Monday, October 17, 2016

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD {Book Review}

While I do not have any family members who live with PTSD, I do have some friends who live with it. Because of that, I wanted to read this book and then determine if I should buy a copy for them, too. My answer is ABSOLUTELY!! I myself gained so much insight, understanding, compassion, clarity, wisdom and very aware of the importance of love and grace by reading this book. I truly believe if a broader range of people read Love Our Vets, our society would have a whole new outlook on what PTSD is and how we respond to those who have it. And those who have PTSD would not feel as isolated!

Author Welby O'Brien is extremely qualified to write this book, which is a key reason for my 5-star rating. She holds a Master's degree in counseling, and her husband has lived with PTSD for a very long time (which means it has affected her life for quite a while, too!). In addition to her qualifications, O'Brien brings something critical to this book--the words, voices, feelings, and advice of countless others who live within a PTSD-affected environment. The book is broken down into 3 parts, and within each part are questions that are looked at and answered. The book format is wonderful in that you can look at certain topics specifically, or learn a wealth of information from reading the whole thing. The final perspective O'Brien brings to the book is how important our prayer life and spiritual growth are in helping us fill our cup and pour out love. We can't accomplish this heavy task on our own--but with God's help, we can gain hope, love wisdom & grace--and then we can share God's love with those who need it so very much.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to give a positive review.

About the book: 

Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (Deep River Books, April 2015)

Chances are that if your loved one has seen war, he or she has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at some level, and you who love your veteran will also be deeply and profoundly affected.

Finally, the cries and needs of the loved ones have been addressed in this comprehensive, practical book, now newly updated in its second edition!

Love Our Vets answers more than 60 heartfelt questions, providing down-to-earth wisdom and much-needed tips for taking care of yourself. Sharing as a counselor and from her personal experience of living with a 100% disabled veteran with PTSD, Welby O'Brien gives hope, encouragement, and practical help for families and loved ones who are caught in the wake of the trauma. This book addresses a broad spectrum of issues and concerns and offers realistic wisdom from a wide variety of individuals who share from real hearts and lives.

Now newly revised and updated with additional material, the second edition of Love Our Vets continues to be enthusiastically welcomed by VA and other counselors. This is not just another book about PTSD; rather, it is a tremendous resource for families and loved ones who struggle heroically along with their vets to face the day-to-day challenges.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Welby O'Brien
 holds a Masters Degree in counseling (Portland State University) and a teaching degree (Biola University). Author of Formerly A Wife, and Good-bye for Now (Wingspread); contributing author, Shepherding Women in Pain (Moody Press), and Chicken Soup for the Soul, Divorce and Recovery. Founder of Love Our Vets support network; wife of veteran with PTSD.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wrapped in God's Grace {Book Review & Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Link!!}

Wrapped in God's Grace by Barbara Bras is a unique take on how past events affect our current life, and how faith can weave through and be passed down generation to generation. The biography begins   with the powerful authenticity Bras shares of her life of infertility, her cries to God and wondering if He would answer, the doors he opened when she & her husband adopted their son, Raphael, the surprise blessings of biological children, and then the difficulties and heartbreak that occurred due to various decisions Raphael made from childhood into adulthood. While our stories are not the same, the fact I also have biological and adopted children made Bras sharing extremely tender and touching.

After sharing her story of learning to truly release Raphael to the Lord and trusting Him completely, Bras then shifts her book to a focus on two people who experienced the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. Those two children, Arshag & Gulle would find their paths crossing many years later. They are able to move to America & get married. Through God's grace, they not only survived the Genocide, but have several children. Their first grandchild is Bras. Again, God's plan and purpose is on display.

The final portion of the book focuses on Bras teenage and adult years--the times she sometimes trusted God, but didn't trust and follow Him completely. Through various missteps, heartbreaks, and yearning for more, Bras finally finds her life back on track as she marries her second husband--the one with whom she would adopt Raphael and continue with on a path that continues to put God and whatever He has planned for their lives above everything else.

While I truly enjoyed this book, I do wish the end would have presented a clearer telling of when Bras "put her stake in the ground" in going whole-heartedly after God. It's mentioned in the Afterword (which is one paragraph), but a chapter focusing on this area would have truly brought the book full-circle in a powerful way.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to give a positive review.

To purchase your copy, click here.

About the Book

The crushing pain of seven years of unanswered prayer for a child. A miraculous adoption story, followed by unforeseen challenges and heartbreak.

Barbara Bras begins her memoir by sharing God’s answer to her prayers and the difficult times that followed. Although God does not provide an easy fix, the intricacies of God’s plans reveal themselves to her, and she relives her life in a new light.

