Friday, July 3, 2015

Book review: The Midwife's Tale

Book: The Midwife's Tale
Author: Delia Parr
Review writer: Alexis A. Goring
Review title: Delia Parr spins a story about tradition, life changes and faith in God
Book review: 

At first, I didn’t think I would like this book but reading it proved me wrong.

Author Delia Parr spins a story about tradition, life changes and faith in God amidst unexpected events in a way that resonates with the reader. The reader may feel connected to the main characters within the first few pages of the book. Yes, Parr is that good of a writer!

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the main character Martha Cade in her glory—she is working as a midwife surrounded by female assistants—helping to birth a baby but she’s not in a hospital, she’s in a residential home which as true to real life in the fictional town of Trinity, Pennsylvania in which the story is set. The year in which the story begins is 1830.

The characters are not always endearing but they are believable from the beginning. Parr does an excellent job of making Martha’s career as a midwife not only believable but interesting. Parr has a way of dropping the reader right into the action from the first line of the story to the final word on the last page.

What impressed me the most about this book is that the author wrote with such skill and portrayed a deep knowledge of medical matters in every scene involving the midwife at work with her patients. Clearly, Parr knows how to do research and write in a way that’s not only captivating but informative! I learned quite a bit about the life of a midwife and medical matters in the 19th century just from reading this book.

The book is not just about the midwife, it’s about her defiant daughter Victoria who ran away with a theatre troupe. It’s an action that causes Martha great concern throughout the story. Another issue for Martha is the new doctor in town who is competition for her, so much so that she worries her career as a midwife will soon end. Such an idea hurts her heart not only because she loves her career but because she wanted her daughter to carry on the tradition of working as a midwife.

While I do not want to give away the ending, I can say that the reader is not likely to be disappointed when they reach the final pages of this book as Parr does a delightful job of denouement in a way that satisfies most if not all of the reader’s curiosity.

Historical fiction is not my favorite but I think this book deserves at least four stars because of the author’s way of sharing a fictional tale that was relatable and real.

*Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of The Midwife’s Tale to Alexis A. Goring in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Worth 1,000 Words: Sara Roney of Roneyfield Photography

The featured photo captured by Sara Roney of Roneyfield Photography
Mr. Joe and Mrs. Ashley Rogan share their first kiss as a married couple
Sara's definition of love through the lens of a wedding photographer:

What is love to me through the lens? 

Love is sharing in those irreplaceable moments of our brides and grooms on their magical day, crying with them when they're so happy they don't know what else to do, and being able to be a part of their family and friends who are there to witness these special moments. 

Love to me is being able to CAPTURE those emotional, personal, and physical memories, to be viewed forever.

The bride's definition of love:

Love to me means that my wants, desires, and needs are no longer my own. My husband deserves my everything. Love means giving my all to ensure his happiness is met before my own. Love means that I am complete.

The groom's definition of love:

Love means remembering my vows every day. It means enjoying the easy times and pushing through the hard times. It means never forgetting how that first kiss felt.

Photographer bio: 
My name is Sara Roney. I am an experienced photographer of 14 years now. Continually, I am growing more, learning more, and striving to do and serve better! I love photography! I love serving and being a part of those “irreplaceable moments” that are so special in everyone’s life! It’s a real blessing to bring people happiness by using my talents that God has given me, as well as giving me more opportunities to learn and grow too!

I have always loved photography. Growing up, I was always into art, drawing, and taking pictures. I guess you could say it was a built-in passion that God put on me. I am the eldest of 5 kids, (3 brothers, one sister) and my family was always very supportive of my skills and passions too…and for that, I am extremely thankful! I think it’s very important to be supportive of what your child wants to do with his/her life. They even enrolled me into a painting program with one of the top 5 artists in Maryland, Steve Burdette. That led me to a competition, which one of my paintings won 1st AND 2nd place in the statewide Md. competition! I even got to take one of my paintings to a National Art Competition, too!

