Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review on From the Start

From the Start by Melissa Tagg was an enjoyable read. :)

Be forewarned. There are some spoilers ahead.

Kate Walker is a born romantic turned romantic screenplay writer. There's just one problem: her own broken heart has left her closed off, and frankly, a little sick of it all. Desperate to write something real and important, Kate is looking to hit the restart button on her life and her career.

Colton Greene has been recently and permanently sidelined by an injury from the NFL. Due to his own troubled past, Colton is closed off and guarded. Football was his outlet, and now that's gone. Colton is having a hard time trying to figure out what comes next. Sure, he's got a book deal, but that doesn't bring back what he's lost.

A tornado brings Kate and Colton to Maple Valley, Iowa. Reluctantly at first, Colton agrees to stick around and help the town recover from the devastation of the tornado. There he meets Kate in a meet-cute that is guaranteed to have you grinning from ear to ear. Turns out, Colton needs a writer, and Kate needs money to finally fulfill her lifelong dream, and follow in her mother's footsteps. The answer to two un-prayed prayers.

From the Start is filled with enjoyable scenes, romantic tension, and fun characters. There isn't a Gilmore Girls fan in the house that wouldn't find the buy-a-basket-get-a-date scene awesome. There were a number of zippy one-liners that had me laughing and thinking, "Now when can I realistically say that in a conversation?" For my personal taste as a reader, the backstory and character thought process were a little on the heavy side. Tagg does a great job with dialogue, but sometimes it was too broken up with the character's long thoughts. I loved the idea of a writer in a career slump! The ending was happy, and it was great to see Kate's renewed heart for romantic writing, and Colton going after a backup plan that could only be crafted by God.

Bottom line: this is a good read. I'm looking forward to the following books in the Walker Family Series.

I was given a copy of From the Start by Melissa Tagg from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

V. Joy Palmer

Monday, April 20, 2015

Anything You Can Do

"You're just a girl."

Ellie stuck her tongue out at Tim, the annoying boy next door. The afternoon sun lit Tim up, making him look as authoritative as he sounded.

Stupid sun.

"Being a girl has nothing to do with this. I can do anything you can. If boys can do this, so can I."

He made a face at her in return. "You're just a little girl, Ellie. Get real. You can't do that."

"Yes, I can! My mommy and daddy said I could do anything through Christ!" She glared at him. Why did he have to be so mean? Sure what she was doing was hard. Maybe even kind of crazy. She was only a kid after all, and there were a lot of hungry people in the world...

But she wanted to help! She felt like God would want her to help any way she could. So Ellie had started talking to any adult that would listen, and making plans to send food to an orphanage each month.

The only probably was the meanies like Tim.

He snorted, and Ellie felt her face flush with rage. A light breeze tried to cool her, but it was too late.

Elle jerked her thumb towards her chest. "If you want to be mean, fine. Just go away. I am going to do this. I want to help. If you cared about God's people, you would stop putting me down, and help me."

"Whatever, Ellie." Tim stormed into his house.

At least he had left her alone.

So I have that ever-popular song stuck in my head from the musical Annie Get Your Gun while I wrote this post. (Bonus points if you know the song!)

 Believe it or not, this is not a girl power blog post. This is a women of God/man of God/people of God post.

I want to share some verses with you guys. Verses that I find/found really cool. Verses that  I swear must have recently been put into the Bible because they seem that new and fresh.

Verses you probably won't find that interesting.

At first!

As some of you know, I'm a youth leader at my church. So there I was at youth group, surrounding by the kids and teens. The youth pastor ask the kids to pick anything in the New Testament. So the girls sitting next to me ended up in Luke chapter 8.

There is some good stuff in Luke 8. The parable of the sower. Jesus calming the storm. The lamp under a basket teaching. Jesus casting out a demon. Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood, and then raising the 12 year old girl from the dead are even in this chapter. Some major stuff went down here!

But what verse did those girls randomly pick that did not contain any of that awesome stuff?

Verse 1.

Which had the heading "Woman Accompanying Jesus."

In Bible days, woman weren't very important. Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000? That wasn't 5,000 people; that was 5,000 men. They didn't count women and children back then.

So I find these next few verses significant.

"Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means." Luke 8:1-3

As the gospel spread throughout the land and among the people, the women made sure they were involved. They weren't missing out! Some of those women were healed of sickness. Others were freed from evil spirits! None were left wanting. None were lacking. All of them were getting some of those blessings.

Not only that, but those women were actively involved in the ministry of Jesus. They provided for them. They helped make sure Jesus and the disciples had food to eat, water to drink, places to sleep, and sturdy clothes to wear.

