Monday, December 31, 2012

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner, ©2012

Girl in the Glass
The story is about Florence and three women from three different spans of time, marked by distinctive characters and events, going back to the Medicis and the Italian Renaissance. Author Susan Meissner describes the plot and characters of her newest modern-day novel with a historical twist set in Florence, Italy - THE GIRL IN THE GLASS

The Girl in the Glass (Sneak Peek--Chapter One)

Are you surprised I am starting my review post with the first chapter just for you? It is too good to wait to the end!

Susan Meissner is so unique in her writings. You are going to love her books if you haven't read them, and super-love this newest book, everyone, I am sure!
A Sound Among Trees
Books take us to places we have perhaps only imagined and introduce us to intriguing people - both real and invented - whose lives inspire, teach and sometimes transform us. Books entertain but they can also enlighten and educate; they can motivate us to attempt great things. That is my goal as a writer, and your friend, that the stories I write will always leave you with a message of hope after you have read the last page. --Susan Meissner

The Girl in The Glass

WaterBrook Press 
        A house shrouded in time.
        A line of women with a heritage of loss.

Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence and finally step into the place captured in a picture at her Italian grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, the long-anticipated journey seems permanently on hold.
     When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she hopes the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sofia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.
     When Sofia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what has to be?
So, this caught my eye and I wanted to find out what the word renaissance meant.

     ~*~Renaissance, Original Italian: Rinascimento, from rinascere "to be reborn" ~*~

To be reborn.

Also, "A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss." was used to describe a previous Susan Meissner novel I read and reviewed, ~ I immediately recognize this opening phrase.

A Sound Among the Trees

WaterBrook Press 
        A house shrouded in time.
        A line of women with a heritage of loss.

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.
     When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.
     With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.
Oh, and one more three-ladies: Jane Lindsay, Lucy Day, and Lady Jane Grey! With the first FOUR chapters! in Lady In Waiting!

With these three-generational stories I have read, I am at once eager to read Sophia, Meg, and Nora's stories in The Girl in the Glass. Look what I found mentioned on the back of the book cover! WooHoo ~*~ all of her books that I have are mentioned!

 Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose books include The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting, and A Sound Among the Trees. She is the wife of an Air Force chaplain and a mother of four young adults. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and connection Ministries at her San Diego church.

Look what I have with my TBR (to-be-read) treasures: The Shape of Mercy. I would love  to read every one of her books ~*~ so if you  have other Susan Meissner's novels you would like to pass on to me, please let me know!!  I would be d-e-l-i-g-h-t-e-d.

Type on, Susan Meissner, I will try to get caught up in the meantime, but... think you will be ahead of me!

Thank you, indeed, to Susan Meissner for her very in-depth Historical Fictions, my very favorite genre.

I appreciate WaterBrook Multnomah blogging for Books for sending me this copy of The Girl in the Glass to read and review in my own words.

You will definitely enjoy reading The Girl in the Glass! It is down-to-earth as you walk with these ladies so closely tied to our own dreams of love, acceptance, and peace! They can be a reality for us.

Everything you can imagine is real. --Pablo Picasso

We meet our three ladies.

... the place where my life began ~ Florence.
Nora Orsini's story entwining the reminiscent past, travels along the same cobblestone streets generations behold. Meg Pomeroy is a travel book editor at a publishing house in San Diego, California. Sofia Borelli is a tour guide in Florence. Sofia is writing a memoir of her life; a personal accounting, as she says she is of the Medici family lineage and hears the whispers.
   I have a story to tell you. It is a story of Florence and a Medici princess that time has all but forgotten.
   Hers is the voice I hear in the statues and paintings all around me. Her name was Francesca Eleonora Orsini.
   But everyone called her Nora.
Meg arrives in Florence with expectancy. The actual experience she has dreamed of since viewing her nonna's family paintings so entrenched in her memories. Finally, she is here! But all is not as it seems. Her father does not meet her.

Beauty is reflected in Renaissance art, exploring and revealing the inner heart.

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer, ©2012


Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?

Miss Meri's aunt and uncle have plans for her future, bringing a suitor for her. But... her heart has another memory of a long ago day.
Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2
Enter the Archer brothers: Travis, Crockett, Jim and Neill. The recluse ranchers. Meredith risks bringing them a message to save their ranch and, in turn, they take a risk to save her reputation. Because of an accident she is detained at their ranch, followed by her uncle and a preacher.

Which one is the one who wins her heart from all of the Archer brothers, and was it really a draw of the straws? From a young girl, Meredith has received protection and care from one. She has been in his heart. Travis Archer.

Come wedding day and the scent of cinnamon is in the air. Oh, goodness, are they in for a treat, in more than one way! Meredith Hayes Archer has a lot set out before her ~ but knowing Meredith, she will win them all over. As they protect their land and holdings, she opens their hearts to live life as it should be ~ with regard to others.

Come join Meredith as she ventures into the interior of Archer lands and hearts.

I liked the interaction of all of the Archer brothers as they warm up to her winning ways. They have gained a prize in their midst.

About Karen

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late 1800s.

Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House.

Karen is the author of A Tailor-Made Bride, Head in the Clouds, To Win Her Heart, in addition to Short-Straw Bride. Her newest novel coming out in June 2013 is Stealing the Preacher.
Head in the Clouds
A Tailor-Made Bride


Excerpt from Short-Straw Bride
Anderson County, Texas - 1870
Ten-year-old Meredith Hayes balled her hands into fists as she faced her tormentor. "Hiram Ellis! Give me back my lunch bucket this instant!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Meri. Did you want this?" His voice dripped sarcasm as he dangled the small pail in front of her.
She lunged for it, but her hands met only air as the older boy snatched it away then tossed it over her head to his snickering brother. Meredith ricocheted between the two, never quite fast enough to get more than a finger on the tin.
Why was she always the one to get picked on? Meredith stomped her foot in frustration. She thought she'd gotten enough of a lead today after school, but Hiram must have been watching for her. He'd had it out for her ever since her family moved to the area last spring. Probably because the land they bought used to belong to his best friend's family.
"Meri, Meri, quite contrary," Hiram sang in a ridiculously high pitched voice, skipping in a circle around her and swinging the lunch bucket back and forth. A group of girls came around the bend and stopped to giggle behind their hands. Meredith asked for help, but they just stood there smirking and whispering behind their schoolbooks. Even Anna Leigh, her desk mate, and the one girl Meredith thought a friend. Angry tears pooled in her eyes, but Meredith blinked them away. She'd not let Hiram win.
"You're a bully, Hiram Ellis."
"Yeah?" Hiram stopped skipping and glared at Meredith. "Well, you're a carpetbagger's daughter."
"My papa's not a carpetbagger. He's a teacher, just like your sister."
Hiram's face scrunched up like a pumpkin that had started to rot. "My sister teaches white kids. Not good-for nothin' darkies."
Meredith raised her chin and repeated the words she'd heard her father say countless times. "They're freedmen. And they have just as much right to learn as you do."
"If those freedmen were still slaves like they oughta be, Joey Gordon's pa wouldn't a been killed by Yankees, and Joey would still be here." Hiram glowered and strode toward her, his boots pounding into the earth. Meredith instinctively retreated a step before she remembered she wasn't afraid of him.
"You want this stupid tin back?" Hiram growled out the question as he halted a couple of feet in front of Meredith and jerked the pail from his wrist. "Go fetch!"
He sprinted to the edge of the road and hurled the pail through the pine trees that guarded the property border. Meredith watched it fly, wondering why God thought it fair to give a mean-tempered boy such a strong throwing arm.
The bucket clipped a tree limb and disappeared over a small rise. A hollow clang echoed through the pines followed by a series of quieter thunks as it bounced off rocks and debris in its tumble down the back side of the hill. Meredith winced. Mama was going to skin her alive for bringing her pail home dented and busted. The only thing worse would be not bringing it home at all.
Meredith glared at Hiram then trudged forward.
"Meri, no!" Anna Leigh ran up and clutched Meredith's arm. "You can't. That's Archer land."
Archer land? Meredith looked around to get her bearings then swallowed hard as recognition dawned. Anna Leigh was right.
"No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life." Anna Leigh shook her head, eyeing the trees as if their branches might reach down and snatch her off the ground. "Just let it go, Meri." She backed away, tugging on Meredith's arm. But when Meredith made no move to follow, Anna Leigh released her with a heavy sigh.
It couldn't be as bad as all that. Could it? Meredith gazed through the pines, to the small hill that hid her lunch bucket. Her heart thumped against her ribs. It wasn't very far. If she ran, she could get her tin and be back before any of the Archers even knew she'd been there. Then again, everyone in Anderson County knew the Archer boys were trigger happy and plumb loco, to boot. What if one of them was hiding out there somewhere, just waiting for her?
"I hear they got bloodthirsty hounds that can sniff you out the minute your foot steps off the road." Hiram spoke in a low, husky voice. "Dogs that'd sooner gnaw your leg off than look at you."
Meredith told herself to pay him no mind. He was only trying to scare her. But she couldn't quite banish the image of a big, black dog barreling down on her, teeth bared.
"You know Seth Winston?"
Meredith didn't turn around but she nodded. The older man ran a store near her father's school. He only had three fingers on his right hand.
"Travis Archer shot them two fingers clean off when Winston tried to pay a call after old man Archer died. Woulda done worse if Winston hadn't hightailed it outta there as fast as he did. And don't think you'd be safe just 'cause you’re a girl. They peppered Miss Elvira's buggy with buckshot when she came to collect the young ones to take them to the homes she'd found for them. Nearly put her eye out."
"At least . . ." Meredith's throat seemed to close in on itself. She forced a little cough and tried again. "At least they weren't hurt too bad."
"Only because they escaped." Hiram came up beside her and spoke directly into her ear. "Five other men weren't so lucky. They came out here at different times, each with hopes of buying the Archer spread. None of them were ever seen again." Hiram paused, and Meredith couldn't fight off the shivers his words provoked. "Their bodies are probably buried somewhere out there."
Something rustled just beyond the pines and Meredith jumped.
Hiram laughed.
She should go home. Just leave the pail and go home. Mama would understand . . . but she'd be disappointed.
"I dare you," Hiram said, finally drawing Meredith's attention. "I dare you to go after that tin."
"Don't do it, Meri," Anna Leigh begged.
"Oh, she won't. She's too scared." Hiram's cocky grin resurrected Meredith's pride.
Crossing her thin arms over her chest, she glared up at him. "I'll get it. Just see if I don't."
The girls behind her gasped, and even Hiram looked a bit uneasy, which only served to bolster Meredith's determination. She marched to the tree line, turned back for one last triumphant glance at the stunned Ellis boys, then dashed off in the direction where the pail had disappeared. Her shoes crunched on fallen pine needles and twigs as she ran, her breath echoing loudly in her ears as she huffed up the hill.
She stopped at the top and clutched her aching side as she scanned the ground for her lunch bucket. Something shiny glinted in the sunlight down and to the left. Meredith smiled and hurried forward. This wasn't so tough.
Her fingers closed around the handle of the battered tin, but when she turned to head back, the hill blocked her view of the road. Suddenly feeling very isolated, she bit her lip as forest noises echoed around her. A twig snap to her left. A rustle to her right. Then from somewhere in the distance behind her, a dog barked.
The Archer hounds!
Meredith fled, scrambling up the hill. But the sandy soil was too loose. Her feet kept slipping. She clawed at the ground with her fingers to no avail.
Another bark sounded. Closer this time.
Meredith gave up on the hill and just started running away from the barking. The slope gradually lessened, and she spotted a flat section up ahead where the pines turned back toward the road. Aiming for the opening, she veered between the trees.
As she looked up to gauge how close she was to the road, her right foot hit something metallic. A loud crack rent the air a second before a pair of steel jaws snapped closed on her leg.
"Good girl, Sadie." Travis Archer folded his wiry adolescent frame as he hunkered down and stroked the half-grown pointer. "We might turn you into a huntin' dog yet."
She still barked too much when she got excited, frightening off the game, but she'd successfully pointed a rabbit and held when he called whoa, so even though the hare scurried away before he could get in position to shoot, Travis was proud of the pup's progress.
"Let's try again, girl. Maybe we'll find some quail for you to flush. Jim's getting tired of fixin' squirrel me—"
An agonized scream cut Travis off and raised the hair on his arms. He hadn't heard a cry like that since his mother died birthin' Neill.
Sadie barked and took off like a shot. Travis called after her to stop, but the pup ignored his command and ran west—toward the road. Snatching up his rifle, he gave chase. If a new threat had wandered onto Archer land, he'd do everything in his power to protect his brothers.
The barking intensified, sounding much closer. Travis slowed his pace and brought his rifle into position against his shoulder. It wouldn't be the first time some greedy land grabber tried to draw him out, thinking four boys were easy pickings. He might not be full grown, but he was man enough to defend what was his. No one was going to drive him and his brothers out. No one.
Travis wove through the narrow pines, catching a glimpse of Sadie's black coat. He recognized the spot. This was one of several places he'd hidden coyote traps. He'd posted warning signs, but some idiots were too cocky for their own good. Hardening himself against any pity he might feel for the interloper, Travis fingered the trigger on his rifle and stepped around the last tree that stood between him and his target.
"Hands where I can see 'em, mister, or I'll put a bullet in . . ." The threat died on his lips.
A girl?
Horror swept over him, loosening his grip on the rifle. The barrel dipped toward the ground.
"D-Don't shoot. P-P-Please." The girl turned liquid blue eyes on him. "I didn't m-m-mean any harm." Her tear-stained face stabbed him with guilt as she bravely tried to swallow her sobs.
"I ain't gonna shoot you." Travis relaxed his stance and set the weapon aside. "See?" He held his palms out and took a cautious step toward the girl sitting sideways beneath the tree. "I thought you were someone else. I ain't gonna hurt you." Although judging by the blood staining the edge of her ruffled pantalets, he already had.
"W-What about your d-dog?" She eyed the pup as if Sadie were some kind of hellhound.
"Sadie, heel." The pointer quit barking and padded over to Travis's side. He motioned for her to stay, then gingerly approached the frightened girl. "I'm gonna get that trap off your leg, all right?"
She sucked in her bottom lip, her eyes widening as he approached, but she nodded, and something inside Travis uncoiled. He'd no idea what he would've done if she'd gone all hysterical on him. Thankfully, this gal seemed to have a decent head on her shoulders. Travis smiled at her then turned his attention to the trap.
His stomached roiled. The thing was clamped above the ankle of her right leg. She whimpered a bit when he reached for the spring mechanisms on either side of the trap, no doubt anticipating more pain. The metal chain clanged as she moved.
"Try to keep still," he instructed. "Even when the trap opens, don't pull yourself free. Wait for me to help you. Your leg might be broken and we don't want to do anything to make it worse. Understand?"
Another brave little nod.
Travis grabbed the release springs and was about to compress them when the girl spoke.
"Can I . . . hold on to you?"
Closing his eyes for a second, Travis swallowed then gave a nod of his own. "Sure, kid."
Her hands circled his neck as he bent over her, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.
He cleared his throat. "Ready?"
The side of her face rubbed against his upper arm. "Mmm hmm."
Travis pressed the spring levers with a firm, steady pressure until the trap's jaw released. Once it clicked back into its open position, he gently removed her foot from the trap.
"I need to check your leg to see how bad it is." Her arms still around his neck, Travis rotated her until her back brushed the tree trunk. "Rest here."
He eased away from her hold and lifted the edge of her pantalets a few inches up her shin. The skin had been broken and there was a deep indentation from where the steel had clamped her leg, but she'd had the good sense to keep still, so the bleeding was minimal. There seemed to be swelling and discoloration around the indentation, though, and that worried Travis.
"Can you move your foot?"
The girl flexed her foot and immediately hissed in pain. "It hurts." Her voice broke on a muted sob.
"Just be still then." Travis gritted his teeth. Probably a fracture. "I'm gonna look for some sticks to splint your leg with, then I'll get you home, all right? Don't worry."
On his deathbed, his father had made him swear never to leave Archer land, to protect it and his younger brothers at all cost. And Travis had done exactly that for the last two years. But today, he was going to have to break his promise. He had to make things right with this little girl. Had to get her home.
Travis stood and scoured the ground for splint-worthy sticks while silently vowing that before he went home tonight, he'd spring every stinking trap on his property. No way was he going to run the risk of something like this happening again. He'd thought that any troublemakers who found themselves snagged would be able to free themselves with a minimum of fuss and leave with a sore leg to remind them not to return. The traps were too small to do significant damage to a man's leg, especially through the thick boots most of them wore. But a child? A girl? Travis never even considered such a scenario.
By the time he made his way back to the tree, the girl had composed herself. "What's your name?" he asked, thinking to distract her as he fit the splint to her leg.
He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it firmly around the sticks just below her knee. "I'm Travis"
"You're Travis?" She said it with such disbelief that he stopped what he was doing to stare at her. She blushed and stammered. "I just . . . uh . . . thought you'd be meaner or bigger or . . . or something."
Travis shook his head and chuckled softly. "That's exactly what I want people to think. Me and my brothers are safer that way."
He looked around for something else to use to tie the bottom of the splint. Finding nothing, he took out his pocket knife and used the point to tear a hole in the seam at his left shoulder. Then he yanked until the sleeve pulled free and slid it down over his hand. He knelt back down and fastened it into place around her ankle.
"You know what you could do for me, Meredith?"
He made sure the knot was tight then smiled up at his patient. "When you get back and your friends start asking you questions, make me sound as big and mean as possible. The fact that I helped you get home can be our secret. OK?"
Her eyes glowed with something besides pain, and she actually smiled. The weight dragging on his conscience suddenly lightened.
"Grab onto my neck again, I'm going to pick you up." Travis shifted to her side and maneuvered an arm under her knees.
"Wait! I need my tin."
He pulled back. "Your what?"
"My lunch tin. Hiram threw it into the trees. That's why I came onto your land in the first place. I can't go back without it." She twisted and tried to reach behind her.
"Hold still," Travis barked, not wanting her to hurt herself. "I'll fetch it." He grabbed the beat up pail and handed it to her. Meredith cradled it to her middle, and Travis decided that if he ever met this Hiram person, he'd find another pail and give the numskull a wallop or two upside the head.
Travis slid his arms around Meredith and lifted her from the ground. The little warrior never cried out, just tightened her grip on his neck as he pushed to his feet. He examined the ground for the smoothest path to the road, even when it meant going out of his way. It was crazy, really—this urge to protect her. He'd spent the two years since his father died building barriers to keep the outside world out. But when this slip of a girl looked at him with trust blazing in her bright blue eyes, all he could think about was protecting the one piece of the outside world that had found a way in.
When he made it to the border of his property, Travis halted and inhaled a deep breath as his gaze tilted up toward heaven.
Sorry, Pa. I gotta do it.
Then, with a prayer for his brothers' safety resounding in his mind, he leaned forward and stepped off Archer land.

