{Book Review} From the Start by Melissa Tagg


I received a complimentary copy of From the Start (Walker Family Book #1)* by Melissa Tagg in exchange for this honest review by participating in the Bethany House Publishers blogger review program.  I was not compensated for this review, all opinions are my own.

*

Kate Walker and Colton Greene were living two completely different lives, until fate decided for their paths to cross. 

Kate, a romantic screenwriter, wants her writing to mean something important, something more than fluff. Colton, an NFL star quarterback, finds himself at a loss after a career-ending injury and a failed romantic relationship. When the two find themselves both in Maple Valley to help after a storm, they embark on a project that will help each other to move forward - Colton can take his next step in his professional career, and Kate can fund the opportunity that came her way to write something that can make a difference. What they least expected was for their hearts to heal as they worked together, and for love to take ahold.

A little bit of romance and a little bit of football makes for a perfect combination. This is one of those easy reads that you just don't want to put down. Melissa writes in a way that causes you to be invested in her characters and wanting to continue reading to see how their stories will play out. I fell in love with Kate and Colton's story as I was given a glimpse into their lives, and can't wait to see how their story will continue to unfold in the next book of the series!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a light, entertaining, innocent love story.

Be sure to check out my review of Melissa Tagg's first novel Made to Last!

This post contains affiliate links {denoted by an asterisk (*)}, which means I may receive a {very} small commission if you click a link and purchase something. This does not cost you anything, but helps offset the costs of keeping this site up and running. Thank you for your support!

{Book Review} The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker {Blog Tour and Author Q&A}


I received a complimentary copy of The Choosing {A Seer Novel}* by Rachelle Dekker in exchange for this honest review by participating in the Tyndale Blog Network program.  I was not compensated for this review, all opinions are my own.


Synopsis {From the Publisher's Website}

"Not to be Chosen would yield a cruel fate of my own making."

Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she'd spent a lifetime preparing for-her Choosing ceremony-to end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she'll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society. She knows it's her duty to follow the true way of the Authority.

But as Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. Though the whispers contradict everything she's been told, they resonate deep within.

Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she's always dreamed of, yet she can't shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. With a killer targeting Lints and corruption threatening the highest levels of the Authority, Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her.

My Thoughts


The Choosing* is one of those books that you just don't want to put down; you just don't want it to end. A book in the dystopian genre, it is one that takes place in an imagined time where the Authority holds power over all society, aiming to maintain complete control of both public and private lives of all citizens. I admit I do not typically read books in this genre, but I am definitely hooked now!

As Rachelle Dekker's debut novel, she really hit it right with this one. It has the perfect balance of romance and mystery, of darkness and true hope. The concept of worth and where it truly comes from is perfectly weaved throughout the book. Though the message is not an 'in your face' one, it is one of hope and finding your truth worth in Christ. It also definitely points to how we should always be on the watch for those whose goal is to lead you astray.

In reading this book, I really became attached to the characters - Carrington, Larkin, and Remko especially. I felt like I was right there with them in the highs and lows, cheering for them, and hurting with them. I wished I saw more of Aaron throughout the book, but I'm thinking he might have a larger storyline with this being a three-book series. Every time he showed up in a scene, you really had the feeling of hope. I felt when Arianna was introduced, you finally saw a shift in Carrington and she began to finally start to see the truth behind the Authority. Each character had a distinct purpose, and Rachelle did not mess around with any fluff! I really appreciate this because it made the book so much more enjoyable to read, in my opinion.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, from mature young adult and up. I can't wait to see what Rachelle brings with the other two books in this series. I look forward to seeing where she takes each character!


About the Author


The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair. Visit her online at rachelledekker.com.

Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Q&A with Rachelle Dekker


1. How did you come up with the story for The Choosing?

This is a hard question because it has many answers. I wanted to write a theme-based novel about identity. I wanted to write a dystopian novel. I wanted to write in a world that was familiar, but in a setting where I could change the way the world worked. It actually is several ideas I’d been toying with pulled into one story. Once I landed on Carrington’s core revelation and story arc, I simply fell in love with her as a character and drew the rest of the story around her. That’s usually how it works for me. I come up with a character, good or bad, and create the story from there.

