Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Review - The Scent of Lilacs

A while back I had won "Orchard of Hope" by Ann H. Gabhart from the Book Club Network.  As I hadn't read the first book "The Scent of Lilacs," I decided to pick it up via Kindle in order to prep myself for the second in the Hollyhill Series.  IF you have a Kindle or a Kindle app even, you can get it right now for free (that can change fast).  It wasn't free when I picked it up (but I think it was only like $3.99 or so) but was still quite the deal.

Title:  The Scent of Lilacs

Author:  Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher:  Revell

About the Book (from Goodreads):   

Before Ann H. Gabhart became well-known for her much-loved Shaker novels, she wrote three poignant novels centered on the loveable Jocie Brooke and her family, who lived in 1960s small-town Kentucky. Once named as one of "Booklist"'s Top Ten Christian Novels and now featuring a brand new cover, "Scent of Lilacs" is poised to capture the hearts of new readers everywhere. Life-changing events rarely happen here, and when they do, they are few and far between. But for Jocie Brooke and her family, they happen all at once. Jocie has questions that need answers. As she digs into her family's past, she finds a whirlwind of discoveries, and everything begins to change. In the end, will Jocie find the answers everyone so desperately needs, or will her questions lead to truths that were better left uncovered? 

Combining unforgettable characters, true-to-life struggles, and the perfect dose of humor and nostalgia, this riveting story takes readers through the universal experiences of true love, new life, and renewed faith. With a beautiful new cover, "Scent of Lilacs" is poised to capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

Author's website:  Ann H. Gabhart

My Review:  

When I began to read "The Scent of  Lilacs," I wasn't sure what to expect.  I could tell that the book was going to be based in the past and that seemed just perfect for me.  Although I only occasionally read historical fiction, a book based in the 50s or 60s is just fine for me.  There is a warmth there that I don't necessarily feel with more modern era books without being something that I simply can't relate to.  The only downside to me, and really this isn't a downside but a quirk, is I kept reading Holy Hill instead of Hollyhill. 

"The Scent of Lilacs" completely pulls you into the story of Jocie Brook and her family.  Although it is partially centered on thirteen-year-old Jocie, this is not a book that feels like YA fiction.  There is far more too it than that (nothing wrong with YA fiction, it was simply more adult than that).  The reader also explores the feelings and thoughts of Jocie's father David which makes them both the heroine and hero of the story.

"The Scent of Lilacs" is a Christian story through and through and does not hide from it.  There are some works you might read where a prayer is said here and there, "The Scent of Lilacs" does not do that.  It is unapologetic about being Christian yet handles some pretty extreme issues, and handles them very well.  The thing that is beautiful about the way the author handles the Christian aspect of this book is that it completely folds into the story.  It is not thrown in like an after thought.  It fits into the story which it would have to considering that David, Jocie's father is also a preacher.  I so admire the way it was done, because it really does reflect real life.  As a Christian, I am aware that I do have issues and problems I have to overcome, but I seek out the Lord in it all (and fail quite a bit too).

The characters are so very well done.  It was quite easy to visualize each one and build a relationship with them.  In fact, the town of Hollyhill and Jocie's family's home and orchard property was seated firmly in my mind within a few chapters.  I easily slid back into the story again and again as I went through my own day-to-day activity between reading.  

I loved Jocie's family and also David's employees.  There was an easiness and believability with all of them.  I loved that there were some strong messages and lessons with truth and forgiveness.  I loved the  hope that the story brought.  I loved feeling like I was on a sweet little summer vacation as I read "The Scent of Lilacs."  I also loved that I already have "Orchard of Hope," the second book in the series to look forward to.  

"The Scent of Lilacs" is a book that makes you care.  It doesn't beat you over the head with heart wrenching dramatics to get you there.  It gets you there by making you care about the characters first.  There was not a manipulative point in the story (and I have seen that in others), but I found myself crying with tears of sadness, hurt, and also joy and hope.  Truly this is a fine piece of work and I look forward to reading "Orchard of Hope" next and getting my hands on "Summer of Joy" after that.  

Full disclosure:  I purchased this book via Amazon Kindle.  It was free at the time of my posting however and I believe you'd be a fool not to get it.  Just saying.  :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Paint

Five Minute Friday 

Yes, yes, yes!

It is another week of 5 Minute Friday time.  It is time to share with writers from all over.  A time to encourage and a time to embrace just letting go and writing.  This is my third go round on Five Minute Friday and I must say I simply love Lisa-Jo and all the wonderful writers that have shared their world in words.  There is still time to join in, and you can learn all about it by

In the meantime, today's prompt is





My life, my palette, God's design.

