Be ENCOURAGED || Christmas

Candy canes.
Fun traditions.
Holiday movies!
A Promise fulfilled.
Chocolate-covered cherries.
The birthday of my Lord & King.
Hot chocolate & a warm fireplace.

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Christmas is not about Santa Claus, reindeer, presents, & traditions.
While we do not know the exact birth date of our King's Son, we were given a physical day in the holiday of Christmas to remember and celebrate---much like Easter & the day of His Resurrection.  Sadly, many people forget the true reason for the season and all too often get caught up in the stress of giving & getting gifts and preparing for family get-togethers, instead of focusing on the why of this marvelous celebration.

I love traditions.  One that my parents began when my siblings & I were wee haflings was on Christmas Eve.  My dad, with his awesome, deep narrator voice, would read to us a children's book entitled "What Child is This?"  It is so simple, and yet so sweet a message that it has stuck with me all these years.  And now, I have a copy for myself---one Evan & I can read to our son Gabriel.  Now that we are a family of more than two, we enjoy thinking of new traditions to begin with our children---and not just for Christmas!

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But how easy is it to get caught up in those fun things and forget the what & why it is we are making said traditions for?

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For this Christmas, and for the coming year, I want to be intentional and aware.
--  Intentional in keeping God at the forefront of everything we do.  --
--  And aware of the WHY we do.  --

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He has come for us!
Oh, what joy we have---for He loves the unworthy.

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What fun/serious traditions do you & your family have?  How did they begin?  If you could start something new, what would it be?

Merry Christmas, you lovely beans!  Due to the holiday, activity here will be slow (if any) until January 7th. So, all that said, I wish you a happy Christmas with your loved ones & a lovely New Year!! 
<3 <3 <3

Book Review // Chosen People

Chosen People
Robert Whitlow

Thomas Nelson | November 6, 2018
Christian Fiction, Legal Fiction

Bestselling author Robert Whitlow returns with an international legal drama that speaks to critical issues of our day.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...”

During a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a courageous mother sacrifices her life to save her four-year-old daughter, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless child.

Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University, typically uses her language skills to represent international clients for an Atlanta law firm. When her boss is contacted by Jakob Brodsky, a young Jewish lawyer pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s family under the US Anti-Terrorism laws, he calls on Hana’s expertise to take point on the case. After careful prayer, she joins forces with Jakob, and they quickly realize the need to bring in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, based in Israel.

To unravel the case, this team of investigators travels from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem, a world where hidden motives thrive, the risk of death is real, and the search for truth has many faces. What they uncover will forever change their understanding of justice, heritage, and what it means to be chosen for a greater purpose.

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers
I was provided a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.  The following opinions are mine alone.  If I do not enjoy a particular book, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't either.  :]

[The Basics]
*huge sigh*  O__O  Unfortunately, that's what I feel when I think of this book.  I am SO RELIEVED to have finished it.  In my humble opinion, it read much like a silly soap opera drama.  And I canNOT stand those. . . *sigh*  

Anyways, as mentioned above in the book blurb, you'll get the gist of what this story is about.  To me, it literally dragged on and on and on.  And the plot seemed to go nowhere fast, with barely any resolution (to my thinking) in the end.  I had a difficult time not skimming it just to be done, if that tells you anything more.  But enough of that, if you feel this novel is one you may enjoy, by all means, please do!  And comment to let me know!  I love hearing your different opinions---it's a beautiful thing at times to disagree.  :]


[Spiritual Content]
This is so very obviously Christian fiction.  Hana, a Christian Israeli Arab, prays quite often---throughout her day in the little things (something I admire) as well as most every night around 3:30am.  At one point during her quiet time, she experiences the "invisible weight of God's glory" when "she [closed her eyes], the atmosphere around her thickened, but not due to heat or humidity. . ."  At this moment, she feels completely surrounded by God's presence, almost sounding to me like she was in a trance-like state for a few minutes.  When Jakob interrupts her, she encourages him in faith saying that when the time comes for him to experience God's presence, not to miss it.  And that Jerusalem is the best place to find God.  (Jakob, as a secular Jew, doesn't think much of faith.  But he eventually does have that moment Hana said he'd have.)

Hana takes Jakob to one of her favorite places in the Holy City, the Garden Tomb.  A guide gives a lecture on the death of Jesus, something Jakob had never really heard of before.  He also didn't know Jesus was a Jew.  Prayer beads are found at a crime scene.  Other characters pray and encourage one another to.  We see the diversity of religion in different places in the city, as well as Atlanta, Georgia.

