Monthly Archives: October 2013

Slaying Dragons at Deals Gap—Figuratively and Literally (Part 1 of 5: Help from Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate)

This week we are going to do some dragon slayin’…but first, you must hear of a most unique Dragon.  Anybody ever slayed The Dragon over in the Smokies?  Most slayers ride motorcycles.

Allow me to enlighten you on Deals Gap and its’ Motorcycle Resort. (www.dealsgap.com)  The website boasts, “You’ll find us nestled deep in the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina/Tennessee state line.  We’re also known as the home of ‘the Dragon’.

It’s called ‘The Dragon’ because it boasts some of the most technical and challenging roads in the country.  It includes three hundred and eighteen curves in eleven miles.”

Riders who slay it, ride it again and again. My husband, John, has ridden it many times with many friends, including our oldest son, John Jr.

My favorite story involves one of John’s dear friends, who’s now in Heaven (not from having slain the Dragon I’m happy to report!), named Dick Richard.  Dick was a tough old bird.  Very reserved and serious, time spent with him was always interesting.

John and Dick took several trips on their Harleys to the Smokies.  John recalls their first trip to the Dragon as a remarkable sight to behold. Immediately after he and Dick successfully slayed the dragon, on their very loud Harleys, with helmets on, he heard the loudest whoopin’-and-hollerin’ coming from Dick’s direction.

To John’s astonishment, it wasn’t just coming from Dick’s direction, he realized it was coming from Dick!  He was like a little kid going down a slide for the first time. Completely out of character from his usual stoic temperament.

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Once on a romantic fall getaway to Snowbird Mountain Lodge, in Robbinsville, NC, John realized we could get there via the Dragon.  Now to be honest, curiosity killed the cat, so I really wanted to see it.  BUT….once we reached it and began traveling the eleven miles, negotiating the three hundred and eighteen curves, the strangest thing happened.  We also began seeing ambulances (yes, plural) and a truck hanging off of a cliff.  I began gripping my pillow in my lap with white knuckles and partially hyperventilating.

At one of the many overlooks John sweetly inquired, “Would you like to get out and see the breathtaking view?”  To which I nastily snapped, “No!  I want to get OFF this thing ASAP!!!”

After what seemed like three hundred thousand turns vs. only three hundred and eighteen, we arrived at the bottom.  Hey, and I’m pretty proud to say I slayed the dragon with John driving, while riding in a Honda Accord with four wheels and not two. Alrighty then.

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I’d not considered what could happen to the overconfident ones who rode a little too fast to make the curves. Yikes. Deals Gap’s website also boasts their “Rescue Squad has committed to posting a rescue truck on The Dragon every Saturday and Sunday (Makes one wonder about Monday thru’ Friday???).”

Go back to the Deals Gap website (www.dealsgap.com) and click on “Ride on the Dragon” to see these curves.  If you like it, make the trip!

Because so many of us tend to be fearful, we’re going to spend the next few posts slaying our dragons of fear.  I recently read a wonderful book by Debora M. Coty called Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate—Wit and Wisdom for Sidestepping Life’s Worries. Debora doles out Scripture to bust up fear and boost our faith with laugh out loud humor.

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Before we get into her book, (look for that in parts Two thru’ Five), we’ve got more dragons to slay.  While the Deals Gap Dragon is a crazy one to know about, after hearing Kyle Idleman’s sermon, “Seeing Clearly” from Revelation 12-18, at Southeast Christian Church, (You can go onto Southeast’s website and watch this powerful sermon.  www.southeastchristian.org ) we must be aware of the Dragon in Scripture. He’s prowling now as he was then and we must recognize him.

Kyle taught us about three characters in this passage of Revelation:  a pregnant woman, the child she births, and a red Dragon. This fire-breathing buster is better known as Satan the Devil, the Accuser, the Father of Lies.

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Kyle’s eye-opening teaching came straight out of the Bible. Best part?  He gave us the theme of these seven chapters:  The Devil is Defeated.

Worst part?  Satan’s mad and he’s after us.  Revelation 12:7-12 shows us he’s “enraged and is waging war against us” (NIV).  The Message says he’s “helpless with rage”.

