Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Thought: STOP

I received this little acronym as part of a lenten thought that was sent out via a mother's group I used to be part of. As the author, Margie Eades, said, it's something to keep in mind during Lent, but also during the rest of the year. It's really a code to live your life by, boiled down to four simple thoughts but rippling into every aspect of your walk:

My Daily Pledge to STOP this Lent

Seeking God first in my life to do His will
Trust with courage and to not be afraid
Open my heart with humility and obedience
Pray for the Lord's guidance and wisdom

I want to STOP more often. Press pause in the rush and noise of life. Seek, trust, open my heart and pray with intention.

What about you? Are you willing to STOP?
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Psalms For Moms: Trust, Delight, Commit Pt. 1

For the next three weeks, I am going to be taking a look at some of my favorite verses in the Bible: Psalms 37:3-6, each week focusing on a different verse. As we draw closer to God, we'll trust, commit and delight-- that's the reason for putting them all together. But to fully grasp all of them, we need to look at each aspect one at a time.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Today we're focusing on verse number 3.

There are a lot of verses about trusting God. It's the core of faith. One I am particularly focusing on right now is Isaiah 26:3: "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

When we trust in Him we can enjoy safe pasture. We can rest. Trust is the key to reducing anxiety, calming our racing thoughts. Safe pasture is the place we can lie down in a green field, stretch out our arms and be at peace, knowing that God's got this. When we place our trust squarely in Him we have nothing to fear. It's all about knowing He loves us and because His love is perfect we can trust His perfect plans, no matter what they are.

What do you need to trust Him with? Everytime you start to worry about it today, choose instead to trust. Trust, commit, delight. But the first step is trust.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Novels

Ten upcoming novels I am looking forward to reading (in no certain order):

1. Exposure by Therese Fowler (May 11)

2. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (July 11)

3. Falling Together by Marisa De Los Santos (Oct 11)

4. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (March 11)

5. Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton (Aug 11)

6. The Four Ms Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton (March 11)

7. Night Road by Kristin Hannah (March 11)

8. Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda (May 11)

9. Mothers and Daughters by Rae Meadows (March 11)

10. Save Me by Lisa Scottoline (April 11)
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Monday, March 28, 2011

In A Food Mood: Snacks For Kids

Today I am featuring a blog post I stumbled upon last week. I loved her idea for healthy snacks so I thought I would share it here. More and more I am learning about the importance of protein and fiber for me-- why not my kids?

I thought I'd also include a recipe here for homemade granola bars. This is a great alternative to the packaged kind and tastes much better! Make some for your kids this week for an afterschool snack or to pack in their lunchboxes. Or serve them as a quick breakfast!

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3.5 cups quick oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Grease 9X13 pan. Beat butter, sugar, and syrup until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Add oats and chips. Press firmly into pan. Bake 20-23 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. These take minutes to mix up and are super tasty!

Cinnamon Raisin Granola Bars

1 2/3 cups Bisquick
1 2/3 cups quick oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup margarine softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisins (Can add coconut, chopped nuts, or butterscotch chips too!)

Mix Bisquick, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar. Add margarine and mix with fork or fingers. Add remaining ingredients and press evenly in ungreased 9X13 pan. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes or until center is set. Cut into bars while still warm. Store in covered container.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiction Friday: Belle Interview With Jenny B Jones

If you've stopped by today after reading the devotion, I'd like to say thanks for dropping by! I have a different focus each day on my blog, and today is "Fiction Friday."

Today I am introducing my friend and fellow Southern Belle View blogger, Jenny B Jones. I hope you enjoy meeting her! You'll find she's very funny!

So Jenny, share a little about who you are when you're not writing books.
Gosh, when I'm not writing books I bathe on a regular basis. I have time to comb my hair and not eat from whatever white cartons are lined up on the counter. I don't snarl and growl nearly as much, and I don't spontaneously burst into tears while watching deep, emotional television programming like The Office and SNL.

Other than that, I teach public speaking to high schoolers in Arkansas part-time, I speak here and there, such as Never the Same, this summer's She Speaks, where we'll also find the fab Marybeth Whalen, and the yearly ACFW conference. I also love to travel, Ireland being my favorite spot so far. I love to eat, go to movies, take in Broadway shows (Wicked!), and spend time with family and friends. When I'm not writing or teaching, I also obsessively paint (and repaint) my house. As soon as I find a 12 step program, I'm gonna enroll. Assuming they have good snacks.

When did you first realize you were a writer?
Probably first grade. I was the obnoxious kid who wrote and put on one woman puppet shows for our class, including creating the script and stick puppets. It's a wonder my classmates didn't beat me up at recess. There's a reason I've never gone back to a reunion...

What book are you most proud of right now?
Right now I'm most proud of Save the Date, my romantic comedy that released this past February. We're getting great feedback on it, and it's been really fun (and surprising) to see the response. I really, really, really (x10) struggled with this book, so I just figured it would be a disaster. It's funny how God can turn such a blech time into a blessing. Save the Date is about a couple who make desperate decisions in desperate times. When funding for Lucy Wiltshire's home for girls is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair. Alex has it all...except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancee in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn't quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart--and her future--on the line.

What about being a "Belle" is most fun for you?
We're just different, aren't we? I love our accents, our heritage, how our Southern roots creeps into everything we do--from the extra butter added to the potatoes to the sweet smile we give when telling someone how the cow ate the cabbage. The South doesn't have the most brag-worthy past, but through the centuries we've always been about home and family, love and kinship. But any woman can be a Southern belle, no matter where she's from , no matter where she lives. It's all a state of mind, an attitude. And maybe a love for strong iced tea.