I am also a graphic designer by trade…so it's kind of neat to be able to see the photography and the graphic design walk hand in hand too. I'm just grateful for God's blessing on our business/es! We wouldn't be where we are without His favor and guidance! 

Connect with Sara:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A devotional about Grace—God’s Beautification Award

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Catherine Castle.

She's a talented writer and photographer plus she's an award-winning author!

Catherine contributed her time and writing talent to pen a devotional for my blog that I believe will encourage you in your life journey.

Enjoy! :)

Grace— God’s Beautification Award
A devotional written by Catherine Castle

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."—Ephesians 2:8

A few years back I received a beautification award from the local garden club. I came home from a three-week trip to find a note stuck in the door telling me I had been nominated for a “Best Hillside Garden” award. When I called the number on the note, I was told I had won the award!

While I was gone, one of the club members had driven around town looking for gardens, and she spotted my front yard which was, at the time, blooming with daisies and daylilies. The garden committee member who spoke with me went on about the ribbons of flowers that run through the back garden. She commented on colorful flowers that curve gracefully around the front of the house. She recognized the time I spent watering, weeding, and tending to the garden. She saw purple ninebarks nestled against chartreuse and lime green golden privets and forest green mugo pines. She described the front gardens as stunning and the back garden as awesome.

Naturally, I was ecstatic. I’d never won a garden award before. So, I went out to view my garden. What I saw was three dead evergreens at the top of the hill; the bare branches of a dead forsythia sticking up in brown mulch; hundreds of flowers that need deadheading; the slender, dead trunk of a dogwood shooting up from the center of bushy dogwood suckers; a graying pile of pallet flats at the top of the gully; a three foot sticker weed waving at me from Mom’s daylily bed; and the fungal diseases that claimed the lower leaves—and in some cases, the entire plant—of the brown eyed-Susans.

I was amazed the other gardeners overlooked the flaws, weeds, and work that needed to be done. Instead, all those who judged my garden saw beauty wherever they looked. They looked at my garden through different eyes. Eyes that didn’t see what I saw.

I was gone a lot from the garden that year. Between trips I had just enough time to pull a few weeds from the paths. It was a rainy season, so God watered for me. Thankfully, God is gracious, because without his grace in my garden that year I wouldn’t be the owner of a beautification award.

He is also gracious about my life. When he looks at me, one of his children, he doesn’t see the flaws of sin in my life. Because I am covered by his grace, though in faith and by the blood of Christ, God only sees the beautiful things in me, not the weeds.

I’m proud of my Shaker Farm beautification award, and I went around for weeks with a big smile on my face, saying, “I’m an award-winning gardener.” If a plaque with my name and a tiny trowel attached to it gives me that much pleasure, imagine how happy I’ll be when God’s Beautification Award of Grace grants me a spot in heaven and a golden crown.

I’ll take that award any day.


Author bio:
Award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit under her real name in the Christian and secular market. 

Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. 

In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Catherine's debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing is an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award Winner, a 2014 EPIC finalist, a 2014 RONE nominee and a Carolyn Readers Choice Award finalist.

Connect with Catherine:

Amazon author page -
Blog -

Facebook -
Soul Mate Publishing authors blog site-

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Introducing Mary Manners, award-winning romance author and devotional writer

Meet Mary Manners:

Mary is an award-winning romance author who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee (her words exactly)! She's a very sweet person who holds down a day job as an assistant principal yet still manages to create beautiful story worlds filled with fictional characters who captivate your heart and inspire your imagination within the first few pages of Mary's books! 

She's one of my favorite authors and I'm blessed to call Mary a friend. Now you're going to love this, Mary is going to contribute a devotional to my blog on the last Monday of every month starting July 2015! 

So today, my goal is to introduce you to this talented writer through an author interview with questions and answers that were previously published on other blogs (Mary gave me permission to do this) with the hope of helping you get to know Mary who is now a regular guest on my blog.

