Monthly Archives: June 2016

Step Back into a Delightful Time With Bill Higgs’s Debut Novel, Eden Hill

Friends!  Exciting news! Bill Higgs’s debut novel, Eden Hill, is hitting bookshelves near you July 1st!

Eden HillI’ve just finished it.  I found myself helplessly captivated, not wanting it to end.  I felt as if the characters were going to walk in the room at any minute and join me for coffee.

The plot’s twists and turns completely blind-sided me.  I kept telling Hubster, “Oh my!  You will not believe this!”  (I wouldn’t reveal them, however, because I know he’s going to enjoy reading it himself.)

Bill’s been working on this novel for years. What a tremendous thrill to see it come to fruition, fresh off the Tyndale press.

The novel reminds me of an orchestra conductor directing different instruments to come in at certain points:  First strings, then horns, then woodwinds, then percussion, all the while building to a gigantic crescendo, for the grande finale.  This is what Bill has done with his characters: their transformational story develops until the very last word.

Symphony Orchestra

While the story’s set in Kentucky in the early 60’s, Bill includes everyday problems you and I encounter in today’s crazy culture.

See if any of these happen in your household:

1 – Dealing with competition while maintaining your faith

Romans 12:15 haunts the pages:

Can you rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn?  This is where lessons in grace are woven beautifully throughout.

2 – Struggling with keeping your integrity

We know what’s right, but are we willing to follow thru’?

Romans 7:15 is sprinkled across the pages as well:

Romans 7-15

This gets the best of some of Bill’s characters just as it does you and me.

3 – Juggling change versus staying the same

Must we move beyond our comfort zone? This really hit home for me…Watch as this takes place in Eden Hill where time was standing  still until…

4 -Racial issues

This is gut wrenching, but so key to this era. Witness how the glorious Gospel unfolds.  (This is one of my favorite parts.)

5 -Financial stress/secrets

Can you pretend everything’s okay when your life’s about to crumble?  See how some of the characters have an inkling to one couples’ woes and offer food at the perfect time. More grace.

business, people, finances, crisis and money saving concept - bu

6 – Marital strife

Could a silly ole’ magazine article possibly wreak havoc in a marriage?  Supports one of my theories:  Satan is slick as slick can be, aiming a target straight for your marriage, or any other thing you hold dear.  Virgil and Mavine don’t know how good of a marriage they have until they have to find out for themselves.

Beautiful Flowers And Wedding Bell

7 -Challenging church member

Every single preacher (Let me say that again:  Every. Single. Preacher.) should be gifted with Eden Hill because I’m sure there’s one challenging soul (at least) in every congregation.  Your preacher will relate on every level with Reverend Caudill.

The First Baptist Evangelical Church is blessed (or cursed!) with a cranky congregant who calls Reverend Caudill every Monday morning complaining about his most recent sermon…

How could redemption be a remote possibility?  Here’s where Ephesians 3:20 comes in and you will literally fall out of your chair upon experiencing this in the story:

Ephesians 3 20

8 -Disciplining children

You don’t want to miss this creative idea—Mavine’s Mothering kills me.  Wish I’d thought of it!

Another plus of the book:  Bill’s dry wit throughout keeps you chuckling.   This was a fun surprise for me.

Even better, while this is considered Christian fiction, I believe a seeker or non-believer would be drawn to the Lord from this novel.  Bill sprinkles Biblical truth, and the Gospel within the story, sure to grab the reader’s attention.   (Pray about who  you should give it to!)

Additionally, I must reveal I’m blessed to call Bill and Liz Higgs dear friends. Liz will tell you right out of the gate she did not read Bill’s book until it was completed.  She wanted it to be all his.  And while we’re friends, I promise I’m being completely honest and candid about this review.

Before we see some endorsements, please enjoy a couple of my many favorite quotes from the book:

People aren’t meant to be fixed; people are meant to be loved.”

We’re all neighbors.  Sometimes we’re even kin.  We just need to learn to act like it.

