Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fall into Love: Cecelia Dowdy's story

Finding Love Online
A Fall into Love story by Cecelia Dowdy

When I was in my thirties, I’d been hearing about online dating. One of my roommates had signed up for online dating so, I decided to give it a try. I set up a profile on I met some interesting people on that site, but, I didn’t really click with any of them. When I received a response from a man named Christopher Toomer, I was intrigued. He literally lived down the street from me and we had a lot in common. We listened to the same kind of music and both of us also loved reading.

He gave me his phone number and I called him on the phone. We started talking about music, work, things that were interesting to us.

The conversation kind of paused when he said, “I’m totally blind.”

I said, “What?” I’d thought I’d misheard him.

He then explained that he’d been born blind. He even mentioned how he’d trained with a seeing eye dog one summer but never completed the training. The dog pooped on his shoes and he’d had to leave the training facility early because his mom had broken her hip and he was needed at home.

I was stunned. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to date someone who was totally blind. But, he was independent, owned his own home, and he had a good job at the IRS as a computer programmer.

So, during our initial conversation, he told me he had to go because he was on his way to the grocery store. He said he was going to Safeway, right down the street from us. So, curious, I went to Safeway to observe him. After all, I could see him but he could not see me. He walked into the store, grinning, swinging his cane back and forth. One of the supermarket employees met him at the door. He gave her a list of groceries that he needed to purchase. So, she went to get the groceries while he sat down and patiently waited for her.

So, afterwards, I admitted about what I’d done, going to observe him without his knowing. After that, whenever we talked on the phone, our conversations would last for hours. The first time we went out, I went to pick him up in my car and we went to Starbucks.

We started seeing each other regularly after that. He’d come over to my place or I’d go over to his. I made him a dinner of fried fish and when we slow-danced to James Brown, that’s when I knew I was in love!

We got engaged about a year later. He took me out to dinner at a romantic restaurant called Paul’s. He asked me to marry him and I said, “Yes.”

Our wedding was perfect! Some of the wedding guests told us that ours was the best, most romantic wedding they’d ever attended. We uncaged a dozen doves into the air. The dancing, the food, the love…it was so wonderful – a day that I’ll always remember!

We’ve been married for fourteen years and we have a 12-year-old son. Our lives are full and complete! We are truly blessed!

Author Bio: 
Cecelia Dowdy has been an avid reader since she learned to string letters together to form words. 

While pursuing a business degree in college one of her professors tried to convince her to get an English degree since he felt she was a great writer. Years later, after receiving her B.S. in Finance, she took her former teacher's advice, and started pursuing her literary career. 

She loves to read, write, and bake delicious desserts during her spare time. She also loves visiting new places and listening to old tunes with her husband. Currently, she resides with her spouse and young son in Maryland.

Blurb for Sweet Dreams (book) by Cecelia Dowdy: Misty Stewart found Christ shortly after the birth of her baby, causing her to make drastic changes in her life. Short-tempered and street-smart, she realizes being around her un-saved, dysfunctional family is draining her, so she feels the Lord wants her to distance herself from her relatives. She hopes this distance from her family will allow her to deepen her faith, making it possible for her to raise her two-year-old daughter, Jennifer, in a better environment. 

Struggling to raise her daughter alone, she bonds with her new neighbor, Sterling Richards. She’s drawn to kind-hearted Sterling, but wonders about the deep sadness that he harbors. Sterling has familial problems that run deep, and romance is the last thing on his mind.

Sterling Richards, a professional baker, is grieving over the recent death of his father/business partner. Since his father left him as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy, his relationship with his identical twin brothers is strained. Why would his father fail to include his twin sons as part of the inheritance? He now struggles to mend the relationship with his brothers, struggling to run his father’s bakery alone.

Can Sterling and Misty find the courage to love one another?

Connect with Cecelia:

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway for "Ordinary Graces"

Ordinary Graces Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Book title: Ordinary Graces
Author: Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Book Review by Alexis A. Goring

Ordinary Graces is a delightful devotional book written by Lucinda Secrest McDowell.

The author grabs the reader’s attention from the first page with this line: I was “that girl.” She then continues to describe how she used to be: “Striving. Enslaved. Rigid. Yes, a Christ-follower. Carrying around God’s gift of grace, but never bothering to open it and embrace its richness as a way of life.” She then states that she was the “last person you’d expect to be writing a book offering the many gifts of God’s ordinary graces.” But then she was "transformed by an encounter with Jesus" and He enabled her to write. And boy, can she write!

