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CD REVIEW: Out of the Dark by Mandisa #GIVEAWAY

Posted by Julie on May 21, 2017 in Book Review, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

Out of the Dark by Mandisa

Mandisa wrote her song “Overcomer” in 2013 to encourage her close friend Kisha, who was battling breast cancer. Mandisa really believed and prayed that God was going to heal her, but when Kisha went to be with Jesus in 2014, Mandisa’s foundation was shaken in a way she never expected. She fell into a deep pit of depression for close to 3 years, shutting out her friends, family and the rest of the world. Mandisa believes if she had kept going down that road she was on, she would not be here today… but God stepped in and lifted her out of that pit by using her close friends to communicate their love for her and God’s love for her. This album is Mandisa’s way of letting her fans into her story – it’s called ‘Out Of The Dark’ because that is exactly where God lifted her out of!
You can watch her talk openly about this on Good Morning America last week here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/mandisa-opens-overcoming-depression-47020463

The first track on Mandisa’s newest CD, OUT OF THE DARK, is a voicemail collage, and the messages set the tone for the journey Mandisa has been on since her megahit, “Overcomer.” By her own admission, the loss of a dear friend, her inspiration for the song, “Overcomer,” took her to a place so dark she isolated herself. Refused visits and calls. Re gained all the weight she had lost. Fought suicidal thoughts. With God’s love and guidance, Mandisa is back and her music is stronger for it.

Right from “I’m Still Here,” there’s something in her voice that conveys the strength in Him she’s gaining from her depression and grief. I don’t know how to explain it, a literal maturity that emanates, and I’m not saying it was something lacking in her before. There’s just something relatable in her words and voice that sends the message she’s not the same as she was. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t. But God’s there.

This CD is perfect timing and for anyone fighting grief or questioning God, OUT OF THE DARK is a must listen. There are reflective songs and upbeat ones. Each song has a message, and by the end I realized as Mandisa emerges from the dark, she is now the overcomer.

This was an encouragement and blessing to listen to, and I highly recommend it.

YOU have a chance to win a copy! Leave a comment on this post or on social media on why you would like this CD and I will choose ONE US winner. Please leave a way for me to contact you when you leave a comment or I will choose an alternate.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Story Behind The Album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df27myDpm1c

Acoustic Video for “Unfinished”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQFpXcvFI0A

To purchase “OUT OF THE DARK,” CLICK HERE.

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Total Surrender by Cynthia Roemer

Posted by Julie on May 5, 2017 in God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

TOTAL SURRENDER

By

Cynthia Roemer

I’ve always been inspired by those who are willing to give their all for the cause of Christ.—missionaries who give up home and family to live in foreign lands in less than comfortable places, men, women, even children who stand by their convictions regardless of the consequences. These people have counted the cost and surrendered their lives to God anyway.

Surrendering our lives to God never comes easily. If you’re like me, you can give a situation to the Lord only to take it back again and again in a tug-of-war for control. I suppose that’s why I wrote about the theme of total surrender in my debut novel, Under This Same Sky.

My heroine, Becky Hollister, doesn’t willingly choose to surrender her will to God; instead, adverse circumstances compel her to choose between entrusting her life to Him or turning her back on her faith. It’s touch and go for a while. After enduring great suffering and loss, Becky questions how a loving God can allow such hurtful events to happen.

Under This Same Sky takes readers on a journey alongside Becky as she works through her resentment toward God and seeks to determine what His will for her might be. But just as in real life, it takes the wisdom of God’s word and the love of friends (and in Becky’s case, a godly man) to pull her through.

Becky’s story is a tale of friendship and love, but even more so, it’s a quest for wholeness and deeper understanding of a God who longs to hold the deepest desires of her heart. Fully surrendering to the Lord is something I believe we all struggle to achieve. I hope you’ll be encouraged by Becky’s story and the message of surrender it conveys.

 

Under This Same Sky Book Blurb:

             ~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons. Under This Same Sky is her debut novel.