Share a little about your publishing journey.
Stop by Southern Belle View and read the whole story. Well, most of the story. You gotta keep a few details between you and God.

Share a writing tip that you've stumbled upon in your years as a writer.
The one I shared with a writer just this weekend, one that I still struggle with myself is: Give yourself permission to write junk. Sometimes we get so paralyzed by our fear of rejection, we just sit there and stare at the screen. Many of us are what we call "clean" writers--we mull it over in our head for a while before putting the final draft down in the computer. Then we change very little before turning the book in. That's all fine and good, but when you get stuck, our type tends to sit and sit and sit and sit...because we're waiting for that "just right" feeling to strike before putting any of our ideas down. You can fix a cruddy chapter, but you can't do a thing with a chapter that's eight blank pages. Don't be afraid to write absolute drivel. While writing the last two books, I've really had to become one with the dregs, and surprisingly enough, I usually am able to use something from these sloppy copies. So...just write. Don't wait for perfection. No one is looking at it but you.

What's next for you?
Next is a YA book, a book that follows Finley Sinclair, who makes an appearance in Save the Date.

In There You’ll Find Me, Finley is a senior and spending the year in Ireland in a foreign exchange program. She is trying to come back from a devastating loss, but pretty much failing. While she stays with her host family, who own a B&B, she meets Beckett Rush, the hottest teen actor in Hollywood and star of a series of popular vampire films. While Finley tours the countryside, determined to walk in the same steps her brother did when he was there years ago, she finds her stay in Ireland not nearly as inspiring. Between an assignment that has her babysitting a cranky old woman with troubles of her own and working as Beckett’s personal assistant against her wishes and her good judgment, Finley is finding little time to do the healing God is calling her to do. And little time to deal with the secrets from her own past that threaten to pull her under.

That's great news Jenny! I love it when you come out with new YA books because I know I can confidently put them in my daughter's hands! Can't wait for that one!

As she mentioned, Jenny will be speaking at our pre-conference Storytelling track at She Speaks this summer. Be sure and check it out if you're wanting to learn to tell better stories as a novelist, non-fiction writer or speaker. I am hearing this pre-conference track (not the whole conference) is already full but they are taking a waiting list in case they can open up more spots. Do check it out!
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thought: Just A Little Pencil

"We are all just a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Mother Teresa

In my new novel, my main character, Ariel ends up at a mother's group where all the other moms are busy taking notes and she has nothing to take notes with. She feels like I do a lot-- like a ditz who can't get her act together. Someone hands her one of those tiny pew pencils to write with and she makes do with that.

Sometimes I feel like one of those tiny pencils. The kind that barely has a point. The kind that some kid has chewed on and left teeth marks in the wood. The kind that no one would choose to write with, except in a real pinch.

And yet, it does the job.

When I saw the quote from Mother Teresa, I had to smile. Yes, we might be little pencils, but you put that little pencil in the hand of an all mighty God and, well, amazing things happen. I am not the best writer out there. I don't have this profound gift that makes people linger over my prose. I am not great at metaphors or descriptive phrases. My stories are kind of basic.

And yet, I do the job. I write the words I am given, one after the other. And I pray for God's blessing on those words. Whether I am penning a novel or a devotion or a blog post. I am a little pencil. Not the best writing utensil ever created.

And yet God uses me-- me!-- to send His love to the world. Not because I am the best, but because I am willing, bite marks, stubby point and all.

Are you willing to be a little pencil in the hands of a writing God?
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Psalms For Moms

This one doesn't need any commentary. Just read and let it speak to you:

Psalm 145 (New International Version, ©2011)

1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, LORD;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The LORD upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bonus Feature: An Interview With Ann Voskamp


The story of Ann and me is one that traces back to when we were both writing for Christian Women Online. She and I were both columnists and I loved reading her column each month, which led me to reading her blog each day, which led to me becoming convinced that this woman NEEDED to write a book. After a particularly poignant column, I boldly wrote to her and asked her when she thought this book I thought she needed to write might happen.

She politely told me that she didn't think that would happen for two reasons: 1) she needed to be on the other side of motherhood before she wrote about her experiences as a mom-- just to make sure she had done it right and 2) she didn't have an agent. Well, I don't know why I had the audacity to do this, but I wrote her back and told her that I thought her writing was so compelling because she wasn't on the other side of motherhood-- she was elbow deep in it just like me and I could relate. And then I added that if an agent was all she lacked, well I could introduce her to mine! (For the record, I never do that...)

A few emails later and she was in communication with my agent, they hit it off and... 1000 Gifts came out in January. It's been so fun for me to see that a lot of people agreed with me-- that Ann V needed to write a book. I asked Ann if she'd be willing to stop by and share with us, and she said yes! So, here is bestselling author Ann Voskamp to share with us the story behind her writing...

Ann, you are a humble farmer's wife and homeschooling mom of six children who never dreamed you'd write a bestselling book! What led you to this place?

Ah, only the wildest grace of God. I, just a mess, clinging to the grace of Christ -- with this strange little quirk: I have to scratch down things to understand my life. I was that geeky kid that journaled every night under her lamp, filling shelves with journals, and when I write words I meet the Spirit of God and I can see what I couldn't before.

