The Great Smoky Mountains

My husband and I consider the mountains our home away from home. We try to visit the area at least once a year. Our favorite spot in particular is Cades Cove in Tennessee. There is always a lot of wildlife that we see there. So I wanted to share with you some pictures from our trip earlier this month. We took around 2,000 pictures and it was difficult narrowing them down. But here are some of the best shots of wildlife in particular.

Our favorite animal we look for are the black bears. Here is a mom who had two cubs.

We also saw another mom with three cubs. But we were not able to get all four of them in the same picture. Here is mom and one of the cubs.

We also enjoying seeing the deer.

Here are two different (but not great unfortunately) shots of a mom and baby deer. The baby still had wobbly legs.

We also see a lot of turkeys. Here are only a couple of the many pictures we captured of them. The first one is a mom and baby.

The horses in Cades Cove are not wild. They are used for horseback rides and carriage rides.

We also saw elk on our trip. This was not in Cades Cove though. This was close to Cherokee, NC.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures, as much my husband and I enjoyed taking them!

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But I Want to Hover by Julie Arduini

As I meet with moms who are a bit ahead of me in the parenting journey, they confess that like me, the hardest seasons weren’t the baby/toddler/preK years. No, they were the times the kids were bullied. Or, when they took the car keys and headed out for the first time. Or 100th. The first dating break-up. The first college paper that had them in tears.

I’ve blogged about it before, but the heartbreak our teen and young adult kids have walked through emotionally did me in for a time. The blows they endured gave me a self-made wall I erected in hopes I’d never grieve for them again. Honestly? I wanted to erect a real wall for them so they would be protected.

Recently, both had new opportunities. One was a relationship. A new start after a very rough break-up that left all of us jaded. The other was a social situation that took them out of the comfort zone and possibly put them in path of temptation and peer pressure.

My stomach felt a constant clench. I didn’t want these things to move forward. Neither showed direct danger, but because we’d experienced heartbreak before, I didn’t want anyone to try. Let’s stay home. Every day. Do nothing. With Others.

I knew fear skirted inside my wounded heart and planned to take residence. The hard part? I didn’t feel an urgency to evict. I wanted to hover, even though fear ruled, not faith.

Looking for Biblical inspiration, Mary, Mother of Jesus, of course comes to mind. What if she was presented with the birth plan for the Savior of the world and politely said, “No, thanks.” Where would we be? Where would I be?

I also thought of Miriam and Moses mom. What faith she must have had. With her son in danger, she placed him in a basket and put him in the water. I know the many thoughts that would have crossed my mind, and I don’t think many would have been full of faith. Would he drown? Would animals get to him? Would the plan backfire? I imagine I’d be concocting all kinds of plans where I keep my son and he stays safe.

But that kind of thinking, as loving as it sounds, stunts growth. And in Moses case, would have cost him his life.

Parents like the one I’m tempted to be are often called helicopter parents and I’ve yet to see anyone hover close to a helicopter and not get hurt. I do no favors to my loved ones when I keep them so close they never break free from my grip. I’ve seen the effects of that, and it only breeds fear in the child/ren.

Right now as I type, I’m not close location wise to the kids. I can’t see who they are with or what they are doing. Worse yet, what others are doing to them. It can be mind numbing if I allow it.

Again, the Bible is my guide. Proverbs is that reliable book that helps me in the daily ins and outs as a wife and mom. Here’s what I’m choosing:

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:1-12, NIV

Those verses remind me I’ve poured all the wisdom and discernment God’s given me into the kids. Hovering isn’t the same as establishing boundaries or protecting them in the face of danger. I had to trust God with everything. Including the children God’s entrusted to us.

I know I’ve written on the fear theme quite a bit this year. It’s not just my journey, but there’s someone out there reading now who is struggling. Maybe it’s not as a parent, but as a child with an aging parent. Perhaps you’re questioning your career or financial future? I don’t know in what area fear is slinking around trying to find an in, but you have every right to kick the true defeated one out. I know I am.

How about you?

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A Most Unusual Phrase (by Hannah Alexander)

You might not believe this, but last Friday I heard this sentence in everyday language: “Thank you for the red tape!” We all laughed with our friend, Charles, when he said it, but we truly were thankful for the red tape that day. But ours wasn’t just ANY red tape.

Charles also happens to be our pastor in a growing house church. Friday he led us (not the whole church, just his wife and Mel and me) on a merry trail. We never quite got lost, but it was close a few times. He had a GPS, but none of us knew how to use that. So he also had a map. On that map he had seen evidence of some beaver ponds and he considered it a personal challenge to find those ponds.



