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From a Distance

Renee Ann Smith —  July 23, 2014 — 8 Comments

Ann Voskamp Quote“God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors.”
~Ann Voskamp~

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This quote caught my attention this week. Let it sink in . . . 

Sometimes we don’t see God working in our lives & might even think He doesn’t care about our struggles.

It’s not until we look back from a distance that we see His hand in our days.

So let’s trust that time’s perspective will make much clear

And take a moment to thank Him for never letting us go. 

(Warning: Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear!)

Here’s a bit more of the context . . . 

“God reveals Himself in rearview mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven—that kind of distance.” ~Ann Voskamp~

Thanks for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I snapped this iPhone pic of the Hudson River & our city shoreline from my brother-in-law’s boat and tweaked it with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

“These prisoners—the ones who painted or wrote poetry or played in the orchestra—they refused to let the spirit die.”
~Kristy Cambron, The Butterfly and the Violin~

Butterfly and Violin Kristy Cambron(Click to Tweet)

Kristy Cambron’s debut novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, tells the story of two women: Sera James in present day and Adele Von Bron in 1942. Sera is an art dealer who becomes fascinated by a painting she saw once as a girl—of a young female violinist with piercing blue eyes. It’s a painting of haunting beauty, and Sera is compelled to chase it down.

As she does, we discover the subject is Adele Von Bron, once a celebrated Austrian violinist, who ends up imprisoned in a concentration camp for smuggling Jews out of Vienna. Surprisingly, the painting was not commissioned when Adele was rich and famous. Instead, the canvas captures Adele the prisoner, who found a way to honor God with her music even in Auschwitz, an Adele matured & refined by suffering.

We learn that this particular masterpiece so captivates Sera because it speaks of hope in the worst of circumstances—and that’s what I love about this story. 

For Adele’s story is one of hope and joy amidst heartbreak and loss. Adele’s legacy is powerful enough to help Sera break free of her own selfish bubble of personal pain and reach out for life and love.

The Butterfly and the Violin reminds us that even when men try to remake the world in their own image, they can never erase God’s image in us. And all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent & worthy of praise cannot be silenced for long.  

What I liked best . . .

  • Two storylines—present day with a link to the past (my favorite plot device)
  • The old-Hollywood-movie feel of Sera’s contemporary romance
  • Adele’s riveting Holocaust storyline
  • Vladimir’s big heart & unfailing kindness
  • Omara’s strength & courage
  • Dancing on the banks of the River Seine on a sunny Paris day
  • The Standing-Ovation-Worthy ending of Adele’s personal Holocaust experience!!!

My favorite quote . . .

Kristy Cambron Butterfly and Violin“For the first time in her life she felt beautiful in her weakness, feeling God’s strength uplifting her from all sides.”

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What you should do next . . .

Follow this link to purchase your copy of The Butterfly and the Violin. ***Thanks to Kristy Cambron & Litfuse for providing a copy for me to review.

Enter the GIVEAWAY! Click on the photo below & enter to win a copy of the book plus a Kindle Fire . . .

Kristy Cambron contest

Kristy CambronAbout the author . . . 

Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII Era since hearing her grandfather’s stories of his experiences as a B-17 co-pilot in the war.

She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and writes both World War II and Regency Era Christian fiction titles.

A SPARROW IN TEREZIN —the next Hidden Masterpiece novel—will release in April, 2015.

She’s a proud Hoosier, living in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.

You can connect with Kristy . . .

At her website

On Facebook

On Twitter

 May you count many blessings as you go through your day, friends. I’m thankful you took a moment to stop in here!

***Photo Backstory: I created the graphics by downloading photos from RGB Stock Photos & tweaking them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.)

