By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Month: April 2019 (page 1 of 2)

Main Character Monday: Levi Prince

Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s interview is a special one because today’s guest is from a YA fantasy book. Let’s welcome Levi Prince from The Fay’s Apprentice by Amy C. Blake. Thank you for joining me.

If you could choose only one thing to buy without money being an issue, what would you buy?

An airplane or a helicopter to transport me between my home in Ohio and Castle Island on Lake Superior. That way I can more easily spend time with my family and with Sara and her parents.

The New Testament tells the story of two sisters who react to Jesus visiting in very different ways. Mary chooses to spend her time with him, while Martha chooses to see to the physical details of his visit. Are you more a Mary or Martha?

As a teenage boy, I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about identifying with either woman, but I suppose I’m more of a Martha trying to become a Mary. I spent the previous two years of my life trying to physically force things to work out as I thought best. This year, I’m trying to live in obedience to God and simply trust Him to work everything out for His glory.

I find that’s always the best choice. And maybe I should re-work some of my questions to better fit the men I interview! Thanks for rolling with it.

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 – Do you think this verse, lived out would have made a difference in your life? If so, how?

It certainly would’ve made a difference in the lives of two of my friends. My best friend Trevor lost his mom when he was a little kid, and his family has never been the same. His relationship with his dad is wretched, and his older brother is just plain mean. My dad has tried to be somewhat of a father to Trevor, but it’s hard since we live more than two hours apart.

My other friend Morgan is a mess because of her mom’s drug addictions and her step-dad’s nastiness. Sara, Lizzie, and Monica try to help her, but she’s so mixed up from all the hard times she’s been through. If somebody in her family, like maybe her aunt and uncle—Hunter’s parents—were Christians who lived out this verse to her, I think she’d be a lot better off.

It sounds like your friends are lucky to have a friend like you in their corner. 

What scripture verse would you claim as a life verse?

Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” In a place like Terracaelum where mormos, monsters, and demon sorcerers are a very real threat, trusting God is crucial.

I think I may have to ask you back for another interview. I’d like to find out more about Terracaelum and your time there. Of course, my readers and I can enjoy your story too, even if we’re a tiny bit over the YA cut-off.

If there was one message you could give those reading this interview, what would that be?

No matter your situation, trust in the Lord for strength. Don’t rely on yourself. He is the only omnipotent one.

That’s a great truth to remember whether you’re in another world or trying to live a God-honoring Christian life wherever you are. 

Just for Fun:

Indoors or outdoors: Outdoors because Terracaelum is awesome!

Reading or writing: Reading

Apples or pears: Pears

Early bird or night owl: Night owl

Describe Amy in three words:

Motherly: because she loves and cares for her children.

Imaginative: because have you read the situations she puts me into?

Growing: because she learns more about God every day, just as she has me doing.

Thank you for joining me Levi. And thank you Amy C. Blake for allowing me to interview him.

Keep reading for more information on The Fay’s Apprentice and Amy C. Blake.

FaysApprentice_FlatThe Fay’s Apprentice (book 3)

On Levi’s third summer at Camp Classic, he’s torn between two responsibilities. On the one hand, his parents expect him to watch over his little sister Abby, who has no clue their summer camp is a haven for mythical creatures. On the other hand, Mr. Dominic wants him to train at Fort Terra, a full day’s hike away from his sister, because of Levi’s previous encounters with the demon sorcerer Deceptor. Although he enjoys training with his friends, Levi finds life at Fort Terra difficult thanks to the ongoing tension between him and Hunter and the stress of having his former kidnapper Regin as his chaperone. When the woman Regin claims to be the evil sorceress Anna appears, Levi faces a whole new challenge.

 

SONY DSCAward-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. She’s also writing two series for the Christian market, her Levi Prince YA fantasy series and her On the Brink Christian suspense trilogy.

WhitewashedColorblind, and Tie-Dyed, featuring three homeschooled girls on the brink of adulthood…and danger, are available in paperback and Kindle. The Trojan Horse TraitorThe Fall of Thor’s Hammer, and The Fay’s Apprentice, about homeschooled pastor’s kid Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum, are also available in paperback and Kindle. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com.

