Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Penny McGinnis on Anxiety...


We're happy to have Penny McGinnis with us today talking about anxiety. God Bless you, Penny, for sharing you story and for sending a word of encouragement to those who may need it today.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

A sense of doom, like a dark shadow, covered me and pressed my shoulders down. My hands shook and my breath labored. A tightness and pain ran across my chest and banded my arm. That morning on the way to work I felt euphoric, which should have been my first sign that something was wrong.

It was Grandparent's Day at the elementary school where I worked. Despite dizziness, I forced a smile and checked out books as grandmas and grandpas visited the library with their grandchildren. My co-worker, Tonda, sensed I was in distress. She called the assistant principal. For fear my symptoms were a heart attack, he had the school nurse take me to my doctor.

After an EKG and blood tests, the doctor found my heart was fine but my brain receptors didn't use a chemical called serotonin properly. I was officially diagnosed with a panic-anxiety disorder caused by a chemical imbalance.

I'd been anxious most of my life and experienced many less intense panic attacks. I'd pushed through symptoms by pure will-power or avoiding certain situations. Too many times I heard from well-meaning Christians that I needed to get over my issues. God could heal me if I just prayed harder. Trust me, I prayed daily. People blamed PMS, being a woman, or told me it was all in my head. (Well, it was, but not that way.)

Even though my diagnosis came later in life, God answered my constant prayers. He provided me with the people who could help. The assistant principal had watched a TV show about women and heart attacks. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been as insistent that I go to the doctor. The school nurse was my daughter's friend, and shewanted to help. My co-worker was a good friend who watched out for me. My doctorwas a blessing. She understood the physiological aspects of what I needed. My husband's been super supportive as have my children.

With medication, continued prayer, and trust in God my panic attacks are doable. I haven't had a major one for several years. If I do experience anxiety, I see it as a warning sign to slow down. I'm much more calm which I attribute to the faith that's grown from my relationship with Jesus in combination with my meds. Prayer and faith led to answers. I praise God each time I share my story, and pray that I can help someone else.

Here's what I learned about panic and anxiety:
* Anxiety is real
* Panic attacks have physical symptoms that can debilitate
* Anxiety and panic attacks can be hereditary
* Physiological factors should be figured in to a diagnosis
* Medication may be needed to keep the chemicals balanced
* There's no shame in seeking medical help
* God answers prayer in unexpected ways

May God hear our prayers for help and drench us with his love and grace.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Johnnie Alexander shares a devotional from Romans 2:7 and a peek at her book...

We're happy to have Johnnie Alexander with us today sharing a devotional and talking about her book Where Treasure Hides. She's been gracious enough to provide a link for those of you who'd like to read the first chapter. Purchase links are at the bottom, also. I love the cover. It's gorgeous! So WWII!

Romans 2:7 reads: “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (ESV).

It’d been one of those weeks—tiring, stressful, too much to do in too few hours. So I wasn’t too excited when the day’s reading, according to the YouVersion Bible plan I’m using, was Romans 2.

A chapter I’ve read dozens if not hundreds of times before.

But it’s when we least expect it and most need it that God’s familiar Word pops with something new. It only took a moment for my heart to respond to a very short phrase in verse 7: patience in well-doing.

Initial Response: Frustration
I’m not doing a lot for God’s kingdom these days. Guilt presses against my shoulders because I’m not teaching a Sunday School class or feeding the homeless or planning a missions trip or filling my calendar with a myriad of activities that will show the world what a committed, devoted, devout Christian I am.

Because filling our calendars is what we do.

At least it’s what I did in earlier seasons of my life.

And Then: Curiosity
Patience in doing well.

My heart responded to that phrase for a reason, so I did what I often do at such times.
Research!

I booted up my laptop and paid a visit to the Blue Letter Bible website. Here’s what I found:

The Greek word, hypomonē, translated patience, can mean “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose” despite trials and sufferings.

Two Greek words form our English well-doing. The first, agathos, means excellent and upright. The second, ergon, means employment, undertaking, the idea of working.

