Sunday, July 16, 2017

The American Lady by Petra Durst-Benning (Book 2 in The Glassblower Trilogy)


I just closed the last page to this wonderful novel. I first heard of Petra Durst-Benning when I read the first book in this series, The Glassblower. I am now excited to begin the final book of this series, The Paradise of Glass. 

This is a series like nothing I have read before. It is truly extraordinary. For my Christian readers, this series is not a Christian based read. But it is one that I would happily pass on to any friend who loves reading. 

I was captivated from the very start. The series is based on three sisters who are glassblowers in Lausha, Germany. This novel picks up with the story of Wanda, which is Ruth's daughter. Ruth had traveled to America with her new husband and daughter. We see Wanda now as a young women. We are given the opportunity in watching her grow into womanhood. She is a girl who has the world at her fingertips, but yet she's always searching for more.  She has parents who never tell her anything of the answer no. She's trying to find herself, but no matter how hard she tries there's always something missing. 

Her mother, Ruth, stays busy with all the upscale families in New York. Since coming to America she has changed so much. She's forgotten where she came from as she puts on heirs for those around her. She's very much about appearances and being hospitable to those important. It'll be great to see her in book 3 and she what changes are sure to come.

Soon in the story Wanda's, Aunt Marie, comes to visit. This is Marie's first visit away from Germany. This novel brings us to journey American, New York, with Marie. We see her excitement and fear in her journey. Upon arriving the sisters connect in ways like never before, but not too long after the visit they begin to grow more distant as people and dreams come between them.  Marie grows into a new woman as she uncovers much of herself through this whole new world. She is truly experiencing life new. 

Johanna remains in Lausha with her family and continues the family business. We see little of her in this novel expect for letters between the sisters. As Wanda learns of her mother's past she now wants to travel back to Lausha. 

Throughout this novel Wanda and Marie are highlighted. These women find a joy in life they never knew possible. I loved venturing with these girls. The writing is superb. The author is outstanding with detail as the reader truly feels the emotions of the characters. 

We travel the highs and lows of life with these characters. The author is brilliant in adding such emotion so that the reader can connect with each character. Family, love, tradition, secrets, the battle within, finding acceptance, being relevant, and forgiveness. These subjects and so much more are all found in the pages of this novel. It truly holds a bit of everything. 

As I mentioned before there are a few scenes of sex. Does sex have to be a part of a novel? Could this story have been written without it? I think only the reader can answer these questions. For me, the sex wasn't overly done. It It wasn't something outlandish. It was a part of who these women were at the time. For me it was a wonderful addition to the story in revealing the heart and passion of these characters. 

The novel ends back in Lausha where the third novel is sure to pick up. I am excited to see the story continue for these characters. They certainly will not be forgotten any time soon. Take a chance on this series if you're searching for something different. I'm so happy I took a chance!!😊

This novel was a gift from Amazon Crossing for sharing my review with you.

Petra Durst-Benning lives near Stuttgart, Germany, with her husband, Bertram, and their dog, Eric. Before writing her first novel she worked as an import/export translator and edited a magazine for dog owners. All this changed with the publication of The Silver Thistle, which was set against the background of the peasant uprising in Germany in 1514. Her next dozen books take place in times ranging from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century, and are set in Germany, France, Russia, and America. They bring tales of historical times, love and family, and happiness and hardship to an ever-growing readership. The American Lady is the second book in The Glassblower Trilogy.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Unraveling Wounds of the Church

Rachel received Christ as her Savior in her early twenties. Her husband prayed over her and loved her to Jesus. He had attended church since he was thirteen when he received Christ in the same church he was now taking her. Together they raised their family of five children inside this church. For over twenty years they served in many areas inside and outside of church. You could say that Rachel grew up in church. No, not in the way that most think of growing up in church from a tiny age until adulthood. In the second pew from the front row she attended each Sunday, taking steps toward becoming the girl God created her to be. 

It's here in the church where she found friendships and family that she thought would last a lifetime into the ages when they with gray hair would look back with laughter, love and a fullness that only comes from the Lord, reminiscing at how they grew over the years. 

Years of service in teaching would bring Rachel to grow in compassion and grace. She would give until she had nothing left to give. She enjoyed teaching and serving in many capacities. She was excited for Sunday and Wednesday to arrive. It's on these days she would return to the church she loved. 

