Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Preacher's Wife by Brandi Boddie

Tour Date: Friday, November 22, 2013

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***


Brandi holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a BA in political science from Youngstown State University. Her love of writing and research has led her to work that includes case management for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington DC and teaching assignments for elementary and secondary students. When she is not working on a story, Brandi enjoys hiking, fencing, and swing dancing. She loves spending time with her family, which includes a cocker spaniel who aspires to be a food critic.

Visit the author's website.


During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Brides of Assurance (Book 1)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388439
ISBN-13: 978-1616388430


Chapter 1

July 1870, Kansas Plains

What did I get myself into? Rowe Winford carried his three large valises from the passenger train to the station wait area. He had arrived in Claywalk, Kansas, sooner than he expected. Then again, he had been daydreaming the entire trip, from the carriage ride in Richmond, Virginia, all the way west on the tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
So this was to be his new home, away from the war reformations, away from the bittersweet memories of his late wife, Josephine, and their stillborn son. The land seemed to engulf every living thing in its wide-ranging vastness. He felt like a tiny speck upon the face of the green, rolling earth.

“Over here, sir.” A tall, lean man in rugged canvas trousers, work shirt, and Stetson hat waved him over to the other side of the wait area. A small schooner and horse awaited him.

“Welcome to Kansas, Rev’ren.” The man’s white teeth flashed in his tanned face as he grinned. “We wouldn’t have expected you this early if you hadn’t sent that letter. I’m Dustin Sterling.” He stuck out his hand. “My friends call me Dusty. David Charlton sent me to come get you and take you to our lil’ town of Assurance down the road.”

Rowe shook his hand. It was rough with calluses. He guessed him to be a horseman or rancher of sorts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dusty. My name is Rowe Winford, but how did you know I was the new minister?”

He pointed to Rowe’s overcoat and gray trousers. “Clothes don’t get that fancy in these parts. I knew you must be one of them city preachers back East.”


“Yep, I was right.” He picked up Rowe’s valises and hoisted them into the schooner. “Well, you’ll get used to this place soon enough, if you have the mind to.”

Dusty drove him away from the train station. The trip toward the “lil’ town of Assurance down the road” turned out to be more along the lines of sixty minutes. Rowe passed the time taking in the nearly treeless plains and the endless open sky. To his left and right he found himself surrounded in a sea of green grass.

“We just got rain last night, after a dry spell.” Dusty chatted amiably along the way about the land. “You have to watch out for the July wind.”

“Wind? There’s barely a breeze out.” As the words escaped Rowe’s lips, a sudden gust blew in his face. He grabbed hold of his hat before it flew from his head. “Where did that come from?” He coughed as the wind forced air down his throat.

Dusty chuckled. “Some say the devil’s in the wind. That’s how come it knocks you off your feet.”

“Well, as long as we can keep him in the wind and out of town, things should be alright.”

The wiry man cast him a wry glance. “’Fraid you might be getting here too late then, Rev’ren’. The devil’s come and set up shop in Assurance. And, sadly, business is sure boomin’.”

“What do you mean?”

Dusty shook his head. “There’s a saloon run by a businessman named Jason Garth. He can get a man to part with his wallet faster than a rattler strikes your heel. His girls help, with their short skirts and paid services.”

“You mean prostitution.”

Dusty shrugged. “I went to the dancehall before it got bad the last year or so. I haven’t been lately, but you’ll hear things. You’ll get your fill of gossip in Assurance.”

Rowe thought about the people who hired him. “What about the church? Haven’t they tried to put a stop to what the saloon is doing?”

“They grumble mostly. Folks here believe they shouldn’t sully their hands with the things of the world. Much easier to judge from a distance, I suspect, but I’m just a hired worker.”

“Aren’t you also a town citizen?”

He shook his head. “I’m all the way from San Antone. David Charlton hired me to tend his cattle, but I used to drive longhorns up here to the railroad.”

“Well, it sounds like the people of the church don’t want to confront corruption.”

The cowboy gave him another look. “Maybe that’s why they hired you.”

Rowe chewed on the inside of his jaw. His first position as head of a church. An apathetic one, from what Dusty implied. He could prove himself by going after the saloon and its seedy practices, but what would be harder, doing that or convincing the church to get their hands dirty along with him?

“Get thee clothed, heathen woman!” A man yelled down at her from the raised dais of the town square. “Thou art the scourge of this fine land, with your harlot’s garments!” He shook his fists.

“I’m not a harlot. I’m just a saloon and dancehall girl.” Words she had repeated all too often.

Marissa Pierce recognized the man as a traveling speaker, clutching his worn Bible to his chest. She hurried along the edge of the main road toward the bank, doing her best to hide her face from the disapproving looks from several of Assurance’s finest and upstanding populace.

They would be right to judge me if I was an evening lady, she thought. I wish they knew the truth.

She walked faster, adjusting her headpiece in a selfconscious attempt to push down the high feathers. Jason Garth, proprietor of the town’s only saloon, sent her out on a last-minute errand while she was getting dressed for the weekly Wednesday Night Revue. The money had to be deposited in the bank before it closed today, he stressed. Well, he could have let her know that earlier, before she changed into the tawdry costume!

More than a few men eyed her in her knee-length ruffled skirt and soft-soled dance boots peeking out from her coat. She knew a number of them as patrons. Those walking with wives, mothers, or another respectable woman had the presence of mind to avert their gazes.

“Have you no shame, lady of the night?” The orator cried in the profession’s flowery prose.

“More than you’ll ever know,” she muttered.

Marissa kept her back straight and face forward, tightly gripping the leather money satchel that held the saloon’s illbegotten earnings. Would that she could put a stop to the corruption and leave the shady establishment today, but soon she would be away from it all. Her saloon contract with Jason was about to end, and she had some money saved for room and board.

She considered her investment in a small share of the general goods store in Claywalk that was up for sale. If she received all the money due her, it would be enough to live off of until she found employment in the nearby town.

A rush of excitement surged through her as she contemplated a new life elsewhere. She would be free, in a respectable position where no one knew of her horrible past.

Marissa slowed her steps as a schooner rolled down the street. A dark-suited man seated atop peered about curiously, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun.

“That must be our new preacher.” Linda Walsh, the town’s young seamstress, walked up beside Marissa. Always eager for conversation, Linda would speak to anyone who stopped to listen, as Marissa had learned since coming back to Assurance a couple years ago. “We weren’t expecting him for another two weeks. I wonder what made him take off from home so fast.”