Ordinary Graces is a lovely, lighthearted gift that will point you to Jesus and encourage your soul. McDowell debunks the idea that you have to be perfect before coming to Jesus and exhorts the reader to realize that God loves them just as they are, without conditions.

This book is divided into three sections packed with devotionals that focus on core concepts of grace, strength, gratitude and life. The author’s tone is gentle yet firm, kind yet not afraid to correct. Every devotional in this book is backed by Bible verses. The readings on each page are clean in content, crisp in feel and comforting to the soul.

I’d recommend this book to everyone who needs a dose of encouragement!

*Litfuse Publicity Group provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of Ordinary Graces. My opinions in this book review are my own.

Book blurb for Ordinary Graces

Everyone loves to receive a gift.

And God has given us many, such as his grace-the gift we don't deserve and can never earn. Promises from the One who declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in his image. The question becomes, will we truly receive that gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?

God's Word will stand forever, in any season of life. These truths prompt us to respond with compassion and courage.

Through inspiring devotions, Lucinda Secrest McDowell reveals biblical blessings that remind us that: God's promises give us strength, God's grace can be most evident at our weakest points, a proper response to our abundance of blessings is simply gratitude, and the "more" we are all looking for is the same abundant life that Jesus came to give us.

Would you like to receive these gifts of ordinary grace? Join Lucinda in focusing on one word a day through devotional readings and short benedictions for any and every season to explore the many facets of Grace, Strength, Gratitude, and Life.

About the Author: 
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life - both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. 

A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers "Encouraging Words" to all on the journey. 

A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of 13 books, including "Ordinary Graces," "Dwelling Places," "Live These Words," "Refresh!," "Quilts from Heaven" and "Role of a Lifetime." Whether co-directing the "reNEW - retreat for New England Writing," mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages.

Find out more about Lucinda by visiting her website,

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Book Review: "She's Got the Wrong Guy" by Deepak Reju

About the book:

The control freak. The angry man. The lazy guy. The unteachable guy. The promiscuous man. The unbeliever. The lone ranger. The unchurched guy. The new convert. The commitment-phobe.

For any woman who has struggled with failed relationships, this may seem like a familiar list. These are the men your friends and family have in mind when they think, "she's with the wrong guy." And while the reasons women choose these types of men are complicated and varied, ultimately, they will all let you down.

In She's Got the Wrong Guy, Deepak Reju offers a different kind of dating book, discussing the types of guys women should not marry and offering biblical reasons why they aren't suitable spouses. Writing from his years of experience as a pastor and counselor, Reju shares with women his perspective on how to assess a relationship's strengths from the beginning, how to identify possible pitfalls, and how to have the courage to wait for a relationship that will be a blessing for both of you. Using stories that single women can relate to and highlighting contemporary issues in the modern world of dating, Reju gives readers clear, biblical direction on how to have positive, life-giving relationships with members of the opposite sex.

With a strong, Christ-centered focus, women will better understand why they "settle" for less than what God intends for their romantic relationships and learn to put their hopes and find their happiness in Jesus, not marriage.

Learn more, read a sample, and purchase a copy.

Author bio: 

Deepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, serves as the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, D.C., as well as president for the board of directors of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. 

He is the author of several books and articles, including "Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus Is Greater than Saul, David and Solomon," "The Pastor and Counseling," and "On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church." Deepak and his wife Sarah have been married since 2001 and have five children. 

Find out more about Deepak at


My Review of Deepak Reju’s book, She’s Got the Wrong Guy:

She’s Got the Wrong Guy by Deepak Reju, MDiv, PhD, is like a well-planned, detail-oriented roadmap to romantic relationships.

Reju uses his expertise and experience as a pastor of biblical counseling to paint a clear and focused picture of how single women can avoid Mr. Wrong and instead, marry Mr. Right. However, this is more than your typical “Meet Mr. Right” book on dating and relationships. The author brings God into the roadmap and points the reader to God as the Ultimate Guide.

This book is divided into three sections. Read my comments underneath each part, which I’ve highlighted in bold type:

Part One: From Problems to Faith

My favorite quote from this section is this: “Instead of worrying about how to put yourself in the path of an eligible man, put yourself in the path of Jesus and listen to him.”

It’s a powerful point because in our day and age, single ladies are wondering where “all the good men” are and they’re going to great—and sometimes dangerous—lengths to find true love.

However, the author of this book encourages you to go to God’s Book (The Holy Bible) to seek out His plan for your love life. It’s a good reminder that Jesus Christ is the lover of the human soul and only He can complete you. No man—no matter how perfect—can fill the God-shaped hole in your heart, only Jesus Christ can do that and until you realize that and seek after Him you will never be satisfied.