How do we know that?  Look at verse 17, the Devil is after “the children who keep God’s commands and hold firm to the witness of Jesus.” (MSG)  Christian brothers and sisters, this would be us!

My Life Application Bible implores, “We must make certain not to lose the battle for our own souls.  Don’t waver in your commitment to Christ.  A great spiritual battle is being fought, and there is no time for indecision.”

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Can you feel this sense of urgency?  Revelation 13:10b in the ESV says, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”  The Message says, “Meanwhile, God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground.”

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My Life Application Bible enlightens, “Don’t fall into Satan’s trap and turn away from God when hard times come.  Instead, use those tough times as opportunities for growth.”

Chris Tomlin has a great song out called “Whom Shall I Fear”.  Part of the lyrics come from Isaiah 54:5.  The Message calls our God the “God of Angel Armies”.  Look at the chorus with me:

“I know who goes before me.

I know who stands behind.

The God of angel armies is always by my side.

The One who reigns forever.

He is a friend of mine.

The God of angel armies is always by my side.”

There are several YouTube videos of Chris singing the song and of him telling the story of how it came about. (These are worth your time, especially to see the entire lyrics.) He tells of his friend, Ed Cash, with whom he wrote the song and how they focused on equipping fellow believers to sing this song of faith to God, knowing that whatever comes against us, we’re to remember God is on our side, as well as His army of angels.

He cited Second Kings Chapter Six where the prophet Elisha in verse 16 tells his servant, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than who are with them.”  Then he prayed and “The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (ESV)

Revelation 12:11 reminds us how the dragon is defeated:  “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…”  By Jesus’ crucifixion and the power of His resurrection, and by our witness, we win.

Next time you’re fearful, remind yourself of your faith, dive into Scripture, and don’t forget:  “The Devil is Defeated”!  “The God of angel armies is always by your side!”

 

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‘Til next time!

(This post is dedicated to my dear, talented friend Kay Richard.  We were neighbors for six years and she and Dick sooo blessed our lives.  John cannot even speak of Dick without recounting their fun riding days.  Kay’s talent of flower arranging has spread beauty at many a party.  Love to you and your family, Kay!  And we will celebrate your belated birthday soon! Hugs across town!)

Pictured from left to right on one cold Kentucky Derby Day: Behrouz Alizadeh, my husband John, Yours Truly, Julie Alizadeh, Dick Richard and Kay Richard

Pictured from left to right on one cold Kentucky Derby Day: Behrouz Alizadeh, my husband John, Yours Truly, Julie Alizadeh, Dick Richard and Kay Richard

  

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Lunch with Lexington Authors: Slice of Heaven Part 2 of 2 on Road Trip to Lexington…

Could there be anything better than being in a fantastic bookstore (Joseph Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky), while eating in their café, with amazing authors?

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Few things thrill me more than soaking in conversation with fellow wordsmiths.  With these gals, we never lacked for a thing to talk about.

But the best thing about this group is they ALL love the Lord and talk about what God is doing in their lives, their ministries, or a book or Bible study that’s helped them in their walk of faith. I simply sat and soaked it all in.

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(Clockwise from left around the table is Yours Truly, Jan Watson, Kelsey Ach, Laura Leavell, Nancy Sleeth and Dr. Pam Stein. Notice we had Liz Curtis Higgs’ new Christmas book, The Women of Christmas—Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna for party favors and had Jan signing her newest novel Tattler’s Branch.  We’re going to talk about Jan’s book in just a minute!)

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Allow me to share some insight into these fascinating gals:  On the right in the front is my good friend, Dr. Pam Stein.  Pam and I’d just dashed over from Lexington Christian Academy (LCA) where her son, John, had spoken powerfully on prayer. (click on…”Seventeen year old preaches w/power” to hear more…).

The icing on the cake is Pam and I are about to be related as our son , Gordy, is marrying her daughter Lauren! (Woo-hoo as they holler here in Kentucky!)