A man is ambushed at his friend's apartment.  He's beaten brutally over the head and suffers a pretty severe concussion, causing much dizziness and some blackout spells.  

A security footage shows a woman and child attacked in a public square.  The woman is killed by a knife, and the girl---age 3---is seriously injured (on the face).  In searching for evidence of who and what group is behind the murder, Hana and Jakob come across a training video where young men chase hostages into abandoned houses and execute them.  Some characters are taken hostage, a couple try to defend themselves with no success.  They are gagged and bound with plastic zip ties, which cut into their wrists.  Someone spits in a woman's face and calls her a loose woman.  A man suggests they take her as a prize for "a commander's harem."  A guy holds a knife to her neck.

A man strikes Hana across the face.  A man is grazed by a bullet, injuring his thigh.  At least one terrorist is killed in the chaos of a rescue---he bleeds out, twitching.  Special forces use concussion grenades.

[Language // Alcohol & Drugs]
One use of "oh my god."

Characters drink red wine.  Jakob enjoys some beer, but not excessively.  Hana and an investigator she has hired to help her law firm visit a hookah shop (flavored tobacco) to meet with an informant.

[Romantic Content]
Hana and the investigator obviously get along well with each other.  It's no surprise to her co-workers that she likes the man and that their relationship could possibly lead to marriage in the future.  They embrace and kiss a few times.

All told, I simply couldn't get into the story.  Everything just kinda felt loose and disjointed to me.  There were many times the point-of-views (POVs) of characters changed suddenly with no break in the chapter to indicate we were switching.  (That's become a huge pet peeve of mine lately. . .)  The writing seemed very flat to me---FAR too much tell and no show whatsoever.

Other than that, and the fact there's much dialogue placed on Israel, it's cities, and culture (which is interesting, of course, but almost over-the-top), this story has much potential.

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Thanks for reading, y'all! Again, this is totally my opinion on this particular novel.  If you get the chance to read it, I'd love to hear what you think!  
This is the last book review of the year for me!  Keep on visiting as I'm working on others for future posts.  :]

Merry Christmas!!!

Ilyon & Aktar Blog Tour! || Review & Giveaway

Ilyon and Acktar Blog Tour Header

Jaye L. Knight’s newest novel, Bitter Winter, and companion novella Lacy have been released! Bitter Winter is the fifth book in the Christian fantasy series, Ilyon Chronicles. Tricia Mingerink's newest novel Decree is also releasing! Decree is the fifth book in the Christian fantasy/kingdom adventure series The Blades of Acktar. Read about these books below and be sure to check out the other blog stops on the tour by visiting the official tour page. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

The Ilyon Chronicles

Bitter Winter
About Bitter Winter

Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country. Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.

Available now on Amazon!


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{The Basics}
Number 5 in the Ilyon Chronicles!!!  As the fifth sequel in this fantastic series by Jaye L. Knight, it's mandatory you read the other novels before feasting your eyes on this one.  Bitter Winter continues the journey of the Resistance against an evil empire now ruled by the crown princess Davira.  Under her harsh reign, the economy of the countries have fallen, crime runs rampant in the streets, and people are beginning to starve under the added weight of a severe winter season.  Game is scarce in the Resistance camps, and food is carefully rationed.  Though times are extremely difficult, and soon become even more so with the threat of a fatal illness, the people rally together under the hope of their King Elôm. 

It was so great to be reunited with the characters I've missed! Jace, Kyrin, Kaden, Marcus, Liam, Holden, Daniel, Elanor, etc.  *allthehearteyes*  In this story, we follow the POV of many different characters, but chiefly that of Jace.  It was so sweet to recall how the relationship between him and Kyrin has grown from book 1 to now.  And it was encouraging to see how their faith in Elôm has grown, and though they might waiver amidst the overwhelming attacks of an enemy they cannot physically fight, they learn to stand strong---no matter the outcome.

{Spiritual Content}
As a Christian series, we revisit the faith of the Resistance in that Elôm is the Creator & King of all things, and His son, Elon, came as a sacrifice for the people of Ilyon.  Characters pray to Him for strength, wisdom, and protection.

Those opposed to the love of Elôm worship the gods of the evil empire.  People are killed for believing in Elôm, and those who resist the worship of the gods meet in secret to instead worship and learn more of Elôm.  Believers are outlawed in the capitol city and many are murdered in the streets day by day.

Under the reign of Davira, life in the Resistance camps and especially for those still living in the cities is dangerous.  As mentioned above, people are killed daily---their killers claiming they were Elôm worshipers (whether they were or not).  

