Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: On Love


God is Love

A devotional by Christa MacDonald


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

It’s February and by now you’re probably a little sick of love. Valentine’s Day with its pink and red excess means an onslaught of bad takes on love. When you read the above verses, you get the BIble’s take on love, and it’s the best one.

Another solid take is “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis. One of my favorite quotes from it is, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” The entire passage is wonderful, but that first line has some deep wisdom in it. Love is by nature, sacrificial. It’s also sacred.

Our culture talks a lot about love, but it tends to be the sort that’s a pale imitation of the real thing. It’s sugar-coated and dishonest. Think about that line from the movie Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Right. That’s not how it works. We’re humans and therefore sinners. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to hurt each other. The very act of loving someone guarantees you will experience pain at some point.

When someone hurts you, really breaks your heart, the temptation is to hold onto that pain. We tend to revisit old wounds, proudly bearing our scars as if they are badges of courage. They make us tougher and they make our hearts harder. Resentment and bitterness slip in while we’re not paying attention and, before we know it, love is impossible.

God perfectly loves us. We, in turn, start sinning against Him from nearly the moment we are born. If He can offer us forgiveness in the depth of our sin, how can we withhold it from someone we love?

Forgiveness drives out bitterness. They can’t occupy the same space. But, what if the person who hurt you is unrepentant? Forgive them. What if they do it again? Forgive them. That doesn’t mean that you stand still while they pummel you. It’s right and good to create safe distance between yourself and someone hurting you, emotionally or otherwise. But forgiveness sets you free.

Someone I once loved hurt me profoundly. It took years to let go of those scars. Part of the process was acknowledging the pain, believing that what had happened to me was wrong and that while what I was feeling was only natural, it needed to end. I thought of how God loves us, the mountains of sins He forgives. This person never asked for my forgiveness, never acknowledged their harm, but it didn’t matter. As God forgave me…It took time, but I was finally able to forgive the past and let it go. The scars are probably still there, but they’re a reminder, a caution, not a pool of resentment and bitterness that I draw on.

The world will tell you to hold onto your pain, to let love be a shallow, temporary thing. Remember what The Holy Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and what love really is...After all, God is love.

~*~
Author Bio:
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.

A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world; love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.

She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Queen Esther, prayer and the power of fasting


For Such a Time as This
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

The book of Esther is a dramatic account that can give us insight into God’s special and purposeful plan for our lives. He didn’t create ‘junk’ when He created you and He wants you to succeed. Take a look at the life of Esther.

Esther is a young and beautiful Jewish woman living in Persia and reared by her cousin, Mordecai. Because of her beauty, she was taken to the King of Persia to become part of his harem. He saw something special in Esther and took a liking to her and made her Queen. However, he didn’t know her Jewish heritage.

Haman is the scoundrel of the story. He is a vengeful and egotistical advisor to the King. Haman tells the King that the Jewish people have different customs and do not obey the King’s laws. The King authorizes Haman to handle the fate of these people. Haman announces a government issue edict of genocide.

What can Queen Esther do for her people? The King hadn’t requested her presence in a month. Mordecai persuaded her to speak to the King on behalf of the Jewish people reminding her of her unique place in history and that silence is not an option. Let's read what 
Mordecai told Esther in the Book of Esther, Chapter 4 and verse 14 (KJV):

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed, and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

Esther knew that going to the King unsolicited could be her death sentence. So, what does she do? She calls for the Jewish people to join her on a three day fast. Following the fast, she dresses to the nines, approaches the King, and tells him of Haman’s plot against the people. The Jews are saved, Haman is hanged on the same gallows he’d prepared for Mordecai, and Esther receives Haman’s estate.

There are six lessons to be learned from the Book of Esther:


Lesson #1: God has a plan for our lives. We may not be called as Esther to assist in the delivery of God’s divine plan to save a nation, but we may be called upon to witness to someone in need. Don’t despise small beginnings. Zechariah 4:10 (KJV) says, “For who hath despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven, they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

Lesson #2: We are given divine moments to alter circumstances. As believers, there are no such things as accidents or coincidences. God’s timing is providential. Esther’s divine moment of providence came by accepting her responsibility, to go to the King. God will use you only if you’re ready, or He will find someone else. Psalm 37:23 (KJV) says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way.”

Lesson #3: We must stand with courage. There are many modern-day martyrs The Columbine massacre comes to mind. Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall were reported to have professed their faith in God, refusing to deny their beliefs. Valeen Schnurr also held fast to her faith and survived the ordeal. Pastors around the world are imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Christ. Pastor Andrew Brunson was released from a Turkish prison. And of course, there was Queen Esther. Read about how she survived and saved the Jews in Esther 4:16 (KJV) says, “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I go into the King, which is not according to the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Lesson #4: Fasting and prayer bring clarity and hope for deliverance. God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther even once. But Esther was clear that in this situation, a Heavenly response was needed for an earthly situation. She needed direction. When we need God’s grace, fasting and prayer opens the portals for spiritual growth, removes distractions and places us on a path to humility. Fasting does open Heaven’s gates. There are moments in our lives when a situation calls for a solemn fast. Joel 1:14 (KJV) says, “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord, your God, and cry unto the Lord.”

