Phoebe and the Rock of Ages

Y’all, I had not planned to write a Book Review on my blog so soon after doing an Author Spotlight. My plan was to wait a while, but THEN I had the wonderful opportunity to read an ARC of Phoebe and the Rock of Ages by Becky Doughty. After reading it, I can’t help but share my thoughts with you on the book. First, here’s the synopsis to give you an idea of what the book is about:

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MEET PHOEBE GUSTAFSON
Phoebe Gustafson has been running wild her whole life. A gifted artist, she portrays people and places the way she wishes they were, not the way she really sees them. Her jaded perspective is born out of disillusionment, betrayal, and loss, and of memories too painful to dwell on. Rather than face the past, Phoebe charges full throttle into the future, never investing in anything or anyone for longer than it takes to finish a job.

Trevor Zander, a gifted musician, is bone-weary of always being on the go. He dreams of putting down roots and staying in one place longer than the time it takes to plan the next tour. While on a much-needed break, he happens upon a damsel not in distress, but he can’t resist helping her anyway. He’s entranced by the view of the world through Phoebe Gustafson’s eyes, and commissions her to help him redefine his image and brand.

When a family emergency and the charming, unconventional Jesus-Freak, Trevor Zander, converge on her life at the same time, will Phoebe find the courage to remove her blinders and discolored filters so she can truly see life, and love—and herself—the way they really are?

MEET THE GUSTAFSON GIRLS
When Paul and Simone Gustafson are killed by a drunk driver, the lives of their daughters change irrevocably. Although raised by loving grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now, Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, the self-appointed matriarchal figure. Phoebe is, at least according to Renata, borderline narcissistic, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of Juliette’s high school graduation. Angela’s prison sentence is winding down; soon she’ll be eligible for parole and moving back to town. Will the G-FOURce be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Let me start by saying that I highly recommend reading the first two books in this series before reading this one. You could read Phoebe and the Rock of Ages on its own, but I think the reading of it will be that much sweeter and the power of it that much more powerful if you read Juliette and the Monday ManDates and Renata and the Fall from Grace first.

On to my thoughts on Phoebe and the Rock of Ages. This book right here is my FAVORITE of the series. The other two books written so far are wonderful, but this one . . . this one is even beyond wonderful in my opinion. After not really knowing what to think of Phoebe in the other books, I fell in love with her in this one. Learning her struggle, hearing her thoughts, being able to see her soft side, the hurting side, the part she tries to keep hidden opened the door on my compassion for her.

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages is believable, real, raw, and powerful. I felt every drop of emotion, of the struggle each character had. I felt like this book lived and breathed as I read it. It is a beautiful demonstration of the way God works, His power, His might, His love, His unfailing pursuit of us. It’s so full of God’s truth being laid out and spoken to such real life struggles and hurts. The words I have seem inadequate in describing the beauty of this book, the way Becky Doughty brings to life such great and precious truths of God’s Word and His grace.

This book reveals the masks we hide behind, sometimes that mask being our belief in our own piety. It reveals the way the enemy works to make us feel alone in our struggles, how he tries to keep us from reaching out for help. It shows how openness and honesty allows for real healing to take place and the burden to be shared.

I’ve never seen a more genuine, real, healing take place in a book before; the freedom that comes from getting it all out, of verbally sharing your secret struggles with a trustworthy person and how the struggle begins to lose its power over you in that moment and light begins to shine in on the dark places and freedom marches in to send captivity on its way.

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages is so richly full of truth in a way that calls out to you, to the part of you that is desperate for honesty, for being free, for healing. So many of the truths shown in this book are truths God has worked so diligently to show me over the years, so they resonated with me as I read. I would venture to say that there is some desperately needed truth for everyone in this novel.

It’s amazing how God gently, lovingly works on our hearts to change us, to make us more like Him, to prepare us for things ahead, to see things differently, more from His point of view and you can see that clearly in this book.

