Early Book Review: Her Darkest Secret

Let me begin by saying I don’t read thrillers often because I am scared of my own shadow. But, this book sounded too good not to face my fear for and I’m incredibly glad I did.

Fiona Kelly is the type of heroine that knows what she wants and works to get it. What she wants is to catch a killer and her entire life has been wrapped up in trying to do just that. Her determination and bravery immediately made me like her, but it was her unashamed questioning of faith that made me connect with her. God is big enough to take our questions and I was so glad to see that sentiment not only expressed in the novel but ultimately worked out throughout the story line in an organic way.

Asa Kodiak is made up of all the stuff that makes me swoon for a hero. Protectiveness. Willingness to admit he’s wrong. Devotion. I had no choice but to fall for him as he swallowed his own emotions down and worked diligently and professionally with his ex-wife, Fiona, as they hunted down the Nursey Rhyme Killer. My heart ached for him throughout the story and that ache kept me turning pages.

As did the suspenseful nature of the plot. Trying to find a killer who is actively pursuing Fiona? The premise kept me guessing who and why. Even with me being the scaredy-cat that I am, I read into the night to finish this book. I didn’t see the ending coming and was completely blindsided by the way the story concludes. The author does a wonderful job tying up all the loose ends and delivering on the happily ever after ending romance readers expect.

More than that, though, the message of God’s light among the darkness, our call to shine as He shines, and a rising hope lingers long after the book is closed. That sticking inspiration made the book amazing! I can’t wait to read the next story in the series.

Thank you for Jessica R. Patch and the publisher for the arc copy and the privilege of being an early reader. All the opinions expressed are my own and freely given. I highly recommend this book. In fact, I’ve already been telling people about it LOL

Book Review: A Strike to the Heart

When a rescue mission goes bad and his company perishes, Miles Wright pushes on to do the one thing there is left to do: protect Lily Moore at all costs.

The beginning of this book hooked me immediately. I could feel the tension, the fear, the grief. Immediately, my heart connected to Miles. I wanted him to catch the bad guys, win the girl, and ride into the sunset. He is the epitome of a hero. Strong, fierce, kind, and entirely aware of the capabilities of the damsel in distress during the story. Instead of underestimating Lily, he places confidence in her and that is a rare thing to see in most love stories. I appreciated the man giving the lady room to do her thing.

Do her thing, Lily does! Despite familial and societal expectations, Lily Moore follows her own heart and builds a business during a time such things were frowned upon for women. She lives her life by her own rules and thrives. I loved her can do attitude!

The twisty plot kept me guessing and turning pages as much as the blossoming romance did. The secondary characters, Lily’s brother and Gio, especially, deepened the story, too! I adore family love—and drama—and this mystery had that in spades. Plus, the Fatherly love shines through from beginning to end.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

I highly recommend this story for fans of Christian romance and historical fiction. You won’t be disappointed! I can’t wait for the next story from Danielle Grandinetti!

*I was gifted an advanced reader copy of the book from the publisher with no obligation to leave a complimentary review. All opinions are expressed are my own and given freely*

I Miss You

Mama,

I miss you today. It’s not your birthday or the day you died or Mother’s Day, but I miss you just the same.

I wish I could hear your voice and hug your neck and breath in the smell of the Rave hairspray you always used. I wish I could lay with my head in your lap while you rubbed my hair to calm my tears. I even wish you could tell me to stop crying, that there’s no sense in that.

I wish you could see your grandson. He’s got your smile and your love for Skittles. I wish you could talk to him and laugh with him and tell him how precious He is. You would love him so much. And he would love you.

I wish time didn’t pass so slowly or move so fast. I wish I were with you or you were with me but eternity is a gulf it’s not my time to cross yet.

I wish I had known you, woman to woman, like I knew you mother to child. I wish we had made Christmas candy together and dressed up for family pictures as adults. But you were taken before I grew up and I’ll never know what it’s like to have heart to heart conversations about life and marriage and motherhood.

But I do know this. You love me. Present tense and not past. Your love transcends time and death, settling in the deepest parts of me. And I know this because after nearly eighteen years, I still miss you.

The absence makes me fonder. The years gone by renews my adoration. The time apart amplifies the time together.

I miss you because you love me. And missing you is a small price to pay for beyond eternal love.

Keep waiting at the gate ❤️

Little League Lessons

Sitting in a small grade school gym, I listened to my son call out his teammate’s name once, twice, three times. The teammate held onto the basketball for dear life and looked around.

This happened on more than one occasion. There were times a player came close enough that the trapped man could see his teammate near him. Those times, he passed the ball and the play resumed. Other times, the boy with the ball jerked his arms back and forth to no avail. He darted his eyes looking for help that never came. The other team stole the ball and ran it up the court.

