Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Review - Motherless by Erin Healy

When you read the back cover of a book, you get a pretty good idea of what you are getting into. When I read the summary for Motherless by Erin Healy I was intrigued and ready to strap in and take a ride. Here are a few details for you:

About the book (back cover):

A whispering voice at the back of my mind reminds me that I’ve been this way for some time. Dead, that is.

The dead have a very broad view of the living, of actions performed out of sight, of thoughts believed to be private. I would know. Losing both parents is a trial no child should endure, and Marina and Dylan have endured enough. They deserve the one thing I could never give them: a mother’s love.

A mother’s love, and the truth.

My children have believed a lie about me for years and years. After all this time I can still feel their hurt in my heart. But the tether holding me to them is frayed from years of neglect . . . and I have to find a way to make my confession before it snaps.

But when the truth comes out, what other beasts will I unleash?

“Why do we lie to the children?” someone asked me once.

“To protect them,” I answered.

How terrible it is that they need protection from me.

My Review:

When I finished reading Motherless by Erin Healy, I was emotionally spent, swept away and found myself wiping tears from my eyes. There are very few books that have had that kind of impact on me. I found myself leaning into the story to absorb as much as I could.

Motherless takes off from page one and grips the reader. It immediately immerses you into the story and you are invested in what is going on. Motherless combines the supernatural with a thriller and mystery and does it with such heart. I found myself trying to unravel what was going on and even when I knew what was happening, I would turn the page to a surprise I did not expect. Everything was well-thought out and well executed.

Highlights - 
Characters who were imperfect. How nice it is to read about individuals that you can relate to. Things aren't wrapped up in a simple bow of misunderstanding. It can be hard to read about flaws, but it is also hard to ignore them in real life. I appreciate that Healy went there with realistic characters that were perfectly fleshed out.

Location, location, location. I was blown away by the descriptions of real locations I grew up going to in California. From the vineyards to Monastery Beach, I felt like I was right there. Even the homes and businesses were so perfectly described without imposing them on the reader. I saw it, I smelled it and I felt it.

Truly engaging, There were a lot of unanswered questions bouncing about in this story and each and everyone was answered. There were no rabbits pulled out of hats (in other words the story wasn't tweaked unbelievably to make things work). Everything made perfect sense.

All in all, I can say that I am glad that I read Motherless. It was a story that entertained me, made me think and gave me a new perspective on getting away and running away (you'll have to read the book to know what I'm talking about there). I would definitely give Motherless 5 Stars.

In full disclosure, I was given a copy of Motherless through a promotional team and publisher to facilitate my honest review.  I was not required to give a positive review.  This review reflects my honest opinion.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review - A.D. 30: A Novel - By Ted Dekker

When it comes to books, I have certain authors that I count on for different experiences.  I have grown to count on them to bring me exactly what I look for from each genre that they excel at to such a degree, you almost can't think of that genre without thinking of them.  When it came to suspense with a fantasy or speculative fiction component, I always picked Ted Dekker.  When given an opportunity to review "A.D. 30: A Novel" I jumped at the chance.  

Here's a few details:

About the book (from  Goodreads):
A sweeping epic set in the harsh deserts of Arabia and ancient Palestine.

A war that rages between kingdoms on the earth and in the heart.

The harrowing journey of the woman at the center of it all.

Step back in time to the year of our Lord...A.D. 30.

The outcast daughter of one of the most powerful Bedouin sheikhs in Arabia, Maviah is called on to protect the very people who rejected her. When their enemies launch a sudden attack with devastating consequences, Maviah escapes with the help of two of her father's warriors--Saba who speaks more with is sword than his voice and Judah, a Jew who comes from a tribe that can read the stars. Their journey will be fraught with terrible danger. If they can survive the vast forbidding sands of a desert that is deadly to most, they will reach a brutal world subjugated by kings and emperors. There Maviah must secure an unlikely alliance with King Herod of the Jews.

