Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review of To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

This was an incredible read ... hard, challenging and also very intriguing, and inspiring. I love stories that feel real to my heart and this one ranks at the top for that.

Publisher's Blurb:
TNK coverJulia Whittaker’s rocky past yielded two daughters, both given up for adoption as infants. Now she must find them to try to save her son.
Julia and Matt Whittaker’s son has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds—and his liver—crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a “living liver” transplant, but the transplant list is long and Dillon’s time is short. His two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart to two different fathers, offer his only hope for survival.
But can Julia ask a young woman—someone she surrendered to strangers long ago and has never spoken with—to make such a sacrifice to save a brother she’s never known? Can she muster the courage to journey back into a shame-filled season of her life, face her choices and their consequences, and find any hope of healing?
And what if she discovers in her own daughters’ lives that a history of foolish choices threatens to repeat itself? Julia knows she’s probably embarking on a fool’s errand—searching for the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs something from them. But love compels Julia to take this journey. Can grace and forgiveness compel her daughters to join her?
In To Know You, Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel explore how the past creates the present . . . and how even the most shattered lives can be redeemed.

To be completely honest, I found the book a difficult read. While the story and plot were very enticing, the constant POV switches made it a challenge for me. The book is set up chronologically, based on a time clock. Therefore instead of POV changes lined up based on scenes, you find yourself whirling to a new plot thread based on the clock. There are also several flashbacks. Eventually, I did adjust to the transitions, but cannot say it was a smooth read for me.

That being said the powerful content of the story still bled through. There are many great characters, each with their own investment in the main plot of the sick boy, as well as their own individual plots that are compelling on their own. It is an immensely deep and invested read covering difficult topics such as infidelity, adoption, intimacy issues in marriage, and even more crucial, the concept of redemption and forgiveness. 

A great book - not a beach/weekend read. Check it out for yourself and download the first three chapters free from Shannon Ethridge's website.

Thanks to Booksneeze and Thomas Nelson for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Changing the world one person at a time - or more?

Have you noticed there is a flood of kids out there changing the world?

I spoke at a camp this summer and using the movie tie-in of The Hobbit, I tried to convince a group of middle-schoolers that being small or young isn't an excuse. I gave them many examples of kids changing the world.

There are so many examples out there. Maybe there is a kid in your own home who is doing this too! (I'm thinking of you Benjamin!)

Recently I watched a fantastic movie called Little Red Wagon. It is the story of another such boy, Zach Bonner from the USA who did exactly that. The movie tells of how this young boy got started and how before he knew it he was running a charity foundation helping thousands upon thousands of needy children.

The bottom line is God is stirring the hearts of young people all over our world to make a difference. They are being challenged to start small impacting lives of people around them and then letting God take the reins of where He wants it to go. 

I really liked that the movie told a well-rounded story. Not just the facts of the boy and his journey but the ups and downs of a family trying to live out their lives together. There is no real mention or attention given to the faiths/beliefs of this family and I have not been able to ascertain if they are christian. However they are doing an amazing thing for God says 
"Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3
And there is no doubt that is what Zach is doing!

There are a few language issues in the movie to be aware of - a lippy teenager, basically. However I still believe it is a very family friendly movie to watch. But beware ... you might want to get off your couch and do something amazing after watching it!

Check out an interview with Zach and also the dove foundation review.

Movie can be purchased at Walmart.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review of God Is Able by Priscilla Shirer AND Giveaway!

Do you believe that?

I mean, really believe that God is able?

This book might challenge what you know and believe about God's ability in your life.

Got an IMPOSSIBLE situation? IMPOSSIBLE. IMPENETRABLE. UNCHANGEABLE. Maybe so . . . until God gets involved. No matter the details of your circumstance, His raw power potential and immeasurable ability refuse to cower in the face of any challenge. Nothing is impossible with GodNothing. Not even that thing. This is the uplifting, well-reasoned answer from New York Times best-selling author Priscilla Shirer—not a denial of life’s adversities and troubles, but a biblical reminder that God is always up to great things, even when His great things are greater then instant remedies and visible change. He is a God who cares . . . and a God who CAN. Believe it. Experience it. God Is Able.

This book was a pleasant surprise for me. Priscilla takes one verse and dissects it every possible way to help us understand the fullness and the vastness of God's ability. The verse is Ephesians 3:20-21. A verse that many are familiar with but likely have never had it broken down quite like this. Each chapter takes a word or section of words from the verse and kneads it through until there is no mistaking what the intentions of those words are, and the power intended behind them.

Now don't go judging this as "I've heard all about that verse before." Because Priscilla has an amazing gift of peeling back YOUR layers and digging deep into YOUR heart to tell an new story about this verse.  You won't be disappointed.

