Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer Stories: The Introduction


June 21 is the first day of Summer 2018 and to celebrate, I'd like to introduce you to a new series on my blog, "Summer Stories"!

Every Sunday for the entire span of this summer, I will feature a new book and its author on my blog. The authors will contribute to my blog by way of author interviews, character interviews, devotionals based on their book, personal essays and book review plus story excerpt features.

The books that will be featured are from a variety of genres under the Christian fiction umbrella, including but not limited to Contemporary Romance, Historical and Amish fiction.

Best of all, you will have the chance to WIN a copy of the featured book each Sunday!

So sit back, relax, sip your favorite summertime beverage and get ready for Summer Stories!

Love,

Alexis
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Devotionals for the Heart: Rose Bushes and God's Grace


The Scent of Grace
A devotional by Paula Moldenhauer


"As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us."
 — 2 Corinthians 2:15 (TLB)

Any parent of multiple children between the ages of 8 and 18 know the drill. Even when you limit their outside activities, there are days when you wish you could clone yourself. I still remember one of many weekends years ago when our family of six endured three straight days of nonstop running. Two of our boys played in a hockey tournament, and our daughter competed in a gymnastics meet. Though the events were scheduled close together, they were in three different locations—none of which were on our side of town.

At the end of the push, we came home hungry and tired. After eating out between events, I didn’t feel I could pull the “let’s just get a pizza” card. I dug through the fridge, coming up with a big bowl of pasta and some veggies. Since I don’t have much storage in my kitchen, I have a pantry of sorts in our garage. I put the noodles into heat and rushed out the back door and down our steps, in hopes I had a jar of spaghetti sauce in the cabinet outside.

As I came down the stairs, I noticed a few blossoms on the rose bushes by the garage door. I wanted to enjoy them, but instead, I cringed at the weeds in their bed. Sighing, I continued my mad dash toward the door.

Suddenly, I screeched to a stop.

The fragrance of roses filled my senses.

I paused only a second, but in that moment I felt God. The perfume of the flowers took me out of my hurry mode long enough for me to experience beauty and tugged me toward the Divine.

I wish I could tell you I chose to stop and embrace the moment. Or that I at least breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. But I didn’t. I rushed into the garage, grabbed the sauce, and flew back up the stairs.

Real life consumed me. Feed the kids, clear the table, assign chores, sort the laundry, meet that writing deadline.

Gazing at the computer screen, too depleted to write, my mind went back to the rosebush.

Too often, I treat God’s grace like I treated the rose. I catch a whiff of its beauty and rush on, noticing all the little weeds of my life instead of embracing the wonder of amazing grace. A grace He pours over me and through me like sweet perfume.

I stared at the computer awhile, longing for that rosebush. Finally, I pushed my chair back, releasing myself from the next task on my to-do list. I needed to (literally) stop and smell a rose.

A light rain had fallen, and the air outside smelled damp instead of perfumed as I tramped down the back steps. I went to the blossom, stuck my nose right in the middle of that flower, and inhaled deeply. The fragrance was heavenly. I spent a couple of minutes pulling the unsightly weeds, pausing every little bit to sniff the rose.

You see where this is going.

It’s a joy to pause and let the wonder and beauty of Christ soak into our souls. When we inhale deeply of the fragrance of His character, the busyness, the irritations—the weeds—of life are more manageable. We recognize the sweet fragrance of His grace surrounding us, living in us, flowing from us.

Oh, Jesus! How I need Your grace. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Teach me to breathe deeply, inhaling its perfume. Whether life is a blur or a saunter, it’s better when I dwell in Your fragrance.

~*~
Author Bio:

Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares this message when speaking at women’s events, and it permeates her written work. 

Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul Scents.  

Her first published novella, You’re a Charmer Mr. Grinch, was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and she now has six published works of fiction. Her most recent release is included in A Bouquet of Brides.

Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. Today’s devotion was adapted from her devotional book, Soul Scents: Rooted

Visit her at www.paulamoldenhauer.com and sign up for her newsletter to get a weekly Flourishing Moments and periodic updates on free days for her books.

For daily Flourishing Moments like Paula’s author/speaker page (https://www.facebook.com/PaulaMoldenhauerAuthor/).
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Everything


He Left Us Everything
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

I’m reading a memoir and the title is “They Left Us Everything.”

It is written by a woman who recently lost her mother, her father died years previously and she’s in the process of cleaning out the family home. A house she and her three brothers called home for over half a century. She, now in middle age along with her brothers are left to ‘empty out’ a twenty-three-room house where every corner in every room offers a memory. Middle-agers who have gone through caregiving and burying our mothers will find this book relatable.