This book resonates. There’s forgiveness. There’s healing. There’s hope. There’s struggle. There’s hurt. There’s pain. There’s real life. There’s redemption and grace and genuine, believable change. There’s bitterness and holding it all in and then finally letting it all out and finding the beginning of freedom. There’s openness and honesty. There’s peace. Comfort. Quiet hope. There’s God working and orchestrating, bringing good from that which was meant for evil. There’s prayer. There’s spiritual warfare. I can’t even begin to relate all the incredible elements of this book.

I cannot recommend Becky Doughty‘s Phoebe and the Rock of Ages enough. I read most of my kindle books on an app on my phone and I have a tendency to screen capture the pages that have words that stick out to me, things that meant something to me as I read them. With this book, I think I ended up screen capturing half the book.

There are some other things I would really love to share with you, but to do so would involve “spoilers” and I don’t want to spoil anything about this book for you before you read it! Check it out and see if some part of it doesn’t resonate with you!

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages releases today on Amazon and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who use that service.

**I received this book free of charge from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions in this review are my own.

Needed Encouragement

I don’t have a long post today. This last week was kind of rough for us in some ways and I just wanted to share a couple of things that God used to encourage me in my struggles this week, things He used to remind me of His power and His might as well as His love and the fact that He never leaves me. God is always at work even when I can’t always see what He’s doing.

First is a song that I heard on the radio while driving this week. I’d heard it before, but hadn’t really paid close attention to the lyrics. The link to the video is below. I hope it encourages you and points you to the Savior as it did for me.

 

The other thing I want to share with you is a video of a couple telling the story of their struggle with infertility and eventually adoption. It. Is. POWERFUL! Please take the time to watch it.

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Maybe you haven’t seen God work in your life in quite this way, but there was a time when this couple hadn’t either, a time when they questioned God’s goodness. Maybe you’re in the eye of the storm right now, you’re in the spot where you’re questioning God’s goodness because you just can’t see how what you’re going through can be turned around for good. We have His precious promise to us as His children—

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good tho those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28, NASB

There are some precious, humbling truths in this video. Great reminders of how God cares for His creation. He is always at work even when we question it. He has this great big aerial view that allows Him to see all at once, from the beginning of time to the end. Nothing catches Him off guard and He’s always moving, working, orchestrating things to show His great love and His mercy and grace toward us. God loves you just as much as He loves the couple in this video and their sweet Chloe. Never doubt that you are planned for and cared for by a loving Father.

My prayer and heart for you today is that, if you’re struggling, you will be lifted up and encouraged by these things as they encouraged me.

Remember God is with you always. He loves you deeply. You are not alone. He has the power to carry you through anything you face and He will do it. He wants to be your shelter in the storm. Let Him be and worship Him today for His goodness and never failing love.

Shanna Hatfield

Welcome to my first Author Spotlight! I’m so excited to start doing this! I will be doing these occasionally where I interview a favorite author of mine who has graciously agreed to answer some questions by yours truly so that I can introduce you to them and their books!

So without further ado, let me introduce you to our first guest (of hopefully many),
Shanna Hatfield.

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SMALL FEISTY WOMAN:  Hi Shanna! I’m so glad you agreed to be my first guest author. Thank you for joining us.
SHANNA:  Hi Julie! I’m absolutely thrilled to be here with you today and so incredibly honored to be your first guest author. Thank you for the invitation. 

SFW:  Tell us a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with three unusual things about yourself.
SHANNA:  1. I was a “late” baby, meaning my parents hadn’t planned on adding another child to their nearly-empty nest. My oldest brother wed when I wasn’t even yet two and his oldest child is only four years younger than me. Growing up, I sometimes felt like I had three sets of parents with my two brothers and sisters-in-law keeping an eye on me.

SFW:  Oh, wow! I totally understand the whole “late” baby thing. I’m the youngest of 7 with the others all being anywhere from 9 to 22 years older than me. My oldest nephew is only one year younger than me.