The book has a very easy flow and is easy to digest in small parts. It also is short enough to read over a couple of days. Her light-hearted but get-to-the-point style of engaging the reader is refreshing and perfectly suited for this topic of opening our hearts to the greatest that God is able to do in and through us.

An excellent read and an excellent gift for someone you love who is struggling through that impossible situation.

Order your own or comment below to win a free copy courtesy of B&H Publishing Group and Priscilla Shirer.

In case you are curious, I have blogged about a previous book by Priscilla Shirer in January 2012.

Thanks to B&H Publishing for my free copy to review. The above comments are my honest opinion. Also thanks to B&H for the additional free copy to be given away as a prize.

Comment below to be entered into a draw for a free copy of God is Able. Be sure to leave me your spam-free email address so I can contact the winner. (Ex: jodi(dot)janz(at)gmail(dot)com)

GIVEAWAY EXTENDED!!! DEC 31st. Start your New Year out right with a new book!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review of A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Uncover the art you were made to live.

Cover ArtPublisher's Blurb:
Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong? 
You were born to make art. You were made to live art. You might not see yourself as an artist, but you are--in so many unexpected ways. In what you create, whether poetry or pie, sculpture or sand castle, calligraphy or conversation. It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. 
Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways.

This amazing little book is jammed packed with golden nuggets of all shapes and sizes ... a million different ways you can gain insight, inspiration and courage packed into this wonderful item.  Emily P Freeman has done a wonderful job of breaking down barriers, opening dark closets and sweeping out unused corners in my life from her book A Million Little Ways. A true delight.

Originally I found her poetic style of writing a little confusing and even distracting. However the more I dove into the book and allowed her whimsical flow to rest with me, the more I began to see and understand her message. It isn't a

Friday, November 22, 2013

National Adoption Day

Today is a wonderful day to celebrate family.

Every family looks different. Some are big and some are small. Some are biologically all related and some are not. Those are not what defines a family. People who love you and accept you; people who look out for you and encourage you - that's family.

Today in the Unites States many are celebrating a new kind of family - the adoptive one.

According to the National Adoption Day website there are more than 100,000 children waiting in the foster care system to be invited to join a Forever Family.

I live in Canada and our research states there are over 30,000 children available for adoption today.

I cannot speak from direct experience about the impact of adopting a child. Someday we hope to do this as a family and have had many dis

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I am in love with HOPE

Let me tell you about my day. It started with a movie and ended with a hurting young girl. And hope.

It was my first day off in a long time. If I wasn't working I was driving kids around. But this day I was AT HOME. And it felt good.

After the usual cleaning and little jobs around the house I settled down to watch a movie I had rented from the Library that was over due. It was titled Have A Little Faith, based on the book from Mitch Albom.

Here is a blurb about the book, and ultimately the movie from Albom's website.
Have A Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an 82-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.  
Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof. 
Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Mitch observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi, embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

If you haven't heard of it before feel free to check out this little video clip from Mitch Albom talking about the book and then reading the first mesmerizing pages. (scroll down the page a little way)

The movie is an interesting one that I enjoyed a lot. It isn't family friendly in the sense that you would want your young children watching it. However I still give it a high recommendation. It was aired as a Hallmark TV movie a few years back. There are a few videos and trailers on YouTube if you are interested.

However the movie is not the reason I am writing. Instead I want to share with you what happened when I had to pause the movie to answer my phone.

There is a young woman my daughter knows that is going through a hard time. Family issues, boyfriend issues and the like but she is handling it all in an unhealthy way. That afternoon I paused my movie to receive a phone call from my daughter asking if this girl could stay with us that night as she had nowhere to go. I agreed hesitantly.

I resumed my movie only to be interrupted a few minutes later by the mother informing me her daughter was on suicide watch and did I mind that? Soon my afternoon was taken up with phone calls to the High School Resource worker, our local Family and Social Services and the concerned mother.

I began to fear for what I had gotten my family into. After I received my last phone call I hit my knees in prayer. Only God knew what our evening was about to transpire into. I prayed for the young woman too and the dark place she'd found herself in. I thought of myself at her age and drew so many parallels.

But God is good.

He is faithful to help those who call upon His name.

He did a miracle in my life and he could do it in hers.

I returned to my movie to catch the happily ever after ending as is crucial to all Hallmark Movies.  But it was the last line of the film that actually moved my spirit. As the movie wrapped up and the main character, Mitch Albom gives his final thoughts he says as his last words:
I am in love with hope.
Me too.  It turns out our evening was uneventful, the young gal went off to school with my kids the next morning and met with all the official people she needed to after her morning classes.  But as she left our house she hugged me and thanked me for giving her a place to stay and in my mind I replied. "I am in love with hope."

