Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lily Hates Goodbyes by Jerilyn Marler - REVIEWED

About the Book:
This full color storybook is especially for young military children. Lily’s Daddy is gone for about a billion days at a time. Lily struggles with deep, scary emotions. But she and her Daddy have special ways to stay in touch and her Mommy supports her and loves her through the turbulence. Lily learns to be happy in spite of the separation from Daddy.

Lily is one of thousands of military children who pay a very high price for the honorable service of their parents. Sometimes they feel very alone. I hope Lily can be a friend to your military child.

My Thoughts:

I have lived the role of a military wife, and although my children were much younger than Lily when my husband left the service, I can readily understand how helpful this book would be for military families who must deal with lengthy absences of a parent. Given today's military climate, I think the timing of this book release is even more important, and the message would open the door for both parent and child to discuss the impact of missing someone they love.

Separation is a big part of what military families must face, and the emotions that must be dealt with are very confusing to little ones. To have a picture book like this one on hand would be an invaluable tool to use to help that process become less frightening. I am happy to recommend this book to my readers. I applaud Jerilyn Marler for recognizing and meeting this need in such a creative way! Bravo!

Please visit Lily's Website to learn more!

About the Author: (from the author's website)

My 30 year creative path has led through writing educational materials for Alaska elementary schools; writing three books about WordPerfect for Henry Holt Publishers; editing dozens of books for technical publishers; editing a children’s book, a medical text book, and book on divorce at the same time; and writing/editing end user documentation for more products than I can count.

Along the way I’ve worked in major high technology companies and tiny start-ups; I’ve been a real estate agent, programmer, project manager, program manager, and user interface designer. The persistent thread through my work has been communication: it always comes back to words. I love words. And now through the development of Lily Hates Goodbyes, I’ve discovered my passion: helping to heal children’s hearts through stories.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

Can love triumph over treachery?

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her husband away fighting the king's wars, she battles encroaching loneliness--which makes it all too easy to succumb to the advances of King David. Will one night of unbridled passion destroy everything she holds dear? Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God forever?

With a historian's sharp eye for detail and a novelist's creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David's most famous--and infamous--wife. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba the same way again.

My Thoughts:

Bathsheba and David have always been held up to me as the ultimate example of adultery. Their affair was made more heinous by David’s choice to have Uriah murdered. Jill Eileen Smith’s third book in the Wives of King David series allowed me to consider both David and Bathsheba in all of their human emotional and spiritual frailty. The traits that Smith brought to light served only to magnify the grace and mercy that God shed upon them later in their lives.

Sin is never without consequence, and Smith portrays the spiritual and emotional agony experienced by each character with painful clarity. The story includes the revealed facts contained in Scripture naturally and realistically, and I was able to realize anew the humanness of these lager-than-life characters. Smith carries the reader into many more familiar scriptural stories such as Tamar and Absalom, and uses the character of Bathsheba as a sort of emotional and spiritual sounding board for King David. Again, the way Smith conveys these familiar stories gives the reader insight into spiritual and emotional struggles that are common to all of God’s children.

For me, the greatest take-away value of this story is the awesome way God works in our lives in spite of our poor choices and willful sinfulness. God redeemed and used David and Bathsheba’s story in a mighty way throughout time, and He will redeem our lives today and use us for His glory. That, dear reader, is the ultimate truth and hope contained in all of Scripture. Smith’s story of Bathsheba is an excellent reminder the mercy and grace that God still offers and uses to transform the lives of everyone who calls on Him.

Bathsheba is an excellent story, and one that I am happy to recommend to you!

About the Author:

Jill Eileen Smith has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill is the author of the bestselling Michal and Abigail and lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

False Pretenses by Kathy Herman - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)
Zoe Broussard loves the life she and her husband Pierce have built in her beloved Louisiana hometown-especially their popular brasserie Zoe B's, to which folks drive all the way from Lafayette for lunch or dinner. It seems like heaven. But it's about to become hell. A series of anonymous notes is making her life a misery-because Zoe has a secret so terrible it could leave the business in shambles and tear her marriage apart. Can she find the courage to face her past? The first in a new series from Kathy Herman, False Pretenses is a gripping suspense novel that leaves a lasting impression about honesty and accountability. My Thoughts: Mysterious strangers, mistaken identities, hidden secrets from the past and senseless murder are all a part of Kathy Herman's latest story False Pretenses. This is the first of the Secrets of the Bayou series, and readers will be thrilled by the intensity of this new beginning. the cast of characters give a real "down home" feel to the story, and everyone will be able to relate to their emotional trials and spritual struggles. Herman makes a few references to her Sophie Trace series within the story, but readers will have no problem following the story-line even though they haven't read any of her previous stories. Zoe Broussard is at the center of the storm of events in this installment, and the choices she selfishly made ten years ago have led she and her husband into deadly circumstances. Will her marriage survive the web of lies that have come to light? Will her friends lives and those she loves most be spared? Most importantly, will Zoe and her husband recobnize God as the One who orchestates every circumstance? False Pretences is aan outstanding beginning to an exciting new suspense series by author Kathy Herman. I am pleased to recommend this story to you, and even more pleased to let you know that God's grace is suficient for ALL of us characters - real and fictional!! :) About the Author: Best-selling suspense novelist Kathy Herman worked for the Christian Booksellers Association in Colorado Springs, then married a retailer and moved to Texas, where she managed the children's department in the family's Christian bookstore. She has written fourteen novels, including Tested by Fire and All Things Hidden, since retiring from the retail business. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas. They also enjoy world travel, deep-sea fishing, and bird watching—often tied into one grand adventure!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A View from Liz Curtis Higgs' Window - Mine is the Night!

What a THRILL to have Liz Curtis Higgs visit my Window again! Her latest novel, Mine is the Night, completes the story of Ruth, and it is magnificent! You can read my review HERE.

Please, give Liz a warm welcome as she shares her heart about this very special story! Welcome, Liz!

Talk about making a Bible story come to life!! I will never think of the story of Ruth without thinking of Bess and Jack! How on earth did you make the details of this story set in 1700’s Scotland dovetail so closely with the Biblical account? A lot of research? The Holy Spirit? You didn’t miss a thing!!