Lesson #5: God demands obedience. Esther’s obedience saved God’s people from genocide. She acted in obedience and by doing so she saved a nation and received the best. We don’t get a pass on this one. God’s Word is pretty clear about where He stands on obedience. 1 Samuel 15:22 (KJV) says, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

Lesson #6: God uses everything and everybody for His divine purpose. No part of our lives is untouched. God is in control of every aspect, whether we want him to be or not, and there is nothing that is not subject to him. Hebrews 2:8 (KJV) says, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.”

We may not be called upon to save a people but God has chosen a plan for each of us. Something that only we are capable of doing. When we feel totally unqualified for service, it is probably the best time for God to elevate you.

I pray for the courage that Esther had, I’m sure she was afraid to boldly go to the King, but obedience to God and loyalty to her people shoved her fear behind her as she took a leap of faith.

Let us listen for God’s direction and be obedient to follow where He leads.

~*~
Author Bio:

Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress NewsFamily Times E-ZineFree Verse and the Commonwealth of Poetry

She belongs to RWA, ACFW, and Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild where she’s enrolled in his novel writing program.

Nanci lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and cats, Romeo and Juliette, along with their newest member of the family, Roni, a seven-month-old Goldendoodle.

Recently, Nanci completed her debut novel, A Betrayal in Cross Keys. It is an Amish romance and has placed it in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Valentine's Day, picnics in the rain and life lessons


The Day After Valentine’s Day
A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

You know you’re young and in love when you go on a picnic in the rain. My husband-to-be and I did that on our first Valentine’s Day together.

We’d been dating for about two months and nothing could stop us from enjoying time together on that special day. We looked up at the ominous clouds, shrugged, and spread the blanket on the lush grass in Will Rodgers State Park, a beautiful spot near the Pacific Ocean.

The first raindrops sprinkled halfway through the afternoon. Big and round, they were few and far between. We nibbled away at our thick deli sandwiches, exchanged mushy cards, and savored being in love—until the clouds let loose with a deluge. That did it! Happy and laughing, we gathered our things and ran for the car. But even then we didn’t care about getting wet.

We were brand new Christians at the time—in love with each other and in love with God. Our faith was in the honeymoon phase, where dreams are born and newness abounds in the fresh wash of God’s forgiveness. In those first heady days of faith, we trusted God without question and loved both God and each other without condition.

That rainy day picnic was many years ago, but it still stands out in my mind as a picture of love in the face of difficulty. My husband and I have been married many years now, and speaking figuratively, we’ve been on a lot of picnics that were washed out by rain. Through it all, we’ve hung on to God and to each other.

Nothing—not even an epic storm—could separate my future husband and me that day. And nothing—read that list in Romans 8:38-39—can separate us from God’s love for us.

It’s pure joy to worship the God who stays with us in the rain. I want to be that kind of wife, mother, and friend. I can’t do it in my own strength. My humanity leaks all over the place when I’m uncomfortable with situations or other people, but by the grace of God, I can love others because God first loved me.

It’s amazing to realize that God called each one of us into fellowship with Him—that He chose us to love and be loved, and to share that love with others.

We give chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s day. The chocolates are eaten and enjoyed; the flowers bring beauty to homes and hearts. Those gifts are meaningful because of the love behind them, but nothing compares to the generous love of the greatest giver of all.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving me just as I am!

~*~
Author Bio:

Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.


Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. 

Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate.

~*~
Connect with Victoria:
Website: https://www.victoriabylin.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Victoria.Bylin.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VictoriaBylin

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When Love Inspires: Kristen Ethridge's story


When Love Inspires: Kristen Ethridge's story

I’m so excited to be here today talking about what inspires me to write sweet romance stories. It’s a great month to be talking about the stories we love and books that leave us with a smile on our faces.

It wasn’t hard for me to narrow down my "why" for writing this kind of story. In fact, I can sum it up in three little words:

Hope.

Heart.

Happily-Ever-After.

Those three words are what I consistently use to describe my author brand to readers who have never picked up one of my stories. They are my promise to readers that when they pick up a Kristen Ethridge book, they’re going to get a story that’s uplifting, is centered on the emotional journey, and will always deliver on the promise of true love.

I write Sweet Escape Romance and for me, it’s a privilege to provide those moments in the day where readers can get swept away. I’m a mom of three. Sometimes, I just want a few minutes to myself. Sometimes, I have a few minutes to wait during a dance rehearsal or in the school pick-up line when I get there early (Okay…early? Who am I kidding? I just said I had three kids!) Sometimes, life is tough and I need a smile. (Did you know I wrote my Hurricane Hope series based on my own experience of going through a hurricane?) Sometimes, I just like to stay up past my bedtime and make new friends with interesting characters.

