Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Love: Interview with Laura Jackson, author of "Worth the Time"

Interview questions for Laura Jackson about her book, Worth the Time:

Alexis: What inspired the title “Worth the Time” for your story?

Laura: Lindsey, the main character, is the mean girl in the first book in the Waltham Academy series. Behind her catty attitude and conniving schemes is a girl who just wants to be noticed, a girl desperate for those she loves to have time for her. 

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Lindsey Hamilton. What makes her tick? What brings her great joy? What breaks her heart?

Laura: Lindsey is a girl in hiding. When she’s embarrassed and has her heart broken in front of her entire school, she’s determined not to ever be hurt again. She has built a cold fortress around herself, but like most people, she just wants to be noticed and loved.

Alexis: What is it about Lindsey that allows her to get whatever she wants? Would you say that she’s ruthless? Why or why not?

Laura: At the beginning of the novel, Lindsey is ruthless. She knows what she wants and uses her good looks and popularity to get what she wants. She has little regard to how her schemes affect anyone else.

Alexis: Who is Ellie Lansing and what role does she play in this story?

Laura: Ellie is the heroine in Worth the Wait, which is the first book in the series. She’s dating Dylan Grant, and Lindsey wants him. She also wants Ellie’s seemingly perfect life.

Alexis: Who is Dylan Grant and how did Lindsey steal him from Ellie? What does she need to do to keep him as her boyfriend?

Laura: Dylan Grant is the stereotypical popular guy in high school. To Ellie, he’s her childhood friend and long-time boyfriend. To Lindsey, he’s a status symbol. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of Worth the Wait to say how Lindsey gets him, but once she has him, she realizes sometimes what we want isn’t what we need or expect.

Alexis: Snagging Dylan made Lindsey the most popular girl at Waltham Christian Academy but her heart is still empty. Why? 

Laura: Lindsey is a desperate girl—longing to be popular, to be accepted, to be noticed. But those things don’t fulfill us. Only Christ can, and like many of us, Lindsey struggles to see that.

Alexis: Who is the “real” Lindsey? What does it take for her to stop being fake, heal and become a whole person?

Laura: There’s a guy. Sutton. Lindsey has to complete volunteer hours, and Sutton works at Covington House, where Lindsey is serving. He’s the first guy who doesn’t fall for her, so he intrigues her. He’s a Christian like many at her school claim to be, but he’s different—his faith is real. Because she spends so much time being fake, Lindsey is desperate to cling to something real. 

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in this story? Explain how it affects the lives of your characters.

Laura: Sutton lives out his faith. He loves Christ and serves at Covington House out of that love while Lindsey is there because she won’t graduate without volunteer hours. Through her friendship with Sutton and her new relationship with the father she never knew, Lindsey learns that the One who created her not only loves her but also has time for her.

Alexis: What role does high school counselor Mrs. Santana play in turning Lindsey’s life around? Explain.

Laura: Mrs. Santana sees beyond Lindsey’s walls to notice the girl desperate to be loved. She uses Lindsey’s volunteer requirement to build a relationship. When her mom doesn’t have time for her, Lindsey turns to Mrs. Santana for advice.

Alexis: Who is Sutton McCoy and why does he have a bad first impression of Lindsey? Is his first impression his last? Explain.

Laura: Sutton McCoy works at Covington House, where Lindsey is required to volunteer. He sees her as another snobby girl forced to volunteer. Because he serves weekly, Sutton cares deeply about the kids who come to Covington House. He doesn’t want to see another person come into the kids’ lives just to walk away again. Luckily for Lindsey, his first impression isn’t his last. 

Alexis: Sutton’s been through trauma in his personal life. How do the effects of that trauma prevent him from pursuing a romantic relationship with Lindsey?

Laura: Sutton judges Lindsey some—he sees her as a pretty, popular cheerleader from a ritzy private school. What could she possibly know what it feels like to have lost a father at a young age and to have a mother battling drug addiction? So, first, that causes him to not even want to be friends. His past has also given him a strong desire to make something of himself, and he can’t be distracted with a flighty girl.

Alexis: What role does Lindsey’s biological father play in her life? How does he affect her character arc? Explain.

