What God Says About Us

Renee Ann Smith —  September 29, 2014 — 7 Comments

Are your ears burning?

That’s because God and His Son are talking about you.
But unlike gossipers and critics,
their words always seek to build up and protect.

Even when Satan brings a case before God of all the reasons why we don’t deserve Heaven, Jesus intercedes for us . . .

Scripture graphic “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues. You keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.” Psalm 31:20

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I love knowing that accusing tongues don’t sway Him. He cherishes me and sticks up for me no matter what.

When I think of the emphasis God places on showing us that His Word is

  • Sharper than a two-edged sword,
  • Enlightening enough to be lamp to our feet,
  • Unchanging in the slightest jot or tittle,
  • And completely free from any error,

I’m amazed to see what He says in His Word about us . . . 

1. God considers us family—with all the privileges that go with that special relationship.

“’I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.” II Corinthians 6:18

2. God will not remove Himself from our lives. He is always present & aware of all that is happening in our world.

“I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” II Corinthians 6:16

3. Jesus claims us as His own.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14

4. Jesus knows the details about ourlives like no one else.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

5. Jesus assures us that we have great value.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Scripture Graphic Birds

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6. Jesus asks that we would be where He is. Our final destination is assured.

“Father, I want those you gave me to be with me, right where I am, so they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, having loved me long before there ever was a world.” John 17:24

May these words give us confidence today.  Because, truly, “if God is for us, who can stand against us?”

***Photo Backstory: I made the first graphic on an image I downloaded from my account at RGB Stock Photos. The second graphic is on a background I put together. Of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking & adding text. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

I’m thankful that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!
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Self-Pity Be Gone

Renee Ann Smith —  September 24, 2014 — 15 Comments

Max Lucado Before Amen“Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our system.”
~Max Lucado, Before Amen~

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***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic from an iPhone pic I snapped during last week’s school trip to Camp Iroquoina in Hallstead, PA. I had a wonderful time “planting seeds” with my students & soaking in the Autumn beauty all around me. How has Fall changed the landscape where you are?

Of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking & adding text. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

I’m truly thankful that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!
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On Prayer & Heartbreak

Renee Ann Smith —  September 22, 2014 — 5 Comments

“God, to some, is the ultimate heartbreaker.” ~Max Lucado, Before Amen~

This line from Max Lucado’s new book wrapped itself around my heart & wouldn’t let go—because I have felt this way. Have you?


I know that God cherishes me with the tender lovingkindness
and unconditional devotion of a parent.
But when He doesn’t answer my prayers in the way I had wished Him to,
my heart is easily deceived (as Jeremiah 17 points out).
And that’s when I doubt His love.

My wayward heart makes me prone to wander.
So again & again I must be pointed to the truth about my Heavenly Father’s love.
Max Lucado’s book did just that. I devoured it in one sitting.

Max reminded me that most of us “suffer from small thoughts about God. In our desire to understand Him, we have sought to contain Him.” But even a glimpse of His goodness can change us. Prayer—simply talking to our Father—is how He keeps us close & shows us His goodness. Prayer is vital for handling life, counteracting doubts, healing hearts, and changing the world.

Jesus made sure to teach His disciples to pray before He left them. As Max writes, “The first followers of Jesus needed prayer guidance. In fact, the only tutorial they ever requested was on prayer.”

If you need a practical, pointed, easy-to-digest tutorial on the power a simple prayer can unleash in your life & the lives of those you love,
Before Amen is just the shot in the arm you’ll appreciate.

My two favorite quotes . . .

#1. “God’s power is unsurpassed. And His heart is unblemished.” ~Max Lucado~

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Max Lucado Before Amen

Stop back in on Wednesday to see my quote #2!

More favorite quotes . . .

“If you are still waiting for healing, trust Him. Your suffering is your sermon.”

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“God will turn your tomb into a womb out of which you will be born with a perfect body into a perfect world.”

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What you should do next . . .

You can order a copy of Before Amen at this link. ***Thanks to Max Lucado & Litfuse PR for providing a copy for me to review!

Enter the Before Amen iPad Mini giveaway. AND if you pre-order a copy of Before Amen by 9/29, you’ll receive a FREE ebook copy of Max’s best-selling Second Chances: More Stories of Grace. Just click on the image below . . .

Max Lucado Before Amen

Max Lucado Before AmenAbout the Author: More than 120 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy.

You can connect with Max . . .

At his website

On his Facebook page

On Twitter

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics from iPhone pics I snapped during last week’s school trip to Camp Iroquoina, Hallstead, PA. PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking & adding text. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

I’m truly thankful that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!
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Planting Seeds

Renee Ann Smith —  September 16, 2014 — 13 Comments

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap,
but by the seeds that you plant.”

