Tuesday, April 28, 2020

One Hundred Valleys | Book Review and Giveaway

About the Book

After the death of her mother, Emmalin Hammond discovers she is not the heiress she’d always assumed she’d be. The revelation exposes her fiancĂ©’s true intentions when he withdraws his marriage proposal, leaving Emmalin heartbroken and humiliated. When she discovers the father she believed to be dead is still alive and living in the Oregon Territory she decides it is time to meet the man who has been hidden from her all of her life.

Accompanied by her Uncle Jonathon, she sets out for the Oregon Territory in search of answers and hoping for a renewed relationship with her father. When tragedy strikes, she confronts the terrifying challenge of completing her quest alone. Faced with few options, she entrusts her life to a mountain man named Jacob Landon who agrees to transport her to a small settlement in Southern Oregon called Deer Creek, a place also known as the Land of One Hundred Valleys.

Emmalin is not prepared for the hardships of life in the Oregon wilderness. Each day presents a new challenge. Newfound friends, including the reserved Jacob Landon, who unexpectedly stirs her heart, come alongside to help her adapt. Yet she feels out of place. Should she brave the arduous journey back to Philadelphia for the life she once knew or remain and hope for something better in the Oregon wilderness?

My Review

My first impression from the first chapter was that it really “felt” the historical fiction feel. And overall, the lifestyle and things that the author brought out gave it a good historical flavor. There were a couple things that seemed far-fetched for the era (such as someone traveling the Oregon trail and extra three weeks’ trip for selfish purposes…), but that may just be me.

Jacob was by far my favorite character. His struggle of not knowing where he fit in society (whether with the natives or the whites) was a good plot point.

As far as romance goes, from all that I can remember, it was a pretty clean read. I don’t remember any innuendos that made me feel uncomfortable. I definitely appreciated that aspect of the story.

Spiritual-plot wise, God was mentioned, prayer was mentioned, and characters were Christians. There were some spiritual lessons threaded throughout the story, but they weren’t prominent.

If you just like reading a book where a girl is going along life’s journey, and things happen to her, and she continues through life’s journey, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. I struggled to fully enjoy this book because the characters felt underdeveloped and I couldn’t figure out what the plot was.

This was my first time reading Bonnie Leon, and I try to not have any unrealistic expectations when reading a new author. I wish I could say I absolutely fell in love with this book, and I tried, but it just didn’t click with me.

*I received this book from the Celebrate Lit and happily provided my honest review*

About the Author

Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-two novels, including the recently released Return to the Misty Shore, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons. Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, Poland, and even Africa. She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and mentoring up and coming authors.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
Why this story?
In the spring of 1980 my husband and I, our two-year-old son, and our infant daughter left city life in Washington state and moved to Southern Oregon. We gave up our community of friends and family along with my husband’s reliable and well-paying job. Our friends thought we were crazy, but we were determined that Oregon was where we belonged. We were scared but not deterred.
I think the change in my own life as a young woman had a lot to do with why I wrote this story of Emmalin Hammond. To be sure, Emmalin’s level of difficulty and danger is distinctly different than mine, but there are similarities. We both experienced adventures, joy, and, yes, even danger.
Oregon has been my home for forty years now, and I am glad my husband and I made the decision to move here. We’ve had a good life in this wild and beautiful country. Sometimes I wonder about the women who made that choice during the nineteenth century. Emmalin set out on her harrowing journey to Oregon in the spring of 1855. Many who began that journey did not make it across the plains and desserts of America.
When I put down roots in Douglas County, Oregon I was thrilled to be here, but the changes weren’t all easy. The old farmhouse we lived in had more broken windows than intact ones. It was mouse infested. The plumbing needed major repair. And yet I loved it. The countryside was lush and green, and the rolling hillsides were dotted with farm animals, wildlife, and broad-limbed oak trees. There were wild blackberries sprawling along the farm’s fences and fresh fruit in our orchard. It looked much the same as the Oregon Emmalin discovered in my story, One Hundred Valleys.
I loved hard work and spent a lot of time splitting logs for our only heat source—a wood burning stove—felling trees on our new property, and working alongside my husband in our vegetable garden.
I had run-ins with things like poison oak and skunks, but that did not dampen my enthusiasm as a new Oregonian. I loved picking wild blackberries, fishing the high mountain lakes, hiking mountain trails, and fishing the North Umpqua river. I cherished those days as a farm wife and mother. Those were the best years of my life. I have never regretted our move to the beautiful land of one hundred valleys in Southern Oregon.
I am thankful for the early explorers who challenged the wilderness in the Oregon Territory more than a century ago. It is their courage and determination that made it possible for me and my family to live and thrive in this beautiful place.