This is what we waded through to get there. The grass was as deep as our thighs at times, so we followed his footsteps very carefully. Honestly, it was fun. I do like my adrenaline rushes. I would never have done this in Missouri in the middle of summer. The mountains, however, are a whole different story. No rattlesnakes, few ticks so far, no chiggers. There’s just something wild and exciting and fun about  exploring  the  unknown.  Especially  when  someone  else is  leading  and  we  can  blame  him  if  we  get  lost.

This experience brought to my mind how, in our church, we do tend to hold our leaders up to a higher standard. The Bible says that’s normal. The leaders also share the heavier load of blame if they get off course and get us lost.

But we literally had red tape in the trunk of the ATV. It was duct tape. Why it was there, I don’t know, but boy, am I ever glad we had it! As we plowed through the thick forest following an animal trail–with Charles in front and Mel taking the rear in case we ran into a moose or bear or other angry animal–I ripped off sections of tape the way Hansel and Gretel dropped breadcrumbs, and wrapped them around branches, even the tops of some grasses. Every time we took a turn, and especially when we reached the beaver pond and the trail got lost in thick grass, I taped a square of bright red duct tape in a place where we would see it on our way back, because I really am an experienced bushwacker (that’s another name for an idiot who decides not to stick to the trail.) I knew the whole course would look different, and even disappear, when we turned to go back to our ATVs.

And you know what? We did find the beaver pond in the midst of all that foliage. In all my years of hiking I had never gone searching for a beaver pond, and I was out of my element. However! On the way back, we took great comfort in the fact that with every turn in the dense forest, there was a bright red piece of tape flagging us in the right direction. I remember Charles hollering at one point, “Thank you for the red tape!”

I was quite proud of myself for insisting on it. Mel was proud of me. And very grateful, I believe. Our pastor insists on using the Bible as his only foundation for leading and teaching and preaching. That’s why we’re in this particular house church.

When Charles preached his sermon on Sunday, he told our story. He compared the red tape with the Bible. As our fledgeling church moves forward, we carry the Bible with us, and if we run into disappointments or questions, our solid foundation is that very Word of God. That Bible is our guide, and we would be so lost without it. How glad I am that God left us that guide for our lives, that comfort.

I would love to know how the Bible has guided you during uncertain times, when you’ve had questions, how it might have comforted you recently.

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Time Well Spent by Nancy J. Farrier

This past week we had our first ever family vacation. We went to Southern California with our five kids and their families. We rented a house that would hold all of us—although we could have used more than two bathrooms for fourteen people. JI had the best time.

We visited Knott’s Berry farm and the San Diego Safari Zoo. Some of us hiked, some went to the beach, some visited antique shops, and of course, we ate food. A lot of good food. What an amazing time. We laughed. We got to know one another better. And, at the end of the week, we still loved one another. I’m pretty sure. (Smile)

Our youngest grandson, Finn, eleven months old, had the most stressful time. He is at the age where he doesn’t want to be separated from momma. If she put him down to fix him something to eat, to go brush her teeth, or because her arms were tired, he immediately cried. Loudly. With tears. No one else would do. He wanted mom. None of us could replace her for long. 

On the final day, we had lunch with our three daughters and families, all who live in Southern California and then my husband and I headed back to Arizona. As we traveled down the road, I found I didn’t want to go back home. I loved spending time with my kids and grandkids. I wanted to be with them. Sadness tugged at me. My heart ached.

As I thought about how much I felt like Finn—I wanted to cry loudly with big tears—but I also thought about God and how much He wants to spend time with His children. I was reminded how my family is a small glimpse of the relationship I am to have with my Savior. 

Even though I spend time with God every day, often that time is distracted, not quality time. I’m not getting away from everyday busyness and work to focus on knowing God better. It’s more like a phone call I get from one of my kids that lasts a few minutes and leaves me wanting more. I know God wants more with me. More time. More openness. More depth.

Parenting has taught me how much God loves me. How much He treasures spending time with me. I needed this reminder that my first priority should always be to deepen my relationship with Him. No matter what else is going on in my life, He is the most important. No matter how much work I have to get done. No matter what fun thing I want to do. No matter what stressful situation I’m facing. 

Time with God is to always be my priority.

John 15:4 reads, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” That word, abide, means to tarry, to dwell, or to be present. Spending time with God is essential not only to my growth, but to my ministry. He refreshes, nourishes, and yes, even prunes me, but all for my good and because He loves me so much.

God says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Getting to know God means more to Him than anything I “do” for Him. I must spend time with Him in order to know Who He is.

Paul says in Philippians 3:8, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Everything in my life is worthless compared to the absolute glory of knowing Christ. I must not be pulled away by life concerns or pleasures, but instead need to spend as much time with Jesus as possible.

Every day. Every moment. Spending time with Him should be as natural as breathing. 

Just as spending that week with my kids and grandkids brought me joy, this is what brings Him joy.