Continue Reading…

Done by Hope

Renee Ann Smith —  July 16, 2014 — 9 Comments

HOPE Martin Luther

Everything that is done in this world is done by Hope.
~Martin Luther~

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The Lord delights in those who fear Him,
Who put their HOPE in his unfailing love.
~Psalm 147:11~

For I know the plans I have for you,
Declares the Lord,
Plans for welfare and not for evil,
To give you a future and a HOPE.
~Jeremiah 29:11~

I hope these words encourage you today! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: A few weeks back, I snapped this iPhone pic of HOPE—one bright blue egg resting in a nest on my niece’s swingset, waiting to be hatched—and tweaked it with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

God Loves Names

Renee Ann Smith —  July 14, 2014 — 45 Comments

A woman I never knew gave me my name.

At least that’s what my sisters tell me. I was only child #4, but I guess 3 kids were enough to deplete the girl names my mom and dad could agree on. So my mother got my name from a French friend and called me Renee, with an accent I don’t use anymore.

As a child, I always wanted a cool, all-American, popular-girl name like Kim or Julie or Amy. I didn’t appreciate having to spell out my name for adults and then trying to explain where the accent went.

It’s interesting how names go in and out of style. The names that were popular in the 1840s or 1940s—or 1960s when I was born—are not necessarily popular today. And even the popular names vary according to each country’s traditions.

When preparing to welcome a child into the family, moms and dads often agonize over choosing a name. They pick names they love or names they hope their kids will live up to or names that carry a legacy of family or faith.

I don’t think my mom intended to give me a name with a legacy.

Most Sundays, dad stayed home to read the paper, and mom went to church to sing in the choir. They did send us to Sunday school when we were little—since we could walk there. But we never prayed or read the Bible at home. My parents never talked about God or told us we should seek a relationship with Him.

As far as I know, my mom didn’t know what my name meant when she chose it.

So years later, after I became a Christian and looked up the meaning, I found it ironic to discover that Renee is French for Rebirth.

And it tickles my fancy that God watched from heaven as my mother gave me a name that only He truly understood the significance of.

God loves names—
Listing them in His Book of Life,
Calling them out to challenge & change us,
Whispering them in the dark to let us know we’re not alone.

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New Name Good Shepherd John 10“The sheep hear His voice. He calls His own sheep by Name & leads them out.” ~John 10:13~

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And He loves changing names.

Remember how He called timid Gideon, hiding in the wine press Valiant Warrior? And Simon Peter who sank in the water & denied Christ became Peter, the rock?

God gave them those names because He saw something in them that they hadn’t seen themselves—and maybe didn’t even believe was there.

And someday he will give us each a NEW NAME, too.

New Name Revelation 2:14

“I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror. I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with Your New Name, your secret new name.” ~Revelation 2:14~

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I’m confident we’ll love those NEW NAMES, specifically chosen for us long, long ago by the One who knows us better then we know ourselves!

Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you.
~Jeremiah 1:5~

I’m looking forward to that day, aren’t you?

Thanks for the blog visit! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I snapped these iPhone pics at a recent baptism in the creek that borders our church property & tweaked them with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.) Continue Reading…

Guiding Us Home

Renee Ann Smith —  July 9, 2014 — 13 Comments

Kinderhook KraftyKash Atlas GirlIt’s this being known that is the compass that guides us home.

~Emily Wierenga~

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These insightful words come from Emily Wierenga’s memoir, Atlas Girl. I was privileged to be part of Emily’s launch team and won the map necklace pictured above with my grandfather’s clock & photos of my grandmother, father, mother and aunt. This lovely piece was created by Kashoan Ward at KraftyKash.

Kinderhook KraftyKashKashoan can fashion special words, letters, Bible verses, quotes or vintage maps into necklaces and bracelets. (Click on the photo below left for a close up view of my necklace.)

Kinderhook KraftyKashRenee Ann Smith Kinderhook

 

If you love vintage jewelry and need a heart-touching gift for that hard-to-buy-for loved one, follow this link to check out her site right now!

For the subject of my map necklace, I chose my hometown—Kinderhook, New York, in the Hudson River Valley.

