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Book Review:What’s He Really Thinking? by: Paula Rinehart

bookcoverWhat’s He Really Thinking?: How to Be a Relational Genius with the Man in Your Life
By Paula Rinehart / Thomas Nelson

Understand your man’s heart and mind! Seasoned counselor Rinehart gives incredible insight into couples’ communication gaps. In her conversational style, she reveals how men think, why they do what they do, what they struggle with, and how you can respond to them in new ways to enrich your relationship. Includes in-depth Bible study and discussion questions. Paperback.

* How men think
* Why they do what they do
* What they struggle with

“What’s He Really Thinking? How to Be a Relational Genius with the Man in Your Life”  is a must have book in helping women to understand the men in their lives, whether it be your husbands, father, son, and even co-worker. Author and speaker Paula Reinhart does an exceptional job of  shedding light on common mis-communication that most men and woman struggle with on a daily basis.

The real stories, along with scientific research are perfect examples that explain situations or problems in way that would make perfectly good sense to the reader. Various topics also backed with scripture and prayer can be found amidst this resource. This book does great job at bringing us closer to finding peace and appreciating the differences of the men God has purposely brought into our lives.

I enjoyed this book and finished reading it in a matter of three days time. I hoping to apply everything I’ve read to my own life ,though I’m sure it won’t be easy. I want to learn how to Treasure the Moments, in building my relationships with the men in my life. I highly recommend this book to all women whether you be single or married.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

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The Attitude of Faith – Saying Yes to God’s Power in Your Life by Frank Damazio

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Attitude of Faith – Saying Yes to God’s Power in Your Life

Whitaker House (July 7, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Frank Damazio is known worldwide as a “minister to ministers” and for his volumes of written work including 30 books. Together with his wife Sharon he serves as pastor of City Bible Church, a thriving multi-site, multi-cultural church in Portland, OR. Pastor Damazio holds a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Oral Roberts University. He serves as president of Portland Bible College and vice president of Ministers Fellowship International, a network of pastors and missionaries from 45 countries.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741143
ISBN-13: 978-1603741149

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1

Yes to Expectation

Two men walked through an empty field. One saw exactly what he expected to see–nothing. He waded through tall weeds toward a desolate orange grove, thinking, What a useless wasteland! The other man bounced over the weeds with excited expectancy. ÒThis is it! This is the place! This is where my dreams come true! Can you see it? Over here is going to be a merry-go-round and over there I will put a roller coaster. This is what I have always wanted!Ó

The second man knew beyond the shadow of a doubt exactly what was going to happen with that empty field and its surrounding orange groves. He could not see it with his physical eyes, but he knew inside what it was going to look like, and he knew what it would take to make it happen. He could not see the dream; he could not touch it, but he lived with expectation for the day when it would become reality. It was a wild expectation that his friends laughed at, but today, that wild expectation is a multimillion-dollar theme park called Disneyland.

Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she has wild expectations. If Walt Disney had been willing to settle for a small dream, not only would Disneyland never have happened, but neither would have Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland Resort Paris in France, or Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

Have Great Expectations

What are your expectations for your life? Do you have high expectations or low expectations? Or do you not have any and not care? Are you excited about your future, or are you facing it with deep apprehension and perhaps with fear?

Say yes to expectation. Expectation determines what you will have in your life and future, but it also represents what you are willing to settle for. Are you going to settle for an empty field, or are you going to expect the fulfillment of the lifelong dream? Expectation is a very powerful force in your life, and you must learn how to cultivate it fully. If you believe that whatever you expect with faith and certainty will enter your life, then you will examine your expectation level and cultivate it to its highest potential.

Expectation is the power to have an idea that becomes so real that you see it and feel it before you can hold it. It is like a giant magnet that attracts what you expect into your life. Expectation empowers you to think the unthinkable and do the undoable, and it turns uncertain hoping into certainty.

Everyone has expectations, and these expectations come in a variety of sizes. Some are huge, such as the dream job, the business you hope to create, the person you dream of sharing your life with, or the family you hope to raise. You may have expectations about how you will live life, about your health, about your happiness, or about your level of success.

Expectation can be defined simply as fixing your eyes on the promised blessing with an eager anticipation of its arrival. An expectation is a strong desire that is filled with anticipation and confidence about obtaining what is expected. To live with expectation is to live with hope, dreams, imagination, and desires.

Desire Is a Strong Feeling with an Intentional Aim

Desire is more than just wishful thinking. It is the passionate and resolute determination of the will to achieve that which is sought. When you desire something, you long for it and crave it. You have a passion for it, yearn after it, and strive to obtain it. A desire is a concentration of deep feelings, and it often implies strong intention and aim. It is not simply a bland wish but a desperate yearning that will give anything to obtain that which is desired. Desire is a longing for something that saturates the entire soul.

Psalm 20:4 encourages us, ÒMay He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.Ó God can grant you your heart’s desire. The thing you long for–that which you earnestly and passionately reach for–God can give to you.

The famous evangelist D. L. Moody reportedly spoke these powerful words of expectation to his sons from his death bed: ÒIf God be your partner, make your plans large.Ó God is our partner, and our plans can and should be large. Will you allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see what God has in store for you?

Desire Is Focused in Christ

Psalm 37:4 says, ÒDelight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.Ó Desire is a God-given purposefulness for your life that is first fulfilled when you surrender your life to Christ and allow Him to take control. When you surrender to Jesus, you belong to Him, and He has the keys to your life’s fulfillment. As you allow Him to be the Lord of your life, and as you walk in obedience to Him, He will direct your path, focusing your desires into alignment with His will for your life. He will give you the strength and ability to see those desires become reality.

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ÒAnyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.Ó
(Mark 8:34-35 msg)

The disciples made the decision to walk away from their own desires and to follow Christ’s desires. We scarcely lack desire; we just focus it on the wrong things. Pure desire to follow Christ cannot be achieved until your desire for self is extinguished. Make a decision to focus your desire on loving and serving Christ; then, God will take your life and fill it with the desires that bring true success and true satisfaction.

Desire is anticipation that is founded in God, an attitude of the soul that believes in the greatness of God’s will and in His work yet to be done. It is the cry of the soul as heard in Jeremiah 33:3: ÒCall to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.Ó You cannot know God’s desires until you know Him and He reveals them to you.

You have a choice. You can slumber and sleep your way through life, or you can wake up and live life to the maximum. Life is meant to be filled up with all the great things God seeks to do for you, in you, and through you. Expectation is best received and lived out as you align your total life to God and His Word, living with abandonment to His desires for you and setting yourself to be in agreement with God. Jeremiah 29:11 declares,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Expect Good Things from God

This is the part of your life I hope to help you change. I want to see you begin to grasp–or recover–real, heart-felt expectation. I want you to recover your will to desire. Without the power to desire something good, you will have great trouble nurturing expectation for your life.

Proverbs 10:24 says, ÒThe fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted,Ó and Proverbs 13:12 states, ÒHope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.Ó

Hope by itself does not bring expectation. Desire by itself cannot bring expectation. It is the desire to see the promises fulfilled, fueled by faith in God, that brings a sense of expectation. The power to hope comes from a faith in God and a belief that He is good and that He will be good to you.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
(Romans 15:13 msg)

The Best Is Yet to Come

A story is commonly told about a terminally ill woman who had three months left to live. She was the last person you would expect to have hope, but hope is exactly what she had. She sat down with her pastor and discussed her own funeral arrangements–her favorite songs to be sung, the Scriptures to be read, the dress to be buried in, and finally, the most important part of the funeral arrangements: ÒWhen you place me in the casket, put a fork in my hand.Ó

The pastor sat there, his mind racing as he tried to figure out how to respond. Was she beginning to lose her mind?

