Friday, September 24, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Identity


Identity: Kingdom Legacy
A devotional by Erin M. Handley

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
– Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)


Identity. Complex, yet so simple.

Basic psychology reminds us that everyone goes through stages where they explore various behaviors and roles as they search to create and solidify who they are. It is generally associated with a phase that occurs in preteens and teenagers, but the phase to some degree lingers in the minds of adults, too.

These stages primarily are bouts of identity exploration – or more specifically, identifying and validating the person they want others to see. Despite this phase many of us go through, many of us never stray too far away from what we know to be true about whose we are although we sometimes struggle to articulate who we are.

It is easy for many of us to limit our identities to who we believe others would see us as if they knew our stories. Some people associate their identity with the trauma they have experienced in their life. It is also easy to associate one’s identity to the legacy they hope to leave behind in the future – one as a husband or wife, a parent, mentor, or friend. A great person of great impact. All of the things many hope can be said of the legacy they leave behind when they are no longer here.

But then I am reminded that His purpose for me is so much greater than my desires could ever be. I remember that as a daughter of the Eternal King (God), He has positioned me to leave a much bigger legacy than I could fathom simply by adhering to His will.

Sometimes, we tend to become so wrapped up in the identity we have allowed our situation to create for us, that we forget to willingly embrace and prioritize the identity that God created for us. Our identity is much more than the trauma we experienced through life or the roles we play in the lives of others. I know many people who have clung to the idea that their identity is limited to the roles they play in the lives of other people: husband, wife, homemaker, the parent working two jobs just to make ends meet or the entrepreneur who never wants for anything because they have everything they ever wanted. These are all great things, and I know many phenomenal individuals who carry out their roles incredibly well. But I also know these roles are not the sum total of who they are or who you are.

Truthfully speaking, our identities are much more than those things that make-up the best or the worst parts of us. These titles and attributes that stem from what you do for others and how others see you are not who you are. It’s what you do, but what you do does not solely define you. Who you are is a child of God. You are a child of the King. You are exactly who God created you to be for the purpose of His Kingdom.

Our identities should speak to who we were created to be. Our identity should be rooted in our Kingdom purpose and not the roles we play in the lives of others. Your primary role is to be just what He called you to be in this season – regardless of what it looks like.

Whatever it is that you believe that God has called you to be, be sure that you are doing so as a commitment to God and not to anyone else. Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) instructs us to remember that “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

As you serve Him, come out of the shadows of the identities rooted in limited perspectives of those you serve. I challenge you to elevate your role as husband, wife, parent, family, or friend to that of one who works to elevate the Kingdom. As a child of the King you have a very specific call on your life and it is up to you to walk in the purpose He created for you.

Remember, you have a very critical role to play in God’s master plan.

Let’s Pray:
Lord, in all that we do, help us remember to do it all for You. Help us to remember that if we follow You in every aspect of our lives, then You will ultimately lead us to the destiny that you have specifically created for each and every one of your children. Continue to love us in such an intimate way that we cannot deny that our identity is in You. Help us to understand that at the end of it all, when people look at us, they should see You. Thank You for grace and Your unwavering love for us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Erin’s devotional message today reminded me of this song by Crystal Lewis called “Remember Who You Are.” Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

With an ever-growing desire to continually learn the Word of God and present teachings based on Biblical principles, Erin M. Handley is committed to her calling of teaching and inspiring others to ‘be more by doing more.’ With this in mind, Erin mentors young women and appreciates seeing the growth and change in the lives she impacts.


While she sincerely enjoys mentoring and speaking to young people, she is most passionate about educating and empowering women from various stages of life about Biblical womanhood and how to live out those principles in today’s world. 

For over 15 years, Erin has worked with youth and adolescents in the fields of mental and behavioral health, education, and ministry.

When reflecting on her experiences in ministry and non-ministry settings, her most memorable encounters have been those that allowed her the opportunity to teach the Word of God in a way that is most relatable to the audience she served in that moment. She has enjoyed writing since her youth, but only recently felt the call to share her writing with the world.

With an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Ministry and Pastoral Counseling, Erin M. Handley has been fortunate to be able to leverage her gifts and her passions throughout her career in Education.

Aside from reading, writing, and mentoring, Erin enjoys dancing, interior design, cooking, and most other activities which allow her to utilize her creativity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Stand Firm


Standing Firm in Our Faith
A devotional by Heidy De La Cruz

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
– Ephesians 6:11 (NIV)

I am involved in two women's groups.

One is a growth group from my church, and the other is a book group, where we read a Christian-based book together or a Bible study then we discuss the book. There is a group chat for each group, and of course, we share our prayer requests. Lately, the prayer requests have been more and more. There are prayer requests for healing, miracles, new job opportunities, and a few others. But it seems like every day, there is a new request. A lot is going on everywhere.

There has also been an increase in prayer requests online because of things going on around the world: the war ended in Afghanistan, the west of the United States is on fire, the devastating hurricane that went through Louisiana, and then aftereffects of the hurricane that flooded New York and New Jersey. It’s just so much to take in right now!

Although the world may seem crazy right now, I am here to remind you and myself that these moments are the moments when we need to stand firm in our faith, as God has called us to be. Ephesians 6:11 (NIV) is says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Many things will come our way to try to shake us, but God reminds us He is with us, and He will help us overcome anything.

How do we stand firm in our faith during these crazy times? We must read God’s Word (The Holy Bible) every day. We should pray every day. Communicating with God consistently helps our faith and our relationship with Him to grow stronger and become unshakeable. We should be surrounded with people who bring us closer to God. People who we can trust to discuss our doubts and know that they will pray for us. For example, like the groups I’m involved in. I know that if I need prayer for anything, I can ask.

There is a quote by an author whose name I could not find, that says, “When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” I feel that this quote goes hand-in-hand with standing firm in our faith. The root is our faith, and when it's deep in God, there is no reason to fear the wind, which would be any turbulence that comes our way. I'll end the devotional with this verse from 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV), “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, I know these times are very uncertain. It seems like every day something new comes up, but Lord, You are in control. You know what will happen before it happens, and You help us navigate all our uncertainties. Lord, remind me to stand firm in my faith in You always. No matter what happens, my faith should not be shaken. Lord, I trust you and I love you. I know that in the end, everything will be okay. In Jesus’s Name, I pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Hello, my name is Heidy (Reynoso) De La Cruz.  


I am Dominican-American and I’m passionate about writing! I write poetry, encouraging blog posts about personal experiences and any message that God has stored in my heart. I am working on publishing my first poetry book.

First and foremost, I am a daughter of Jesus Christ. I am also a wife and a mother. I have my master’s degree in Healthcare Administration through Belhaven University’s online course. I have my bachelor’s degree in Science with the concentration of Psychology and Healthcare Administration.

I currently work in the medical field as a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist, and I’ve been in the medical field for the last six years. I love my career!

My hobbies include writing, reading, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, traveling, and spending time with my family.

~*~
Connect with Heidy:
Blog: https://heidyreynoso.wordpress.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heidy.delacruz13/
Read my poetry on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heidyspoems/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/heidyreynoso13
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heidyreynoso13

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Romantic Reads: Series Cancellation

Dear Blog Readers,

I decided to cancel my blog's "Romantic Reads" series, effective today 
(Sept. 21, 2021).

I am sorry for any disappointment this decision may cause.

I hope that you will continue to read my "God is Love" blog and enjoy the other features such as my "Devotionals for the Heart" series where you can read a NEW devotional every Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

Take care and God bless you!