Whatever you are facing today may you find these words etched somewhere in your spirit. Hope is a powerful thing. God is good at His job of redeeming lives. No matter where you are or what you are facing ... hang on to hope. He will see you through.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review of Relentless Redemption by Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson

Inspirational & comedic speaker, Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, is the co-host for the national daily show, The 700 Club Canada. Called by God to the media miraculously one night in 1999, she has interviewed hundreds of celebrities and many great men and women of faith like Josh McDowell, Pat Robertson, Tony Campollo, Dr. Gary Chapman, Bill Hybels, Patsy Clairmont, and Thelma Wells.
Over 90 of her celebrity interviews have aired on The BIOGRAPHY Channel Canada. She's interviewed Hollywood favorites Josh Duhmel and Jesse Metcalfe, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Stedman Graham and Henry Winkler to name a few. She has hosted numerous television programs over the years as well as produced and starred in her own comedy sketch show Coffee Shop Girl.
However, the real story of where she came from and the brokenness she experienced as a young woman, has never been told. Devastation so severe, she lived for years believing she would never recover and had permanently disqualified herself from her destiny.
God's relentless pursuit of her is meticulously recorded on the pages of this book. Her story will inspire and ignite you to realize no matter how tragic your journey has been, it's never too late! God has called you to a great work and the secrets to rising out of the ashes are contained in detail. Her comedic style of writing will also cause you to laugh out loud at God's vindication and outrageous Relentless Redemption.

The power of a testimony could not be summed up any better than in this book, Relentless Redemption, with it's perfect title. Laura-Lynn's story is powerful and demonstrates the Hand of God at work like so many of the Bible stories we read. Despite the awful choices she'd made and the complete mess her life was in due to her own selfishness and pride, God had a plan. A plan to REDEEM, to RESTORE and to REBUILD.

Her message couldn't ring any louder that God has a plan for you too. No matter where you are, what you've done or how unworthy you feel. Tyler Thompson talks in the book about a time she visited a recovery house for people suffering with addictions.
"You are not your addiction, you are not your failure, you are not your shame, you are not even your incredible successes. You are God's child. Created to embrace Him as Daddy. He takes your "stuff" in exchange for His power.
Feeling disqualified? Don't believe it! Feeling rejected? Don't embrace it! Feeling despair  Don't accept it! Feeling sad? Don't receive it! Feeling alone? Don't trust it. Trust in truth not feelings. The truth is you are royalty, qualified, received and entitled to joy, hope and redemption."
One thing I loved about this story and how Laura-Lynn has written it is that we often pray and ask God to intervene in our messes and our failures and mistakes. Then when our situation doesn't change we think He won't, can't or simply doesn't want to help us. Reminiscent of awesome stories like Moses wandering the desert, Abraham and Sarah waiting for a promised child or Joseph knowing God had plans greater than slavery and prison for him; this story tells perfectly that in God's timing we will see the outcome of His ever patient and capable hand at work.

The book is well written and well put together. It is an easy read that keeps you on your toes.

If you love testimonies ... read this book.
If you love a happily ever after that isn't a fairy tale ... read this book.
But especially read this book if you feel any of those things listed above. If you feel like you are stuck and will never get out ... read this book. God has made a way where there seems to be no way. I promise.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Satellite Sky Solutions and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Surprisingly Fun Family Film

Have you heard of the movie Ring The Bell?

It is a film by Provident Films. It's written and produced by Mark Miller (a.k.a Sawyer Brown). Wow, that's a great flashback memory to my high school days dancing to a made up dance routine and screaming the lyrics to The Race Is On with my friend Nadine. (Opps ... too much information.)

Anyway, Mark Miller is a busy man. He has added film maker to his impressive resume of Country Rock star, Beach Street Record Label owner and Grammy and Dove award-winning producer for Casting Crowns and other great Christian artists. Feel free to check out an interview about Mark's life and his christian roots.

Back to the movie ...

The movie is about a slick, Big City Sports Agent who wanders down to Small Town America to sign an up and coming Baseball star. The movie is loaded with famous faces and even includes an entire Casting Crowns concert scene. And if you are a baseball fans you will want to see the faces that show up in this movie!

The movie has a great message and a real feel-good sense about life and faith. It's message teaches about priorities, the greater call upon our lives and of course the redemption of a heart that's turned from God.  "This heartwarming story of redemption will entertain and inspire the whole family." Check out the Dove Foundation's review as well.

I will add one personal comment. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this movie I have to admit it was a slow start for me. I found the beginning scenes stereotyped, amateurish and just plain cheesy. But let me give you the poke and encouragement to be patient, have faith and hold on because the movie soon warms your heart and endears you to the characters until you dry your tears in the final scene. Stick it out ... because it's worth it.

There is also a study guide available on the movie website to enhance a group setting or family movie night.