Marissa groaned at the thought of meeting another preacher. Every preacher she came across had turned her away once they discovered her profession.

She watched the small schooner pull up to the local inn. She recognized the driver Dusty Sterling seated beside the other man. Dusty hopped down and tethered the horses. The man in black stepped onto the dusty curb. His recently polished boots gleamed.

“Fancy one, he is,” Linda continued. “I hear he comes from a city somewhere in Virginia.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“It was in the paper a month ago. Our advertisement for a new preacher was answered from a man back East.”

Marissa focused again on what was in front of her. The traveler indeed looked foreign to the prairie. Not a hint of travel dust stuck to his long, black frock coat and four-inhand necktie, probably changed into just before departing the train. His gray pants were new and expertly tailored. He removed his hat briefly to wipe his brow, and Marissa saw the dark, wavy hair cropped close to his head.

“He doesn’t have a wife or children with him. Such a shame.” Linda clucked her tongue. “He’s a handsome fellow, for certain.”

Marissa agreed with her on that. He must have stood over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a powerful build. The man’s profile was strong and rigid, his square jaw and straight nose a true delight for the eyes. Assurance’s former preacher, Reverend Thomas, did not look like this.

“Would having a wife and children make him a better preacher?”

Linda tossed her a look. “That’s got nothing to do with it. One ought to be settled down at a certain age, wouldn’t you say so? Instead of running wild with the barmen?”

Marissa absorbed the sting of emotional pain. Anything she said in response would not sway Linda or anyone else’s notion that she was just a beer-serving streetwalker. She put on a polite stoic face. “I’m sure the ladies of this town will clamor for his attention. Will you excuse me, Miss Linda? I should be going.”

She left the seamstress just as Dusty carried the new preacher’s valises inside the inn. The preacher moved to follow then stopped short, pausing for Marissa to walk past. Marissa saw his blue eyes widen and take in her entire form, from the feathered hat on her head to the dainty-heeled boots on her feet. By his expression she didn’t know whether he admired or disapproved.

His lips settled into a firm line of what looked to be distaste, and she got her answer.

The preacher hadn’t been there for an hour and already she drew out his scorn. Marissa returned the stare until her image of him blurred with beckoning tears.

He jolted from his perusal. His low, straight brows flicked. “Good day to you, ma’am.” He amiably tipped his hat to her.

She paused, not used to being addressed in that fashion. Kindness was in his greeting, not the sarcasm she normally heard from others. Marissa tilted her head to get a clear look at him. His eyes were friendly, calm deep pools. The rest of his face, with its strong, angular lines, remained cordial.

“Good day,” she replied, hoarse. Awkwardness seized her person. Marissa hastily continued on her way to the bank.

Rowe stared after the brightly costumed woman, not noticing Dusty come from the inn until he stood in front of him, blocking the view.

“Your cabin by the lake is still bein’ cleared. The Charltons will pay for your stay here since they don’t have room at the farmhouse.”

“That’s kind of them, Dusty. Who is that saloon woman? I hoped she didn’t think me impertinent for stepping in her path.”

Dusty squinted in the distance. “Oh, Arrow Missy? She’s a dancer down at Jason’s.”

Dancer. That explained the light-stepping gait. “Why do you call her that?”

“She’s got a sharp tongue and even sharper aim with the drinks. That is, before I stopped going there.” Dusty scratched his chin.

“I think I upset her. She looked sad.” Rowe studied her shrinking form as she went inside the bank. She was a lovely young woman, tall and raven-haired. Her features carried an exotic lilt. He guessed her to be in her early twenties.

If he wasn’t the one who caused her to be upset, then what made the tears brim in her eyes?

“You carrying that last bag in, or you want me to do it?”

Rowe picked up his valise. “I’ve got it, Dusty.” He went inside the inn, glancing one more time in the direction of the bank, his mind still on the melancholy woman with the dancing boots. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For Love or Loyalty Book 1, MacGregor Legacy by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Tour Date: November 21, 2013

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***


Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe & the Carolinas. She provides keynotes and presentations on the publishing industry, the craft of writing building an author platform & social media marketing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, received a 4 1/2 star review from RT Book Reviews and won the Holt Medallion Award for Best First Book. Jennifer's work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, visiting historical sites, parasailing, horseback riding, cycling, long walks, genealogy and reading.

Visit the author's website.


One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.

Scotland to Carolina, 1760

Malcolm MacGregor vows to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm decides to use Duncan’s daughter as the bargaining price. Lauren Campbell is the perfect answer, until she begins chipping away at the bitterness in Malcolm’s heart and changing everything. Her bold faith and forgiveness ignites guilt he would rather avoid and a love he doesn't deserve.

Lauren Campbell never expected to discover such a caring and protective man behind the façade of Malcolm MacGregor’s fierce reputation. When they arrive in America, things turn against them, and Lauren finds herself in a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma of freeing the rest of his family or rescuing Lauren, but time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: The Macgregor Legacy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426714696
ISBN-13: 978-1426714696


A feeling of foreboding crawled over Malcolm MacGregor like a colony of insects picking at his skin. He gripped the reins as he inhaled the crisp March air, but it burned his lungs with the residue of tainted fire. A cloud of dark smoke hovered over the wee village of Inverawe—home. Fear coiled inside Malcolm’s gut as he urged his mount forward.

 His brother kept pace beside him. At a score and four, Thomas was two years Malcolm’s junior. He favored Malcolm with the same stubborn chin and broad shoulders from hard work.

Distant moors lined the overcast sky. Morning fog hovered over the glen, blending with heavy smoke. As they drew near, their eyes stung and the burnt smell accosted them until they coughed. Keening scraped his ears like a tormented bagpipe.

They reached the stone huts, packed with dirt and straw roofs. At least the village homes weren’t on fire, as he originally feared. Piles of furniture and personal items burned in front of each hut. Sad faces and weeping echoed from every direction.

Malcolm’s throat constricted.His chest tightened in a mixture of compassion and fear for his family. He maneuvered his horse between the huts heading toward the center of the village, seeking the home where he had grown from a lad into a man. Engulfed in flames, itblazed to the sky.

“Mither an’ Carleen  . . .” The words fell from Malcolm’s swollen tongue, stalling in the air as his thoughts shifted to their youngest brother, Graham. At only twenty, the lad would have done aught to protect the women in their absence.

“Malcolm, ye’re back!” Heather strode toward him, her eyes red and swollen. Words stalled upon her tongue, increasing his anxiety as he waited for her to collect her emotions and continue.