I’m not the only one who loves this book… Look at what well-known author, Jerry Jenkins says in his endorsement  of Eden Hill:

“I just flat loved this!  You’ll forget by page two that Eden Hill is Bill Higgs’s debut novel.  This is a curl up and settle in delight that pitch perfectly evokes 1960s Americana.  Poignant, funny, moving, and touching without detouring into sentimentality, it’s like an evangelical Lake Wobegon.  Higgs is generous with every scene, lingering long enough to deftly decorate every detail.”

Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series.

Eden Hill also received a coveted starred review in  Library Journal, and has been designated DEBUT OF THE MONTH!  After the review, Library Journal says their verdict is:  “Higgs’ first novel will resonate with baby boomers everywhere as his characters struggle to cope with the revolutions of the tumultuous 1960s while holding on to the reassurances of the past.  Recommended for fans of domestic fiction.”

Say no more, right?  Now, make a mad dash to the bookstore so you too can enjoy Eden Hill.

Way to go, Bill!

I pray everyone has a super safe and fun Fourth of July.

‘Til next time!

 

 

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When Your Soul is Crazy-Cluttered…(With Help from John Ortberg)

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No,… you’re not. Your mind’s going in a million directions.”

“Is not.”

“Is too!”

Background concept wordcloud illustration of mental clutter

Such was a recent stand-off between Hubster and me. Guess who was saying what?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing about our trip to South Carolina. Confession: the weeks prior to our departure were wild. (You may recall the flood in our kitchen the week of John Jr. and Diana’s wedding for starters…) To say our escape was much-needed is the understatement of the month.

As God would orchestrate, I was reading Soul Keeping—Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. I was dumbstruck to discover I was in no way, shape, or form caring for my soul. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

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Clearly the Lord was trying to get my attention. I can only imagine His frustration at my little auto-pilot self. Gracious.

Praises be sung for the gift of John Ortberg’s book. His close relationship to Dallas Willard blesses us readers with Dallas’ insight too. He builds around this inspirational quote from Dallas:

“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.”

Young Children Exploring Nature On Wooded Path

Let’s look at the benefits a healthy soul has:

Strength,

Direction,

Harmony,

Constantly refreshed,

Exuberant (Anybody felt exuberant lately?) and

In harmony with God

Note this happens when we’re profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom.

Here’s where we’d best plant our faces in God’s Word every day. Savoring scripture prevents our souls from crazy clutter.

But… (You knew that was coming!), if we allow ourselves to spin multiple plates, our soul will shrivel, becoming choked from clutter, blocking ways for God’s light, hope, and peace to shine thru’ us.

BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 4: Balancing the spinning plates performed

Good news! John Ortberg serves up seventeen sensational chapters, each one dealing with different ways to nurture our souls, protecting them from our culture’s chaos.

Pictured below with our author, John Ortberg, are two of my very dear friends, Nancy Tinnell on the left and Kelly McDonald on the right.  In 2013, these gals attended the Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS where John was a presenter.  Nancy is the Women’s Ministry Director and Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Middletown United Methodist Church.   Kelly works at the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is Engineer Extraordinaire of this blog.

nancy and kelly with ortberg

You can find out more about John on his website, www.johnortberg.com, or from the church where he’s the  pastor, at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church at www.menlo.church

This week we’ll address three temptations to watch for that can cripple our soul:

#1 – HURRY:

Dallas Willard once said,

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

As a new Mom, one thing I vowed I’d never utter to our boys was, “Hurry up!” That lasted until our firstborn was being a slowpoke for preschool, at the ripe age of two. Sigh…

#2 – CLUTTER

This section stopped me cold. Look at the below:

“The CLUTTERED SOUL becomes choked by worries, deceitfulness of wealth, and desire for other things.

When you’re so busy, your soul will shrivel…

The busy soul gets attached to the wrong things, because the soul is sticky.

