More Than Just Another Ornament

 

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I open the ornament tub and am greeted by an old friend. The small box beams up at me with its crinkled edges and yellowed plastic. I slip the ornament out of its house, careful not to disrupt the thinned cardboard, and observe the ornament by the lights of the tree. The once shiny metal has dulled, and the face of the bell is brushed with orange rouge from corrosion. The plastic figurines are still embracing, but the girl’s fingers are chipped, exposing slivers of pink.

It’s beautiful.

When my husband and I purchased it, we were newlyweds. Recently planted in Oklahoma, a thousand miles away from our hometowns, it was definitely a leave-and-cleave period of our lives. The month before our very first Christmas, we debated back and forth about getting a tree for the holiday. After all, it was $80! Plus tax! A purchase like that was HUGE for us back then. But we nabbed it from Wal*Mart and bought our first ornament to hang on its artificial boughs.

Over the span of three pregnancies (with a baby in glory) and five moves, this six-dollar gem had witnessed fifteen Christmases from its lofty perch. It has absorbed the wails of infants, the exuberant squeals of toddlers, and the giggles of children.

On the front, the words Our First Christmas Together 2002 are engraved.

This ornament is a testament of a love that’s been celebrated, tested, strengthened, and refreshed more than the barren earth in spring rains. I gaze at it and am encouraged.

Us.

Such a small word for such an expansive meaning.

Like every couple, my husband and I have experienced laughter and pain, defeat and victory. Many sobs. Many embraces. Many smiles. Many kisses. I’ve gained a fondness for football and golf (well almost golf. ;)) And he’s spoiled me by enduring my passionate admiration for watching costumed drama. Two become one. Our lives have blended, our souls entwined. Together.

So obviously it’s our fifteenth Christmas as a couple. I’m blessed to have acquired so many memories and am eager to take on more as our hearts are committed to Jesus and each other.

Do you have a special ornament? What is its significant value?

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Amongst The Roses Cover Reveal

Okay friends, it’s snowing. Nineteen degrees outside with a “feels like” temp of 3 degrees! 3 degrees!!! So today is the perfect day for a summery, sunshiny cover reveal, right?!

Maegan Gorecki’s next release Amongst The Roses, book one in the Keystone Legacy series, is slated to release April 12, 2018.

Wanna know more about it? Here’s the blurb:

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the home front?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history bring these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

Now for the COVER REVEAL!!!!

 

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Isn’t it lovely? The whole aura of it is simply stunning. The golden tones, the script detail, the roses that deceive you into believing you can reach in and pluck one, and of course the heroine with an intriguing expression. All so vivid, all so gorgeous! This is a story you don’t want to miss.

 

                                       About the Author

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what Godfb_img_1512512640450.jpg can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

You can contact her at her Blog/Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Bringing the Gift of Heaven

It’s the first of December. Some may say it’s officially the start of the Christmas season. Christmas is EVERYWHERE! It’s lining the hallways of my children’s school, it’s blaring over the speakers of each store I walk into, it’s the flavor of every single commercial from now until December 25th. (That’s only a few examples. Give me time, and I could fill this entire post with Christmas sightings.)

Here’s the thing. I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. And what’s been jumping out to me is this—

God brought heaven to earth.

Throughout the ages, humanity’s heart hungered for something real. For love. For life. Just something to fill the emptiness, to revive what’s dying. Mankind had lived in a state of spiritual feebleness, crying for a taste of hope. And God answered this cry through the birth of His Son. Through Jesus, He brought heaven to an angry, sinful world. He sent heaven to us.

And now we as Christians, can do the very same thing. Our hearts are filled with the hope of heaven, and we in turn, can bring it to those around us. Bring heaven to your voice by speaking words of encouragement, praying for those hurting this holiday season. Bring heaven to your hands with simple acts like making cookies for the widow who lives next door or by donating gloves/mittens/coats to local clothing drives around your community. And just like our Example, Jesus, you can reveal the heart of God everywhere you go.

Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed acts of rage, devastation, injustice and pain. Again humanity is broken, but salvation is within reach. This isn’t a save-the-world post, but more like a I-can-bring-a-piece-of-heaven-by-simple-works kind of message. It doesn’t take much. It should begin within the boundaries of your home. Instead of allowing the holiday stress to overwhelm you, breathe the wonder of heaven by dwelling on the reality of Emmanuel- God with us. He truly did bring heaven to earth, and more importantly heaven to our hearts. It’s up to us to share.

Charming the Troublemaker Review & Giveaway

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Engaging. This is just one word that describes Pepper Basham’s latest release Charming the Troublemaker. Oh, I have plenty more adjectives, but this one goes first because from the start, I was engaged by the snappy dialogue, enthralled with the small town setting, and captivated by the dynamic characters. Not forgetting, this story is stamped with true Basham flair which is her unique and mesmerizing prose.

About the Book

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Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: November 1, 2017

Troublemaking never looked so good…

When Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looks as good as it does on Rainey Mitchell.

Rainey Mitchell doesn’t need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptations wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne.

When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again.

 

Click here to purchase!

My Thoughts

Dr. Alex Murdock surprised me more than any other hero Pepper Basham penned. It’s the honest truth. We get a vague glimpse of him in the first book of the series, A Twist of Faith, but this troublemaker takes center stage in this hilarious, hard-to-put-down story. Layered. That’s been my word for Alex since his first interactions with the heroine, Rainey Mitchell, and her daughter, Sarah. On the surface, he appears arrogant and shallow, but he’s anything but! He’s protective, caring, generous, and just what Rainey’s cautious heart needs. His character unfolds scene by scene in some humorous and other times intriguing ways.

Rainey Mitchell has been endeared to me since her appearance in A Twist of Faith. She’s a single mama, struggling to save her speech therapy facility while trying to maintain a stable life for her young daughter. Her previous marriage had left her self-image bruised and her heart guarded. Serious, responsible Rainey rebuffs any romantic relationship, especially if it involves flirty, super-swoony men. It was so much fun to read as Alex challenges her self-imposed defenses and awakens her heart to life and love. The sparks between these characters ignite the page, creating a fiery and fun romance.

This story is equipped with stellar secondary characters like Ma Mitchell. She’s quick to listen, but doesn’t hold back her opinion which is always flavored with wisdom and love. Couple this with a gripping plot line and you have the makings of a five-star read!

I feel it my duty to add a disclaimer. If by chance you’re out in public while reading this book, you may bust out laughing until tears gather in your eyes, and you may collect puzzled stares from those around you. Don’t ask me how I know this. 😉

In conclusion, Charming the Troublemaker has an incomparable lure which hooks your heart and infuses it with laughter, hope, and a beautiful thing called grace.

*I was provided a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

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Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes novels inspired by her love for history and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her Penned in Time series has garnered recognition in the Inspys, Grace Awards, and the ACFW Carol Awards. Her contemporary romance novel, A Twist of Faith, received 4-stars from Romantic Times, and most recently, her newest release, The Thorn Healer, received a Top Pick from RT with 4 ½ stars. Her newest contemporary romance, Just the Way You Are, releases in April 2016. You can get to know Pepper on Facebook, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley, or Instagram.

 

Guest Post from Pepper Basham

I have a thing for underdogs.

Misfits.

Lost souls who desperately need to find where they belong.

I can’t help it! Call it a ‘fix-it’ mentality or an awareness that God rescued me and now I want to rescue other people…even fictional characters, but I’m definitely a softy for those characters that people are less likely to root for. Catherine from The Thorn Bearer/Keeper became my first rescue…and I just HAD to find another.

I guess that’s how Charming the Troublemaker came into existence.

Dr. Alex Murdock desperately needed to be rescued.

In a bad way.

If you’ve had a chance to read my first book in the Mitchell’s Crossroads series, A Twist of Faith, you’ll know that Alex doesn’t seem to be made up of much hero material. He’s a flirt, a little arrogant, and…well, kind of like a lost puppy.

