recent inspirational nonfiction reads

This summer,  I made a goal to read at least one nonfiction book a month, and it has been a treat! I picked up a few books on sale that turned out to be gems, so sparkling and truth-filled that I bought the paperback versions immediately. Here’s what I read this summer:

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker

From the publisher: Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.

Ever since I found that first Lisa-Jo Baker article, I’ve called her my Internet BFF, the older sister who has gone before with all the wisdom that helps us feel not alone. She tackles today’s friendship, celebrating community among women and showing us how to be the friend our friends need.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2viXaOq

Wild & Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

From the publisher: Wild and Free is an anthem and an invitation in equal parts to find freedom from the cultural captivity that holds us back, and freedom to step into the wild and holy call of God in our lives. With fresh biblical insight tracing all the way back to Eve and a treasury of practical application, Jess and Hayley reveal how women today can walk in the true liberty we already have in Jesus.

I loved this book and highlighted a truth bomb on every page. These women really know their Scripture and urged me to dig deeper to explore the way culture has shaped women and the way God intended us to be. Perfect for women who have ever felt like they are too much and not enough at the same time.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2uZf460

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

From the publisher: In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. 

Since I loved Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, I didn’t know what I was going to take away from this book. But it’s much more of a memoir-style — and her voice. Wow. The writing style is filled with gorgeous metaphors and clever turns of phrase. She illustrates what she learned about grace and surrender in a beautiful, artful way.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2w6o7lR

Coming this fall: I’ve gotten to take a sneak peek at these books coming out in the fall. From reconcilation and peace to reclaiming holiness over cheapened grace, I promise you won’t want to miss them!

Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore

In Shalom Sistas, Osheta Moore shares what she learned when she challenged herself to study peace in the Bible for forty days. Taking readers through the twelve points of the Shalom Sistas’ Manifesto, Moore experiments with practices of everyday peacemaking and invites readers to do the same. From dropping “love bombs” on a family vacation, to talking to the coach who called her son the n-word, to spreading shalom with a Swiffer, Moore offers bold steps for crossing lines between black and white, suburban and urban, rich and poor. What if a bunch of Jesus-following women catch a vision of a vibrant, whole, flourishing world? What happens when Shalom Sistas unite?

More here: http://amzn.to/2uZioOz

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly

Dance, Stand, Run is an invitation to the daughters of God to step into the movements of abundant life: dancing in grace, standing firm in holiness, and running on mission. Through story and study, Jess casts a fresh vision for how to live into your identity as a holy daughter of God, how to break free of cheap grace and empty rule-keeping, and finally, how to live out your holy influence with confidence before a watching world. Spoiler alert: it’s a beautiful thing.

For anyone longing to take their place in what God is doing in the world, Dance, Stand, Run will rally your strength, refresh your purpose, and energize your faith in a God who calls us to be like Him.

Check it out here: http://amzn.to/2ujSvqY

What have you enjoyed reading this summer?

scenes from a first book signing

Before kids, I was a full-time book publicist for several years. And boy did I hear the local author event horror stories. Fortunately, my first book signing last Saturday was far from that. It was a magical bucket list experience, thanks to my amazing community of family and friends.

The staff at Barnes & Noble had a table and sign situated close to the entrance. The better for awkward eye contact with unsuspecting shoppers 🙂

I lured them in with freshly baked treats — or at least freshly picked up from The Fresh Market. And my people showed up <3

I’m seriously still smiling from how fun it was that day. My husband was out of the country, so my sister-in-law Bethany stayed with me all day as new and old friends came by.

After the event, I reunited with my favorite littles for a special date night downtown with pizza and the most magical strawberry cupcakes.

And thus concluded my first book signing! Thank you so much to everyone who came, whether we got to take a picture or not, and to the fabulous staff at Barnes & Noble for taking the chance on a debut author! It was an amazing first experience 🙂

a thank you giveaway

We are well into June now, but I’m still smiling from a whirlwind release month. Thank you so much to everyone who has stepped into Cooper and Sloane’s world and helped spread the word about their story — AND Nick and Chelsea’s, for that matter!