I definitely give this one a thumbs up! The race is on to go out and get your own copy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review of The Message Remix by Eugene Peterson

Are you familiar with the bible translation The Message?

I had read some scripture versions from The Message New Testament but I had never owned one. It was a treat to sit down and read through scripture as if it were a story book. In Eugene's own words he says,
The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again.” Eugene H. Peterson
For the purpose of this book review, I obviously couldn't read it cover to cover as I would with other review books. Instead I placed it next to my NIV Study Bible at the coffee table where I do my morning devotions. Then each morning I would read my scripture segment from my NIV and then from The Message.

I think The Message:Remix has earned a permanent place there!

I found the language easy to process and very visual. If you aren't familiar with this version please pick your favorite scriptures and google them with The Message in the search line. Check out for yourself the impact and imagery that could be added to your personal bible study.

As for the actual book I received I have a few points I wanted to make about it. I love the compact size and the pleasing wood surface cover. I liked how the scripture references were in the side margins instead of within the actual text. This helps the words to flow more like a story.

However I found the pages far too thin and difficult to turn. The words from the back side of the page were distractedly obvious on the page I was reading.

At the beginning of each book of the Bible there is an introductory page. I found these informative and enlightening. Peterson is a Pastor and his pastor-heart is found on every page but especially in the introductions. Each one I read felt like sitting in a pew listening to a great reflection in a sermon. (Hopefully that doesn't sound boring to you - that is not my intention.)

One last comment is that The Message: Remix is intended for a Youth market. From the sections I read I found it useful and applicable to all ages.

If I have piqued your interest, please check out a few places. First is a website, Read Think Pray Live. Secondly, is an interview with Eugene Peterson, Faithful to the End.

"Book has been provided courtesy of NavPress and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  Available at your favourite bookseller.” 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review of Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

The first and only word that comes to mind is ... WOW!

Stasi Eldredge: Becoming Myself BookIf you've ever wondered if your life will ever change, Stasi Eldredge's book, becoming myself assures you that "God will complete the good work he's begun in you." In this book, Stasi shares her personal struggles with weight, self-worth, and her past, teaching readers that God wants them to participate in their transformation as he completes his good work in them. She invites women to look at their pasts, especially their mothers, with honesty and mercy and to look toward their future with hope. Embrace God's dream of you!

For several reasons, Becoming Myself, was an amazing book to read. It was filled with so many encouraging words and insightful thoughts on living the life of a Woman-Created-By-God. (that's you, by the way). All the boxed quotes below come from Stasi Eldredge and will give you a glimpse into her heart.

Her passion is to speak into the lives of women. Women who have asked themselves:
We Are Not Our Past
  • is change really possible?
  • is there something better than this?
  • will I ever feel whole?
  • who am I really?
  • am I beautiful? acceptable? worthy?
  • can I truly find freedom?

Stasi has a gentle yet convicting way of speaking into the hearts of women in her new book. She is honest and transparent as she guides you through so the many variables, facets and angles that make you ... you. I warmed quickly to her words.

I need to point out that this is not a weekend read. It was difficult for me to absorb it as a book reviewer on a deadline. Instead Stasi's book would be better taken slow and unhindered. There were many places I felt her words convict my heart and want to dig down deeper- but I couldn't. There were many places when the flow of emotions would not allow me to continue reading- but I had to. 

God is a DreamerLet me encourage you to grab a hold of this book if you are wondering about, seeking after healing or change in your life. Stasi says, "the very fact that we long for the change is a sign that we are meant to have it." So get the book, read it slow and patiently and watch God unveil the true you - the one He envisioned, dreamed of and then created.    

A study guide is also available for purchase & great for small groups & bible studies.

"Book has been provided courtesy of David C. Cook and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  Available at your favourite bookseller.” 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is Halloween Happy?

The Halloween Debate and where I stand as a pastor. 
(This post was written by my husband and appeared first on his facebook page. Copied here with permission.)

The following are my thoughts and not the ideas of my church, denomination or my leadership team.

Many people have asked me to tell them my thoughts on Halloween. At first I hesitate so that no one is offended but, for some reason, I decided to honestly write down my ideas and thoughts about Halloween.

"I do not actively take part in Halloween but I have never had an issue with dressing up and having fun." That may be a safe statement but it is truly how I feel.

When I was a child I did the whole trick or treat thing and really had a lot of fun. My costumes were homemade and I went out and begged for candy from our neighbors - with no reservation. I had no reason to think that Halloween was a holiday that should be avoided.

Fast-forward to my Bible School years and I was presented with some really interesting facts about Halloween. I discovered that this day has some roots that did not involve a dentist. It has a pagan history connected with the ancient Celtic holiday Samhain. You don't have to send me links to expound on the history because I have heard it all as I have done my homework. I know the roots and understand them fully. I also know that 700 years ago Christians tried to hijack this day and bring it back to Christ. This is a day, in my mind, that has a history. Good or evil, I am not scared of it nor am I an endorser of it. It is just another day.

