A Confession, a Question, and a Review

Reading books with children in the house is a bit like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.

It’s counterproductive.

Finding time to read has been a challenge since I took on the title of “Mom”. Where once upon a time I devoured books, now I simply nibble at stories here and there. Bedtime is my favorite time to read, but many days I find myself so exhausted by the time I lay down that my eyes close just minutes after cracking open my book.

In recent months, I’ve made more of an effort to fit reading back into my days. My reasons have been two-fold: First, I just miss reading. I miss getting lost in a book. Second, I want my kids to see me reading.

With the onslaught of social media, and the ever present electronics, I’ve found that motivating my children to read has become increasingly difficult. Too may other things vie for their attention, and reading is a chore. It is one more thing to check off the list so they can have their electronic time.

By sitting down in the middle of the room and reading in front of them, I hope to show my kids that reading is actually an acceptable, and even enjoyable, pastime. If I only read before bed, then they naturally assume that I never read books, either. And if I don’t do it, why should they?

It’s a huge challenge, but the effort has been worth it. I finished three books in January, which isn’t necessarily brag-worthy, but it’s something!

Below, I’m going to leave my review of the most recent book I finished, Everyone Brave is Forgiven. But first, tell me: When do you find time to read? Do you set reading goals for yourself each year, or just see what happens? Do you try to read in front of your kids?

Book Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven 

I’m honestly still processing this book, trying to discern how I feel about it.

On one hand, it might be one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story in and of itself wasn’t overly impressive or unique, but the language used to tell the story was achingly poetic and rich…most of the time.

Sometimes, I simply didn’t know what the author was saying.

Chris Cleave is undoubtedly an incredibly talented writer. His use of language to describe a scene is awe-inspiring, and there were several times that I found myself rereading a paragraph just to soak in the description again.

“She laughed then, brightly and without complication, and he laughed too, and for a moment the war with its lachrymose smoke was blown away on a bright, clean wind.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 173)

Besides the face that I had to look up “lachrymose” to see what it meant (“tearful”), it was descriptions like this that often gave me goosebumps.

Sometimes, however, the descriptions were so wildly cheeky, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was being said.

“Rubble to build on caught no one’s attention but theirs. It did not catch the light, having no promise but what the brought with them. He tried not to be afraid. London was a lightening of the sky. It was the bloody last hour of a milk tooth. It was a city dying to begin.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 402)

I think I know what he was saying there, but I had to read that entire page several times before I finally just gave up and moved on.

As for the story itself, it was a sad one, but the war was a sad time, wasn’t it? My American sensibilities are constantly in conflict with the painful reality of history. Happily ever after is a notion that doesn’t fit well into the back drop of World War II, so as stories go, I appreciated the realism, even if I occasionally wish things could turn out differently.

In the end, I would recommend this book to others on the caveat that you may want to keep a dictionary nearby. And understand that this isn’t one of those quick beach reads. This is more a book to be savored, read slowly and digested carefully.

Purchase your copy of Everyone Brave is Forgiven here.

*affiliate links included

The Gift of Story

Merry Christmas!

I am still on a bit of a blogging hiatus. I’ve been writing quite a bit, but for reasons I cannot explain, I haven’t been able to string together a decent post here…on my own site.


Truthfully, I miss blogging. I miss the days of yore when I could sit down and punch out a funny story in less than an hour. I think there will be time for that again some day.

Or maybe there won’t.

I’m not entirely sure just yet. But I do know one thing, I am as addicted to the written word as I ever was before. In fact, I’ve made it a point to spend more time reading these last couple of months.

I needed to lose myself in story again to remember why I loved it so much.

I’ve also been working on my second book. With very few moments to spare in my days, the down time I’ve had has been spent developing new characters. The process is a slow one, but my plan is to finish the manuscript by early summer.

*fingers crossed*

In the meantime, here are a few of my book recommendations for you all! Give the gift of story this Christmas (and, in some cases, your gift may just benefit others in need).

1.) Like a River From Its Course – Kelli Stuart

Come on, now. You didn’t think I’d compile a list of books and not include my own, did you? *wink*

I received a lovely review of my novel this week. I’m grateful for every review that comes through, but truth be told I love reviews from men just a little more. If I can win over a male reader with my writing, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

“This is the best historical novel I have read this year. It was moving, powerful, amazing. I have been on a mission trip to Ukraine and the people there remember the horrors of WWII. Thank you for telling their stories so eloquently.” Doc Kirby

Have you purchased your copy of Like a River From Its Course yet? When you do, a portion of the proceeds go to Hope House Ukraine, a ministry of World Hope Canada working with girls who have aged out of orphanages.


