Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writer's Block

I am experiencing serious writer's block. My brain used to function in blog posts, then it moved to Facebook status messages, and then back to blog posts. Now, I've got nothing.

Perhaps it's because I don't have much to say.

But I don't think that's really it.

I think it's more that I have so much to say that I get a little overwhelmed. I'm just not sure where to start. Throw in the lazy brain that resulted from a 10-day vacation and the craziness that is work and overwhelmed is often where I get stuck.

So I'm going to try a couple of things to get me over this little slump. No promises about how long I'll continue. :)

First, I'm going to join the fun of 5 Minute Fridays, as hosted by Gypsy Mama. Basically, you write whatever comes to mind about a particular topic chosen by Gypsy Mama and write until your little heart's content ... or until the five minutes is up. No real thought or editing. This reminds me of an exercise that we often did in English classes all through middle school and high school. Let the thoughts flow.

Second, I will be posting This Week's Top Picks every week. No telling what day it will happen or what will be featured, but it will be random and fun and feature some of my favorite things.

So ... see you tomorrow for 5 Minute Fridays!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley


When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley intrigued me from the very first page. It pulled me right in and I found myself on page two trying to figure out how it ended.

Miranda, widow and mother of six, finds herself in trouble when an accident forces her to call her estranged brother-in-law to act as guardian of her children. Once Jack arrives and takes charge, he begins to see all the strange things that go on with Miranda and the other families at her church.

I loved that this was not a simple romance but was a complex story involving love, faith, family, authority, and trust. Much of the story is centered around the extreme beliefs of some who call themselves Christians (I would call them cults) and discerning biblical truth versus the religious claims of man. Miranda relied heavily on prayer and fasting in order to hear from God, as well as conversations with godly friends. I wish there would have been a stronger focus on studying the Scriptures as she dealt with different problems. Also, there were a few bits that confused me a little. For instance, at the beginning, I got the feeling that Jack was not a Christian, but later he referred to his pastor and seemed more Christian-like. However, the copy I reviewed was an uncorrected proof, so this may be taken care of in the editing process.

Overall, this was an outstanding novel. I was thoroughly impressed with Meg Moseley's debut novel and can't wait to read more!

5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my fair and honest review.

If you like my review, please take a minute to rank it for me!


About the Book
Freedom. Safety. Love. Miranda vows to reclaim them--for herself, and for her children.

A widow and mother of six, Miranda Hanford leads a quiet, private life. When the pastor of her close-knit church announces his plans to move the entire congregation to another state, Miranda jumps at the opportunity to dissolve ties with Mason Chandler and his controlling method of ruling his flock. But then Mason threatens to unearth secrets from her past, and Miranda feels trapped, terrified she’ll be unable to protect her children.

College professor Jack Hanford is more than surprised when he gets a call from his estranged sister-in-law’s oldest son, Timothy, informing him that Miranda has taken a serious fall and he has been named legal guardian of her children while she recovers. Quickly charmed by Miranda’s children, Jack brings some much-needed life into the sheltered household. But his constant challenging of the family’s conservative lifestyle makes the recovering mother uneasy and defensive—despite Jack’s unnerving appeal.

As Jack tries to make sense of the mysterious Miranda and the secrets she holds so tightly, Mason’s pressure on her increases. With her emotions stirring and freedom calling, can Miranda find a way to unshackle her family without losing everything?

About the Author
Meg Moseley is a Californian at heart although she’s lived more than half her life in other states. She formerly wrote human-interest columns for a suburban section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and home schooled for more than twenty years. Meg enjoys reading books, traveling, gardening, her three grown children, and motorcycle rides with her husband Jon. They make their home in northern Georgia.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blog Tour: The Mountains Bow Down

About the Book
That's what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska . A land of mountains and gems and minerals, The Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who's hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.

But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh 's vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship's security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh 's forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.

Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the FBI and receives her nemesis-perpetual ladies man Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack-who might not be such a jerk after all.

And that's only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.

Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a situation so steep and so complex that even the mountains might bow down.

About the Author
Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College . After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Sibella and her other books at her website.

My Take
Sibella Giorello is a new author for me. As I've been reading quite a bit of romance these days, I was excited to see a mystery come across my path. (Several, actually, so be looking for those reviews soon!) Raleigh Harmon is an FBI agent attempts to take a much-needed cruise vacation with her family. Her vacation comes to an abrupt halt when the wife of a famous actor on board is found dead. Murder, theft, and much craziness break out on the ship. With only five days left of the cruise, will Raleigh be able to find the culprit?