As I ponder on this day, I can truly understand if you are against participating in anything associated with Halloween. I also fully understand if you want to have fun and send your kids out. It is really not that big of an issue for me.

Why is it not an issue? Because, "This is the day that the Lord made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." I choose to look at Halloween, not as a special day or a cursed day, but a day filled with opportunity. A day that Jesus can be lifted high, just like any other day.

I love that our Kids Club Leader and our Youth Pastor are planning a Harvest Carnival to give kids in our community the opportunity to have good, safe fun in an evil world. I love how families may choose to spend time together instead of embracing this holiday. I love how parents walk with their kids and spend time together - even as they are going door to door. What a great opportunity to speak into the lives of our families as questions are asked and answers are given. 

We live in a fallen world, not just on Halloween but every day of the year. My attitude will not change just because of a pumpkin. 

So I ask you this, what are you going to do on October 31, a day the Lord has given to you?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stay in the fight til the final round!

Mandisa sings it out with passion ... You're an Overcomer!

Have you ever felt like you were all alone while you stood staring down an overwhelming opponent?  Maybe your opponent is a co-worker, a spouse, a disease, an empty house, a wayward child, a floundering bank account???
I can't possibly know what you are facing but I have come to believe that you are facing something - just like I am.

Recently the DJ from our local Christian Radio Station introduced Mandisa's new song Overcomer, with this thought:
He said that in his many years as a radio DJ, he had never had ONE song requested as much as this one. Everybody is calling him asking for it.
That tells me, above all other things that we face as Christians, as parents, as lovers ... as created human beings the hardest to overcome is discouragement. We collectively feel like we might not get through this. We might not win this one.

I watched the music video from Mandisa's song and could barely see through my tears as it played. The stories are compelling and the people are real. They did it! They fought the fight and they won!

I can too.  (And YOU TOO!)

My Bible tells me "we are more than conquoerors..." (Romans 8:37)  We are going to get through our battles, climb our mountains and conquer our fears - if we just trust Him. He is holding us, leading us, protecting us, fighting alongside of us. And best of all HE IS ALREADY VICTORIOUS!

You Are An Overcomer.

Don't give up.

Hang on.

Don't quit. Don't give in. You're an overcomer. In Jesus' name.

Lyrics for Mandisa's New Hit song Overcomer.

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing's really going right
Looking for a ray of hope

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He's not gonna let it get the best of you

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer

Everybody's been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you're not alone
Just take a breath, don't forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There's nothing He can't do
He's telling You

I am in the process of polishing up my latest manuscript. It is about a fighter - a man who fights in the ring but finds himself fighting for so much more. I wanted my character to feel discouraged and overwhelmed to the point of almost giving up. Then as he battled and struggled seemingly impossible odds, he would hit his knees and not give up the fight, but give into the fight. My character Daniel needed to go through the fight to see what was truly worth fighting for. Often it isn't what we picture or what we are hoping for. In the eyes of our loving Savior, the only thing worth fighting is who we are in Him. And how He will use our struggles, our mountains, our pain to make us more like HIM.

Please check out some scripture verses from Romans 8 in The Message. Let the words sink in and saturate your soul and all that it is longing for. Jesus loves you and you will overcome!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review of Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Book 3 of the Alaskan Courage Series is a delightful read. Again Dani Pettrey creates a suspenseful story around strong and relevant characters. I enjoyed Gage and Darcy's story.

StrandedBook Blurb: When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn’t satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn’t lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position.
Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn’t the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances.
Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report.
Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more Gage fears they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

The character of Gage had interested me from the earlier stories. I thoroughly enjoyed him being flushed out even more in this exciting excursion through the Alaskan waters. If you aren't familiar with the first two books in this set then check them out on Dani Pettrey's website or find my reviews of Submerged and Shattered on my blog.

For those readers familiar with the previous books and with Dani's wonderfully simple and beautifully executed writing will be happy to know that the McKenna clan make an appearance through this story. The plot picks up about five months after the end of Shattered. Darcy and Gage haven't spoken since she left Alaska. But neither have missed counting a day since. And that's a great place for a romance to start.

If readers are looking for excitement and adventure, both within the story and the setting, they will love this new addition.  

As well, Dani invites us into the nagging secrets that surround secondary character Jake. It is a wonderfully intricate back story that brings so much to light about the quiet character. I really loved this part of the story. It added a whole thread that I wasn't expecting. And who knows ... maybe a fourth book about Kayden and Jake?