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Make a Connection

by Jim Denney, adapted from
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” —C. S. Lewis


William Saroyan in the 1970s. Photo: public domain.

In the late 1970s, when I was in my twenties, I would occasionally notice an older man riding his bicycle around town. He made quite a visual impression, with his heavy eyebrows and distinctive walrus mustache. I noticed him several times, but it never occurred to me to stop my car, get out, and talk to the man.

It wasn’t until some months after his death that I learned who that man was: William Saroyan, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Saroyan was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940, and the Academy Award for Best Story in 1943 for the screen adaptation of his novel The Human Comedy.

I was just getting my start as a writer at the time, and any advice this brilliant novelist, playwright, and short story writer could have given me would have been priceless. I’ve often wondered how my life as a writer would have been impacted if I taken the time to stop and get to know this man. I can think of dozens of questions I could have asked him, and his answers might have given my  career a huge boost.

Of course, he might have said, “Get away, kid! Don’t bother me!” (as another famous writer once told me). At least that would have given me a story to tell—and it wouldn’t have cost me anything to find out.

So here’s a suggestion, one I’m still learning to put into practice in my own life: Don’t go through life focused only on getting from Point A to Point B and checking off every item on your Things to Do list.

Stop. Take some time out. Say hello to someone in the checkout line or the waiting room. Have some conversation starters handy: “Oh, I’ve never tried that product—is it good?” “What book are you reading? How do you like it?” “Would you mind giving me your opinion on this?”

You might make a friend—or you might not. But at least you’ll accomplish something I failed to do back in the 1970s.

You’ll make a connection.


Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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A Lamp to Guide My Feet

Recently I have done a lot of pondering on the importance of reading our Bibles. Many Christians make this a priority, but many do not. There was a time in my life when I did not make it a priority. But now that it is a part of my daily life, I can definitely see how I have changed for the better because of it. Here are just a few reasons why reading the Bible is essential.

The Bible is one way we get to know God. When we became Christians, we entered into a relationship with the Lord. In our earthly relationships, we get to know other people by spending time with them. Let’s say you are dating someone. You wouldn’t say you are dating that person and then never actually get together with them. You want to meet up at a restaurant or a park, so you can have some face-to-face time. You want to learn about this person, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their childhood, their character. Reading our Bible is similar in that we are spending time with God. We are learning about His character, we see the different things He has done in the past, and we get to know what’s important to Him.

The Bible also helps us in battle. The truth is that we live in a fallen world. And as Christians we are going to see adversity. Much of it, I believe, comes from the enemy who wants to bring us down. So we have to be prepared. When a young person joins the Army, he goes through training. In the beginning he has to go through boot camp, which gets him into shape quickly. But even when boot camp is over, he doesn’t cease to keep his body in shape. He doesn’t stop his target practice. He has to stay sharp and ready in case of a battle. The same is true for Christians. We have to be ready every single day. Our enemy doesn’t stop, he doesn’t take a nap, he doesn’t declare peace. So we too need to be on guard at all times, and the Bible is our weapon.

The Bible helps us make decisions. We make thousands of decisions every day. Some are seemingly not important, such as which outfit to wear. But other decisions are important and we don’t necessarily know the best route to take. The world bases their decisions off of their wants, their feelings, and what everyone else is doing. But, as Christians, we are not of this world and we shouldn’t make our decisions in the same way the world does. The Bible gives us clear guidelines on how we should live, what we should do with our money, how we should treat other people, and so on.

Based on these three points alone, it is apparent to me that the Bible should be a part of our daily lives. Reading our Bibles is a privilege and a treasure. And I am so thankful that the Lord has given us this precious gift.

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Panfilo de Narvaez

If you were paying any attention in school, you know of Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico with only a few hundred soldiers, and Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire in Peru with only a few hundred soldiers. What about Panfilo de Narvaez?

Like Cortes and Pizarro, Narvaez was a Spanish commander who had a desire to conquer an important part of the New World. He landed his army of about 400 in Florida with the goal of conquering all of the land from Florida to Texas. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to cross the North American continent. Eight years later, there were only four naked, starving savages left in that vast area. Four naked, starving European savages, that is. Unlike Cortes and Pizarro, Narvaez did not find a fabulous city full of gold and riches to conquer. He did encounter natives, but they were bigger and stronger and had more suitable military technology and tactics than Narvaez and his companions. Those Spaniards whom the natives did not kill succumbed to disease and starvation—in a fascinating reversal of what happened elsewhere.

I had not heard of Narvaez either. I came across his story in an interesting book by Paul Schneider: Brutal Journey: The Epic Story of the First Crossing of North America (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2006).

It is not surprising that Narvaez is so little known. People don’t often write books about failures.