~Robert Louis Stevenson~

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As you read this, our junior high & high school will be preparing to leave
for our field trip to Camp Iroquoina in Hallstead, PA.
My students will eagerly shake the dust of schoolwork off their feet
and focus on enjoying all that this beautiful camp has to offer.

And I’ll be busy planting seeds.

***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic from an iPhone pic snapped during last year’s trip. PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking & adding text. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

I’m truly thankful that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!
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Evergreen: Life Flourishes

Renee Ann Smith —  September 15, 2014 — 9 Comments

I don’t think Christmas should ever be perfect.

Maybe because my most treasured Christmas memories seem to be the times when God helped me find joy in the midst of far from perfect circumstances . . .

***Like that winter during my childhood when I was sick for every holiday. Dad carried me outside to see the Christmas lights my brother and sisters had set up. On the way back in, he slipped on the ice and fell, cushioning me with his body.

And I learned that I would always be safe in his arms—no matter how often we failed to see eye-to-eye in later years.

***The first Christmas after my dad died, decorating our mother’s house because she hadn’t the strength. My sisters dragged an ugly Charlie-Brown tree out of the woods and gave it a makeover. The tree made my mother cry, and we cried with her.

And we discovered that we could cry and laugh and eat and live, even though we never stopped missing the one we had lost.

***That time I went Christmas shopping with my best friend of twenty years. She dashed around Walmart on a scooter, spreading smiles and laughter like a holiday elf, and we shared a joy made bittersweet by knowing it was her last Christmas on earth.

And I saw that breast cancer can’t stop a child of God from rejoicing in her Savior—or keep a determined woman from one last shopping spree!

I’m thankful for those Christmases. And also for the ones that were mediocre or boring or left me with a feeling that surely there was more to the holiday—or life—than this. Because they taught me that what our hearts long for will never be satisfied by anyone or anything on earth, by anything less than Christ Himself.

So for me a “real” Christmas is when we’re able to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child no matter what pain or problems plague our hearts.

And isn’t that why Jesus came in the first place? To fill up all those empty places inside us and make something beautiful out of our messy lives.

This is the truth that threads throughout Susan May Warren’s lovely winter novella, Evergreen . . .

Evergreen Susan May Warren“In the wake of good-byes, life endures. Even flourishes.”

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The story focuses on empty-nesters Ingrid & John Christiansen and their efforts to thaw the “chill that has settled over their marriage” by creating the best Christmas ever—even though their adult children are spread far and wide, beloved family members are struggling with heartbreak & abandonment & addictions, and their own hearts have grown cold towards each other & God.

As sad as Ingrid and John’s situation might be, the storyline that sucked me in & had me grabbing for the tissue box involves a beautiful lost boy named Romeo. His hungry heart & sweet spirit change every character—and reader!—he comes in contact with.

Though this novella is short enough to be read in one sitting, it’s impact will last long after finishing that final page and leave you with a few gems to stir your faith & warm your heart. 

And whether or not your church has ever tried to pull together a Living Nativity, you’ll vicariously enjoy the event at the Christiansen’s church!

Evergreen Susan May Warren“Maybe, however, you’re Mary & God is simply asking you to be willing to say yes to whatever He asks.”

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GIFT SUGGESTION: Evergreen would turn a gift basket into something special or be a great stocking stuffer. If you’re gifting a reader, you could pair it with an Amazon gift card or the rest of the Christian Family Series. Good for any age—my high school students LOVE the Christian Family books!

Purchase your copies of the novella at this link. ***Thanks to Susan May Warren & Litfuse PR for providing a copy for me to review.

About the author: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels, whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. Susan May WarrenShe served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists.

In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors.

Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more.

You can connect with SMW

***See my reviews of the Christiansen Family Series at the following links:

I’m truly thankful that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***Let’s be Twitter pals! If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics from iPhone pics—of our church decorated for a winter wedding & my dear friend’s daughter playing Mary in our school chapel a few years ago. And, of course, PicMonkey is my tool of choice for tweaking & adding text. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Continue Reading…

Just In Time

Renee Ann Smith —  September 10, 2014 — 18 Comments

Beautiful in its time“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:11~

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This sweet family grew up in my garage. The local cat caused them much fear and anguish. Yet they stretched their wings and—using my driveway as a landing strip—practiced soaring & one by one flew away.

Now even the “empty-nester” Mama bird has moved on.

But a trace of their beauty remains.