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What I'm Reading: All Made Up

television.pngYou can keep Survivor, though I watched the earliest seasons. I have no desire to watch The Voice or American Idol and never have. And I will definitely pass on The Bachelor. Don’t even get me started on everything that’s wrong with that one! I will admit to a brief fling with King of the Nerds, The Mole, and Full Metal Jousting. I would probably still watch those if their ratings had been high enough to continue the shows.
They weren’t, and so my foray into the world of reality television runs along the lines of The Worst Cooks in America and the Great British Bake-off. Zumbo’s Just Desserts was a really fun one too. But my personal favorite, now only available in reruns, was Cupcake Wars.
I loved the set of Cupcake Wars. I loved the themes the contestants had to work with. The creativity and seeing the giant displays come together at the end were inspiring to this amateur cupcake baker. The unique flavors and even the failures caught my interest and inspired me. I loved everything about the show except that it had to end.
No matter how much I enjoyed it, I know Cupcake Wars, along with all the other reality shows are less than real. The outcomes may not be rigged from the start, but there are plenty of other scenarios played up for the viewers. Drama equals ratings and ratings equal sponsors. Every disaster, argument, and failure are highlighted for the cameras. Time is warped. Planning periods are non-existent making the feats of contestants seem next to impossible. All of it works to draw the audience in, but it should leave us questioning the moniker of “reality” television.
These issues become part if the drama in All Made Up by Kara Isaac. It’s challenging enough to give this contemporary Christian romance its needed conflict when producers of a romantic reality show cast a down-to-earth, faithful farmer as it’s bachelor looking for love. Caleb Murphy is a last minute replacement, and his morals and personality aren’t exactly the stuff of exciting television.
When make-up artist Katriona McLeod is drafted to stand-in for a sick contestant, the drama is raised a notch or two. Katriona’s past with Caleb creates equal part romantic sparks and tension on the set. It’s the only thing producers can consistently count on, and her walk-on appearance doesn’t walk-off after the first episode as originally planned.
Katriona and Caleb have enough confusion and hurt to work through on their own. But determining what’s real and what’s made for television isn’t easy with lights and cameras following your every move. The question is whether or not they can be real enough with each other to deal with their past and have a second chance at love once the cameras stop rolling.
The superficial setting of All Made Up doesn’t keep Kara Isaac from diving into heartfelt conversations between Katriona and Caleb. What results is a fun, encouraging story about being real and finding love.
By the Book: While entertaining, reality television is less than real. Every conversation and situation is engineered to create the perfect picture for the viewers. That’s fine or television, but it’s damaging when the same attitudes are adopted in our faith. We want to be examples of Christ-like living to those we come in contact with. That’s kind of the point of being labeled “Christian”. But we are also called to be real, honest, and humble. While we don’t want to flaunt our sins, failures, and struggles like a badge of honor, we also don’t want give an image of perfection in our walk. We aren’t perfect. We know it. Those around us know it. When we hide our flaws, even with the good intent of showing God’s love and power in our lives, we end up doing the opposite. Not only do people know we’re being less than honest, they also end up believing God is less than He says He is. If He wasn’t, why would His people have to protect Him in this way? I don’t know about you, but I connect more with the believers in my life who are honest with me about the things they’ve been through. Their testimonies of how God has worked in and through the circumstances of their lives speak to me and encourage me because I know I’m not the only one. Romans 12:15 instructs us to rejoice with those who are in a good place and weep with those who are hurting. God’s desire is for believers to be family for each other, helping each other. We can only do this when we put aside made for television Christianity and embrace Christianity in real life with all it’s ups and downs.

What I’m Reading: All Made Up

television.pngYou can keep Survivor, though I watched the earliest seasons. I have no desire to watch The Voice or American Idol and never have. And I will definitely pass on The Bachelor. Don’t even get me started on everything that’s wrong with that one! I will admit to a brief fling with King of the Nerds, The Mole, and Full Metal Jousting. I would probably still watch those if their ratings had been high enough to continue the shows.

They weren’t, and so my foray into the world of reality television runs along the lines of The Worst Cooks in America and the Great British Bake-off. Zumbo’s Just Desserts was a really fun one too. But my personal favorite, now only available in reruns, was Cupcake Wars.

I loved the set of Cupcake Wars. I loved the themes the contestants had to work with. The creativity and seeing the giant displays come together at the end were inspiring to this amateur cupcake baker. The unique flavors and even the failures caught my interest and inspired me. I loved everything about the show except that it had to end.

No matter how much I enjoyed it, I know Cupcake Wars, along with all the other reality shows are less than real. The outcomes may not be rigged from the start, but there are plenty of other scenarios played up for the viewers. Drama equals ratings and ratings equal sponsors. Every disaster, argument, and failure are highlighted for the cameras. Time is warped. Planning periods are non-existent making the feats of contestants seem next to impossible. All of it works to draw the audience in, but it should leave us questioning the moniker of “reality” television.