You also must know, for those of you with upcoming weddings (which seems to be about every other person I encounter lately) that besides teaching at the Dental School at The University of Kentucky, Pam and Lauren have a new, fascinating website regarding weddings.  Check out:  www.thelocalbride.com

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Next to Pam in the middle, on the right is my buddy Nancy Sleeth.  You’ve heard me speak of Nancy and her book,  Almost Amish, as well as her husband Dr. Matthew Sleeth, who wrote 24/6, and let’s not forget their awesome ministry, Blessed Earth. (www.blessedearth.org )

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This summer Nancy and I realized we are exactly three months apart age-wise and have many things in common.  However, were she to enter our home, she’d give me “what for” as my Mother used to say, because I’m so far from being Amish.  Let’s just say I aspire to be Amish-like.  (By this point Nancy is rolling on the floor laughing.)

Almost Amish Sleeth

Next to Nancy, at the end of the row on the right, is sweet Laura Leavell.  Laura’s Mom, Sherry, is one of my dear friends and I’ve been blessed to meet the Sleeths thanks to Laura, because she works for Blessed Earth.  Laura is a ten-talent gal. Besides helping the Sleeths, she juggles many more brilliant balls in the air.  She’s wise beyond her years.

Across from Laura on the left side is Kelsey Ach.  Kelsey and I met thru’ a number of connections.  A graduate of LCA and Georgetown College, she’s only in her twenties, but amazingly, she’s about to get a book published! (I thought this opportunity to meet some of these authors would be fun for her.)   Be on the lookout for her and her book, A Beautiful Darkness—Finding Jesus in the Middle of a Sexual Revolution.   Checkout her website: www.couture31.org

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Next to Kelsey, in the middle of our row is my friend and mentor/guardian angel, Jan Watson.  I can’t say enough about Jan.  Funny she’s wearing butter yellow, because it’s highly appropo’ to tell you that the year I met her, Nancy Aguiar and I had ventured over to Lexington to the Book Fair Joseph Beth was hosting.  We were also scheduled to have lunch with Paula Deen.  Yes, the Butter Queen.

Well, Nancy and I ate with Paula and sixteen hundred others.  Small detail.

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But that day, precious Jan was about the only welcoming author, willing to chat with us and willing to entertain the thought of running over to Louisville to speak at our Book Club.  (Which she’s now done several times and is a favorite of Book Club.)  www.janwatson.net

Jan’s writing career is highly unique.  A nurse for thirty-plus years, devoted Mom to three boys, and dedicated wife to her dear husband (who’s now in Heaven), Jan had had a  story in her heart and mind for years.  Her husband encouraged her to enter a writing contest.

Never mind that it was Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writer’s Guild Writing Contest.   Never mind that SHE WON, which translated into a book contract with Tyndale Publishers!

Here’s her first novel which was published the year Jan turned sixty years old…

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Never mind she recently released her seventh novel!  Every single time I read her novels, I say, “Okay, this one is your best!”  And then I read the next one and say the exact same thing.

While she’s currently working on her eighth novel, I’d like to share some highlights from her seventh, Tattler’s Branch. But only enough to entice you to read it…

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Jan is hysterical funny in a dry wit kind of way. Her characters readily come off the pages to greet you, some of which you love, and some you’re ready to call the authorities on.

An animal lover, Jan sprinkles critters throughout her novels for your entertainment and attachment.  Her real-live dog at home, Maggie, is a “terrific terrier” like our Gracie is.  That phrase could be an oxymoron.  I suspect Maggie’s influenced more than a few of these novels.

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I love how Jan uses Scripture and prayer to help her characters cope.  In Tattler’s Branch, Sunday school lessons and Scripture memory play a big role.  Her main character, Doc Lilly, reveals her love for and need of God’s Word, a great lesson for every reader.

One favorite part comes in a letter written to her Mother where Lilly says, “Just as I’ve watched you do in moments of travail, I cling to Scripture for solace.”  Another is “The Word.  His Word, brought the Lord so near, it frightened her, but at the same time delighted her.”  Love that!

