Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Faith of Her Own by Kathleen Fuller, © 2015

A Middlefield Amish Novel

A Faith of Her Own, Kathleen Fuller
   Thomas Nelson Publisher 
   Includes Reading Group Guide

This is my first Middlefield visit. WoW. So enjoyed meeting these families and the trials and hardships that came their way covered by caring and faith ~ in each other and in God.

In A Faith of Her Own, Anna Mae discovers it is God she is following beyond a creed taken up. How important this is for each of us; to make Him our own. I am looking forward to the next Middlefield story and hope it continues glimpses of these families.
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
   --Isaiah 45:3
So important to find the calling and giftings God has treasured each of us with in His own time. In each of their searchings, God revealed Truth. Longings that are filled with trust and dependence shine forth in their day-to-day lives. These are the characters in A Faith of Her Own, those who have read previous Middlefield stories will recognize: Anna Mae Shetler and her parents; David Mullet and sons Jeremiah and Amos; Bekah Yoder; Johnny and Katherine (Katie) Mullet; Caleb Mullet; Doc and Amy Miller; and Judith Hostetler, new next-door neighbor to David and Amos Mullet.

I liked how each family's struggles are revealed and the growth through the difficulties they face from the past is redeemed in their lives. Communication becomes vital after being separate and held back from each other. Choosing to be open and vulnerable brings healing in their relationships as honesty stems forth. Especially, when David Mullet breaks his silence about his feelings and he is able to move forward. So much we hold back causes others to be held captive too. A beautiful story of grace and forgiveness. Very well-written with strong characters available to be touched with love and gratitude.

Kathy FullerKathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including A Man of His Word and Treasuring Emma, as well as a middle-grade Amish series, The Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit the author: Website Twitter Facebook

 ***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for sending me a review copy of A Faith of Her Own, lovingly Kathleen Fuller's A Middlefield Amish Novel. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Heart's Disguise by Colleen Coble, © 2015

Journey of the Heart series

A Heart’s Disguise
Part 1 of 6 in the Journey of the Heart series ~
In the midst of end-of-war celebrations, Sarah discovers her betrothed was keeping a devastating secret in A Heart’s Disguise. Will Sarah leave her dying father’s side for the only man she’s ever loved? And what plans are forming in the jealous heart of Ben Croftner?
   --author Colleen Coble

My review:
This six-part novella series is a reissue of the Wyoming series, earlier works by Colleen Coble ~ Where Leads the Heart and continuing Plains of Promise, to be enjoyed by new readers and renewed by those who read them when they were first published almost a decade ago. The story begins just after the end of the Civil War in the United States, 1861-1865. The War Between the States left behind lost loved ones and the hopeful expectations of those remaining at home resurfacing. Sarah Montgomery is awaiting news of her beloved Rand Campbell from those returning home. She has not received letters from him and holds on to hope she will receive some word.
Wabash, Indiana, 1865
Autumn's chill matched Sarah Montgomery's heart. The war had taken so much from her, and it seemed impossible for life to ever get to a hopeful place. The scent of turning leaves lingered in the air as she sat on a porch rocking chair beside her father, who was huddled in a blanket...
   --A Heart's Disguise, 1
Papa is dying. So much had transpired, so many memories holding her hopes at bay. But how is it possible to keep your private thoughts hidden away from your countenance? Five months it has been now since Ben came home, declaring that Rand is dead. Dead? How can it be? Papa says to marry Ben; to be taken care of, she and her eight-year-old brother, Joel. She has raised him since infancy when Mama died when he was born. Wade agrees. It's for the best. But whose best, I wonder?

Have you made a life decision to please someone else or been unable to back down once you had spoken it? Sarah regrets pleasing others before she is certain. Her older brother Wade is like the prodigal son remaining at home ~ all of it his, but bitterness dwells in his heart.

So, I have agreed to marry Ben, but my heart belongs with Rand. Dying moment-by-moment, my days go by in a blur. Soon we are to wed. How do I leave my heart behind?