Love, 

Alexis A. Goring, MFA
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Monday, September 20, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: God wants more time with you


More of You
A devotional by Angela Anderson

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” – John 17:3 (NIV)

As I was walking to my car after church one afternoon, I heard a voice calling my name in the distance. I stopped, turned around and noticed a friend of mine waving wildly, while she was running toward me. I couldn’t believe my eyes!

I had not seen this friend in over a year. She had moved far away, and I had no idea that she would be in church that day. I was so happy to see her!

As soon as she was within arm’s reach, we embraced. We were once so close. We used to talk all the time. When she moved away, life happened, and then we lost contact for a while. We did not talk as often, and we allowed our life circumstances to occupy our time. As we talked in the middle of the parking lot, we made up for lost time. We spent over an hour catching up, laughing, and being really open about the things that had transpired in our separate lives over the past year. Before we said goodbye that afternoon, she looked at me and revealed to me how much she missed me as a friend. She told me that she needed more of me.

I often wonder if God feels the same way about me. There are times when I am so open with Him. I wake up early in the morning to meet Him in my quiet place. I spend long periods of time in His presence. Whether I am writing in my prayer journal, speaking out loud to Him, listening to a song and worshipping Him, or just sitting in silence; the feeling of being so close to Him is indescribable. I feel at peace in the moment, and the calmness follows me as I begin my day. There is a strange sense of confidence and assurance that whatever comes my way, I know that I will be able to handle it because God is with me.

Then there are the times when I wake up late, and I rush off, going about my day with merely uttering a few words to God. Or the times when my 3-year-old son has difficulty sleeping through the night and finds himself in my room, which throws off my morning. There are also instances when I try to sit in silence to commune with God, but my mind will not allow it.

Random thoughts race through my brain, clogging it with things that should never take precedence over my devotion time with God. These are the times when I can almost hear God telling me how much He misses me. Our time together is invaluable. I need that time with Him in order to survive, and I feel the difference in my life when that time is not consistently spent in His presence.

God doesn’t just want more of us; He wants us to want more of Him. Let’s make the commitment to consistently seek His face, every day of our lives.

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, thank You for pursuing us and wanting to give us what we need – You. Help us to have that longing in our hearts to want You and to know You. May we take the necessary steps to deepen our relationship with You. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Angela’s devotional message today reminds me of this song “More of You” by Colton Dixon. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Angela Anderson was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was raised in a Christian home in New Jersey. Angela dedicated her life to Christ and was baptized at the age of 12. 


As a child in elementary school, she developed a penchant for writing book reports and entering writing contests. By high school, she was taking advanced placement courses in English and Speech & Creative Writing. Angela’s love for journaling also had its beginnings in high school and it evolved into prayers journals and detailed notes for prospective book ideas. As a result, Angela is the author of a published 40-day devotional book titled Just When I Thought I Knew God. She also wrote a children’s book that is not yet published.

Although Angela wanted to somehow incorporate writing in her life, she is currently a Certified Human Resources Professional. Angela graduated from Rutgers University in NJ with a double bachelor’s degree in Labor/Employment Relations & Sociology. She also has an MBA from Strayer University.

Angela founded a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization called Head to the Sky, Inc. It was formed in order to assist those in prison with their transition into society and to reduce the rate of recidivism in the community. During this venture, Angela received a certification in grant writing from The Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College. Angela was very passionate about teaching, training, and sharing the love of Christ in this ministry; but she had to refocus her passion when she and her husband decided to start their family.

Angela has been married to the love of her life, Duane Anderson for 16 years. Together they have two sons: Thomas (age 8) and Ryan (age 3). Angela’s favorite pastime is journaling and she also enjoys spending quality time with her family. Her personal mission is to empower others to achieve their goals and dreams.

~*~
Connect with Angela:
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/angela.thomasanderson
Facebook fan page for her devotional book, Just When I Thought I Knew God:
https://www.facebook.com/jwitikg/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/angelanderson1104/

Friday, September 17, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Discipleship


The Path of Discipleship
A devotional by Wendy Wilson Spooner

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13:34-35 (KJV)

Jesus Christ was the perfect example of staying on the path of discipleship. He showed us the ultimate way to live: His way.

Three important milestones mark the road of Biblical discipleship.

Milestone #1: Love your enemies.

Love is certainly the defining attribute of our Savior Jesus Christ. The Mosaic command was to love the Lord with all your heart, might, mind and strength. But Christ’s personal teachings went deeper and extended the commandment to love your enemies as well. Ultimate love was shown when Jesus laid down his life for his friends, His disciples, the lost, you, me, and even the very worst of sinners.

Milestone #2: Feed His sheep.

In Romans 10:14 (KJV), disciples and followers of Christ were taught, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” In Christ’s time, early believers made a world of difference when they opened their mouths, testifying and sharing the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose form the dead that we might all have eternal life.

Milestone #3: Endure to the end.

Hebrews 3:12-13 (KJV) says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Enduring to the end means doing your best to stay faithful to the last day, in keeping God’s commandments, believing in His Word, and having faith amidst even the worst of trials.

The early disciples of Jesus Christ were brave and courageous testifiers in an incredibly barbaric time in the history of this earth. What we can learn from them will surely help us in our day.

These same three important milestones mark the road of present-day discipleship.


Milestone #1 (revisited): Love your enemies.

This is a big one in our day. With our nation (for those of us here in the United States of America) seemingly divided on many topics, where and how do we show love for our enemies? Some of us have the opportunity daily to practice. Many find success by being kind on social media, standing for Christ without guile in the midst of an anti-Christian workplace, and by turning the other cheek when persecuted by hostile neighbors.

Milestone #2 (revisited): Feed His sheep.

Belief in Christ cannot exist without knowledge of Him. Maybe this is why Isaiah 52:7 (KJV) says, because salvation comes only from hearing the gospel, the feet of those who bring it are beautiful. My painted toenails do kind of make my feet beautiful, but I don’t think this is what the apostle Paul was getting at. In his day, the common footwear was sandals. Dirty feet were part of everyday life. But imagine receiving the good news from someone like Paul, who was so committed to sharing the gospel that he gave his life for the very cause. That’s beautiful. And to those who were saved because of Paul’s efforts, I’m sure it was a beautiful sight to see his feet approaching.

Milestone #3 (revisited):
Endure to the end.

What does it mean to endure to the end today? It hasn’t changed over time. It still means to have faith that God will carry us through the worst of trials, that keeping the commandments matters for our happiness and others, and that the atonement of Jesus Christ will make everything right in the end.

Are we disciples today? I know countless people who are. And we can bring more into the fold before the second coming of our Savior (Jesus Christ). How can we best show Jesus that we follow Him and love Him?

By bringing others unto Him.

We become true disciples of Jesus Christ when we learn to live for others. God is the director of the work in which we are engaged. He knows sometimes the path is overgrown with weeds, or that it’s so dark we will stumble for a time. But we belong to Him.

We are His, and He will help us every step of the way.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, help us stay on the path leading back to you. When we stray, aid us in quickly returning to avoid getting lost. And Father, help us guide others to you and your path, that many of your sons and daughters can return arm-in-arm, strengthened together by each other’s fortitude. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Wendy’s devotional message today reminds me of this song “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Wendy Wilson Spooner, Lic. G., LCoT, is a professional Genetic Genealogist by day, a writer by night, and an artist in between.


Her love of what we can learn from history compels her to write the true stories she unearths during research, and she’s found that truth is indeed, much more exciting and inspiring than fiction.