When we are young in Christ we soak up everything. It's all so new to us. As we continue to grow God reveals more and more to us as we seek Him more. It's truly a journey. When we are youngsters in Christ, no matter what age we receive Him as Savior, we are dependent on pastors, teachers, leaders to guide us in our walk. We look to them for example. It is a great motivation when we see others who truly live out their life allowing Christ to be first in their lives. It is a mighty hope to see those leaders as they reach out to those inside the church and in how they serve outside the church doors, into the community. 

But what happens when growing with Christ you hear Him call you to another church? This is what happened with Rachel and her family. After twenty-something years it was time to leave the church that grew them. This wasn't an easy decision. She and her husband prayed, remaining in church, until they heard His answer. 

This was the only church Rachel had ever known. What is amazing is that Rachel didn't have friends outside of the church. She had always been taught to surround herself with believers, never allowing the outside world to have an influence in her life. She took this teaching to heart, keeping the outside world out. But Rachel began pondering just how she was to share Christ with the world around her if she wasn't to be a part of this world. This was growing on her heart and it was something she shared with the Lord. 

See, she was called to serve outside the church walls. She was called to share Jesus in using the gifts He had graciously given her. But there was a point where going to church was no longer exciting. This was something so unknown to her. Even though she hadn't been in church when she was young, after receiving Christ as Savior, she had been in church and to her it felt like she had known Jesus her whole life. She couldn't imagine not wanting to attend church, but this is what was happening. There were many reasons as to why she and her husband were feeling in such a way. Sometimes we hear the church say, "If you're having a problem, don't look at the church, but first look first to yourself." Sometimes, let's be really transparent here, the church we attend is the issue. Sometimes it is us. There are many reasons people leave church. There too are many reasons why people decide to remain inside a church they no longer want to attend. For me, I couldn't ignore the things I knew to be wrong. Sometimes there is just a feeling in your gut. Been there with Rachel? It's a feeling that something is just off, but you can't place your finger on just one thing. The Holy Spirit was speaking to Rachel and to her husband. It had come the time in her lives to explore other churches and see just what God had in store for them. 

What happens when you come to that point in life when you are no longer growing, but are feeling stagnant? We can either remain in the same pew or we can make the choice to bring change so that growth and excitement in attending church can continue. Let us always remember that what's most important is our relationship with Christ. 

It's been about five years since Rachel and her family left their home church. Over these last five years they have visited many churches. They have yet to find that 'home church'. Now, what is extraordinary, they began studying together and also on their own. There's nothing like just being at the feet of Jesus. In these past five years they have grown in ways they never knew possible. They know the decision they made was the right one for them. God is so good. 

Now, what's unusual is that over these last five years Rachel will see people, friends she had inside the church, and they act as if they never knew her. How can this be? It's heartbreaking to Rachel, this woman who walks with such grace and love for others. She truly loved those she attended church with. These very women she shared such intimate aspects of life with seem to have moved on with the idea that she never existed in their world. 

Rachel kept pondering as to why this was happening. Was she just assuming? It had to be her imagination. But it continued to happen as she would be out shopping and see friends she once held so dear just look at her and turn as if they never seen her standing before them. It happened when she was with her husband too. Did leaving the church mean that they would now be shunned for choosing to follow the leadership of the Lord? Did leaving the church mean they were no longer of value? These are questions they began asking in their alone time. It was evident something was off. 

These were families that Rachel and her husband were close to. They had not only attended church together, but raised their families together. They shared dinners out and weekend outings. Could this really be happening? 

Five years later and it is still happening to Rachel and her husband. Out for lunch they have seen people they attended church with and they will not even speak a simple hello. In one circumstance they seen a pastor from a sister church who was saying hello. Sitting next to him was a man from their church. He wouldn't even look up. He refused to acknowledge their presence. 

Just in the last four weeks or so Rachel has seen three different friends she use to share laughter with and in time in seeing these old friends, they chose to walk way, dash away, just pretend she wasn't there. In this last incident Rachel was with her granddaughter. Her granddaughter was excited over a doll house she had seen. Rachel seen the old friend, she took her granddaughter's hand to walk over to chat, but in the corner of Rachel's eye she seen this old friend look at her, dash away and leave the store. 

For this family leaving their home was never any indication they would have to say goodbye to the friends they had made over the years. They never imagined walking away from the people they loved so much and never again sharing such wondrous times. 