 

Contact Links:

 Website:  http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer 

 Purchase Link

 

 

 

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A Highland Pearl Character Interview by Brenda B. Taylor

Posted by Julie on April 28, 2017 in ACFW, encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

A Highland Pearl Character Interview

Greetings from 16th century Scotland. My name is Andrew Dubh Munro. I’m know as the Black Falcon of Fàrdach, and I am the Thirteenth Baron and Chief of Clan Munro. My home is located in the Scottish Highlands on the north shore of Cromarty Firth. The seat of my clan, the place I reside, is Fàrdach Castle. Fàrdach is a Gaelic word meaning, home. Gaelic is my first language, although in order to trade with merchants in Inverness and other places, I also speak Inglish and French.

My father, Sir William Munro was killed in a battle with the MacKenzie Clan. The MacKenzies and Munros have been feuding since that time. I wanted to bring peace between the two peoples, but Hugh MacKenzie and his warriors continued to reive Munro cattle and destroy Munro property. While confronting the reivers one day, I was seriously wounded, and thought I would die.

My brother, Gavin, sent for a bonnie lass and healer from the nearby village of Drumainn. Maidie saved my life, and I fell in love with her. She was a strong believer in the Lord of All Creation. I wanted to take Maidie as my wife, but she was hesitant since I, at that time, did not believe.

One night, the MacKenzies burned one of the Munro villages, and I accompanied my brother and our warriors in the chase for the culprits. My injury had not healed completely, and I could not keep up. I insisted Gavin and the band of warriors go on without me. My gille, Colin, stayed with me. We made ourselves comfortable and settled down to wait for Gavin’s return.

I soon learned the burned village was a trap to get me out of the castle. The MacKenzies captured Colin and me, and took us to the dungeon of their castle. We stayed in the dungeon five days, eating rancid meat and drinking foul water. Our physical condition weakened until I thought the two of us would die.

Being thrown into the dungeon was the best thing that could have happened to me. Colin was a believer and taught me the way to the Lord through his son, Jesus the Christ. I prayed and was accepted into the Lord’s kingdom. I wasn’t afraid to die then, for I knew Heaven awaited.

Hugh MacKenzie released us on the urging of my former father-in-law, Bryson Fraser. The story takes many turns and twists before Maidie and I were reunited and I declared my love for her. The miracle was, she loved me in return and promised to become my wife. The Lord truly blessed me with the desire of my heart—Maidie Cameron Munro.

My story is told in the novel by Brenda B. Taylor, A Highland Pearl. Secure your copy today while the e-book is on sale at most vendors. You will enjoy the adventure through the beautiful Scottish Highlands.

A Highland Pearl

A Highland Pearl

A sweet romance blossoms amidst feuding and war. With her reputation at stake after being accused of practicing witchcraft and hated as a member of a rival clan, Maidie considers leaving Clan Munro and returning to the home of her birth in Clan Cameron. Fierce battles, a tragic encounter, and a handsome clan chief compel her to make crucial decisions in this haunting romance set in the16th century Highlands of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

Buy Links:

Historical Heartbeats

Amazon

Apple iTunes

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

 

Author Bio:

The desire to write historical fiction has long been a passion with Brenda B. Taylor. Since elementary school, she has written stories in her spare time. Brenda earned three degrees: a BSE from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas; a MEd from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and an EdD from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; then worked as a teacher and administrator in the Texas Public School system. Only after retirement could she fulfill the dream of publication.

Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.

 

Author Contact Information:

Historical Heartbeats

Book Bub Author Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Facebook

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Transformation: Relationships Need Change by Toni Shiloh

Posted by Julie on April 27, 2017 in ACFW, encouragement, Guest blogger, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

I’m so glad to be here today. I wanted to talk about transformation, specifically the ones we experience in relationships. If you’ve been in a relationship, you realize being in a relationship is a transformation all on its own. When two people decide to become one, there’s a growing process that HAS to happen. Not because we want it to happen, but because you can’t put two unique people in a relationship and stay the same. It’s not going to happen.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. God created man and woman so that we would not go through life alone. We comfort one another, lift one up when the other is weak. Everything we do should be to help the other be better.