“What happened?” Malcolm asked, pulling his horse to a stop and dismounting. It was an effort to keep his voice calm, but he tried for Heather’s sake, though his insides quaked.

“‘Tis the worst.” Heather succumbed to tears, shaking with grief.

“What is it, lass?” Malcom shook her hoping to force her out of her temporary stupor.

“Where’s Mither an’ Carleen?” Thomas strode toward them, his voice betraying his fears.

Heather sobbed, falling against Malcolm’s chest. On instinct, his arms slipped around her.He looked up, his eyes questioning the rest of the villagers approaching with sorrowful expressions.

“The Campbells were here.” Roy strode foward, his red eyes weary with similar grief—his right eye swollen and his lip cut. Even in his late fifties, Roy was healthy and robust. It would have taken several men to bring him low. “They took Iona an’ Carleen.”

“Took them?” Thomas gave the elder man a look of disbelief. “Where?”

“How long ago?” Malcolm pressed Heather into the arms of her mother who came up behind her. He turned back to his horse and prepared to mount.

“Nay! There’s too many o’ them. Sixty or more.” A strong hand grabbed his shoulder. “Listen to me, lad. Ye canna help yer mither an’ sister if ye’re dead.”

“I’ve time to catch them if I leave now.” Malcolm pulled away. More hands grabbed him. He didn’t want to fight his own kinsmen, but they wouldn’t deter him from his mission. He had to act now before it was too late.

“Let me go!” Thomas yelled, fighting a similar battle.

“I’ve got ’im, Da.” Strong arms belted around Malcolm’s neck and jerked him backward, cutting off his air. Malcolm coughed. He swung his elbow into Alan’s ribs.

“Argh!” Alan relaxed his hold, but didn’t let go.

“Listen to reason, lad. The rest o’ us are too auld an’ wounded to be fightin’ ye.” A fist from another angle slammed into his jaw. “But fight ye, we will, if it’s the only way to save yer life.” Roy’s voice echoed over the multiple hands and arms keeping him down.

Never had the villagers fought him like this. More dread pooled in the pit of his stomach as he realized there had to be a reason for their adamancy. What had they not yet told him? They were right. How could he and Thomas expect to best sixty or more Campbell men? This feat would require his wits, and he wasn’t thinking, only reacting.

“All right.” He clenched his teeth, willing his body to relax against their resistance. “Tell me why I shan’t go after them. It does not make sense to lose precious time.”

Following Malcolm’s example, Thomas also surrendered.

“Duncan Campbell came to collect the rents,” Roy said. “But he arrived with an army of warriors. He did not come hither on business as he claimsHis purpose was to cause trouble an’ he chose yer family to be the example.”

“They were not supposed to come for another fortnight.” Malcolm jerked away from Alan who sported a bloody lip, already swelling, and a long sword gash upon his arm. Malcolm frowned. Only the Campbells would have been carrying broadswords. Blood soaked Alan’s sleeve, probably more so from his skirmish with Malcolm. Guilt lacerated Malcolm’s emotionally scarred heart. How long must they go on living like peasant pawns for the Campbells’ entertainment?

“They did all this over unpaid rents?” Malcolm lifted his hands in disbelief. “We took the cattle to market an’ we now have the rent. ‘Tis all for naught!” His voice cracked as he ran a hand through his hair. A deep ache twisted his gut.

“Listen to Da.” Alan wiped the back of his hand across his lip. “We need a plan. The Campbells want us to come after them in a mad rage. They have the king’s favor an’ all the wealth they need. We canna fall into their trap again.”

“We can gather more MacGregors an’ break into Kilchurn Manor.” Thomas walked over. The others stepped aside to let him through. “We’ll get Mither an’ Carleen out.” “We canna abandon them.”

“‘Tisn’t that simple. I wish it were.” Roy rubbed a wrinkled hand over his weathered face with a broken sigh. “Even if we gather more MacGregors from other parts of Argyll, we may not be strong enough to break through Duncan Campbell’s forces. He has too many allies. If we succeed an’ bring them home, how will we stop them from coming again?”

Roy and Alan stood still, watching Malcolm and Thomas as though they would tackle them again if need be. More villagers crowded around. All of them looked like a sorry lot, the men having been beaten, the women wearing expressions of grief and sorrow. Soot layered their faces, arms, and clothing.

 ‘Tis possible they have taken them to a debtor’s prison,” Mary MacGregor maneuvered around her husband and son, “since yer mither did not have the rent money.”

“If that is the case,” Malcolm said. “They will have to release Mither an’ Carleen once I pay the rent.”

“Duncan raised the rents again, plus he’s charging interest,” Mary said. “He took our furniture an’ burned what he did not want.” Tears filled her eyes. “William an’ Graham are young an’ foolish to try to fight them. They killed William this day. How many more do ye think we can stand to lose?”

“An’ Graham?” Malcolm staggered at the news. He closed his eyes, rubbing his brows. William and Graham were inseparable. Had Graham suffered the same fate? Heather broke into more weeping and Malcolm’s chest tightened. The lass had been sweet on their youngest brother as soon as they could walk. Now he understood the extent of her grief. “Where is Graham? Did they take him, too?” Malcolm clenched his fists at his sides, attempting to calm the rising tide of anxiety. “Is he alive?”

“Aye, but barely,” Roy said. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. We tried to fight them, but there were too many . . .”

“Take us to ‘im,” Thomas said in a gruff voice, moving to stand beside Malcolm.

“Greg and Colin are tendin to ‘im. The Campbells beat him bad an’ hung ’im on a tree.” Roy’s voice faltered. “To make an example out o’ ‘im.”

“By the neck?” Malcolm followed Roy and Alan to their hut. Fear clawed at his heart and gripped his lungs, stealing the breath from him.

“Nay,” Alan said. “With his arms spread out. We think both shoulders are dislocated.”

They stopped before entering Roy’s hut. “They left us only one bed, so that is where we put ’im.” Roy held up a palm and shook his head. “Prepare yerself, lads.”

Malcolm bent through the threshold and blinked, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight. Their small huts contained no windows for daylight to filter inside. He walked across the dirt floor to the tiny bed. Graham’s long legs hung over the side. His height matched Malcolm’s at six-four. Among the three brothers, Thomas was the shortest, shy of them by a couple of inches.

Colin looked up from where he hunched over stitching a wound in the lad’s side. Greg cleaned his bruised face from the other side. Neither of them spoke as they concentrated on their tasks.

Both Malcolm and Thomas dropped to their knees. Thomas groaned and gulped back a threatening cry. Malcolm searched for his voice, but it lodged in his throat as a sickening pain clutched his soul and wouldn’t let go. They stayed that way for several moments, trying to make sense of it all.

