Let Your Light Shine!

Everlasting Light Pillow CoverShe was so strong. With courage, determination and love she beat the odds and baffled medical science. For years. I always hoped and believed a miracle for my beautiful sister was just a breath away. On October 22, 2013 that hope vanished.

If you’ve seen someone you love and cherish suffer and die you know what I mean. If you don’t, I hope you never find out. Saying goodbye to my “Filli” was indescribably heart-wrenching. Grief rocked me to the core. The day I never wanted to come assaulted me like a raging hurricane.

Numb and broken I didn’t think anything could soothe the crushing blow. I was wrong. Thank God. In my darkest hour, I was handed a gift bag filled with light – Jesus Calling devotional, the light of His presence and a beautiful cross bracelet, the light of His love. The perfect present from an amazing woman who is a bright, shining light in my life.

After the funeral, confirming a doctor’s appointment before heading down for our meal together put me in the exact spot to meet up with my sister’s best friend and her family who promised to share photos of the remarkable woman we had just lost. The light of compassion and healing in the dark, gloomy dungeon of affliction. I can’t even begin to express what those pictures meant to me and my family. After watching my sister suffer so much for so long, seeing her happy smiles was such a comfort and even joy in the darkness of sorrow.

Under the dark cloud of our first Christmas without her, a  precious childhood friend made me a beautiful angel that I treasure. The gift of the light of her love and friendship whispering a reminder that my “glee club” sister is now joyfully singing with choirs of angels. Out of the darkness, light shines.

It’s been almost a year of struggling, shrouded in the darkness of grief. Almost a year of just enough light to see the way and go on. Pockets of radiance flickered by Tulips in Winter, the rekindled friendship I thought was lost forever, kind words, encouragement, hugs, visits, gifts that made me laugh and smile… Sparks of light that conquered the dark.

The theme of light has been pouring like a steady stream into my days lately. A continuous flow of  light deposits finding its way into my devotional time, inbox, social media…It was everywhere. Just the tap on the shoulder I needed for that moment in time.

Not so coincidentally, I discovered the Everlasting Light Product Line which has touched and inspired me – with it’s beauty and declaration. I just love everything about this collection and so smitten I jumped at the invitation to join their launch team. I know you’ll fall in love with this collection too and will tell you more about it soon. I promise.

For now, I’ll introduce you with the message that spoke volumes to my broken heart. In this year of sorrow, loss and pain for me and too many people I know, it pointed to how special and loved we are by God and that he call us out of the darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). So we can shine His light and love to others. So we can shine and light up our world.

Wherever you are today, there is no darkness that cannot be shattered by light. By the light of Christ. By the light inside you and me. The God who counts the stars and calls them by name (Psalm 147:4) knows you through and through and loves you lots and lots. He calls you worthy. He calls you His. He calls your name and chose you to “shine your light!” as the Everlasting Light Pillow Cover photo above reflects. Shine like crazy. Go light your world with who you are. Let your light shine. Like only you can.

There’s more light waiting for us at Holley Gerth’s place today where we can link-up with her and the Coffee for Your Heart community. So let’s head on over for an enlighting, delightful cup of encouragement and inspiration!

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

 

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Chasing Blue Skies With a Prayer for New Beginnings

Northern Ireland by Elton Baretto

Thank you to the very talented Elton Baretto for this gorgeous photo!

Would you believe Chasing Blue Skies  is one of my favourite things in the world to do? That’s because I get to catch an exhilarating rush of fresh-air-hope with the enchanting, fun-loving, beautiful-hearted  and oh, so talented Kristen Strong. I just about squeal with delight whenever her posts pop up. It’s like opening up a box of Cracker Jack –  a little nutty, sweet to the core and packed with a special prize inside.

From Kristen I’ve picked up great book recommendations, snatched a peek into getting a “Stitch Fix” and wrapped my heart around leaving a real deal legacy. I’ve been shown what it’s like to be a military family,  25 Ways to Be a {Lovely, Appreciated, Bomb Diggedy} Friend and how “God never asks us to skim over troubles but to trust Him with them.”