Over the years a few have asked them why they made the decision to explore other churches. But in those conversations, which were quickly extinguished, these people asking didn't seem to be asking because they truly cared, but in that they had their own gripes about the church and was wanting to vent their anger. They had no intention of being involved in such slander. They didn't want to be any part of this kind of want to know. In one circumstance it was a deacon and his wife caught them in an local store. Rachel and her husband stopped to say hello. They loved this couple and hadn't seen them in ages. This friend asked if Rachel had found a home church yet and then immediately shared that they didn't want to attend the church any longer, but since her husband was a deacon they didn't have a choice. 

Is this what we do? We come down to not listening to the Lord because of political aspects of the church? This is heartbreaking. Families are wanting to seek other opportunities of growth, but they feel trapped by worrying about what the church would think of them if they left. One husband and wife shared with us, "Good for you. You are much braver then we are. We would be scared to leave." Is this really what is happening inside our churches today? Are we following the Holy Spirit or our we too wrapped up in following the crowd? Over these last five years Rachel and her husband now understand those whispering comments of those who they met in the aisle of the grocer. 

In hearing Rachel's story is this something you can relate to? This has brought me to ponder some questions. How do we treat people outside of the church? Do we surround ourselves with only believers like Rachel? Or do we make room in our lives for those who have not made the decision to believe? If we do not allow the world into our world we are missing great opportunities in sharing who Jesus is in our life. You know, to make an impact in another's life we don't have to stand on the street corner, with Bible in hand, preaching the Word of God, (unless that is what God has called us to do. If so, they follow His leadership, cause He's got a blessing in store for you!). This world needs to witness pure and transparent love. It's one thing to love inside the church. A whole other to live it outside in the world around us when no one is looking. 

See, as the members of the 'church', God's people, if we are transparent, if we share our stories, we can come together in love and bring about change. The church is filled with extraordinary men and women, serving God with a willing heart, and reaching into this world and making a difference. We have more good experiences than bad, right? There's much good to share about the church, but if we don't share about those issues that are very real today we are doing nothing to grow His people. We all have such passionate stories to share. If we can share our experiences we can grow together and be the examples that God has called us to be. 

How do we treat members who have chosen to explore other options? As believers shouldn't we treat these families with respect and grace? Do we want our churches to simply be filled or do we want families to be where God is calling them to be? We should be loving all who enter our churches and all who exist the church. The opening or closing of a door shouldn't have any baring on how we love a brother or sister. 

Assuming there's a drama involved in why a family leaves. We do this, right? We wonder why people have left church but we never ask for the truth of the matter. So, we are left assuming that there was drama and anger. Did the family in fact do something? How could they turn their back on the church? Listening to the Spirit and truly living His calling isn't turning your back on the church. If anything this family needs the prayers and love of the church they have attended. They need encouragement and inspiration in their journey. I mean, how great to have this family return on a Sunday and share their faith journey? This is how we grow. 

In many cases this is what happens. Are you ready? It's a reality. We see a person who has left the church. We see them while we are out shopping and doing our weekend errands. We see them, but yet even as we are looking at them we dash away in hopes that we don't have to speak. Whew, what would we say to this woman? So, we have left the shop. Praise Jesus we got out of there without having to speak face to face. But as we leave we begin thinking of this person; How they looked, what they were doing, and who they were with. This is where it gets even more ugly. Although we didn't speak to the woman we attended church with we cannot wait to arrive in Sunday school. We sit at the table surrounded by others and there it unfolds. "You'll never guess who I seen today!" 

What in the world is wrong with us? See, it's an easy question really. Are we believers or not? Do we just speak about love inside the church or do we really act on that love outside the doors? It's easy to love those inside the church. But here's the thing. If we cannot love those who walk in faith, no matter what church they attend, how are we ever going to reach a world who doesn't know Jesus? The world already looks down upon the church. And why is that? Many have their own stories they can share. Wounds and questions that they have buried deep. They've been hurt, they see how believers act outside of church when they think no one sees. We gotta get our act together. Why? We are losing the battle. Oh, there's no battle too big for our God. But, Satan can distract those inside the church as well. We can get so caught up in the ugly that we lose the opportunities given to us daily to give way for the Spirit to move. 

There is so much about the church that is just amazing. Here's the thing. We cannot judge our God according to His people. We are imperfect. We are all learning as we go. We have His Word to guide us, but we too battle a flesh who wants to do things our way. We get in the way of Jesus living out love through us. Can we just get out of the way already??

