Healing of the Heart #Review and #Giveaway

healing-of-the-heart-banner

Click here to purchase your copy.

healingoftheheart1-194x300About the Book:
When Ruby McCoy and her mother arrive in Fairplay and promptly move into the biggest mansion around, they are the talk of the town. But while Mrs. McCoy worries about ribbons, trunks, and wallpaper, Ruby rolls up her sleeves. Since the hanging of her notorious gangster father five years ago, Ruby, hiding under an assumed name, is on a mission to right her father’s wrongs. She is determined to spend every penny of her inherited “blood money” helping those who paid the price for her father’s crimes. But she didn’t plan on falling in love.
Sheriff Rex Truett doesn’t trust Ruby and doesn’t care who knows it. The keeper of Fairplay’s law and order makes it his business to find out why a stranger—especially a beautiful, rich, female stranger—would set up businesses, donate to schools, hire workmen to rebuild houses, and provide access to the best medical care. But when a cholera epidemic sweeps through the city, he is forced to reconsider.

loreeloughhsff1-204x300About the Author:
A prolific writer, Loree Lough has 108 books, 68 short stories, and more than 2,500 articles in print. Her novels have earned dozens of industry and Reader’s Choice awards. A frequent guest speaker for writers’ organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, corporations, and college and high school writing programs, Loree and her husband, Larry, divide their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains.
Her books have over 3700 ratings on Goodreads with the first two books in The Secrets of Sterling Street series, Currency of the Heartand Guardians of the Heart receiving multiple four and five star reviews on book review and retail sites.

My Thoughts on Healing of the Heart:
Healing of the Heart by Loree Lough deals with some issues that can be very true to our lives. For example, Ruby, the main character struggles with blaming herself for the actions of her criminal father and spends years of her life trying to atone for his evil deeds. We can often be drawn into that place in our lives where we blame ourselves for something over which we have no control, and at times, for someone else’s actions. Ruby also battles with the decisions she’s made and the subterfuge she’s engaged in in an attempt to right her father’s wrongs and not let anyone know her connection to him. The author works to show us just how hard it is for Ruby to overcome these things and to believe good about herself even when she has people constantly trying to tell her about all the good they see in her. The author also addresses how an attitude of vengeance can affect your life through the character Rex. I really wanted to see both characters freed from those struggles.

While the author does deal with these issues, I felt like they could have been better developed and done in such away that better showed the progression of the characters out of those thought processes and beliefs. As it is, the characters seem to struggle with those things right up until the very end with not much sign of them changing their thought patterns and so it made the “change” difficult to believe. I struggled a little to relate to the characters and there were several instances in which they and their actions and thought processes were somewhat frustrating to me.

I also spent a good deal of the book wondering if I was missing something regarding different events and aspects in the story. Information was often delivered in such a way that I was surprised by it and wondering when it had happened. Not enough detail was given to explain many of those situations in a satisfactory manner. At times, the format made things hard to follow (I may have had an unedited version which could have contributed to that and the final version may flow better).

The book also deals with a small cholera outbreak in the town of FairPlay, and I have to say, that though there were some things about the book I didn’t care for, I was impressed by what seemed to me to be a pretty realistic portrayal of the outbreak and the depths of care needed to help those affected overcome it and prevent the further spread of it.

While this book is not one of my favorites, some of the things that were an issue for me may not be an issue for a different reader. Please take a look at some of the other blog stops (listed below) for other readers’ thoughts on Healing of the Heart.

 

Blog Stops:
November 22: Bibliophile Reviews
November 22: Jeanette’s Thoughts
November 23: Neverending Stories
November 23: Lane Hill House
November 24: Reviewing Novels Online
November 24: Christian Bookaholic
November 25: Christian Author: A.M. Heath
November 25: Redeemed Hope Dweller
November 26: A Simple Life, really?!
November 26: Moments Dipped in Ink
November 27: inklings and notions
November 27: Splashes of Joy
November 28: Ashley’s Bookshelf
November 28: Daysong Reflections
November 29: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
November 29: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations
November 30: Bigreadersite
November 30: Singing Librarian Books
December 1: Pause for Tales
December 1: Smiling Book Reviews
December 2: A Greater Yes
December 2: Genesis 5020
December 3: Reader’s cozy corner
December 4: Book Bites, Bee Stings, and Butterfly Kisses
December 4: Karen Sue Hadley
December 5: A Baker’s Perspective
December 5: Rhonda’s Doings