I wish I could bake everyone Sloane’s toffee chocolate chip cookies for their love and support, but I do have a few things to give away.

In honor of Sloane’s spreadsheet-loving ways and the fact that Chelsea from That’s When I Knew runs a planner business, our grand prize is a set of undated, six-month Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, a signed paperback of With No Reservations, and an electronic copy of the Love at First Laugh novella collection featuring That’s When I Knew. You can keep it for yourself or pay it forward to a friend.

If you’ve followed me on social media for any length of time, you know how much I love my Powersheets. They’re not a planner but a set of worksheets that help you identify your goals at the beginning, sort through what’s working and not working for you in your efforts, and include a section for each month to prioritize and create action steps so you can make progress. I have used them to motivate myself to go to the gym more, reach writing goals, form new habits, and be more intentional about my YESes and NOs.

They promote progress not perfection, designed to be messy and meaningful. Right now, they’re sold out until next year, but I snagged a teal set because I’d love to help one of my friends reach his/her goals in the second half of 2017. Three other winners will get copies of my sisters’ novels, Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, the Of Rags and Riches historical romance collection featuring my sisters Anne Love and Jaime Jo Wright, and Sarah Varland’s latest romantic suspense, Perilous Homecoming.

(ETA: Giveaway closed and winners have been notified!)

To enter, comment telling us what dream or habit you would use the Powersheets for. (Or if you just want some books!)

For additional entries, you can leave separate comments telling me if you have:

Thank you so much, y’all! I’m convinced I have the best friends and readers <3 While I can’t bake cookies for everyone, you can find Sloane’s cookie recipe and more by downloading this free PDF! Bon appetit!

With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway!

My debut novel, With No Reservations,
releases NEXT MONTH!

It’s a clean contemporary romance I originally wrote three years ago that features a reclusive food blogger and a high-profile chef whose pasts hold them hostage in the present, a restaurant opening, a dash of OCD, a Ferris wheel, a farmers market, an unlikely romance, and a lot of food. For character profiles, the story behind the story, and more bonuses, click here! You can pre-order by clicking the button below, but seriously. Don’t read on an empty stomach 🙂

Get Your Copy Here

Enter the With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway!

With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway

To celebrate and spread the word, I’ve giving away a Kindle Fire, signed paperback, and my favorite Daily Grace Co Daily Notepad! Enter here:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{friday mixing bowl} spring and other things in the air!

Happy Friday, friends! After a week of winter and another of summer (??), spring is finally in the air here. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

My very first box of author copies arrived yesterday! It was surreal and way more emotional than I thought it would be to: 1)  hold a book in my hand and 2) open it to see words I spent years writing and rewriting. Wow. Just wow. So this is With No Reservations, a clean contemporary romance about food and healing. I don’t have its section up on my Books page yet, but you can read more about it (and pre-order, if you’d like) on Amazon or mark it To-Read on Goodreads. Eeeeee!

Speaking of food, I’ve been watching a lot of the Great British Bake-Off on Netflix and told a friend that I was almost as proud of making this as I was for having my kids. A little exaggeration there? Maybe. It’s the Deep Dish Chocolate Cream Pie from Tastemade, and it has a delicious amount of espresso in the filling, coffee lovers. Like the pie version of a Jamocha Shake.

I’ve been working on a three-book proposal and a client editing project this month, but I’m excited to get back to work on my new website and a brand new manuscript of my own next month <3

From emergency appendix surgeries to computer glitches to back-to-back-to-back-to-back illnesses in my house, it seems like it’s been two steps forward, ten steps back with my March goals. But I’m still here, working hard, trying to be diligent about rest, and incredibly grateful to get to do what I love. The Lord is faithful and generous. I’m so grateful for how much He loves me through you all! So please remind me of that next month when I’m in the thick of training for my 5K race on April 29. *Cringe*

While we’re on the subject of friendship and loving well, I’m so excited about this book! Lisa-Jo Baker is my internet BFF whose words always make me feel like I’m sitting across from the older sister I never had with warm cups of tea between us. Every woman needs the wise insight of someone who’s gone before them, and Lisa-Jo has a lot to share about friendship, mean-girl-PTSD, and more in Never Unfriended. If you pre-order before April 4, you can enter your purchasing details on the book’s website and get a bunch of goodies 🙂 I’ll be including it in an upcoming post about my Spring TBR pile. So many good ones releasing soon!