Blog Stops

Bigreadersite, April 18
Emily Yager, April 18
Stories By Gina, April 19
Betti Mace, April 20
Pause for Tales, April 20
Splashes of Joy, April 21
Simple Harvest Reads, April 22 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Worthy2Read, April 23
Older & Smarter?, April 24
Vicky Sluiter, April 26
Mary Hake, April 26
Genesis 5020, April 27
Artistic Nobody, April 28 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)


To celebrate her tour, Bonnie is giving away the grand prize package of a $15 Amazon Gift Card and Vintage Oregon myrtle wood porringer bowl!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Studying a Passage | From the Archives

To gain an understanding of an individual passage, it is beneficial to have both the Strong's concordance and Webster's 1828 dictionary on hand.

Choose a Passage
Sometimes, the Lord will lead you to study through a book. Other times, maybe it is just a memory verse or another verse that God has brought to your attention.

Study Key Words
Find the key (strong) words throughout the passage (these could be many or a few). Then, look up the definitions of these words both in Strong's Hebrew/Greek dictionary and Webster's 1828 dictionary.

For example, I will use a study that I recently did.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

Greek - (38) hagiasmos (hag-ee-as-mos'); from NT:37; properly, purification, i.e. (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier:
Webster's - 1. The act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God. 2. The act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.

Should abstain
Greek - (567) apechomai (ap-ekh'-om-ahee); middle voice (reflexively) of NT:568; to hold oneself off, i.e. refrain:
Webster's - In a general sense, to forbear, or refrain from, voluntarily; but used chiefly to denote a restraint upon the passions or appetites; to refrain from indulgence.

Greek - (4202) porneia (por-ni'-ah); from NT:4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively, idolatry:
Webster's (fornicate) - To commit lewdness, as an unmarried man or woman, or as a married man with an unmarried woman.

Greek - (5092) time (tee-may'); from NT:5099; a value, i.e. money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy, esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself:
Webster's - 1. The esteem due or paid to worth; high estimation. 2. A testimony of esteem; any expression of respect or of high estimation by words or actions; as the honors of war; military honors; funeral honors; civil honors. 4. Reverence; veneration; or any act by which reverence and submission are expressed,as worship paid to the Supreme Being. 5. Reputation; good name; as, his honor is unsullied.

Greek - (3806) pathos (path'-os); from the alternate of NT:3958; properly, suffering ("pathos"), i.e. (subjectively) a passion (especially concupiscence):
Webster's - 1. Longing desire; eagerness to possess or enjoy; as the lust of gain. 2. Concupiscence; carnal appetite; unlawful desire of carnal pleasure. Rom 1. 2 Pet 2. 3. Evil propensity; depraved affections and desires. James 1. Psa 81. 1. To desire eagerly; to long; with after. 2. To have carnal desire; to desire eagerly the gratification of carnal appetite. 3. To have irregular or inordinate desires. 4. To list; to like.

Greek - (1939) epithumia (ep-ee-thoo-mee'-ah); from NT:1937; a longing (especially for what is forbidden):
Webster's -  Lust; unlawful or irregular desire of sexual pleasure. In a more general sense, the coveting of carnal things, or an irregular appetite for worldly good; inclination for unlawful enjoyments.

Greek - (4122) pleonekteo (pleh-on-cek-teh'-o); from NT:4123; to be covetous, i.e. (by implication) to over-reach:
Webster's - 1. To deprive of right, either by obtaining something by deception or artifice, or by taking something wrongfully without the knowledge or consent of the owner; to cheat; to cozen; followed by of before the thing taken; as, to defraud; a man of his right. 2. To withhold wrongfully from another what is due to him. Defraud not the hireling of his wages. 3. To prevent one wrongfully from obtaining what he may justly claim. 4. To defeat or frustrate wrongfully.

By looking into the definitions of the word, it helps me to understand the subject this passage is speaking about.

Make it Personal
Once you study the passage, you can use the definitions to make it applicable and personal. From the definitions above, my mom wrote: "For this is the will of God, even purifying you and making you holy, that ye should refrain from indulging in idolatry (specifically in the physical sense), that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in purity and dignity . . ."

To make it personal, she wrote: "For this is the will of God, even purifying me and making me holy, that I should abstain from indulging in idolatry . . ."