Chapter One  
Palestine, TX – 1882
"I don't know if I can do it, Cass." Meredith peered up at her cousin through the reflection in the vanity mirror.
Cassandra pulled the hairpin from her mouth and secured another section of Meredith's braided chignon. "Do what?"
"Marry a man who wants me only for the land I can bring him."
"How do you know that's all he wants?" Cassandra leaned down until her face was level with Meredith's then winked at her in the mirror. "If you ask me, the man seems rather smitten, paying calls on you every Saturday night for the last month."
Calls where he spent more time discussing the lumber industry with her uncle than conversing with her. Wouldn't a man who was smitten spend his time talking to the woman he hoped to marry rather than her guardian?
Meredith sighed and turned to face her younger cousin. "I know I should be thrilled. Uncle Everett has told me again and again that Roy Mitchell is an excellent catch, and your mama nearly swooned when she found out he'd proposed. But something doesn't feel right."
"Maybe that's because saying yes would mean letting go of a girlhood dream."
Meredith squirmed under her cousin's knowing look. Cassandra was the only person Meredith had ever told about her infatuation with Travis Archer. An infatuation based on a single encounter. It was silly, really. What girl would dream about a young man whose hunting trap had nearly taken off her leg? Yet something about Travis Archer had left a permanent impression upon her heart.
Cassandra understood that.
During holidays and family visits, the two cousins used to huddle together beneath the covers of Cassandra's bed and spin romantic tales of the heroes who would valiantly rescue them from rock slides and stampeding cattle and even a polar bear or two when they were feeling particularly inventive. Meredith's hero always wore Travis Archer's face. Even now, she couldn't stop herself from imagining what he must look like twelve years later. He'd been handsome as a youth. What would he look like as a man?
Standing abruptly and moving to the open wardrobe where she could riffle through her dresses instead of looking at her cousin, Meredith mentally crammed Travis back into the past where he belonged.
"Goodness, Cass. I'm far too sensible to hold onto a bunch of silly daydreams. I put those thoughts from my mind years ago."
Cassandra reached around her and took down the rose-colored dress Meredith only wore for special occasions. "You might have put Travis from your mind, but I think he still claims a piece of your heart."
Meredith reluctantly accepted the polonaise and matching skirt and laid them on the bed. But instead of removing her wrapper to dress, she hugged her arms around her waist and flopped onto the mattress. "You're right."
And where did that leave her? She hadn't seen the man once since that day. It was doubtful he even remembered her. If he did, the memory was probably a vague recollection of some scrawny kid who'd gotten caught trespassing. Not exactly a vision to inspire romantic feelings. Besides, none of the Archers ever stepped foot off their land. Waiting for Travis would be about as fruitful as waiting for a snowstorm in July.
"Give Mr. Mitchell a chance, Meri. Maybe he's the kind of man who doesn't know how to express his feelings." Cassandra sat beside her on the bed and patted her knee. "It'll be just the two of you today at lunch. Papa won't be around to distract him with business talk. Get to know him. You might be surprised by what he can offer you."
Meredith glanced sideways at her cousin, a grin tugging at the corner of her mouth. "You know . . . I'm supposed to be the wise one here, not you."
"I may be three years younger," Cassandra said with a wink, "but that doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two about men."
"I can't argue with that. You've probably collected more courting experience in the past two years than I've had in the previous five." Meredith smiled and nudged her cousin with her shoulder. "Look at the way Freddie Garrett follows you around."
"Freddie Garrett's barely fifteen, you goose. He doesn't count." Cassandra grabbed a pillow and swatted Meredith on the chin. Meredith, of course, had to retaliate. The two dodged and giggled until their sides ached so much they had to stop.
"I think you're going to have to fix my hair," Meredith said as she blew a loose strand off her forehead. The ornery thing fell right back across the bridge of her nose, which set the two girls to laughing again.
Cassandra gained her feet first. "Come on," she said between chuckles. "Let's get you dressed, and I'll see what I can do about your hair."
Twenty minutes later, dressed in her best polonaise with her hair artfully rearranged, Meredith stood by the window looking out over the street. Her cousin had kissed her cheek and wished her well a few minutes ago then left her to gather her thoughts before her suitor arrived. The only problem was, her thoughts were so scattered, Meredith was sure she'd never pull them together in time.
Roy Mitchell had many admirable traits. He was ambitious, prosperous, and would certainly support a wife in fine style. His dark hair and eyes were handsome to look upon and his manners were impeccable. Yet he stirred no strong feelings in her. And as far as she could tell, she stirred none in him.
What am I to do, Lord? Do I marry Roy and hope that affection comes, or do you have someone else in mind for me? Please make your will clear to me.
A brisk knock sounded on the door, but before Meredith could answer, her aunt swept into the room, her brows lifted in a scrutinizing arch. "I'm glad to see you had the good sense to dress for the occasion."
Meredith bit her tongue. After living with the disapproving woman for eighteen months, she'd learned to speak as little as possible during their private . . . discussions.
"Come here, child, and turn around so I can see you."
Trying to ignore the child remark, Meredith did as instructed while her aunt clicked her tongue and sighed like a martyr who had been given a heavy cross to bear.
"Can you do nothing more to disguise that awful limp? We can't have Mr. Mitchell second-guessing his offer before the engagement is official. I've already done all I can to ensure you every advantage. Cassandra has strict instructions not to enter the parlor while he's here. Don't want the man drawing unfavorable comparisons, do we?"
Aunt Noreen suddenly narrowed her gaze as if she could sense Meredith's inner doubt. "You'd best not do anything to sabotage this proposal," she said, shaking her finger under Meredith's nose. "Everett and I have too much riding on this for you to dillydally around. The man expects an answer today. And that answer had better be yes."
When Meredith had asked God for guidance, she never expected him to shove it down her throat with a dose of her aunt's less-than-flattering opinions. Was this really the answer she sought? Was God speaking through Aunt Noreen or was Aunt Noreen just spouting her own agenda? Meredith didn't mind rebelling against her aunt, but rebelling against God was another matter entirely.
Needing to get away from the waving finger in order to think straight, Meredith stepped over to the wardrobe to collect her shawl, exaggerating her limp as she went. When Aunt Noreen moaned, Meredith smiled. She knew it was petty of her, but she refused to let the woman browbeat her without striking back at least a little.
In reality the hitch in her gait was barely noticeable except on those days when she overexerted herself. Years ago, the doctor had explained that the bone damage she'd sustained from the steel trap had hindered the completion of normal growth in her right leg, eventually causing it to be slightly shorter than her left. With custom-made shoes that added half an inch of height to the right heel, she got along without much trouble. Unfortunately, Aunt Noreen tended to see mountains where the rest of the world saw only molehills, especially when it came to Meredith's shortcomings.
Wrapping her ivory shawl around her shoulders, Meredith stared at the silky fringe instead of her aunt as she cautiously ventured into the conversation. "Papa always encouraged me to choose a husband with utmost care since the bond would last for life. I aim to follow his advice. Roy Mitchell has many fine qualities, but I need more time to get to know him before I can make this decision with confidence." She glanced up and found scowl lines furrowing into Aunt Noreen's brow. "Today's luncheon will certainly help me achieve those ends," Meredith hurried to add.
"More time?" The woman sounded as if the words were choking her.
Aunt Noreen eyed the open doorway then prowled three steps closer to Meredith. "Did I ask for more time when your father requested lodgings for you in my home so that you could attend the Palestine Female Institute five years ago?" she hissed. "No. And two years after that, when your father's dealings with those . . . those Negros finally resulted in the end I predicted, did not Everett and I give you a permanent home?"
Meredith swallowed hard, trying to fight the memories of the fever that had taken first her papa and then her mother. They hadn't allowed her to come home, too afraid she'd catch the sickness. She'd tried to go anyway, but when her father refused to unbar the door and gazed at her through the front window, palm pressed to the glass, glassy eyes silently pleading with her to leave, she'd had no choice. She returned to her aunt and uncle's house and wept in Cassie's arms.
"My food has fed you," Aunt Noreen muttered, bring Meredith back to the present. "Your uncle's income has provided a roof over your head. You've been given more than enough time."
Noreen sniffed and crossed her arms, looking uncomfortable as her gaze jumped from the doorway before landing again on Meredith. "You might not be aware, but your uncle's business has experienced some setbacks in the last few years. We need the stability a connection with Roy Mitchell would provide. He's promised to partner with Everett once his land deal goes through. All his lumber will be cut exclusively by the Hayes mill. But the deal hinges on your marriage. No marriage, no partnership."
Because Roy Mitchell needed her land—the land her father had left in trust for her.
"Would you jeopardize Cassandra's future simply because you're unsure of your feelings?"
Meredith blinked. If she refused Roy Mitchell's proposal, would she be hurting Cassandra?
Footsteps echoed in the hall outside the room a moment before Cassandra's smiling face appeared in the doorway.
"Papa sent me to fetch you, Meri. Your suitor's here."
Aunt Noreen gave her a pointed look before pasting a smile on her face and giving her a nudge toward the door. "Go on, now. Let's not keep Mr. Mitchell waiting."
As Meredith stepped into the hall, Cassie's eager smile lit up her face, so full of innocence and romantic dreams. Guilt pricked at Meredith like a row of sewing pins protruding through her corset seam.
Cassandra deserved the best, and if marrying Roy provided her cousin that opportunity, perhaps Meredith should make the sacrifice.
Yet when she entered the parlor and Roy gained his feet and started walking toward her, she couldn't quite stem the quivers of panic that convulsed in her stomach.
Lord, I asked for guidance, and so far everything seems to point me toward marrying Roy. But if you have another plan, any other plan, I'd gladly consider it.
Roy extended his arm to her and Meredith fought for a polite smile as she slid her hand into its expected place.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ 
Thank you to Karen Witemeyer for sending me a copy of Short-Straw Bride for review.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Though My Heart Is Torn, ©2013 by Joanne Bischof author of Be Still My Soul