These issues become part if the drama in All Made Up by Kara Isaac. It’s challenging enough to give this contemporary Christian romance its needed conflict when producers of a romantic reality show cast a down-to-earth, faithful farmer as it’s bachelor looking for love. Caleb Murphy is a last minute replacement, and his morals and personality aren’t exactly the stuff of exciting television.

When make-up artist Katriona McLeod is drafted to stand-in for a sick contestant, the drama is raised a notch or two. Katriona’s past with Caleb creates equal part romantic sparks and tension on the set. It’s the only thing producers can consistently count on, and her walk-on appearance doesn’t walk-off after the first episode as originally planned.

Katriona and Caleb have enough confusion and hurt to work through on their own. But determining what’s real and what’s made for television isn’t easy with lights and cameras following your every move. The question is whether or not they can be real enough with each other to deal with their past and have a second chance at love once the cameras stop rolling.

The superficial setting of All Made Up doesn’t keep Kara Isaac from diving into heartfelt conversations between Katriona and Caleb. What results is a fun, encouraging story about being real and finding love.

By the Book: While entertaining, reality television is less than real. Every conversation and situation is engineered to create the perfect picture for the viewers. That’s fine or television, but it’s damaging when the same attitudes are adopted in our faith. We want to be examples of Christ-like living to those we come in contact with. That’s kind of the point of being labeled “Christian”. But we are also called to be real, honest, and humble. While we don’t want to flaunt our sins, failures, and struggles like a badge of honor, we also don’t want give an image of perfection in our walk. We aren’t perfect. We know it. Those around us know it. When we hide our flaws, even with the good intent of showing God’s love and power in our lives, we end up doing the opposite. Not only do people know we’re being less than honest, they also end up believing God is less than He says He is. If He wasn’t, why would His people have to protect Him in this way? I don’t know about you, but I connect more with the believers in my life who are honest with me about the things they’ve been through. Their testimonies of how God has worked in and through the circumstances of their lives speak to me and encourage me because I know I’m not the only one. Romans 12:15 instructs us to rejoice with those who are in a good place and weep with those who are hurting. God’s desire is for believers to be family for each other, helping each other. We can only do this when we put aside made for television Christianity and embrace Christianity in real life with all it’s ups and downs.

Right Stuff Wednesday: The Places You'll Go

pillow“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go
Do you have a car pillow? We do. We didn’t until my youngest son (who is a teenager by the way) decided the drive to school was the perfect opportunity to catch a few more minutes of sleep since seven o’clock is terribly early to wake up. Even waking him at seven is a process. He has to be woken up at least three times before he stumbles out of bed, dresses, brushes his teeth, and falls back into bed until it’s time to head out the door.
I have a feeling the culprit in this situation is late nights. As much as his morning struggle might cause frustration, I’m aware of the old adage “those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks”. Most days, I live in a glass house. My issue may not be sleeping instead of getting ready for work, but there are plenty of times I need a push, or two or three, to accomplish anything in my writing life. I have weeks overflowing with motivation and accomplishment. But there are also weeks I come home from work, make dinner, and follow that up with making excuses. I’m tired. I can’t think. I just want some quiet time without having to do anything.
My bad weeks are really bad. And writing is something I want to do, something I enjoy. Monday’s excuses become Tuesday’s excuses become Wednesday’s excuses until a new habit has formed. I find myself wanting to write but not enough to get the job done. Eventually, like the third call for my son to get out of bed, something shakes me out of my apathy. Deadlines, inspiration, or encouragement re-awaken my motivation. I turn on my lap top, and the words flow until the next bad week.
I wish I could say writing was the only area of my life where I need the occasional push. I can’t even say writing and housework are the only areas. And believe me, I need a hefty push in the housework department! No, as much as I hate to admit it, my spiritual life takes a hit every now and then when apathy comes calling.
Sometimes the deficit is found in my prayer life or time in God’s word. I know I have a relationship with God. And I know relationships are built by time spent together. I know prayer and scripture are two of the best ways to spend time with God. That, along with strengthening us for the spiritual battles we face, are why scriptures tell us to pray continually and to hide God’s word in our hearts. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. Even though I want to be close to God and strong in my relationship with Him, I choose other things and let time with Him go. Soon, I’ve developed a new pattern that is hard to re-write.
Other times I need a nudge to do what God has asked me to do. Whether it’s doing something kind and unexpected for a friend in need or giving to the beggar on the street corner or taking an uncomfortable step in the direction of the ministry God has placed on my heart, I feel God’s gentle nudge showing me what He wants me to do. I feel it. I want to obey, but I don’t want to enough to get out of my comfort zone. I let my fears, doubts, or desire for comfort or control stand in the way of doing what I know God wants me to do. Soon, my world is revolving around me more than it revolves around Him. I’m stuck.
I have brains in my head and feet in my shoes, but I’m not moving anywhere in times like these. I need to realign my focus on the things God says are important. I need to surround myself with those who will encourage me to continue growing and moving forward in my faith. If music or books or radio preachers inspire me to live out my faith daily through obedience and time with God, then I need to keep those things in my life regularly. When apathy tugs at me, I need to see it as the spiritual battle it is and do what I can to fight the lack of motivation. Only then can God move me in whatever direction He chooses, and that is the direction I want to go in.

