Pages

Saturday, May 25, 2024

May Book Recommendations

Here are this month’s book recommendations. I hope you’ll be blessed by these! Please share about some of your favorite books in the comments.

 

Fiction – 

Sisterchicks Say Ooh La La by Robin Jones Gunn (KU)

Five years ago, I got to visit Paris. It was the fulfillment of a dream that was planted in my heart after reading this book many years before. Paris makes a wonderful setting for a light-hearted adventure for two childhood friends who reconnect later in life. As they experience unexpected joys and sidetracks, they learn more about themselves, each other, and God’s goodness. I recommend all the Sisterchicks books, and this one is a favorite!

 

Non-Fiction – 

Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus (KU)

This book is packed with biblical wisdom and thought-provoking questions. There were so many powerful truths, that I ended up underlining several lines on almost every page! The chapters follow the story of Jonathan when he invited his armor-bearer to go with him against the Philistines. Even though it’s a relatively short story in Scripture, the author unpacks a lot of godly principles and wisdom from it. While this book isn’t “light” reading, there are personal stories and illustrations throughout that make the truths relatable for the reader. McManus’ writing always makes me think more deeply and see things from a different perspective. I felt encouraged, challenged, and inspired as I read this book. It’s the kind of book that’s worth rereading each year, it’s that good. I hope you’ll give it a try! 

 

Devotional – 

40 Days of Jesus Always – Joy in His Presence by Sarah Young (KU)

This devotional has 40 short readings. Each one is written as if Jesus was speaking to you directly. There are verses listed at the end of each devotional as the foundation for the daily reading. I found the topic of joy in His presence encouraging and uplifting. It’s good to be reminded in a conversational way of truths we know but can easily lose sight of. 

 

(KU – available in Kindle Unlimited)

 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Choose Joy Today

I bought this piece of décor several years ago after unearthing it in a clearance bin. I needed the reminder on it – Today I Choose Joy. Then I noticed how it was scratched, smudged and slightly dented. And that’s when I knew it was perfect for me. 

It’s easy to say, “Choose Joy” when life is going well and good things are happening. It’s much harder to remind ourselves or anyone else to choose joy when life is full of pain, suffering, heartache, and disappointments. What we want instead is sympathy, comfort, and deliverance. 

The wonder of our great Savior is that He offers all of that to us – plus joy. 

Joy comes from knowing Jesus. 

Joy comes from seeing Jesus in others.

Joy comes from receiving from Jesus.

Joy comes from trusting Jesus. 

Joy comes from partnering with Jesus.

Joy comes from worshipping Jesus.

Joy comes from being loved by Jesus. 

 

My belief is that anything that brings true joy in this life somehow finds its source in Jesus. 

 

When we have Jesus, we have the source of true joy. 

 

That’s why we can choose joy today, in spite of the scratches, smudges, and dents of life. We can choose to focus on Jesus, to receive from Him, to worship Him, to partner with Him, to trust Him – allowing His supernatural joy to shine in us and through us. 

 

There is so much we can’t control in our lives. But by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we can control our choices. We can choose joy. Today. Tomorrow. Each day as it comes. 

 

I hope this reminder was helpful for you today. Maybe you can send me a reminder once a while too, so we can both continue to choose joy. 

 

Blessings,

-Joanna

 

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy….” –1 Peter 1:6-8

 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

April Book Recommendations

Happy April! Here are this month’s favorite book recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these! Please share in the comments about some of your favorites as well.

 

Fiction – 

Paige Torn by Erynn Mangum

This novel about a young woman trying to find her way after college is heart-warming and hilarious. I laughed out loud in several places, (especially the scenes with the youth pastor’s antics, which are very realistic based on the youth pastors I’ve known, lol!) I liked the main character and appreciated that she lived out a daily relationship with Jesus, even when she was too busy and had a lot to learn. I’ve read this book more than once, and it gets better each time. If you like light-hearted but substantive Christian fiction, give it a try! 