Over six years ago now, I just began a little online journal. A homeschooling mama of six, my life gets just a tad crazy, and I blogged about my joy-hunt and how looking for God's gifts in the daily and hard was changing the way I see, the way I live.

And an editor contacted me and then this very generous woman named Marybeth Whalen surprised and connected me with those who had experience in writing book length projects and oh, how it takes a praying, supportive community of brothers and sisters in the Lord to make a book.

And really, this book is the story of every woman trying to find holy grail of joy in the whirl of it all -- the story of facing not only some my own greatest challenges, but sharing in the age-old struggles of women everywhere. It's our collective story -- and the answer that He's whispering to each of us -- right where we are.

You celebrate the simple joys of life through your list of 1000 gifts on your blog, which grew into this book. How did you get the idea to begin sharing your list on your blog?

I began the list of 1000 gifts in the season before Christmas, that season of making lists -- but really this was a list not of gifts I wanted, but gifts I had. I wrote just a cursory post, sharing that I was beginning this list --- and a friend asked if I would keep sharing the list, that maybe others could join in also?

So every Monday, a whole community of us blog together of our gifts, "Multitudes on a Monday" --- a perfect way to begin the week -- counting blessings -- and in counting blessings, we're discovering Who we can count on!

Now folks are sharing all the time, throughout the day, every day, at -- us all gathering to give God glory just like David did: "I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.“( Psalm 35:18 )
We were made for this, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

What has surprised you about the response?

How many lives have been as radically changed as mine.

How women who have struggled with depression, with health issues, with heart-breaking family situations have read the book and God's met them in the pages and done what only He can do and they have discovered what they have been looking for -- what we are all looking for. The real, true joy, the abundant life that Christ promises us --- but we've been struggling to really experience.

Where is God in my pain? How can I find joy here? Isn't there more to life than the stress and racing pace of it all?

Your writing is sheer poetry. How do you find the time to write with such depth in the midst of a busy, full household?

Oh, I'm such a slow thinker, a slow scratcher... I write early and late, always in the dark, in the fringe hours. And then when the kids come in from the barn, the day rolls in this lovely loud and exuberant way!

What is your favorite time of day?

I'm so in process, so learning to just give thanks for the present moment that I'm in -- that I worship the Great I AM and He is in this present moment and in His presence is fullness of joy. My word for this year is Here. I'm learning so much about living in the grace of this moment. Here is where I can love Him.

What gift are you noticing right now?

I woke up this morning and smiled -- and yes, I knew that there were bathrooms that needed some serious rescuing in this house and my fridge is growing something green and fuzzy and definitely not cute and I am so very far behind on so many things -- but I woke up here! I am so grateful for the loud and the wild and mess of us all being together. There's all this daily grace that I don't want to miss, that I want to give Him all the glory for: the beauty of sisters cutting snippets everywhere, making cards everywhere, and the pile of boots and kites and soccer balls and boy dreams at the back door, and in the midst of this chronic illness that flares, I get the gift of another day to love!

Are there plans for more books by Ann Voskamp? I hope so!

Well... John 3:27 is a life verse: "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven..."

Nothing anyone seemingly has is theirs. Nor can we make anything apart from what He alone gives. So all glory is only His, because He is the one who gives... So we pray, watch, and wait, willing if He gives. It would truly be a humbling grace to co-labour again with Him.... Only as He leads, so we follow.

Guys, I have to say if you have not gotten hold of 1000 Gifts yet, do it today. Make it your morning quiet time to read a chapter-- or a portion of a chapter-- each morning before you start your day. Then haltingly, cautiously, begin scratching out your own gift list. I have found that doing so teaches you to pay attention, to recall the good when you reflect on your experiences-- even the tiniest glimmers of it. This is the best way to live-- intentionally seeking out the many gifts that lie in the everyday moments of life. I am so thankful to Ann for listening to God's prompting to do so years ago, and for sharing it with those of us who really needed to hear it. Thank you Ann, for stopping by today. Want to visit with her on a regular basis? You can find her scratchings at

Want to meet Ann in person? She's coming to be our Saturday night speaker at She Speaks. I for one can not wait to hug her neck and hear what God is going to bring to us that night through her. She Speaks was already shaping up to be phenomenal weekend but this? This just sealed the deal! Check out to secure your spot before we sell out!
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Monday, March 21, 2011

In A Food Mood/Top Ten List All In One!

Today I am combining my "In A Food Mood" Monday post with "Top Ten Tuesday" post by posting a top ten list of my go-to easy recipes for when I must cook dinner but my heart's just not in it. These easy recipes get dinner on the table with a minimum of fuss. I thought some of you might appreciate these ideas:

1. Barbecue chicken, wild rice, corn: Lay chicken breasts in a greased 9X13 pan. Pour a bottle of barbecue sauce over top. Bake at 350 for one hour. Make the 5 minute wild rice and heat a can of corn. Dinner is served!

2. Spaghetti. Brown a pound of ground beef. Drain well. Add your favorite spaghetti sauce, some garlic salt, a bay leaf, and some Italian seasoning, and simmer all day. Serve over your family's favorite pasta. My family prefers angel hair and it cooks even faster! A friend of mine's daughter was over and said this sauce was the best she ever tasted. I just smiled and did not fess up that it starts with a jar of sauce. I think the trick is simmering it for as long as possible so the flavors meld.

3. Breakfast for dinner. Scramble some eggs, cook some bacon in the microwave, and buy some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. If you're feeling really adventurous you can make grits or hashbrowns and cut up some fruit too. This meal is filling and actually one of the cheapest dinners you can make!