 

Giveaway:
In honor of her tour, Loree is giving away her books: Secrets on Sterling Street series, Prevailing Love (3 in 1), Pricilla Hires a Husband, Lone Wolf, and Emma’s Orphans, a KJVER Study Bible, and an Abba pillar candle in a wicker basket! Click the photo below to enter; be sure to comment on this post to claim your nine bonus entries for this giveaway!

9a9da406-02da-436f-ad3d-644743d3d23d-294x300

 

**I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

 

The Real Struggle

We just recently started Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study with the ladies at our church and the timing has been perfect—it has served as a much needed reminder at this time when everyone is panicking over and bemoaning the election. People claiming one candidate or the other is the answer we need and the other is the devil incarnate. Arguing amongst family and friends on which candidate is or isn’t the answer to our country’s problems. Unkind, thoughtless things spewing out of mouths toward anyone who doesn’t agree or who is struggling with their decision and hasn’t made up his/her mind yet. Attacks on character because of who one is voting for or not voting for. Huge division is taking place in our country because of this, even among Christians, especially among Christians when we’re the ones that ought to be the light in the midst of all this, not taking sides against one another.

So, the reminder I needed from the Armor of God Study? Our battle is NOT against flesh and blood.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~Ephesians 6:12, NASB

We battle not against flesh and blood, but how many of us have been acting like we believe that this election season? How many of us haven’t lashed out at someone as if they are our enemy?

We won’t win this battle with physical weapons, with hurling unkind words at each other, with putting each other down, with degrading each other. Our real enemy is behind the scenes—quite possibly gleefully enjoying the attitudes we’ve exhibited this year, the terrible things we’ve spoken to or about each other, the freaking out like God’s not in control, letting fear or anger make our decisions for us when the reality is our God is bigger. Our God has greater power, greater resources, greater everything than the enemy.

We will only win the battle we are facing through God, through His power, through recognizing our true enemy and changing our tactics to fighting him through prayer, through spiritual warfare. What we’re doing now, what we’ve been doing—that’s only going to cause more division, more problems, more hate to be spewed. We win this battle on our knees, truly trusting in and relying on God and His power, not some person. This is a reminder for myself, for me to remember where my focus really needs to be, that I need to rely solely on God for the answers this country needs. No man or woman is the answer our country needs.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself not to forget where my hope lies, where my trust needs to be, and who the real enemy is.

I realized as I was processing all this that I can say that I am actually thankful for this crazy election season! Why? Because it’s served as a teaching tool in reminding me where my trust really needs to lie. It’s served in taking me another step further in trusting God, in remembering who is really in control and setting my sight on Him. It’s bringing me to a place of trusting Him in a different way than I have before. I’ve seen how often I may say I trust in God where our country is concerned, but then I don’t actually act like it. I’ve seen how I’ve treated others poorly because of my own opinion in the past or because I haven’t really trusted God and I’ve acted out of fear or anger towards people when the Bible is clear on who my true enemy is. I know I will probably still struggle with this at times, but without the struggles, my faith wouldn’t change and wouldn’t have an opportunity to grow deeper.

Not only is our battle not against flesh and blood, but we, as Christians, ought to be the ones pointing to God as the answer, the ones not freaking out or panicking, but rather realizing God is almighty and nothing happens that He is unaware of, nothing causes Him to panic or worry. I recently saw a Facebook post by Steven Curtis Chapman that served as yet another reminder of who God is and what this is really all about. I’ll share it here with you because I think what he writes in the post and what he says in the video is worth the read and listen.

For some reason unknown to my not tech savvy self, it’s only showing the video here and not what he wrote to go with it. If you click on the Facebook icon in the bottom right corner of the video, it will take you to the whole post where you can read what he wrote. It’s worth the read.

