I know that the last million and one posts have been about books, but today is different. This post really adheres to the reason behind the blog title, This Is Me.
We all deal with crap. Crap that happened in our past, present crap, dog crap and otherwise. There are days when I feel as though I am walking as the overcomer and the warrior daughter that God has created me to be, but then there are days and situations that take me back to a place that I have worked so hard to get away from. As I sit staring out at the Atlantic Ocean during my first trip to Florida, I realize just how rough life can get.
The waves are crashing on the rocks because a storm off of the coast has stirred up them up. The tide is high and the water is rough, but yet there is a peace in knowing and in seeing the power of God right in my face. This has been the hardest, but also the most rewarding of years. God has called me to trust Him in all things, but in doing that, I have had to face the struggles that still plague me. The freaking enemy knows the exact moment when I am weak and tired and proceeds to slide the doubt, fears, and then I am right back to that teenager who doesn’t know her place. She’s scared, hurt and doesn’t know who she can trust. She fears being alone, yet she fears being around others. She thinks that everyone either has an ulterior motive of will hurt her further.
As I feel these things that I haven’t felt in forever, I realize that I have not fully processed the feelings I had then.
But then, I am called back to the place I am now. 40 years old, following the calling that God has put on my life and learning how to be the woman that He created. Learning to be healthy mind, body and soul. So as I stand on the rocks and the water crashes in, I raise my arms up in the air and release it all to Him. He releases the power, grace and every other gift inside of me for me to share with others.
Amen God! Thank you for the work that needs to be done so that I can find peace, trust and rest in You
This Bible is so beautiful! It is advertised as combining the Women’s Devotional Bible with the ESV Study Bible. It has all of this and more. The artwork is gorgeous! Each book has a full outline, information for the reader and a small map to show what the area would have looked like at the time. The articles in the back are challenging and life giving! Crossway has done a great job making an already beautiful book gorgeous. I would recommend this Bible for every woman to get for herself or request it for a gift! It is absolutely worth it!!!
I was captivated by this story from moment one. Kayla did an amazing job of guiding the reader through her story to the extent that we all felt like we loved it right beside her. This book will be an encouragement and a light for people who have been touched by mental illness and suicide. Reminding people that “God’s Got This” even during the most difficult times will change a lot of lives. I highly recommend that everyone reads this book, even just to gain a new perspective on situations such as what Kayla and her family went through.
This is the book I truly needed at this time in my life!! Jenny takes the reader on a 31 day interactive journey to guide them on a deeper relationship with Holy Spirit and how to walk with Him daily. This book is a tool that men and women can use, gain understanding and learn about a whole different side of their faith walk. She said at the beginning of the book, “When you get to know God’s voice, everything changes.” If you are ready for this journey, grab this book and get ready! I recommend this to every man and woman who is ready to dig deep, grow more and be stretched further than you have been before.
This is the book that God’s daughters truly need! Alli is so encouraging, yet straightforward about where our strength, value and wholeness comes from. She starts out the book with a powerhouse statement, “For Christians, however, a woman belongs in only one place: squarely in the center of wherever God has sent her” (pg.4). At the end of each chapter, she gives the readers something to remember, discussion questions and action steps. I believe this book is for every woman. They will find the definition of their true selves and where their strength truly comes from!
Such a blessing in a small book! Cleere gives the readers weekly devotionals based on one word. She includes multiple verses and a focus tip for the week. I recommend this book to women who feel like they don’t have time to deep dive into a four hour long devotional time everyday because life is crazy. This book is one that can be reused over and over again and shared amongst friends and other women.
This book is such an encouragement for each person, whether you consider yourself hospitable or not. As you read this book, you will discover more about yourself and those around you. Morgan starts out by having the reader take a hospitality personality test so they can discover their type. Then she spends the next 15 chapters describing how each personality is in each situation, who they are around and how to overcome their issues when it comes to hosting. She also had different people give their tested ideas to help the reader.
This book is a very interesting, eye opening and quick read. It is interactive with the reader and will cause them to think and analyze how to be there for those around them. One line from her book that will hit home with a lot of readers is, “Expectations can often inhibit potential intimacy” (pg. 87). I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to best serve the people who are in their lives and the ones to come.
