Fantastic YA Fiction Giveaway

I’m excited to share that I’ve teamed up with BookSweeps to give away a collection of teen and YA novels to two winners.

The Grand Prize winner will receive an eReader, and you can also win my YA Dystopian novel, The Revisionary, plus books from 45+ other authors, including my fellow Christian fiction author Beckie Lindsey.

You can enter the giveaway by clicking here. It’s open through September 30.

~ Kristen

Win a prize pack of 45+ young adult fiction books, including my YA dystopian novel The Revisionary, plus the grand prize of a new eReader! @khogrefeparnell

I’m honored to be part of this giveaway but do not necessarily endorse the content of other books.

Author Chat with Laura Thomas on Romantic Suspense and Her Heart for Readers

Laura Thomas is one of my new favorite romantic suspense authors, and once you get to know her, you’ll see why that’s no surprise! She is not only a gifted writer, but also someone whose desire to provide heart-warming encouragement to her readers shines through the pages.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did! Also, Laura has graciously offered to give away one e-book copy of her latest release, The Orphan Beach.  To enter, simply leave a comment below or share this post on social media.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I really didn’t know I was a writer until I was in my late-thirties, when my husband discovered I had been harboring a secret writing dream for twenty-five years! He encouraged me to begin by taking some courses with The Institute of Children’s Literature, and I fell in love with writing and realized I needed to pursue the author life.

Of course, it didn’t go the way I expected, with me being content to write stories for young children. No, it seems God had other plans—better plans. He has given me the opportunity to write for children, teens, and adults in multiple genres and continues to open surprise doors along the way! It’s never, ever boring…

Q: What prompted you to first write Christian romantic suspense?

Although I started my writing journey with children’s books and stories, I always enjoyed being able to share non-fiction words with women readers via my blog. It was almost like when you have little kids at home all day and then go for coffee and conversation with adult friends! The initial idea for my first Christian romantic suspense novel, The Glass Bottom Boat, was inspired after a trip to Jamaica where my imagination ran amuck and I had the sudden urge to share a faith-based, nail-biting story for women. I adore reading this genre and was up for the challenge of blending faith, romance, and some page-turning suspense into a novel for grown-ups… even though that “sudden urge” took six long years to come to fruition!

Q: You also write Christian teen fiction and non-fiction as well. Tell us about your other books.

The Tears Trilogy comprises of three Christian teen fiction books for girls: Tears to Dancing, Tears of a Princess, and Tears, Fears, and Fame. Each story of hope delves into relatable issues including friendship, forgiveness, family, and faith—with ample drama, of course!

The Candle Maker is a short middle-grade novel set in Victorian England, where a ten-year-old ragamuffin boy learns to face his fears in order to discover the truth and save a life.

Pearls for the Bride is a non-fiction marriage books for newlyweds and brides-to-be, packed with humorous anecdotes, practical tips, and Biblical principles from the mother-of-the-bride’s point of view.

Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?

I love hearing from readers! All feedback is encouraging and incredibly useful, but I think one of the most precious emails I received was from a newsletter subscriber who won a copy of Tears of a Princess, one of my teen fiction novels in my monthly giveaway. She offered to forgo her prize as I had to ship it overseas but I was more than happy to pay a little extra. When I heard from her a few weeks later, she had read the book and then passed it on to her pre-teen granddaughter who was battling an eating disorder—the exact topic this book covered. We both agreed it was God’s providence and timing and I’m humbled and excited to think my words might bring hope and healing in some small way to readers anywhere in the world.

Q: Your blog talks about your desire to provide heartwarming encouragement through your writing. How might readers be encouraged through your books? 

“Heartwarming encouragement for your soul” is the lens through which I attempt to write all my books, stories, articles, and devotionals. Even though most of my books are fiction, I believe people ultimately crave hope not only in a good storyline but in real life. As a Christian author, I love to be able to weave faith through my words and particularly in my romantic suspense novels, it’s my desire that readers will find the flawed characters relatable and see how God can work in them and through them in the most breathtaking ways.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Absolutely. I’m thrilled to be writing the manuscript for my next Christian romantic suspense novel. I can share that it’s a brand-new series and is set in the idyllic English countryside… I’m going back to my roots with this one!

