NORA’S REVIEW OF: IN THE SHADOW OF CROFT TOWERS

Nora St. Laurent, Christians Read

 

 

In the Shadow of Croft Towers

By Abigail Wilson

Published by Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 15, 2019

ISBN#978-078223665

336 pages

 

 

 

 

 

NORA’S REVIEW: This author opening lines, seized my imagination, “I often wondered what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth. I wouldn’t have set off as I did for Croft Towers. I never would have met him.”

Immediately the author brilliantly sets a haunting- mysterious tone to her debut novel as Sybil Delafield leaves the only home and security she’s ever known and heads off to be a companion to a sick Mrs. Chalecroft. Sybil wasn’t a servant or part of the family so things were a bit awkward as this orphan tried to navigate her way around family, and the well-oiled team of servants; to hopefully learn a thing or two about her parents. The bonus for Sybil is she genially liked Mrs. Chalecroft and Mrs. Chalecroft liked her which didn’t sit well with anyone in the house.

I liked Sybil she wasn’t afraid to face a challenge head on, yet she was sensitive to her surroundings, she knew her place, she was strong, faithful, resourceful and listened to her inner spirit and let it guide her.

Sybil ponders her dilemma, “Everyone at the Towers had a secret. Every. Single. Person. And I could do nothing but claw my way through their web of lies.”

This story is full of action adventure, spies, mysteries, dramatic battles, haunting castle, murder, plenty of secrets, romance and dances to be entertained by. This author brings out all the things I love to read about in this first-person novel seen through Sybil’s eyes.

I loved the authors style of writing. She doesn’t get overly descriptive just enough to peek the readers imagination, “…The chaos was beautiful in a way, as if the plants had struggled against uniformity and won – as if this might be the way it was created to look before man bent it to his will.”

The author includes twelve discussions to help spark lively conversation. I highly recommend this novel for a fun, entertaining read and one that would work well with book clubs.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

 

Nora St. Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org

The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Catalogue front page of www.bookfun.org

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

Christmas is a magical time of year. I have even heard people who don’t celebrate Christmas say how much they enjoy the Christmas season. The music, the lights, the decorations, and even the gifts seem to add to the aura. But it’s something so much more. There is a feeling of hope in the air. Throughout the first eleven months of the year, life can be hard. We each have to cross different mountains in our lives. Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. Then we reach the month of December and life feels a little bit lighter somehow. The world has hope in a baby named Jesus.

Prior to Jesus’ birth, there was a prophet named Isaiah who spoke about Jesus. The verse above is just one of many in which he foretold that a Savior would come to save us all. You might be familiar with this verse, as we often hear it recited around Christmastime. However, the interesting thing is that Isaiah prophesied the coming of Jesus approximately seven hundred years prior to Jesus’ birth. Seven hundred years. That’s a long time. That’s a lot of waiting. Did the people give up hope that the Messiah would come? Or did they think maybe there was a mistake? Perhaps Isaiah was wrong? Did God change His mind?

But God made a promise. And God does not change (Malachi 3:6). So perhaps this waiting period caused some of the people to cling tighter to the Lord. Maybe when the Lord was silent, instead of turning away, they ran towards Him. Perhaps they held onto hope even in the midst of despair.

When I think about the promise of Jesus, and the long span of time that occurred until He finally arrived, it gives me even more hope than ever before. When things in my life don’t go as planned, when I am waiting for something, when God seems silent, or when I am tempted to let dejection get the best of me – I remember the hope of Jesus. Whatever you are going through today, if your dreams have been postponed, if you need a breakthrough – remember Jesus and the hope He brought after a long stretch of silence. When you are waiting, turn towards the Lord and hold onto Him with all your might.

There is always hope. Christmas is one day out of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. But on the remaining 364 days in the year, we still have Jesus, we can still worship our Savior, and we still have hope.

red lighted candle

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Finding Our Calling

I have a young grandson who is having trouble deciding what he wants to be when he grows up. He keeps encountering new occupations and changing his mind.

When he started school, he decided he wanted to be a principal. I think he liked the idea of being able to tell the teacher what to do instead of the other way around.

When he and his mother took some “thank you for your service” cookies to a firehall one Christmas, he decided he wanted to be a fireman.

For a while, he wanted to be an accountant like his mother.

Now he has a new occupational goal. He has decided he wants to be the man who counts the cans and bottles at the recycling depot. He thinks it is a cool job because it uses math.