4. Rotisserie chicken, stove top stuffing, and peas. Easy, and better for you than fast food for about the same price. Find out what day your grocery store runs these chickens on special and plan this meal for that night.

5. Grilled chicken over salad. Marinate the chicken early in the day, then put your husband in charge of grilling. Get out a bag of salad and put out some toppings like bacon bits, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, etc. Have a selection of dressings on hand to make things interesting. If you want to round out the meal, heat up a loaf of french bread to go with it.

6. Taco salad. Brown 2 pounds of ground beef and drain well. Add a 30 ounce can of tomato sauce and two packets of taco seasoning. Simmer for awhile. Serve with tortilla chips, lettuce, cheese, taco sauce, etc. You'll probably have leftovers for lunch. We usually do.

7. Vegetable beef soup. Brown a pound of ground beef, drain well. Put in a dutch oven and add a large can of V8 Juice and a large can of Veg All veggies. Simmer for several hours and serve with cornbread or corn muffins.

8. Hamburgers. Have your husband grill the hamburgers (buy the premade hamburger patties and douse them with salt and pepper and worstershire sauce). Put out buns and fixings. Make a bag of frozen fries. Add some carrots with ranch dressing as a side. Dinner is done.

9. Chicken and rice. Lay chicken breasts in the crockpot and add a can of cream of chicken soup and about a half a can of water mixed together. Cook all day, then shred just before serving. Make Minute Rice and serve the shredded chicken in the sauce over the rice. Make your favorite veggie to serve as a side.

10. Get a pork tenderloin and pour barbecue sauce over top. Cook all day in the crockpot and shred just before serving. Serve on buns with chips and cut up melon. (I actually take this meal to people quite a bit. For a fun dessert you can bring a bottle of root beer and a container of vanilla ice cream so the family can make root beer floats!)

Note: I combined my regular Monday/Tuesday posts because tomorrow I am running a special post-- an interview with one of my writing heroes, Ann Voskamp. This is an exclusive interview so don't miss it!
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Belle Interviews Continued: Rachel Hauck

Continuing with my Southern Belle View interviews, meet Rachel Hauck! If you aren't checking out the Belles, please do drop by at

Hi Rachel! Thanks for stopping by today! Could you please share a little about who you are when you're not writing books??

RH: I think I'm always writing books. Either on deadline or in my head, preparing for the next book. But I'm always friend of Jesus, wife of Tony, daughter, sister and friend. Those aspects must remain.

When did you first realize you were a writer?

RH: Probably when I was in elementary school. I loved to write. I loved to keep journals. I loved to make stuff up. I wasn't a liar. I hate lying. I'm not good enough to lie, but I do love to create characters and give them life.

Share a little about your publishing journey.

RH: Networking. God's favor. Being at the right place (wink, wink) at the right time. I started writing in the mid '90s. That book was my learning book. Then the door opened for me to return to my old job -- which I'd quit -- and I didn't write for a few years. In '97, I attended Write to Publish where I met the lovely and newly published DiAnn Mills. In '01, I attended the Blue Ridge Writer's conference where I met ACFW president Lynn Coleman. The more I became involved with ACFW and other writers, the more favor I gained. Lynn suggested writing together for Heartsong Presents and those books became my first published works. I've been published ever since.

What book are you most proud of right now?

RH: Marybeth, that's like asked which kid you're most proud of! They all have aspects that make me feel good. I think I like the fast paced story of Softly and Tenderly, which I wrote with Sara Evans. But I love the layers in Dining with Joy. I recently finished a book called The Wedding Dress about a wedding gown worn by four women of the course of 100 years. It has an historical and contemporary story line which I enjoyed writing a lot.

What about being a "Belle" is most fun for you?

RH: Hanging out with the Belles! What great women and writers! I'm so honored to be on the southernbelleview blog.

Share a writing tip that you've stumbled upon in your years as a writer.

RH: Every character has to have a problem. It seems so minor and obvious, but even secondary characters need some kind of problem or issue that shows up on stage with the protagonist. It just makes the story more interesting. It doesn't have to be a big problem. Just something.

What's next for you?

RH: The third book in the Songbird Novels with Sara releases in Jan 2012, and The Wedding Dress in April 2012. Now, I'm working on new ideas! Got any? ;)

Thanks Marybeth!
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Thought: Revival In Sin City

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to visit Las Vegas with my husband, who had to travel there on business. Having never seen the famous town, I took advantage of the opportunity and figured it would just be another experience I could have. I am not a gambler at all, so I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it like other people do, but I figured I'd at least get to see the place I'd watched on CSI.

Riding from the airport to the hotel, I realized I was not in the Bible Belt anymore. Just the ads made me avert my eyes. By the time I reached the hotel I knew exactly where the nickname Sin City came from.

And yet, I was going to have downtime--rare quiet time-- while I was there. Curt was going to be in meetings for much of the day and I had a beautiful hotel suite in which to take advantage of the quiet time: arranging for my own personal spiritual retreat. It didn't matter that right outside my window were the lights and ads and people that went totally against what I was doing.