On the way home from the game, I told my son instead of calling out to his teammate, he should go where he could see him. Then, yell to him. That got me thinking.

I’m the kid with the ball when depression takes hold. My friends and loved ones call out but I can’t see them. I’m too blinded in my own sadness. It’s only when someone steps in my line of vision that I respond. I am grateful for those people! They become my lifeline.

It’s like that with my Heavenly Father, too. When I’m in the dark spots and crying out, I tend to stay in those spots, unmoving. I continue in the sadness, but when I go to Him by meeting Him in the word or calling a sister in the church or approach the throne with a song of praise, my mindset changes.

Why? Because I can see him!

I can see from whence comes my help and that vision transports me from a place of hurt to a sea of grace. When my eyes are on God, the eternal light outshines the temporal darkness.

If you’re struggling today, get to where you can see God. If it’s in you closet or your car or bathroom at work. It doesn’t matter. Just get Him in your sights and I promise you’ll see a difference.

Book Review: Snowstorm Sabotage

Hey y’all! While I’ve loved to read all my life, it wasn’t until I started writing that I began to leave reviews. Full disclosure…I’m not very good at them! But this year I’m going to post as many as I can because want to share all the great books I’ve found with you!

Up for today, Snowstorm Sabotage by Kerry Johnson. This is actually the first book I’ve read in the romantic suspense line by Love Inspired. Let me say, it won’t be my last! I’m hooked!

This book hit the ground running and never slowed down. There are so many turns and twists! You feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride but you don’t want it to stop all while wanting know what happens at the end. The characters are deep and so relatable. My heart broke for Isaac and Everly but the author sewed it back up with the sweet epilogue. Highly recommend this book!

As I am a word person, I love finding quotes in the books I read. My favorite quote from this book?

So good, right?! If you enjoy high action, fast paced, second chance love stories, grab this book and start out on it today!

2022: The Year of Enough

The past year has been chock full of excitement for me. I have reached goals, realized dreams, and watched doors open I didn’t dare think to knock on. Yet, at the close of 2021, I still feel like it’s not enough.

Like I’m not enough.

Why? Why does nothing seem to seize the failure feeling that haunts me. I have examined the question from every an angle–forward, backward, sideways, up and down–and still don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s simply who I am. A part of me that I will never be rid of. Maybe it’s a battle I’ve not won yet, but will see victory of in the future. Possibly even this year.

Then, again, perhaps this is the thorn in my side, like what Paul talked about it. The scripture said he asked the Lord not once, not twice, but three times to remove the thorn. But God didn’t do that. Instead, he points Paul away from himself and the thorn in his side. God points Paul back to Him, reminding the creation of the Creator’s grace and strength.

I wonder if Paul scoffed at the answer at first? This if just my speculation, of course. I have no Biblical reason for thinking this. I do, however, know it’s what I would have done. If I was pouring my heart out before the Lord, confessing my failures as well as my frustration over the thorn, and God told me point blank “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” I would have came back with a “But, God…” like a whiny child. Because, sometimes, I’m whiny. No use lying about it.

The Bible shows us that Paul takes God’s answer “gladly” and finds glory in his infirmities. What an example for us to follow!

Paul never specifies what the “thorn” is, which intrigues me as much as it comforts me. Was the thorn depression, like I fight off? Or anxiety, which plagues more times that I’d like to admit? Did Paul struggle with feelings of failure or anger or bitterness? Because I sure do! Was that emotional struggle the thorn?

I don’t know. I won’t ever know until I reach Heaven’s shore and, to be honest, when that happens I don’t know that I’ll care that much about the answer. Hello? Jesus in the house! I’m gonna be a little busy hugging him. Ya know?

What I do know, though, is God’s answer shows us that in our struggles and our failures, HE IS ENOUGH. Enough is the actual definition of sufficient. We can fall short and He is still enough. We can be weak and He is still strong.

That’s why my word for 2022 is enough. God is enough so I am enough because He guides my steps and His son lives in my heart. I am enough in every aspect of my life. I am enough as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, as an employee, as a writer, as a person. If I am husting around the house and fail to give my hubby a kiss before I leave, I’m still enough. If I forget crazy hat day at school and my son walks in with just the hair on his head, I’m still enough. If I read a text and get busy before responding to my bff, I am still enough. If I botch every work assignment this year, I am still enough. If I never write another story, I am enough. If I get lost in my emotions and have a good cry, I am still enough. Even if it’s a daily thing.

My efforts will never be perfect. I will forget things and make mistakes and miss deadlines, but at the end of the day, I am still God’s and He is still mine.

I AM ENOUGH.

So this year, I am going to focus on that truth. Truly meditate on what it means and let it comfort me when I become overwhelmed. There is nothing I can do that will dethrone God. Therefore, as I long as I abound in Him, I am enough.