The train comes to a stop at the Wabash depot. A lone figure descends the steep steps, greeted by the old porter, Liam Murphy. Home. Finally home after three long years.
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.
   --Jeremiah 29:11, God's Word®
How will Sarah discover hopes renewed? (to be continued in next month's issue...)
Collen Coble's Blog

These are the six serial parts published in short installments at regular intervals, as a novel appearing in successive issues of a magazine. The blog tour dates are:

Book One
 ~ A Heart's Disguise: March 10 - 31, 2015
Book Two
 ~ A Heart's Obsession: April 10 - 30, 2015
Book Three
 ~ A Heart's Danger: May 11 - 31, 2015
Book Four
 ~ A Heart's Betrayal: June 10 - 30, 2015
Book Five
 ~ A Heart's Promise: July 10 - 31, 2015
Book Six
 ~ A Heart's Home: August 10 - 31, 2015

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to join the blog tours for the Journey of the Heart series by Colleen Coble, and to Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a copy of Book One, A Heart's Disguise for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

A Heart's Disguise, Colleen Coble
Book 1
A Heart's Obsession, Colleen Coble
Book 2
A Heart's Danger, Colleen Coble
Book 3
A HeartÂ’s Betrayal, Colleen Coble
Book 4
A Heart's Promise, Colleen Coble
Book 5
Image result for a heart's home by colleen coble
Book 6

~* Kindle Giveaway, Blog Tour, and Author Chat Party with Colleen Coble *~

In the midst of end-of-war celebrations, Sarah discovers her betrothed was keeping a devastating secret in Colleen Coble's A Heart's Disguise. Will Sarah leave her dying father’s side for the only man she’s ever loved? And what plans are forming in the jealous heart of Ben Croftner?
Celebrate book one in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series by entering to win a Kindle Fire and RSVPing to her May 5th author chat party!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession (blog tour coming in April)
  • A copy of The Inn at Ocean's Edge (blog tour coming in April)
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 7th. Winner will be announced May 8th on Colleen's website. Plus be sure to clear your calendar on the evening of May 5th because Colleen is hosting an author chat party on Facebook to celebrate her A Journey of the Heart series and the release of The Inn at Ocean's Edge! RSVP here!

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on May 5th!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Proving Up, A Novella by Carla Olson Gade, © 2015

I love the texture of the collection books with the rippled page edges!

The Homestead Brides Collection: Nine Pioneering Couples Risk all for Love and Land by authors Mary Connealy, Darlene Franklin, Carla Olson Gade, Ruth Logan Herne, Pam Hillman, DiAnn Mills, Erica Vetsch, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y'Barbo.
Through nine historical romance adventures, readers will journey along with individuals who are ready to stake a claim and plant their dreams on a piece of the great American plains. While fighting land disputes, helping neighbors, and tackling the challenges of nature the homesteaders are placed in the path of other dreamers with whom romance sparks. And God has His hand in orchestrating each unique meeting.

Timber Culture Act
March 3, 1873
"An Act to encourage the Growth of Timber on the Western Prairie"

Many hoped that giving settlers deed to public lands in return for growing trees would reshape the environment of the West, giving the claimant possession of 160 acres of public land for no cost in exchange for making improvements to the land if a person planted and nurtured the growth of trees on forty of their 160 acres for ten years, they could claim the land.
   In 1878, the Timber Culture Act was amended again. This time, the amount of land that had to be covered in trees was reduced from forty acres to ten and also made exceptions for trees that had been destroyed by harsh climate or grasshopper plagues. --statistics reference

~* Review of Carla Olson Gade's Proving Up *~

"Proving Up" by Carla Olson Gade  ~ ~ Elsa Lindstrom applies her scientific theories to growing trees on the Nebraska plains, intruding on a handsome homesteader's hard work and experience. Will their dreams come to ruin, or will love prove their success?

Swedeburg, Nebraska, April 1885.
Cottonwood grove 1880's - Timber Culture Act
Cottonwood grove 1880's - Timber Culture Act
"I'm read to prove up, Nettie." Nils Svensson spoke out loud, his only audience his grove of trees...and God. The hearty cottonwoods, with their leafy branches, reached into the sky above in agreement.
    --Proving Up, 107

With trees on 30 acres, triple the claim requirement for his 160-acre section, Nils has been hard at work beneath the Nebraska skies.

This is a sweet story of hope and love beyond all that could be imagined! Join these homesteaders as their hearts blend into all that is waiting for them.