The Cadence of Grace Series
Book 1, Be Still My Soul, is now available.
Book 2, Though My Heart Is Torn, will be available in April, 2013.

Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O'Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. Then a heartless ruse interrupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob--
The life that called the forest home provided the song that set their feet in motion--birds chirped as they fluttered about, sending down a chorus of jumbled melodies and the breeze in the dried leaves overhead whispered faintly as it rippled through the branches. With the forest providing the music, Gideon lifted his face, wishing he knew the words to the mysterious song. Though My Heart Is Torn, page 30

Wait with hope for the Lord.
Be strong, and let your heart be courageous.
Yes, wait with hope for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
*[Chorus:] CASTING CROWNS lyrics are property and copyright of their owners.
"Praise You In This Storm" lyrics provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

September 1901
Rocky Knob, Virginia

Gideon's past calls him back. Sadness for both of them, and though longing for his wife and son, he must return. So beautifully written, you are transported to the depth of their hearts, as a current in a river turns.

Joanne Bischof is such a fluid writer. You are there amid the birdsong, the anguished hearts, the need to go on. Understanding brings meaning to the unraveling, building strength in the least expected. Fear kept them captive; love releases them.

Visualizing, I had some favorite descriptions as I began reading (italics mine):
Prologue, page 1; ...the old man who was too short for his weight.
Chapter 1, page 9;  Untouched for nearly a year, the sun-rotted wood seemed to have become a part of the thick bark. Clouds challenged one another in front of the sun, dimming the orchard, cooling the air.
   He lifted the ladder over his head and settled it into place, cobwebs catching the light.
Chapter 1, page 13; Jebediah worked silently, the man never needing to fill empty space with words. He'd been that way for as long as Gideon had known him--since the day Jebediah had rescued Lonnie from a life of sorrow; laying down the challenge that Gideon could be more than a man of anger. From that moment on, Jebediah had walked every day with him, through the struggles, through the blessings. All for Lonnie. She'd been worth every moment of it.
Throughout the descriptions of narrative, it is like you are walking along with them. I felt this in the first book too. Both books could be read as a stand-alone, but you will want the background to see the change in characters. Life continues, as our own, and there is no sure thing of what is going to happen. Attitude plays a big part. Accepting or rejecting where we are.

Thank you to the author, Joanne Bischof, for sending me the Advance Reading Copy. I look forward to reading the finished copy, but... this is wonderful the way it is, with a few edits here and there not disturbing the content. Very well written. I look forward to Book 3.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection: A Plain and Simple Christmas & Naomi's Gift by Amy Clipston, ©2012

A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection by Amy Clipston

From the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, two bestselling books A Plain and Simple Christmas and Naomi's Gift are now combined in one ~*~ for new readers and those who are wanting to read them again!

Book Description

From Amy Clipston, the author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, comes two books in one: A Plain and Simple Christmas---in which shunned Anna Mae doesn't receive the welcome she expects when she pays a visit for Christmas; and Naomi's Gift---re-introducing twenty-four-year-old Naomi King, who has been burned twice by love and has all but given up on marriage and children.

A Plain & Simple Christmas: A Christmas NovellaA Plain & Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston

A Plain & Simple Christmas is a CBA Bestseller, a Christian Book Distributors Bestseller and received Romantic Times Four Star review!

Book Description

A Plain & Simple Christmas is the tale of Anna Mae McDonough who was shunned by her family three years ago when she left her Amish community in Lancaster County, PA, to marry an "Englisher" (non Amish) man and move with him to Baltimore. Now, eight months pregnant when her first child, she longs to return home for Christmas to reconcile with her family, especially her stern father, who is the religious leader for her former Amish church district.

So Anne Mae writes a letter to Kathryn Beiler, her brother's wife, to enlist her help. Kathryn asks her husband, David, if she should arrange Anna Mae's visit. David cautions her that a visit would cause too much stress in the family and instead suggests they visit Anna Mae and her husband in the spring. However, Kathryn arranges the visit anyway, believing in her heart that it's God's will for the family to heal.

When Anna Mae arrives in Lancaster for Christmas, she doesn't receive the welcome she expects and her world begins to fall apart, leaving her to question her place in her family – and her faith in God.

A book filled with love, the pain of being separated from one's family, and the determination to follow God's will regardless of the outcome, A Plain and Simple Christmas is an inspiring page-turner that will keep you guessing what happens next…right to the very last page.

My Review

It is Thanksgiving, and Kellan and Anna Mae McDonough are excitedly expecting their first child. They met each other at the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Pennsylvania when Kellan was there visiting friends. They married a year later, moving 80 miles away to Maryland, where Kellan is from. Anna Mae is shunned from her Amish community, and it has been three years since she has seen her family.

Kellan, sympathetic to his wife, suggests they visit her family for Christmas and to write to her sister-in-law, Kathryn. Anna Mae's request involves secrecy in her family to have her come. Her sister-in-law combines deception by asking her daughter not to tell, going against what she has been taught. As Kellan and Anna Mae's story unfolds, individual decisions will be made that will affect each life.

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." Proverbs 19:21

I liked how Kellan was so supportive of his wife. It could have been stressful for him but he kept focused on his beloved and child. He is loving to her family and keeps his cool head about him. Love triumphs. Kellan is a keeper and shows wisdom beyond his age. A peacemaker tells truth.

A Place of Peace by Amy ClipstonNaomi's Gift: An Amish Christmas Story

Book Description

Naomi's Gift re-introduces twenty-four-year-old Naomi King, who has been burned twice by love and has all but given up on marriage and children. As Christmas approaches - a time of family, faith, and hope for many others - Naomi is more certain than ever her life will be spent as an old maid, helping with the family's quilting business and taking care of her eight siblings.

Then she meets Caleb, a young widower with an eight-year-old daughter, and her world is once again turned upside-down.

My Review

"Jesus looked at them and said, "It is impossible for people [to save themselves], but everything is possible for God." Matthew 19:26

Naomi King is happily tending the quilt stand with her friend in the indoor farmers market as Caleb Schmucker's driver comes near the market. They are on their way to his sister's for Christmas. His young daughter, Susie, asks to stop to take her Aenti Sadie a pie. Amid the English and Amish shoppers, Caleb and his daughter are separated and he frantically searches everywhere for her. Susie is comfortable where she is. She has found a maroon Lone Star quilt like the one her mamm had made in blues and creams, and heads for it. Thankful to be reunited, Caleb, Susie, and their gift pie continue on to his eldest sister's home. Happily content with her cousins, Susie is enjoying the many activities and a chance to interact with her new freind Naomi again. Susie had lost her mamm in an accident two Christmases earlier.

Her aenti is not so excited to have Susie make the connection with Naomi and steers her brother away every time he seems to get too close. She has plans of her own for her widowed younger brother. This includes his returning to their district in Pennsylvania, and leaving his home in Ohio behind. Caleb had plans for visiting as he always had for the holidays. That is, until he talks to Naomi and feels perhaps his life can go on, with new dreams.

I enjoyed this story of Naomi being true to herself and following God when talk and speculation of her motives are going on around her.

"I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will hear you." Jeremiah 29:11-12

A Promise of Hope by Amy Clipston A Place of Peace by Amy Clipston
The character of Naomi King in A Promise of Hope and A Place of Peace is revisited in a story of her own.

My Amish Books ~*~ Amy Clipston

 All of the books in my Kauffman Amish Bakery series have achieved the Christian Fiction bestseller lists, including the CBA (Christian Book Association) bestseller list and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller list.

I love writing about the Amish, and an Amish friend in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, reads my manuscripts for accuracy. I was always fascinated with the Amish when I was a child. I remember visiting Lancaster County, and my father, who was a German immigrant, told me that the Amish speak the same dialect of German as my relatives. I was drawn to their simplicity and faith. Due to my German heritage, I feel a loose connection to the Amish and their culture.

My plots come straight from my heart and all involve family issues intertwined with faith.

Author, Amy Clipston holds a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and "four spoiled rotten cats."

***Thank you to Zondervan's Linked to Lit for sending me this copy of A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection in exchange for a review in my own words.***

Kauffman Amish Bakery Series

A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston
The first book in the
Kauffman Amish Bakery Series
A Promise of Hope by Amy Clipston
The second book in the
Kauffman Amish Bakery Series

A Place of Peace by Amy Clipston
The third book in the
Kauffman Amish Bakery Series

A Life of Joy by Amy Clipston
The fourth book in the
Kauffman Amish Bakery Series

A Season of Love by Amy Clipston
The fifth and final book in the
Kauffman Amish Bakery Series


Friday, December 14, 2012

Radical Well-Being by Rita Hancock, MD, ©2013

Do you want Christian medical help to overcome depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, migraines, neck and back pain, IBS, TMJ, or compulsive behaviors like overeating or taking drugs or alcohol?

Radical Well-Being: A biblical guide to overcoming pain, illness, & addictions by Rita Hancock, MD, is available for preorder now.

Earlybird copies ON SALE NOW via
  • On NOW! 
  • IN BOOKSTORES and via other ONLINE VENDORS starting January 8, 2013.
About The Book
If you suffer from chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck or back pain, or if you have irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, food and drug allergies, or even mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or unwanted behaviors such as overeating, an eating disorder, overspending, drug abuse or alcoholism, Radical Well-being may be the right book for you. This is especially true if you desire an overtly Christian or biblical approach to solving your problem.

With nearly fifteen years experience counseling patients from a balanced, mind/body/Holy Spirit perspective, Dr. Rita gives you practical nuts-and-bolts advice, including:

How to identify the lies that are manipulating you from a subconscious level, e.g. "I'm worthless," "It's my fault," "I'm stupid," "I'm bad," "I'm ugly," "I'm dirty," "I'm damaged goods," etc.
How to fully receive biblical truth to replace those lies
How to heal the emotional factors that can make your pain and unwanted behaviors seem worse
How to overcome addictive behaviors like overeating, taking drugs or alcohol, over-shopping, etc.
How to overcome depression, anxiety, and anger issues that threaten your relationships
How to fully accept God's love and forgiveness on a deep, healing level

If you read Dr. Rita's book and follow her step-by-step advice, you end up feeling the way one of her patients put it: "Like the weight of a skyscraper has been lifted off my shoulders."
About Dr. Rita
Dr. Rita is a graduate of Cornell University and is a board-certified Physical Medicine specialist with subspecialty board certification in Pain Management. She has been in full-time practice for fifteen years. In addition, she serves as the Oklahoma delegate in the House of Representatives of the Christian Medical And Dental Association and is their official spokesperson on matters of diet and nutrition. Dr. Rita is an avid blogger on three blogs, one of which was recognized as being a top writer's blog by Publisher's Weekly. She is also a regular columnist on matters of faith and health for Life:Beautiful Magazine and is the author of a Christian-based diet book, The Eden Diet (Zondervan, 2008, She appears as a regular guest on Moody radio's This Is The Day and periodically on Trinity Broadcasting Television's Doctor to Doctor as an expert on health matters. Dr. Rita has been married for nearly twenty years and has two teenage children.
Copyright © Rita Hancock

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Son of a Preacherman by Marlene Banks, ©2012

Son of a Preacherman: "A historical romance novel set in the 1920s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, depicting the segregated life of African Americans in Northern Tulsa and the tensions leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots."

