Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Romantic Reads: The Beauty and the Throne (book) by Sara Nicole

Welcome Sara Nicole to the blog! She's here to share an excerpt from her book, 

The Beauty and the Throne. 

Happy reading!


 From Chapter 18 of The Beauty and the Throne by Sara Nicole, copyright 2014:


“Here,” Jonathan said, changing positions. “I have a better idea.” He skated in front of her again, facing her. He switched her grip from his arm to both his mittened hands. “Ready?” he asked.

Elise looked confused. “What do I do?”

“Skate.” He grinned at her as he began to skate backwards.

She shook her head, but followed him, gripping his hands for balance. Jonathan could not stop grinning. This had been a great idea. He liked being so close to her, and he liked feeling her hands in his - even through two pairs of mittens. He had to remember to take his eyes off her and glance behind him to be sure he did not lead her into a tree.

“Did you and your brothers skate on this lake a lot as kids?” Elise asked.

“We did. Most of our summers were spent in Venetia or Viridia, but Father loved coming here in winter. Many a snowball war has been waged on the banks of this lake.”

Elise laughed. “I can imagine.” She was slowly gaining confidence, standing straighter and gliding more smoothly, looking at him rather than at her feet. “And what about Diane?” When Jonathan arched his eyebrow, she elaborated, “Was she victim, participant, or spectator to these wars?”

Jonathan laughed. “Oh.” He considered. “Something of all three. It depended on the day, I suppose. She joined in often enough, but she stood on the sidelines when we became too, um, competitive.”

Elise tilted her head charmingly. “And what about victim?”

Jonathan shrugged nonchalantly. “She may have been the victim of an ambush once or twice…” He loved Elise’s laugh.

Soon Elise was confident and steady enough that Jonathan switched to skating beside her. She linked her arm in his, and they circled the lake side by side. And they talked. They talked about his family, they talked about hers, they talked about their winter traditions and their childhoods and all sorts of things.

They hardly noticed the passage of time. They spent all afternoon on the lake.

Eventually, Elise grew tired and wanted to rest. Jonathan offered to escort her back inside, but she insisted she was not ready to go in yet. She just wanted to rest from skating for a little while. Jonathan skated with her to the edge of the lake and found a fallen log for her to sit upon and rest. At her insistence, he skated back onto the lake. She challenged him to show her his skating skills. And he did. He could not say no to the mischievous gleam in her eye as she asked him to do it.

There came a moment, however, when he turned toward her, and she was gone.

“Elise?” he called, skating quickly back to the log where she had been sitting. “Elise?” She was nowhere to be seen. He saw her footprints in the snow, however, and followed them. “Elise?” he called as he went. “Where are you?”

The tracks were leading him toward some frozen weeping willow trees. Jonathan slowed, wary. “Elise?”

“Over here!” her voice merrily sang out.

At least she was not hurt. Jonathan picked up his pace. “Where are you?” he called again, hunting after her footprints as they circled the edge of the lake. She did not answer. “Elise?” Goodness, had she circled the entire lake? Her tracks kept going, through tall grass and frozen rushes, around trees… Jonathan kept his eyes open, slipping instinctively into hunting mode.

But he did not see the white snowball until right before it smacked him in the face.

“Ambush!” Elise cried out. Another snowball flew toward him.

Grinning, Jonathan ducked it. He scooped up some snow and lobbed it toward his wife. She ducked behind a tree and giggled as his snowball splattered on the trunk.


Jonathan answered with another snowball that connected with her shoulder. She squealed and threw another snowball of her own.

They continued the fight a few minutes more, then Jonathan came up with a plan to win it. He made several snowballs and waited for just the right moment. Right after Elise narrowly missed his face with a white missile, he began his assault. Elise dove behind the tree as his snowballs came flying toward her. He ran toward the tree, continuing his barrage to keep her hiding behind the wide trunk.

He ran out of snowballs, and she pivoted around the tree, snowball ready. He tackled her into the snow. She screamed and laughed as their snowball fight turned into a wrestling match.