The Promise of Rayne and #Giveaways

Y’all, The Promise of Rayne was absolutely fantastic—so much so that I have had a hard time putting into words just how amazing it is and just how much I enjoyed it. So many thoughts going through my head about all the things I love about this book and it’s so hard to narrow it down to share with you, especially without revealing any spoilers! I want you to know that this book is most definitely worth your time! Check out the synopsis below and what thoughts of mine I have finally been able to gather to share with you.

51a2e2hclhlRayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.
Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

I’ve read all but one of Nicole Deese’s books and loved each of them so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to be an Advance Reader for her latest book The Promise of Rayne. And Ms. Deese did NOT disappoint in delivering a dynamic work of art! While I have immensely enjoyed each of her books that I’ve read, The Promise of Rayne just might be my favorite of hers.

When I read books as an Advance Reader, I tend to read slowly and watch carefully as I read for things that stick out to me, things from the book I might want to share with others. I often highlight those things or do a screen capture of them (I read most ebooks on my phone). Well, with The Promise of Rayne, y’all, I think I might have highlighted/screen captured just about the whole book! There are just so many things I love about this book—so many sweet scenes, emotionally charged moments, thought provoking and wise quotes—that I don’t even know where to begin to pick what to share with you. Had I a physical copy of this book, it would be lovingly dog eared with all its goodness to be had.

In The Promise of Rayne, as is also in life, you’ll discover that things are not always as they seem. There’s more to her family story than Rayne knows, but no one’s talking. Desperate for the approval of her family and to finally feel like she belongs with them, Rayne’s more than a little afraid to pursue any niggling she has that something isn’t right because there will be repercussions if she steps out of line with what the head of the family insists upon. She’s been conditioned to not fight back, to not tip the boat. For a good part of her life, Rayne has been pushed to the shadows by her own family like some unwanted Cinderella. She’s been made to feel less than, weak, naive, and insignificant just like the enemy so often wants us to feel so we won’t be bold enough to rock the boat, to make a change or a difference.

Enter Levi who knows more than he can share and is beginning to care enough about Rayne Shelby that he knows she deserves the truth and to be set free from the hurtful treatment of her family. Levi’s presence in Rayne’s life begins to draw her out as he attempts to show her how sees her and just how wonderful he sees she is. Their meeting again is the catalyst that begins a painful, but necessary and hopeful change in Rayne’s life where there will be battles she’ll have to fight and boundaries she’ll have to cross to get to the truth. Over the course of the book, Rayne slowly (but not too slowly, thank goodness!) grows stronger and bolder, letting what she’s truly passionate about come to the front more often instead of squishing it down to meet some family expectation of her fulfilling a cookie cutter role.

I love authors who write in such a way that you walk the journey with the characters rather than just watch as it happens and Ms. Deese’s writing brings that element to the table. You will feel Rayne’s distress and Levi’s frustration as he longs for her to see herself as he sees her and to know the truth. You’ll be waiting with Levi for that last thread of power that Rayne’s family holds over her to break and for her to step out and stand up; to fight for herself, her dream, her true family vision and legacy, and her relationship with Levi. You’ll feel their hurts and their struggles with them, but you’ll also get to feel the elation of the hopeful moments and the freedom that comes in the end. While there are painful circumstances, betrayal, and deception that must be faced, there’s an equal amount of hope and joy waiting to be embraced on the other side.

In The Promise of Rayne, you will find a well written masterpiece with just the right amount of tension, emotionally charged and bittersweet moments, and swoon worthy scenes. The witty banter between Rayne and Levi, as they first cautiously approach each other and then begin to lower their guards as they get to know and care for each other, is perfection. You will fall in love with them as they are falling in love with each other. You will feel every kind of emotion under the sun as you read this book—it runs the gamut of emotions in a good way. You’ll also find some wonderfully precious moments of true and unconditional love, forgiveness, and patience.

I encourage you to read this book that is so rich with truths as well as the angst and imperfection we face in our lives and the beauty God makes from those ashes. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll find powerful words, a powerful story, and a powerful ending that is really a beginning—a new beginning of a life no longer fraught with lies and deception, but filled with truth and light.

You can purchase this incredible book on Amazon.

