Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Said Yes with All My Heart

On March 18th, he smiled at me. A virtual smile through eHarmony, followed up with some multiple-choice questions. I was intrigued enough to respond...and when he later answered some open-ended questions I chose for him, I was smitten. This was a man of faith, a humble man who could see God at work in his life and express his insights well through writing.

We spent the next two months falling in love through our words. Emails. Texts. Phone calls. Skype sessions. Handwritten letters.

Memorial Day weekend arrived...and so did Josh, standing there in person for the first time at the airport. I was worried I might not recognize him. I needn't have been. :)

We spent our Saturday out at the coast, walking a trail, sitting by a waterfall, and visiting my favorite lighthouse. We were awkward. We didn't quite know how to navigate the newness of finally being together. But we learned, and it was as sweet and silly and emotional and wonderful as a first real date ought to be.

Then summer came, and with it a series of delightful visits. Vacation with my family in the high desert of Central Oregon. Trips to see him in Washington. Trips to see me.

We meandered through a garden. Explored a lava cave. Went on hikes. Canoed under the stars. Enjoyed a festival with friends. Took a road trip down the coast, viewing a couple more lighthouses along the way.

We experienced some great highs and some tough lows through the summer and into the fall. Quite the new adventure, falling deeper in love while still being hundreds of miles apart. But God has been there through it all, reminding us what love means...showing us new levels of humility...growing us closer together as the seasons changed.

We talked about marriage, about a forever commitment. We spent Thanksgiving together with some of his relatives, with so very much to be grateful for, even in an in-between time.

He completed another difficult quarter of school with success, getting closer and closer to realizing his dream of being an airplane mechanic. And right after his last class before Christmas break, he hopped in his car to head south, trying to beat a winter storm on his way to surprise me with a visit he had been secretly planning for months.

The storm beat him instead.

That evening he called me, devastated that his plans had fallen apart. But God gave us a Christmas miracle early this year. :)

Despite the snow and ice covering the roads, Josh made it safely back home the next morning. We both knew it would be too dangerous for him to try to drive down to see me. He didn't give up, though. He had been able to book a seat on a flight that afternoon...a flight that kept getting delayed as the weather continued to conspire against us.

The odds were high that he would get stuck in an airport overnight, but he got on the plane regardless. And in an answer to prayers, his second flight was delayed long enough for him to make the connection!

We had dinner that night with dear friends of mine who hosted Josh for the weekend. And the next day, Josh was able to carry out his special plans with another outing to the coast.

We had breakfast in a restaurant by the ocean. Took a walk along the beach. Browsed some favorite little shops. And finally made our way to that favorite lighthouse of mine, the one we visited together back in May.

On a trail above the lighthouse, Josh got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes with all my heart!

So now we're entering a new season, one full of uncertainties and newness and incredible possibilities as we start to plan our wedding and our new life together. But God has brought us to this place, and we trust Him to watch over us in all the days and adventures to come.

I couldn't ask for a better companion for the journey. ♥

Thank you, friends, for letting me share my story with you. :) I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas full of reminders that God is at work and very near!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Litfuse Publicity Tour: Waiting for Wonder

About the Book

What if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more? 

It’s easy to believe God when a promise is new. It’s hard when the years pass and nothing changes. It’s even harder when desperation strikes, your plans backfire, and still God does not fill the emptiness. But what if, in this waiting, God is calling us to more?

Join author Marlo Schalesky on a unique, contemplative journey to reveal the wonder that is often missed when we find ourselves struggling to wait well. Walking through the life of the biblical character Sarah, one who knows what it means to wait, you will discover a glimpse of God’s character that will give you strength to keep hoping and praying for the desires of your heart.

Waiting for Wonder is a journey into the heart of God where you will wrestle with personal questions, think deeply about God’s true character, and learn to appreciate His divine work as you discover your own path to the promised land. Recapture your hope, restore your soul, and renew your vision of a wondrous Savior when you learn to live on God’s time.