Jonathan loved seeing the fire in her eyes as she tried to shove him into the snow. She was a fierce little woman.

Her hair was frosty by the time they declared a truce. They brushed the snow off their clothes and began clomping through the snow back toward the manor, ready for a fire and warm drinks. But as they walked, they passed under an opportunity that Jonathan could not pass up, truce or no truce.

“Elise, look!” he said, pointing up.

She did, and he shook the tree branch they were walking beneath. A huge pile of snow fell right onto her face. “Jonathan!”

He laughed so hard his sides hurt. “Ambush!”

Elise lunged at him, laughing but trying to look angry. “We declared a truce!” He tried to fend her off, but she managed to grab a handful of snow and stuff it down the back of his coat. “So there!”

“All right! All right! Truce,” Jonathan laughed. He winced at the slushy, very cold mess sliding down his back.

He tugged off his scarf and struggled to pull the snowball out of his shirt. Elise laughed at his efforts.




Review of The Beauty and the Throne on Amazon.com: 

(Note from the Author: The cover has since been updated from the writing of this review)


Amber M Fraelich


5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly Surprised! 

Reviewed in the United States on August 15, 2014

Verified Purchase

I got this book through Amazon on the free list. I honestly wasn't expecting it to be a good book, it's an unknown author, had no reviews, and the cover didn't really capture my attention. This is one time I am glad I was wrong! I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a happy ever after. While it may not be historically accurate and was born mostly of imagination, it was still a very good read. The forgiveness and growing love between the main characters was written beautifully. I also loved seeing so much family support between everyone, so rare anymore. The editing also seemed to be done well, which is not always the case when it comes to Amazon freebies. I recommend this book for anyone who has a love for fairytales or needs a break from the "heavy" reading that seems to be so popular. 

Author Bio:

A born Kansan with southern roots, Sara did not grow up loving to write. She did, however, love stories. Hearing them, telling them, reading them … Only when she could not find a story that explored the questions she had inside of her did she begin writing them. 

Beginning as a search into the character of God and what His love is really like, her God took over from the start and used her writing to speak to the deepest questions in her soul. 

Sara does not think of herself as an author, but rather a scribe, for her books are only born from listening to God, who loves to speak truth through stories and inspires all of her books.

She uses the pen name “Sara Nicole” in honor of her grandmother, Sara Gene, who went to be with the Lord in 2011.

Book blurb:

The most important thing Jonathan and Elise have in common is ambitious fathers who wish to see the two married. 

An arranged wedding later, Jonathan and Elise do not know what to do with each other. Adding to the complications, Jonathan is a prince. 

Between ruling his land of Aurelia, fending off the pressures laid on him by his father, and trying to navigate the uncharted waters of marriage, Jonathan finds himself the target of assassins.

Can Jonathan and Elise learn to love before their last chance is gone?

Buy Sara's book on Amazon


Monday, September 28, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: What to do when you feel like a tangled mess

A Tangled Mess
A devotional by Glynis Becker

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” –John 15:1-2 (NASB)

This year I have untangled a lot of yarn.

Between quarantine for the Coronavirus and the time my family spent with my mother in hospice care, I have occupied many hours crocheting. Members of my family who have very little interest in crocheting have been recruited to help roll skeins into balls for me. It makes the crocheting easier if the yarn is in a ball, but if you have any experience with yarn, you’ll understand what a lot of work that can be, even before you get to your actual project and how sometimes you need more than two hands to do it.

If you are not a yarn enthusiast, here’s what you need to know: those skeins of yarn that are created using a machine look beautiful on the outside. You can go to the store and see rows and rows of soft yarns in every color of the rainbow. They all look so perfect and it’s easy to get mesmerized imagining all the beautiful projects you can make. Then you load up your cart, bring them all home, excited to get started.