The VELCRO of the soul is what Jesus calls ‘desire’. It could be desire for money, or it could simply be desire for ‘other things’.

We mistake our clutter for life.”

Oh, friends, if that’s not enough, there are more slap-you-silly sections : The Hardened Soul and the Shallow Soul. Advice? Read ‘em cuz we all need ‘em.

Bottom line: We must quit buying into our culture which applauds busyness. Our culture equates success with production, eighty-plus-hour workweeks, running circles around ourselves, burning the midnight oil for those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea at the time to-do’s.

Scarier…, John adds, “A person preoccupied with externals–success, reputation, ceaseless activity, lifestyle, office gossip—may be dead internally AND NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE IT.” Any alarms going off?

#3 – DISHONESTY:

Another soul disintegrator is dishonesty. Thankfully John’s humor in this section comes as a blessed relief:

Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves, admits he’s “astounded by how widespread people’s tendency is to cheat, be self-centered, lie, and be deceitful.”

Honest Truth About Dishonesty

If you’re a grandmother of a college student, listen up:

Research shows “grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam.”

“Students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose Grandma than nonfailing students…..the greatest predictor of mortality among senior citizens in our day ends up being their grandchildren’s GPAs.” (Please join me in laughing out loud. Are you following?)

young pretty female college student sitting in a classroom full

During Woody’s freshman year at the University of Kentucky, we experienced this scenario. First, he made the grave error of playing intramural football. Early into the season, he broke his collarbone. Badly. Required surgery in Louisville, and lots of time off from school. I prayed he’d pass his first semester.

Right on the heels of his return from surgery, my Mother died. That meant another trip to Louisville and two more absences. One of Woody’s professors found that hard to believe. I had to email her and tell her where to read the obituary in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Needless to say when I read about this research in Ariely’s book, I cracked up. However, cynicism had already slithered into my brain.

Case in point: Our recent bathroom remodeling project underwent multiple, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-delays. Last Monday our plumber couldn’t come because his grandmother died. Immediately I said to myself, “Oh sure, his grandmother died.” I know! Pitiful. Forgive me, Lord.

Good news: Our Good and Gracious God has knitted our souls to seek Him. When we’re sin sick, our souls still crave and need the right relationship with our Savior.  More grace.

Let’s return to God’s Word and claim what the psalmist says in Psalm 84:2

Psalm 84 2

Let’s hear from Isaiah in Isaiah 26:9 –

Isaiah 26 9

Webster tells us, “To yearn is to have an intense longing, or craving, or desire, or appetite, or hunger.” May we truly yearn for the Lord.

Bottom Line:

When facing a decision, ask yourself:

**“Will this situation block my soul’s connection to God?”**

I believe the Holy Spirit will give us the answer.

Cling to this:

Psalm 19 7

And hold fast to:

hebrews 6 19a

May we prioritize care for our soul.

‘Til next time!

P.S. Another excellent book on soul care is a new release by Lucinda Seacrest McDowell (Cindy) called Refresh! A Spa for Your Soul. Our Tuesday Bible study group recently studied thru’ it with “Spa” (Spiritual Personal Assessment) as our theme.

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The homework is the best: Cindy recommends all kinds of things to pamper yourself. It was just what the doctor ordered for our spring time study and could be perfect for you this summer or fall.

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Come With Me to the Lowcountry (Part 2 of 2)

Greetings, friends! I pray you enjoyed our stops in Beaufort and Bluffton, South Carolina last week. This week, we’re heading to the beach and to Charleston. If you’re traveling that way anytime soon, make note of these restaurants! (Lest you think we ate our way thru’ South Carolina, well, we did.)

Third stop: Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Only an hour and a half from Beaufort, we arrived on the Isle of Palms the next day in time for lunch. (Perish the thought we miss a meal! It’d be sinful to miss a meal in the Lowcountry.)

We stayed in a condo’ in The Village at Wild Dunes. www.wilddunes.com Oh, to be at the beach! Lots of families took up very little space on these huge beaches.