2. Throughout the book, Carrington struggles with understanding her identity and worth and what is true. Why did you decide to write about the theme of identity? 

Someone once asked me, If you could leave one message for your younger sisters, what would it be? The answer was always the same: I would pray they knew what they were worth. Identity is everything. There isn’t a theme that doesn’t start with identity, or circle back to identity. Knowing who you truly are is the greatest journey we face. Am I enough; am I worth it? I believe everyone faces these questions, and I sought out to explore them through this story.

3. One of the story’s most significant lines is, “Life is a journey of remembering and forgetting.” What do you mean by this?

It means exactly what you probably think. We have these flashes of clarity where we see so clearly who we are—and our connection to the Father—but then, in a single moment, something pulls our attention away and we forget who we are. This is the journey of life, remembering and forgetting. But I believe the more we remember, the more we set our gaze on the Father, the less often we forget.

4. What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

I hope readers are filled with joy and power as they either realize for the first time who their Father is and what they are really worth, or as they simply remember this truth.

5. What would you say to the person who is struggling, trying to find their identity in temporary, unsatisfying places?

I would say we have all been there, and that those places will only serve as a prison in the end. They may seem like happiness now, but eventually they will become suffering. But that’s just part of the journey of identity. Some people need to learn the hard way—I did for sure! I searched for significance in darkness and somehow the Father still led me to the light. So when I see people going through what I did, I empathize, but also know that in a single moment they can discover their true identity.

6. The Choosing is the first of a three-book series. What can we expect in the next two books?

More struggles with identity, but in different ways. Familiar characters dealing with fear and worry and forgiveness. We’ll walk with our characters as they continue to understand the true way of Aaron’s Father. More excitement, more romance (of course), and more self- discovery.

This post contains affiliate links {denoted by an asterisk (*)}, which means I may receive a {very} small commission if you click a link and purchase something. This does not cost you anything, but helps offset the costs of keeping this site up and running. Thank you for your support!

{Guest Post} Beautycounter Awareness + Giveaway!


One of the things that I am trying to really change in my house is the presence of toxic products. It started when I got married and I was purchasing the cleaning supplies for our home, and now that I have a baby daughter, it has really become important to me. I've totally become a fan of Norwex for cleaning products - I love that I can clean my entire house with their microfiber cloths and just water! 

But did you know that not only cleaning products have toxins in them, but your beauty products and cosmetics also do?? I don't want to clean with toxic products, I definitely don't want to be putting them on my skin! 

Recently, I've been introduced to Beautycounter, and their mission is to change the standards for beauty products in the US. We deserve better....and they are doing something about it!

To promote awareness of safe and healthy makeup, our friend Sarah at Beautycounter is offering an amazing giveaway this week. Take it away Sarah...

Hi! My name is Sarah Featherstone, and I’m so excited to be here! I’m a wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old son, Rowan. When not chasing him around, you can find me over at A Lovely Feather and most recently, growing my business with Beautycounter, a non-toxic brand of beauty products and cosmetics that are invigorating, safe and effective.


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I’m a conscious consumer, especially when it comes to what I eat, but I had never thought much about the safety of the products I put on my skin. When I found out I was pregnant, however, I started thinking about how every choice I made also affected my growing child. When I started looking for safe products, I was surprised that the beauty industry is largely self-regulated. The last federal law regulating the ingredients used in beauty products was passed in 1938. The EU has banned over 1,300 ingredients known to be harmful; the U.S. has banned only 11. Companies don’t have to disclose what’s in the products they’re selling, even if the ingredients are known toxins.


beauty counter 2

Beautycounter is hoping to change that. They have over 1,500 harmful ingredients that they will never use, and one of the strictest safety standards in the industry. The company has partnered with several nonprofits, including the Breast Cancer Fund and Healthy Child Healthy World, and they are working to help change the legislation regarding the beauty industry.


Beautycounter giveaway

When I found out what Beautycounter was doing, I knew I wanted to be a part of the mission. And, after I tried their products, I was sold. The products were the best I had ever used, and most importantly, I knew they were safe so I could feel good using them.