I like the author’s emphasis on encouraging the reader to seek counsel from their Creator (God) on who to date and who to dump and to value sound Biblical advice when you’re ready to get married.

Part Two: Am I Dating the Wrong Guy?

The author lists 10 types of “wrong” men in this part of his book. His list includes everyone from “The Promiscuous Guy” and the “Unchurched Guy” to “The Angry Man” and “The Commitment-Phobic Man.” It’s an intensive list because he spends several pages in his book identifying each type of man and giving real-life examples why they’re all wrong for you.

Part Three: The Quest for A Godly Man 

In this section, the author gives good answers to the universal question among dating couples everywhere and that question is, “How to know if you should break up?”

The author asks several thought-provoking questions in answer to that universal question. Some of his questions for the reader to think about are:

- Does this relationship lead you to love Jesus more or less?

- Does this relationship lead you to sin more?

- What do those around you say about your relationship?

- What does the Bible say?

It’s a comprehensive list of questions that when answered, can direct you to the best decision.

Conclusion: Don’t Compromise

This final section of Reju’s book is a succinct wrap-up of his deeply layered reasons about why some women choose the wrong guy and it reinforces his sound advice on what to do about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and valued the author’s advice.

*Litfuse Publicity Group provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of She’s Got the Wrong Guy. My opinions in this book review are my own.

Fall into Love: Gail's story

Forever Kind of Love

A Fall into Love story by Gail Gaymer Martin

More than thirty years ago, at a church-hall dance for the widowed or divorced, I sat with friends waiting for the country dances to begin. A man stood near the beverage table, and curious, I walked there for a soda. As I passed him, I said hello, and we talked. He was alone, and it was his first time at a singles event. I invited him to sit at our table, and he did.

I liked him right away. He was funny and made me laugh. He loved family, especially his two kids, he was musically talented which is important to me and was a churchgoer—to my surprise, the same denomination as I am. I couldn’t believe my ears. He wanted to visit my church to hear me sing with the choir, but he could only come on Sundays that he didn’t have his children since he wanted them in their Sunday school. I was touched. Here was a man who didn’t try to impress a woman, but let her know his kids and their church was a priority. He got me at that moment.

He did visit my church where he also met my mom. He took me to breakfast afterward, and his personality and values made a huge impression. That day I knew I could marry this man. Later my mom said, “Don’t get me wrong, but you were like an old married couple. You’re comfortable together and seem to click.” Mom was right.

We’d met in September, and before Christmas, we were dating exclusively. I was head over heels, and he felt the same. When things looked serious, we wanted each other to meet our dearest friends, so I planned a Chinese dinner and did all the cooking, and we each invited a few of our closest friends.

Before dinner, my friend Bernice said she’d brought some fortune cookies, and I was delighted that she had. The other couple brought a bottle of champagne as a hostess gift.

After dinner, Bernice distributed the fortune cookies. When she finished, each person read the messages inside. When I opened mine, it said, “This house will be filled with happiness,” an appropriate message for me, surrounded by friends and the man I knew I wanted as my husband. When I broke off a corner of the cookie, Bob watched, and I sensed he wanted me to do something, but I was at a loss.

Instead, I continued to nibble the cookie. When it was nearly gone, I felt something suspicious in the corner. I said “yuck” and pulled out a piece of tissue fearing what was inside.

Bob leaned closer. “What is it?”

I shrugged and didn’t want to open it. But he encouraged me, seeming as curious as I was repulsed. When I pulled off the tissue paper, a beautiful solitaire diamond ring fell into my hand. “Someone lost their ring in this cookie.”

Everyone talked, but Bob shook his head and grinned. The truth struck me. “It’s a…an engagement ring.” Tears of joy rolled from my eyes. I had no idea and neither did anyone else except my friend with the cookies. I saw that I wasn’t the only one with tears. Everyone rushed to us with hugs and handshakes.

Bob hurried to get glasses and the bottle of champagne. With a loud thwack, the cork flew up and bounced off the ceiling, leaving a small dark indentation in the plaster. We laughed and then our best friends joined in a toast to our engagement.

A number of years later, Bob decided to paint the dining room. I looked up at the dark spot and hated to see it vanish, but the ceiling needed paint with all our new decorating.

Bob tackled the job, and days later I found the courage to look up at the ceiling. My heart danced. He had painted around the dent. When I let out a cry, he came in to see what had happened. I pointed to the ceiling. “You left the spot.”

