Christmas Encounters

The bell above the door jingled. Two women, one maybe forty, the other… twenty? It’s so hard to tell sometimes.

“Welcome to Hope’s,” the counter girl chirped over Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”.

The ladies smiled their response. They stood just in the door, taking in the whitewashed brick if the fireplace with the simple nativity figures on its mantle, the tree all decked in white lights and pinecones and gingerbread men, the fresh snowfall of pineboughs blanketing every surface.

After a moment’s pause, the younger stepped forward. The older jumped to follow.

“What can I get for you today?” the girl waved her hand on the direction of the glass case full of baked things. The women looked at each other. The younger’s hands went to get braid. She nodded sightly for the older to go ahead.

“Oh look! They have those pecan squares you love!” The women turned from the glass to face the younger.

“I don’t eat nuts anymore, Mom. With Trevor’s allergy…” The narrow shoulders shrugged.

“Oh, I—I didn’t know.” The older woman massaged her temples. Her dark lashes settled on her cheeks as she closed her eyes and sighed.

Both ordered hot chocolate and a ginger cookies. Each paid for her own. They settled at the nearest of the five little tables to the fireplace.

“So Trevor, he’s… three now?” The mother twisted straight, dark hair around her finger.

“Yeah.” The daughter eyed her over her cup.

“And, how is he doing?”

“Good.” Her voice was hard. The counter girl went back into the kitchen.

“You hate me.” The mother’s eyes closed as of to hide from the reality.

The girl—she really was just a girl—looked up and blinked rapidly. Her voice was too quiet.

“Not as much as you hate me.”

“No! I love you! I—”

“Threw me out of the house!” The counter girl poked her head out of the kitchen, then awkwardly retreated. The daughter caught herself, repeated it quiet, but firm. “You threw me out of the house, Mom. What kind of love is that?”

The mother said nothing. The girl nibbled at her cookie. The café was empty. The stains of “Mary Did You Know” filtered through the speakers.

The girl stood and set her empty mug on the counter. “Well, I guess I better go.”

“Wait. I have something for Trevor. A Christmas gift.” She gently lifted a folded blanket from her oversized purse. “I—I made it a long time ago. For my first baby.”

The daughter gently took the blanket. She unfolded it and held it up to admire the tiny stitches. Her brow furrowed. “But, you never had a baby. I thought that’s why you…”

A tear slid down the mother’s cheek. “He was stillborn. And two more after him. I was so young.” She smiled through her tears, “Then we got you. You were three years old. We loved you so much.’

“And then I messed up.”

“No, I messed up. I was afraid I’d loose another child…I guess I did.”

The girl swiped at tears. She shook her head. “No, you didn’t.”

“A Sparkle of Silver” and “The Light Before Day” Book Reviews

Hidden treasure, an ancient diary, secrets, suspense, and love. Both of of the books I’m reviewing this month have these things in common! (And I consider that a very good thing)

The other thing these books have in common is that they kept me up way past my bedtime. “I can sleep later, I need to know what happens!”

“A Sparkle of Silver” is set in modern day United States. Millie desperately needs money to take care of her grandma. So, when a slightly crazy opportunity arises, she takes it. Things take an unexpected turn though, when she gets an attractive partner. Together they race to find the treasure before time runs out.

This book is a roller coaster without the nausea. Yet somehow, somewhere in all the twists and turns Liz Johnson introduced characters’ hearts and their interactions in the most believable way.

Honestly, this book is re-read worthy. I’m giving it 5 out of 5, because the plot, characters, and writing style are all well thought out. I had never read anything be this author before, but I will definitely keep an eye out for her books in the future!

“The Light Before Day” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

is about Quaker reins, Henry and Hitty Macy in 19th century Nantucket. When they become unwilling heirs to their grandmother’s fortune (and all the conditions that come with it), they have to learn to live with their new reality. But both feelings and appearances can be decieving…

This book was a little harder to get into at first, because a lot of characters were introduced in a short time, making it hard to follow. Then I realized that it’s the third book in the series, so I guess that’s to be expected. That said, I’ll definitely be looking for the other books, because I really enjoyed it! Each character’s plot line was well developed. I never saw since of the plot twists coming (and I often can).

I’ve already recommended this book to a friend. Out of 5, I would give it a 4.9. I’ve read hundreds, maybe even thousands, of books in my life. At some point, I started seeing a lot of repetition in the stories. What makes a good book stand out is the author’s ability to make their story feel fresh. Both Liz Johnson and Suzanne Woods Fisher managed to do that.

4 Things You Should Do While You’re Still Single

Too often we treat singleness like it’s just a waiting period before you finally find that “perfect” guy. That’s just wrong. No matter your relationship status, you are precious to God and He has a purpose for whatever season of life you’re in right now. If you are currently single, here are some great things to do in this season of life.