But Maviah's path leads her unexpectedly to another man. An enigmatic teacher who speaks of a way in this life which offers greater power than any kingdom. His name is Yeshua, and his words turn everything known on its head. Though following him may present even greater danger, his may be the only way for Maviah to save her people--and herself.

My review:
This is not what I have come to expect with Ted Dekker.  I have expected excellent writing and compelling characters, but I have never read anything like this.  From the beginning I was drawn into the world of Maviah a slave and outcast whose own father, a Sheik who truly wants little to do with her.  She is doubly cursed by being a woman and from the outcast group of the Bedu (a child out of wedlock no less).  I felt an immediate sense of compassion for this woman who, through no fault of her own, had no honor.  When really there is no one else to turn to, Maviah is dispatched on a mission that surely is impossible, but she and her companions have honor and that compels them forward.

You can read what the book is about above, here is what I enjoyed.

Realism -   A.D. 30: A Novel propelled me into biblical history in a way I had not been ushered into it before.  The story of Maviah was compelling and heart wrenching.  I would expect a journey into the desert to be tiresome and full of danger, and Dekker delivered such a journey.  Nothing happened easily in  in the entire story.  This I enjoyed.  It wasn't that I wanted Maviah and her companions to go through hardships, but if it is going to be believable, things have to happen that are believable.  

Tight story - I have read books where things seemed very contradictory in order to get to a desired result.  This book was clear and on point from start to finish.  I didn't find myself turning the pages back to fact check.  I have done that in other books and it has been disappointing.

Characters - The characters are believable and sympathetic.  As a reader I never felt manipulated by character description or actions.  Nothing was ever forced.  They behaved according to the way they were drawn.  There was never a feeling of betrayal over a character suddenly doing a 180.  Both my feeling of sympathy, anger, joy and a little jealousy (they are after all going to meet up with Jesus, I wished it was me) were ignited through this book.  

Spiritual tone - I am a Christian.  I am a Christ follower, and I am happy to read a book that digs into my faith.  Dekker did this richly in A.D. 30.  I found myself making notes for my own growth and development.  It was exciting reading about how someone would picture my Jesus.  

All in all A.D. 30: A Novel, is a compelling historical novel with deep truths linking together an incredible story.  Knowing that there is so much truth made it a bit of a pilgrimage on paper.  If you like adventure?  This book has it in abundance.  Do you desire to read fiction with biblical truth?  You will find it here.  Do you want to have a moment with Jesus?  This made me dig deeper.  Dekker is a master storyteller and through this work you will be entertained but also learn from THE master storyteller, Jesus.  

And good news, a sequel is on the way with A.D. 33.  I for one will anxiously await it.

Lastly, when you pick this book up, be sure to read the opening "My Journey Into A.D. 30."  It was mesmerizing. 

Full disclosure:  I received this book from the publicist to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was given.  The opinions here are completely unbiased and my own.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trying Something New

*Feeling excited and small*

I am taking part in the 21 Day Intentional Blogging Challenge with Jeff Goins and in doing so, I am taking a leap to self hosting!  Big yikes here.

Here is the link where I am getting started:  Kelly Blackwell

And here is that post from the new blog (pray for me would you?):

The Big Step

Hey there!  This is it.  This is my first step into getting serious.  I am one of those souls who have often found themselves to be an enthusiastic starter but not so much of an enthusiastic finisher.  It is all about the spirit being willing but the flesh becoming easily exhausted.  Here’s the thing.  I want to be a writer.  Wanting isn’t enough though.  I need to act like it.

Yesterday I decided to jump into a challenge via one of my favorite encouraging writers, Jeff Goins.  It is basically a 21 Day Challenge for intentional blogging.  Yep.  This is serious stuff and there are like over 300 people already participating with intention.  Over 300 people to draw encouragement from!  Over 300 people to grow with!  Can you imagine that?  I love that idea!  I need that!  Oh I also kind of dread it, but there are so many participating, I imagine I will kind of just blend in.  Probably a really good thing there.

