Friday, April 8, 2016

Finding the Blessing in the Icky Jobs

Do you ever have to do something you hate?

Of course you do. You live in the real world.

Do you ever let that thing wreck your whole day?

If your answer is no, then God bless you and thank you for clicking by, but this may not be the post for you.

If your answer is yes, then God bless you too, and perhaps you can get some good out of this.

Today, I had to do something I hate. Something I've been putting off for days. Something that just couldn't wait any longer.

Today, I had to shovel the ashes out of our outdoor furnace. On most days this is merely an irritating chore, but this week we've had nearly gale-force winds all week (thus my procrastination--sometimes there's a good reason for it).

On super windy days, shoveling out the furnace goes from merely irritating to truly horrendous. You don't just smell like smoke, you get ashes in your hair, eyes, ears, nose.... That shower you had this morning. Ha! You're gonna want another because now you smell just like the inside of that wood furnace.

Today, for some reason (we'll call that reason God...because I'm pretty sure it's Him), this truly horrendous job, just wasn't. As I was shoveling and holding my breath...and spitting and blinking and sneezing (because I just can't hold my breath that long), God gave me a little perspective.

Thank you, Lord that my husband has a job that supports our family. Which is why he is not home, and I have to do this icky task. Thank you also that he would be more than willing to do it himself if he was here.

Thank you, Lord that because of his hard work and dedication I get to stay home with our children...and perform this icky task--and others--for them.

Thank you, Lord that we have a home to heat and that we have this furnace to heat our home and our water (which is so awesome! You haven't had a hot shower until you've had a "water-heated-by-your-outdoor-furnace" hot shower).

Thank you, Lord for providing us with wood to fill our furnace, to heat our home and water, and make piles of ashes for me to shovel out when the wind is blowing 30 miles an hour.

Thank you, Lord for giving me the strength to do this job because I know there are many who would love to, but cannot.

Thank you, Lord that I actually didn't get that shower this morning, so smelling like the inside of the furnace isn't really that big of a step down.

I'm reminded of times in my life when I've faced actual trials that really shook my world, the death of a loved one or a child's illness. God has used those situations to teach me this lesson on a much grander scale. To remind me of blessings even greater than those I've already mentioned.

 "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Note, it doesn't say to give thanks for all things but in all things. Some things are just bad and impossible to be thankful for. But with God's help we will notice the blessings exposed by the trying circumstances, and we can be thankful for them.


What about you?

Is there a job you hate and procrastinate that would be easier with a dose of this kind of thankfulness?

Are you going through one of those big, hard, scary trials where God is teaching you to be thankful for blessings you didn't even realize you had until now?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

 Here it is! The long-awaited review of my best friend's (not quite so long awaited) novel.  A Bride for Keeps was released in October 2013. I won't comment on what sort of friend it makes me that I'm just now reviewing it. You can trust the delay speaks ill only of me and not Melissa's story.

Without further ado... A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears...

A Bride for Keeps, Unexpected Brides Series #1   -     By: Melissa Jagears
From the Cover:
Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas.

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Andrea's Take:
I read this book more than once during its journey from Melissa's imagination to the printed page, and I must say it gets better every time. A word on the cover art...Perfect. They look exactly like I pictured them when I first read the manuscript of this novel years ago. Way to go, Bethany House art department!

Who doesn't love a mail-order bride story? Hard-working farmer in a harsh, untamed land that's short on women--pretty or otherwise--places an advertisement for a wife. Beautiful (or not), down on her luck Eastern girl with nowhere else to turn answers the ad and heads west to face whatever adventures life has in store. It spells a page-turner every time. But what will that farmer do if the girl decides the farmer, or his farm, is just not good enough and she backs out? How many times will he try? 

That's a story I had never read until A Bride for Keeps.

Melissa Jagears has taken the well-loved frame of the mail-order bride story and turned it on its ear with a jaded hero who has sworn off mail-order brides, and a wounded heroine who wants nothing to do with intimacy of any kind. Mix in Everett's irresistible goodness (that shows through despite his best efforts to hide it)--to say nothing of his good looks--and Julia's beauty and vulnerability, and you have a tale sure to win a place in readers' hearts, and on their keeper shelves.

I loved Everett and Julia. My heart broke for the pain that stood between them and happiness. I constantly rooted for them to overcome it and grasp with both hands the love that was staring them in the face. When they finally do, it's in a scene that may be one of the most beautiful romantic resolutions I've ever read...and that's saying A LOT!