SHANNA:  2. My entire childhood was spent on a farm where I tagged after my dad every chance I could. Even though I could be something of a tomboy, my bedroom was a pink ruffled oasis of girliness where I daydreamed about my handsome prince and imagined a romantic future. (Little did I know my prince would turn out to be Captain Cavedweller and my future would include being a Hopeless Romantic writing sweet romances for a living!)
3. Painfully shy doesn’t even begin to describe my introverted tendencies during my entire childhood. I avoided eye contact with people until I was out of college then I gradually grew out of it. Now, I love meeting people and making new friends. (And if I can grow out of it, anyone can!)

SFW:  I’m so glad you outgrew being painfully shy, especially since it means we get to interact with you now! How about a few more fun facts? Favorite color?
SHANNA:  I have more than one… Pink (pale shades and raspberry) and Green (shades from mint and spa to hunter and emerald)

SFW:  Favorite flower?
SHANNA:  Roses. I’ve loved roses as long as I can remember. I also adore lilacs and tulips.

SFW:  Favorite hobbies?
SHANNA:  Reading! *Wink* I also enjoy baking and cooking and trying new recipes. Is Pinterest a hobby? If it counts, I love hanging out there finding all sorts of wonderful ideas. I also enjoy crafts on occasion as long as it doesn’t involve more than dozen steps and doesn’t require too much time to complete. And I like to fuss with the flowers in my yard. Oh, and tormenting Captain Cavedweller. I’m pretty sure he’d say that has turned into a hobby for me.

SFW:  When did you start writing? Was it a dream even before then? 
SHANNA:  I sat down and started writing my first sweet romance novel in February 2010. After that, I was hooked! I’d always dreamed of being a writer. The first story I remember writing was about a racoon in the third grade. My brother had a racoon at the time and I’m sure that’s what inspired the story. When I graduated from college with a degree in communications, I started a career in journalism that lasted ten years, working for a few different newspapers. Then I switched gears into marketing. I missed writing and finally decided one winter day to see if I could write a book. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was so much fun, I couldn’t quit!

SFW:  Do you have another job besides writing fantastic novels? 🙂
SHANNA:  I’m incredibly blessed to be able to get up every day and do something I love so much – write sweet romances! I left my day job as marketing director of a boutique hotel almost three years ago to pursue my dreams full time.

SFW:  Who or what has encouraged you most in your writing journey?
SHANNA:  My husband has been fantastic about encouraging my writing journey. When I first started writing a novel in 2010, I worked between 50-60 hours a week in my day job. To give me time to pursue my writing, Captain Cavedweller (my awesome hubby) took over most of the cooking duties and learned how to do laundry and any number of things that helped around the house.  He’s the one who encouraged me to take a huge leap of faith and leave behind my day job so I could fully pursue my dreams of writing as a career. Any time I need a pep talk, a dose of reality, or a champion – he’s there for me. Along the way, I’ve also met the most amazing people (including some unbelievably wonderful friends online like you), who have been so supportive and encouraging. I give thanks for them every day.

SFW:  Sounds like you found quite the prince in Captain Cavedweller! You write sweet romance, mystery with a little intrigue, historical, western, cowboy, contemporary, younger couples, older couples and you write all of it well. I’m more than a little bit impressed. How do you come up with so many different ideas and story lines?
SHANNA:  An active (or maybe it’s overactive) imagination has always been a huge part of  who I am. I think that definitely plays a big role in being able to come up with different story lines and ideas. I can be standing in line at the grocery store and something will catch my eye or spark a thought and the next thing I know, I’m working on a new book idea. Also, I had an interesting childhood on the farm and often incorporate elements of things that happened to me or happened to people I know into the stories. And I’m a bit of a crazy weirdo klutz and keep myself supplied with fodder for story ideas. Captain Cavedweller is also a great sounding board for bouncing off ideas. We’ve yet to take a road trip or go on vacation when I didn’t come home with a few new ideas for books.

