Monday, January 14, 2019

Read 50 Books in 1 Year

Last year I challenged myself to read 50 books in a year and expand my reading genres. And I successfully reached my goal. Below is my 2018 reading list with a brief blurb of my thoughts.

1. A Man's Heart by Lori Copeland
A wonderful western romance that had me up late into the night laughing, crying, and completely engulfed. Lori Copeland has an amazing way with words. 
 
2. A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England Book 1) by Roseanna M. White
History. Mystery. Romance. This book had it all. Roseanna M. White crafted an intriguing story and relatable characters. I am eager to begin reading the next books in the series.
 
3. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
This fiction book was raw, eye-opening, and created around a true historical scandal. It was a good read, tough to swallow at times, and pulled at the heartstrings.
 
4. Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Through the strong characters in this historical fiction, Kim Vogel Sawyer shows forgiveness and love in a way I had never read before. Great read.
 
5. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
An excellent, beautifully written contemporary romance that had me in tears. 
 
6. Messenger by Moonlight by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Intriguing historical fiction with great characters and plot.
 
7. An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund
 A well crafted historical romance novella that took me back in time. 

8. To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander
A good historical romance that combined two of my favorite things, horse racing and history.
 
9. The Witness by Dee Henderson
10. Unspoken by Dee Henderson
11. Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson
12. Undetected by Dee Henderson
13. Taken by Dee Henderson 
14. Jennifer: A Love Story by Dee Henderson 
 Suspense. Romance. Mystery. Intrigue. Dee Henderson has an incredible way with words that gripped me on every page. Great plot. Amazing characters.
 
15. A Thousand Sleepless Nights by Michael King
A gripping, relatable story that had me captivated with its display of the fight for family and love.
 
16. A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley
Entertaining western romance that didn't disappoint.
 
17. In All Deep Places by Susan Meissner
 I found this mystery in a little shop while traveling and was so excited to read it. Fascinating characters, great plot, and an ending that took my breath away.
 
18. The Universe of Us by Lang Leav
I loved this collection of poetry. Simple yet profound.
 
19. Bad Ground by W. Dale Cramer
A coming of age novel with good characters.
 
20. Out of the Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer
A good mystery read that was eerie at times.
 
21. The Return (Amish Beginnings Book 3) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
An enjoyable book from a talented author. Wonderful characters and plot.
 
22. Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy Book 1) Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher knows what she's doing. Great story and excellent characters.
 
23. A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist
 A solid historical romance about the tobacco brides.
 
24. Hope Valley War by Brock Thoene
A good western that was fun to read.
 
25. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
26. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Two interesting middle grade books with unique stories. 
 
27. Little Britches by Ralph Moody
A solid adventure that entertained.
 
28. Flight of the Eagles (Seven Sleepers Book 1) by Gilbert L. Morris
 Not quite my cup of tea but it has some interesting ideas.

Men of the Saddle Series by Lori Copeland
29. The Drifter
30. The Maverick
31. The Plainsman
32. The Peacemaker
I immediately fell in love with this western romance series. The characters are well rounded, the romance is genuine, the humor is spot on, and the story took me to another era.
 
Code of the West Series by Stephen Bly
33. It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own
34. One Went to Denver and the Other Went Wrong
35. Where the Deer and the Antelope Play
36. Stay Away from That City... They Call It Cheyenne
37. My Foots in the Stirrup-- My Pony Won't Stand
This series was a fun, good ol' western adventure that had me entertained.
 
O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson
38. Danger In the Shadows
39. The Negotiator
40. The Guardian
41. The Truth Seeker
42. The Protector
43. The Healer
44. The Rescuer
Dee Henderson completely wrecked me with this incredible suspense romance series. I have never read books that sucked me in so hard and so fast. Her detail and storytelling is beyond brilliant. Throughout the series I felt such a wide range of emotions that had me reaching for the next book and the next. The characters are so real, relatable, and inspiring. 
 
Orphan Train Series by Jody Hedlund
45. With You Always
46. Together Forever
Anything orphan train related captures my attention. This historical fiction series by Jody Hedlund is no exception. I absolutely loved these books and cannot wait to purchase the next book in the series that was recently released. They are a great read!
 