Wendy writes about family, faith, grief, art, and overcoming obstacles in life by coming to know who we really are—children of God, and, the descendants of remarkable people who paved the way for us—even if they really struggled. She believes in learning from ancestors, honoring them, and then standing on their shoulders to become someone even better.

As an award-winning author of professional articles and poems, Wendy Wilson Spooner turned to novel writing to share what she knows with a greater audience. When she is not writing or researching, she currently serves as National Vice Chair for Daughters of the American Revolution over Art & Sculpture in the annual American Heritage contest. She also serves as Chairman of the Advisory board for Century Vital Records in Bengaluru, India.

Wendy loves to read, hike, paint, travel, binge on Bollywood movies, and spend time with her greatest loves—her family.

Her debut novel, Once Upon an Irish Summer, released April 3, 2020. It has been a best-seller in the several different genres. She’s looking forward to releasing book two in the series!

~*~
Connect with Wendy:
Website: https://wendywilsonspooner.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3lpNZSY
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorWendyWilsonSpooner/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wendy_W_Spooner
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wendyspooner/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-wilson-spooner-07741249/

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Religion


Religion and Our Modern Day
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 
– James 1:26-27 (NIV)

I’ve written before how I love the book of James for its fire. It’s an exhortation more than a letter or as the kids say he’s “calling us out”. If this was a sermon, the preacher would be leaning over the pulpit, arms waving, in full voice. He’d be shaking the back pews with these words. In the verse above, his focus is on how we practice our religion.

Now, hearing the word ‘religion’ can make some of us wince. The world has soured on religion and the term has taken on some negative connotations. I don’t think this is because the world is any more sinful than it has ever been. I suspect it has to do with Christians (and others) behaving badly, while claiming faith. It’s also likely a shift in the modern mindset.

In a lot of ways, technological advancement has become a kind of religion itself. It doesn’t take a lot to put your faith in modern science and medicine. It doesn’t cost you anything, asks nothing from you. You can keep the parts you like and reject the rest. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, that takes work, it will cost you your life, so to speak. We die to self when we follow Christ.

In our modern times there’s an emphasis on self-expression and individuality. Being heard is a big deal. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But as Christians, we need to be careful about what we express. We need to watch what we put out in the world. Essentially James is calling on us to ‘mind your business’, the Kingdom’s business.

Whether its traffic when you’re running late, an obnoxious coworker, a rude customer, a family member in crisis, or even a stranger spewing hate, we need to keep a grip on ourselves. We need to remember our purpose and focus our mind and bodies on the mission, not the moment. That can be a serious challenge in times like these when we are pressed from all sides.

However, now is when we need this control and focus the most. When we’re being distracted by culture, politics and fear, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and our tongues in check.

Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, please give us the strength to love our enemies, friends, and neighbors in all circumstances. Make us instruments of your peace in a fallen world. Please help us to be salt and light, unpolluted by the world while active within it. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. 


She began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. After publishing a few short pieces in her college’s literary magazine she took a long hiatus during which she embarked on a few different careers, got married, had three kids, and renovated an old barn masquerading as a house.

Her most recent work, The Redemption Road, finished the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England.

~*~
Connect with Christa:
Website: www.christamacdonald.com
Newsletter: https://christamacdonald.com/connect-with-christa/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1538432676468229/
Amazon: https://amzn.to/33uk329
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CricketMacD
Christa's book publisher: http://mountainbrookink.com/about-us/authors/christa-macdonald/

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Romantic Reads: The Heart of Splendid Lake by Amy Clipston


Interview with Amy Clipston about her book, 
The Heart of Splendid Lake

Congratulations on the release of your new novel today! Happy BOOK Birthday to The Heart of Splendid Lake! Let’s talk about it …

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Amy: I enjoy reading contemporary romance novels, and I wanted to try to write my own. I came up with the idea for The Heart of Splendid Lake, and my agent and I pitched it to my publisher. I’m so grateful for the chance to share this story, which is very close to my heart.

Alexis: How did you dream up these characters? Did you use real-life people/movie stars as inspiration?

Amy: A few characters were inspired by people in my life, and some of the names are also special as well. As for Scott Gibson, the real estate mogul, he is loosely based on Jack Gibson, my favorite character on the television show “Station 19.” Some of Scott’s backstory is based on Jack’s on the show, but I’m not going to give that away. For Brianna, I imagined actress Olivia Holt, and for her fiancé, Taylor Reese, I envisioned Alberto Frezza, who also is an actor from “Station 19.”

Alexis: What was the most challenging part of writing this story?

Amy: It was nerve wracking to venture out of Amish fiction, the genre I’ve known and loved for so long. Amish fiction is comfortable for me, and I had to challenge myself to try something new. I learned a lot from writing this book, and I believe it has helped me grow as a writer.

Writing contemporary romance is much different from writing about the Amish, which means I had to think about romance from a different perspective. In an Amish book, holding hands on the porch and watching a sunset is romantic, but in a contemporary book, a romantic scene can take place in a hundred different places. I know what I love about contemporary romance books and movies, so I did my best to channel that into my book. I went through some tough edits, but I’m happy with how the book turned out. I can’t wait to see what readers think.

Alexis: Describe the lakeside town setting of this story. What makes it special to your main characters?

Amy: Splendid Lake is a fictional town set in the mountains of North Carolina near Asheville, but in my head I see Schroon Lake, which is a real lake located in the Adirondacks of New York. I spent many summer vacations at Schroon Lake as a child. I remember swimming in the lake, shopping in the little downtown area, and going to the one-screen movie theater. I based the shopping area in Splendid Lake on the little town of Schroon Lake as well and incorporated some of my favorite stores there—the year-round Christmas shop and other little gift shops, an ice cream parlor, and a mini-golf course.

My main characters love the little town, and it’s home to Brianna. It’s where she was born and raised as well as where she wants to stay. She loves the lake and the cherished memories it holds for her.

Alexis: Brianna is the heroine of your story. Tell me about this character. What does she look/sound/act like? What are her hopes and dreams? What is her greatest fear and most troubling flaw?

Amy: I imagine Olivia Holt as Brianna. She has blonde hair and brown eyes, and she is petite. She rarely wears makeup, and she’s most comfortable in casual clothing. Her favorite outfit includes jeans, purple western boots, and a purple hoodie. She sometimes wears a baseball cap emblazoned with a Mustang logo. She enjoys working on boats, and she also has an appreciation for cars. Her hopes and dreams are to settle down at Splendid Lake and keep running the Splendid Lake Cabins and Marina resort, which is her family’s legacy. Her greatest fear is losing her family, and her most troubling flaw is stubbornness and having difficulty asking for help.

Alexis: Why does Brianna choose to stay in the town of Splendid Lake but her sisters choose to leave?

Amy: Brianna loves her lake and the family memories that she has created there. It’s truly her home, and she can’t see herself living anywhere else. She wants to keep the resort alive since it’s part of her family’s legacy.

Alexis: Being an expert boat mechanic is a unique role for a heroine! What made you decide to give her this profession and make her excellent in a trade that most people only think men do?

Amy: To be honest, I chose to make her a boat mechanic in order to create a unique heroine. While Brianna can rebuild a boat engine and work on her Mustang, she also has a feminine side. I wanted to write a memorable heroine who has many layers.