The tides change four times a day. When the tide’s out, it’s a game-changer for families with little kids. They can have their own little tide pools, set up tents, games, you-name-it. We walked for miles and miles. Exhilarating!

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One of our favorite meals happened at a restaurant with quite the moniker: The Obstinate Daughter is on Sullivan’s Island.   Just minutes from the Isle of Palms, we pulled up to a veritable restaurant row. The couple we sat next to also happened to be from Kentucky which made our experience that much more fun. www.theobstinatedaughter.com

If my parents were still living, they’d probably buy that restaurant in my honor and move to South Carolina. This lonely only can be a tad obstinate on occasion!

Restaurateurs will tell you they’re paying homage to the “rich Revolutionary War history of Sullivan’s Island. On June 28, 1776, under the command of Colonel William Moultrie, the defenders of Fort Sullivan foiled the British fleet’s attempt to capture the city of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. This first American Patriots victory inspired a London political cartoon of the defiant defenders of Charleston: ‘Miss Carolina Sullivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America, 1776’.” Who knew?

300px-Battle_of_Sullivans_Island

Fourth stop: Charleston, South Carolina

After an indulgent breakfast at the Sea Biscuit Café (www.seabiscuitcafeiop.com ), Hubster and I made the short trek over to one of our all-time favorite destinations: Charleston.

bridge to charleston

Arriving just in time to hop in a carriage for a tour, our fiercely strong horse, Riley, carted fourteen of us around town. Riley grew up pulling plows in Amish country, so this was a walk in the park for him. Only once did our guide scold him as he’d try to turn in a different direction, knowing a shortcut to the stable!

Horse named riley

We had to stop for a minute for our tour guide to receive which course he’d be taking us on. Each carriage must register with the city at a tiny little shack, state the name of the horse, and receive a tag telling us which of the three routes we’d be taking. (This is for the express purpose of insuring the horse’s number of work hours aren’t in excess, as well as for the carriage companies’ legitimate registration.)

Thankfully, we were number one for take off, waiting for the next carriage’s return. That meant there were twenty carriages currently stirring about town. (This was ten o’clock in the morning!)

One moment of awe smacked us in the face before we began our tour. While waiting for the okay, we noticed a very elderly man, clad handsomely in a suit, tie, hat, and dress shoes, walking very slowly across the street.

I noticed him first and said, to John, “Oh, no. He’ll never make it across before the light changes.” Suddenly, everyone in our carriage noticed him. We all became apprehensive.

He clearly wasn’t concerned and kept walking. Barely putting one foot in front of the other. He was carrying something which seemed to be too large for his very diminished frame.  And yet, he persevered… As he got closer to our carriage, John said, “Well, will you look at that? He’s carrying a Bible!”

Man with bible

We were reminded of Isaiah 46:4“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Beautiful sight to behold.

Movin’ on with Riley, Charleston’s architecture and history captivated all of us. Cameras were clicking as often as Riley’s hooves were on the street.

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Afterwards, we landed for lunch at a perfect spot with an equally amusing name as the Obstinate Daughter. This restaurant was dubbed S.N.O.B., standing for Slightly North of Broad. (www.snobcharleston.com )

Hubster has a knack for getting us a table sans reservation which still stuns me. We savored Butternut Squash Bisque and a Grilled Salmon Salad that both were to die for.

The twenty-five minute trip back to the beach flew. We were parked on the beach, half asleep before you could say, “Goodbye Charleston.”There’s nothing like hearing the roar of the waves and watching the tide ebb and flow. For a change, we could be still.

We laughed as we were monitoring our blood pressures (long story). Both readings were uncharacteristically low. We said, “Wow, we’re nearly dead! Wonder if that’s the definition of BEING RELAXED?”

Psalm 46:10 is the best reminder of our tremendous trip:

Be Still

With summer upon us, I pray your next vacation brings you peace, awe, savory meals (!!!) and stillness to rest in the Lord.