As one reviewer wrote, this book, “hits you deep in the gut…amid the scraps of paper left in jacket pockets, family photos and pieces of furniture, part of the ‘everything’ our parents leave us with are our memories of them, good and bad. Perhaps figuring out what to do with them is as close to a manual of grief as we get.”

This book has opened a plethora of memories for me. I lost my mom two years ago, and I still find pieces of memories in out of the way places, little things that remind me of how much I miss her.

This morning I got up early, not because I wanted to, but because my darling cat, Juliette was hungry. She has learned to wake me gently, and I appreciate her respecting my rest. The title to this book grabbed me in a profound way. They Left Us Everything. I saw Jesus in this title and through Him God has left us everything!

I was reminded of a time twenty-years ago shortly after my brother died. Losing him at such a young age rocked my world. I’d thought we’d grow old together. It was a difficult time for me while grief devastated me. It was during my caterwauling and pity party that God spoke to my spirit reminding me that He understood my grief. He’d sacrificed His son for humanity. It quickly put things in perspective.

I bemoaned why Ronnie, my brother, wasn’t healed and the unfairness of it all. God is so patient with us. We can’t know everything. It was Ronnie’s time. He’d rededicated his life to Christ before passing, and he was actually ready. I wasn’t. I didn’t want him to leave. God revealed a view of Heaven assuring me that my sweet brother was enjoying the same pleasures there that he'd enjoyed here on the earth plane. However, everything there was created to His taste and in perfection. This knowledge gave me an abiding peace.

He also reminded me that the blood of Jesus, the Cross, and The Comforter are all we need in this life to overcome the world and our eternal enemy. He’s done all He’s going to do. The rest is up to us. I began to search the scriptures to confirm what He’d shared.

John 3:16 (KJV), the very first scripture I committed to memory, took on a whole new meaning. It reads: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth in you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.”— John 14:16-18 (KJV)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” — Ephesians 1:7 (KJV)

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” — Revelation 12:11 (KJV)

BC (before Christ), these scriptures were just words. They didn’t gird me, heal me or penetrate the armor I wore daily to circumvent any emotional conflict. I didn’t want to feel anything. Many of us walk around numb, defeated and allowing the cares of this life to drag us down.

AC (after Christ), once I understood the weapons of our warfare, the power in the blood of Jesus Christ and the guidance from the Holy Spirit, I knew what the Father meant. Accepting Jesus opened my blind eyes and deaf ears. I saw the world around me with the blinders taken off. He did leave us everything.

What’s even better? The best is yet to come!

~*~
Author Bio:
Nanci writes Inspy Amish romance. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two fur kids, Romeo and Juliet, rescue cats. She is working on her debut novel, Plain Justice.

She retired earlier than planned from nursing to care for her mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her mom passed last year at the age of ninety-nine and Nanci has delved more into her writing.

She is active in an intercessory prayer ministry in her church, belongs to The Woman’s Club, a service-oriented volunteer organization dedicated to the welfare and enrichment of the community and volunteers two days a week at the Mary Washington Museum.

Currently, she's enrolled in Rhema Bible College’s correspondence Bible studies. She belongs to ACFW and RWA. When she’s not working, reading or writing she’s hiking with her husband at Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Let Love Bloom: The Bashful Bride


Interview with Vanessa Riley about her book The Bashful Bride:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

Vanessa: My daughter actually inspired this one. She and a group of her friends have crushes on late night talk show hosts. It amused me to discover this and also made me aware that my late night writing schedule has allowed her to stay up too late. Bad parenting skills. 

Alexis: Why did you title your book, “The Bashful Bride”? 

Vanessa: Ester is shy. She is a big dreamer but is more comfortable helping you with your plans than she is living them for herself. Ester’s bashful but inside is a heart of a lion.

Alexis: Why did you choose to set your story in London, England?

Vanessa: I love London and its perfect backdrop for the Regency novels.

Alexis: Describe how you did research for this story. What was the most challenging aspect of the research? 

Vanessa: I do a great deal of research for my stories. I search through court filings, old diaries, newspapers, and history books. The most challenging aspect of research is how to present facts that differ from what one sees on TV or from preconceived notions. I show a different viewpoint of history, and I want people to enjoy it and not feel overwhelmed when they realize that what they thought was true, might not be.

Alexis: Arthur Bex is the hero of your story. What’s he like? Describe his heart, looks, and motivation. Talk briefly about his background too. 

