Book Review: A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson is one of my favorite authors of Christian fiction. Her characters are often quirky and her storylines challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone. So when Booklook Bloggers offered me the chance to read A Thing of Beauty for free in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance.

Lisa samson bookFia is former award-winning child actor who is the daughter of two Hollywood superstars. She divorced her parents in her teens, took refuge in Baltimore in an old mansion that she filled with “collectibles”/trash/junk that she hoards with the plan of turning it into art, one day. This is where the book begins.

It took me longer than usual to get into the storyline, but once I did, I enjoyed the book. I felt as if I were able to get a glimpse into the mind of a talented and beautiful child who was taken advantage of, in many ways, and raised in an egocentric industry and world.

I saw a theme between Fia and her house – both are filled with baggage. Some of it needed purging and some of it could be turned into “a thing of beauty” with a little elbow grease, honesty and work.

There are characters introduced in Fia’s life that help her do so with both her life and her house. Some relationships are polished others are purged.

This is not your stereotypical Christian fiction. There is some language but it did not offend me. Fia does work as an escort to make money. However, it appeared it was just companionship and light kissing, but it’s not a major theme in the book. However, if that is something that would bother you, then that is something to consider.

It is not a fairy-tale ending for all but it ended well, healthy and with hope. I was happy with the ending and it left me with hope.

Thank you Booklook.com for the opportunity to read this book. I really enjoyed it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Booklook.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Book Review of All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes

I headed south for the holidays this year to visit my family and was eager for a fun and easy. Booklook.com provided me with All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant in exchange for an honest review.

blog photo - book reviewKat loves to experiment in her baking, pairing flavors to create unique tastes. However, she works in her aunt’s cupcake bakery where she’s only allowed to bake vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Her best friend, Lucas, secretly signs her up to compete on a reality TV baking competition and a new door is opened for Kat.

The book is an easy read, perfect for the beach or holidays when you want to unwind and turn off your mind. The story is predictable at times but I enjoyed the characters. A bulk of the book is during the bake-off competition and it’s fun to ready what goes on behind the scenes of reality TV.

I’d recommend the book to anyone enjoying Chick Lit or if you’re looking a leisure read.


Celebrate Like Jesus

I love Christmas time! The lights, the music, the parties, the gifts. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the most busiest time of the year. The decorating, the noise, the packed schedule and shopping. It steals our time and we lose our focus.

So much to do, so little time.
Family traditions, office parties, church activities. They’re all part of the way we celebrate the season but it requires time and energy. These limited resources are depleted quickly in the holiday season.

Each year I tell myself that I’ll cut back and focus my Christmas season solely on God, however, in doing so, I’ve found God saying, “Live life. Celebrate with family and friends. Just be sure to take Me with you.”

Jesus shared meals with friends. He went to weddings. He turned water into wine. He kept the party going.

A way of loving God is sharing life with the people He placed in our lives.

But Jesus also pulled away. He proactively withdrew from the group to pray and commune with His Father. He didn’t allow the busyness of life steal His focus on what is most important.

There is so much good we can do this season with the numerous volunteer opportunities, invitations, family traditions and church activities. It is all good stuff, but is it “God-stuff” and by that I don’t mean does it involve going to church.

Maybe God wants you to invite a friend over and share a glass (or bottle) of wine because this friend is carrying a burden alone. Only time one-on-one will reveal it.

Maybe God wants you to attend the Ugly Sweater office party because He needs you to drive home your colleague who took a few too many dips in the punch bowl.

Maybe God wants you to stay home with a cup of tea and sit in front of the Christmas tree with your family and just breathe and be in the moment.

There are so many opportunities in the holiday season. How do we know what to cut out and what to keep?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Does it cause me internal conflict? Don’t allow guilt to manipulate you. God doesn’t guilt us into things, He guides That said, if your heart is conflicted, prayerfully ask yourself the next questions.
  2. What or who will it take you from? Will a night smoozing up to your boss take you away from much needed family time? Or have you been so kid-centric lately that a night out with your spouse and co-workers be just what you or your marriage needs?
  3. Who will you be sharing it with? Are they people who will build you up or will they bring you down? Is a night of fun worth days of regret?
  4. Is it worth it? Is it worth fighting traffic to have one more stocking stuffer? Or is having the house decorated immaculately worth the stress (and potential knock-down, drag-out fight with your spouse)?

Celebrate like Jesus

Jesus went to weddings. He ate meals with friends. He slept. He prayed. He was present with those around Him.

One occasion He and His disciples stopped at the home of Martha. She worked like crazy to prepare the perfect meal for Him as her sister, Mary, sat as His feet, listening to His teaching. When she complained He told her that Mary had made the better choice.

There is a time prepare. There is a time to celebrate. There is a time to sit at God’s feet and absorb His presence.

God has given us everything for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17). Celebrate. Prepare. Enjoy. But first, begin it sitting as His feet. It is here He’ll let us know what to add and what to cut out.

He is the Reason for the Season!

Cheers to a God who want us to enjoy life with Him!


Tips For A Christmas Of Less Stress And More Fun

It’s the second week of December. Christmas is around to the corner and if you’re like me, your “to do” list is growing and the days to do it all are shrinking. It’s the most wonderful and happiest time of the year but it can also be the more stressful time of the year.

blog photo - ice stormGrowing up in the south, I lived through many ice storms. Instead of white fluffy snow, we’d often get freezing rain that put a layer of ice on everything. It made driving treacherous and walking to your car a contact sport that could land you in the hospital.