Uncommon Heroes Series by Dee Henderson
47. True Devotion
48. True Valor
49. True Honor
50. True Courage
Again, Dee Henderson sent me on an exciting ride with her military romance series. These characters, much like many of her other characters, show the true lives that men and women who fight to protect their loved ones. These are truly inspirational books that had me at page 1.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Celebrating Christmas With Our Lost Loved Ones

The other day I switched my Pandora station to play a Country Christmas station. Scotty McCreery's Christmas in Heaven sounded through the speakers and I hung onto every word that touched my ears. It was beautiful. Sad, but beautiful. I nearly started crying as I thought of the loved ones who have gone before me. My grandfather's face was clear in my mind. I began to wonder what McCreery had sang in his song:

"Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"

It made me sad at first, thinking of loved ones in heaven, but then I realized they are with the King. They are worshiping Jesus. They are face to face with Our Savior. My wondering turned to curiosity instead of sorrow. While there is still an ache of grief, there is a joy in that realization. Christmas is about celebrating Jesus. Our loved ones are celebrating in Heaven and we are celebrating here on Earth until our time comes to join them. 

The holidays can be rough when there has been loss. It doesn't matter how long it has been, the ache is still there, whether in the forefront of one's mind or in the back of one's memory. I pray that during this Christmas season those who grieve find joy in even the little things. May they feel God's peace and comfort around them. I pray they remember to celebrate Jesus' birth. May they contemplate the reason for the season. I pray they remember their loved ones are singing with Jesus. May they join in singing praises to the Lord on High.

Merry Christmas and God bless you all!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Travels and Thankfulness

Last month I was blessed to go on a trip with a very close friend. It had been roughly six months since I had last seen her and we were both in a place in our lives where we just needed a break. God's timing was perfect and He gave us the trip we needed. It was a trip to grow our friendship, a trip to refresh our souls, and a trip to grow closer to Him.

I had never been to Outer Banks, North Carolina and I was ecstatic to go. My friend and I had been counting down for months and the night of my departure finally arrived. I had an overnight flight, which are actually becoming a favorite of mine. I mean, who doesn't love running on caffeine and being surrounded by sleep deprived human beings? Besides, airports seem quieter during the late night/early mornings and less...chaotic. Also, I'm an author and a people watcher. I find it fascinating to watch people interact with each other and their surroundings. It gives me material for my writing and when it is really late at night, it's quite amusing too.

My flights went smoothly with only the minimal delays, very adorable crying infants, and a lot of sailors. My seat row mates were pleasant, probably because they slept most of the time and one of them was a dog. I ran into at least three sets of twins in the airports and was able to help a sweet mom with her twins while we waited for a flight. I was served coffee and a pastry by the most genuinely happy Starbucks employee I've ever seen, and I was picked up by my friend and her family with hugs all around.

It would take too many pages to even summarize my trip. But I'll just say, it was amazing. Just enough activities to see parts of Outer Banks and just enough downtime to relax on the beach. I laughed so much in the week I was literally sore. My friend and I made a habit to go to bed "early" because we needed hours to just talk and quiet time to read our Bibles together. The week was a time to invest in relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with her family, and our own friendship. It was a time to let go of the stress of life and simply enjoy ourselves, which we did.

So in the month dedicated to thankfulness, I am thankful for this opportunity and thankful for the incredible friendship I have been given. I'm also thankful for my Heavenly Father, who knows just what we need and when we need it. He refreshed my spirit. He strengthened a friendship. He drew me closer to Him. For that I am thankful.

What are you thankful for this month?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

God is good. God is faithful.

My sincerest apologies for missing September's blog post. It's was a crazy month and time got the better of me.

For the last week I have been sick and while it is quite miserable being sick, it has been a week of some much needed solitude and rest. I've watched more tv than is probably good for me and slept many more hours than is usual. The best part of resting was the time I had to think and talk with God. There is something about being able to forget life's craziness and just rest in Jesus. He used this time to remind me of couple important lessons.