Bless you for saying so, Kim! And you are right on both counts: Here Burns My Candle and Mine Is the Night required tons of research and the Holy Spirit’s guidance most of all. I studied the biblical story first, using a dozen translations and twice that many commentaries, until I had a firm grasp on the book of Ruth. Then I immersed myself in Scotland of old, turning to the 800+ history books on my shelves (crazy, I know!). I also traveled to Edinburgh and Selkirk to do on-site research in Scotland. Even with all that groundwork laid, I was utterly dependent on the Lord’s leading as I wrote, praying his truth, love, and grace would land on the page.

Marjory and Bess have such an eye-opening experience when they reach their cousin Anne’s home, yet their changed hearts make it possible for them to quickly form relationships. What is the most important thing you want readers to “glean” from the lessons they learn as they establish a home with Anne?

You ask the best questions, lass! These three women have all traveled very different paths in life. Marjory was raised in a wealthy Lowland household, then wed a man of means; Bess grew up in tradesman’s home before marrying into money; and our never-married Anne has always lived just above the poverty line. Their ages are different as well, intentionally a dozen years apart—Bess is twenty-four, Annie is thirty-six, and Marjory isforty-eight—so they each see the world through a slightly different lens. Watching the three of them make a life together gives us a chance to examine our own relationships with women who are at different ages and stages. We tend to hang out with people who are much like us, yet there is so much to be gained from spending time with older and younger women who don’t live in the same neighborhood, don’t share our lifestyle, and yet have much to teach us.

Jack Buchanan is such a heroic character to me! He never seems presumptuous, he seems to really care about everyone around him, and he seems very intuitive about the needs of others. Are these the characters you think Boaz would have as well? How didyou create this great character?

I just have to say it: I adore Lord Jack! And yes, his character was drawn almost entirely from the pages of Scripture. (Well, except for the Royal Navy part!) Boaz is called “a man of standing” (Ruth 2:1), which tells us a great deal, since that phrase was often used of war heroes. The various translations tell us Boaz was “mighty” (KJV), “prominent” (NRSV), “rich” (NCV), “influential” (NLT), and “important” (CEV). Plus, the first words he speaks are a blessing on those laboring in his fields: “The Lord be with you!” (Ruth 2:4). So, our heroic Jack is strong, wealthy, influential, and godly. I’m in!

The role of tailor and dressmaker is foundational in this story! I’ve never given this role much thought. How did you come to use this role as such a keystone in this story? How did you learn about the details of this trade? Do you sew yourself?

In both novels I wanted Elisabeth Kerr to have a skill that befitted a gentlewoman of her time, yet would serve her well when the family’s circumstances took a turn for the worse. Since clothing defined someone’s place in society, having her be a dressmaker points out more fully the reversal of fortune she experiences. As to gathering details about sewing, that’s where all those research books came in handy, since I’m not very good with a needle and thread beyond the simplest of curtains and dress hems. My college-grad daughter, though, is a very gifted seamstress, so she was hugely helpful, even creating a sketch for the Author Notes, illustrating one of Elisabeth Kerr’s designs.

The Jacobite rebellion continues to overshadow the lives of Elizabeth and Marjory. Dragoons roam the countryside ridding the kingdom of traitors. How realistic was the role of the dragoons and where did you learn about their role in the aftermath of the rebellion?

Everything concerning the dragoons is historically accurate, thanks to some terrific resources on my bookshelves, including: The ’Forty-Five: The Last Jacobite Rebellion; 1745: A Military History of the Last Jacobite Rising; and Culloden and the ’45. Had we traveled north into the Highlands for the second novel, instead of south into the Lowlands, we would have seen first hand how cruelly the English soldiers treated the Highlanders who supported the bonny Prince Charlie. It was a very dark time in British history.

There were a lot of social “rules” about widows in mourning, being faithful to the king, the roles of women and men being alone together, working together etc…what was your source for all of this information? I found it fascinating! Do you wish we had similar rules today?

Once again, various books came in handy, particularly Henry Grey Graham’s The Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century and Marion Lochlead’s The Scots Household in the Eighteenth Century. All those rules of society fascinate me as well. I do wish we were more polite with one another, more mannerly and civil. But I fear I’d miss some of the freedoms we enjoy if we went back to all those rigid social conventions. Still, it’s fun to step back to such a time while reading novels!

What are some of the spiritual lessons you hope readers will take from this story? What was the most important thing you learned while working on this series?

Watching Marjory Kerr grow spiritually invites us to examine our own lives more closely. How would we behave if everything we owned and everyone we loved were taken from us? Would that loss strengthen our faith in a sovereign God, or strain it to the breaking point? After much tears and gnashing of teeth, Marjory trusts God with her future, and in doing so, challenges us to do the same.

In Elisabeth Kerr, her twenty-something daughter-in-law, we find a young woman with a young faith that is tested and tried, even as her broken heart slowly mends. Like Ruth of old, Elisabeth is faithful above all things and a role model for women of any age. Her willingness to sacrifice her own desires to meet Marjory’s needs speaks volumes to me concerning my own relationship with my dear mother-in-law. That’s definitely been the takeaway for me personally with this two-book saga: making a greater commitment to my m-i-l and including her more in our lives, as well as reaching out to my young d-i-l and making her feel part of our family.

Is the story over? Or shall readers look for more stories about the precious characters you have allowed us to know and love?

The story of the Kerrs is indeed fully told. I covered almost every verse in the book of Ruth, and so will leave the Kerr women in good hands and quietly close the door. I know that’s hard for readers, and believe me, it’s hard for this writer too! I get very attached. From where I’m sitting, they aren’t characters, they’re friends. Sometimes (don’t laugh!) I’ll go back and read a chapter from one of my novels, simply to be with the characters again. I’m grateful for readers who feel the same way. The two phrases every novelist longs to hear are “I couldn’t put it down” and “I didn’t want it to end.” That means the characters came alive and found a home in readers’ hearts.

Who was your favorite character? Why?