Laura: Lindsey always thought her dad walked away before she was born, which wasn’t true. When her biological father finds her and wants a relationship with her, Lindsey’s world is rocked. All these lies she’d told herself were no longer true, and she learns that maybe she didn’t need those walls to protect her heart after all.

Alexis: Why doesn’t Lindsey believe in a loving God? What makes her change her mind?

Laura: Our earthly fathers play a big role in how we see our heavenly father. It’s hard to imagine God as a loving father when your own father never wanted you. As Lindsey gets to know her father—as he pursues a relationship with her—she begins to see how much God loves her too.

Alexis: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? Why?

Laura: Lindsey was such a mean girl in book one that I struggled to convey her wounded heart. In my mind, I loved her because I knew her, but I worried readers wouldn’t see her like I did. In the beginning of the book, she’s broken and angry. She lashes out. I prayed readers would give her a chance because I do think Lindsey’s story is an example of the transformation that happens when Jesus comes into our lives.

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about Worth the Time?

Laura: I want them to know that they are loved. The One who spoke and created galaxies not only loves us but pursues a relationship with us.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Laura! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Laura: Thanks for having me!


Author Bio: 
Laura Jackson loves books—reading and writing them. 

A life-long reader, Laura studied English in college and taught 7th-grade language arts before earning her Master's degree and becoming a school librarian. 

Now, she spends her days sharing great books with kids and her evenings writing books about teenage girls discovering God and His plan for their lives.

Blurb for Laura's book, Worth the Time:

Doesn't anyone feel she's worth their time?

Routinely ignored by her single mother, high school senior Lindsey Hamilton hides her loneliness behind a mask of flirtatious self-confidence that has many boys wrapped around her finger. However, during community service required for graduation, she meets a shy guy with a haunted past who barely gives her the time of day. Why doesn't he like her?

Then the father she thought had abandoned her before birth wants to meet, and she discovers everything she believed about him is a lie.

How will Lindsey learn to trust so she can realize that she has been loved all along?

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Interview with Jennifer Dornbush, author of God Bless the Broken Road

Welcome Jennifer Dornbush to the blog! She's been here before with a lovely devotional but today, she's here to answer my questions about her debut novel, God Bless the Broken Road.

She's also offering you a chance to win her book! Details about the book giveaway contest are toward the end of her interview.


Interview with Jennifer Dornbush, author of God Bless the Broken Road:

Alexis: Tell us about the inspiration behind your book, God Bless the Broken Road. What is this book about?

Jennifer: God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love. Amber Hill never imagined she would find herself a war widow and single mom. She feels robbed and is angry at God, and she doesn’t know how to help her nine-year-old daughter Bree through her grief. Where, Amber wonders, are the Sunday dinners, the picnics, the bike rides, the time together they should be enjoying as a family? Instead, Amber is left with a folded flag and an empty heart. 

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember the most about this book?

Jennifer: The book actually started as a movie script that I co-wrote with Harold Cronk. When we were writing the script, the top two take-aways we kept in mind were first, that God is always with us, even if we don’t feel like He is or aren’t seeking Him actively. He is always there and He is always providing us with amazing blessings, even when/if we don’t acknowledge them. One of the keys to healing and hope on our broken roads are to turn our gaze to Him so that we can start to recognize Him along the path. When we turn to Him and humble ourselves, He can start to guide us and shape our brokenness into blessing.

The second take-away that was important to us as we wrote this story is community. My signature hash tag is #ConnectContributeBelong. I’m huge on the importance of building actual, physical, community (not just having virtual community). We don’t have to travel our broken roads alone. God has given us friends and family to lean for support and encouragement. This can make a huge difference when we are going through trying times. I think so many people suffer from depression and suicide because they think they are alone. Mother Theresa said the greatest poverty we have today is the feeling of loneliness because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

So many people feel like this. They feel alone. The feel that no one understands or cares what they are going through. What a travesty. It’s so simple to be there for someone. You don’t have to be a professional counselor or therapist to help someone heal from a wounding. Sometimes the very best thing is to just to take a moment from your day to pause, listen, and lend a hug or word of encouragement.