My birth, my soul, a snowy white.  So much space to do many, many things, the possibilities literally endless, but a special plan still painted on my heart.  A blue print of God's design.  One He knew, and He birthed long before even placing me in the protection of my mother's womb.

My teen years, a kaleidoscope of gleaming oranges, purples, pinks, neon yellows, and a brilliant turquoise, my signature color of course.  Each color reflecting joys and excitement.  Reality was there in the shadows.  Sometimes it was a mossy green or even a deep gray shadow, but my light, God's light in me, kept more beautiful colors my way.

Late teens and early twenties, my colors were a blaze of firey reds, shocking blues, brilliant fuchsia (and that was just my hair) and also rich ebony.  There was a darkness there that followed me for a time, enveloped me.  A time that I tried to find my own plans and my own solutions, and found instead hurt, fear, sorrow, betrayal and loss.  Deep pain caused a more violent red color to seep into my day and my skin.  The beauty is...God does not forget and God does heal.  He still has a plan.

His patience a soft warm yellow.  I feel it deep in my soul.  The need to let go and give to the Lord all the reds, the grays, the darkness and let Him be the light. 

It happened.  His light.  It melted the colors and softened the angles.  God's love brought all the painted colors of the joys, sorrows, victories and pain into a perfect focus.  A perfect picture of his unfailing love.  My slashes and splashes were all apart of God's masterpiece.  All together a lesson to be learned and a vision to be shared. 


Don't forget you are welcome to join in.  There are a few small rules, but well worth it.  Learn more from Lisa-Jo Baker

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

REVIEW - Popcornopolis - Near Naked Popcorn

As you might know from my description of myself as "fluffy," I am hoping to get a little "un-fluffy."  This causes me to go on the hunt for special low cal treats.  No joke, I am really trying here.  

Last week was my stations Spring gift drive, and I am happy to say that we made our goal (God is very, very awesome and our listeners really do understand the vision of the ministry) and I discovered a pretty yummy treat. 

That treat is Popcornopolis Near Naked popcorn.  Here is a little totally uncompensated info.  Yes my friend it is so good I am telling you this for no other reason than it is THAT good.

Facts Straight From The Bag:

33 Calories Per Cup

0g Trans Fat

Pure Coconut Oil

Certified Gluten-Free

Non GMO Project Verified
Oh the ingredients!

Popcorn, Coconut Oil (tree nut), Salt.

So here's the skinny.  My co-worker Nancy picked up the gigantic bag of Popcornopolis Near Naked popcorn at Costco for an extra snack during our gift drive because it was the last day and we were running low.  She alerted me about it, because we have both been trying to eat better and it had such perfectly simple ingredients.  I grabbed a cup and noticed immediately that it was a perfectly lovely white popcorn.  No joke.  I have become so accustomed to white popcorn, I get a little unnerved by yellow.  No big.  Just sharing.  The popcorn had this subtle taste that I can only ascribe to the coconut oil (I pan pop popcorn with coconut oil and it has that same light taste).  It is salted but just enough.  In other words the flavor is enhanced but you will not walk away with that weird sandpaper lip thing other packaged popcorn can leave you with.  

Delicious!  Genius!  I had to have more.  

So today I picked up my own.  

20 ounces of hugeness just $7.99 (that is 20 one cup servings).  Well at Costco anyway.

Doesn't it look pretty?

You might have heard of Popcornoplis before, they make some pretty yummy flavored up popcorn too in all kinds of flavors like pecan chocolate, cupcake, jalapeno cheddar, cinnamon toast, chipotle jack, caramel (of course), lemon haven, zebra and many, many more.  Check them out here. I'd say if you are into sending unique holiday gifts, their Easter tin would be a pretty awesome treat (one of the flavors in it looks like the cupcake type).  

My purpose here though is simply this, THE STUFF ROCKED!  Really, if you are into popcorn and maybe occasionally do not want to make your own (kind of where I am some mornings), but want the healthy goodness you can get from it, check out Popcornopolis and their Near Naked style.  Hopefully it will be in a store near you.  You'll dig it.  Plus you can even add a few things.  I shook some nutritional yeast on mine (I love Hippy Popcorn). 

So what is your latest treat discovery?  I would love it if you shared!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Little Bit of What I Learned from Five Minute Friday

I have only participated in two Five Minute Fridays.  I am already in love!