A camp is ambushed, and a deadly battle ensues.  Sword fights, bow and arrow wounds, etc.  Blood, bruises, gashes, and more fatal wounds.  Thirty men are lost in the fight, including two women and one boy of fifteen years.  Many more are taken due to the illness in the combined camps and cities.  A nasty red rash appears on the victim's neck and they endure a nasty high fever.

{Language // Alcohol & Drugs}
None!  These books are clean of any foul language.

Characters take meetings in a tavern a time or two.  Ale is present.  Herbs and herbal teas are administered to the sick to help treat the sickness.  Jace and Holden travel to the capitol city in search of the cure---[SPOILER!] contained in vials and given in a tea to the sick.

{Romantic Content}
Jace and Kyrin's relationship has come so far from their first meeting way back in book 1.  It is so very apparent they love each other dearly and they both show it in their actions to one another.  Jace works toward their future together in beginning to prepare a home for them.  They hug a few times, kiss at least once.

One young man approaches the brother of a girl he admires to request permission to court her.  Both he and Jace often wish they could kiss the objects of their affection, but refrain for propriety's sake, waiting for the "most opportune moment." ;D

This sequel is not as large in length as its predecessors, but that doesn't make it any less good.  I loved returning to my favorite characters and their familiar personalities, struggles, and strengths.  Ms Knight has a wonderful writing voice, the emotions in this novel was so very touching, I could've cried if I'd allowed myself.  A beautiful story!  And certainly open to another following!

I was provided a copy of this book thanks to the authors, in exchange for my honest review.  :]

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  About Lacy

The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection. When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom. An Ilyon Chronicles Novella

Available now on Amazon!


Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!

JayeLKnight Author PhotoAbout the Author

Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.

The Blades of Acktar

Decree Cover 101518 Final
About Decree 

The Adventure Continues. Discover more of The Blades of Acktar in this collection of novellas and short stories. The Blades as They Should’ve Been A test and the Gathering of Nobles will decide Leith and Martyn’s futures. Can they fight to become more than the Blades they were? Will Keevan accept the man who attempted to kill him as family? The First Mission When Martyn visits Surgis, his past seems determined to haunt him. Can he figure out how to forgive, especially when confronted with an enemy in need of his help? To the Far Great Mountains A death sends Leith and Martyn far beyond the borders of Acktar. Will they be able to arrest their quarry before they are caught themselves? From the story of how Leith and Martyn met to Ranson’s search for a life outside of the Blades, these stories will answer plaguing questions and expand the world of Acktar.

Available now on Amazon!


Haven’t discovered the The Blades of Acktar yet? Find out more at on the official Blades of Acktar page.

About the Author 
Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country. You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a full signed set of the Ilyon Chronicles and The Blades of Acktar! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.) Click on this link to enter. Be sure to stop by each of the character chats (links in the blog tour schedule) for additional giveaways throughout the tour!

What's in a Name? || Christmas Edition!

Merry Christmas, all!
It's literally ONE. WEEK. AWAY!!!! Whaaaaattttt??? 
Do you and your family have any special plans this year?  This will be Gabe's first Christmas!  And with most of my family close by, we'll be celebrating at home.  :]

I know I missed all of my posts last week, and with Christmas around the corner, my activity here will be few and far between.  With the exception of this post, I'll have at least one---maybe two!---more.  Stay tuned tomorrow!  I'm taking part in a blog tour.  :D :D :D

For now, enjoy this jolly set of names!

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M | English

From the English surname, meaning "fair town."

F | English

From the English word for the holly tree, ultimately derived from the Old English word holen.

German, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish

German short form of Nicholas, which comes from the Greek Nikolaos meaning "victory of the people."

F | English

English form of Noëlle, the feminine form of Noël, which means "Christmas" in French.

Names & meanings via
Photos via Pinterest.

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What do ya think?  Are there any more names you might add to this little list?  We could add the nickname of Jolly, and maybe Ivy to the mix.  What think ye??

On another note, my blog turned six years old on December 3rd!!! And I TOTALLY missed it.  *cue facepalm*  I had been blogging a few years before starting this one---first on my mother's blog, then on one I shared with my sisters---but SIX years??  Wow!  I remember turning to my mother then and saying, "I've been thinking of starting a blog of my own, and I've got an idea for a name: Sarah, Plain & Average!  What do you think?"  And it all began from there.  :]  Here's to lucky number seven!

Be ENCOURAGED || Slaves to Excess

In the chapter I'm focusing on for the book study this week, it touches on the dangers of overindulgence and habits of pleasure---be it alcohol, drugs, social media, or some other idol.  The passage in Titus 2 calls on the older women to be "not. . . slaves to much wine." (Titus 2:3)  It specifically says this to the older women, but we of any age should take this to heart.  And not JUST regarding alcohol.