Also, I live in a house with two car mechanics and a third in the making, so I’ve grown accustomed to car talk. I thought it would be fun to have a heroine and hero bond over cars. In fact, I had a lot of fun writing about cars. I asked my older son to choose Scott’s cars, and he told me two of his dream cars. I included many car references, and some of the cars mentioned in the book are vehicles we have owned. And for extra fun, I included a true story about one of my husband’s old Gremlins. Also, Brianna’s dream car is my dream car, but readers will have to check out the book to find out what it is.

Alexis: What does Brianna love most about her home, the resort she runs, and her profession?

Amy: Brianna loves her lake and the family memories it holds for her. It’s truly her home, and she can’t imagine living anywhere else. She enjoys working with her hands and being out in her father’s shop. She appreciates that the resort has been passed down through her family. It’s her dream to spend the rest her life there, running the resort and raising a family.

Alexis: Brianna’s father dies unexpectedly and that sends Brianna into depression. Was she a Daddy’s Girl? Describe her bond with her father and tell me what they shared in common.

Amy: Brianna was not only a Daddy’s Girl, but she also had a special bond with her father. Brianna was more interested in following her father out to his shop than helping her mother in the kitchen. She considered her father one of her best friends, and they talked about everything.

Alexis: How does Brianna’s relationship with her father affect how she relates to men? Does she want to marry a man like her dad? Explain.

Amy: Brianna admires her father and she wants to marry someone like him—loving, easy to talk to, respectful to women, encouraging, hardworking, caring, and thoughtful. Her father always told her that she could do anything she set her mind her—especially when it came to being a mechanic. He told her to never let anyone tell her that she wasn’t capable because she was a woman, and those are words she lives by. She often hears his encouraging voice in her mind when she faces a problem.

Alexis: Scott Gibson is the hero of your story. Tell me about his character. What does he look/sound/act like? What are his greatest strengths and worse weaknesses? What are his dreams for his life?

Amy: Oh, I love Scott! In my mind I imagine Grey Damon, who plays Jack Gibson on my favorite show, “Station 19.” He’s tall and has thick, light-brown hair and baby-blue eyes. He’s thoughtful, trusting, and giving—almost to a fault. His strengths are that he’s hardworking and has a great business sense. He and his best friend built their own commercial real estate firm. His weakness is an occasional internal battle with low self-esteem, despite all of his accomplishments. He dreams of having a family of his own since he had a tough upbringing, but I don’t want to give away too much of his backstory.

Alexis: Why did you choose to make Scott’s profession that of being a real estate broker? What does he love about his job and how does his work play a role in this story?

Amy: I made Scott a real estate broker so that he would have an interest in the resort and also sort of be Brianna’s adversary since he wants to buy it. His interest in the resort and his background working in construction brings Scott and Brianna together but also gives her a reason to not completely trust his intentions. Scott loves his job because he not only built his own company, but he also has a stable income, which was his dream after his tough upbringing.

Alexis: What are Brianna’s first thoughts about Scott other than how handsome he is?

Amy: When Brianna first meets him in the Scott in the bookstore (literally bumps into him), she’s at first embarrassed, but she’s captivated by his sense of humor and their easy banter. Not only do they have an instant attraction, but they seem to just click. She would never dream of cheating on Taylor, her fiancé, but she also enjoys her short conversation with Scott. She’s intrigued by him.

Alexis: What was Scott’s first impression of Brianna? Why?

Amy: Scott also felt the same connection to Brianna that she felt toward him when they first met. He’s not only struck by how attractive she is but also by how they immediately began teasing each other. Scott, however, noticed her engagement ring, and he knew she was off-limits. At the same time, he also didn’t forget her. He recognized her when he met her again on the beach, and he wanted to know more about her.

Alexis: What is it about Brianna that makes Scott want to pursue her and win her heart?

Amy: Scott is immediately drawn to Brianna. However, he’s aware that she’s engaged and respects that. He would never dream of trying to come between her and her fiancé, Taylor, but he almost can’t stop his heart from longing for her. He enjoys their playful banter that comes naturally to them. He also is intrigued by her mechanical abilities and love of cars, which they bond over. Scott feels comfortable with her, and their conversations come easily. He believes that Taylor doesn’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated, but he tries to keep his opinions to himself.

Alexis: What is it about Scott that makes Brianna want to explore a relationship with him?

Amy: Scott calms her, but she doesn’t realize it until late in the story. When he sits quietly with her on the beach in Chapter 1, she almost instantly calms down. His presence is a balm to her soul during many of her tough times in the book. He also listens to her and offers her help, even when she insists she’s doing just fine by herself. He seems to know what she needs without her having to ask. She also enjoys his sense of humor, their fun conversations, and his love of super-cool cars. And he’s also really handsome, which doesn’t hurt!

Alexis: What brings Scott and Brianna together and what threatens to drive them apart?

Amy: They are brought together by the resort as they work together to get it ready for the summer season, and they are driven apart by Brianna’s loyalty to Taylor. Their doubts about their feelings for each other and how they could possibly make a relationship work is another roadblock. Scott also doesn’t believe he’s good enough for Brianna, and Brianna sometimes wonders if his intentions are true or if he’s only helping her to get the resort.

Alexis: What does Brianna’s fiancé think of Scott? How does he feel about this competition?

Amy: Oh, poor Taylor! He immediately feels threatened by Scott the first time he meets him and from then on, he can’t stand the sight of him. Taylor is furious every time he finds Scott at the resort, but at the same time, he’s never around when Brianna needs him.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this story?

Amy: I hope readers find that The Heart of Splendid Lake is a wholesome, inspiring story about family and finding strength through tough times. I hope readers find solace and encouragement in the book.

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

Amy: Thank you so much for hosting me on your awesome blog! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to get to know you and also to share my book with your readers.

~*~
Author Bio:

Amy Clipston is an award-winning bestselling author and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She’s sold more than one million books, and her fiction writing “career” began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories.


She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan University and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.

Amy works full-time for the City of Charlotte (NC) and lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and six spoiled rotten cats.

~*~
Book purchase links for The Heart of Splendid Lake can be found on Amy’s website: https://amyclipston.com/books/the-heart-of-splendid-lake/

~*~
The Heart of Splendid Lake book blurb:

Bestselling author Amy Clipston transports readers to a picturesque lakeside town in this heartwarming contemporary romance. 


Brianna is the youngest of the three Porter sisters and the only one who chose to stay in the small town of Splendid Lake, North Carolina. She followed in her father’s footsteps and became an expert boat mechanic, helping him run their small resort with cabin rentals, a convenience store, and a marina.

When Brianna’s father unexpectedly dies, Brianna is steeped in grief and guilt—then left alone to clean up the mess. To make matters worse, a constant stream of real estate brokers begins marching through her property, offering to buy the family land. In particular, she keeps running into handsome real estate mogul Scott Gibson.

As Brianna struggles to keep it all together, Scott finds his way into her heart. And as the two fight against their feelings, they just might find themselves forging a surprising and exciting new love at Splendid Lake.

~*~
Connect with Amy:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmyClipstonBooks/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amy_clipston/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyClipston
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2765728.Amy_Clipston
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amy-clipston
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amyclipston/
Website: www.AmyClipston.com
Online bookstore: www.gumroad.com/amyclipston

~*~
*U.S. Residents ONLY: 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: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 13, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Waiting on God's perfect timing and answers


He’s in the Waiting
A devotional by Cyndi Staudt

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” 
–Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

In 2006 I began a prayer quest to discover what God had created me for.

My prayer mantra I brought to God’s throne repeatedly was simply asking Him, “What is my thing?”