In short…I write stories for the same reasons I love to read them. I write stories I want to read. I write stories I want to share. I write stories I want YOU to share. That’s why I write sweet romances with a kiss of real-life faith—because I want you to be able to spread the word of hope, heart, and happily-ever-after with your friends, your daughters, your mothers, your sisters, your co-workers, and other readers you happen to know. For me, it’s a privilege to touch hearts and make people smile with a story.

Sweet romance is all about the transformative power of true love. And Valentine’s Day is the perfect time of year to celebrate that. In fact, I have launched the Holiday Hearts series this year to spread stories of finding love on the most special days of the year all year long. Think of it like your favorite Hallmark movies—just not for Christmas anymore!

So now you know why I write—and read—sweet romance. 


What about you? What do you think about the idea of hope, heart, and happily-ever-after?

~*~
Author Bio:
Kristen Ethridge writes Sweet Escape Romance — stories with hope, heart, and happily-ever-after — for Harlequin's Love Inspired line, Hallmark Publishing, and Laurel Lock Publishing. 

She's a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award nominee and both an Amazon Christian Fiction and Inspirational Romance #1 Best-Selling Author.

You can find Kristen in her native habitat 
— a Texas patio — where she's likely to be savoring the joy of a crispy taco, along with a glass of iced tea and scents from her essential oil diffuser. She's almost convinced her family that it's normal to talk to imaginary people, as long it goes in a book.

Find her online at www.kristenethridge.com where you can get a free story for signing up for her newsletter.

~*~
Blurb for Kristen's book, Dance with Me, Valentine:

SHE’S CREATED A LIFE THAT BLOCKS OUT THE PAST. HE’S SEARCHING FOR FORGIVENESS. CAN A SEASON OF LOVE BRING THEM A FRESH START?


Clair Bell has struggled to put the past behind her since her boyfriend left without a trace years ago. She's built a life around helping others as the director of the Port Provident Retirement Community.

Rob Landers knows it’s time to make amends. He left in the middle of the night years ago, and although he knew his reason for ghosting out of Port Provident was literally life-or-death, no one else knows the truth. When a popular online game gives him a chance to return to his hometown, he decides to make peace with his past.

As the annual retirement prom approaches on Valentine's Day, Clair is shocked to find that one of her residents has invited a date that she met while playing an online game. But when that date happens to be the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Clair knows she can either use this moment to clear all the what-ifs and move forward in her life
 — or be dragged down by the clinical depression which has held her for years. 

Can two people who have faced life's storms in their own way come back together for forgiveness and a chance at true love once again? 

Buy Dance with Me, Valentine today and start the latest series set in Port Provident — it's filled with swoon-worthy stories about finding love on the most special days of the year.
Website: www.kristenethridge.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:

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Devotional: YOU are Always Welcome


Always Welcome
A devotional by Alexis A. Goring

Have you ever been scared of wearing out your welcome?

I’ve been there.

God has blessed me with wonderful friends and family who care about me and want to be there for me. However, I am scared to “wear out my welcome” with these people—as wonderful as they may be—so I keep most of my issues to myself. But lately, God’s impressed this devotional thought on my heart—that with Him, I am always welcome.

Neither you nor I can wear out our welcome when we go to God. He created you so He cares about everything that happens to you…everything.

I thank God for the wonderful people He’s placed in my life who are open to being there for me. My brother has said it’s never too late to call him. My Mom is always there for me even if some of my issues are on repeat. One of my dear friends who is a prayer warrior said I can text her anytime and one of my church friends told me that it’s never TMI because they love me and want to support me.

But still, I realize that they’re human as I am and we as humans can get weary of trying to help someone work through their issues. So I never tell them everything which is wise because the only person who will never fail you is God.

However, I do realize that having my walls up high keeps out hurt but also keeps out love (as a life coach advised me). So I’m working on trying to be more open with the people in my life who care about me. I realized years ago that I’ll never know who can be there for me if I never give them a chance to be there for me.

Most importantly, I realize that God, our Heavenly Father, cares about each and every one of His creation. He loves you and me with a fierce passion and He has endless resources and ways to help us with anything that we may face in this life here on Earth.

Best of all, God is available 24/7/365 for all of eternity. He never sleeps! He’s always awake and working to make all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). And He’s patient with those who do not love Him or know Him because He wants us ALL to be saved!

So, I’d like to encourage you today to yes, go to the people in your life who care about you and can help you with whatever you’re facing but first and foremost, go to God. Ask Him to help you and ask Him to place the people in your life who He wants to help you.

And never, ever, think that God gets tired of your prayers! No! Pray to Him about everything—your joys, your fears, your hopes, your dreams and yes, your problems! Pray to Him any time of the day or night! He’s always available and ready to help you. Best of all, you can never wear our your welcome because with God you are always welcome.

God bless you, my dear friends.

Love,

Alexis A. Goring
Founder of “God is Love” blog

When Love Inspires: Regina's story


When Love Inspires: Regina's story

There are so many ways that an author is inspired to write a book, or to start writing in general.

For me? It was fanfiction. Yes, the television aficionado that I am chose fanfiction to quell the longing for the continuation of a show that only lasted four seasons.