Now, we don't have to be close friends with everyone we attend church with, but what we can be is friendly. We can give God the room He needs to move in our lives. Those very people outside of our circle might just be the people with a story that will change our lives. Sadly, if they are different from us we don't much give them a chance. 

We don't have to be fake. I don't much like that phrase, fake it until you believe it. God didn't intend for us to fake our love. Love is going beyond self. It's reaching into the uncomfortable. It's being excited about those moments we actually have an opportunity to share in another's story. Love is building a legacy. A living legacy of Christ. The more we turn from others, whether inside the church or outside, we are cheating ourselves of witnessing God doing something big. 

What has happened to compassion? Is it easier for us to reject people? See, when we do this is makes us look as if we think we are on a whole other level in our Christianity. We begin to think we are elite Christians. We need to value others, no matter how different we are. Let's get to the bottom line. We are ALL sinners. We are ALL imperfect. When we humble ourselves and realize just the mess we are it makes others feel more comfortable around us, we bond in an area, and there before we know it 
God has moved in an extraordinary way. 

Wounds greatly impact us. The choice in how we allow their impact is ours alone. I've chosen to open my wounds and let them bleed at the feet of Jesus. Only He can heal what others cannot even acknowledge. 

Healing comes not instantly. Sometimes those wounds open again. Once opened those open wounds then scab over. All it takes is another incident for that scab to be ripped off and there again that wound is bleeding. Our scars get bruised at times. But there's Jesus reminding us we are loved, we are valued, we are important. Let us never forget that being loved by Christ is enough. It's great to be surrounded by friends, but once we are alone, life becomes real and knowing that Jesus is there has to be enough. That is where growth in Christ comes. 

If we are transparent Jesus will shine through us. No matter what church we attend or what denomination we are, He can bring His people together. He has a way of using every circumstance to bring us to seeing Him in a new way. All we have to do is give Him the room He needs.  

I never want to make another person feel of lesser value, to feel as if they are invisible, and just don't matter enough to me to make time for them in my life. As believers we need to make time for those around us, whether friend or stranger. God's extraordinary lives in these moments where we are willing to give of self.

In my own experiences I have grown more compassionate and understanding. I reach out in a mighty love without expecting anything in return. That isn't always easy, but this is the love that God calls us to share. I want to experience Jesus in every word and act. Unless I learn to be uncomfortable I'm never going to grow beyond me right now. 

We all have a story worth sharing. In fact we are all of worth. We have value. We are loved. We are important. We are children of the King of kings. He doesn't love one more than He does another. In fact, He loves us ALL as if we were His only child. See, there's no one quite like you to God. 

So, when we see those who we know, make that first move. They may quickly dash away, but making the effort to smile, to wave, makes all the difference. Maybe not for them, but in our lives it will make all the difference. We don't have to talk for an hour. We can simply be friendly and wish them a beautiful day. Taking time for others makes them feel valued. Take that opportunity and open it up to Jesus. The possibilities are endless when we place Him before every circumstance we face. 

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the Prophets." 
Matthew 7:12

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect." 
Matthew 5:46-48

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." 
Galatians 6:10

"These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." 
Matthew 15:8-9

"But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself." James 1:22

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." 
Galatians 5:22-23

"And He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." 
Micah 6:8

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ready to Walk Through the Door to a New Freedom

It's difficult to believe it has been over a year now that I have been trying to wean myself off of a drug that I have now been taking for about fifteen years. It is a drug that doctors said that I would be taking lifelong. Let me back up to when it all began. 

I started having migraines and panic attacks. I was terrified. The second and third were just as terrifying as the first. They would come out of no where. They invaded my life and changed every kind of normal that I knew. I had no idea what was happening to me. I went from specialist to specialist. Visited emergency rooms frequently. Oh, they knew it was panic attacks and migraines, but they weren't sure of how to treat it. They were so severe even when I wasn't enduring a panic attack I was living in fear of when the next one would hit me. 

Finally, I seen a neurologist who still yet today is the best doctor I have ever visited. He knew exactly how to treat me. One of the medications I began was Xanax. At the time I can honestly share that I have no idea what would have happened if I had not began the treatment I did. There were quite a few medications I had to begin taking. They helped me tremendously. 