The phrase patience in doing well could be translated as deliberately perform tasks with excellence.

So what is my deliberate purpose? What are the tasks I should be performing with excellence?

Finally: Peace
After studying the phrase, I wrote three things in my journal, and none of them have anything to do with my local church.

The list consists of three things God has given me to do in this season of my life—days when I’m living far away from home, friends, and my children. My deliberate purpose is to:

       * care for my mom;
* write my next novel; and
* fulfill obligations I’ve made.

In the rest of Romans 2:7, God promises to reward our steadfast efforts to perform our deliberate purposes with excellence.

That purpose may be to teach a Sunday School class, feed the homeless, go on a mission trip, or even to fill our calendar with a myriad of activities. Or our purpose may be more confined to very particular needs and tasks.

Please don’t misread my heart. Church activities are vitally important, and at one time, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Bible studies were a major part of my life. Right now, though, I’m still finding my place in a new community. Perhaps once I do, my calendar will fill up again.

And Now: Your Turn
Your deliberate purpose will be different than mine. You may be involved in an exciting range of activities, or perhaps you, too, are in a quieter season. If you’d like to share, please do.

My prayer is that we are steadfast in performing our purposes with excellence so that God is given the honor and the glory.

(Note: The Greek terms and definitions can be found at http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G18&t=KJV.)


 K. Dawn here....Thanks for the, devotional, Johnnie! And now a little info about Johnnie's book, Where Treasure Hides. 

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Link to Chapter One:

Purchase links:
Where Treasure Hides is currently available as an ebook. The print edition releases August 2015.

Amazon:



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review of the movie "Do You Believe?"


I took my 13 year old niece to see the movie, "Do You Believe?" earlier in the week. I'm not a huge fan of watching movies in the theater because I like to wait on movies to be released on DVD so I can get comfy in home in my PJs with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of Ginger Ale. I've had a change in the way I think about Christian-based movies lately and that is...if we don't support them, they're going to be gone. I'll gladly spend my money to support Christian-based movies because I want the production companies that make them to remain in business to they'll continue to give us good, clean faith-based films.

If you choose to watch "Do You Believe?" in the theater, take your tissues! We cried though about a third of the movie. The message is tremendous. If you have an unsaved family member or friend, ask them to if they'd like to go watch a movie with you. I can see this movie changing lives. I absolutely loved it and will buy it when it comes out on DVD and watch it again.

Movie Synopsis:
A dozen different souls - all moving in different directions, all longing for something more. As their lives unexpectedly intersect, they each are about to discover there is power in the Cross of Christ - even if they don't believe it. Yet.
When a local pastor is shaken to the core by the visible faith of an old street-corner preacher, he is reminded that true belief always requires action. His response ignites a faith-fueled journey that powerfully impacts everyone it touches in ways that only God could orchestrate.

Have you seen it? Did you like it? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought. Click below to watch the movie trailer.





Saturday, April 4, 2015

He Chose YOU and you are BEAUTIFUL!


As I mentioned previously, I'm changing the focus of the blog. Where we did only book reviews, we're going to add some devotionals and some words of encouragement because we all need a little encouragement!

Sometimes life can bring us down if we let it. The dirty dishes in the sink that it takes so much effort to place in the dish washer some days.  The basket overflowing with laundry seems to grow larger by the second. The empty pantry begs to be filled on a rainy day that you'd rather not drag groceries inside in the rain. A check book that needs balancing. On days when there's just not enough time to get everything done, I stop and pause and take a deep breath and remember that He that is in me is greater than me.

As stressful as life can become, He has placed YOU here for a reason. Psalm 139:14 reminds us that we are WONDERFULLY made. You are BEAUTIFUL in his sight. I am reminded of the song by Jonny Diaz. The words of the song are truly beautiful. They remind us that we are beautiful just like we are and that "You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do, So there could never be a more beautiful you!"

Click below to hear the song. God bless you. Have a wonderful day, beautiful person!



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gail Kittleson shares a devotional about healing...




