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The Wedding Chapel

Renee Ann Smith —  December 13, 2015 — 9 Comments

Rachel Hauck Wedding Chapel

Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Chapel is one of those stories that has all the stuff I love—a connection to the past, a second chance at love, family drama, romance, heartache and healing, reconciliations—and lots of heart.

It’s about a young couple navigating the troubled waters of their marriage and an older couple who never gave their love a chance.

It’s about the games people play when they don’t trust their hearts to those they should be closest to,

How they build barriers to protect themselves,

Or manipulate to get what they want—even if they must rip it out of the hands of someone they’re supposed to cherish—

And after all that, how God can smooth over the pain that has been festering and leave peace and healing in its place.

It’s also about a chapel that takes its place as a special character in the novel . . .

“Majestic with her stone walls and weather-worn beam trim, the chapel drank in the sunlight through the cupola, then reflected it back out through the windows. The canopying beech and cottonwood trees stretched leafy branches over the slanted slate roof, creating a thicket of serenity.”

Coach Jimmy Westbrook had build the chapel for the love of his life . . .

“She was part of him, this place. He’d deposited his sweat, his tears, and his heart here. And buried them with time.”

But somehow Jimmy hadn’t ended up living happily ever after with the girl of his dreams . . .

Too late . . . The truth branded his brain. The twist in his back intensified. Of course it was too late. He was an old man.

Too late to do anything about unfulfilled dreams.

Too late to win a love that was lost.

Too late for everything the chapel represented.

He, a hall-of-fame football coach, had ridden the bench in the game of life, waiting to be called in for a play that never came.”

Wedding Chapel Rachel HauckI think that’s all I can share here without giving too much of this wonderful novel away. You’ll just have to read it for yourself. Grab a copy today & tuck it away to enjoy when you have time.

This sweet story plus a cup of your favorite hot beverage will help you carve out an oasis of calm in the midst of hectic holidays. 

My students & I love Rachel’s books. They’re so looking forward to the day I bring my copy to school & add it to our bookshelves.

The Wedding Chapel is a Romantic Times Top Pick and one of Booklist’s Top Inspirational Novels of 2015.

It makes a great gift for teens on up. Follow this link to order the copies you need.

Follow this link to enter Rachel’s $100 GIVEAWAY & you might also win a copy of the book!

Thanks for stopping by today, story lovers! Blessings, friends!

Wedding Chapel Rachel Hauck

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“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

~From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott~

LIttle Women Christmas Gifts for Girls

One of my favorite stories to read and watch at Christmas time is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Though technically not a Christmas novel, this story of four sisters growing up in 1860s New England begins at Christmas and features some pretty great Christmases over their years together.

As one of four sisters myself, I instantly fell in love with a story of sisters growing up together & navigating life—through sunshine & tea parties, harsh poverty, unrequited love, youthful follies, teen adventures, heartaches & disappointments, deaths, careers, marriages, babies, sorrows & joys.

I love how the book begins with Marmee giving each girl a copy of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress for Christmas—they’re too poor that year for anything else.

The girls read the book together and attempt to follow its lessons.

In part one, many of the chapter titles even refer to Bunyan’s book.

I also appreciate the types of relationships on display in the story—

  • Friendships between neighbors, buddies, and BFFs
  • Unrequited love
  • Those who have loved and lost
  • Old, settled married love
  • Sweet, young love
  • Love and respect for elders
  • Sacrificial love for the poor and needy among us

Of course, at the center of the story is the relationship among sisters and all that goes with it—the confidences, fights, sighs, tears, laughs, scrapes, adventures, and love.

And I’m sure that all of us who read the book as young girls spent time pondering the question: Which sister am I?

Now looking back at the story, I’d say that . . . 

Too often I’m shallow like Amy was, without being beautiful.

I have some of Jo’s impulsiveness & sense of adventure and too much of her temper.

I think at this age, I can finally say that I’m as responsible as Meg.

And I’m still wishing to be as gentle, kind, and giving as Beth.

How ’bout you? Have you read the book? Which sister are you?