He grinned, then drew me into his arms and kissed me. I fell in love all over again.

Author Bio:

Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of Christian contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 68 published novels and four million books sold. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area.

Her books have received numerous awards, including the ACFW Carol Award, Romantic Times Reviewer Choice, Booksellers Best, National Readers Choice, Holt Medallion, Award of Excellence.

Gail is a founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She is a keynote speaker at churches, civic and business organizations and presents workshops at conferences across the country.

Gail was a lifetime resident of Michigan until moving to Sedona, Arizona.

Book Blurb for Autumn's Fresh Beginning:

In high school, Derek Randolph, a bungling, chunky sophomore and her best friend’s brother was the bane of Jessany Cosette’s senior year. 

When Meg convinces her to return to town for their high school’s centennial celebration, she agrees and finds herself staying in Derek’s home with Meg. But to her shock, Derek has become a handsome hunk with a killer smile and a newscaster on TV. 

Derek can’t believe the skinny string bean friend of Meg’s has become a gorgeous woman. Yet past memories remain for Jess and old friend’s won’t let it go. Even though she agrees to appear as Derek’s girlfriend to aid his possible promotion, can her growing feelings survive the past that she can’t forget?

Connect with Gail:
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ LinkedIn

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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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Fall into Love: Laura V. Hilton's story

Freefall Romance
A Fall into Love story by Laura V. Hilton

When Alexis asked for blog posts about falling in love with your spouse, I thought that she meant for stories about a slow fall, like a leave gently tumbling to the ground, caught in a gentle breeze, and taking a leisurely journey. I almost didn’t ask for a featured spot because if that’s what she had in mind, I didn’t qualify.

A slow leisurely fall was not the case for me. It was more of a freefall, terrifyingly fast, but oh-so-right. It was a brisk wind that ripped me from the tree branch I was clinging to, and a whirlwind ride—one where you have no control over anything. All you can do is hold on.

It was August 11. I had just returned to my apartment in Springfield, Missouri, from a visit with my mom in Arkansas. I was tired. And I was not going out. Not. For. Anything. I planned to curl up with a book and just breathe. Then the phone rings. It was my friend Greg. He said he was having a backyard Bible Study and would I like to come?

Um, no. Not really. Thanks. I didn’t say that. I mumbled something about being tired and staying home.

“But we need you there,” he said.

Right. Because I have an opinion about stuff when everyone else just sits and stares at the Bible. But I didn’t want to lead Greg’s Bible study. Sigh.

“Who’s going to be there?” I asked because I could argue that if certain people were there they certainly didn’t need me.

He rattles off a list of names. Then says, Steve.

Steve? Sure, I knew Steves. I knew a lot of Steves. But for some reason, I asked, "Steve who?"

“Hilton. He just got out of the Navy.”

A new guy. Something inside me jumps. “I’ll be there.” I shower, change clothes, and drive to Greg’s house.

Steve and Greg are playing Bible Opoly in the living room when I arrive. They tell me to go on out to the backyard while they put the game up. I do. Greg’s house is dark, dim lights, dark colors. When they get outside, I get my first good look at Steve.

My first thought was, “That’s the guy I’m going to marry.”

My second was “Don’t be silly. You don’t even know him.”

But still. My heart recognized him. Steve was just as impressed with me. We talked after Bible study. We went to McDonald's afterward and talked more. And then every single night after work we spend time together. Not dating. Just talking. Getting to know each other. Hanging out. Becoming best friends, because we were already both positive this was right.

By October we were engaged and planning our wedding.

On December 19 we married—four months after we met.

I had friends since who were shocked by our whirlwind romance. That stuff doesn’t happen in real life. Yes, it does. And a fast romance is what I know. It was different from the guy I dated two years. Even when dating him, I knew he wasn’t the one I was going to marry. And he wasn’t. But sometimes, God brings someone in your life and you just know. Things take off. And like a very windy day that rips leaves off trees and take them on a wild ride, you end up falling in love that way.

Author Bio: 

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

Book Blurb for 
Gingerbread Wishes, a novella by Laura V. Hilton:

As Thanksgiving approaches, Becca Troyer finds herself overwhelmed with an abundance of winter squash and pumpkins that she isn’t a bit thankful for. 

Desperately trying to sell them at a farmer’s market so she won’t have mountains to can, she’s surprised when a mime drops to his knee in front of her and proposes marriage.

Yost Miller is helping the volunteer firefighter raise funds at the city park when he notices his long-time crush Becca selling vegetables. Drawn across the grass, he spontaneously proposes marriage. But afterward, Yost isn’t sure how to proceed to show her that his feelings are real.