2.) Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom – Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

My second book released in September, and this is the perfect gift for the creative moms in your life. Wendy and I have had so many sweet compliments about this book, and I am equally proud of it.

Purchase Life Creative today and bless a young mom who feels a bit lost in motherhood. A portion of the proceeds from this book are sent to Lulu Tree, a ministry that aims to “prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.

3.) A Cup of Dust – Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner’s historical fiction novel set in the 1930’s Oklahoma was a beautiful, heart wrenching story. I had never heard of the Dust Bowl, and after reading her book I did a little research and was fascinated to learn more about this devastating time in our nation’s history.

You’ll get lost in the compelling characters that Finkbeiner has created, and what’s better is that the sequel, A Trail of Crumbs, releases in just a couple of months. I had the privilege of reading the second installment in her series early, and I can tell you it is as well written and researched as the first book.

4.) 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness – Eric Metaxes

I’m about a quarter of the way into this book, and I couldn’t love it more. As the mother of two daughters, I love stories of strong women who leave a big impact. Eric Metaxes, the author of Bonhoeffer (one of my favorite biographies) brings the stories of some of the greatest female leaders to life in this book.

From Susanna Wesley to Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa to Joan of Arc, Metaxes gives readers a glimpse into the lasting impact of these strong women.


5.) The Tale of Despereaux – Kate DiCamillo

This book is a gem. It isn’t a new book, and many of you may have read it before, but I never had so I was thrilled when it was on the list of books for Landon’s literature class this fall.

The Tale of Despereaux is pure magic from beginning to end. Kate DiCamillo is a master at bringing story to life, portraying deep lessons through the most lovable of characters. The kids and I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane last year and loved that story just as much.

This is a must read for parents and kids alike!

6.) Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

I met Liane Moriarty this past September at the #ReadSavannah event in Savannah, Georgia. She was witty, gracious, and generous with her time as she promoted her new bestseller, Truly Madly Guilty.

I enjoyed the book (though admittedly, I liked Big Little Lies better). This is a book of secrets, connections, and the common event that changed multiple lives. It’s a page turner from beginning to end.

7.) All the Pretty Things – Edie Wadsworth

I love a good memoir, and my friend Edie did not disappoint with this beautiful book in which she shared the beauty and brokenness of her youth. You will be encouraged, blessed, and moved by Edie’s poignant prose, beautiful storytelling, and big love for all the pretty things.

8.) Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham

Tia has been reading this book in her literature class, and she and I both love it. It’s a tough read for the younger kids, but the language is rich. At times, I’ve read out loud to her, and other times she’s read it herself.

Be warned, the book is sad. Tia and I both have wiped our eyes several times while reading.

9.) Carrot Top Paper Shop Bookmarks 

Every reader needs a bookmark to hold her place, and adorable bookmarks make reading all the more fun. I’ve fallen in love with Carrot Top Paper Shop in recent months. Her prints of literary heroines are too cute, and she has bookmarks to match!

Buy a bookmark for the book lover in your life. They make perfect stocking stuffers!

10.) The Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set

I’m hard core coveting these books right now.

And also this set.

Not only are they the classics we all know and love, but they are gorgeous, making bookshelves as visually appealing as they are emotionally appealing.

These would be a wonderful collection to wrap up under the tree as a family gift. Or you could just send the entire box set to me if you want. I won’t argue. 

*awkward smiley face*

This is my personal Tep Ten list of perfect gifts for the bookworm. What about you? What would you add to this list?

*This post contains affiliate links

GIVEAWAY TIME! Win an Amazon Gift Card!

Update: This contest is now closed and the winner has been notified. Thanks, everyone, for joining in!

My senior year at Baylor, I was in the throes of my Professional Writing degree. Every day was filled with literature classes, writing classes, and great gobs of time spent learning this craft.

My very favorite class in all my years at Baylor was that final year. It was titled Writing for the Popular Market, and the only assignment for the year was to write a novel.

That was the year I wrote the first draft of Like a River From Its Course.