You pull the end of the yarn from the middle of the skein and you start to roll. Sometimes you get lucky and the yarn is as perfect on the inside as it looks. But occasionally, one little tug on that string is all it takes to make a skein into a jumble, a huge lump of yarn that looks more like a string of Christmas lights thrown into a box than the beautiful puddle that it should be.

How often am I like that yarn? The one that looks great from the outside, when inside I’m a mess of hurt, anger, depression, hopelessness, unbelief, pride, and sin?

When I buy yarn, I can’t see what’s inside. If I could, I’d probably skip over the ones with a tangle in the middle and go for something a little easier. I know that I’d rather not spend my time untangling the mess, but rather on the creation of something beautiful.

Fortunately for us, even though Jesus sees the absolute worst mess inside of us, He chooses us. Every time. And He is willing to do all the work it takes to untangle us, break our strongholds, change our attitudes, heal our hurts, and settle our anxieties. Plus, all the while He is creating something beautiful in us and through us.

Bring Him your mess. Bring Him the tangle that you were never meant to fix by yourself. He isn’t scared or ashamed of you and He will never turn away an honest seeker. Only when we admit we’re a mess and then lay that jumble at His feet, will we ever become what He meant for us to be.

Let’s Pray:
Jesus, I give you everything I have: the mess, the hurts, the sin, and all. I trust You to make something beautiful out of my life, something You can use for Your glory and Your purpose. Be in me and with me as I allow you to change me and make me more like You. Only You can do that. I love You. In Jesus’s Holy Name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume. 

She has co-written several screenplays, including the film Sinking Sand, available on DVD and digital streaming.

Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children.

When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting. You can find her at www.glynisbecker.com.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Persevere

Just Keeping Running

A devotional by Amy Odland

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” –1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

Now that we’re six months into dealing with COVID-19, I have seen more and more people commenting lately on social media about being tired and weary.

The initial anxiety and stress we all felt when everything locked down back in March has led to months of wondering, watching, and waiting.

Wondering what will change from day to day with laws, regulations, and our health as well as the health of our loved ones. Watching as political unrest grows, racial tensions widen, and natural disasters increase. Watching as leaders say one thing and do another. Waiting for a break from the stress, for a relief that never comes. People are still arguing about masks, some basic supplies are still hard to find, and distrust in the news, our friends and family, and in pretty much everything is multiplying as fast as rabbits do in the springtime.

Have you noticed the race we run as Christians has gotten a lot harder in this short amount of time? Anxiety and hardships have increased; convenience and comfort have decreased. Plans have been rescheduled, cancelled, and completely ruined. Relationships have been strained beyond what they can handle. Truths have been warped beyond recognition. We’re now running uphill on an unmaintained path, huffing and puffing and feeling a burn in our muscles like never before. We’ve maybe twisted our ankle a little on the uneven ground or lost our footing and cut our knee on a rock along the way.

We’re tired.

We’re weary.

We want to quit.

I’m tired and weary and want to quit.

Paul knew we’d be tired in 2020 when he wrote these words. He knew we’d be ready to throw in the towel and flush relationships broken by the turmoil of this year. He knew we’d want to block people on Facebook as another election approaches. He knew we’d want to just numb out and watch Netflix instead of washing the dishes, AGAIN, because our dishwasher is still broken after almost 8 weeks of waiting for the backordered part needed to fix it that can’t be found ANYWHERE due to COVID-19. (Ok, maybe it’s just my dishwasher that’s been broken, but you get the idea.)

Olympic athletes train for hours day after day, month after month, year after year in preparation for competing every four years for either a gold, silver, or bronze medal. In comparison, some of us who call ourselves Christians aren’t even willing to read the Bible for 5-10 minutes a day. How little effort we put towards striving for that eternal prize of being with God. Yet the prize we will receive for our effort is much more valuable than what the Olympians receive!

Yes, salvation by the grace of God is a gift. The “prize” we’ll receive someday is not something we can technically earn. But the appreciation of and continuing development of the grace we have received is not as apparent in our lives as some of us think. We need to be more purposeful in our running of the race, this thing we call living and witnessing and growing in sanctification.