Just as he begins to find solid footing, confidence is yanked away, leaving him floundering. Will he lose Becca to another man? Or will this Thanksgiving be a season of blessings and wishes come true?

Buy Love's Thankful Heart on 

Connect with Laura:

Blogs - 

Twitter -

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review and $75 Giveaway for "A Woman Overwhelmed"

About the book:

"A Woman Overwhelmed" is a phrase with which many women can relate.

But what would happen if we could see the insanity in our pace and embrace our overwhelming God?

There is a reason they say that a woman's work is never done- because it isn't! As women, we often are overwhelmed by the demands and circumstances of life, resulting in stress, fear, worry, impatience, fatigue, frustration, and even depression. The truth is that we were created to be overwhelmed . . . not by life but by God! When we learn to be overwhelmed by God, the fruit in our lives goes from rotten to fragrant-filling our days with peace, hope, love, and joy

In A Woman Overwhelmed, best-selling author Hayley DiMarco shares biblical insights and personal stories to offer a glimpse at the comedy of an overwhelmed life while encouraging us to discover the depths and heights of God's love and power.

Be empowered to find freedom in becoming overwhelmed with who God is-by learning to focus on what we know about God so that we can hold onto faith even when it seems that all is lost. For it is when an overwhelmed woman gives up the mission of me and exchanges it for the mission of God that being overwhelmed becomes a good thing.

Choose to bask in the abundance of the Father instead of the abundance of life as his unfathomable depths can surely replace our fathomable messes.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the Author: Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than 40 books, including multiple books in the God Girl line, "The Fruitful Wife," "Obsessed," "Die Young" and "Own It." As the founder of Hungry Planet, a company intensely focused on feeding the world's appetite for truth, DiMarco speaks regularly for women's groups and events, including Women of Faith, dotMOM, Precept National Women's Convention and MOPS International. Hayley and her pastor husband, Michael, live outside Nashville with their daughter and four dogs. Find out more about Hayley at

My Review of Hayley DiMarco’s book, A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life: 

Hayley DiMarco is a talented writer who authored the book, A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life. It’s an intriguing collection of reflections on her life.

More than writing lessons on her reflections, DiMarco shares her heart and doesn’t hold back in this transparent real-life story. She strikes a chord with her title and core message with one word “overwhelmed.” Many women can relate to this word because they’ve been there. Women who have many duties inside the home and the demands out in the real world can relate to this book! Readers will be inspired when they embrace the author’s main message which is a challenge for women to not be overwhelmed by life but be overwhelmed by God.

The author presents that God can fill your days with “peace, hope, love, and joy.” She sets out to prove it with every chapter in this book. Each chapter is from a page of the author’s real-life story. She shares scenes that are at times hilarious, heartwarming and somber. The most vivid illustration was part three of the author’s “My Overwhelming Introduction: No Wonder Italian Women Throw Plates”. Hilarious!

This book is presented in six sections that are divided by Roman numerals: I) So Much to Do, So Little Time, (II) Death by Comparison, (III) What I Can’t Control Controls Me, (IV) It’s Hard Being Me, (V) The Mission of Me, (VI) Overwhelmed by God.

Every chapter in this book ends with a “Thought to Ponder” page which is a good, insightful review of the highlights that the author talks about in each chapter.

Readers can appreciate this open view into the author’s life. Through sharing her story, DiMarco shows that you too can “discover the depths and heights of God’s love and power” and “hold onto faith even when it seems that all is lost.”

This book deserves a solid, four-star rating!

*Litfuse Publicity Group provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life. My opinions in this book review are my own.

Hayley DiMarco's "A Woman Overwhelmed" $75 Giveaway

"A woman overwhelmed" is this a phrase you can relate to? If you answered yes, you need to read Hayley DiMarco's new book, A Woman Overwhelmed. The best-selling author shares biblical insights and personal stories to offer a glimpse at the comedy of an overwhelmed life while encouraging us to discover the depths and heights of God's love and power. Choose to bask in the abundance of the Father instead of the abundance of life as his unfathomable depths can surely replace our fathomable messes.

Become a woman less overwhelmed by life and more overwhelmed by God and enter to win Hayley's $75 Merry Maids Visa Card Giveaway to help lessen your daily load.

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Woman Overwhelmed
  • A $75 Merry Maids Visa Cash Card
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 3. The winner will be announced November 6 on the Litfuse blog.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Interview with Sarah Monzon, author of "The Esther Paradigm"

Join me in welcoming Sarah Monzon to the blog and wish her a "Happy BOOK birthday"!