Also, my literary agent is currently working on my picture book, Bonbon the Frenchie: Lost in Paris, and my middle-grade novel, Black Diamonds.

Meet Author Laura Thomas whose Romantic Suspense novels not only entertain, but also provide heartwarming encouragement. @Laura_Thomas_ with @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

A published Christian author, Laura writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul—especially in her romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage, and children’s books. Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, B.C. as audacious empty-nesters.

About The Orphan Beach

Life is spiraling out of control for pediatric nurse, Juliet Farr. Heart-broken, grief-stricken, and experiencing a crisis of faith—now she is the prime target for a crazed killer. When her ex-boyfriend, detective Max Bennett, returns to work the case in the Oregon Coast, he knows sharing the truth behind their break-up will destroy any possibility of a second chance together.

A manuscript, a maniac, and a mother’s love propel Juliet’s flight to a beach in Mexico as she desperately pursues hope and healing. Will she ever find freedom from the ache of abandonment? And when a troubled soul chooses Juliet as his perfect victim, can Max prove his love for her by risking his own life? Or will Orphan Beach be the end of their story?

To enter for a chance to win an e-book copy of The Orphan Beach, simply leave a comment on this post. You may also retweet my post on Twitter or Facebook. Just be sure to tag me!


And the Book Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Sarah K. Butterfield on winning an e-book copy of Laura’s latest release, The Orphan Beach. Thanks to everyone who commented and shared, and a special thanks to Laura again for being our guest on the blog!

Upset the World – Giveaway & Review

When I first read the title Upset the World, it immediately grabbed my attention. “Upset” so accurately describes our society these days. I was curious to learn what Tim Ross meant by “upset the world” and how being an “upsetter” could radically change people for good.

His definition provided the starting point: “An upsetter is a person who has been upset by the overwhelming love of Jesus and upsets others” (Ross 12).

Before we can do that, though, we must first allow Jesus Christ to upset our lives. In other words, we need Him not only to save us, but also to make changes. As Ross says, “If you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ but nothing about you changes, then you probably didn’t really meet him” (17). He makes the point that Jesus upset the world so radically that he literally split the calendar before and after Him (20). It is our job to follow His example by rocking the world’s boat with the overwhelming love of God. Ross encourages us to use our testimonies and share how God has personally upset or changed our lives.

Before Ross moves into how we can upset others, He also explains the Holy Spirit’s role and work in our lives (chapter 3-4). He challenges us readers not to become “trapped” with religion but evaluate the heart motivation behind all our actions (chapter 5). Then, we’re ready to “do good” (chapter 6), love life in spite of what happens to us (chapter 7), be willing to disturb the “piece” of people’s lives that doesn’t match God’s will (chapter 8), and get used to upsetting people on a regular basis in obedience to the Holy Spirit (chapters 9-10).

Takeaways

I absolutely love that Ross explains that to upset the world, we’re not supposed to use hate or anger. We are simply to “go out and share the love of Christ in the most relational way possible” (13). He recognizes our current politically- and racially-charged climate and urges readers to take all their passionate feelings and convert them into love for people.

This is such an important point. Too many people think that hate and violence are healthy expressions. Feeling angry about injustice is absolutely justified and understandable, but channeling that anger into violence accomplishes nothing but more hurt. Ross explains this so well:

“We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His Kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus” (35).

Another point he makes is that we can love people without agreeing with them (48-49), which is also powerful and true. We can hate their sin without hating the person.

That said, a person who gives His life to Christ shouldn’t remain the same. Even though each one of us comes to know Christ just as we are, we can’t stay the way we are once we’ve accepted the gospel invitation. As Ross says, “We want everyone to come, but we don’t want anybody to stay the same” (167). Amen to that!

Review

I highly recommend the book as a whole with one personal caveat. I am a Bible-believing Christian and recognize different preferences in worship and practice. For example, some of my fellow believers and friends are highly conservative while some are pentecostal. I personally think God cares about the heart of our worship more than the means of expression. Ross is much more charismatic than I, which is neither here nor there, but I personally felt uncomfortable with some of his practices, such as attending a presbytery service where his wife supposedly received a “word” that her deceased father was “pleased” with her (101).