Right Stuff Wednesday: The Places You’ll Go

pillow“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Do you have a car pillow? We do. We didn’t until my youngest son (who is a teenager by the way) decided the drive to school was the perfect opportunity to catch a few more minutes of sleep since seven o’clock is terribly early to wake up. Even waking him at seven is a process. He has to be woken up at least three times before he stumbles out of bed, dresses, brushes his teeth, and falls back into bed until it’s time to head out the door.

I have a feeling the culprit in this situation is late nights. As much as his morning struggle might cause frustration, I’m aware of the old adage “those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks”. Most days, I live in a glass house. My issue may not be sleeping instead of getting ready for work, but there are plenty of times I need a push, or two or three, to accomplish anything in my writing life. I have weeks overflowing with motivation and accomplishment. But there are also weeks I come home from work, make dinner, and follow that up with making excuses. I’m tired. I can’t think. I just want some quiet time without having to do anything.

My bad weeks are really bad. And writing is something I want to do, something I enjoy. Monday’s excuses become Tuesday’s excuses become Wednesday’s excuses until a new habit has formed. I find myself wanting to write but not enough to get the job done. Eventually, like the third call for my son to get out of bed, something shakes me out of my apathy. Deadlines, inspiration, or encouragement re-awaken my motivation. I turn on my lap top, and the words flow until the next bad week.

I wish I could say writing was the only area of my life where I need the occasional push. I can’t even say writing and housework are the only areas. And believe me, I need a hefty push in the housework department! No, as much as I hate to admit it, my spiritual life takes a hit every now and then when apathy comes calling.

Sometimes the deficit is found in my prayer life or time in God’s word. I know I have a relationship with God. And I know relationships are built by time spent together. I know prayer and scripture are two of the best ways to spend time with God. That, along with strengthening us for the spiritual battles we face, are why scriptures tell us to pray continually and to hide God’s word in our hearts. But sometimes I let other things get in the way. Even though I want to be close to God and strong in my relationship with Him, I choose other things and let time with Him go. Soon, I’ve developed a new pattern that is hard to re-write.

Other times I need a nudge to do what God has asked me to do. Whether it’s doing something kind and unexpected for a friend in need or giving to the beggar on the street corner or taking an uncomfortable step in the direction of the ministry God has placed on my heart, I feel God’s gentle nudge showing me what He wants me to do. I feel it. I want to obey, but I don’t want to enough to get out of my comfort zone. I let my fears, doubts, or desire for comfort or control stand in the way of doing what I know God wants me to do. Soon, my world is revolving around me more than it revolves around Him. I’m stuck.

I have brains in my head and feet in my shoes, but I’m not moving anywhere in times like these. I need to realign my focus on the things God says are important. I need to surround myself with those who will encourage me to continue growing and moving forward in my faith. If music or books or radio preachers inspire me to live out my faith daily through obedience and time with God, then I need to keep those things in my life regularly. When apathy tugs at me, I need to see it as the spiritual battle it is and do what I can to fight the lack of motivation. Only then can God move me in whatever direction He chooses, and that is the direction I want to go in.

Main Character Monday

I’m excited to have a new Main Character Monday interview to share with you today. It’s been a while. I think I need to work on my building my list of authors (and their characters) who are open to doing interviews. I love these interviews, and I’ve heard from some of you that you enjoy them too. So, welcome to Main Character Monday!

