There are few things that can make us feel as helpless as living with a story we don’t like. Life is rarely fair, and things happen beyond our control that impacts our lives in negative ways. Maybe our story involves the loss of a loved one, an unwanted transition, a difficult diagnosis, or a dream that fell through. At one time or another, we all deal with disappointments and feel that we are being punished. For women searching for a glimmer of hope, Heather M. Dixon has written Renewed: Finding Hope When You Don’t Like Your Story (Abingdon Press), a four-week study diving into the life of Naomi from the Book of Ruth.
Dixon wrote Renewed for any woman that is carrying a difficult and life-altering story they did not choose and cannot change. She also wrote it for the woman who yearns to trust God’s sovereignty and His plan for her life even as she grieves and is angered by her circumstances. She believes that trusting God and grieving your story are not mutually exclusive. Dixon herself lives with an incurable and terminal genetic disorder, so understands what it means to live a story that is not easy. With insight from her own journey, she teaches women to flourish even as they live hard stories through a willingness to trust that God can transform them and trade their heartache for hope. They will learn to rely on God’s movement in the details of their story, even when it can’t be seen, gain confidence to act in the part of their stories that they can change, and watch expectantly for God to redeem the parts they can’t.
Q: Most studies on the book or Ruth focus on Ruth and Boaz but Renewed looks at Naomi’s story. Why do you think Naomi’s story is such an important part of the book?
I’ve always read and taught Ruth from Naomi’s perspective because ultimately, I think it’s her story. However, there are three main reasons why hers should be explored:
One, for all believers, a transformed heart is one of the key identifiers of life with Christ and as readers, we get to experience that journey with Naomi—from bitterness to renewed joy. Ruth and Boaz are beautiful characters, but they are rather stagnant. It’s Naomi that changes, and her transformation echoes that of anyone who has struggled with a hard story and found Jesus to be faithful along the way.
Two, from a literary perspective, there are a number of devices the author uses to indicate that Naomi’s story is the important one.
And three, it’s my personal belief that Naomi’s response to grief has often been judged too harshly. I wanted to give my readers a safe place to explore feelings of bitterness as they learned to look for God’s movement in their own story.
Q: Can you share more about your own story, specifically the part of your story you don’t like?
There are several pieces of my story that I could share with you that I don’t like, but the milestones would be when I lost my mother at the age of eleven, when my father died twenty years later, and when I was diagnosed with an incurable, connective tissue disorder that I inherited from my mother. We know now that this disorder is what took her life at thirty-seven. Doctors have told me that my own life expectancy is forty-eight.
I understand grief, loss, and life changes where you just have to close the door, determine not to look back, pick your head up, and keep going. But I also know the sweet and life-giving love of a Heavenly Father who fills our story with comfort, hope, and purpose, even when we feel that all is lost. God breathes renewed life into our weary souls, and that truth keeps me putting two feet on the floor in the morning, even when I still don’t like my story.
Q: How did your diagnosis change how you look at life? What does “living your life well” look like to you?
The answer is always evolving. At its core, it looks like waking up and knowing the next twenty-four hours might be my last. So, living my life well means pursuing ways that I can honor God, love my family, and serve my community until I lay my head to rest for the night. I fail at this every day! But it gives me a sense of focus that I didn’t have before.
My diagnosis also changed my perspective on hardship. Anyone who has walked through any measure of suffering can quickly tell you what matters and what doesn’t. Things that might have seemed like a major problem before are now minor inconveniences that I know will pass. That’s a blessing.
Finally, my diagnosis has taught me to pursue bucket-list living. I’m much more spontaneous and carefree than I used to be, and I seek activities that will make lasting memories, big and small. A scoop of mint chocolate chip from the local ice cream shop is just as precious as a spur of the moment family vacation. I am thankful for each moment I have, which is something most people search for their entire lives.
Q: You write, “God doesn’t call plays out of a playbook from the clouds in the sky. He wants to walk with us along every step of our story, holding our hand when we are unsure of the plan.” What are some things we need to remember about God’s sovereignty when it comes to our story?