Doctors, after testing everything under the sun, finally understood a huge part of my diagnosis would be thyroid issues. I would be diagnosed with Graves Disease. A few years later I would have my thyroid removed and things would begin to calm. After having it removed it would still be over a year before levels and things would start to find normal. 

It has been a journey. I have come to understand my limitations. I was no longer that girl who thought I could do it all. At times my life was debilitating. Anyone who has endured panic attacks and complex migraines will understand. You come to the point you cry out for help because you aren't sure you can take another day. Every day could be the day. The next moment could be the moment you fear your next breath. My migraines could last for hours, to days, to weeks. Cluster migraines would steal away so much of my life. 

A little over a year ago I woke one morning and I knew that I didn't want to take Xanax any longer. I knew my body had had enough. My panic attacks were much better. Yes, I still have them, but not as frequently and not as powerful. I can say that they no longer take over my life. So, this medication just became a preventative. At some point during the duration of this medication I began to take it just out of fear of a panic attack. But, that's what happens when your body, your brain becomes addicted to this medication. It wasn't that I was chasing a high. It was never like that for me. This medication never made me feel that way. I could actually never even know that I took it except for the fact that it kept most of my panic attacks at bay. If I did have a panic attack it would help alleviate it. 

I kept them close. I never left home without them. Every four hours it was time for a dose. It was taken like clockwork in fear that if I didn't have it a panic attack would destroy any calm I felt. Now, imagine how many people live this daily. I didn't want to do it any longer. 

So, all on my own I began reducing my dosage. I can tell you this has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. I got myself down to taking 1/4 of the smallest dose possible three times a day.  Just doing that took me over a year. Xanax is a drug that your brain feeds on. It changes everything. Now, I couldn't even tell you a difference when I did take it, but I could tell you a difference if I didn't have that dose every four hours. My body, my brain, was hungry for it. 

Two days ago I began reduces my dose again. I am so proud of myself! For the second day in a row I have only taken 1/4 of a tablet in the morning when I wake. Here's the thing; I haven't even missed those other three doses! I think, just like I knew then, now was the perfect time to again reduce my dosage. Now, this isn't going to be an easy thing. I know that probably in three or four days my body and brain are going to begin feeling the effects of not having this drug in my system. But, just like throughout this journey I know where my strength comes!! 

I shared with my husband and I also shared with a close friend. Having others pray for me is a great treasure. I know my husband is so proud. He has been with me all these years. He knows the pain and torture I have endured. He knows all the changes I have made to create a more healthy me. 

I remember when the thought came to me that I didn't want to take them any longer. I was standing in the kitchen. I reached over my washed dishes for my bottle to take my next dose. I felt the Lord wash over me. "You do not need this anymore. I will help you." It was such a powerful moment. It was all I needed! 

This journey isn't over, but it continues. I will not stop until I celebrate my last refill of this medication. I have such encouragement. I see where I once was and how far I have come. I know my Lord has been with me every single step of the way. Without Him, well, I couldn't have done this on my own. 

Now, here's the thing I want you to understand. This medication was needed at a time in my life. Never allow anyone to make you feel weak or of less value because you must take a medication. There are times our bodies need help. This medication is a very real one. I wish I had known more about it when I began taking it. If I had known how addicting it would be would I have still taken it? I just cannot answer that. If there was something else, yes. But this with the combination of other medications gave me a chance at finding moments where fear didn't overtake my entire being. 

So, how do I feel today? I still have migraines. They are nothing like they once were all those years ago. My panic attacks still come in the night. Especially after my husband was hit by a drunk driver and endured a severe crash. But, I now know that my panic attacks are not going to kill me. I have educated myself and I understand them more and more. I can work through them. Most of all I can pray through them. I know there is a God greater than my fear and He will bring me solace and a peace that is even more special to me because I know the fear on the other side of that peace. 

It is amazing the strength of Jesus I have come to know and trust. I am keeping my mind busy, focusing on all things that bring glory to God. Whether I keep my hands busy with cleaning the floors, doing laundry, or picking up a book, I will keep moving forward in this journey to freeing myself from this medication. I'm not there yet, but I am not a finished girl in any sort of way. Determination is powerful, but it's void without the strength of God. There is not self power in this journey. I am a weak girl who would rather take the easy route, but where would that get me? 