There were only six or seven of us in the class, and we met weekly, sometimes at the campus coffee shop, with our fresh pages in two. Ten pages a week was the requirement, and we’d hand those slowly developing stories to the person on our right, and for the next hour we read, then offered one another constructive criticism.

This class was paramount to my career in that it taught me not only the skill of writing on a deadline, but also how to edit, how to offer someone helpful feedback, and how to take constructive criticism without taking it personally.

In an industry that requires a thick skin, I’m forever grateful for that year-long course.

As I prepare to officially launch #RiverNovel out into the world, I know that not everyone will love it. It won’t be some people’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. I am ready and prepared for the reviews – all of them, the good and bad.

Thankfully, so far all the reviews have been positive. In fact, I’ve been truly humbled and floored by the way people have fallen in love with the stories and the characters in my book. I’m honored to be able to share these stories, and relieved that it seems I’ve done a good job.

giveaway post

Every reviews helps in this cutthroat market of selling books, and so today I’d like to offer a little giveaway.

If you’ve read Like a River From Its Course, and you leave a review on Amazon, you will be entered to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon.

If you’ve already left your review, I know who you are and you’re already entered. Please just send me an email at rivernovelcontest(at)gmail(dot)com so that I have your contact information should you win (and I hope you do!).

If you haven’t finished the book yet, but plan to leave a review, awesome! Thank you! I’m going to pick a winner on Sunday so you still have time to finish.

And I want your honest reviews. Good or bad, you will be entered to win the gift card, so no pressure. Really! *wink*

I am genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, grateful for everyone who has taken the time to read this book so far. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with me. I am so honored to be on this journey, and to have so many cheering me on!

How to leave a review on Amazon:

1. Login to your Amazon account
2. Go to the product detail page here: http://amzn.com/0825444144
3. Scroll down and click “Write a customer review” in the Customer Reviews section.
4. Enter your review and click Submit.
Once you’ve left your review, please send me a link at rivernovelcontest(at)gmail(dot)com so that I have record of your information to contact you if you win (and I hope you do!) *wink again*

Also, if you have not had a chance to order your book yet, Amazon is running low on stock already! What a good problem to have, right?!

The good news is, you can get the book several other places online including Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com, and Books-a-Million. I even noticed yesterday that you can order it at Walmart.com.

So basically I am taking over the world!

In the meantime, we’re working to get more books to Amazon as soon as possible.

Alright, so that’s it! Leave a review, and you’re entered to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon.com. Thanks to all and happy reviewing!!!

*one more wink*

What I’m Reading (When I Have Time to Read)

I’m knee deep – nay, NECK DEEP – in all of the writing these days. Every spare moment is divvied up into sizable, manageable chunks, and there is little wiggle room for anything else.

Related: My house is a disaster, and the laundry threatens to eat me in my sleep.

Wendy and I are down to two months before we have to turn in our manuscript to the publisher, which seems like a long time, but feels so terribly short given all that still needs to be done. Every once in awhile, though, I’m able to sit back and assess where we are, and it’s good. First drafts of every chapter are written. Now we polish and refine and rewrite.

We will survive.

My novel is in the publisher’s hands, we’re finalizing the title (I can’t WAIT to share it with you), and I should be receiving sample covers soon. This is crazy exciting stuff!

But this also means that the need to begin a big marketing push is looming, and I’m overwhelmed. With all of it.

And then there’s the blogging. I miss blogging. I miss telling stories. Like how my children are slowly and systematically destroying the house this summer, one curtain rod, broken window screen, and shattered dish (or salt shaker) at a time. If it wasn’t so frustrating, I’d be impressed with their clumsiness.

But alas, there is little time to blog. I wake early and work. I get the baby down for a nap and work. Afternoons are for being with my kids, making sure they know I still love them (JUST STOP BREAKING MY STUFF). Then I put them to bed and I work.

I have managed to still carve out a bit of time to read, though. I’m a fiction girl, so diving into story is a necessity for my survival. I sneak reading in at night before I fall asleep. It soothes me, and it releases all the tension in my brain from a long day of walking the line between motherhood and writing.

So without further ado, I give you What I’m Reading

Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

Photo courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography

The following are books I’m either reading right now, or I’ve recently finished. I tend to have three or four books going at a time. It’s a sickness.

Big Little Lies: I am really enjoying this book. It’s breezy, and doesn’t require too much effort to read. The story is clever, the plot engaging, and it’s just quirky and humorous enough to keep me grinning. This is one I’ll get through quickly.