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Page-turning suspense, including a murder, set in the hills of Kentucky, are just about all this Kentucky girl needs for a lovely afternoon of reading.  Jan’s medical background makes her book all the more real and full of intrigue as well.

Only in the hills of Kentucky would Jan offer, “She packs a grudge like a ten-dollar mule!” Or, “His Daddy had been tough as groundhog leather!”

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And about her bad guy, appropriately named Shade, Jan writes, “Like a snake hiding under a riffle, he was waiting to strike.”

(Okay, so not-so-smart me thought the above sentence was a typo’ and I wondered why a snake would hide under a rifle, as in a gun. Then I looked up “riffle” for those of us who don’t know, that according to Wikipedia,  it’s a “short, relatively shallow and coarse-bedded length of stream over which the stream flows at higher velocity and higher turbulence than it normally does.”)

One more element Jan includes, which totally convicted me of God’s love for everyone, even those as slimy as this atrocious man named Shade, is when Doc Lilly offers the Gospel to him.  One of many beautiful elements in this conversation includes, “The ground at the foot of the cross is even.”  Why do we forget that?

What transpires because of  Lilly’s Godly love for Shade, regardless of his treatment of her, is unbelievable.  It’s an only-God-could-pull-this-off moment.  And the stunner-of-an-ending?  Well, you’ll have to read it to find out!

Bravo, Jan!  Another out-of-the-ball-park book! If you want to read more about Jan check out this article!

Thanks to ALL you girls:  Pam, Nancy, Laura, Kelsey and Jan for a fun time of fellowship and lunch.  Only grave error on our part was we didn’t partake of some sinful chocolate dessert.  Next time!

‘Til next time!

(This post is dedicated to all my lunch buddies that day!  Thanks for joining me and for your time.  Always a blessing!  Big hugs from Louisville!!!)

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Road Trip to Lexington Brings Blessings Twofold – Part 1 of 2: Seventeen Year-Old Preaches With Power…

Two  stellar events, in one day, in the same town, right around the corner from each other, within a manageable time frame, could only have been orchestrated by our Good and Glorious God.  I was the blessed recipient of these events, and I pray you’ll be blessed by hearing what happened!

This week I’m reporting on an astonishing young man by the name of John Stein, who attends Lexington Christian Academy, (LCA) in Lexington, Kentucky (http://www.lexingtonchristian.org/).  John was the speaker on this particular day for his High School’s Chapel Service.

John Stein

As a bonus, I got to sit with our middle son, Gordy, at Chapel and his girlfriend, Lauren (who recently became his fiancée!!!), as well as Lauren’s Mother, Pam, and Lauren’s Grandparents, Carol and Bob Sparks.

The young man speaking was none other than Lauren’s younger brother, John.* He is a Junior at LCA and is only seventeen years old.  Gordy had coached John for this talk on prayer which made it a double bonus for me to hear him.

After meaningful worship, John was introduced.  A hush came over the audience and John began by addressing one of the problems of our culture:  multi-tasking.  Case in point was the newest update by Apple.

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This lovely new app prevents us from focusing on one thing, and enables us to do many things simultaneously.  John added emphatically, “Relationships suffer because of this.”  He showed a fast-paced clip to illustrate this point, giving our brains quite a workout.

He then posed these questions, “What does Jesus say about prayer? Do we grasp that prayer is really about our relationship with God?”  Anybody need a relationship check?

One of many favorite aspects of John’s talk included his use of Scripture to back up his points.  He began with Luke 5:16 where Jesus withdrew to pray.

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John advised, “ We ALL need a time and a place to retreat with God.  THAT is where He will restore our soul. Therefore….We must be intentional about our quiet time with the Lord.”

Kristen Sauder wrote an excellent Bible study called God Seeker—A Journey through Exodus 33.  It emphasizes the importance of having our own “tent of meeting” as Moses did.  That is, a special place where we meet with the Lord daily (www.furtherstillministries.org).

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Another point John made came from Luke 11:1 where the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  “Their desire to learn how to pray is KEY.  Don’t you want to talk with God?”