 

Non-Fiction – 

A Pair of Miracles by Karla Akins

For anyone with autistic kids in their family, this is an invaluable resource! It starts out reading like a memoir, then it transitions into more of a guidebook. The author includes stories from her own experiences (raising adopted twins with autism) that show her difficult journey, her relationship with God through it all, and her empathy for others. She also includes practical tips and tools, lists of resources, and biblical wisdom about how to handle some of the unique challenges of raising autistic kids. I think readers will feel seen, understood, encouraged and equipped by this book. I highly recommend it!  

 

Devotional – 

Unshakeable by Christine Caine

This 365-day devotional contains a Scripture passage, a short reading, and a brief closing prayer for each day of the year. These quick, easy to read devotions are still encouraging and challenging. Christine encourages readers to find unwavering strength in God’s Word each day. 

 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Weaving A Good Plan

One of the promises we hear often and cling to in trials and suffering is Romans 8:28. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his promise.”


Sometimes we see evidence of this promise clearly. Other times we wonder how in the world God will ever bring good out of the pain we’re experiencing. 


Lately I was reminded again that God is like a master weaver. He uses every thread – good, painful, ordinary, excruciating – to weave a beautiful masterpiece in our lives. Everything we go through matters to God. Everything is used for His purposes somehow.


That astounds me. But it’s true. 


I can give you two specific examples from my life that I observed recently. 


Last week I was not doing well physically. We had horrible air quality, and the coughing was so bad, I could barely talk. Then my phone rang. When I saw who it was, I answered, not because I felt like talking, but because I knew it was God sending me some much-needed encouragement. My ‘adopted’ mom spent the next ten minutes praying for me and building up my faith once again. 


Here’s the thing…I would never have met her if not for some interesting threads God wove together. Seven years ago, I followed an impulse to ask for information about a Christmas banquet held by a local ministry. By God’s grace, they gave me two tickets for free. The day of the banquet, I started feeling sick. I didn’t think I could possibly go, but I felt in my heart that I was supposed to be there. So I prayed, and I got dressed, and I went, still feeling awful. When I arrived, I was seated next to an older couple. Before the night was over, I had a new friend. And that precious lady soon ‘adopted’ me as a spiritual daughter. She has been a blessing to me ever since!


I had no idea seven years ago what was coming in my future. But God knew. And He wove those threads together to give me the precious blessing of a godly woman to encourage me on my journey through all these years. 


The second example is that I currently have a tutoring student who I’ve been able to help in such rewarding ways that I thank God after each session. Then I saw the threads. 


Four years ago, I had a very close call with my breathing. I actually thought I might die. Thanks to the help of the staff at the Christian camp where I was staying in the mountains of Colorado, I survived. That dear couple not only helped me through the crisis, they also introduced me to some of their friends. Those friends then introduced me to one of their friends, who happened to own a tutoring business. And once my breathing crisis had passed, I ended up getting hired as a tutor. 


God used a life-threatening crisis to bless me with new friendships and a new job, and now, four years later, with the opportunity to bless a young life (as well as the other students I’ve tutored). 


How does God do it? It boggles my mind, honestly. And it gives me hope for today. 


I’m so grateful He is GOD! He is the master weaver, working everything in our lives for our good and the good of others – bringing beauty from brokenness. 


I wrote the following poem years ago. (It’s in my book Seeing God Through The Storm –

Empowering Truths from the Book of Job.) I hope it encourages you today that God is always working, always weaving His good plans for you. 

 

 

Broken To Beautiful

 

Broken, shattered,

Pieces scattered.

Is this my life?

Dreams have crumbled,

Idols tumbled.

Nothing left.

 

Nail-scarred hands,

Heart that understands,

You hold my life.

Healer of the broken,

Truth you’ve spoken,

You are all I need.

 

My pieces repairing,

While broken, preparing,

A new life for me.

The best plan you weave,

Help me receive,

Your will for me.

 

Transformed through the pain,

No longer the same,

You are my life.

Your grace shining through,

You change broken to

Beautiful.

 

by Joanna K. Harris

 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

From Despair to Life

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how is body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” -Luke 23:55-56

I was curious about something, so I checked each of the four Gospel accounts. I only found two mentions of what happened on Saturday (the day after Jesus died). In Matthew, the Jewish leaders went to Pilate to ask him to make the tomb secure. And in Luke, the women were noted to have rested on the Sabbath. 