SFW:  Nice to know there are other “crazy weirdo klutzes” out there besides me! 🙂 Will you share some examples with us of situations or people who’ve provided inspiration for your books?
SHANNA:  People who’ve behaved badly have ended up as bad guys in my stories (the boss in The Coffee Girl is based on a boss I once had). And I’ve had so many experiences (strange, amazing, and otherwise), that I often work them into a story.  My close friends still shake their heads sometimes in disbelief, even when they witness the craziness! Some examples: In the book Capturing Christmas, there is a scene where Celia (the heroine) gets really sick and basically passes out and remains out of it for the better part of a day. One reviewer called it “unrealistic,” but the truth of the matter is that I got that sick once (on our honeymoon) and lost almost an entire day before I came back to reality. I guess it’s that whole “truth is stranger than fiction” thing, but I do enjoy incorporating things like that into my stories because it’s fun. Another fun example is once I was helping my dad move gated irrigation pipe. It was so hot and muggy and the smells coming from the pipe were awful. Then he tipped up a pipe and all this steaming ooze (dead mice, fish parts, slimy mud and all) ran down the front of me and into my boots. It was horrid! And I have the same thing happen to my character Jenna (Country Girl vs. City Boy) as she’s helping her husband move gated pipe.

SFW:  Oh my! Those definitely make for interesting additions to a story. I’m sorry you had to experience them in real life though! I’ve noticed two things that I think are in nearly all of your books. One is that faith in God seems to be an underlying, background theme and then family or a community of great family-like friends exists. How have you experienced these things in your own life?
SHANNA:  Faith is a very important part of my life and piece of my heart. Life hasn’t always been easy, but through everything I’ve never once doubted that God would see me through, and I think that carries over into the stories I write although they aren’t technically part of the inspirational genre. There have been times when I felt like my faith was all that kept me going, so I can relate that into my characters. As for the community and family aspect, I grew up with bunches of extended family around. As a teen, I couldn’t go to town without running into a cousin or aunt or someone who knew one of my brothers (which drove me nuts… it’s hard to do something you shouldn’t when there are eyes everywhere! LOL!) The little community where my parents farmed was tight-knit for the most part and I think that feeling of community and family I knew as a child is expressed in the communities and families I create in my stories.

SFW:  Is there one character you’ve written that you relate to more than others?
SHANNA:  Hmm… I see parts of myself (both good and bad) in many of my characters. If a character enjoys baking or has a bit of a sarcastic side or goes loopy over babies, you could point that finger back at me. I’d say Callan from Heart of Clay is close to my heart not just because it was the first book I wrote, but because she and I are alike in so many ways. The character I’ve written I’d like to be more like is probably Aundy.

SFW:  Yes, Aundy seems like quite the SuperWoman with how strong she is, all that she accomplishes, and the high level of perseverance she seems to possess! I’d kind of like to be more like her myself! What makes the perfect writing environment for you?
SHANNA:  I have an office where I work and I treat it like I would a regular job. I’m most often at my desk ready to work by seven in the morning and am often still working at seven at night (although I do take plenty of breaks, especially when Captain Cavedweller arrives home from work!). A “perfect” writing environment or day would be when my office is spotless and the only thing out on my desk are research books that go with my current work in progress and whatever visuals I need for the book. I’ve got a song playing on a loop in the background to keep me focused on the story and I have hours of uninterrupted time to get lost in the characters and story. That is perfection!

SFW:  What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
SHANNA:  Writing the first-draft of the story. I enjoy research and figuring out the characters, but I love sitting down and putting their words and thoughts – the setting – to paper. My favorite part of writing the story is probably the dialogue, especially if there is a little tension or banter going on between the main characters.

SFW:  I do love the witty banter you often have going between your characters! What advice would you give those who are aspiring to write?
SHANNA:  Keep at it! Don’t give up. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from following your dreams. Follow your heart and never quit!

SFW:  For the last bit of our interview, please tell us a little bit about your reading preferences. Favorite location/time for reading a good book?
SHANNA:  I’ll read a good book any time I have the chance! I do most of my reading in the late evening, curled up in a chair (and I also like to read in bed).

SFW:  Favorite snack while digging into a good book?
SHANNA:  My favorite snack is Peanut M&Ms but I never turn down a piece of really good dark chocolate either.

