What I Learned in July

It Happens Once in a Blue Moon 2015 Graphic

Blue Moon in Toronto July 2015

Hey, guess what? I discovered during a heat wave green cooking bananas will ripen nicely into a natural sweetness in just a few days.

And you know what else? I go bananas for learning and trying new things so am delighted to share the bunch of things that branched out, ripe for the picking, in the month of July.

1.  Apple Music is my new best friend. How can I refuse to hang out with that app-ortunity when it keeps showering me with gifts of nostalgic oldies and introducing me to musical treasures I’ve never knew existed. Like pop-rock band Sidewalk Prophets. Such enormous talent wrapped in faith-full inspiration!

2. If you put batteries in the freezer they last longer.

3. Blue moon isn’t blue. It’s when you have two full moons in the same month.

4. Pre-ordered Simply Tuesday and got a lovely surprise. A sample is now available on iBooks. We can start reading it right away before it releases on August 18.  Ahhhh, life is good!

Also signed up for the video series anticipating the book launch where author Emily P. Freeman taught me that holding an empty vessel like a bowl or cup when we pray opens us up to hear and receive from God.

5. Foods I tried for the first time and liked:

  1. Coconut water – it really is refreshing and hydrating,
  2. Jalapeno Pringles
  3. Tim Hortons Cafe Mocha
  4. Oranges from South Africa

Got another treat for you. Not in July, but a few months ago, I found out Emily P. Freeman hosts a link-up to what we’ve learned each month. I have enjoyed them immensely and am a bit smarter for it too. Such a wealth of information from some truly amazing people. Click here to get a sweet taste of what I mean.

So many lives at stake and time was running out…

SabotagedSo many lives at stake and time was running out. Like it wasn’t enough her cousin Meg was held hostage by whom and where completely unknown. With the threat to her uncle holding the key, Kirra Jacobs, along with unexpected companion Reef McKenna, race against unspeakable evil to intercept the disastrous plot that would seriously damage the environment and snuff out the lives of countless innocent victims. Aided by friends and family, they brave the extreme arctic climate, during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race Uncle Frank was competing in, to rescue his daughter and trip up the planned sabotage.

Laid in the backdrop of awe-inspiring Alaskan winter and carried by a true to life cast of characters that draw you into the story-line, Sabotaged takes you on an edge of your seat adventure packed with fast-paced suspense, surprise twists, and courageous risk-taking. At times I got so wrapped up in the action, sweet touch of romance and powerful family devotion, I actually had to remind myself “This is fiction. Not something going on in real life.”

Utter genius how this novel is spine-chilling and heart-warming. At the same time. Dani Pettrey crafted a tangled mystery to solve spun with yarns of captivating intrigue, strong, durable love, and tight-knit faith. You will gain insight into arctic conditions, the Iditarod, and the mining industry while coming face to face with what it’s like to be a rape victim, the black sheep in need of a trustful second chance and the lengths (and depths) people are willing to go for love and passion.

Precious to me how I felt God’s presence guiding, healing, and redeeming through the faith of characters fleshed out of Dani Pettrey’s imagination. So touched by their humble, trusting prayers I even found myself bowing my head as they lifted their petitions to the God who cries when His children hurt. And watches over them always. Even in the most horrifying, dangerous places.

Sabotaged is the riveting conclusion to the Alaskan Courage Series that got me hopelessly hooked. One of the first things I did after finishing this book was start at the beginning with Submerged. Just couldn’t tear myself away. So glad I didn’t have to.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Bethany House  for generously providing a complimentary copy of Sabotaged in exchange for this unbiased review.

Today I’m delighted to doubly bless you with this introduction to new favourite author Dani Pettrey and link up with long-time favourite blogger, author and friend Holley Gerth for some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart. Together.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

My #CoffeeforYourHeart Playlist

A little while ago I started building a “Coffee for Your Heart” music playlist. I named it after Holley Gerth’s blog moniker since it has become synonymous with encouragement. Which is exactly what the collection was created for. As I come across a track that might encourage someone, I save it for when someone may need to be uplifted, comforted, or affirmed.

Coffee for Your Heart Playlist CD

The other day, it occurred to me that maybe people might appreciate a peek at that list to spread encouragement in their circles too. Would you like a sample of what I’ve been compiling? Perhaps there’s even a song that will speak to your heart and be just what you need to hear.

This selection is, of course, just a small beginning. When we share, things grow and get better. So, I invite you to join in this music mission. Would love to hear about songs you believe will bring hope, healing, joy and peace; melodies that soothe and help people carry on with renewed courage and strength.

Here are some of the titles I hope will touch and bless others. Can’t wait to hear yours!