On the flip side, if you are traveling a broken road it can be difficult to let people into your pain. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and ask for help. But here’s the secret… people love you and want to help you and be there for you. Needing to be loved and cared for is not a sign of weakness, it’s the way we humans need to relate to one another to build real and lasting communities. By the way, building community this deep requires that you get off social media, look up from your phone and have actual human contact! Just sayin’….

Alexis: Why is Amber, your story’s heroine, angry at God? How does God respond to her anger?

Jennifer: Amber is angry because she doesn’t understand why God would take her husband away and leave her daughter fatherless. God responds steadfastly. He is always there for her, but she just can’t see it. Eventually Amber hits rock bottom and finally surrenders. It’s at that moment when her life starts to really find hope and redemption.

Alexis: Tell us about Amber’s nine-year-old daughter Bree. What’s her favorite cupcake flavor? How deep is her bond with her Mom? How is she handling the aftermath concerning the death of her dad?

Jennifer: Bree’s favorite cupcake flavor is pink. I don’t know what pink tastes like, but Bree LOVES pink. Bree also loves her mother and wants to be close, but she feels distant from her because of how Amber is handling her grief. She gets angry at her mother for “not being any fun anymore.”

Alexis: If you were a professional grief counselor and you could step into your story to walk Amber and Bree through their heartache, what would you say? 

Jennifer: Ironically, Amber has many grief counselors who step into her life during this story. They all tell her the same thing… “God is with you in your pain. Go to Him. Lean into Him. And let your friends and family help you carry the burden.”

Alexis: In what ways does God work behind the scenes to fill Amber’s empty heart with His Love?

Jennifer: A million ways… But Amber just can’t… or won’t see it right away. She’s very stubborn and has to learn through hard knocks. (Don’t we all!) But in the end, the main way God works through her is the character of Nelson, a man from Darren’s army unit. I won’t spoil it, but Nelson ends up playing a HUGE role in Amber’s transformation.

Alexis: Cody Jackson is the hero of this story. What’s he like? Describe his look, personality, heart, and the reason why he has a death wish.

Jennifer: I wouldn’t say Cody is the hero of this story. Amber is our true hero. When Harold and I wrote the original script of this story, we were very insistent that we didn’t want to create the kind of story where boy saves girl. We wanted the real love story to be between Amber and God. God’s persistent love for Amber (via a very impactful intervention from an unsuspecting character) is what saves Amber.

However, Cody is a strong catalyst in Amber’s transformation. He plays a pivotal role in that he awakens Amber’s heart and mind to things she needs. Cody is country-boy handsome, has a genuine smile, and is a total gentleman. But he has his own demons to fight. He has a death wish because he’s impatient. He wants to reach his goal of being a professionally competing stock car driver – now! And at any cost. This gets him in trouble over and over.

Alexis: What does Cody love the most about being a racecar driver? Why?

Jennifer: He likes going fast. Makes him feel alive. He’s a visceral person. He acts on instinct. This keeps getting him in trouble in the track.

Alexis: Why is it important to Bree for her Mom and Cody to be friends?

Jennifer: Cody gives Bree a new lease on life when she joins Cody’s go kart club. Bree can see the goodness and lightness in Cody and she knows her mother needs that kind of influence in her life right now.

Alexis: Who notices first that love is in the air between Cody and Amber? What made the sparks fly?

Jennifer: Cody. Definitely Cody. Cody has his eye on her from the first time he spots her across the church parking lot! Amber isn’t really ready to try love again until the very end of the story.

Alexis: What role does Cody’s daredevil tendencies on the racetrack and Amber’s guarded heart play in their love story?

Jennifer: There’s a scene where Cody gets Amber to drive his race car on the track. It’s the first moment of “fun” Amber has had in a LONG time. This playful moment is the catalyst that starts to break down the wall around her healing heart.

Alexis: In what ways does Cody’s walk with God grow as this story progresses?

Jennifer: When Cody steps into Clarksville, we learn he isn’t really the church going type. But his mentor, Joe, insists that he attend church with him and sets Cody up leading a kid’s ministry. As Cody starts to get involved, the church community becomes an important part of his new life. His walk with God is directly related to becoming involved in this new community of Christians. I think that’s how it happens for a lot of us. We find God along with finding friends who love and serve God. The devotion of our family and friends to their faith can often become an inspiration for our own personal growth and relationship with God.