This is one of the deepest blessings I have discovered walking through my hard story. God is a relational God—He seeks to walk every step with us. And we can trust Him with that path because in His sovereignty, He is also compassionate, merciful, and loving. We aren’t puppets in His playroom; we are His beloved daughters, whom He values and cherishes. Walking in intimacy with Him blesses us with peace, comfort, and joy. Another important truth about God’s sovereignty is that He has a master plan—for us and for His creation. We are a part of that plan, treasured pieces in a divine puzzle that will be complete when all things are renewed. He won’t let us stray off course, nor will He leave our lives to chance. Every moment matters to Him and He has a plan to renew every piece of our hard story.
Q: Have you always seen God working in the details of your story? Should we be looking for how God is moving or simply trust that he is?
No, yes, and yes. I wish I could tell you that I have always been aware of God moving in my story. There were seasons in my life, particularly the season after my father died, that I could not sense His presence. Was He moving in the details of my story then? Absolutely. My regret is that I allowed my earthly then vision to cloud my heavenly perspective. Which is why I am always in favor of looking for how God is moving.
I am emotional and fickle—prone to wander if I don’t see results. God knows this about me. It’s always in my best interest to keep my eyes open for God’s fingerprint. But the moments that I can’t see it are faith-builders; those are equally as valuable and help to build our trust in Him. So, yes we should always be looking for God’s movement and yes, we should always simply trust that He is.
Q: You share a suggestion for overcoming stress and anxiety that readers might not expect. What has helped you that you encourage others to try?
On nights when I am particularly anxious and have trouble going to sleep, a prayer that utilizes God’s gift of imagination often helps to settle my thoughts. I close my eyes and imagine a large field in front of me. Standing in the field are all the things bringing me anxiety, like current stressors in my life, confrontational moments, tensions with loved ones, worry about the unknown ahead, or health concerns. Whatever is renting negative space in my head at the moment, I imagine those things standing in my field.
Then, I imagine a giant hand and forearm lowering down to the field from the sky. Slowly, but steadily, the forearm wipes all my worries on the field away. The field empties and the hand gently opens, revealing soft and gentle wings. I climb into them, curling up to rest in their protection as they fold over me. In my imagination, the forearm, hand, and wings belong to God. I take several deep breaths and begin to meditate on verses about God’s kindness and refuge. This simple prayer exercise helps me to remember that God’s refuge and kindness are more powerful than my anxiety.
Q: What are some creative ways the study can be done in groups since we’re still supposed to be social distancing? Can a participant get just as much out of the study if doing it alone?
There are a handful of technological helps that will assist in group study during social distancing requirements. A few suggestions are:
* Meet with your group virtually via Zoom, Facebook meeting rooms, or Google Meets.
* Stay connected with each other, sharing prayer requests and thoughts throughout the week via a private Facebook group or text/email thread.
* Take advantage of the resources available from Amplify Media, where you can access Renewed teaching videos, Abingdon Women and other Bible study video sessions, inspirational short videos, and children’s content available anywhere from any device. Amplify Media is a streaming service allowing churches large and small unlimited video access in order to discover, customize, and share diverse resources that encourage deeper discipleship and equip churches to pursue their mission with greater impact.
* If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with pleasant weather, meet outside!
And yes, absolutely, a participant can get just as much out of the study doing it alone. The most efficient way to hear the voice of God is to immerse yourself in His Word. There is no substitute for this. I’ve had some of my most profound Bible study experiences sitting alone on my back porch, diligently walking through a study on my own. The group components for Renewed are there to enhance your study, but are certainly not a requirement.
Heather M. Dixon is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who understands living with a story that is not easy. Diagnosed with an incurable and terminal genetic disorder that she inherited from her mother, she is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to trust in God, face their greatest fears, and live with hope, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances.
When she is not blogging at The Rescued Letters or speaking at women’s conferences and events, Dixon loves to make the most of everyday moments such as cooking for her husband and son, brainstorming all the possible ways to organize Legos and superheroes, checking out way too many library books, or unashamedly indulging in her love for all things Disney.
Dixon is a regular contributor to Journey magazine and the author of women’s Bible studies, Determined: Living Like Jesus in Every Moment and Renewed: Finding Hope When You Don’t Like Your Story.