Of course, it doesn’t always happen the way we like. We don’t always see changes in our spouse that we want. But reading about relationship transformation in a fictional book, is highly entertaining and oftentimes, offers us an example for real life. In A Proxy Wedding my story in A Spring of Weddings Collections, Carly James and Damien Nichols discover you have to change in order to be in a relationship. There’s a give and take that must occur in order for it to be successful.

But it’s so hard to do and that’s where God comes in. Without His guidance, His direction, and of course His ability to make us better, relationships would be impossible. It is when our relationship with God is at its best, that our relationship with others improve.

How has being in a relationship with God transformed you?

 

“A Proxy Wedding” releasing in A Spring of Weddings Collection May 3rd!

Blurb: Carly James values loyalty and friendship above all. So when her best friend calls asking her to be a proxy bride, she says, ‘yes.’ How hard can it be to say ‘I do’ so that her best friend can be with the one she loves? Only, Carly never counted on the feelings that began to swirl around with the proxy groom.

Damien Nichols likes life lined up from A to Z, but when his best friend calls in a favor, disorder begins to reign. Instead of taking a quick flight to the proxy wedding, he has to take a road trip with the proxy bride. Carly’s free-spirit attitude bumps heads with his meticulous approach to life. As Damien discovers the woman underneath the carefree façade, his emotions become involved.

Will love become real at A Proxy Wedding?

Bio: Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the president of the ACFW Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.weebly.com.

 

 

Links:

Purchase: http://amzn.to/2opjTko

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authortonishiloh

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116452363653059921235/posts

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/tonishiloh

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/tonishiloh

Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/authors/toni-shiloh

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonishiloh

Blogs I’m part of: http://puttingonthenew.com  ; http://heartwingsblog.com  ; http://diversitybetweenthepages.wordpress.com

 

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My Infertility Walk in the Valley—#NIAW

Posted by Julie on April 26, 2017 in About Me, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

April 23-29 is National Infertility Awareness Week, #NIAW. The theme this year is Listen Up, and I thought I’d share a bit of my story. 

 

I call infertility the sorority no woman wants to join. When my doctor explained that the pelvic pain and irregular periods I was having was most likely PCOS, polycystic ovaries, I was naive. He sat me down and talked for 45 minutes about his wife’s experience with endometriosis. He let me know there was a good chance that I would not conceive on my own. When it was time to leave, he made sure I knew that he wasn’t the final say. He had a strong faith, and he gave me tips on what to do.

I didn’t feel the reality of the diagnosis right away because I was engaged. I was busy preparing for a wedding, so the impact didn’t hit immediately. But like the forbidden fruit, I never really considered motherhood until there was a chance I might not experience it.

Once we were married, it became an obsession.

My full story is included in the book, A WALK IN THE VALLEY, so I’m limited in what I can share. But for those of you that know us now, we have two kids together. Most people don’t know as newlyweds, my husband had to learn how to inject progesterone in my backside. He was so nervous he often hit muscle, and that left me bedridden. The pelvic pain was so bad that I needed surgery, and they discovered my ovaries were 5x the normal size. I have a high tolerance for pain to this day because of it.

I left conferences that focused on parenting, and I had the shaky-lip-trying-not-to-cry at church when moms had to stand up on Mother’s Day to receive their flowers. It was more than an ache. It was a cavern of pain.

In posts earlier this week I shared infertility etiquette, and I made mistakes, too. I shared with people who couldn’t handle my reality and their responses or lack of one made things worse. I hid. I felt so “less than” that I shut my husband out most nights, hiding upstairs as soon as dinner was over.  I was attached to the internet, looking at all forums and articles that had anything to do with infertility. It wasn’t healthy and only kept my anger in a spiral.

If you are going through infertility, my prayer is that you don’t isolate yourself or use your computer as your only source of hope. I am not being commercial in recommending A WALK IN THE VALLEY, I truly believe in this book and wish I had it back when I was hurting. It contains my entire story from diagnosis to where I am today, but it also includes five other authors who share their entire stories. Not one of us has the same experience, so it is a transparent, comprehensive look at infertility.