That’s it. There is no mention of the disciples and how they spent that Saturday. 

I don’t think I can even imagine what that day was like for the disciples. They had lived with Jesus closely for three years. They knew He was the Messiah sent by God. They had left everything to follow Him. 

And now Jesus was dead. 

Those men must have felt so many different emotions. I can only guess that despair was a prominent one. And that’s an emotion many of us can relate to. I’ve known Jesus as my Savior since I was five years old…and I’ve still felt despair on several occasions. 

But we have something now that the disciples didn’t have on that Saturday. We know Jesus rose from the dead. We know He has provided hope for every moment of despair. And we have the privilege of sharing that message with those who have yet to hear it. 

This Easter, may His resurrection restore hope to your heart. And may you be encouraged to share the gospel with others who desperately need to hear. 

 

My friend Kelly recently wrote a poem that so beautifully illustrates these truths. She agreed to let me share it here. I hope it blesses you. 

 

Blessed Easter, my friends! He is risen! 

 

 

Rescued to a New Life 


Sometimes words come easily, sometimes not at all,

Yearning for a way to break down these stone made walls.

I look all around me and search for an escape,

But everywhere I turn is another ten foot gate.

 

Where is my rescue? How long till I’m found?

I try to look up but all I see is the ground.

Torturing insecurities simply take my breath away.

I white knuckle the shovel as I dig my own grave.

 

Gazing into the sky, staring at the stars,

The moon is my light, but it’s not shining very far.

The darkness is growing. Life’s getting harder for me,

But it’s not my reflection in the mirror I see.

 

Has Someone taken my place in this long road of life,

Providing relief from the pain I feel inside?

At times it’s overwhelming. At times I cannot breathe, 

But there’s only One Who promised that He would never leave.

 

God, my Father, is with me, protecting me day and night.

He eases the suffering. He is my will to survive.

When He looks at me, He sees His perfect Son.

Because Christ took my place, a new life has begun.

 

by Kelly McCombs


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

March Book Recommendations

Here are this month’s favorite book recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these! Please share in the comments about some of your favorites as well.

 

Fiction – 

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser (KU)

This is one of the best fiction books I’ve read about the persecuted church. (The details of persecution are portrayed effectively but without being graphic.) The characters are compelling. Their journeys range from unexpected, to difficult, to impossible…but God. This is a moving story that weaves several different people’s lives together as they watch God do miracles both in hearts and in circumstances. I highly recommend it! 

 

Non-Fiction – 

Still Growing by Kirk Cameron

I enjoyed this autobiography. Kirk shares with humor and honesty about his early life and his years as a Hollywood star. His personality comes through each chapter, as well as the real struggles he has faced. He shares about how God became real to him and his life has never been the same. His story is encouraging both for those who already know God and those who don’t. Only Jesus can truly transform a life. Kirk’s book is an enjoyable, entertaining, honest portrayal of that truth. 

 

Devotional – 

A Book of Strife in the Form of the Diary of An Old Soul by George MacDonald

For those who enjoy classic Christian books, this one is a must-read! (And the kindle version is free on Amazon!) Though it was published in 1880, this book is surprisingly modern in format. It’s a daily devotional for the entire year, with one poem per day. Many of these poems have been exactly what I needed on that day. This book reminds me that even more than a century after it was written, life and truth and knowing God remain the same. I hope you’ll give this classic a try! 

 

(KU – available in Kindle Unlimited)

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Today Is A Good Day

I don’t know about you, but life has been rough for me lately. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the hard things and lose perspective. So today I wanted to share a little piece of flash fiction (a very short story) with you. It’s based on the experience of a friend of mine. I wrote this story years ago, but it still reminds me how a small change in perspective can make a big difference. Whatever you’re going through right now, I hope this story encourages you too. 

 

 

A Good Day 

 

Gunshot wounds, poison ivy, broken arms…talk about a rough day. Six hours into my shift, I finally had five minutes to gulp down a cup of coffee. EMT training was tougher than I expected, especially the required ER duty. 