The secondary characters are beautifully done as well. From Dex and Rachel Stanton, whom we met in the novella Love by the Letter, to some of the ladies who jilted Everett before Julia's arrival, the minor characters create a community that not only anchors this story in time and place, but also beckons readers to return for more in future novels.

I, for one, have been dying to return to Salt Flatts since I turned the last page of A Bride for Keeps. Not to worry, we'll soon get our chance. Book 2 in the series is slated for release this fall. I'll do my best to keep updates posted here as they come available.

If you've read the book leave a comment about your favorite character or scene. If you haven't read the book...Read it, already!

Monday, September 2, 2013


My best friend in the world is publishing her first novel in a month. But you don't have to wait to experience Melissa Jagears's authorial brilliance! Love by the Letter is a prequel novella, and it is FREE right now on Kindle.

Here's the blurb: 
Dex Stanton has never had much time for book learning. He's been too busy helping to provide for his family. Now that he's heading west, Dex is hoping to start a family of his own. However, his attempt to acquire a mail-order bride fails miserably when the lady writes back ridiculing his terrible spelling. Rachel Oliver may be the last person he wants to know what a dunce he is, but she's also the smartest woman in town--and it's clear he needs her help.

Rachel Oliver has lingered in town for three years secretly mooning over Dex Stanton, but now she's done. If the fool wants to write to a mail-order bride company, so be it. Once she begins giving Dex lessons, however, Rachel realizes she may not be prepared to give up just yet.

As their time together runs short, can two of the most stubborn people in town set aside their pride long enough to find love?

And here's my review on Amazon:
Christian writers must maintain a delicate balance between romantic tension and Christian purity. Melissa Jagears has walked that thin line like a pro. And she has done it in the shortened format of a novella. The characters tugged at my heart and had me laughing out loud. The pace of the story is ideal and the conflict believable. Love by the Letter is a masterful debut. It is sure to make readers crave more of Dex, Rachel, and their friends in her upcoming novel A Bride for Keeps. I for one can't wait for it!

Here's the GO! Purchase it!

Bride for Keeps, A: A novel
You won't regret it, and when you're done reading it you won't be able to stand the wait for the upcoming novel A Bride for Keeps (Available for pre-order NOW on Amazon and Barnes & Noble). 

 Just look at that cover! Isn't it beautiful?

The story inside will not disappoint either. I've read A Bride for Keeps a couple of times at various stages in its development. It gets better every time, and I can't wait to see the final product.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Musings: Increasing Christ

Yesterday's song, "Steal My Show" made me think of this Scripture. I think perhaps TobyMac is in good company.

"Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."
      ~John 3:26-30

John the Baptist was going about his regular business, baptizing people and preaching about the One who was to come. Then verse 25 happens. I believe the phrase "the Jews" means non-believers, for a couple of reasons. First, John's followers were mostly likely as Jewish as the other men. So why the distinction otherwise? Second, the phrase "there arose a question between..." indicates debate, disagreement, or even confusion. The latter is implied when they are compelled to take the question to a higher authority, namely John. Often in the Gospels, the questioner is a Jewish leader who is trying to muddy the waters, or trip up Jesus. I assume such to be the case here.

The "they" in verse 26 is unclear. Did the non-believers in question accompany John's followers to speak with their Rabbi? Or did they merely plant a little seed of jealousy into the minds of those men? Either way, a group of men approached John with a PR mission: Salvage John's reputation from this upstart who is trying to steal his show.

A piece of my heart hopes that the questioners were there, just waiting for John to fly into a jealous rage. I love the places in the Bible where sowers of dissent, trying to trap God's people get caught in their own snare.

John gently reminds the men, "Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him."

John compared himself to the the best man at a wedding. I'm sure weddings have changed a lot over the centuries, but this brings a modern "wedding picture" to mind. The best man is standing at the head table, glass raised, all eyes on him as he gives a toast. A chorus of "Here, here!" follows as everyone in the room agrees and "drinks to that" (punch of course; this is a "dry" blog).

And that's it. The best man is done. He has had his moment in the limelight, and all focus now returns to the bride and groom. Even during his shining moment the best man (if he is really good at all) is pointing attention to his dear friend the groom, whom he has never seen so happy and knows will be only happier with his lovely bride at his side for the rest of their lives.

His final words drive the point home. "He must increase, but I must decrease."

In other words, "Thank you for worrying about my image, boys, but it ain't my show. It's His, and I'm just happy he lets me be part of it."

John had a role to play, The Forerunner. He was never the star, only the opening act. When his part was finished he was happy to fade away into the background of history and watch the rest of the show, so to speak.