No, I'm becoming that girl who isn't afraid to take the hard journey, the difficult road. It's there in the midst of all that mess that I see the grace and mercy of God come alive in the very moment of my weakness.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a

Love in a Time of Hate (The Story of Magda and Andre Trocme and the Village That Said No to the Nazis) by Hanna Schott

I absorbed this biography within a few days. The first portion of the book is about the younger lives of Magda and Andre, their families and how life was for them. The Trocme's are a family that is a living legacy. It was interesting to learn about their lives before they met and married.

The second portion of the biography was most interesting to me. It just seemed to get better as I turned the pages. I enjoyed learning of these wondrous people of faith who were willing to go beyond self and serve their God in the way of His leadership. They didn't follow what others were doing. They weren't so much political. But what they lived was a transparent life not separate from their faith. Their faith was a the very foundation of every choice they made. They reached into the hearts of so many just by loving them. But what I love is that they loved until it hurt. That's something that isn't easy to do. We love with our mouths, but when we truly put love into action it becomes something with possibility and hope that is far beyond our own strength and power. This is what I can take away from the Trocme family.

I would have enjoyed reading more of their own actual words. Those are the parts of this biography that truly stick with me. The author asks questions of her own and we see much of her own thoughts to what those answers would/could be. Also, here's where it gets a bit sticky for me. Vickie Reddy, Founder of We Welcome Refugees, wrote the forward. It was a lovely piece, but it was very personal of her own ideals. I related her words to what the Trocme's would have done with the refugees of today. That isn't something she could possibly answer. How the Trocme family lived was in the leadership of God for them at the moment. Today's issues like in the U.S. with the incoming of refugees or building a wall is something very different and an issue that is unlike what the Trocme family faced. I could have possibly taken her words differently than she intended, but the wording she uses is well, pretty forward. (No pun intended).

I too enjoyed the photos of this family. They are rich in how they give way to the love of these people. They lived their lives not according to how a world reacted or what a world expected. They lived in a way that touching just one life was worth it all. They opened their lives to those hiding from death.

I loved turning to the last pages and seeing their legacy alive in our world today. Many organizations started by them are still in progress today. That is just amazing!! The author also shares what happened to those in this biography, like family and friends. Their children went on to live in other areas, some in the U.S. today. Each of them continue to live a legacy started so long ago that blossomed in the hearts of those willing to not just speak about mercy, but chose to live it out as they reached into the heart of man.

This book was a gift from Herald Press for sharing my review with you. 

Hanna Schott is a journalist, writer, and editor living in Haan, Germany. She studied French, Italian, music, and theology at universities in Marburg, Freiburg, and Heidelberg. Schott has worked as a bookseller and is the author of many books. She is a member of Evangelishe Kirchengemeinde St. Reinoldi Rupelrath. 

You can find discussion questions for this book at HeraldPress.com/StudyGuides

Saturday, July 8, 2017

An Amish Summer (Four Novellas) by Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelley Irvin

Just in time for a summer break these wonderful ladies give us novellas to enjoy over a glass of sun-tea and a shaded cool breeze. If you are looking for an escape this just may be the book for you. 

If you have yet to read the penned work by these authors this is a great introduction to their other penned novels. 

Four novellas penned by wonderfully gifted authors give the reader stories that make the heart smile. Each novella occurs during the summer. We find love, romance, and the sweetest characters, all giving the reader a glimpse at faith weaved stories of forgiveness, hope, and second chances. 

These stories are well penned and have a gentle pace, giving us characters to enjoy and leaving us wanting to know more about them. What I love is that are stories for any age. These could easily be shared with YA readers who love Amish novels. Each novella is short enough to enjoy in an afternoon's reading. 

It's nice to take a break away from what I normally love reading and find something totally different. These stories give us a window into a life that seems on outside so different, but easy going. As we see through these characters their lives are anything but easy going. They face trial and tragedy just as we do. They make choices just as we do, good and bad, both leaving consequences. But what I love with these novels is that we see a truth in these characters as they grow over a summer's time span. We see characters who grow in knowing themselves better and also having a desire to know those around them. That is a characteristic that is missing in much of our world today that is surrounded by cell phones and computers. 

I found these novellas to be sweet and intimate stories. While I enjoyed each of them, my favorite would probably be, Lakeside Love. I love the idea of sharing a story that brings us to the Biblical story of Leah and Rachel. 