< link love >

source: CrunchyCreamySweet.com

  • My son’s second birthday is next week, and I’m making these Birthday Cake Mix Cookies from Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet for our little family party! Aren’t they so cheerful?
  • One of my biggest priorities this year is to deepen my study of Scripture. (Okay, if we’re honest, to start really studying Scripture.) But look at this new Bible from one of my favorite Bible study resources, She Reads Truth! It’s beautiful, has a ton of features like timelines/reading plans, and is designed to make the Bible easier to navigate, which is great for people like me who know the vitality of diving into the Word but need a little help in the discipline department. I’m going to make this (one of) my book release present(s) to myself 🙂
  • Self-protection can cost us our heart: SO much wisdom in this article from the International House of Prayer about Keeping an Open Heart When Relationships Fail.
  • Making this Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Lemon Pasta for dinner tonight. It’s so springy and delicious with a side of asparagus or peas! The Recipe Critic has some great meal ideas.
  • Everyone’s favorite Lin-Manuel Miranda created a playlist for writer’s block, which The Nerdist wrote about here. Can’t wait to check it out, and I know it will prevent so much *headdesking* from creatives everywhere 🙂

< around the web >

So grateful for and blown away by all the love for our little novella collection. Getting Nick and Chelsea’s story into the world has been such a fun and humbling experience. We have been featured/reviewed on:

Teresa Tysinger | Amanda Everett’s Spring Break Reads | Faithfully Bookish’s First Line Friday | Alexis Goring’s God is Love Blog | Fantastic Fiction | Book, Line, and Sinker | Bibliophile Reviews | The Robin’s Nest

Is it spring where you live yet? What are you cooking and reading this weekend?

{friday mixing bowl} slow mornings, renewing of the mind, and unicorn cake!

Hi, friends! Is anybody else really glad it’s Friday? This is where I am this morning:

I know oatmeal is probably the most unphotogenic breakfast, but after a lifetime of hectic mornings, I’m grateful for a slow, lazy one. I’m going to post a monthly update and my goals for March next week, but one of my favorite things about February was my morning makeover. I’ve been waking up before my kids to get stuff done and have a slow breakfast with a giant glass of lemon water. It’s made all the difference in my day.  🙂

My schedule has been somewhat unpredictable, so I have been using block scheduling to get things done and setting aside chunks of time to do them. (Like naptime!) As always, the 15-minute drill has also been my lifesaver. It’s amazing how much you can get done in one episode of Mickey Mouse if you focus on one thing at a time. I’m currently working on an editing job, writing a proposal of new book ideas for my editor, preparing for my book launches, and training for a 5K. Life is full and happy 🙂

This week I got to meet singer-songwriter-podcaster Christy Nockels, whose music and gentle spirit have been instrumental since I was a tween, pretty sure. But her Glorious in the Mundane podcast has been especially encouraging to listen to as I clean my house 🙂

<link love>

    Source: ThePaperSpoon4U on Etsy

<in case you missed it>

  • The novella collection I’m part of releases next week, so things around here have been a giant pre-release party! Here’s the book page with the playlist, the story behind the story, and all the behind-the-scenes info about That’s When I Knew!
  • On The Writer’s Alley this week, I shared what I learned from writing my novella, celebrated the writing community, and shared a sneak peek!
  • The lovelies of Coffee Cups & Camisoles posted our interview today!
What have you been up to this week? Are you as excited about the weekend as I am??

monday morning announcements

I’m so excited for today because I can finally let you in on a big secret!