I can understand his career choice. When I was his age, I wanted to be a garbage collector. It was the era of TV westerns, of cowboys and gunslingers. I liked horses. In our small town, the garbage was collected in a wagon pulled by two horses. Without needing guidance from a driver, the horses would plod along at walking speed, stopping at every house, and the garbage men would empty the garbage pails into the back of the wagon. It was a very efficient and environmentally friendly way to do it. And I thought working with the horses would be great.

I actually realized that dream, sort of. My first full-time job was as “garbage boy” in an ice cream factory. It was a cool job, in more ways than one. I started work the day after I finished high school and eventually worked in that factory for six summers. That job helped pay my way through university as I completed both a BA and an MA.

Then, late one night, after I got home from working in the factory, I got a phone call inviting me to move to the other end of the country and become an editor and writer.

I accepted the call.

I went.

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FRUSTRATED? (by Hannah Alexander)

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that confused you to pieces and you didn’t quite know how to get out of it? Maybe it was a relationship that took a bad turn, perhaps you were trying to read a map and you couldn’t tell which direction you were going. You could have been ambling along without a clue, confident that all was well in your world, when BAM! Things seemed to fall apart without warning, and you felt as if you were stuck on an island in a raging river.

Okay, so this river doesn’t seem to be raging so much, but the undercurrents can grab you and drag you beneath the surface without warning. The power of that hidden current can be much stronger than you are.

Perhaps your best friend just trashed your character, or a child whom you thought was tight with Jesus suddenly renounced everything you’ve taught him. These things happen to the strongest of Christians, the most positive and happy people I know.

I have found that it is this season of the year when my biggest disappointments take place and put me on shaky ground. This is the time of year when a lot of families get together and those old insecurities come into play.

I am a novelist. It’s what I’ve been all my life. I made up stories and songs before I knew how to read and write. It’s what I am, and it’s how I bring understanding out of confusion for those who might be struggling with a broken heart, the loss of a loved one, the dissolution of a marriage. I try to help bring hope to those who are frustrated, hopeless, hurt, confused.

I was recently told by someone I trusted and respected that I needed to write nonfiction so I wouldn’t be just a fiction writer.

Of course, I immediately went to my novelist friends–and readers of those novels–and spoke of my frustration.  And as always, my trusted friends reminded me that Jesus told stories to reach hearts. He spoke in parables. Now, sometimes those parables confuse me more than straight talk, but I believe He often told these stories in order to remove some of the confusion about Him in His day.

I have read novels by friends whose words brought me to tears with their power and wealth of insight, and shone light on parts of the Bible that perhaps I hadn’t quite seen so clearly before.

Without a doubt, God has called us together as novelists to share the truth of God’s word with stories that will draw people closer to Him and reveal His love in a deeper way. I can discover a great Biblical truth in a novel that I never quite understood in any other way.

I love my novelist friends. Together we help one another grow in faith. Together we can share our own special insights with those who might be seeking, who might be frustrated, who might be confused. God bless this gift of fiction.

 

 

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Grateful for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. What a glorious day. A day for giving thanks. On this one day each year, the whole country seems to be in harmony. No matter what religion or ethnicity we are, we all love celebrating this day.

We get up early in the morning, looking forward to the parade and football on television, as we put our turkeys in our ovens. We happily anticipate spending the day with our loved ones. From coast to coast, families gather around to enjoy good food and fellowship.

How amazing that we have a holiday dedicated towards giving thanks. Many homes have a tradition of going around the table and each person names things they are thankful for. Even if your loved ones don’t do something similar to this, you are likely still quietly considering all the blessings in your life.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

However, I feel gratitude should be something we practice all throughout the year, not just on one day in late November. Our lives will contain ups and downs. We will have joyful days, as well as days that are less than pleasant. But it all boils down to this – gratitude is a decision we have to make every day. When not so good things happen, we can choose how we will react to them. Will we get upset because things didn’t go our way? Or will we stop and realize that even though some things went wrong, there are still a lot of things going right?

I know life can be hard. But each and every day God gives us so much. We wake up each morning, fresh breath in our lungs, and a new day to live life. When we stop and take notice, that is when the miracles begin to take place. That is when we will find true contentment in life. That is when we will begin to harvest peace, faith, love, and joy.

Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)

When we consistently choose gratitude, eventually the positive feelings inside of us will override the negative feelings. Personally, I would much rather have the positive feelings over the negative feelings. So that is why I try to keep gratitude in my heart all year long. And I hope you will join me. As you look around at all the blessings in your life today, I hope you make a decision to hold onto gratitude tomorrow and the days that follow. And always remember one thing – Every day is a gift from God!

Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours!

I will leave you with a lovely praise song – Forever by Chris Tomlin.

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Thankful for Adversity by Julie Arduini

Happy (Almost) Thanksgiving! I know this is an American holiday where we typically take time out and list all the reasons we’re thankful, and I love that. I try to be a thankful person all year long.

This year?

Boy, it was rough .

Although it hasn’t been a terrible year, there were unexpected things that affected me and those closest to me. One of the biggest was what I thought was a simple case of bronchitis and a sinus infection lingered. And lingered. And four antibiotics later, I still didn’t feel right.

In fact, it’s only this month I’m feeling myself again.

It took a couple doctor visits, a bit of lab work, a lot of research, and all of it covered by the Holy Spirit to discover my adrenals were a mess. I’ve never been so exhausted and overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks.

It sounds weird, but I’m thankful for that season. I’m thankful my schedule is flexible because I was forced to rest. I spent a lot of time reading the Bible, participating in Bible studies, and of course, praying. It was in that I learned how sick I truly was.

My tired adrenals were carrying a load they were never meant to have. I became so accustomed to stuffing stress and moving on that I didn’t realize I had been doing it. There were back-to-back heartbreaks with the kids that sent me reeling, but I never took the time to grieve. What made it harder was knowing it was God-ordained. They didn’t do anything wrong. Wounded people wounded them and in one instance, the safeguards that should have spotted trouble were not in place. I remember crying because I was so hurt and angry for my kid. But I never stopped to grieve.

Julie Arduini

The forced rest allowed me to process that trauma and other events God brought to mind. I’d been obedient and forgiven people, encouraged others, but there were a lot of things where I never lamented my pain and heartbreak. My fears and my confessions that these things were not fair.

Years ago I was part of a study on Esther where each week the sanctuary transformed into an aspect of Esther’s life. One week I rememer it was the king’s chambers. To access it, you had to go behind the veil. And when I did, I felt a little Holy Spirit nudge.

I encourage so many to surrender whatever and seek Jesus behind the veil. And then I move on to help the next person. I stopped going behind the veil.

I realize this intense rest season won’t last forever. Already activities are starting to pile up and I’m stepping my toes into the waters to see how I fare. Yet I relish my quiet time with the Lord and I’m prepared to protect it in a way I never have. I’m ready to protect me in the sense that when adversity hits, I have to leave room to lament and heal.

There’s so much I’m thankful for, and I’m sure you are as well. I thought I’d share my journey in case you’ve had a rough year and are struggling to be thankful for it.

My prayers that you have a healthy, safe, blessed Thanksgiving. I appreciate you taking the time to read!

***

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Rejoicing by Nancy J. Farrier

Years ago when I surrendered to write for God, I experienced some success. I won awards. Made the best seller list. Finaled in contests. Then came a time when the writing contracts slowed. At first I didn’t worry. Life had become complicated. Perhaps I needed down time, or the chance to deepen my faith and truly seek what God wanted. But, as time went on I faced discouragement as many other authors do. 

With the popularity of social media, other’s successes are posted every day. Signing contracts. Book releases. Cover reveals.

I want to rejoice with all those authors, many are friends and it’s wonderful to see their success. But some small part of me wonders–what’s wrong with me?

Have you ever heard testimonies similar to these?

I decided to write and had more than twenty contracts within..[a short time].

I went to a writer’s conference with a few handwritten pages and received a contract within two weeks.

Talking to an editor on the phone, I gave them a brief sketch of the story line and they sent a contract.

Within an hour of sending in the proposal, I had a contract.

Although those are fictional, they are based on accounts I’ve heard over the years. I want to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”(Romans 12:15) Truly I do. But, in truth, sometimes it’s been hard. While I’m happy for the other writer I’m questioning my own worthiness. Did I do something wrong and now God can’t use me? Is there something I’m supposed to learn, but I’m too dense to grasp His lesson? Often, I’ve cried out, “God, what do You want me to do?”

God taught me much through the story of Peter walking with Jesus on the beach. Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep, tells Peter what will happen when he is old, then instructs Peter to, “Follow Me.” (Jn. 21:19)Peter looks back at the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” and says, “But Lord, what about this man?” 