Ways you can connect with the talented author of this incredible book, Ms. Nicole Deese:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Amazon

All of Ms. Deese’s books are available on Amazon, and if you participate in the Kindle Unlimited program, good news for you—all of her books are currently a part of that program!

And last, but by no means least, for a chance to win The Promise of Rayne and some other awesome goodies (like a Kindle Fire!), click on the graphic below!

fe63a10c-dc20-4d50-b482-f0067fb0d0eb

Oh, wait! One more thing! For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, read The Promise of Rayne and come back here and comment on this blog post and tell us what you thought of the book! I obviously loved it and I would love the opportunity to discuss it with y’all. Share your favorite quotes, favorite scenes, or what you enjoyed most about the book. Everyone who comments with their thoughts on the book by November 30th will get their name added to the drawing. Please make sure you leave your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win.

**I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

The Cautious Maiden & #Giveaways

I had planned to post my review for The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall on November 4th, but I decided to post early so y’all would have plenty of time to enter Ms. Crandall’s fun giveaways (links below)! Before I share my thoughts on The Cautious Maiden, let me take a minute and introduce you to the amazing author behind the book!

71xnmguh8yl-_ux250_Dawn Crandall is an ACFW Carol Award-nominated author of the award winning series The Everstone Chronicles, which consists of four books: The Hesitant Heiress, The Bound Heart, The Captive Imposter and The Cautious Maiden which released October 4th, 2016.
Apart from writing, Dawn is also a mom of two little ones and serves with her husband in a premarital mentorship program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do.
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and an associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. She is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

Now for more info on her latest book, The Cautious Maiden!

51rmy4yc8rlViolet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents’ New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks but when Violet’s own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance&, Vance Everstone.
As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU.
With danger stalking her and a new fiancé who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust, and who to leave behind.

My thoughts about the book:  The Cautious Maiden is a wonderful addition to Dawn Crandall’s Everstone Chronicles. You’ll find sweet romance, swoon worthy moments, intrigue, a little danger, redemption, hope, and more!

There’s more to Vance Everstone than meets the eye. While he’s still flawed (as we all are), he’s done some soul searching and changing as we get the pleasure of finding in this book. He continues to grow and change throughout the book. It was rewarding to see Vance finding redemption and finally being set free and changed from the past and looking forward to the future. Violet and Vance face a variety of obstacles in their relationship, sometimes from outside sources and sometimes from themselves and we get to go along for the ride through Ms. Crandall’s unique writing style. I would definitely recommend checking out this fourth book of the Everstone Chronicles. And I’m hoping there’s more coming in this series or at least a spin off of the series as there are some characters who haven’t yet gotten their happy ending. 🙂

Time for some giveaways!

For a chance to win a copy of The Cautious Maiden, check out this giveaway on Goodreads.

Click on the photo below to enter Ms. Crandall’s Rafflecopter giveaway!

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-7-00-16-pm

**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.

 

The Everstone Chronicles and a Giveaway

I have had the privilege of getting to read and review The Everstone Chronicles by Dawn Crandall and I’d like to share my thoughts with you about each of the books in the series today. While the books do connect, each of the books can easily be read as a stand alone.

The Hesitant Heiress is the first book in the series.

51txzn8mvwlAfter being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt’s Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men–Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother’s tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems…and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

My Thoughts:
This book captured my attention from the very first page. Ms. Crandall did a wonderful job of immediately engaging me and even my emotions on behalf of the heroine, Amaryllis. She weaves an interesting, intriguing story that had me unwilling to put the book down until I found out some answers and saw some resolution.

I do have to admit I was a little confused toward the beginning, trying to figure out what was going on and what the truth was about the past, and I wanted things to unfold a little faster than they did.

While my attention was quickly captured by the situation the Amaryllis finds herself in at the beginning of the book, it wasn’t long before I began to get a little frustrated with her. As the book progressed, I realized that things were probably not as they appeared to her, but she was very stubborn in refusing to see events and people any differently than she had. Amaryllis was so insistent that every man is inconsistent and I think she viewed God that way as well. She thought she trusted Him, but she didn’t really.