So without further ado, allow me to introduce Mary Manners to you! :)

*Questions in bold, answers from Mary not in bold...

What made you decide to start writing?

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. In fact, my earliest memory consists of me sitting on the floor beside the washing machine in my family’s laundry room and scribbling (I didn’t yet know how to read or form words, but I could certainly scratch across the paper) because I had a story in my head that just had to come out and be shared.

Since that day, I have never stopped writing. To me, writing is as essential to life as breathing. I am convinced that, prior to the use of my trusty laptop, I killed a forest of trees on my quest to record all of the stories woven through my brain and my heart.

I wrote my first full-length novel in the sixth grade. Thanks to my supportive parents and a few wonderful teachers who encouraged me along the way, my fledgling confidence flourished and I figured I’d be published by the time I turned thirteen (after all, S.E. Hinton had managed a similar feat with her acclaimed and edgy young adult novel, The Outsiders). God had other plans, though, and many years (and countless edits) would pass before that first novel finally became published as Wisdom Tree.

Why do you write inspirational romance?

I feel very strongly about sharing messages of faith and hope with my reader-friends. To me, writing is a ministry. 

What elements do you consider most important in a contemporary Christian romance? 

First of all, that the characters are relatable and by no means perfect. Toss in a bit of trust, honor, loyalty, faith and a sweetness that is woven throughout. Of course, sensuality is important, as well. Our society seems to have forgotten the tenderness in holding hands coupled with a gentle kiss or stroke of the cheek. And, of course, a happy ending is always in order. 

You're prolific and have written so many wonderful books and novellas! Do you have a personal favorite (including series books)? If so, do you mind sharing the title and telling us why it's so special to you?

Though my favorite story is usually the one I am currently working on (I tend to fall in love with my characters and have a hard time saying goodbye), Wisdom Tree is the book of my heart. I actually wrote it when I was in the sixth grade (of course, over the years it went through copious edits) and it is emotion-filled straight from my heart. The characters have lived with me for so long that I feel as if they are family. I would love to do a sequel one day. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? 

Write, write, and write! Get involved with a critique group and online or in-town writer’s workshops. Build a network of support where you can learn and thrive. Most of all…believe in yourself! 

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not writing? 

Of course, I love to read, so I do a lot of that. I spend time with my family hiking and watching movies. I also love to run, and have finished three marathons. 

Can you tell us three things about you that readers might find interesting/

First, I love coffee. My favorite writing days begin at about 4:00 a.m. with a cup of black coffee and a veil of pre-sunrise darkness. It’s cool to me to write while the world is still nestled soundly in bed. Second, I spent many years running marathons. This training has helped me tremendously to stay true to my path as a writer, especially when the going gets tough. Third, I write while I push mow the lawn. Yep, that’s right…I live on three acres and I push mow the entire thing. My neighbors used to try to help until I told them to let me be because I was crafting stories. Now they stop by when they see me plodding along to ask what I’m writing. 

Author bio:  Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus. She loves swimming, running, flavored coffee and Smoky Mountain sunsets.

Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes inspirational romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Buy Mary’s books: -
Connect with Mary:
Website -

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Devotional: 3 Ways to Love the Unloveable

Welcome Brandy Heineman to the blog today. She's a wonderful writer with a passion for stories about faith and family history.

Brandy is here to share her lessons on loving the unloveable. Yes, it is possible! :) Read on for good advice and Bible-based direction as to how to move past yourself and your emotions when offended and reach out with agape love for your fellow humans.

3 Ways to Love the Unloveable
A devotional written by Brandy Heineman

Key Verse: "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" - Matthew 5:46

At Vacation Bible School several years ago, I asked a roomful of third- and fourth-graders for ideas of ways they could follow Jesus.

I still smile remembering the kid who suggested that he could be nice to his Mom.