My Review

I think the best thing about this book is the perspective it offers. There are some gems throughout these pages, beautiful thoughts that remind us of the real, unexpected rewards of waiting and the peace of knowing God is in control in the long "in between" seasons.

The truth is that all of life is an "in between" season, and I love the chapter that discusses how "arrivals" on earth can't live up to all we expect them to be. As the author notes, what we're longing for isn't a place so much as a Person. (I love that!) When we focus on growing our relationship with God, learning to trust in Him more and love Him deeper, then the waiting times are full of promise and meaning.

There's a lot to encourage your heart in this journey through the life of Sarah (from the book of Genesis) and in the stories the author shares from personal experiences. I do admire the creativity of the book's layout, how there are fictional takes on Sarah's defining moments to add more emotion to the lessons, and how the highlights of Sarah's story offer some interesting takeaways.

I think there is a bit of a problem in using Sarah's life as a template. Our own journeys might look quite different than Sarah's. We weren't all given the same sort of promise she and Abraham were given, and there are longings we have that might be fulfilled in vastly different ways or never really fulfilled in this world.

Granted, I don't think the book is necessarily suggesting we expect the same results as Sarah received. :) But I do think it's good to be cautious in how we apply her story and what we take from it. And I also confess that the poetic nature of the writing in this book makes it feel a bit repetitive at times.

Even still, this is an uplifting read that points to an amazing God who works in perfect timing, blesses us in bigger ways than we often look for, and lovingly, amazingly joins us in the wait.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

About the Author

Marlo Schalesky is an award-winning author of ten books, including Wrestling with Wonder: A Transformational Journey Through the Life of Mary. A regular speaker and columnist, she has also published nearly 1,000 articles in various Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, and Marriage Partnership. Marlo lives with her husband, six young children, nine horses, two dogs, five cats, two parakeets, ten rabbits, two chinchillas, three hamsters, and a bunch of fish in a log home in Salinas, California.

Litfuse Tour Page: click HERE


Be encouraged to find strength and hope in Marlo Schalesky's new book, Waiting for Wonder. Journey into the heart of God where you will wrestle with personal questions, think deeply about God’s true character, and learn to appreciate His divine work as you discover your own path to the promised land. Recapture your hope, restore your soul, and renew your vision of a wondrous Savior when you learn to live on God’s time.

Learn the true purpose of waiting on God and living on His timeline and enter to win Marlo's giveaway.

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • Two copies of Waiting for Wonder (one for you and one to give to a friend)
  • A KEEP Collective watch set (with a band and watch)
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 23. The winner will be announced December 27 on Marlo's blog.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Creative Fairy-Tale Retellings with Thought-Provoking Alterations | Review of Once

About the Collection

Six fairytales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.

A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain. A stolen princess fumbles a century backward. A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons. A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis. A dead girl haunts a crystal lake. A terrified princess searches a labyrinth. A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they'd heard the tales in all their forms.

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand.

Available Now!

My Rating


My Review

Creative fairy-tale retellings. A group of fabulously talented indie authors. Diverse historical settings and rich characterization. The Once collection has a lot going for it!

I love that each story offers its own unique reading experience...

The Mountain of the Wolf is a very atmospheric Western, with dangers from more than one kind of wolf and a tender, romantic twist.

She But Sleepeth takes lots of turns and raises some interesting what-if questions about the course of history, the things we value most, and the dreams that don't come true.

Rumpled offers an emotionally authentic journey from an ordinary life to a happily-ever-after with a steep cost. I think this might be my favorite of the collection (although it's tough to choose!) because of the powerful lessons learned and the satisfying way everything comes together.

Sweet Remembrance is a tough, bittersweet read, gently told, with past and present scenes tightly interwoven.

Death Be Not Proud kept me guessing, and I confess that I'm still not quite sure I understand exactly how it all went down and why certain characters acted the way they did. ;) But the great writing and the intense suspense certainly held my attention! This story might require more than one read to fully appreciate.