As it happens, I posed the same question in the Readers Guide and am eager to hear how my readers will respond. Of course, all the characters captured my imagination at some level, but I became most attached to Naomi's Scottish counterpart, Marjory Kerr. Marjory is a midlife, menopausal mother-in-law (I get all three!), who has been knocked off her high-and-mighty horse and must learn to adapt to a humbler situation. Perhaps because she is an older mother without children beneath her roof, her story arc parallels my own empty-nest journey a wee bit. And I loved watching her grow in her faith. She also provided the biggest surprise for me, when her story line took a major and unexpected shift. I love when that happens!

Closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

My prayer is that, when readers finish this two-book saga, they'll reach for their Bibles and read the book of Ruth with fresh eyes and open hearts. However handsome and brave our fictional hero may be (oh my, is he ever!), none can compare to our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus. Every book I've ever written has grace at the heart of it and hope at the end of it, and none more so than Mine Is the Night.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bound By Guilt by C.J. Darlington - REVIEWED Blog Tours Presents:

Bound by Guilt
by C.J. Darlington
Published by Tyndale House

Shuttled between foster homes, Roxi Gold will do anything to fit in. Soon she’s traveling the country stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society—and not just at work. One fateful night, both their lives are changed forever. One searches for justice, the other finds herself on the run. Will the power of forgiveness set them free?

My Thoughts:
I am a lover of books both modern and antique. The value of a book varies depending on the age, condition and whether or not it possesses any unique marks, quirks ect... Bound By Guilt is a suspenseful story that has antique and rare books at the heart of the trouble, and I never considered the possibilities that were possible with this particular fascination with books! C.J Darlington really knows how to "bind" the human condition with a unique and suspenseful mystery!

I love the fact that she doesn't force a spiritual element but allows it to grow as a natural part of the story. I also love the fact that she allowed weaknesses that are really inherent to everyone to show up and be examined through the lens of different responses. Guilt is a powerful force for both right and wrong choices, and yet God has provided a way for Christians to live victorious lives that are not directed by guilt.

This is an excellent and exciting read and I am happy to recommend it to you!

Great job! You kept me turning the pages.
--Francine Rivers, Internationally best selling author

C.J. is a wonderful, talented writer . . . extraordinary . . .
--Bodie Thoene, best-selling author of the A.D. Chronicles

This one engages your senses and reaches your heart.
--Jerry B. Jenkins, NY Times best-selling author & owner of The Christian Writers Guild

Watch the book trailer:

About the Author:
C. J. Darlington won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest with her first novel, Thicker Than Blood. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels before cofounding her own online bookstore. In 2006 C. J. started the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Vicious Cycle
Zondervan (February 22, 2011)
Terri Blackstock


Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

Besides entertaining her readers, Terri tackles issues that she hopes will change lives. Her recent book, Predator, was inspired by her experiences on Facebook and Twitter, and her concern that people posted too much personal information about themselves. The book deals with an online predator who uses social networks as his playground. She hopes the book will change readers’ online habits. Her New York Times best-seller, Intervention, was inspired by her own personal struggles with a daughter on drugs. In the book, a mother hires an interventionist for her drug-addicted daughter. But on the way to treatment, the interventionist is murdered, and the daughter disappears. Barbara, the mother, sets out to search for her daughter. Terri modeled Barbara after herself, and poured many of her own emotions and experiences into that character. As a result, many families experiencing drug addiction have written to thank her for telling their story and giving them hope. Vicious Cycle, Book Two of the Intervention Series, releases February 22, 2011. She’s currently working on Book Three.

Other recent books include a stand-alone novel called Double Minds, as well as Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light (from her acclaimed Restoration Series). She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 Series and Cape Refuge Series. Terri makes her home in Mississippi, where she and her husband Ken are enjoying their empty nest after raising three children.

Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.


When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.

His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan---the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.

In this latest novel of suspense and family loyalty, bestselling author Terri Blackstock offers a harrowing look at drug addiction, human trafficking, and the devastating choices that can change lives forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Vicious Cycle, go HERE.

My Thoughts:

“His life was in the hands of an addict.” (p. 82)

Or at least it seems that way for 15-year-old Lance Covington when he finds a newborn baby in the backseat of his car – a car he is not yet licensed to drive! His mother, Barbara, is living through more chaos that one woman should have to endure. When her friend Kent Harlan tries to help – well, it’s hard for Barbara to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing from her perspective.

WOW! Terri Blackstock’s second intervention novel, Vicious Cycle, vividly captures the chaos and the horrific cycle of abuse and attempts at recovery that addicts often face. This time she deals with a meth-addict and her family, and I hate to say it, but the picture she paints is all too real. I have actually known a family in which the kids were turned onto meth by their parents. It is a truly hellish depravity to witness.

Yet God does intervene in the lives of addicts, their families and their children. The road isn’t easy, and often the family feels as though they too have been forced to endure a living hell. God gives strength, opportunity and grace. That’s not to say there aren’t serious and grave consequences, but redemption is never out of the question.

Come. Take an intervention journey with Terri Blackstock. Consider the story. Consider God’s grace and mercy, and find hope. Terri has written another powerful and unforgettable story from the perspective of someone who has walked the painful path of addiction with her own child. God alone be praised for any victory won in the battle against meth!!

Watch the Book Video:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Safe Haven by Kimberly and Kayla Woodhouse - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
No Safe Haven
B&H Books (March 15, 2011)
Kimberly and Kayla Woodhouse


A devoted wife and mother, Kimberley Woodhouse is a third generation Liszt student, she has passed down her love of the arts to hundreds of students over the years.

About fifteen years ago, Kimberley began writing seriously. Songs, plays, short stories, novels, picture books, articles, newsletters - you name it - she's written it. It wasn't until a dear friend challenged her to "do something with it", that she pursued publication.

Kimberley and her family's story have been on the front page of newspapers, in magazines, articles, medical journals, and most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They were also asked to share their story on The Montel Williams Show and Discovery Health Channel's Mystery ER. She has recorded three albums, and has appeared at over 700 venues. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband and their two children in a truly "Extreme" home.