I shared the Bible verse above and gently asked my group to dig deeper, but that moment sticks to my memory with the awareness of what a “tax collector” I am myself. Obviously, we’ll struggle if we accept the task of loving the Unloveables around us. At times when we’re not tuned in to every day ministry, even recognizing them is tough. Who are they, and how can we follow Jesus in loving them?

Unloveable #1: The Sick, Hurting, and/or Hungry

Remember Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who cried out for Jesus’s attention as He was leaving Jericho (Mark 10:46-52)? When it says that “Many were sternly telling him to be quiet” (v 48), what do you think that sounded like?

“Hey, buddy. I came to hear Him, not you.”

“Will you shush? You’re embarrassing yourself.”

“Sir, if you can’t be respectful, you’ll be asked to leave.”

It’s probably true that Bartimaeus ruined the experience for some folks that day. We're seldom at our best when we face unmet physical needs, but Jesus constantly ministered to the poor, hungry, sick and afflicted.

Show Love By:

· Visiting or volunteering at a nursing home.

· Taking a meal to a family undergoing trials.

· Writing an old-fashioned encouraging letter to a person who wears pain on his/her sleeve.

A word on donations: I’d never suggest allowing a food pantry program to reach the bottom of its stores or withholding clothes or cash when it’s possible to bless someone by giving—but I can’t advocate stopping there. Donating can be very hands-off, which is appropriate in some cases, but make it personal whenever possible. Connection communicates love deeply.

Scriptures for further study: Matthew 25:34-40, James 1:27

Unloveable #2: The Offensive

When someone hurls hurtful words our way, it's natural to volley back—and supernatural to show love to that person. Jesus exemplified this to the extreme when He said of his murderers and mockers, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

What? This wasn’t some unintended slight! This was history’s most significant murder plot in the midst of being carried out! Yet the Pharisees, government officials, centurions, and jeering onlookers didn’t understand that significance. It’s the very picture of why we sing about Christ’s matchless love. We can’t match it—but we’re called to emulate it.

Show Love By:

· Confronting issues head-on with language that shows willingness to forgive, such as, “We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Can we start over?”

· Choosing not to be offended. You can’t govern what anyone else says, but you can decide how to feel about it.

· Praying for the offender and resisting the urge to gossip. Even if God does not choose to change that person, He will change your heart toward him/her.

Scriptures for further study: Matthew 5:43-45, Galatians 5:13-15

Unloveable #3: The Outsider 

Most of us don’t intentionally exclude people at the fringe—especially when, like the woman who hemorrhaged for 12 years (in Matthew 9:20-22), they seem to prefer to slip by unnoticed. Nonetheless, Jesus took the time to make sure she was seen and known, and we should do the same.

Simple to say; tough to do. What happens when a new person shows up in your tight-knit community group? What if he smells bad (because he doesn’t have a way to wash his clothes)? What if she ruins the easy camaraderie (because she can’t hold her hurting inside)? In situations where “polite” feels uncomfortable and forced, we might as well go for broke and show love instead.

Show Love By:

· Seeking out and welcoming unfamiliar faces.

· Not shrinking away from people for superficial reasons.

· Extending hospitality where it’s unexpected or unlikely to be returned.

Scriptures for further study: Acts 10:34-35, James 2:1-4

Loving the Unloveables in our spheres takes intentionality. We all fail frequently—and yet receive many chances to do better. Go seize yours!

Your Turn: How do you suggest showing love to the Unloveable?

Author bio:
Brandy Heineman loves stories of faith and family history. 

She’s a graduate of Wesleyan College and an author with Elk Lake Publishing. 

She is also a first-generation Southerner who occasionally gets caught saying things like, “Y’all want some pop?” Brandy lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, Michael. 

Find her on Twitter as @brandyhei, or visit her online at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thankful Thursday: God is Faithful

It's Thursday and today I am forever grateful that God is faithful! He blesses me and you in so many ways--seen and unseen--every single day of our lives.