Now I certainly believe we can feel God’s pleasure in our lives when we are obeying Him, but from my knowledge of the Bible, receiving affirmations from deceased loved ones is not a Scriptural practice. Again, this is my understanding, and I am not a pastor like Tim Ross. However, this is the reason I’m giving the book a four out of five stars review.

That said, I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and highly recommend it, especially for those who are seeking a biblical perspective on how to deal with all the hostility and hate in our world. We are to upset people in the nicest way possible: with the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Enter the Giveaway

People need both to hear us tell about God’s love and to see us showing it. Ross provides practical examples and insights on what love-in-action should look like, and that’s why I’m excited to share a copy of the book plus study guide with one of my readers! I truly think these resources will be a blessing to you.

Upset the World by Tim Ross – Giveaway & Review by @khogrefeparnell

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post or last week’s post. You can share why you think this book would be a help to you or someone you know. You could even just say something like, “I want to learn how to upset the world for Jesus!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

All quotes are taken from: Ross, Tim. Upset the Word. Gateway Press, 2020.


And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Nancy on winning our Upset the World giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Another Giveaway Opportunity!

The month of August, I’m hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD8 to encourage readers to “go places” through reading, even if we’re limited in our travel opportunities due to Covid19.

For more details, read the full post. To enter, click here or the image below.

Win a Kindle Fire! Go Places Giveaway

Last month, I went to Egypt. This month, I’ve got a trip booked to Sudan.

Not in real life. In books.

I confess. My husband James and I very much wanted to travel extensively in real life this year. Our bucket list destination later this fall was going to be Paris. We planned to check off some of the typical places like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as well as Monet’s gardens and maybe Versaille. But we also wanted to explore some lesser-known but no-less-breathtaking places like Mont Saint-Michel.

Since currently all Americans are banned from traveling to Europe and new Covid19 cases are soaring, it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll get to make this trip this year. But that’s okay. We’re currently brainstorming possible places we can visit closer to home, which have already included Beech Mountain, the setting for my next novel.

Here’s the good news: Whether we can’t travel because of Covid19 or our budget, we can go anywhere we want through reading. And that’s why I feel this giveaway is so important. Because even if we can’t go there right now, we can still live vicariously through words.

Reading as an adventure

Reading is a life-long adventure that takes you new places and teaches you new things. And the best part is: You choose the destinations and the curriculum.

Reading is a life-long adventure that takes you new places and teaches you new things. And the best part is: You choose the destinations and the curriculum. @khogrefeparnell

Although I enjoy reading nonfiction in several genres, my favorite reading hands-down is fiction. Some people think fiction is a waste of time, because isn’t it all “made up”? Yes and no. Sometimes, settings are fantastic, but they can also be realistic. Although characters are imaginary, they’re often grounded in real life experiences and struggles. In other words, fiction presents real life and reveals truth about people. I’ve learned incredibly valuable life lessons from characters who never actually lived and breathed.

I mentioned “traveling” to Egypt and Sudan earlier. Here’s a sneak preview of my latest read and my upcoming one. I’d encourage you to connect with me on Goodreads where I share about all my latest travels … in fiction.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

My takeaway: Our lives don’t always play out the way we imagined, and yet, if we trust God in spite of our disappointments, He will make way for His best (even if it wasn’t our first choice).

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills

I can’t wait to start this one! Here’s the first part of the excerpt from Amazon: As an Arab Christian pilot for a relief organization, Paul Farid feels called to bring supplies to his war-torn countrymen in southern Sudan. But with constant attacks from Khartoum’s Islamic government, the villagers have plenty of reasons to distrust Paul, and he wonders if the risks he’s taking are really worth his mission.

A giveaway for you

This month is back-to-school for many, and it certainly doesn’t look anything like school seasons of the past. If you’re a student, yes, you will still have assigned readings, but those shouldn’t be your only readings.

This fact goes for adults as well as teens. I’ve known adults who hated reading because they associated it too strongly with education (or work), but when they discovered the freedom of choosing what they read, everything changed.