Sarah's new book, The Esther Paradigm, releases today! Therefore she's celebrating what authors call a "book birthday". Feel free to wish her a "happy BOOK birthday" in the comment section below.

But before you share your birthday wishes with Sarah, please take time to read what she has to say today in my interview about her new novel. 

She's also giving away one digital copy of her book, so remember to enter the book giveaway contest on the Rafflecopter widget toward the end of this blog post.


Interview with Sarah Monzon, author of The Esther Paradigm:

Alexis: Why do you call this book, "The Esther Paradigm"? Explain the significance.

Sarah: Partway through the book the main character, Hannah Pratt, discovers that her perspective, her paradigm, changes to resemble Esther from the Bible.

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Sarah: The idea of it just entered my head one day, took hold, and wouldn’t let go until I got it written.

Alexis: Describe the research that went into writing this book.

Sarah: I researched everything. Location/geography/setting, culture, food, language, religion, lodging, customs, clothing. I had no less than a dozen tabs open at all times to refer to and look more things up. I also watch a documentary series on Netflix and checked out a few books at my local library.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Hannah Pratt. Describe her looks, personality, and outlook on life. What makes Hannah well…Hannah?

Sarah: She’s fair skinned, blond, blue eyes—basically the exact opposite of how everyone else in the region (Middle East) would look. She is very respectful of diversity, caring, and vibrant. A little insecure, she often falls into the pit of comparison and finds herself coming up short in her own mind.

Alexis: Why does Hannah want to start a school for the Bedouin clan that she grew up with when she was a missionary kid?

Sarah: She has a passion in her heart for the people, who she considers her family, and their children.

Alexis: Describe the battle that Hannah is in the middle of and share how her faith in God helps her in this situation. What is the mission that she believes God has called her to fulfill?

Sarah: Hannah and her parents are blamed when a mysterious illness sweeps through the clan’s flocks. The situation becomes heated, but Hannah knows she is where God wants her.

Alexis: Karim Al-Amir is a sheikh who is the hero of this story. Describe his looks, personality, and life goals.

Sarah: Black, slightly-curly hair, dark-brown eyes, and a trimmed beard. He is quiet, observant, and responsible. He wants to preserve the ways of his people and the traditional way in which they’ve lived for hundreds of years.

Alexis: What were Karim’s first thoughts when he met Hannah? How does that affect their relationship?

Sarah: Karim and Hannah met as children. He was instantly mesmerized by her blue eyes and golden hair. He’d never seen another person who looked like her before.

Alexis: Why does Karim want to marry Hannah? Does she want to marry him? Explain.

Sarah: He marries her to keep her and her parents safe. The protection of his name and position.

Alexis: Where is the setting for this story? Why did you choose it and how did you make it true to real life?

Sarah: Somewhere in the Middle East. Because the main character is a missionary serving in a country where Christianity is illegal, it would be unwise for her to ever say exactly where she is. However, she serves in the 10/40 Window, the geographical location ten to forty degrees north of the equator where the majority of the world’s “unreached” live.

Alexis: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story? Explain.

Sarah: Finding a balance. I know there are things in the book that might make some people uncomfortable. The hero is Muslim and to be genuine and authentic to his character, there are Islamic layers to the story. I had to find the balance of keeping that authenticity to the culture while not alienating my audience.

Alexis: What lesson do you want to teach your readers with this book? Why?

Sarah: I never go into writing a book looking to teach readers a lesson. I hope the story is entertaining, relatable, gives hope, etc., but never with an agenda. However, if the Holy Spirit uses the words I wrote to gently move a reader, I praise God for that.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Sarah! Do you have any closing comments?

Sarah: Thank you so much for having me. It was truly a pleasure.

Author Bio: 

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain's wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn't enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters.

When she isn't in the world of make-believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

Blurb for The Esther ParadigmHannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. 

She must decide to what lengths she'll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything. 

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows. 

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?

Connect with Sarah: 

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Devotional by Laura Thomas on dolphins and God's Love for your life

Loved Into Life
A devotional by Laura Thomas

Playing with dolphins has never actually been on my bucket list, but when the opportunity presented itself in Jamaica, my family jumped at the chance. Quite honestly, I was somewhat petrified and even had nightmares leading up to the event. Yes, totally irrational nightmares—where a deranged dolphin dragged me to the depths of the ocean. I know, dolphins are just SO terrifying!