The woman smiled at him and explained, ÒWhen I was a little girl and we had guests for dinner, I always waited with bated breath at the end of the meal. Sometimes, my mother would simply clear the dishes, and the adults would sit around and talk. But sometimes, my mother would say, ‘Keep your fork,’ as she picked up the plates. Then, I would get excited, because I knew that the best part of the meal was coming. It could be my grandmother’s deep-dish apple pie or my mother’s velvet chocolate cake, but it was always the best part of the evening.Ó

Her eyes glistened with joyful tears as she continued, ÒAs my family and friends come to my funeral and see me lying in the casket with the fork in my hand, I want you to give them a message from me. Tell them that I said I’m keeping my fork because the best is yet to come.Ó

As you read Romans 15:13 again, I want you to reach out and take hold of it in faith, knowing that the best is yet to come.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (msg)

What Are God’s Thoughts toward You?

Before you read any further, think about that question. What are God’s thoughts toward you? What does He think about you? What does He have planned for your life? What desires does He want to plant into your heart? What does He want you to expect?

You have been called to greatness. You must grasp how good God is and how great His thoughts are toward you. Right expectation is rooted in God’s thoughts, intentions, and purposes for your life. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells you what His thoughts are toward you.

ÒFor My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,Ó says the Lord. ÒFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.Ó

You have been called to walk through doors of opportunity that you have not yet seen. God said He has plans for your future, and they are good plans. Expect good things from God. Expect Him to open new doors for your life. As you travel on your personal Christian road, God will set doors of opportunity in front of you for your personal life, your family, your business, your relationships, and your church. In Revelation 3:8, Christ declared,

I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

Let me paraphrase this verse. ÒI have set before you an open door, and it will remain open until you are able to enter it. You will enter in sooner than you think, and when your moment of opportunity comes, your strength will not be wasted in efforts to make the conditions favorable. You will enter in at once because I have opened the door!Ó

Expect to open new doors of faith adventures that will necessitate getting out of your comfort zone, the area where you feel the most comfortable trusting God. Getting out of your comfort zone requires a leap of faith. When the door is open, move through it. Take a risk. Move into the unknown. To find bigger oceans, you must not be afraid to lose sight of the shore.

What doors might the Lord open for you if you expect some new doors? What doors have you ignored or fastened with a ÒNo EntranceÓ sign, even though you could hear God saying, ÒGo through the doorÓ? Expect new doors. Knock on doors of opportunity and keep knocking.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7 nlt)

Personal Testimony

Mark and Jennifer,
Married Couple in Their Thirties

Since our courtship time, we knew that God would lead us to adopt. We decided that we would have three children and then adopt a fourth. After twelve years of marriage without children and the disappointments and heartbreaking effects of infertility, it seemed that our dream of a family would never happen. That is when the Lord told us in a very clear way that we should start the adoption process, so we did. In our quest for the rest of our family, we faced even more heartbreak.

While we waited, we even built a four-bedroom house to have room for our children, knowing for sure that they were coming. We didn’t expect this new season of adoption to be even harder than infertility! We were to adopt twin baby boys, and we waited excitedly for their birth. The day they were born, the fifteen-year-old birth mother changed her mind, and our hopes were crushed. We knew all along that God wanted us to have children. We just didn’t know when, who, or how, so we pressed on in what seemed to be an uphill battle, trusting and believing that the Lord was the one who would form our family.

After we had spent two years of looking for our children, God gave us a set of four–yes, four–siblings. They had been in foster care for two years, and we were chosen as their placement family. What a joyful day it was when we brought them home! A couple weeks after they arrived, we found out that one of the birth parents was trying to get our four-year-old back! After several months, he decided to relinquish all parental rights. We are now a family of six, with a house reverberating with noise and overflowing with love.

Expectation Requires Faith

Cultivate an optimistic faith outlook based on God’s desires for you and His commitment to you. Psalm 37:23 promises, ÒThe steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.Ó Tell yourself, ÒMy steps are ordered by God Almighty. My life and future are in His hands. I expect good things to happen, and I declare the greatness of God to be released upon my life. The same God who has supported me in the past, who met the needs of those in Scripture, who faithfully takes care of other people today, can do the same thing for me.Ó

Faith is an exceedingly hopeful perspective of confidence and trust.

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Expectation moves us to pray for great things from God. This is the attitude that is constantly diligent in fully expecting God to do the impossible. Remember: if God be your partner, make your plans large.

How is your expectation right now, today, at this precise moment? How filled with faith and expectation are you about your future? Do you have a heart that throbs with deep feelings of hope and a great outlook on the future? Do you believe Psalm 16:6? ÒThe lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.Ó Do you believe Ephesians 3:20? ÒNow to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in usÉ.Ó

The Enemies of Expectation

Natalie’s dream was to become part of the Olympic swim team. She spent hours training and preparing, expecting to make the team. At age sixteen, she barely missed qualifying for the 2000 Sydney games but knew that she could make the 2004 games. But in 2001, she was hit by a car, crushing her left leg.

If you had known Natalie, which of the following two responses would you have given her? The first option is, ÒDon’t give up. You can still expect to qualify for the Olympics. You still have a chance.Ó The second is, ÒThat’s one dream that has died. Such a shame. She gave her whole life to one dream and then had that dream crushed in a few short seconds. What a waste! She will never know what she could have done if she had not had that accident. She will never reach her full potential or come close to realizing her dreams.Ó

Expectation doesn’t just drop into your lap without a fight. When you begin to look to the future with faith, when you begin to step through new doors of opportunity, there will be challenges and adversaries. In 1 Corinthians 16:9, Paul stated, ÒA great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.Ó

Natalie had many adversaries. Her first adversary was her physical limitations. She was a swimmer with only one leg. Her other adversaries were her own doubts, fears, and the negative words that others spoke to her, telling her that her dream was over. Her expectation should have been crushed with her leg, but it was not. She refused to give up. She continued working out, doing physical therapy, and eventually began to train again. In 2008, she qualified for and went to the Beijing Olympics.

Expectation is willing to take on the adversaries that lie in wait at the doors of new opportunity. In The Message Bible, 1 Corinthians 16:9 reads, ÒA huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. There is also mushrooming opposition.Ó The Amplified Bible says it this way: ÒA wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries.Ó

The Hebrew word for adversary contains the idea of someone who fights against you and endeavors to shackle you and push you into a tight and cramped place where you have no way out. Your adversary hates you and is determined to defeat and overcome you. He is your enemy. What adversaries stand between you and your open door? What adversaries endeavor to bind and limit your opportunities? What is it that tries to defeat you and prevent you from seeing your expectations become realities?

1. The Enemy of Expectation Is Fear and Worry

Walter Chrysler, founder of Chrysler Motor Company, had a box sitting on his desk. Every time he worried about something, he would not deal with it then but would write it down and put it in the box to deal with the following week. When he opened the box later, he would find that most of the worries from the previous week had already resolved themselves without any ongoing concern or attention on his part.

The word worry can mean Òto choke or strangle.Ó The idea is to harass by tearing at or disturbing repeatedly. It is a nagging persistence that drains you of energy. The things you worry about and the fear you bring upon yourself must not be allowed to have power over your life or rob you of expecting great things from God.

What are the things that persistently whisper in the back of your mind? What are the nagging worries and fears that eat at you? Peter tells us, ÒGive all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about youÓ (1 Peter 5:7 nlt).