We need to be purposefully reaching out to God, learning about His ways, and listening to Him more than we do. We need to avoid growing complacent to our surroundings and comfortable with our sins. We need to be purposeful in our actions. We need to keep going when we’re tired and want to quit.

Here are three ways to be more purposeful in your race if you’ve grown lazy in your faith:

Way #1: Plan

Long distance runners make plans: training plans, recovery plans, day-of-race plans, meal plans, equipment plans. Someone doesn’t just become a prize-winning long distance runner by accident. Make plans for how you’re going to grow in your faith. Get the materials you need. Find Bible reading plans. Get an accountability partner to help you stay faithful. Try new things too, like memorization or joining a prayer group as doing the same thing all the time creates stagnation, just as a runner who only runs without doing alternate training activities risks injury or muscle exhaustion.

Way #2: Act
Once plans are made, you have to follow through and DO them. You have to open your Bible and read it. You have to pray. You have to show up. Missing a day isn’t the end of the world! Don’t throw the plan out just because you were derailed by an unexpected crisis. Pick it up where you’re at when you can and don’t look behind you and beat yourself up for past failures. Doing something, no matter how small, is still a step forward toward growth.

Way #3: Pace
A long distance runner doesn’t run the same pace the whole race. There are times when a slow, steady speed is needed to conserve energy for the sprints that will be needed ahead to gain ground and a lead. A slower pace at different times in your walk is not bad. Don’t make rest your enemy! It is your friend and is needed between big bursts of high-energy seasons in your life. Just don’t fall into a consistent habit of rest and laziness. Even runners who have injured themselves have miraculously still finished a race. Your “injury” is not a valid excuse for always neglecting your God.

Make a specific plan to grow in your faith, act on that plan, and adjust your pace as the terrain requires. If Paul had written those words today, he may very well have added a “just keep running, brothers, just keep running” to the end.

Rest and slow your pace if needed, but just keep running, friend.

Author Bio:

Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles. 

Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.

Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.

In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.

She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.

Connect with Amy:

Facebook: https://facebook.com/amyodland
Instagram: https://instagram.com/amy_odland
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_odland
Website: https://amyodland.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: When Jesus Christ is in the fire with you

There is Another in the Fire
A devotional by Julia Wilson

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” –Daniel 3:25 (NIV)

I absolutely love this Bible story in the book of Daniel as it shows the faithfulness of God to His people at all times.

My devotional today is focusing on the experience of three Hebrew men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I want to zero in on the time when they refused to bow down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Because of their disobedience, the king ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

Despite this impending doom, these three friends were confident that God would rescue them. According to Daniel 3:17-18 (NIV), these are the words that they declared to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

This made the king so furious that he demanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to tie Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego together and throw them into the blazing furnace. The Bible goes on to say that the flames from the furnace killed the soldiers as they threw the three Hebrew men into the furnace

Reading on to Daniel 3:24-25, the Bible says that King Nebuchadnezzar “leaped to his feet in amazement his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” The kings advisers said, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” Then the king said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

The fourth person walking around in the fire is believed to be Jesus Christ. This just blows me away. Not only does God rescue the three but He sends His Son to walk alongside them. Wow.

When we face difficult times, God walks right alongside us. We are never alone. God has already made provision for us as He rescues us from our situations.

August 30, 2020 marked the five-year anniversary of a devastating fire at my church Lifecentral in Halesowen (used to be called Zion Christian Centre). God has been so faithful that I wanted to share my perspective with you.

I awoke on that fateful Sunday to my husband saying, “There’s no church today. There’s been a fire. Leon Evans (our pastor) put it on Facebook. We are to stay away.” As the day progressed, photos appeared on Facebook and the church was on the local news too. The auditorium was gone and the building was severely damaged. The photos were awful and I cried. I cried because my church, the place where I had met God, been baptised and had many encounters with Him was gone. It felt like a very black day.