SFW:  Ebook or paperback?
SHANNA:  Both! I love the convenience of taking my Kindle with me when I’m away from home, but the rest of the time I read both it and paperbacks.

SFW:  Favorite genre?
SHANNA:  Romance! I read a broad range of genres, but my hands-down favorite is historical romances set between the 1890s and 1910s.

SFW:  What drives you crazy in a book?
SHANNA:  When authors don’t do their homework. I’ve read historical books where they’ve included sayings or things that are inappropriate for the period (or the cover is a decade – or century – off from the story). I’ve recently read several books where the heroine is annoyingly whiny and needy – and that is a sure way to lose me as a reader. I like to read women characters who have a mind and use it, who have strength, yet maintain their femininity. And, being a farm girl, when authors write about country life and cowboys and get the details wrong… that really drives me nuts. So many writers seem to think hay and straw are the same thing and that positively drives me bonkers. I’m not a card-carrying member of the grammar police. If the story-line flows and the characters are believable, that’s all I really ask for  – well, to not bed the horses on hay and feed them straw. *Wink*

SFW:  Last question! What is your favorite book?
SHANNA:  Oh, I can’t pick just one. Honest, I can’t!  I’ll share a few of my favorites, though. I fell in love with the Girl of the Limberlost when I was in high school I still read it from time to time. It’s just beautiful! I’m a huge Ralph Moody fan and think everyone should read Little Britches (the whole series, actually). I also like Deeanne Gist, Karen Witemeyer, Carolyn Fyffe, Cathy Marie Hake, Lauraine Snelling, and Marcia Lynn McClure. And everyone should read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.

SFW:  Thank you for sharing some of your favorites with us. I know asking a book lover what their favorite book is is like ???? I don’t think I could pick just one favorite either! And thank you so much for answering my questions and sharing a little about yourself and you writing journey with us today!

Y’all (Yes, I’m from Texas, and I embrace it!), Shanna Hatfield is a wonderful writer! I highly recommend checking her books out if you haven’t already, especially if you love strong, masculine, yet wonderfully sweet heroes and feisty, smart, yet feminine heroines. She weaves a great, well-thought out story with no loose ends! I never feel like I’m left hanging at the end of one of her books, yet she’s interested me so much with the characters that I look forward to the other books she’ll write in that series. I don’t have to worry if she’s going to resolve all the situations in her book satisfactorily. I may wonder how she’s going to manage it, but never if; and her resolutions are never reached too hastily, making me feel like things happened too fast. Her books often have little surprises and turns in the plot that I don’t expect or see coming and I really appreciate that aspect of her writing. She creates wonderful communities of friends in her books and it’s always so much fun to catch up with them in her new books. A degree of humor is present in each of her books as well. I think I’ve laughed out loud at least once while reading each of her books. And the romance! It. Is. Perfect. Her books are filled with heart-melting scenes mixed with just the right amount of fiery, flirtatious banter.

I have yet to read any of Shanna’s books that I didn’t like, and I’ve read all of them! Please take some time and check them out! Shanna has a couple of ebooks, Heart of Clay and QR Code Killer, that are free right now on Amazon, if you want to take a look at those! Many of her books are also offered through Kindle Unlimited right now if you participate in that. She also has a Savvy Entertaining book for each season of the year that offers tips and ideas for planning parties and get-togethers. Each of those books is also free on Amazon right now.

Millie Cover

Shanna just had her 41st book, Millie, release yesterday. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to her on that! In celebration and just for this weekend she’s offering Aundy, the first book in the series for free, and Caterina, the second book in the series for only $0.99! Find out more about Shanna at her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. She also has some incredible Pinterest boards that show her visual inspirations for her books that you might want to check out.

 

 

Now for a giveaway! For a chance to win a Kindle version of any one of Shanna’s books, comment below and tell me your favorite Shanna Hatfield book or tell me who one of your favorite authors is. Make sure to leave your email address in the comment form so I have a way to contact you if you win. Winner will be drawn on June 17th.