Based on a true story, “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye” features Sue, an FBI analyst who is deaf, but reads lips with amazing skill. When this is discovered, she is placed within a surveillance unit. Look up the real Sue Thomas. She’s a fascinating lady! Ice skater, FBI analyst, missionary – she’s a wonder.

After I binge-watched the whole show, my sister clued me in on the whole “fanfiction” realm on the Internet! When I found RomanceFanfiction.com (alas, it no longer exists!), I found my home. I found a group of writers that wrote from a Christian world-view, and they continued the stories of Sue, Jack, and all the others, many stories taking up where the show left off, adding more cases and the fictional romance angle that we all wanted between Jack and Sue, but was never explored to our satisfaction.

After writing several novella-length stories for this site (we’re talking 40,000-word stories, here) and winning a few fan-picked awards for online contests on the site, I found myself in contact with other writers on the site who were using fanfiction as a proving ground for their own writing skills. I was writing for fun, but these ladies invited me to join their forum, where we could encourage one another on the road to publication.

It was during this time that I had a dream. You know, one of those dreams that just won’t go away? This dream was the inspiration for my first novel, Carolina Dream. All it took was a dream and a “what if” session with pen and paper, and it began. It was an eight-year journey of inspiration, excitement, disappointment, surprise, and finally, publication.

When book one was published, I knew I had to continue the story, so that story became the inspiration for book two, Carolina Mercy, and then book three, Carolina Grace, which released last week. I’m currently working on a novella that will be connected to the Southern Breeze Series, releasing this fall. It will be part of a collection of four stories that take place on the Eastern seaboard with a group of authors from Mantle Rock Publishing.

But the initial inspiration to write? A television show that honored God and formed a community of writers willing to reach out and encourage others.

Let your inspiration do the same. Encourage, love, and assist others in your area of creativity. Tina, Lorna, Marlene, Kimberly, Kav, and Sue did just that for me.

~*~
Author Bio: 

Regina Rudd Merrick began reading romance and thinking of book ideas as early as her teenage years when she attempted a happily-ever-after sequel to “Gone With the Wind.” 

That love of fiction parlayed into a career as a librarian, and finally to writing full-time. She began attending local writing workshops and continued to hone her craft by writing several short and novel-length fan-fiction pieces published online, where she met other authors with a similar love for story, a Christian worldview, and happily-ever-after. 

Married for 30+ years and active in their church in Marion, KY, Regina and her husband have two grown daughters who share her love of music, writing, and the arts. 

She is the author of three books: Carolina Dream (Apr. 2017), Carolina Mercy (July 2018), and Carolina Grace (Feb. 2019), in the Southern Breeze Series.

~*~
Blurb for Regina's book, Carolina Grace:

She knows about God’s grace for her life, but pushes it away. He hasn’t experienced it, but finds grace in a way he never expected.


First-year Special Education teacher Charly Livingston demonstrates God’s love on the outside, but is resentful that God allowed back-to-back tragedies to happen to her family.

Rance Beaumont is a top-notch medical intern. He’s on his way to the top, and when he meets Charly, he knows things can only get better. When he discovers family secrets and a dying father he never knew, his easy life seems to disintegrate.

Even in the idyllic ocean breezes and South Carolina sunshine, contentment can quickly turn to bitterness and confusion except for God’s amazing grace.

~*~
Connect with Regina:
Facebook Author Page
Twitter: https://twitter.com/trmerrick64
Website: https://www.reginaruddmerrick.com 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rmerrick/
Publisher's Website: https://mantlerockpublishing.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reginamerrick/

~*~
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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Devotionals for the Heart: God's Grace


Freedom Under Grace

A devotional by Sharon Musgrove


“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” –Romans 6:14 (ESV)

Have you ever found yourself in a pickle where you said you’d do something and then either struggled to follow through or realized you couldn’t do what you said?

If you're anything like me, you probably speak some pretty negative things over yourself and put a lot of energy into worrying over disappointing others.

Occasionally, I know at the onset that I’m getting in over my head, and I kick myself over the promise. Other times, I am taken by surprise at the inability to follow through. Either way, grace seems a long way off and my faults appear to have complete dominion.

There was a time I entered into a written contract with someone I was close too. This contract required the other party to perform specific actions to receive my financial deposits to a third party account. I was completely satisfied with the agreement until it became obvious that my friend was not and could not keep up his end of the contract. Because of the third party involvement, I had begun making payments. I felt frustration and disappointment that my friend was not being forthcoming and honest with me about his lack of action.

As time passed, my feelings morphed into resentment and anger. Eventually, I chose to address my friend, acknowledging my disappointment that the contract was broken, but disclosing that our relationship was my priority. It was an uncomfortable conversation but thankfully, we parted with our love for each other intact.

I thought about my relationship with God in this exchange, primarily, because God has prioritized our relationship. The Bible says a lot about how to live under a contract. Both the Old Testament and New Testaments are consistent in telling us to keep our promises. I tried to equate my contract experience with the grace and forgiveness of God, but the analogy didn’t fit. Grace is not a contract. God is not looking to me to fulfill my end of a contract so that He will payout in freedom. His intent is much greater than a common exchange.