Visit Dani's website for more exciting news of upcoming things for the talented author. She even has a soundtrack, Pinterest boards and videos to augment the stories of the Alaskan Courage Series on her Reader Fun Page. Also, if you were following the Alaskan Adventure Sweepstakes, the winners are announced on her site.

Be sure to check Dani Pettrey out. And also go to your local store and buy her latest book.

Thanks to Baker Publishing and Dani Pettrey for the free review copy of this book. I was not required to give a positive review. This is my honest opinion.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review of Made To Last by Melissa Tagg

If you buy one book this year ... make it this one!

Cover Art
That is a line I try very hard not to use. There are so many books out there that I  love and I want all my friends (and strangers) to read. But seriously ... it can get old.

Then along comes a book that I can't resist saying it anymore. Melissa Tagg's debut novel, Made To Last is my year's top pick for sure.

Publisher's blurb:  Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago. 
When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?
This story was engaging. The best part for me was that it seemed the plot was resolving at the midway point through the book. At first you may think that sounds bad - predictable plot, blah, blah, blah.  But it isn't bad. It was exciting that I thought I knew where we were going and how the ends would tie together but then I'd see the solid inches left of unread pages still in my right hand.  It was enthralling!

Tagg's characters were fantastic. I loved getting inside Miranda and Matthew's frame of mind. They felt real and almost touchable. Usually my head is controlled by the characters of my own writings that roam around and rule the roost of my brain. I push them aside while I open a novel and then when I close the book, they come right back, front and center. However for the three or four days I poured into Made To Last my mind was fully and completely consumed with Melissa's characters. They tugged on  my heart and teased my thoughts and perceptions. They truly came alive to me.

The book also contains group discussion questions at the end.

I can't wait to see what Melissa Tagg will do next!

If there is such a thing as a perfect story, Melissa Tagg has written it with this first novel. Laugh-out-loud funny, a delightful premise, hunky heroes, surprising plot twists and poignant, heart-tugging moments, all wound together with beautiful writing. Made to Last is a keeper that will charm its way onto your shelf, and into your heart.

Susan May Warren, RITA Award winner and bestselling author of Take a Chance on Me 
 So, who wants to read it?

Thanks to Baker Publishing for the free copy of Made To Last for reviewing purposes. I was not required to review it positively.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What does love do in your home?

Back in June of 2012 I wrote a book review on Love Does by Bob Goff. That book had an extreme impact on me. It has given me a new set of "rose-coloured" glasses, if you will.  I have tried to look at things from a bigger, grander perspective than before. I wish I could say my entire life is different because of that change in perspective but I am a card-carrying "baby steps" kinda of gal.

In May of this year I had the privilege of hearing Bob speak in person. He challenged me again (another baby step). He shared with the audience incredible stories and heart-tugging challenges but I remember one in particular.

He said to "hold people close" because "you will win everything in the end". He coupled that with an amazing story that I can't possibly go into here about a young boy he adopted. But the bottom line for me was that you have no idea the impact you could have on a person's life if you are just open and willing ... to do. Because Love Does.

Recently in music news Brandon Heath came out with a song and a video that exemplifies that very concept. It is titled Love Does and Bob Goff has his fingerprint on that one too.

Here is the video link for the official video of Love Does by Brandon Heath. Here is the link for the lyric video of Love Does.

The reason this had such an impact on me is one area in my life that I felt the tug to do more was with our three extra kids we have through child sponsorship. Each of my biological kids have a sponsored child in need, somewhere in the world that matches their age and birthday.

When my kids were younger we sent letters, photos, coloring pages and stickers (in addition to the financial assistance) to our adopted kids. Wealso kept all the letters and photos that are sent back to us as well.

However as my kids got older, life got busier and the letters and gifts to our sponsor kids dwindled. We faithful send our money every month but we've neglected to give of our time.

Isn't that such a North American ailment? It is too easy to open our wallets and not our hearts.

Bob also spoke about True North. He talked about the difference between True North and magnetic north. It is so easy to get off course.  At first it is one fraction of an inch - the slightest change that is almost imperceptible. But as time and distance add up we find ourselves out in the middle of a giant ocean drastically far from the place we were sailing to.

My goal was to impact and change a young child's life. But it was also important to me to teach my kids to look outside themselves and see the bigger picture. As my magnetic north of a busy life took me off course of my goal I see how I have failed to reach it. I have allowed my sponsor kids to live without a constant flow of love and encouragement. And I have shown my own kids that my life - and its hiccups - value higher than a single child's heart.

Where have you gone off course lately?  Is it just a step or are you miles from where you intended to be.
Call out to God, refocus your eyes on Him and ... as Bob suggests, hold people close!

Because Love does.

If you want to learn more about the children around the world trapped in poverty, disease and social injustice please check out the links below. If you know of any others please add the information in the comments section. Let's change lives.