Colin cleared his throat. “The lad fought bravely, like a Highland warrior if ever I saw one.”

Graham disliked fighting. Unlike the rest of them, who thrived upon the sword, Graham had preferred his wits to outsmart the wretched Campbells. He held out in stubborn pride believing forgiveness and reason would bridge the great divide between the Campbells and MacGregors. Today, he had discovered the truth and his faith had almost cost him his life.

“Is he . . .” Still unable to say it, Malcolm laid a hand on Graham’s chest. A faint heartbeat pulsed beneath his palm. Malcolm closed his eyes in relief.

“He passed out from the pain when I reset his shoulders back into the sockets,” Greg said. “As soon as Colin stitches his side, we’ll bind his ribs.”

“At least he’s alive,” Thomas said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I always teased him about being the bonny son. Now look at ’im. I fear he won’t ever be the same again.”

“Graham was never vain.” Malcolm gripped Graham’s limp hand. “I worry ’bout the lad’s spirit an’ his broken ideals. He will blame himself for not saving Mither an’ Carleen. No doubt, he will feel naïve he ever thought reconciliation with the Campbells was possible.”

“Aye, ’twill take him a while to recover,” Thomas said with a sigh. “Did Mither an’ Carleen see what happened to ’im?”

“Nay,” Colin shook his head. “The Campbells split up. Scott Campbell took them away, while his father stayed behind to cause more damage.” Colin rubbed his eyebrows and sat back. “That one has the heart of the devil, he does.”

“I shall get revenge for our family an’ the whole MacGregor Clan. The Campbells have wronged us for two centuries. They have tried to wipe out the MacGregor Clan, an’ here we survive against all odds.” Malcolm raised a fist and growled. “This time, I care not what it takes.” Malcolm turned to Roy. “We shall send a scout to Kilchurn Manor to see if Mither an’ Carleen are being held thereand the nearest debtor’s prison. We will move our family to Glenstrae under the protection of the MacGregor Clan Chief.” He shoved a hand on his hip and rubbed his eyebrow, fighting the onslaught of a headache and too much regret. “Should have done it a long time ago after Da died.”

“Ye were but a wee lad.” Roy shook his head. “Do not do this to yerself. ’Tisn’t yer fault.”

“Aye, ’tis time. I’ve tarried long enough. I almost lost my family because of it.” Malcolm glanced down at Graham, fear spiking inside him. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

* * *

“Where ye going?”

Lauren Campbell jumped with a start, throwing a hand over her hammering chest. She placed a finger across her lips to shush her sister of ten and two. A quick glance around the busy kitchen assured her no one paid them any attention. Cook put away uneaten food, while the rest of the servants cleaned up where the Campbells had broken their morning fast.

“Do I have yer word to say naught?” Lauren peeked at her sister’s wide brown eyes, curious as Blair twisted her lips into a mischievous grin.

“If ye take me with ye.” Blair nodded, her sandy, brown hair slid over her face. She brushed the long strands out of her eyes with an impatient sigh.

“I canna.” Lauren shook her head, biting her lower lip as she placed biscuits in a basket. “’Tis dangerous where I’m going.”

“Where?” Blair sidled up to the counter beside Lauren, excitement building in her tone.

“I’m going to the ancient castle of Kilchurn.” Lauren’s heart swelled as her sister’s eyes widened in admiration.

“All alone? Ye know Da would not approve if he was home.” Blair lowered her voice to a whisper. “He will be angry if ye do not take cousin Keith.”

“Keith is studying to take orders next week and will give his first sermon.” Lauren whispered,  touching the tip of her sister’s nose and grabbing a block of cheese. “I canna interfere with the Lord’s work. Besides, Kilchurn Castle is part of our estate. ‘Tisn’t as if I’m leaving the grounds.”

“But ye’re leaving Kilchurn Manor,” Blair said.

“’Tis only a short ride.” Lauren covered the basket with a cloth and tucked in the edges. She paused, considering her sister’s hopeful expression.

“I want to go, please.” Blair linked her fingers as if she was about to pray. She wore the Campbell plaid over a dark blue dress and frowned with a sulky pout as she crossed her thin arms. “Lauren?”

“Run along and get ready. Meet me at the stables,” Lauren said. “I shall see that your horse is saddled and ready.”

Blair disappeared. Her footsteps pattered down the hall. Lauren chuckled and shook her head, knowing the child ran in haste. She hoped Blair would not tumble into one of the servants. With her basket of goods in tow, Lauren let herself out the side door and made her way to the stables.

It was a crisp morning, bright with sunshine and promise. Lauren loved the ancient relic of Kilchurn Castle now crumbling on the far side of Loch Awe. The short journey would take them less than an hour on horseback. On the days she walked the grounds, Lauren loved imagining what it must have been like centuries ago when the castle passed from the MagGregors to the Campbells through marriage.

Lauren entered the shaded stables. “Aidan?” Lauren called to the stable lad. “Are ye there? Blair are going for a ride.” No one answered. Strange. Lauren shrugged and stepped back, trampling on a pair of booted feet. A man’s hand clamped over her mouth, shoving a piece of cloth inside to silence her scream. Another hand pulled her by the hair and jerked her back against his hard body. Her basket of goods went flew over a nearby stall. The horse inside stomped and snorted.

“I took care o’ the lad,” said a gruff voice at her ear. “Just needed to get ’im out o’ the way. ’Tis Duncan Campbell’s daughter I want.”

Lauren’s heart pounded in her ears as she kicked behind her, but he slammed a fist against her temple. Pain sliced through her head. He wrapped an arm around her neck, cutting off her air, and dragged her into a dark corner.

“Lauren?” Blair called. Her footsteps came closer. “Are ye here?”

Closing her eyes, Lauren stopped struggling, praying God would spare her sister. The man breathed heavy at her ear, his grip intense. To Lauren’s relief, he appeared to be alone, and he did not go after Blair.

“Aidan?” Her sister sighed with frustration. “Where did everyone go?” She stomped out of the stables and back toward the manor.

As soon as Blair disappeared , the man slipped a knife to Lauren’s throat. “Go.” The blade nicked her skin as he pushed her forward, leading her out of the stables on the other side. The gag tied in her mouth made her jaw ache and dried her tongue. He  dragged her into the woods where a horse waited.