 

 

Send Me

Do you ever wonder what you’re purpose is or if you even have one? Have you ever felt called to do something, but then doubt crept in about your ability to actually do it so you backed away and chose not to do it? Do you ever wonder if you’re effective at the things you do or if people are really listening to you?

I know I’ve wondered what the point is in my blogging at times. Are people really listening? Am I influencing anyone with what I do? It seems like everyone blogs now, so why should I keep blogging when there are so many other voices to listen to? There are many bloggers out there even saying the same thing I’m saying in my blogs and probably saying it better than I could. But as I contemplated these questions and asked God why He had called me to blog, He showed me two things.

One, I have a unique realm of influence that no one else has. There are people who will read my blog that might not read a similar blog written by someone else just because they know me and don’t know the other person. And as far reaching as the internet is, those other blog posts by other people will only come into the paths of certain people who happen upon it or see it shared in their newsfeed, just as mine will. We each have our own sphere of influence, a unique realm that no one else has. Just like what shows up in my Facebook newsfeed is completely unique (no no else has the exact combination of friends and liked pages as I do, so what shows up in my newsfeed is specific to me), the realm of people I have the potential to influence for His kingdom is unique. If I don’t do what God has called me to do, I’m missing out on the opportunity to reach those people.

Two, God reminded me that I am blogging because He called me to, and really, ultimately, for no other reason than that. And He’s more than capable of doing what He wants with it, of making it into what He desires, and influencing whoever He wants with it. So I’m leaving it in His hands to get it to the eyes that need to read it.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8, AMP

Isaiah, in gratefulness, deep gratitude for what God had done for him, that He had cleansed him and forgiven his sins, said, “Here am I! Send me!”

We can praise God with words for what He’s done for us and simply for who He is and we are supposed to do that. But there’s another aspect of honoring him—what does bringing honor and glory to His name look like in action rather than words?

What does “send me” look like for you? What has He been laying on your heart to do, but you’ve been hesitating to do it? What has He called you out to do?

Maybe there’s a friend or co-worker He’s been prompting you to tell about what He has been doing in your life. Maybe there’s some way He’s been calling you to give of yourself, your time, or your resources. Maybe He’s put a desire in your heart to go on a mission trip. Whatever it is, once you know it’s Him telling you to do it, then start taking those steps of faith toward doing it.

Just be willing to go where He sends you, and He will make the path straight.

In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Proverbs 3:6, AMP

I assure you, you definitely have a purpose. Your Creator made you for a reason. He desires for you to know Him intimately and for you to be a vessel through whom He can reach others for His kingdom and His glory. Our purpose is to love Him, to serve Him, to bring glory and honor to His name. But sometimes we back away from the things He’s laid before us because we believe the lies of the enemy that say we don’t matter, that no one is listening to us, that we don’t really have any influence over anyone. Sometimes we look at what people around us are accomplishing and we think, why should I even bother?

Yield to Him, step out, and let Him use you the way He wants to.

His work through you will not be in vain.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]. 1 Corinthians 15:58, AMP

Don’t give up. Keep moving forward. He is calling all of us who belong to Him out into the world to be His hands and feet.

Remember: You have a unique realm of influence that no one else has. And He will equip you to do what He has called you to do. Leave it in His hands. He’s planned from the very beginning to do the work through you. He’ll reach exactly who He wants to reach through you if you just surrender it all to Him.

He calls us out upon the waters—He calls out to take HUGE steps of faith, to do HUGE things, trusting Him to deliver and keep us afloat.

I know I don’t want to miss out on the incredible things God has in store for me. I don’t want to live a mediocre life because of fear or because I believed the lie that I don’t influence others or that it’s not worth it.

It is SO worth it to surrender to Him. He will bless you abundantly. He will make it all worthwhile. He only wants to do the best things for you.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10, AMP

Don’t let fear keep you from following Him, from saying, “Send me!” I promise it will be good in the end. No matter the hardships you face as you surrender to Him, He will make it worth your while.

Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6, AMP