He's always there for us, no matter what and He loves us with ALL of His divine heart. Yes, you heard me right--God who is the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE loves you! Loves me! And He's not going anywhere. His love lasts forever! Why? Because God is faithful! Read Deuteronomy 7:9 for evidence.

I'd like to share two recent examples of God's faithfulness in my own life:

Example #1: A few weeks ago, it had been on my mind to take my car to the dealership for an early maintenance. It's a new car so I figured I had a few more weeks to go through before I took it in but the thought of getting my car checked would not leave my mind. So I decided to take it in a few weeks earlier than scheduled. 

Now here's where the story gets interesting. On the day of my maintenance appointment, hours before I was due at the car dealership, I was driving and approached a stoplight. A homeless man who frequents that particular stop, was holding his usual cardboard sign that said he was hungry but on that day, beneath the word "Hungry" was written quite clearly, "Check Your Tires." Now that man always frequents that particular stop but never in the past ten years of my seeing him at that particular intersection had he ever written the words "check your tires" on his cardboard sign! I found that to be unusual but it did make me wonder if everything was okay with my tires or if that was just a general message for everyone with no special meaning.

And here is where God's faithfulness comes in...Later on that same day, I arrived at the dealership and checked my car in for maintenance. I brought a book with me and settled into a cushioned leather chair located in the waiting room. Halfway through my reading of the book, one of the dealership's employees asked me to walk with him to my car because he wanted to show me something that needs my approval to fix. Warily, I followed him to the garage and stopped at my car. The service worker pointed to one of my tires which he had removed from my car. He pointed to not one but two medium-sized, thick nails that were embedded into that tire and said he can remove it and "plug" the tire for an extra $35.00. The plug is supposed to last for a lifetime. He also said it's not as bad as it could have been if the nails were located elsewhere on the tire and that he can fix it with a plug.

The words on the sign held by the homeless man flashed across the memory of my mind and I realized that God sent me a message through that man with the cardboard sign. I believe to this day that is a pure example of God's faithfulness to me and all of His children! And it's a great reminder that God can work through anyone in any place at any time to help His people.

Example #2: Yesterday, I saw through a digital reminder on my car's dashboard that my car only had about 92 more miles to travel before I'd need to fill my gas tank. I made a note on my electronic calendar to get gas today but as the activities of the day went on and I hit the road, I forgot. However, as I was eating lunch at one of my favorite little restaurants, one of the patrons standing near me waiting to place his order was talking to someone and in his conversation he mentioned "gas" and immediately, the thought popped into my head, "I need to get gas for my car!" So thankfully this story has a happy ending because after lunch, I did not delay the task-- I drove to the gas station and filled my tank with the gas it needed. Yet another example of God's faithfulness!

In closing, I'd like to share a song by my Mom's ultimate favorite singer, CeCe Winans. She's a beautiful woman blessed with a soothing voice. So tonight, I'm sharing CeCe's song, "Great is Thy Faithfulness." As you listen to this song, I encourage you to reflect on God's faithfulness in your life and the lives of your loved ones.

If you don't recognize God's faithfulness in your life or do not believe in God, I am praying for you. And I want you to know that God loves you just as much as He loves the pastors, preachers, gospel singers and Christian writers in this world. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He loves us equally! God doesn't play favorites (Romans 2:11) but He knows how to treat each one of His creation as if they are each His favorite person in the world because honestly, we're all His children and He wants what's best for us.

Hence, the reason for His faithfulness! God's not going anywhere. Don't run away from Him, run to Him! You'll find God waiting for you--if not running to you--with His open arms, ready to embrace you, hold you and see you through this life here on Earth. 