Visit Heather M. Dixon online: attherescuedletters.com,
********Look for Interview Part 2–Coming Soon********
Book: Nasty Gets Us Nowhere
Author: Drenda Keesee
Genre: Family & Relationships
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Two women who forever changed the world followed a plan to better their lives. One chose God’s design for her. The other listened to a different voice that questioned God and rebelled against Him.
Women and men today face the same decisions that confronted Mary and Eve. We can either seek the Tree of Life with God…or keep biting into the bitter fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Statistically, women today are less happy than at any time in measured history. This extolled knowledge of good and evil has had consequences. It’s not about equality in work, pay, or choices. It’s about women wanting to become “like men” instead of being women. It’s about women who aspire to be “nasty” and men who are confused about what it means to be a real man.
Nasty Gets Us Nowhere reveals the powerful truth behind learning to do relationships like Christ, particularly relationships between men and women. Our culture often incites rebellion, but God calls us to work together. As Galatians 5:15 says, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (niv).
In an age saturated with feminism and gender wars, ex-feminist Drenda Keesee combines her wit, humor, and life experience to unpack a powerful, timely message that sets the record straight. She reveals why men and women have conflict, what God’s plan for unity is, and how men and women can unite to create an unstoppable force. Drenda believes the pendulum is swinging and there are many conservative women and men who want to make amends and discover how to have relationships that work. There’s also a younger generation searching for keys to live a different life than what they’ve seen modeled.
Drenda says we can see eye to eye when we first see heart to heart and spirit to spirit, coming from a place of cooperation instead of conflict. God’s Spirit coupled with His plan is the only answer to the separation and relationally destructive forces at work in the gender wars. It’s time for restoration and healing, to bring men and women side by side, hand in hand. There’s much at stake. We must understand our uniqueness, our vulnerabilities, and Christ’s unalterable principles for successful working and loving relationships to experience fulfillment and lasting peace.
Click here to get your copy!
Drenda Keesee is a speaker, pastor, daytime television show host, entrepreneur, and author of several books. She has ministered on television and radio and at churches, seminars, and conferences for more than twenty years. Drenda is passionate about bringing women into spiritual, emotional, and relational wholeness so they can live “The Happy Life,” and has founded several programs to that end.
She and Gary Keesee, her husband of thirty-five years, met while attending Oral Roberts University and pastor the 4,500-member Faith Life Church, with campuses in New Albany and Powell, Ohio.
The Keesees have created several successful businesses in the financial arena and are the founders of Faith Life Now, which produces two television programs: Drenda, seen daily on several networks and weekly on Daystar; and Fixing the Money Thing, airing daily on Daystar, GEB, BET, Victory, CTN, VTN, and NRB. Drenda serves as host on these programs, which reach 750 million households worldwide.
Drenda has appeared on numerous other television programs, including Joyce Meyer’s broadcast Enjoying Everyday Life, Table Talk with Joni with Joni Lamb, Marcus & Joni with the Lambs, VictoryThon, and more. She has been featured on CharismaNews.com, Hannah Keeley’s Crazy Blessed podcast, thelaundrymoms.com, and on the cover of Daystar News. Drenda also speaks at conferences worldwide and is known for her ability to inspire, empower, and encourage others to improve their marriages, raise strong children, get out of debt, and embrace God’s best for their life.
In addition to her graduate studies at Oral Roberts University, Drenda received a master’s degree in Christian counseling from Logos University and an honorary doctorate of divinity from CICA International University and Seminary.
The Keesee’s have five children and several grandchildren. They reside in New Albany, Ohio.
Nasty Gets Us Nowhere reveals why men and women have conflict and God’s plan to unite them for His kingdom. Coming from a feminist background, I realized that wasn’t the way God intended for me to live.