Today’s guest is Faith from Faith & Hope by Amy Anguish. Thank you for joining me.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

Honestly, I’d love to go to Europe, especially Scotland and Ireland. My husband teaches at a private Christian high school, and their seniors go to Europe each year. We’re hoping to be able to chaperone in the future so we can tag along!

A woman after my own heart. Ireland and Scotland are my dream vacations. I’m saving my change and one day I’ll make it there!

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life? Which of them is the hardest to display?

Love and kindness are what I always strive towards, although when my sister is around, those are harder to bring forth.

Patience is something I think everyone is working on. Although you’d think as much waiting as my husband Sam and I have done through the last four years of infertility treatments that it would be a lesson I’d learned by now.

I think there’s someone in everyone’s life that make love and kindness more of a conscious effort. As for patience, they seem to test that one too! I’m sorry to hear about your infertility issues. I imagine the waiting and wondering if it’s ever going to happen can really be a struggle. 

What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

The story of Hannah praying for and getting her baby Samuel.

Considering what you’ve told us, I’m guessing that one gives you a great deal of hope. 

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

James

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

Before you try to comfort someone, make sure that your words can’t be construed in a way that might actually hurt more than help. If you aren’t sure about that, just make sure they know you’re there for them and leave it at that, without saying anything else. Sometimes that means more than an overused saying.

I’ve always found it hard to comfort people for that reason. It’s not natural to me I guess. And when you find that what comforts one causes pain to another in the same situation, I find listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading becomes really important. 

Now, just for fun:

Sunrise or sunset? Sunset

Pie or Cake? Cake

Tulip or Iris? Iris

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate

What three words would your  use to describe Amy Anguish?

Southern, Exhausting, Conflicted

Thank you Faith for taking the time for this interview. I believe you’ve got a great story, and I can’t wait for readers to take the time to get to know you better through Amy’s book, Faith & Hope. And now, I’d like to give them the opportunity to find out a little more about your story and Amy Anguish. 

Faith & Hope by Amy Anguish:

faithTwo sisters. One summer. Multiple problems.

Younger sister Hope has lost her job, her car, and her boyfriend all in one day. Her well-laid plans for life have gone sideways, as has her hope in God.

Older sister Faith is finally getting her dream-come-true after years of struggles and prayers. But when her mom talks her into letting Hope move in for the summer, will the stress turn her dream into a nightmare? Is her faith in God strong enough to handle everything?

For two sisters who haven’t gotten along in years, this summer together could be a disaster … or it could lead them to a closer relationship with each other and God. Can they overcome all life is throwing at them? Or is this going to destroy their relationship for good?

And a little about Amy:

Amy R Anguish

IMG_5853Author of An Unexpected Legacy, Faith & Hope

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

 

Follow her at http://abitofanguish.weebly.com or http://www.facebook.com/amyanguishauthor

What I'm Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.
Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.
As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.
Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.
Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.
Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.
By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

What I’m Reading: Delicate Balance

man bunThe man bun. It’s one of those things in life that most people have a definite opinion of and no hesitation in sharing those opinions. Think about the pineapple on pizza debate, only with hair styles. (By the way, pineapple most definitely belongs on pizza.) You want to get a conversation, and quite possibly an argument, started? Show up with a photo of any one of the popular male celebrities sporting the hairstyle and make comment on it. The opinions will fly in seconds, only they’ll be worded as if they’re fact.

Honestly, I’m not a fan. But I’m also one of the odd ones out that doesn’t fall solidly into the “no man bun” camp. Most people can’t pull it off well. Almost all of them should probably stop trying. But there are exceptions to the rule. I can think of a few celebrities whose looks are not diminished by a well-done man bun.

As I was scrolling through the blogs I follow the other day, it was a man bun that caught my attention. I paused. It was a book review by The Christian Fiction Girl. (In case I haven’t said it before, you should check out her blog. I’ve found several new authors through her reviews.) I don’t think I’d ever seen a Christian or clean reads book with a cover like that before. I clicked the link and read the review. Then, I bought the book.

Delicate Balance . . .a romance (The Blair Brothers Book 1) by Brooke St. James turned out to be a fun, quick read. Henry and Aiden have known of each other for years. Everyone who’s lived in Astoria long knows of Henry’s family. But when his family is seated in her section to waitress at work, Aiden finds herself with the chance to get to know him for real.

Acquaintances turn to friends turn to . . .maybe more? Who’s to say for sure? The signals are there, unless they aren’t. Maybe it’s all wishful thinking. Aiden and Henry second guess each other’s feelings while trying to put the lid on their own. It doesn’t work for either of them. But it’s not a smooth road to romance.