Alexis: Share how your book became a movie. When can we see it in theaters?

Jennifer: God Bless the Broken Road (GBBR) actually began as a feature film script three years ago. My friend and director, Harold Cronk, who is best known for the God’s Not Dead movies, called me one fine summer evening. He pitched me the seed of the idea and asked what I thought? I said I thought it sounded like a solid story. And then he asked if I wanted to write it with him. Of course, I said yes. 

We finished the first draft of the script on Christmas Eve, 2014. Over the course of the next year we refined it while the producers rallied the funds. In the spring of 2016 Harold shot God Bless the Broken Road. 

A few months earlier, as we finished the script version, I talked with the producers about penning a novel version. They thought it would be a great idea. So my agent, Julie Gwinn, put a pitch together and while we were filming I quickly wrote the first three chapters. Within two weeks Julie had procured a couple contracts. We happily chose Simon & Schuster. I spent last summer scribing the novel and here it is a year later. The film version is also “in the can” as we say and will be releasing in 2018.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jennifer! Do you have any closing comments?

Jennifer: “Turn left and drive fast!” (This will make a lot more sense if you’ve read the book!)

Author Bio: Jennifer is a writer, speaker, and forensic specialist creating a diverse range of stories that shed light on the dark places of the human experience. 

Her story creation is bred from a very unsheltered childhood as the daughter of a medical examiner whose office was in her home. She investigated her first fatality—an airplane crash—when she was 8-years-old and from there gathered a decade of on-sight experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy.

The stories she creates stem from the unique range of human experiences. Because of her background, she does not shy away from telling stories about tough circumstances and how characters choose to deal with them. Jennifer’s characters encounter light in their darkness… redemption where none seems possible…and bits of levity to sweeten the journey.

Her feature film, God Bless the Broken Road, is slated for release in 2017 in conjunction with the novel released on June 6, by the same title published by Simon & Schuster.

Jennifer has several crime-drama series being developed for television and a bilingual kid’s show, Team Abuelita, in production with Baby First TV.

Wanting to share her love of forensics with other storytellers, she scribed non-fiction work, Forensic Speak: How To Write Realistic Crime Dramas, published by Michael Wiese Productions, hailed as a north star to creating authentic crime dramas.

As a forensic specialist, she has consulted with TV writers on network and cable TV shows. She regularly leads seminars and webinars on forensics and crime fiction and has taught screenwriting on the high school and university level and mentored new writers.

Sign up for her newsletter and YouTube channel at

Blurb for Jennifer's book: God Bless the Broken Road is a heartwarming story about a grieving army widow who finds her way back to her daughter, her faith, and a new love.

Amber Hill never imagined she would find herself a war widow and single mom. She feels robbed and is angry at God, and she doesn’t know how to help her nine-year-old daughter Bree through her grief. Where, Amber wonders, are the Sunday dinners, the picnics, the bike rides, the time together they should be enjoying as a family? Instead, Amber is left with a folded flag and an empty heart.

Cody Jackson has a death wish. Or at least that is what his manager thinks, as Cody pushes his race car and his luck in every race. Is he hiding something, or just daring God and other racers to end the path of destruction he finds himself on as he rounds the last turn? When Cody encourages Bree to join in a Derby car race for local youth, she finds a way to channel her grief into something good—and she likes that her mom and Cody are starting to become friends—or maybe something more.

Cody invites Amber and Bree to see him race, but as they watch Cody narrowly escape a devastating crash, she realizes she can’t lose another person in her life. It’s better to be alone than feel that type of grief again. But when Amber hits rock-bottom, she cries out to God and asks for help. With her faith, her life, her family, and her heart hanging in the balance, Amber is forced to decide between the broken road she knows so well and trusting that God will provide a new path.

Buy Jennifer's book on Amazon and AudioBooksNow

Watch the movie trailer for God Bless the Broken Road,

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer Love: Book Review and Excerpt from "Finding Love in Seaside"

Welcome my writer friend Angela Ruth Strong to the blog! She's here to share an excerpt from her story "Finding Love in Seaside". It is the fourth and final story in a story collection called, Finding Love at the Oregon Coast: A Romantic Novella Collection.

