the daughter of Dr. Bennett Ryan who is eminent in the field of food safety and sustainability.  When Juliet was just a child she learned of an outbreak of e coli at a fast food chain that left a lasting impact on her.  She is dedicated to her work and chose Larimar Springs primarily because of assurances by the CEO Alexa Carmichael's stance on food safety.  It didn't hurt that she was quietly seeing Greer Latham, V.P. of sales for the corporation.  She was convinced that she had the best job in the world with a company that cared so much for humanity. Her father differed with her on this and stuck with his mantra that corporate America was only out for money and did not care who they hurt to keep the money pouring in.

I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Where the Rivers Part at first since I have been on a reading jag with period pieces or Amish fiction. I was very surprised to get started and immediately hooked on this book.
Juliet's world spirals out of control on just about all levels and the novel became suspenseful. The characters were well developed and I kept wondering what was going to happen next when I had a chance to pick it up again. Predictably in a book or movie, we can get an idea that something is going to go wrong at the perfect job or the perfect relationship.  At the heart of this book we have very real people who we root for and those who surprise us. It is those who rally around the heroine who can surprise us the most because we don't expect that. In a rousing testament of faith, Juliet's mother inspires both Juliet and Bennett back to God and the shift in them makes the story all the more meaningful. I thought the book was good and the ending is even better. Pick up a copy and get involved in this caper of good and evil!

Many thanks to Revell, a Division of Baker Publishing Group for letting me read and review this book.  Where the Rivers Part is part of the Texas Gold series by Kellie Goates Gilbert. I have found another author to follow.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Faith-ful Friday

It is the first Friday of lent. As we go through these forty days leading up to Easter many people give things up and try to stick it out through the duration. I have during my childhood toyed with what I could give up. Not that it was a toying idea but simply that I was never successful in my resolve. Perhaps I didn't understand or just didn't have the willpower to say no thank you to the endless offerings of cookies, pies, cinnamon rolls or penny candy.

This year my mind is sticking to the idea of adding something challenging instead. I have seen this idea a few times this past week and the notion is sticking with me. I have long known that I need to adopt an exercise regime. With my husband's help, we have set up my own workout bench with weights nearby that I can handle. My goal is to give strength to my body and improve my life. I have been skating along getting weaker and feeling a little less energetic. My sleep averages about three and one-half hours a night.
I have begun reading a book I picked up about two years ago called Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas.  It is a different perspective than weight loss books or quick tricks. It is teaching me that it honors God more when we take care of the one body that we are given in our life. One of the passages is Proverbs 23:19-21:

 "Listen my son, and be wise, 
and set your heart on the right path: 
Do not join those who drink too much wine
 or gorge themselves on meat, 
for drunkards and gluttons become poor, 
and drowsiness clothes them in rags."

I am tired and weak and it is up to me to take care of this body and soul. It is my goal this lent to really focus on this hard task of getting stronger and finding true restful sleep. I cannot do this alone and I ask God to help me. It will not be an easy task so it is appropriate to begin this in lent when we think of Christ and all he gave for us. Why should I continue on this path of weakness when I can give my best to become strong!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Trouble With Patience! A Story of Love and Taming Wild Montana

I love historical fiction and Maggie Brendan's newest book The  Trouble With Patience is set in the wild west.  Gold mining, cattle rustling, murder and romance complete the elements of a good read for long winter nights.

Patience Cavanaugh's fiancee was mistaken for a cattle rustler and hung by vigilantes. She inherited a boarding house in Montana from her grandmother and that is all she needs to strike out on her own. The the house needs a lot of work and her handsome new boarder Cody willingly offers a hand and a paintbrush.

Jedediah Jones, the town's gruff Marshall was busy maintaining order in a wild town of miners. He was in the midst of capturing a horse thief when he met Patience.  She finds him lacking in manners and too rough around the edges.

I enjoyed the story for its glimpse into a way of life long gone. Women alone didn't have a lot of choices in professions in those days and Patience was determined to make her boarding house a success. Many lawmen of old started out in more unsavory careers and Jed was no different but commanded respect as a Marshall who was dedicated to the law.

 The Trouble with Patience is book one in Maggie Brendan's new series, Virtues and Vices of the Old West from Revell Books. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.  I can't share more of the story lest I give it all away. Pick up a copy of this book and sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy a time when things were simpler! Or were they really?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: The Crimson Cord....Rahab's Story

Cover ArtThe Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith is the part of the Daughters of the Promised Land series. I was only going to read for a few minutes but was hooked immediately and continued reading until the wee hours.  The story is so compelling and well written that I could nearly see the walls of Jericho.

The research by Ms. Smith along with her natural talent for telling a story inspires the reader to turn the pages and keep reading about the characters she brings alive. Prior to this book I thought of Rahab as merely a name of a prostitute in the bible.

Rahab, is a young woman sold into slavery and prostitution through the selfish acts of her gambling husband, Gamal. In her new life she had a lovely home, servants and fine clothes. Her life was empty though without the true love of a caring husband, a child to love and the support of her family.

The Israelites planned to invade Jericho and Joshua, their leader sent two spies into the city to learn as much as possible to assist their invasion. They found Rahab who makes a deal with the two men to spare her if she helped them.  What follows is an unbelievable testament of faith that is remarkable for a young woman who continually searched for a god she could believe in. Her faith in the one true God is an inspiration to us all.  Rahab learned that her life as a prostitute did not exclude her from the love and forgiveness of the one true God.

I am inspired by this book, and look forward to the next book in the series. Last year I enjoyed reading Rachel by Jill Eileen Smith and will look for some of her other titles for further reading.  If you are looking for a good read along with some good old fashioned inspiration, check out the Crimson Cord. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Reviewing The Amish Clockmaker!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Amish  Clockmaker by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner from Harvest House Publishers. This book was the first book this genre I have read from a man's point of view and in a wonderful way the story is told in the perspective from two men, decades apart who become inextricably wound together.

book title frontThe story is present day but flashes back to the re-telling of a tale from the fifties about the clockmaker. Clayton Raber was a man who seemed to have been dealt with the wrong hand in the game of life. Left lame from a childhood buggy accident he was also scarred on his face, a scar that gave people impression he was small in many ways. He was gifted in his craft but his work was renowned also for its beauty as well as craftsmanship. He was a thoughtful man who loved very deeply with a genuine heart. He never dreamed of marrying and when he did, it was no less than to the woman he loved beyond the gate of their adjoining farms. The circumstances of their marriage and her untimely death shrouded Clayton in such controversy that he left home, never to return.

Matthew Zook, a young man whose family bought the Raber farm, grew up in Clayton's room and worked in the same shop Clayton did. His family's business is a feed and tack store that Matthew recently took leadership of and he intends to expand.  Next door to the property a large resort is being built and once his crew gathers to begin work, he discovers news that may forever put his project on hold.  He sets out to clear up the mystery and discovers the truth about the story of Clayton and Miriam Raber.

This is the third book in the Men of Lancaster County series and I am on the lookout now for books one and two.  I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in Amish Fiction.