Join the Launch Team for A Dance in Donegal!

Calling all book-lovers! Love Ireland? Even better!

I’m looking for enthusiastic readers to help get the word out about the release of my debut novel, A Dance in Donegal.

Here are the deets about the book itself:

A Dance in Donegal is a Christian historical romance novel set in Ireland in 1921. It releases from Revell Publishers on February 2, 2021.

What the book is about:

All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her Irish mother’s descriptions of her homeland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira accepts the challenge to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the homeland village in Donegal, Ireland.

After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence, but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends—and the strength of an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced. While Moira learns to trust Sean and his intentions, she struggles to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.

I am so very humbled and excited about the release of this book! And I need your help! If you’re interested in applying for the launch team, keep reading for what would be expected of you, what you can expect, and the link to apply!

What would be expected of you if you’re accepted?

  1. Follow Jennifer Deibel on at least 2 social media accounts
  2. Read the book and leave an honest review on at least 2 major retail websites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook, etc.)
  3. In addition to the two items above, you agree to doing at least SIX of the following action items between January and February 15:
    • Add A Dance in Donegal to your GoodReads.com to-read list
    • Review on GoodReads.com
    • Feature A Dance in Donegal on your blog/website/podcast (this could be a review, an author interview, character interview, etc.)
    • Post a photo of A Dance in Donegal on social media (in a bookstore, of you reading it, at a coffee shop, with your dog/kids, etc.)
    • Ask your local public library to order A Dance in Donegal
    • Buy a copy of the book for a friend
    • Share various memes on social media (memes you make, or share the memes/share squares I will provide)
    • Suggest it as a pick for your book club

What can you expect if accepted?

Launch team members will receive a free copy of the book, and the opportunity to join a private Facebook group with exclusive giveaways.

Spots on the team are limited, and this application will only be open for 1 week! So, if you are interested, click the link below to fill out the application!

Are We There Yet?

Another lifetime ago, we lived overseas. And during that time, we were able to take a family trip to London. On that trip, one thing stood out to my children above all others. Bigger than the London Eye, more impressive than the Crown Jewels, even more memorable than the mac’n’cheese at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The walking.

We walked everywhere. And we walked for ages, and ages. At least in their little minds, and to their little feet, we did. Now bear in mind, at the time, we lived in a small village in rural Ireland. There just wasn’t that much within walking distance, and if you did walk somewhere, you were likely taking your life in your hands because there were either no sidewalks, or they were really, really narrow. So, needless to say, we drove just about everywhere we had to go.

This trip was before we moved to Vienna and utilized public transport everyday, so I was worried about how they would fare navigating the underground, hopping on and off buses and trains, being schlepped here, there and everywhere by their well-meaning parents who were going to “show them some history.” However, there’s apparently something highly exotic and exciting about getting to go somewhere with no seatbelt and standing up! Exotic and exciting aside, there was often just One thing they wanted to know:

Are we there yet?!?

I couldn’t blame them, really. Sometimes the question was asked out of excitement. Take, for instance, the Crown Jewels. Having watched the royal wedding, and nearly every Disney princess movie known to man, they were giddy with excitement about seeing the queen’s crown. So, the hour long tour we took before entering the jewel house was, to them, nothing short of medieval torture. Other times, it was asked from sheer exhaustion. Like when we walked for over half an hour in the wrong direction towards our dinner destination, only to have to retrace our steps and cross the city and then still have to wait nearly two hours for a table.

In either case, every time they asked the question, I tried to point out all of the great things we were seeing along the way. But they just weren’t interested. They had their eyes on the “prize”, and nothing was going to distract them.

It was sometime during one of these lovely little exchanges with my wee cherubs that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I might as well have been a pot trying to get the attention of my two little kettles. My entire life flashed before my eyes (only not in that weird pre-death sense).

A good chunk of my life has been spent riding the “are we there yet?” underground train. I hop on the train, wait for that one thing – an engagement ring, the wedding, a baby, the book contract – and then surface just long enough to see my destination. Then I submerge again until the next thing. In the meantime, how many wonderful things do I miss out on along the way because I just want to be there?

I think, if only I can get there, I’ll be happy and can enjoy the journey. The only problem is, there never feels like there! There will always be another there. Another tooth to break through, another grumpy teacher to deal with, another pound to lose, another medical battle to fight.

And these days, following the signing of my very first book contract, it is so tempting for me to wish for the next there. The title to be finalized. The cover to be set and revealed. The book to be done and in my hot little hands already!

Meanwhile, I’m missing out on life. You see, it was in those two hours in London waiting for a table that we had some of the best conversations with the people we were with. It was on those long walks between sights that I got to hold my daughter’s hand, or carry my son, and listen to their stories and questions and songs. The best parts of my vacation happened between all of the “must sees.” And it was in the years of waiting for this contract that I built incredible relationships with unbelievably kind people who helped me learn invaluable lessons I needed before I could even be ready for a book! I just need to take a lesson from London and experience and enjoy the journey as much as the destinations along the way.