In all of these novellas we can see that the characters don't always see clearly as what they should do, but there is God before them making a way. Mostly we see that God has a plan and in His perfect timing He reveals our steps as He guides us to seek Him as we journey through the unknown. 

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 


Shelley Gray is the author of The Heart of a Hero series. Her Amish Novel (written as Shelley Shepard Gray), The Protector, recently made the New York Times best-seller list. A native of Texas, she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in Colorado and taught school for ten years. She and her husband have two children and live in Southern Ohio. www.shelleyshepardgray.com

Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Her novels have hit multiple best-seller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and works full-time for the City of Charlotte. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats. www.amyclipston.com 

Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including A Man of His Word and Treasuring Emma, as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. www.kathleenfuller.com

Kelly Irvin is the author of several Amish series including Bliss Creek Amish series, the New Hope Amish series, and the Amish of Bee County series. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No child of Mine. the Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter, mostly in Texas-Mexico border towns. A retired public relations professional, Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-nine years. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Upon a Spring Breeze by Kelly Irvin

I usually don't choose Amish fiction to review. I seen this novel and it was the cover that caught my attention. It looked lovely and inviting. The back cover description shared just enough to intrigue me. 

I was looking for a novel that was an easy read. One that flowed smoothly with characters that tugged at my heart. Well, I just wanted an escape read. Why did I choose a novel where the main character's husband dies and she's left a widow? I have to chuckle at my choice too. But it's one that I am happy to have read. 

It was an easy read. Just an afternoon of reading. This is my first novel penned by Kelly Irvin. I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed my first novel by this author. 

Within reading up to the second chapter the story kind of speaks for itself. Everything is pretty much unveiled and the reader can easily see what's about to happen. But, don't let that stop you from choosing this lovely selection. Even though all was figured out, at least for me, there was much to take in as Bess Weaver journeyed through healing. She and Aidan, her husband's best friend, have much in common. Most of all they are hurting for the one they both love in an order of people who don't show emotion. It doesn't mean they aren't hurting, but they choose to believe it is God's way and they should simply get on with it. 

Beth is surrounded by people who seem so tough and hardhearted. Especially Mattie, her mother-in-law. She's a bitter pill to swallow. But Beth shows such grace. She is hurting so much and the birth of their child brings emotions she wasn't prepared for. She feels like something is wrong with her. 

But, what I loved was God did surround Beth with people filled with wounds just as deep as those she has been battling. Women who have lived her walk and are able to give her sound advice soaked deeply in love. There isn't judgement or condemnation from these women, but understanding and friendship filled with hope. 

So, even with the family members who seem so very hard, I found that they really aren't. It shows that everyone handles tragedy differently. There isn't one right way to heal from deep wounds. 

Beth finds friendship outside the order when she takes a job at a local B&B. It's here we see the same curiosity we find in our own churches and communitites. People talk and assume. They quickly judge before they know the truth of the matter. But, what I love is that no matter what people thought of Beth she stood tall and grounded in everything she's ever known.

Aidan is one of the characters that is strong and above reproach. He's a good guy. He's that guy every mom wants their daughter to bring home. He has always loved Beth. He was friends with not only Caleb, but Beth as well. They are people he truly cares about and calls them family. He knew his best friend loved Beth and he didn't get in the way. He never shared his feelings for Beth once he knew Caleb fell for her. So, life moved on and we meet a girl whom Aidan has had feelings for, Iris. He's been calling on her, but has never gone as far as kissing her. She's the girl the town believes he should marry, but we see God has other plans for them both. Without sharing more information about the story, Iris is another character who shows great heart. 

Beth's parents would really like her to come live with them and make a new life, but what I admire about Beth is the choice she makes to remain where she is. Even though Mattie doesn't appear to be the sweetest mother-in-law, (I too have one of those.), Beth knows she needs her. In fact, they need each other. 

This was just a sweet read that gave me just what I was looking for in a novel. I wanted a break from the norm I read and this gave me that escape I needed. Forgiveness, romance, acceptance, peace, and learning that spring does come after a winter of trial, are all woven in this sweet read. I hope you enjoy!😉

This book was a gift from Zondervan for sharing my review with you. 

Kelly Irvin is the author of several Amish series including the Bliss Creek Amish series, the New Hope Amish series, and the Amish of Bee County series. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine. The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. she has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as newspaper reporter, mostly in Texas-Mexico border towns. A retired public relations professional, Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-nine years. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors. 




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