That reminded me of another historical event. Some scholars have raised questions about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses. They suggest that it did not happen since there is no record of it in Egypt. But most of the recorded Egyptian history that has survived is carved in stone, in monuments to commemorate rulers and their victories.  Nations don’t raise monuments to commemorate their defeats.

People don’t write books about failures. Nations don’t raise monuments to commemorate their defeats. Perhaps they should, since we learn much more from our failures than our victories.

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Casting out Sinners and Saints…

Right now, the church has a terrible reputation in American for being unloving and unkind to sinners.  I mean, we all fall short of the glory of God, so we don’t want to put anyone out, right?  Wrong.

In 1 Corinithians 1:6-8, we are to treat sin as a yeast that will infect the entire loaf of bread. “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 

This is personal for me.  I’ve seen men cheat on their wives, BRING their girlfriends to church and still the church did not confront them. I’ve seen two church employees have an affair (one a pastor) and rather than confront the sin publicly and lovingly, the pastor swept it under the rug for legal reasons.  The problem with that, besides the fact that it’s unbiblical, is other marriages started to be infected within the church.  It didn’t go away.  It spread.

My prayer for the church is that we would stop looking at the outside of people and start to judge the content of their character. When sin is present in the church, we have a moral obligation to confront our brother or sister, but we worry so much about offending, often we don’t deal and a splintered church is the result.  Especially when there are victims of these sinners within the church.

“If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two sisters along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.…” Matthew 18:15-17

Why have we forgotten the last part of this Biblical advice?  Why do we ignore sin and choose “not to judge?”  The result of the above scenario is that a good woman left the faith because she was judged for her husband cheating and her “harsh words.”  The husband is still there. Divorced a second time now.

I heartily believe God cares more about a soul than he does a bad marriage to a wayward spouse.  I can testify that this woman tried desperately to keep her marriage together while her husband portrayed her as crazy and “controlling.” This friend doesn’t have anything to do with me or the church today.  I remind her of what the church did to her, that they chose to believe her cheating husband over having mercy on her.  They chose to blame her subtly for his sin.

I understand that the church is just people.  And people are flawed.  But I do wish that we would take confrontation more seriously and be more kind when someone is hurting.  I know in this day and age where it’s offensive to have a separate women and men’s room, confrontation isn’t an easy subject.  But it’s an important one. Souls are at stake.


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The Art of Forgiveness by Vicki Hinze


We’ve all been wronged, and we’ve all wronged.  One would think that would make the art of forgiveness easier, and yet it is something most still resist.  We tend to remember every infraction against us, but to forget every infraction we’ve committed against others.


Oh, it’s easy to forgive when someone genuinely expresses regret or sorrow at hurting us.  It’s much, much harder to forgive when that person denies having done anything which requires forgiveness.


Let’s say, for example, someone accuses you of something you didn’t do. If given the opportunity to deny doing that thing, you might resolve the difference.  But what if you aren’t given the opportunity?  What if that person severs any relationship with you, and you’re forever tainted as one who did something against them when perhaps you were trying to protect them or their interests?  Regardless, there’s no opportunity to forgive or be forgiven…or is there?


There is.  Forgive them anyway.  They won’t know it, but you will.


Let’s look at gossip.  It’s rife in our world, and it often wounds in ways we can guess and in ways we can’t begin to understand.  What if gossip is repeated and it proves untrue?  Who does it harm?  Everyone who listened and repeated the gossip.  And everyone else who heard it third and fourth-hand and repeated it—or believed it.


You see, the harm in gossip isn’t just to the subject of the gossip, but to the gossiper, and to those who listen to it.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you just listen, it’s not causing harm.  It is.


The thing about forgiveness is that we’re all going to do something that hurts another.  Perhaps not intentionally, but even unintentionally, it still hurts.  And odds are high that at some time we’ll be on both ends of that kind of hurt.


We’ll be sitting in a restaurant and overhear a conversation at the next table about us being deceived by someone we love who is being dishonest with us.  We’ll be told about some unidentified person doing something foolish or dishonest—and recognize that person is us.  We might know it isn’t true, or we’re being maligned unjustly, but we still feel shamed, embarrassed, or worse.


The point is, at some time we’re going to need to extend grace and to receive grace.  If we refuse to extend grace when someone maligns us, what happens when we step over the line and need grace?


 When there’s a disagreement, often we have the chance to apologize and set things right. That’s a blessing and once it’s done, it’s over.  We don’t apologize to keep the peace.  We don’t apologize to end a disagreement for the sake of ending the disagreement.  On those things, we agree to disagree.  We disagree with respect.


When there’s a disagreement and we do not have the opportunity to explain things were taken wrong, or out of context, then the art of forgiveness isn’t lost.  It’s just different. 


You don’t have to address an infraction with another to forgive them. You forgive them on your own. Yes, even if they haven’t asked for it, or they believe it isn’t due.  