Lauren tripped over a fallen branch, but he caught her and shoved her against a tree. Her bruised hip stung as he pulled her arms behind her and bound her hands. The man slung her over his horse and mounted up behind her. Between a dizzy spell and a wave of nausea, she caught a glimpse of his MacGregor plaid.

They rode toward Inverawe where Lauren often visited the poor and brought them food. Iona and Carleen MacGregor always welcomed her and shared their faith. Iona’s sons were not quite as friendly, but Graham was open-minded and kind. As the youngest, Lauren supposed he wasn’t as set in his ways as the other two. He was closer to Lauren’s age at twenty.

When they arrived at the village, Lauren wasn’t prepared for the devastation she witnessed. Ashes simmered in gray piles. Grief-stricken faces glared at her with hatred. Several people spit at her and one threw a rotten onion at her. The putrid smell made her stomach roll.

They came to a pile of rubble that should have been Iona and Carleen’s hut. Hot smoke still pumped from the smoldering remains. Lauren’s stomach tightened as tears sprang to her eyes. Her father and brother were supposed to arrive here and collect the rents. Surely, they were not responsible? Her heart ached, fearing it was the truth she wanted to deny.

Her abductor stopped at one of the huts, pumping smoke through the chimney. He grabbed Lauren by the arm and yanked her down. She stumbled  to her feet, finding it hard to regain her balance. He pushed her toward the door as others surrounded them.

“Why did ye bring a Campbell ’ere?” a woman asked. “Do ye not think they have caused enough trouble?”

“Aye,” a man said. “The whole lot o’ them will come looking for ’er.”

“Malcolm! Thomas!” Lauren’s captor ignored them and banged on the worn wooden door. “Open up. I have Lauren Campbell.”

The door swung open and Malcolm’s tall form ducked under the threshold. He crossed his arms with a menacing scowl. “Colin, ye were supposed to  find my mither an’ sister, not bring back a hostage.”

“Iona an’ Carleen were not at Kilchurn.” Colin’s words came out in a rush, as he tightened his grip on her. “But she was.”

“What are we supposed to do with her?” Malcolm pointed at Lauren, venom coating his tone. “This was not the plan.”

“We have no plan since they were not at Kilchurn,” Thomas said, coming to stand behind Malcolm. “Mayhap, she can be the plan. Who else is goin’ to be as important to Duncan?”

“She canna stay here,” another man said. “Her father will destroy the whole village lookin’ for her.”

“Aye, but she’s here now Mary MacGregorsaid. “The damage is done. Ye should best make the best o’ her situation. Could we exchange her for Iona or Carleen?”

Shock vibrated through Lauren. What had her father done? While the MacGregors had never been cruel to her, most were wary and reluctant to befriend her except Iona and Carleen. Now that the villagers had good reason to be seething in anger and resentment, she had no idea how far they would go in using her. She wondered if anyone at home had discovered her disappearance.

“What if he comes back an’ burns the rest o’ our homes?” a woman asked.

“Heather, he owns all these huts. If he burns them all, he canna rent them out.” Malcolm scratched his temple and glanced at Lauren. “Remove her gag. She may know something.”

“How ye plan to get ‘er to talk?” Colin asked, jerking at her bindings. The cloth fell from around her head, and Lauren spit out the other piece.

“Speak up, lass.” Malcolm stepped toward her, his height more like a tower than a mere man. “Where did yer da take my mither an’ sister? The sooner we find out, the sooner negotiations can begin an’ ye can go home.”

“All I know is that he intended to collect the rents and go to the harbor.”

“The harbor?” Thomas joined his brother, his palm up against the side of his head, pondering the possibilities. “Why would he do that?”

“Only one explanation,” an older man said, lifting a finger. All eyes turned to him. “To sell them. What else?”

The women gasped, some wept, while the men groaned and complained in outrage. Colin jerked Lauren by the arm and shoved her to the center. “We have one of their own!” She stumbled and fell to her knees. He pulled her hair. Fire burned her scalp. She prayed her neck wouldn’t break from the pressure. Tears stung her eyes. Lord, I thank you for sparing Blair.

“What would Duncan do to save this bonny face?” An elderly woman bent to squeeze Lauren’s cheeks. The others came at her all at once with raised hands. Lauren closed her eyes, expecting a beating.

“Stop!” Malcolm’s firm voice sliced through the mob like a king. With the MacGregors scattered throughout Campbell lands that used to belong to the MacGregors, none of them had a clan chief.The exception was Glenstrae farther north in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Yet, no one laid a hand on her. They obeyed Malcolm out of respect.

“Let us think about our actions an’ how the Campbells might retaliate.” Malcolm lifted his hands and pointed in the direction of Kilchurn Manor. “As long as the lass lives an’ remains unharmed, we have something to bargain. None o’ us wanna worry ’bout being murdered in our beds at night or forced to flee to the hills again.”

Eyes widened, mouths dropped open, and heads shook back and forth in slow motion. Some of the villagers’ skin turned paler. They backed away from her.

“Duncan an’ Scott Campbell have a good head start. At this point, we would be guessing which harbor they went to an’ taking the lass at her word,” Malcolm said.

“Taynuilt Harbor is the closest,” Roy said. Lauren had heard one of the others call him by name. He was a middle-aged man who looked at her with so much malice her skin itched and burned. “’Tis on Loch Etive an’ leads out to sea.”

“Aye.” Malcolm nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “First, I want to ensure Graham’s safety ’til he heals, as well as the villagers. I shall find her wretched father.” His boiling gaze landed on Lauren and their eyes met. If the good Lord hadn’t been holding her together, she might have crumbled in fear, but Lauren not only found the courage she needed, but managed to lift her chin and kept her peace. Later in solitude she would  bear her burdensome fear to the Lord.

“Let us bring her inside while we tend to Graham an’ make our plans,” Malcolm said, turning to the others.

Colin shoved her. Lauren stumbled into Malcolm. He reached out a steady hand and gripped her arm. She assumed the action was only out of instinct, not for her welfare.

“What happened to Graham?” The words tumbled through her lips. Of all the MacGregor men, he had always been kind to her.

Malcolm paused, his lips twisting in anger. “Yer da ordered him beaten. They tied him to a tree, pulled an’ tortured him ’til his shoulders snapped out o’ the sockets. They murdered his best friend, William.”

Lauren cringed as her mouth drained dry and her stomach twirled. The temptation to deny his words frayed at the edge of her mind, as she followed him inside.

Malcolm directed her over to a large figure lying motionless on a small bed. A candle burned on a makeshift table beside him. She took small steps, her heart pounding into her throat.