Native New Englander Carla Olson Gade writes adventures of the heart with historical roots from her home amid the rustic landscapes of Maine. With seven books in print, she is always imagining more stories and enjoys bringing her tales to life with historically authentic settings and characters. An avid reader, amateur genealogist, photographer, and house plan hobbyist, Carla’s great love (next to her family) is historical research. Though you might find her tromping around an abandoned homestead, an old fort, or interviewing a docent at a historical museum, it’s easier to connect with her here online.

***Thank you to author Carla Olson Gade for sending me a copy of The Homestead Brides Collection for review of her novella, Proving Up. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
--Isaiah 55:12
This verse was the recessional song for our wedding almost 31 years ago ~ The Trees of the Field.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cover Reveal ~ The Lumberjacks' Ball by Carrie Fancett Pagels, © 2015


I love this cover!! Waiting to open to get inside and read the story. I can just see our protagonist stride walking right off the cover!

The Lumberjacks' Ball
A decade after surviving a brutal attack, a mercantile owner’s daughter seeks to begin her life anew in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A gifted craftsman wishes to leave his lumberjack life and seeks employment at her new store. When his presence dredges up memories she sought to suppress, she must learn to overcome them. Can affection grow between the cabinetmaker and the proprietress of St. Ignace’s newest business? When complications arise, will they overcome adversity in time for The Lumberjacks' Ball?
   --Author Carrie Fancett Pagels

N*E*W*S   F*L*A*S*H
Author Carrie Fancett Pagels has  graciously offered *winner's*choice* of one copy from her stories to a commenter at each of the seven participating blogs listed below. Winners to be chosen at random one week from today's posting. U.S.: eBook or print copy; International: eBook only ~ the Guideposts and Family Fiction copies are not available in eBook. Single selection to each winner; if duplicate drawn, will redraw for new winner.

~*be sure to leave your contact e-mail address[at]...[dot]com with your comment below*~

The Fruitcake Challenge ~
When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as or better than the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on! Order link.


Carrie's short story, "Snowed In," was published in Guidepost Books' A Cup of Christmas Cheer,
Vol. One, Tales of Faith and Family for the Holidays. Order link.

I was privileged to be one of the contributors to this amazing collection of inspirational Christmas short stories. Enjoyed them all immensely! The books are small hardcovers and fit perfectly into a handbag for lunchtime reading. This collection is still available through Guidepost Books and a second collection has been released recently.
   Snowed In is set in 1945. The hero is a WWII injured veteran who is experiencing his first Christmas back home. Snowed In is a special story because it is inspired by a true event in my parents' liveswhen they took in my aunts, who were school-age at the time. I set this story at my great-grandparents' log (cedar) cabin which is now part of the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, in Newberry, Michigan. Inspired by real family members, writing this story was like spending time with my young mom and dad (both are in heaven), my aunts, my great-grandmother and my great-uncle. Of course the story is a fiction, but I sure enjoyed writing it and having Christmas during 80 degree weather while I wrote it!
   --Author Carrie Fancett Pagels


God's Provision in Tough Times ~
Each writer's personal story demonstrates the power of God who knows exactly what you are going through and who promises to care for those who put their faith and trust in Him. Order link.

I share our story of my husband's unemployment when we had to move for my health and about how God provided for us.  --Author Carrie Fancett Pagels


Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance, a Novella by Carrie Fancett Pagels, is the first story in the inspirational "Cry of Freedom" collection. Order link.

Shirley Plantation on the James River - Virginia
Shirley Plantation on the James River - Virginia

Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is an award-winning, and Amazon bestselling author, of Christian historical romance. She served as a psychologist for twenty-five years. Carrie lives in the Tidewater Virginia area with her family. When not writing, researching, blogging and enjoying tea, Carrie beads and reads—not necessarily in that order!


Carrie Fancett Pagels Cover Reveal
for The Lumberjacks’ Ball
Blog Hop & Giveaways!!!