The Mountains Bow Down reads a lot like James Patterson's The Women's Murder Club series, which I have enjoyed for years. The pace is pretty quick, the characters are likable and well-developed, and there were plenty of twists in the plot to keep me intrigued. This is the third book about Raleigh Harmon, and I was able to read without many questions that would have been answered in past books.

However, the book started off pretty slow. It took me several chapters to really get intrigued, and it wasn't until FBI agent Jack Stephanson showed up that things really got interesting. I was also disappointed that this book was listed as Christian fiction, but there wasn't much mention of Christ or any biblical themes. The book was clean and had no offensive content, but I didn't think it really pointed people to Christ.

4 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review and participation in this blog tour.

Buy the book here.

And ... Start the series fresh with this great deal! Pick up a copy of Book 1 for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99! The Stones Roll Away is the critically acclaimed award winner that kicked off the Raleigh Harmon series.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Update on Jonathan

Jonathan came through surgery with flying colors. The surgery lasted about 4 hours and the surgeon, Jonathan, and Karla felt very good about how things went. Please continue to pray for Jonathan as he recovers over the next few days and weeks. Also, pray for their meeting with the surgeon tomorrow.

Praise God for this wonderful report!

For more updates and prayers requests, check out their blog.

Pray for Jonathan

A couple of weeks ago I asked you to pray for Jonathan and Karla and their family as they were spending some time together before Jonathan had surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Today, Jonathan is having surgery. Right now.

Please join me in praying for Jonathan, the medical team, Karla, and their three children today and in the days to come.

Karla is updating their blog throughout the day as she gets updates.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We're Back!

We're back! You probably didn't even know we were gone, but in case you missed us, we're officially back to the real world.

We had the MOST amazing vacation. Ten glorious days of being away, visiting new cities, seeing tons of cool things, and most importantly just being together. For the most part we took a self-imposed hiatus from phones, email, computers, etc. (although, I will admit to checking Facebook once a day ... just to keep up, you know!). It was wonderful. About half-way through our trip, Hubs said that he really needed some time away, and I wholeheartedly agreed! We've both been super-busy with work and other intense things going on personally, and it was nice to be able to shelve those things for 10 days and just enjoy life!

I wish I had been blogging about the trip while I was actually there, but a few catch-up posts will have to suffice. I have no idea how I'm going to tackle everything I want to say, but it will all be dumped out here. (This is mainly for me and Hubs anyway, so feel free to skip through these if you get bogged down!) So ... get ready! :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Choose Joy

I follow a blog called Gitzen Girl. The author Sarah suffers from a chronic illness which has caused her to basically be completely home-bound for the past few years. She experiences things on a daily basis that I can't even imagine.

But she inspires me so much.

The sub-heading of her blog is CHOOSE JOY.

In the midst of pain and suffering, she reminds herself and others to choose joy.

Pretty incredible, isn't it?

At the beginning of the year, she encouraged her readers to choose a word for the year. It's something she's done for a couple of years now, and she chooses a word that she wants to focus on for the entire year.

Her word this year? Praise.

In spite of everything that she suffers through, she wants to focus on praising God with her life.

So, I started thinking about my word for this year. Several immediately stood out ... faith, hope, joy, freedom, peace, thanksgiving, love, discipline, intentionality. All with such deep meaning for my walk with the Lord and the way I live my life.

But the one that really stood out for me ... in this season of my life ... is JOY.


Dictionary.com defines joy like this ...
"the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation"

It's easy to be happy or feel joyful when things are going wonderfully. But it's harder ... sometimes it seems impossible ... to know joy when things are difficult, when we're in the midst of a trial or a period of suffering.

Joy is more than happiness. It's deeper than that. It comes from knowing Christ.

And when you think of it like that and look back at the definition above, joy is caused by something "exceptionally good or satisfying." What is more good or satisfying than Christ?! (That's terrible grammar, I know, but I'm making a point here.)

Nothing.

Nothing is better than Christ.

Nothing gives more satisfaction than knowing Christ.