John showed us that with desire comes future blessings.  He asked, “Do you want to talk with God?  Your HEART will follow what you love.”  It’s a natural progression:  When you love God, you talk with Him.  Talking with Him equates to prayer.  And prayer builds relationships.

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John added, “Look at Matthew 6:6.  We are supposed to find a quiet place to pray.  The Lord will reward you.  Our reward?  Christ.”  Next we looked at John 14:20-21 where Jesus says, “…If you love me, my Father will love you too, and I’ll show myself to you.”  What a privilege!

One thing I really appreciate about John is he allows himself to be vulnerable.  When he asks questions, he puts himself right in there with us, which in turn brings us into the picture.  You suddenly realize, “Well, if he’s concerned about this, obviously I should be too.”

So here’s where he nailed us:  “Every single day, God gives you and me the opportunity to meet with Him, anywhere, any time.  It is up to us to join Him, enjoying His presence.”  Wow….please tell me why we forget this?

This reminded me of a bracelet I wear every day which is engraved with the last part of  Matthew 28:20 on it:  “And lo, I am with you always.”   Even with it dangling on my wrist, I still forget.  Forgive us, Lord…

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In closing, John gave us a couple more Scriptures:  One to reassure us and one to challenge us.

He reassured us by showing us John 16:33 where Jesus says  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  We can cling to His peace.

As our Good and Glorious God would also orchestrate, this very week, my lesson for a Bible study I attend by Liz Curtis Higgs (www.lizcurtishiggs.com) called Bad Girls of the Bible–And What We Can Learn From Them is about Rahab.  She had a bit of a past. (Understatement of the century!)  Liz says, “If God can turn a harlot into a holy vessel, entrusting her with the very genes that would one day produce the King of Kings, surely those of us with a past can leave our shame in the rubble and walk away, fixing our eyes on the One who washes us white as snow.”

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She brings up the Apostle Paul who also had a bit of a past….as in “persecuting the Christians–and then becoming one!!!”  Paul is the one who said, in the very verse that John gave us for a challengeRomans 1:16:  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it’s the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”.

John asked, “So, how much more are you willing to give of yourself?  I am not ashamed of who saved my soul…I need a Savior and I want to know Him better. Do you?”

When the aim of your life is to affect everyone in your life for the Gospel of Christ, you need prayer…

Friends, revival starts on your knees.”

 Goodness, gracious, let’s look at that again:  REVIVAL STARTS ON YOUR KNEES.

bigstock-Man-In-Prayer-672503Whoa.  Just re-reading my notes and writing this out for us, I am convicted.  Let’s vow to practice His presence, praying to Him, talking with Him.  The Lord knows our hearts.  May we have hearts to know and love Him. May we be bold to proclaim Him.

Y’all be praying for young John Stein.  He’s going to set the world on fire, one soul at a time.

If you’d like to see this passion-filled delivery, you can find it on YouTube.  Go to:  www.youtube.com and then type in “John Stein 2013”. Turn up the volume!  (I only hit the highlights, you’ll want to hear more!)  Oh, that we may hunger for God’s Word like John so enthusiastically communicates.

Next week, in part two of my escapades in Lexington, I’ll share what transpired at a fun lunch gathering of many authors.  Another slice of Heaven…

‘Til next time!

* Disclaimer:  While you can see I should be ultra-biased since John and I are practically or soon will be related (!!!), I can honestly say all my comments are upfront and truthful.

(This post is dedicated to Master John Stein.  He’s piercing hearts for Jesus every step of the way.  Not only has God gifted him with the gift of speaking/preaching, he’s an amazing athlete, a dedicated student, a devoted friend to many, a super son, brother and grandson.  I’m delighted we’re about to be related!  Keep the faith, John!  We are so very proud of you. May God Bless you abundantly.)

From Left to Right:  John Stein, Dr. Bob Sparks, Gordy Hoagland, Lauren Stein, Carol Sparks and Pam Stein

From Left to Right: John Stein, Dr. Bob Sparks, Gordy Hoagland, Lauren Stein, Carol Sparks and Dr. Pam Stein

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TWO Upcoming Events: Book Signing 10/17 and Book Club Meeting 10/28 are WORTHY of your Calendar!!!