  • Kinderhook’s the kind of place that still holds band concerts in the village green on hot summer nights.
  • On Christmas Eve, the village Santas (volunteer firemen dressed in Santa suits) deliver gifts to every child in town.
  • At one point during my childhood, every aunt, uncle and cousin on both sides of my family lived in Kinderhook.
  • And I can’t say enough about our beautiful Catskill Mountains. They’re a heart-lifting view even on the gloomiest of days!

Renee Ann Smith Kinderhook

  • Plus, Kinderhook is historic. It was named by Hendrick Hudson—it’s Dutch for children’s corner.
  • And it’s the birthplace of Martin Van Buren, 8th Pres of the USA.
  • The story goes that MVB coined the phrase OK from Old Kinderhook.
  • Washington Irving was also a frequent visitor back in the day.
  • So the name of the school from which I graduated is Ichabod Crane High School & the mascot is the Rider.

I left home & stayed away for about ten years before something drew me back. Now I live just south of my hometown but attend church there very Sunday.

If you’re ever up this way, be sure to stop by for real. I’d love to give you a tour!

Thanks for the blog visit! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I made these graphics by tweaking my own iPhone pics with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.)

****To learn more about Atlas Girl, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga Atlas Girl

Continue Reading…

Love Is Yellow

Renee Ann Smith —  July 7, 2014 — 27 Comments

This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour, which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga Atlas Girl

***Since Atlas Girl is Emily Wierenga’s memoir, I’m joining in the spirit of things
with a Memory from My Own Childhood . . .

If love has a color, I think it’s yellow.

When I was growing up, I lost myself in books. The stories in books seemed so much more interesting than my life. The people were bigger, bolder, better. I wanted to know those people. I wanted to be one of those people.

My father did not appreciate my book people. He would come home from work, big, gruff, grumbly and find me wherever I had holed up with my books. He’d shoo me outside. After dinner he would ask me to be with the rest of the family.

It hurt him when I crept back to my books.

But I was self-focused and silent and stingy with my heart. With the book people for company, I didn’t need anyone else—even my family.

Some time during those years, I took a home economics class. When the teacher announced a sewing unit, I panicked. I was horrible with the machine. I chose the smallest project possible—a tie.

The material was this cheap polyester stuff. And bright yellow. But those were the days of leisure suits, so maybe yellow was not such an odd choice!

I finished as best I could and presented the tie to my father. I was relieved to be done with it.

My father thanked me as if it were a very special present. And one night, when he left for a meeting, I noticed he was wearing that yellow tie.

Soon after that I accepted Christ, and God woke my heart to life. Almost for the first time, I felt like I was able to love.

A whole new world opened up to me. Needless to say, I wasn’t thinking about that old tie . . .

But many years later, when my father was gone, and I and my adult siblings were going through his things, I came across my old home ec project.

With new eyes, I took in the uneven stitches and crooked seams and snagged material and horrible color.

And all I could think was, “I can’t believe my father actually wore this tie.”

And I wished I had given him something worthy of his love.

I had not put much thought into my gift. Yet my father’s love for me had transformed it into something beautiful.

Atlas Girl Psalm 45(Click to Tweet)

I believe that’s what the Heavenly Father does for His children.

We wrestle with the tools of our creativity,
Words or paints or fabrics.

But it’s not until we place our feeble creation into His hands

That He shapes it into something beautiful.

My heart bursts its banks,
Spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the King,
Shaping the river into words.
~Psalm 45:1, The Message~

Amen

May you know many blessings this week, kind friends. Thanks for stopping by today!

***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic by tweaking an image from my account at RGB Stock Photos with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.)

Emily Wierenga Atlas Girl***Did I mention this post is part of a blog tour? Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I say the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here. Continue Reading…

Jean Fleming Pursue the Intentional Life

What God gives & takes is my biography,
the story meant to bless me & others.

~Jean Fleming~
Pursue the Intentional Life
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“The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.”

That’s the dictionary definition of PERSPECTIVE—the view which shapes our attitude toward every life event.

The thing I love best about Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life is the perspective from which she views our spiritual journey and time here on earth. Jean writes . . .