I felt like Daniel in Babylon, praying in front of my window while all around me people were pursuing false gods. (Daniel 6) But the thing about Daniel is, he didn't let what was happening around him deter him from what God wanted from him. It didn't matter that I was in Sin City. So was Daniel, as Babylon was probably the Biblical equivalent to Las Vegas for its time. All that mattered to him was to keep seeking God. Daniel knew He could be found in Sin City just the same as He could be found anywhere else. In fact, I think He is even closer in Sin City-- just waiting for one of the lost people I saw on the strip or in the casinos to see their false gods for what they are and run into His open arms. I think He stands in those casinos and watches people gamble with tears running down His face over the cheap substitute they are trying to fill the holes with. I think He sees the lost people staggering down the strip and longs to wrap His arms around them. But they don't see Him because they're looking in the wrong places.

I had a revival in Sin City. I opened my Bible and quieted the noise and bustle of the city to hear from Him. It turns out, I was more compelled by the love He has for us all there than in my little Bible Belt bubble. I saw the need, the ugliness, and the grace that He has for humanity played out every time I left my room. And when I went back, I curled up and read about His love, journaling what He was telling me and praying over His truths.

In His Word I see that miracles can be placed in a manger (Luke 2:7). Redemption can be found amongst the pigs (Luke 15:15-20). Love can be expressed on a cross (Luke 23). God's arm is not too short to reach (Isaiah 59:1). He found me in Sin City. He can find you too. He spoke to me in Sin City. He can speak to you too. Revival, I learned, can happen anywhere.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Psalms For Moms

Today my devotion is running at Proverbs 31. If you've stopped by today after reading, thank you for visiting! On Wednesdays I share a "Psalms For Moms" post-- a Psalm that is meant to encourage moms out there. Today I am talking about the right hand.

For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him. Psalm 109:31

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. Psalm 108:6

Ever heard the expression "my right hand man"? It means it's the person who's indispensable to you. The first one you go to when something goes wrong. The first one to respond when you have a need. The most trusted source for all your solutions.

God wants to be at your right hand today. Will you let Him be that for you? He stands at your right hand, waiting to save your life. Because He's there, you will not be shaken. Further more, it is His right hand that delivers you. And it is because of His great love for you that He does all of it.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Meals I Will Be Cooking In The Next Ten Days (in no particular order):

1. Taco Salad

2. Pork Roast with Gravy, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

3. Baked Chicken, Stuffing, Peas

4. Pot Roast in the Crockpot with Carrots, Rice, Rolls

5. Scrambled Eggs, Blueberry Muffins, Grits, Bacon

6. Italian Shredded Chicken Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Fruit

7. Roasted Chicken With Rosemary and Lime, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Corn

8. Chicken Cacciatore over spaghetti, Salad, French Bread

9. Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, Irish Apple Cake for dessert (see Monday's post for recipes)

10. Fried Chicken Breasts, green beans, mashed potatoes, milk gravy
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Monday, March 14, 2011

In A Food Mood: St Patty's Day

In honor of Curt's Irish heritage, I try to somehow mark the St Patrick's Day holiday. It falls on Thursday so you've got time to plan if you'd like to make a special meal. This year I am planning to make Irish stew, Irish soda bread, and an Irish Apple Cake. I also plan to make green Kool Aid, not because that's Irish but because the kids will like it. Hmmm I just might serve it in "fancy" glasses.
In the next day or so I will head to the grocery store and pick up what I'll need to make our meal. Even with the lesser holidays, I have found that it's all about establishing a tradition and then sticking to it. It might take a little extra effort on our parts as moms, but it's worth it when we see the smiles on the little one's faces, or hear the big ones shyly ask, "Umm are you making what you always make?" and knowing it's because they might not want to admit it, but they are looking forward to the tradition too.

Irish Apple Cake
4 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and diced (2 cups)
1/4 cup walnuts chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease an 8 inch square cake pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, apples, nuts and vanilla and stir well. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. (Batter will be thick). Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until the cake is lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream on top.
Irish Stew
3 pounds beef stew meat
5 cups peeled and chopped potatoes (about 3 large)
2 cans stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
In large Dutch oven, combine meat and water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and onions. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 2.5 hours, or until meat is tender. Stir in salt and pepper.

This is not a dish you can skimp on time with. If you don't start it early enough the meat will be tough and the stew will not be good. So keep that in mind when planning.
Irish Raisin Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup raisins
In a large bowl cut butter in pieces and mix with flour. Add other dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat two eggs and buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients and stir well. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for one hour.
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Fiction Friday: Belle Interview With Beth Webb Hart

If you're dropping by today after reading my devotion about trusting in numbers, welcome! On Fridays, I run a regular feature called "Fiction Fridays." Today I am continuing a series of interviews I began last week... read on to learn more about another blog I am writing with. If you love southern fiction, these are some ladies you are going to want to meet!

This week I am introducing you to one of the Southern Belle View ladies I write with, also known as "The Belles." We're a group of 5 inspirational fiction writers who gather Monday through Friday to talk about faith, fiction, family, food and fun. You can find us at

Last week you met Lisa Wingate. This week meet Beth Webb Hart!

Thanks for dropping by my blog today, Beth. Will you share a little about who you are when you're not writing books?

In this particular season of my life, I spend most of my time and energy in the good old-fashioned role of wife and mother. That sounds so 1950’s, but I’m certainly no June Cleaver. (You should see how disheveled I am at the end of the day, not to mention my poor house.) However, I have a husband with a busy work and creative life, and my children are 9 and 3, and well, someone has to steer the mother ship, and truth be told, I enjoy the job. I’m frequently wiping a nose, refilling a sippy cup, reading a story I know by heart and scratching my head over a homework assignment (usually math.). Before I had kids, I was a teacher. Being around children is life-giving. Kids bring such a fresh perspective and an afternoon spent being truly present with one is usually better than even the most eloquent of sermons. So yeah, I’m a playmate, a housekeeper and a perpetual nose wiper, and I hope I can continue to play that role in some way, shape or form after my kids grow up because it brings me a good deal of joy.