And, friend, so are you!

❤ Like Baby Bear Soup,

Beth

2020 A Year of Vision

As the new year approaches, I’ve been pondering on my word. I don’t do resolutions, but I do pick a word to set my mind for the new year, something to center myself around and keep me working toward.

At first, the word focus spoke to me, and in many ways it still does. There are so many things I need to divert my attention in the upcoming months. Grad school starts in about two weeks and I’m so very nervous. No doubt, it will require a ton of focus.

Aside from this, I am currently working on my second novel and would love to have a rough draft complete by the end of February. This, too, requires my thoughts, my devotion, my time.

Then, there’s my family. Since my little daddy passed away nearly two years ago, my heart has focused on the loss. I don’t want to do that in the new year. Instead, I want to focus on the love of those I still have in my life.

In short, focus has weighed heavy on me.

Focus on the love instead of the loss. Focus on the dream instead of the despair. Focus on the present instead of the past. Focus on the now instead of the never. Focus on the joy instead of the junk. Focus on the better instead of the bitter. Focus on God instead of the gloom.

God. How do I focus on Him? With prayer, with everyday actions, with reading His word.  And what does His word say about focus?

After church today, that was the question bouncing around my head. Tonight, I searched the it, the word that has been hovering in my headspace for the last week and what I found shocked me. What does the Bible say about focus?

Nothing. Not a single thing.

This threw a wrench in my plan. I don’t want to waste my time and plan my year around a word that God Himself doesn’t use a single time in scripture. Instead of scrapping the thought, altogether, though, I wanted to dive in deeper.

What does one need to focus? Eyes, sight, a focal point. A vision.

Vision.

That’s what you have to have to focus. Eagerly, I typed this word in the search bar and hit enter. The showcased verse that popped up did not disappoint. It was, ironically, Habakukk 2:2 and said:

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.

That’s what I want to do. To see with perfect 20/20 vision in the year 2020, write down what God reveals on the tables of my heart, and run, fast and furious, head down and hard toward the high mark He has called me to.

Vision.

It’s my word, my goal, and my prayer for the year. Beyond doubt, I know if I stay within God’s will, He will sharpen my focus and fulfill the calling He’s placed on my life, all the while doing so with a heart of contentment.

❤ Like Baby Bear Soup

 

God is Bigger

On hard days, God is bigger.

On happy days, God is bigger.

On days like dreams or nightmares,

God is still bigger.

I have been away for a while, a loooonnnngggg while, but I feel the urgency to speak again welling up in me. My God is doing a work I have been waiting for a long time now. He is filling me full again, full of compassion, love, sorrow, and hope simultaneously.

It has been a difficult time. My daddy, who I love dearly, is battling cancer. Surgery is not an option. The doctors say it is incurable. He can no longer eat or drink, and a feeding tube supplies him of the nutrients he needs daily. I have cried and begged for healing. I have prayed for comfort and peace. I have asked for strength.

My God has been gracious enough to supply all this, and more. Healing, for my heart, is happening. I am accepting of His will and know He has purpose. He has walked me through the hard days and carried me when I was too weak.

My daddy is still sick. He is still discouraged and downhearted. He still cannot eat or drink.

But there is hope.

God is filling me with unexplainable hope and joy through all of this. Yes, I am heartbroken, but I am filled with peace today. Today is good a day.

Though I know there are rough days ahead. It is likely sometime in the near future I will have to say goodbye to my daddy on this earth, unless God choses to do a miracle, which I wouldn’t put it past Him. There are days I will be overwhelmed by heartbreak and loneliness.

But through it all, God is bigger.

I know this in my heart of hearts. In the deepest crevices of my soul, it echoes and soothes me, revives and sustains me. I will survive, and though I will cry, I will smile again. The joy He has given me will not quenched but beat with my heart. It might hide for a season. It might be only a memory on some nights. But like annuals in a garden, it will bloom again, and again, and again.

Because God is bigger.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.  -Psalms 51:12

The House Call

Are you dying? 

No.

Are you lying? 

No. 

That’s not what the doctor says.

I know. 

The doctor said you’re dying.

I heard him.

Tell me the truth. Are you dying? 

No, love. I’m not.

Are you sure?

Yes, very.

Then why does the doctor say you are?

Because he’s a smart man, a man who knows what the human body can and cannot do. He understands the breathing of the lungs and the beating of the heart. He knows what books have told him and professors have taught him. 

So he’s right, then?

No. He’s wrong.

But you said he knows what the human body can and cannot do. 

He does.

He says you have days, at best. 

I know what he says and he’s right. I do have days.

Then, you are dying?

No, I’m not. Do me a favor. Close your eyes.