If you don’t have time to re-read Little Women this Christmas Season—or have never read it—I’ve compiled some of my favorite quotes here for you to enjoy.

(Feel free to share—tweet, pin, download, etc.)

I hope they remind you of the simpler times and sweet memories of Christmases gone by.

Little Women Louisa May Alcott

 

Little women valley of the shadow

Little Women Christmas nostalgia

Little Women Beth Jo Amy MegLIttle Women Jo amy meg bethLittle Women

Follow the links below to access whatever version of Little Women you might need or enjoy. These make great gifts! 

little women pilgrim's progress

Thanks for stopping by today, sisters & storylovers! Blessings, friends!

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What I’m Afraid To Say

Renee Ann Smith —  November 30, 2015 — 18 Comments

While I was reading the Bible this week, two words stopped me in my tracks.

“Imitate me.”

Paul wrote those words in I Corinthians 4.

Paul had been imprisoned, flogged, left for dead, beaten with rods, pelted with stones, shipwrecked, been threatened with many dangers, suffered hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and sleeplessness. (II Corinthians 11)

Yet I wonder how much courage it took for him to extend that invitation.

I see that the world needs role models worthy of imitation.

My students look up to actors and singers and athletes, and I can understand why they’re drawn to those shining lives.

But what are they learning about God’s generous heart and wise ways and strong arms that hold us close when we need Him?

I want to draw their eyes away from the created ones

And call them to lift their eyes to the One who created them,

The Father who lovingly chose their purpose and their future.

Follow me Imitate me Paul Jesus

But when they turn their eyes to me, standing in front of them each day,

The words “imitate me” stick in my throat & I shake in my shoes.

I know what they’ll see if they look too close,

The flaws and fears and failures,

The zeal too often smothered by cares of this world,

The boldness that melts away in the face of hardship,

The pure message diluted by shallowness and sin.

Then I remember other words Paul spoke,
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance,
Jesus came to save sinners—OF WHOM I AM CHIEF.

So no matter that folks would see the pettiness and ego and impatience and failures,

Paul opened his heart and life to those around him—and to us so many centuries later.

He risked being labeled hypocrite and judged harshly and cast aside as worthless—so he could give HOPE to the rest of us,

The ones who need to see how God picks His children up after failures

And holds them until they can stand on their own

And gives them second and third and fourth chances

And loves them to the end no matter what.

Yes, some will look close and misunderstand and turn away.

But perhaps later, when they find themselves face down in the dust, in danger of being trampled by life, they’ll remember the example of a man or woman after God’s own heart,

An imitator not too proud to repent, ask forgiveness, and begin again.

An imitator who totally relies on God for the grace & courage to repeat with Paul,

Imitate me Paul Jesus Follow me

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1

Thanks for stopping by today, my fellow imitators! Blessings, friends!

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It’s All in the Deets

Renee Ann Smith —  November 15, 2015 — 17 Comments

I love words.

When I’m struggling, a well-chosen word can turn on the lightbulb for me.

Certain words and phrases create whole scenes in my head.

Of course, God’s Word is the ultimate. His Word gives life to my soul and steadies me when things gets rocky.

And I love that His Word is filled with stories—even fiction!

I’m thankful that my Heavenly Father is a storyteller.

Because stories are the language of my heart.

I’ve read many articles that describe the strong connection fiction—especially colorful words and phrases—forges within us as we read.

In fact, a recent New York Times article, Your Brain on Fiction by Anne Murphy Paul, states that “Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that ‘runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.’

C. S. Lewis said that fiction “enriches,” “adds to reality,” and “irrigates the desert our lives have become.”

Like Lewis, I don’t consider losing myself in a story as escapism. I view it as enrichment,

As preparation,

As affirmation of life.

So in the midst of all the chaos and hurt in the world, I hold out to my students a cup brimming with beautiful stories and invite them to drink.

And I pray that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” in the works we read will refresh and fill them.

And here on the blog I often talk about stories for the same reason.

Today I’m highlighting a novella I was privileged to preview—Love in the Details by Becky Wade.

What I love about Becky as a writer is that whether in a full-length novel or in a brief novella, her words always reach my heart.