            

I threw away the Styrofoam cup and hustled back to the ER just in time for the next emergency. 

            

“Nineteen-year old male, stab wound in the back, unresponsive.” The EMT quickly relayed pertinent information to the doctor as they wheeled the patient down the hall and into a room. 

            

“Chest compressions – go!” The ER doctor shoved me into place beside the gurney while nurses bustled around us hooking the patient up to various equipment.

            

I focused on the man’s chest, continuing CPR. After several minutes, I noticed a scalpel appear in the space between my hands. The doctor made a quick incision and the patient’s chest fell open. I stepped back as blood spurted everywhere. 

            

“Clamp!” yelled the doctor. With the bleeding stopped, he reached into the chest cavity and lifted the heart so he could hold it. Gently he began to massage the man’s heart. 

            

Seconds ticked by…turning into minutes.

            

Then, a thunderous “beep” sounded from the machine beside me.

            

“We’ve got a heartbeat!” called the nurse. 

            

The doctor placed the man’s heart back in its place. “Get him into surgery.” 

            

I steered clear as the nurses quickly rolled the patient away. 

            

The rest of my shift went by in a blur. Finally, it was time to head home. In a fog of fatigue, I wandered through the parking lot toward my car.

            

A horn blared; tires squealed. My heart stopped. Then started racing. 

            

“Watch it!” A man yelled from the blue ford that had just missed me. 

            

I stepped to the side and leaned on a pickup as the guy drove away. My heartbeat slowly returned to normal.

            

My heart! Still beating.

            

I sighed. It was a good day. 

 

 

“...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 

-Psalm 139:16 (NIV)

 

“This is the day the LORD has made; let's rejoice and be glad in it.” 

-Psalm 118:24 (CSB)

 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

February Book Recommendations

Here is this month’s post with some of my favorite book recommendations. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too! Feel free to post comments with some of your favorites as well.

 

Fiction – 

In Good Company by Jen Turano

I love Jen Turano’s books, and this is one of my favorites! This fun story is set in the gilded age of New York society (1890s). The main character is a lovable young lady earning her way as a nanny. She has a unique view on life and tries to improve herself by expanding her vocabulary (which provides a lot of humor). The hero is a rather clueless young man newly saddled with three young children whose parents died. As the main characters navigate childish disasters, snooty society people, aggressive peacocks, and an unknown enemy out to get them, they learn about who God made them to be and what their purpose is in life. This is a great read! I hope you’ll give it a try. =) 

 

Non-Fiction – 

Living in Love by James and Betty Robison

Since February is the month we think about love, I thought this book was fitting. Even though I’m single, I enjoyed and was blessed by this book. Both James and Betty share from their perspective about how to build a strong, godly marriage. They have great wisdom, practical insight, and relatable stories. A great read for anyone wanting to improve communication and live in a loving way toward their spouse (or in general as well). 

 

Devotional – 

Becoming a Woman Who Walks with God by Cynthia Heald (KU)

This month-long devotional is full of encouraging truths for women. Cynthia’s godly wisdom and love for people comes through in her writing. If you want to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus, this book will be a blessing. 

 

(KU – available in Kindle Unlimited)

 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

January Book Recommendations

I’ve always been a bookworm, and I love sharing with others about good books I’ve read. So I thought it’d be fun to do a post each month with some book recommendations. I hope you’ll find these helpful. And feel free to post comments with some of your favorite book recommendations as well! 

Most of the books I’ll recommend can be found in your local library (paperback, ebook, or audio editions). Many of them are also available in Kindle Unlimited, if you have a subscription to that. (I’ll include a (KU) notation by those ones.) 

 

Fiction – 

Gaal the Conqueror by John White

This book might be harder to find, but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve read it several times through the years. Written for children, it's the 4th book in a series similar to the Narnia books. It’s full of spiritual truths and encouraging wisdom for readers of any age. If you have kids, it might be fun to read it with them. Otherwise, you can also enjoy the world of Anthropos, meet Gaal the Shepherd, and be reminded of life-giving truths.