"Finding Love in Seaside" story blurb: Christina plans to spend her honeymoon alone, but when the bed and breakfast owner offers her a position as cook, she starts to feel at home in his kitchen…and in his arms.

My Review of “Finding Love in Seaside” by Angela Ruth Strong: I truly enjoyed this story by Angela Ruth Strong. I loved how she told the story of another Lake brother who was featured in her other Finding Love stories. 

Dave Lake is the hero of Finding Love in Seaside. His story is one of unexpected surprises and answers to prayer…both which show up in the form of Christina Lovejoy (the heroine). Christina walks into Dave’s life after she walks away from the man she was going to marry on their wedding day. She’s there for her honeymoon, without a husband. Their meet-cute is awkward, adventuresome and amazing all at the same time. The author knows how to tell a story! She draws the reader in from the start and keeps their attention until the end. The author’s storytelling style makes the readers care about the characters who are completely captivating! The structure of this story is solid and the scenes come alive on the page.

My favorite line from this story is from Dave after a trust exercise in which he asked Christina to fall back into his arms. Here's the line that touched my heart: “You knew in your head I was going to catch you,” he said in her ear, “but you didn’t feel safe in your heart until you’d experienced me catching you multiple times. It’s the same way with God. The more we let Him catch us, the more our hearts trust Him.” Ultimately this story, though fictional, teaches a real-life lesson about learning to trust God.

I loved every moment of these characters’ lives and would recommend this entire collection of stories "Finding Love at the Oregon Coast", to every woman who is a romantic at heart.

Excerpt from Chapter One of "Finding Love in Seaside" by Angela Ruth Strong:

Christina never imagined she’d be going on her honeymoon alone.

She faced the massive, yellow, Victorian home nestled on a cliff above an ocean and took a deep breath of salty air. She hitched the full tulle skirt of her wedding dress and climbed the steps to let herself through the solid front door.

The entryway was as dark as the exterior was bright. Christina squinted to see in the drastic lighting change. Everything from the floor to the walls to the ceiling was made of wood, everything except the brick fireplace. It gave the room a manly feel despite the antique furnishing and Oriental rug. Was the place run by a man or a woman? And where were they? It was incredibly quiet except for some kind of dripping sound. And footsteps pounding overhead.

“Hello?” She called.

A man raced down the stairs. He barely glanced her direction before charging to a roll top desk and grabbing a phone. He dialed then ran a hand over his head while waiting for someone to answer. She could hear the ringing on the other end.

Maybe the man hadn’t seen her. The room was pretty dark.

She waited for him to slam the phone down before speaking again. “Hi, I think I’m a little early for check-in time.” Maybe that was the problem. He wasn’t ready for her arrival.

His gaze flicked her way. He was average height with light brown hair and hazel eyes, but with over average confidence that somehow made his ordinary appearance an asset. Like he would have been picked to run CIA operations since he could blend into a crowd so well.

He looked past her out the front window. Why was he ignoring her? What was wrong? With his bizarre behavior and the dark room, she was starting to get a little creeped out. She reached for the light switch and flipped it up.

“No!” He held out his hands and sprinted from behind the desk to stop her.

What was the big deal? Something strange was going on.

A zapping sound came from overhead. She startled, looking up. Lightbulbs popped on then flickered. Sparks flew. The huge, brass light fixture dropped from the ceiling and swung from a cord. It was like she’d stepped into the Twilight Zone. And she’d thought her day couldn’t get any worse.

The man dove for the light switch and flipped it off as if that might prevent the chandelier from tugging at the frayed cord until it snapped. Too late. Glass and metal crashed to the floor, splashing water across the room.

Where had the water come from? Christina wiped a droplet from her face and squinted toward the spot the chandelier had landed. The large dark circle on the rug was actually a puddle. And the dripping sound she’d heard had come from a small waterfall now pouring out the hole in the ceiling.

She gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. She’d walked in on the man trying to fix a leak, and she’d made it worse by involving electricity.

“I’m going to need some help.” The man grunted. “Where’s your husband?”

Oh no. She’d helped destroy his front room, and she alone was going to have to help him fix it. Her eyes started to experience a leak of their own. She blinked away tears and lowered her hands to whisper. “I didn’t get married.”