By January of 2007 I had prayed that prayer hundreds of times. One Saturday I sat down in front of the TV to do some work. Being an action movie enthusiast, I scrolled through the channels till I saw FBI and ICE jackets on the screen. Landing there, I put the remote down and began to work. I glanced up at the TV periodically as I worked until the depravity of what I saw on the screen captured my attention so tightly I couldn’t pull my eyes off it. As the movie moved to commercial, national statistics on human trafficking displayed on the screen.

I felt like God had dug His Holy nails into my astonished heart as He clearly revealed, “this is your thing”. It was also then that God spoke to my spirit that one day I would be working for an anti-trafficking organization. I didn’t know how, when or where but I knew one day God would follow through on His promise.

One month ago I stepped away from my full-time job and into my calling as I took a position with a local anti-trafficking organization. It shouldn’t be missed that this was 14 years after God first spoke this calling over my life. Many times over the years I was certain I had heard Him wrong or misinterpreted what I thought I heard Him tell me. But my heart could never shake the conviction that this indeed was the purpose God had in mind when He formed me in my mother’s womb 
(Jeremiah 1:5).

We live in a world where we can send cash instantly, receive same-day delivery, and send overnight mail. Over the last decade or two our society has grown accustomed to, and come to expect, immediate gratification and control. We are no longer used to waiting and we don’t like to wait for anything. We want to reap the second we sow. While society makes every attempt to make our life easier and faster, God works on a very different timetable. In His mind, nothing is wrong with waiting. In fact, waiting can actually be a positive thing that He often uses to make us more like his Son (Jesus Christ).

In the Bible we often see that God made people wait for things. But, because we have the full Bible and we get to look in the rear-view mirror, we also see that in the times of waiting God was right there with those who were waiting, even when to them it probably didn’t seem like it or feel like it. And because He was always with His children in the Bible, we know He does the same for us. Something actually is happening while it appears nothing is happening. God uses waiting to change us. By God’s grace, we can choose to wait as He intends.

“Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of running ahead of the Lord, and it’s the opposite of bailing out on the Lord,” writes John Piper. “It’s staying at your appointed place while He says stay, or it’s going at his appointed pace when He says go. It’s not impetuous, and it’s not despairing.”

It's also important to remember that, according to 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV), in God’s timetable “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.”

While God has been faithful to answer many of my prayers, it’s often been in far different ways than I would have anticipated and rarely as quickly as I hoped. But His ways and timing are always perfect and never disappoint.

Let’s Pray: Omniscient God, You are always at work and always on time. Help me to have the patience to wait on You, knowing that what You have for me is always worth the wait. Forgive me for the times when the gift has become more important to me than the Gift Giver. I want to order my priorities with You always listed as my top priority and I want to have everything else in its rightful place below You. I don't want to be so busy I think I don't have time for prayer! Remind me that I have too much to do not to pray. In times of waiting help me resist trying to do Your job for You and to search for Your presence in the waiting. In Jesus’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen.

*Note from Cyndi: Today’s devotion was inspired by the worship song “Take Courage” by Kristene DiMarco. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:
Cyndi Staudt is a Jesus-loving, adrenaline junkie who is devoted to living her life for Jesus Christ until the day she is living with Him.

With a passion for cultivating a craving for God’s Word, her devotions and Bible studies are saturated with faith and hope to stir your soul to connect with God in deeper, more intimate ways.

Through her writing she hopes to ignite your desire to read God’s Word, invite your heart to experience God’s love, and inspire you to live your live life “souled out” to the One whose love has no limits.

~*~
Connect with Cyndi:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/souledoutcyndi/

Friday, September 10, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: A modern life lesson learned from a Bible story


Put A Fleece on It!
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

*Note to the reader: Open The Holy Bible and read Judges 6:36-40 for the Key Scripture that supports this devotional message today. 

I am so happy that I read the story of Gideon when I was young. Through the years it has helped me to be bold and make tough decisions.

In the Old Testament book of Judges, chapter six, the Bible introduces a reluctant leader. He knew the stories of Hebrew history. He had heard how God had miraculously delivered Israel, time after time. But in his life, he had never seen any miracles.

Israel had been impoverished by the malevolence of the competing cultures in the land. They had succumbed to the practice of idolatry. Violence and fear characterized the community in which he lived. Gideon was either the youngest or the poorest of his family members. He was either humble or struggled with low self-esteem. Until he had a divine encounter.

The story says that one day while in the normal pursuit of his work, he had an epiphany experience. God literally stopped him, spoke to him and gave him a charge that would change his life. Gideon rightly perceived that he was in the presence of a divine emissary and asked for time to honor this unparalleled moment in his life.

Since hospitality, even among the poor was a cultural imperative, he ran home, fixed a meal and brought it back to this Angel of the Lord. It was consumed by fire. The culture of the time declared that if a person saw God, he would die. Gideon was assured that he would not die because of this experience but that God would lead, guide and guard him in the prophetic tasks of leading his people to revolt against the prevailing idolatry. Jehovah Shalom, the divine blessing of peace and protection was pronounced. Gideon built an altar to memorialize the moment. Then, he went home.

It seems that God often speaks to people at night. That night God visited Gideon again. He challenged him with a revolutionary task. He was to purge his father’s territory of the idols and gardens honoring them. He recruited 10 men and they executed the Lord’s command the next night.

As expected, the men of the surrounding community were offended. The word spread and soon the worst of the worst were arrayed to do battle with and kill Gideon’s gene pool. Gideon, the reluctant warrior, called his cousins and told them to prepare for war. But, he needed assurance. He spoke to God asking for an affirming sign of His presence and blessing.

He asked for the improbable. I have often said that if the fulfillment of your vision and purpose does not require the miraculous intervention of God, it is too small. He put out a fleece, a wool shawl or towel. He asked that in the morning the fleece be wet with dew, but the ground be dry around it. In the morning, the fleece was so wet that when he wrung it, the water filled a bowl. But that was not enough. He asked for the opposite experience after the next dew fall.

Let the fleece be dry and the ground around it be wet. It was so. With that confirmation, Gideon launched the revolution that changed his community and restored the visible presence of the Grace of God in his community.

Are you struggling with an impoverished spirit? Is there a resonant vision in your mind’s eye that you don’t know how to pursue? Do you long for a more meaningful quality of life? These inclinations may be the becks and calls from divinity. They may be the breakthroughs that demand another leap of faith. Do what Gideon did and put a fleece on it. Ask for a sign. I did.

Facing a life changing decision, My wife and I prayed the fleece prayer and I left a towel on the front yard overnight. n the morning I checked on it. The ground was dry and the towel was damp. I could not wring a bowl full of water from it, but it was damp. The ensuing night I put another towel in the same spot on the yard. In the morning, the grass was wet with dew. The towel was dry. I made the tough call and even though I was warned that there was no bridge back, I took the leap of faith. Like Gideon, that decision changed my life for the better, ever since.

If you are stuck, demoralized, or looking for the next adventure in faith, put a fleece on it and look for God’s guidance. However, once His direction is clear, if you do not go where He leads, you may be forever plagued with the what if curse. That is a topic for another day. Just put a fleece on it.

Let’s Pray: Almighty God of creation, opportunity and destiny, please answer the furtive prayers of the reader today. Guide him/her into the path of your providence. Bless them with courage to trust and obey your prompting. When they do, may they see and feel confirmations from heaven. In the name of Jehovah Shalom, I pray. Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.


Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address, psanderson75@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: A life lesson learned from opening a shutter


Closed Shutter
A devotional by Kay Pflueger

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” 
– Psalm 119:18 (NIV)

Modern technology baffles me at times.

Prior to the pandemic shutdown of 2020, I had never used a laptop computer; but when my employer requested that we work from home, I was given one to use to stay connected to my co-workers. I learned the basics—just enough to get by. I ended up purchasing one of my own when my employment tenure ended and learning the nuances of a laptop vs. a desktop computer has been interesting to say the least.

I recently had an experience with my laptop that was embarrassing but enlightening at the same time. Our family has a weekly Zoom call on Sunday afternoons, and when I logged on per usual, my camera was blacked out. So, I logged off and tried again—with the same result. As we are all told to “reboot” when all else fails, that is what I did. No change. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the camera app with no success.

Fortunately, my laptop was still under warranty so at this point, I contacted the Geek Squad via on-line chat. After the pleasantries of “hello” and “what is issue?” the technician asked me if my laptop had a slide bar at the top where the camera lens is. I had never noticed that bar before, but I discovered it had somehow been moved and was covering the lens. Problem solved! How embarrassing that something so simple had caused such anguish!

As I said, this was also an enlightening experience. Now I know how to solve this issue should it arise again, but I also learned a greater lesson through this. If I had taken the time to check out the features of my laptop, I would have known that slide bar was there and that it could shut off access to the camera if I desired. Investing the time to discover that feature would have saved the frustration I felt that Sunday afternoon.

I thought about how often I have tried to resolve problems using my own tactics only to find no resolution. It all seems futile and dark—much like that closed shutter of my camera. In my own efforts to figure things out, I often miss the answers that only He can provide. Much like investing that time to learn about my laptop, spending time in reading God’s word, in fellowship with other believers, and in connecting with Him in prayer will help discern His direction.

Reading the manual beforehand would have helped me to quickly troubleshoot the problem with my laptop; just as knowing God and reading His Manual (The Holy Bible) before problems arise can help us find the answers we need.

Opening the closed shutter of my mind and heart allows His light and love to shine in. My cloudy vision is made clearer. I am reminded of John 8:12 (NIV), where Jesus Christ says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

All it takes is opening the shutter.

Let’s Pray: Forgive us, God, when we think we know how best to solve our problems. You and only you have the answers. Keep our minds and our hearts open to your guidance. When all seems dark and we can’t find our way, help us focus on your light and your love. You are the light of the world. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Kay’s devotional today reminds me of the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart” performed by Michael W. Smith. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Learning to read as a young child opened a world of adventure for Kay Pflueger. She came to realize that words can have a unique power and beauty.


Choosing to share those words in her devotional writings has become a joyful and rewarding experience for her. As a widow, she feels a special affinity towards those who are grieving or experiencing loss.

When she is not spending time with her married son and three grandchildren, she is either reading, cooking, writing, or working on pursuing her Copyediting Certification.

Kay is an avid baseball fan who looks forward every summer to following her favorite team, the Chicago Cubs.

She is an active member of Victory Lutheran Church in her hometown of San Diego, California.

Kay enjoys writing devotions to be shared on her church’s website and personal social media.

~*~
Connect with Kay:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kay.m.pflueger
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/irishsweetpea/

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Romantic Reads: Chasing Her Dream


The Story Behind Jennifer Slattery’s story Chasing Her Dream:

In the spring of 2019, landowners across Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota experienced perhaps the worst devastation of their lives. Ranches that had been in their families for generations, destroyed. Cattle swept away. Homes desolated. Decades of investments, consumed, leaving many wondering if they’d find the resources to rebuild.

But as hard as all that was to see, those things aren’t what stand out most in my mind. When I think back on the floods, I most remember the every day heroes that stood beside their neighbors. The hours upon hours that volunteers invested, digging through the rubble, praying with the hurting, or simply sitting beside them as they processed it all.

During times of crisis, that’s often when the best of humanity rises up to offer a hand, a kind word, a gentle smile. To offer themselves.

That was the spirit I wanted to capture, and perhaps even inspire, in my latest novel, Chasing Her Dream. I wrote the first draft while parts of my state remained inundated, while articles still circulated of extreme kindness and generosity. Of community members shouldering one another’s burdens in tangible, memorable ways.

I wanted to portray, and perhaps even inspire, that depth of care in my latest novel, Chasing Her Dream. Through the sacrificial actions of Rheanna Stone, the single mom who opens her already struggling Texas ranch to a large number of abused and neglected horses. Through Dave Brewster who risks losing his flooded Wyoming ranch aside to help her. And through the community that sacrificially and steadfastly come alongside them.

Demonstrating the beauty and healing that can occur when we seek to love one another.

We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “It takes a village.” Admirable words, right? Inspiring?

But may that catchy slogan do more than inspire. May it motivate and mobilize us all to find little ways to spread joy, offer a hand, and be the friend that our neighbors, coworkers, and fellow residents need.

And I’m speaking to myself here, because it’s all too easy for me to remain tucked in my office, oblivious to the world, the struggle, occurring without me. I experience joy and intense fulfillment, however, and the pleasure of God, when I widen my view.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. 


She’s the author of six contemporary novels maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.

She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. 

She is also the host of the podcast Faith Over Fear, which you can listen to at LifeAudio.com.

~*~
Blurb for Jennifer's book, Chasing Her Dream:  


She needs his help…

But can she trust him again?

After she inherits her uncle’s mismanaged ranch, single mom Rheanna Stone’s not sure she can also handle saving abused horses from a nearby property. 

So when rancher Dave Brewster offers to stay in town to help, she can’t say no—even if he left her once before. 

As they grow closer, old secrets are uncovered…but can they heal past heartbreak to give themselves a new beginning?

~*~
Buy Jennifer's book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target or Walmart

Monday, September 6, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Dreams


Aligning Reality with Our Wildest Dreams

A devotional by Jessica Brodie

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 
–1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

Have you ever set your sights on something far-off, then dreamed about how wonderful it would be? When I was in my twenties, I longed for children. I began to idealize motherhood, imagining my life would change completely the moment I gave birth—I’d suddenly be mature, have it all together, live a life of bliss and maternal joy.

Life certainly did change when I finally had kids at age 30, and most of those changes were wonderful, but it wasn’t all perfection. I had plenty of days I wanted to pull out my hair or lamented having to pack an entire diaper bag before heading out for a simple trip to the mall. I had a notion of what I thought life would be, but the reality of my future was different—good, but different.

I spent some time as a single mom a few years later, and I was overjoyed when my husband, Matt, and I fell in love and he proposed. But again, I had an idealized vision of what our future would be when we finally exchanged vows. I couldn’t wait for our wedding date to hurry up and get here. Not only did I want to share my home with my best friend and the love of my heart, but I also was eager to have a partner in the home to help shoulder finances and child-rearing tasks. I imagined post-marital life would be much like our dating life, only full-time.

In reality, the intimacy and deep, abiding, Christ-centered love proved to be even better, though the future didn’t exactly match my expectations. Romantic nights at the movies were sometimes exchanged for other romantic moments—like holding hands while buying our first washing machine when my old one finally died.

In truth, I’ve been picturing my future in one way or another since I was a child, and reality and expectation don’t always align. For instance, I always expected summer break would be amazing, but it ended up being kind of boring after a few weeks.

But sometimes the future wows us, and we cannot believe how wonderful something is. When I was pregnant with my second child, I couldn’t begin to imagine loving this new one, my daughter, as much as I loved my son—and yet my heart’s capacity for love surprised me.