  1. In Your Hands by Unspoken
  2. Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
  3. What Faith Can Do by Kutless
  4. The Words I Would Say by Sidewalk Poets
  5. You Shine by Brian Doerkson
  6. Don’t Give Up by Sanctus Real
  7. Walk by Faith by Jeremy Camp
  8. Verge of a Miracle by Rich Mullins
  9. Stronger by Mandisa
  10. Fighter by Jamie Grace
  11. Flawless by Mercy Me
  12. Carry You by Amy Grant
  13. All You Got by Michael Tait
  14. God is Watching over You by Phil Joel
  15. Beyond Me by Toby Mac

…and two bonus tracks to pick you up and make make you smile out loud.

16. God is Bigger by VeggieTales
17. Cartoons by Chris Rice

Holley’s words are always encouraging music to my heart. So delighted to link up at her place with you today for a cup or two of refreshing Coffee for Your Heart together. See you there!

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

The day I met Jesus

The Day I Met Jesus Cover - Frank Viola & Mary DeMuth What if you could step into the pages of history and experience first-hand the effect Jesus had on people while He walked the earth? That’s exactly what you can count on throughout The Day I Met Jesus. The authors transport you into the first century latched onto stories of five broken women and their encounter with the Lord of healing, redemption. and grace.

Your journey takes off with biblical narratives written as diary entries from an adulteress caught in the act, prostitute who loved extravagantly, multiple divorcée currently living in sin, defiled, isolated patient with an incessant flow of blood, and a friend who was one of Jesus’s much-loved disciples.

Each one masterfully prepares the scene where we get to live in their skin; see things though their eyes, feel what they felt. Their first-person account brings you to a better understanding of who they were and what their lives must have been like. Each word pointing to that moment in time that changed everything, setting the stage for us to eavesdrop on their transforming encounter with Jesus. Words that paint, in living colour, what it means to be loved, forgiven, restored, healed. As we slip into their shoes, we detect footprints of someone we know much like them and catch glimpses of ourselves. Their stories, though experienced long ago, contain a timeless universality that seamlessly joins past events to present relevance.

As I came to know those women from their perspective, I was eager to overlay their memoirs onto the Sacred Text that immediately follows. Comparing their reflections with the Gospel made what took place more real, vivid and meaningful. Even more so with the Walking it Out section that concludes the chapter. That’s where it’s our turn to meet Jesus. Where the authors zoom in on more insights and finer details of the culture, lifestyle and beliefs at the time of Christ. They also put together the Talking it Over questions at back of the book to help us interact with the biblical narrative on our own or in a group setting,

The Day I Met Jesus reveals how there is so much than what meets the eye. Things I never thought of before. Like how was it the accusers just happened to catch that woman in adultery? That Mary of Bethany who brazenly sat at Jesus’s feet, boldly poured expensive perfume over His feet, quietly held back defending herself against disapproval. It was a real eye-opener when the authors pointed out the unlikelihood the Samaritan woman, marred with a stained reputation, would be taken seriously when she returned to her village telling people about her exchange with Jesus. Yet, they followed her back to see for themselves and were subsequently converted. Clearly, they noticed something different about her.

I loved the way this book captures how the Jesus who touched the lives of those women wants to do the same for you and me. Forgiveness, grace, acceptance and boundless love are ours. Today. Here and now. Sins, mistakes, hurts washed away to make room for life redeemed and free. Shame is wiped away and new life springs forth. Once we  meet Jesus, our lives will never be the same again. Just like the five women.

I met Jesus in a new and powerful way through this book. I think you will too.

I meet Jesus a lot in the words of Holley Gerth and am delighted to link us up today to share some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart together.

Disclosure – Many thanks to BakerBooks for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Coffee for Your Heart and Tummy

The best coffe is the one we share together
Mmmmmmmmmm….. coffee! One of my favourite things. Especially the flavoured ones! Trying new things is a joy and passion for me, so I’ve tasted a good many types of coffee over the years. I enjoyed every single one and some were so good it’s like a taste of heaven.

Since sharing is another one of my favourite things, I wanted to let you in on some of my top-rated coffees.

Anything that comes from employee-owned Paramount Coffee in Michigan will surely delight you! Their decadent Fudge Brownie is to die for and every bit as scrumptious as the best chocolate dessert ever!  You’re also in for a sweet treat with their Chocolate Caramel Cookie, Creme Brulé, Chocolate Raspberry, and cognac-hinted caramel Jamaica Me Crazy.

With over 75 years of dedication to the coffee culture, they have come up with a huge variety of seasonal and unique blends to tinkle your tummy all year round, and over and over again. Such as Apple Crisp, Blueberry Muffin, Toasted Tanzania Cashew, Black Bottom Cupcake, Doodle Dandy (a trace of cinnamon, warm fudge and toasted hazelnut), Pumpkin Pie, Caramel Apple, Peppermint Bark, Gingerbread, Nicaraguan Rum Cake, Mackinac Island Fudge, Toasted Maple Nut, Cozy Caramel Pecan Cluster, Vanilla Sugar Cookie. Just to name a few.

For those of you who are not into flavoured coffees, they offer everything else you could ever wish for. Organic. Fair Trade. Single Origin, Signature blends. Light. Medium. Strong, Decaf. You name it.