“Graham?” Lauren leaned over him, taking in the sight of his bruised and disfigured face. The memory of his handsome features were like a vision. Graham didn’t respond. Deep sorrow filled her soul as she imagined what agony he must be enduring. “My . . .  da . . . did this?”

“Aye,.” Malcolm’s tone dripped with bitterness. “I was not here, but they tell me he tried to protect my mither an’ sister—yer friends.” He emphasized the last words as if she had betrayed them herself.

“They are my friends,” she whispered, unable to wipe at her tears with her hands bound behind her. Bile rose to the back of Lauren’s throat, threatening to overcome her. Graham’s wounds would be branded in her brain forever. What would become of Iona and Carleen? She slid to her knees as grief wracked her body.  Lauren had never been able to deny the emotional tug of compassion. While she wondered what was to become of her, Graham’s grave condition weighed upon her heart along with the spiritual state of the souls within her father and brother.

Lauren turned and tried to wipe her cheek on her shoulder. Malcolm strode toward her, his mouth set in a grim expression. She resisted the desire to cower and forced her muscles to remain still.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Overcoming Life's Hurts to Make a Difference by Jo Ann Fore

Tour Date: Nov. 20th

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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 Leafwood Publishers (October 8, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


 JO ANN FORE is passionate about women walking in freedom. As an author, teacher, and certified life coach, she leads women into full, free lives--lives of joy and purpose. While her own story is one of brokenness, it's also a hope-filled story where God's grace and mercy run deep. As the founder of the vibrant virtual community Write Where It Hurts, Jo Ann and her ministry team inspire women with daily doses of hope, encouragement, and practical support.

Visit the author's website.


In When A Woman Finds Her Voice, author Jo Ann Fore engages your heart and mind as one who knows your fears and frustrations. As a certified life coach, she unpacks a message of hope and freedom with a gentle boldness that can only come from one who has walked the journey.

With straight talk, insightful biblical truths, and heart-aching stories of hope, Jo Ann leads you on the unparalleled adventure of finding your voice and using it to make a difference. Jo Ann helps you find healing, then leads you to help others do the same. You will learn how to overcome life's hurts. You will be moved to share the stories you’ve been hesitant to share—those healing stories that have the power to change both your life and the lives of others.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (October 8, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891123873
ISBN-13: 978-0891123873


When Silence Fell

A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used . . .
powerlessness and silence go together.
—Margaret Atwood

I inched my way down the long hall, afraid to exhale. As I turned my head to make certain no one saw me, my shoulder brushed the cheap reproduction of the Creation painting hanging on the wall. I froze. My eyes locked onto the exit-door, a short five feet away from me.
I hope no one heard. I took a deep breath and another step forward.
“There you are.” My co-worker, Karen Trigg, stepped into the hallway wearing a warm smile that wrapped through to her hazel eyes. “A few of us are heading out for lunch in a bit; want to join us?”
That’s the last thing I want to do. I simply wanted to sneak out, grab something to eat without anyone noticing. I cannot believe I left my lunch at home—how stupid. I silently scolded myself—a habit that came all too easily.
“No, thanks.” I shifted my eyes toward the door and fumbled for my keys. “My lunch is in the car—forgot to bring it in this morning.”
A few weeks back, Karen had joined our office at the faith-based, non-profit organization where I worked. Things were much easier before she came; the executive director deferred to my preference to be alone. But then bubbly, I-have-a-perfect-life Karen showed up. Karen, who had a strong faith, a strong support system, and a strong marriage. Karen, who was making friends with everyone in record time.
The sun didn’t shine quite so brightly for me. Life was hard. I was married to a real Jekyll and Hyde who was sweet and charming one day and emotionally and physically abusive the next. He would ask for forgiveness and I’d give in, wanting to believe he would change. And he would . . . but not for long. I was convinced the abuse would end—that we would heal and have a good Christian marriage. But lately I questioned if anything I believed could be trusted.
My skittish circle-making around Karen’s repeat invitations continued. I dismissed her with a new excuse at every turn. Whatever it took—even if it was a lie.
As a peer, Karen was great. She was enthusiastic, detailed, punctual. Our joint projects ran smoothly; that was important to me. But those times she wanted to go deeper, that made me extremely uncomfortable.
One day, Karen stood in my office doorway. “I’m glad we were paired together on this new project. Wanna grab a cup of coffee after work? It would be nice to know each other better.”
I’d rather run, hide.
I managed to conceal my anxiety and addressed her matter-of-factly. “Karen, I just don’t have time for friendships.”  I tucked my head down, looking at my day-planner, rubbing my hand over its open pages. I shifted uncomfortably in my rolling desk chair, hoping she would realize I wanted her to drop this whole connecting thing.
“Maybe there’s something I can help you do? Something that would free your schedule?”
“Thank you,” I said. “But this is stuff I have to do myself.”
“If you change your mind, I’m right down the hall.”
Don’t I know it. And how I wish you weren’t.

Words That Whisper from Within
Secretly, I envied women like Karen who were connectors. Women who had the fortunate knack of seeming to love everyone. Women with a stable husband and loving family. Women who seemed to connect with their husbands, with their children, and with, well, almost anyone, with relative ease. And perhaps what I envied most about connecty women was that they weren’t afraid to meet other women for lunch or coffee for fear of their secrets leaking out.
Karen could never understand what I’m going through, nor could anyone else. They would think it’s my fault. I was embarrassed, ashamed.
What if someone finds out, questions my position in ministry? I was a professional, a woman who held the attention of board members, CEO’s, and affluent donors at important meetings and fundraisers. I could never admit I was one of “those women”—battered wives whom others judged and whispered about, saying things like, “What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she just leave the jerk?”
My secret-guarding continued as I made countless excuses for why my family didn’t join the after-work get-togethers, and why I had so many hushed phone conversations with my husband during the day.
Karen’s obtrusive kindness and desire to connect ignited a familiar anxiety within me—I did not want to be “found out.”
This protective silence fell early in life, claiming its role as my closest companion. At ten-years-old, I wasn’t like the others. With my washed-out skin, freckle-blotched face, and reddish-orange hair, I was sometimes a target for the mean kids’ jokes. Oh I had friends; it’s just that I always seemed to shadow the “popular kids,” desperately wanting to be part of the “in” crowd.
But I had differences that ran much deeper than any physical appearance. I harbored some harrowing secrets about my father, and I was taught early on you don’t tell secrets. So, I faked a normalcy that hid the pain—a normalcy I would never feel.
For years silence was my willing guardian, shielding me from the shame of an abusive father, the disgrace of revealing family secrets, and the pain of a low self-worth. And now, with Karen pressing in, silence was once again my natural and welcome default—the familiar pain suppressing my heart.