Thirteen-year-old Kayla Woodhouse’s zest for writing comes not only from her natural ability, but also from her love of the written word as witnessed by her voracious reading appetite. One of only a few dozen cases in the world, Kayla was born with HSAN, Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy, an extremely rare nerve disorder. Unable to sweat, or feel pain, she’s also been through brain surgery. But even through a life of extreme hardships, her ever-present smile encourages others to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. In addition to being homeschooled and writing with her mom, she’s an amazing swimmer, and spends up to thirty hours a week in training. No Safe Haven, her first release from B&H Publishers in 2011, written with mother, Kimberley, makes her the youngest author to have a full-length novel published by a royalty paying publisher.


Jenna and Andi Tikaani-Gray are hoping for a fresh start. Though twelve year-old Andi has long struggled with a rare medical disorder, she and her mother have finally received good news from out-of-town specialists. It's news they desperately needed, especially after the recent death of Jenna's husband (Andi's dad) in a car accident.

But as they are flying home to Alaska, ready to begin again, the unthinkable happens. The pilot sabotages their small plane and crashes into Sultana, one of the most remote and dangerous mountains in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Even worse, a winter storm is headed their way along with someone who doesn't want to save them, but to kill them.

Only one man can keep them alive: Cole Maddox, the mysterious last-minute passenger who joined them on their flight. But trust doesn't come easy to Jenna or Andi √Ďand they both sense Cole is hiding something.

A relentless tale of survival and suspense unfolds, involving military technology designed by Jenna's late husband that some would do anything to possess.

My Thoughts:
This is a stellar example of how characters in fiction can live their faith! Jenna and Andi certainly find themselves in a deadly situation that has extensive potential for even deadlier consequences! This story is packed with action, and it's hard to tell who belongs to which side most of the time. You are in for a very exciting read!!

My only problem with this book was point of view....jumping in and out of so many characters thoughts about drove me nuts! I could understand knowing the main character's thoughts, but this writing duo allowed the reader into the minds of everyone! You had to really pay attention to who was "thinking" and "talking" or you wound up totally confused. This was very disruptive and annoying to me.

GREAT story line! Not to crazy about the point of view.

Watch the Book Video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Haven, go HERE.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mine Is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)
Stepping from a battered coach on a rainy April eve, newly widowed Elisabeth Kerr must begin again, without husband or title, property or fortune. She is unafraid of work and gifted with a needle, but how will she stitch together the tattered remnants of her life? And who will mend her heart, torn asunder by betrayal and deception?

Elisabeth has not come to Selkirk alone. Her mother-in-law, Marjory Kerr, is a woman undone, having buried her husband, her sons, and any promise of grandchildren. Dependent upon a distant cousin with meager resources, Marjory dreads the future almost as much as she regrets the past. Yet joy still comes knocking, and hope is often found in unexpected places.

Then a worthy hero steps forward, rekindling a spark of hope. Will he risk his reputation to defend two women labeled as traitors to the Crown? Or will a wealthy beauty, untainted by scandal, capture his affections?

The heartrending journey of the Kerr women comes to a glorious finish in Mine Is the Night, a sparkling gem of redemption and restoration set in eighteenth-century Scotland.

My Thoughts:

“Can you not look beyond her Highland past?” (p. 320)

The answer to this question reveals the ultimate measure of the lives of Elizabeth and Marjory Kerr as they enter the town of Selkirk. As penniless widows, dependent upon the kindness of a distant cousin whom they haven’t contacted in more than ten years, the Kerr women are far different than when we first met them in “Here Burns My Candle.” What hope must lie in their hearts! What trust in God’s sovereign goodness and direction in their lives! Liz Curtis Higgs has taken the story of Ruth and created a masterpiece of Scottish history, romance and redemption! Readers will recognize elements of the Biblical story and the truth that should be the foundation in the life of every Child of God.

Once again, Higgs has transported my heart and mind back to the Scottish countryside of the 1700’s! I felt as though I was living side by side with Elizabeth and Marjory as they began their new life in Selkirk. The smells, the sights, the sounds …everything comes alive for the reader as these characters are transformed by God’s grace into women of faith, courage and strength. Truly, I grew to love them more in the Mine is the Night than I even did in Here Burns My Candle!

Enter Jack Buchanan – Lord of Bell Hill. What a man! What a hero! What a lovely expression of grace, mercy and kindness! I know he loosely represents the character of Boaz, but no one can help but be charmed by this character! And the things he is want to do to express his love toward those he cares about…be still my heart! Readers will just be astounded by the way Higgs integrates this character and his household into the story! Seamless…altogether believable…and a powerful example of the way all of us should treat our fellow man!

You will not be able to depart the Scottish countryside once you begin this amazing story! You will savor each experience as you laugh and cry with Elizabeth, Marjory – and Jack! I cannot recommend this series highly enough!

Please go HERE to watch the video trailer and learn more about Liz and her wonderful stories!! And stay tuned! I have an interview with Liz coming up!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sand to Pearls by Heidi McLaughlin

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Sand to Pearls

Deep River (January 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Arielle Roper, Media Relations, Bring it On! Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Through her ministry Heart Connection, Christian speaker and author Heidi McLaughlin embraces women with love and inspires them to walk in the knowledge that they are one of God’s most glorious creations. Her powerful, life-changing messages, whether written or spoken, draw women into a place of intimate connection with each other and with God. Her messages are rich with humor, passion and truth, and liberally sprinkled with personal stories.

Visit the author's website.


Illusions of success and instant pleasure can seduce us into making poor choices. We long for fulfillment but are haggard from life’s trials and overwhelmed by what the future holds. Broken, we feel unworthy to ask God to intervene in our lives. Blinded by it all, we often overlook that God has the potential to use everything in our lives--whether good or bad.

It's time to S.T.O.P. and let God help us make bold choices to enrich our lives with freedom, fulfillment and incredible beauty!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 238 pages
Publisher: Deep River (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265431
ISBN-13: 978-1935265436



As I drive to work in the mornings, I gaze at people’s face and observe their fatigued, lifeless expressions as they navigate through traffic to confront another demanding day. Often I sit across a cup of coffee with another woman and I hear her sighs of feeling lonely and overwhelmed with too many obligations and choices. Life is tough these days and many people feel trapped. We grind through our days doing the same thing again and again and hope for different results. That could be described as the roadway to insanity. We don’t know how to stop. We are on a relentless quest to know that we are loved, to know that we have value, and to feel pleasure. We will do almost anything to feel better.