I hope I always remember to let Jesus "steal my show," or better yet that I remember it's His show, and I'm so blessed even to have a walk-on role.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Songs: Steal My Show by TobyMac

Some songs strike a chord with me on the first note. This is one of those songs. Honestly, I was hooked even before I heard that first note. The title caught me when the DJ announced it. I cranked it up to hear the words, and I still crank it up every time it comes on (which is not nearly often enough, IMHO).

TobyMac - Steal My Show (Official Lyric Video) from tobymac on GodTube.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Songs: You Are I Am, by MercyMe

MercyMe - You Are I Am (Official Lyric Video) from mercymemusic on GodTube.

I've been pondering the name of God lately. I Am.

This song ponders it along with me.

The words speak of doubt, fear, and shame. Then they remind me that my God, I AM, is big enough and strong enough to reach me wherever I may be and to mold me and make me into whatever He wants me to be. The reminder is hitting home with me lately.

I hope you enjoy the song. Read the words and listen to them. See if they don't touch your heart today.

Friday, March 1, 2013

First Friday Debut: Sanctuary for a Lady by Naomi Rawlings

Okay, here's the idea...I'll review a debut novel on the first Friday of the month. The author might be brand-spanking new, a long-standing favorite, or somewhere in between. Whoever the author is, First Fridays will be reserved for the debut offering.

I confess this idea has been rattling around in my brain for many months. I've missed several perfectly good First Fridays out of procrastination ("Yes, the first Friday is coming up, but I've got plenty of time.") or inattention ("Oh, fiddlesticks! I missed the First Friday again!") Well, today the mood struck at just the write moment, so here I am.

This month's debut is from a personal, cyber-friend of mine, Naomi Rawlings. It was published in April 2012, and her second offering, though in the works, is not yet available. So she still falls under the "Brand-Spanking New" category. We were "introduced" by a mutual friend and fellow writer, and we have tons of things in common. Listing them would be boring (to you, though it tickles me pink), so I won't. Suffice it to say, I'm taking great interest in the career of this promising new writer.

Without further ado, my review of Sanctuary for a Lady

Sanctuary for a Lady (Love Inspired Historical Series)

From the Cover:
(Just look at that beautiful cover) --->

Rescued by the Enemy--The injured young woman Michel Belanger finds in the woods is certainly an aristocrat. And in the midst of France's bloody revolution, sheltering nobility merits a trip to the guillotine. Yet despite the risk, Michel knows he must bring the wounded girl to his cottage to heal.

Attacked by soldiers and left for dead, Isabelle de La Rouchecauld has lost everything. A duke's daughter cannot hope for mercy in France, so escaping to England is her best chance of survival. The only thing more dangerous than staying would be falling in love with this gruff yet tender man of the land.  Even if she sees, for the first time, how truly noble a heart can be...

Andrea's Take:
Take the Good Samaritan, plunk him down in war-torn Revolutionary France, and make his patient the beautiful daughter of a slain aristocrat, and you have the basic description for this novel.

This was my first impression, though Naomi later told me that theme hadn't occurred to her while she was writing it. (I love finding "accidental" themes in novels. :) Other prevalent (and likely purposeful) themes are healing and forgiveness. Both characters suffer spiritual wounds in connection with the ongoing Revolution, and the healing of those wounds is a spiritual parallel to Isabelle's physical healing. Forgiveness is a necessary stop on their path to true love.

Their stations in life make them natural enemies, thus they must learn to lay aside the broad brush of generality, and see one another as individuals rather than one of a collective. She is more than an aristocrat. He is more than a peasant. While neither can control the world around them, they can, and do, strive to view that world from the other's perspective. In a surprising twist (which I absolutely loved!), Isabelle has the opportunity change roles, from patient to Good Samaritan.

I won't give away the ending, but I'll say that it was fresh and satisfying, certainly not the run of the mill happy ever after.

My readers may or may not know that I'm a  proud Anglo-phile (which tends to make me a natural Franco-phobe). British literature and history enthrall me. French? Not so much. That this novel was able to draw me so fully into the time and place of the French Revolution (not to mention leave me wanting stories for more of these amazing characters) is a definite feather in the author's cap to my way of thinking.

5 Stars * * * * *

I gladly award Sanctuary for a Lady five brightly shining stars because I cannot think of one thing I would have changed in this story.

Naomi's second novel is due out sometime, but I don't know when. (Perhaps I can persuade her to come by the comments section and let us know.) I do know it is set in 19th Century America, not Revolutionary France. What I've heard of it sounds wonderful. But I hope she'll return to the cast of Sanctuary for a Lady in the future. There's a brother in this book who really needs his own story.