*****************
What about you? What is your “there” right now? Are you missing out on things you could be enjoying?

This post is an updated version of one that appeared on this blog back in 2011.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair — Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway!

If you follow me at all on social media, then you know I have an obsession with Jaime Jo Wright and everything she writes. Her first two books, The House on Foster Hill and The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond, are on my Top Ten All Time Favorite Reads List. The list of awards for The House of Foster Hill just keeps growing, and I cannot find adequate words to express how much of loved her latest release, The Curse of Misty Wayfair.

I honestly don’t know how Jaime Jo Wright does it. The three books I have read by her have all been excellent–each one better than the last, in fact. And each one with its own distinct style, tone, and message.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair is a haunting, intense journey exploring identity, grace, and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Wright expertly and sensitively navigates the ragged history of mental illness care and “treatment,” while keeping the integrity of the truth.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair is dark and creepy, yet laced with hope and grace. Definitely creepier than her previous two novels, it is not so dark as to lose the strong element of faith that ties both timelines together.

When I had to tear myself away from this book to tend to my responsibilities, I found myself aching to return to the story–as if by my presence I could protect Heidi and Thea from the haunting and mystery shrouding their lives as they fight to uncover the truth–the truth they aren’t sure they truly want to know.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Wright is a master storyteller with honest and flawed characters that display God’s grace and compassion through their imperfect search for purpose and identity.

Now, I have something very special for you. I used my super-secret, marketing savvy and was able to get my hands on an excerpt just for you guys! And by super-secret marketing savvy, I mean…the publishers made it available and I jumped at the chance to share it with you. 🙂
Just click here to get access to it. You’ll be hooked and need to run right out and buy it because you’re going to love it so much!

About The Curse of Misty Wayfair:

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother—who is battling dementia—compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns—and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

About Jaime Jo Wright:

Professional coffee drinker & Daphne du Maurier and Christy Award Winning author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited romantic suspense stained with the shadows of history. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures atjaimejowright.com

 

Now you can enter to win your very own copy of The Curse of Misty Wayfair!

Just comment on this blog post and let me know if your favorite genre to read, and your drink/snack of choice while reading. That’s it! I will randomly choose a winner from the commenters on Saturday, February 9.

***Giveaway open to U.S. Residents only.***

12 Days of Giveaways — Day 11!

Welcome to the 11th day of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

I am so excited to be part of this giveaway with some amazing—and several of my favorite—authors!

The prizes are building, and today’s winner will receive ALL of the below!

Today’s prize is something very near and dear to my heart! Today’s winner is going to walk away with some incredible books, plus a few extra goodies. And, I thought, what goes better with books than coffee and chocolate?

So, today’s winner will get a gorgeous ceramic travel mug with an inspirational saying on it, some of my favorite European Chocolates, and a sample pack of seasonal coffee! They will also win a copy of At First Glance by Susan Tuttle.


Image result for at first glance by susan tuttle

Today’s winner will also receive:

Unblemished eBook by Sara Ella

Victorian Christmas Brides Collection by Gabrielle Meyer

ARC The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

The Sky Above Us + diecast plane by Sarah Sundin

Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

Cold Case Christmas by Jessica R. Patch

Wyoming Christmas Quadruplets by Jill Kemerer

Christmas with the Cowboy + jingle bell necklace by Tina Radcliffe

It’s not too late to enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below by following some of your favorite authors on social media and signing up for their newsletters. We draw a new winner every day, and on December 12th, we’ll give away a $150 Amazon Gift Card OR a 1-Year Audible Gold Subscription (winner’s choice) in addition to all the other great prizes!

[button link=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/77d680ac9/” type=”big” color=”teal” newwindow=”yes”] CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway![/button]

And don’t forget to stop by Liz’s blog tomorrow to see what prize is added then!

5 Battle Tools to Help in Hard Moments – {Guest Post & GIVEAWAY!}

If you’ve been around my little corner of the Interwebz for the last few years, first of all— thank you! Secondly, you know my family has been through the ringer. A few times. I’m currently on my fourth job in as many years, we’ve lived in two foreign countries and learned as many languages, I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and I‘ve written recently about my struggles to find real friendship since moving back to the states.

To say I’ve had some hard moments in the last several years would be an understatement. I also know, you all have had your fair share of hard moments, too. That’s why I’m so excited to host Kelly Balarie on ye olde blog today!

She has some wonderful, practical tips to help in those hard moments. 

Be sure to read all the way to the end and enter to win a copy of Battle Ready!

So, read on for some good stuff!

5 Battle Tools To Help In Hard Moments

By: Kelly Balarie

She didn’t so much as say hi to me. In fact, even worse, she walked right past me, looking the other direction. She pretended I wasn’t there.