We may have the illusion that:

• If I had a better career and worked harder, I would feel more fulfilled.

• When I have more money, life will be easier and I will feel more content.

• If I had a husband/boyfriend that treated me better, I would be a happier person.

• If I had had a better upbringing, I would have achieved greater success.

• My parents were overweight, poor and lazy; therefore, I will probably be like my parents.

• If I put my children into a lot of activities, I will feel like I am a good mother.

• If I had more time to myself, I would not be so tired.

And so we grab for the first thing that we think will make us happier; go and buy something we can’t afford, pursue a different relationship, take another drink, open the fridge, watch some pornography, take a trip or sit on the couch and watch endless, boring television. You and I are our own worst enemy, but we feel helpless to change. We need more than our human endeavors and wisdom to help us make choices to navigate this complicated maze of life. The Bible tells us that we have been given the mind of Christ, a supernatural authority, to unleash all the wisdom and discernment needed to make bold and good choices. Every single day God gives you and me the amazing privilege and power to choose a glorious course for our life. We can’t even begin to imagine all the blessings God wants us to have and enjoy. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10, NIV).

I am a perfect example of how God can take our worst decisions and biggest mistakes, and turn them into a magnificent new beginning. My spiritual journey did not start until I was thirty-two. I had been a rebellious, self-centered young woman determined to show my family and the world that I was capable of making my own wise choices. But my insecurities and selfishness propelled me to make choices that forged the pathway to a pit of depression, despair, tumultuous disappointments and “almost divorce.” God, in His kindness, gently taught me how to begin to live a new life evoked by choices through the power of His Holy Spirit living in me. Few things in life create more worry, stress and anxiety than the uncertainty of our future. While you are reading this book, it doesn’t matter what stage of life you are at. God has the potential to use everything in your life, the good and bad, and turn it into beauty. It’s time to choose and live your dream; but what tomorrow holds is up to you.

I would like you to imagine sitting across from me, sharing a delicious, hot steaming drink, being honest and making ourselves vulnerable. You need to know you are not alone in your daily toil. By being authentic we can soften our hearts and enable God to connect with us so that we can hear Him speak His truth and wisdom to us. Every chapter in this book begins with my own struggles, mistakes and challenges, and then gives insight as to why and how we make our destructive choices. Of course I don’t leave you hanging and bleeding; I give you a dozen or so practical steps to empower you to make wise, bold choices that will enrich and transform your life in more beautiful ways than you can imagine. Then I end with a time of reflection and prayer. This is the place where you can allow the Holy Spirit, through the mind of Christ in you, to change your life from irritating sand into gorgeous, timeless pure pearls:

Stop and As k God To Help You Change Sand to Pearls

Begin by asking: Ask God a question.

S: Scripture verse. A verse will be available here for reflection.

T: Thanksgiving. Thank God for what He has the power to accomplish.

O: Observation. What wisdom is God unleashing for you in this verse?

P: Prayer. Ask Him. I will end each chapter praying with you because I am passionate about God transforming everything in your life into what He created you to be. I may never have met you, but I have encountered women like you for the past twenty-five years and I have witnessed God’s transforming power, changing struggles to joy—sand to pearls. I know He can because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, Creator of all life—including yours. It’s time to make choices that will forge the pathway God has planned for you. It’s time to live your dream.

C h a p t e r 1

Obligation or Invigoration

Is That a “Should” on Your Shoulder?

Our obligation is to give meaning to life and

in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.

—Elie Wiesel, American Novelist

My fingers were slippery and sweaty, yet felt ice cold and numb. It was impossible to find the right chords on my guitar. My heart was pounding so loudly that I couldn’t hear my own voice as I tried to sing the first verse of Moses and Miriam’s victory song: that festive, praise-filled epic poem about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. I took a deep breath, took a sip of water and tried again: “I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted, the horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea” (Exod. 15:1, NIV).

It was no use trying to sing a victorious song when I was the one feeling like I was being hurled into a sea of resistance. My face was burning with humiliation as I desperately tried to salvage this disaster, but I couldn’t find my voice. As I glanced at the circle of women around the room, I could tell by their faces that I had failed miserably. My song was only half-finished, but I knew it was over. As I walked out of the room, a younger woman walked beside me and sweetly chirped, “Maybe God is trying to teach you something about your pride.” Now I felt like I had been hit in the stomach by a sharp-edged rock. It took my breath away. I couldn’t even answer her and walked out of the church vowing I would never go back in there again. Just weeks before, some of my new church friends had approached me and said, “Heidi, I hear that you play the guitar and sing; we would love it if you would come to our next ladies event and bless us with your music.” I had agreed to sing for these ladies, even though I knew I wasn’t qualified. In spite of my misgivings, I still felt obligated to follow through on my commitment. People had spurred me on to do it. “You really should do it, you really should at least try,” they had said. While uncertain of my singing and guitar playing, my sense of inferiority overpowered me and I was too intimidated to say no. Yet I wanted to feel like I belonged to this group of Christian women that seemed so confident and gifted in many ways. This was in the early 1980s when I first became a Christian and desperately wanted to fit in—to be like one of them. With this harsh reality of being humiliated in front of my peers, I discovered that singing and playing the guitar was not one of the gifts God had given me.

When we feel overpowered by people or our circumstances, it provokes our feelings of inferiority. It unleashes confusion, frustration, and we shortcircuit the gifts, purpose and joy God has prepared for us. We wear ourselves out pleasing people instead of God, and by doing so we deny Christ’s power in our life because we are afraid of what people will think of us. When Jesus ascended from this earth, He left us the Holy Spirit; He gave us the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16, NIV), and passed on to us His authority. Instead we struggle through life reacting to all the “shoulds” that life heaps on us, and we end up with our shoulders hunched over looking like we are carrying the weight of the world. Trying to please everyone is very exhausting; it drains us of energy and unknowingly we succumb to the authority of other people instead of Christ. The faster we go and the harder we work at trying to juggle all our responsibilities, the emptier we feel. Marcus Buckingham, the author of Find Your Strongest Life, says this about the shoulds. “Because you neglect the specific moments that strengthen you, your life gradually becomes filled up with a grab bag of activities and responsibilities. You may have a good reason for taking on each of these responsibilities—everything from ‘If I don’t do this, no one else will’ to ‘A good mother should do this’ but the outcome is that a barrage of moments with which you’ve filled your life now blankets your senses. This barrage drowns out the signals from those few moments that truly strengthen you. You start to feel empty.”1