A farmer was sitting on his porch and looking at his fields when a friend stopped by to visit. Any conversation between two farmers inevitably comes around to their crops, so the friend asked, ÒHow’s your wheat?Ó

The farmer replied, ÒAin’t got none. Figured the weevils would get into the wheat and ruin me, so I didn’t plant any.Ó

The friend nodded his understanding and asked, ÒSo, how about your corn?Ó

ÒAin’t got none,Ó was the reply. ÒDidn’t plant any because I was afraid the crows would eat it and ruin me.Ó

ÒWell, what about your potatoes?Ó

ÒAin’t got none of them, neither. Was afraid to plant ’em because the ‘tater bugs will get to ’em, and I’d be ruined.Ó

By now, the friend was perplexed. ÒWell, what did you plant this year?Ó

ÒNothing. I just played it safe.Ó

Don’t allow your worries to determine your future! If you play it safe, you will have nothing. So throw all your hopes and all your fears into God’s hands and know that He cares about you.

2. The Enemy of Expectation Is Negativity

Expectation can be drowned easily in our lives by tragedy or disappointment. A sense of hopelessness or failure can kill the desire or ability to expect things to change. Deep inside, a voice whispers, ÒYou want to be somebody, but it’s not going to happen.Ó In the inner place of your soul, deep in your heart, a war rages against expectation with thoughts such as, You don’t have a chance. It’s just not going to happen. Life is against you, so give up. You can’t recover from this. People like you should never have dreams like this. Why expect anything when you know you will be disappointed?

Proverbs 4:12 promises, ÒWhen you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.Ó Do not let pessimism hinder your steps from fulfilling your God-given expectations. Dread and fear feed a pessimistic attitude that seeks to make God smaller than your problems. Pessimism makes it easy for you to visualize a negative outcome for your life and then live in a way that fulfills that negative outcome.

Say no! This is not what God desires for your life. Make a concrete decision to remove the negative spirit, attitudes, and thoughts from your life. The mind-set that says, ÒGod is not for me,Ó is destructive and is an expectation killer. Do not allow yourself to become a doom and gloom forecaster of your own life. A negative outlook builds a wrong mind-set that dominates your thinking and results in a negative belief that your expectations cannot and will not come to pass. Compare the size of your problems to the greatness of God. The size of your God must grow!

3. The Enemy of Expectation Is Apathy

Another adversary of expectation is an apathetic mind-set that resists change and is content with the status quo. The attitude that thinks expectation costs too much thinks things like this: It requires breaking habit patterns that are impossible to stop. It requires change–and maybe the cost won’t be worth the reward. It is safer not to dream, not to hope, and not to expect good, because you will be disappointed. Instead, be satisfied with where you are today, and do not expect anything better for tomorrow.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the primary crop in Alabama was cotton. As you traveled across the state, cotton fields stretched out as far as you could see. Then, in 1915, the boll weevil immigrated into Alabama from Mexico and began a rampage of destruction. By 1918, farmers were losing entire crops and going bankrupt.

A man named H. M. Sessions refused to give up and determined that the success of his small town depended on finding a new crop to plant. After research, he determined that peanut farming would restore the town’s agricultural success. The problem was that the local farmers had planted cotton their entire lives, their fathers had planted nothing but cotton before them, and their grandfathers had planted cotton before their fathers. They did not want to take the risk and try something new. It took Sessions a year to find someone who was willing to buck the status quo and plant this brand-new crop. One year later, those who had followed Sessions had paid off their debts and were in the black. All of the other farmers quickly followed suit, and not only the town but the entire county was saved from bankruptcy.

All people have boll weevil times in their lives. Things are at a dead end, and the problems facing them are huge. It is easier simply to give up than to expect that something better is ahead. It is easier to keep doing what you are doing than to risk something new to discover God’s best.

If you are in a boll weevil time, you must remember that you were created for more than this! God has a plan for your life, and it is a plan for a good future–a future of hope and fulfilled expectations. (See Jeremiah 29:11.) God promises that hope placed in Him is hope that will not bring disappointment. It is hope fulfilled.

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(Romans 5:5)

Abraham Overcame Discouragement

Be like Abraham. In Genesis 13, Lot had just turned his back on Abraham and walked away. Abraham had treated him like a son and had given him everything, and Lot had washed his hands of their relationship and walked out. Abraham could have given up. He could have cried out to God, ÒOh God, I’m so discouraged. My family has left me all alone in a strange country. I have nothing to show for it. Maybe I should just go back to Ur, where life was easier before You called me out here to this strange land.Ó What did God tell Abraham during this time?

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ÒLift your eyes now and look from the place where you are; northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.Ó
(Genesis 13:14-15)

Lift up your eyes and look out from the place where you are. Do not wait for things to look perfect before you begin to develop hope and expectation. Start now. Look from where you are right now. Look north, south, east, and west from right where you are, because that is the land that God is going to give you.

By faith Abraham, while he was being called, obeyed to go out into a place which he was about to be receiving as an inheritance, and he went out, not troubling his mind as to where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner without rights of citizenship in the land of the promise as in a land not his own, having settled down to live in tents with Isaac and Jacob, joint-heirs with him of the promise, the same one, for he was constantly waiting for and expecting the city having the foundations, the architect and builder of which is God.
(Hebrews 11:8-10 wuest)

Abraham had an expectation that God was going to fulfill His promise and that the land was going to belong to him and his descendants. Hebrews says he was Òconstantly waiting for and expectingÓ the fulfillment of the promise. Abraham did not allow fear of the future, worry about the present, or regret about the failures of the past deter him from that attitude of faith and expectation in God.

Abraham knew that his chances of becoming a father were diminishing as he got older, but he persistently held to the promise God had given him of being the father of many nations. Even though he had walked away from a land of comfort and ease, Abraham knew in faith that he would see the promise fulfilled. And Scripture never shows him looking back to the land of his forefathers. Instead, he always looked ahead for the city whose Òarchitect and builderÉis God.Ó

Life is filled with expectation robbers–people and circumstances that seek to steal your expectations. Fear and anxiety grip people’s minds with uncertainty and fear of what may happen, overshadowing hope. One of the great challenges of life is to lift yourself out of your current circumstances and rise up to the level that your expectation can take you.

Jabez Overcame Negativity

Jabez had an excellent reason to have low expectations. When his mother named him, she did not give him a name that indicated she had great hopes for his future. She named him for pain, sorrow, and affliction. (See 1 Chronicles 4:9.) He was not reminded of who he could be; instead, he was constantly reminded of the pain he had caused. Yet Jabez was not content to live within those low expectations.

Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ÒOh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!Ó So God granted him what he requested.
(1 Chronicles 4:10)

Jabez had large expectations that God could surpass the stigma placed on him by others. He believed that God would bless him and use him to be a blessing to others.

God’s blessings for us are limited only by ourselves–not by His resources, power, or willingness to give. Refuse any obstacle, person, or opinion that restricts your expectations for your future. There are great, God-given opportunities before you, great open doors, and great rewards lying within your reach. Stretch. Expect. Believe. Persist. Possess.

The culture around you says, ÒDon’t get your hopes up. You may be disappointed. Aim low and be safe.Ó You have to break away from the autopilot of the masses that settles for the ordinary life, the no-hope life, the aim-low-and-be-happy life. This is not the expectation that God has for your life. Think of yourself as the pregnant mother who expects only the best from her pregnancy. With her imagination, she is able to live the result in magnificent detail until, eventually, the baby is born and she physically holds her ÒexpectationÓ in her arms.

You do not need a high IQ, special skills, or an amazing education to raise your expectation. You simply must make a decision to partner with God and His Word and to believe what He says about you and your future. Lift your vision to match God’s vision for your life. Decide. Expect. Change. Lift your vision and take the limitations off your life.

Ruth Overcame Apathy

When Naomi’s husband and sons died, her two daughters-in-law were faced with a difficult choice. If they stayed in their homeland, they returned to the security of their families, but it was security with a limited future. They were widows, but they were widows with family who would care for them. If they chose to go with Naomi, they risked losing everything.