While she had a tendency to be extremely honest with others about what she saw in them and their situations, she was not so with herself. She was blinded to the truth for so much of the book and that became more than a little frustrating after a while, especially when she had opportunity to find out more about the past, but would not, as if she were in denial, refusing to see the past in any way other than how she currently viewed it.

Even though Amaryllis’ stubborn refusal to see the truth became exasperating, Nathan’s sweetness and his obvious care for her made up a little for that exasperation. I loved Nathan and his character and I was a little disappointed that it took Amaryllis so long to let go of grudges from the past that were not even based on full truth so that she could finally see him for the godly, sweet man that he was. She wasted a lot of time running from her past and her problems instead of facing them. And while that was incredibly irritating, I can see how we often do the same thing in our own lives. Hopefully, we won’t be quite as long in coming to see the truth as it took Amaryllis. The more I read, the more thankful I became for Nathan and his willingness to love her in spite of how she treated him. Through that willingness and consistency, he eventually won her over. The resolution and ending finally came and helped make up for all the rough bumps in getting there.

 

The second book is The Bound Heart.

51nrqmfgdxl

 

One accidental kiss from Lawry Hampton. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt’s world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn’t have the time or the desire to fall for her best friend. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn–Meredyth can’t deny that what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past. Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves, and accept that God’s plan for her life includes redemption…and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book and getting to know better some of the characters I was introduced to in the first book. Watching Meredyth’s story, her past, and her thought process about what she must deserve because of it unfold was a little heartbreaking and more than a little realistic. How often do we view ourselves as she did, knowing we must deserve one thing for our actions when God just wants to offer us His precious grace and redemption? I loved getting to see God break through to Meredyth, showing her the healing and hope He has in store for her. So often, we try, as Meredyth did, to do things to earn right standing with God, to somehow right our wrongs when really the only way to do so is to admit them and let God heal them, let Him cover our sins with the pure blood of His perfect Son.

Lawry was a wonderful character and one of my favorite things about this book was seeing Meredyth’s eyes slowly open to him, his love for her, and her own love for him. His steadfast love for Meredyth was precious and swoon worthy.

Ms.Crandall did an excellent job of engaging me as the reader in Merdyth’s journey in discovering God’s forgiveness, truly being able to accept it, and finally being able to forgive herself so that she could be set free for the life God has for her. I love how Ms. Crandall tells her stories in first person. She so very accurately captures the way we, especially as women, often view ourselves and the people around us. She shows how our doubts, hurts, and insecurities can affect our thought processes and the way we view others all while still managing to convey to the reader things about other characters that the heroine may not see so accurately.

 

Next we have The Captive Imposter.

51wau6tcxslFor her own protection following the murder of her brother Will, hotel heiress Estella Everstone assumes the alias of Elle Stoneburner and takes a job as companion to an elderly widow. Never did she imagine that her position would lead her back to her beloved Everston, a picturesque resort property tucked away in the rugged mountains of Maine. Living below her station in a guise of anonymity has its struggles, but her spirits are buoyed by a newfound friendship with the hotel manager, Dexter Blakeley. And his distaste for the spoiled socialites who frequent his hotel causes her to take a close look at her own priorities and past lifestyle. When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer of employment she can’t refuse. As the two interact and open up to each other, Estella feels a growing attraction to Dexter; and increasing discomfort over concealing her identity. Yet, in spite of the false pretense she’s putting forth, she’s never felt freer to be herself than in his presence. But will he still love her when he learns the truth about who she is?

My Thoughts:
In this, the third book of the The Everstone Chronicles, we find yet more mystery as we encounter Dexter Blakely and his family. Discovering more about the Blakely family and their connections with the Everstone family is an intriguing part of this novel. Each of the books in Ms. Crandall’s series has allowed us a view into the lives of the Everstones, their history, their flaws, and their good sides. Getting to know more about them in each book is a great draw of the series.

Estella has spent a long time pining after someone, who, in my opinion, quite frankly doesn’t deserve her and hasn’t treated her well. Just like Estella, many of us have, at some point in our lives, tried to force something to be that was not meant to be—maybe a relationship or a job among other things. Finally, here in this novel, we get to see Estella truly let go of something not meant to be, something that God knows is not best for her and then watch as He orchestrates His beautiful best for her.