Jesus answered, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (Jn. 21:21-22)

As I read those words, it hit me that I am a lot like Peter. I tend to take my eyes off of Jesus to look at those around me who have a similar calling and base my worth on what Jesus called that person, or writer, to do. 

I shouldn’t be concerned with what Jesus is doing in their lives, but only following my calling. As long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, and trust him to guide me daily, I can “rejoice with those who rejoice” without facing disappointment in my life. 

Whether I publish one hundred more books, or never see publication again, I can rejoice, knowing His plans for me are perfect. Perfect for me.

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixaby)

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Grateful for Today

turned on enjoy today neon signage

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A month of gratitude! Let’s focus on gratitude throughout the month of November. I challenge you to look around and be more aware of the blessings in your life. And each day write down at least five things you are thankful for.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Most of us have dreams, goals, desires, and wishes. It could be something significant, such wanting to get married. Or it could be something smaller, like the desire for extra sleep. These things could be long-term, such as the goal of achieving a master’s degree. Or they could be more immediate, like wanting a steak for dinner. All of these things are something we want. Whether we want it now or later, we still want them.

It is good to have goals for the future and it is good to know what you want in this moment – if those things align with God’s will. We get ourselves into trouble when we can’t have what we want or when things don’t go as desired, and then we allow this to bring us down or to alter our perspective.

A while back I applied for a job that I really wanted. According to the job description, I knew the work well and wouldn’t need much training to get up to speed. And I knew some of the team members already from prior work experience. But the main thing that I loved about this job was that I would be able to work from home. Once this opening became available, a friend of mine on the team put in a good word for me. I just knew this job was mine. I had no doubts.

When I went into the interview, things changed. I was asked about a couple of different software programs which I never heard of before. And these tasks that I was asked about did not align with the job description. I was honest and I told the manager interviewing me that I was not familiar with the software, but I was sure I could learn whatever was needed. In the end, another candidate got the job. I was devastated because of my initial confidence that this job was mine. (Perhaps pride was an issue here?)

Later on I learned some things about the job that made me realize this job was not in my best interest. God closed this door for a reason. But one important thing that came out of this was a stronger sense of gratitude. I was grateful that God did not give me what I wanted, because it was not the best path. But, ultimately, this also taught me to be grateful for today and grateful for what I have now.

The picture below was shared on Facebook recently by Maria Haxton Ministries International. https://www.facebook.com/326496561475589/photos/a.345248092933769/531526474305929/?type=3&theater)

Untitled

Too often, we take the things we have for granted. And as the picture above illustrates, someone out there might be wishing for the very thing that we overlook each day. When we walk in gratitude, we embrace the here and now. We embrace the day-to-day. We embrace the small stuff. Because the majority of life is in the small stuff. If we don’t take time to look around and enjoy where we are today and what we have today, we will miss out on a multitude of blessings. If you don’t appreciate what you have now, then chances are you won’t appreciate the things you are hoping for, once you get them. If you don’t appreciate today, then chances are you won’t appreciate tomorrow, once it arrives.

I was texting my friend Lorraine the other day, and she put it this way, “I am working on my patience and enjoying the moment. Yesterday is dead. Tomorrow is yet to be born. But right now is mine and yours.” Such wise words! If only we could keep this perspective all the time. When we are waiting to be seen at a doctor’s office, when we are stuck in traffic, when our homes aren’t as clean as we would like, when we have too many tasks in front of us, or when we don’t get what we want, I pray we can remember to still find contentment in this moment.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Scripture says to give thanks in ALL circumstances. The word “all” is key in this verse. Whether we get what we want or not. Whether things are going as planned or not. The Bible still instructs us to be thankful.

God showers us with so many blessings, each and every day. We just have to take the time to look around and notice them. As you go about your day today, I hope you can keep this in mind, and be grateful for today. Remember that every day is a gift from God!

(I will be sharing similar gratitude related posts here each Thursday of this month. So be sure to visit again. And on the first four Saturdays of this month, I will be sharing similar gratitude related posts on my author website. If you want to read last Saturday’s post, click here.)

boy wearing red t shirt and blue pants

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Away from the Puck

He is a young, professional hockey player, highly valued for his ability to score goals. For this reason, he has the potential to have a long and successful career as a professional athlete. He can be a star. But this season the coach has been constantly pressuring him to put more focus on how he plays when he is “away from the puck.” He does not think this is very important. His strength is scoring goals, he can only do that when he has the puck, and he wants to concentrate on his area of strength because that is where his future success will lie.