Maybe this Kindle Fire will do that for you. Or maybe it will become a gift for someone. Or maybe it will become your car companion. Hello! The Fire’s Immersion Reading feature is better than sliced bread.

How do you enter?

It’s super easy. Click here or the image below. You can enter one way or more than one way for multiple entries.

A few considerations:

  1. You must be over 13 years of age to enter.
  2. You must have a US address. (Sorry to my international friends!)
  3. I’ll pick the winner using my app’s random generator and will notify the winner via email. (The winner’s name may also be posted on this site and/or social media for marketing purposes.)
  4. While this contest may be shared on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with these entities.

The giveaway runs now through August 31, and I’ll announce the winner the first week of September.

What would you do with a Kindle Fire? Where is your next reading destination? Share in the comments!

~ Kristen

Win a Kindle Fire! Go Places Giveaway by @khogrefeparnell

And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Amanda Whitley on winning our Go Places Giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Christmas in July Multi-Author Giveaway

Hey, friends! If you live in Florida (or anywhere in the south), you don’t need me to tell you that the weather is hot. If you’re wishing for cooler weather, I can’t help you. But I can bring the next best thing … a Christmas in July book giveaway!

In partnership with Celebrate Lit, I’m including a free Kindle copy of The Revisionary in this month’s multi-author giveaway.

About The Revisionary

Summer is 2149 is anything but steamy. In fact, it’s ice cold, and the political climate, even colder. However, nineteen-year-old Portia blazes forward in her plan to rescue her brother from his satellite exile the only way she knows how: by joining the ruling elite. Her plan derails when she’s wrongly accused of helping the Rogues fighting for freedom the rebel way, and she must decide if it’s better to rewrite the rules or join those who break them.

The complete trilogy is available on Amazon in paperback & Kindle formats.

Enter the Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one of two prizes: a $350 Amazon gift card or 45+ books. Click here to enter.

The event and giveaway is going on now through July 26! Open to US residents only.

Happy reading!

~ Kristen

Enter the Celebrate Lit Multi-Author Giveaway for a chance to win a $350 Amazon gift card or 45+ books, including my dystopian novel The Revisionary. @khogrefeparnell #giveaway

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 3

If you’ve been following along with our kitchen remodel story (now on day four), you can only imagine how eager we were for Monday to come. Having already waited an extra two days to use our kitchen, I silenced my alarm when it went off and ignored the snooze button. “Hurry up and get over!” I told the day. Yet once it started, the day dragged by.

Pound. Whack. Thud. Pound. Pound. All. Day. Long.

We started to get nervous when the crew wasn’t done by dinner time. Then the project manager arrived, and James and I offered Gatorade and snacks to the workers. Finally, they reached the last part of the project, spackling the drywall. And then their spackle machine broke, and they had to find an alternate solution. It must have been 9:30 at night when they finished and left.

With the house finally silent, James and I soaked in the finished product. The cave with its Neanderthal fluorescent lighting was gone. In its place was a more open, well-lit space. We still had to put in new top cabinets, but at the moment, I could have hugged the kitchen.

Before/After

Rebuilding is messy, time-consuming, and loud; but it is so worthwhile.

Before we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are spiritually dead. The only future we have is eternal destruction (with no demo option). But look what Christ did! “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Don’t miss this part, because it is incredible. In and of ourselves, we have nothing to offer God, for it is only by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). But when we become God’s children, we also become His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and as His workmanship, He gives us everything we need to build effectively. Essentially, we become “God’s fellow workers” (I Corinthians 3:9). 

In I Corinthians, Paul compares believers to builders who are building on Jesus Christ’s foundation. The only way that’s possible is because God first laid the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), with Jesus Christ being “the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42). In other words, we are not only God’s work, but He also allows us to be part of His work (I Peter 2:4-5).

When we allow God’s spiritual reconstruction in our lives, we can then help spread His Word so more people can know Him and join His “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). What a privilege that is!

In our home, James is the outgoing one. I’ll be working at my desk and all of a sudden hear him talking with neighbors in the backyard or starting a conversation with the couple across the pond. His friendliness paves the way to relationships that might one day let us share the Gospel with others.