Our pastor Leon Evans put out on Facebook that there was to be a prayer meeting outside the building on the Monday night. He expected half a dozen people … 200 people turned up. We met in the old job centre next door, that the church had bought several years earlier, after God prompted them but they did not know what they were going to do with it at the time. But God did. God knew there would be a fire and we would need a building. Wow. What a faithful God.

For the next four days, volunteers from church, other churches and the local community, cleaned, painted and transformed a dinghy space into a new worship space. Other churches lent us chairs, sound systems and equipment. We were humbled and blessed.

Friday night saw another prayer meeting in a newly transformed space. Again, several hundred people turned up. There were a lot of grateful tears. We all took our shoes off for we felt the place we were standing on was holy ground. This reminds me of Exodus 3:5 (NIV) where God tells Moses to, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Those few days felt like we moved from Black Sunday to Grateful Friday. Everyone’s faith moved up a level. As my pastor said, “the building burned and people caught fire.”

I felt on that black Sunday that I had lost God that He had somehow burned in the fire. But the truth was that God had walked through the fire and provided and comforted His people. God was not dead. God was alive. My memories of God’s faithfulness are not dead either, they are alive. To quote my pastor again, “buildings don’t change people but what happens inside them does.”

Five years later on from the fire … we have had a name change as a church, the building has been completely renovated, Lifecentral is now one church in four locations: Halesowen, Hagley, Rowley, and DurrĂ«s in Albania.

As a church, we have walked through the fire and we came out transformed. God walked with us. He went before us and beside us. He walks with us still.

Due to COVID-19, church meets online on Sunday mornings and the Spirit of God still moves among us. He is changing lives one at a time.

Let’s pray: God, You are amazing. Your love knows no bounds. Your faithfulness just blows me away. You never leave us. You walk through the fires of life with us. Your presence is tangible. I thank you for Your love and your care. In Jesus's Name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

My name is Julia Wilson but I also go by Christian Bookaholic. 

I live with my husband and five cats in a small town in Worcestershire on the banks of the River Severn (England). We have four grown up children and three granddaughters.

I have always loved reading and have always been surrounded by books. I used to work as a teaching assistant for special needs in the local high school. Ill health forced me to stop working in December 2015. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (known as M.E.) and fibromyalgia. I now have plenty of time to read and review books!

Our eldest son set up my Christian Bookaholic blog. I review every book I read. I read over 300 books a year. I read Christian and mass market. I prefer stories set from 1850 onwards. My favourite type of books to read is stories set in WWI and WWII, and Russia under Czar Nicholas II.

I am a historian, having a Combined Humanities degree where I majored in History and minored in English. I also love swimming. I only learned how to swim in 2017 and go swimming four mornings a week for 90 minutes before breakfast, it keeps my joints going.

I am also a crazy cat lady. I absolutely love my cats. I have grown up with cats and cannot imagine life without them. My dream is to own an old fashioned seal point Siamese … but not while we have our young rescue cat as she hates other cats!

I love God and love going to a large lively church called Lifecentral. I cannot imagine life without God. He gives a peace even when life does not. He guides my life. He is my Rock.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Romantic Reads: Forever Music

Welcome Hope Toler Dougherty to the blog! 

She's here to talk about her book, Forever Music, and she's hosting a giveaway!

Remember to enter the book giveaway contest via the Rafflecopter widget that's located at the end of this blog post.


Interview with Hope Toler Dougherty about her book, Forever Music:

Alexis: Why did you write this story?

Hope: I’m intrigued with the idea of emotional affairs. Josie and Ches begin a friendship, but it turns into more even though Ches already has a girlfriend at the beginning of the book. They deny their feelings but won’t decline spending time together. Both of them justify meetings and training sessions with each other. People sometimes justify social media contact with old friends. That contact turns into flirtatious emails and calls and then turns into more. I wanted to explore that journey.