I’m amazed at how quickly she pulls me into the hearts and minds of her characters, and this story of former high school sweethearts reuniting at a mutual friend’s wedding was no different.I enjoyed Josh & Holly’s sweet romance.

I pulled out my favorite quotes to show how even a short read about two old friends falling in love all over again can be saturated with truth and beauty.

Love in the Details Becky WadeBecky Wade Becky Wade

Hop on over to this link to grab your copy of Love in the Details. It’s a lovely read & easy to sip down in one sitting. For a deeper drink of Becky’s words, follow this link and view all of her stories.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

Becky WadeAbout the Author: Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas.

She published historical romances for the general market, took time off to raise her children, then felt God nudging her to pursue contemporary Christian fiction.

Becky’s work has been a finalist for both a RITA and an INSPY Award.

You can connect with Becky . . .

at her website

on her Facebook page

on Twitter

 

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The Scarlet LetterEvery year when we read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter, the girls in my American Literature class fall for this dramatic tale of a woman who goes wrong yet learns from her sin and becomes a stronger, better person. My students’ hearts break for Hester Prynne as she navigates the world alone, rejected by the men who claim to love her and the religious folks around her.

When she rises above her personal pain to reach out to those in need, they cheer her on.

As we discuss the difference between consequences of sin and God’s grace and forgiveness, they begin to see parts of their own story in Hester’s journey.

They love that after Hester gave birth to her daughter out of wedlock, she “named the infant Pearl, as being of great price—purchased with all she had—her mother’s only treasure” (Hawthorne 76).

And that’s when I share what I’ve learned about Becoming the Pearl of Great Price.

The pearl is an interesting study. Unlike other gems, pearls are produced by a living organism, an oyster, as the result of a wound.

The pearl usually begins forming around a grain of sand or an egg of some parasite that invaded the oyster—or it could even be a small piece of the oyster’s own shell—a self-inflicted wound.

The oyster protects itself by layering the irritant with nacre or mother-of-pearl

Until out of pain and suffering it forms an object of great beauty.  

What started off as something unwanted, unattractive, and worthless actually becomes a gem of great worth!

So it is with us.

From birth, we’re marred by sin, unable to become what our Heavenly Father envisioned when He planted us in the womb.

If left to ourselves, we wander through the days that stretch out before us, constantly seeking beautiful coverings to hide the ugliness we see in our own hearts.

Little pieces of jealousy, bitterness, unkindness, fear fester into wounds that smother our peace and pierce our happiness.

But because He loves us, God purchases us,

Clothes us with His righteousness,

And transforms us into a thing of beauty.

He talks about it in Matthew 13:45 . . .

“God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.”

Many see this as a parable of a person seeking the kingdom of heaven.

But some see another level of meaning where Christ is the jewel merchant, and we are the pearl.

This resonates with me because I know it from firsthand experience.  

God, our big-hearted Heavenly Father, has a special talent for seeing the treasure inside the people and things that everyone else overlooks.

Pearl of Great Price

These verses testify to how great a value Christ places on you and me . . .

“They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.” Malachi 3:17

“The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!” Zechariah 9:16&17a

And here’s the same truth from The Message . . .
“Their God will save the day. He’ll rescue them. They’ll become like sheep, gentle and soft, or like gemstones in a crown, catching all the colors of the sun. Then how they’ll shine! Shimmer! Glow!”

Pearl of Great Price

May you sparkle as His treasured daughter today. Blessings, friends!

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Recently, I’ve been feeling empathy for the biblical character of Jonah.

(And not just because I fear large bodies of water, where all kinds of deadly creatures lurk beneath an unsuspecting swimmer’s dangling feet.)

God called Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites. The Ninevites were Assyrians, a ruthless people who posed a constant threat to Israel and all those Jonah loved.

In fact, the generations after Jonah had to deal with the cruelty of the Assyrians, who eventually destroyed one section of Israel and took the people captive.

Jonah understood what these people were capable of. He also knew God.

God intended to give the Assyrians a chance to repent. And once they did, Jonah knew God would welcome them with open arms.

Jonah wanted no part in reaching a group of people who were sure to cause trouble in the long run. 