The edges of his lips curved up like he wanted to laugh. He didn’t, but she still felt the judgement. Or was she just being sensitive? It didn’t really matter what this stranger thought. She was going to be fine. Eventually. For now, she’d pretend.

She straightened like a soldier. “What can I do to help?”

The man snapped into action, digging around inside the desk until he came out with a flashlight. “I need to find the shut-off valve for the water. I have an idea where it is, but I’m not going to know when it’s off. You go upstairs to the bathroom down the hall on your left, and when the water stops squirting out from under the sink, yell down to me to let me know.”

She could do that. She couldn’t handle any more thoughts of her bleak future or her father’s disappointment or the loneliness without Mom, but she could yell when the water shut off. She nodded, lifted her skirt, and ran up the stairs, relieved the guy hadn’t gotten angry at her. Because then she would really have lost it.

Steam poured from the bathroom door like she was dealing with a volcanic geyser rather than a busted pipe. She surveyed the problem and squatted down to get a better look at the spot underneath the sink from where water spurted. It truly was a pretty bathroom. She’d never seen a claw foot tub in real life before. And those octagonal white tiles on the floor looked to be authentic for the time period. Would they have to be ripped out to repair the water damage? At least that part wouldn’t be her fault.

The stream of water sputtered. Slowed to a trickle. Dried up.

“It’s off,” she called. Could the manager hear her? The place was huge and she didn’t know exactly where he’d gone.

She listened for a response. Nothing.

She eyed the pipes one more time. They were still off, but if the manager didn’t know he’d succeeded in his endeavor, he might keep turning knobs and get it started again. She gathered her skirt to head down the staircase like a character from Gone with the Wind. She wished she’d changed before leaving the wedding. The bed and breakfast manager hadn’t said anything about her being a runaway bride, but he seemed to find it amusing. She was like the punchline in a cruel joke.

Author bio:
Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she's decided to re-release it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. 

This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhopeWriters to encourage other aspiring authors, and she's excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. Presumed Dead releases in February. 

She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing. 

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thankful Thursday: Earth is NOT Our Home

It's Thursday and I'm thankful that Earth is NOT our home.

"Why?" You may ask. Allow me to explain.

I don't think you have to look far these days to see signs of trouble. It's clear that with the state of the world and human affairs today, life is getting more complicated and more unpredictable. Mother Nature is having mood swings (hot weather in months that are supposed to be cold, cold weather in months that are supposed to be hot) and people are getting more comfortable with disrespecting each other. It's sad.

Lately, I've realized that I've been so busy trying to establish myself as a career professional and secure a place for me in this world that I've forgotten one Bible based truth: Earth is NOT our home.

So where is our home? If you're a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ then you know that Heaven is our true home. As Christians, we are just passing through which is why God advises us in His Word (The Holy Bible) to not get too comfortable here on this planet Earth.

According to The Message Bible, God advises us, "Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives" (1 Peter 2:11-12, MSG).

I love the Bible book of Hebrews, especially Chapter 11 of Hebrews. I call it “The Faith Chapter” because it shows us how our spiritual forefathers like Abraham followed God without question. They had full faith in where He was leading. Abraham literally packed his bags and took his family on a journey to a destination unknown just because God said, “Go.”

I want to have the faith of father Abraham to the point where my life is summed up simply as, “God sent, she went!” I want to follow Him to the ends of the Earth. I want to serve Him with all of my heart and be a willing and true vessel for His purpose. I want to be one of His servants who He uses as an instrument of His peace. I want to, as St. Francis of Assisi said, be used as an instrument of God’s peace. Honestly, in our modern times on this Earth, I think it is a prayer that every Christ-follower should pray to God.

Let’s read St. Francis’ prayer. He said: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

A lot of times when life on Earth makes me overwhelmed, discouraged or too depressed to pray, I ask God-fearing friends to pray for me. One of those friends is an older lady who wakes up early in the morning every day to pray for everyone on her prayer list. Recently, I reached out to her in my distress and her answer to me was simple. She told me, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.” And honestly, it upset me because it felt like she was bypassing my pain with Bible-based advice and for the rest of the day, I silently stewed, thinking that she doesn’t know what I’m dealing with or she wouldn’t say that to me. I’m hurt! I’m in pain! I’m overwhelmed! I’m oppressed and depressed and THIS is what she tells me? BUT God started working on my heart and I realized that though her advice seemed simple, it was the perfect answer because only God can give me perfect peace.