It’s been a wonderful experience so far working with Beautycounter, and I’m thrilled to be here offering a chance to win one of our best-selling products! The Lip Conditioner Calendula Balm is one of our perfect lip moisturizers, formulated with regenerating oils and flower extracts. It’s great worn alone, or paired with your favorite Lip Sheer. You’ll love it!


Beautycounter giveaway

To enter, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. You have a total of nine chances to enter! A winner will be chosen on Wednesday, May 6. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


**For more information on any of the products or on how to get involved, contact Sarah via her Beautycounter website or at alovelyfeatherblog [at] gmail.com.

For more information about Beautycounter, please watch the video below.




{Guest Post} A Story of Adoption & How You Can Help


I am lucky enough to be able to share this space today with Kayla from Many Sparrows. The story of her growing family is beautiful and I hope you find it as inspiring as I have!


* * * * * * * *

Every morning, I stumble out of bed, grab my Coke-bottle glasses, and shuffle my way across the hardwood floors into the kitchen. Our four-year-old waits patiently for his oatmeal, and his hand always seems to find mine as I make breakfast in the early morning hours. I pour myself coffee as our two-year-old, his bedhead just as wild as his little heart, comes hustin’ out of his room.

Motherhood, you guys. It’s chaotic and sleep-deprived and sweet and 100 kinds of awesome.

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I became a mom in a fashion that only God could create. I was a young, twenty-something newlywed learning more about the world, and more about its creator, every day. We were stumbly and we weren’t perfect, but we couldn’t help but sense that God was leading us both down a path to parenthood that, in the world’s eyes, was a bit unconventional.

My husband and I both started to feel the tug on our hearts for children who didn’t have families. We both grew up in safe and loving two-parent homes, and we couldn’t shake the idea of little ones not growing up without the structure and nurture a family provides. We knew we couldn’t do everything, but we could be open to doing something. We prayed, and asked God to lead.

One billion “only-God” stories later, and we were getting off a plane, welcoming our incredible one-year-old son into our arms, forever. Joseph joined our family via adoption from West Africa (you can learn much more about that here), and our lives have been so radically blessed by his presence. We grieve for what he lost with his fist family, but we praise God that he writes beautiful stories from brokenness.

Fast forward two years, and we welcomed a second son into our lives, this time the old-fashioned way. Asher fits into our family perfectly, and it’s a joy to see my sons grow and learn and play and explore life together.

And now, our hearts are open to more. And we continue to believe that God will form our family once again through adoption. There are children here and abroad waiting for safe and loving homes, and it’s at the core of our heart that we might have the privilege of being a family for another little one (or ones). Due to logistics, this time our process will happen in the U.S. instead of abroad. We’re not quite sure what this adoption will look like, though we know we want to be a family for a waiting child.

Over oatmeal and apple juice in sippie cups, we talk about adding a new brother or sister to the mix. “I know, Mommy!” Joseph says, scooping in another mouthful of breakfast. “We’re going to have two sisters! And name them Mommy and Daddy!”

--

So, there’s a tiny glimpse into the big story God is writing. It’s a humbling, profound privilege to parent a child or children not born to me, and it’s not something I take lightly.
As we walk into the unknown and trust God that he will form our family in the ways only He can, we go through all of the paperwork and processes to ensure everything is done correctly and ethically.

We have just completed our home study, the giant 500-billion-page document written by a social worker who has poured over every detail of our lives to ensure that we are approved to be an adoptive family.

Adoption, as I’m sure you’ve probably heard, can be costly. Social workers, attorneys, agencies -- each are compensated to ensure things are handled the right way. We’re a young family that has been saving for a second adoption since we completed our first. Every Christmas gift, every extra bit, has gone into a special account for “someday.” And someday is here!

My husband is a pastor who took on an extra job as a high school speech coach this year, and I’m a freelance writer/editor who has taken on extra projects to make this adoption a reality. We are also trying to think of creative ways to tackle the fees.