I believe that Estella and Dexter’s developing relationship is one of my favorites of the series. Again, we find a steadfast character in the hero who makes you fall in love with him right along with the heroine. In spite of the false name and position Estella has to use for protection, she’s actually able to more freely be herself than she would as Estella Everstone, enabling Dexter to get to know the real her without personal prejudice potentially getting in the way. Their sweet friendship that grows into love will melt your heart as you join them on their journey.

 

The Cautious Maiden, the fourth book in The Everstone Chronicles, just released at the beginning of October and is well worth the read! I will be sharing my thoughts on The Cautious Maiden as a part of Dawn Crandall’s blog tour on Friday, November 4! I hope you’ll come back and join us then for my full review of it as well as a giveaway.

51rmy4yc8rl

 

**I received the books in this series free of charge from the publisher. All opinions in these reviews are my own.

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, but you’d like to start, click  below for the chance to win a Kindle version the first book in the series, The Hesitant Heiress.

adobe-spark

Where Was God When I Was Hurt?

Why do bad things happen? That’s a question that many of us desperately want an answer to, but we often don’t like the possible reasons that bad things happen so we don’t allow ourselves to think that there could actually be a reason. We’d rather believe there isn’t one. But the reality is, there are reasons.

One reason is that we live in a fallen world, one where sin entered through the first man and woman and has continued to run rampant. Not all things that happen to us are a direct result of our own sin. Yes, at times, the things we face are consequences of our own sin, but not everything hurtful thing we face is because of that. Sometimes it’s a result of someone else’s sin that, in one way or another, happens to affect us; and sometimes, it’s a result of the fact that sin entering the world changed the world, changed the dynamic of the way things work now. The world no longer functions in the perfect form God created it in. Evil has been allowed in, and through that evil, disease, destruction, and decay have followed. It’s something we have to deal with in this world we live in. It’s a consequence of allowing sin into this once perfect and whole world. But we don’t like to think that way, to admit that sin is the reason for our fallen and changed world. But the Bible is clear on that and we can’t ignore it and pretend it’s not true just because we don’t like it.

Not only do we not want to face the idea that we live in a broken world and that because of the sin that caused it, we now experience pain and heartache, we also don’t want to believe that God could allow the bad things in this world to happen. But the reality is, He has and He does. I can’t help but think of Job. If you read the first chapter of Job, you will quickly find that God did indeed allow bad things to happen to Job. In fact, God Himself is the one who brought Job and his upright standing with Him up to Satan. Did you get that? GOD asked Satan if he had noticed His upright servant Job! AND THEN, He put everything Job had (all the blessings and good things God had given him) in the hands and power of Satan, essentially giving Satan the power to do with it whatever he wanted (which happened to be taking it away). I also think of Simon Peter. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Simon Peter that Satan has asked to sift him as wheat—and God allowed it.

It’s not easy for us to accept this idea—that God would allow sifting, that He would allow bad things to happen, that He has given His permission for them to happen. It doesn’t sit well with us, but it’s truth. It is a reality. And there is actually a hope that comes with it.

After Jesus tells Simon Peter about Satan’s desire to sift him as wheat, Jesus goes on to say, “But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.” ~Luke 22:32, AMPC

You see, while God may allow these bad things to happen in our lives, He does not allow them to be without purpose. We have that promise from God—And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28, NASB

God can and does take those horrific events and situations in our lives and He redeems them by bringing purpose to them, by not letting them be for nothing. God does not waste a hurt. Instead, He uses it to our benefit.