But when crunch time came, the experience was, in fact, magnificent. The dolphin, named Beta, felt as smooth as silk, was tremendously playful, and had absolutely no desire to drown me! We swam and danced together...I even kissed her.

Laura's son kissing a dolphin in the Jamaica blue waters

Our entertaining Jamaican “dolphin dude” regaled us with a plethora of facts about this gorgeous creature and one in particular stuck with me. He asked if any of us in the group were currently pregnant. I had a nasty flashback of morning sickness just thinking about it! He then went on to explain that a dolphin could actually detect pregnancy through the water, due to its powerful sonar abilities. How utterly amazing is that? 

“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…” 
~Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

My mind was immediately drawn to Psalm 139. The Creator and Sustainer of life itself wove ME together in “the depths of the earth”. I am no accident and neither are you. We were perfectly formed by One who makes no mistakes.

If God created a dolphin that could sense new life, how much more does He Himself know when one is formed?

If there is ever any doubt of the significance of our existence on this crazy, spinning planet—we need only turn to Psalm 139. It’s hand down (or hands up) one of my favorite passages of Scripture, rich with words of love and affirmation.

It assures us that a baby does not merely begin at birth, furiously sucking in its first gulp of fresh air. God the Creator beautifully and miraculously knits his created little one together in the womb, precious to Him even then. When a baby is born, he is already loved by the Father. He is loved into life. 

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.”
~Psalm 139:16 (The Message)

Let’s back up and read that again: “The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” Each and every life is highly valued by the Creator of the Universe. We are loved and worthy, even on the days we don’t feel like it. Even on the days that the world tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough.

You know who is enough? Jesus. And we find our “enough” only in him. Just as we are part of God’s plan, so was Jesus—His sacrifice on the cross was the stunning masterpiece of the Father’s plan. It cost Him greatly, but He did it for us.

Surely, this should shake us and cause us to feel loved even more deeply by our Heavenly Father. Do you need reminding that you are His beloved child? That He made you in “the secret place”? I invite you to read Psalm 139 slowly and prayerfully as you drink in the miraculous beauty of His love for you.

Whenever I see a picture of a dolphin, I remember Beta in Jamaica, and I marvel at the intricacies of creation. I was fairly in awe that day when we swam with her, and some fabulous memories were made. But that experience pales in comparison to the fact that our lives are prepared in the secret place by One who loves us more than we can possibly imagine, and that we were quite literally loved into life!

Author Bio: 
Laura is a published Christian author with a heart for inspiring and encouraging readers of all ages. 

She is truly multi-genre—with a published Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, children’s stories, devotionals for Union Gospel Press, musings on her blog, and she now has a literary agent representing her Christian romantic suspense novel.

Laura is English and Canadian, married to her high school sweetheart, mom of three, passionate about faith and family…and chocolate!

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Review of a FREE 31-Day Online Bible Study on the Book of Ephesians

My Review of “Worthy of the Calling: A Free 31-Day Online Bible Study with Sarah Koontz”

I love digging deep into God’s Word and “Worthy of the Calling: A Free 31-Day Online Bible Study with Sarah Koontz” was the perfect way to study the Bible book of Ephesians!

Originally, I learned about this Bible study when a friend reached out to me about the author needing readers to join her launch team.

I looked up Sarah’s invite, saw the title for her Bible study and was intrigued. I decided to join her team then and there because I believed that the message was worth my time.

When I sat down to read this Bible study on the book of Ephesians, I felt calm and relaxed. As I kept turning the pages, I felt like I was growing closer to God’s Message.

The author dives deep into God’s Word. She teaches the reader to embrace their God-given destiny, to talk to Him about anything and everything, to share your heart about what God’s done for you and most importantly to believe that you are worthy of the calling He’s placed on your life. Sarah reminds us throughout her study that we are adopted sons and daughters of God. We are His Heir through His Son Jesus Christ. We are His family. It’s wonderful to be reminded in a world that’s obsessed with royalty that we—no matter what our station in life—are adopted into God’s Heavenly Family, which is better than earthly royalty. As God’s children, our royal titles don’t end when we die; they carry on forever because faithful Christ-followers are promised to a life after death, one where they live in God’s Presence for eternity.

Sarah’s study is divided into 31 Days. Each day brings a new message from her heart inspired by God. She uses Day 1 to teach you your identity and privilege as a “faithful saint” and on Day 2, she reminds you that you’re “Chosen by God”. As the days progress, her message goes deeper into God’s Word and exhorts you to not only realize that you are “Worthy of the Calling” but you have a responsibility to share God’s Message with the world.