When Ruth chose to follow Naomi back to Israel, she walked away from a life of security into a life of the unknown. As a widow in a foreign land, she had no husband, no family, and no protector. There was no security for her future and no reason for her to expect anything other than an arduous and lonely life.

Ruth refused to give in to apathy and reluctance to change. She declared to Naomi, ÒYour God will be my GodÓ (Ruth 1:16 nlt), and she walked into the unknown with the confident expectation that she had all she needed for a full life. In so doing, she walked into a future that extended past her present-day fulfillment of a life with a rich and good man, Boaz, and into the fulfillment of being the great-grandmother of the king of Israel and part of the lineage of Jesus.

Simeon Overcame Prolonged Waiting

Luke 2 tells the story of Simeon, who expected to see the Messiah before he died. He waited for years with an attitude of expectancy for the fulfillment of that promise. He did not give up, but he persevered in waiting, expecting, and knowing that God would fulfill His promise.

When he finally held the child Jesus in his arms, he said, ÒLord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvationÓ (Luke 2:29-30). He had waited for years, faithfully coming to the temple, knowing that if God had told him this was going to happen, it was as good as done. There was no doubt, no questioning, no fear–only a simple faith that God would do all He had promised.

Don’t Give Up

Abraham could have spent his life looking back at Ur of the Chaldeans in regret for what he had left. Ruth could have looked back to the life that she could have had in her home country. Simeon could have looked back at a long and happy life and been satisfied with settling for the blessings he had already received. But none of these people was content to settle. None was willing to give up his or her expectations. They set their faith in the God who does not change, who promises and fulfills every word. They set their hope on His words and lived lives of expectation, alert and waiting for the fulfillment of all that He had spoken.

Whatever your situation is today, whatever you fear in the future, whatever you regret from the past, lay them aside and fix your eyes on God. Set your hopes on Him. Place your faith in His Word. Focus your life and your desires on Him. The best is yet to come.

Prayer of Expectation

Lord, I believe that You are good and that You desire to release into my life wonderful, unimaginable, miraculous, great, and mighty things. Today, I pray with large expectations by the power of the Holy Spirit. Enlarge my vision. Increase my faith. Secure my future. Amen.

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FIRST: Love’s Rescue (The Sierra Chronicles Book 1) by Tammy Barley

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Love’s Rescue (The Sierra Chronicles Book 1)

Whitaker House (June 4, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tammy Barley’s roots run deep and wide across the United States. With Cherokee heritage and such ancestors as James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, she inherited her literary vocation and her preferred setting: the Wild West. An avid equestrian, Tammy has ridden horseback over western mountains and rugged trails in Arizona and uses these experiences liberally in her writing. Tammy excelled in her college writing studies, and in 2006 published Beautiful Feet: Meditations for Missionary Women. She won second place in the Golden Rose Contest in the category of inspiration romance, and she serves as a judge for various fiction contests. Tammy is a full time writer and editor who manages to find time to homeschool her there children at her home in northern Illinois.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (June 4, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741089
ISBN-13: 978-1603741088

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue

Carson City, Nevada Territory

April 1860

She was going to lose him. With trembling fingers, Jessica Hale pushed back the brown tendrils of hair the wind was whipping into her eyes. Further down the road, her brother handed the last of his cases to the driver on top of the stagecoach, then tossed his hat through the window onto a seat with an air of resolve. He turned and strode toward her.

His wavy, wind-tossed hair gleamed brightly in the morning sun, its sandy hue like gold coins dulled intermittently by shifting dust. His sky-blue eyes—eyes that gleamed with subtle mockery or shone with patient understanding—now attempted to disguise unspoken regret. He smoothed a hand over each of the sorrel coach horses and calmly took in the young town he was leaving behind. Jessica knew better. He was going to miss this—the town, their parents. But his heart called him home. Ambrose was every inch a Kentucky gentleman. He always had been. Her throat tightened.

“Jessica?”

She couldn’t help but smile. Jessica. Like always, he spoke her name with that deep, flowing timbre that made her think of the brook they had often played in as children.

“Now, what is that smile for?”

“I’ll miss the sound of your voice. It’s so pleasant.”

“It is?” Ambrose’s eyes sparkled at her in amusement. “You never told me that before.”

“Well, now you know.” She loved the Southern lilt of it, the quiet honor he wore just as naturally as his greatcoat. She took a deep breath to steady herself. “Are your bags loaded, then?”

“They are. The driver was kind enough to strap them down. With the rough going, I’ll get bounced out long before they will.”

Her smile faded. “Perhaps you should stay.”

“Jess….” Ambrose patiently drew her hand through the crook of his arm and tipped his head toward the road. “We have a few minutes left before the stage leaves. Let’s walk for a bit.”

Jess sighed in frustration but complied, letting her head fall against his shoulder as they walked. At the edge of town, she looked back at Carson City’s wide streets, lazy with the long, morning shadows of tall buildings and newly built frames that smelled of sawn wood. One by one, other pedestrians appeared, striding briskly; then came rattling wagons, kicking up trails of dust this way and that. The wind whipped at Jess’s skirt and Ambrose’s coat, cavorting among the silvery green desert sage leaves that fluttered around them. The sights and sensations that usually intrigued her had amalgamated into one frolicking, singing fool, playing cruelly to her burdened heart.

Jess’s gaze followed the road out of town, then lifted to rest on the peaks that rose high above. The Mexican people called these mountains the Sierra Nevadas—the snowy mountains. When she had come West with her family a year before, Jess had thought them magnificent. In a wild, untamed way, they reminded her of the Kentucky homeland they had left behind. Instead of the rolling green hills and broadleaf forests she had always known, the Sierras jutted boldly from the desert like a rare stone half buried in sand. Depending on the angle of the sun, their terrain was a glorious red or gold.

For a moment, Jess merely breathed, drawing in the fresh scent of the pinyon pines that dotted the distant slopes and mingled with the earthy aroma of sage. Only a few months ago, winter had prevailed, and so had the glittering snows on the Sierras.

Ambrose, dear Ambrose—had understood her need to be outdoors. He’d convinced their father a time or two to excuse him from work, then would take her riding amid the stark beauty of the mountains.

Their father.

Jess frowned, pushing back strands of hair that had torn from their heavy twist and were stinging her eyes. A brusque but shrewd businessman and horse breeder from Lexington, their father had brought the family West to escape the growing turbulence in the South, and here, his import business thrived. With the recent discovery of untold millions of dollars in gold and silver buried in the land, the eager-to-be-rich swarmed to the Comstock from every major seaport in the world. Those fortunate enough to strike a vein of the mother lode scrambled to Hale Imports to stake their claims in society by acquiring French wines, Venetian glassware, Turkish carpets, and handcrafted furnishings made of dark German wood.

A golden dream for many, perhaps, but not for Jess. Her family had considerable wealth, but possessions beyond life’s basic comforts didn’t matter to her. What did matter were her father, her mother, and her brother, Ambrose, and the strength they had always given one another in face of the threat of war between North and South.

And the threat had become considerable.

Jess tightened her grip on Ambrose’s arm. He patted her hand reassuringly.

Worse, her family hadn’t left war fever behind as her father had hoped they would. Its effects were sweeping across the

country like the unstoppable waves of the sea. Miners and other men in town chose sides as the conflict loomed nearer. Heated political discussions often erupted into fistfights in the streets. In the same way, tension had escalated within the Hale family as their loyalties divided. And now, Ambrose was about to return to Lexington—against his father’s will—to rejoin his militia unit. It was predicted that war would break out within a year. Two days earlier, when Ambrose had announced to Jess and their parents his intent to fight for the South, Jess had stood strong—stunned but unflinching. The announcement was followed by two days of her father and brother yelling and her mother pleading. A lifetime of paternal love was burning to cinders.