Shortly before I signed my contract with Harlequin Heartwarming, I was approached by some author friends about writing for an inspirational romantic comedy novella collection to be released on Amazon. Of course I was all over that — especially when I saw the stellar lineup of authors.

I learned a lot while writing this novella. And rewriting the whole thing. I learned that there’s a huge learning curve when creating a story in about 1/4 or 1/3 of the word count. I learned (again) that things in storyworld rarely go as planned. I learned (again) the importance of letting go and writing alongside my Creator.  And I learned that I can release a story even if it isn’t perfect.

If you’re signed up to my newsletter, you know a bit of this, but the novella is called That’s When I Knew, part of the Love at First Laugh novella collection with seven other fantastic authors.

About That’s When I Knew

On most days, Chelsea Scott feels like her rapidly growing planner and stationery business should belong to someone else. Maybe if it did, it wouldn’t be hovering near the red due to one costly decision. But the collaboration that will save her company awaits her pitch at the trade show she’s keynoting. When her transportation falls through at the last minute, she accepts help from Nick Pearson, who’s unexpectedly come back into her life.

The last time Nick saw Chelsea, he told her he loved her, and she ran. Twelve years later, their lives are different, more complex than the summers they spent playing baseball and eating ice cream cones at their dock with their toes in the lake. But as they spend time together on the road, their feelings for each other become clear: all those years couldn’t take away how good they can be together.

When Chelsea’s past decisions resurface at the convention, her newly rekindled relationship with Nick – and her business – are in jeopardy. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will another summer end with them apart?

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, you can pre-order the eBooks of That’s When I Knew and this entire boxed set (8 novellas total) for only $0.99! 

Get Your Copy


It’s long been a bucket list dream to add a Books tab to my site, and that day is finally here with my May release and more books to be added in the near future. (Seriously. Pinch me.) You can find out more information about the novella, including character profiles, a Spotify playlist, and more on the That’s When I Knew book page!

Thanks for sharing in my excitement, loves! To keep up with more bookish news, you can sign up for my occasional newsletter or follow my author page on Facebook.

february 2017 goals

It’s the first Monday of February, so now is when the fun begins, right? I’ve been going through my Powersheets really slowly and deliberately to refine what I want to prioritize. So each month, I want to create a doable list with those bigger aims in mind.

I just returned from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in California AND had the chance to join an IF: Local gathering this weekend, so there’s a lot to unpack and many wheels to get in motion this month. Here’s what’s on tap for February:

Writing:

  • Write book proposal for next project(s)
  • Outline and begin writing next novel
  • Work through one craft book: KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel
  • Finalize pre-release marketing plan for spring
  • Create Goodreads author page
  • BLOG. Like I said, I have lots to process and share!

Work:

  • Set a regular work schedule and keep laptop in my office during the day
  • 5 pages a week of new web content
  • Set up accounting programs for business (including the Wave app, which looks amazing!)
  • Make a style guide and blogging/social media image template
  • Build a content database + content calendar template
  • TAXES

Personal:

  • Establish a better sleep schedule and morning routine: I’d like to be in bed reading by 1030 with my alarm set using the new(er) Bedtime app on my iPhone!
  • Read two books for fun
  • Start 5K training app on my phone and run outside on warmer mornings
  • Meal planning every Sunday night and prep on Tuesdays
  • Set up meeting for CityChurch college women’s book club
  • Creative nonfiction once a week

There you have it! It looks like a lot, but a lot of it will be ongoing and some of it will take no time at all. Here’s to better habits, changes in mindset, hard work, and healthy balance. <3

What do you have planned for February?

2017 planner favorites

My 2017 planner runs from July-June, so I’m good on that front. But if you’re still on the lookout, I come bearing ideas — not because I am being compensated in any way or form, but simply because I’m a huge planner nerd!