Billy Ray Matthias, son of the new preacher and Benny Freeman, daughter of an oil rich rancher find each other at a time both want to escape the shadows of their past. Billy Ray’s heart is open for love but Benny’s is fearfully shut.
   In 1920, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a strictly segregated oil rich boomtown. The black region called Greenwood District is an independent enclave of prosperity so much so it’s dubbed the Negro Wall Street. Racial tensions come to a head from a singular incident igniting a murderous and destructive rampage against Negroes in Greenwood.
   Will Billy Ray’s strong faith and determination survive the daunting trials and deadly riot?
   Can Benny get beyond her bitterness and regain what she abandoned because of heartbreaking disappointment?
   A community is decimated and lives are dramatically and forever changed in this saga of love, racial conflict, and a soaring faith in God.

My Review:
I was interested in reading Son of a Preacherman by Marlene Banks for two reasons. I had just finished reading her novel, Ruth's Redemption, and liked it very much. She is a very thorough writer and I like her openness and style of expressing the characters as those we could walk among. I searched for other writings by her and found this novel. My second reason is, I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from sixth grade to my middle twenties. I did not know of the Greenwood Avenue story until I was older. I would come by the railroad tracks north of the downtown area, unaware of its history and prominence. Historical Fiction is my very favorite genre. I appreciate the research the authors do to place their characters within the events/happenings of the time period.
It is the summer of 1920 in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our main characters are Benjamina (Benny) Freeman and William Ray (Billy Ray) Matthais. Both are in transition. The story is woven around the Freeman and Matthais families. Billy Ray and his family have just moved to Tulsa from Durham, North Carolina. He is the handsome younger son of the church's new pastor. Benny is the daughter of the oil rich Freeman family. Billy Ray is convinced that Benny is the woman God would have him settle down with. Benny, on the other hand, recently had her heart broken. She does not want to be attracted to Billy Ray, to be let down again. She is not the least bit interested in getting involved anytime soon. She meets Billy Ray at her mother's dress shop next to the pharmacy he and his brother, Napoleon (Nappy) who is a surgeon, have bought. Unfortunate experiences with women behind him, Billy Ray is looking to a start fresh. He is nice looking, educated, and very spiritual. Poor judgment on his part, keeping company in the 1920s was viewed in the direction of marriage. He fit very well into the song written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, Son of a Preacher Man:
Billy-Ray was a preacher's son ♪♫•*¨*•
And when his daddy would visit he'd come along
When they gathered around and started talkin'
.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•* That's when Billy would take me walkin'
Out through the back yard we'd go walkin'
Then he'd look into my eyes *•♫♪ •♥•.¸
Lord knows to my surprise
The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man... .¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪
He unknowingly has company coming, expecting to uproot his life as he knows it. Truth triumphs.

Benny's older brother, Cordell (Cord), ranches with their father. Cord has issues of his own and is married to a loose woman who married him for his money and is not faithful to him. Justified actions separate.

Benny, the sister in the middle, having come out of a devastating experience, has been withdrawn and depressed, not mingling with others. As Billy's pursuit of Benny intensifies, so does the political and social climate in the prosperous African American neighborhood known as the Greenwood District.

Racial tensions in Tulsa escalate when Dick Rowland, a black man, is accused by a local newspaper of raping Sarah Page, a white woman, on an elevator. Benny's youngest brother, Ethan, is an attorney caught in the struggle of protecting the people he represents and his family. Radical lawyers fighting for equal rights no one else will touch, representation, new laws. Despite continuous threats, Ethan and Maynard Vaughn, a radical white attorney and Ethan's mentor, put their weight and energy behind helping Dick. The White Glove Society, a racist group, seeks to destroy not only Dick but all the African Americans in this successful black owned community.

As tensions come to a head and violence breaks out, Billy and Benny are caught up in the heat of chaos. He vows to keep her safe but will Benny let him? Will faith in God be enough to sustain the people of the community as their lives are changed forever by deadly acts of hatred?

Fires burning along Archer and Greenwood during the Tulsa race riot of 1921.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:4
In the turmoil of their lives, rebuilding and hope are possible as they place their faith and trust in the Lord. Forgiveness and pulling together are needed for these families. I am ready to turn the page and continue this story of rebuilding a people.
Oklahoma News Report
Greenwood Yesterday and Today
Featured in Top Stories

The district where Tulsa's 1921 Race Riots occurred is close to being added to the National Registry of Historic Places, but controversy over the project abounds. Greenwood community leaders are concerned parts of the district once dubbed 'America's Black Wall Street' will be left out in favor of sections of Tulsa's downtown in order to meet a historic building requirement for the Registry. Ironically, the reason Greenwood doesn't have the required historical buildings is because many were razed during the Race Riots. But out of the ashes of those razed buildings and broken dreams rose a cultural epicenter, now flourishing with restaurants, recreational activities, and monuments to a harrowing moment in Tulsa's past.
Originally broadcast on August 17, 2012
Marlene Banks resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition to being a prolific writer she has an associate degree in Theology from Rhema Bible Institute in Keysville, Virginia, and is currently pursuing studies to initiate a Christian counseling ministry. Marlene is a member of Bethel Deliverance International Church in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Her work resume includes forty years in nursing and business.
   A divine gift of storytelling with her unique voice and love of Christ creates engaging and inspirational novels. She considers her fiction writing an avenue to communicate the Gospel and Christian principles. It is also Marlene’s goal to bridge the gap between faith-based and secular literature. RUTH’S REDEMPTION is her first release and SON OF A PREACHERMAN is her second.
I would like to read and review her third book, Greenwood and Archer:

"Greenwood and Archer continues the stories of Billy Ray Matthias and Benny Freeman and the residents of the Greenwood District after the historical Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. Though a sequel to Son of a Preacherman, Greenwood and Archer can be read as a stand alone book."

Thank you to Moody Publishers for this copy of Son of a Preacherman in exchange for a review in my own words; a very well-written story.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dorothy Love's Every Perfect Gift, ©2012

Sophie Robillard Caldwell's story, Book 3
A Hickory Ridge Romance series

Every Perfect Gift

By Dorothy Love
Published by Thomas Nelson

Book Description

Ethan and Sophie long to share a future together. But the secrets they’re not sharing could tear them apart. Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee after years away. Despite the heartaches of her childhood, Sophie is determined to make a home, and a name, for herself in the growing town. A gifted writer, she plans to resurrect the local newspaper that so enchanted her as a girl. Ethan Heyward’s idyllic childhood was shattered by a tragedy he has spent years trying to forget. An accomplished businessman and architect, he has built a majestic resort in the mountains above Hickory Ridge, drawing wealthy tourists from all over the country. When Sophie interviews Ethan for the paper, he is impressed with her intelligence and astounded by her beauty. She's equally intrigued with him but fears he will reject her if he learns about her shadowed past. Just as she summons the courage to tell him, Ethan’s own past unexpectedly and violently catches up with him, threatening not only his life but their budding romance.

My Review

As Historical Fiction is my very favorite genre, I was eager to read Dorothy Love's third novel in the Hickory Ridge trilogy, set in 1886 in Hickory Ridge, Tennessee. The town is bustling as new hopes are aglow with the development and hopes for tourism to this Smoky Mountains region. High on a ridge, a luxury resort designed and in the building process by architect, Ethan Heyward, "Blue Smoke is expected to rival the Greenbrier, the plush West Virginia resort that attracted wealthy guests from all over the country."
Greenbriar Hotel, Greenbriar, West Virginia. 1872

That looks like quite a feat to accomplish on the high hillside incline arriving to the top! Ethan Heyward's boss, Horace Blakely, is certainly chomping at the bit for his railcar to be completed to bring these visitors to his fresh air retreat, Blue Smoke, in these "Great Smokies" of Tennessee!

Sophie Robillard Caldwell returns to Hickory Ridge after fifteen years in Texas. She began her formative years in the Hickory Ridge orphanage, shunned because of rumors of her mixed parentage. Newlyweds, Wyatt and Amy Caldwell become Sophie's guardians when she is ten, leaving Hickory Ridge to establish a ranch in Texas. They have provided the best schooling for Sophie, supporting her interest in reporting and newspaper apprenticeship. What a brave young woman to face the past to move into the future! She is now very busy as the new owner of the formerly defunct newspaper, Hickory Ridge Gazette, she was intrigued by as a child. Those whom she did admire and treated her fairly have moved, leaving behind a booming community growing beyond what she had known. Immediately, Sophie is welcomed by the banker's daughter, Sabrina (Gillie) Gilman, and her childhood friend, Robbie Whiting, now the minister. Sophie visits the horse farm of Griff and Carrie Rutledge, Amy Caldwell's friend, and is well received by their young daughter. Children recognize those who are trustworthy! I am glad to see those arriving to welcome Sophie home.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and cometh down from the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
James 1:17

Sophie's first interview for the Gazette is with the architect for the new Blue Smoke. Later that evening a fight breaks out and Sophie joins the sheriff's group as they go to Blue Smoke. A young man fills Sophie in about the unrest among workers amid fault-finding, crowded living, and lack of opportunity to leave the grounds. Ethan gets wind of it and visits Sophie to suggest he might like to review her editorials before publishing. She tells him she is honest in reporting accuracy with her opinion. Their attraction gets clouded by his waning days to complete the resort to go with the advertised opening dates and her doubtfulness of his intent in protecting his interests.

Book 3 in Dorothy Love’s Hickory Ridge Romance series, Every Perfect Gift can be read as a stand-alone novel. It is very well processed in introduction of the characters and is read smoothly. Don't miss Dorothy Love's fine writing. Life is full of complications; love is stronger.

*Thank you to BookSneeze for sending me a copy of Every Perfect Gift to review in my own words.*

Ada Wentworth Caldwell's story, Book 1
A Hickory Ridge Romance series

Carrie Daly Rutledge's story, Book 2
A Hickory Ridge Romance series

Dorothy LoveFind out more about Dorothy at

Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love | “Home for the Holidays” 12 Days of Gifts and 12/13 Facebook Party!

Welcome to the campaign launch for the third book in Dorothy Love’s Hickory Ridge Romance series, Every Perfect Gift. Dorothy is celebrating by hosting the Home for the Holidays 12 Days of Gifts contest.

Celebrate the holidays with Dorothy Love and her protagonist, Sophie Caldwell, as they count down the days to Dorothy’s author chat party with 12 Days of Gifts! Dorothy will be giving away copies of Every Perfect Gift and other holiday essentials, as well as key items from the book that Sophie would have worn during or used to celebrate the holidays (a beautiful, red shawl, Victorian ornaments, stockings). It’s all happening on Dorothy’s Facebook page. She’ll post a new giveaway each day.
So bring on the Christmas cheer with Dorothy and the Home for the Holidays 12 Days of Gifts. Then join Dorothy on the evening of December 13 for her author chat party! During the party, Dorothy will announce the 12 winners from the Home for the Holidays giveaway and host an author chat about Every Perfect Gift and favorite Christmas traditions. Oh, and she’ll be giving away lots of fun prizes. RSVP today.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Devotions for a Revolutionary Year: 365 Days of Jesus' Radical Love For You by Lynn Cowell, ©2012

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Standard Publishing; First Edition, None edition (September 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel for sending me a review copy.***


Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 Speaker and Author. Her passion is empowering women to become wise and in turn, raise wiser daughters. She does this through her website at, writing articles for publications such as Focus on the Family's Thriving Family and Susie Mag, and devotions for Proverbs 31 Ministries, which has over a half a million subscribers. She loves investing in teens and adults by speaking at conferences across the country.

Visit the author's website.


Devotions for a Revolutionary Year expands on the themes of Lynn Cowell’s first book, His Revolutionary Love. In short, easy-to-read daily devotions, Lynn chats to girls about the challenges of growing up as a girl: identity and acceptance, rejection and rebellion, and self-control and surrender. Through Scripture and stories any girl can relate to, Lynn Cowell encourages girls to remember that Jesus loves them and is pursuing them every day—and that knowing his love day by day can make for one revolutionary year.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing; First Edition, None edition (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0784735700
ISBN-13: 978-0784735701


Introduction: Revolutionary Love

Infatuation is a powerful thing. It has the power to make your mind, body, and heart soar. Then, faster than you can say your ex-boyfriend’s name, it can drop you, leaving you sick to your stomach.

There is something more powerful—revolutionary love. Love that is perfect, unconditional, stable. Love that is not based on what you did for it yesterday or what you can do for it in the future. This love is unlike any you’ve encountered. This love forgives and forgets the past while promising an amazing future. This love is Jesus.

If you are a girl who wants more—more confidence, more security, more hope—this is the perfect book for you.

This book isn’t going to radically change you. Only one book can do that—the Bible. My book simply gives you a diving board to help spring you into the pool of God’s Word, where you can swim by yourself!