God has established a covenant with his children, not a contract. A covenant differs from a contract by stating a one-sided guarantee or promise rather than a legally binding, two-sided, mutually beneficial agreement. God is completely aware that I am incapable of living rightly, therefore He initiated a covenant. God has guaranteed love. He has made good on this promise by showing me I am how valuable I am. He provided the way I can maintain a relationship with Him despite human fragilities and my tendency to offend Him. Through Jesus Christ, He paid my debt, and if that’s not enough, He added a Holy Spirit deposit on my future! Wow!

The same God who has achieved all this does not tire of teaching generation after generation. He repeats Himself to a woman like me! He uses these everyday experiences and my desire to “get it” as my classroom for scripture like Romans 6:14. With God, I am not under a contract or law, I am under a covenant with a guarantee of grace! Therefore, my inability to follow through on what I said I would do does not hold any clout over me. There is no room for shaming self-talk! I'm free and forgiven!

Grateful does not seem adequate a word to apply to a newfound understanding of freedom under grace, but oh how grateful I am! I'm grateful that the relationship, with my friend who was unable to fulfill the contract, was preserved. I’m even grateful for the experience of the broken contract. It's a lesson that motivates my desire to offer more grace!

How about you?

~*~
Author Bio:
Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior. 

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

When Love Inspires: Karin's story


When Love Inspires: Karin's story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve sought out love stories. Even when I was too young to read them, they were my favorites. Mary Anne was my favorite babysitter because she had Logan. Nancy had Ned. And I preferred Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s high school adventures because they could date and occasionally had boyfriends.

By the time I’d read all of the Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, and Sweet Valley High books, I faced a dilemma—finding love stories appropriate for a teenaged girl. Growing up in a small town, my library provided limited options: the classics, Christian fiction, and Harlequin romances.

At fourteen years old, I didn’t particularly care for the classics. I tried though! I picked up Pride and Prejudice three times; I never made it past the second chapter. Christian fiction was okay, but my library only had Jeanette Oke and Lori Wick’s prairie romances. I read them, but I couldn’t relate to them. I wanted more exciting settings and situations. I was too embarrassed to check out a Harlequin romance (and I don’t think the librarian would have let me borrow one anyway), but a classmate’s mom had a collection that she let me borrow. Oh. My. I did not need that much detail.

I didn’t connect well with any of my options, but they were all I had. As I grew up, the Christian market expanded to include a variety of genres, but I always had to make the same decision when it came to reading: Victorian language and setting, a sermon, or sex. None of those appealed to me. I wanted the sweet romances of Mary Anne and Logan or Nancy and Ned. I wanted clean, contemporary romances that made me sigh, not blush. With limited options, I eventually settled on Christian romance.

When I started writing, it seemed natural to write Christian romance—I read them, and my faith is the most important aspect of my life. It took three manuscripts before I signed with an agent for my contemporary take on the historical concept of marriage-of-convenience. Publishers liked the story and my writing, but the Christian market wanted the story to be historical and the general market wanted less Christian content. I just wanted to write the types of books I had loved as a teen.

It didn’t take long for me to decide—I cut the Christian content. After making the changes I reread the manuscript and couldn’t believe it. I had produced a clean, contemporary romance that reflected my beliefs without preaching them! Without sex, swearing, or corsets, I’d created characters and a setting that produced the warm fuzzies I’d been looking for!

After that, I never looked back. I’m working on two clean, contemporary romances now with a third already planned out. Ideas are already swirling for more, but I need to finish these first.

It took several more years before a publisher printed my first book (ironically enough, the only other Christian manuscript I’ve pitched), but my next book—coming October 2019—will be my contemporary take on the marriage-of-convenience. I’m thrilled to be writing (and publishing!) those sweet stories I craved as a teen and still enjoy as an adult.

~*~
Author Bio: 

Karin Beery grew up in a small, rural Michigan town where she wrote her first novel in high school. 

She’s still writing today, telling contemporary stories with a healthy dose of romance.

When she’s not writing fiction, she’s editing or teaching it. And when she’s not doing that, she enjoys time at home with her husband and fur babies, once again living in a small, rural Michigan town.

~*~
Blurb for Karin’s book, Summer Plans and Other Disasters:

Elementary school music teacher Callie Stevens thinks she’s finally figured out God’s plan for her life—she even made a list to keep her on track. 


Moving in with her brother and reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend are at the top of the list. What ’s not on the list is running into her childhood crush, Ryan. God wanted her to connect with Kyle, right?

Trying to figure out God ’s plan is hard enough. But a dating-averse older brother, the young blonde who adores him, a pregnant best friend, and Callie ’s continual mishaps make her wonder whether her best-laid plans were truly God-inspired.