One overall winner of the Carrie Fancett Pagels Blog Hop
will receive the grand prize of a basket of surprise goodies!
The SEVEN postings will all be today, St. Patrick's Day,
March 17, 2015.
Image result for st. patricks day
To qualify, stop by and leave a comment with your contact e-mail address[at]...[dot]com at each of these SEVEN featured blogs for the Cover Reveal ~ The Lumberjacks' Ball by Carrie Fancett Pagels, © 2015:

Nancee Marchinowski - Perspectives by Nancee

Anne Payne - Stuff & Nonsense

Britney Adams - Buzzing About Books

Kathleen E. Belongia - Lane Hill House

Debbie Lynne Costello - The Sword and Spirit

A total of seven books will be given away!

Leaving a comment and your contact e-mail address
 at each of the above seven blog posts for the
Cover Reveal ~ The Lumberjacks' Ball
will be a double entry opportunity
~* win one book - winner's choice - from Carrie's books *~
~* one grand prize winner *~
will be drawn from those commenting
on ALL of the seven blog posts -
a basket of surprise goodies!

Winners will be chosen at random one week from today's posting.

Winner’s choice on EACH blog: The Fruitcake Challenge; The Lumberjacks' Ball; Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance; God’s Provision in Tough Times; upcoming release Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter ~ eBook (international and U.S), or paperback (U.S. only), copy choice; A Cup of Christmas Cheer from Guidepost Books, hardcover only; or Family Fiction Anthology of The Story 2014 which includes Carrie's award-winning short story “The Quilt Contest,” paperback only.

***Thank you to author Carrie Fancett Pagels for inviting Lane Hill House blog to be a part of the Cover Reveal for The Lumberjacks' Ball. I am looking forward to reading this story when it releases by mid-April, 2015!*** half-Irish Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner, © 2015

Cover Art  

Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean it is good for this moment in your life.
   --The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, 31
So much wisdom in this statement. We think we have to do it all. The seasons in your life will bring many pleasures. Don't get knotted in the "woulda', coulda', shoulda', oughta'" regrets and looking back, wishing a do-over. Enjoy your today, where you are. Don't sacrifice family for multitasking activities and others' to-do-list requests. Once. Your family will be at this stage of time, once. Overcommitment robs you of n~o~w.

Choose joy.

Recognize and embrace what God has created in you ~ gifts and talents, and a desire to pursue what you are passionate about. Jessica surveyed 2,000 women and compiled responses, sharing priorities including refreshment optimum to health for you and your family ~ committing to include yourself in rest and what you enjoy. Time is going to continue whether you wish to, or do set aside moments. Being intentional on how you spend your time ~* your fringe hours *~ little pockets of time, on purpose.

Why We Need Community: Making time for you is not always about making time to do something by yourself. It is also important for women to be in community.

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You ~ So many woman-to-woman topics ~ making a change to eliminate time wasters; cultivating balance; recognizing what really matters; prioritizing relationships; living in your season. Benefits worth sharing. Here is a free weekly time tracker to use as a regular personal resource to help you find, plan, and maximize your fringe hours.

Live a life of joy.

Jessica Turner is wife, mom, marketing professional and founder of the popular lifestyle blog The Mom Creative. There she documents her pursuit of cultivating a life well-crafted, through posts mostly on parenting, memory keeping and frugal living. Jessica is also an (in)courage writer, co-host of the Bloom Book Club and an advocate for World Vision. She and her husband Matthew live in Nashville with their three young children.

***Thank you to Revell for sending me a copy of Jessica N. Turner's The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt from The Fringe Hours ~ Chapter one

                                                       one *~
Pursuing Balance

Most of us have trouble juggling. The
woman who says she doesn’t is someone
whom I admire but have never met.
                                      Barbara Walters