All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. There’s always more to the story, and she can’t rest until she uncovers it. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid the truth. Given his prior life, he thinks hiding the truth can protect those he cares about. A journalist out for the truth and a pastor avoiding it sounds somewhat backward, but that’s where Christine and John find themselves in Andrew Huff’s Cross Shadow (Kregel Publications), the second installment of the Shepherd Suspense series.
When Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, she vows to get to the bottom of the crime and prove his innocence. Christine wants to investigate on her own, but when John arrives, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of intrigue, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation and in trouble far deeper than they expected. A chain of events reveals a bigger conspiracy than either could have imagined involving a robotics defense contractor, a private military company, and an assassination plot.
With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive. In the face of danger, will John’s former instincts kick in? Will he turn back to his old ways?
Q: For those who may not have read A Cross to Kill, tell us a little bit about John Cross and his past.
CIA assassin John Cross found himself at a crossroads in his life during a covert operation in Spain. He walked in on a Catholic Mass at a historic cathedral while tracking his target and couldn’thelp but get caught up in the majesty of the building. Instead of fulfilling the requirements of the mission, John found an English Bible at a local bookshop and spent the night reading it. Convicted by his sin, he gave his life to Christ and resigned from the agency.
In an effort to pay penance for the targeted killings he was personally responsible for, John embedded himself in a small church community in rural Virginia and served the various needs of its members night and day. Impressed by his commitment to caring for them, and in need of leadership, the congregationoffered him the chance to be their pastor. Thinking it might be another step toward paying the price of his past sins, he accepted, though he continues to hide the truth about who he used to be from the members of the church.
Q: How did John and Christine, the leading lady of Cross Shadow, meet?
On occasion, John would accept the call from the CIA to participate in rescue missions during his off time from serving the church. He was dropped into Amman, Jordan, on one such mission only to discover that the person he’d been sent to exfiltrate was Christine Lewis, a beautiful American journalist about to be executed by her captors. Using only a stun gun and his hand-to-hand combat skills, John stayed the execution and escaped with Christine. After he disappeared and all knowledge of his existence was denied, Christine made it her mission upon returning home to locate the man who saved her life.
Through a contact in Washington with mysterious ties to the intelligence community, Christine was given a hint to John’s true identity in the form of an address. She’s instructed to go there on Sunday, and when she arrived, she found John preaching a sermon in the small country church. John’s instinct was to run, but something caused him to trust her and reveal his story. Christine wanted to protect his secret, but forces beyond her control appeared, and she was caught in the middle as a choice from John’s past came back to haunt him.
Q: What are some of the relationship challenges John and Christine contend with? Why does Christine seem to be second-guessing their dating relationship?
Throughout the events of A Cross to Kill, John and Christine are drawn to each other like two magnets. After Christine gives her life to Christ, they decide to see if a dating relationship will work. What they find, however, is that neither is sure what such a relationship should look like as new believers. While the chemistry is still strong, their dates are consumed by John’s compulsion to train Christine in survival skills. Christine loves the small community of Rural Grove Baptist Church, but blossoming spiritual relationships and potential job opportunities keep her tied to New York City. Christine begins to wonder if her connection to John was anything more than an infatuation with his story.
While both are struggling to separate their identity from each other, the biggest challenge in their relationship comes from the lack of communication, both in the sense of the distance between them and also a lack of trust. John struggles to reveal more of who he really is for fear of driving Christine away while Christine struggles with planning her life around John for fear his plans might not align with hers. The tension in their relationship stems from their hesitancy to be truthful with one another when simply sharing their feelings would bring many of these struggles to light.
Q: Both John and Christine seem to have a problem with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Why does this keeping popping up as an issue throughout the story?
John’s life prior to Christ was built on one lie after another, and he’s been oblivious to how that has continued to be the case, even in the wake of his conversion. For him, there’s also an objective to the lie, because he is convinced that he needs to deceive others in order to protect them. John thought his only lie was hiding his past from the members of his church when in reality he’s been lying to himself about who he is and what he should do about it. Finding forgiveness for the lives he took was only the first step of John’s journey toward becoming the new man God has called him to be.
Christine has less of a problem telling the truth and more of a problem obsessing over it. To her, there’s always more to the story, and she can’t rest until she uncovers it. Sometimes, however, she finds herself willing to bend the truth in order to get at the truth on something else. New to Christianity, Christine is still learning about the balance between grace and truth, too often erring on the side of the latter at the expense of the former.