When we operate out of our weaknesses and lack of self-worth, the slightest demands have the power to intimidate us. The word “intimidate” is an active verb that has a very negative connotation. The thesaurus describes it this way: “threaten, badger, bait, bluster, bully, coerce, constrain, cow, dispirit, subdue,” and so on.2 When we submit to these destructive words, we refute all that we have been created for, and deny the gifts and power God wants to unleash in us. God never bullies us. Instead, He wants to take an active part in our life and is interested in everything we do and who we are. Look at how He values us: “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries” (Luke 12:6-7, MSG). Don’t be intimidated by bully talk. It’s hard for women to get up each morning and try to compare their worth against a million canaries. When they look in the mirror they can’t imagine that anyone is interested in their hair. Dr. Dobson says that the biggest struggle for women is their low selfesteem, so it is much easier to try to listen and cave in to the bully talk and earn approval by simply giving in to other people’s expectations. We need to be able to separate the bully talk and guilt induced shoulds that we are caving into. Let’s look at some of the real obligations we do need to attend to every day. We should:

• Brush our teeth.

• Eat healthy foods.

• Pay our bills on time.

• Wash our clothes.

• Show up at work on time.

• Treat each other with love and respect.

• Work on our marriages and relationships.

• Forgive.

• Love the Lord our God with our all heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.

We should do all those things that promote our physical, emotional and spiritual health. How do we know when these have turned into obligations that stagnate our soul?

My friend, Beth Hanishewski, who is a life coach, describes it this way: “I have done many things out of obligations. The funny thing is, it does not matter if it was an invitation, a plan, a favor, gift, solicitation or a guilt trip attempt. All of these situations had one thing in common—a heavy energy. The energy of obligation feels constricting and it creates anxiety and fear. I try to override these emotions in order to please someone, or worse, to look good.”3

So how do we define what we should do?

What Is That “Should” on Your Shoulder?

While I am writing this book I am also facilitating a study called One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life, written by Kerry and Chris Shook. On our group’s first evening together, one of the questions was, “What is one thing you would stop in your life right now if you knew you only had thirty days to live?” After a lively discussion, one main theme began to come into focus; stopping the life-sucking “shoulds” out of our daily activities. They are the guilt-induced obligations that we do because we are afraid that people might not like us. The discussion got even livelier as we tried to determine the obligations that we needed to let go. How do we know the difference between what to hold and what to fold?

Here is what I ask myself: “If intimidation discourages me from using the gifts God has given me, makes me feel obligated to give in to people’s demands and robs me of energy; then what wakes me up and makes me feel alive, bold and passionate? How can I use my God-given gifts to make daily impacts in people’s lives?” Here is where I need to look at the source of my moment-by-moment power.

1. Self-Power Induces Obligation

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a great example of how deceptive and sneaky we can become when we acquiesce and do things out of obligation and needing people’s approval. In the early church in the book of Acts, at a time when all believers were of one heart and mind, people were asked to sell their houses and land and give the money to the apostles to give to others in need. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be a part of this great plan, probably to have people look favorably on them for their generosity. So they sold some property but deceived the church by holding back part of the money. They were caught and Peter confronted them. He said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God” (Acts 5:3-4, NLT).

We are especially weak when it comes to covering our hide and protecting our image. Who doesn’t want people to admire them, praise them for generosity or some noble deed? Sometimes we are afraid that if we don’t go along with the crowd, people won’t like us, we won’t fit it; and we concede to self-power. If we constantly operate out of our self-power, we will feel defeated by the constant demands of choices that we must make in our daily activities. A high percentage of women are finding it difficult to cope with the demands and choices they have to make in this exhausting twenty-first-century life, and cope by being on anti-depressants or other mind-altering drugs to give them the tenacity to carry on.

Marcus Buckingham in his book, Find Your Strongest Life, tells us that succumbing to busyness and doing more does not make us happy. “Over the last forty years women have secured for themselves greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same time period, they have become less happy, more anxious and more stressed; and in ever-increasing numbers they are medicating themselves for it.”4

To save our soul, you and I have to be brutally intentional about learning how to make choices by operating through God’s power.

2. God’s Power-Passion Invigorates

I get passionate and excited when I see men and women who are bold, relentless and wide awake to pursue the passions, gifts and abilities God has given them. Kerry and Chris Shook tell us in their book, One Month to Live: “We’re created as spiritual beings, and to develop spiritual energy, we have to cultivate a healthy connection to our Creator. The Bible consistently reveals that humans are created in God’s image and that we have an eternal part of us, our spirits. The most important part of our lives is our spiritual dimension, our souls… we’re created to be connected to a larger power source.”5

How do we know we are living an invigorated, passionate life that is connected to a larger power? Look at the luscious fruit. I love living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, the heart of British Columbia. I never get tired of looking out of our kitchen window and watching the activity in the vineyards. For the past thirteen years I have been walking through these vineyards at least twice a week. In the last month I watched the vineyard workers carefully cut the lush, sweet grapes from the vines. Today my husband and I noticed that all the grapes are gone, and most of the vines have had their leaves stripped by the recent autumn winds. I also know that after the winter season is done, there will be more workers in the fields with their pruning shears trimming the vine branches back to almost nothing. Even after all these years I am amazed how the pruners remove all but the two best side shoots that grow from the stem. Over the next few months I watch how these harshly pruned branches begin to produce lush, sweet grapes. If you and I are going to bear gorgeous fruit in our lives, we have to be connected to the source of that growth. I love the way these verses explain this process: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NIV).

To make this power work in our life we have to pay attention to four things:

i. We have to stay attached to the vine, because it is the life source for growing the fruit. We need to be saturated by the word of God because that is the source of all our wisdom and strength, and it speaks to the mind of Christ that is within us.

ii. Without being attached to the vine, “we can do nothing.” Sure, we can be involved in a lot of activities and succumb to all the “shoulds”; but what are we accomplishing that will have eternal value?

iii. We need to be pruned regularly of our criticism, self-righteousness and immoral life so that we can continue to grow to be kinder, more compassionate, extending forgiveness and becoming more like Christ.

iv. God cuts off any branch that does not bear fruit. Ouch! I don’t really want to know what that means.