Hello, friends! I'm changing the focus of the blog just a little bit. We'll still give away a lot of books, but we're going to focus also on encouragement and growing in God's grace. With that said, our first devotional comes from Gail Kittleson. It's from her book, "Catching up with Daylight." I'd never read her work until reading this devotional and I have to say, her devotionals remind me so much of Max Lucado's. Click on the book cover for more information. Enjoy!

Healing by Gail Kittleson
Jesus’ healings have a hold on me. I can’t seem to get enough of imagining the look in his eyes as he focuses on those stricken with all manner of infirmities. Today I read about the paraplegic lowered through the roof by his four friends. I love their audacity. They’re the kind of people most folks admonish, “Shhhh, can’t you see He’s TEACHING?” 
Maybe somebody did say that, but the friends pushed their way through anyway. Did they think Jesus would leave the area, cheating their friend of his chance? What made them so passionate that they seized that particular moment to reach the Master? 
 Jesus looked straight into his eyes and said, “'Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.' And the man obeyed. He got up, grabbed the stretcher, and walked out in front of everyone.
The man didn’t hesitate, even to say thank you. His obedience relayed the message to the Savior. Perhaps the healed paraplegic knew his obedience was required for Jesus to show the mocking religious scholars what was what. He had heard their challenge: ‘“He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.”’
I put myself in that crowded room lying on a cot, unable to move. The everyday odors of perspiration, cooking oils and smelly feet fill the air. The tension of so many human bodies in a small space press toward Jesus. From the cool night air, my friends lowered right into the midst of the melee, and there’s Jesus, looking up at my buddies on the roof, each with a rope in his hands. 
I breathe in as deeply as my weak muscles will let me. I search Jesus’ face as he turns toward me. His eyes glisten. He fixes them on me, and I hold my breath. It’s as if I’m the only person in the room. And then I hear the most remarkable words of my life: 
“Son, I forgive your sins.” 
Something happens inside me, deep down where bone meets bone, where sinew extends to muscle. Energy exudes from the center of my being, and anticipation makes the ends of my fingers tingle. My fingertips tingle? What can this mean? 
Then harsh voices whisper in the background something about blasphemy and what God and only God can do. Jesus whirls slowly, searching them out. Has he heard their insults? 
His voice, as clear as the sun overhead, rings out. “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” 
Then he looks at me again, and with the buzzing in my ears, a rising tide of the sort of hope I’d never imagined coming to me, I almost miss his words. But his presence holds me in the moment. When he tells me to get up, I do. Our eyes communicate everything, and his command enters me like a river of determination. I pick up the old stretcher and people wave back for me to get to the door. 
I feel their stares, glimpse their gaping faces, a mélange of shock and wonder. My joints creak and complain, but I keep walking. Someone says, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” I step over the threshold to a new world. 
 “They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” Incredulous. Oh Lord of all, may my flighty, impetuous existence bear your passion for the healing you bring to and through me. And may I never lose that star struck incredulity that you care enough to be involved. 
Bio:  Sometimes we learn what we've done only after we do it. I wrote my memoir Catching Up With Daylight over a ten-year period, but learned the term "spirituality writing" only after the book was published. Figuring things out after the fact is a life theme for me, but even though it isn't the easy road, I learn a lot in the process. My very patient husband (37 years) and I in St. Ansgar, Iowa, where a small creative writing class meets in my home, and we enjoy our grandchildren. I facilitate workshops on creativity/memoir writing/aging with grace. My first fiction release with Vintage Rose, titled In This Together, will be released sometime in 2015.
Purchase links:
Amazon print: http://www.amazon.com/Catching-Up-Daylight-Journey-Wholeness/dp/1939023122/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424359652&sr=8-1&keywords=catching+up+with+daylight
Amazon digital: http://www.amazon.com/Catching-Up-Daylight-Journey-Wholeness-ebook/dp/B00EJPZHPK/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424359652&sr=8-1&keywords=catching+up+with+daylight
B&N print: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/catching-up-with-daylight-gail-kittleson/1117409147?ean=9781939023124
B&N digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/catching-up-with-daylight-gail-kittleson/1116460147?ean=2940148394945
Christian Book (print): http://www.christianbook.com/catching-with-daylight-journey-to-wholeness/gail-kittleson/9781939023124/pd/023120?event=ESRCN
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Marian Merritt's "Deep Freeze Christmas