~*~
Connect with Karin:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkarinbeery
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/karinbeery
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karinbeery
Website (official): http://www.karinbeery.com
Group website: http://www.romancereaderscafe.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: 

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Monday, February 11, 2019

When Love Inspires: Gail's story


When Love Inspires: Gail's story

When asked what inspires me to write sweet romance stores, that was a complicated question. I have many reasons for writing what is termed as “sweet”, which in the total romance novel genre, means “no sex on the page." 
Taking that one step further, for me it doesn’t mean it’s okay behind closed doors. As a writer of Inspirational Romance, that means the hero and heroine do not indulge until after the wedding. Since the books usually end with the proposal, that means you won’t read that in my books.

My first goal is to show the world that love can be just that 
– love first, consummation later, when the love is established and solid. For me, that’s what romance is all about – building a relationship and companionship that will last a lifetime. That is a realistic and attainable goal. 

Another goal was that when my kids were small, word traveled that I wrote romance books. Not that I thought my sons (count ‘em, 3 boys) would read mommy’s romance novels, but they had friends who were girls, who could, not to mention other parents around the school. I wanted to write books that I would not be ashamed for my kids, and my kids’ friends, to read, or moreso, that even for the parents, who would usually read them first, there was nothing even PG-13. Just a wholesome and entertaining love story.

When I first started writing, I joined a local RWA writers’ group. One of the ladies who had published many novels with Harlequin told me that people she knew asked her if she actually did the things she wrote that her hero and heroines did. She was offended. At the time I thought, if you write material some people find offensive, and wasn’t offended to write it, she shouldn’t have been offended to be asked about it. I would never write something I would be ashamed for people to read, knowing it’s my real name on the cover.

In all my stories I want to portray the growth of a realistic and healthy relationship. Then, my goal is to make the story interesting, and bring a smile to those who read them. The smile is important. There is enough stress in real life, so I want to make my fiction an escape from stress.

I chose to feature an older novel, Vancouver, for this blog. This is a series of four short novels, each one a standalone, but best if read in order, together. 
My publisher put the four novels together to make Vancouver, which is best read in Kindle, because it’s a big book. 

I’ll never forget how excited I was when my editor emailed me the cover, which I was delighted to see was a skyline shot of the city of Vancouver. I’ve been to that same place many times, as that is where I live. The photo was taken from on the seawall walkway that circles Stanley Park, on the portion that faces downtown Vancouver. 

When the stories originally came out, three out of four of them were voted in the favorite top three Heartsong Presents novels of the year by the bookclub members when they first came out. Actually, three of them were released the same year, so it wasn’t likely that all three would be in the top three. But two were. With that kind of response from the book club, it seemed a natural choice to combine the series and re-release it to the general public.

~*~
Author Bio:


Gail Sattler lives in Vancouver BC Canada, where you don't have to shovel rain. 



When she's not madly writing (Gail Sattler has over 40 published novels and novellas, plus a few works of non-fiction) she plays bass for an Elton John tribute band as well as a community jazz band, plus she plays piano for a smaller private jazz band. 

When she's not writing or making music (or at her day job) Gail likes to sit back and read a book written by someone else, along with a good cup of hot coffee. 


~*~
Blurb for Gail's book, Vancouver (Romancing America):

What is the best thing about living in a beautiful, modern city--being surrounded by buildings, people, and activity? Or just getting away from it all? 


Meet four women who hold different views of life in Canada's jeweled city.... Roberta, desperate for some solitude in which to reevaluate her life, has left downtown and Gone Camping. But as a novice in the great outdoors, she finds herself depending on the local park ranger's assistance - again and again. If she can't be alone, how will she find true peace? 

Molly works in Vancouver's business district. On her new boss's first day she accidentally breaks his arm - and soon is caught up in rumors of a "tawdry affair." Can she save her job by keeping romance At Arm's Length? 

Gwen's summer job - helping to drive her uncle's semi trucks - takes her away from the city, across the Canadian border, and On the Road Again. Reluctant to be paired with a handsome codriver, can Gwen maintain a friendly distance until they get the job done and return home? 

Patricia, helping at her father's Vancouver church, hears My Name Is Mike whenever she takes a recovering alcoholic to his mandated meetings. Can she give him guidance toward a better life without entangling her heart? Laugh and cry with these resourceful Canadian women and watch how faith and love uphold them on the drifting currents of life.

~*~
Connect with Gail:
Website: www.gailsattler.com
Facebook personal page: https://www.facebook.com/gail.sattler.3
Facebook Author Page


~*~
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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Devotionals for the Heart: Football, Scripture and Our God-given job


Do Your Job

A devotional by Amanda Wen


Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” –John 21:22 (ESV)

Those of you who know me know how much I love football, especially my team, the New England Patriots. And I’m no bandwagon Pats fan, either; it’s in my DNA. My mom has rooted for the Patriots since the 1970s, and I’m told I watched (or, more accurately, slept through) my first Patriots game the night I was born. (They lost, something they did quite reliably back in those days). My husband and I bonded over our mutual love for the Pats—he’s a Boston native—and one of our first dates was to a Patriots game in Indianapolis. (They won that one).