Although I truly believe my writing is a ministry, God has also challenged me to get out of my introverted comfort zone and start up conversations with people I meet while jogging in the neighborhood. You never know how one conversation might open doors later.

The bottom line is that as God’s children, He can use us wherever we are to share the Good News with others. Let’s not take that responsibility lightly.

A Prayer for Willing Hearts

Our kitchen renovations aren’t finished, although I’m proud that we were able to install all the top cabinets by ourselves. You can check out the video, and you’re welcome that it’s sped up, or you’d be watching for hours.

Wa-la! We make a good team. And yes, when James didn’t need me, I was editing my manuscript. 🙂

The bottom line is that we’re on this adventure together, and along the way, we’re learning and growing so much. May that also be our mindset as God continues His renovating work in our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for and redeem a sinner like me. I confess that I am very much in need of your saving grace and sanctifying work in my life. Thank you for your patience with me even when I complain about the refining process. I trust that you can use me where I am right now to share your Word with others and be a light for you in this hurting world. Amen.

~ Kristen

Giveaway Opportunity!

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Stay Connected for Future Giveaways

Subscribe to Kristen’s newsletter for monthly book buzz about Christian fiction for adults and teens, plus be the first to learn about giveaways and personal takeaways for your everyday adventures. 

When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 2

Day one of kitchen renovations went so quickly that we had high hopes day two would complete the job and let us get our home back to normal. Seriously, have you tried not using the kitchen sink for a full day? Go to your kitchen right now and thank God for your sink.

Okay, back to the story.

Around noon on the second day, we started getting worried. “He is coming, right?” I asked James. Although the AC duct guy was almost done, the electrician had just arrived, and we hadn’t heard a word from the project manager.

“He’s supposed to,” James said and shot off a text. By two o’clock, the electrician was almost done but still no word from the manager.

At four o’clock, James received a text to this effect: We’ll finish on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

This was the state of our kitchen.

Long story short, there was a miscommunication. When the project manager told us two days, he meant two days for his crew plus another day for the electrician and AC guy. Since the project began on a Friday, that translated into four days.

Need I mention that Sunday was Mother’s Day, and James’ mom was coming over? Even though our kitchen wasn’t functional, we made the best of it. James grilled, and we ordered take-out Pizookies from BJs for dessert. Thankful for our screen porch, we celebrated outdoors and truly enjoyed our time together.

Celebrating James’ beautiful Mom on Mother’s Day

God’s Sanctifying Work

The kitchen situation reminded me a little of God’s sanctifying work in our lives. We want fast results. We tell God, “Okay, hurry up and get this painful process over so I can move on with my life.”

But that’s not how God works. His molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” It began before we were born when He formed us in our mother’s wombs and “skillfully wrought” our frames (Psalm 139:13,15). It continues throughout our lives as He “mars” and remakes us as He sees “good” (Jeremiah 18:4). Ultimately, God designs us to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He refines our rough edges to make us more like Him. For me, one area the Lord continues to shape me is in the area of patience. Some people have told me I seem patient, but they don’t have any idea how much I agonize over waiting. For over a decade, I prayed God would send me a godly spouse before He answered my prayer with James. Then, we had to wait over a year before we found our new home. I could go on with personal examples, but the point is that waiting is part of the refining. God teaches me things in those “waiting room” days (and years!) that I might not otherwise learn.

How might God be refining you today? Let’s not resist His work but trust He knows best.

God’s molding process is part of His purpose for our lifetime, not a “quick fix.” @khogrefeparnell

Giveaway Opportunity

I’ve been reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space as a supplement to my daily quiet time. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests.

Through July 25, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

Learn about Revived and Renovated, Victoria’s Upcoming Project!

Victoria Duerstock, along with her friend Paige Rein, are launching a new video series soon! They’ll be sharing honest conversations on the intersection of faith and design in our spaces.

You can sign up to hear all the good news and updates at revivedandrenovated.com.

Renovating Our Homes and Hearts, Part 1

My kitchen is currently two different colors: blue and chestnut. From an outside perspective, it looks ridiculous. From where I’m standing, it’s a huge win.