With Blossoms Gold has really sweet main characters, a cat companion, an epic quest, and some wonderful character growth. A lovely tale that solidifies my admiration for this author's writing style and skill.

All in all, this collection offers plenty of variety in its stories, from tone and setting to the type of ending. If you enjoy fairy-tale retellings with strong characters and thought-provoking alterations, you should find much to love in Once.

*With thanks to the authors for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of the book. This review is my honest opinion.*

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Behind the Scenes of Intermission with Serena Chase (Author Interview + Giveaway)

I'm pleased to welcome author Serena Chase to "Seasons of Humility"! I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions regarding her latest release, a contemporary young-adult romance titled Intermission. (You can read my review and learn more about the book HERE.)

Enjoy the interview, and don't forget to enter the tour-wide giveaway at the end of the post!

* * *

Amber: How exciting that you’ve made the leap into contemporary fiction, Serena! What was one of the hardest things about switching genres—and something you found especially enjoyable/rewarding about the journey? 

Serena: While writing the first draft of this book, I was also revising The Ryn and The Remedy, the first two books in my Eyes of E’veria fantasy series. Because this was a different genre, based in a contemporary, “real” world, it was actually kind of a relief, a necessary break from the fantasy world, to escape back into reality—if only a fictional one, haha—to work on it.

Amber: What is your history with musical theatre? And do you have a favorite Broadway production? :) 

Serena: I’ve always loved musical theatre. When I lived in Kalona, Iowa as a child, I started taking dance at age five. When an ecumenical children’s choir started up in town a couple of years later, I signed up. Our children’s choir performances always had some aspect of drama—speaking roles, narration, that sort of thing—and my first “big” role was as the narrator of one of the Christmas productions.

When I was in sixth grade, the local high school was seeking elementary students (sixth grade was still considered part of the elementary back then!) to play pickpockets/Fagin’s boys in Oliver! I tried out and made it! I had one line, reporting to Fagin what I managed to steal that day: “Nose rags.” Ha! 

We moved to a new town when I was in eighth grade. In high school I played a nameless teen in Bye Bye Birdie as a freshman, a pickpocket in Oliver! (again!—but this time I had a different line and sang in a trio) as a sophomore, and then was cast as “Liesl” in The Sound of Music as a junior and as “Ruth” in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as a senior. The summer between my junior and senior years, I played “Lily,” an angel who comes to earth as a valley girl, in a Christian musical organized in another town, and as an adult I’ve participated in church and community theatre productions, playing roles like “Margie” in State Fair and “Eliza Doolittle” in My Fair Lady.

I love live theatre, but since it’s usually a 3-5 hour drive to get to a show (and touring season is generally winter—not a great time to plan a road trip in Iowa!) I don’t have the opportunity very often. *sadness* Of all the shows I’ve seen over the years, Les Miserables is my favorite. There are honest tears in certain scenes. The movie was okay, and yes, I own it, but the energy and emotion of a live performance cannot be duplicated.

Amber: I love seeing where some of the scenes and character inspiration for Intermission came from (based on the connections between your experiences and your story)! :) Thank you for sharing!

What’s one of your dreams you wished you had pursued earlier—or at all? What’s one of your dreams come true?

Serena: Hmm. I wish I would have been more confident and would have performed more in college, when I lived in Nashville. This little, small-town fish was suddenly tossed in a big pond of super talented fish, was very intimidating!

One of my dreams-come-true has nothing to do with performance. At 22, I was told I might never have kids due to advanced endometriosis. The fact that I have two beautiful daughters, ages 19 and 15, is my best ever dream come true.

Amber: That’s so wonderful, Serena!

What encouragement would you give to someone who feels their dream is impractical? 

Serena: “Practical” is not the stuff of joy. Chase joy.

Amber: To conclude our interview, is there a fun behind-the-scenes story you can share with us? 