‘Til next time!

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Come With Me to the Lowcountry… (Part 1 of 2)

Hubster and I recently returned from a fascinating, exploratory trip all over the Lowcountry. We visited Beaufort, Bluffton, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston, South Carolina.

We happily consumed massive amounts of, yes, you guessed it: GRITS! (And biscuits, and scrumptious seafood, among other delectable delights.) Our eyes were wide-eyed for grabbing a glimpse of the Lord’s Creation all around us.

Psalm 34:8 reminds us:

Psalm 34 8

Join me in this petite travelogue. You might enjoy visiting some of these spots this summer or fall!

First stop: Beaufort, South Carolina. We stayed in a way- cool, transformed Motel 6. I kid you not. Check out: www.citylofthotel.com

Rooms have been totally remodeled. Bathrooms are contemporary and attractive. Their coffee shop, City Java and News, wafted delectable aromas early every morning and we indulged three for three mornings.

Hotel

Notice the draping, the railings and the shutters which give the hotel nice dimensions.   They added a small patio with furniture and umbrellas for relaxing on the first floor.   We complied.

Every night we walked to dinner. Historic Beaufort was only a couple of blocks away. Walking on Bay Street, each morning, along the Harbor River was stunning. We couldn’t decide whether to look at the water or the historical homes! Both were beautiful.

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Two of our three nights we walked next door and ate at the Breakwater Restaurant. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, obviously, since we went back the next night! www.breakwatersc.com (Notice they also have a location in Greenville.)

One day we had an enjoyable tour of Pinkney Retreat. www.pinkneyretreatsc.com The marsh views with the birds flying over are incredibly peaceful.

Philippians 4:7 fell all over us:

Philippians

The lowcountry architecture is also appealing. They’re really big on porches and charm!

Confession: I had to lower my covet meter in the model home at Pinkney because the décor was beyond gorgeous. (Take the 3D showcase on Pinkney’s website so you can covet with me! Hey, what are friends for?)

Second stop: Bluffton, South Carolina

Only 30-40 minutes from Beaufort, the next day, we drove to a gorgeous development called Palmetto Bluff. We know two couples who have recently bought homes here and we were blessed to visit one of them, Randy and Sue Boehme, for most of the day. The four of us were neighbors when we all lived in Lake Forest several years ago.

I can still hardly talk without tearing up about the four-mile entry, lined with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, accompanied by gas-lit lanterns every hundred feet. It completely took our breath away.

Savannah, Georgia, USA oak tree lined road at historic Wormsloe

It was like entering a fairyland. I told Hubster if this were our daily entry, I’d be one happy, calm camper. Talk about a no-stress zone. Check out: www.palmettobluff.com

It made me think of one of my favorite verses:

Jeremiah 17:8 – “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Our visit to Palmetto Bluff began by meeting the Boehmes for lunch at Buffalo’s. It had been some time since we’d seen them, so our reunion was blissfully accompanied by mouth-watering fried green tomatoes for starters, along with an awesome view of the May River.

We could see Hilton Head Island across the water.   A beautiful chapel was right across the street and people were setting up for a wedding reception on the lawn.

Randy and Sue gave us a tour of the development and of their beautiful home. You can’t beat the views from their first and second story porches. When you sit on the swing, you’re looking straight out at the water. If I only had a book…

Lots going on in Palmetto Bluff including golf, horseback riding, skeet shooting, swimming, tennis, boating, plus trails galore for walking or biking. Because they’re big believers in conservation, classes on wildlife are offered frequently. Randy and Sue had recently taken a class on armadillos and one on tagging gators!

American alligator in natural habitat in the Okefenokee swamp

We also discovered a hotel we weren’t familiar with, but loved learning about. We popped in the lobby and lo and behold, it was time for tea, lemonade, and cookies. Yes, we “sampled”.