I hope you’ve already read His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You—that’s what we’re building on. But even if you haven’t, you can dive in with us now. For the next 365 days, we’re going to dig deeper into Jesus’ love letters to us. Don’t just read the devotions—I want you to get out your Bible; read the key verse each day, and read the verses before and after it. Take some time to figure out exactly what God is saying to you.

This year, we’re going to let God start the revolution in our hearts, making us radical girls who can change our world for his honor.

So glad to be on this journey with you!

Jesus, thank you for choosing us. Your love is what our hearts have always craved—the only love that can fill them. Change us. Make us radical so we can share your love with others. In your powerful name, amen.

1: How Much?

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

—John 3:16 (The Message)

What was at the top of your Christmas list last year? The newest boots? Apple’s hottest phone?

If you could ask for something that money can’t buy, what would that be? Your parents reunited? Your sister back home?

What extreme measures would you be willing to take to get your heart’s desire? Move to a new city and have your family start over? Sell everything to put your sister in rehab?

Would you die?

Would you die to see their lives changed?

Jesus’ answer was yes. He thought of you and what it would take for you to have new life in him. “Yes, I’ll die to make that happen,” was his response to his Father’s request.

Talk about love! Talk about a hero!

I responded to his yes by saying yes back. Yes to receiving forgiveness and choosing his way instead of mine. Yes to having him revolutionize the way I think, act, and live.

When he died, he proved how much he wants us—me and you. The real question now is, how much do you want him?

Show him you want him too. Take time this year to go after him. Learn how crazy Jesus is about you. And become crazy about him!

Start the Revolution

Read John 3:16.

Ask: Am I ready to say yes to God’s love for me?

Jesus, I am ready—ready to find out just how much you love me and to really love you in return. Help me to come to you each day. I can’t wait to discover more about you! Amen.

2: Absolutely Beautiful

Has anyone ever seen anything like this—dawn-fresh, moon-lovely, sun-radiant, ravishing as the night sky with its galaxies of stars?

—Song of Solomon 6:10 (The Message)

Have you ever heard of someone choosing his wife when he’s in sixth grade? Crazy, I know! That’s exactly what Greg did! He saw a girl singing a solo in church and wrote in his Bible, “I, Greg, will marry her—to be stopped by nobody!” If only he had known . . . she didn’t even know his name!

Sounds like the beginning of a long romance, right? Not! Greg found her number. Called a few times. After a bit, the crush burned out . . . for him. Not for her. Why? She didn’t even really know him. But she had wanted to be wanted, and he at one point wanted her. You know, it didn’t even have to be Greg. She just wanted to be wanted again.

That girl was me, and that crush crushed me. I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me? My body—my flat chest? My personality or faith?” Whatever it was, I felt ruined.

Have you ever been on the wrong end of a love equation? Guy + Me = Value?

The fact was, and still is, there was nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with you.

Jesus tells me I am beautiful . . . every part of me. Maybe at that time I wasn’t Greg’s type. But in Song of Solomon, a book that is often used as a metaphor for God’s love for us, we read these words: “The feelings I get when I see the high mountain ranges . . . remind me of you, and I’m spoiled for anyone else! Your beauty, within and without, is absolute, dear lover, close companion” (7:5, 6, The Message). Jesus loves my outsides and insides! (Sounds like Greg was the one missing out!)

Don’t let any guy define you. Don’t let his rejection or acceptance determine whether or not you think you are beautiful. The Perfect Love says you are absolutely beautiful; listen closely to that truth.

Start the Revolution

Look in the mirror and say: “Jesus thinks I’m beautiful.”

Jesus, you and your love are all I want to define me. Amen.

3: Priceless

I paid a huge price for you. . . . That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to
get you back, trade the creation just for you.

—Isaiah 43:3, 4 (The Message)

When Prince William and Kate got married, it was like watching a Disney fairytale movie in real life. Except, perhaps, for all the press. Reporters commented on the price tag of everything—Kate’s gown, shoes, ring, flowers, etc. Until they came to the tiara.


That’s how they described her gorgeous headpiece. Given to Queen Elizabeth as a gift for her eighteenth birthday, this diamond tiara was on loan to the princess-to-be. No price tag could be put on the brilliant crown; it was impossible to replace. If it should somehow disappear, Scotland Yard would be all over London in a heartbeat.

In the end though, the tiara is still just a super fancy hat. A thing that can be lost or stolen.

That’s so very different from you. Why? Because
Jesus gave his everything, his very life, to make you his.

The girl who understands just how much she is wanted is a girl who can be fully confident—empowered to make every decision a wise one, because she knows her decisions matter. A girl who knows that she is priceless is a girl who will never settle for anything short of the best from the one who loves her the most. A girl who is sure that she is cherished and adored is a girl who no longer worries about herself; her focus is on sharing this radical love with all those she comes in contact with. You can be that girl.

Start the Revolution

Look up the price of the biggest diamond. You’re worth more than that!

Jesus—help me to get this message. Help me to
appreciate the price you paid for me. Amen.

4: You Belong

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.
He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

—Ephesians 1:13, 14 (NLT )

I couldn’t care less if Greg’s ring on my finger looked ridiculous. It made the statement: “I belong to him.” That’s what mattered.

Have you ever wanted something that said you belonged? The softball team sweatshirt? The personalized chamber music folder? Your new dad’s last name?

You do belong. Just as Greg’s class ring was my identity marker, the Holy Spirit in you can be your identity marker. His presence says you belong to the one who is perfect and who loves perfectly too!

“How does the Holy Spirit do that?” you ask.

Here’s how I think it happens. Have you ever had a sense of the right thing to do? The Holy Spirit was leading. Ever had strength for something scary? The Holy Spirit brought his peace. Ever ready to explode, yet somehow you kept your cool? The Holy Spirit brought self-control.

Sometimes we don’t recognize him; we think it’s us. Just because we don’t recognize his voice and direction, that doesn’t make it any less him.

Most things in life we belong to come to an end. You and your boyfriend break up, cross-country season wraps up, and the curtains close on the play.

Not so with the Holy Spirit. He is one who never leaves, a season without end, and a play acted out eternally. Once you receive the Holy Spirit, you are forever his.

Start the Revolution

Design an infinity symbol sticker with the words “Holy Spirit” in it.

Holy Spirit, today I’ll need something: an answer, or hope, or direction. Help me look to you and see your presence as my identity marker. I belong to you. Amen.

5: Treasured

“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.”

—Malachi 3:17

The tornado ruined everything. As Kim and Brenda approached the place that had once been their parents’ home, nothing was there. No front door. No furniture. . . . No parents. Everything was destroyed.

In the days ahead, possessions of their parents began to slowly surface. Papers in a field. A quilt in a tree. Each one was a treasure to my friends because each item represented what my friends no longer had.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about his creation. When he looks at the earth where selfishness and sin rule, does he ever feel brokenhearted over the destruction that lies where beauty once was?

On that day when Christ returns to the earth, we, his followers, will be his treasured possession. When he returns to the earth, the sight of us will bring him joy and comfort. The King James Version of Malachi 3:17 calls us God’s “jewels.”

Does your life reflect that you are God’s treasured possession? When God’s eyes roam the earth, does it bring his heart so much joy to see you—the jewel among the wreckage?

Once, I would have said no. A tornado of a broken relationship left a hole in my heart. I let my problems define who I was. Learning that God treasured me brought me hope, causing me to shine like the jewel he says I am.

You are his treasured possession. Today, look at your world through the eyes of someone who is deeply cherished.

Start the Revolution

Think of someone you treasure. Tell them about it today!

Spy on your life for the next twenty-four hours. How is God telling you “You are my treasured possession”? Make these revelations your prayer of thanks to him.

6: Real Peace

The tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

—Luke 1:78, 79

Having just left my dying father’s hospital room, I searched in vain for my car in the parking deck. Twenty-four hours of visitation left me exhausted, both mentally and physically. It was my birthday, yet there wasn’t anything happy about it.

There is no way I could have prepared for that day; it’s a strange sensation to take care of your dad. Feelings of being robbed overwhelmed me. I was too young not to have a dad.

Climbing into my car, I felt tears streaming down my face. As soon as I turned the key, lyrics from the radio spoke of a day when going to Heaven would bring our new bodies—ultimate healing.

Jesus came into my car that day. He reached down into my pit of despair. He made it clear to me that he was real and Heaven is real too.

That peace stayed through the day Dad died, the day of his funeral, and every day since. His perfect love flowing down to imperfect me quiets the fear of the future and the pain of the past.

I know there are days when you feel that life is not fair, maybe even hopeless. At times like these, when we don’t feel Jesus’ love for us, our faith can be built stronger. We can learn to depend on him no matter how we feel.

Start the Revolution

What song brings you peace? Sing it today.

Jesus, no matter how I feel, help me to remember the peace you want to give me through your perfect love. Amen.

7: Eyes on You

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

—Psalm 33:18

Isn’t it a strange feeling when someone is staring at you? Sometimes you can’t tell why. Is there something in your hair or on your shirt? You start to wonder, What’s wrong with me?

Today, my friend was staring at my mouth. Finally she said, “You have something green in between your teeth.” Ugh! How embarrassing!

Jesus stares at me too, but not like my friend! He is looking at me as one who fears him and hopes in his unfailing love. Fear in today’s verse is a good thing; it means “worship.” He looks at me because I worship him.

Verse 19 of this Psalm says his eyes are on his people “to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” His eyes are on me because he wants to take care of me and keep me from harm.

Jesus is looking at you today. He is fully aware of the situation you are in. He sees you feeling so alone in school. He knows you want so much to live for him.
He knows you struggle.

But even if you completely mess up today and make everyone mad and upset, his eyes are still on you. Not eyes of disgust at your shortcomings. Not eyes rolling as he thinks, She did it again?! His eyes are eyes of love. He wants to help you. He wants to keep you alive, not just in body, but in mind and spirit too.

Start the Revolution

Have a staring contest with a friend. Jesus can keep his eyes on you forever!

Let the truth that Jesus is looking at you with eyes of love give you strength. Thank him for having
his eyes on you.

8: Perfection

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

—1 John 4:18

“There is no way he could love me.” Allison had done a lot of stuff—bad stuff. Stuff she had grown up learning was wrong, and yet she had done it anyway.

Now her friend Lindsay was trying to tell her that Jesus loved her and still wanted a relationship with her. Allison just couldn’t believe that could be true. She knew what her parents would do if they found out; they’d kick her out. If her parents would respond that way, how could she expect anything else from a perfect God?

I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s hard to understand a love that loves no matter what. We fear coming to him in all of our mess. He is perfect and holy. We are not. It’s hard to fathom that no matter what we do, he will still love us and want to have a relationship with us.

That is why his love is so revolutionary. Nothing can taint it, because it originates from the one who is perfect. Knowing he loves us this way, because of what he has done and in spite of what we have done, gives us the confidence to come to him, even when we are messed up.

It is here, living in his love, that we are forgiven, given another chance, and eventually perfected. Yes, you heard me—I said perfected. That is exactly what the Father wants to do with you. He doesn’t want to make you just OK. He wants to take away your sin—those things that drive you from him—and perfect you, drawing you to him.

Start the Revolution

Try to draw a perfect circle. Write in the circle what to do to get closer to Jesus.

Jesus, I want to be rid of __________.
(Name the thing that separates you from him.)
Please forgive me and perfect me! Amen.

9: Poor in Spirit, Rich in Love

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

—Matthew 5:3

Poor in spirit. That sure doesn’t sound like something I want to be! I want to be confident and have great self-esteem. I want to feel good about how I look, be proud of what I do, and be surrounded by people who like me. Doesn’t everybody?

Michelle shared with me on Facebook: “Society wants us to be flawless. We compare ourselves to models. Now I know that Jesus thinks I am flawless. He knows me very well. . . . I don’t need to try to be perfect for anybody here on earth, because my heavenly Father has an unconditional love that can forgive anything. That’s what I love about Jesus. He loves me no matter what. It’s hard to try to live without noticing my ‘imperfections’ . . . I want Jesus to be my everything.”

Michelle was “poor in spirit,” but this was a great place to be! Why? It caused her to reach out to Jesus. Now what does she have? Confidence and a positive outlook that cannot be taken from her. Her hope is not based on her appearance, accomplishments, or attributes. Her confidence is in Jesus’ view of her as flawless (Song of Solomon 4:7).

Let’s get this straight—we all have flaws. (Yes, even those supermodels in the magazines.) We all make mistakes. We all sin. But when Jesus looks at us with his kingdom perspective, he sees who we really are and what we can be—what we are made to be. And that is flawless.

When we are helpless to feel good about ourselves, that is the perfect time for Jesus to come in with his truth. We can move from being girls whose lives are based on this passing world to girls who are focused on what lasts forever, the kingdom of Heaven. We can go from being poor imitations to experiencing the richness Jesus has to offer. This is when we truly become radical girls!

Start the Revolution

Avoid looking in the mirror today. Just be confident in Jesus’ view of you!

Jesus, I struggle a lot with my self-esteem. I want to believe the truth—that you see me as flawless. Amen.

10: Near

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been
brought near by the blood of Christ.

—Ephesians 2:13

Sad. No explanation. Just sad. There are times when I have wanted to climb back in bed, pull the covers up over my head, and just stay there. Because I have soaked my heart in God’s Word, it begins to talk to me: “Why are you sad? You have so much to be thankful for!” I know this is true. Yet sometimes it’s easier said than felt.