If you were to choose one word to describe your daily life, what would it be?
   Mine would probably be busy. Occasionally stressful. Oftentimes happy. It’s not necessarily a “bad busy” or “super stressful,” but my days are definitely full and intense, with happiness throughout. With a full-time career, a husband, two kids, a new house (that needs a lot of work), friends I want to hang out with, and a variety of other commitments, life seems to move at warp speed. And most women I know seem to feel the same way—always juggling all the responsibilities of work and home, family and friends, ourselves and others. Always searching for balance.
   One of my own times of struggle with this started pretty innocently when I decided to join a book club. It had been two years since I had last been actively involved in one, and my soul was craving the community.
   The club was every Tuesday night, and my husband, Matthew, and I decided that it would be best if on those days, I would work a little later and go straight to the club from my office. What I didn’t realize when I signed up for the book club was that two weeks into it, our family was also supposed to start attending a new weekly community group through our church. I wanted to be part of both, and it seemed doable.
   The first two weeks of the book club went great. I loved both the friend leading it and the new women I met. This addition to our weekly schedule seemed like it was going to work.
   Well, I was wrong.
   The first week we were supposed to go to community group, I was incredibly stressed. I had just come back from a business trip, my daughter was teething and going to bed earlier than normal, and rushing out the door to community group made little sense. So I sent an apologetic text to the group leader and secretly breathed a sigh of relief.
   The next week was not much better, with my schedule overflowing with commitments and deadlines. I stood at the kitchen sink, washing dishes and crying. When my husband, Matthew, asked what was wrong, I said, “I’m doing too much. I’m overwhelmed. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I can’t do it all.”

The Balance Challenge
The book club and community group conundrum is just one of numerous times when I have wrestled with balance. My guess is that you too have had a similar wrestling match, trying to wrangle too many things into some sort of order, all in pursuit of this elusive goal of “balance.”
   When I wrote the survey for this book, I asked participants, “What do you think is most challenging about being a woman today?” I suspected many would say, “Trying to balance everything,” and I was right. In the more than five hundred pages of responses I received, over and over women—regardless of location, age, marital and economic status—said things like this:1
 • Trying to balance everything since we tend to overextend our lives. We all want to have a work life that validates us as independent women. We want to be the best mom at creating moments for our children. And then throw in the family members and friends. It’s a lot! —Mary
 • So much to balance. Between kids, household duties, cooking, striving to have a healthy marriage, and all the things in between, it can be very difficult to find time for yourself. —Katie
 • I think it is very difficult to find the perfect balance of being a good wife, mother, employee, friend, daughter, sister. —Katrina
 • Having to work at the same time I have to be with my children as well as being there for my husband. That's on top of taking care of our finances and home and making sure I find time for my relationship with God. —Melissa
 • Being a single mom is tough. I have to balance two worlds, and I have no one to help me carry the burden. —Andrea
 • Balancing the home/work life. I feel that modern women are pulled in so many directions and held to a higher standard than ever before. It is so hard to balance it all and still find time for yourself. —Ashley
 • Trying to find the balance between working and being an involved mother. From a working mother’s perspective, it is such a challenge to organize and ensure that my kids are looked after when my husband and I can’t be there and to allow them the chances to be involved in things without being limited by the fact that I work. —Melanie

   I found myself nodding my head over and over again as I read the truth-filled, vulnerable words of these women of all ages proclaiming how balancing all that life brings is incredibly challenging. Even if you don’t use the word balance to describe this issue, you can’t deny the challenge. You might talk instead about “priorities,” “fit,” or “organization.” However you define the act of having things in order and not being overwhelmed, that is what I want to dig into.
   In my own life, the balancing act includes blogging first thing in the morning, getting two kids ready for day care and dropping them off on my way to the office, working all day, picking up the kids after work, getting dinner ready, putting the kids to bed, and spending time with my husband. On top of the everyday tasks are the one-offs—grocery shopping, Target runs, doctor appointments, birthday parties, soccer games, paying bills, and so on. Can you relate?

~* Take a minute to make a list of your average week’s responsibilities:

   When I see all of these things on paper, the idea of achieving balance seems ridiculous. We talk about needing it. Books are written about how to find it. But the reality is, for most women, it never happens in any sort of permanent way. Instead, we have moments of balance, maybe even days of it. But then something happens that causes things to become out of whack again.
   What is it about balance that is so elusive today? Are we really able to balance it all? In short, no. I don’t think true balance really exists. That said, I do think the word is helpful as a guiding principle for how we choose to live. Let’s start by trying to understand what balance really means.