Yes, I’ve been through some events and situations that I did not want to go through—things that were painful, situations I did not enjoy in any way, shape, or form. But I also know that I would not be the person I am today nor would I have the faith that I do today if I had not gone through those tough things, through those trials that God ultimately redeemed by using them to change me. There have definitely been times when I felt torn apart, times when I felt like the enemy just might get his way in destroying me and I didn’t see how good purpose of any kind could come from what I was going through. But God!—God had other plans for what the enemy meant for evil. He refashioned and repurposed those times, using them to draw me to Him, to help acquaint me more intimately with Him and His love and His power. He brought me out on the other side stronger and with more faith and more trust in Him. And with each event that happens, He only draws me closer and gains more of my trust. I am who I am today because of God’s work in my life, because of Him taking what the enemy meant for evil and giving it a purpose and using it to shape me and change me. And I am so thankful that He’s done that—that I am not the same person that I was, that I’ve grown and changed and am being made new.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. ~Romans 5:3-4, NASB

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of you faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4, NASB

(You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith my be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed. ~1 Peter 1:6-7, AMPC

What an incredible God!—to know that He can take those painful things, those things that seem to us to happen without reason and repurpose them. Things the enemy meant for evil, God repurposes to use for our benefit to mold us and shape us to be more like Him, to let the Holy Spirit grow in our lives and have more control over us, to let us learn from those things. What the enemy intended to destroy us, to bring us down, God can actually use to strengthen us, to draw us closer to Him, to show us who He is, to bring glory to Himself, to exhibit the power of His redemption.

God has the power to redesign, to reshape, and to make the pain, the hurt, the bad, and the ugly in our lives worthwhile. He is sovereign. Nothing happens outside of His knowledge—He sometimes allows Satan to poke and prod us to bring us to a place where we can be refined. And He already knows how He’s planning to use the next storm you face to bring you closer to Him; to change, shape, and mold you into being more like Him; to give you a glimpse of who He is and who He wants to be to you. Can’t you just picture our mighty God looking at Satan and saying, “Do your best, but what you intend for evil I have the power to turn around for good, to make it work for My purpose, My will, and My glory.” How frustrating that’s got to be for the enemy! And what a blessing it is for us!

Not only do we have this promise of God using even evil for ultimate good, but we can also know that the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding on our behalf just as Jesus told Simon Peter that He had done for him. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Romans 8:26-27, NASB

God does not promise us a life without conflict or pain or hurt. Those things will happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world. We may hurt someone else or someone else may cause us pain, but those things can be redeemed with purpose. Those afflictions we face, the trials, the struggles, the pain, the temptations can all be turned around for our benefit and for His ultimate glory.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. Fo the creation (nature) was subjected to the frailty (the futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it—[yet] with hope. That nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children. ~Romans 8:18-21, AMPC

What You’ll Find in My Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray (or in other words—Reasons Why This Book Is Worth Your Time) and #Giveaway

51yf66azhblCan love grow in the shadow of a broken past?

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.

Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.

Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.

 

If that blurb from the back of the book doesn’t convince you to delve in and read this incredible book, then let me see what I can do to help.

What you’ll find in My Hope Next Door:

Flawed characters dealing with real life kinds of situations.
Ms. Gray is not afraid to address the tough situations that we really face, including our own flaws. She doesn’t deal in fairy tales, but in the grit of real life and the powerful redemption God offers. Not a single character in this book is perfect or without sin or their own struggles. This is not some fluff piece where changes are instantly made in a character’s life and struggles are quickly and easily overcome—and I appreciate that because I know from my own experience that, in real life, sometimes we struggle for a while before we finally begin to see victory on the horizon. If you’re looking for a book that doesn’t ignore the pain we face or the sin we deal with, but offers hope to the frustrating and sometimes even desolate situations we find ourselves in, then you’ve found it in My Hope Next Door.

adobe-spark-18

What it’s like dealing with others expectations of you, both the good and the bad.
The people in Katie’s life expected her to rebel, to live a rough and selfish life while some of the people in Asher’s life expected him to be perfect and not mess up. How often do we put these kind of expectations on others? I’m a PK (Preacher’s/Pastor’s Kid) like Asher and I grew up in church. I know the battle in being a PK and being watched and expected to be perfect, but I’ve also experienced some of the things Katie has—having people expect you to mess up. It’s tough knowing you’ve changed inside, that you’re different, but having the people you love still think of you as the old, untrustworthy, rebellious person you used to be. Sometimes it might just feel like it’s easier to live up to their expectations that you’re going to mess up. There’s a definite struggle for both Katie and Asher in dealing with other’s expectations, but don’t despair! Ms. Gray also shows us that second chances really can happen and that we can overcome those things, especially as we choose to just be real with each other.