Serena: The current cover, which I absolutely adore, was designed by Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio, who is wonderful to work with. But by the time I discovered her, I had already paid one designer to create a cover I could not, would not use. (A cover for which one friend’s response was, “Is it a book about a stripper?” NOT what I was going for!)

That first designer—who was twice as expensive and shall rename nameless—refused my input, refused to change his initial concept, but only added (horrible) elements that looked totally cut-and-paste to try and placate me. The story would be *almost* funny now, except it was a very expensive learning experience with this moral: Even if the respected, online cover-art-judging folks hand a designer an award, it doesn’t mean they’re right for YOU. The fact that my bad experience led me to Jenny and Seedlings Design Studio, however, is the silver lining! She is amazing.

Amber: I’m happy that story has a happy ending! :) The final cover is simply gorgeous! Thank you for joining us today, Serena!

Find Intermission:


From the author: Five winners will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission. One Grand Prize winner will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission, plus a $40 Ticketmaster gift card.

Enter the giveaway using the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tender Love, Raw Emotions, and Powerful Perspective | Review of Intermission

Join me in offering a well-deserved round of applause to Serena Chase and Intermission, her foray into the world of contemporary young-adult fiction! I'm excited to share my review (along with the author's giveaway!) on this, the novel's official release day. :)

About the Book

Sixteen-year-old Faith Prescott eagerly awaits the day she will exchange her small Iowa hometown for the bright lights of Broadway, but her success-driven parents want her to pursue a more practical career, labeling “artsy” people—including their daughter—as foolish dreamers worthy of little more than disdain.

When Faith meets nineteen-year-old Noah Spencer she discovers someone who understands her musical theatre dreams . . . because he shares them.

Faith’s mother despises everything about Noah—his age, his upbringing . . . even his religious beliefs—and she grasps at every opportunity to belittle his plans to study theatre and pursue a stage career. When those criticisms shift further toward hostility, resulting in unjust suspicions and baseless accusations, an increasingly fearful stage is set for Faith at home, where severe restrictions and harsh penalties are put in place to remove Noah Spencer from her life.

But Faith has never connected with anyone like she has with Noah, and no matter how tight a stranglehold her mother enforces to keep them apart, Faith will not give him up. Behind the curtain, Faith’s love for Noah continues to grow . . . as does her determination to hold on to her dreams—and him—no matter how high the cost.

Available Now!

My Rating


My Review

While I'm nearly a decade older than Faith (the heroine) at the start of Intermission, certain themes of her story profoundly resonated with me. I have limited experience in the world of theater, and I didn't grow up with the same struggles Faith faces at home. But the ache of waiting, wondering, wanting...the eagerness to fast-forward life and the fear of what might be lost in life's intermissions...these are trials of a sort that many of us can relate to and remember, no matter our current stage.

The structure of Intermission is brilliant, clever, and poignant. In Act I, I enjoyed watching Faith and Noah's relationship unfold. The sweet moments. The tender introduction to romance. The way they inspire each other—not only in their career dreams, but (more importantly) in their acts of love and integrity.

In these scenes, real questions arise, the kind we really ask: What does it mean to obey God and honor my parents? Are my prayers genuine? Why did God bring me to this place of blessing, only to press pause or take me through more pain?

Seeing Faith (and Noah) wrestle with these questions moved me. And—as with all great fiction—it comforted me to spot reflections of my own feelings and uncertainties within these authentic characters.

As for that intermission and the act and conclusion that follow, I leave it to you to discover where the plot leads. I'll just say there are some twists in store. That's usually the case in life, isn't it?

With some beautiful descriptions mixed in to raw emotions, Intermission is a powerful read for those longing for hope, encouragement, and perspective in the midst of relational strife or difficult delays.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC of the book.*


From the author: Five winners will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission. One Grand Prize winner will receive a signed paperback (or a Kindle copy, if preferred) of Intermission, plus a $40 Ticketmaster gift card.