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for telling his players, “Do your job.” It’s a simple mantra, but a profound—and obviously very effective—one. In any given play, there are a total of 22 guys on the field, each with a different assignment. With all the motion, noise and communication, it would be very easy for any individual player to get distracted, and many do. But Belichick coaches his players to not worry about what anyone else is doing, or supposed to be doing, just do what you’re supposed to be doing. If you’re supposed to cover the wide receiver, cover him. If your assignment is to block a player, block him. If you do your job, and the guy next to you does his job, so the theory goes, everyone’s jobs get done and the team is successful.

Believe it or not, this idea resonates with Scripture. After Jesus’ resurrection, when he reinstated Peter and prophesied both Peter’s key role in the church and his eventual martyrdom, the disciple’s response was not to ask for more details, but to ask, “Okay, so what about that guy?”

Let's read John 21:20-22 (ESV): Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them…and said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

In other words, “Don’t worry about him, Peter. It’s none of your business. Just do your job.”

In our age of social media, when we’re bombarded with images of everyone else’s highlight reels dozens of times every day, it’s so very, very easy to compare, and we Christians are not immune. We make think thoughts like these: Lord, why can’t I have a house like hers? Lord, why can’t my ministry impact as many people as hers does? Lord, why can’t my children behave as well as hers do?


I believe He’d say the same thing to us as He did to Peter. “If it’s My will that she have (fill in the blank), what is that to you? You follow me!”

Our job—our only job—is to follow Jesus. To lock in with laser focus to Him and what He is calling us to do. He has a unique role in His kingdom for each and every one of us. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are His workmanship, created to do good works He’s prepared for us in advance. 


In other words, God’s drawn up the game plan. He’s given us each an assignment. Worrying about what He’s assigned someone else to do is wasted energy, and it takes our focus off where it needs to be. Trust your Coach. Spend your time and energy on what He’s called you to do.

Go out there and do your job.

~*~
Author Bio:

Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of contemporary inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. 

A first place winner in the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, she also placed first in the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest, the 2017 Great Expectations Contest, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, among others. In addition, she was a finalist in the 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest.

Amanda is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She’s also been spotted onstage with the worship team at recent ACFW conferences. Amanda is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

In addition to her writing, Amanda maintains an active and rewarding career as a freelance cellist, frequently performing with symphony orchestras, string quartets, and her church’s worship team. She lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband and their three adorable and hilarious Wenlets.

~*~
Connect with Amanda:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoramandawen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authoramandawen
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authoramandawen
Website: www.amandawen.com

Sunday, February 10, 2019

When Love Inspires: Amanda Tru and her author friends (Part 2 of 2)


Note from Alexis: We're doing things a bit different in "When Love Inspires" for today (Feb. 10). As I said yesterday (Feb. 9), I'm hosting ALL of the six authors from their boxed set "Betwixt Two Hearts."
So in order to accommodate the authors and not give you information overload, I've divided this book promo feature into two parts (Part 1 = yesterday and Part 2 = today). Enjoy visiting with the boxed set coordinator Amanda Tru's author friends Cathe Swanson, Carol Moncado and Chautona Havig!


~*~
When Love Inspires: Cathe's story

I love writing sweet, clean romance novels because the world needs that kind of light-hearted, hopeful story. 


Christian romances aren’t just about a man and a woman who fall in love. The spiritual component of Christian marriage – and relationships of every kind – is often left out of contemporary love stories, but our faith adds a deeper dimension to our relationships.

I want to show the full, rich, beautiful love that can only be found when we love God first, more than we love the other person. That’s the only way to have a truly Happy Ever After.

--
Cathe's Author Bio:

Cathe Swanson, the author of the Great Lakes and Glory Quilts series, enjoys gardening, sewing, papercrafting, and kayaking on the beautiful Wisconsin rivers. 


She’s been teaching quiltmaking for over 25 years, focusing on retreat workshops, ministry events and bridal quilt bees, and is finally bringing that experience and enthusiasm to her newest series, The Glory Quilts.

--
Blurb for Cathe's novella, "The Swedehearts":

Eleanor Nielson always dreamed of following in her distinguished parents’ footsteps, becoming a teacher and living a life of selfless community service – until she tried it. Now, happily working at her uncle’s construction company, she’s finding fulfillment in her work and discovering a family heritage she never knew.


She can resist her parents’ pressure and manipulation from a hundred miles away, but she can’t skip their anniversary party. Eleanor isn’t interested in a relationship, but she doesn’t want to go to the party alone. Can a matchmaking agency find her a date who will impress her parents?

Like any good engineer, David Reid has his life all planned out. He’s finished college and established a career he enjoys. The next thing on his timeline is marriage and starting a family, but good wives are hard to find. He wants the right kind of woman – one who’s ready to start a family, who will share his faith and work at his side when he becomes a pastor. Someone he can trust. 

Like any good engineer, David turns the project over to experts: the Betwixt Two Hearts matchmaking agency.

Is this a match made in heaven?

--
Connect with Cathe:
Website: http://catheswanson.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatheSwanson
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatheSwanson
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catheswanson
Instagram: http://instagram.com/CatheSwanson
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CatheSwanson
BookBub Author Page: http://www.bookbub.com/authors/cathe-swanson
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/catheswanson
Newsletter signup: http://www.catheswanson.com/newsletter

~*~

When Love Inspires: Carol's story

I write romance because I love the happy endings. I don’t like stories that make me sad at the end. Crying in the middle is one thing. Crying because they all die or end up with the wrong people, is something else entirely! 