Their father was still so angry about his son’s decision that he had refused to see him to the stage stop, coldly disallowing all but the briefest of good-byes between mother and son.

Jess finally broke the silence. “I thought this place would be the answer, Ambrose. I thought here we would be safe from the war.” She stopped walking and tossed him a valiant smile. “What will I do without you?”

Ambrose considered her soberly. She’d hoped he would tease her gently. Not this time. “You’re seventeen now, Jess. At seventeen, most ladies stop concerning themselves with their families and set their eyes on marriage.”

“Marriage? Marriage! How could you suggest that?” She flung aside her earlier self-promise to remain calm. “This particular subject has never come up before, but since it has, let me tell you, Ambrose, I don’t need a husband to manage my life and order me about.”

“Jess—”

“I know you want to protect me, and I love you for it. But the South and its marrying traditions are a great distance away. Here, women are strong and independent”—she fought

to control the anger in her voice— “and so am I. I’ve seen too many wives’ hopes destroyed by their husbands’ selfish wants and ambitions. I could never live my life under some man’s boot heel. I’ll make my way on my own.”

Ambrose gave her a reluctant smile. “All right. There’s no talking you into an idea your mind is set against. Keep yourself busy, then. Tell Father you want to keep books at Hale Imports. You’ve been schooled the same as I have. You’ll do well.”

Jess’s legs nearly gave out. “Keeping his accounts is your job!” Ambrose wasn’t coming back at all—not even after the war. She really was going to lose him.

“No, Jess. Not anymore.” He shifted his gaze to the territory around them. “This place has never fit me the way it has you. That house in Kentucky is our house. Its lands are Hale lands. I was born and raised at Greenbriar, and so were you. That’s my home, Jess.” He faced her squarely. “When the war comes, I’ll defend it, whether the invading army is from the North or the South.”

Jess’s throat ached to beg him to stay. Their friendship was special, rare, in spite of growing up together amid talk of secession and war. Or perhaps because of it. She wanted to keep her brother close—and safe. Yet she forced down the urge to give words to her feelings. Ambrose’s blood flowed for Greenbriar, for Lexington. A year away hadn’t changed that. Yes, she loved him. Enough to understand that. Enough to let him go.

“I guess I always knew you’d go back,” she admitted, “and I understand, I really do. I just hate knowing that you’ll be right in the middle of the fighting.” She raised a hand. “And I hate that Father’s turned his back on you when you need him most! How could he do that to you? How could he do that to Mother?”

All at once, she knew. “He’s doing this because of Broderick, isn’t he?”

Broderick had died as a baby, when Jess was only five. Even now, she could clearly remember holding her little brother as his fever raged, could remember how helpless she had felt when she’d lain awake at night listening to his pathetic coughs in the nursery down the hall. Jess had been devastated when he died, but their mother…their mother had never been the same. Her joy and laughter Jess knew about only because Ambrose had told her of the way she had once been.

Ambrose acknowledged the fact. “Father doesn’t think Mother could bear to lose another son.”

Jess nodded slowly. “Then you’d best stay alive.”

The corner of his sandy mustache lifted. “You’re a Hale, that’s for certain. Idealistic and stubborn, through and through.”

“Hopefully stubborn enough to get through to Father. You know I can’t let things remain the way they are between the two of you.”

“Jess, I’d like to warn you against—”

“That would be pointless.” At his gentle frown of censure, she ordered her thoughts and explained. “For as long as I can remember, you were the one who held our family together. Not Father. Even when he was home, it was not Mother or anyone else, but you. You reasoned with Father when business made him unreasonable, you were a constant comfort to Mother, and you sat by my bed at night when storms and thunder threatened to shake the house apart.”

“You just wanted company while you were awake.” He lightly tugged a lock of her hair in a teasing way. “You never feared storms or anything else.”

“For the past few years, I’ve feared the coming war.” She lifted her chin and, with a mental step forward that she would never retrace, left the remnants of her childhood behind. “You won’t be here to keep us together. Now I’ll take your place and do what you’ve always done, and rely on solid Hale

determination to see me through. Ambrose, don’t worry about Mother, or about Father’s anger at your decision to go. I’ll hold our family together, and I’ll do all I can to change his heart.”

Gratitude battled concern in his face as he studied his sister, but Jess knew that he also understood firsthand the inborn loyalty that drove her. “Just be careful you don’t jeopardize your relationship with him on my account,” he said.

“I will be careful.”

There was a movement near the stagecoach. A mailbag was slung aboard.

Jess’s heart lurched. It was almost time for him to go.

Ambrose patted her hand and looked intently into her eyes. “I don’t know when I’ll see you again. We’d better say good­bye.”

“No!” She shook her head, fighting sudden tears. “I won’t say good-bye.”

“Jess, I don’t want to frighten you, but if the war comes—”

“Then the war will end! Ambrose, if we say good-bye, it’s as if we won’t see each other again. I can’t do that. I have to believe—I have to know—that one day you’ll come back.”

“Believe it,” he said, his gaze firm beneath his brows, “because I intend to.”

She tightened her grip until it pained her. “Then we don’t say good-bye?”

He hesitated, then shook his head to assure her. “We don’t say good-bye.”

Suddenly, Jess recalled what she had wanted to do. With a quick tug, she untied the green satin ribbon of the pendant necklace she wore, slipped the ribbon free, and pressed it into his hand. “I’ll want that back one day,” she said. “Until then, keep the best memories of us all close to your heart.”

Ambrose smiled and tucked the ribbon into his shirt pocket with a little pat. “I can’t think of a better place to put them.”

Another movement drew her gaze. The coach driver climbed into his seat.

“Ambrose?”

“Pray for me, Jess. I’ll write to you as often as I can, I promise.”

Ambrose hurried toward the stage, Jess’s hand tucked in his. At the door, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her warmly.

“Will you write to me?”

Jess buried her face into the gray cloth of his coat. “Just try to stop me.”

He kissed the top of her head, briefly hugged her tighter, and then stepped away.

After Ambrose had swung aboard the coach, he turned and leaned out the window. His blue eyes shone. “The Lord has a plan, Jess!” he called. “Remember that!”

The driver cracked the reins and the six-in-hand pulled the stage away from Carson City, away from her. Jess watched until the coach disappeared through a pass in the mountains.

Keep him safe, Lord, she prayed. Whatever lies ahead, please keep him safe.

It was all she could do not to run for her horse and go after him.

Near Perryville, Kentucky

October 1862

His boots firm in the stirrups, Ambrose leaned over the heaving neck of the mare as he charged into the sunlit field. Well-muscled and dappled gray, the mare tore up stones with her thrashing hooves while Ambrose’s cotton shirt ballooned

behind him and snapped in the blowing heat. His fear for General Bragg’s paltry command of sixteen thousand burned like liquid fire in his belly, and with heartrending despair, he recalled Mr. Lincoln’s reputed strong conviction that “to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.”

His colonel’s rapidly scrawled reconnaissance report was secured in a leather pouch tucked into his waistband. It was the only warning Bragg would have that the Yankee advance at Frankfort was merely a diversion, and that the whole of General Buell’s Union army was, in fact, moving toward Bragg’s position. Buell meant to take Kentucky.

The enemy was fifty-five thousand strong.

Sixteen thousand up against fifty-five. Ambrose whipped a sleeve across his forehead to blot the sweat seeping from underneath his hat. If he didn’t reach Bragg in time for the general to pull back and regroup, Kentucky would fall to the Federals—and to their torches. Ambrose tilted his head to hear the distant pum, pum of cannon fire.