A Long Walk to Water: This was a quick read. I read it because Sloan needed to read it for school, so I thought I’d go through it first. It’s a great story, albeit a sad one. It’s been fun to watch him get into the book. In general, reading isn’t his favorite, but he’s enjoyed this book.

Schindler’s List: I bought a copy of this book when I went to Dachau. It’s actually quite good, but it’s heavy, and so I’m making my way through it slowly. Today, with the rain pouring outside, the sky all weepy and grey, is the perfect day for curling up with this excellently written book.

A Mountain of Crumbs: Elena Gorokhova might be my new favorite author. I finished her book, Russian Tattoo, in no time and I loved every bit of it. The book was engaging, funny, poignant, smart, and fascinating. A Mountain of Crumbs is actually a precursor to Russian Tattoo. I read them out of order. It doesn’t matter, though. That’s how good a writer Gorokhova is.

Russka: When I signed on with Kregel publications for my novel, the publisher recommended I pick up this book. He thought it would be something I enjoyed, and he was right. This book is a fascinating merging of history and fiction, spanning 1,800 years of Russian history and culture. This is one I really want to dive into when time frees up.

Books that are sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently to be read:

The Grace Effect: I really can’t wait to read this story of love and redemption from historian and Christian apologist Larry Taunton. He shares the lessons he learned through the adoption of his Ukrainian daughter, Sasha, when she was ten, and the false promises of an atheistic society.

Everything I Never Told You: I bought this one after reading Anne Vogel’s review in her Summer Reading Guide. I’m excited to dig in…when I have time.

Wild in the Hollow: Don’t you just love that title? That alone is the reason I bought this book. Reason number two lies in the fact that I’ve always loved Amber Haines writing. I’m looking forward to this book.

Making it Home: Emily Wierenga is a poet, her writing all clear and smooth like water trickling off the top of a mountain. I can’t wait for the release of her new memoir. In fact, I’m so excited about it that I’ll be hosting Emily here in the near future to share personally with all of you!

So those are a few of my current reads. Tell me some of yours!

*This post contains affiliate links

I’ll Walk, You Lead: NOBLE Film Review

You know that feeling you get when you start a movie and you immediately think, “This one is gonna make me cry”?

That, for me, was the film NOBLE.

NOBLE, directed by Stephen Bradley

I screened NOBLE last night, and I swallowed over a lump in my throat through the entire film. Twice the lump dissolved and I let the hot tears roll down my cheeks.

I had never heard of Christina Noble before last night. I didn’t know her heartbreaking story, her raw, real faith, or her determination to make life better for the hundreds of thousands of street children living in post-war Vietnam.

I’m so glad I know her story now.

NOBLE walks the viewer through Christina’s life in flash backs, alternating between Vietnam in 1989, and her devastating childhood. We see her faith rattled as a young girl when her mom dies after she begs God to let her live.


We see her endurance under the abusive nuns of her orphanage, and the constant, gritty dialogue between her and a God she doesn’t understand, but she desperately wants to trust.

It’s a very real portrayal of faith, because haven’t we all had those moments? Perhaps not as heart wrenching as the one Christina shared with God after the nuns took her baby boy and gave him to be raised by another family without her consent. This was the baby boy conceived in a horrific gang rape.

And beneath the dim, candle-lit altar, Christina lays it all out in front of Him. “I don’t know what to say to you, except now we both know what it’s like to lose a son. I’m not being blasphemous. I’m not comparing myself to you. It’s just that if I stop believing now, I won’t be able to keep going. I won’t survive. I hope you’re gonna explain this to me very bloody soon, so until then you’re gonna have to listen to me swear and curse and shout and I won’t be asking for your forgiveness. Sorry about that.”

NOBLE, directed by Stephen Bradley

We follow Christina’s journey through her marriage to an abusive husband, and a dream in which she sees images of Vietnamese children.

Years later, when her own children are grown and out of the house, Christina makes her way to Vietnam, determined to follow the vivid call of her dream.

Though it looks rash and impulsive, and to an extent it was, Christina Noble’s move and passion for the street children of Vietnam makes perfect sense. It was a move she made after years of waiting, of raising her own children, of questioning and begging God for answers.

We can all relate to the frustration that comes with feeling like God is silent. “Lord, I’m asking, but I don’t hear you.”