1. Pursue your gifts and talents: I love to write, teach kids programs at my church, play on my church’s worship team, read, and visit new places, among other things. While I plan to continue doing these things throughout my life;

dating, marriage, and parenting all take time and energy.

For now, my time is my own, and I’m trying to make the most of that.

2. Work on your relationships: No guy can ever be everything for you, you’ll always need friends and family too.

Have people you can laugh with and people you can open your heart to. Have people who’ve been where you are and people who aren’t there yet. Have friends who are 2 and friends who are 92.

Your family and church family are a great place to start to find these people. If or when you find Mr. Right, he will be a great addition to the great bunch of people God has put in your life.

3. Learn to deal with difficult people: These people might not become your best friends, but you do need to learn to deal with them, because they’re everywhere and

they will bring it the worst in you if you’re not careful.

Sort this one out now and you’ll have a lot more peace (plus if you do get into a dating relationship you’ll have moments of getting on each other’s never, so it’s good to be prepared).

4. Focus on your #1: No matter who else is in your life, Good should be number 1. I don’t just mean that in a do-what-He-says kind of way.

God should be #1 in a first person you talk to about what’s going on, last person you talk to each night, only one you can’t live without kind of way.

Of course you shouldn’t only focus on Him while you’re single, but now’s the best time to start.

Why Am I Giving My Book Away?

Just in case you’re ever wondering, writing a book is hard work. In my typical style, I totally under estimated how much time and energy it would take. Finishing this project is a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve received great reviews, so why would I just give it away?

I’m glad you asked.

This story is about finding the truth and finding God’s love…

… It’s about making tough choices and living with the consequences…

… and it’s also about romance and suspense.

I think this message is important enough that I’m willing to give away my hard work.

It’s not easy being a new writer, but I love to tell a good story. I know you guys will continue to be great supporters.

You can get Turing Test here for free today and tomorrow!

Mary Moments: The Answer to Your Inner Chaos

She’s just sitting there. I slam a bowl onto my worktable. She knows perfectly well how much work goes into feeding this many people. I add grapes and olives to my tray. Hands on my hips, I go through my mental checklist of everything that still needs to be done. This is ridiculous. I don’t have to be treated like anyone’s doormat. I wipe my hands and march into the other room, “Tell my sister to help me.”

I can relate to Martha on a heart level. Like this efficient friend, I often feel that my work goes unappreciated and unassisted. That’s probably why it used to tick me off when I’d read Jesus’ response.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord replied, “you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42.

Sorry, what? What about all those verses telling us to serve others and not be lazy? It would be one thing for Jesus to say it was ok for Mary to sit and listen, but to say she’s the good sister? The one who’s getting it right?

Mary Moments_ The Answer to Your Inner Chaos.pngI always pictured Martha clenching her fists tighter. Seething at Jesus’ rebuke. Except, we later see that Martha’s love for Jesus has grown strong. After her brother Lazarus dies, Martha expresses complete confidence in Jesus’ power to resurrect him. Maybe her response was not clenching her fists, but releasing. Maybe Jesus’ words were less of a rebuke and more of a comfort.

Maybe she was ready to let go of her chaos, she just needed to know that it was OK.

Think about it, busy seems like the right thing. Always serving feels like the Christian thing. But how can you tell people about living water when your last drink was so long ago that your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth? Don’t feel guilty. Stop to sit with Jesus.

Pour out all the crazy in your heart and listen to Him speak words of love over you.

The Only 3 Things You Need to Have Joy Today

I grew up being told that happiness is based on your circumstances and joy isn’t. I was told we’re not promised happiness, but God does give us joy.

Somehow, I decided that this joy must not be very special. After all, how could a bubbly kind of joy coexist with hard times (John 16:33)?

God’s joy is special, though. The Greek word for joy translates, “cheerfulness, calm delight, exceeding gladness.” That sounds like a bubbling over, laugh-out-loud kind of joy. I want that!

Fortunately, the Bible’s pretty clear on how to experience joy…and it’s not as complicated as you might think.

1. Worship:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

It’s “God, You’re awesome,” in my sleepy voice as my alarm pulls me awake before the sun.

It’s “God, You’re perfect,” when I mess up again.

It’s “God, You understand everything,” when medicine can’t fix the hurt.

It’s “Lord, You have a plan,” when today is just like yesterday… and the days before.

But it’s so much more…

It’s “God, You’re Creator,” when a billion stars shine His love.

It’s “God, You’re love,” when a tiny hand reaches for mine.

It’s “God, You’re life,” when a soul receives salvation.