". . . Paul is speaking about something deeper than overindulgent lifestyles.  He's concerned about our tendency to become enslaved to certain substances or habits or activities---anything---that we deem essential to our happiness, sanity, or survival."
- p. 133, Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth -

This could include things such as food, diet & exercise, shopping, TV shows & movies, work, screen time, romance novels, prescription meds, etc. etc.

Is there anything in your life right now that might be controlling you?  I need to ask myself the same question.  A great way to discern the answer is to fast from that something(s) for at least thirty days.  And if for some reason you feel you cannot do without, then who is really in control here?  Are you the master or the minion?

For a while, and I still struggle with it, I would find myself browsing my phone on social media constantly---particularly Pinterest & Instagram.  Occasionally, I forget my phone while out and about and, admittedly, feel SO lost without it.  But if there ever comes a day where I seriously CANNOT function without it, then I have a SERIOUS problem.  To cut off some screen time, I have attempted to keep away from my beloved apps until lunchtime at least, and then forego anything after 9:00pm that night.  Unfortunately, I haven't kept that as diligently as I feel I should, but it's certainly a start!

What about you?  Do struggle with the same thing?  Something else?  Truth is, while we may not realize it at first, EVERYONE will eventually encounter some kind of idol that takes our time and emotions.  It's time to turn our eyes back towards the One who trumps ALL idols.

Only then is there true freedom.

"We cannot be servants of God while at the same time bowing & scraping to the demands of some other substance or influence.  Jesus Himself said it is impossible to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24)."
- p.137, Adorned -

As Titus 2 women, it is our mission as well as a privilege to give ourselves fully to the service of our Lord & King.  

"This Titus 2 mandate is about sharing & receiving from one another the gifts of transparency, accountability, mercy, and encouragement, reminding one another who our Master really is."
- p. 142, Adorned -

For some, we can take liberty in some things because they do not affect us in any way like they do others.  But it is best to keep in mind that even though we may not stumble in this particular thing, someone watching us might.  Ms Nancy says it well: "To limit your liberty for the sake of others who may be led into sin as a result is not to capitulate into legalism, as some would suggest.  It is to exercise a greater liberty---to live by the law of love." (p. 151, Adorned)

This poem comes to mind (I've had it posted above my comments box for years):

To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone.
- anonymous -

Take heart!  
Our true Master is one of great mercy & grace.
He only asks that we come to Him!

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Are you a slave to some form of excess?
Who is your master?

What's in a Name || Nicknames!

Happy Monday, y'all!

I apologize for my absence.  For some odd reason, my blogger was down almost all week and I wasn't able to share my Wednesday or Friday posts. . . It's okay though, we stayed busy!

It's December!!! Can you believe 2018 is nearly over?? So much has happened in this year for me and my little family.  :]  

  • Both Evan & I passed the point of no return and turned SIX & TWENTY (he in January and I in July)
  • I joined Camp NaNo for the first time back in April
  • I got to go to the beach this year!!! (Back in July) and we visited Evan's side of the family up North 
  • My home church celebrated 100 years in July!
  • Evan & I welcomed our beautiful son, Gabriel, into the world on August 27th. 
  • I'm a book blogger for multiple publishers now---Moody, Tyndale, BookLookBloggers (Thomas Nelson & Zondervan), and sometimes Bethany House.
  • The Hubs & I celebrated our 2nd anniversary in October
That's just a few highlights of this year.  I'm sure I could name many more.  :]
But you're probably waiting for this fresh set of nicknames!!


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M | English

From an English surname meaning "Gumarich's mountain" in Norman French.

M & F | English

Derived from the Latin word decem meaning "ten."  This is the name of the twelfth month of the Georgian calendar.  It is regularly used more as a feminine name in America.


From the English surname, which is most likely a variant of French Beaufort, derived of the elements meaning "beautiful" and "strong place, fortress."

M & F | English (modern)

Variant of Reagan, which hails from an Anglicized Irish surname meaning "descendant of Riagán"---which ultimately means "impulsive."


From a surname which was derived from the given name Everard, meaning "brave boar."

F | English

Possibly a variant of Viatrix, which is the feminine form of the Late Latin name Viator, meaning "voyager, traveller."  Common among early Christians, it was altered in spelling according to the Latin beatus, "blessed, happy."

Names & meanings via
Photos via Pinterest.

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Favorite?? I kinda like Bea or Trix for Beatrix. (Though it makes be think of the Harry Potter series...)  And December is such a unique name for a girl! What do you think of this set?