Alexis: How did you choose the title for this book?

Hope: There is, of course, a musical theme in the book with songs coming up throughout, and music is also a metaphor. Josie wants Ches to play music he likes instead of the music he had to play for piano lessons. She also wants him to live the life he chooses instead of the one his father wants for him because she wants him to be happy.

Alexis: Describe your story’s heroine Josie Daniels. What does she look like? Sound like? Act like?

Hope: Josie looks like a young Reese Witherspoon—long blond hair and green eyes. She’s mostly self-confident because she’s had to be—as the baby sister to three older brothers. She holds her own in a tag football game even when she gets knocked down. She has a heart for her community and for her brothers.

Alexis: What are Josie’s deepest dreams and greatest fears? Why?

Hope: She loves family and wants one of her own. She’s afraid of failure; therefore, she works hard at everything she does.

Alexis: Why does Josie act as the mother of her three brothers? What happened to their real mom?

Hope: Their mother is on a two-year mission trip with their father. Josie has moved into her family’s house to save rent money and to keep up the house while her parents are out of the country. She loves cooking and caring for her brothers.

Alexis: Why is Josie passionate about volunteering in her community?

Hope: She loves her community library and has fond memories of visiting it as a child with her mother. She wants the same positive experiences for the current young children of her neighborhood.

Alexis: How does Josie easily get over having a broken heart?

Hope: Getting over B.J. wasn’t easy, but time helped heal her broken heart. When the story opens, she’s several months into the healing process. Focusing on helping the library and mothering her brothers helped also.

Alexis: Describe your story’s hero Ches Windham. What does he look like? Sound like? Act like?

Hope: Ches looks like a young Victor Webster. He’s very uptight at the beginning of the story, but we see him loosen up as he gets to know Josie and her brothers. We see his carpentry/wood working talents at the community build. We see his musical talents at the piano. His humor grows through the story as his sadness begins to abate.

Alexis: What are Ches’s loftiest goals and most persistent challenges? Explain.

Hope: Before meeting Josie, his goal was to make partner in one of Charlotte’s biggest law firms to win his father’s approval. After meeting Josie, he begins to contemplate pursuing his own dreams which don’t include the law firm, but he hopes they may include Josie. Breaking free from his father’s expectations is his main challenge.

Alexis: Why does Josie make it her mission to help Ches find his true purpose?

Hope: Josie is a natural nurturer. She wants Ches to be happy. She wants to fix the problems she sees in his life. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, she’s attracted to him from the beginning.

Alexis: What is it about Josie that Ches loves? Why?

Hope: He loves her passion, her intellect, her humor, her food. He’s fascinated with her because she’s free and unfettered by other people’s expectations. She’s a good sport and rolls with most things that come along.

Alexis: Why does Josie try so hard to resist her growing attraction to Ches?

Hope: She resists her attraction because he has a girlfriend, and by all accounts it’s supposed to be a serious relationship. She also believes Ches has the same personality as her former boyfriend and doesn’t want to travel that path again.

Alexis: What drew Ches to a career in law and how does his livelihood affect his personal life?

Hope: Ches always tried to please his father who pushed him onto the law path. His father wanted Ches to succeed where he didn’t himself. Ches’s dissatisfaction with his career gives him the bleeding ulcer which leads to his career change.

Alexis: What role does family and tradition play in this story?

Hope: Family and tradition have huge roles in the story. Josie provides family meals for her brothers and schedules family calls with their out-of-the-country parents. She prepares favorite recipes for all the holidays.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Forever Music?

Hope: I love the interplay in the Daniels’ family. I hope people remember a feeling of love among the siblings whether they’re in their home or together bowling or volunteering.

Alexis: If you could step into this story as a guidance counselor and speak to Ches, what would you say?

Play music that makes you happy. Go your own path, not the one others choose for you.

Alexis: If you were Josie’s best friend, what would you say to her about her relationship with Ches?