Hmph!! After all I’ve done for her. After all I’ve given her. After how I’ve gone out of my way to love her.  Now I’m the one left looking like a crazed waving-at-the-air fool.  Like – an idiot.

humph at her husband along the way to my church seat. Silently, I critique her in my mind, She’s rude. Before not too long, Iget side-tracked by own thoughts: Everyone always hurts me. Like that boy, I asked to dance in 4th grade. Like those girls who circled up to whisper about me in that damp locker room. Like the group of women who act like they’re far better than me.

I’m supposed to be listening in church, but who can listen, thinking about all this, all them!? Here, I find myself, in the heat of a horrible battle.

You can always tell if you’re in the heat-of-a-battle. Almost instantly, your soul-crushing problem magnifies 100x larger than your promise-keeping God. Suddenly, you’re standing weaponless, in all-out combat within your own mind. Hardly able to win.

Ever been there? I’ve struggled through a lot – through massive health-scares, depression, an eating disorder, financial debt and relationship-severing dramas. Battles. Huge, hard-fought battles, loaded with momentary decisions of pain, struggle and uncertainty. I remember the time:

  1. The doctor returned to the room with the clipboard saying, “You really might have Mulitple Sclerosis.”
    I thought: How do I keep my thoughts close to God with this kind of news?
  2. My colicky newborn made me pace my hallways 24-7. Sleepless, hardly-thinking and powerless to change my health-situation, I didn’t know what to do.

I thought: How do I still love people when my whole life is unraveling?

  1. A family member called me to say I really should get on setting up long-term care for myself.

I thought: How do I deal with the fact all my dreams will now look different than I thought? Through all this, I realized, real wisdom is having a battle-plan. Let’s talk about Christ-centered battle-plan preparedness. Begin by asking yourself: What am I currently facing? Identifying your main struggles (resentment, regret, trauma, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, fear) is to allow God to help you win your battle. For example, for me, underneath that issue with the girl, was an old war full of rejection, humiliation, and abandonment from years past. Underneath, were old battles I’d lost – because they were left unaddressed. Therefore, they left me with resentment towards God. Seeing our battles for what they are, gives us a clear-cut strategy to fight – and win.  It also removes all the pent-up offenses that, like plaque, cover our heart. What about you? Do you emotionally respond to happenings set before you or do you wisely act based on God’s Word and promises?Today, you can fight your battle a new way. Consider:

  1. Asking God what feelings of fear, worry, anger, resentment, neglect and hurt He desires you give to him.
  2. Giving those hurts to Jesus, by saying, “Jesus, I am not meant to carry these. Forgive me. They’ve hurt me for far too long. I know and believe you have peace, joy, life and freedom for me as I give you these things.”
  3. Blessing any women who have hurt you.
  4. Reframing your moments of hurt. (Example: when she passed by me quickly, she was probably was in a rush, she might have had something to do or she lost in thought)
  5. Returning to a heart of love. (Example: Thank you God that you love me and I can love others. In fact, I can love the very person who hurt me by ___.)

This is the start of being Battle Ready. There truly are practical insights, wise biblical instructions and truths that can help you rise above the mayhem of trials and hardships. You can find the light of Christ and step into all God has for you. The victory belongs to the Lord. Isn’t it time you began to make room for it?  About Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously “The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt, disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!”Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries  Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to· make new habits stick in just five steps
· disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women
· exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts
· implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace
· create boundaries so you live life full of what matters Buy Battle Ready here: https://amzn.to/2l5qQrw To get Battle Ready freebies – printables, devotional reminders, a customizable daily Battle Plan and the “Find Your Battle Style” quiz, visit: www.iambattleready.com  To order the companion Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal that will help you practically change your thoughts, then your life, visit:   Kelly Balarie, an author and national speaker, is on a mission to encourage others not to give up. Through times of extreme testing, Kelly believes there is hope for every woman, every battle and in every circumstance. She shares this hope on her blog, Purposeful Faith, and on many writing publications such as Relevant, Crosswalk, and Today’s Christian Woman. Kelly’s work has been featured on The Today Show, 700 Club Interactive, Moody Radio and other television and radio broadcasts. When Kelly is not writing, she is chilling at the beach with her husband, a latte, and 2-toddlers who rightfully demand she build them awesome castles.

Click here to enter the giveaway!

When Motherhood Doesn’t Make Sense

It’s a very interesting thing, Motherhood.

It’s the ultimate battle of wills between selfishness and selflessness. I remember the first time I every truly pondered this struggle over several nights as I, nursing my own cold, had been nursing my then youngest as she dealt with her own ear infection—up all night crying, unconsolable, not wanting to be with anyone but Mommy.