Food For The Hungry
World Vision

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review - Trapped by Irene Hannon

Cover ArtA runaway teen, a desperate sister, and an intrepid PI determined to discover the truth 
When Laura Griffith's sixteen-year-old sister disappears on a frigid February day, leaving only a brief note behind, Laura resolves to do whatever it takes to track down the runaway teen. That includes recruiting ATF agent turned private investigator James Devlin to help. Dev knows time is of the essence with runaways--just forty-eight hours can mean the difference between recovery and ruin.

But the deeper he and Laura dig, the more Dev begins to suspect that something sinister is at work in the girl's disappearance. And in the icy winter weather, the trail is going cold . . . 

Now what sounds better than that for a curl-up read in front of a warm fireplace as Fall is settling in?

I really enjoyed Irene Hannon's book, Trapped. It is book 2 in her Private Justice Series. I haven't read book 1, Vanished. Yet, as her website states, "all books that are part of a series can be read as stand-alone novels." After reading Trapped I am definitely going to find myself a copy of Vanished.

Let's get started ... the characters in Trapped are rich and endearing. I loved the PI in particular. His personality and his charm were fun to read. There are many POV's in this story - which is not normally my favorite reading but I found once I got into the flow of each character I wanted to stay there. Very well done.

The plot was engaging, unpredictable and emotionally stirring. Probably the best review I could give for this book is that I couldn't put it down. I would bring it along with me in the car in case I had to wait for 3 minutes for my kids. I read it on my work breaks, while food cooked and at bedtime. It followed me everywhere just so I could read even a page or paragraph - anything to get me closer to the end. I even took a "mental health" day to sit on my porch in the warm sun to finish the last half of the book.

I recommend this book to anyone who like suspense, intriguing and unpredictable characters and a sweet dose of romance.

If you don't want to take my word for it, check out Irene's book trailer and excerpt for yourself.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Enter the Contest!

Maybe you remember the book reviews from this site of Dani Pettrey's first two books in her Alaskan Courage Trilogy. (Submerged book 1 and Shattered book 2.)
Well ... it's finally time for book 3.  Stranded!
The book review will be following in a few weeks but just to get you all excited with bubbling over anticipation, Dani is having an Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes. Check out all the information below and the links to enter your name in the contest. Then check back here for the book review in the weeks to come.
In Stranded, Book 3 in author Dani Pettrey’s acclaimed Alaskan Courage series, reporter Darcy St. James knows something is wrong when her friend vanishes from her job on a cruise ship. Everyone else believes Abby simply left of her own accord, but something isn’t lining up, and Darcy knows the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position.
Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock in Alaska for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy onboard one of the ships, working undercover as a reporter.
Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more they realize they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
To celebrate the story, author Dani Pettrey and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the ALASKAN ADVENTURES Sweepstakes, and your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes connected with the story!
Timeframe & Notifications:
This giveaway starts September 2, 2013 and ends September 19, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Winners will be selected Friday, September 20, 2013, and announced at

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeGRAND PRIZE:
In Stranded, Darcy, Gage, and the McKenna family launch into all kinds of adventures: from high-octane ocean kayaking, to rugged island camping beneath the vast Alaskan skies.
Our grand prize winner will have the chance to build their own adventure, with a $300 adventure gear gift card of their choice from either Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean.
And what would our hero and heroine do if they won the prize? Gage use it towards one of L.L. Bean’s gorgeous ocean kayaks, while Darcy would go for “Glamping” gear:)

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeSECOND PRIZE:
Everyone knows Gage McKenna’s campfire cooking is second to none. But inStranded, Darcy discovers that before Gage was a search and rescue hero, he secretly dreamed of attending culinary school.
Our second prize winner will have the chance to fulfill Gage’s dream with a $200 value, 1-year membership to Top Chef University.
Membership includes over 200 video lessons taught by Top Chef contestants, covering everything from soups to desserts.

Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Third PrizeTHIRD PRIZE:
Darcy once gave her missing friend, Abby, a beautiful shell necklace, engraved with a special message that made it one-of-a-kind.
Our third prize winner will receive their very own, one-of-a-kind “Earth & Sea” necklace valued at $100.
Handmade of New Zealand Paua shells, hammered copper, and Tahitian pearls, this necklace is the perfect compliment for a soft sweater and jeans, or a unique finishing touch for a little black dress on a special date night.

How to Enter:
Visit and complete the entry box, anytime between September 2 and September 19.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Story of unmistakable faith and family

Are you looking for an inspiring movie? I found one for you.
It is called Paper Dream by American Family Studios and Bridgestone Multimedia Group.

For a personal note before I explain the movie I want you to know that I enjoyed this movie more than anything I have seen in a long while.

Paper DreamThe movie is short; an unbelievably well-packed 44 minutes long. It tells the realistic and agonizing experience of infertility. The actors were new faces to me but it didn't feel like they were "new". The entire piece was very engaging.