–Have I mentioned that this scares me a bit?–

I read and reread Jeff’s post time and time again.  I starred the email and looked at it about 30 times this morning.  Finally I looked myself in the mirror and challenged myself to move.  I challenged myself to really do this and do it with a bang.  I decided to jump in with both feet and a new blog.
The new blog is via WordPress (yes, I guess I figure you can tell that, I’m just nervous).  I have never used this platform which will be abundantly obvious as you look around.  I did this to force myself to really commit.  See…I also jumped in with both feet into…gulp…self hosting.  The very idea freaks me out.  This has now just turned into a financial investment.  I am as frugal as they come.  I could have opened up a free site, but I’ve done that and I’ve wimped out.  I am putting my money where my mouth is.  I am committing financially, and now I need to commit with the time.  Oh and lots of prayer.  For now though, I am just going to try to figure this place out.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.  Kind of talking to you and me here.  I need to stick with this.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

So Overwhelmed You Can't Choose? - The Best Yes

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour, and I am out of my mind excited about being a part of it.  I am joining many, many other inspiring bloggers.  Many of which completely fill me with awe.  Let's just say, not only will I be posting, but I will be doing a lot of blog hopping over the next few weeks.  Learn more and come along with us as we explore, enjoy and celebrate "The Best Yes" by a simple CLICK HERE.

I first became aware of Lysa TerKeurst's "The Best Yes" via Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies.  I have become a very dependent fan of these studies for a little over a  year.  Each study has had a profound impact on my life.  I didn't know what the book was about, but I knew I would pick it up when the study rolled around in mid September (September 22 in case you are wondering). 

But then God...well, he brought me to She Speaks 2014.  A prayerful dream from saying yes to God (inspired by another of Lysa's books, by the way) became a reality, and I joined hundreds of women who wanted to share the love of Jesus through spoken and written word.  Attending She Speaks 2014 was not only a big part of saying yes to God but also a complete faith walk for me, a woman who was deathly afraid of claiming the Lord's vision for fear of mocking and the big NO (PS It was also impossible financially - but for God).

Landing in NC on July 23, my head was spinning with the possibilities of what God would do.  I was excited to be following His will and His call, and nervous about going it alone (well physically alone).  God led me to many wonderful ladies and new friends.  From the pre-conference throughout the weekend conference, I felt many God moments.  One of those moments happened to be purchasing "The Best Yes."  See I still had every intention of waiting to purchase it until the study drew closer, but again, I felt a God tug and bought it after dinner on Friday evening (leaving it in the hotel Saturday morning by the way and missing an autograph opportunity by Lysa - but I digress).  

By the time I hit the airport on July 27th, I was spiritually full but also a bit undone.  I was completely overwhelmed by all God had done during the conference.  I was motivated by the lovely women I met.  I was also intimidated by the next step and how could I possibly make it.  With the question "What's next?" rolling through my mind, and a few hours to spare before my flight, I grabbed coffee (okay...and a very carby everything bagel with cream cheese) and began to read "The Best Yes."

Have you ever read a book that has you nodding your head in agreement or even causes you to talk back to it? That was what reading "The Best Yes" was like for me.  I began to write notes in the margin, I highlighted, and I wrote in my little composition book.  I felt like I was having eureka moments by the pound as I poured over the pages.  I clutched the book in my hands as I boarded my plane thinking that people just might find me a bit odd, but I didn't care at the same time.  I read throughout much of the flight.

See, I have been that woman so overwhelmed that often I felt frozen by the decision making process.  I stood still rather than moving forward.  I want a better yes.  No I want the best yes.  I want to say yes and follow through.  Have you been there?

My first yes.  My schedule.  

“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” - Lysa TerKeurst

Oh how I relate to these words!  There is so much in my heart that I want to do, but there is also this voice in my head that has continually told me "You can't."  Besides the general idea that I can't because I have these notions that I am simply unable, there is also this side that says I simply do not have the time.  My schedule is overwhelmed.  But is it really?  I have not laid out my time before me yet, but even as I read Chapter 3 of "The Best Yes" I knew that I had not looked for an opening in my schedule.  I had not made the time. I had been overcome by fear of no rather than overcome by the love of the Lord and sharing that love.