I write clean/sweet because I don’t need to see what goes on behind closed doors or “hear” cursing or “see” gore and violence. It’s not something I enjoy and not something I enjoy writing. I think there’s a lot of other people out there like me, and they just want to read something they can share with other generations – their moms or grandmas and their teen daughters.

I spend far more time than I probably should watching Hallmark movies. They get criticized, sometimes rightfully so, for their formulaic nature, perfect hair and clothes, quaint towns where there’s always piles of snow but clear roads and sidewalks, etc. Sometimes it’s fun to poke fun at them. 

I often watch royalty or writing related ones “live” in my reader group, posting commentary as I do. There’s usually a fair bit of snark involved, but underneath is that happy, waffy sigh at the end when their worlds all end up the way they should.

That’s what I like to write.

My characters have real issues (even if finances aren’t one of them for most of them). They struggle with the same thing we all do: Am I good enough? Do people really like me for me or because of (fill in the blank - for many of my characters, it has to do with their titles and tiaras)? Where do I find my self-worth? How do I reconcile what I should do with what I want to do or can I? And if I can’t, which do I choose?


Everyone answers those questions differently, even characters in the same book. But sometimes in those characters, we see little bits of ourselves and maybe learn a little bit about how we can change our own outlooks on who we are.

And do it without the cursing or sex scenes or violence that can be so prevalent in other genres.

We have enough drama and sadness in the world. I like bringing at least a little bit of sweetness and light into that and giving readers a bit of an escape from the real world into a fictional land where everyone eventually ends up with a happily ever after. (Except the bad guys of course. They get eaten by sharks).

--
Carol's Author Bio:

When she's not writing about her imaginary friends, USA Today Bestselling Author Carol Moncado prefers binge watching pretty much anything to working out. She believes peanut butter M&Ms are the perfect food and Dr. Pepper should come in an IV. 


When not hanging out with her hubby, four kids, and two dogs who weigh less than most hardcover books, she's probably reading in her Southwest Missouri home.

Summers find her at the local aquatic center with her four fish, er, kids. Fall finds her doing the band mom thing. Winters find her snuggled into a blanket in front of a fire with the dogs. Spring finds her sneezing and recovering from the rest of the year.

She used to teach American Government at a community college, but her indie career, now with over thirty titles, has allowed her to write full time. She's a founding member, former President, and current vice president of MozArks ACFW, blogger at InspyRomance, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

--
Blurb for Carol's novella, "Guardian of Her Heart":

When Mark’s boss, the queen of Montevaro, signs him up for the dating app Betwixt Two Hearts, he grudgingly goes along.


Casey is signed up by her best friend, before her best friend moves thousands of miles away.

When Casey attends the Serenity Landing Craft Convention, a stowaway cat means she’s desperate for help and her only option is the new match from her Betwixt app. 

As Mark and Casey get to know each other, their apparent incompatibilities could prove to be too much to overcome – or could prove that sometimes opposites attract.

--
Connect with Carol:
Carol Moncado Books: www.facebook.com/CarolMoncadoBooks
Serenity Landing Book Club (reader group): bit.ly/MoncadoReaderGroup
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarolMoncado/
Website: http://www.carolmoncado.com

~*~
When Love Inspires: Chautona's story

I've had lots of people ask me why I write "romance" over the years. I  put romance in quotes because a true romance author would laugh at the idea of my romance "counting" as far as genre goes.

But I put romance in books because it's obviously important to the Lord. He didn't just tell us He serves us and takes care of us. He showed us in so many metaphors, parables, and allegories that He cherishes us. He woos us to Him. And regardless of my personal comfort
with the whole thing, that means something to me.

I try to allude to that picture He paints every time I interject a romantic element into one of my novels as both a reminder to the reader and as one to me. We are loved, cherished, adored. Wow.

--
Chautona's Author Bio:

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. 


An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. 

Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

--
Blurb for Chautona's novella, "Random Acts of Shyness":

“That man is going to be single for the rest of his life!”


What began as a coping mechanism as a little boy became highly-effective date repellent as a man. He knows girls don’t care about the life cycle of a dung beetle, but Heath can’t help but spew facts like a docent at the zoo anytime he’s on one of his many first and only dates.

His sister is determined to fix that. So, she signs him up for the new matchmaking service. Her plan: simple. Just let him practice on a bunch of girls until it becomes second nature. Simple, right?

But Heath can’t get one girl out of his mind. So, with his boss’ help, and a little creativity, he embarks on a sorta-secret admirer scheme to induce her into giving him a second chance.

He’s a good guy… and someday he’ll figure out how to show it.

--
Connect with Chautona:
Website: https://chautona.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/justhewriteescape
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chautona
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chautonahavig/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/chautonahavig/

~*~
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of the "Betwixt Two Hearts" boxed set of books by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget from yesterday's blog post. You can find it here