As you savour every sip of their coffee you will also feel warm all over knowing it came from a fun, ethical company that gives back to the coffee growers, supports the community it lives in, and will even help you fund-raise for your cause.

For all you chocolate lovers, Chocolate Mudslide (hint of coffee liqueur and rich caramel added to a decadent dark chocolate) in the Flavor Xotics Arabica Coffee brand from Magnum Coffee Roastery will get your taste buds singing and dancing for joy. And to top off the list of irresistible java pleasures, I invite you to check out Southern Pecan from the Spice Exchange Specialty Coffee, Chocolate Macadamia from Casa Europa and Little Italy Caffè Caramel distributed by Life Plus Style Gourmet.

The best coffee in the  whole wide world to me? The one I share with others. Hands down. Including the encouraging Coffee for Your Heart in our weekly link-up  with the lovely Holley Gerth!

Oh, one  more thing  If you live in the USA , you can order Holley’s real Coffee for Your Heart Signature Blend coffee. :)

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Blindsided by God!

Blindsided  by God Cover - Peter Chin

Miscarriage. Break-in. Cancer. Letter from insurance company declining coverage. Mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Another pregnancy. Disastrous launch of the church Peter Chin believed God had called him to plant. All within the same year. How could this be happening? And why now?

Blindsided by God is narrated by a pastor but far from being a preachy, whitewashed sermon on suffering, it lays out his raw, honest account of that incredible, painful, blessed time. With all the twists, turns, and surprises that make you gasp, cry, and freeze wide-eyed in awe, this book could easily make a best-selling novel.

What holds your attention so powerfully is Peter’s unmasked transparency. How he courageously discloses his feelings of betrayal by God, stark shortcomings, faith wrestling, and range of emotions that blanketed the tumultuous up and down series of events.

The beautiful irony from being blindsided by the trials in this riveting story is how it granted Peter a sharper, clearer vision of who God is. Blindsided, knocked down into the abyss of darkness, yet flooded with the light of renewed faith, God’s unfading presence, and the joy that can coexist with unspeakable pain. Through it all, Peter came to see how God was up to something all along. He had a plan and a purpose. Plans that forged the miraculous and the good out of adversity.

Like when he spotted God’s unmistakable fingerprints on his wife’s triple negative breast cancer (the worst kind) that disqualified her from hormone therapy. The same hormone treatment that would have jeopardized the life of the baby in her womb. The child they refused to abort who later arrived completely healthy despite being exposed to the trauma of mastectomy and potent chemotherapy.

That walk of faith through the valley and up the mountain helped Peter understand suffering through the lens of Christ’s sacrificial purpose and mission. He became a better husband, father, and pastor. Because they knew pain and grief, broken people were attracted to his church, stretching its reach and effectiveness to hurting people. Hardship gave him a greater measure of compassion in addition to the gift of seeing and cherishing daily blessings and glimpses of God’s love and providence. Treasures he otherwise might have missed.

There are plenty of “wow” moments in Blindsided by God. Sometimes from what was happening. Often by the effect and lessons Peter speaks about along the way. It is a book that inspires, uplifts and fills you with hope. I especially appreciated how Peter Chin sensitively included encouragement and truth to those living without a happy ending like the one God orchestrated for his family during that time.

If you are in a place where you’re wondering what God is up to or maybe questioning if He’s there at all, you will especially be touched. And even if you’re not, I would recommend Blindsided by God as a must-read to everyone. Wherever you are in your life’s journey, this book will speak to your heart. Guaranteed.

Here is the quote from Blindsided by God which pretty well says it all for me:

Nothing could hinder the Lord from saving. No circumstances are too dark for him to shed light upon, nothing so broken that it is beyond his ability to mend and make better. Not cancer, not hardship, not death, not even the cross. These are all nothing before the power of His ability to save. Suffering is terrible, but it cannot bind Christ. It does not blot out His existence or curtail His power. It cannot exclude God or stop Him or minimize Him or move Him in any way. Yes, there is suffering in life – that is true. But there is a God whose love, blessings, & power are greater than the suffering we experience.

Disclaimer – Many thanks to  Bethany House Publishers for supplying a complimentary copy of Blindsided by God in exchange for this unbiased review.

For more hope and inspiration let’s  link-up again this week at Holley Gerth’s where we can drink up sweet, encouraging Coffee for Your Heart – together!

Thank you  Holley Gerth for the Coffee for Your Heart image

Four Years and Counting…

Wow – I can hardly believe it! Four years have gone by. Actually, I should say, flown by since I published my first blog post. What a journey and joy this has been and I thank each and every one of you for making it happen. Because I write and share for you, and for some, because of you. For every encouraging word, comment, inspiration, and visit, thank you with all my heart.

Looking back on the year that was, here are some of the visual highlights since mariazwire’s third anniversary. May these bless you, touch your heart and brighten your day!

Continuing to link up with Holley Gerth today for some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart. Come, join me

Thank you  Holley Gerth for the Coffee for Your Heart image