Monday, December 29, 2014

Year End Book Reviews

Shelley Wilburn
I love reading. A story that can keep my attention, affect my emotions, and make me believe the characters are my friends is a keeper in my book (no pun intended). I also love to be able to write about the books I read. That's why I'm so excited to be writing this today because the books I'm writing about are jam packed with many such stories.

I don't normally write reviews of more than one book at a time. But since we're almost to the end of 2014, I wanted to write a snippet about all of them to get interest flowing. They're all beautifully written books. In addition, nearly all of them are written by many of my writer friends making the stories precious treasures.

Christmas Treasures

One of the books I was so blessed to read is aptly named Christmas Treasures, A Collection of Christmas Short Stories. It is a Christmas anthology of short stories that fourteen different authors contributed their talents to, to come up with a wonderful collection of inspiring holiday stories.

Of course, if you're anything like me Christmas isn't the only time to read Christmas-themed stories. I love reading them all year round. Any time you can read about faith, hope and love, whether old, new, hoped for, fought for, or otherwise is inspiring.

Take for instance, Linda Glaz's story, Part-Time Job. Gwyneth can't bring herself to tell her daughter Isabella that her daddy wouldn't be coming home for Christmas. She couldn't tell her that he had gone missing, taken from the civilian barracks in Afghanistan in the night. Who knows whether he was even still alive?

Brady couldn't bring himself to appear on his own doorstep in his condition. Why would his family only want half a husband, half a daddy back? Now that he limped and only had one arm, after a horrific accident, how could he even be the man they once knew? He decided to get a part-time job away from them, then later on send divorce papers to Gwyneth.

Of course things take a different turn when Brady's part-time Santa job lands him in the department store where his mother-in-law has brought his daughter to see Santa. What will happen if Gwyneth discovers it's really her missing husband underneath that Santa suit? Will she still love him? Will she still accept him? Will Brady be able to be a husband and daddy again?

Stories like this and more are what you will find in Christmas Treasures. You will be kept on your toes, your heart will beat with anticipation, you will wonder whether or not love will win in the end, and quite possibly you'll experience all of the above. Each short story is beautifully written. Some have historical settings while others are set in modern day. Each story is also love and faith inspired. Some are with a twist of humor, all are with a sweet presence of God woven into the lives of the characters.

Find Christmas Treasures at the following link:

Christmas Treasures features the talents of Patty Wysong, Joanne Sher, Linda Glaz, Karla Akins, Elaine Stock, Christina Rich, Karen Wingate, Karen Campbell Prough, Donna Hubbard Scofield, Karlene Jacobsen, Kathleen Rouser, April Straugh, Anne Garboczi Evans, and Susan F. Craft. The book is a wonderful collection of stories that anyone will enjoy.

The Festive Bride

The Festive Bride is another wonderful book I had the privilege of reading. Written by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, this lovely book is Book Nine of a series called The 12 Brides of Christmas. Not to worry though, even though this book is ninth in a series, each book is it's own story, written by a different author and can be read individually without the worry of missing out on a story line.

The Festive Bride is set in Southern Illinois in 1886. I loved that since I'm from Southern Illinois and it was fun imagining my area in that era. Of course, watching the lives of Roy Gibbons, his two young daughters, and Alma Pickens unfold was interesting and entertaining. Being that Roy is a widow and Alma has never been married, yet they find themselves attracted to one another, I wondered how these two would find love. Or would they even find it at all?

In the Festive Bride, Alma's father makes a marriage deal with Roy to marry his daughter Alma. Shocked that her father would arrange her own marriage, Alma puts some stipulations on the deal including courtship and a holiday wedding, that Roy must fulfill before the wedding. Will Roy be able to accomplish them before the wedding date? Will Alma learn to love Roy, or better yet, will she be able to love and accept Roy's two very young daughters? Will she be able to be a mother to them? Alma wasn't even sure whether Roy shared her belief in God. Would he be able to measure up?

After some mishaps and misunderstandings, along with a couple of humorous antics, I wondered if Roy would be able to convince Alma that marrying him would benefit them all. But I also wondered whether or not Alma and Roy would be able to fall in love within the short amount of time they were given before their Christmas wedding date.