Five Minute Friday

This Friday's writing prompt from Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday was WRITER.  As I read different posts, I discovered new thoughts that were inspired from other writers.  When a writer helps you learn more about yourself, I believe you should take note.  As I read each writer, I learned not only about them but about how their words impacted my thoughts on writing and on being a writer.  I also believe you should express thanks.  I am not done reading.  I am hoping to get more time in today to enjoy other posts and offer encouragement.  I am not citing everyone I read, but certain posts brought my mind to a clarity of my own thoughts that I hadn't expected.  Thank you to everyone for sharing your hearts and your words.  This is a little bit of what I learned about me.

When reading Julia's post at Learning To Grow, Daring to Love - I realized that I am not the only one who has a moment of "YIKES" when thinking of claiming the title "writer."  The writer prompt was tough for me.  I did learn that you do not have to be making a living at anything to claim it as part of who you are, because God has made this part of who you are.  A calling from God is for His purposes.  He may want me to write in order to simply heal my own heart, and considering the life I have lived, that is a strong possibility.  It has been my therapy and tool for learning at times.  I am so encouraged that many are embracing that they are writers because that is really a part of God's identity. 

I was blessed by Adrienne's encouragement at Life with Intention and Adrienne reminded me that a part of writing is often encouraging.  She was very encouraging with her post.  She reflected the love of the Lord with her encouragement.  I think that as readers we should encourage writers.  Encourage them whether they are taking steps with a blog or releasing a novel.  I believe Jesus would love if we would do this. 

Jamie at Love isn't Love until It's Given Away shared words that touched my heart and reminded me that I am writing and using that gift in many ways from a card to family member to writing down happenings and experiences in my life.  I walked away encouraged to embrace it all.  I will.

Jemelene's post was so powerful and compelling.  I was reminded how there are some stories only we can tell.  If we stifle that story within, how will others know the beauty of the life we live.  Jemelene shared the writer in her daughter who has no words but expresses her story in a most beautiful way.

Through Kelly Greer at Kelly Writes, I was reminded of how if we look back, we can often see these flags that God placed in our lives that show us this call to write and express everything in words.  Sometimes we need to ask God to bring those memories up.  In His time He will. 

Reading Becky's post at Moments by Becky Keife reminded me that sometimes I simply write to see God's hand in my life.  When I record these happenings, I remember them and we all need to remember His work.  We have a very alive and active God.  Let's keep that in mind.  Writing helps me with that. 

 When I read the post at Father Says... I was reminded of how the writer truly shapes our perception of a story.  A writer leads you through the story and often shows you as much as they tell you.  In fact, a writer may tell you even more with what they show you.

From Cheryl at Realing In Life, I realized I need to embrace my dream.  If I am not willing to cling onto it with both hands, it really is far more likely to slip away.

As I said, I'm not finished yet.  I hope to get at least ten more read tonight.  If you participated in Five Minute Friday this week's or any, what have you learned?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Music Review - WOW Worship - Deluxe Edition

After a long, long week, I could not wait to hit the Family Christian Store to pick up the  WOW Worship Deluxe Edition CD.  I feel like I have been waiting a long time for this one.  One of my most listened to CDs is the purple WOW Worship CD (I have no idea what else to call it, it is purple).  It is THAT GOOD!  So good that I had to pick up this one. So without further thoughts.

The Deluxe edition CD costs a few dollars more than the regular lime CD,  but with six additional songs, I felt it was definitely worth it.  

WOW Worship (lime) contains music from many of my favorite artists and a few whom I had heard of but not listened to.  I especially enjoyed Vertical Church Band and Elevation Worship.  I will definitely be looking for more from them.  Tim Timmons is also a favorite of mine and I was really happy to see him on the CD in the Deluxe Edition.  

My favorite songs on the CD would be "Beautiful Things" by Gungor, "White Flag" by  Building429, "Oceans" by Hillsong United and "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman.  I do own a lot of the CDs that contain many of these songs, but it is nice to have so many in one set. 

I enjoyed the majority of the 36 songs, the two songs that didn't work for me were done by artists who I do like, but I prefer other artist's versions.  I like for King & Country but would have preferred Seventh Day Slumber's version of "From the Inside Out" and "The Stand" by Hillsong Young & Free just had a Kidzbop feel.  Both are very talented groups, this was just a personal taste issue.  There are other songs that these artists do that I think would have been better choices for the CD.

All in all, this is a wonderful CD with a great selection.  When plans come into play to release another, I will definitely be buying. 

I give WOW Worship (lime) four stars.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Today I Praise

I am not your average woman.  

For example, right as I began to type that sentence over there, I thought "average girl."  

Your average woman probably wouldn't think of themselves as a girl.  For some reason, I still have that kind of thought.  Who would think that someone nearing 47 (at lightning speed no less), would remotely have a blindness when it comes to a word that defines what stage she is in life?  Sure I can embrace that I am a mother, but a woman?  I just do not feel pulled together enough for that.  