On hard days, I remind myself that although I change—my heart and mind swinging back and forth—Jesus’ love for me doesn’t. It is constant and stable.

Christ has already done all that needs to be done to draw me close to him. Whether my feelings tell me today that I am loved and Jesus is with me, or whether they lie and tell me I’m on my own and have no hope, it doesn’t change Jesus’ location. My feelings cannot move him away from me.

Paul told the Ephesians that all of us were “dead in transgressions” at one time. Another version puts it this way: “You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2, 3, The Message). But even when we were filled with sin, God took us in and, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, made us alive and drew us close to him again. We didn’t do anything to get God to do this for us, and nothing we do can change it. All we have to do is accept it. And if we do that, as Paul also wrote, then we are members of God’s household (2:19): “You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.”

So on the hard days, when my emotions threaten to rock my world, I can cling to Jesus who is near and tell my feelings to quit lying. I belong with him.

Start the Revolution

Use a dry-erase marker to write on your mirror: “People in this mirror may be closer to Jesus than they appear.”

Jesus, no matter how I feel, please remind me
that you are near. Amen.

11: What He Sees

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

—Song of Solomon 4:7

“Is it true that guys are only attracted to you because of your looks? If so, I don’t have a chance.” My heart breaks as I listen to Carly’s words. She wants so badly to have a boyfriend, to have someone she likes, like her back.

I don’t really know how to answer Carly. After all, I’m a girl too. Yes, it is common knowledge that a guy is attracted by what he sees. The question is, how’s his vision? That is, is he able to see the real value of things, or does he just see what’s on the surface? It takes some training and some maturity to be able to see properly.

There is a guy who sees with perfect vision. Maybe you have never thought of Jesus in this way before, but he is a guy who sees you as you are and knows your worth.

What does he see? We’re given a glimpse of this in Song of Solomon 4:7. “You are beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless” (The Message). In another version, these words are “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way” (NLT).

When he looks at you, Jesus sees the girl he created—his work of art! He sees the girl he died for—the girl he is passionate about! You may not feel perfect, but Jesus says you are to die for! Speak this truth every day! I know it may not help all the time (like when that guy you like walks right by you and asks someone else to dance), but if you get used to hearing the truth about yourself, you’ll believe it. And then you’ll act like a person who knows she is truly valuable—and that is attractive.

And while we’re on this topic, check your own vision. How do you look at guys? Can you see beyond face value? Practice looking at the world through Jesus’ eyes.

Start the Revolution

Check your eyes today. Are you seeing beyond the surface?

Jesus, thank you that you saw in me a beauty that
was to die for. Help me see that beauty too! Amen.

12: Let Him In

I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.”

—Song of Solomon 5:2

“I feel invisible. Like I’m walking down the hall every day, seeing all the people and potential in their lives, but does anyone see me?”

Can you relate to my friend? I know you want others to see you; you want to be wanted. I can’t promise you that, someday, the group of friends you long to be a part of will let you in. I don’t know if one day the guy you’re crushing on will see you and text you.

What I do know is there is one who is doing all he can to get your attention. He hasn’t passed you by—he’s calling you every day, sending you messages, knocking on your heart’s door.

You might wonder, Why doesn’t he just come in? He could barge right through—I mean, he’s God!

Unlike some guys you may know, Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn’t barge his way into anyone’s life. Forced love is not love at all. Love is only valuable when it is offered freely and accepted freely.

Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” That’s pretty personal, at least at my house. We don’t let just any person come in and eat with us.

There is someone who sees you—someone who sees all your potential, all you were created to be. Say yes to his knocking. Stop wasting your time, thoughts, and talents worrying about people who haven’t noticed you. Focus your love energy on the one who loves perfectly in return.

Start the Revolution

Open the door to your room.

Imagine Jesus walking right in.

What do you do now?

Jesus, thank you for paying attention to me. Please come into my life and help me be all I can be. Amen.

13: For Us

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?

—Romans 8:31

Math and I have always been archenemies. That’s no surprise; writers and numbers often don’t mix. The problem was, I had to have geometry to graduate. None of it made sense to me; I failed my first test. Handing me the paper with the red F, my teacher moved me to the back of the room. “Obviously you don’t get it, so that is where you belong.” I thought teachers were supposed to help you!

Are there days when you feel like everyone is against you? Even when you’re trying your hardest?

Been there. I’ve felt like a Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair, always spinning, spinning, spinning—trying to make (or keep) everybody happy. It was so exhausting! And worst of all, I wasn’t even sure who was the real me.

Until . . . I really got that God was for me. He wanted me, mess-ups and all. You know what happened when I got that he was for me? I stopped caring so much what others thought of me! At first, it was weird. I was so used to the anxiety of pleasing people. It didn’t take long, though, for me to enjoy the new peace!

Now, when I sense those old feelings coming up, I remind myself, “If God is for me, who can be against me?” I focus on pleasing the one who loves me perfectly, and let the Lord figure out the rest!

Start the Revolution

Say this out loud:

“If God is for me, who can be against me?”

Thank you that YOU are for me, Jesus! Amen.

14: Ugly Words

Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.

—Zechariah 2:8

The words on Facebook glared back at her. “You are so ugly! You are fat, annoying, and I hate you!”

Lindsay just sat there, staring at the screen, baffled. What did I say? What did I do?

Maybe this has happened to you, or in some way you’ve faced this same type of painful rejection. I recently spotted a T-shirt at the mall that read, “You’re no one until someone talks about you.” How sad! In a world where gossip fuels most of the popular TV shows, it comes as no surprise that mean defines many girls today.

How can we guard our hearts when someone makes us feel ugly?

Feeling unaccepted is nothing new. If you read through the whole Bible, you’ll find several characters who felt unloved or rejected. Even Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:3).

Remembering who we are in God’s eyes counteracts the poison of meanness. When I know that I am accepted by God, I can deal with insults. How do you know what God says about you? Read it in his Word:

• “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).

• “You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless” (Song of Solomon 4:7, The Message).

• “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).

I put truth everywhere, so I can read it over and over again. When we feel rejected, these words remind us that we are accepted. But not just accepted—we are the “apple of his eye.”

Start the Revolution

Print out some of the verses mentioned here or save them in your phone. Put them where you can see and read them every day.

Thank you, Jesus, that you are mine and I am yours. Amen.

15: Crazy Love

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant
of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

—Isaiah 54:10

“Hurry! Hurry! You’ll be too late!” I shouted at the screen. You’d think I’d never seen this movie before. In fact, I’ve watched it over and over. I know the hero will come right at the last second, risking his life to save hers.

Like the girl in the movie, we want to be desired, fought for, pursued. And we are.

Our Creator pursues us. He gave up his life, paying a great price to come and rescue us.

There were times in my life when I saw Jesus as my Savior, Shepherd, and friend. But it wasn’t until I read the following verses and realized the magnitude and depth of his love for me that I saw how valuable I am to him:

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you. . . . That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. (Isaiah 43:1-4, The Message)

He’d give up everything just for me? The whole world? That’s crazy! This truth satisfied a deep longing in my heart, a longing I didn’t even know I had. This is the love that fills the love gaps in my wanting heart and answers the question: Am I valuable enough to be pursued?

Yes, I am. And so are you, my friend.

Start the Revolution

Watch your favorite romantic movie and remember that Jesus is pursuing you too!

Jesus, thank you for giving up everything for me! Amen.

16: Wild

Be here—the king is wild for you. Since he’s your lord, adore him.

—Psalm 45:11 (The Message)

“He loved me; but did he like me?” I grew up learning about salvation and Jesus dying for my sins, so I got that he loved me. Did he like me, though? When he looked at me, was he disappointed in me? What could I do to get him to like me more?

I wish I could understand where such warped thinking came from. Maybe it’s the fake society we live in. We have “friends” who “like” us in front of us, but behind us, they are quick to tell all the ways we annoy them. Could the same be true of Jesus?

Then I discovered the truth. Even knowing my deepest thoughts, my darkest deeds, and my disappointing attitudes didn’t change his loving thoughts toward me.

He didn’t die for me because he had to; he did it because he wanted to! He did it because he is wild about me! He was on the day he died; he is still today.

In the New International Version, our verse today says, “Let the king be enthralled by your beauty.” Enthralled means to be captivated or charmed. When he looks at you, not only does he like you, not only does he love you, he’s captivated by you! He can’t take his eyes off you. He’s crazy about you!

Start the Revolution

How do you feel about your most favorite things in the whole world? Jesus loves you like that!

Think of one thing that you think Jesus likes about you. Now think of one thing you like about him.
Make these into your prayer today.

17: Chosen

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

—Ephesians 1:4, 5

“If I had known she was going to tell my secrets, I would have never become friends with her!” “If I had known he was going to dump me, I would have never gone out with him!” “If I had known that this was the way it was going to turn out, I would have never ________ !” (Fill in the blank.) Ever have these thoughts?

Just think of this: God did know exactly the way everything was going to turn out when it came to his relationship with us—and he still created us! He knew some would reject him: “I don’t want that!” He knew others would say “Not now. Maybe after college.” He knew some would break his heart.

He also knew some would love him deeply. This is why he still chooses to put his heart out there and risk rejection. He does it again and again because he wants close, intimate relationship with us. He is willing to go through the pain of rejection from some in order to experience the joy of chosen love from others.

Why would he go through this? Because love is only valuable when love is chosen.

Jesus doesn’t need love from us; he is already complete in the relationship he has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He does, however, want a relationship with us.

Don’t take this invitation lightly, friend. The Creator of the universe wants to interact daily and relate with you. Don’t let this opportunity for real love pass you by. Choose his deep love.

Start the Revolution

Make an invitation from God to you. Be sure to spend some extra time with him this week.

Jesus, may I never say no, or later, to what you offer me. Today I am saying yes to you! Amen.

18: Lenses

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.

—1 Corinthians 13:12

Ever seen a girl who had no idea that a certain guy was crazy about her? Let me tell you about Abby and John.

Abby is an absolutely adorable girl. One of Abby’s best friends is John. Abby and John do everything together. One day when I was hanging out with their friend Megan, she said, “I wish I had a best friend like John.”

I thought, Best friends? No way. John has it bad for Abby.

Several months later, I was with Megan when she said, “Guess what? John told Abby he’s liked her this whole time!”

Really?!” I replied with a grin.

Abby didn’t see herself as a girl who was wanted. When she looked in the mirror, she saw a skinny girl with braces. But that isn’t what John saw at all!

A lot of us are just like Abby. When we look at ourselves, we don’t see what Jesus sees. Mirrors can distort our vision. But someday when we see him face-to-face, we’ll see in his eyes a true reflection. Until then we need to remind ourselves of the truth that Jesus sees us as beautiful and is crazy about us. Then our confidence will be built on something that can never be taken from us.

Today, look at your life as the girl in the know, like I was in the know about John and Abby. Look through the lenses of a girl who is being pursued and fought over. What does your world really look like through the lenses of one who is wanted?

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Look through a magnifying glass. Remember: Jesus’ vision magnifies all the best in you.

Give me your lenses, Jesus. Amen.

19: How You’re Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your words are wonderful, I know that full well.

—Psalm 139:14

I hate the number, the one staring back at me on the scale today. I try not to care, to not let that number have power over how I feel.

But it’s hard.

I feel pressure to fit into skinny jeans, to avoid at all costs having a muffin top or flabby legs. Some of the pressure comes from society: commercials, magazines, movies, and TV shows. Hollywood makes it hard on us girls! Perfect bodies, hair, and teeth—it’s exhausting to even think of keeping up with it all.

Other days, the pressure comes from within. I look in the mirror; I see the teeth that never had braces. Would that have made me feel more beautiful? Is it too late?

It’s not just the teeth; my chest could really use some help too. And so on and so on . . .

This is where our battles take place: on the scale, in front of the mirror, in the closet. And this is where we need to fight back!

Stand on your battleground and ask Jesus for help. Consider the beauty of our Lord and Savior, and let him define for you what true beauty is. Repeat today’s verse: “I am wonderfully made!”

Start the Revolution

Arm yourself for battle. Use the sword of the Spirit—God’s Word—as you face your battle today.

Jesus, I don’t want to offend you and criticize the way you made me, but I could really use some help here. Open my eyes to show me what you see. Amen.

20: Everlasting

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with
an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

—Jeremiah 31:3

Name some things in your life that are eternal. Things that never end. Pretty short list, isn’t it?

One thing on your list should be the love of God. He’s been loving you and will love you forever: before he created you, in this short gap called life, and when you leave this earth. How incredible! You would think that, since we have this kind of unending love from God, it would be a no-brainer to invest in loving him back. Even though we receive this perfect love, though, sometimes we fail. We spend much of our efforts on things that are not eternal. And so little energy returning the love that is.

In most relationships, when we don’t call or reach out and show we care, those relationships falter or even fall apart. Ever have a best friend move away or go to a different school? Relationships that are not convenient are often hard to keep.

God’s love is not like that! He keeps reaching out to us with his everlasting love, no matter what! His is not a love we should take for granted; we need to meet with him, loving him back, every day!

It can be easy to forget God in the day-to-day details of our busy lives. We allow things, both good and bad, to crowd him out. But even then his response is to draw us back; he wants us so much!

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What will you do today to put energy back into your relationship with him?