There’s something that happens when silence hangs like shadows, when brokenness stains the spirit, when the lining of hope sheds from the heart.

The painful after-effects of emotional wounds permeate our souls, negatively impacting the choices we make and the way we live. When we abandon healthy boundaries at the first sign of resistance, always put ourselves last, or flat give up on our dreams, this should serve as a warning signal—an infectious silence that requires attention.
When we push aside certain wounds, they can become contaminated. Infected. These wounds then weep, leaking and spreading into other areas, requiring additional care and taking much longer to heal. Gone unchecked, these infections often become much worse than the original wound.
Do you still struggle with the fallout of a painful life event? I wonder if you have a weeping wound, an area in your life that is still contaminated.

Stepping into Our Scars
Life leaves scars—we all have our stories. But healed scars don’t hurt; they’re closed, insensitive to touch. A reminder of something that once was. I have places on my body from bike wrecks, surgeries, and maybe even a dog bite, but those wounds are healed, closed off by scars.  Not too long ago though, I had an open wound on my body and when I touched it, it hurt like crazy.  I was obnoxiously overprotective of my sore spot, not allowing anyone near for fear they would bump it and make me hurt all over again.
If there is something in the recesses of our minds (those places we don’t let others see) that shoots pain when it is “touched,” we are still wounded. The best way to clean this sort of wound like this is to properly flush it out.
Nature could tutor us in this area, this healing of hurts. In his book Waking the Tiger, therapist and educator Dr. Peter Levine suggests we could learn a valuable lesson from the instinctive behavior of animals. Those in the wild apparently hold an innate capacity to both process and transform traumatic life experiences.

There is a healing power that lies in the release of bound emotions.

A gradual, intentional release of energy must take place before we can be healed. Contrary to what we’ve heard, this licking our wounds is not always a self-pity thing. It is appropriate, necessary, to give ourselves room to address emotional pain so that we can heal and move forward.
In his studies, Dr. Levine noticed how most animals experience physical tremors after surviving a near death pursuit. Once they escaped becoming someone’s dinner, they ran around, shook, cried aloud—whatever it took to release the enormous amount of negatively charged emotions that had overpowered them during the chase.
If for some reason the animal failed to process this compressed energy, and tried to return to his regular life still hyped up, he simply couldn’t survive. If he didn’t do this release-dance, these fragments of trauma eventually destroyed his ability to live a normal life.
 “(There has to be a) mechanism that's there to bring us back from the brink of insanity, the brink of fear and experience of threat to balance,” Dr. Levine said. “A threatened human must discharge all the energy mobilized . . . this residual energy does not simply go away.”1
Ever hope if we ignore things long enough they will eventually go away?
Are we lying to ourselves? Suppressing unresolved hurts, believing that’s what we’re supposed to do?
If we deny our emotions long enough, our hearts eventually line up with the lie that we have to keep this pain hidden. But we can’t.

It’s simply not possible to disconnect ourselves completely from those people and things which comprise our past just by salvation or the years between us . . . they can still be affecting our attitudes, behaviors, personalities, fears, relational ability, health, or view of the world, and of God. 2

I have my days when I feel a little crazy myself, out of balance, fearful and hyped-up. It’s then I know that I’ve stuffed something, failed to process a hurt. Like adjusting a rear-view mirror to eliminate those pesky blind spots, sometimes we have to take a look back at our scars to make sure there’s nothing coming, nothing sneaking up on us that could cause a crash.
Not that we look back to hyper analyze, or to get stuck in the pain, we look back only to better understand the link between what’s happened and any negative influences that are making their way into our lives.

Those things we stuff and try so hard to ignore, they are the very things begging for release—the things that hold the promise of hope, the flame of freedom.

Winning Best-Dressed at the Masquerade Ball
“I was three when I bit my four-year-old step-sister for taking my tricycle,” my friend Lisa Easterling recently shared. “My step-father, Jim, came out of nowhere. He kept hitting me over and over; I didn’t know if he was ever going to stop. I turned black and blue from the waist down and although my mother cried, she feared crossing him. I feared Jim more than I’d ever feared anything, and hated him even more than that.”
The original lie, sewn by Jim but watered by Lisa’s wounded thinking: “I dare not open my mouth in protest. Ever.”
If any remnant of Lisa’s voice remained after Jim’s angry beating, it would soon be wiped out. Starting at age six, another family member sexually abused Lisa for five years.
If you tell on me, they’ll send me to jail—and that will upset everyone. The lie of Lisa’s abuser played repeatedly in her mind, frightening her and guilting her into silence.
That lie set the stage for a lifelong aversion to confrontation of any kind, the emotional paralysis lingering into her later years.
“Either I feared retaliation, or I felt guilty for upsetting someone or getting them into trouble. My nurturing nature was twisted like a gun-barrel back into my face. Silence was safer and kept everyone happy—or at least not angry at me.”

Manipulative fear often neutralizes the rational voice, rendering it ineffective.

Why do we so easily buy into lies? These falsehoods that paralyze us, make us feel insignificant or confused—the ones that come so easy? The things we learn at an early age can determine life-attitudes. We have to “unlearn” these things, develop new attitudes based on truth.
This fatal falling for lies was modeled for us long ago in a beautiful garden where Eve was tricked, deceived.3 Eve—the first woman, first wife, first mother, and the first one of us to fall for an ugly lie. That day Satan met Eve in the garden, he brought a convincing argument, one intended to lead her, and any of us who would follow, away from God’s truth.
I mean, really—the woman was in a beautiful, perfect environment with the perfect man. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than a clean house and a hot husband who loves you. Eve had both. And there wasn’t another woman alive that she had to compare herself with. Can we say heaven on earth? Yet Satan found a way to convince her she deserved more. That somehow she didn’t measure up, and God was holding out on her.
Unfortunately Eve’s choice to believe that lie was one emotionally expensive lesson with some far-reaching consequences.
She fell right into Satan’s plan.
She influenced someone else (Adam) to accept a lie.
She re-routed God’s plans for her, and her family.
She gave in to fear.
She withdrew from God.
She blamed someone else for her mistakes.
She, and her family, suffered long-term emotional pain.