Yes, it’s an odd place to be…being a Mom. Constantly being torn between equally strong desires to snuggle down in your own warm covers and sleep for 2 days, and wanting desperately to do anything necessary to bring some measure of comfort to your child.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

 

 

When You’re Due for a Reckoning – {GIVEAWAY!}

Ok, guys. Brace yourselves. I am so beyond super excited to be bringing this post to you. Author Jaime Jo Wright has done it again with her second novel, and I just couldn’t help but share it with you. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen me post about this book and pre-ordering it. But today, y’all are in for a real treat. I have an actual excerpt from the book for you! If this sneak peak doesn’t whet your appetite and make you run right over and order it, we need to check your pulse.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Jaime in person, and she is kind, compassionate, hilarious, and a coffee lover—which y’all know I’m all about! Not only is she one of the kindest, most genuine people you could ever hope to meet, she’s a kick-booty writer. I could NOT put her first book down, and her latest—which releases July 3—isn’t any different. So, ladies and gents, enjoy your sneak peak at The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. Keep reading and you can enter to win your very own copy!!

Chapter 9

Libby

A low fog settled over the grassy lawn by Gossamer Pond, with the moon a half slit in the sky. Within a few days it would be a moonless sky, like the pall the funeral earlier that day had left over the town. The evening breeze sent a chill through Libby as she paused. The outline of a large tented structure rose alongside the pond, its frame imposing and new. Dusk outlined the rectangular tent, its canvas a dark gray with the front doors pulled wide and fastened back to invite souls inside. Ropes stretched from the corners and midpoints of the structure to wrap around metal posts hammered into the ground. It was almost like a circus tent, only this wasn’t the Big Top, and the entertainment was a different kind of show. It was spiritual.

Residents of Gossamer Grove lined up their various forms of transportation in the field just west of the tent. Motorcars, wagons, carriages, and some lone horses. Men, women, and children alike all gravitated toward the tent’s entrance. Libby knew they were a mixture of curiosity, faith, and trepidation. Tent revivals had been sweeping the nation the last few years and had finally made their way to Gossamer Grove in the form of Jedidiah and Jacobus Corbin. Since the mid-nineteenth century, people such as D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday had been shaking up people’s eternal security. Some, like Moody, seemed well received, with church revival spreading rampantly. Others, like Sunday, were stirring controversy with unscripted tirades from a mouth straight from the baseball field instead of the seminary.

Mitch had told her one paper he’d read said Sunday was so “raw” that they refused to print his words. He used language unfit for feminine dispositions, and even some men were so stricken by his preaching, they were taken from the tent on stretchers, having swooned like a female whose corset was tied too tight.

Libby narrowed her eyes, attempting to catch a glimpse of the Reverends Corbin through the bright lantern-lit inside of the meeting place. Supposedly, the twin brothers had traveled with Sunday for a while and now had struck out to evangelize on their own. Hopefully, tonight’s female attendees had loosened their corsets—assuming the Corbin brothers had picked up on Sunday’s bad habits.

The smell of kerosene from the lamps was pungent as she neared the meeting place. Libby searched for Mitch, but there were so many in attendance, she couldn’t find him. The message he’d left with Paul to have her join him at the tent revival meeting left her scrambling to help finish proofs on the articles going to press that night. She gave Paul a timid reminder to be prepared for Mitch to come busting through the doors at midnight with a special report on the revival. Paul’s sneer told Libby all she needed to know about how he felt about that.

Libby caught a glimpse of Old Man Whistler, the town drunk. She was taken aback that he would even be here, and yet it stood to reason, she supposed. The Corbin brothers were a curiosity.

Whistler brushed alongside her, his shaking elbow knocking into her arm as his knuckles gripped the bulbous end of his cane.

“Come to get yerself saved?” he cackled, and Libby tried to hide her repulsion toward the old man and his musty breath.

“I already am, thank you.” She moved a step away.

Old Man Whistler chuckled. “I’ve a feeling we all will be after tonight. Unless we want to hang along with Deacon Greenwood. Even the good can’t hide their sin forever, you know.”

The elderly man gave her a sideways glance before leaving her side. Libby swallowed hard. Hide their sin? She watched him wobble toward the tent’s doorway. Old Man Whistler probably should not be underestimated. He was a wanderer, and wanderers saw things—knew things. His remark struck close to the obituary’s heart. The insinuation of hidden sins. But, Deacon Greenwood’s slate was so clean, even Mitch had never been able to find a speck of dust on it.

Libby startled as a grating shriek erupted from inside the tent. Gracious, there was an organ! The music began to play, and the shivering tones and airy puffs from the pump organ blasted from the door. Row upon row of attendees lined two sides of the tent with an aisle down the middle covered in sawdust. Libby should have come earlier to find Mitch. There was no way she would now. She stretched up on her tiptoes, but the sea of bowler hats, feathers, bonnets, and bare heads made identifying anyone nearly impossible. The sun had almost completely gone down, and even now, little children were being shushed as ushers made their way up the aisle indicating they were not to disturb with whining and crying.

Libby moved to the other side of the tent, hoping she could edge her way inside and find an unobtrusive spot to stand along the canvas wall. It was hot inside the tent, stuffy with the smells of perfume, sweat, and fresh sawdust. She fumbled with the neckline of her blouse, tempted to remove the cameo brooch and unbutton the lace at her throat.