It’s like this song by Laura Story:

So my dear friends, as this world gets crazier and the weather becomes more unpredictable and you’re feeling too overwhelmed to function, keep your eyes on Jesus Christ because only He can give you perfect peace.

Please remember that if you believe in the Creator of the Universe (God), Earth is NOT our home. We are, like our spiritual forefathers mentioned in The Faith Chapter, “waiting for the city with permanent foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, ISV).

Heaven is our home. It’s a place free of sin and sorrow. No more death, depression, oppression, despair, injustice or inequities. The day is coming when God will make everything right. Until then, let us as my prayer warrior church friend says, “Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

God bless you!



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Love: A story that started as a daydream

Irish Encounter: It Started As A Daydream
A guest post by Hope Dougherty

In May of 2009, I was staring at the first day of the rest of my life. My oldest daughter was set to graduate high school in less than a month. Two years later, her sister would march right behind her, followed in two years by their twin brothers.

Life as I’d known it for the past eighteen years was about to change and change enormously.

Throughout my tenure as a stay-with-my-children mom, I’d written for publications sporadically. Very sporadically, but I had a portfolio of articles with my byline in print.

So in May of 2009, I decided my summer job would be to write something for Guideposts, a magazine filled with inspirational, faith-filled stories. I’d just completed the life of Moses with Bible Study Fellowship, and I envisioned sharing a lot of wisdom and insight gleaned from thirty-two weeks of study.

I wrote What I learned from Moses on the top line of a yellow legal pad. As soon as I wrote this fascinating title, I immediately began daydreaming—about Ireland, not Moses.

In my daydream, a woman in an Irish cafĂ© scribbled in a journal. A little old man in a tweed vest approached her, introduced himself, and began talking about his late wife. I saw the wooden buttons on his vest and the Irish cap he clutched in his hands. Suddenly another man, dressed in dusty safari clothes, appeared to the woman’s left, lounging at his table and eavesdropping on their conversation.

This scene interested me infinitely more than what I’d intended with Moses. I turned over the first page to a fresh sheet and wrote as quickly as I could everything I saw and heard in that Irish coffee shop.

Irish Encounter began that day. I didn’t know it yet, but God did. I just hurried back every morning to my desk to see what happened next. Before writing, I’d recite Bible verses from the Moses study. Verses like Exodus 3:12 “And God said, ‘I will be with you’” and Exodus 4:12 “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." (The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.)

I’d pray for guidance and help, and then I’d travel to Galway.

God led me onto this writing journey with a lot of prodding and pulling and nudges toward those interesting characters. I’m thankful every day that He did.

Which interesting path is God leading you toward today?

Author Bio: 

Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University and York Technical College. 

Her publications include two novels, Irish Encounter and Mars…With Venus Rising, as well as nonfiction articles. 

A member of ACFW, RWA, and SinC, she writes for 

She and her husband live in North Carolina and enjoy visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Blurb for Irish EncounterAfter almost three years of living under a fog of grief, Ellen Shepherd is ready for the next chapter in her life, perhaps an adventure during a visit to Galway. 

Her idea of excitement consists of exploring Ireland for yarn to feature in her shop back home, but the adventure awaiting her includes an edgy stranger who disrupts her tea time, challenges her belief system, and stirs up feelings she thought she'd buried with her husband. 

After years of ignoring God, nursing anger, and stifling his grief, Payne Anderson isn't ready for the feelings a chance encounter with an enchanting stranger evokes. Though avoiding women and small talk has been his pattern, something about Ellen makes him want to seek her—and God again.

Can Ellen accept a new life different than the one she planned? Can Payne release his guilt and accept the peace he's longed for? Can they surrender their past pain and embrace healing together or will fear and doubt ruin this second chance at happiness?

Buy Hope's book on Amazon

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

Book title: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories
Author: Celeste Fletcher McHale
Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring

This story was a rare read for me because, for the first time in months, I enjoyed every single page of this full-length novel from the prologue through the epilogue.

