Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review - The Loyal Heart


 Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn't expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda's home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip's name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.

Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He's mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.
He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn't prove to be an easy task---Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.


 Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.


 I am a huge Shelley Shepard Gray fan so when I had the opportunity to read and review this book, I jumped on it! I was not disappointed in this book at all and I was quickly swept up into the history of 1800's Texas and the story of Miranda and Robert.

Miranda has been left a widow with horrible rumors about her beloved husband swirling about her. Her husband's family is making moves to try and take her home away from her - the home that was left to her by her husband. There are horrible rumors going around about Miranda, too, and it makes her life unbearable and we find she is fighting depression through much of the story. It's totally understandable after losing the love of her life that she would be depressed but to have her friends and neighbors turn against her is too much.

Robert is an honorable man who made a promise to Miranda's husband and he intends to honor this promise. He makes an appearance at really just the right time in her life to help her. I really liked Robert and found him very likable and sweet.

This book had a story of suspense running through the book that makes it a turn pager. We aren't sure who is sending Miranda the threatening letters or who is spreading rumors about her. I also love the sweet romance that happens, too. Just a really good book that I know you'll enjoy! I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group

Blessings - Julie

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Thoughts

 This is the day the Lord hath made...

The Lord, our Creator and Savior. When I think about all the Lord has done for me, how He has loved me when I'm most unlovable, my heart just can't take it. I know what a sinner I am and I know I am so very unworthy of His love, yet He loves me. Not only that, He blesses me and wants what is best for me. I always, always feel so unworthy. Let's face it - I am unworthy!

I still struggle with so much - especially unforgiveness to those who have hurt me. That is my biggest struggle. I get my feelings hurt so badly when someone rejects me that I thought wouldn't and I have a horrible time getting past it. I think about it and meditate on it when I should be meditating on the Word of God!

The Bible has everything to help us in our struggles. It has encouragement and admonishment and a step-by-step instruction manual for living. Why is it that it's so hard to open this book when we're hurting? Why is it so hard not to reflect on the hurts from others? The quiet phone or empty inbox of our emails can devastate us. The rumors that people start behind our back and we find out it was our best friend who started them. The people in church who ignore us because they already have their little circle of friends and there's no room for one more. All of this can break our hearts and it can start to define us and harden us. I know.

I can only encourage us to pray and ask God to help us to not hurt so much but to forgive over-much. It's also a really great idea to journal our feelings. Getting it out on paper can really help us to work things out in our hearts and minds. Putting our blessings on paper really helps, too, and that's why I keep a blessings journal where I list my blessings. Putting the positive stuff into our mind and getting rid of our sadness and unforgiveness is a great step for moving forward.

This all sounds so easy, doesn't it? It's not. It's much easier to wallow in our hurts and remind ourselves of how we've been hurt. We can wallow around so much in this sadness that we become rather stinky! We're hard to be around and then the problem perpetuates. We push people away because we don't want to be hurt again.

We need to ask God for help.

Dear Lord,
I pray for those who are hurting today. Especially those who have been hurt by others in the church, our friends and family.  We always expect so much from those closest to us, yet they are human, just like us. I pray that we would be able to lie our unforgiveness aside and give those who have hurt us total and absolute forgiveness. I pray, Lord, that you would comfort our hearts and bathe them in the peace and love that only You can provide.

I pray that we would know how truly loved we are by You. I pray that we would know how special we truly are and that the opinions and pain from others does not have to define us. You define us, Lord, and I pray that we would hold that close to our hearts and minds until we know it as sure as we know our name. 

Thank you for caring for us so much, Lord. I thank you for all your blessings. I pray this through your Son, Jesus...Amen.

I hope, as you spend this day with the Lord, that you will realize how truly loved you are and how there is a plan and a reason for all that we go through. We may not understand it but we must trust God and know that because He is God, He knows what we're going through and He understands it. Sometimes knowing that God understands is enough. Knowing that, in the end, things will work out and we will be redeemed is enough. Hold on to that, dear friends. I intend to.

Blessings - Julie

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Game of Life

Life can throw us some real crazy fast balls. Just when you think you've figured out the pitch, one comes at you low and fast and brings you to your knees. What's a girl to do when this happens? I've found the best thing is to reach up my hand and let the Lord lift me up and carry me to the bench so I can recover.