Last March, my husband and I bought our first home together. Cosmetically, it was a real fixer-upper. Both bathrooms were pink, the kind of pink that only belongs in Pepto-Bismol bottles. The kitchen sported a cave-like drop-down ceiling and baby blue cabinets. Dear 90s, if only you knew the pain you’ve caused.

I’m incredibly blessed that God gave my husband the ability to watch almost any YouTube video and figure out renovations himself. I don’t possess that gift but am more than happy to embrace my helpmate status. I can identify most of his tools and am talented enough to hold almost anything under thirty pounds.

Even so, when we stared at the cave that was our kitchen, we decided to bring in the experts: demo and drywall team, electrician, and AC duct guy (because the original home designer thought it would be fun to place the air return in the drop-down ceiling).

The two-day job turned into four and caused more stress than I’m proud to admit. Yet looking back, I’m grateful we went through the mess.

What if we could have that same perspective with God’s renovating work in our own lives? Walk (and laugh) with me through this ordeal and see if we can find some wisdom for our Christian journey.

Stage 1: Demolition

Demolition is easy, right? All you do is knock everything down?

Not quite. I think we often confuse demolition with destruction. As I watched the crew on demolition day, I realized the opposite is true. Demolition is intentional. These hard-working men carefully taped a giant tarp around the entire kitchen space to keep debris isolated. They then went about the removal in stages, careful to secure AC duct work and raise support beams.

On a spiritual level, the distinction is even greater. Scripture makes clear that God tears down to rebuild, but man tears down to destroy. In John 10, Jesus uses the metaphor of a door to describe His relationship to His children or “sheep.” He contrasts Himself with impostors or anyone who seeks to injure or harm.

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10 NKJV)

Thieves destroy. They demolish not to improve but to hurt. On the other hand, Jesus tears down to make peace and reconcile (Ephesians 2:14-18), prunes His children to produce fruit (John 15:2), and casts down strongholds to help us submit our thoughts in obedience to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). He does all of this for the purpose of giving us the most abundant life possible.

Next time, we’ll look at Stage 2: Refining. Until then, let’s prayerfully consider what constructive demolition God might need to make in our lives to pave the way for what is better.

Home and heart renovations have more in common than you might expect! Learn more and take advantage of a special giveaway of Heart & Home by @vduerstock. Hosted by @khogrefeparnell.

Giveaway Opportunity!

Recently, I started reading Victoria Duerstock’s devotional called Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space. In it, she draws spiritual parallels to design principles that make our homes inviting places for our families and guests. I enjoy using it as a supplement to my daily quiet time.

For the next three weeks, you can enter to win an autographed copy of Heart & Home, special thanks to Victoria herself! I’ll announce the winner (must have US address) the week of July 26. You can enter several ways for more than one entry.

Click here or the image below to enter.

About Victoria

A multi-passionate creative and entrepreneur fueled mostly by coffee, Victoria Duerstock pursues her dreams with verve and intensity. Wife and mom of three, Victoria divides and conquers the never ending to-do list while working to maintain her sanity and pleasant demeanor.

She is currently on a fascinating writing journey which has plunged her deep in the social media landscape and she enjoys sharing her tips and tricks for growth and engagement with others through coaching and teaching online courses. You can read more on her websites www.victoriaduerstock.com and www.heartandhomebooks.com.

She is excited about two new releases for the Fall of 2020 with Skyhorse publishing titled Christmas Crafts and Advent Devotions for Kids and Biblical Hospitality. She also authored Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Your Living Space and Heart & Home for Christmas: Celebrating Joy in our Living Space combining short devotionals with home design tips and full color pictures with Abingdon Press last year.

Author Chat with Jerusha Agen on Romantic Suspense, Fighting Fear, and Her Next Release

I’m excited to introduce you to today’s featured author, Jerusha Agen! This gal has been such a blessing to me as we’ve gotten to know each other through our writing journeys, and today, it’s your turn to be blessed by her. I hope you enjoy this author chat as much as I have!

Q: What prompted you to first write Christian romantic suspense?

The first novels I wrote, which became the Sisters Redeemed Series, were romantic women’s fiction. But a curious thing happened as I was crafting those stories—each book in the three-book series leaned increasingly toward suspense! I realized when I finished that series that I might as well stop fighting the urge to add suspense to everything and embrace it instead!