With the help of two very rambunctious little girls and the magical blessings of Christmas, the Festive Bride is a wonderful Christmas love story of the combining of a family. It's just how God would work a miracle for a lonely widower who is afraid to love again, two little girls who need a mommy, and one spinster who desperately wants to marry and have a family.

Diana did a wonderful job of weaving this story. The Festive Bride is one you'll want in your collection. I truly enjoyed reading it.

You can find it on Amazon at the following link:

Raspberry Kisses

Raspberry Kisses by Cecelia Dowdy caught my attention when I read the sample of a chapter on Amazon. I bought the eBook and decided I would give it a try. I'm usually hesitant about reading an author I'm not familiar with. However, I also love to support authors which led me to pick up and read this scrumptious book.

Raspberry Kisses is Book One in The Bakery Romace Series. In this book, Rhea's bakery is failing. Since losing her pastor husband a couple years ago, Rhea opened the bakery to fulfill her dream of owning her own business. Along with sales going downhill, she's also about to lose her apartment because of the misdealings of her sleazy landlord. Trying to figure out what to do, Rhea's overdramatic, unstable, identical twin sister Raven offers to step in and loan her the money to pay her rent and get her out of some debt. Except the loan comes with a stipulation; the only way Rhea will get the loan, she must attend a Christian Single's Retreat to spy on Raven's love interest to find out why the man won't return Raven's calls. Rhea's sister is blackmailing her.

Martin Lane is an associate pastor in his father's church, trying to finish his seminary degree while also leading a ministry of feeding the homeless. He is also seated to take over the senior pastor position when his father retires. However, a very stubborn member of their church has taken it upon herself to ruin Martin before he can even begin. Not only that, but his sister has scheduled him to be one of the speakers at the Christian Single's Retreat.

When Rhea and Martin meet it's attraction from the beginning. Martin at first mistakes Rhea for her twin sister, but is quickly corrected when Rhea explains. Rhea doesn't want another relationship with a pastor after tragically losing her pastor husband. She also doesn't want to hurt her sister. She needs that loan money. Martin has never been interested in Rhea's sister and must tell her. But he also has secrets that not even his own family knows about. Can they both move beyond their issues to find love?

When Martin offers to help Rhea make her bakery a success she's reluctant, but finds Martin's ideas worth listening to. Can she look past him being a pastor? Martin is falling for Rhea, but can he trust her with his deepest secret? Can he get Rhea to fall in love with him. Will he even get the senior pastor position at his father's church? What will happen when Rhea's twin sister finds out they are attracted to each other?

Raspberry Kisses is a very busy love story. With twists and turns on every page, will Martin reveal his secret past? Will Rhea get over her late husband and be able to move on? Will her bakery succeed? Many questions will be answered in this scrumptious story.

Find Raspberry Kisses at the following link:

Follow the links given in each review for Christmas Treasures, The Festive Bride, and Raspberry Kisses. Trust me when I say that you won't regret reading any of them. They're well written and very affordable. They are a definite must have for your collection.

I'll be reading and writing reviews throughout 2015. Be on the lookout for them and remember, always support an author!

Friday, December 5, 2014

It Ends Here

There's an old cliche` that goes, "The buck stops here." I'm not quite sure if the buck is a deer or a dollar. Whatever it is, it stops here. Right here in this spot, the buck stops. For me, the proverbial buck was the mental and emotional abuse that I suffered for way too long. All the depression, intimidation, and past hurtful words spoken over me throughout my life stopped the night God healed me.

To be quite honest, I think the Yield sign had been put out a week earlier when I made the decision that I wasn't going to go through any of that anymore and decided I wanted my mind healed. Though I made the decision, the healing didn't happen until I actually walked to the front of my church and requested prayer and healing and admitted what I wanted healed from. That's when it ended right then and there.

Many people suffer depression and intimidation. They deal with anxiety, panic disorder, fear, and many other things associated with emotional and mental issues. It doesn't mean that they are crazy. It just means that somewhere in their lives they were verbally abused by someone, or several someone's and it affected them strongly.