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Traitor's Pawn | Book Review

About the Book
When FBI agent Jack Shannon arrives in Corpus Christi, Texas, he is focused on one thing: find the man who has been selling encrypted government secrets to the Chinese through online birding chat rooms. But when a senator is shot during a hunting trip and the woman he was with is abducted, Jack agrees to join the search--especially when he discovers that the kidnapping victim is Aubrey Grayson, a woman he was once in love with.

As the search continues, it becomes clear the senator may not have been the intended victim--and Aubrey may be connected to the other case Jack is supposed to be working on. Can Jack untangle the knots before it's too late? And when he learns the truth, will it be too painful to get past?

Join the hunt for the truth--and a traitor--in this tension-laden story of secrets, betrayal, and second chances.

My Review

This was my first time reading Lisa Harris, and I will definitely be reading her again! For a suspense novel, this wasn’t as suspenseful as many novels I’ve read, so I think it would be the perfect fit for someone who wants to get introduced into the Christian suspense arena without being thrown into the nightmare-worthy reads.

I appreciated the family portrayal in this book—both the very challenging, heartbreaking family situations such as Aubree’s real family as well as the steady family who took Aubree under their wing. Some sensitive readers may find it hard to read the whole situation with her blood father.

The spiritual plot was well done. It hit more toward the end than the beginning, but was still a very real message on forgiveness and trust. The characters were definitely Christian and leaned on God and prayed to Him for direction and help. It felt authentic.

The romance surprised me—delightfully. I felt it was a very warm story. There were several scenes that could have be more sensually described, but they were (such as a time when he gave her a massage, but there was nothing about “warm tingles”—it was just a friend helping a friend). Some readers may think it’s too stiff, but for this not-quite-romantic reader, I thought it was perfect and loved it. I don’t remember any cringe-worthy scenes in the romance field.

Some good quotes that stood out to me:
“But I choose to forgive you, because as imperfect as I see you, I’m just as imperfect.”

“Just because there was heartache in the journey didn’t mean you ignored love in order to avoid pain.”

*I received this book from Revell and happily provided my honest review*

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Considering the Greek and Hebrew Words | From the Archives

As you look at the Strong's concordance, you will notice little numbers to the side of the verses. These numbers indicate the original Hebrew/Aramaic (for Old Testament) or Greek (for New Testament) words. By looking up the original word, it can shed light on the subject.

Let us take the word "love" in the New Testament. The passage in John 21 shows a remarkable difference. I have copied the passage and inserted the Greek numbers for all forms of "love."

John 21:15-17
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (G-25) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (G-5368) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (G-25) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (G-5368) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (G-5368) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (G-5368)thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (G-5368) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

In the back of the Strong's concordance is a Hebrew dictionary and Greek dictionary. Be sure to flip to the correct one! For the above passage, we will find the Greek numbers 25 and 5368.

Here is what we discover:
25 agapao (ag-ap-ah'-o); perhaps from agan (much) [or compare OT:5689]; to love (in a social or moral sense):

5368 phileo (fil-eh'-o); from NT:5384; to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), i.e. have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while NT:25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as NT:2309 and NT:1014, or as NT:2372 and NT:3563 respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specifically, to kiss (as a mark of tenderness):

From these definitions, we see that Jesus was asking Peter, "Do you really love Me?" and Peter was answering, "Lord, I have an affection for you." The third time, Jesus asked, "Do you have an affection for Me?" and Peter was grieved because he could not claim to really love Christ. Reading the original definitions help shed a deeper understanding on the words.

Topical Study with Hebrew and Greek Words
With the realization of different root words, you can do a study on the individual root words. You can look up all of the verses using agape (G-25) love and then all of the verses using phileo (G-5368) love and follow the pattern of a normal topical study.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Simple Word Search | From the Archives

One of the studies that God has led me to do most often is a topical study. A topical study is when you take one word (and all of its tenses) and research every verse with that word. One can do an in depth topical study or a brief topical study.

Choose Your Word
Perhaps the Lord leads you to do a word study on "Forgiveness." With this word in mind, write down all of the tenses and synonyms: forgive, forgiven, forgave, forgiveness, forgiveth, forgiving, pardon, and pardoned. Choose one word with which to start.

Look Up Your Word
Using a concordance (I recommend Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), look up the verses for the first word.

Read Thoroughly
Do not skim through the verses, but read them. Remember that you are not studying to "get it checked off the list today," but you are studying to learn.

Copy Verses
If you want only the briefest overview of the word, merely read the verses. If you want to glean more from this study, then copy the verses down. Often, as I am writing out the verses, the Lord will help me to learn something from the verse. I write this down as well. Sometimes, a verse will make me ponder a question, which I write down to study (either in this specific study or in my general list of studies).