Worship is a heart that tells the truth about God in the easy moments and the hard.

Telling God how awesome He is doesn’t make it true, it already is. Worshiping God is you fulfilling your purpose. And the more you think and say it, the more you will come to believe it in the core of your being.

You are loved by this awesome God. That is something to be joyful about.

2. Give:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over….

Luke 6:38

Not just your stuff. Give your time. Give your abilities. Give your love.

It’s like a sweet 2 for 1 deal. Doing something nice for others, or even just saying something nice, makes both of you feel great!

It doesn’t have to be something big. Try pointing out someone’s strengths or helping them with a chore. Sometimes the things that seem the smallest are actually the most important.

3. Know who you are:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

For so long I believed that I didn’t deserve joy. I must not be doing something right. Maybe if I prayed more, read my Bible more, became perfect (spoiler alert, that’s not gonna happen till heaven), maybe then I would experience joy.

The truth is, God loves me and wants me to enjoy all of the blessings of being His child. He knows I’m not perfect, that’s the whole reason Jesus died.

Of course, getting to know God better will increase my joy, but knowing Him at all means I have access to joy right now.

Like the song, “Who Am I?” says,

“It’s not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of Who You are.”

Because I belong to God, I am safe, loved, valued, beautiful, and enough.

I don’t have to do anything to earn it. In fact, I can’t.

When circumstances make you feel bad, remember who God says you are.

So that’s it! Want joy today? Worship God, give to others, and remember who you are!

Which of these things comes most naturally to you? Which one comes least naturally? Let me know in the comments.

“Chosen for Such a Time as This” Book Review and Giveaway

(after use, please put it backin its proper place).png“When I wrote this book, I had the younger version of myself in mind, and all of the things I wish I had known. I was broken and had a misconception of my worth. I
was lacking wisdom and understanding in many areas. To every other person who is or has been lost, broken, or discontent, I am just like you.”

I usually don’t find the dedication in books too interesting, but this one got my attention. Lost? Check. Broken? Check. Discontent? Check. Maybe not right now, but there definitely was a point in my life during which I experienced these things. I think it’s great that Jheralynne Foster is sharing what she’s learned about this in Chosen for Such a Time as This!

Thoughts I Had While Reading This Book:

  • Wow, she isn’t afraid to open up! Jheralynne shares her real-life experiences and struggles. Her honesty made me feel like she actually knows what she’s talking about and that I can relate to her experiences.
  • I could read this whole thing right now. Each chapter of this book is short, easy to read, and makes a great point. I think the idea is that you could read one a day (that would be a good idea, actually); but everytime I finished one chapter, I would notice that the next one looked really interesting too…
  • Woah, straight to the gut… Jheralynne takes a bit of a tough love approach sometimes. She writes stuff like “Is God more important than your sinful desires?” (33) and “Your old life is dead.” (41), but she also says encouraging things like “God knows everything that you’re feeling and He still loves you.” (40). I think she hit a great balance there.

Overall, Chosen for Such a Time as This gets an 8 out of 10 from me, because it takes the issues young women face head-on with Biblical wisdom.

Jheralynne, well done! I look forward to reading more of your work!

Sign up to win a free copy here!

or buy it here:

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Authors, do you want me to review your book? Let me know about it!

Mission Statement + Free Worksheet

10 Styles for Your Baby Girl (1)Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.…

Philippians 3:13-14

At some point everyone has to face the question “Why am I doing this?” When I get part way into a school year, I ask myself that question. I ask it after a few weeks or months of working a job. It’s a question I face on those mornings when I just really don’t want to get up. I think even think about it after a particularly difficult time of serving in ministry.

Sometimes, in the middle of boredom, tiredness, hurt, or feeling incompetent it can be hard to remember my purpose in doing what I do. I don’t try to deny my emotions, but I do need to have a response that is based on fact. In times when I’m low on motivation, I need a decision that’s already been made. That’s why I decided to come up with my personal, definitive answer to this question. I like to call it my mission statement. It’s my purpose for living and should back everything that I do. If I can’t use my mission statement to explain why I’m doing something, I need to seriously question whether I’m really supposed to be doing that thing.

My Mission Statement

  • Know God- This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
  • Love God- “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
  • Live With God- “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
  • Glorify God- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”(Ephesians 2:10)

The New City Catechism puts it like this: “God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.”

So why do I go to work and do school? To glorify God by doing my best work and telling others about Him when I get the opportunity.

Why do I pray and study the Bible? To live with God and know Him better. The more I live with and know Him, the more I will love Him too.

Why do I waste time scrolling through social media? Uhhh…

Get it? Good! Now it’s your turn. (Scary, I know) Get your free mission statement worksheet here to put your life purpose in your own words and check how your life lines up.