“When I enter my place of endless delight: wonders unveiled, springs unstopped, truths perceived, unbounded communion enjoyed with the Lord and others—

There I will understand and glory in my story.

My life on earth will come into focus without distortion. The pain of life, so seemingly senseless, will emerge in sparkling clarity with meaning.

I will see that nothing came to me from caprice or malice; all came from the hand of a good and wise God.

The tapestry woven out of sight is now revealed. Threads I thought so harsh and coarse are transformed into silken warp and woof. Colors, so discordant, now harmonize. I think heaven will be full of earth—the best parts, the parts closest to heaven.”

Jean Fleming’s little book is filled with wise reminders, challenging insights & beautiful truth. It’s a treasure I’ll re-read and share with others as often as possible. Here’s a link to check it out further if you’re interested.

You can hear Jean talk about each section of the book at the Bloom Book Club. This link shows the schedule for each online session with Jean.

Pursue the Intentional LifeThanks for letting me share this beautiful book with you.

Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I made the graphics on this page from blank backgrounds, my own iPhone pics, or images from my account at RGB Stock Photos, which I then tweaked with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share.

Here are a few more great quotes from Pursue the Intentional Life. Click on the thumbnails to view full size or to download.

Jean Fleming Pursue the Intentional Life incourage

Fleming Pursue the Intentional Life

Fleming Intentional Life

Jean Fleming

Fleming Intentional Life

Continue Reading…

Bigger Hands

Renee Ann Smith —  June 30, 2014 — 13 Comments

This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour, which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga Atlas Girl

***Since Atlas Girl is Emily Wierenga’s memoir, I’m joining in the spirit of things
with a Memory from My Own Childhood . . .

My grandmother fed people.

  • The soup that simmered in her deep stock pot all winter long was ladled out to mailman and milkman and whoever happened by.
  • Sunday meant roast and gravy and melt-in-your-mouth biscuits for those who gathered round her table.
  • The typical bedtime snack for overnight guests would be root beer floats served in soda fountain glasses with silver Howdy Doody spoons.

Everything was special.

And everything was big—pancakes the size of the frying pan and every cup or bowl or plate heaped to overflowing.

But the best thing was that Nannie and Papa ran a general store,
and we grandchildren could binge for free.

All the Nutty Buddies and Necco Wafers and Mary Jane taffy and Birch Beer soda we wanted.
FREE.

I learned young not to reach into the candy canisters and grab for myself.


Because Nannie’s hands were bigger.


They held much more than mine. If she served me, I was more than satisfied . . . as long as I followed her One Rule . . . 

Eat until you’re filled and leave the rest for someone else.

Never were we allowed to hide and hoard for later.

Though I was a hoarder at heart, the One Rule never bothered me. With Nannie, I never worried about having enough or running out or putting aside provisions for the future. Why would I?

My generous grandmother had proven herself more than capable of taking care of all that.
When I hungered for more, all I had to do was run to Nannie’s side,
and she’d make sure I was more than satisfied.

My grandmother was the Manna Principle in action.

“He rained down manna for the people to eat. He gave them the grain of heaven. Human beings ate the bread of angels. He sent them all the food they could eat.” ~Psalm 78:24&25~

Some things God gives us to give away.

But other things we receive as needed from His hand—
like the Manna that could not be hoarded but fell fresh as dew every morning.

This requires daily living in His presence.

And that’s how He keeps us hoarders close.

No Limits Atlas Girl(Click to Tweet)

But that’s okay.

Because His hands are bigger.

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.
Reach out and experience the breadth!
Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
~Ephesians 3:18&19~

Amen.

Thanks for stopping by today, sweet friends. Blessings!

***Photo Backstory: I made this graphic by tweaking an iPhone pic of the morning dew on my niece’s lawn with PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. (Follow this link for more Free Graphics.)

Emily Wierenga Atlas Girl***Did I mention this post is part of a blog tour? Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I say the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here. Continue Reading…