Christina knew she needed to help the children of Vietnam, but she didn’t know how. The red tape and bureaucracy built seemingly impossible walls to scale, and it culminated with her most personal and faith filled talk with God in which she finally threw up her hands in surrender. “Tell you what,” she said. “I’ll walk. You lead.”

And that is the essence of faith. It’s the boiled down surrender of a life spent begging for answers. It’s the place that God longs for us to meet Him.

“I’ll walk. You lead.”

What a powerful prayer – a prayer where the Lord’s power can be fully unleashed. A prayer meant for worn out, exhausted mothers with messy counters and a too full schedule. A prayer for tired businessmen who long to know if there’s more to life than making money. A prayer for the young and the old, the rich and the poor.

“Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope  of the glory of God.” Romans 5: 2

“I’ll walk. You lead.”

This is the essence of faith.

To this day, Christina Noble has helped over 700,000 children in Vietnam and Mongolia. And as the film closes and the words flit across the screen, we’re given one last glimpse into her beautiful, boiled down faith.

“Christina Noble still talks to God.”

NOBLE releases today, Friday, May 8, in theaters across the country.

What To Do When Life Leaves You Weary

I am not a curse word kind of girl. I know that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, some would actually laud that as a good thing, and it is. I’ve told my kids that curse words are really just lazy words. We can always find a better word to describe how we’re feeling without dropping a four letter word.

Unless we can’t.

A few nights ago, Annika woke up at 12:30. I had been asleep for about an hour and a half when she woke, and my sleep was good. It was that heavy, REM-style sleep that makes you feel kind of magical.

I was tired down to my bones, so when she woke up in a full out scream, I leapt from bed, heart racing, and the first word out of my mouth was a lazy, four-letter word. So unlike me, but in the moment I could think of nothing else to say. And after my heart stopped racing, I fed her and got her back to bed only to hear Lee chuckling beside me.

“That was funny,” he laughed in the darkness.

I was too tired to elbow him in the chin.


Knee-jerk reactions tend to bring out the worst in all of us, don’t they? When we’re surprised or frightened or quickly angered, we find ourselves reacting in a way that may be atypical to our normal operating behavior. When I put Annika to bed that night, I planned for her to sleep all night. I didn’t plan on her scooting into the corner of her bed, bumping her head, and waking herself up in a wail.

What do we do when life doesn’t go quite as planned? How do we react? My vocabulary indiscretion is a lighthearted example, but all of us can point to moments in our daily lives that leave us weary, exasperated…perhaps a little loose-tongued?


It’s exhausting being mom. It’s exhausting hearing how exhausting it is being mom, as I right? But the good news is there is Hope. There’s hope for all of us, and that Hope is alive even at one in the morning when the baby won’t stop crying.

That Hope is alive when the children threaten to tear one another’s eyes out. (Well, Hope and the belief that someday they will grow up and maybe be friends again…or at least be tolerable to one another.)

That Hope is alive when the dinner burns, the car breaks down, and the schedules require one person to accomplish the tasks of six.

Even more – Hope is alive when life doesn’t go as you planned. And this…this is the true beauty of Hope.


It’s been two and a half months since we said our final goodbyes to my father-in-law. As the days stretch into weeks, we’ve begun to really gnaw on the permanence of death, and there have been moments when we wished with everything we had that the outcome of his cancer battle had been different.

But then I think of Herb standing at the foot of his Savior, and I remember that if he were asked to return, he wouldn’t want to, and really I wouldn’t ever ask him. Because in that trust I find so much Hope.


There are so many moments in life that make us feel hopeless. The swell of our days rushes over like a tide, and we’re left out of breath, frustrated, and utterly, completely spent.

But Hope.

If you’re bogged down by the mire of your days, feeling hopeless to dig out from under the rush of routine, of anger, of disappointment, of grief, of simply feeling overwhelmed, then I encourage you to pick up the book Hope for the Weary Mom. 

There is so much grace and truth sprinkled throughout this book. It’s like a breath of fresh air in a smoky room. Each page is filled with nuggets of wisdom and peace that you can tuck into your heart, saving them for the moments when life gets to be a little too much.

(And maybe these truths will spill out of your mouths my mouth in times of frustration instead of those pesky four letter words.)

Purchase your copy of Hope for the Weary Mom today and Choose Hope.

Happy weekend, friends!

Subscribe to receive a FREE excerpt from the award winning Like A River From Its Course!

You have Successfully Subscribed!