Enter the giveaway using the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Emma Read-Along: Conclusion (and Apology!)

Dear Friend,

I am sincerely sorry for the missing Week 3 discussion and the delayed Week 4 discussion! While things were a little busy on my end a couple of weeks ago, and I was out of town the weekend before last, I shouldn't have taken this long to catch up, especially as the hostess of this read-along. :( 

Thank you for being so kind and patient with me! I do look forward to exchanging thoughts on the last half of Emma. I hope you've enjoyed the book, even if the read-along wasn't as well-organized as it ought to have been!

A Humbled Hostess

~ ~ ~

Welcome to the last discussion of the Emma read-along!

Today we're going to discuss Vol. II: ch. 11-18 and Vol. III. (If your copy isn't divided into volumes, then this should translate to ch. 29-55.) If you came prepared, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Emma read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up on some reading (believe me, I know how that goes!), you're welcome to check in later this week or whenever you're ready. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

~ ~ ~

Emma Volume II: Chapters 11-18 &
Volume III

Discussion Format: Favorite quotes, some general impressions, and four questions.

Favorite Quotes
  • "Is Mrs. Stokes to be trusted? I doubt it." ~ Mr. Woodhouse
[I admit, it was funny seeing my last name pop up unexpectedly in the book!]
  • "There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart." ~ Emma
  • "It seemed as if there were an instantaneous impression in her favour, as if his eyes received the truth from her's, and all that had passed of good in her feelings were at once caught and honored."
  • "What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does."
  • "My Emma, does not every thing serve to prove more and more the beauty of truth and sincerity in all our dealings with each other?" ~ Mr. Knightley
  • "I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other." ~ Emma
  • "She was in dancing, singing, exclaiming spirits; and till she had moved about, and talked to herself, and laughed and reflected, she could be fit for nothing rational." 
General Impressions

Goodness, so much happened in the story since the last discussion! We left off when Frank Churchill and Emma were planning a ball...

I won't share my thoughts on every event of the second half of the book (although, fellow bloggers, you're more than welcome to go into more detail than me!). I will simply start by saying Emma has quite the happy ending! Three couples end up together exactly as they should, every concern is dealt with or set aside, and the characters get to enjoy the freedom of the truth finally coming to light. :)

That seems to be a major theme, the idea that there is much relief in having no more secrets. Openness is praised (Mr. Knightley admits, "I love an open temper") - whether that be honesty and forthrightness in one's speech and manners, or the "truth and sincerity in all our dealings" that Mr. Knightley believes Emma has also learned to desire.

While we see Emma retains her sassy personality by the end of the story, and she still loves attention, there does seem to be a seed of humility planted inside her. She and Mr. Knightley both admit to having changed, to being willing to see another person's point of view and claim that they were wrong about certain things. I love that. :)

(As a side note, can I just say that Mr. Knightley's terms of endearment for Emma at the end of the book make my heart melt? I love how he continually calls her "my Emma." ♥)

And I will say this for the book above the two adaptations I've seen: The book gave me more reason to like Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Was Frank Churchill childish and immature? Yes. Yes he was. And was Jane aloof and not always easy to get close to? Yes. Yes she was. Yet, I couldn't really help but like them as Emma and Mr. Knightley came to do so. Frank Churchill's obvious affection for Jane is pretty cute, and he is definitely a charmer. And the way Jane and Emma came to be friends as the truth was revealed was really quite sweet. I certainly couldn't help feeling bad for Jane! But hey, it all turned out all right. ;)

(That scene at the end where Frank Churchill teases Jane and makes her involuntarily smile from across the room? Precious!)

As for Harriet... Well, I don't really feel like I came to know much more about her in the latter half of the book. But I'm happy for her and Mr. Martin!