Defining Balance
Two of the many dictionary definitions for balance perfectly hit on what we are talking about:

 • a stable mental or psychological state; emotional stability
 • a harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design2

   I believe you need both of these definitions to really have balance in life. I would define it using this equation:

   a satisfying arrangement of elements + emotional stability = balance

   It’s easy to define balance using just the first part of the equation. I often equate balance with everything in my life fitting together neatly and don’t consider how my emotions play into that puzzle. I’ll look at my overscheduled calendar and think, “Oh, that is totally doable.” But then I get into the thick of it and I am drained, short-tempered, and an emotional wreck—like I was when I had overcommitted to the book club and community group. Clearly, the satisfying arrangement of the elements on my calendar is not enough by itself. We can’t have balance if activities in our life are neatly scheduled but we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotional.
   My friend Karen says that life is like a sound board. When music is mixed, the sound technician needs to adjust the levels to make the music sound its best. If one person or instrument needs to be really loud, everything else can’t be loud too because the board can’t handle it and, more importantly, the music won’t sound its best.
   The same is true in life. If one thing is dominating during a particular season, that’s okay, as long as adjustments are made to other areas. Without those adjustments to “reduce the volume,” distortion and chaos will result. But if you make those adjustments, your life song will bring the most beauty and pleasure possible to your life.

Too Much of a Good Thing Is Still Too Much
The middle of December 2013 was a season that was incredibly out of balance for me. You probably know that time well: when the Christmas crazy sets in and you are really hoping you make it to Christmas Eve. The volume on my sound board was loud. I looked at my week, and it was almost laughable. My dad was visiting from out of state for the first part of the week, my two-year-old had started potty training, I had multiple meetings and deadlines at work, the kids were having Christmas parties and a program at school, and I had several sponsored blog posts due. My husband and I also had a work Christmas dinner to attend one evening.
   And that was just the “required” stuff.
   Meanwhile, stacked in the dining room was a pile of decorations that had never found their way to the right spot in our house. They really needed to be put in an empty Rubbermaid tub to go back in the garage. But that required seven minutes that I didn’t seem to have. Sitting near the decorations was an unopened box of our family’s annual Christmas cards that I had ordered before Thanksgiving (because I was so on the ball). Three weeks later, I was far from feeling on top of things.
   Littering the dining room table was a mess of opened Christmas card envelopes from people who needed to be added to our card list, artwork from the kids’ school (I have such a hard time parting with painted card stock), and miscellaneous junk that needed a home (or to be thrown away with the envelopes). Again, the lack of seven free minutes meant it would all just need to wait a few more days. Surely the weekend would bring some open spaces to organize, reset, and bring some balance back to our life.
   The “problem,” for lack of a better word, is that many of these things that fill our schedules are good things, like Christmas festivities or the book club and community group I tried to start attending that fall.
   We need to work to provide for our families, and we want to encourage our children to be involved in activities that they enjoy and are passionate about. And on it goes. Even the not-fun things like laundry and dusting are reminders that we are blessed with families that need to be clothed and a roof over our heads.
   One of my survey respondents, Jessica (not me), described a vortex of good things draining her:

I think trying to balance everything is the biggest challenge I face. I feel run-down and tired sometimes, and then I look at our crazy schedule and think to myself, “Duh, no wonder you’re tired!”
   I want to be a good mom and a good wife. I want to volunteer at our daughter’s school and at our church, and quite honestly I would feel guilty if I wasn’t involved in volunteering at these places. I also want my children to be involved in fulfilling, enriching activities that they enjoy. And we have been very blessed in all these ways to find places and opportunities to be involved in our church and in our girls’ education (my husband is the president of a nonprofit that supports our daughters’ language immersion schools) and extracurricular activities (I’m a coach at our daughter’s gym).
   I could not have guessed that signing my girls up for gymnastics would have led to me coaching the team there. . . . But it comes at a cost, and for us, that cost has been family time at home in the evenings. I think we are busy with important things that will have a lasting impact on our girls. I just sometimes feel like we have taken on a little too much and we have committed too much of our time to being away from home.