The organ music whined to a halt.

Silence.

Someone coughed. A child whimpered and was quickly shushed.

Libby strained to see the front. A modest stage, a pulpit, and . . .

“Sin!” The deep voice branded the atmosphere with authority. “It will deceive you. It will drag you to the depths of hell with the claws of demons leading the way.”

Libby froze. The vivid picture the Corbin brother drew had the entire meeting place holding their collective breath. Trepidation spread uninvited through the shelter.

Jedidiah Corbin was a man of medium height, with lamb-chop whiskers along his cheeks and wavy brown hair parted down the middle. He couldn’t be much older the Libby. His early thirties perhaps. The flyer advertising tonight’s event identified this twin as the eldest. His brother, Jacobus, was very obviously missing from attendance.

He stalked across the platform. “The darkness that festers in our souls is like a poison that, but for the grace of God, cannot be squeezed from our hearts.”

Libby scanned the crowd around her, twisting the material of her dress in her hands. Running was implausible, but preferable to being here. There was no comfort—no conviction—in the words. Merely impending doom and destruction. Jedidiah Corbin might as well have combined his message with Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry, and the congregation would have barely been able to tell the difference.

She jumped as Corbin’s foot stomped on the platform.

“But the grace of God is real!” Corbin’s gravelly voice rose with intensity, and he flung his arm forward as if throwing a baseball. “It is the damnable misrepresentation of theology that allows us to sin and wait until we lay on our deathbeds, gasping for our last breaths, to lay penitent before the Lord. That a whore can continue in her sin with a backward confession to cover the last evening’s errancy. That a drunkard may swallow his liquor along with a prayer. That a thief can pocket coins from the offering plate while admitting other sins to his priest. This hypocrisy is from the pit of the lake of fire and must cease before we hang ourselves from the rafters of a house built on lies!”

An audible gasp arose from the crowd. Whether from the language of curses and vulgar frankness mixed with grace or the reference to hanging, Libby wasn’t sure. Murmurs and heads turned toward each other. Libby’s throat closed with the claustrophobic reality that Reverend Jedidiah Corbin danced on the circumstances of Deacon Greenwood’s death.

“May we not die a sinful wretch unforgiven!”

No more. Please, no more.

Libby shoved through the people toward the tent opening. Her breaths came in short, suffocating gasps. The black sky outside, with only the tiny shaft of moon to light the banks of the pond, held little escape from this sense of being squeezed. She hurried to the pond’s bank, staring into glowing waters.

“Libby.”

She shrieked. Spinning around, her arms wrapped across her chest, she squinted in the darkness at the form that had come up behind her. She glanced toward the pond, a deep gray reflection rippling in the water. Being trapped between the water and the shadowy form was intimidating.

The man tipped his head, and as he did, his face turned into the shaft of moonlight.

“It’s you.” Libby’s breath released in a whoosh. She stepped toward him, away from the bank.

“Who did you think it was?” Elijah frowned. “I was almost certain you intended to launch yourself into the pond.”

“The thought did cross my mind, but of course that would be nonsensical, and it wouldn’t help a soul.” Libby abruptly ended her nervous chatter. Her skin had broken out into little bumps.

“I noticed you escaped the revival.” Elijah looked back toward the tent. “I had to as well.”

Libby nodded. “It was quite . . . well, I wasn’t finding myself drawn to salvation. Maybe if I’d stayed I would have. I mean, it’s not that I’m not saved as it is, but if I weren’t—if I didn’t believe in God—I mean, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ—then I would be going to hell, I suppose.” She stumbled to a halt. Elijah was not standing before her to inquire about the state of her eternal soul.

“Why are you here?” She sought for an avenue of escape from her scattered thoughts.

Elijah took a step closer to the pond, and he watched its dark outline for a moment. “My father was to give the closing prayer.” His quiet voice, so matter-of-fact, explained why a grieving son would attend a revival meeting on the day of his father’s funeral. Not that it would have been enough of a reason to give Libby the compulsion to attend, but Elijah was, after all, a Greenwood. They stood on principle, not feelings.

“Elijah—”

“Don’t, Libby.” His voice dropped an octave, thick with memories and truths long buried between them. Elijah turned to her. His dark eyes were troubled, his newsboy cap tugged down over his hair. “I need to clean up after my father’s affairs. To take over the mill and get it in order. I cannot—” He seemed to struggle to find words. “I cannot pick at an open wound with suggestions of foul play over my father’s own cowardice toward life.”

“That’s unfair,” Libby dared reprimand him. Elijah gave her a sharp look. “One never knows why a person determines to end his life before God chooses. Perhaps there was heartbreak, a sense of lost direction, or maybe—maybe—burdens weighted him down. You mustn’t speak with such judgment toward your father.”