The first being, that it is okay to ask for help and depend on others. Now I wouldn't call myself an independent woman. A stubborn woman, yes. I don't like being a burden on people. I don't like asking for help when others are already busy. I would rather wear myself to the bone than be an inconvenience. So I am learning to be dependent to a healthy degree. God reminded me of this at the beginning of this week's sickness. He told me to let my family help me so that I use what energy I had to let my body heal. This didn't mean I could be lazy, but rather that I needed to be aware of my limitations and speak up when something was outside of those limits. I'll be honest. It's been hard for me. But God is good and He is faithful.

The second being, don't worry about tomorrow. Did you know stress can actually affect your health? Stress can lower your immune system, which in turn makes you more susceptible to illnesses. When I began to feel sick, I immediately started getting stressed about the things I had to do: work, writing projects, helping out at church, and several events. I had this mentality that "I have to be better by ___". As if I had any control over when I would be better! But God is gracious and He gently reminded me that everything happens in His timing and His timing is good and perfect. So I cancelled stuff, I missed events, I put aside projects, and I rested in Jesus. The other night I caught myself worrying about an event in a few days and I shook my head and said aloud, "I don't need to worry. It's all in God's timing." And that was that. I put it out of my mind and let God take control.

So what important things has God been teaching you? Do you need to learn to be healthily dependent on others? Do you need to stop worrying about tomorrow? Whatever He is teaching you, I pray you cling to Him in all that you do. May you find peace in Him during life's chaos. May you have moments of stillness to think and reflect with Jesus. May you be reminded of all the good things He has done. God bless you, dear reader.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Having Patience in a Rushed Society

We live in a society that constantly wants the next best thing and wants it now. If something doesn't happen immediately it is written off as never going to happen. Now don't get me wrong, not everyone does this. There are lots of hardworking dreamers out there that push back against society's standards. They work hard for what they want and they take life one step at a time with determination to succeed. But even they get discouraged. Even they get impatient. It's human nature.

Impatience is caused by society's standards constantly being thrust upon a person. It adds a whole lot of stress nobody wants. Society likes to put a timeline on life. It's all about graduating high school with a 4.0+ GPA, going straight into college, getting a masters, starting a career, moving up the employment ladder, increasing one's salary, marrying the "perfect" person, having the "perfect" kids, buy the "perfect" house, the "perfect" car, and retiring by 50.

Yeah right, totally going to happen. Not. It's just not realistic. And besides, society is so messed up that as soon as one person achieves the "perfect" standard, the next person has to do better. Society moves so fast that no one will ever really catch up. There isn't such a thing as "good enough". People are just tiring themselves out trying to reach something that isn't reachable. Each person's life is different. What is good for one person isn't necessarily good for the other. We each have a special path to go down. So how does one have "success" in life? How do we live in a world of rushed society without completely running ourselves into the dirt? How do we be patient and take the path we were meant to take?

Glad you asked. Patience requires trust. Not trust in an outcome, but trust in a person. That person is Jesus. Thankfully we have a God who is trustworthy, all powerful, kind, loving, worthy of respect. He sees the whole picture. God knows the beginning of our life story, the middle, the end. He knows all the trials we shall face, the victories we shall have, and the impact our lives will make. It isn't up to us to "make it happen". That's God's job. We are His tools, for His glory and not for our own. We live according to His timeline, not society's. In His timeline, God says "do not worry"(Matt 6:36), "rest in Me"(Matt 11:28), "for I know the plans I have for you"(Jer 29:11), "do as to the Lord and not to men"(Col 3:23), "Wait upon the Lord"(Isa 40:31).

Don't try and make it happen, you'll only tire yourself and get discouraged. Wait upon the Lord, lean on his wisdom and guidance. Seek His will for your life and be faithful to stop and listen. Be patient in His timing. His timing is perfect. You may have to wait years for something to happen. And it may never happen at all. It is all up to the will of God. But I can tell you this, if you are patient and it does happen, it shall be so much sweeter than if you were to try and make it happen all on your own. When you have patience and wait on God, you remove the pressure of doing it on your own, you take away society's grip on you.