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 10
A Baker’s Perspective, September 11 (Spotlight)
Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 12 (Spotlight)
Godly Book Reviews, September 13
Blossoms and Blessings, September 14 (Spotlight)
deb’s Book Review, September 14
Sara Jane Jacobs, September 15
21st Century Keeper at Home, September 15
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 16
Texas Book-aholic, September 17
Artistic Nobody, September 18 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)
Inklings and notions, September 19
For Him and My Family, September 20
Ashley’s Bookshelf, September 21
Splashes of Joy , September 22 (Spotlight)
To celebrate her tour, Drenda is giving away the grand prize package of a $20 Starbucks gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
Kim Vogel Sawyer’s newest book The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow, portrays the juxtaposition of the depression era timeframe and the despair of the deep South in so very haunting a way. I was intrigued and fascinated with learning about this period of time in our nation’s history. Her writing pulls you into the story in a way that leaves you feeling as if you were there, too, experiencing everything the cast of characters experiences.
I have read many of Kim Vogel Sawyer’s books, but I think this is my favorite. The people are easy to love, and having lived the largest part of my life in the South, I can attest to the superstitions and old wives’ tales that used to run rampant (and in some areas still do) through its annals. Sawyer has done a wonderful job of capturing the desolation and isolation in the hills of Kentucky, and her superlative research shines throughout the story.
The Christian element runs compellingly through the book in the female protagonist, Addie Cowherd, who exemplifies her faith in steadfast, infallible ways. And, even though she is not accepted as she hoped she would be, she carries on, nonetheless. Sawyer’s ability to interweave convincing and effective scriptural truths without beating one over the head with it is much needed and refreshing.
I hated to leave Boone’s Hollow as each character became as real to me as possible. I would love to see a sequel to The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow.
I received The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow from Waterbrook through NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
A traveling librarian ventures into the mining towns of Kentucky on horseback—and learns to trust the One who truly pens her story—in this powerful novel from the best-selling author of A Silken Thread.
During the Great Depression, city-dweller Addie Cowherd dreams of becoming a novelist and offering readers the escape that books had given her during her tragic childhood. When her father loses his job, she is forced to take the only employment she can find—delivering books on horseback to poor coal-mining families in the hills of Kentucky.
But turning a new page will be nearly impossible in Boone’s Hollow, where residents are steeped in superstitions and deeply suspicious of outsiders. Even local Emmett Tharp feels the sting of rejection after returning to the tiny mountain hamlet as the first in his family to graduate college. And as the crippled economy leaves many men jobless, he fears his degree won’t be worth much in a place where most men either work the coal mine or run moonshine.
As Addie also struggles to find her place, she’ll unearth the truth about a decades-old rivalry. But when someone sets out to sabotage the town’s library program, will the culprit chase Addie away or straight into the arms of the only person who can help her put a broken community back together?
Book: To Love a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Genre: Royal Romance
Release Date: August 11, 2020
An enchanting new royal romance from NYT bestselling author Rachel Hauck
Daffodil Caron is not a princess, even though she once dreamed of being one. After all, she grew up as a playmate to royal princes, running through the halls of Perrigwynn Palace and dining with the queen. But the day she stumbled upon a royal secret, everything changed.
Flash forward eighteen years, and Daffy’s living a sweet, non-royal life. A skilled art curator for the Royal Trust, she has friends, a flat in the heart of the city, and a handsome, successful fiancée. The last person on her mind is Gus, a prince she once called her best mate.
HRH Prince Augustus is no longer “Prince Pudgy,” as characterized by the press, he’s charming and gorgeous, possessing a world-famous smile. But when he’s jilted at the altar by an American heiress as millions of people around the world watched, the spare heir to Lauchtenland’s ancient House of Blue escapes, finding solace on a Florida beach.
A year as a regular bloke allows him to rethink his purpose. He’s half decided his calling is to pour pints at a tiki bar, rather than serving his country and the Family.
Until an accident on the beach with a Frisbee changes his course.
Despite his long hair and beard, Daffy recognizes her prince, and their childhood friendship is renewed. She assures Gus Lauchtenland needs him, giving him the courage to return home.
When Daffy and Gus find themselves on assignment to Hadsby Castle in preparation for his brother’s wedding, their friendship blooms into affection.
But Gus cannot, will not, trust his heart again. Daffy’s engaged. And she also remains a royal family outcast because she knows the Queen’s secret.