Q: Without giving away too much, can you tell us about the situations they encounter this time around in Cross Shadow?
With the first story, A Cross to Kill, we were introduced to the characters and saw what happens when John’s cultivated small-town life clashes with the fallout from his previous career. For the second book in the series, I wanted us to spend more time with Christine and see how her past might draw them back into a world of danger. Only now she sees the world from a new perspective based on her relationship with John.
On her way to an interview with a new network, Christine spots a suspicious character on the subway who turns out to be a suicide bomber. With the aid of an off-duty NYPD officer, Christine “defuses” (not literally; John didn’t train her to do that!) the situation and is thrust into the spotlight a second time. As if that wasn’t enough, in the middle of it all she learns the shocking news that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Dallas, Texas. Christine vows to get to the bottom of the crime and prove his innocence. But when John arrives to shadow her, it starts a chain of events that reveals a far deeper conspiracy than either could’veimagined involving a robotics defense contractor, a private military company, and an assassination plot.
Q: Christine is a national news reporter and in Cross Shadow has some opinions of her coworkers and how the network covers certain stories. What do you think her take would be about the current news of the day and coverage of events?
Before her kidnapping in Jordan, Christine felt at home among her colleagues at the network news division she works for. But upon her rescue and return, she can’t help but feel like most of the work happening in news is less about presenting truth and more about shaping it. I think she’d sense the same in the way news is covered currently, and she would be bothered by that. At the same time, she’s committed to the profession, and I think she would want to work to effect change from the inside.
When I created the character of Christine, I saw her as someone who went into the job believing she was an agent of change in the world, only to be stripped of her idealism by her captivity. Rather than turn cynical, the experience grounds her in reality and opens her eyes to the possibility that human beings can’t fix what feels broken about the world. That’s how her journey leads to John, then ultimately to Christ. She’s searching for something truly good and right. I think because of that, she’d be less interested in the sensationalism of today’s news and more in understanding the reality beneath the headlines.
Q: Trying to protect Christine from danger puts John in the middle of some moral quandaries. How does he handle himself mentally and spiritually in those situations?
The battle waging in John from the beginning is the tension between who he is now and who he was trained to be. His focus has been singularly placed on the act of killing. But what he’ssuddenly faced with as he pursues a relationship with Christine and continues to serve as the pastor of his church is that the instincts drilled into him carry other moral prices as well. The more the situation in Dallas unravels, the more out of control John begins to feel with his own mental and spiritual status.
At the same time, he’s committed to protecting the innocent and preserving life, so he works to redirect his instincts to achieve those two goals. That’s what complicates his relationship with truth. If he’s convinced that what he’s doing is for the greater good, he’s quick to compromise on deception and manipulation. This is a struggle I have and have seen in others. By lying to ourselves about our intentions, we can sometimes make choices that are inconsistent with what we say we believe.
Q: Does John’s prior profession and the choices he made ever come back to haunt him?
Oh, all the time. The truth about the Central Intelligence Agency is that you never truly leave the Central Intelligence Agency. So,John keeps getting pulled back in, even when he says he doesn’twant to. The only problem is that he was really good at what he did. And not just the assassination part. Which begs the question: Should he go back? Was he only running from guilt when he decided to leave?
In Cross Shadow, we also examine his choice to accept the pastorate at his church despite being young in his faith and untrained for the ministry. From the outside looking in, he doesn’tseem like the best candidate to truly lead the church toward growth. Those were real questions that not only were present when I was writing the first book but have also been asked by readers afterward. I can’t wait for you to see how the story continues for him.
Q: What kind of research goes into writing about a CIA agent?
It does get tricky, especially when writing about members of the Special Activities Center (the CIA’s division for covert operations). The most important thing for me about writing these characters is to never make it feel like they’re learning any of it for the first time. Since we’re often in their perspective, there are certain actions they might take or things they might say that need to be second nature to them. That needs to be balanced with making sure the reader can follow along. This means I need to know my stuff!