My brother is actively involved in missions in his neck of the world, so I know from him that these day to day things are essential and necessary in ministry. Really in any ministry. Even from my work in the youth group, these things are a big part of planning in any event. They are not to be overlooked, considered lightly, or demeaned in any way.

In an era when women were all but trash, they were still actively serving God, and I think that is beyond awesome.

What about us today? In an era when we can do so much to further God's work, are we doing it? Man or woman, young or old, poor or royal heiress, we all have a part to play. We all have a way to contribute to the kingdom of God. Do we ignore those reasons because of how the world tells us we need to live?

Sometimes I think we do... But do you know what I say to that?

Anything the world tells me to do for it or for myself, I can do better for God!

Because no one is me. No one can contribute like me. No person brings the exact same strengths to the Lord. They are all gloriously different and needed.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24

I hope we are all actively serving God, because no matter what the opposition is, we can do it. It is important. Don't despise your small beginnings because it may be a life-sustaining act for someone else.

God bless you guys! I hope you have an awesome end of April! I look forward to seeing you again on May 1st!

P.S. The song was, "Anything You Can Do."  :)

V. Joy Palmer

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Hampster Wheel

Maddie dropped another slimy spoonful of gravy onto the waiting plate.

Oh, the joy.

She tried not to gag as the gelatin-like gravy quivered but retained it's ladle shape. The old man moved away smiled gratefully, and she continued to serve the homeless people in the line for the next hour.

A replacement volunteer tapped her on the shoulder. "Your shift is over."

Sighing in relief, Maddie handed him the ladle and relinquished her apron. It wasn't that she didn't like helping them. She just wondered if spooning out wobbly gravy made a difference.

As she walked to her car, she saw the old man from the soup kitchen line. He was sitting on a bench, hands folded, head bowed. For a moment Maddie wondered if he was dead. He looked up just then, smiled when he saw her, and began waving frantically.

Maddie hesitated, but then walked over to see the old man for a moment. "Hello."

"Hello, young lady. I just wanted to thank you for serving me today."

Maddie was taken a little off guard. That was so sweet! "Thank you." She gave a little wave, and was about to walk off when she noticed that the man's windbreaker was torn and ratty.

She pointed to his exposed arm. "You must be freezing."

"Oh, no. I'm fine."

Maddie shook her head. "No. Take my coat." She had slipped out of it before she had finished speaking. It was a hand-me-down from her older brother. Certainly used, but definitely warm. "Please take it."

His expression was downright angelic. "Thank you, dear. God bless you."

Maddie bid him farewell, but turned around at the sound of his voice. "It does make a difference, Maddie. It makes all the difference."

Except he wasn't there anymore. He had disappeared.

Maddie rubbed the chill from her sweater clad arms. What had just happened?

Hey guys! I hope you've all been well, and that God has BLESSED you tremendously! :)

So. Have you ever felt like Maddie? Like all you do is for naught? It's a pretty easy to trip and fall into that pit. Life just gets overwhelming. Cycles and routines are formed. Life becomes a series of events that you MUST DO.

Or else.

It's like the hamster running in that annoying squeaky wheal.

My alarm goes off. I smash the snooze button in an attempt to get a few more minutes of shut eye. The cat starts to bat my face because she heard the alarm go off, and you know what that means.

"Time to feed me, human!"

After shielding my face for the hundredth time, I drag myself out of bed to fed the cats, post blogs, read my Bible, and get ready for work. Nine-ish hours later I return home to write or work on more blogs, eat dinner, and collapse into bed.

Rinse and repeat. Over and over. Running and jogging, and I have got to tell you guys that isn't easy. I'm out of shape. (That's what happens when you are a writer, and your brain food is double-stuffed Oreos.)

The days seem to quick. The nights are over in minutes. There just isn't enough time, and you don't feel like anything is getting done. What difference have I made? All the while, that stupid wheal squeaks underneath me, irking me more.

Because I'm on the wheel, focused on what I need to do. It's a cycle, and sometimes I forget what I working towards.

And no, I don't mean my career in general. I'm working towards showing the light of Jesus in my life. My day is about the person in a foreign country (that forbids God's Word) who reads a blog I wrote to survive another day. It's about the kids and teens in the youth group who listen to my crazy lessons. It's about the scared and nervous person who is new to the area, and how they calm down when I offer a smile and friendship. My day is about so much more then I give it credit.

It is worth it. What I do, does make a difference.

"'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matthew 25:35-40

Every time you work at a soup kitchen, give away your coat, or visit the sick, you make a difference. God sees it, and He will bless you for it. Those little things in your day matter. All the hearts you are touching, directly touch God's heart.

Don't give up friends! Keep doing what you're doing! Keep living for God! Keep showing His love to the least of these.