The bigger the harm to you, the harder this is to do, and there’s no way around that.  But that you forgive them anyway speaks to your character, not theirs.  It speaks to you attempting to do what is right even when only you and God know you’re making the attempt.

Sometimes forgiveness is easy.  The fonder you are of the person before the infraction, the easier it is. You have all their endearing traits to draw on to soften the upset of being maligned.  If you love that person, it’s a hundred times easier to forgive them anything. It comes in the love package, because we’re all human, and we all make mistakes.


If there is tension in the relationship before the infraction, it becomes a bit harder.  And the more emotions the infraction engages, and the more people who are involved, the more difficult forgiveness becomes.  But it is so important to forgive anyway.  Regardless of where things end up on the surface, inside you forgive.  Only by forgiveness do you reclaim your peace.


You see, inner peace is at the root of forgiveness.  Without it, you don’t have peace.  But if you can forgive the unforgivable, you can reclaim that inner peace. 


That doesn’t mean you permit someone to hurt you.  It doesn’t mean you forgive and forget.  That’s absurd.  You forgive and move on.  Some are best forgiven and kept distant—by your choice or theirs or both.  Some are best forgiven and reunited.  You know the difference by the nature of your relationship and the infractions.


The art of forgiveness isn’t to do it.  That’s a given.  For the other person and for you.  Anger, upset, pain is a heavy burden to carry.  When you forgive, you let go of it. 


You do not let go of the wisdom and insight you gained in the experience.  It hones discernment.  And that is where the real art of forgiveness is expressed. 


An example.  A former president said, “Trust but verify.”  That’s discernment.  Watch actions as well as hear words. 


We’re taught to “pray for our enemies.”  We’re also taught to forgive over and again, by those who ask. That extends to those who hurt us, whether or not they’re beloved.  So, what if someone with whom you had differences has passed on?  Are you prevented from resolving those differences?  You are not prevented from resolving them.  You do so within. 


If direct means for resolutions are not available to you, if the person is alive or dead, you aren’t prohibited from forgiving them.  Talk to them in your mind anyway.  Forgive them in prayer.  This enables you to regain your inner peace.  And remember, use discernment.  You can forgive, but not put yourself in a vulnerable situation with that person again.  Still, you forgive. 


There are as many types of forgiveness as there are situations that require forgiveness.  If you always begin with the premise that forgiveness is essential—to both parties—you’re halfway there.  Be determined and steadfast in resolving the conflict.  If you do not resolve it, it’ll become an old tape in your mind that replays over and over, even when it shouldn’t.


Remember these things: 

We all need forgiveness.  If we give it, we’re more apt to get it.

Forgiveness is the means through which we can let go of old problems and reclaim inner peace.

Forgiving doesn’t mean permitting disrespect or abuse.

Forgiving is an art aided by discernment on what is right in a given situation. Similar situations are as different as different situations, and require resolutions specific to them. One size does not fit all.


Determining what you should do to forgive and reclaim your inner peace—what is the right thing in this specific situation—that is answered in the home of discernment in forgiveness.  And for the best example of it, we need only to look at the most amazing act of forgiveness ever expressed in all of human history:  to Christ on the Cross.


There wasn’t an infraction that wasn’t committed against Him, and yet he forgave, and He prayed for forgiveness for those who harmed Him.


Discerning, and the Master of the art of forgiveness…

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How to Be Immortal

by Jim Denney, adapted from
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:4-7 

Fountain of Eternal Life

The Fountain of Eternal Life in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, sculpted by Marshall Fredericks, photo by Erik Drost, with enhanced color, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A number of years ago, an agnostic science-fiction writer posted these observations at an Internet forum:

I have serious doubts that there’s anything more to my personality and “selfness” than a synergy between genetics, neurochemistry, and the environments and experiences to which I’ve been exposed. And my expectation concerning death is that it will be both corporeal- and ego-death—which is part of the reason I write, to be honest. Like everyone who finds existence interesting and occasionally enjoyable, I want to live forever. And I’m pretty sure than “I” won’t. The best I can do is to see that my genes live on through my children, and that my thoughts live on through my writing.

To this agnostic author, the nearest thing to immortality he could imagine consisted of creation and procreation—that is, writing and having children. I can empathize with him—but I can’t agree with him.

I love my children and I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything in the world. But from the time they were born, they have been living their own individual lives. I hope I have helped to shape their values and their character, and I have tried to give them a good start in life. But to my mind, there is no meaningful sense in which I will “live on” through my children. 

Can books make you immortal? It’s true that you can extend the shelf-life of your thoughts for decades, or even centuries, through books. Today, we can read the 2,700-year-old thoughts of Homer and the 400-year-old thoughts of Shakespeare—but what are a few centuries next to genuine immortality?