adobe-spark-41

A journey in forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an essential part of life, whether it’s accepting God’s forgiveness towards us, or us extending forgiveness towards those who’ve hurt us so that we don’t become bitter, or forgiving ourselves. You’ll find a little of all of these in this book and you’ll find that it’s not always an easy journey to accept forgiveness or to give it, especially to ourselves. While I may not have lived the life Katie lived, I have made my own share of mistakes and struggled with forgiving myself for them and struggled with fully accepting God’s unconditional love as well as His forgiveness and the freedom He offers so I get the battle. Learning to stop punishing ourselves and to forgive ourselves and others and let go so we can move forward is a vital part of this book. Ms. Gray reminds us that there is hope, and though the journey may take a while sometimes or be a bit of a struggle, we can get there.

adobe-spark-27

The power of someone believing in you and fighting for you.
Asher sees beyond Katie’s past, beyond her shame, beyond her mistakes to the Christ living in her. He sees the hope in her, the potential, the second chance just waiting to be taken and the confidence she can have in God’s forgiveness, in His healing, and in His wiping the slate clean. He sees how she doesn’t have to live in shame over her past because of what Christ has done for her. And Asher doesn’t stop fighting for her to see all those things for herself. He doesn’t give up on working to get her to see past the lies of the enemy to the liberating truth of God’s grace, forgiveness, and healing. This speaks to my heart because this is what my husband has done so many times for me. It reminded me of how, when I’ve been entrenched in the lies of the enemy, he has patiently spoken truth to me and over me and prayed for my eyes to be opened to God’s truth of who I am in Christ. Asher’s not the only character in the book who does this. I can think of at least three other characters that pray for Katie, that encourage her with the truth of who she is in Christ, and treat her like she is a daughter of the King rather than the castaway slave that the enemy wants her to be seen as. We all need people like this in our lives sometimes AND sometimes we need to be that for someone else—someone believing in us when we can’t believe in ourselves, someone believing in the power of God in our lives when we can’t quite bring ourselves to believe it can be true or real for us, too.

adobe-spark-45

That freedom from believing the lies the enemy wants us to believe about ourselves can be found.
Katie has a past and reputation that wants to cling to her. She wants to ignore it all and leave it in the past, to not have to face all that she’s done. God wants to take away the guilt and the shame she struggles with, but that means actually coming face to face with her actions in the past instead of trying to stuff it all down and pretend like it’s not there. Ms. Gray demonstrates the freedom that comes when we stop trying to hide from our pasts, our mistakes, our sins (trying to act like they don’t exist) and face them, admit them, get them out in the open. They lose their power then and we can begin to replace lies with truth and find hope. Then we can walk forward in true freedom.

adobe-spark-43

Y’all, these are just a few of the things you’ll find in My Hope Next Door! There’s so much to this story and there’s just no way I could convey to you what I got from reading this book in one blog so I’m going to have to leave the rest of the discovering up to you. I sincerely hope that you’ll take a chance on this book. I don’t think you’ll regret it. I would venture to say that the struggles and the truths in this book will resonate with you, that you will find pieces of yourself in the characters. And hopefully, you will walk away from this book encouraged and blessed as I was.

Who doesn’t need reminding of the truths of God’s Word, how much He loves us, how much He wants us to heal, and how ready He is to offer us second chances? And what a great way to be reminded of those things—through such a powerful story that speaks to the heart (with some sweet, swoon worthy romance thrown in 😉 )! Ms. Gray has a way of writing the truths we need to hear and weaving them into the fabric of her story in a natural, non-preachy, realistic way. My Hope Next Door is a story rich with real situations and wonderful truths and I hope you check it out and enjoy it as much as I did!

My Hope Next Door—Releasing this Tuesday, September 13, but it’s available for preorder now on Amazon! You can have it waiting for you on your Kindle!

Interested in finding out more about Tammy L. Gray and her other books? Just click on any of the links below to connect with her!
Ms. Gray’s website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest
Amazon

adobe-spark-57

**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.