Fields dotted with white and blue wildflowers blurred by. This was his home, his land, and now, Greenbriar was his, too. Ambrose frowned as he recalled the letter written by his stiff-necked, outraged father—the sole one he’d sent—in which he had given him Greenbriar. His father intended the house as an accusatory monument to the heritage he believed his son had betrayed by ultimately fighting for the South. But to Ambrose, if Greenbriar survived the war, it would again become his home, his livelihood, and the place his old bones would be laid. He yearned to fall in love there, to marry there, to raise children amid all its gurgling streams and grassy paddocks. Children who would love it as he always had, and as Jess had.

Memories intruded—memories of the day Jess was born and the moment he first held her. He had been seven, and the tiny, warm bundle that stared up at him with curious green eyes had

captivated his heart. As she grew, it was to him that she would come for comfort and advice; with him, she shared her inmost thoughts. He had taught her more about the person she could become than their parents ever had, and she had matched his strength and dedication toward those whom she loved.

Now, Jess was his proponent and confidante. She wrote to him as often as he wrote to her, discreetly hiding his letters from their father. He knew many of their letters never made it through enemy lines since, in letters he did receive, Jess frequently referred to events he was unaware of, as well as to war news he had previously penned. Even so, they both persisted in sending them. As promised, she patiently worked to sway their father’s heart toward his son.

And she remained firm in her belief that her brother would survive the war.

His mind turned to the letter he had written to her only a few hours ago. He imagined her reading it at night by candlelight, the flame’s glow illuminating her casually knotted hair, highlighting the loose strands she rarely bothered with. He could almost hear the smooth flow of her Southern voice as if she were reading it aloud.

My dearest Jessica,

Like others here, I often look ahead to the end of the

war and dream of what I will do after.

For me, it has never been a question. The day I muster

out, I will come without hesitation to all of you there, to

make up lost years of brothering for you and baby Emma,

and to find a way to repair the damage between Father

and me. I will remain until Mother’s worries for me have

gone, and she sees her family healed. Until then, Jessica,

you must continue to convey to her news of my well-being,

and tell her of my unflagging determination to return to you all.

Then, as Grandfather would have wished for me to do, I will come back home to Greenbriar and rebuild what the war has ruined. I’ll fill its paddocks again with the prized horseflesh that has always graced its lands.

I yearn to walk again the brick path leading to the porch, to step into the downstairs hall and feel it welcome me home,…

Startled, Ambrose entered a town huddled beneath a haze of smoke. Perryville! The mare was slick with sweat and foam, but she had a bold heart, the likes of which he’d rarely seen in an animal. Spying a cluster of saddled mounts, Ambrose halted before a red brick house. The gray tugged at the reins while he listened to a soldier’s instructions on how to find General Bragg.

Ambrose immediately headed northwest on the river road. The roar of battle grew deafening. Yankee wounded and dead lay scattered over the hills.

He topped a rise. Below, gray-clad soldiers swarmed through thick smoke into the enemy, several falling beside their comrades. All around, cannon shells burst in sprays of jagged metal and earth.

“Lord in heaven,” Ambrose murmured, “help us all.”

Urging the mare along a path behind the lines, Ambrose ducked the whizzing cannon fire. He pulled out his leather pouch and withdrew the message.

…to throw open the nursery doors where we played, and step into the sunshine flowing through the window glass. Do you remember how we watched from that high

window the newborn foals bounding about? And the way you were ever leaning over the sill for a better look, know­ing that I would hold you safe? After the war I must find myself a young lady, and convince her that we should fill the room anew with children’s laughter.…

A cannon shell exploded, and a terrible pressure struck his chest. The mare screamed. Groaning through his teeth, Ambrose clung to her neck. To the west, rifles barked flashes of orange as men in blue and gray surged into their enemies.

Ambrose pressed forward, searching the high ridges for the familiar starred collar and white-streaked beard of General Bragg.

…Lastly, I admit to looking ahead to sharing my life with someone who, like you, will write to me when I must be away, who will hold warm thoughts of me in my absence. I pray she may ever keep hope alive for our children that I will return to them, just as you, my sister, have done for our family. You have kept me alive through this war, Jess, for I know one by whom I will always be loved, always be remembered fondly, and always be welcomed home.…

Ambrose kicked the gray forward with all the strength he had. Fortunately, she lunged in response, not wavering at the unsteady weight on her back. Ambrose fought through the thickening fog in his mind and gripped the dispatch tighter.

A sudden burning burst along his thigh, and the smoky daylight and soldiers’ movements began to dim. Beneath him, the mare pulled ahead, pitching like a rocking chair. He imagined the stern face of General Bragg turning in surprise as he approached.

…I keep your ribbon in my pocket and frequently feel it

there. When I think of you, as I often do, the single thought

that comes is this: I cannot wait to see you again.…

He felt himself reaching out to her, to Jess. Wanting to see her one more time, to tell her how dear she was to him, had always been. He was fading. The message. He couldn’t feel it. Did the general receive the message?

Ambrose no longer knew what direction the mare took but threaded his fingers through her mane, imagining he was weaving hands with Jess.

…Your ever loving brother,…

No sky fell under his eyes; he saw only a lone field of dappled gray, oddly crossed with streams of red.

“Jess…,” he rasped.

Ambrose.

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FIRST: Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Menu for Romance

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kaye Dacus likes to say she writes “inspirational romance with a sense of humor.” She lives in Nashville and graduated from Seton Hill University’s Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. She is an active member and former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her Stand-In Groom novel took second place in the 2006 ACFW Genesis writing competition.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160260455X
ISBN-13: 978-1602604551

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Happy New Year!”

Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight. . .or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel—the cavernous, sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana—and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss.

A short burst of static over the earpiece startled her out of her regrets.

“Mere, we’re going to set up the coffee stations and dessert tables.” The executive chef’s rich, mellow voice filled her ear.

She clicked the button on the side of the wireless headset. “Thanks, Major.” Turning her gaze back to the main room, she tapped the button again. “Let’s slowly start bringing the houselights back up. I want us at full illumination around twelve thirty.” She strolled into the ballroom, the floor now covered with shiny metallic confetti, the hundreds of guests milling about wishing each other a happy New Year. Out on the dance floor, a large group of men stood swaying, arms about shoulders, singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the tops of their lungs, accompanied by the jazz band.

“Let’s make sure tables are bussed.” Pressing her finger to the earpiece to speak over the network made her feel like those secret service agents in the movies who were always talking into their shirt cuffs. “I’m seeing several tables with empty plates and glasses.”

She kept to the perimeter of the room, doing her best to blend in with the starlit sky beyond the glass walls, barely repressing the feeling of being the loner, the schoolgirl no one else paid any attention to. . .the woman no man ever gave a second glance.

“You look like a kid staring through a candy-store window, wishing you could go inside.”

Meredith’s heart thumped at the sudden voice behind her. She turned. Major O’Hara grinned his lopsided grin, his chef’s coat nearly fluorescent with its pristine whiteness.

“How’re you holding up?” He squeezed her shoulder in a brotherly way, his indigo eyes gentle.

She sighed. “You know me—I operate on pure adrenaline at these things no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten the night before. So long as I stay busy and don’t slow down, the fatigue can’t catch up with me.”

“And stopping to grab a bite to eat would have meant slowing down?”

“Yep.”

Coldness embraced her shoulder when Major lifted his hand away. “I set aside a few take-home boxes for you—and Anne. I told her I’d be sure to save a little of everything.”

Anne. Meredith’s cousin and best friend. Her inspiration and mentor. Owner of a stellarly successful wedding- and event-planning business, Happy Endings, Inc. And friends with Major O’Hara on a level Meredith could never attain.