I think that’s what the apostle Paul might have been alluding to in his letter to the early church about what awaits Christian believers. He wrote, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV).

The mystery of God, His kingdom, His coming, and His vast, grace-filled, and merciful love aren’t fully understood by us now. We are only humans, not divine, and we only have a sense of the promises of eternal life awaiting us in heaven. But one day, if we hold to faith, we will fully know, as God fully knows us now. Everything will be clear in a way it cannot possibly be understood now.

You might be holding tight to a dream, imagining the day when This Big Thing will finally happen to you. Or you might have relinquished that dream when heartbreak occurred—your child or spouse died, you got divorced, a job ended, catastrophe hit—and can’t ever imagine the future will once again hold joy.

What happens on earth is never going to be perfect. We might achieve a dream, only to discover it’s not as great as we’d thought, or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe that job we took, while biding our time until something better comes along, ended up fueling our purpose in life.

One thing we do know: We can’t even begin to imagine how perfect and complete we will feel once we come face-to-face with our Creator.

So hang on, my friend, and trust in the plan and mighty purpose of the Risen Savior. All will be well—better than well. All will be perfect according to Him.

Let’s Pray: Dear Lord, thank You for Your encouraging promises and Your guidance for life in Your holy book, the Bible. Help us cling to that and not the false promises of this world. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden


She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.

Jessica has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast.

You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Trouble


Troubles of the World
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

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

How often in times of unrest have you asked or thought, “How did I get into this mess?”

Most, if not all, people fear being in trouble and want to avoid it at all costs, but it still manages to find them. Once they are in it, they want to get out of it as fast as they can, whether or not it is of their own making. Trouble is a storm they don’t want to face.

When trouble comes, most question it and compare it to others that don’t seem to have any troubles. But even those that appear the happiest, most content, and most blessed people have trouble in their lives. No one is immune to trouble. In fact, Jesus Christ tells us in John 16:33 (NIV) that trouble is guaranteed to find you. So, why must we endure trouble?

We live in a sinful world where trouble can come at us from many sources: the act of sin itself, conflict, emotions, and reactions to difficult life situations. And sometimes trouble can blindside us when it is least expected. Yet, Jesus tells us to “Take heart!”

Sometimes we call on God to get us out of our trouble and wonder why it feels as though He has left us in it for too long or abandon us in it. That’s what happened to Jesus Christ’s disciples when an unexpected, turbulent storm came up while they were crossing a sea. Jesus was in the boat with them but they were still terrified! To their shock and dismay, Jesus was asleep. Few people can sleep peacefully through a terrible storm. But Jesus could because He knew that as quickly as a storm can form, by the power of God, it can cease.

Yet, we still tend to doubt during times of trouble. Why? Trouble is a test of faith and endurance through Jesus Christ. During trouble, even Jesus’s disciples panicked and doubted the power of who was with them, despite the fact that they had already witnessed Him do miraculous things! Much like we do when trouble comes and we call on God to help get us out of it, the disciples woke Jesus and begged Him to rescue them from a situation they were sure could kill them, asking, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38 NIV) Of course he does! Jesus cares about everything, especially saving us from ourselves.

To aid his disciples, first Jesus addressed the origin of their fear and quieted the storm. Then, in turn, he questioned their fear and lack of faith. He caused them to consider what their fear and doubt was producing. From this we can glean what we must do when trouble comes. Above all else, we must have faith and put our trust in God. Resist fear and lack of understanding of our situation and look to God for guidance and wisdom.

Jesus Christ has the power to change our situation at the right time because of our faith in Him. If our faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20-21 NIV), it can take care of the trouble in our lives. And even if we can’t yet see the outcome of our trouble, He has promised to overcome them because He has and will continue to overcome the world.

Let’s Pray:
Lord, help me in times of trouble to have faith in you. Teach me how to trust you in every circumstance. Overcome my fear with your mighty power to calm the storm in and around me. Thank you, Lord, for every test of faith that brings me closer to you. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Mirachelle’s devotional message reminds me of this song “Soon I Will Be Done” performed in recent years by Bethany Devine. Listen to it here.

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Author Bio:

Mirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater.


She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting from Regent University and is an alumnus of Act One: Hollywood Film & Television Writing Program.

Mirachelle is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, American Fiction Writers Virginia Chapter, The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII.

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Connect with Mirachelle:
Website: www.mirachellecanada.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mirachellecanada/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/miracan

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: God will never forget you because He is Faithful


You Are Not Forgotten
A devotional by Patricia Russell

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” – Hebrews 10:23 (NLT)

One of my favorite movies is It's a Wonderful Life.

The story is based on the life of George Bailey, who, like so many of us, experiences many twists and turns in his life. Every time George was on the verge of moving in the direction that he dreamed, hoped, and planned, there was an interruption that would turn things upside down.

George remembers others. However, when it's his time to step into his dream, others forget him. 

There is a scene when Uncle Billy, who works at the family business building and loans office, makes a major deposit at the bank. Uncle Billy heads into the bank, places an envelope of money on the table, and walks away. Uncle Billy had tied a string around his finger to remind him of the reason he went into the bank in the first place. The string is strategically tied to his index finger so that he would remember. I'm sure you see where this is going – he forgot what he was supposed to do. As a result of his forgetfulness, George's life plans are derailed yet once again.

It feels great when someone remembers to keep their promise to us. It tells them that you have a place of importance in their minds, which is truly impactful. Whenever I travelled out of town or overseas, I would always bring back a gift for my family. I told them to look in my bag and see if there was something they liked. They knew what was theirs, and their smiles were priceless. I believe God wants us to feel this same way.

During this time of restriction and change, we may have felt somewhat forgotten. We have missed seeing each other at church and weekly gatherings. We are not bumping into people in the work hallways or the coffee machine, and the feeling of isolation is somewhat saddening. I know what this feels like. 

I also recall someone in scripture who understood these feelings all too well.

In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Joseph the Dreamer. Joseph is sold off to the Egyptians by his brothers. However, he finds favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard, and is positioned to oversee his entire property. One day he is falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and is thrown into prison. Joseph might have thought, How could this happen? Has God forgotten the dreams that He gave me?

However, Joseph does not stop dreaming. Later, he has a dream about the butler. Joseph tells the butler his dream, and the butler promises not to forget Joseph. His promise, however, was as strong as Uncle Billy's string tied to his finger. He forgot Joseph.

Sit for a moment with how Joseph may have felt. Like George Bailey, he may have felt like every time he made a step forward, he was kicked down a few pegs. Feelings of loneliness that sit with the feeling of being forgotten are discouraging.

Can you relate to this picture? Have you been doing what you know to be right, and yet you feel overlooked? Have you been praying and waiting for something to change in your career, and you wonder if your prayers are being heard? You are not forgotten. I, too, have prayed and asked God for change. I have watched while others have been chosen and wonder if God has taken the string off his finger to remind him that I'm still standing in line for my answer, for my breakthrough.

What I've learned is this: While we wait and remain faithful, God is working in the background, and He has not forgotten us. The scriptures state that God can be trusted to keep His promise (Hebrews 10:23 NLT). My friend, the character of the One who has promised is that of faithfulness.

Let's Pray: Heavenly Father, your Word tells me you are faithful, which means you never change. You are the same yesterday, today and forever. There are days when I feel forgotten, but I will hold on to the truth of your word that surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Thank You Lord, for always remembering me. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen. 