What I enjoyed the most was the ending. I promise I won't spoil it for you. You will have to watch it to find out for yourself what happens. But know this ... God is amazing and awesome and as in real life - always present.

As far as family-friendly goes ... it has earned the Dove Foundation seal for its clean content. The only questionable items that may help you decide if your younger children are ready to watch it is there is a scene where it is vaguely suggested that a young girl has had an abortion. Without this understanding the next few scenes may be difficult to process. So decide for yourself if you want to open that discussion with your family or not. If you do ... I don't think you will be disappointed.

Fantastic! The best 44 minutes I've spent in a long while!

BTW, the DVD copy I have comes with two short films as bonus features. One is titled Aaron and is a five minute video about the lasting pain of abortion. (An extremely difficult one for me to get through with dry eyes!) The second is a forty minute documentary about an American family who lost a son and how they battle through the grief and devastation still praising a Holy and Blessed God.

The quality of the films and the DVD are exceptional.

Check them out!

Paper Dream - OFFICIAL TRAILER from American Family Association on Vimeo.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review - NIV College Devotional Bible

Fantastic Idea! Great grad gift.

College is a unique time in one's life. New issues crop up consistently, challenging what you know and what you think you know. I have a young person planning for college in my home right now. I am excited for her, but I'm also concerned for her. There are so many "other" paths to follow out there and she has led a quiet existence within the walls of our home, our small town school and our church. Soon she will see and experience the BIG, WIDE World.

Zondervan has published a College Devotional Bible. It is intended for those years when young people step out on their own and have to choose to stand for something.

For features, the text within the Bible is New International Version. The layout of the bible is crisp and clear with footnotes italicized at the bottom of the page. At the end of the book there are helpful pages such as:

  • Weights and Measurements
  • Subject Index
  • Read Through the Bible in One Year Reading Plan
  • 60 Days Overview of the Bible
  • 30 Days for Beginning Your Walk with Christ
  • 30 Days with Jesus
  • 30 Days in the Psalms
  • 30 Days in Proverbs
  • 20 Not-So-Famous Bible Stories
  • 30 Days With Paul
  • 30 Days of Promises
  • 30 Days of Leadership
  • 30 Days of Prayer
  • 30 Days of Knowing God
  • 30 Stories of Great Faith
That's nearly 14 months worth of Bible Study - lasting several years of schooling.

As well, throughout the Bible are appropriately placed

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Truth - just because?

My default is to underthink.

I mean, that usually when I hear something, see something or read something I just accept it.  I don't very often unpack thoughts or ideas very well.  It is kinda like my mind is a large room full of unopened packages. Now, I'm not dumb ... I just accept things at face value easily. I assume that if the information isn't obvious and visible on the outside than it must not be important.
© Eagle13<a href="">Dreamstime Stock Photos</a> & <a href="">Stock Free Images</a>

Like I said, this is my default.  Thankfully as an adult I have learned to open some of the packages and analyze them.  Still, I recognize this as an area that I need to work on.  In fact, looking back in my journal I found a written goal from a few months ago:
I want to listen more intently and ask more questions.
Basically I need to learn to unpack better.

The strange thing is that every once in awhile I will suddenly and rather violently swing to the other side and completely overthink something.

Here's a silly example that happened the other night that got me thinking.

My daughter showed me a video on her iPod that her brother and her were giggling about.  It was a

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review - Choose Justice with Tony Compolo and Shane Claiborne

" a global village, distance no longer decides who is your neighbor, and "love thy neighbor" is not advice, it's a command."                   Bono

I had the amazing opportunity to review the DVD Choose Justice created by World Vision Canada as a resource for churches.  PLEASE check this out!! Draw close and join the conversation about our world awareness. ***It's not just about giving money each month to feed a child - it is about  a mission to "change the consciousness of people across Canada, across the United States to get them to think differently about their lifestyle." (Quote from Tony Compolo in video link at bottom.) 

Choose Justice Cover imageBlurb: Most of us are aware that we have a  role to play in making our world a more just and equitable place, but we’re not sure where to start. In Choose Justice, participants will discover that they are not alone on the journey to justice. God loves justice too and longs for His people to follow Him in bringing restoration to our world and to those who have been left on the margins of society. Choosing justice a daily basis—at the mall, at the table, in our celebrations—will change our lives, the lives of those around us and the lives of people we may never meet. With Christ, we can participate in building a better world through the many choices we make every day.

Choose Justice: A Daily lifestyle is a fabulous resource for churches or small groups to crack open the sometimes overwhelming can of social justice issues in an easy to manage way. Tony Compolo and Shane Claiborne walk the viewer through six sessions on social justice.  Each video clip runs around