I just really love this song, guys! And it goes with today's thought. :)

See you guys on April 20th!

V. Joy Palmer

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


A horrible sounding sputter and  a dark cloud of smoke emanated from the hood of April's car.


Pulling over as fast as she dared, she turned the car off,  threw the door open, and leaped out.

Just in case it exploded.

Tentatively walking to the hood, April yarded it open. "No, no, no , no. Please don't do this to me , you steaming heap of metal."

More smoke billowed from the car's engine in the shape of a mushroom as she propped the hood open. April didn't know a lot about cars, but she was guessing that was bad.

April Fool's Day. What a perfect day for a practical joke from God.

All the months of frustration, heartache, and weariness started to overwhelm her. This was it. This was the moment she would loose it , forever becoming the crazy lady who walked the side of the road.

"Urgh! Why God? Why? I'm going to loose my job. Then I won't be able to pay my bills, and I will get kicked out of my apartment!" God had allowed so many horrible things to happen to her. Where had God been in those times? Where was He now? She had tried to go to church and find Him. It was like she was playing hide-and-seek with God in the dark.

But all she could find was darkness.

Collapsing by the side of the road, tears flowed down her face. A warm breeze ruffled her bangs. "Where are you, God?"

Her whisper was answered with another breeze.

Like God was wiping away her tears.

When I was a kid, my friends, family, and I would play hide-and-seek for hours after school. Even as an adult, I love hide-and-seek. I love playing it with the kids in the youth group. The part that I love the most is when I find the best hiding spot, and the kids completely miss me! They could be waving their arms two inches from my face, but not see me. And when that chair leg crashes down on my ankle, they don't hear my muffled cry of agony. That's right!

We are the champions!

Sorry. Back to the subject.

I tried to illustrate through my short story that sometimes people feel like they are playing hide-and-seek with God. Some people will say they are looking for God, but no matter how many tables and chairs they look under, they can't find Him.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7
That's not true. If you will look for God, you will always, always, always find Him!
So my favorite Psalm is 139. This is my favorite part:
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."
Psalm 139:7-10
God's got you. He's never left you. He's holding your hand.

Some of you may be giving me a dubious look, with a half glare on your face. With an arched eyebrow you might say sarcastically, "Joy, what about when the hard times come. What about when disease, death, and disaster strike out lives. Where is God then? Answer that one all wise and knowing, dolt."

Fist off, harsh.

Second, God is still there. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's true.

Have you guys spent any time in the book of Ruth. There you will find a dear woman by the name of Naomi. In Ruth 1:1-5, you learn that Naomi was once very happy.


She had husband and two sons. Then famine struck. She and her family moved out of Israel and into the land of Moab. The last box is finally unpacked, and then her dear husband died, leaving her with just her two sons. Those young men each married, and for awhile things were good. Naomi spent her days among family and friends, anxiously awaiting her first grandbaby. Then both her sons, the light of her life, died. Leaving her alone.

She and her daughters-in-law were going to travel back to Bethlehem, but Naomi tried to persuade them to go home. One of them did, but Ruth stuck with her mother-in-law, totally adopting her and her lifestyle.

Once they arrived in Naomi's home town, Bethlehem, people started to flock to their sides. Everyone was flabbergasted at the arrival of Naomi. But Naomi's bitterness was etched upon her face. In her anger she declared, "Don't call me Naomi anymore! Call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?" She felt like God had abandoned her, and taken away everything she loved. She blamed God, and was giving up.

Okay, I don't know about your Bible, but the footnotes in my Bible give the meanings for Naomi and Mara:
Mara- Bitter

My husband noted something really cool. Even though Naomi said, "Don't call me Naomi; call me Mara," all throughout the book, she is still referred to as Naomi-like God didn't acknowledge her angry name change. Like God was saying, "I've still got so much in store for you. You will be pleasant once again."
Like the story in the beginning, we will be going along fine, and then hit a brick wall. We get out to look at the damage, kick the torn up bumper off our car, and freak out. We've all responded like Naomi. We've all taken a situation, and instead of trusting God or even being pleasant about it, we purposely choose in our hearts to become bitter.

Naomi would come to find out that God had not abandoned her. That even though the perils of this world broke her heart, He was putting it back together.

What about us? What about you? When death, disaster, and destruction hit, does your view on God change? When your car breaks down, do you scream and blame God?

Can you find God in the dark?

I love these two songs. And I couldn't pick just one.

Life won't always go to plan, but if you will look for God, you will find Him. Even in the dark times. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with you. He's holding you. What you need to hold onto is that God is real. And He will never leave you empty or thirsty. He will never let you go.

And that is no April Fool's joke.

See you guys on April 10th!
V. Joy Palmer