Hope: I’d try to get her to see how she justified their outings. I’d try to help her see how her feelings were growing for him. I’d try to protect her from another bruised heart.

Alexis: If you could treat Ches and Josie to lunch, where would you go to eat? Why?

Hope: Ches would want to eat at Josie’s house. He loves her cooking, and he loves being in her house. If I had to choose a restaurant, however, I’d choose the Lamplighter. It was a real restaurant in Charlotte when my husband and I were dating. He took me there for my birthday and gave me a gold bangle bracelet I still wear.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Hope! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Alexis! I love hearing from readers and hope they’ll connect with me on social media or through my website.

Author Bio:

Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree and taught at East Carolina University and York Technical College.

Her novels include Irish Encounter and Mars…With Venus Rising, Rescued Hearts, and Forever Music. A member of ACFW and RWA, she lives in North Carolina.

She and her husband delight in visits with their daughters and twin sons.

Book blurb for Forever Music:

A battered heart needs healing.
A community needs rescuing.
A chartered course needs redirecting.

College history instructor, Josie Daniels is good at mothering her three brothers, volunteering in her community, and getting over broken hearts, but meeting aloof, hotshot attorney Ches Windham challenges her nurturing, positive-thinking spirit.

Josie longs to help Ches find his true purpose, but as his hidden talents and true personality emerge. Will she be able to withstand his potent charms, or will she lose her heart in the process?

A rising star in his law firm, Ches Windham is good at keeping secrets.

He’s always been the good son, following his father’s will to become an attorney and playing the game for a fast track to partnering with a law firm. Lately, though his life’s path has lost whatever luster it had—all because of his unlikely, and unacceptable, friendship with Josie. He struggles between the life he’s prepared for and the one calling to him now. Opposing his father has never been an option, and spending time with Josie can’t be one. The more he’s with her, however, the more he wants to be.

When a crisis tarnishes his golden future and secrets are revealed, Ches is forced to reexamine the trajectory of his life. Will he choose the path his father hammered out for him or the path that speaks to his heart?

Connect with Hope:
Website: https://hopetolerdougherty.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Dougherty
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: God can turn your mess into your message

When the Lord Makes Banana Bread
A devotional by Malinda Fugate

Key Scripture:
1 John 1:9, Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

The first thing I took out of my paper grocery bag was the vibrant yellow bunch of bananas.

The touch of green along their edges told me they were at the perfect time of enjoyment with a few days of ripeness ahead. I unpeeled one of the sweet, soft fruits and enjoyed my delightful snack, unaware of what the next week would hold.

Life got a little crazy, as it does, and my bunch of bananas waited patiently on their hanger in steadfast support, at the ready for breakfast or snacking—or perhaps to be frozen for future service in a smoothie. But in the busyness of bill-paying, dog-caring, and work-doing, the faithful fruit was forgotten. Until one morning, I discovered the vibrant yellow was replaced with splotchy brown. All firmness was gone, leaving a mushy, overly-sweet-smelling bananas about to fall off their hanger. What a waste.

And so it goes with sin. We begin with good intentions, staying connected to the Lord through prayer, worship, and Bible study. He is constantly on our hearts and minds, equipping us to make good decisions as the Holy Spirit reminds us of His Word. Then the busyness kicks in and distractions pull our attention away from our Heavenly Father. Our decisions become less faithful and our intentions focus more on self. Before we know it, we’ve fallen into the trap of sin, dishonoring God and making a mess of our lives. Like the overripe banana, we are falling apart with a heart that isn’t at its prettiest. We feel like a failure, as if all is lost.

Yet, the overripe banana still has a purpose. The capable baker can turn the mushy fruit into the most soft, delicious loaf of banana bread, bringing joy to anyone fortunate enough to have a taste. So it is with our sinful hearts. Though it seems like the end, we have not been discarded by our loving Heavenly Father. Our place in His heart is not lost. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Sin does not disqualify us from serving God. Once we repent and are forgiven, the Lord heals our hearts and helps us grow. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). God has a purpose for our lives, and, as He knows all, He is aware of our sin.