Vanessa: Arthur Bex is hiding a secret. He survived an incident and made a choice that meant he lost everything. He lives in fear that once the truth outs, he’ll lose everything again. He is motivated to right wrongs and to protect his heart, but to love is to be vulnerable. That’s his struggle.

Alexis: Ester Croome is the heroine of your story. What’s she like? Describe her heart, looks, and motivation. Talk briefly about her background too.

Vanessa: Ester is shy and sheltered. Eloping with Bex is her first step out into a world she is no longer under her father’s protection. It’s scary, but she wants her own dreams. She just hasn’t decided if she’s ready to fight for them.

Alexis: What role does a friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom play in bringing Arthur and Ester together?

Vanessa: A dear friend of Ester, Frederica Burghley, has been placing advertisements in a newspaper for a husband. When she nets Arthur Bex, Frederica steps aside for Ester. Strong friendships want each member to be happy. Frederica, though desperate for a husband, wants Ester to be happy. 

Alexis: What or who threatens to tear Arthur and Ester apart? Why?

Vanessa: Secrets and fear are the things that tear them apart. Arthur’s secret is dreadful, but his unwillingness to share his burden with Ester is a deal breaker. Ester wants everything in a neat safe box. She is unprepared for how messy the real world can be.

Alexis: Arthur is a famous actor. Ester is a shy heiress. Is this a story of opposites attract? Why or why not? 

Vanessa: Not really opposites. They have a lot of things in common including a love of Shakespeare.

Alexis: What it about Arthur that made Ester fall in love at first sight?

Vanessa: Ester fell in love with Bex when she saw him perform on stage. His acting and his voice won her heart over.

Alexis: What is it about Ester that intrigues Arthur and makes him want to protect her at any cost?

Vanessa: He wants a forthright woman who will believe in him. He sees that in Ester. She’s very strong in her opinions.

Alexis: Why it is important to Arthur to marry a woman of “good character” and in what ways does Ester fit that bill?

Vanessa: Ester believes in truth and is passionate about it. Arthur is passionate about his fight for abolition. They both are fighting the good fights. Arthur believes that if she can truly love him, then she’ll fight for him.

Alexis: If you could spend a day with your main characters, what would you do and why?

Vanessa: We’d probably all go see Shakespeare in the park. I think we would have a blast.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about The Bashful Bride?

Vanessa: That forgiveness starts with forgiving yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, you will be held in bondage, and you will hold others in bondage. Ester and Arthur each have to come to a place of forgiveness before they can move forward and love freely.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa! God bless you and your writing.

~*~
Author Bio:
Vanessa Riley writes Regency and Historical Romances of dazzling multi-culture communities with powerful persons of color. 

Vanessa writes for historical romance readers who admire and acquire books that showcase women who find joy in sweeping kisses and strong sisterhoods. 

Even in the darkness, she promises to give you laughs and to show you how light always prevails and how love always, always wins. 

Vanessa juggles mothering a teen, cooking for her military-man husband, and speaking at women's and STEM events. She’s known for her sweeping romances and humorous delivery of poignant truths. 

You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

~*~
Book Blurb for The Bashful Bride:

A friend's newspaper advertisement for a groom nets the most famous actor in London, Arthur Bex. Shy heiress Ester Croome proposes to elope with the handsome man, who she's secretly loved for two years, in order to escape an impending engagement arranged by her overbearing family. 


Trying to outlive the shadow of his villainous uncle, Bex needs to marry quickly—to a woman of good character. And smart, beautiful Ester fits the bill. But a harrowing trip to Gretna Green and dangerous abolition rallies prove to be a more treacherous stage than either imagined. Infatuation and a mutual love for Shakespeare might not be enough to bind a couple looking to outrun the chains and secrets of family and the past.


~*~
Buy The Bashful Bride on Amazon

~*~
Connect with Vanessa:
Website - www.vanessariley.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor
Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/regencymaid
Instagarm - https://www.instagram.com/govanessariley

*Sign up for her newsletter to get access to free stories, giveaways, and more at:
www.VanessaRiley.com

~*~
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: SaveSave

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Peace


Perfect Peace
A devotional by Susan Lindstrom 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 (NIV)

I stand at the back window staring at my current trouble; a large pond that spans not only the width of our yard but the neighbors on each side of us as well. And it’s growing by the minute. At least the ducks swimming in it look happy.