As book 1 grew and came to a close, I knew Alex and Rainey’s story would be next…but I immediately ran into a real problem.

Who in the world was Alex Murdock? We really didn’t get to know him very much in book 1. He zoomed in a few times, ruffling feathers and then finally showing off some interesting kindness/compassion in the end, but…he was still a big-time flirt.

So the question emerged: Can a flirt be a hero? 

What is Alex hiding behind that ready smile and sense of humor? Why does he seem so lost?

The answers were surprising!! Just wait.

The Mitchell family draw him right in, as they did with Dee, and his world is forever changed.

And then there’s Rainey. Strong-willed and independent, she is deeply wounded by her ex-husband’s betrayal. Though she gives off all these ‘confident’ vibes, she hides her insecurities behind a tough exterior in a desire to keep people at a distance – well, everyone except her family.

Alex rocks her world with his ready charm.

And she sees beyond the plastic grin to recognize another wounded soul.

Throwing them together into a book has been a hilarious and heart-stirring adventure, I wasn’t prepared to encounter. They’re so much fun!

AND…he’s ADORKABLE!! Seriously!! He is SUCH a dork, but makes me grin. And…he looks like Armie Hammer 😉

Let me just give you a hint to some of my favorite scenes:

Anything with Sarah!

Underoos

All of the scenes in Rainey’s house

And those in Mama Mitchell’s

Okay, I like the WHOLE STORY…and I can’t wait to see what you think too.

Blog Stops

By The Book, November 14

Just the Write Escape, November 14

Avid Reader Book Reviews, November 15

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 15

Moments Dipped in Ink, November 15

Fiction Aficionado, November 16

autism mom, November 16

Fiction, Faith, and Fun, November 17

Inklings and Notions, November 17

Faithfully Bookish, November 18

Radiant Light, November 18

Reflections From My Bookshelves, November 19

The Power of Words, November 19

Cordially Barbara, November 20

Red Headed Book Lady, November 20

Smiling Book Reviews, November 20

Kat’s Corner Books, November 21

A Greater Yes, November 21

100 Pages per Hour, November 22

Splashes of Joy, November 22

Carpe Diem, November 23

Bookworm Mama, November 23

A Baker’s Perspective, November 24

The Important Things in Life: God, Books, & Chocolate, November 24

Daysong Reflections, November 25

Rachel Scott McDaniel, November 25

Remembrancy, November 26

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 26

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, November 27

Karen Sue Hadley, November 27

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away a grand prize of a paper copy of A Twist of Faith, a mug from the Blue Ridge Parkway, one driftwood scented candle, one mango scented candle, and a Troublemaker snickers 😉 highly appropriate. Chocolate with a nutty personality :)!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c1f1

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

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Amazingly funny. Those two words rang through my thoughts while reading the debut novel by Bethany Turner. Add a twisty-turny romance amongst the hilarity, and you have The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck.

Here’s the Blurb:

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.

My thoughts:

Before I even opened the book, I was hooked on the premise about a steamy-romance writer who becomes a Christian and sequentially falls in love with a pastor. It screams conflict, and I had to know what happens! Well done, Ms. Turner, by intriguing me to stalk my mailwoman every day to see if she had my book mail.

This story had vivid, true-to-life characters that leapt off the page and into my heart. Sarah was so naïve about Christianity that it was both humorous and eye-opening. Being raised in church, I’ve always been aware and fluent in Christianese—the language and turns of phrase that Christians speak. Seeing Sarah’s viewpoint reminded me to be conscious and sensitive of others around me, especially new Christians. They’re like newborn babes, in a way, needing a more mature Christian to guide them. Which is why I LOVE Piper—Sarah’s best friend who always gives her sound advice. Then we have Ben Delaney, the pastor. And a GIANT thank you to Ms. Turner for going against the general prejudice aimed at men of God and writing Ben as someone who is nice-looking, relevant, and not dorky. It was refreshing.