Thank you, Jesus, for such a perfect, everlasting love. Amen.

21: Lavish

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

—1 John 3:1

Whenever I read my Bible and see the word love, I just have to start digging. I guess I must be one desperate girl, because I just can’t seem to get enough.

Today’s key verse tells us that the Father has lavished his great love on us.
Lavished isn’t a word in my everyday vocabulary. says it means: “to expend or give in great amounts or without limit.”

Have you ever been squeezing someone in a giant bear hug and they squeak out “Stop!”? Maybe their love language isn’t physical touch! Possibly you’ve had a friend wish you didn’t call so much, or a guy who thought you were spending too much time with each other.

Not so with God! There is no point at which God says “OK, that’s enough,” when it comes to his love. It’s impossible for him to spoil you, so he just keeps giving and giving.

One of the ways he expresses this crazy, luxurious love is by calling us his children. YOU are the child of God! You belong to the one who owns and created everything.

Start the Revolution

Are you proud of the name “Christian”?

What does it mean to you?

Thank you for calling me your child. Thank you for adopting me and making me your own. Amen.

22: Wanted

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

—Ephesians 1:11, 12 (The Message)

If you read His Revolutionary Love, you know I was a stalker-type girl at one point. I schemed and planned about how I could spend the rest of my life with Greg. Here’s an example of how over the top I was. In my sophomore year I didn’t buy my yearbook. I figured that, since Greg was a senior at the same school, we would already have his copy when we someday got married! Can you even believe me? (Seriously, I either needed help or I had really crazy faith! Maybe both?)

This type of thinking can really tank a girl in the pit of self-pity. Daydreaming to the point of obsession can end up being just another reminder that you aren’t wanted!

I am so glad that Jesus took care of all that! Talk about feeling wanted! Today’s verse says that before I even heard of Christ, he had chosen me. He already had a plan in place for us to be together. He worked out all the details for how he was going to bring my life and his incredible plan together!

When we focus on this reality, that Jesus wants us and has an amazing future for us, it builds confidence in our hearts. This kind of confidence empowers us to be joyful—with or without that guy we’ve been stalking!

Find out whose you are and what you’re living for. Become a Jesus stalker! You know all that time you spend (or waste) thinking about that guy, cruising his Facebook page, reading his tweets? Just think how much more amazing you would become if you took this same time and energy and stalked Jesus! That wouldn’t be time wasted; it would be time invested!

Start the Revolution

Be a Jesus stalker today. Read his messages over and over again. Find out where he’s working, and join him!

Jesus, help me to become a Jesus stalker! Amen.

23: Undeserved

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. . . . It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

—Ephesians 2:1-5 (The Message)

Ever have someone be kind to you when you deserved the worst? I was in a hurry. (Then again, when am I not? I think I was just born stuck in high gear.) I hopped into my little black car, shoved my gearshift into reverse, floored the gas—and slammed right into a huge mulch pile. There, for the entire world to see, shone a new crack in my bumper.

You know what worried me most? Not the cost of the repair. Not the expense of my newly increased insurance bill. What really concerned me was my husband’s reaction. I just knew that he was going to be sooooo mad. If not that, he’d be really disappointed in me. I hated to have to deliver the bad news!

But when I finally did tell Greg, do you know what he did? He forgave me. He looked at the crack and said, “I know you didn’t mean to.”

I really didn’t see that coming! I thought I’d get what I deserved—yelled at! Greg had every reason to lose his temper, but he didn’t. Instead, he totally demonstrated the love of Jesus.

I deserve to be yelled at—and a lot more—by God. For the sins I’ve committed, I deserve death. But instead, Jesus forgives me and gives me a new life. He shows me mercy—a gift of love I will never deserve.

Start the Revolution

Who in your life needs love they don’t deserve?

Spill out some mercy on those around you today.

Show me who needs your love today, Jesus,
and let it pour out through me. Amen.

24: Measuring Up

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

—Ephesians 3:17-19

What rattles your confidence and pushes your insecurity buttons? My thing is being around success. Somehow, I breathe in the lie that all people are created in the same way, so we should all be able to do the same things.

I can’t stand the insecurity coming up inside me. It’s like the last time I got the flu.

What does it for you? The look and giggle as you walk down the hall. Striking out—for the third time in a row? Having a teacher read test scores out loud? All these events have something in common: comparison. We feel as if our best is being compared to another’s, and we just don’t measure up.

This shifty thing called self-esteem can create trouble, even for the most secure. It’s a trial that won’t go away, no matter what your age. So what’s a girl to do?

Base your esteem on the one constant: Christ’s love for and in you. His perfect love never changes. Here, rooted in this solid love, we can rest secure. The more we understand how endless his love truly is, the more stable we will be—inside and out.

When bad things happen—and they will, over and over again—we can keep going back to his unshakable devotion. We can return to the truth of his radical love and have it fill our aching hearts again and again.

Start the Revolution

Read today’s passage again.

Allow the truth of the depth of his love to fill your heart’s gap.

Jesus, help me remember that whatever happens today, it isn’t anything that your powerful love and I cannot handle together! Amen.

25: Sing It

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

—Psalm 42:8

Don’t you love when you feel strong? There have been different seasons in my life when I have been very fit. When I was fifteen, I ran my first half marathon. I loved the ability to go out and just run and run and run. It made me feel powerful—free.

There is another time when I feel strong: in the morning. During my favorite time of the day, I spend quiet moments with Jesus. Filling my heart and mind with just what I need to make it through the day—love and hope. Seriously, sometimes I actually giggle when I’m gathering my Bible and journal. I just love it.

Nighttime, though, can be really hard. As I lie in bed, my mind swirls, pulling me into a spiral focus on my troubles. Inside my heart, a war goes on between faith and fear.

Do you ever struggle at night? Maybe you have thoughts like these: “Nobody else is home alone. Other people are out together, having fun, while I’m here alone.”

We can take a cue from David. During the day, he allowed the Lord’s love for him to give him direction. Knowing he was loved gave him the strength to make the hard choices that were the best choices. Then at night he put away all the words and hard thinking and just sang praise to God.

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Choose a song to sing—a song that thanks him for his deep love for you! Sing this song tonight as you lie in bed.

Today, make your prayer a song to him—
even if it isn’t night.

26: Make a List

How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead.

—Song of Solomon 4:1

“I am in love!” she tells you. Then she begins to tell you everything that is so wonderful about her guy:

• His smile when I walk into the room.

• His manners. He even opens my door!

• He only has eyes for me.

• He’s a guy’s guy, totally manly!

• I feel beautiful when I am with him.

At this point, you’ve probably heard enough and are trying to figure out some way to get her to stop.

There is one who does the same about you; he goes on and on. Throughout the Bible, God expresses his love for us. And one book in particular is said to reflect the love of God for his creation: Song of Solomon. It’s not hard to see just how wild about you he is. Here are some descriptions from Song of Solomon 4 (The Message):

• You’re so beautiful.

• Your smile is generous and full.

• You’ve captured my heart, dear friend.

• How beautiful your love, dear, dear friend.

He goes on and on, saying: “You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless” (v. 7).

Radical girl, if he has filled a whole book on how crazy he is about you, how about starting a journal about why you are wild about him? You’ll need a lot of pages to describe your amazing Lord.

Start the Revolution

Start a journal. Here’s a first line: I’m crazy about him because he’s crazy about me!

Jesus, I can’t wait to dive into your Word and learn just how amazing you are! Amen.

27: Hopefully in Love

You’ve captured my heart, dear friend. You looked at me, and I fell in love. One look my way and I was hopelessly in love!”

—Song of Solomon 4:9 (The Message)

Maybe you’re still having a hard time believing that Jesus is in love with you. Does your mind think Why? What’s so great about me? Possibly a lack of a boyfriend is what makes it hard for you to believe that you could capture the heart of anyone!

But you have. The picture painted in Song of Solomon is one of a King utterly in love with the object of his devotion. Let’s consider the image of two guys. First, there’s the typical guy at your school: young, immature, still trying to figure life out, insecure, selfish . . . need we go on? Contrast him to Jesus: perfect, all-knowing, and unconditionally loving—the very definition of unselfish.

Now who are you going to believe when it comes to your lovability level? That crush who is crushing you or the one who is flipped-out, madly in love with you?

Since you can see and hear your crush, it makes it easier to believe him. Seeing all the couples at school holding hands, going out, texting, tweeting . . . it makes it hard not to view that picture as the only kind of love. But if you’ll take some time to look a little deeper, you can see the shallowness of this type of relationship. Often it is filled with the “what can you do for me” mentality. Rarely is it unselfish and about the benefit of the other person.

The love that loves no matter what you do, the love that only wants to know you—that is real love.

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If you’re stuck thinking you are unlovable—look again, through the eyes of Jesus.

Jesus, please fill that gap in my heart that wants a crush I can touch. You are all I need! Amen.

28: Unselfish Love

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.

—John 17:26

Jesus, speaking to his Father God in this verse, says he is going to continue what he started: sharing with everyone he can about his Father. Jesus wants us to get the depth of love that exists between himself and God.

It’s unfortunate that in the English language we have only one word for love. Love can have so many different meanings! You can love your parents, love the beach, and love going to church—all completely different kinds of love.

In the study notes of my Bible, it says that the word for love in this verse is agape. Agape love is so different from the types of love we usually live out. Agape isn’t just a feeling; it’s a choice that is made to value and treat as precious the one it loves. It’s isn’t about what’s in it for me; it’s all about how the one loving can benefit the one loved.

This is the perfect love that Jesus has for us. It’s rooted in unselfishness and is pure. Agape love is the love that Jesus wants us to have in us, so that his love can live out of us.

Start the Revolution

Choose to show love today—especially to someone not easy for you to love.

Jesus, the “love” I know depends on feelings. Fill me with your perfect agape love and give me the strength to pour out your love on others. Amen.

29: He Fought for You

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

—John 10:29

I have never been fought over. Never. Not for a team on the playground. Not between two girls who wanted to be my best friend. For sure not between two guys. Unless you count that dream I had after watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Seriously though, I don’t think that counts.

There was a side of me, like Elizabeth in that movie, that wanted to be fought over! Part of me just wanted to know that someone was so crazy about me, he’d do anything for me.

When I read today’s verse, I heard Jesus saying, “That’s me, Lynn!” Nothing is going to take me away from him, and he will always rescue me. His love compels him to do anything and everything to protect me.

Read today’s verse out loud. When I read it, I picture Jesus, on the day I gave him my life, standing up and shouting for all to hear: “This one is mine!”

I don’t have to wish that someone would fight over me, and neither do you. Jesus already did, on the cross. This was more than just a few thrown punches. Jesus fought to the death and beat Satan by a long shot!

Start the Revolution

Read today’s verse out loud, shouting it out!

Put your name in place of “them.”

Jesus, you are my rescuer! Thank you for fighting
for me then, and every day since! Amen.

30: He Got There First

We love because he first loved us.

—1 John 4:19

There is something very powerful about our first crush. I should know; mine lasted seven years . . . and then I married him!

You know, when I first fell for Greg, it was kind of weird. I mean, I didn’t even know him. That first time he called, I couldn’t put his face and name together in my mind. One thing I did know. Someone—a boy someone—was calling me, and I liked it!

I hate to admit that being wanted was my reason for letting this crush even begin. But it’s the truth. There is something almost riveting about having someone like you first.

I’m sure that is what first got me about Jesus too. As embarrassed as I am to admit that, it helps knowing that I am not the only one! When John wrote a letter to the churches in Asia, he made this statement: “We love because he first loved us.”

I guess it’s just human nature: when we are loved, we find it a lot easier to return love.

So now that you know he loves you, and loves you greatly, it’s time to spread it around. Spread it first back to Jesus and then on to all those around you. Let this love fill your heart until it can’t help but spill out. Get so full with his love, there is nothing that can hold it back. Love because he first loved you.

Start the Revolution

Love someone today, because Jesus loved you first.

Jesus, you loved me before I even knew about you.
Fill me up so I can pour you out! Amen.

31: Refuge

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes.
He is close to those who trust in him.

—Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

There’s not a ton of hugs or snuggling going on around here; I live in a house of people whose love language is not physical touch. In fact, we just might ask you to move over if you get too close on the couch. We all love each other; we just don’t show it with slobbery kisses and bear crushes.

One of the many things I love about God is that every language is his love language. Words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service—he loves them all. And it is absolutely impossible to get too close to this one who loves you so much.

Love is vulnerable; love is open. In fact, those qualities are exactly what it takes to let this radical love of Jesus revolutionize your life. Today’s verse says he is close to those who trust in him. When you know that you are loved, it is not hard to trust. You know that the person has your best at heart each time, every time.

When we make a choice to depend on his love in our hard situations, it will cause us to draw closer to him than we were before, and he wants that! The confidence we gain from giving our troubles to the one who can be trusted will be a confidence we can rely on again and again.

Start the Revolution

Memorize Nahum 1:7.

I want you close to me, Jesus! I want to run to your strength and love again and again! Amen.

32: Rescue

Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.”

—Isaiah 63:1

Anyone who knows me knows I am crazy about movies set back in time, such as A Little Princess and Braveheart. Throw a little romance in there, and I am hooked!