Tell us a little about Deep Freeze Christmas 

Deep Freeze Christmas is a Christmas romance novella set near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In keeping with my tagline, Where the Bayous Meet the Mountains, a young gourmet chef and her mentor from New Orleans venture to the mountains to cook for a movie producer's holiday guests in his mountain lodge at Christmas. 

Here's the book blurb:

Louisiana Chef Leona Buquet agrees to cook for CG Fleming Jr, movie producer at his mountain lodge in the Colorado Mountains during the Christmas holiday. When Leona meets handsome Cameron, CG's son, she is taken by his striking good looks and warm personality, but with the glamorous actress, Marissa Madison, clamoring for his attention will he even notice Leona?

Cameron struggles with being in a career he hates only to please his father. When he meets Leona he feels he's known her all his life. He wants an opportunity to get to know her, but she keeps avoiding him. When they become stranded in a hunter's cabin, will she lower her guard and open her heart to Cameron? 

Briefly describe one of your typical writing days? 

A typical day starts with quiet time with the Lord then I do a quick pass through my emails. Once that's done, I open my writing program, read a few paragraphs of what I wrote the day before. I set my timer for 45 minutes then start writing. The timer helps me to stay in the writing mode even when I don't feel like writing. Once the timer goes off, if it's a good place to stop, I'll take a break for fifteen or twenty minutes. Maybe let the dog out, transfer laundry, or something else that doesn't require creativity or reading. Many times, when I return to the story, an idea is triggered or problem solved. Repeat with the timer. I usually do two or three 45-minute sessions.  

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?

I love reading stories about women in difficult situations and how they use their faith to overcome. It was a natural path that I would write those types of stories.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

I love photography and gardening.  

What author's books do you enjoy reading?

I have many favorites, but right now Sarah Jio, Kristen Hannah, Susan May Warren, and Lisa Wingate, are at the top of my list.

What can we expect from you in the future?
My first Women's Fiction full-length novel, The Vigil, is releasing soon with Harbourlight an imprint of Pelican Book Group.
When thirty-one year-old, hospice nurse, Cheryl Broussard flees an abusive boyfriend to return to the Louisiana hometown she vowed she'd never return to, she learns two never–say-never lessons. She also vowed she'd never allow anyone to abuse her. 

In Bijou Bayou, Cheryl confronts her broken relationship with her mother and the long-held resentment toward her for staying in an abusive relationship. 

She deals with awakening feelings for her first love, Beau. At eighteen, determined to leave, she refused his marriage proposal. Now with his wife in a coma, is his friendship enough? 

While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, revealed family secrets shatter Cheryl's belief about herself and her family.

Through forgiveness, honesty, and self-discovery, Cheryl is blessed with a second chance at relationship with her family, her first love, and with the God she never really knew.


I'm current writing a women's fiction story set in Mandeville, Louisiana and Tuscany, Italy called, Four Weeks in Tuscany.

I'm plotting my next Bijou Bayou book, The Eagle.

Thank you for having me here!








Elizabeth Maddrey's "Love Defined"



The Story Behind the Story…continued

I talked a little about the story behind the Remnants Series (Faith Departed, Hope Deferred, and my December release, Love Defined) when I was here in July and I’m grateful to have a chance to come back again this month to talk a little about the end of the story. As much as I love the happily ever after that I typically get to put into my novels (mostly I write contemporary romance – you have to have that!), this last installment in this women’s fiction isn’t the happily ever after that people are expecting. Which isn’t to say they aren’t happy – they all are! But my characters have had to reshape their own expectations over the course of their journeys, so happily ever after isn’t looking quite the way they’d imagined it would.