Normally, novels that are full-length bore me before the end and I find myself skipping over the details and speed-reading. But not with this book! The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories piqued my interest from the first page of the prologue and made me keep turning the page. I think part of this was due to the captivating characters that are not only relatable but very REAL. This is not your standard HEA (Happily Ever After) Christian fiction story where no one gets hurt too deeply and happiness prevails. No! This story is filled with fictional characters that deal with real issues that people in the REAL WORLD face and the way they handle their issues and come full circle inspired me.

This story is about a man named Colin and a woman named Jacey. She’s a magazine writer, he’s a preacher. They are very attracted to each other, for all the right reasons. But it’s much more than your average “guy meets girl, they date and fall in love, they have a black moment but it all works out in the end” story. No! Jacey and Colin’s relationship had its mountain highs, valley-lows and loads of personal issues to work through but the author handled their story with great finesse. I’m amazed at how she carefully introduced readers to their backstory, their individual struggles, their heartache, and pain. She did it in a way that kept me turning the page to find out what happens next and along the way, I grew to really care about these main characters and want the best for their fictional life stories.

The premise for this story is not only original—it’s relevant. The author took her inspiration from the flood of 2016 that devastated Louisiana. She began the story with her hero and heroine saying goodbye after being stranded on the roof of a house in a rural part of Louisiana that was engulfed by floodwaters. Their goodbye was not final because they were being rescued but it was the catalyst that propelled them into the Hero’s Journey, which is a term used by screenwriters and well played out in this story.

The author paid great attention to detail in carefully creating a journey for Jacey and Colin that’s not only believable but heartwarming. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, every scene of this story is important in taking the reader to the core. And just like peeling an onion in real-life, you don’t survive without crying. But this story is not sad and won’t depress you. You might cry as you feel empathy for the characters’ tribulations but you will also shed tears of joy, especially as you read the epilogue.

I can’t say much more about this story without giving a way every glorious detail of the characters’ journey. So I will close by saying that this book is well worth your time. So pour a glass full of your favorite beverage, carve out two or four hours of your time to curl up on a couch and read this story. Drink deeply. It’s very refreshing!

*Disclosure: I received this book free from Fiction Guild. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Giveaway Contest: Celebrating my blog and debut book's birthday!

Dearest of hearts,

Today is my blog's 7th birthday! It all started with this post on August 2, 2010...and God took it from there! He inspired me with ideas to inspire you ever since.

Over the years, my blog has matured from being a place where I timidly posted videos and links to articles that I read online, to a place where I grew strong and found my voice. Now we do book giveaways, music CD giveaways, author interviews, character interviews, and personal essays. You get to "meet" my favorite authors and read devotionals written by lovely ladies of faith in God like Mary Manners and Laura Thomas! Sometimes you even get treated to viewing pictures that are "Worth 1,000 Words" captured by my photographer friends like Katelyn James and Terri Baskin!

My journey as the founder of this "God is Love" blog grew from its humble beginnings to my becoming a consistent blogger with a voice. Every step and blog post of this journey helped to enrich my life. It's always been my mission to share God's Love for humankind with the world and I am thankful that He led me to establish this blog to accomplish that purpose.

Now here's to YOU my dear blog readers because this blog would not be of benefit if you were not reading it! I've downloaded a free e-card from DaySpring just for you! Here you go:

Thank YOU for ALL the "little things" you do that make a BIG difference! Little things like leaving comments on my blog posts, participating in the giveaway contests, and taking the time to write a note to me personally via e-mail truly have made my day. Your kindness has encouraged my heart. I appreciate you ALL so much!

Another reason to celebrate this August 2017 is that my first (debut) book, Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, was published in August 2013! It's my debut book's 4th birthday! And to celebrate both my blog's birthday and my first book's birthday, I'm hosting a giveaway contest where seven people will have the chance to WIN a copy of Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories for their Kindle. 

The giveaway starts TODAY (August 2) and it will END on August 27.

So won't you celebrate with me by leaving a comment with your "Happy birthday" wishes and give yourself the chance to WIN this gift of my first book by entering the giveaway contest?

You can enter the contest by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below:

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Good luck in the giveaway! God bless your dear hearts!


Alexis A. Goring
Founder of "God is Love" blog