Pile of chocolate chip cookies

The hotel is called The Montage. In addition to its’ guest rooms, it also has several adorable cottages you can rent, with several more under construction. www.montagehotels.com (Start saving now to stay here! Pricey!)

Finally Randy and Sue took us into Old Bluffton, only five minutes from Palmetto Bluff, which is loaded with shops and restaurants. We barely scratched the surface. It was bustlin’ with people.

Here we are in front of Captain Woody’s. (Don’t miss the photo bomber—could it be Santa?) www.captainwoody’s.com

Captain woodys

Pictured left to right: Randy and Sue Boehme, Yours Truly and Handsome Hubster

Certain this is more than you asked for, for now….Next week we’ll hit the beach on the Isle of Palms and visit Charleston, South Carolina. More great discoveries, foodie stops, and aha moments.

I pray these little “escapes” are blessing you:

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 ‘Til next time!

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One Word That’ll Make Your Day…(With Help from Lucinda Secrest McDowell)

Question from our author: “Where do you dwell—in hurry and exhaustion, or in grace and gratitude?”

Think on that thought-provoking question a minute while I share some good news for all of us:

Friends, between now and June 7th, Lucinda (Cindy) Secrest McDowell’s brand-new devotional, Dwelling Places, is ready for release! Run to your nearest bookstore and grab it!

Cindy encourages us: “A thriving, active faith is as simple as reading one word a day!” Here’s the beautiful cover of Dwelling Places—Words to Live in Every Season:

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While I have a collection of devotionals, to me, they’re like purses, you can never have too many. Smile. (I can see Hubster rolling his eyes after that little comment.)

This new book is set up in a very time-efficient manner. Dwelling Places includes, “one word a day (found in a Scripture) on just a two-page spread, with a lesson—usually via an anecdote, concluding with a benediction as though God were speaking directly to you about what we studied.”

Short and sweet.   Cindy adds, “My goal in writing such devotionals, is not to just inspire, but to teach….”

The book’s divided into four seasons: Dwell (Fall), Shine (Advent/Winter), Renew (Lent/Spring), and Grow (Summer). Each section is excellent. You can read them at any time. (Don’t get caught up in the seasons, just pick and choose pertaining to a word that catches your eye.)

So far, I’ve been hanging out in the  Dwell section, even tho’ it’s about to be summertime! It’s all about abiding with the Lord. Here are a few of the one-word lessons:

Dwell Lessons

This is just half of the lists of words in Dwell Cindy gives us. So far, they’re all my favorite!!!…Here’s another one which really grabbed me:

What do you think of when you hear the word, “refuge”?

Here are a few ideas which immediately pop in my head:

A hiding place

A safe haven

A place where all is well

Protection

No stress

no stress or pressure free of stress test trough stress manageme

 

Cindy gives us four fabulous Scriptures to meditate upon. Note where the “refuge” is in each:

psalm 36 7

Psalm 91 34

Psalm 61 4

Proverbs 18 10

Aren’t those beautiful? We learn that “in the original language of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for ‘to dwell’ sometimes translates as ‘to nest’.” Let’s rest and nest under the shelter of the Lord!!!

In her book, The God of All Comfort, Hannah Whitall Smith sums up this whole concept from Cindy’s teaching:

“The secret of His presence is a more secure refuge than a thousand Gibraltars. I do not mean that no trials come. They may come in abundance, but they cannot penetrate into that sanctuary of the soul, and we may dwell in perfect peace even in the midst of life’s fiercest storms.”

Woman Relaxing Lying On A Couch At Home

Cindy is a supremely gifted writer and storyteller. She’ll grab you from the first page and you’ll be challenged to only read one entry per day because you’ll want to keep reading!

Her passion for words and for studying God’s Word is contagious. This book includes over one hundred and thirty different words and lessons! You will be blessed!

This book would make an excellent gift as well. Graduations are upon us, so grab more than one when you shop!

Thank you Cindy! Great job! Keep writing!

‘Til next time.

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