When you have finished going through all of the verses from your first word, look up the second word, using the same process, continuing through your list until you have covered all of the tenses.

Pulling it All Together
In studying a topic like forgiveness, it is easy to see that there are different applications of the word. Forgiveness covers God's forgiveness towards us, our need for God's forgiveness, how forgiveness affects our relationship with God, how we should forgive others, and specifics about what forgiveness entails. It is a good idea to take the time to categorize the verses you study. Some people categorize as they read the verses the first time. Others prefer to categorize them later.

To help you categorize verses, ask a few questions. Some general questions you could ask are:
            ~What does God's Word say about this subject?
            ~What should we do about this subject?
            ~What should we not do about this subject?
            ~Is this speaking of God?
            ~Is this speaking of me?
            ~Does this apply specifically to me?

Applying It
James 1:22 says, "But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (emphasis added) 

We can study God's Word every day, but if we do not apply it to our lives, we still miss the mark. As you study, be sure to ask, "What did I learn from this study? What should I apply?" Do not just read. DO.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Unyielding Hope | Book Review

About the Book
As a young girl, Lillian Walsh lost both her parents and a younger sister. Now in her twenties, after enduring the death of her adoptive mother, Lillian must find her place in the world. Just as her adoptive father is leaving for an extended trip to his native Wales, a lawyer appears at the door to inform Lillian that she has inherited a small estate from her birth parents--and that the sister she had long believed dead is likely alive.

When she discovers that her sister, Grace, is living in a city not far away, Lillian rushes to a reunion, fearful that the years of separation will make it hard to reconnect.

My Review

I know when I pick up a Janette Oke book that I will get a story that is clean and has a solid, Biblical lesson. “Unyielding Hope” is no different. It is the story of two sisters, orphaned and separated at a young age, their discovery of each other, and how they work together to make a patchwork family with other orphans.

This is one of those “settle into a comfy chair and read” books. It’s not especially plot or character driven. It’s more the sweet story covering the lives of a few characters.

I loved the realistic picture that the authors painted with orphans and foster children, their easily-shattered worlds, and their long road to piecing together their own lives.

There were hints at romance in this, but it seemed to set up more for a more in depth romance for book two. It was sweet.

Like I said, there was a solid, Biblical message in this book. I didn’t find it to be quite as prevalent on the pages as her “Return to the Canadian West” series, for instance, but it was still a story that revolved around Christ and His work in people’s lives.

I loved this quote:
“Often it’s in the timing of things where I see God’s hand most easily.”

*I received this book from NetGalley and provided my honest review*

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Preparing to Study | From the Archives

Inevitably, when one thinks of studying God's Word, the first question to arise is, "What should I study?" God's Word deals with every aspect of life and has the answer to every question.
According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4 

With so many options, what should we study? The answer for each individual is different, based on their need of the moment.

Choose Something That Relates Directly to You
~Has the Lord convicted you about an area in your life on which you need to work? (ex. anger, bitterness, forgiveness, pride, humility, giving, love, self-control, etc.)

~Are you memorizing a verse and do not understand all of the words?

~Is there a specific portion of Scripture that the Lord has brought to your attention?  

~Has a specific word stood out to you recently? (ex. trust, forgiveness, self-control, etc.)

~Do you have questions about a certain subject? (ex. God's grace, security of salvation, modesty, literature, etc.)

Keep a List
As you read through those questions, the Lord may have prompted your heart about a few topics. Write them down. Now. Keep your list handy (in the front sleeve of your Bible, on your night-stand, anywhere you frequent) so that any time a topic or question comes to your mind, you can jot it down to remember for later. This list is very useful when you have completed one topic and are wondering what to study next.

Gather Your Supplies
There are several tools that are very helpful to have when you study God's Word: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Webster's 1828 dictionary (assuming you are studying with the King James), and a notebook. If you are using your computer, I highly recommend e-Sword (www.e-sword.net), a free Bible software program on which you can download all of these resources.

Prepare Your Heart
There are different ways to approach the Bible, both good and bad:
     ~to extract from Scripture what it actually says (exegesis)
     ~to read into it what you want it to say (eisegesis)
     ~to learn what God's Word really says about an issue
     ~to fuel your argument and prove your point to someone else
     ~to go to God's Word with your mind already made up what you want to see

Psalm 119:18 says, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." Our motive for studying God's Word should never be to prove our points but to open our hearts to what God wants to teach us. Before we study, we should always set aside time to prayerfully prepare our hearts and ask God to give us a teachable spirit so that He can do His work in us.

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