I love her encouraging spirit, how she shares the things of everyday life and challenges, and that she uses silly phrases like “Stressy McStessersons!” So much about her to love, enjoy and be grateful for.

Today I am especially thankful for her permission to share the prayer from her  When Your New Beginning Does Not Begin Well (in)courage post. This prayer brings tears to my eyes and gets me every time. I read it often and suspect you will want to too.

You may want to copy this and keep it close to your heart so I pulled out the prayer to provide easy and quick access. I invite you to also read the post in its entirety. No doubt you’ll be glad you did and be blessed by it…especially if you are facing a new beginning or season.

               Dear Heavenly Father,

I stepped out to make a place for myself, and I tripped up rather than took off. I feel embarrassed, nervous, worn out and just plain tried out. I know You understand, and because of You, this stumbling block to my new beginning is only a part of my story rather than the end of it.

Where would any of us be without Your daily (hourly?) offerings of fresh starts? A splayed-out mess at the bottom of the stairs, that’s where. Thank You for giving me a fresh start right here, right now. Thank You for showing me that walking in Your will is walking in success. Thank You for giving me a sure identity in You, not in outcomes.

When I contemplate retreating, let me retreat in Your love. When I think about running, let me run confidently forward in the abundant gifts You’ve tailor-made specifically for me. Give me the ability to see how my decisions today affect the story of my future. When I flip through the memory books of my life, may I see plenty evidence of taking Your hand and walking courageously in Your plans for me. Along the way, may I learn the art of taking myself less seriously. And thank You that no matter if I fly or fall, You make every story good.

And You end every story well.

In the name of Jesus, the One Who is head over heels in love with me,
Amen

I met Kristen through Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream link-up last year and it’s been an amazing ride looking up to heaven with her while taking in the view of life’s twists and turns along the way. This year we’re hooking-up to pour out a little love and Coffee for Your Heart  encouragement at Holley’s place each week. Won’t you join me there today for a cup of refreshing inspiration?

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Chasing Down Justice and Truth

Cover of Deceived by Irene hannonValium addiction behind her and leadership role at New Start before her, Kate Marshall was all set to begin a new normal since her husband and son drowned 3 years ago. Abruptly, one word spoken by a child at the mall would slam the breaks on moving forward.

Poppysicle. The word her son Kevin used for popsicle came from a boy with the same blond hair as hers. He also appeared to be the same age as her son would have been. The voice was carbon-copy, and there was a spark of recognition in his eyes as he turned towards Kate when she called his name. He may even have come up to her. Except the man accompanying the boy whisked him away in a hurry.

Could it be that Kevin was still alive? Could she even dream it was possible? Not according to the accident report. Not according to both mall security and local police when Kate raised the possibility. Perhaps she was grasping at straws, delirious from grief and insane hope. Her mother’s instincts told her otherwise.

If the son she left for dead is still alive, she was going to do her best to find out. Surely a good private investigator could get to the bottom of what happened that day at Braddock Bay. That’s exactly what former Secret Service agent Connor Sullivan promised to do. He admitted it was a long shot, but there was enough substance in Kate’s suspicions to merit taking on the case. Besides, he kind of liked her.

Greg Sanders, by all appearances was a good man. Evidence pointed to his being reliable, trustworthy, and as squeaky-clean as they come. By all accounts, and Connor’s own observations, he dearly loved the adopted son Kate believed might be hers. Not at all, the sign of a cold-blooded killer. But then again after losing his wife and son “even normal, well-adjusted, caring people can crack up when forced to endure enough stress or loss or grief. We all have our limits.”*

If not him, then what? It could all be a waste of time. Or it could be the reunion miracles are made of. Danger loomed darker with each turn closer to the truth. With brilliant use of foreshadowing, Irene Hannon had me from page one. There was just enough intrigue and mystery to make Deceived hard to put down without keeping me awake at night.