Today’s verse reminds me of a time gone by. I picture Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, riding on a horse, rescuing those he loved from evil.

There are some days when I need someone who loves me to come to my rescue. Pressures around me threaten to pull me under. My own dumb mistakes leave my relationships in a mess. My own thoughts make me feel sad and dejected.

We don’t have to wish that we lived in a different time, with knights coming to our rescue. We live in a time when a Prince has come to our rescue, and his name is Jesus. There is no reason for us to try to pull ourselves out of our sticky situations we can’t repair. Jesus, who has all power and strength, is ready to come to our rescue. It is so simple; it just takes calling one word: Jesus.

Simply saying his name brings power into our lives. I really don’t understand it. I just know that when I feel like I can’t take any more, whispering his name brings his peace.

Start the Revolution

Say his name: Jesus.

Experience the peace of the one who rescues you.

Jesus, I can’t ever repay you for rescuing me.
Thank you for giving me your strength. Amen.

33: He Bends

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.

—Hosea 11:4

How could I have messed up . . . again? Falling for that same old trap? I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like I was purposefully trying to make her look bad.

I feel awful; the weight of sin is pulling me under. I’ll just never be who I want to be. Seeking relief, I begin to pray.

Truth comes to my rescue. Coming alongside the mud pit of discouragement that I have thrown myself into, Jesus leads me. He picks me up, whispering, “I forgive you.” He opens his arms of love wide, inviting me to come and accept his forgiveness. Yes, his heart for me is obedience, but right now, he just reminds me his care isn’t based on my being perfect.

Even as we are learning just how crazy Jesus is about us, some days our own inability to get things right drags us under. God stoops to us, loving us in a way we can understand and receive. He bends down to meet me so I can accept his perfect love.

Can you picture it? Ever see a father swing his little girl up high? In Daddy’s arms she feels both thrilled with and safe in his strength. Ever watch a father feed his child, bending to give her one bite at a time? She depends on him for food, and she trusts that what he gives her will be good. We have a perfect Father, who wants to protect and nourish us, just as we are. We don’t have to become lovable; we just have to let his love in. Jesus takes care of the changing.

Start the Revolution

When you are feeling down, run to him. Tell him how you feel, then rest quietly, allowing him to tell you how much he adores you.

Jesus, I need to know your love, especially on the days when I feel down about myself. I just can’t get enough of you or your love. Amen.

34: Different

You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

—Isaiah 62:3

“I can’t stop thinking about my weight,” Mandy confessed. “Every time I eat, I feel guilty. Even the parts of my body that I know I shouldn’t worry about, I do. I feel trapped. I wish I had long skinny legs like other girls at school.”

My friend Mandy is slipping down the mountain of comparison and is about to hit bottom. If you looked at her, this conversation would make no sense. She is a gorgeous girl, but that is not what Mandy sees. She sees different. Different from the girls at school. Different from the girls on TV. She doesn’t like different.

I, too, have gotten caught by comparison. Friendships. Outfits. Success. I know that feeling of being trapped; maybe you do too.

I’ve found only one escape from the comparison prison: looking to Jesus. When I stop my mind from comparing myself to others and instead look to my Jesus, I am set free from jealousy jail.

God calls his people a crown of splendor in his hand. When I read this verse, I picture a royal crown, like the one worn by Princess Kate at the royal wedding. Full of diamonds, brilliant and gorgeous. defines splendor as: grandeur, glory, and brilliant distinction. How’s that for different?

Friend, God does want you to see yourself as different—a brilliant distinction from every other girl on the earth. It’s up to you to replace the lies in your mind with the truth of who you are.

Start the Revolution

Today, remind yourself: “I am a crown of splendor in God’s hand.”

Lord, thank you for making me different.
Help me to see my value as you see it. Amen.

35: Between Us

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . I am convinced
that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the
present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 8:35, 38, 39

Why didn’t she like me? I had only dated her son a couple of times. But she let him know often how she felt—he told me! Maybe it was one of those “no one is good enough for my boy” deals. I would analyze myself. When I was around her, I tried not to be loud, used my best manners, and made conversation politely.

None of it worked. Her dislike of me caused us to break up. (That’s probably what she was hoping for!)

I am so glad Jesus’ love for us is so powerful—nothing can come between us—nothing! No trouble or hardship can separate us from his love. No mother, or any other person, for that matter!

There may be times when you don’t feel his love; in fact, you may feel just the opposite. Make up your mind today that you will believe this truth: nothing can separate you from Jesus’ love. When the time comes that you feel he’s as far away as he can be, you can go back to this day, when you planted deep in your heart this seed of truth.

Start the Revolution

Your bond with God is not like other relationships—nothing can separate you from his love.

Jesus, there are so many things I can’t count on. Thank you that you and your love can be counted on. Amen.

36: Surprises

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

—Proverbs 25:2

Have you ever had someone completely surprise you with a gift? One year for my birthday, Greg planned the perfect surprise! Without my knowing, he had my best friends flown to our town, hid them in a hotel, and then had them sit at our table in a restaurant before we arrived for dinner. When the restaurant hostess asked us if we would mind sharing a table with another couple, I was so mad! This was my birthday! I didn’t want to share this special day with people I didn’t know.

As we approached the table, the couple’s backs were to us. I was still fuming. When I turned to sit down, I was completely blown away! There were two of the people who meant the most to me! The fact that Greg would work so hard to surprise me was really the best gift of all! It was no easy task to keep this a secret from me. He really wanted me to know that he loved me so much!

Sometimes I feel like God does the same thing; he creates surprises just to tell me how much he loves me. Since I am a nature freak, that is where I’ve discovered a lot of my surprises. A purple and peach sunset. Fog-cloaked mountains. A turquoise-covered ocean. The first time I went snorkeling I was blown away by the gorgeous treasures hidden under the ocean’s surface. Talk about God hiding a surprise!

He wants to show you just how much he loves you too! Today, keep your eyes open for God to love on you in the most unexpected ways. Remember, nothing is a coincidence! God is speaking his love to you.

Start the Revolution

Look out for God’s surprises in your day today.

Lord, I’ve got my eyes open. Show me your love! Amen.

37: No Accident

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

—1 Thessalonians 1:3-5

I hated Valentine’s Day. Most of all, I hated the annual flower fund-raiser. When that day started though, I was hopeful. Maybe there was someone who would use this day to express how he really felt about me. First block of classes, second block, lunch. Nothing. Fourth block. . . . Then the “flower girl” glided into our room.

She called my name! I saw it—the pink flower. My heart began to flutter. Then I saw who it was from. Really? Him?

For a brief second, I allowed myself to get excited.

Then reality kicked in. There’s no way this can be true. He was popular; I was not. There’s no way he would want me. I shoved the flower down in my backpack. I feared it wasn’t real, so I acted like it never happened. Never knowing the truth was better than finding out it was a joke.

Since then I have discovered Jesus has chosen me—chosen a life for me. He has work for me to do, through faith and love and endurance. You too are chosen! You are not an accident, nor a mistake. You are a person of worth and purpose created by God, and through him you can have power and conviction.

Start the Revolution

Find out more about God’s chosen people in the Bible.

Lord, I’m trying to get it: you have chosen me and my value comes from you. Thank you! Amen.

38: Return to Me

“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

—Malachi 3:7

Your weekend with the girls got out of control, and you found yourself in the center of the gossip storm. The small disagreement with your parents escalated, ending in a grounding because you became disrespectful. That peck on the cheek became so much more, and now you feel shame.

Sin. It leaves us feeling awful—embarrassed and shameful.

When you sin, does God say “I can’t believe you! I’m so disappointed”? Does he turn away from us? His Word doesn’t lead me to believe that. In fact, he tells us exactly what to do when we are in this place: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

In this passage, God’s people had been ripping him off. He was blessing them, and they were keeping it all to themselves, not giving any back to him. He instructs them on how to get back to serving him. “Return to me and I’ll return to you. Start bringing your tithe into the temple; do what is right. You take the first step toward me, and I’ll take the next step toward you.”

If you need to return to him, start by asking for forgiveness. Then do the right thing. Admit to your friends you were wrong to gossip. Ask your parents to forgive your disrespect. Break up with the boy. Return to Jesus. You’ll find he is right there, ready to have you back.

Start the Revolution

Have you turned away from God?

What steps do you need to take now?

Jesus, it is so easy to mess up. Thank you for making it simple, through forgiveness, to come back. Amen.

39: On Fire

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

—Song of Solomon 8:6, 7

Love is very powerful. Wars have been started for love. Families have been betrayed for love. People have died for love. That’s the power of human love.

Multiply that by a number bigger than we can conceive, and that would represent the power of God’s love for us. Love of this kind is not hot today and moved on to somewhere else by tomorrow. It has the ability to stay no matter what comes; there is no trouble that can cause God to run.

When his love becomes the thing we live for, it creates a fire in our lives—a passion that gives our lives purpose and meaning. He becomes the reason for the decisions we make.

Radical girl, you need more to live for than the next boyfriend, the next party, or the next weekend. Jesus is that thing.

Start the Revolution

Look at the images of God’s love in these verses. Paint your own word pictures. How do you describe his love?

Jesus, set your love for me as a seal over my heart. May you be the one thing I live for. Amen.

40: His Ideas

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.

—1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT )

Have you ever prepared a surprise for someone you loved? Weren’t you just so excited to see them completely blown away by your gift?

I knew she would love it! Her favorite band was in America—all the way from England. It might possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; so I bought her the concert tickets.

It was all I could do to keep it a secret! I told her sister, making her take a vow of silence. (I had to tell at least one person!)

Her birthday finally came. When she opened her gift, she let out a scream! She was completely shocked! (You know, it’s possible to get someone something they want, and it’s possible to get someone a surprise, but to surprise them with something they want is a huge feat!)

Those concert tickets were nothing compared to what God says he has conceived for you! The God who has access to the best of the best prepared a plan for you, and he is just waiting to bring it all together. Our lives are like puzzle pieces, and at just the right time, God brings another piece in to create the whole picture. Our part? Just keep loving and obeying him.

Start the Revolution

Give a small gift to someone just because. Think about the joy God has in store for each of us.

Jesus, all I can say is, bring it on! I can’t wait to
see the amazing love you have prepared for me.
Empower me to stay close to you so that you can bring all the puzzle pieces together. Amen.

41: Because

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.

—Ephesians 2:4, 5

Because. There’s a word we use all the time. “I can’t pick up my bedroom, because I am doing my homework!” “I ate the last piece of cake because I wanted to!” Because.

A lot of the time when we use that word, it’s pretty empty. It’s a signal of an excuse coming up—and usually an illegitimate excuse. Or maybe just a reason without any explanation: “Because I said so.”

But in this verse, because isn’t empty. It’s full of purpose, of meaning, and of love.

Because of love. Because of love, when God looked at us, he chose to make us alive. Because of love, he chose to send Jesus. Because of love, he gave us new life. Even though there was no reason in us to do it.

It’s your turn now. Your turn to say because. Because he first loved me, I live my life for him. Because he first loved me, I choose to honor him. Because he first loved me, I choose his way and not my own.

Start the Revolution

How do you use the word because?

What will you do because of God’s love for you?

Jesus, you offer me everything.
Help me to give you my everything in return. Amen.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
       I love you. I love you. I love you.

Jesus is sending you a message every day. Have you got it?

God knows being a girl is not all hearts and flowers.
Words can sting. Hearts can break. Life can be ... complicated.
But Jesus' radical love for you can change everything!

Filled with biblical truth, down-to-your-shoes advice, and real girls' stories, Devotions for a Revolutionary Year is for the girl who wants to:

walk in confidence instead of running scared

reach for the best instead of settling for less

stick to boundaries instead of abandoning her self

know true love instead of being fooled by false hopes

Jesus is sending you a message. Read it every day and get ready for a revolution in you. And to go deeper still, read His Revolutionary Love (ISBN 978-0-7847-2981-6).

This is a beautiful book for each day to refresh yourself. Read it with your Bible. You will be glad you did! Give it a try for one week. You will want to stay for the 365 days of Jesus' radical love for YOU!!
"Devotions for A Revolutionary Year" by Lynn Cowell, is a perfect gift and study for today's teen girls!
206: A Heart to Know
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.
They will be my people, and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.
Jeremiah 24:7
When it comes to church, youth group, or summer camp, have you ever stopped to think about why you go? Maybe it's because your parents make you go. Maybe you go because it's really pretty fun and you have some great friends there. Maybe you like how you feel better about yourself afterwards.
What does God think of these motives?
   If you had friends who hung out with you because they had to, would you consider them good friends? What about if it wasn't so much that they liked you, but they really liked your group of friends? I'm thinking you would NOT consider them to be good friends. In fact, you would probably feel like you were being used.
   How many of us have unselfish motives in our relationship with Godjust wanting to spend time with him for the sake of knowing him better? I, for one, would have to say that is often not my motive.
   If my heart toward God is not motivated by a heart to know God, it's no longer about our relationship. It's moved from being about him, to being about me. When it is more about me feeling good and from being about him, to being about me, the relationship loses its value.
   The radical girl does the things she does to know Jesus better so she can follow him better. That is really loving him with all your heart.
Examine your
motives next
time you do
something "for
God." Is your
heart in the
right place?

Jesus, give me a heart to know you. Teach
me through your Word to honor you. Amen.