He saw only heartbreak down the path where God was leading and desired to avoid it.

But in running from the pain he feared, he had to run from God as well.

When I contemplate Jonah’s predicament, I can’t help but remember Corrie Ten Boom—one of my heroes—a  Dutch woman who risked her life to hide Jews during the Holocaust.

At one point during those dangerous days, God allowed Corrie to see what was coming down the road for her.

She dreamed that she and her family were caught by the Nazis and driven away to captivity and death.

Corrie believed the dream was a vision of a certain future.

Surely the best way to avoid the torment and grief the Nazis were sure to inflict would be to bar the door and keep their hiding place to themselves.

But when Corrie shared her dream with her beloved sister Betsie, she held a different view. Betsie told Corrie . . .

“If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them.

That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know.

To tell us that this too is in His hands.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Though the Assyrian culture and mindset towards God’s people didn’t change much over the centuries, God never wrote them off. Why?

God told Jonah that there were 120,000 Ninevites “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”

That means kids.

God allowed the risk to Jonah himself and to Israel’s future in order to save a generation of children. 

Because our big-hearted Heavenly Father does not wish any to perish. 

God aches over the sufferings of the Jonahs and the Corrie Ten Booms of the world. He does not take their suffering lightly. 

But somehow He works all things together for the good of those who love Him—both for those who suffer in His Name and for those He sends them to reach. 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness
or danger or sword?

As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~Romans 8:35-39~

Follow this link to read more about Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom.

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

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Just Show Up

Renee Ann Smith —  October 19, 2015 — 13 Comments

“Hi, my name is Kara Tippetts, and I may not be alive when you read this book. I hope so, but I don’t know. That decision is in the hands of the Author of life—His name is Jesus. I trust Him with every ounce of who I am. The reality is I am dying, and some of that story is told in my book The Hardest Peace.” ~from Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn~

Kara Tippetts Just Show UP

Kara Tippetts was a boisterous believer, an author, a wife, and a mother of young kids, when she died of cancer on March 22, 2015. She gathered around herself a large and loving community, both in her local Colorado Springs area and online.

She began writing her story on her blog, continued it in her book The Hardest Peace, and finished it in the book Just Show Up.

Here’s a bit of the story of Kara’s last days in her own words from the book Just Show Up . . . “The long good-bye. Cancer has afforded me that, and I have tried to live faithfully in light of that dark gift. Never, at the age of thirty-eight, did I expect to be living under such fearsome blow after fearsome blow with each new diagnosis flattening us out. It is hard to recover to intentional living after each painful remind of the limit on my days.”

“The kids will one day see it as the long good-bye that it is. But right now they are simply the receivers of all the big love I have to give. Each day I fight the limitations this disease has placed upon me to love my children. It should not have taken cancer to cause me to abound in more and more love, but that is what Jesus chose to use to prompt my heart to extend the borders of me to love my people with more love than I could have otherwise known.”

“Big love. It’s one of my favorite phrases. It’s really the only way I know how to love. And it’s certainly become more focused since my initial diagnosis. Like Jill said, my time is limited. So I’m trying to squeeze every drop of life out of every day, because like that movie tries to tell us every year at Christmas, it really is a wonderful life. I don’t know how much more time I have. But the truth is, none of us do.” ~Kara~

I was one of the many touched by Kara’s faith journey—I think especially because her life and words sparked sweet reminders of my own best friend, who died of breast cancer several years back.

Breast Cancer suffering

Like Kara, my friend Nancy celebrated community as both a joyous boon and vital base of her faith journey.

She opened her heart to others in all her living, and it was no different in her dying.

I was privileged to walk by my friend’s side during her vicious battle against cancer. Those last months of our twenty year friendship changed me forever.

So I’m a witness to the power of just showing up in a suffering friend’s life and how that step of faith brings blessing after blessing.

My friend would’ve agreed with Kara’s view of Christian community . . .

Kara writes: “Friends. Community. It is the only way to know and be known.

It’s where we see our own humanity and frailty, our gifts and our weaknesses.