The animated characters in the story drew me into the plot and made it credible. They came off as real people and added a bit of  humour and warmth to the narrative. There’s plenty of suspense to hold your attention while a smidgen of romance leaps into your heart. Just when all the clues seemed to line up as anticipated I let out a gasp! Surprised and horrified I couldn’t believe the unexpected twist. That’s what makes this a great novel. Kept me riveted from beginning to dramatic, heart-stopping conclusion.

I’m honoured to be included in Revell’s Blog Tour for Deceived, the third installment in the Private Justice Series, which I received in exchange for this unbiased review. The novel reads smoothly as a stand alone with just a hint to the past books to entice you to go back and read the other two.

Isn’t it comforting to know the same God who showed up in the mystery of the Deceived story line with truth and justice shows up in the story of our life? In so many ways. One of favourites is the weekly link-up at Holley Gerth’s place where we meet the author of our salvation inside the heart and words of the Coffee for Your Heart Community. Won’t you join me there today for a cup of encouragement and inspiration?

*Quote from Deceived by Irene Hannon

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Joy in His Presence

Psalm 16:11 Plate - Coffee for Your Heart

You make known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. ~ Psalm 16:11

This verse has been following me around like an enamored puppy hot on the trail of his first love. It’s the strangest thing you know considering the year I’ve been having. But it’s true. While I absorb the impact from losses, set-backs and disappointments that have hit me (and so many I know and love) the heart that bleeds from sorrow also dances with joy. Through it all, God’s presence has shown me the path of life and paved it with unspeakable joy. Not to say there haven’t been moments when I wasn’t sure I could go on. But feeling His presence in my heart and in His Word always carried me up and through.

When my precious sister was called home to heaven last October, the Lord lead someone special to gift me a copy of Jesus Calling. What a difference that has made! Written in the first person, that book has brought such comfort because it feels like Jesus really is right there talking to you, enveloping you into His presence. Into the presence of joy and the joy of His presence.

In this week’s Coffee for Your Heart link-up Holley Gerth reminds us  “When He came up with His purpose for your life and formed a plan for what you would do on earth, He knew you would have struggles.” In her post she talks about the struggles when we mess up, but the same holds true in all our challenges. He knew what we’d be going through and promised to be there with us. In His presence where we find peace and joy. All the time.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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I Just Had to Tell You!

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Or in my case, a new trick with an old greeting card design. The “best friends” card is a favourite because, well, that puppy peering behind the fence is so doggone cute! People also found its “even when we’re on opposite sides of the fence, you’re still my best friend. I’m always on your side” message sweet and adorable.

Yet, little did I know someone really wanted to give that card to a friend but was hesitant because they had never been on opposite sides of the fence. That inspired me to take to the drawing board and come up with something different. Something that will touch and tickle hearts in another way. Something fun that celebrates friendship and makes people smile. Like a puppy dog hug.

What do you think of this?

Puppy Dog with Best Friend Heart

Big thank you to the beautiful and talented Sabrina Buttice for this photo

Sharing it with you today because friendship is a big deal to me and I’m sure means a lot to you. I love that when Jesus walked this earth, friendship was dear to Him as well.  And still is. He calls us friends and promises to be there for us….always!

And guess what? As it turns out, ‘Jesus calls you His friend’ is at the heart of Holley Gerth’s post in this week’s link-up. So, my friend, let’s gather together with Holley and the Coffee for Your Heart community for a friendly cup of encouragement and inspiration today.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

 

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What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days Book by Holley GerthIt looks like a book. It feels like a book. Open it up and What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days becomes a companion. Each entry, based on the psalms, is like a conversation with a trusted friend over coffee. I found myself leaning in closely as Holley Gerth ties real-life situations with the truth we need to hear. With compassion and insight her words pour encouragement and wisdom into tender hearts. Words that comfort and inspire. Words that challenge. More than that, this devotional is a useful tool that will drive a tunnel through the hard rock of adversity as well as lay the unshakable foundation that will forever hold you up. By the time you’ve turned the last page, you will look up and notice your heavenly Father seated at your table together where he’s been speaking to you all along.