Family drama, self-doubt, and misunderstanding all play a part in keeping this couple from realizing what they are to each other. They also play key roles, along with the chemistry between Aiden and Henry, in making Delicate Balance an entertaining story. And it all started with that man bun.

By the Book: The conversations started when opposite sides discuss hair styles and pizza toppings can be a fun way to pass the time. But there are times when opinions have no place in the conversations. The topics of sin, salvation, and who God is are spelled out clearly in scripture. When we try to apply human opinion to a matter already decided by our Creator, we make a mess of everything. That’s why it’s important to take to heart the direction in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It’s through getting to know God through His word that we are able to understand what’s already been decided by God and learn how to live inside His will.

Right Stuff Wednesday:New Growth

grape hyacinth“No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice.” The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis

I have a flower garden in my front yard. Well, technically it’s true. I have a spot dedicated to growing flowers, but my roses are dead. The trees growing in them saw to that. And I’m pretty sure my hydrangea has decided against life this year. I knew better than getting plants that need constant care and attention. I’ve never been good at remembering to feed, water, and prune my flowers. Due to lack of care-taking most things I plant end up dead.

In fact, the only thing even close to growing in my garden is a sprinkling of grape hyacinth. Even these grow outside the borders of the garden. And they come up each year through no help from me. They are remnants of a garden past.

Before the rose bushes and hydrangea I had the brilliant idea of planting a bulb garden. I love tulips, iris,and daffodils. Not only are these beautiful flowers to look at, they are also flowers you can plant once and not have to replace each year. For a non-gardener it was a definite bonus.

I planted my garden and waited until the next spring, eager for the bright spots of color. Nothing happened. My mother assured me it can take a couple years for bulbs to really take root and grow. The next year brought only a couple flowers. The third year offered no more than the previous two.

It was around year four I decided bulbs were just not meant to grow in my garden. I dug them up with a vengeance. I pulled each bulb from the dirt and tossed it into my yard. Then, I planted my roses and hydrangea. Good riddance to the bulb garden that wouldn’t grow.

Imagine my surprise when the next year, my bulbs began to come up. A few rogue bulbs must have hidden beyond my spade in the garden’s soil. Grape hyacinth and crocus peeked from the dirt in early spring. And outside the garden’s borders? I didn’t think I had planted that many flowers! It baffled me.

In the years the bulbs were planted in the garden, I weeded and watered the spot. I made sure the area had adequate sunshine. I thought it was everything my bulbs needed, but I was wrong. The soil had settled. Left on its own the ground I expected to grow my bulbs became their tomb. Little could get through the packed dirt. My bulbs needed the soil surrounding them shaken up. Only when I loosened the dirt did my bulbs finally begin to grow.

Sacrifice, change, adversity. These are events in our lives that often cause fear and anxiety. The unknown (or the known we perceive as negative) seems far beyond our control and the idea that the end could mean unavoidable disaster is unsettling to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The circumstances in our lives may very well cause pain. They shake loose the dirt around the carefully constructed garden of our lives. They leave us wondering if it would be better to simply start over. But God is a master gardener. He can use those times in our lives to get to the seed of faith within and get it to grow in ways we never imagined.

God promises to use all situations in our lives to bring good if we will let Him do His work. It may sound cliche because we hear it so often, but this scriptural promise is truth. It’s not saying God will make the rain disappear and allow only rainbows and sunshine. The rain is needed as much as the sun. And God knows how much of each will create the perfect blossom in our lives.

If you wonder how this can be true, take a look at David. Hunted at times by the current king and later his own flesh and blood, there were definite storms in his life. But in those times, God was shaping David into the leader He wanted. David’s heart of worship was poured out in the creation of several psalms during these times. Not only did these words bring peace and hope to his life, but they’ve survived centuries to bring the same to our lives.

Look at Esther. She was plucked from her people and subjected to a beauty contest. The prize was marrying a difficult king she didn’t love. Though she found favor with him, her people were threatened with genocide. She had to go against the required royal protocol and put her own life in jeopardy in order to bring her fears to her husband’s attention. The end result? God used Esther to safeguard the nation of Israel. He used her to unite the people in prayer. He used her to show His chosen people He would be with them wherever they went.

These stories are only a couple of the many from the Bible and our lives that bring to life the truth of the scripture we hear so often. They give us hope when life gets tough. They remind us that this is how our garden of faith grows.

What I'm Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.
Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.
Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.
This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.
Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.
But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.
The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.
Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

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