Saturday, November 17, 2018

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas by Brian Bird & Michelle Cox {Devotional Review + Spotlight}


~ SYNOPSIS

Celebrate Christmas in Hope Valley

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s in the fictional town of Hope Valley in the early 1900s or in our lives today, nothing is more profound than celebrating God’s most important gift to the world.

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas is about a celebration of faith, family, friends, and the most meaningful Yuletide traditions. Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, these twenty-five devotions not only explore “God-moments” from the series, but also commemorate favorite holiday recipes, stories, and traditions—many of them contributed by the Hearties, the beloved fans of the show.

Journey with us to Hope Valley as we focus on all the reasons for this most blessed season. As shepherds and angels learned on that holy night so long ago, when God calls the heart at Christmas, you can expect a celebration.




~ REVIEW

5 stars

What a darling Christmas devotional!

When God Calls the Heart at Christmas is a beautiful book, filled to the brim with Christmas merriment. The devotional is divided into twenty-five days, or chapters, each one containing a lesson that somehow connects to the When Calls the Heart TV show, a Bible verse, a prayer, a list of related questions, a recipe, and a few Christmas traditions.

The Christmas stories and traditions were my favorite parts! Those, along with the recipes, were submitted by the Hearties, the fans of the TV show. I love Christmas and Christmas traditions, so hearing others' Christmas stories was special and sweet. <3

Between the photos, the stories, and the beautiful formatting, this book isn't one to be missed!


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Sirens Media and BroadStreet Publishing.**


~ SERIES


Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart.

In this collection of devotionals and journals, Brian Bird, executive producer and co-creator of When Calls the Heart and Michelle Cox illuminate the “God-moments” from the fictional, 1910 mining town of Hope Valley. The stories of faith, hope, and love from each episode will touch your soul, inspire, and encourage you with wonderful virtues and relatable life lessons.


~ AUTHORS 


Brian Bird is executive producer and co-creator of the Hallmark Channel original series When Calls the Heart. In his three decades in Hollywood, he has writtien or produced two dozen films, including The Case for Christ, Captive and Not Easily Broken, and more than 250 episodes of such shows as Touched By An Angel, Step By Step and Evening Shade.



Known for her “encouragement with a Southern drawl,” Michelle Cox is an award-winning, best-selling author and the creator of the Just 18 Summers® brand of paren ng products and resources. She’s wri en for Guideposts, Christian Cinema, FoxNews.com, Focus on the Family, and numerous other publica ons. Her favorite roles, though, are as wife, mom, and grandmama to six perfect grandchildren.




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Freedom's Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli {Book Review}


~ Description 

Boston, 2015
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated—plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.

Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.


~ My Rating 

4 stars


~ My Review 

An eloquent, intriguing tale of brokenness and healing. <3

I'm settling in to write this review over a week after reading the book—and honestly? I feel like I'm still sorting through everything that happened in those 380-something pages. So many events. So many plot-twists. It was fantastic, but a lot to keep up with. 

This was my first dual-timeline novel, and I absolutely ADORED that aspect of the book. Anaya's and Liberty's stories wove together very well to create a deeply-layered tale of pain, loss, hope, and forgiveness. The connection of the ring was perfect and so nicely done. The historical details were amazing—this author knows her Boston. 

Liberty's story was...complicated. I didn't feel like I could connect with her very well. Originally, I liked Alexander...but I never really "believed" that she loved him. Cared for him, yes, but I'm not so sure it was love. Her relationship with James was precious, though cut short. She didn't treat Hugh like he deserved. (C'mon, honey, he loves you and your child. Either let yourself love him or break it off already.) 

Anaya/Annie's story was my favorite. Dealing with post-traumatic stress nearly two years after being a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, befriending a veteran who can relate to her struggles, carrying guilt over her family's pain and loss from the same attack...I just loved her story. (I also loved Brad. Brad is mine, y'all.) 

Annie and Brad's search for the origin of the ring that brought them together—along with their relationship in general—were some of my favorite parts. I always enjoy a good genealogical search. ;)

As far as content, there's a rape and an illegitimate child, detailed kissing, and several deaths. Characters recalling bombings and blown-apart bodies—both at the Boston Marathon bombing and in the Iraqi War—and a woman who decides she's in love with two men (hey, it's disturbing, it's going in the content paragraph xD). Overall, I'd say 14+. 

So yup. Knocking off a star because of my confusion and annoyance with Liberty's love life. Otherwise? A fabulous book. <3


**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.**

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veterans Day + Marine Corps Birthday {faith rambles}



So, this isn't what I'd planned to post today.

Actually, I didn't have a post planned for this weekend, which is probably part of the reason I'm sitting down to write something random at 7:20 p.m. I don't want to get out of the habit of posting every week, but it was either this or an overdue book review. So you're stuck with a few paragraphs of my rambles. :P

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, the specific day set aside each year in the US to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. It's also Armistice Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

And today is the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps! I wrote a short story about twin brothers—Marines—which I posted on my writing blog. (Read it here, if ya like.)

So yeah, there's a quick history lesson for y'all. :P

How has your week been, my friend? I worked a few days, sorted through the final edits of Behold, made plans for the 12 Days of Christmas blog party, and read some books. So Christmasy. ;)


Well, that's all I've got this week... How are you, dears? 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Not by Sight.

Do you ever read a verse from God's Word, maybe even a verse you've read many times, but it just slams you? Knocks you down and washes over and suddenly everything just.makes.more.sense. 




YouVersion's verse of the day for Monday was 2 Corinthians 5:7. I'd already read the verse more than once that afternoon, working around it in my inbox. (I usually don't delete the notifs until the next day, to make sure I read them at least a time or two throughout the day.) 


For we walk by faith, not by sight.  
// 2 Corinthians 5:7 kjv


At that particular knock-your-socks-off moment, I had finished homework and was clicking through a few email that had appeared in the meanwhile. I came back to the verse and my eyes landed on the words. 

I read it. And stopped. Stared. Read it again. 

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth that we walk by faith and not by sight. 

By faith, y'all. Faith means believing that He's in control, even we when can't see His presence. Faith means trusting that He has a plan, even in the chaos. Faith means knowing there is light even when all we see is darkness. 


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
// Hebrews 11:1 kjv


Not by sight. Ya know, it doesn't matter what we can or can't see. Things in our lives that we have no idea how they can work out. Relationships that are so strained and distant we wonder if they'll ever be as strong as they once were. We can't see how God will work in these situations. But I promise you, friend. He will. He is right now, even as you read these scribblings from my heart. 

You know what else we don't have to see? Our futures. 

Can you envision what your life will be like five years from now? If so, super. Follow God and I'm sure the outcome will be amazing. But what if we can't? Are we doing something wrong? 

No, my friend, we're not. Because we're having the chance to walk by faith, and not by sight. Trusting that His plans are good, even when we have no idea what they are. Believe that His timing is best, even when you're so tired of waiting. 

There is always a reason, for the pain and the waiting and the unknowns. Hold to His promises, walk by faith, and one day—it'll all make sense. 



I literally wrote this in, like, ten minutes on Monday evening. I'm quite certian God intended the message for me, but maybe it will touch you too. <33