If you need someone to talk to, I’m not a counselor, but feel free to contact me.

My prayers are with you.

***

My Infertility Walk in the Valley

Struggling with infertility? As a Christian, how do you work through the hurt, anger, frustration, pain, and sorrow? Where is God’s hope and joy?
This devotional workbook features the stores of real women, and helps you reflect on your experiences via journaling prompts, prayer exercises, and Scripture. Explore topics such as: *infertility testing *diagnosis *decision making *infertility treatment *miscarriage and pregnancy *pregnancy and childbirth after infertility *remaining childless *adoption *foster care, child sponsorship, and orphan hosting *and healing emotionally.

Written by six women who have completed their journey through infertility. Some eventually conceived and gave birth, others adopted, and others remain childless. But all of them have found peace in the loving arms of God. And you can too.

PURCHASE A WALK IN THE VALLEY HERE

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RESOLVE: Infertility Etiquette, Part 2 #NIAW

Posted by Julie on April 25, 2017 in About Me, encouragement, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |
Julie's note: April 23-29 is #NIAW---National Infertility Awareness Week. Although my infertility experiences are not recent, I remember the anguish, comments, and the devastation as if it were yesterday. I will be sharing information from RESOLVE.org in hopes of helping readers better understand infertility.

If you are looking for more personal resources, A WALK IN THE VALLEY is a workbook/devotional that takes readers through six different infertility experiences from diagnosis to doctors to where we are now. I am one of the authors and it is a raw, but helpful book I so wish had existed when I was hurting. You can purchase A WALK IN THE VALLEY HERE.

Infertility Etiquette

Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than seven million people of childbearing age in the United States experience infertility. Yet, as a society, we are woefully uninformed about how to best provide emotional support for our loved ones during this painful time.

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy’s nose and daddy’s eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

  • They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.

Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don’t know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

RESOLVE: Infertility Etiquette

Don’t Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant
For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don’t follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn’t ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.

Let’s face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families.

Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to “dream” about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later.

Don’t Gossip About Your Friend’s Condition
Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.

Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband’s sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend’s privacy, and don’t share any information that your friend hasn’t authorized.

Don’t Push Adoption (Yet)
Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a “stranger’s baby,” they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy’s eyes and Mommy’s nose. Adoption social workers recognize the importance of the grieving process. When my husband and I went for our initial adoption interview, we expected the first question to be, “Why do you want to adopt a baby?” Instead, the question was, “Have you grieved the loss of your biological child yet?” Our social worker emphasized how important it is to shut one door before you open another.

You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn’t her “own,” then adoption isn’t the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.

Mentioning adoption in passing can be a comfort to some couples. (The only words that ever offered me comfort were from my sister, who said, “Whether through pregnancy or adoption, you will be a mother one day.”) However, “pushing” the issue can frustrate your friend. So, mention the idea in passing if it seems appropriate, and then drop it. When your friend is ready to talk about adoption, she will raise the issue herself.

So, what can you say to your infertile friends? Unless you say “I am giving you this baby,” there is nothing you can say that will erase their pain. So, take that pressure off of yourself. It isn’t your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lessen the load. Here are a few ideas.

Let Them Know That You Care
The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren’t going through this alone.

Remember Them on Mother’s Day
With all of the activity on Mother’s Day, people tend to forget about women who cannot become mothers. Mother’s Day is an incredibly painful time for infertile women. You cannot get away from it-There are ads on the TV, posters at the stores, church sermons devoted to celebrating motherhood, and all of the plans for celebrating with your own mother and mother-in-law.

Mother’s Day is an important celebration and one that I relish now that I am a mother. However, it was very painful while I was waiting for my baby. Remember your infertile friends on Mother’s Day, and send them a card to let them know you are thinking of them. They will appreciate knowing that you haven’t “forgotten” them.

Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments
No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy’s nose and daddy’s eyes.

Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision. Don’t encourage them to try again, and don’t discourage them from adopting, if that is their choice. Once the couple has reached resolution (whether to live without children, adopt a child, or become foster parents), they can finally put that chapter of their lives behind them. Don’t try to open that chapter again.



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