Greetings and Blessings to you this Fall Season!  Before we get too far into October, I wanted to be sure and let those of you who live in or near Louisville, Kentucky know about two exciting events!

There’s a brand-new, debut novel out by Angela Correll.  Angela hails from Stanford, Kentucky, has been writing for local newspapers for years, and has now ventured out into the book world!  Her book, Grounded, is quite the page-turner.

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Angela will be doing a book signing at Carmichael’s on Frankfort Avenue, on Thursday, October 17th, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.  In addition to having the opportunity of meeting her, she’s bringing some of her mouth-watering homemade pies!  Double carrot-dangler…

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(For more information on the book signing, you may go to:  www.carmichaelsbookstore.com )

My friend Nancy Sleeth, who wrote Almost Amish sent me Angela’s book recently.  I was dumbfounded to discover Nancy has endorsed Angela’s book on the front of the cover, while my other writing buddy in Lexington, Jan Watson (author of her newest novel Tattler’s Branch) has endorsed it on the back!!!  Two perfect reasons to read Angela’s book above and beyond its’ intrigue!!!

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(An interesting sidebar comes this week from Nancy and Matthew Sleeth’s organization, Blessed Earth.  Checkout  their most recent newsletter written by Will Samson.  www.blessedearth.org  Much of what Will shares is akin to one of the themes of Angela’s book about creation care and community.  Well done, Will! Fascinating seminar!)

I’m happy to report we got these Lexington authors and some friends together, minus Angela (she was at another book signing in Lexington),  a couple of weeks ago for lunch.  We met at The Café in Joseph Beth Booksellers and solved many of the world’s problems over a three hour–or-so-lunch!!! (More on that in another post about my exciting road trip to Lexington soon to follow….)

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Top row (left to right): Pam Stein, Nancy Sleeth and Laura Leavell. Bottom row (left to right): Yours truly, Jan Watson and Kelsey Ach

All  that to say, I’m beyond excited to meet Angela.  And I can’t say enough good things about her novel.  You will love it.  Her characters jump off the pages and I found myself totally tickled at the main character, Annie Taylor.

I’m afraid I relate to her a little too much.  Watching her struggle with the country life after being in New York City is quite an activity.   Coffee snob that I am (as is Annie), even the littlest details amuse.  Parts of this book remind me of a favorite quote from Joan Rivers, “My idea of camping is staying in a hotel that has a regular bathtub, vs. a Jacuzzi.”

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Annie’s feverish attempts to adapt to a small town in Kentucky while trying to reconcile her relationship with her Grandmother are mesmerizing.  Will they reconcile?  Is it possible?  Ahhh, well you‘ll have to read Grounded and find out!

I’m happy to report the novel is not without romance nor suspense, either!  These little threads build into a beautiful tapestry, complete with surprises I couldn’t have predicted.

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore to grab Grounded.  You’ll love it.  And don’t forget to come meet Angela at Carmichael’s on October 17th!

(Checkout Angela’s website and learn about her and her Kentucky Soaps and Such Store as well as her restaurant, The Bluebird Café, all in Stanford, Kentucky!!! I feel another road trip comin’ on…. www.angelacorrell.com )

Additionally, for your calendar, don’t forget our next Branches Book Club Meeting on Monday, October 28th! We’re meeting at Middletown United Methodist Church, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. (Read more about Branches here….)

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Calling all Karen Kingsbury fans!!!  Yes, indeed, we’ll be discussing Karen’s newest novel, The Chance.

 

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I confess I’ve not read Karen’s book yet, but am planning to do so ASAP with our meeting right around the corner on the 28th!  Here’s a teaser for you from The New York Times:  “Karen Kingsbury offers a heartwarming story about childhood friends, broken lives, and a long-ago promise that just might offer the hope of love for today.”

I know some of you Kingsbury fans have already read this and have given it a thumbs’ up.  We’ll have fun with the discussion and don’t forget most everyone brings treats to eat!  (Is there a theme here with the homemade pies to entice us to the book signing and treats at Book Club???!!!)

‘Til next time!

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