*Note from Alexis: Patricia's devotional message today reminds me of the song "God of All My Days" performed by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.
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Author Bio:

Patricia Russell is a speaker, worship leader, author, certified life coach and songwriter.  


Her gifts have been shared internationally with audiences to encourage, empower and share life lessons through words and songs. She has sung on national television broadcasts and shared the stage with several respected speakers. Over her 30 years in ministry, she has been a featured artist in musical cantatas locally and the United States of America.

Patricia had the honour of leading worship at the kick-off event for the 2006 the “Just Give Me Jesus” Toronto Revival with Anne Graham Lotz who is the eldest daughter of Billy Graham, a well-known American evangelist.

Patricia serves in ministry along with her husband Rev. Wayne Russell. Together, they have served as guest hosts on a local early morning call in program called “Nite Lite Live” that formerly aired on the CTS Television Network. They have two adult children: Raquel and Benjamin.

Patricia has recorded two CD’s: “Lord I Trust You” and a live recording “Draw Me Nearer.” She is also an author. Her first book is titled Lord I Trust You: Words of Encouragement. It is meant to further encourage and share life lessons as a result of her cancer journey. She is a co-author of a #1 bestseller book titled Crushed Diamonds Still Sparkle, and she has compiled the recent #1 bestseller book titled Stronger Resilience.

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Connect with Patricia:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/patrussellsings/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/patrussellsings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrussellonline/
Email: patrussellsings@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Romantic Reads: Heart's Desire


Interview with Linda Hoover about her book, Heart’s Desire:

Alexis: Why did you title this book “Heart’s Desire”? Explain the significance of your story title.

Linda: Early in the story, Julia tells her mother it’s her heart’s desire to marry for love. That struck me as the perfect title. The story is about her “heart’s desire.”

Alexis: Describe the heroine of your story (Julia). What makes her tick? What makes her beautiful? What makes her strong? What is her personality and outlook on life like?

Linda:
Julia is youngest of four girls and a little spoiled. She’s intelligent, independent and a bit of a risk taker. She’s had more freedom in picking and choosing what gentleman she spends time with and if an offer of marriage came, her parents allowed her to turn it down. Because of this, she’s shocked when she’s informed of her father’s agreement to betroth her to Lucien.

Alexis: Why is Julia set on marrying for love and love alone?

Linda: Two of her sisters were maneuvered into advantageous marriages and neither is happy. Julia’s parents weren’t a love match and at times it’s obvious. Not to mention the examples she sees in their upper-class social circle. She doesn’t want to live like that.

Alexis: What is Julia’s relationship with her father like? In what ways does it threaten to place her in a love-less marriage?

Linda: Julia loves and admires her father. She’s always trusted in his protection and provision. His sudden decision to engage her to someone she doesn’t want is out of character for him. It’s confusing. She finds herself in a position where she’ll have to defy him or end up in a marriage like her sisters.

Alexis: Why did you choose to set this story in Boston, era 1880? Paint a picture of this time and setting with words.

Linda: I love history and Boston played a big part in our country’s beginnings. Beyond that, though, Boston in 1880 was full of things for young people to do. The story begins after the new year, so Julia and her friends bundle up and go sleighing, complete with sleigh bells, and spend time at the lagoon in the Public Garden ice skating. Julia and Jacob first see each other there. There are also lectures and concerts to attend in the evenings. All these things are open to everyone, regardless of social class. When the weather warms up, they go on picnics, walk in the park and ride the swan boats on the lagoon.

Alexis: Who is Lucien Harris and what role does he play in this story? How does he impact Julia’s life?

Linda: Lucien is the villain. He blackmails Julia’s father into giving his blessing on marriage to his daughter. Julia isn’t aware of the true circumstances and spends most of the time she’s with Lucien trying to change his mind. He represents the very thing she told herself would never happen to her.

Alexis: Who is Jacob Anderson and what role does he play in this story and in Julia’s life?

Linda:
Jacob moved to Boston from a farm in upstate New York to work with his uncle in a jewelry store. He’s from the merchant class which makes him an unsuitable choice for Julia, but that doesn’t stop them from falling in love.

Alexis: What is it about Jacob that captivates Julia’s heart?

Linda: She would tell you it was love at first sight. A connection of hearts. Besides being handsome, he’s fun, gallant and caring. When she tells him about Lucien, he immediately wants to rescue her.

Alexis: What role does real-life faith in God play in the lives of your fictional characters?

Linda: Julia and her family go to church, but for most of the upper-class it had more to do with being seen going to church. Julia’s oldest sister meets someone who leads her to Christ and it makes a real difference in her life. She shares her experience with Julia and Jacob who also accept Christ.

Alexis: As the author, what brought you the most joy in writing this story? Why?

Linda: The characters were a lot of fun. One in particular, Edward, practically wrote himself. He’s not a main character, but is one of my favorites. I like putting them in situations they have to find their way out of and writing dialogue with sarcasm and humor.

Alexis: As the author, how does your faith in God impact the way you tell stories?

Linda:
I pray daily that God will be the center of everything I do or say. For me that means the worlds I create are centered on God. My characters may not know him to begin with, or maybe they did and lost their way or are mad at him and feel justified in ignoring him, but before the story is over, they’ll come to know him and it’ll make a difference in their decisions and in the way their path ends up going.

Alexis: If you could step into this story (Heart’s Desire) and counsel Julia, what would you say? Why?

Linda: Being the author means I can speak through a character and that’s what I did with Katherine, Julia’s oldest sister. She shares her joy in finding new life in Christ and tells how he freed her from worry. Her faith in God’s presence and protection is strong and she encourages Julia, and later Jacob, to pray about everything, believing he hears and will answer according to what’s best for them. No matter what, they can trust him.

Alexis: As the author, what is your heart’s desire for the readers of this book?

Linda: I hope readers will be entertained by the story, but also be inspired to seek a closer commitment to God, or be encouraged to share their experience with someone who needs to hear what God can do.

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

Linda: I’d like to thank you, Alexis, for the privilege of being on your Romantic Reads blog. I enjoy the opportunity to reach potential new readers, and I’d like to invite everyone to stop by my website to learn more about me and my books.

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Author Bio:

Linda lives in west central Ohio with her husband, daughters, grandson, two cats and a dog.  


She earned a degree in psychology from Anderson University where she learned the voices in her head were actually characters from stories waiting to be told.

Linda recently retired from the county’s public library system. It was the perfect place to indulge her love of young adult and Christian fiction. It was also a good place to build a long “To Read” list. These days she enjoys being a fulltime author in her home office, despite interruptions from family members and pets. Linda is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

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Blurb for Linda's book:

Julia wants to marry for love … But her father’s secret condemns her to a love-less marriage. 


In 1880 Boston, Julia Phillips’s father betroths her to wealthy Lucien Harris to cover up a tragic secret. She has no interest in Lucien, but Jacob Anderson, a kind jewelry store clerk has captured her attention. Can she put off Lucien long enough to convince her parents to accept a man who isn’t in the upper-class as her husband?

Jacob works with his uncle in Boston, but plans to buy land for a farm out west when he has enough money. When Julia walks into their store his priorities change. Their mutual attraction grows into love, and he wants to be the man she marries. But how can he with so little money?

Julia feels increasing pressure from Lucien to pretend she’s happy about the upcoming wedding. Then, she discovers the arranged marriage is based on blackmail. Her family will be ruined if she doesn’t comply.

Will God make a way for Jacob and Julia to have their heart’s desire?

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Buy Linda’s book on Amazon

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