   Now, I don’t know Jessica, but her story resonated with me because I think she is like a lot of us. She wants to do all the things she is doing. She is making a positive impact on her family. But those things are coming at a cost—the cost of not just family time, as she states, but also time for herself. Just because they are good things doesn’t mean that they are good for you, for right now (or even ever). To not allow the stress of too many “good” things to invade our lives and steal our joy, we have to learn to say no, prioritize, or eliminate things entirely.
   Jennifer Dukes Lee took a drastic step to find balance in her life, and her story is one that many can learn from. In 2002, she left her job as a reporter to move with her family onto her husband’s fourth-generation family farm in Iowa. Shortly after they moved, she took on a part-time professor gig at Dordt College, teaching journalism twenty hours a week. She loved her students and experiencing their excitement for reporting the news. Five years later, she also found herself leading worship and teaching Sunday school at church, volunteering, doing speaking engagements, and even signing a book contract. Jennifer’s plate was now too full, as she had “over-yessed herself,” as she likes to put it.
   When we spoke, she told me, “Things that I would really want to say yes to, I would have to say no to because I had so overextended myself. There was no other time for the things that make a life so full.”3
   As the years went on, her job as a professor had gotten easier in terms of teaching, grading, and preparing lectures. But when it was combined with all of her other commitments, Jennifer knew she had to make a choice. She prayed about it, discussed options with her husband, and decided to quit teaching at the college in order to find some margin in her life.
   It was a difficult decision because the job was a “good thing” in her life, but ultimately she sensed that she needed to end that chapter. After leaving, Jennifer flourished, using the open hours for a “come what may today” attitude, having the flexibility to say yes at a moment’s notice.
   Jennifer recalled, “People would say, ‘What are you going to do instead?’ I would hem and haw and stammer around. I could do this or that, but my answer was that I am not going to fill those hours with anything. I’m not going to. There’s such a high priority placed on busyness that our work, paid or unpaid, is filling our days, and I didn’t want to [have that anymore].”
   Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean it is good for this moment in your life. This truth has taken a long time for me to accept. But the more I embrace it, the better my life is. The lesson from Jennifer’s story is one many should learn. Sometimes too many good things can just be too much.

~* Is there something in your life that is a good thing but maybe isn’t good for this season of your life? Write it down and consider if you should eliminate it from your schedule.


Searching for Work-Life Balance
If you are one of the nearly seventy-five million women in America who are part of the paid workforce,4 then you also might struggle with work-life balance. With only 29 percent of American mothers staying at home,5 this is a common issue for women. As a working woman myself, I know the challenges of creating work-life balance.
   I spent the first seven years of my career at one of Nashville’s top PR firms, and I literally was always “on.” When I woke up I would check my work email before doing anything else. Before bed I had the same routine. We worked by the mantra of saying yes to our clients, even if it meant early mornings and late nights at the office.
   I would often travel on weekends for clients and was still expected to be at the office first thing Monday morning. The agency did not allow working from home or comp time. We were expected to bill as many hours as possible, and the lifestyle was always go, go, go. I flourished with the variety of projects and deadlines, but I was also exhausted.
   When I became pregnant with my second child, a little girl, I knew that I would need to find another job after she was born. No one at the agency had more than one child, and I believed the culture of the agency would have made it very difficult to parent two children well. Moreover, while I loved what I did, I loved my children too much to continue living the all-consuming agency life.
   In short, I needed a better work-life balance, so I decided to begin job hunting after my daughter was born. However, God had other plans and brought me a new job opportunity when I was six months pregnant. I interviewed for the position and received a job offer.
   Upon receiving that offer, I was an emotional wreck. Despite the challenges of working for that agency, I loved my colleagues. The agency was where I had “grown up” professionally, having started there just weeks after college graduation.
   But I knew the change was necessary—for my career, health, and family. I trusted that this new job was an opportunity God had brought into my life for a reason.
   Accepting the new job was life changing for me because for the first time, I could truly leave my work at work. Nights and weekends were mine. I rarely traveled. My schedule and lifestyle were much healthier.
   Change is often like that—hard, but good in the end. Making my job change forever altered my career trajectory, and that is okay. I discovered what I needed and what my family needed, and that impacted every other area of my life.
   Figuring out what kind of work-life balance is best for you is a personal decision. What works for one woman is different from what will work for another.
   Danielle Moss is a single woman with no children who runs a popular site called The Everygirl. Because she is accountable only to herself, Danielle is a self-admitted workaholic. When she and her business partner launched The Everygirl in 2012, she took only three days off in the first three months of the year.
   She worked so much without rest that in 2013, Danielle faced some health issues. When she went to her doctor, the doctor did not mince words, saying to her (in Danielle’s words): “This is your body hitting rock bottom. If you don’t slow down, you are going to keep getting sick. This is your wake-up call. You will eventually be on medication for stress. You have to change your life.”
   Getting sick was a big turning point in Danielle’s life, and though she still works a lot, she has also learned to take time for herself. She exercises regularly and goes out with friends. “I was work, work, work all the time, and I am not like that anymore,” she says. “You have to have balance, and you have to enjoy your life. I’m still trying to learn that I can’t do everything.”6
   While the idea of work-life balance may not be perfect, your balance should be healthy. Author Cali Yost uses the term “work-life fit” to describe a life that fits what you need, since she believes that true work-life balance isn’t possible. On her website, she says that each person has “your own unique work+life ‘fit,’ or the ‘fit’ between your work and personal realities that changes day-to-day and at major life transitions, like when you go back to school, start a business, have a baby, care for an aging relative or work in retirement.”7
   However you define it—fit or balance—you need to be your own advocate to ensure you have the balance that you need. That might mean committing to leaving the office at a certain time, talking with your supervisor about flex time or working from home one day a week, or even looking for a new job.