 Immortality Outstripping Time, a statue at the Grand Palais in Paris, sculpted by Georges Recipon; photo by Doods Dumaguing, with enhanced color, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Paper deteriorates, bindings rot—there are few things more fragile in the world than books. Achieve immortality by writing books? No,

I write because I have been given something to say, and I have to get it said before I die, that’s all. Books don’t bestow immortality.

I have no illusions about becoming immortal through my children or through my books. Immortality, to me, does not consist of “making my mark on the world.” Achievements and fame, my name in the history books, buildings named after me—what kind of immortality is that?

The only kind of immortality that interests me is the kind where I get to live for ever and ever, even after I die. That’s the immortality I have bet my life on.  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Nora’s Review of… THE PRINTED LETTER BOOKSHOP by Katherine Reay


The Printed Letter Book Shop

By Katherine Reay

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson – Harper Collins

Release Date May 14, 2019

ISBN# 978-0785222002

336 Pages



REVIEW: All bookish people will love this story. It’s fun, intriguing, has a mystery and a splash of romance. It takes place in The Printed Letter Book Shop a place I’d love to hang out in and work at. The author does a brilliant job of placing readers inside the shop as the customer and then as an employee/owner of the store.

Maddie is the founder and creator of the shop, Janet was an artist and put up inviting window and end cap displays. Claire was great at running the business end of things. Madeline (Maddie’s name sake) just inherited this special book store that the community embraced and adored. They didn’t want to see it close.

I love that the author invites the reader into this special place and the reader is also on the receiving end of book recommendations, where they describe books, give quotes from books and talk about books Maddie has recommended to the three people who run the book store, Janet, Claire and Madeline. Each list was personally handpicked by Maddie herself and given to each of them after her death by her attorney Greg Frankel.

Quote from book, Madeline says, …”I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

Madeline was a lawyer in a prestigious firm and worked hard to hopefully make partner. She didn’t want anything to do with this book business. It was her Aunt’s thing. But Madeline’s life takes a sharp turn into an unexpected zone and she finds herself getting to know her Aunt Maddie and her family in ways she never thought possible. It changes the way she looked at her Aunt, parents and herself. She begins to question what’s important in life.

All three women realize that The Printed Letter Bookshopis more than a book store it’s a place where they can bloom and grow in friendship and in healing for themselves and the community. Things change for these three women as their friendship develops and they start to trust each other.

I had a hard time getting into this book at first because it seemed slow and it started off at a funeral. The author shows the funeral from all three women’s perspective Janet, Claire and then Madeline. It was a little confusing until I got my bearings as to who was who and how it related to the scheme of things. The author clearly labels the chapters, so you know who is talking.

At the surface I thought maybe this story was just going to be pure fluff and fun being in the book store sharing favorite books and book quotes but once I got my bearings the author takes readers deep.

I was amazed at what each character had to deal with and how natural the spiritual thread was intertwined throughout the trials, healing and forgiveness. It choked me up in parts.  The author naturally lets the light shine in the dark places. Showing that sometimes it’s harder to forgive yourself and at other times it’s harder to forgive what’s been done to you. These ladies give each other the grace to take one step at a time as they recapture their lives, their hopes, dreams, worth and loves.

I highly recommend this book as a book club pick. It’s a rich story with characters you care about and all the things we love about books. This was the first novel I’ve read by this author it won’t be the last. This books a keeper.

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!

The Book Club Network blog

Book Fun Magazine




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Tips for a Refreshing Summer Vacation

Summertime is a popular time of year to take vacations. We look forward to our trip for many months. But even though vacations are a pleasant experience, they can be stressful as well. Here are some tips that might help make your summer vacation a refreshing trip.

Research your options before committing to a particular establishment. Most people choose hotels to stay in. Hotels are convenient because they might have free breakfast, a pool, cleaning staff, etc. However, you might also want to consider renting a house or a cabin. This will give you and your family a nice private space to enjoy one another’s company. It adds a bit of a personal touch to your vacation. Home/cabin renting is especially popular in the Smoky Mountains. And the prices are usually not much more than what you would pay for a hotel.

Pack your Bible. On our recent vacation I didn’t read my Bible every morning, like I normally do at home. And I could feel it! I felt a bit out of sorts. When I finally pulled my Bible out of my suitcase to read it one morning, it made a big difference in my day.

Make the drive fun. If you are driving, like we did, do something fun in the car. It keeps the drive from getting to be too boring. One idea to break up the monotony is to count the number of churches you see along the way. This is something I did on our recent trip to the mountains. It was neat to see all the different churches and I even took pictures of some. On one particular trip, it got dark along way, so we had a good time looking for lightening bugs.