After a recent game, the coach took him aside for a talk. The player had played about 16 minutes in the game, and the coach asked him how long he thought he had possession of the puck. He said about two minutes. He had actually had the puck for 29 seconds. This means that he was playing without the puck about 97 percent of the time. This is why the coach has been hounding him. Since the player does not have the puck most of the time, it is that time that will ultimately determine his success or failure.

There is a life lesson for all of us here. Most of life is lived out of the spotlight, when no one is watching, as we go about our daily tasks, as we do our work, as we fulfill or do not fulfill our responsibilities, as we act wisely and properly or unwisely and improperly, as we harbor love or hatred, justice or injustice, deep in the recesses of our hearts. It is how we act when no one is watching, what we do in secret, that will determine our ultimate success.

We may think there is no one watching. But just as the coach is watching, recording, and judging everything the hockey player does, so there is someone watching us. That someone is God.

Jesus Christ said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3 NIV) and “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 18 NIV).

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Rocky Road (by Hannah Alexander)

As you can see, this is one rocky road! What, you thought I was talking about the ice cream? I wish! I love Rocky Road ice cream. But hiking this rocky road is better for my health than ice cream–unless, of course, I break an ankle or leg on the trail.

As a hiker, I love a straight trail with perfect temperature, no rocks, no climbs, good shade from the sun. No rain, snow, sleet…you know, stuff like that. Missouri, where I lived for many decades, has the KATY Trail, which was a railroad line turned into a long hiking/biking trail, no motor vehicles allowed. It stretches across the state from Clinton in the west to St. Charles in the east, and it makes for some beautiful and easy hiking. There are lodges dotted along the trail where hikers and bikers can stay for the night and get a good breakfast in the morning. There is plenty of shade and very little elevation change because it was a railroad track before it was a trail. I love that trail. Of course, I’ve never hiked it in bad weather.

The thing is, I could get spoiled hiking the KATY Trail every day, and my muscles would get soft. When a trail is all easy hiking, one can get lulled into a false sense of ease. It’s easy to forget that not all good trails are so simple. Not all the beautiful scenery can be reached by an gentle trail. In fact, if the trail doesn’t have some challenges, where is the accomplishment? Where is the muscle workout? The emotional testing? The high one gets from conquering a difficult trail?

Like anyone, I love an easy trail, but I need something to conquer. Take life, for instance. Sure, God could let us coast along with ease and contentment, giving our spiritual muscles a break from the challenges, but in my experience, that doesn’t last long. Sometimes we think the challenges we face are simply too much for us. Maybe they are.

There is no way I could tackle the challenges I’ve faced without knowing God sees all and is there for me no matter what–that He is ultimately the One in control, who allows the challenges. I don’t know how anyone can live through the hardships of this life with all the burden of a good outcome on their own shoulders.

I’ve found that the worst hardships in my life, like the most difficult trails, have driven me closer to Him than any easy jaunt. I believe that’s why we are told in the Bible to count it all joy when we suffer for Him. Because it’s the hardships in life, the rocky roads, that develop us into what God wants us to be.

May you find the strength to face your challenges with some joy, knowing that He is molding within you the beautiful person He wants you to become.

 

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PARTING GIFTS by Vicki Hinze

A few years ago I thought I had a life-threatening illness. It turned out to be a paperwork mistake, but there were about six weeks when I didn’t yet know that.

I thought my time here was nearly done, and I did what I imagine most do on learning that kind of news. Prayed a lot, thought a lot, and looked back at what I’d done in this life. I made peace with what wouldn’t be done, unfinished business, and my bottom line ended up . . . well, we’ll get there. I should start at the beginning.

I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. Brothers first. The day my brother Kenny died, my dad had had heart surgery. My poor mother was in shock. I had to step up and handle the funeral, Kenny’s burial. I was thirteen. There’s nothing to be said about that except the lesson in it: No matter who you are (or what age you are), when you have to do what you have to do, you do it.

That was the first of many deaths that would touch my life over the next years. Friends from school, extended family members, and distant relatives, then much closer ones. My father and mother, my in-laws, and dear lifelong friends. More and more people I love. Because, as we age, our circle narrows. That’s just a fact of life and it must be accepted.