I'm in recovery mode right now. Not only from the aftermath of my knockout of 2014, but from the things of life that just keep punching me. Last month found my husband once again at the vascular clinic because he had another blockage in his leg. This one was more frightening than the other because his foot was looking strange and there was a definite coolness to the temperature of his leg. Thankfully, the doctor was able to get him in quickly and get the blockage removed. This is the same doctor that put the eighteen inch bypass in my leg. Can I just say again that God uses this man in amazing and mighty ways?  I'm so thankful that God directs our footsteps and puts us in the pathway of the right people at the right time.

I'm still trying to recover and have some fairly good days and some not so good days. I'm still really tired and it's probably because I don't sleep well. It's amazing how a lack of sleep can affect our energy and outlook. I'm allowing myself to rest on that bench that God has placed me on. I literally am benched right now. I'm not out there hitting the high fast ones. I'm actually doing my bit for the team, so to speak, behind the scenes and from my computer when I can. I am so, so thankful that I can serve God from an online capacity.

Whether you're in the middle of the game or sitting things out on the bench, God has a plan for your life! It's not always easy to see that when you're on the sidelines watching others go about the game of life, but it doesn't mean we are any less valuable! Rest when you need to rest and get out there when and if you can. All we can do it be faithful in the ways we can be. Just realize that God may use you in a different way then you imagined and that's okay. You are loved and cared for right where you are - just as you are.

Blessings - Julie

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review - The Bard and the Bible


What if you combined the words of the greatest Book ever written and the words of the most gifted poet and playwright in history? The result is a clever, entertaining and fresh way to spend time in God?s Word each day. This 365-day devotional pairs short passages from the King James Bible with lines from Shakespeare?s plays and sonnets to give you a new way to interact with Scripture and a new way to encounter God throughout the year.


Bob Hostetler is a writer, editor, and speaker from southeastern Ohio. His 30 books, which include "Quit Going to Church" and the novel, "The Bone Box," have sold over 3 million copies. He has coauthored a dozen books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling "Right from Wrong: What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices" and the award-winning "Don't Check Your Brains at the Door." He has won two Gold Medallion awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation award.

Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. He has been a disk jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and, with his wife, Robin, a foster parent to 10 boys (though not all at once).

Bob and Robin have two adult children, Aubrey and Aaron.


This is a lovely devotional so different from any other devotional I've ever read.

Using the writings of Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible, Mr. Hostetler gives us a greater insight to the Word of God and the Shakespeare writings. There is a devotion for each day and the writings of Shakespeare are arranged in the approximate date that Shakespeare wrote the plays the devotions/quotations are taken from. I found this very interesting!

At the end of each devotion there is a question for you to ponder over during your quiet time or throughout the day. I always love this because it helps me to apply what I've learned to my own life.

Like the author, I love the King James Version of the Bible. There is something so beautifully poetic about it and I find myself returning to it time and again because of the sheer beauty of it. There is nothing like quoting the 23rd Psalm from the KJV! We can see the poetic value of Shakespeare and the moral lessons he was teaching through his own writing and his use of the Bible in his plays.

If you're a fan of Shakespeare and you love the poetic works that stir the heart, this devotion is definitely for you! I honestly think anyone would enjoy it, though, and I highly recommend it to everyone! I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by Worthy Publishing

Blessings - Julie

Book Review and Giveaway - When Death Draws Near


Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey's job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.

Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.

Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.


Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

When Death Draws Near Carrie Stuart Parks


This is a story full of twists and turns and will have you turning the pages far into the night!  This is the third in the Gwen Marcey series but I was never lost in this novel. However, I definitely want to read the first two books after reading this fantastic story!

Gwen Marcey is a forensic artist that has been asked to come to Kentucky because they have found the body that can't be identified by normal means. I found it so interesting as the author takes us through the steps of doing this procedure. The other thing that is happening in this little town is there is a serial rapist on the loose and no one has been able to identify him because the witnesses keep disappearing. Gwen is quite suspicious of the way the Sheriff is handling this and I love how she sees through people and let us know it through her thoughts.

I really liked the character of Gwen and her spunky humor. Despite going through some really hard personal things, her faith in God is strong and I love how we see her praying over situations that are difficult.

I loved the ending and how I didn't expect it to end the way it did. It's a definite page turner and will take you on a great suspenseful ride! I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

*This book was provided to me for my LitFuse Publicity Group

Blessings - Julie