So I pray that over the next 12 months (and the rest of my life), my joy will come from Christ ... knowing Christ ... my relationship with Him ... and my satisfaction in Him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7

Is there a word that you want to focus on this year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Passport Through Darkness


As I am typing this on Hubs' iPad, this will be shorter than normal, but I wanted to go ahead and post. I got to know the ministry of Makeway Partners about a decade ago when I attended a missions conference at our church. Kimberly Smith was one of the featured missionaries and I was privileged to met her and have lunch with her during the conference. Since then, I've kept up with the ministry via her blog and weekly ministry email newsletters. You can imagine my del it when I learned that she was writing a book to tell the story of MWP!

Passport through Darkness by Kimberly Smith is truly a fascinating story ... The story of how she and her husband Milton served on the mission field and learned of the atrocities of human trafficking and the sex trade. This led to one life-changing move after another for them and their children. The book is an easy read and I loved Kimberly's writing style. She doesn't gloss over the hard stuff but gives great glory to God for all the ways she has seen Him work over the past years of ministry. I also appreciated that she was honest about how this wonderful ministry has at times affected her personal relationships with her husband, children, and other family and friends.

This is absolutely fascinating. Read it!

5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do not be anxious


I don't know about you, but the Lord has really used the verses I've been memorizing to teach me more and more about His character and to develop mine as well. Plus, just the process of memorizing Scripture is (hopefully) instilling discipline in me.

This is another verse that I've been quite familiar with for a while but never completely committed it to memory. I'm praying that God will bring this verse to mind over and over in the coming days at the slightest hint of anxiousness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6, ESV

This is how The Message paraphrase says it ...
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.

Don't you love that? Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers ...

May it be so!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello


Sibella Giorello is a new author for me. As I've been reading quite a bit of romance these days, I was excited to see a mystery come across my path. (Several, actually, so be looking for those reviews soon!) Raleigh Harmon is an FBI agent attempts to take a much-needed cruise vacation with her family. Her vacation comes to an abrupt halt when the wife of a famous actor on board is found dead. Murder, theft, and much craziness break out on the ship. With only five days left of the cruise, will Raleigh be able to find the culprit?

The Mountains Bow Down reads a lot like James Patterson's The Women's Murder Club series, which I have enjoyed for years. The pace is pretty quick, the characters are likable and well-developed, and there were plenty of twists in the plot to keep me intrigued. This is the third book about Raleigh Harmon, and I was able to read without many questions that would have been answered in past books.

However, the book started off pretty slow. It took me several chapters to really get intrigued, and it wasn't until FBI agent Jack Stephanson showed up that things really got interesting. I was also disappointed that this book was listed as Christian fiction, but there wasn't much mention of Christ or any biblical themes. The book was clean and had no offensive content, but I didn't think it really pointed people to Christ.

4 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Praying this week ...

This morning we sang one of my favorite (at least right now!) worship songs ("Dessert Song" by Hillsong) at church. The lyrics are stout ... tough to sing at times. I often find myself wondering, "Do I really mean this?"

This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

Do I really want the Lord to refine me through trials? I'd be lying if I said "of course I do ... bring it on!" So each week that we sing this I challenge myself to consider what I'm singing.

Today, Karla lead our worship time with this song. Karla is married to Jonathan, our pastor of global disciple-making (and my boss). Jonathan was diagnosed with a brain tumor a little over a month ago and will have surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible on March 22.

Songs tend to hit me differently when I know what the worship leader is going through. You know? And to hear Karla sing this song in the midst of their current circumstances was truly powerful.

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Over the next few days, Jonathan and Karla and their kids are taking some family time before the surgery. Will you join me in praying for their time together? May the Lord richly bless this week and give them special moments and memories throughout this time.

You may also remember a while back I asked you to pray for Sterling. He also has a brain tumor and is still dealing with seizures. Sterling will be in the hospital this week so his doctors can watch his seizures for a four-day period. His family is asking that he would have lots of seizures during this time so the doctors will see exactly what they need to see in order to proceed with additional surgery this spring.

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

May we remember that we truly have a reason to worship ... in every circumstance! Thank you for joining me in praying for Jonathan and Sterling this week!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do not be afraid ... we are not alone!


I'll keep this short and simple. Our pastor preached on Acts 16-18 this past Sunday, and these two verses really stood out to me.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:9-10, NIV


What are you memorizing for the next two weeks?
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