Here’s where the fun part comes in: We’re hosting a GIANT shop-our-closets sale this coming Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

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  •  I gathered more than 10 of my most stylish friends of all shapes and sizes, and together, we cleaned out our closets.
  • We have around 200 gently-worn items in quality brands (think J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Free People, Anthropologie, Sevenly). Basically, my basement looks like an amazing women’s boutique right now. You’re going to want this stuff!
  • We’re selling it ALL (think 25+ dresses, 75+ tops, skirts, ethically-made jewelry, scarves, heels) in a HUGE Instagram auction-style fundraiser to combat adoption fees.
  • To join in on the sale: Follow us at @craigsadopt, and get those bidding fingers ready!
  • Each item will have a fairly low starting bid price, though we hope you have fun and bid generously! The sale will go on for 24 hours.
  • To bid, you must have a PayPal account. If you don’t, go sign up here!

These shop-my-closet sales have become so popular on Instagram, and I love them! (I love scoring thrifted treasures -- you can have on-point style on a budget!)

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Think of this sale as us doing the dirty work for you -- all you have to do is sit back and bid away -- knowing that 100 percent of all money is going directly to our adoption account. You’ll get some crazy-awesome deals, and you’ll be entering into the work God is doing to provide waiting little ones a permanent, loving family.

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We want others to know that adoption is worth it, because at the end of the journey, there’s a child who is going to feel a family’s love and there will be a family whose lives are changed by the love of a child.

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Giveaway time: We’re giving away this gorgeous Santa Fe necklace, ethically handmade from women in Haiti through Vi Bella ($35 value). Share about the sale on Instagram with the date/time (Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m.) and tag us in the status (@craigsadopt) for an entry, and tag friends for more entries. (We’ll draw a winner Tuesday, April 28 - no purchase necessary, U.S. residents only.)

Need reminders of the sale? Let’s connect on Facebook. Questions? Shoot me a message -- I’d love to hear from you! If you feel led to give, you can make a donation to our adoption here.

Thank you for entering into our story.

--

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Kayla is full-time journalist turned work-at-home editor. She lives among the Iowa cornfields, where she’s hitched to a shaggy-haired pastor and they’re smitten with two wild + free boys: Joseph (4) and Asher (2). Kayla sips strong coffee, likes pretty things, and believes there's beauty in the broken. She writes about faith, motherhood, and style at Many Sparrows, encouraging women to find worth and live a story worth sharing.



10 Scriptures To Pray For Your Children


A few weeks ago I was awake around 3 in the morning feeding my daughter. As I looked down at my then 9 month old, I realized that, more than likely, her future husband was already born. That just boggled my mind. I find it funny, though, that it took me that long to put two and two together because when we were told that we had a girl {we waited until she was born to find out}, the first image that popped into my husband's head was him walking her down the aisle and giving her away! I absolutely love that.

That night, that realization showed me the importance of being in prayer for her daily, consistently, always.

There are so many different ways to pray for your children. I think the most important prayer we can lift up for our children is for their salvation. That they would come to know Jesus personally. I also frequently pray that my husband and I can raise our children in a way that they seek after the Lord; that we are changed and can be used as examples for them. Only by completely relying on Christ and giving our children over to Him can this be possible.

One of my favorite verses to use as a guide to pray for my daughter is Galatians 5:22-23.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Using each fruit of the Spirit as a keyword, there are so many verses to pray over your children! I've gathered a few verses to share with you, check them out below.


1. Salvation.

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." {Romans 10:9}

2. Love.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." {John 13:34}

3. Joy.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." {James 1:2-4}

4. Peace.

"Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it." {1 Peter 3:11}

5. Patience.

"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone." {1 Thessalonians 5:14-15}

6. Kindness.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." {Ephesians 4:32}

7. Goodness. 

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." {Psalm 23:6}

8. Faithfulness. 

"Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness." {Joshua 24:14}

9. Gentleness.

"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." {1 Peter 3:15}

10. Self-control.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." {Philippians 4:8}

What are some other verses that come to mind when praying for your children? Share below!

Be sure to check out 10 Scriptures to Pray For Your Husband too!

Linking up to Thoughtful Spot Blog Hop @ Mommy Maleta, Motivational Monday @ Making It In The Mitten, Coffee and Conversation @ Mom's Morning Coffee, Weekend Bloggy Reading @ Serenity Now, Pretty Pintastic Party! @ Simplicity Relished
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