I read:

"The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul." pg 23

In the margin and above it, I wrote:

What does my schedule say about my soul?  
What does it say about what I want to do and about who I follow?  
My schedule only reflects my work and my down time.  I want UP time. 

What do I mean by "up time"?  Focusing up.  Focusing on God.  Focusing on his call on my life whatever that may be.  I feel a call to write.  I feel a call to share the love of Jesus.  I long to reach out to the women in this world who have been damaged and show them God's healing power and grace.  Lots of wants, but where are the steps?

Step one is finishing Lysa's book and taking this call as seriously as if I was already living it day by day and for my life to reflect my God in each and every step I make.  I'm ready to be empowered.  Are you?

Are you feeling soul tired?  Have you looked at the patterns in your life and do not like where they have taken you?  Do you struggle with when to say yes and when to say no?  Do you avoid the yes and no altogether and instead stand still?  Are you tired of filling your life with empty activities rather than fulfilling activities?

I believe this book will lead you into a read adventure and purpose.

New York Times Bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst has written a new book about finding your Best Yes. Many call this book “inspiring” and “fabulous.” Myself, I call it a gift.  You can get your copy at

About Lysa

Lysa TerKeurst is the New York Times bestselling author of Made to Crave and Unglued. She isn’t shy about admitting what a mess she can be. But in the midst of everyday “growth opportunities,” she’s been learning God’s lessons and sharing them on her blog ( and in her books. Lysa is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and writes from her sticky farm table in North Carolina where she lives with her husband, Art, five kids, three dogs, and mouse that refuses to leave her kitchen.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review - Camp

There have been lots of faith-based films that I have wanted to watch recently but haven't had the time.  After catching "God's Not Dead" FINALLY, I decided to get back on board with spending some more time with uplifting films.  With that mind, I could not wait to watch and share "CAMP."

MOVIE REVIEWCAMP Roebuck Media, Word Films
Written and Directed by:  Jacob Roebuck
Starring:  Miles Elliot, Michael Mattera, Asante Jones, Michael Otis, Grace Johnston, Janet Wood, and Matthew Jacob Wayne.

SYNOPSIS(Christian Film Database) -  CAMP is the latest film from Jacob Roebuck. Inspired by true stories, we meet Ken Matthews (Michael Mattera), a hot shot investment banker doing whatever it takes to make a good impression with a wealthy client, including becoming a camp counselor. Ken is partnered with Eli, a kid thrown away by his parents and in foster care, for a week he won’t soon forget.
MY REVIEW:  When I decided to watch CAMP, I thought it would be a simple tale of an adult having their life turned about by a child's need and love.  Was I wrong!  It was so much more.  CAMP is a story of hope and it is a story of a real camp called Royal Family KIDS.  Royal Family KIDS is a week long camp that serves foster children for a week in the summer.  Many of these children are living in group foster homes which means they share most everything yet receive so little.  This is the case when there is simply not enough to go around.  This camp is the opportunity for each child to be cared for and treated as special as they truly are.  Hope and love is abounding at this camp.

Now don't get me wrong.  CAMP is not some long documentary or even a docudrama about the Royal Family KIDS.  It is a story that combines the story of many of these campers over the years Royal Family KIDS.  This film focuses mainly on Eli.  Eli is like so many children who has had so much promise, but with life handing him a rough deal, he needs hope so much more.  Ken is assigned to Eli.  Ken could use some hope himself.  Ken is a self-absorbed investment banker who has his eyes on the prize and that prize is all about getting bigger, better and wealthier clients.  This week at camp is a means to an end.  Sometimes though, God has bigger and better plans.

CAMP is a film that has heartbreaking lows and beautiful highs.  If you are willing to open up, you will find a true jewel here.  Realize the film starts hard and ends soft. 