I am that wife who will just begin to speak in a cockney accent for the sheer purpose of making her husband laugh.  I am that mom who will stop the television while channel surfing to enjoy a Flintstone's cartoon (when no child is present).  I bust into laughter over a funny thought in my head.  I also create conversations in my mind when people watching.  I still feel ALL GIRL.

But yep...I'm a woman, and today I praise.

Long and short of it is.  I have been in the midst of a crazy couple of months.  Does eight count as "a couple of"?  Because really it has been that long.  About eight months ago, I took a leap to boldly reach out to be a writer.  Or live like a writer, and all the things that I had confidence in went...

Life as I knew it inside my own mind went a little haywire.  I dived head first into my Bible and began to pray like crazy, and I saw that I needed a big ole life changing lift.  The kind only God can provide (let's face it, He really has to be the center).  

In my search for direction, I came across "The 30 Day Praise Challenge" by Becky Harling.  I realized that one of the things I needed to do to gain perspective was to reach out in praise and thankfulness to my creator.  I know that when I have experienced struggles that the moment I simply praised God, things changed.  Not always my circumstance, but at the very least my focus shifted.

Anyway, for now, my focus will be shifting to praise.  Praising for 30 days for at least 20 minutes a day.  I do not know how this will impact my life.  I am not doing it for some spiritual fitness program.  I am doing it, because in lots of ways I am at the end of my rope.  Not in my faith, but in other things so it is time to let go of the rope and cling to my God.

Over the next 30 days I do plan to share how things are going.  Today, I just want to share what I am doing and invite you to check out Becky's book (I bought mine at Family Christian Store) and Becky.  She has been through the ringer (cancer and more) and her journey of praise and thanksgiving could be a blessing to you. 

Here is a little book blurb from Goodreads:

Discover the Power of Praising God When Becky Harling was diagnosed with cancer over ten years ago, she begged God for healing. A friend of hers had another idea. She challenged Becky to spend twenty minutes a day in praise. Becky thought, What if I’m not feeling thankful? But as she intentionally praised God, she began to experience new joy—and her relationship with God has never been the same. Now, in The Thirty-Day Praise Challenge, Becky guides you in praising God for twenty minutes every day for one month. Arranged topically, the book includes music selections to enhance your praise journey and creative ideas for continuing the habit of praise. As Becky writes, “If you take this challenge, your faith will grow more than you dreamed possible. You will experience more joy, less insecurity, more courage, less anxiety. Thirty days of praising God. Are you ready?”

Publisher: David C Cook

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Writer

Five Minute Friday

Last week was my first foray into joining writers everywhere as they wrote without worry or hesitation.  The feeling in a word...FREEDOM.

Sometimes you just have to let go, and the writers who meet up at Lisa-Jo Baker's website and blog for Five Minute Friday engage in letting go once a week starting with a prompt from Lisa-Jo.  Once fingers finish typing away, the joy of sharing and blessing begins.

Join this wonderful group.  You will be glad you did.  There really is only one rule, visit the writer before  But if you are like me, you wont be able to stop at just one.

Enjoy and learn more here.

Today's prompt is:



Imagine my horror at the word "writer."  

My dreams and my fears all poke in my mind at the very thought of the word "writer."

Writing has been my peace.  Writing has been my comfort.  Writing has been my therapy.  

It has also been my agony.  Well...not so much the writing.  The empty screen in front of me.  The need to fill it with the fleeting idea that was so strong when I woke up and now is just tickling the edge of my mind.  Aggravating when things aren't working.  Fulfilling when they are. 

My joy.

My act of worship.

My prayer.

My way of being me.

My big ole world is all wrapped up in a ball of anxiety and thrill.  

The ups and downs.  

The nightmares.

The fantasies.

My dream come true some day.  IF....

If I choose to type anyway.

If I choose to get up and get uncomfortable.

If I choose to dig deep when need be.

If I open the door and let someone in.

If I choose to give my whole heart's desire to God.


I did this prompt tonight because it has been a crazy long week.  This week was my radio station's gift drive.  It is that we share God's vision with our listeners.  It is a time of long hours.  Because I had to be in the office at 6 am, and my head was filled with how things would go on this final day, I decided to hold of on Five Minute Friday.  I thought for a moment about holding off until next week.  But I began this journey last week, and there was  no way I was going to let one long week pull me out of it.  I'm here, and I'm happy because I am a writer.  :)  Nice to say that.

I hope that you have a wonderfully blessed weekend, and that you get the chance to meet some of the other writers who are sharing their hearts this week.  I gave the link up top, but it is worth giving again.  Join us here