When affection grows into love and secrets are exposed, trust is destroyed. Gus must choose which is stronger: the lies of his past or the hope of his future. And Daffy must face every fear to prove she will forever love a prince.
“Another compelling royal story by the master of princely tales!” Susan May Warren, USA Today bestselling, RITA award-winning novelist
Click here to get your copy!
Rachel Hauck’s books always include characters from “beyond the veil,” and To Love A Prince is no exception.
I enjoy Hauck’s books, some more than others, and it usually depends on how much of what I consider “supernatural” is included. To Love A Prince has less than usual, and I found I enjoyed it even more.
Hauck’s newest book is based on the premise of childhood friends, now grown, one of royal persuasion and one not.
I felt the main female protagonist, Daffy, allowed her friends too much latitude and should have drawn the line at Lesley, Blinky and Thomas’ betrayals. Lesley’s second HUGE betrayal should have ended their friendship. I know we’re to turn the other cheek. However, I don’t feel we’re to be a mat for others to walk on.
Prince Gus, Daffy’s childhood friend, is “twice bitten, twice shy,” and wants to avoid anything to do with those of the female persuasion. However, the pull between him and Daffy is strong.
The novel is cute, whimsical and as always with Hauck’s books, slightly unusual, but fun.
I received To Love A Prince from Celebrate Lit. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.
Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.
Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.
Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.
A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.
At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.
A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.
She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.
Hello Royal Rockstar Readers!
I’m thrilled to share To Love A Prince with you. So many of you who loved the Royal Wedding Series have asked for more royals so as I noodled over new story ideas, my thoughts drifted toward princes and princesses. What’s more romantic than a royal wedding?
This royal story, the first book in a new series, True Blue Royal, is set in a new fictional country, Lauchtenland, in the North Sea. I’m really squeezing all those oil wells currently occupying that body of water.
The beauty of royal stories is they remind us of who we really are: princes and princesses. There is always a point in the story where the royal character, as well as the commoner, must come to grips with his and her true identity! Who God says we are!
Stories are a powerful reflection of life and it’s fun to insert ourselves into the tale. While fiction employs a lot of hyperbole we can find ourselves on the page somewhere, somehow.
Thanks for going on this little tour with me and To Love A Prince. You are so vital to my story as an author. Thank you!
Worthy2Read, September 10
Captive Dreams Windows, September 10
Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 10
Genesis 5020, September 10
Novels Corner, September 10
Connect in Fiction, September 11
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 11
deb’s Book Review, September 11
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 11
Remembrancy, September 12
Breny and books, September 12
Texas Book-aholic, September 12
Inklings and notions, September 12
For Him and My Family, September 13
Artistic Nobody, September 13 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)
Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 13
The Book Chic Blog, September 13
Among the Reads, September 14
Soulfully Romantic, September 14
Ashley’s Bookshelf, September 14
Sara Jane Jacobs, September 14
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, September 15
lakesidelivingsite, September 15
All-of-a-kind Mom, September 15
Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 15
Betti Mace, September 16
Where Faith and Books Meet, September 16
Mypreciousbitsandmusings, September 16
Blossoms and Blesssings, September 16
She Lives To Read, September 17
Wishful Endings, September 17
Christian Chick’s Thoughts, September 17
Life of Literature, September 17
Life, Love, Writing, September 17
Book Love, September 18 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Maureen Timerman, September 18
Batya’s Bits, September 18
Labor Not in Vain, September 18
Bigreadersite, September 19
Hallie Reads, September 19
Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 19
Splashes of Joy, September 19
Christian Bookaholic, September 20
Musings of A Sassy Bookish Mama, September 20
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, September 20
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 20
Inside the Wong Mind, September 21
By The Book, September 21
Mary Hake, September 21
Godly Book Reviews, September 21
Hebrews 12 Endurance, September 22
Melissa Wardwell’s Back Porch Reads, September 22
Livin’ Lit, September 22
Writing from the Heart Land, September 22
Simple Harvest Reads, September 23 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Mamma Loves Books, September 23
Daysong Reflections, September 23
Black ‘n’ Gold Girl’s Book Spot, September 23
To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away a royal gift box of Pampering Princess items that includes bath balms, tea, tiara and other surprises!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
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