~* Do you feel like overall you have work-life balance? If not, what changes at work would be most beneficial for your life?

Ways to Cultivate Balance
In today’s busy world, the only way to have balance is to fight for it. A woman’s “normal” schedule should not be overwhelming. Your schedule should be manageable, with open space. When you make room in your schedule to breathe, you make room for you—and that is key to discovering fringe hours.
   Some time ago I spoke with creative entrepreneur Becky Higgins, who runs a successful business from her home while being a wife and the mother of three children. Becky is dedicated to pursuing balance and making time for herself. “When I do have that balance and that time for me, I feel more alive,” she told me. “I feel rejuvenated, which results in me being a better wife, a better mother, and a better worker.”8
   I have discovered several ways to cultivate balance within your commitments and yourself. While some of these tips may be easier to say than do, they all can make a huge impact on your life.

To cultivate balance in your commitments, you must:

 1. Say no. For balance to exist, you must say no to some things, even things that are good. Remember, saying no is not a bad thing because ultimately it means you are saying yes to something else. (We will discuss saying no more in chapter 7.)
 2. Learn from your mistakes. Sometimes you are going to overbook yourself and life is going to be too full, like my crazy Christmas season. Learn from those seasons. Once you come out on the other side, ask yourself what you could have done differently. Could you have said no to something or scheduled an activity for another month?
 3. Evaluate what matters. Continuously review your schedule and make sure everything is necessary. A quote I have on my desk reads, “If what you do doesn’t matter to you, it’s really not going to matter to anyone else.” Work to fill your life with things that matter.
 4. Reduce distractions. Sometimes balance can be achieved just by turning off your phone, computer, or other technological devices. Or you might need to find a quiet place in your home or out in nature to be less distracted.

To cultivate balance within yourself, you must:

 1. Extend grace to others and to yourself. Some days are going to be challenging. On those days, give yourself grace. And if you encounter others who need grace, show it to them. Don’t let them suck you into the quicksand of negativity. Instead, extend your hand and offer kindness.
 2. Take care of your health. Oftentimes when we run ourselves ragged, our health suffers. Our energy levels drop. The sniffles hit. Our bodies aren’t able to function at 100 percent. To live a balanced life, you must take care of your body. Eat well, go to the doctor for checkups, exercise, and get enough sleep.
 3. Give and receive love. We were created for relationships. Love well each day.
 4. Pray. Make time each day to pray and be with the Lord. He is your comfort and your rock. You do not have to go through a single day without him.
 5. Express gratitude. Take time each day to write down what you are thankful for. Research shows that people who keep a gratitude list are happier people.
 6. Make time for yourself. Your reading of this book demonstrates that you want this! It’s incredibly important to make time for self-care and your passions.

   It’s also important to remember that certain seasons are going to be busier and that balance may look different during those seasons. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Just because a season is busy doesn’t mean you can’t still use these balance principles to help yourself avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Balance isn’t easy, but fighting for it is always worth it. While
life is busy, it shouldn’t get to the point of being overwhelm-
ing. Make balance a priority in your life. By doing so, you are
saying that your time is valuable and that you are in control.
Jessica N. Turner, The Fringe Hours Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2015. Used by permission.