Beautiful, colorful, and insightful memes decorate every page of this study. The pictures are captivating and the words on it are a call-to-action. The author doesn’t shy away from challenging the reader to see life through a faith-filtered lens.

The reader can tell that the author did her homework before writing this study. Her message is theologically sound and supported by Bible verses. She doesn’t write in paragraphs; she breaks her message down in blocks of two to three sentences on every page throughout this study. It’s a great marketing strategy that’s easy on the eyes.

One of the most memorable sentences in her study is this: “Prayer gives us access to spiritual nourishment—enabling us to battle and behave like believers. But we must shape our prayers in a way that pushes beyond the physical and into the spiritual” (page 16).

I like how the author reminds us that our enemy is NOT humankind; it’s the devil. Because we cannot see the spiritual realm when things happen that upset us and it looks like a person is to blame, more than often it is the evil spiritual force behind that person that is to blame because as the Bible says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Overall, this is a thought-provoking, soul-stirring, mind-uplifting study that will impact your life for the better. I’d give it a five-star rating if it were a book being sold on But I don’t have to do that because out of this goodness of her heart, the author is giving this Bible study to readers for free!

Sign up for Sarah's free Bible study here,

*Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring, founder of "God is Love" (blog)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall into Love: Melanie's story

When Hearts Connect
A Falling in Love story by Melanie D. Snitker

It amazes me how imaginative God is, and how He exceeds our expectations. This is especially true when it comes to answering our prayers.

Growing up, I hoped to eventually get married and have a family. When I went to college, I put all my efforts into my classes. But in the back of my mind, I wondered when I’d meet “the one” guy I’d eventually marry. I prayed God would help bring us together, and that He’d give us the wisdom we needed when He did. I sometimes wondered if I’d meet that guy in a class. Or maybe in the cafĂ© when I stopped to grab a muffin for breakfast.

As it turned out, I did meet the man who would eventually become my best friend, my soulmate, and my husband. It was even during my college years, but not quite the way I expected.

October 27 of this year marked the twentieth anniversary since the day Doug and I first spoke—by e-mail. At the time, he lived in Texas, and I lived in Oregon.

Our moms were e-mail friends and discovered they both had kids in college the same age. It wasn’t long after that when I received a message from him. He introduced himself, and our friendship took off from there. We e-mailed and instant messaged back and forth for over a year and a half. During that time, we became best friends and talked about nearly everything.

In July of 1999, our families decided that we should all meet up. We chose a place in Arizona and went on a camping trip. I can still remember the jumble of nerves and anticipation at the idea of finally getting to speak to Doug face-to-face. Would we still get along? Would we be friends like we were online, or find out we didn’t have nearly as much in common as we thought we did?

To our amazement, there were no awkward moments. We didn’t have to spend time getting to know each other. It was as though we’d been sitting in the same room talking for a year and a half instead of sending e-mails and instant messages back and forth.

Before going to Arizona, I was pretty sure I was already in love with him. But sitting there by the campfire, content just to be in the same space together, I knew he was “the one” for me.

I married my best friend on June 9, 2000. Since then, we’ve had over seventeen years of adventure. We’ve faced life’s challenges together and came out stronger on the other side. Looking back, I recognize all the little things that fell into place. If even one of those hadn’t happened, I may have never met my husband. Praise God He can look at our lives and see the big picture.

Author Bio: 

Melanie D. Snitker has enjoyed writing for as long as she can remember. She weaves together faith, love, and family to create memorable stories with a happily-ever-after. 

She and her husband live in Texas with their two children who keep their lives full of adventure, and two dogs who add a dash of mischief to the family dynamics. 

In her spare time, Melanie enjoys photography, reading, crochet, baking, and hanging out with family and friends. 

Book Blurb for Calming the Storm

A marriage of convenience isn't exactly what she had in mind. 

After a rocky start, Rachel Peters finally has her life on track. Then a tragic accident takes away her sister and leaves her to raise her niece, Kendra, alone. About to lose custody of her last blood relative, Rachel is desperate to prove she can adequately care for her niece. On the verge of running away to keep Kendra, a new friend offers Rachel an opportunity she can't refuse.

Brandon Barlow has long admired Rachel. When her world begins to fall apart, he feels led to help. A marriage of convenience would enable him to provide Rachel and Kendra with a stable place to live, proper health insurance, and a viable shot at staying together. Once Rachel gained full custody of her niece, the marriage could be annulled.

His plan provides the perfect solution, until Brandon realizes he's fallen in love with Rachel. Through love and patience, can he help Rachel realize that, even when she experiences storms in her life, she's never alone?

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