This is a rare occurrence and only happens when we get a consistent rain over three inches. So, when it does happen we jokingly name it ‘Lake Lindstrom’ and think we are pretty clever to have skirted the high taxes that come with real lake front living. The jokes on us though as the rain continues to pound the roof and the water drainage next to our home overflows seeping into our septic system, which backs up into our pipes so if we do anything that requires using water, there is nowhere for it to go, because it’s full. Right up to the brim.

And there’s not a thing we can do about right now. We just have to wait until the water recedes and the drainage can flow freely again. We’re told it was an error in judgement when the house was built 45 years ago and will require a lot of money to fix it. A lot, as in more than we have. I wonder why it slipped the previous owners mind to not mention this little detail.

Whatever, it’s our problem now.

It’s an odd feeling knowing you can’t use the water inside your home. Kind of like tent camping in a permanent structure. I tried pretending it was a hundred years ago, you know, before indoor plumbing, but I can’t ignore the fact that I’m already spoiled with modern conveniences and there is no outhouse to run to.

This isn’t the first time, it’s actually been a few springs now so we have learned the fine art of being frugal with our water usage. We also have learned who our real friends are, the ones that let us come over to shower and rack up their water bill. It may be the best kind of friendship, or maybe it’s pity.

But today is day three and there is more rain on the way. It’s getting harder to ‘take heart’.

I know that eventually this problem will get resolved and I’ve lived long enough to know there’ll soon be another to take its place. A saying comes to mind, "We are either coming into a problem, in the middle of one or coming out of one." 

And even though it would be awfully nice to have a trouble-free life, it’s unrealistic. Jesus actually tells us to expect it and to deal with it. But He doesn’t leave us hanging with the how-to, He wants us to do life together. He wants us to have peace in the midst of trouble, His Peace. It is, after all, one of the amazing gifts from the Holy Spirit. It shows us God’s character and is an attribute that calls us to be like Him. The peace He so lovingly gives us is a state of tranquility or quietness of spirit, the total opposite of stress and worry.

Yes, those two troublemakers that slip in when I’m not paying attention, causing knots in my shoulders not to mention the ache in my heart.

I know I can’t control the water situation but I can control my thoughts. And coming to Him in prayer I choose to rest in His Peace and to trust in His Power and Wisdom to make all things work together for our good.

Thank you, Lord.

I pray that whatever trouble is going on in your life that you choose to turn it over to El Shaddai, The All Sufficient One, the One that is bigger than your troubles. 

Accept God's gift and take heart in His Perfect Peace.

Now, I wonder if the ducks would mind if I joined them?

~*~
Author Bio: 
Susan Lindstrom is not an award-winning writer yet unless you count that ‘best story’ award in third grade but stay tuned to see what God has planned!

Writing has always been a passion but raising a family, running her sewing and design business, involvement in women’s ministry and teaching Sunday School has kept her plenty busy.

Now retired and an empty-nester she trusts in God’s amazing timing and has jumped in to embrace this new adventure of writing.

Her first book is for children and will soon be released. It's the first in a series of real-life adventures focusing on the fruit of the Spirit.

She grew up on both the East and West coasts and now calls the beautiful state of Wisconsin home. She’s a wife, mom, and grandma to 10 children.

Susan listens to a wide variety of music, loves live performances and believes that laughter is the best medicine.

When she is not indoors writing, reading or pretending to clean the house, she’s outdoors enjoying the beauty of God’s Creation.

She’s a proud member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Celebrating My NEW Book Birthday!


Join me in celebrating the June 12 release of my NEW book, Love in Pictures!

I wrote this fiction book in exactly nine months from January to September 2017.

It's amazing how everything worked together for my good as I wrote this book. God sent several blessings my way! He sent new friends like Jessica Mae Cortes, former wedding photographer turned author. She offered to help me make my heroine's career believable. Nikki Santerre, a professional wedding photographer, also played a vital role in checking all of my photography-related scenes in my story to make sure that they were true to real-life.

But back to how this book was written. Can you believe that it started with a sentence? Yes, ONE sentence in response to a writing prompt online. Well, God works in mysterious ways because that one sentence turned into a paragraph and that paragraph turned into a page and that page turned into a scene and God kept helping me keep my creative flow going!

Now, on June 14, my "book baby" has been in the world for two full days! Right now the Kindle version is only available for purchase. The paperback version will be ready to sell in about two weeks from today and to celebrate, I'm going to give away two e-book copies of it for the Kindle of the two people who win the giveaway contest!

Scroll down to the end of this blog post to enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget.