This is the way so many couples live their lives. We tend to have our future mapped out, and when you hit those bumps in the road, it can be a struggle to adjust to the new normal. But I’ve never personally experienced anything that shook me as much as infertility did. Whereas the usual bumps call for tiny adjustments on the path of your life, infertility often sends you careening down roads you didn’t even know existed, let alone plan on traveling. And so you have to adjust. And adjust. And adjust. But, if you’re willing to do the work and cry out to God in the midst of it, He is faithful to see you through. Maybe the end you reach isn’t the one you planned on, but He’ll make it your happily ever after if you’ll let Him.

Despite the fact that this is the last book in the series, and at this point the last time I plan to write about these sisters and their families, I continue to pray that women and men struggling with infertility will find comfort, hope, and peace in these pages. And if infertility isn’t something that has afflicted you personally, I hope these books will give you a little insight into the heartbreak that so many couples face, and with that insight, renewed compassion.

Blurb:

Dreams Change. Plans Fail.

July and Gareth have reached the end of their infertility treatment options.  With conflicting feelings on adoption, they struggle to discover common ground in their marriage. Meanwhile, July's twin sister, June, and her husband, Toby, are navigating the uncertainties of adoption and the challenges of new parenthood.

How much stretching can their relationships endure before they snap?


Bio:
Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.
Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

Social Media:
Twitter: @elizabethmaddre
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElizabethMaddrey/posts




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Janet Sketchley's Secrets and Lies



When Prayer Feels Risky
Guest post by Janet Sketchley

When I was little, I had two types of prayers. There was the mealtime-and-bedtime sort, where I rattled off a string of words in a comforting ritual that was a strange mix of security blanket and lucky charm.

Then there was the straight-from-the-heart sort, where I really talked to God – but only to tell Him what I wanted. And I had to include the exact details. What if He got it wrong?

A lot of calendars have come and gone since then, and I've learned that prayer isn't a superstitious chant. It's dialogue with our Heavenly Father, our Good Shepherd... our King. It's at least as much about reminding ourselves about His character as it is about pouring out our deeply-felt needs.

One of the hardest lessons for me was accepting that this God whom I can fully trust to work for good, and whose power hasn't faded since the Red Sea days may choose to allow pain despite my prayers. And I have to be okay with that, because as disciples said to Jesus when He wasn't doing things the way they expected, "Where else could we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)

God has proven His love in the details of my life. I know He's real. I just have to let Him be God His way.

In my novel, Secrets and Lies, the heroine, Carol, is afraid to pray. She's endured an incredible amount of loss in her life, starting with her mother's death when Carol was in her pre-teens. Her mom came to faith in Jesus, and her dad turned abusive. Then her mom died in an accident. What good were Carol's prayers?

Growing up, Carol made a string of questionable choices, but a few years before the novel opens, life looked positive. Her husband's death left her free to raise their sons without his disruptive – and destructive – influence. She was alone, but she was strong. Until her younger son got into drugs.

Carol wasn't a Christian, but she had a friend who'd been healed of a brain tumour through prayer. The two women prayed together, desperate but confident. Carol's son, Keith, died. He was 12 years old.

The friend blamed Carol. Clearly, her faith wasn't strong enough.

So now, in the novel, when Carol and her surviving son, Paul, are in danger, when Paul's choices are taking him out of Carol's plan for his life, she's torn apart but she's afraid to pray. What if she gets God's attention, and Paul dies? What if her lack of faith means God can't help? What if He won't?

Those are similar to my earlier questions about God not shielding us from pain. And Carol doesn't know how trustworthy He is, or how much He loves us.

Carol needs to learn that God's heart longs to pick up the pieces of our lives and not leave us walking wounded and alone. That she can trust Him.

She also needs to let go of the fear that if He doesn't answer her way, it's her fault. The Bible shows that faith is key, and that a hard-hearted or doubt-filled refusal to believe inhibits what God will do, but the Apostle Paul himself experienced God's "no" in response to prayer. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Sometimes God says "no" – we may not see why on this side of Heaven, but if we trust His heart, we can wait that long.

What would you say to someone like Carol?