When we show up for one another, we invade each other in love and become witnesses to the truth that trials and sickness and pain are not the whole story.

There’s more, so much more.

We can remind one another that our lives are not a mistake. And, most importantly, that we are loved with an everlasting love.” ~Kara~
breast cancer suffering

The book Just Show Up shares Kara’s journey of suffering from two perspectives: Kara’s and her friend Jill’s.

Jill details how showing up for Kara changed and challenged her, along with some practical advice for those who find themselves faced with a similar privilege.

Just Show Up urges us to follow Kara Tippett’s legacy. May we abound in big love and be ever grateful for beautiful, messy life.

Let’s keep looking for glimpses of glory today! Blessings, friends!

***Follow this link to purchase one of Kara’s books.

***Follow this link to read more reviews of Just Show Up.

About the Authors:

Kara and Jill

The late Kara Tippetts was the author of The Hardest Peace and blogged faithfully at mundanefaithfulness.com. Cancer was only a part of Tippett’s story. Her real fight was to truly live while facing a crushing reality. Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, is parenting their four children and leading the church they founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Learn more about the life of Kara Tippetts at www.mundanefaithfulness.com or follow the site on Facebook.

Jill Lynn Buteyn is the author of Falling for Texas, an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Buteyn lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children. Learn more about Jill Lynn Buteyne and Just Show Up at www.jill-lynn.com and on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter .

 

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Happy Friday! It’s time to party!

Today I’m part of a Cover Release Party for author Pepper Basham’s second historical romance, The Thorn Keeper, set to release in February 2016.

I read and reviewed Pepper’s debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, and really enjoyed it. You can read my review here.

Here’s my bottom line: “The Thorn Bearer has all the good stuff that makes it fun to while away a day or so in another world—with the added benefit of Spiritual Truth! Exactly what those grand adventures I read as a teen were missing.”

And here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book . . .

thornbearer Pepper D BashamThorn Bearer Pepper D Basham

Maybe now you can see why I’m looking forward to the second book’s release! The blurb below shares some details about how the series continues . . .

“With her past in shambles, how can she fashion a future of hope?

Catherine Dougall’s past of manipulation has left her future in threads. With a new faith, she longs to take the remnants of her life and make something beautiful, but shame, societies’ judgments, and the natural consequences of an unplanned pregnancy test her newfound hope. Dr. David Ross doesn’t help either.

His kindness, sacrifice, and tenderness tempt her to impossible dreams.

A fallen woman doesn’t merit a fairytale.

David Ross has made every effort to keep his life above reproach. His passion for the sick pumps fresh purpose through his choices, but without financial support to maintain his war hospital, all is lost. When his notorious aunt offers an easy solution, David is tempted to give in to her demands. But his growing affection for the reformed flirt, Catherine Dougall, breaks down the carefully constructed wall around his heart and offers him an unexpected choice.

When the worst of war tears them apart, can love renew the memory of what was lost? Or will tragedy steal away their hope forever?

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War I, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who designs a masterpiece out of brokenness and fashions hope in the most unlikely places.”

Sounds like a fun story! So now without further ado, let me introduce The Thorn Keeper – available February 28, 2016 from Vinspire Publishing!

Pepper D. Basham The Thorn Keeper

Pretty cover, right? Here’s your chance to get your hands on a copy!

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment for your chance to win a digital advanced review copy of The Thorn Keeper, which Pepper will send to the winners near the end of November!!

***Follow this link to purchase The Thorn Bearer for $3.03!

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

Pepper BashamMeet the author: As a little girl, Pepper D. Basham fell in love with storytelling while listening to her granny share oral history. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate, Pepper enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley.

You can connect with her

At her website

On her Facebook page

On Twitter

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites like Unsplash & Death to Stock Photo plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass them on!
**Find me on Facebook at this link & follow!
**Let’s be Twitter pals!
If you’re on Twitter, I’ll follow you—if I’m not already. Just let me know in the comments. You can find me here.
**Let’s connect on Instagram!
I so enjoy scrolling my Instagram feed & admiring everyone’s pics. Let me know if you’re on Instagram or find me at this link.
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