- Remember that CAMP is PG13.  There is some foul language.  It is not something that goes on and on, but there is some swearing here and one crude gesture.  Nothing that is negative is done for any purpose other than to offer truth with minimal shock value.  This is not a full on feel good family film.  There is some violence that is primarily not seen but referred to.  There are some rough moments, but this is sharing truth that does exist for many children in the system and those who are not...yet.  It is not remotely as bad as reality, but there are some themes you should be aware of first.  I would watch it before sharing it with my family.  I think the age of 13 is where I would begin. 
- Don't stop when it is over.  The end credits include interviews with counselors and former campers turned counselors.  From this we find that many of the stories are based on experiences at the camp.  It is beautiful.  This is the time I needed tissue like you wouldn't believe! 
- I watched CAMP via Netflix streaming.

Learn more about Royal Family KIDS here.  You might even find a camp near you that you can give your time to.

Check out this clip from CAMP.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

He Loves

I had prayed a lot about what to write today.  During my weeks and weeks of pain and crying, I also went through weeks and weeks of questioning and wondering.  

I came out on the other side wanting to just say this.  

God Loves You


Beautiful, wonderful, marvelous YOU.

This is one of those head things that I get as far as I have been able to parrot it back.  I knew it, but it really had not sunk in.  It just kind of floated in my mind.  See my mind likes to play tricks on me and my mind also doubts BIG TIME.  I would read a verse that would share how much God loves me and then I would hear in my head a voice from the past saying "Well, God would REALLY love you if..." or "The thing is, you really don't deserve that love.  God knows this about you..." or "God would love you more if..."

Does that happen to you?

If not, I truly am happy for you.  I am thrilled.  Now that may be hard to convey right here in a post, but knowing the difficulty I have had, I am really happy if you haven't had to worry about that.  If you took God's word and by faith believed even that thing that can be so hard for me to grasp.  HE LOVES YOU.

He loves me.

Knowing God loves you no matter what creates this amazing feeling inside you.  There is a freedom yet there is this incredible humbling moment.  His love is a big deal.  It is a party kind of deal.  It means you can (and really must) let go of all the other voices and incidents that have made you feel unworthy or made you feel that you had to try harder to be worthy.  

God's love is not dependent on how your father treated you when you were growing up or even how he treats you now.  It is not about how clean and tidy your house is today.  It is not the sum of every employer you had or every person you dated.  It h as nothing to do with how well you did in high school or college.  Being loved by God has nothing to do with your weight gain, weight loss or how snarky you were to others last week (thank God cuz this girl can get snarky). 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18

All of those other things are temporary.  God is eternal.  God's love is eternal.  It is unconditional, powerful and beyond compare.  You can't earn it.  He gave it to you freely.  

That is good news.  

No.  That is great news.  If only we could grasp it.

Remember this:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  
John 1:12

So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
Ephesians 2:8

Oh...and for those random scattered "if only..." thoughts remember this too:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Woman I Long To Be

First let me just say that I am not hating on myself here.  I know that God loves me and I do not need to compare myself to anyone else.  However, I have come to realize that I simply desire to do more than I have.  I have goals, but I haven't been doing too well at drawing closer to them.  

I so often have thought about "someday."  Someday I'll lose this excess weight.  Someday I'll get up early and write and read the Bible all the time and not just occasionally.  Someday I will have a little self discipline.  Someday I'll stop procrastinating.  Someday I will change things.  Well, today is someday.  Today is the first day that I will live as the woman I long to be.  Let's call it a mini experiment.  You read about the woman in Proverbs 31.  Well, I'd like to be like that woman.  Actually no.  I want to be the woman that God has called me to be.  So I am going to live the way I think I would be living IF I had it a little more together.  

Make sense?

Hopefully it will.

Basically I am going to take action.  Some of these things I do often.  These are things I want to do all the time.  I want to live the life I want to live.  It is high time I get started.  I guess that is what a phantom back injury and a bout of depression will do to you.

The woman I long to be:

--Gets up early to spend time in God's word.
--Writes daily.
--Eats breakfast each day.
--Gets the exercise she can even with an injury at least five days a week.
--Makes healthy food choices.
--Encourages others daily.
--Drinks more water than coffee or even iced tea.
--Prays for her husband daily.
--Prays for her son daily.

You know what?  I'm excited!