Beyond that, I’m a student and (a on a much smaller scale, still a teacher.) I read as much as I can. I’m in two book clubs – one that focuses on literary novels – new and old - and the other book club focuses on Christian theology. I love a good discussion. I could be a professional student without ever looking back, and I adore an academic setting. (though God is often prodding me out beyond the pages of a good book or a thought-provoking discussion, and I’m grateful for the prod.) While I’m retired (at the moment) from teaching full time English, I still enjoy being a guest instructor from time to time and I mentor a few high school students each year. I love working with young writers. Again, they bring a fresh perspective, and I think I learn more from them than the other way around.

When did you first realize you were a writer?

I was a daydreamer as a child. I would create characters in my mind and revisit them for hours on end to pass the time. These stories would go on for weeks. Also, my two younger sisters and I spent countless hours making up plays which we acted out for whatever poor soul had a few minutes to spare. In high school I wrote a poem as part of an English class assignment and my teacher pulled me aside and gave me an application for the local fine arts high school. Once I attended the fine arts high school and started writing poems and stories on a daily basis, I never looked back. Also, at that age I fell in love with reading and realized there is no better teacher (for writing and life in general) than a good book.

Share a little about your publishing journey.

I wrote my first novel when I was in graduate school. It’s not necessary to get an MFA in creative writing in order to write a book, but I found it to be really helpful because my book was critiqued by ten people every week, and I always had someone holding me accountable. Writers have blind spots and if you have several eyes on your book, it turns out to be a better one. After I finished the novel, I spent three years trying to obtain an agent. Once that finally happened, I was able to find a publishing home. My agent didn’t actually connect me to my editor, but she gave me a kind of legitimacy. It was actually a gracious writer who I met at a writing conference who called my editor and told her about my story. I will never forget how generous that writer was to me.

What book are you most proud of right now?

Ever feel like life hasn’t turned out quite the way you envisioned it? I think a lot of women struggle with this in their late-thirties amidst the business and minutiae of everyday life. I’m most proud of my latest novel, Love, Charleston because it addresses this struggle and seeks to provide a hopeful ending for three women in three very challenging mid-life situations.

What about being a "Belle" is most fun for you?

The camaraderie. No doubt about it. The life of a writer is a very solitary one and while I’m an introvert by nature, it sure is nice to know that there are other folks out there racing toward deadlines and facing the same challenges I am. I love my fellow belles. The cyber porch has provided a place for us to become good friends, and we try to cheer one another on as often as possible. Also, collaborating on a story the way we have with Whirlaway is extraordinarily fun. It is so great to be handed off a scene and then to turn and hand off the next scene to the next person. Five heads are definitely better than one.

Share a writing tip that you've stumbled upon in your years as a writer.

Dialogue must always do more than one thing – otherwise it is too lethargic. Yes, it should give information, but it should also heighten tension by either characterizing or propelling the action forward.

What's next for you?

I’m really excited about my new novel, Sunrise on the Battery, which will be released this coming fall. It is about a wealthy Charleston family making their way up the tricky South of Broad social ladder. However, their life is in for a dramatic turn and this turn will either rip them apart or bind them together in an entirely new way.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Thought

Christian women can be some of the meanest people in the world.

I thought a lot about that the other weekend as I spoke at a women's retreat and heard several stories from women about how they were hurt by "helpful" remarks from other Christians.

And it made me sad.

I think it's easy to get caught up in thinking that we know certain things about certain people-- rushing to judgment, thinking our way is the right way, assuming we know the full story. I know I've done it myself. I am not proud of it, but I have.

And all the while there is a line from an old hymn ringing in my ears: "They will know we are Christians by our love."

The next time I am tempted to judge or comment or gossip about another woman, I want to think instead of how I can love her. I think that, over time and with practice, God's love will replace my Pharisee ways. At least I hope so. I want to be known by the love I show, the grace I reflect. I don't want to be one of the meanest people in the world.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Psalms For Moms

"With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him."
Psalm 109:30

When something happens do you give God credit? Even better, do you give Him credit publicly? It can be hard and awkward to praise Him verbally around other people. But like with everything, it gets easier with practice. Just for today, find one thing to praise God publicly for. Share it with friends in a group setting. Call a friend and tell them what you're praising Him for. Put it on your Facebook status. This past fall I had a woman tell me she could never put anything about God on her Facebook status-- she worried about what her non-Christian friends would think. Well, they just might think about Him for the first time in a long time. You might just offer the hope they don't even know they're looking for, the difference they seek. It's one thing to quietly thank Him. It's another thing to praise Him within earshot of others. I need to work on being bolder about that. Maybe you're feeling like you do too. Let's start today.
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

I am going to let you guys fill in the top ten blanks today. Tell me what you want me to write top ten lists about. I am running out of ideas and need some help from you!

So, I need ten ideas... more if possible. Go!
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Monday, March 07, 2011

In A Food Mood

Last week I promised I would come back today to talk about what I eat when I go out to eat. That was one of my first concerns when I started the diet two years ago-- how I would eat out because eating out is one of my favorite things and I didn't want to give it up. And while I had to give up Wendy's hamburgers and Chick Fil A fries, I didn't have to give up eating out. Actually I find myself eating out more now than before, because there are times when my family is eating something I can't have, so I treat myself to a salad from somewhere to make up for it. I think that's entirely fair! I can't have spaghetti, but I can have takeout!