She floundered. But it hadn’t been suicide, had it? She knew it. So, if he were honest with himself, did Elijah.

Elijah’s jaw worked back and forth in the darkness. She could see the sharp outline of his chin, the cleft there, and the sad lack of joy at the corners of his eyes. Libby tried again, mustering the courage to confront the man she far preferred to stay in the shadow of.

“The obituary—”

“No.” Elijah held up his hand.

“But, you cannot discount it!” Libby insisted. “Why would you want to discount it? If it means your father’s life was taken against his will—if someone determined to remove him from this world for feelings of ill will or perhaps a personal vendetta?”

“Oh, the questions! Don’t forget, Libby, what of the note? In the straw? Did my father have secrets? What man doesn’t, I ask? Must he die for them? Or take his own life for them?” Elijah’s voice rose, and he stifled his outburst by running his palm across his mouth and looking beyond Libby toward something unseen. Finally, he met her eyes, the moonlight reflecting in his pupils. “I’m not in a place where I can—where I can contemplate it.”

How very selfish! Libby swallowed back her ire and tried to temper her voice. The words came in a nervous stutter. “W-why ever not? You’re willing to risk another life if they were to strike again by pretending your father’s death was not by another’s hand?”

Elijah tugged his hat down and sniffed. An awful silence was covered by the sound of the impassioned speech of Corbin in the distance and frogs peeping their night song at the pond’s edge. Then the organ started playing, its shaky tones wafting eerily over the night sky with the confessional tune of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

She wished Elijah would say something—anything. But he pushed his hands in his trouser pockets instead. Libby couldn’t read his face in the darkness of the night. His shoulders were tense, but finally he drew a deep breath in through his nose and let it out through his mouth. His words were grave, his tone deep, telling, and all too knowing.

“When, dear Libby, have you ever been concerned how others’ lives may be affected by another’s choice?”

It was an unfair question. Hurtful. But burdened with truth all at the same time. Elijah leaned forward, his breath against her face, and his mouth inches from her nose.

“This is what we do. We continue on. We forget what has happened and look toward the future.”

“This is . . . is, well, it’s murder. That’s what it is! To pretend it’s nothing is cowardice!” Libby knew she should not have said the words the moment they filtered from her lips.

Elijah’s eyebrows shot upward. His hand lifted, and he brushed the back of her cheek with his knuckles. “And we both know that you and I are the worst sort of cowards.”

His whispered words hung between them, bringing the horrid truth into the moment and damning their souls in the echoes of the tent revival.

 

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Full Bio: Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited romantic suspense stained with the shadows of history. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com

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The Miracle of Grown-Up Friendship

Friendship.

That word has been rolling around in my mind for months now.

Who is your best friend?

Hopefully, someone (or a few someones) immediately popped into your mind, along with flashes of all the amazing memories you’ve made together.

However, if you’re over the age of 30, I’d venture to guess you had to think for a minute. Maybe you’re still thinking.

Granted, I believe friendship changes as we get older; as we mature. Perhaps with age comes the diminished need for a large pool of friends, and possibly even distinguishing a BFF. Perhaps our needs and interests shift to cherishing deeper, more meaningful relationships, even if that means we enjoy fewer of them. Quality over quantity and all that.

I’m turning 40 later this year, and in so many ways I’m more comfortable in my own skin—in who I am as a person and a woman—than I ever have been. However, in the area of friendship, I find myself increasingly self-conscious and unconfident.

In chatting with a gal I consider my closest friend after my husband (incidentally, this friend lives several states over, and we’ve never enjoyed our friendship living in close proximity to one another), I realized that the last time I had a really close, deep friendship with someone in person was five years ago. Five. Years.

Now, I’ve had wonderful friendships during that five year span. Just nothing as deep, personal, and intimate as the friendships I enjoyed previously.

I’ve also come to realize, much to my chagrin, that I am far lonelier living here in America than I ever was as an ex-pat. A fact that shocks and saddens me.

I was beginning to wonder what in the world was wrong with me. Why was I no longer able to start and build deep, intimate friendships with the women in my life? Then I came across a tweet that stopped me in my tracks:

I mean.

I literally laughed out loud, nodded my head, and then sobered. With 112,000 retweets and 440,000 likes, this thought clearly struck a cord.

So, why is it so many of us in the 30+ demographic suffer such a severe lack of true relationships outside of family?

To answer that, I think we must look at the source of the miracle itself: Jesus.

When I look at those 12 close friendships Jesus enjoyed, I see what true friendship takes. I also discover clues as to why I think we are lacking in this area—particularly here in America.

Jesus initiated the friendship. Jesus was the ultimate extrovert. I mean, other than in kindergarten, when was the last time you walked up to a person who looked somewhat interesting and asked, “Hey, wanna play?” Of course, Jesus was calling men to follow Him, but it’s basically the same thing. Jesus and those twelve men were practically strangers, but Jesus saw something in each one that He wanted to cultivate, to get to know. Jesus initiated the friendship, which is the very hardest part, in my opinion.What if they don’t want any more friends? What if they think I’m weird? What if I’m annoying? I think fear of rejection is what hold many of us back from reaching out to people we are truly interested in getting to know better.