Bras then recounts the stories of her grandfather Arshag and her grandmother Gulle, survivors of the atrocities of Armenia in 1915. Arshag, sent to South America for his protection, returns as a soldier of the Armenian Legion to fight for his country. Gulle is the only member of her family to survive the death march into the desert. Through God’s grace they find each other, marry and move to America in 1921. Bras is their first grandchild.

The final section of the memoir follows Bras as she marries and moves to Hawaii, only to return as a single mother to teach school in a small town. It is there she finally realizes that God has provided her with protection and direction. Bras discovers that once we truly surrender our will to God, His plan always produces blessings beyond our wildest dreams!

About the Author

In 2015, Barbara Bras left her career to pursue her dream of serving God. She believed that her first step would be to share the amazing ways God had blessed her. As she wrote of her son’s miraculous adoption and the challenging years that followed, it led to the rediscovery of her entire life, including the history of her grandparents’ remarkable survival in Armenia and her search for purpose and love. Her memoir led to her first novel, which she hopes readers will find engaging and memorable.

Guest Post from Barbara Bras

An Unanswered Prayer

I struggled for many years with one unanswered prayer. It was my “go to” request every time I came before the Lord.

Convinced that with God nothing is impossible, I also knew that the Lord may say “Not now” many times, even before he says no. I acknowledged that the Lord probably had a much bigger and better plan in mind for me, but none of that offered any comfort. As I struggled year after year with my unanswered prayer I found more questions than answers.

Was I fooling myself and ignoring God’s “No”? Could my lack of faith be the reason I couldn’t hear the Lord? And if not now, then when dear Lord?

Then I discovered that the Lord said “Not now.” because he had a miracle waiting for me, more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Like Hannah, God finally answered my prayer for a child. And through that miracle I learned that surrendering my will to God allows Him to bless me beyond my human understanding.

To my further surprise, I discovered that the miracle didn’t mean the end of the story. Experiencing a miraculous adoption didn’t come with a guarantee or a promise that the rest of my life would be free of heartache.

After all of those years of unanswered prayer, I found myself back on my knees with a new daily prayer request. The Lord had something else to teach me through this new struggle, a lesson that took me another fifteen years to learn.

Not only did those fifteen years lead me right back to where I started, surrendering my human will to His and trusting in His greater plan, but it convinced me that the Lord wanted me to share my story.  

Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered begins with my unanswered prayer for a child, but as I wrote it, God’s plan for me became clear. The second section of the book recreates the events surrounding the survival of my grandparents through the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Their immigration to America in 1921 led to my existence. The book closes with the Lord blessing me with a loving husband in spite of the many missteps I made directing my own life. A reviewer found this nonlinear sequence of events unusual, and I am fine with that, since that’s how the book unfolded before me.

Captured by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, I now view my writing as a tribute first to the God who comforts and strengthens all of us in hardships and trials, and second as my mission to encourage others.

A photo gallery for Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered can be found on my website Click here to view the Photo Gallery

Blog Stops

October 14: Book Love
October 15: A Greater Yes
October 16: Carpe Diem
October 18: Pause for Tales
October 19: A Reader’s Brain
October 20: Bigreadersite
October 22: Mary Hake
October 22: Simple Harvest Reads (Spotlight)


To celebrate her tour, Barbara is giving away a $100 Amazon gift card! Click here to enter:

Friday, October 7, 2016



Begin to build your family discipleship and become the key disciple-makers in your children’s lives with Melissa Spoelstra’s new book, Total Family Makeover. Disciples are made, not born. Whether your children are babes in arms or teenagers getting ready to leave the nest, making disciples at home starts with you! Give your family a makeover with this practical approach to helping your children learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Plan an evening of fun, pizza, devotionals, and games with your family! Melissa is giving away a Family Fun Night Prize Pack.
One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 7. The winner will be announced October 10 on Melissa’s blog.
Total Family Makeover PK


Total Family Makeover: 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home(Abingdon, September 2016)
Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. —Proverbs 22:6
God calls us as parents to be key disciple-makers in our children’s lives, but if we’re honest, some days it’s a battle just to get them dressed and ready for school on time. How can you mold their hearts when sometimes you can’t even find their shoes?
In Total Family Makeover, author Melissa Spoelstra gives parents a way—a sort of spiritual track to run on—when it comes to building family discipleship. She focuses on eight key habits of growth:
—Spending Time in Prayer
—Reading God’s Word
—Growing Through a Mentoring Relationship
—Finding Community in the Church
—Serving Others
—Taking Time to Rest
—Giving Back to God
—Sharing Your Faith
Disciples are made, not born. Whether your children are babes in arms or teenagers getting ready to leave the nest, making disciples at home starts with you! Give your family a makeover with this practical approach to helping your children learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Melissa Spoelstra


Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of the “First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree,” “Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness,” and “Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World Bible” studies and “Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home” book. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.
Find out more about Melissa at

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review {Jesus and the Beanstalk}

Jesus and the Beanstalk~Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life provides a unique, creative, applicable & Biblically sound insight on what it means to conquer the giants in our lives. Author Lori Stanley Roelevold takes an in-depth look at 2 Peter, throws in the fairy tales we learned in childhood, and somehow manages to relate them to each other in a way so we see the truth of Christ's character in a way that allows us to better go after a closer walk and relationship with Him. The opportunities to reflect upon recognizing God is who is says he is, and then doing our part to build and deepen our reliance upon Him are very well presented and laid out clearly throughout the book. 

Jack and the Beanstalk is woven throughout the chapters, as are real-life examples of building a stronger faith. Chapter 9 begins with my favorite line in the book:
Are you ready to bury the beans?

That challenging sentence is followed by the wonderful sentence listed here:
It takes faith to believe a dried-up bean contains life, which is why Peter makes sense when he tells us the process of being effective and fruitful in our knowledge of Christ begins with faith.

It isn't enough within our walk and relationship with Christ to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We need to truly put our faith and trust in Him and let him fully & completely have our whole hearts and full attention. Jesus and the Beanstalk takes what can often seem insurmountable and gives us a clear, easy-to-read-and-follow presentation of the power of God and all He desires to do in our lives and hearts. I am very thankful to have read it, and plan to pass it along to my kids to read.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, but was under no obligation to write a review. My honest opinion has been provided without any requirement to give a positive review.

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life (Abingdon Press, September 2016)
What if a fairy tale and ten Bible verses could free you to live an effective, fruitful life in Christ?
We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we look, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?
Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalk explores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith:
—Affection for others
In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.
Lori Stanley RoeleveldLori Stanley Roeleveld is the author of "Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus)" and "Red Pen Redemption." Her blog,, was voted Top 100 Christian Blogs by and has enjoyed over 1.5 million views. Lori lives in Hope Valley, RI.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: The Things We Knew {Excellent Read}

It has been quite some time since I've sat down and read a book cover to cover in a day before heading to a mom of six, my sleep time is necessary & precious. Yet staying up until 1:30am is exactly what I did with The Things We Knew by Catherine West. Each page, and the end of each chapter, held such a heavy dose of "I can't wait to see what happens next!" that I thoroughly enjoyed settling in to finish it after my kids--and then my husband--went to bed.

So, what makes The Things We Knew such a wonderful read? It holds a great mystery from the past, one that the main character Lynette can't quite shake--does she hold the truth to her mom's death twelve years prior? Lynette was young when her mom died, and several of her older siblings blamed (or suspected) her father was involved. They have all moved away from home, but Lynette stayed and now takes care of her father. A father she doesn't believe had anything to do with her mother's death, but she was the only witness and simply can't remember.

Although Lynette is the baby of the family, she has taken on all the heavy responsibilities. From keeping tabs on her dad (who now appears to have Alzheimer's), to taking care of the large family home in Nantucket, and working two jobs because she doesn't want to lose the house, Lynette is in over her head. Her siblings don't return her phone calls, and she doesn't quite know what to do. But when the neighbor's son Nicholas moves back in next door, Lynette is reminded of her crush on him many years ago. She also begins to wonder again why Nicholas & her brother Gray's relationship as best friends ended so abruptly those many years ago, too.

Lynette has two outlets: she is a very gifted artist, and she trust God regardless of the tough circumstances. Through her paintings, she is making money on some of them (by using a pseudonym), and then trying to recall her mom's final moments in ones she is privately painting when dreams & memories come to her. But will she be able to handle the truth that begins to unfold when she puts the brush to the canvas, when Nicholas seems to know more than he is letting on about her mom's past, and the truths that continue to be revealed when her siblings finally return home to discuss the potential sale of the house?

In addition to being a great mystery novel, The Things We Knew also is fantastic in exploring the relationships between adult siblings. Physical distance, emotional distance, assumptions, past connections & present relationships create many unique dynamics--the more siblings there are (Lynette is the youngest of five), the more complex a great book becomes. The Things We Knew is an excellent read, and I can't recommend it enough.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*

The Things We Knew
About the Book: The Things We Knew (Thomas Nelson, July 2016)
A tragedy from the past resurfaces in this tale of family secrets and reignited love.
After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to harbor animosity toward their father, silently blaming him for their mother’s death. Nobody will talk about that dreadful day, and Lynette can’t remember a bit of it.
But when next-door neighbor Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, he brings the past with him. Once her brother’s best friend and Lynette’s first crush, Nick seems to hiding things from her. Lynette wonders what he knows about the day her mother died and hopes he might help her remember the things she can’t.
But Nick has no intention of telling Lynette the truth. Besides the damage it might cause his own family, he doesn’t want to risk harming the fragile friendship between him and the woman he once thought of as a kid sister.
As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets begin to surface—secrets that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question all they ever believed in.
Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the Author:

Catherine WestCatherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children.