Ok here's the list of some of my favorites:

Panera: I get their Asian Chicken Salad. If I am feeling especially militant, I ask them to take off the little fried noodle things they put on top.

Outback: I get their smallest filet and a salad and steamed broccoli on the side. I love, love, love this meal and could eat it once a week.

Red Robin: They have a protein burger (hamburger wrapped in lettuce) that I crave. It comes with a side salad with balsamic vinagrette and I just found out they also offer melon as a side. Perfect! I could also eat this once a week too. Possibly more.

Chick Fil A: I don't eat cheese (I know, I know that's weird) so their salads are not an option for me as they come already prepared with cheese. But I get a grilled chicken sandwich, take off the bun and use the pieces of lettuce to hold it. (Sounds weird but it works) Instead of fries, I get fruit.

QDoba (or any Mexican quick cuisine type restaurant): I get a naked burrito with lettuce as the bed, shredded beef on top, mild salsa and a scoop of guacamole. I leave off the rice and beans. It's still very filling and yummy.

I have also found that at most any restaurant you can order a piece of grilled chicken and a side salad. So if you're out, you can find something to order. This past weekend I ate at Fatz and let me tell you, when you're in a place called Fatz, that's a clue that it might not be the best place to eat healthy. :) But I was with other people so I went along with it. I ended up ordering a wrap and steamed broccoli on the side. It worked out fine. Maybe not perfect but good enough. Definitely better than some of the fried and fattening things that I saw on the menu. It all looked really really good mind you, just not something I could partake of.

The point is, eating healthy doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. It's still possible to do that. I didn't know that before. Now I do.

I hope you've enjoyed the last three weeks of talking about eating healthy. Next week I'll go back to stuff you can make for your family and I will update you from time to time with how I am doing with my healthy eating lifestyle... not diet.
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Friday, March 04, 2011

Fiction Friday: Belle Interview With Lisa Wingate!

For the next 4 Fridays-- all through the month of March-- I am interviewing my friends "The Belles." That's what we call ourselves, at least. We are 5 writers who decided to launch a blog that talks about fiction, faith, food, family, and fun. That blog became and consists of Lisa Wingate, Rachel Hauck, Beth Webb Hart, Jenny B Jones and me. These ladies are talented writers and I wanted each of you to get a chance to connect with each of them.

Today you're meeting Lisa Wingate, a wonderful writer and a terrific person. I just know you're going to love her!

Lisa, when did you first realize you were a writer?

I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. My older brother was a good writer, and when you’re the youngest in the family, you want to do what the older kids do. When he won a school award for his poem, “The Bee Went Under the Sea,” I was so impressed by his literary brilliance (and the blue ribbon) that I immediately went to my bedroom and created my first book, The Story of a Dog Named Frisky. The Frisky story was the start of many partially-completed writing projects.
A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put the idea if being a real writer into my head. She found me writing a story one day at indoor recess, and she took the time to stop and read it. When she was finished, she tapped the pages on the desk to straighten them, looked at me over the top and said, “You are a wonderful writer!” That was a defining moment for me. In my mind, I was a writer. When your first grade teacher tells you that you can do something, you believe it.
Growing up, I often wrote in response to things I felt were wrong in the world. I wanted to create something that would cause people to stop and think, to treat each other and the world around them with greater kindness and grace. Those desires eventually led me to write my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, which was published in 2001.

Share a little about your publishing journey.

Some years later, I opened a desk drawer and unearthed a notebook of stories and life lessons my grandmother had shared with me shortly after my first son was born. The rediscovery of that notebook inspired a story I felt compelled to write. I composed the manuscript for my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, found an agent, the agent sold the book, and the book was published in 2001 as a premier title in New American Library’s women’s fiction line. These days, I write inspirationals for Bethany House (a CBA publisher) and Penguin Putnam (an ABA publisher). Ten years ago, when Tending Roses came out, there was very little crossover between the two markets, and Christian publishing was largely focused on historical fiction. When Tending Roses came out with Penguin Putnam, bookstore managers sent comment cards saying they had customers looking for stories in which characters grew in faith, and in which content wasn’t graphic. It turns out that those bookstore managers were right, because the market for inspirational fiction has grown and diversified in countless ways during the past ten years. Now it is possible to have the same novel selling in the general-market fiction section of bookstores, in Christian stores, and in big box stores like Wal-mart and Sam’s Club. I’m thrilled to see faith-based fiction out in front of the masses!

What book are you most proud of right now?

Because of the connection to my grandmother, Tending Roses will always be my sentimental favorite. That story has traveled the world, been reprinted eighteen times to date, has been used to teach adults to read in various library programs, has been used in university courses on aging, and was selected to promote women’s literacy in India. Recently, I heard from a group of women in Israel who were reading and circulating the book. It’s amazing and humbling to see something you wrote, sitting at home with your computer, travel at the speed of light and reach people who live different lives in different places. It makes you realize that we are more similar than we sometimes think.

What about being a "Belle" is most fun for you?