The point is that early on, I became acutely aware of those departing and their concerns and regrets. What I discovered was this:

If the person who passes is a person of faith, it’s easier on them and on those who love them. Both know who they are and whose they are. They aren’t leaving home, they’re going home. Those left behind will miss them in daily life, but know they will see them again. There is immeasurable solace in that. Comfort and reassurance, too. When grieving, we welcome all solace, comfort and reassurance.

If the person who passes is not a person of faith and we are, it’s harder. They too will be missed and the sadness in them and for them is also immeasurable.

I discovered in the faithful passing, each one of them (there have been no exceptions), their common concern was that they weren’t as good as they should have been in life. They worried that they hadn’t been “good enough” to get into to Heaven.

We’re taught that we enter Heaven by grace, and they knew that, yet they still expressed doubt and concern that they wouldn’t measure up. I guess from this that when we know our every flaw, we’re more prone to fault and less prone to forgive ourselves.

In earlier years, I was at a loss as to what to say to them. But as I grew and learned, I began reminding them that nothing about them surprised God. He created them, made them unique as He saw fit, and He loved them unconditionally. Eventually, they recalled it’s not about works but about grace.

They speak of loving and being loved. Of gratitude to those who were good to them. Of people and pets who brought them joy. Of people they loved who had passed before them. Of making a difference in the lives of others. Of what being loved meant to them.

Not one. Not a single one talked about the things being left behind. Not homes or jewels, not possessions or things. Not one of them.

The lesson in that is enormous. The wisdom in that is enormous, and I am learning from it.

I’m learning to live life deliberately. To let others know I love and appreciate them. To accept that I can’t change anyone else and to stop beating my head against brick walls (those who do not appreciate, those who deliberately and repeatedly steal joy, tear others down to build themselves up).

I’m learning to openly express my gratitude and joy and to reach out to others in compassion not in judgment. When someone makes a difference in my life, I tell them. When I feel loved, I express what it means to me. I appreciate. I am grateful. I am blessed.

We all are, and each day—every single one of them, no matter how strife or stress-filled for whatever reason—is a gift to be cherished.

Those are valuable lessons to learn at any time. But truly it is wisdom that the departing have shared. It is offered and we choose whether or not to embrace, retain and pass it on. If we do, then that wisdom shared is not lost. Ever.

It’s humbling really, to realize that when we set out to comfort, we receive a parting gift from them that is a treasure. When we step into someone’s life to give, we discover we have stepped into their circle of wisdom, and because we have, before departing, they expand our circle of wisdom. And their wisdom lives on…*

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Grateful for the Lord

A month of gratitude! Let’s focus on gratitude throughout the month of November. I challenge you to look around and be more aware of the blessings in your life. And each day write down at least five things you are thankful for.

Maybe this one seems obvious. But I feel at times we forget to be thankful for God. I don’t want to take Him for granted. But I fear I do some days. I know He is always there for me. I know He is watching over me. I know He sends blessings my way. But do I stop and praise Him? Do I take the time to thank Him? Not always. And when I think about it, it makes me sad. I want to change that. I want to appreciate our heavenly Father more. Not just for all He does, but because of who He is.

I believe if we were consistent about praising the Lord and His Holy Name, this alone would remove many of the complaints and worries in our lives. What is there to complain about, when we fully realize just how much God blesses us each and every day? What is there to worry about, when we know our Father is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, and He is watching over us? Fully immersing ourselves in the knowledge of just how awesome He is will change our perspective.

Let’s take a look closer look at some of God’s characteristics:

  • God is love (1 John 4:8)
  • The Lord is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
  • He is our rock, our fortress, and our savior (Psalm 18:2)
  • God is merciful (Deuteronomy 4:31)
  • The Lord is our strength (Psalm 28:7)
  • He is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9)
  • God is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1)
  • The Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)
  • He is our refuge (Psalm 46:1)
  • God is righteous (Psalm 11:7)
  • The Lord is forgiving (Psalm 86:5)
  • Great is God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23)
  • The Lord is great and there is no one like Him (2 Samuel 7:22)
  • He does not change (Malachi 3:6)
  • God’s steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 106:1)

When I look over this list and see just how amazing our God is, it leaves me in awe. It makes me want to praise Him and glorify Him. And perhaps you feel the same way? So take some time today to praise God for His goodness and mercy and love. I will leave you with Psalm 100. This one is near and dear to my heart because it is one of the Psalms that my grandmother had memorized before she went to be with the Lord. But it is also a wonderful Psalm to read if you want to grow in gratitude.