Since then, I’ve written suspense novels that allow me to revel in the excitement, danger, and fear-fighting courage of the genre. I especially love how suspense stories delve into intense, sometimes dark issues—the places where the love and hope of Christ shine the brightest.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I hope and pray readers will always find in my stories a greater understanding of Who God is and where He is in the midst of suffering. I want my readers to come away with an unshakable hope from the realization that even in the darkest, most difficult circumstances, the Redeemer is there, is in control, and is always good.

Q: How does your Fear Warrior Blog tackle the topic that plagues characters in suspense novels—and many people in real life too? How does your faith shape the way you approach fighting fear?

The Fear Warrior Blog is dedicated to helping people fight against fear in their everyday lives. And you’re right, Kristen, this is an issue that does plague the characters in suspense novels, as well as all of us in real life! Everyone experiences fear at some point in their lives, to varying degrees, and I love to write realistic fiction that depicts that authentic struggle in the lives of characters too.

The characters may face a more palpable or overt danger than many of us do in our lives, but their deepest fears are the same as ours. And the only way to gain victory over fear is the same for us too.

You pinpointed that answer when you asked how faith shapes the way I approach fighting fear. Faith in God is the only way anyone can truly obtain victory over fear and break free from the prison of anxiety, worry, and all forms of fear. The good news is that this faith isn’t a pie-in-the-sky make believe or ignorance of reality. And the other good news is I don’t have to muster some heroic degree of faith myself.

“Faith in God is the only way anyone can truly obtain victory over fear and break free from the prison of anxiety, worry, and all forms of fear.” ~ @SDGwords on @kjhogrefe

This faith that gives us victory over fear is simply acknowledgement of and belief in the truth. And this faith, thank the Lord, isn’t something I have to conjure or force, but rather is a gift from God Himself.

So my faith, the faith God enables me to have, is also the means by which He gives me victory over fear. This fear-fighting weapon is available to everyone who belongs to Christ!

Q: How have you overcome fear in your own life, and how has this experience helped you encourage others?

Since God started me on this journey of fighting fear years ago, He has granted me so many victories, but many of them are in the small steps forward on my path to eventual conquering of that fear.

The most remarkable fear God has enabled me to overcome is my stage fright. I shared the complete story of this victory and how others can beat their own stage fright at the FW Blog, but the short version is that God gave me the faith, wisdom, and radical shift in perspective that enabled me to break free of stage fright. Ironically, this breakthrough happened when I gave a live presentation on fighting fear!

I knew we as Christians could have victory over our fears because the Bible tells me so. However, this experience has equipped and encouraged me to speak this truth to others with even more conviction because I’ve seen the evidence of victory over fear in my own life.

Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?

I wouldn’t have thought to receive feedback on my writing during a pandemic, but I got a hand-written note from an elderly reader the other day who shared that one of my books gave her comfort and helped her pass the time in an enjoyable way while she was quarantined alone.

I never expected a story I wrote would bring encouragement to a sweet woman alone during such a time. But God knew how it would be used, just as He knows how He will use each of the posts I write for the Fear Warrior Blog, where I have often been astounded and encouraged by feedback from readers who were strengthened for their battles against fear.

I am awed by the privilege to have my words used by God to help others!

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

I’m delighted you asked this, Kristen, because I’m currently working on getting my debut romantic suspense novel ready to launch with Love Inspired! I’d like to share with your readers the official title, for the first time in public: Rising Danger.

Rising Danger, which will be among the first books published with Love Inspired’s new trade line, is slated to release in July 2021. The novel tells the exciting story of a woman and her explosives detection K9 who stand between a city and a bomber.

That’s all I can say for now, but I’ll be sharing more exclusive updates and insider peeks with members of the Fear Warrior Suspense community (my awesome newsletter subscribers) in the coming months. I hope you’ll all join me by visiting FearWarriorSuspense.com.

Meet Romantic Suspense Author Jerusha Agen whose Fear Warrior blog equips readers to fight fear in their everyday lives and whose suspense novels remind them of the One who provides the victory. @kjhogrefe

About the Author

Jerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Rising Danger, releases in July 2021.