I’m thankful for the simple beauty God sprinkles through our days & that you stopped by today. Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic from an iPhone pic, which I tweaked with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Continue Reading…

Just Like Going Home

Renee Ann Smith —  September 7, 2014 — 22 Comments
I'm fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

I’m fourth down on the right: the small blonde child facing the camera

 My childhood was marked by large family gatherings, like the Thanksgiving in this photo

I grew up in the same small town as the families of my dad’s three brothers & my mom’s two siblings. My cousins walked the halls of my school with me, and I seemed to stumble over at least one relative every place I went. At one point, of the twenty or so homes on our street & extension, about seven of them housed relatives—granted some were distant.

The presence of my extended family left me with a strong feeling of being loved and watched over, of being part of something good.

Some of my best memories involve family dinners—my four siblings, I, and my parents sitting around the table during those few short years when we were all home and healthy and happy How quickly the time has flown since those days under my parents’ roof.

I enjoyed my childhood, but I truly did not realize what a rare treasure it was until I began teaching. I teach high school English at a small-town Christian school, and I calculated that in our tiny community of 80 kids, 20% of them come from fractured homes &traumatic pasts. Unlike me, their childhoods include abuse, foster care, a parent in prison or on drugs, death of a parent, being raised by grandparents, no father, never met their father, or unhappily married parents who divorced. So they are highly entertained when I share stories from my growing up years!

I enjoy going home again in my mind. I think that’s why I’m drawn to books about large, chaotic, loving families facing life together even after they’re adults. I call it my Walton’s Syndrome.

The latest book to provide my Walton’s Syndrome fix is Deborah Raney’s charming story Home to Chicory Lane.

Chicory Lane is where Audrey & Grant Whitman raised their five kids. Now that those kids are grown, they’ve invested a large part of Grant’s retirement and much sweat equity into transforming their home into a bed & breakfast. The book begins as they’re ready to jump into the new world of innkeeping. However, little do they expect their first—nonpaying!—guest to be married daughter Landyn, who has run back home after a fight with her husband. Though shocked that the newlyweds have run into trouble after just six months, Landyn’s family rallies around her and her husband Chase in a beautiful way.

Because that’s life in the Whitman family—parents, adult kids, and grandkids, supporting each other through tough times with grace, humor & prayer. And then, as Grant says, “Learning to enjoy the lull between catastrophes.”

What I liked best . . .

  • The gentle flow of the story—perfect for a crisp fall day & a cup of tea!
  • The whole idea of running a bed & breakfast (My Lorelai Gilmore Syndrome!)
  • Getting to know the Whitmans & their adult kids (They’ll be featured in more books to come!)
  • Going along for the ride as Audrey & Grant learn to handle scheduling and preparing and unruly guests (even young beauty queens)
  • Seeing their daughter Landyn grow & change as she puts her life back together
  • Speculating on the future relationship between Link & Bree

My favorite quotes . . .

deborah raney quote“We’re just imperfect people trying to follow a perfect God. We try to be obedient to all we know of Him. And we have to trust that He’ll take care of the rest.”

Deborah Raney quote“The more we see Him work in our lives, the easier it will be to trust Him.”

What you should do next . . .

You can grab a copy of Home to Chicory Lane at this link. ***Thanks to Deborah Raney & Litfuse PR for providing a copy for me to review.

Deborah RaneyAbout the author: DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A VOW TO CHERISH, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have since won the RITA Award, ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers’ Choice Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. HOME TO CHICORY LANE released in August from Abingdon Press Fiction. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy life in Kansas. They have four children and five small grandchildren, who all live much too far away.

You can connect with Deborah . . .

At her website

On her Facebook page

On Twitter

So glad you stopped by to soak in some nostalgia today. Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: I made the quote graphics with images from my account at RGB Stock Photos & tweaked them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Continue Reading…

Heart Lessons

Renee Ann Smith —  September 3, 2014 — 20 Comments

Corrie ten Boom quote

“God never measures the mind. He always puts His tape measure in the heart.” ~Corrie ten Boom~

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“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~Aristotle~

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“We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as moonshine, compared to the education of the heart. “ ~Sir Walter Scott~

I start school TODAY—if you’re reading this on Wednesday—and I’m excited and hopeful and just a little bit overwhelmed because I don’t feel ready. So I dug out this quote from a great woman of God to remind me where my focus needs to be. I’m privileged to be a small part in guiding the hearts of my precious students. May God bless our time together & never let me take that for granted.

And may Corrie’s words encourage you in whatever your day brings. Though things may not go as perfectly as you planned, it’s the heart lessons learned that matter.

Thank you for spending a few moments of your day here. Blessings, friends!

***I’ll Tweet your post! I enjoy tweeting the posts and/or graphics of my visitors. If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Let me know in the comments how to find you in the Tweet-world!

***Photo Backstory: This is an “old” graphic that I created with a blank background & all the choices available at PicMonkey.

Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…