“If you see George, tell him I’ve been experimenting with that plum pudding recipe he gave me. I’ll need his expert opinion before I can officially add it to my repertoire.”

“I’ll tell him—but you see him more often than I do.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m glad we convinced Anne to fall in love with him. Finally, having another man’s opinion when we’re all working an event together.” He winked.

Meredith quickly turned her eyes toward the milling crowd so he wouldn’t see how he affected her. It would only embarrass him—and mortify her.

He tweaked her chin. “Come on. Back to work for the bosses.”

Over the next hour, Meredith poured herself into her work to try to keep exhaustion at bay. The last few guests meandered out just after one thirty. Meredith turned on all of the lights, their glare on the glass walls and ceiling nearly blinding her. She tasked her staff to stack chairs, pull linen from tables, and clear the room.

She directed the sorting of the rented decorations and materials into different dump sites around the room. Early Tuesday morning, she would meet all of the vendors here to have their stuff carted away so the building maintenance staff could get in for a final cleaning before resetting the room for lunch service.

“Miss Guidry, are these your shoes?” Halfway across the room, one of the black-and-white-clad workers held aloft a pair of strappy, spike-heeled sandals. Meredith’s medium-height, pointy-toed brown pumps rubbed her feet in a couple of places after six hours—but nothing like the pain those sandals would have caused.

“Lost-and-found,” she called over the music throbbing through the room’s built-in PA system. Not what she would choose to listen to, but it kept the staff—mostly college students—happy and working at a brisk clip. That made three pairs and two stray shoes, five purses, sixteen cellular phones, and one very gaudy ruby ring—and those were only the items Meredith had seen herself. Her assistant would be fielding phone calls for days.

Vacuum cleaners roared to life—a wonderful sound as it meant they were getting close to quitting time. A couple of guys loaded the last of the large round tables onto a cart and wheeled it down the hall to the freight elevator, followed by several more pushing tall stacks of dark blue upholstered chairs on hand trucks.

Vue de Ciel expanded in all directions around her. She hugged her arms around her middle. She’d survived another New Year’s Eve Masked Ball—and the eight hundred guests seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely. Hopefully her parents would deem it a success.

The soprano of flatware, alto of china, tenor of voices, and bass rumble of the dish sterilizers created a jubilant symphony that thrilled Major O’Hara’s heart.

Simply from the questions the food-and-wine columnist from the Reserve had asked, the review in the morning newspaper wouldn’t be good. It would be glowing.

“Chef, stations are clean, ready for inspection.” Steven LeBlanc, sous chef, wiped his hands on the towel draped over his shoulder. Though Steven’s white, Nichols State University T-shirt was sweat-soaked—much like Major’s own University of Louisiana–Bonneterre tribute—the kid’s blond hair still stood stiff and tall in mini-spikes all over his head.

Major hadn’t yet been able to find anything that would keep his own hair from going curly and flopping down onto his forehead in the heat and humidity of a working kitchen. Yet asking Steven for hair-styling tips—Major grunted. He’d rather slice his hand open and stick it in a vat of lemon juice.

He followed Steven through the kitchen, inspecting each surface and utensil, releasing some of the staff to clock out, pointing out spots missed to others.

“Civilian in the kitchen,” rang out from one of the line cooks.

Meredith, stately and graceful, light hair set off to perfection by her brown velvet dress—like strawberries served with chocolate ganache—swept into the kitchen, drawing the attention of every man present. If she knew she had that effect on his crew, she would laugh her head off and call them all nuts.

“I’m ready to release my staff, unless you need any help in here.” Meredith came over and leaned against the stainless-steel counter beside him. She even smelled vaguely of strawberries and chocolate. . .or maybe that was just his imagination.

He cleared his throat. “I think we’ve got it covered.”

“Dishwashing station cleared, Chef!”

“See?” He grinned at her.

She graced him with a full smile, then covered her mouth as a yawn overwhelmed her. “I’ll let my guys go, then.” She pressed her hands to the base of her neck and rolled her head side to side. “I’ve got to run down to my office to get my stuff.”

“Why don’t I meet you at your office, since I have to come downstairs anyway?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be fine—”

“Mere. Stop. I will come to your office to walk you to your car. You’re lucky I’m not insisting on driving you home myself.”

Her nutmeg eyes flickered as if she were about to argue; then her smile returned. “Thank you, Major. I’d appreciate that.”

Good girl. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” He limited himself to once again laying his hand on her shoulder instead of pulling her into a hug. “Go on. I’ll make sure all the rest get clocked out and then shut everything down for the night.”

Meredith nodded and departed. Major rounded up the last few stragglers and watched them run their cards through the computerized time clock. Returning their happy-New-Year wishes, he ducked into his office at the rear of the kitchen, grabbed his dry-cleaning bag along with his duffel, turned off his computer and light, and locked the door.

The brass nameplate winked in the bright kitchen light. Major O’hara, Executive Chef. He grimaced. What pride he’d taken eight years ago when Mr. Guidry had offered him the position—saving Major years of working his way up the chain of command in restaurants.

He heaved the two bags over his shoulder. Meredith’s parents had been better to him than he deserved, had given him the flexibility in his schedule to take care of family matters no other employer would have given. They had also given him their blessing—their encouragement—to strike out on his own, to open the restaurant he’d dreamed of since working for Meredith’s aunt in her catering company throughout high school and college. The restaurant he’d already have, if it weren’t for his mother.

Major shut down the houselights, guilt nipping at his heels. Ma couldn’t help the way she was. The mirrored elevator doors whispered shut, and he turned to stare out the glass wall overlooking downtown Bonneterre from twenty-three floors above.

His descent slowed, then stopped. The doors slid open with a chime announcing his arrival on the fifth floor. Before he could turn completely around, Meredith stepped into the elevator.

“How long were you standing in the hall waiting for one of these doors to open?”

Meredith busied herself with pushing the button for the basement parking garage. “Not long.”

“Not long,” he imitated the super-high pitch of her voice. “You’ve never been a good liar, Mere.”

“Fine.” She blew a loose wisp of hair out of her eyes. “I was out there a couple of minutes. I didn’t want you to have to wait for me. Happy?”

“Not in the least. But I appreciate your honesty.” Due to the tenseness around her mouth, he changed the subject. “Your mom invited me to drop by their New Year’s open house. You going?”

Meredith shook her head. “No.” The simple answer held a magnitude of surprise.

“She said she had something she wanted to talk to me about.”

The porcelain skin between Meredith’s brows pinched. “Hmm. No—I don’t usually go over for the open house, just for our family dinner later. Instead, I’m fixing to go home, sleep for a few hours, and then head over to the new house. I’m planning to get the paint stripped from all the woodwork in the living room and dining room tomorrow.”

“In one day?” Major grunted. Meredith’s new house was anything but: a one-hundred-year-old craftsman bungalow everyone had tried to talk her out of buying. “Wouldn’t you rather relax on your holiday?”

“But working on the house is relaxing to me. Plus, it gives me a good excuse to go off by myself all day and be assured no one’s going to disturb me.”

The elevator doors opened to the dim, chilly underground parking garage. Major took hold of Meredith’s arm and stopped her from exiting first. He stepped out, looked around, saw nothing out of the ordinary, then turned and nodded to her. “Looks safe.”

“Of course it’s safe. You lived in New York too long.” She walked out past him.

“Meredith, Bonneterre isn’t the little town we grew up in anymore. Even before Hurricane Katrina, it was booming.” He stopped her again, planted his hands on her shoulders, and turned her to face him. “Please don’t ever take your safety for granted. Not even here in the garage with security guards on duty. If anything happened to you. . .”

Meredith blushed bright red and dropped her gaze.