I know what it is to wait for something to happen. I also know what is it is like to try and make it happen all on my own. It's exhausting. And trust me, it is so much better waiting on Jesus. I went against the norm and didn't go to college. Society told me to let my dream stay just that, a dream. But I decided to be an author instead. I felt God calling me to write with Him and He has blessed me by opening doors I never imagined being opened. I've written two manuscripts, sent one in for publication, and been declined several times, but I'm not giving up because I trust in God's timing. It's discouraging in the moment but when I think on the greatness of our Lord, I remember that His ways are higher than my own. So I wait. I practice patience. There are things in my life I have waited on the Lord for years. He has brought some of my waiting to an end but in other things I may end up waiting on Him for many more years to come. And that's okay with me. I've seen Him be faithful in different aspects of my life and I trust Him fully.

It's a struggle. A daily battle. But in the end it'll be worth it.

So what will you do? Will you have patience in a rushed society? Will you wait upon the Lord?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Wait Upon The Lord & He Shall Renew Your Strength

Wait upon the Lord and he shall give you strength. Isaiah 40:31a. It has been my life verse for years and it is a verse I hold very close to my heart. Some people get new verses each years, some it varies. But mine has stayed the same. Whatever the reason is, I'm clinging to God's words. I'm clinging to God. I've seen God's provision time and time again. He is faithful when I call, even when I stumble along in my own knowledge before asking Him for help. God is gracious and He is my source of strength.

A life lived with Jesus isn't an easy one, but it is worth it. Every step is worth it. A relationship with Jesus is unlike any other. When you're stumbling, when you're too tired to go one, when life has pulled you down, turn to Jesus. He'll lift you up on wings like eagles. He'll refresh your spirit. He'll give you His strength. He is faithful in all things. Big and small.

Just think of how wonderful it is to have a relationship with someone who cares for you. It may be a parent, a sibling, a significant other, a best friend. As amazing as the times you have with them are, the love you feel, the memories you have created together, that person is still human and at some point will let you down. They still have faults. They will still let you down. This isn't meant to minimize the relationship we have with our fellow man. We need these people in our lives. God put them there for a reason. But this illustration is, rather, to maximize the relationship you can have with your Lord and Savior. He isn't human. He's God. He won't let you down. He had infinite strength, amazing love, endless grace, tender mercies. He is perfect. So perfect man cannot fully comprehend his nature. It blows my mind.

Walk with God. Lean on His love. Wait upon the Lord and He shall renew your strength.  <3

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Don't Just Write For God, Write With Him.

Writing is different for every writer. For some its an outlet, for some its a job, for some its a hobby, and for others it is simply something their good at.

Writing was a huge emphasis in school. My mom homeschooled us and I remember her telling us we needed to write everyday. It didn't matter what we wrote, if we added pictures, if the spelling was on point, or if the grammar was correct, none of it matter as long as we wrote something. As we grew up, we would learn to edit what we had written and this became a major foundation in my current writing process.

Writing turned into an outlet for me. Expressing myself verbally is difficult, especially when I am upset. But on paper, I can write my thoughts as fluidly as they come. It doesn't have to be spelled right or grammatically correct. No pressure. Just words on a page. I simply write what I feel. There were a lot of letters I wrote to explain what was going inside of me because I was unable to say it aloud.

Then writing became fueled by emotion. I started writing poetry. Tell me to write a poem and I could do it. It would be hard, but I could achieve it. But it flows more naturally when it stems from my emotions. When emotions weren't there, I relied on inspiration. Books, movies, music. Anything really. My stories are created through some spark of inspiration. I wrote my first book when I was eleven and the sequel six months later. I recognized that God gave me the ability to piece words together in some form of literature and was going to use my writing to glorify God. So that's what the first two books were writing for. For God.

Then I started my third book, the process was harder. I was 13, fresh into high school, life was crazy, and it was the first book I seriously wanted to publish. Trying to juggle school, several sports, have a social life, and write a novel was no easy feat. I kept saying I was writing for God. It took me a while to realize that while I was doing it for God, I was doing the heavy lifting without Him. It was for His glory, but I wasn't inviting Him into the process. I was trying to do it on my own. So I decided to change that. Before each writing session I started asking God to work with me.

Inviting God into your writing process helps take off the pressure that you have to make it happen. Whether its asking Him to give you the words to write, the target audience He wants you to aim for, the editors, agents, and publishers He wants you to submit to, intentionally invite God into your process. Pray over the manuscript before you send it in. God's will shall be done. If He wants your work with a particular group, then He shall make it happen. Work along side God. Don't just write for God. Write with Him.