What I love about this book is its versatility. It is organized in such a way that it can be used in different ways, at different times, with different people. It can actually be read quickly in a single sitting if you like to get an overview before digging deeper. You can start at the beginning, dive in randomly, or pick and choose a spot that best fills the need in your heart. Conveniently divided into 52 concise entries, it easily fits into daily or weekly devotions.

Each message opens with a scripture quote followed by a heart to heart with Holley. It wraps up with “What my Heart is Saying To You” prayer prompt leaving room to add your own words. Then closes with a blank space to record “What My Heart is Hearing from You” as you reflect and listen for what God is saying to you. What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days also offers a refreshing way to get to know the psalms. In addition to the lead verse, Holley sets up a reading plan at the end of every entry that will guide you through the entire book of Psalms.

Sure enough, her words will lift the veil off the truths that get masked during those hard times that have us stumbling in the dark through dangerous landmines of lies planted by the enemy to trip us up. Behind the curtain of pain and doubts, she reveals unmistakably vivid reminders that include:

You are forgiven.
You are not alone.
God is the good shepherd taking care of your needs.
He will never reject you.
He gives you the power to trample the enemy.
He is bigger than the mountain you’re facing.
He will make things right and turn everything into enough.

Beyond these assurances,  you may catch a few surprises. Unexpected topics like the hidden gift of trouble and value of  laughter and tears. Insights you may never have imagined such as how having a burden gets confused with being a burden; that it makes a difference to know the difference between getting hurt and being harmed. Would you believe God is interested in updating our wardrobe?  Were you aware of the paradox that joy and anxiety are related in our brain and that we can take both our gratitude and aching emptiness to God  in prayer?  Can you guess what happens when you stop trying so hard, trust more, and hand over a chance to meet your needs to others? No worries, Holley’s got it covered.

The best thing about What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is the truths Holley shares are not confined to tough times. They are powerful, valid, and uplifting every day of the year. It’s like a daily dose of vitamin alpha-omega that heals and repairs as well as strengthen, vitalize, and calm. It’s the stuff that pumps our hearts with peace, love, joy and hope as we continue this journey we call life. As Holley put it so well, “No matter what page your story is on right now, this is not the end. With God there is only one ending – and it’s actually the beginning.”

I’m delighted to be included in the Revell Blog Tour for What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. They graciously sent me a copy of the devotional in exchange for this unbiased review. You are invited to read an excerpt at (in)courage, and  join in on the book club discussion at Holley’s Facebook page. As always you can hook up with Holley and the Coffee for Your Heart Community for a warm cup of encouragement and inspiration in this week’s link-up today.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

 

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Sunrise. Sunset. All day long, I thank you Lord!

Dear Lord,

As the sun rises and awakens the dawn, I thank you for the light that breaks the darkness and the gift of another day. A precious, never to be had again 24 hours to love and to serve.

When the sun sets over the horizon, I thank you for softening the covering darkness with glorious colours and brightening the nightsky with the twinkle of sparkling stars. For the quiet stillness that invites sweet, peaceful sleep. And the joy splashed across memories of this day that will soon be gone.

For each moment and every blessing in between, I thank you. Because you are with me every minute and in everything. Always by my side and on my side.

Thank you that from beginning to end you walk with me always.

Amen

Sunrise Sunset 01

Sometimes all we can do is stand in awe of God’s majesty and praise Him with thanksgiving!

 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised. ~ Psalm 113:3

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This post is inspired by God Will Be With You Through the Whole Process entry in Holley Gerth’s uplifting devotional What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days released this week. Pick up a copy and I promise you’ll be blessed. You can also link-up with Holley and the Coffee for Your Heart community for an heartwarming cup of encouragement and inspiration today.

Special thanks to the talented Mary Morganelli and a friend who prefers not to be credited for these spectacular pictures that take your breath away.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

 

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