All in all, I don't think this is my favorite of Jane Austen's books that I've read... It's long; it goes into a lot of detail about circumstances and situations; the characters can be a bit frustrating; and everything seems to get tied up so neatly at the end. (It's probably silly for a romantic to complain about that last point, I suppose!)

But I will say that, in a way, I liked how flawed the characters were. I liked how truth and openness brought about much happiness. And I liked the cute and clever lines and scenes that made the story fun. I'm glad to have finally read this book! :)

Discussion Questions

Feel free to answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. What did you think of Mr. Elton's choice in a wife? And do you believe Mrs. Elton truly cared about Jane Fairfax?

2. Which scene of the story stood out to you the most? Perhaps one that made you chuckle...or one that melted your heart...or one that made you cringe with embarrassment.

3. Were you content with the matches that were made by the end of the story? Do you think everyone ended up in the right relationships?

4. Have you read any other Jane Austen novels? If so, which is your favorite, and how does Emma rank on your list?

Final Note

Once again, I truly apologize for the way the read-along fell apart toward the end! Thank you for sticking with me and joining me in this read-along. :) It's always a treat to discuss Jane Austen's books with you all! *hugs*

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lena Goldfinch's YA Triple Trick-or-Treat Cover Reveal + Giveaway

In  celebration of Lena Goldfinch’s upcoming release, HAUNTING JOY: BOOK 2, she’s revealing three brand-new book covers! The two HAUNTING JOY books are light paranormal stories, and SONGSTONE is a fantasy romance. All three books are sweet—and slightly spine-tingling—young adult reads, perfect for cozy autumn nights!


“A sweet and charming ghost story that completely won me over.” —Lena Coakley, Witchlanders 

Joy’s new dress has a secret—one with a little supernatural history, one that’s a little more than she expected.

It all starts one ordinary afternoon, when seventeen-year-old Joy tries on some thrift-store clothes. The little white dress fits perfectly. Trouble is, now it won’t leave her alone. Soon Joy is swept up in an extraordinary journey to help a ghost complete some unfinished business.

If only that didn’t involve Joy driving through dangerous intersections...
Or calling up her high-school crush, Nick...
Or getting stuck in a cemetery after dark.

Just how much is Joy willing to risk to uncover the truth?



Joy’s story continues with another ghost, this time a boy who seems intent on disrupting her senior year…

Coming soon!


“An original fantasy world inhabited by superstitious tribal nations and intriguingly developed characters.” 
—Serena Chase, USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog 

A dark, twisty tale of sorcery, tummy-tingling romance, and adventure, inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people.

Kita can meld song into stone—a skill called “storytelling,” which is greatly honored in a world with no written word. But Kita is slave to a sorcerer who practices black magic using drops of her blood. She fears he’ll use her beautiful gift for a killing spell, so she conceals it. Yet each day, his magic tightens around her neck like a rope.

Then Pono, a young journeyman, arrives from the other side of the island. He’s come to fulfill a pact between their villages: to escort a storyteller back to his village. Finally, in Pono, Kita sees her one slim chance at freedom—and she’ll risk her life to take it.



LENA GOLDFINCH writes sweet historical western romance / inspirational romance and books for teens. She’s always been a sucker for a good old-fashioned romance, whether it’s a novel or short story, young adult or adult, fantasy or realistic, contemporary or historical. Lena has been a finalist in several national writing contests, including the RWA Golden Heart and ACFW Genesis contests. She enjoys life in a quiet, small town with her husband, two kids, and two very spoiled Black Labs.


No tricks with this giveaway—just a treat for three lucky winners! Each winner will get a copy of one of Lena’s featured books (winner’s choice): Haunting Joy: Book 1; Haunting Joy: Book 2; OR Songstone.

Note: Paperback copies are only available to winners who are US residents. Ebook versions are available to all winners. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Discover which hero from Lena’s YA books is your dream hero! Possible results include Nick from Haunting Joy, Pono from Songstone, Rundan from The Language of Souls, Jovanni from Aire, and Troy from Take a Picture.