Keep reading for information about me as an author, the blurb and purchase link for my book, Love in Pictures.


~*~
Author Bio:
Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart who loves the arts and the color blue because of its serenity and soulful beauty.

She’s an established author, blogger, editor, writer, and photographer who enjoys exploring matters of the heart.

As a freelance writer, she covered President Barack Obama, wrote the Growing Up column for Collegiate Quarterly (CQ), which reached readers around the world, and served as the editor of a county newspaper. Blogging is one of her favorite pastimes, and she founded the mission-focused blog God is Love.

Love in Pictures is her second book published by Forget Me Not Romances. Alexis hopes that her writing will connect readers with the forever love of Jesus Christ.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending quality time with loved ones, shopping, dining in her favorite restaurants, reading, listening to music, and baking for her church.

~*~
Book Blurb for Love in Pictures:

Wedding photographer Michelle Hadley has a passion for diversity and believes that love comes in all colors. So, she’s working hard to convince editors to feature her clients’ images on the covers of the mainstream bridal and wedding magazines.

Despite having a career that focuses on celebrating forever love, Michelle has never actually been in a romantic relationship, and she’s not looking for love, until she meets the one man she cannot forget.

Since his fiancĂ©e broke his heart, Logan Emerson’s focus has been on his career. He’s won awards for his work as a print journalist and dreams of greater success on television as a broadcast journalist. But his personal struggle presents many challenges that might prevent his dreams from coming true.

Michelle doesn’t date often, and since his heartbreak, Logan has shied away from the dating scene. But something about Michelle awakens Logan’s desire to love again.

~*~
Buy Love in Pictures on Amazon 


~*~
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Water


Sharing cool water and more…
A devotional by Melissa Henderson

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
—Luke 3:10-11 (NIV)

Today was a typical warm, humid and breezy day in coastal South Carolina. The bright rays of sunshine burst forth from the puffy clouds in between rain sprinkles. At one moment, the sky looked as if rain would moisten the ground all day. The next moment, sunshine seemed to be positioned in the sky and not ready to leave.

A black pickup truck filled with construction supplies arrived and parked in front of our neighbor’s house. The same pickup truck had been coming and going all week. Several men would step out of the vehicle each morning and begin carrying tools and supplies to the back yard. Our neighbor was having a patio poured at the back of her house. The same gentlemen showed up each day and began the task at hand.

Today, that project was completed and a new project began. Those hard workers not only poured patios, they could also powerwash homes and driveways, too. My husband and I watched from the inside of our air-conditioned home, fascinated by their work and dedication to the tasks. These guys worked hard. We didn’t know their names, but we watched to make sure they were okay in the heat. One man was older and there were several younger men.

This afternoon, I noticed the black truck was gone and two men were sitting on a ladder. They seemed to be waiting for a ride. Their work was finished for the day and their bodies looked exhausted. Sweaty shirts, sweat on their brows and slow movements showed how the work had tired them.

A thought crossed my mind, “Wonder if they are thirsty? Wonder if we should take them some water?” As quickly as the thoughts entered my mind, I became distracted by something else. I had seen an opportunity to show God’s love and I had let it slip away, distracted by a meaningless thought about something else.

Shortly afterward, I heard voices outside. Still, I waited and completed what I was doing instead of checking on the gentlemen.

As I walked downstairs, my husband was coming in the front door. “I took some water to the guys out front. They are waiting for their ride. I asked them if they would like some water and they said, “Yes” and “Thank you.”

I am very proud of my husband. He saw a possible need and he acted on his nudge from God. I did not act, thinking I would do something later. I am very upset with myself. I am thankful my husband opened his heart and offered kindness to strangers.

Too often, we postpone acts of kindness, thinking we will do something later. But, now is the time to show God’s love. Don’t put off a nudge from God. Someone might have a need that you can help with and you are given that opportunity to show compassion and kindness.

Can you think of times when you wanted to show kindness and put off the chance, thinking you could do something later? In expressing His love through giving a bottle of water to some strangers, they have been shown the love of God.

We may never see these gentlemen again. I will remember them even though I never learned their names or anything about them. They gave me a lesson today and I will remember that lesson.

God’s love can be shown in many ways. How are you showing His love to others?

Blessings,

Melissa Henderson

~*~
Author Bio:
Melissa Henderson and her husband Alan live in South Carolina.

Married for over 38 years, they have one son (Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love (Christine) and now are blessed by precious grandson (Rowan).

Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel.

Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies and reading and writing. 
Connect with Melissa online, https://mimionlife.wordpress.com.