A lot of my research comes from scouring the internet. (I’m sure the CIA knows how many times I visit their website.) But I also research movies and books too; other writers before me have done their homework, so I love to learn and be inspired by how someone else might have crafted the world of the United States Intelligence Community. A great book specifically on the CIA’s targeted killing programs is called Surprise, Kill, Vanish by Annie Jacobsen. It didn’t come out until 2019, so I didn’t have it as a resource for the first book, but I surprised myself with how accurately I was able to write some things with the then more limited knowledge about this particular aspect of the CIA.
Q: How long have you been working on the Shepherd Suspense series, and have you always wanted to write?
I worked on A Cross to Kill for several years beginning in 2014. The series didn’t start to take shape until two years ago after I signed with Kregel Publications for the book to be published. I originally wrote A Cross to Kill as a stand-alone novel, though I’dbe lying if I said I hadn’t already thought about what I might do to continue the story with the characters. What I found most helpful in planning out the series was asking myself what lingering questions I had from the first story, and there were enough that the plots for the second and third books came relatively easy.
While I didn’t start attempting to write until I was an older teen, my passion for storytelling has been a part of my life from an early age. One of my favorite pastimes growing up was to tell stories using action figures (mainly to myself, but often with my brothers). I was also into art and would occasionally adapt those stories into drawings. I even made some short films based on stories I would write. In some ways, novels feel like a more recent addition to my repertoire of formats to tell stories in.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you as a new author following the release of your first book?
The biggest surprise has been the season following the release. I looked at the specific date of release as something akin to a movie’s opening weekend and expected there to be a lot of excitement over it immediately. I don’t know if you know this, but a book is very different from a movie, and while the release day was exciting, it’s been really fun to watch new readers discover the book over the months following its debut last October. I’m still getting reviews and messages about it (which is probably laughable for other authors to hear, but hey, I’m still new at this).
Another surprise has been how much I enjoy hearing the varied aspects of the book that different readers enjoyed. Of course, I know and love that each reader is their own unique person, but as an author, you are always trying to reach as vast of an audience as possible. And while many readers have let me know how much they love similar things, it’s been a lot of fun to hear the personal connection each individual has to certain themes or characters.
Q: What can readers expect from the final installment of the Shepherd Suspense trilogy, Right Cross?
A Cross to Kill featured a small-town setting with international intrigue. In Cross Shadow, I flip the script, and we get to go with John and Christine to a bigger city to solve a personal mystery. With Right Cross, both the locations and plot go big. I like to try and write the thrills of a Mission: Impossible movie onto the page with my novels, and the final book in the Shepherd Suspense series is the most M:I of them all.
At the same time, the characters have grown. They’re no longer wrestling with questions of identity and purpose. With a newfound confidence in their standing before God, they get a chance to be who they were ultimately created to be. And I’ve had so much watching that unfold. I can’t wait for readers to do the same!
This book y’all…this is power! Kaitlin goes through 10 different narratives going on in our minds that are not from God. She guides the reader through the associated verse, a brief section of encouragement and truth, and finishes with a section to remember, replace and reflect. This book is a very easy read, but one you will come back to over and over again! I would recommend this book to anyone who struggles with thoughts of not feeling enough or too much. Also for people who feel like they need to be people pleasers or compare themselves to others. Everyone needs to hear these truths and learn how to walk in the narrative that God truly has for you!!!
In this book, Jimmy Evans looks at the life of David. He looks at how David was still considered on of the great kings, even with all of his faults and missteps. He reminds us that greatness is what we are seeking, not the world’s definition, but God’s. He addresses nine different characteristics of David and relates them to the reader using 10 lessons and a study guide. One of the many quotes that stood out to me was, “Worship is the true foundation for all other relationships to grow upon” (pg.96).
I believe this book will serve as a great reference and study for any individual who is wanting to find the greatness that God has created them for. It has something for everyone and will challenge the reader to dive deep into their own beliefs and find God on the other side.
The world loves to make us feel as though we have to compare ourselves with others. Shannon takes the reader through the process of becoming free from this need for comparison. She breaks it down so that it can be used into a 6 week Bible study. Shannon writes in a way that makes you feel like you are sitting down with her drinking coffee and working through these issues. This book is a great tool for women to learn how to learn how to appreciate their differences and love themselves as the created daughter of God. Also how to love others for how they are created. I would definitely recommend this book for every woman! Also for them to share it with the younger girls so that they can start out on a different level than what we did.