Psalm 100 (NIV)
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

(I will be sharing similar gratitude related posts here each Thursday of this month. So be sure to visit again. And on the first four Saturdays of this month, I will be sharing similar gratitude related posts on my author website. If you want to read last Saturday’s post, click here.)

achievement confident free freedom

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My Jonah Journey by Julie Arduini

Have you ever asked people to describe you? It can be humbling. I remember a friend remarking that I was the type of person that would lend her my pants one day but if she asked the next day, I’d tell her to get a job and buy her own pants.

Yeah, I’m kind of guilty of that.

I also have a close-knit group of friends that I have known and loved for decades. We also are prayer partners. During a recent visit one of them revealed that they were taken aback when I told them the truth in love, and not what they wanted to hear.

Yeah, I’m kind of guilty of that, too.

So it’s not a surprise that I’ve been going to the Lord asking for His help and insight as a praying person. As my confessions above show, I’m not an enabler. I grew up around addiction, so I err more on the side of tough love.

But as a follower of Christ, I want to be full of compassion and love. Oh, how I fall short. We all do.

-Julie Arduini

As I’ve prayed, I realized there’s someone in the Bible who totally lived a similar situation. Jonah. God called him to go to Ninevah and warn the people to change their ways or face God’s wrath, but Jonah instead gets on a boat headed for Tarshish.

For years I thought Jonah disobeyed because he was scared. What I later learned was he didn’t think the people of Ninevah deserved a warning or a second chance.

Knowing I’m not the only harsh judge in history is a little comforting, but knowing how the rest of Jonah’s story plays out isn’t. I don’t want to cause trouble for others to the point that I have to jump ship. I definitely don’t want to get swallowed by a whale. And there’s no way I want to exit that situation by being vomited out. I shudder to think how my attitude would disappoint God, cause me to lose possible blessings, and make things rough for those around me.

I don’t know about you, but the Christian life is hard. There are times I truly don’t want to pray. If someone is in a loop that they don’t want to get off from, I don’t want a bandaid on the situation. I want them set free, but that wasn’t the prayer request. I struggle with that. Do I not pray at all? Pray for the basic thing that was asked, or the big thing I want to pray for? There are more times than I want to admit that I quickly process a prayer request and measure the worth. Is it a good prayer request? What if there’s someone coming almost hourly with requests? Is it right to think, as I sometimes do, that there should be a limit as to how many times someone comes to me?

Here’s the rub, and you know the answer as much as I do. If we can go to God unlimited times with the same issue, how can I deny someone else the same opportunity? And as selfish and superficial as I sound, there have been times God’s used my flawed self to pray for things where I witnessed some crazy, amazing, supernatural results for His glory. I obeyed and the experience was beyond description. The moments so incredible it’s a wonder I wouldn’t obey every time.

When I write, my vow was to always write what God wanted, when He wanted it. Many times when I blog, it’s because I’m on the other side of something and I want to encourage someone. This time? This Jonah thing? I’m still riding that wave. I still fight the urge to run like Jonah, or judge situation and whether prayer is deserved. Yet I know I don’t want the hard lesson Jonah learned. I don’t want to be remembered as harsh and disobedient. Sure, my friends know I’m tough and nurture isn’t natural for me, but they also know I take my faith seriously. I truly want to be like Christ. I believe prayer moves mountains and changes everything. I want to keep being a vessel God can use to further His Kingdom.

The good news? I don’t live near water, so I’m not near any whales.

The better news? I know I’m a flawed vessel and I’m on my knees daily asking for help.

The best news? Thanks to Jesus, my Father hears my daily prayer, sometimes hourly, often about the same thing. And He doesn’t get tired of my voice, my requests. He doesn’t get annoyed that I’m not living up to my potential. He’s not frustrated when I ask for a bandaid solution when He knows I need some spiritual surgery.

And if your struggle is like mine, this best news is for you, too.

***

I can’t believe we’re in the season for Christmas reads, but here it is! Restoring Christmas will get you in the festive mood and it’s .99 for Kindle for a limited time. It’s free for Kindle Unlimited. Also, are you following me or your other Christian Reads authors on Amazon, GoodReads, and BookBub? Doing so helps you stay in touch with our latest book news and helps you access easy ways to review. Thanks so much!