Trees and their limbs drooped due to the weight of the ice and could snapped unexpectedly causing damage and sometimes injury. If a storm hit early and the trees still had their leaves, the risk of this happening was even greater.

One of the purposes of a tree losing its leaves in the fall is to prepare it for the storms of winter.

Christmas is the time of year many of us snap due to all the added pressure of shopping, party planning, Church programs, travel, family visits, etc.

The last thing I want to do this holiday season is snap under pressure and self-inflicted expectations and be the drama mama…again. I mean there already are enough embarrassing family stories involving me. It’s not quite the legacy I want to leave behind.

I came up with a few guidelines that might help us all make this be a season of less stress and more fun.

Worry less and laugh more. Drop the idea of perfection, believe me it’s a myth. Give your best not someone else’s idea of it. And don’t forget to laugh off your flubs. Laughter is the best medicine.

Volunteer less and say “no” more. Carefully pray through what you are to say yes to. When you say yes to the right volunteer opportunities, you have the joy and energy that makes it fun for everyone. If it’s not what God’s asked of you, it stresses you out and fills you with resent.

Text less and talk more. Be in the moment. Make everyone around you feel they are the most important person in the room. Be sure to model this for your children.

Expect less praise and give more thanks. Too high of expectations have probably caused more family meltdowns. Don’t look for the praise of others to fill your needs. Instead look at what others have done and give genuine praise.

Complain less and compliment more. This piggybacks off of the previous point. If the turkey is dry, remember you have a plate full of food and compliment the host on the gravy. Focusing on the positive makes everything taste better.

Eat less and move more. Enjoy the blessings of food but don’t stuff yourself sick. You’ll be more likely to get out, go for that walk or run and fill you body with good endorphins.

Do less and enjoy others more. You may want to make the house look perfect, your tree to shine like a star and to buy everyone that perfect gift but it’s more fun to be in a house full of joyful people than a perfect house filled with exhausted people.

Buy less and love more. The pressure of buying the perfect gift often steals our time and energy to fully love those around us. Love takes time and effort and if we expend it in the mall, we come home over-stimulated, stressed and broke.

Schedule less and pray more. Be still before God. Pray. Meditate and ask God what you are to say “yes” to. Remember He is the Reason for the season. We are celebrating the Gift He gave us…Jesus.

So shed off those extra leaves that may be weighing you down and focus on what matters. Love those God has placed in your life. Give to those in need. Express thanks and truly celebrate the Reason for the season.

Less often gives you more.





Bringing Light Into Black Friday

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and that means only one thing…Black Friday is in two days. Some love it and others hate it but with over $54 billion was spent in 2013 over Black Friday weekend, it appears a lot of us love it.

blog photo - Black fridayIt is a great time to find deals on electronics and other normally high-priced items but if we’re not careful, we can impulsively buy something that we don’t need just because it’s a good deal. “What…$49.99 for a bunion massager?! Out of my way granny! It’s mine!!”

Time to upgrade from my garage sale deal

Our family has this round table dining table that I found at a garage sale many years ago. It has served us well but the chairs are uncomfortable and it doesn’t seat many people, making it hard to entertain. I had a little savings set aside and felt it was time to venture out to see what I could find.

Anastasia went with me and as we drove away I felt this urge to pray. Now I know this sounds a bit odd to pray before shopping but we were both eager to get a new table and I didn’t want to waste the little money I had saved. Here’s what I prayed out loud with Anastasia in our car…

“Lord, I know this is your money and we thank you that we’ve been able to save it. We’d like buy a new table. If this is a good way for us to use this money, help us find the perfect table for us. If not, help us to walk away until it’s time.”

I had seen a “Pre-Black Friday” ad for a table and four chairs that was in our price range. We headed to this store and wouldn’t you know…it was closed! I was mad but I couldn’t show it because I had just prayed…in front of my daughter! Argh! Sometimes it’s hard trying to be a good model to my kids!

We ended up going to a different store and I found this awesome table. It was more expensive so we’d only be able to afford the table but not the chairs. The salesman helping us explained it was solid wood and a higher quality than the other tables. Now we had to decide to buy just a table and wait on the chairs or should we walk away.

We kept looking around and came upon a table that looked exactly the same but it was half the price! Turns out it was a display table that had a few nicks. The salesman came over and out of nowhere said, “I’ll mark this down to $100 if you buy chairs with it.”

What?! By doing this we could now afford a quality table…with chairs…on budget.

We were giddy walking out of the store. In the parking lot Anastasia exclaimed, “God gave us that table!” She was right, He did!

Take some light with you into Black Friday

I share this as a reminder to take God with you in every area of your life this holiday season. It may seem silly to spiritualize a shopping trip and maybe it is, in a way. However, if I had bought just any old table it would have been just that…any old table but now this same table feels like a gift from God and that makes us more thankful.

Okay my friends, I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and wonderful memories with family, friends and loved ones. If you’re brave enough to venture out shopping, take God’s light with you to Black Friday. He’ll lead you to the deals or let you know if you need to walk away.

Happy Thanksgiving!