When we choose to tap into the power of God’s truth about who we are and what He can accomplish through us, it will illuminate our strengths and evoke passion. Soon a great transition begins to take place in our lives.

We move from “I should” to “I get to.” When we are passionate about something, watch out: ridiculous things begin to happen.

Change the “Shoulds” to “Ridiculous Risks”

Operating out of our God-given strengths makes us confident, passionate and bold enough to say no to the world’s screaming demands and to say yes to take some ridiculous Kingdom risks. Here is how John Bevere in his book, Breaking Intimidation, describes boldness: “Boldness comes from the virtues of power, love and soundness of mind. Boldness is not a virtue in itself. We have all known people who were brazen and bold. True boldness comes from God and is fueled by godly virtue. Boldness that is fueled by God’s character awakens the gifts in our lives.”6 Two of my favorite stories that encourage me in ridiculous boldness are of a soon-to-be king and a queen.

1. When we think of David the shepherd boy, we think of king, but also of giant killer. King Saul tried to caution David about killing a giant. “‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Saul replied. ‘There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win. You’re only a boy’” (1 Sam. 17:33, NLT). But the size of the giant was not enough to block the view of God for this young boy when he took out his five smooth stones. He had ridiculous courage because he knew, “And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Sam. 17:47, NLT). David’s source of ridiculous power was in knowing that God ultimately fights all our battles.

2. Esther, the beautiful young Jewish woman that stole a king’s heart, is the stunning main character in one of those “sitting on the edge of your seat” intrigue and romance stories that should be made into a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s what fairy tales are made of—until a sinister plot is discovered. Queen Esther’s cousin Mordecai discovered that there was an evil man named Haman who had drawn up a letter that decreed all the Jews to be killed in that land. The dispatches said, “to destroy, kill and annihilate all of the Jews—young and old, women and little children—on a single day” (Esther 3:13, NIV). Queen Esther was also a Jewess, but how could she help? Even though she was a queen she could not approach the king without being summoned; she could be put to death. Next come three powerful factors that fuel invigoration.

i. Her cousin Mordecai reminded Queen Esther of her destiny. These people that were going to be killed were her people, her family. He reminded her how God uses us to accomplish His Kingdom work on earth when he said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV, italics mine). This powerful reminder shows us that we need to be crystal clear about our purpose and set our priorities, so that we can take action and move boldly ahead.

ii. Even though Esther was a queen and shared the king’s wealth and power, she still needed God’s power. It is foolish to think that human wealth or position can make us impervious to danger. Queen Esther then replied to Mordecai, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:15-16, NIV). By calling for a fast, Queen Esther was demonstrating that she knew she needed God’s power to be ridiculously bold on this dangerous mission.

iii. The world’s motto is “save your skin and look out for number one,” but we need to decide what God wants us to accomplish on this earth and trust Him for the boldness to do it. Queen Esther knew she was laying her life on the line for this treacherous mission. Her words, “And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16, NIV) send a shiver through my spine. Queen Esther felt passionate about her purpose and mission, completely trusting God for the outcome that saved the lives of all the Jews in that country.

When I am reminded of my destiny; that I am a child of the Creator and He sent His Son to die for me and that He has a purpose for my life on this earth, at this time and place of all eternity, I can be ridiculously bold at times. Not Queen Esther style, but Heidi style:

• Traveling to Poland to teach on spiritual transformation. Only God could give me the boldness to do this.

• Speaking in Yellowknife, Yukon, and experiencing no washrooms or daylight for twenty-two hours of the day.

• Submitting manuscripts for publication. This required risk and trusting God would help me get them published.

• Asking my boss if I could reduce my work hours.

• Forgiving someone that hurt me deeply.

In order to find our own style of ridiculous boldness, we have to be clear about our purpose and priorities.

What To Keep and What To Throw Away

The Christmas season is one of the worst “should” occasions for women. For years I entered into this time of year with a love/hate relationship. The ambience in our home is enchanting when it is decorated with fresh evergreen, the room is filled with flickering candles and hundreds of white mini lights are strung on the tree and around the hearth. My family is my greatest external joy on this earth, and I cherish our times lingering by the fireplace, sipping a fragrant cider and listening to soft Christmas music. But there are parts of the Christmas season that feel torturous and I approach them with disdain. For years I had a recurring nightmare wherein the stores were closing in one hour and I still hadn’t started my Christmas shopping. Each time I woke up in a sweaty panic and realized how much there was still to do to finalize our family’s Christmas preparations. Year after year it got more expensive and complicated, and by the time the Holy Christmas Eve arrived I was grumpy, exhausted and sometimes even sick.

Years ago I started to rebel against Christmas expectations and our family has truly been diligent about working with me to simplify the season’s demands. We are all progressing; albeit slowly. In 2007, I chose to escalate the progress—significantly. I was so worn out with all the nonsensical “shoulds” of the season—all the expenses, the exhaustive decorating, shopping and wrapping—that Jack and I decided to cancel Christmas in our home that year. It was the perfect year to experiment with it because we were going to spend Christmas at my daughter’s home in Alberta. I was shocked at how liberating it was not to decorate our home, send out cards or bake. I felt like a little kid that had just been let loose in a candy shop. Christmas demands, rituals and expectations were no longer going to make me feel obligated; and it absolutely invigorated me.

I shared my delightful discovery with many women and each time I told my story their eyes got big; then a smile broke out on their face and they laughed and cheered me on. Christmas 2009, we did it again. We celebrated Christmas at our daughter’s home in Sacramento, where we spent our time walking, playing games, laughing and scouting out a great Christmas Eve service. The anticipation of being free from the Christmas expectations of outlandish spending, overeating and absurd money spent on wrapping paper and bows that end up in the garbage leaves me giddy with joy.