Well, first of all, it has just been fun that so many people have welcomed Southern BelleView into the cyber world. One of the most fun things about being a Belle is the sense of community on our porch. Writing is a solitary occupation, and while solitude can be beneficial, it can also be depressing. I love waking up in the morning and checking our cyber-porch to see what the belle-of-the-day has written and who else has dropped by. A couple reader friends of mine have a quiet contest going to see who can get there in the morning and comment first. It’s fun to check in each day and see who won. It’s like sitting down for coffee, long distance. Friends and readers come by regularly to comment, or send me Facebook messages about the blog, and we all get to know a bit more about each other. I’m fortunate to share space with such great bunch of inspiring, fun ladies who have that typical Southern warmth, but also like to share a few laughs along the way.

Share a writing tip that you've stumbled upon in your years as a writer.

First, finish a novel. It’s almost impossible to sell a partial if you’re unpublished, and even if you are published, you’re asking an editor to take a much bigger risk by buying a novel without being able to read it all. Polish it and send the manuscript out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in our desk drawers. While you’re waiting for news, write another book. If the first one sells, you’ll be set for a two-book deal. If the first one doesn’t sell, you have eggs in another basket. Don’t take a critique too seriously if you hear it from one editor/agent, unless there’s an imminent contract involved. Editors and agents, just like the rest of us, are individuals. What works for one may not work for another. If you receive the same comment from multiple sources, consider revising your manuscript before you send it elsewhere. Be tenacious, be as thick-skinned as possible, keep writing while you wait for news. Never stop creating new material—that’s where the joy is, and if you keep the joy of this business, you keep the magic of it.

What's next for you?

A sweet sixteen, that’s what! July will mark the release of my sixteenth novel, Dandelion Summer, a book I really can’t wait to share. The story features an unlikely friendship between a grumpy old man and a desperate teenage girl who are drawn together as they try to solve the mysteries of a hidden family past. Their search takes them on a journey of discovery through historic towns of the old south and into nostalgic recollections of America’s space race during the 1960’s. For me, this story was a joy to write, as the original Apollo moon shots are some of my oldest memories, and the history of Norman’s character in the novel mirrors the real-life adventures of my wonderful reader-friend, Ed Stevens, who helped design America’s first moon lander, Surveyor, while working for Howard Hughes.

One of the best things about creating fictional people and sending them into the world has been that they come back home again, trailing real people behind them. I met Ed when he read one of my books and sent a very nice note about it. I learned that he had a fascinating history, and his story eventually became part of the next book. I’ve been blessed to meet so many incredible new friends and learn about their lives, and everything I write these days seems to be a combination of fact and fiction.

Ok guys don't forget to join us every day over at Southern Belle View. One of our favorite features is the serial story we are writing once a month. We've got a fun setting-- the town of Whirlaway Island, SC-- and even "funner" characters-- Libby and Dan and Max and Nina and LauraLee... and you can't forget Hank! If you love romance and intrigue and good ole southern charm, don't miss our monthly visit to Whirlaway at (To catch up simply click on the link in the sidebar at the blog and you will be able to read past installments.)
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thursday Thought

When asked where she gets her ideas, children's book author Kate DiCamillo said, "From listening. From looking. From eavesdropping and imagining. Stories are everywhere and all you have to do is pay attention."

After watching the videos in this post by author Joy Jordan Lake, I am in a Kate DiCamillo phase. My plan is to read my way through her books with my kids, taking notes on what 2 pages a day will buy an author who perseveres. And pays attention.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Psalms For Moms

"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32

Ever tried being the perfect wife, mom, homemaker, friend, daughter, etc?

It's exhausting.

It's impossible.

In our own strength, that is.

He arms us with the strength we need to go that perfect way. The way He has for us. The way He designed us to go.

I often hear people quote Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

But sometimes I hear people just say "I can do all things through Christ..." and they leave off the last part, the part that is the clue as to how we can do all things. Because He gives us the strength. He makes our way perfect because He's behind, under, around and in all of it-- fueling us, equipping us, enabling us, fortifying us to take that next step, do that next thing.

In our own strength we will surely fail. In His we will flourish.

Today when you feel yourself falling short-- short on patience, short on time, short on resources, short on perfection-- whisper this verse as a prayer: You arm me with strength and make my way perfect. Then stand back in expectation of what He will do next.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

So today I wanted to share ten books you can use for your quiet time. I have a lot of people tell me that they didn't realize they could use nonfiction Christian books for their quiet time, like somehow that's not allowed. Years ago I had a friend tell me she did that and it was so freeing to me. I like to read nonfiction books, but if I have free time I want to read a great novel. So by scheduling in books that help me in my walk during my quiet time, I can do both. It might take longer when you're just reading one chapter at a time, but it also means you take time to really absorb what's being read. I like to have my Bible out to actually look up verses that are referenced and my journal out to write down what spoke to me-- setting goals for myself, writing down prayers, and copying quotes and verses that stand out. This makes the book interactive and not just some print my eyes are running over.

So below are ten books I have done or will be doing in the near future. These are both Bible studies or nonfiction books:

1. Jennifer Kennedy Dean's Live A Praying Life

2. Jennifer Kennedy Dean's The Life-Changing Power In The Name of Jesus

3. Jennifer Rothschild's Self Talk Soul Talk

4. Joyce Meyers' Battlefield Of The Mind

5. Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts

6. Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still

7. Rachel Olsen's It's No Secret

8. Donald Miller's A Million Miles In A Thousand Years

9. Lysa TerKeurst's What Happens When Women Say Yes To God

10. Ava Pennington's One Year Alone With God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God (This book offers short devotions you can do each day. This could be your quiet time or could be something you do before bed or in addition to a shorter study-- whatever works for you. I love studying the names of God and this is a great way to do it!)

These are books that will change your life. They're worth making time for.
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