“Look, I don’t mean to alarm you. But in this day and age, anything could happen.” He kept hold of her a moment longer, then let go and readjusted the straps of the bags on his shoulder.

Meredith released a shaky breath. “So, what are you going to do on your day off?”

“Watch football.” He winked at her over his shoulder as he approached her Volvo SUV. The tinted windows blocked him from seeing inside. Perhaps he had lived in New York too long. But Bonneterre had changed even in the eight years he’d been back. Crime rates had risen along with the population. And he would have done this for any other lady of his acquaintance, wouldn’t he?

He heard the lock click and opened the driver’s-side door for her—taking a quick peek inside just to make sure that the boogey man wasn’t hiding in the backseat.

“Oh, honestly!” Meredith playfully pushed him out of the way and, shaking her head, opened the back door and heaved her large, overstuffed briefcase onto the seat.

Major moved out of the way for her to get in. “Drive safely, okay?”

“I always do.”

“Call me when you get home. Nuh-uh. No arguments. If you don’t want to call, just text message me—all right?—once you’re in your apartment with the door locked.”

“Hey, who died and made you my keeper?” Meredith laughed.

He didn’t let his serious expression crack. “Just call me safety obsessed.”

“Okay, Major Safety Obsessed.” She leaned into his one-armed hug, then settled into the driver’s seat. “Thank you for your concern. I will text you as soon as I arrive safely home, am safely in my house, with my door safely locked.”

He closed the car door and waved before walking over to Kirby, his beaten-up old Jeep, a few spaces down. As he figured, Meredith waited to back out until he was in with the engine started. He followed her out of downtown and waved again as they parted ways on North Street.

A few fireworks flickered in the distance against the low-hanging clouds. He turned the radio on and tuned it to the Southern Gospel station. Always keyed-up after events, he sang the high-tenor part along with the Imperials. Though it had taken him a while to build the upper range of his voice—having always sung baritone and bass before—when he, George Laurence, Forbes Guidry, and Clay Huntoon started their own quartet, Major had been the only one who could even begin to reach some of the high notes. Sometimes it was still a strain, but he practiced by singing along with the radio as loudly as he could. . .to keep his voice conditioned.

When he pulled into the condo-complex parking lot, his cell phone chimed the new text message alert. He shook his head. Of course she texted instead of calling. He pulled the phone out of the holster clipped to his belt and flipped it open to read the message:

SAFELY home. : – )

happy new year

Mere

While Kirby’s engine choked itself off, Major typed out a return message:

home too

sweet dreams

MO’H

The phone flashed a confirmation that the message was sent, and he holstered it. Grabbing his black duffel from the back, he left the orange dry-cleaning bag to drop off at the cleaners Tuesday.

To blow off some steam and try to relax enough to fall asleep, he turned on the computer and played a few rounds of Spider Solitaire. About an hour later, his whole body aching, eyes watering from yawning every other minute, he grabbed a shower before turning in. At thirty-eight years old, he shouldn’t feel this out of shape—of course, if he still made time to go to the gym every day and didn’t enjoy eating his own cooking as much as he did, he probably wouldn’t be this out of shape. He weighed as much now as he had playing middle linebacker in college. . .except twenty years ago, it had all been muscle.

But who trusted a skinny chef anyway?

Thunder grumbled, and rain pattered against the window. Major kicked at the comforter that had become entangled in his legs during the night and rolled over to check the time.

Eight thirty. What a perfect day to don ratty old sweats, sit in the recliner watching football on the plasma TV, and eat junk food.

If he had a plasma TV. Or any junk food in the condo.

Alas, though, he’d promised Mrs. Guidry he would drop by. Best check the schedule of games, see which he cared least about, and make the visit then. He pulled on the ratty old sweats and an equally ratty ULB T-shirt, though. As he passed down the short hallway, he tapped the temperature lever on the thermostat up a couple of degrees to knock a little of the chill out of the air.

His stomach growled in concert with the thunder outside. The tile in the kitchen sent shockwaves of cold up his legs. Shifting from foot to foot, he yanked open the dryer door, dug through the clothes in it, and found two somewhat matching socks. Sometimes having the laundry hookups here did come in handy, even though they took up more than a third of the space in the small galley kitchen.

The fridge beckoned. Not much there—maybe he should hit the grocery store on the way back from the Guidrys’ open house.

Half an hour later, with the Rose Bowl parade providing ambiance, he sank into his recliner and dug into the andouille sausage, shrimp, potato, mushroom, red pepper, onion, jack cheese, and bacon omelet spread with Creole mustard on top.

Maybe he should consider making a New Year’s resolution to cut back on calories this year. What was missing? Oh, yeah, the grits. He’d left the bowl sitting by the stove.

Halfway to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his breakfast, the phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger as he passed by.

“Hello?”

“Mr. O’Hara, this is Nick Sevellier at Beausoleil Pointe Center.”

Major stopped. So did his heart.

“I’m sorry to bother you on a holiday, sir, but your mother has had an episode. She’s asking for you.”

My thoughts: I’ve actually started reading this book this week and have not finished yet, It’s been a great read so far and I will post a review when I am through!

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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People Review/Giveaway

tough3BOOK DESCRIPTION

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People reminds us that tough times won’t last, but tough people will. Tough People is all about overcoming adversity, pulling together, making do with less, facing challenges, and finding new joys in a simpler life. This new collection shares tales of people who have been laid off, lost their homes, and endured wrenching life changes, but discovered the underlying gifts in their new situations. More time at home with family, creative “staycations,” more satisfying job opportunities, and renewed gratitude for health and life are just a few of the silver linings these survivors have learned to cherish.

My Thoughts: I don’t know about you but for me, times just seem a little tougher than they’ve used to be. It’s nice to be able to pick up a  book like Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People  and get a bit of inspiration throughout my day. Real stories from peoples everyday lives like our own can be one the greatest up lifters in this day and age next to the Bible.

This book is filled with 101 stories about overcoming the economic crisis and other daily challenges. It’s very easy to browse through, you can read it straight or like me, pick through the various categories to whatever suits your mood/situation.

This book is wonderful coffee table, bedside, or bathroom reader, in my opinion. It would make a great gift for anybody that you know!

Win it: Thanks to Chicken Soup for the Soul, I was sent this latest edition (June 2009), to read…and  I also have two copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People to  giveaway today. To enter to win, just leave a comment here by Monday, August 1oth.

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This contest runs  ends August 1oth, 2009 and is open to US and Canada only and no PO boxes, please. If a winner fails to reply within 48 hrs, a new winner will be chosen.

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Book Review: The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1) by Mike Hamel

78355: Matterhorn the Brave Series, Volumes 1 & 2 Matterhorn the Brave Series, Volumes 1 & 2

By Mike Hamel / Amg Publishers

This children’s fantasy fiction series gives young readers an exciting look into the amazing world of time-travel and history.Matterhorn the Brave follows four young people who are recruited to keep an eye on the portals of earth that connect all realms of space and time. Recommended for ages 9 to 12.

My thoughts: I’m a fan of fantasy books so I really enjoyed reading the tale of Matterhorn the brave and his new found friends! I felt the author did a wonderful job in instilling christian themed moral values along the story line without being overbearing or over the top.

This book is easy to understand and relate to spiritually, as with the Sword of Truth our young character Matt carries. In a part of the story his friend tells him that as long as he has this sword of truth he won’t die…which is true as long as we have truth ( i.e salvation) we will live forever spending eternity with God.

I like how real the characters were, as they struggled with some of the same questions we have commonly in our own personal walks of life. I’ve never been confronted by a pirate but in a way I have!

I found myself amused, compelled, and on the edge of my seat in following along with our young adventures! I highly recommend this great series and look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series along with my daughter in the near future!


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