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The Rocks (by Hannah Alexander)

Last Saturday I was looking outside at the snow and seeing the effects of the wind, and just hanging out, kind of like the cats are here:

Cats Hanging Out in Bed

I hadn’t planned to get outside that day. At all. Didn’t feel the greatest, and wasn’t in the mood to make things happen. That’s not typical of me, but hey, I didn’t care.

Then Mel came home from yet another duty at work. “Sweetheart, we need to get out and hike somewhere.”

I opened my eyes and raised a brow. “Umph?” What was going on here? I’m the one who initiates hikes.

But he was determined to get me out of the house, and despite my dislike of cold and wind, and despite the fact that I wasn’t up to par, I was willing to consider…okay, let’s get real–any time I have a chance to get out in the wild I’ll jump to it unless I’m on my deathbed. I even took a shower and put on makeup..okay, chapstick. Yeah, I wanted to greet the wilderness with some polish.

I packed food and water while Mel got a weapon ready–we’ve learned it isn’t safe to hit the wilderness without protection, especially since mountain lions and bears and packs of wolves often roam the terrain we were planning to hike.

We hit the road and headed north toward the Green Mountains, but we just happened to stop for a bathroom break at a place I’ve always wanted to hike–it’s a humongous pile of boulders the size of cars–some the size of houses. The place is called Split-Rock, and it’s connected to an intriguing mountain range called the Granite Mountains, perpendicular to the Green Mountains with a valley in between. The whole range is made up of those boulders. It’s amazing.

Solid Rock

I noticed something startling and wonderful the moment we got out of the car at Split Rock–there was no wind. NONE! You know why that’s startling? Because we don’t have days without wind in our town. In fact, our county is building what is said to become the world’s largest wind farm. That’s because of the constant wind we have here. Sometimes it’s 30-40 mph, sometimes as low as 14 mph, sometimes we have gusts of 70-80 or more mph, which blow vehicles off the interstate. But there was no wind that day. Or at least we had driven an hour north and there was no wind there. It was a gift from God, and I was deeply touched.

I immediately found a trail at that boulder stop and followed it. Mel had planned to go elsewhere, but we looked at the Green Mountains south of us, and they were still covered in snow. The Granites were not. Mel followed me, and we began to climb some boulders. I was so excited I even forgot that I can get vertigo climbing a footstool.

Mel is as sure-footed as a mountain goat, so when I got a little dizzy, I found that if I touched his hand, or even grabbed the hem of his hiking vest, I was pulled out of the spin. I felt safe and strong. Even when we found the actual trail that led us far up to the top of the boulder pile, I discovered that just touching one of the boulders gave me the courage to keep climbing. If I’m clinging to something solid and trustworthy, I can feel that I’m safe. Remember the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed? I can grasp that concept better now.

For me, it became a powerful word picture about how we can touch our Rock, Jesus, no matter what situation we’re going through in life, and He is there. Right there. It’s wonderful to have my husband close enough to touch if I feel dizzy, and it’s even better to know that my husband also keeps his grip on our Solid Rock. We’re in this climb together, but it’s never just the two of us.

We had an amazing day hiking on and amongst those boulders, and I came back home with a better attitude. Even when life is difficult, we’re not alone in it. Ever.

How does your grip on the Solid Rock keep you feeling supported even in difficult times? I’d love to know.

 

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Hello From the Mountains by Tara Randel

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Greetings! As I write this, I’m enjoying vacation time with my family, seated in a cozy cabin while it is 26 degrees outside. Which is a vast improvement from high 80’s in Florida!

Every year we come to the mountains in north Georgia to get our fix of leaves changing colors, hiking in new locations and taking a breather from the every day grind. It’s almost like my body resets when I’m here. Story ideas flow freely and I can’t wait to get back to my current project. Ideas for books in a new series have been percolating in my head and being here has been a wonderful way to make those ideas more tangible

I’ve included a few pictures taken in just the last few days. I hope you enjoy the view! I believe this is why God created such a beautiful world we live in. I imagine any one of you reading this has a special place where you visit to experience the wonder of God’s creation. This is mine.

After this, I’m off to hike up a trail to my favorite waterfall in the area. My happy place!

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Have a great day!

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, ALWAYS THE ONE, available February 2020.  For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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