There are so many good ones that I could post about them all month, but here’s what has caught my eye this season:

source: TheDayDesigner.com

The holy grail of planners = the giant boutique planners like Erin Condren or the Emily Ley Simplified Planner or the Whitney English Day Designer,  which run around $60. If you can make that investment in a planner, they are beautiful with brilliant, functional design to help you make each and every day a work of efficient art. This model doesn’t work for my schedule or needs, but they are definitely helpful for busy people with many moving cogs in their lives!

source: BlueSky.com

For the last few years, I’ve been using the 10×8 horizontal weekly planner from Blue Sky, which runs anywhere from $9.99-$19.99. I love the way I can see a big picture of my entire week and plan work, writing sprints, and family things/meals accordingly. (Here’s a post with how I use it.) While most of their options in this format are July-June versions like mine, they have this one for January! If you’re more on a Target budget, I would highly recommend checking out their Blue Sky collection in person. They have partnered with some really talented designers, and I can guarantee you’ll find a gorgeous one that works for you, whether you are a daily, weekly, monthly, vertical, or horizontal planner <3

I’m super proud of my friend Karen who created the Dreams by Design planner for people with big dreams and busy lives! It’s a beautifully-designed printable planner that’s super easy to email to a printer or office supply store to be printed and bound. If you click on the link above, you can see a little about Karen’s heart in creating the planner and its neat features!

source: CultivateWhatMatters.com

Since I already have a planner for this year, I just got this six-month system from Lara Casey’s Cultivate What Matters shop ($40) for Christmas to help me organize huge goals for 2017. (Looks like they just sold out until next year. Boo!) Less of a planner and more of an inventory, this notebook is filled with Powersheets — worksheets with questions designed to help you identify your goals/strengths, what’s held you back in the past, and actionable steps to fulfill them. So if that sounds like something that would be beneficial to you in 2017, I would recommend the printable Dreams by Design planner above as it has that + a planner feature.

Last but not least, if a planner feels too confining for your tastes, you should really get into bullet journaling for the price of your favorite notebook. You can literally customize it any way you’d like. I got into bullet journaling this past year (remember the novella truck?) and absolutely love it during busier seasons. The Lazy Genius Collective has a guide to help make sense of it and show that it doesn’t have to be high maintenance at all. But you know that if it was super time-intensive, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole 🙂 You can search Instagram for more gorgeous spreads!

Are you a planner or a pantser in your own life? What system looks most appealing to you?

{2016 in review} highlights + discoveries

525,600 minutes. How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? (Two points if you started singing that song.)

2016 was a doozy for many of us. But I think it’s important to remember the good that happened and take it with us. Here are my favorite highlights and discoveries from the year:

2016 highlights:

  • My first book contract in June!
  • Realizing that rest/selah is important than hustle
  • Too many firsts and memories with my children to name
  • Learning how much I didn’t know about justice and developing a passion for reconciliation and rehabilitation
  • Exploring one of my new favorite cities (Seattle) with my husband
  • Eating the best meal of my life at Silo in Nashville with my sisters
  • Listening to Allen Arnold speak at the OKC Christian Fiction Writers Conference
  • Lake weekend retreat for quiet and writing
  • The Olympics. What? I was really into them!
  • Reading under an umbrella next to the ocean with my husband in Playa del Carmen
  • Celebrating my sisters’ book releases!

Favorite 2016 discoveries:

  • Trader Joe’s in Tulsa (!!!) + their arugula pizza + Tahitian vanilla caramels
  • Bullet journaling
  • The zen of deleting Facebook from one’s phone!
  • Hand lettering videos on Instagram
  • Rediscovering my love of reading
  • Instant Pot = gamechanger!
  • The Quill for novel composition
  • How much easier it is to wash dishes with the help of podcasts
  • Google Keep
  • That my hair apparently wants to be wavy now (Whaaaat?)
  • A peaceful trail by my daughter’s school for morning walks with my cub
  • Spindrift Sparkling Water
  • Shawarma + cider
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pens
  • Little Free Libraries!
  • The calm of coloring and painting

A good sign? Feeling like I’m forgetting something!

What will you remember the most about 2016? I’m still trying to narrow down all of the wonderful books and movies from this year, so I will have to share more later this week!