It is often said that He turns our mess into our message. Once He begins His healing work in our hearts, from that place we are able to serve Him and testify of His goodness to others. In the process of forgiveness and restoration, we become more mature and equipped for obedience. He does more than give a second chance—the Lord redeems us and creates something beautiful in our souls.

Author Bio:

Malinda Fugate writes from the heart.

Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books.

Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays.

Malinda invites you to explore the various 3:16s in the Bible with her new book, The Other Three Sixteens (published by Ambassador International in May 2020).

She also invites you to read her previously published books: Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon.com, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal.

Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, and then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.

When she's not writing or working at church, Malinda might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area. She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.

Visit Malinda online via https://www.malindafugate.com.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Salvation

A devotional by Alexis Newlin

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
– Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

I am a sinner.

One of the sins I constantly struggle with is judging. Man, do I judge others. What they wear, how they look, what they believe. In my head, I look down on so many. Another sin: I lie. If it will keep me from being in trouble, I’ll run to lying. If it will help me gain favor, I’ll lie. If it will help preserve a friendship, I’ll lie. Another one: anger. And another: lust. And another … and another.

There is such ugliness inside my head and within my heart. 

Because of my sin, I deserve to die. I deserve hell. If it were up to me to make things right, to live a life of rightness and perfection … I could never do it.

If it were up to me, I’d end up in hell, my right judgement, forever separated from God.

Because I am a sinner.

Because eternal damnation as punishment is what I deserve.

In fact, it is what we all deserve.

But it’s not up to me. Thank God, my salvation is not up to me. Nor is it up to you.

There is this beautiful person, who stepped up and took my place and your place. His Name is Jesus Christ (God’s Son). He faced the wrath of God and experienced much suffering and pain. He took our sin, our shame and placed Himself on the cross. He knew who we are: sinners who would fail God daily. Despite this knowledge of a very true fact, Jesus decided that He wanted to take our place anyway.

Jesus took the blame so that we may have eternal life. (John 3:16) He took our all our sins so that we can live, forgiven and accepted by our Father. So now, when God sees us, He sees His Son. So instead of our dreadful sinfulness, God sees us as blameless, pure, holy, forgiven, loved, accepted.

I am so thankful for this gift of salvation! It’s not just fire insurance keeping me out of hell. It is a life of freedom, knowing that I am saved, redeemed and loved by a Holy God who despite my broken nature, loves me anyway. God loves you anyway!

This life with Jesus Christ is such a gift. I want you to have this gift too.

The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10 (ESV):
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

If you don’t know Jesus and want to start a new life in Christ, all you have to do is say this prayer to your Maker: “God, I am a sinner. I need you. I believe that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. Please forgive me. I turn from my sins and accept you as my savior. Please come into my heart and make me new.”

That’s it. Jesus doesn’t care about your past. He doesn’t care that you will mess up or even if you are messed up. Nothing you have said or done is too great, neither is it too dreadful for Jesus to stop loving you! He wants you, all of you, no matter what you’ve done.

It’s time to run to Him and be made whole.

Author Bio:

Alexis is a 36-year-old lover of Jesus, loose leaf tea, roller coasters, writing stories and going on adventures. Originally from Marietta, GA, Alexis now resides in Fresno, CA. 

You can always find Alexis outdoors enjoying a walk in her neighborhood, scoping out the newest food truck, hanging out with friends or planning her next trip.

Her church, The Revival Center, and family mean the world to her. They have supported her through the loss of her mother and her own cancer diagnosis.

Alexis enjoys encouraging others by reminding them not to look at what they see, but to always look to God, who is working in the unseen.

Alexis currently writes for several online ministries and launched her first podcast – The Brave Podcast – in January 2020.

Connect with Alexis:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apeachincali/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/apeachincali
Podcast: http://thebravepodcast.buzzsprout.com
Website: www.apeachincali.com