 

Non-Fiction – 

Encountering Our Wild God by Kim Meeder (KU)

This book is so powerful! It’s well-written, with a compelling personal story in each chapter. Kim does a great job reminding us who our God is and encouraging us to draw near and experience Him every day. I absolutely love this book and have already given away copies to others. I hope you’ll be blessed by it as well! 

 

Devotional – 

What Your Mind Needs for Anxious Moments by Holley Gerth

I really appreciated both the spiritual wisdom and practical suggestions in this book for dealing with anxiety and growing in God's peace. I love Holley’s books. She’s personable, real, encouraging, and upbeat. This book made a great daily devotional. I highly recommend it! 

 

Happy reading! 


 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Hope, Somedays, and New Year’s Vision

I think I’m finally ready. It’s only taken me 26 years…. 26 years of waiting for “someday. 

“Someday, I’ll have a horse again…” or, “Someday, I’ll be ready to let go.” 

Well, “someday” finally came, and I’m ready to let go. I’m ready to sell my saddle – the one tangible connection left to the horse I loved and lost. 

Grief is a strange thing. I’ve lost several loved ones in my lifetime, but with each of them I grieved with hope. I knew they were now with Jesus. They were healed and living in a perfect eternity. And I know I will see them again, in just the blink of an eye. 

With my horse, I don’t have the same confidence. I sure hope she is in heaven, galloping around, spreading joy. I hope the day I arrive and give my signature whistle, she’ll come running up to meet me like she always did. 

I know Jesus created her. I believe He loved her and delighted in her even more than I did. I know He gave her to me for the time I needed her. He didn’t just give me a horse – He gave me a sweet, sassy, smart, loyal friend, in a season when I didn’t have any friends. He knew that horse would trot into my heart and never leave, even when she died. I still can’t think about her without tears, even though I also can’t help but smile whenever I remember her. She was special. My God-given equine kindred spirit. 

Maybe she’s romping around heaven, I hope so…but I don’t know for sure. And that’s what makes it so hard. That’s probably why I’ve held on to her saddle all these years.

As my mom and I prepare to clean out closets and get rid of some things, I’ve been thinking about this idea of “someday.” I have several large tupperwares full of things that are waiting for “someday.” 

“Someday I’ll host dinners and use those nice dishes.”

“Someday I’ll scrapbook 20 years worth of photos.” 

“Someday I’ll read all the books I’ve collected through the years.” 

 

You know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you have your own stash of “someday” stuff. 


So here I am, much older than I thought I’d be, and I still haven’t reached many of the “somedays” I’d hoped to. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. God has taken me on adventures and blessed me with experiences I never planned or expected. I’ve also faced challenges and suffering that I didn’t want, but I ended up grateful for the good Jesus brought from them. I know He is writing the best story for me through it all.  


At this point in my life, my prayer has become, “Lord, help me know which ‘somedays’ to keep praying and believing for. And help me know which ones to let go.” 


It’s a simple prayer. It’s a painful process. But as I’ve learned, living each day by faith is the only way for me to live. I want to keep trusting God’s plan for me and following one step at a time. 


God has already answered this simple prayer in one way – by helping me to finally let go of my “someday” saddle. By helping me to see how good He was to give me such a special horse when I needed her. By giving me hope that some other girl might use my saddle and experience countless hours of joy with her equine kindred spirit. I certainly hope so.  


As we begin a new year, we have our list of “somedays.” We have big dreams. We want circumstances to get better, even while knowing they may get worse. We face many unknowns. How do we move forward with confident vision?


God gave me the following poem as I thought about this new year. It’s the hope-filled vision I want to keep, whatever comes. I hope it encourages you as well. 

 

 

New Year’s Vision

 

New year – same Savior.

Old challenges – fresh grace.

New needs – more faith.

Still sorrow – same comfort.

New joys – more praise.

Same friends – sure love.

New trials – more miracles.

A lost world – same truth.

New experiences – more growth.

Whatever comes – His peace.

Hallelujah – Amen. 

 

 

May God give us wisdom with each of our “somedays” – knowing when to hold on and when to let go. And may we remember daily who He is and that He is our Hope. 

 

Blessed new year!