Jesus let His friends interrupt His life and plans. Friendship is costly. It takes time, energy, emotion, brain-space. Jesus let his friends interrupt Him, and not allow it to strain the relationship. My favorite instance of this is found in all of the Gospels (The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), but my favorite account is found in Mark. See, Jesus and His friends were on a boat at night when a huge storm came up. The Bible calls it a “furious squall.” Jesus, being Jesus, was asleep on a cushion in the stern. His friends started freaking out (as I’m certain I would’ve done) and wake Him up. Here’s the best part. They don’t just wake Jesus and ask for help. They wake Him and say, “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b, NIV). Ha! Yeah. First of all, they interrupt His sleep. Jesus doesn’t get mad, He’s not cranky that they woke Him from a nap. That’s real friendship right there. Secondly, He helped them. They insulted Him, and He still helped them without snark. He calmed the storm, and then He did something else.

Jesus called His friends out when it counted. After He calmed the storm, He called them out for their lack of faith. I mean, God of the Universe was there in the boat with them. That should’ve been enough. True friends call each other out on their bologna. My dad always says, “A true friend is someone who makes you better.” If you and your friends agree 100% of the time, something’s wrong. Real friends don’t let each other get away with things that will hurt them spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Jesus called His friends out on their bull, and that is no easy task. It’s so much more comfortable to put some sort of twist on the behavior/thoughts/words that make them seem ok, or at the least excusable. Jesus loved His friends too much to do that. I think this is another reason true, intimate friendship is disappearing from the American adult experience—it’s easier to just keep to ourselves and not call a spade a spade when need be.

Jesus put the needs of His friends above His own. I’m sure we can all agree, just about everything we do, we do with one goal in mind—to stay alive. Jesus, on the other hand, knew His death was the one thing His friends needed most. He didn’t want to do it. We see that in the Bible when He, not once but but twice, asks God if there’s anyway to accomplish His Plan without Jesus having to go to the cross (Matthew 26:36-45). Real friendship takes sacrifice. Of course, I’d venture to guess the vast majority of us won’t have to actually die for our friends, but real friendship calls us to die to ourselves day after day. To lose sleep while they talk through the loss of their job; to spend a few bucks of a cup of coffee or cook an extra meal when their life is in chaos. Even in times of relative calm, it takes a sacrifice of time, energy, and sometimes even money to maintain a deep, quality, vivacious friendship.

The more I examine the friendships of Jesus, the more I understand why we may struggle with it so much. It’s costly. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpredictable. Three of my least favorite things.

But, just like anything of value in this life, the rewards far outweigh the costs.

How about you, dear reader? How are your friendships? Do you need to invest more? Is there someone you need to reach out and initiate a conversation with? Is there someone who has been pursuing friendship with you that you’ve been avoiding because you “just can’t?”

Of course, we must proceed with wisdom as we build those friendships that will speak most deeply into our lives. There are toxic people and toxic relationships. I’m not arguing that we should stay in dangerous or unhealthy relationships.

But, I would argue, most of us could afford the cost of a true, lasting friendship. Could you?

My Newest Travel Obsession

This post contains affiliate links

It’s summertime, and that means lots of us are on the road — a LOT!

Admittedly, we don’t travel nearly as much as we did when we lived overseas, but with my husband’s family 2 hours away, and my family 3 states away, we still have our fair share of road time.

So, I was so excited when I got the opportunity to try out the latest and greatest from The BeLOVED Life. Their new plush travel pillows are seriously my latest obsession when it comes to anything remotely related to travel. 

We got to try out the For God So Loved the World plush travel pillow recently, and I cannot say enough great things about it!

Photo courtesy of Dayspring

My 13 year old daughter used it on her school choir trip to Disneyland recently. The over-the-shoulder strap made it so easy to carry her suitcase, paperwork, and everything else, while still being able to bring a comfortable and stylish pillow along for the ride.

The phone pouch on the strap was amazing. It was the perfect size for her phone, and allowed her to keep it close by without risking it falling out of her pants pocket — not to mention it was much more comfortable for the 6 hour bus ride to not have a phone in her pocket!

There’s also a pocket/pouch on the backside of the pillow where she could slip a couple of snacks and a blanket.

When we got all settled in, she laid her head on it and said, “Oh my gosh, mom! This thing is so soft, I want to stuff my whole body inside the pocket!”

All in all, the pillow was a huge hit. Her friends all wanted one by the end of the trip.

Of course, as a mom, I love the positive messaging on the pillow itself, as well as the opportunity for my daughter to share the Bible with her friends and classmates in a non-threatening way. I also love that there are several different options of styles of pillows. Each has a unique positive message, and there are even ones the boys will love!

