Archives For Book Suggestions

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

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& 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.
Continue Reading…

“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!

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& 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.
Continue Reading…

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

 

**Photo Backstory: I create my graphics from iPhone pics or free images from sites likeUnsplash& 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.
Continue Reading…

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 .

 

**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.
Continue Reading…

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.
Continue Reading…

Making It Home

Renee Ann Smith —  August 24, 2015 — 11 Comments

EMILY WIERENGA MAKING IT HOME

This post is part of Emily Wierenga’s Making It Home series, leading up to the release of her next memoir on September 8th. You can check out Emily’s new book by clicking here: Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose.

I grew up a daydreamer, spending many lonely hours imagining how different I would be in another place or at another time or with another family.

Not because home was bad. Our house was a comfortable, busy place. But I was a timid, fearful child and viewed home more as a safe little cage than a launching pad.

I wished for the courage to break free and spread my wings but never found it in real life—only in my dreams.

Then I came to know Jesus, and He showed me something better than wishing away my life.

For He had dreamed me before I was even born.

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:15&16

At the touch of the Spirit, gifts, talents, abilities I didn’t even know lay within me blossomed. I focused on Jesus, knowing Him, serving Him, putting Him first, and found peace, purpose, identity—and even some courage. Courage enough to leave home, move states away to attend college, move again for various short-term jobs, and finish a teaching degree.

Finally the day came when I stepped into a classroom of my own, and everything clicked. Teaching at a small Christian high school, mentoring students, ministering to families seemed the fulfillment of what God had dreamed for me. Over the years, my co-workers, my students, and their parents became my extended family.

I was happy with who I was and where I was.

I was home.

But life goes on and difficulties arise and dreams fray . . . To continue reading this post & to pick up today’s graphic, follow this link to Emily’s blog!

**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.
Continue Reading…

When I find myself filled with doubts about what God’s doing

Or not doing

Or whether He even notices me down here on earth struggling to make my life count,

I take comfort from the testimonies of those who have gone before. Their transparency reminds me that I’m not alone.

Consider the vulnerability of C. S. Lewis, who wrote in a letter:

“I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence.

But the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth.

Often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so—the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so.”

Be assured that doubting is not sin. Author and pastor, Erwin Lutzer gave me a good way to verbalize this. In The Vanishing Power of Death (a book I recently read & loved), he writes:

“By doubt, I do not mean unbelief.

They appear to be the same, but there are differences.

Unbelief has been defined as rebellion against evidence that we cannot or will not accept.

But doubt is simply stumbling over a stone that we do not yet understand.

Unbelief—especially the hardened variety—is kicking at a stone that we understand all too well.”

 As C. S. Lewis points out, honest doubting—taking our questions to God while remaining open to His answers—can even strengthen our faith. 

“If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt.

If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing.

But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger.

It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply.”

I so appreciate the insights of these godly men. I can tell they’ve ‘been in my shoes.’

If God weren’t so important to me, 

If I hadn’t given my whole life to following Him,

If I didn’t hang all my hopes on salvation and eternity,

Maybe then I would silence my doubts and move on to some easier way to live.

But I continue to walk His path, stumbling over hard truths as I go.

And periodically He reminds me that my wavering does not diminish Him in any way.

Because God is big enough—and gracious enough—to handle my doubts.

Doubts C S Lewis

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Blessings, friends!

***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.
Continue Reading…

A Love Like Ours

Renee Ann Smith —  June 1, 2015 — 19 Comments

BeckyWade Becky Wade’s most recent novel highlights how God enables us—not just to survive hardships and heartaches—but to embrace life through them.

A Love Like Ours is about people who have messy lives.

A soldier weighed down with PTSD.

A single mom willing to take a chance on creating a family for her son in spite of a scarred heart.

A dad, once resigned to a solitary life after his wife abandoned him and her children, experiencing new love.

Parents who find a way to bring sunshine and sweetness into the life of their severely handicapped daughter.

God helps these characters find healing, joy, romance, redemption, happiness, and hope—which makes A Love Like Ours exactly the kind of novel I love to share with my students!

Yes, the romance takes center stage in this novel. Yet the story also shows us that only through Jesus can we take an honest look at ourselves, each other, and the state of the world—yet live, laugh, and love with abandon.

That’s what abundant life is all about.

Here are some of my favorite quotes . . .

A Love Like OursBecky Wade Becky Wade

Share some inspiration with your friends!

We are daughters of the King! (Click to Tweet)

He is the God of peace! (Click to Tweet)

He is the medicine! (Click to Tweet)

God the healer. He is the medicine! (Click to Tweet)

And here’s the book blurb from Amazon to give you a few more specific details. “Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

Then Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?”

You can grab your copy of this hope-filled story at this link.

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

Thanks for  by stopping by today! Blessings, friends!

***Photo Backstory: I created these graphics with a free images plus the effects at PicMonkey. Feel free to Pin, Tweet, download & share. Pass it 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.
Continue Reading…