When I was a child we used to play a game where one person thought of a certain item that you might find in a particular room in a house. They would say to the other people in the car something like, “I’m thinking of something that starts with a ‘B’ in the kitchen.” Then all the other players would take turns guessing what it was. Whoever figured it out first would then have a turn at stumping the group. On one particular trip my father had us all guessing for a very long time before someone finally said the word “breadbox!”

Plan regular stops to stretch your legs. It is amazing what a short walk can do to revive yourself when you have been in a vehicle for many hours.

Carry plenty of water. When you’re on the road, it can be easy to neglect important daily habits, such as drinking water. So pack water in the car to ensure you have it on hand. If you are flying, you could pack water in your suitcase or buy a case when you get there. Of course you can buy a bottle of water almost anywhere. But buying one bottle at a time will obviously cost more money.

Be flexible. Whether you are traveling with members of your household, extended family, children, and/or pets, things can get stressful. Not everyone will have the same likes or interests, which is ok. But try to respect each other’s wants and needs. My friend Lorraine recently told me about something she and her family and friends had done once on a vacation. There were four people in her group and they each picked out one activity that they wanted to do.

Work together. A coworker of mine told me about a method she used when traveling with a large group. They stayed in a large cabin and had over a dozen adults and children. They made a schedule for which adults would be responsible for cooking each meal for the group. I thought this was a fabulous idea.

Be present. We all have mobile devices that distract us. We might be tempted to check our work email, Facebook, or any other all too convenient app. But try to lay your devices down as much as possible. Be fully present and engaged with your loved ones. Let your presence be a present.

And of course, take plenty of pictures and have lots of fun! If you have any tips, please share in the comments!

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Rejoice Always by Julie Arduini

I’m a Bible study girl. My bookshelves are full of completed studies where I’ve poured over verses and learned new insights from an unchanging God. What I love is often I can find free online studies where videos are offered for the duration of the study. Sometimes I join the online community, and sometimes I branch off and form my own

This summer I’m going solo, and the study is Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing. If you haven’t picked up Max’s vast collection of works, put that on your summer bucket list and get at it. He is a natural storyteller with such wisdom and grace. Whether through word or video, he has the look of someone that you’d strike up a conversation with at the coffee shop and leave knowing you met a new friend.

I picked up the book thinking anxiety is something I’ve had here and there with hormonal issues, and a loved one definitely struggles, so why not read it? It didn’t take long before I realized as I read anxiety has been a rock in my shoe that I’ve walked so long with, I didn’t even notice.

Now I’m aware, and like you, there are some what if situations just dancing around me, threatening to steal my peace. What might throw me off might not you, but here are common things:




I’m painting with a broad brush, but our area idled an automotive plant that employed thousands. Now the local newspaper is shutting down There are so many people looking for work. Trying to pay their bills.

There are also people going to the doctor or visiting nursing homes. ER visits. Unexpected surgeries.

Relationships? Anxiety over whether that one is “the one.” Stress when the marriage isn’t working. Devastation over an affair. Grief learning a new normal without a spouse.

It’s a tornado of situations that kick up a lot of what if’s that keep our pharmacies in business.

I’m no different and I thought what I would share here is how present God is. How specific. Not only in the study am I reading about Philippians 4:4-6, but it’s popping up everywhere. Pastors mentioning it in sermons. Reading it in devotions. Friends drop it in their conversation.

The words for this week come from verse four. “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Rejoice is a ten-point vocab word. You can’t be blah when it’s time to rejoice. It requires action and emotion. Intentionality. Always? That’s pretty specific as well. Not when we feel like it. Not just when the news is good. Always.

When the job is gone. The marriage is over. The word cancer is mentioned. College is off the table.

Trust me, I know it sounds cliche, and I’ve struggled . But He is faithful. Any hard thing He’s allowed only strengthened me and prepared me to help someone down the road going through the same thing.

So if you’re struggling, I hope this post encourages you. God’s got you. I promise!

I don’t think it’s too late to join the Anxious for Nothing Study. Check it out!

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A Wild Ride (by Hannah Alexander)

I like to be in control when I’m in a car. All the time. When I’m riding with someone in a car and they slam their brakes too sharply or get too close to the bumper of the car ahead, I slam my imaginary brake on the passenger side. This is why I typically do the driving, because my braking foot takes a beating when I’m the passenger.

You might say, “Poor Mel.” And you would be right. When we travel, I’m usually the driver. He’s more laid back than I am, and he actually likes being the passenger. He makes life and death decisions at work, and letting me drive takes the stress away–especially if it’ll keep me from riding my imaginary brake.

I think I tend to do that with God, too. You know, grip the reins of my life too tightly and make my own decisions without waiting on God to control. If you do this, then you’ll probably understand that this kind of behavior can land you into trouble. Why do some of us have to learn this lesson the hard way?Recently, however, I received a God-breathed gift of learning to allow someone else to drive. Our pastor made this possible with a mountain-edge trail and two ATVs.