Can you still hear me? 

Yes.

Do you still know I’m beside you?

Yes. 

Am I alive or dead?

Alive. 

How do you know?

Because you’re talking to me. You’re sitting next to me. I can feel you there. 

Do you feel me only when I’m in the same room you are?

No.

When else can you feel me near you?

I can feel you when I wear your jacket. The one mom calls a letterman. It’s big and wraps around me the way you do when you hug me.

If my heart wasn’t beating, would you still feel me when you put that coat on?

I don’t know.

Let’s see then. Put it on.

This is silly.

Old men usually are. Put it on. 

Fine. 

Can you feel me? 

Yes. 

How about now?

Yes. Nothing’s changed.

Open your eyes. Has anything changed?

Yes. 

What? 

You’re not in the room with me anymore. 

Can you see me?

No. You’re behind the door standing in the hallway.
Can you hear me?

Yes. The walls are thin.

Can you feel me?

Yes, just like a hug.

Okay then. Let me ask you again. If my heart stopped beating at this very moment, would you still feel me? 

I don’t know. How could I know that?

Can you right now?

Yes, but your heart is beating. I can still hear you when you call me. You’re just behind the door.

Death is only a door, my dear, and the walls between you and me will always be thin. 

But you’re not dying. You said so yourself.

I know and I didn’t lie. I’m not dying. I’m just leaving the room. I am simply stepping into another hallway where you can’t see me, like the one I’m standing in right now. I am not dying, just leaving the room. 

The doctor is here.

Leave the door open for him, love.

You can go in if you want, Dr. Holmes. 

But he’s already left the room.

❤️ Like Baby Bear Soup

New Mom, I Mean It When I Say That’s Great

When I see you in the store with your new bundled blessing, I guarantee I’ll smile. I’ll look you right in your love filled eyes and tell you your little one is beautiful. I’ll comment on the baby’s hair or eyes or lips, whichever feature jumps out and grabs me, making my insides crave that newborn stage again. I’ll gladly hold your little one if you offer and talk to the babe the way I did mine when he was little.

I’ll nod in understanding while you tell me of the ease of the delivery or the difficulty you had. I’ll ask you how you’re doing and genuinely listen to your answer. It’s not been so long ago my son was new I don’t remember those first few weeks and everything they entail. I’ll laugh a little with complete understanding when you say you’re tired and remind you to sleep when you can. I’ll stress the importance of taking care of yourself, both for you and your little one. I’ll smile when you tell me your mom’s been there to help.

“That’s great,” I’ll say.

Then I’ll quickly change the subject to ask how the baby’s sleeping. I might ask you what brand of bottles you decided to go with. I might even excuse myself from our conversation, suddenly remembering I need to dishwashing liquid from the other end of the store. I promise I’m not being rude. I just don’t want you to see my smile start to fade and my eyes begin to water. I don’t want you to think it’s something you did or said to cause it.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I just can’t relate to your experience. I don’t know what that’s like. My mother was unable to be there for me. I lost her nearly a decade before I myself became a mother. So I have no stories to share with you or memories to reminisce about. I only wish that I did.

My child will never know my mother as the Nana she wanted to be. He won’t ever taste her banana pudding or divinity candy at Christmas time. He won’t hear her sing off key with the choir during Sunday morning service. He won’t ever beg to spend the night at her house because she doesn’t enforce bedtime like I do.

It’s not in the cards for me and mine. I’ve accepted this truth and am beyond grateful for all the wonderful people I was fortunate to have in my life to help me find my way. I can’t adequately express the gratitude I have for each and every person that called to check on me or dropped by the house to welcome my baby to the world. I will never forget the acts of kindness I was showered with.

There was a void no one could fill, though. There was an empty seat where I wanted my mother to be. There were hugs I longed for, pieces of advice I needed, and joys I desperately wanted her to share in. Those first few weeks of parenthood were the most loved filled days I’ve ever lived in my life, but they were also the loneliest.

I’m genuinely happy you have your mother to guide you through the twists and turns of the newborn weeks. I’m ecstatic you don’t have to go it alone. I know how hard it is to forge a path through the rows of motherhood and I’m beyond thrilled you have someone to share those first smiles, cries, laughs, and sleepless nights with. Truly, I am.

At the mention of the mother you love, I can’t help but remember the one I’ve lost. I can’t help but feel the loneliness all over again and I don’t want you to see. Forgive me while I excuse myself. Allow me to make my get away before the tears begin to flow. Pretend you have somewhere to be or smile back when I tell you I do.

Above all else, ignore the shadow of sadness that falls on my face when I tell you how great it is you have your mother to help you before I say my goodbye. This is the purest sentiment I can offer you. It’s all I know to say.

I really mean it, too, even if the expression on my face says I don’t.