It may have started when you were a child. A parent, grandparent, teacher, or someone you knew said something to you that was hurtful. Many people use cutting remarks and pass them off as jokes. It might be funny to them, it may be funny to you the first time. But when it continues over time, and when it is used to control you, it's no longer funny or a joke. It's abuse. Whether it was an insult, a cutting remark, a derogatory statement, something that belittled you or made you feel uncomfortable or less than, the words of those we love can and do cause lifelong damage. I know. I lived it.

You don't have to live with it any longer. It ends here. By making the decision to stop the abuse in general and from continuing, you are taking steps to make your life better. But you have to make the decision. For me, I had no idea how to make it stop. I didn't know how to make people stop saying things to me. I also didn't know how to make the words in my head stop. I knew that God wanted to heal me, yet I didn't know how to ask Him.  However, I knew enough to go to prayer warriors at church for help.

 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. ~James 5:14 (NLT)

Getting to the point where you know that you can't continue in the suffering is a big step. Going to someone who you know can help you is life-changing. God wants to heal you. He's simply waiting for you to decide and take the first step. Once healed, you can begin a new life and can also help someone else find the healing you did.

Since being healed, I now stand at the front of my church each week and offer to pray for others. I love to help people find hope and healing from whatever it is making them suffer.

You can decide today that no matter what has been spoken over you, for however long it's been spoken, the intimidation, verbal abuse, insults, doctor's reports, test results, all of it ends here. It's up to you. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Purpose of it All

I've found myself in a quandary lately. It's easy to do. When we get so focused on the busyness of the holidays we can often forget the reason we have them in the first place. No one is immune and it's easy to get so busy that we forget to be thankful to God for the blessings He gives us. Then we forget to celebrate the real Reason we have the Christmas season. If Jesus hadn't been born, we wouldn't be celebrating Christmas at all. What purpose then, would we have for living? And there is the quandary.

A sweet friend was recently having difficulty knowing what her purpose is. I think we all have that issue at some point in our lives. Often, it's as plain as can be but we just aren't ready to step into it. We all have a purpose. Before God created even time, He was already thinking about each one of us individually and He had a plan and purpose for us. 

The beauty of our purpose is that each one is different, yet each one is the same; all at the same time. Maybe that sounds confusing, but let me put it another way. We all have an anointing, a calling, on our lives. Mine is to write and encourage others with the healing story God gave me. It's a gift. Someone else may have the gift of healing, or praying for people. So how are they tied together? Both my gift, my anointing and calling, and yours are to be used to help others come to know Jesus and to bring glory to Him! Different, yet the same.

The purpose of it all is to point people to Jesus. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for Him. Granted, I had to go through a lot of mud and muck, but eventually it all worked together for the good that you see now. So how did I get in a quandary? I allowed the devil to attack me.

When God calls us to use our gifts and walk out our purpose, we are on a road that leads to what God has destined  us to become. The enemy knows what we could be and that scares him. So, he takes it upon himself to sabotage us any way he can. That includes causing us to doubt ourselves. If he can cause us to slow down, slip up, or turn back, then he's thrown a kink in God's Divine plan for our lives.

But God is greater, smarter, and more powerful than the enemy! Don't for one moment think that if we slow down, slip up, or turn back that the enemy won. Because the enemy never wins! He's already lost. The greatest thing about the purpose of it all is that we are victors. We have already won. We are more than conquerors. We can't lose. Because even when the enemy thinks we've lost the battle, even when other people think we've lost the battle, we have really won!

We win because Jesus won! So whether we make mistakes (which we will) or not, God has a plan and purpose for it all. How far will God go to bring His plan into reality? How far will God go to show the purpose of it all? Oh I don't know, maybe being born in a lowly manger. Maybe on a cross on a hill where Jesus died for the sins of humanity. Maybe an empty tomb where He rose from the dead and walked out three days after being laid to rest. Or maybe coming back like He promised, to bring all His kids home where they belong. 

The purpose of it all is that we all have a purpose. We aren't just here by accident. We have a job to do. Our purpose is to use whatever means we have been given, whatever special abilities we have been gifted with, to tell others about Jesus.

If He can save me, He can save you. If He can heal me, He most certainly can heal you. If He loves me, He definitely loves you. You are important to Him and you most definitely have a purpose. 

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