Anyone who knows me would think I could tackle a rocky ATV trail with great enthusiasm. After all, we had gone on other rides with these friends and had an amazing time, and when I’m with Mel I feel fearless. This time, however, it was scary. I mean, there was a water-engorged rushing mountain creek maybe 200 feet below a cliff-edge trail covered with rocks of man sizes, from fist-sized to tire-sized. We had to climb to the top of the mountain before we could fly down the other side through mud-and-snow-piled curves. I simply could not do it. I don’t have the strength in my shoulders to push the accelerator and hold onto the handlebars.

So following our good and trusted friends–and of course using them as guinea pigs to see if they fell off the cliff first–I latched onto Mel and begged him to drive.

Kind of like releasing my own will and doing only God’s, I trusted only in holding on tightly and at times spelling the word h-y-p-e-r-v-e-n-t-i-l-a-t-e over and over again, sometimes closing my eyes, often trying not to scream. When I realized that no one could hear me over the sound of the engines, I learned that I could even scream on occasion without alarming anyone.

It’s that way for me when I let go of my own will and allow myself to be subject to God’s, instead. It occurred to me in my panicked brain at one point that this wild ride–which some daredevil riders told us to take–was a good picture of the Christian life. We followed our pastor and his wonderful wife, and I trusted Mel’s strength and God’s grace and mercy to keep us on the trail.

After a few wrong turns–after which we were forced to turn around on a very tight trail–we found the actual trail at the top of the mountain, and the rocks disappeared and the mud began!

Oh, the joy of being on the mountain top with snow and mud flying in every direction, the pine scent and the views of other mountain tops in the distance, and no cliff beckoning our ATV to tumble down. YeeHaw!

Isn’t it like that at times in our Christian walk? God calls us to something frightening, daunting, or at least a little nerve-wracking, and we actually do His will and follow? Have you felt that rush lately? I want to do this more often!

We are attempting to do that more often out here in the wilds of Wyoming, where everyone lives a little more on the wild side. I would love to hear if you’ve taken a step you wouldn’t ordinarily have taken, and stepped more fully into God’s will, even if it was daunting. Or even if you’ve had an adventure recently that was also on the wild side.

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A Friendly Perspective by Tara Randel


This past weekend was a long holiday, the perfect time to get together with family and friends. I met up with local writer friends for a long overdue lunch date. With deadlines, health issues and a full-time job, we haven’t seen each other as often as we used to. Just a few years ago we got together several times a week to work on projects. We discussed what was happening with our children, we held brainstorming sessions and enjoyed coffee breaks. We were a constant presence in each other’s lives. Although it was gradual, it felt like we grew apart overnight.

Life changes. It’s sad that we aren’t there for each other as often as we used to be. Even though the bond is still strong between us, we’ve accepted the fact that we have a more distant relationship. But when the opportunity arises to see each other, we grab it. We chat and laugh, acting as though we just saw each other yesterday. Then we promise to meet again soon, looking forward to our next visit.

On Sunday, two members of my church, who have moved away to pursue their dreams, happened to be home for the weekend. One is hoping to succeed as a professional dancer, the other is in Bible college. It was a jam-packed service as these young people filled us in on the up and downs of their experiences. These are true long-distance relationships, but it reminded me of how God keeps us connected, to old friends or with those who go off to places we might never step, in order to fulfill the desires God has placed in their hearts.

My point?

People come and go. We can see so much of what the Lord is doing in His kingdom by treasuring the relationships that have been so important to us and by seeing what others are accomplishing because they listened to the call of God. And while we might miss times spent with good friends, watching those who are working toward their goals is encouraging. It takes the sting out of missing our buddies. One thing is sure, God has a plan and we go through seasons in life with different people. I’ve learned to embrace new and old relationships, bittersweet as they may be.

In two weeks, I’ll be headed to New York City for the Romance Writers of America annual conference. I’ll be traveling with a good friend, someone who has been there for me though good times and bad. We just spent yesterday going over our schedule, trying to fit excitement into every spare minute so we can visit landmarks we’ve talked about seeing for years. Once at the conference, I’ll see fellow authors I only see at this conference, along with my agent and editor. Plus, I’ll meet people while I’m there, proving that we can always expect new friendships while still maintaining old friendships, and we become better people because of it.

I’ll have pictures next time. This was taken at the Literacy signing at a past conference.


Take the time to embrace those who have impacted your life, but be ready to meet folks who will add something totally different to how you view life. It’s a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Copy of Available August 2019

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, Trusting Her Heart, available August 2019.  Visit Tara at Like her on Facebook at Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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