The story was well-written with an ending that blew me away. And it was funny. Yes, I mentioned that at the beginning, but it needed repeated. Seriously. I was chuckling even at the chapter titles. (Blame It On The Rayne – still makes me giggle. You have to read to understand. 😉 So, I totally recommend this story! But, I must put a disclaimer that this is for more mature audiences since it covers topics that are geared for adults.

Are you hooked??? Then purchase your own copy here!

*I was provided a copy by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Blind Spot Review

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Having not read the previous stories in the series, I kinda came late to the party with this book. But! I had no trouble following along and was engaged from page one. This was my first experience with Dani Petry’s writing, and I was amazingly impressed with how she crafted this novel.

Here’s the blurb:

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives

My thoughts:

First off, I don’t usually read romantic suspense. I think I only read one before this. Seriously. Reason being is that I tend to get too enraptured in the story and don’t particularly like feeling anxious and edgy because of tense scenes. So previously I shied away from this genre. But, this story was truly enamoring. It had two plots running simultaneously, and I never got lost. Yes, some parts were intense but the author was kind enough to give me some breathing room with a touch of lightheartedness through the interactions of the characters.

There was no doubt of the chemistry between the main characters. I loved how protective Declan was over Tanner. (Even though she was perfectly capable of handling dangerous situations, it was a tender gesture.) The romance was believable and fast-paced like the entire story. That’s not a bad thing. With this story, it worked.

It was skillfully plotted and kept me guessing as to who the suspects were and when they’d strike. What I thought was ridiculously clever was the ending. No spoilers here, but man, the author left such a cliffhanger that I scoured Amazon to see when the next book is to be released.

*I received this book for the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Soul Reflections

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This morning I was rushed.

My kids attend two different schools which thankfully have different drop-off times, but it still makes for a hectic start of the day. Throughout the morning, I dashed back and forth trying to get ready between tending to the kiddos breakfast, untying double-knotted shoes, locating glasses, etc. Though interrupted several times, I managed to flat-iron my hair and apply my makeup in front of my huge bathroom mirror. But it wasn’t until things slowed down, that I saw it. The entire lower portion of the mirror was grimy—spotted with what I suspected to be a blend of toothpaste and water. Most likely my kids smacked their half-soaked toothbrush repeatedly on the sink, coating the mirror with murky dots.

But. . . it was there all morning. It could have been there since last night. I never noticed.

How come?

I was busy. In a hurry. It wasn’t until I took the time, that I noticed.

Which got me thinking.

What does the reflection of my soul look like? Am I spending enough time inspecting for cleanliness or am I too rushed to tend to the task? Is my soul spotted from the world’s residue and I just can’t see it when I’m in a hurried state?

I observed it takes diligence, but being protective over my heart is never wasted time. This includes time in prayer, reading my Bible, reflecting on His mercy and goodness. Yes, there may be a mountainous pile of laundry or an inbox full of unread emails screaming for my attention, but I can’t neglect what’s vital for the strengthening of my spirit.

Awhile back my husband asked me, “Why are you always go go go? Doesn’t that make you tired?” I thought about what he asked. And the answer was yes. I’d feel drained from the inside-out but resigned myself into accepting it. I mean, if I didn’t complete these tasks, they never got done. There’s only so many hours in a day, right?

But truth is, we make time for what we want to make time for. I’d discover that setting my alarm for an earlier time helped give me extra moments with Jesus before the rush of the morning sets in. If I cut back on social media, then I can use that time to pray. In the car on my way to the schools, I’d listen to worship music to direct my thoughts into a holy vein.

When I practice this way of life, it may still seem busy, but it’s peaceful. Do I have it all together? Ummm . . . no. But by His grace, I’m learning. Trusting. Seeking out His whispers in the chaos. Holding His hand through the riotous haze. So at the end of the day, the reflection of my soul doesn’t expose the world’s grime, but reveals His presence in my life.

*photo credit: Mike Wilson Unspash.com