Monday, August 22, 2016

(un)Natural Mom: Why Your are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids {Book Review}

If you are wanting a parenting book that DOESN'T tell you how to parent, '(un)Natural Mom: Why You are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids' is the book you want! There is something so very refreshing found when an author is willing to tell of her own mishaps as a parent not merely as ways to build teaching moments for the reader, but rather as ways to build connection with the reader.

Hattie Brittz's honesty, authenticity, and observations create a wonderful blend of humor & knowledge. The writing style presented within the book makes it very easy for the reader to see how her own unique parenting style connects her to her kids. All in all, the book is fully meant to be one that encourages & validates moms, recognizing that we each are on our own paths, and don't have to constantly compare ourselves to other moms.

The book includes information to a profile link where you can discover your parenting style--the link to the website test is an invaluable resource, and the book will not make a much sense or have as much of an impact if you choose to ignore the test (I wrote my profile descriptions in the front of my book so I'd always have them as a handy reference while reading each chapter).

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*

Book Information: un)Natural Mom: Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids (David C Cook, August 2016)
Do you feel like you’re the only mom who serves store-bought birthday treats, dreads school plays, and misses the days of going to the bathroom by herself?
Unnatural Mom gives you permission to say that mothering doesn’t always come naturally to you. Parenting expert and self-proclaimed unnatural mom Hettie Brittz helps you…
—Recognize how unrealistic our culture’s standards of mothering are
—Move beyond the myths of “supermom”
—Complete a profile to determine your own parenting style
—Understand and forgive the mothers who hurt you
—Embrace your capabilities as well as your challenges
Come find new hope in discovering that every mother has unique gifts. In Christ, the “unnatural” mom becomes the supernatural mom who is just right for her family!

Hettie BrittzHettie Brittz is an author, international speaker, and one of South Africa’s foremost voices on parenting advice. She is the developer of the Evergreen Parenting Course and Tall Trees Profiles. Hettie and her husband, Gospel singer Louis Brittz, live in South Africa with their three children.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Giveaway! Carrie Stuart Parks’ Undercover Artist Starter Set {And Book Review}

Plunge into forensic artist Gwen Marcey's world, full of cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects. Add Carrie Stuart Parks' new Gwen Marcey novel, When Death Draws Near, to the top of your must-read list. Gwen accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before she can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

Join Carrie in celebrating the release of When Death Draws Near by entering to win an Undercover Artist Starter Set.

when death draws near - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
when death draws near - collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 22. The winner will be announced August 23 on the Litfuse blog.

when death draws near - enterbanner

Personal Review of When Death Draws Near:

Of all the genre's available to read, murder mysteries have always been my favorite...and because of that, I can sometimes find myself disappointed when I finish a book by an author that is new to me. I can honestly say that When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks is absolutely fantastic. It's the third Gwen Marcey Novel, but I didn't remotely feel I had missed out on any storylines as the plot & character development within this novel are so well done. I plan to read the first two novels because I throughly enjoyed When Death Draws Near and protagonist Gwen Marcey.

If you are looking for a murder mystery novel that holds the thrill and suspense of author Patricia Cromwell's Kay Scarpetta series, but want a novel that doesn't contain strong language or sex, When Death Draws Near will meet all your expectations. Protagonist Gwen Marcey is a forensic artist who finds herself taking a temporary job in a small Kentucky town. It becomes clear immediately to both Gwen and the reader that things aren't quite what they seem. The novel begins at a quick pace as Gwen views a dead body and then meets the town's most recent rape victim within moments of each other. Throw in a sheriff who doesn't seem to want Gwen around (despite being the one who asked her to come), a phone call telling Gwen her cancer has returned, and what appears to be an attempt on her life, and the reader quickly gets a sense of the strong, smart & tenacious forensic artist that is Gwen Marcey. Want more suspense? Deadly snakes and a secretive serpent-handling church are key elements of the novel, too.

I don't want to say anything else about the storylines or additional characters, as I myself dislike when people spoil a book for me because they shared too much. But it is an excellent novel, full of twists and turns and many interesting characters, and highly recommend it.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*

About the book: 

When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson, August 2016)

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey's job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.

Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.

Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Carrie Stuart Parks
 is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.