I mean, just look at this:

But even more than the adorable designs and positive, faith-filled messages, I love what Mimi and The BeLOVED Life are all about. Mimi says, “I felt like there was a void in the Christian market for colorful, trendy products that pre-teens could be proud to have and share with their friends.”

Mimi’s designs have been featured in Seventeen Magazine’s “Top 10 Back to School Products,” and reviewed by the TODAY Show.

“This new product,” Mimi continues, “was designed to bring life and energy and vibrance back into the pre-teen product market, and to get the kids excited about learning God’s Word, and growing in their faith.” How can you beat that, right?

Well, Mimi takes her faith and messaging to heart. That’s why The BeLOVED Life has “committed to joining the fight against physical, emotional, and cyber bully attacks” by pledging to donate 10% of each sale towards anti-bullying programs and non-profits for children.

Can you guys see why this product, company, and entrepreneur tick all the boxes for me?

Click here to get one of these adorable pillows, and know that you’re not only investing in your child’s spiritual well-being and growth, but also making a difference in the life of a child affected by bullying. Win-win if you ask me!

Pregnant With Hope

Pregnancy, by and large, is a phenomenon that happens to a woman.

The moment of conception, gender, hair color, and even moment of birth are completely out of the mother’s control.

The mother who is expecting a child wields very little – if any – control over the pregnancy, yet a tremendous amount of influence over it.

The choices she makes in a myriad of little things yield drastic differences. It seems nearly everything she does makes a difference in the health of her own body as well as that of the child within.

A baby can be born perfectly healthy with the mother living through pregnancy with a “life as usual” attitude; a baby can survive even when the mother makes catastrophic choices. But a baby and mother can thrive and enjoy an even higher quality of life and bonding when she takes steps to nurture herself and her unborn child – even in less than ideal circumstances.

Several years ago I came across the phrase “pregnant with hope” while reading. I don’t remember the context or in what I read it. But I do know the image that conjured in my mind.

I pictured someone so full of hope welling up inside them that they nearly burst with it – with no effort of their own. An incessantly, almost sickeningly, happy person with more naïveté than wisdom or desire for a real view of the world.

We live in a dark world. A dark world full of dark people capable of unthinkable evil. And hope, like a newly conceived baby, is fragile and can be easily trampled by the realities we face everyday in our neighborhoods, cities and on the television.

It’s easy to let the darkness reign and fill in the cracks where faith can’t provide a tidy answer or wrap life up into a pretty little object lesson with a perfectly packaged solution at the end of the puzzle. Hope gets buried among the grief, disgust and confusion of it all.

Yet hope, like that tender growing babe, while fragile and delicate is also strangely resilient; shockingly strong with a penchant for life.

Hope can survive throughout unimaginably difficult circumstances. Hope can grow and thrive and multiply without any outside effort on our part. The Author and Creator of our hope can do amazingly magnificent things through the medium of hope; and, lets face it, He needs no help from us just as a babe needs no concrete help from his mother to develop a heart, hands, fuzzy hair on his head.

Yet if we take time to nurture hope…

To feast on Food that nourishes and strengthens; to drink deep the Water of Life; to dream and plan and dream some more about what this hope might become. To take intentional steps to protect hope at all costs from the pollutants of this world… Oh how much deeper and stronger would that hope be that lays dormant within us so many days? How much more bonded would we become to the idea that hope can endure?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

So if we think happy thoughts all will be well? No, not even close. Yet if we fight against the darkness, beginning with our own thoughts – the ones so dark and misty it scares us to even acknowledge them – and consciously transform them to things of light, things of life, things of hope… Imagine the rebirth of spiritual brightness that would return to your heart. And then I do it and he does it and she does it… Oh I can see the hope blooming even now.

It seems to me, the more hope in this world that is set in things that are noble, honorable and lovely; nurtured in excellent, commendable things, the better off this world would be. Agreed?

You see, a hope nurtured does not remain merely hope. Hope spurs one on to action, to enforce change, to be the impetus of tangible deeds that plant a seed of hope in another. A hope nurtured grows and matures and transforms from unseen to seen. A hope nurtured and birthed into tangibility, by nature, breeds hope in those with whom it interacts. Hope begets hope; kindness begets kindness; honor begets honor. The hope you nurture within your own soul can become life-changing hope to someone else. Someone that might not have anyone else who can implant that first seedling other than you – and you might be completely unaware of it happening at all yet it is dependent upon the hope birthed from you.

So whether hope is but a tiny seed in your own heart or a burgeoning bloom nigh to tangible for those around you, can I encourage you to take time to nurture it? To protect it? To feed and encourage it to grow?

Tell me, what is something true, noble, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable or excellent to which you can turn your thoughts when the darkness threatens to crush your hope? Share it in the comments and let’s nurture a bit more hope in the world together. Who knows, what you say may be the very thing someone else needs to hear to pull them from the pit.