Ultimately, I pray that God will show you His faithfulness!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Worth 1,000 Words: Emilie Anne Hendryx of E.A. Creative Photography

The featured photo: 
Bride: Angela Blount, Groom: Paul Blount
Wedding Photographer: Emilie Anne Hendryx

What true loves meant to Angela on her wedding day and what it means now:

"The day I got married I was focused on how much I loved my soon to be husband and how much that love had changed me and him into better people. I was devoting myself to building a life with this person, and was looking forward to how much our love would continue to change us for the better."

"I've only been married for eight months now but it's amazing how much my view of that love has changed. I still love my husband very much and even more so than the day we were married but I've also learned a lot about the kind of love that's required if it's going to last a lifetime. Grace is a chief requirement for a marriage to have a chance. Not that I wasn't aware of this before, but now am uniquely attuned to just how imperfect my husband and I both are."

"I'm still devoted to building a life with my husband but more importantly I'm devoted to my husband. To loving him and supporting him as he strives to improve himself and become the man I know God created him to be, as he has graciously done the same for me."

*The groom was not available for comment. 

What Love Means as a Wedding Photographer
By Emilie Hendryx | Owner/Photographer at E.A. Creative Photography

The music changes. Everyone stands. All eyes are on her.

She steps into his line of sight and I immediately turn my camera on to his face. The look of joy, astonishment at her beauty, and pure love that’s reflected there often makes me tear up. Then I turn back to her, capturing her journey down the isle to exchange one name for another, commit her life to his, and seal it all with a kiss. 

I love weddings and, working as a wedding photographer, I’ve gotten to see all sides of them. The good, the bad, and the beautiful. The one thing that has been consistent through all of the weddings that I’ve captured is the reality of love between the groom and his bride. Yes, it looks different outwardly, but I’d hazard a guess to say it is very similar inwardly. A type of love that bypasses conventional wisdom in some cases, that over-looks flaws, and that preservers to the uniting of two hearts.

I get the behind-the-scenes look. It’s actually one of the tenants that I build my business on—the reality that I’m not just the couples photographer, I’m their friend capturing images that will act as tangible memories for the rest of their lives. With that, I get to see everything. I hate to break it to you ladies who may not be married yet, but your wedding likely won’t go off “without a hitch”. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing though! I once did a wedding where a caterer didn’t show up…they ordered pizza and it was a chance for everyone to do dessert first!

The fact is, the wedding day—though a joyous occasion and celebration—is just that, one day. A marriage is forever. And for that forever to work, the foundation has to be love. Not the kind of love you feel one day and it’s gone the next. Not the kind of love that burns passionate and fizzles out. Not even the kind of love that is based on who the person is right then and there. No, it’s a different kind of love.

This kind of love is durable. It can be stretched. It will be tested. It sees with clear eyes to the heart of who the person really is and delves deeper than what can be seen on the surface or acknowledged in a few conversations. This love says that it will take everything—good days and bad, sickness and health, poverty and wealth—because it’s a commitment.

This type of love is a choice.

I’m idealistic and a true romantic at heart, but I have come to realize that I can’t believe love rests on a feeling. If it did, I think I’d be anxious all the time because with one wrong move, that love would be gone because feelings change so often. But realizing that love is a choice means that there is hope. Hope of a sustaining, lasting love.

When a bride says, “I do” to her groom, she knows that those words cover the ups and the downs. They cover her in the morning without makeup on or him forgetting to take out the trash. They cover experiencing the death of loved ones, loss of finances, or natural disasters. They also cover the beautiful times like candlelit dinners, faraway vacations, and the birth of a child.

That is what I see love as. Sustaining, enduring, and ultimately based on Christ’s love for us. We have the perfect example in Him and, through his perfect grace, we can exhibit the type of love that lasts forever.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."~1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Photographer bio:
Emilie lives in Washington, D.C. and fills her time with creative pursuits. She writes, runs a wedding & portrait photography business, reads, plays guitar, and drinks too much coffee. 

She’s a member of ACFW and is currently working on a romantic suspense series while dreaming up a YA dystopian world on the side. 

You can also check out her writing blog, Thinking Thoughts.