It’s not an easy process to decide which “shoulds” we keep and which ones we throw away. I love my friend Beth’s attitude and her method for determining her obligations:

“The first thing I do when I am asked to do anything is to check in with my body. How do I feel? Does this demand give me energy or deplete it? If, however, I am unsure and agree to this something, then I ask myself, ‘Do I regret saying yes?’ If that is the case, then there are only two choices left:

1. Go back and say no. (I may say something like this: ‘I changed my mind. Forgive me for agreeing before I gave myself the time to think it through.’)

2. Find a way to make it fun:

a. Add music. (Even house cleaning can be improved with the right music.)

b. Add intention. (What is the reward in this commitment?)

c. Add a friend. (It is amazing how even the most arduous or tedious tasks can become fun with the right company.)

While the energy of obligation is heavy and un-fun, the hallmark of invigoration is energy.”7

Steps to Finding Invigoration

Determining how to make our best choices each day is not determined by better time management or greater expertise in juggling our schedule. If you’ve ever watched a juggler, you will notice that his goal is to keep all the balls up in the air. That’s what we do when we have a loaded, frantic lifestyle that drains the life out of us; we will constantly feel obligated and not invigorated. We don’t give our best to anything; we do the least we can and then we’re on to the next thing. I believe there are a few other key factors in deciding what to do with the barrage of “shoulds”:

Know the source of your power.

Know your purpose for this season of your life.

Prepare a mission statement (See Jack’s and mine in Chapter 6).This is a very practical tool to determine what fits into your values and goals.

Ask very good questions.

a. Does it fit into my life “ for such a time as this”?

b. What is my motive for doing this?

c. What was my initial feeling when I was confronted with this task?

d. Do I have the time?

e. Will it take me away from valuable family commitments?

f. Can I afford it?

g. Is it in keeping with my strengths?

h. Does it advance my learning and keep me interested?

i. Does it energize me or deplete me?

5. Take the 10,000-foot view for some of the more complicated and challenging choices. We see things much clearer when we see life from a God angle.

a. Will this matter six months or a year from now?

b. Does it enhance my spiritual growth?

c. Is it in keeping with my values?

d. Is this part of God’s plan for my life for doing his Kingdom

work here on earth?

e. Is this wasted time or is it a gift that God is trying to give me?

The invitation to sing and play my guitar left me with a negative sense of obligation to perform. The disaster that ultimately occurred left me humiliated and depleted, but it made me realize that this was not what God had gifted me for. For the next number of years it was frustrating for me to try and discover what I had been created to do. Most days it seemed that I didn’t have a clue. Through this tumultuous journey of trying to stay true to who God created me to be, I stayed connected to God and kept asking Him, “God, what are the gifts you have given to me so that I can make a significant difference in people’s lives?” As God was preparing my bigger picture of being an author, speaker, teacher and mentor for women, I was content to do each day what God had prepared for me to do that day—love my family and love others. I learned that I needed the power of the Holy Spirit daily to give me the wisdom to separate my “shoulds” so that I could function not by feeling obligated, but by being invigorated.

Choices That Enrich Your Life

1. Realize that juggling your calendar or Blackberry is not the answer to an invigorated life. Choose to work out of values and priorities that strengthen and invigorate you.

2. Every day we have to make almost a hundred choices. Realize you can only do that day what God has prepared for that particular day. Choose to pray and give the day to God and let Him help you work it out.

3. Learn to discern between your people pleasing and God pleasing. Choose to dismiss the people pleasing and focus on what will bring value into your life and the people closest to you.

4. Sometimes we look at other people and think we will be happy and fulfilled when we do what they are doing. Choose to believe that God has made you unique and He has something different for you to do; your style, your way.

5. When you hear that you are worth more than a million canaries, do you believe how worthy you are to God? Choose to trust God that God is interested in every area of your life and that He will never take you any place where He will abandon you.

6. Have you been asked to do something ridiculous? Choose to see it through the 10,000-foot view instead of your immediate emotions.

7. You are at a time in your life where you think you should have figured out by now what God’s purpose is for you. Choose to believe

a) You may already be doing it and not even know it, or b) That

God is preparing you for it.

8. Discover those things in your life that give you energy. You may not see them as gifts God has given you because they seem so effortless. Choose to believe that God can use those gifts to have a profound impact on this world.

9. You think you are handling life successfully because you are multitasking and keeping all your events in order. Choose to believe the fact that when you multitask your IQ drops by ten points and you are giving everything a divided attention.

10. You think that having more education, a better job, and better pay will make you feel more fulfilled. Choose to believe that those are all very good things to strive for, but they will never fully complete you and make you ultimately happier.

11. You believe this is your “lot in life” and there is nothing you can do about it. Choose to believe that you can break out of any pattern by learning to do things differently. Ask God to help you be creative.

12. Interruptions are part of life. Choose to believe that what frustrates you about them is that there is no margin in your life for these interruptions that may be disguised divine opportunities.

13. Choose to live each day by seeing life as a gift, and choose to see the good in everything and everyone. Choose joy.

Stop and As k God To Help You Change Sand to Pearls

Begin by asking: God, what people-pleasing obligations deplete me?

S Scripture: “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (Prov. 29:25, MSG).

T Thanksgiving: God I am so thankful that you will protect me and help me overcome the constant demands that this

world places on me. Thank you that you have given me the wisdom and discernment through having the mind of Christ to know when I am caving in to obligations to please people instead of You.

O Observation: It is so important for me to feel loved and accepted. It is so true that I am afraid if I don’t give in to the demands people place on me, I won’t be accepted and liked.

P Prayer: God, I realize that You have given me twenty-four precious hours each day, and that each one of those is a gift to me. Help me to treat that gift with wisdom, love and a sound mind. I need to be reminded over and over again how much I am loved, how I have more worth than a million canaries, so that I can be empowered to make decisions out of a godly boldness. Help me each day to separate my “shoulds”—the ones that need to be done, and the ones that I need to throw away. Give me the wisdom to know the difference. Thank You for all the opportunities You give me to make a difference on this earth. Help me never to miss any of those moments that may seem like an annoyance or interruption, but are in fact a gift that You are trying to give me. Thank You that You are interested in all of me, and that You have a beautiful and powerful kingdom purpose for my life. God, please help me to see the world through eyes that are invigorated, not obligated.