With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is a speaker, writing instructor, and author of the Fear Warrior Blog, where she writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives.

You’ll often find Jerusha sharing irresistibly adorable photos of her Furry Fear Warriors (three big dogs and two little cats) on social media.

Visit Jerusha at www.JerushaAgen.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

About Introverted

Jerusha is giving away Introverted, a free romantic suspense story, to anyone who signs up to join the Fear Warrior Suspense community! Follow this link to get your free story at FearWarriorSuspense.com!

She never invites visitors. But visitors sometimes invite themselves.

When a winter storm brings more than snow, May Denver is forced to flee from her home and fight for her life. Can she trust an unwanted neighbor and risk her greatest fear in order to survive?

Peace Pirates: Review & Giveaway!

You might be surprised to see this book on my blog. I’m kind of surprised myself. After all, this is not a mom blog. (Hello, I’m not a mom yet!) However, this blog is all about thinking truthfully and living daringly in everyday life, and when I reviewed the book concept for Peace Pirates, I realized it fit our theme here perfectly.

Ashley Willis’ premise with this book is to fight the “pirates,” or anything that steals the peace from motherhood, by using biblical truth. It’s such a simple concept but so powerful, because every day, all of us (mothers or not) face choices, confront thought patterns, and deal with situations that can potentially rob the peace of God from our hearts.

So if you’re one of my friends who is a young mother (or like me, have so many friends who are in this season of life), please keep reading. I’d love for you to enter the giveaway and use this resource for yourself or share it with someone who would be blessed by it.

What are Peace Pirates?

After her confessions of a pirate mom (which are both hilarious and more than likely common misadventures shared by many moms), Ashley identifies four peace pirates that often plague mothers: mommy martyrdom, comparison chaos, clenching control, and excessive expectations. She breaks down each one by showing how these pitfalls can steal joy and then provides practical teaching from the Bible to combat each one.

One of my favorite points that she makes is that there are no perfect parents. This is such a liberating thought, right? She uses the example of Mary and Joseph in the Bible. The mother of Jesus and His earthly father actually lost Jesus for three days (Luke 2:43-47). Although I’ve read this story many times, I’d never considered it in terms of parenting. If the parents of the Son of God made mistakes, then parents today need to give themselves some grace, too, when best-laid plans turn into pure chaos.

As someone who isn’t a mother yet, I really appreciated this perspective. Not only are there no perfect parents, but they also can’t control everything their child does. Instead of judging parents in public when we have little-to-no knowledge of the situation’s background, Willis offers this suggestion: “When we see a stressed-out mom at her wit’s end, why can’t our first inclination be to offer her some help or an encouraging word?”

I love that. Assume the best, not the worst. Offer an encouraging word or to get more napkins from the dispenser. Willis’ practical, biblical style will bless and encourage the young mommas who read this book.

My Takeaway

Again, I’m not a mother yet, but as I read this book, I realized that the “peace pirates” Willis identifies can steal our peace, not matter what our life stage.

My personal takeaway is to not make excuses for issues like pride, comparison, and unrealistic expectations but deal with them now. Don’t wait until you’re a mother and feeling “less than” other mothers because your child isn’t perfect. Don’t wait for your child to graduate to realize that you “missed out” on priceless moments because you were so concerned with looking the part.

Wherever we are in our journeys (single adults, young marrieds, young mothers, empty nesters, etc.), let’s ask God to show us what “pirates” are trying to steal our peace. Then, let’s make it a matter of prayer to defeat them and pursue joy right where we are.

Enter the Giveaway

I wish I had a dozen copies of this book to give each of the young mommas I know. Since I don’t, I’m still excited to give away the one autographed copy I have.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment. You can share why you think this book would be an encouragement to you or a young mother you know. Or, if you’re a young momma barely holding it together, you could just say something like, “I want to fight the peace pirates!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

Peace Pirates by Ashley Willis: Book Review & Giveaway by @kjhogrefe

Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to Bethany on winning the hard copy of Peace Pirates by Ashley Willis! Thank you to everyone who participated.