Sound familiar? Ah, the cancerous power of lies: shame and blame, deceit and manipulation, fear and control. A life lived outside of God’s plan. How many of us are doing the same thing? Cowering to fear, falling for lies?
Sometimes we cling to silence (no matter how terrible) simply because it’s familiar. While miserable, life is at least predictable, and if we try to change, it may prove too painful, right? This is a lie; the same sort of lie that tripped Eve.
God’s not holding out on us—his plan is good. We’ve got to learn to trust him. It’s time to stop masquerading, to drop our happy-face masks and confront reality. To take a 180-degree turn toward freedom and genuine joy.
Ironically, the masks we hide behind were originally associated with freedom—the very thing we’re chasing. Masquerade balls go back to medieval times where royal families and upper class were laced in glamour and drama. Anonymously hidden behind elaborate masks, royalty escaped the strict etiquette of the day-to-day rules.
Today’s masks carry no such freedom, only a crippling pretense. Convinced we must behave a certain way to get our needs met, we stand with a closet full of ready-to-wear painted disguises.
Recognize yourself in any of these?

The People Pleaser—I will do whatever it takes to make you happy, to keep the environment calm, safe, and stress-free. I will sacrifice my own needs in order to meet yours. When I do, you will love me.
The Approval Addict—I need you to think highly of me, to always accept me. I will, at all costs, seek your approval. The more you validate me, the more I am motivated to pursue your praise.
The Performer—I need to be productive. I cannot fail, especially in front of you. I often fake a super-competency I don’t feel, because, after all, my worth is determined by my success.
The At-All-Costs Attractive—To gain your acceptance or love, I must be beautiful—or as close as I can get anyway. It is my duty. I must hide any flaws, imperfections, and anything that would not be pleasing to you.
The Perfectionist—I must stay in control. Do everything right. Regardless of the burden of responsibility I take on, I press forward. I won’t ask you to help me, for I fear you won’t be able to do it right. Yet, I crave your help. Your love. Your acceptance.

How elaborately we dance, pretending to be anyone but ourselves, spinning alongside others we think we know but really don’t. Performing for acceptance, compromising for love. Always wondering if we’re good enough, pretty enough, smart enough.
We’re not-so-secret wrecks. We all know it, but we don’t talk about it. Instead, we grab the mask that hides what we lack. And if one mask doesn’t work, we mask our masks. Everyone does it. We expect them to. If they stopped, we might have to.

We intend to hide our shortcomings and the fear inside our hearts; instead we hide our beauty, our true selves.

The View from Behind the Mask
Lord, I prayed one morning driving to work, I feel so cut off from everyone. Especially you. Don’t you see what I’m going through? How can you not intervene? Can’t you help me find a way out of this? If you are everywhere, and can do anything, where are you now?
Many times anger and confusion have driven me right into Satan’s plans, into his waiting arms where I believed his lies. Just as many times, I’ve reached for my masks.
No, really, things are okay. I can do this. Lots of people have it worse than me; this isn’t so bad. I’m capable, confident. I’m a survivor. I don’t need anyone.
False beliefs and soul-scars from my childhood had convinced me I could never measure up, but my masks promised otherwise. I could be that person others expected me to be. I could be calm and always happy. Meticulously put-together. Syrupy sweet. Wildly successful without ever being afraid.
So, I ignored the face behind these masks, the real live me. And I traded my real self for a substitute. An artificial me that cared nothing about my dreams, about who I really was.

When wounds cut deep, the opinion of others sometimes matters most.

If we aren’t careful, we will allow these triggered-by-others insecurities to rewrite our life story. Just ask Adam and Eve. Remember that fateful day Satan convinced them God was lying, that he didn’t have their best interests at heart?
Later that evening when the breeze fell among the trees in the garden, God decided it was time to talk through the mess the couple had created. Adam tried to rationalize what he had done, but God holds him accountable.4

God wants to instill a holy confidence in us that keeps us from being deceived.

“I was afraid . . . I was naked and I hid,” Adam said.
“Who told you that?” God asked.
I just love the question. God well knew the source of their shackling guilt but I believe he wanted them to consider that someone else, a shrewd and conniving Enemy, had influenced their beliefs.
Today, God asks us the same thing, “Who told you that?”
Who has lied to us, diminishing or ignoring our true worth?? Patronized or belittled us?

Who told you that you are worthless? Not good enough? Unlovable? That what you say doesn’t matter?

What life-messages are we responding to? Criticism from a cynical “friend”? A family-imposed silence? Shame from an abusive spouse? Close relationships with narcissists, know-it-alls, controlling or belittling people? A toxic religious system, even?
No matter who the messenger is, we must wrest ourselves from these grips of shame and fear that keep us from truth  We must ask ourselves if these messages line up with what God says about us, with who he says we are?
Christian author and speaker Mary Demuth understands the fears of one who has had lies of worthlessness whispered to her soul. When she was only five, Mary was repeatedly raped by two neighborhood boys.
 “Growing up, I had a monster-like fear of death,” Mary said. “At night, I shivered as I prayed prayers to ward off ghosts.”
 A consuming fear followed Mary into her adult life, holding her hostage for years. Most nights, instead of sleeping, she imagined horrific things happening to her. Emotionally isolated and relationally inept, she walked many painful years in repressive denial—until she was willing to accept truth. Facing the truth changed her heart. Her mind. Her life.
 “I avoided intimacy as much as I could so I wouldn’t rip open a festering wound I couldn’t handle,” Mary said. “But you need to be willing to ‘go there’ with Jesus. So many people aren’t healed because they are afraid to open up the can of worms of their past. I’m here to say, yes it will hurt, but that kind of hurt is what heals.
“We'll never drink from the forest's mountain spring if we don't go through the tunnel. But most of us feel too afraid to step inside for fear of the dark; and the barren land—bleak as it is—has a staid familiarity about it. The truth? It's dark in the tunnel. The hurt is intensified, especially when we can't see the other side.”5

There are those times we’re afraid of the dark, but our fear doesn’t mean there is actually danger. God is in the darkness with us, and he can see. His very presence illuminates the dark, driving it out.

When One Lie Is Not Enough
When Satan asked Eve “Did God really say . . .”  he was laying a foundation of doubt, something he could build on. From the beginning Satan whispered deception, attacking Eve’s confidence, making her question her ability to hear and understand God. With only four words he ripped a gaping hole in the first woman’s relationship with her Creator, and he’s been reopening that same wound in women ever since.
If Eve, tucked away in the realms of paradise, can be deceived, consider how much easier it is for those of us walking out ordinary, everyday lives.
Satan uses life’s hurts. From our wounds, he fashions a manipulative lie and wraps it secure around our hearts (the core of our souls). These deeply imbedded lies, planted as truth, shape our beliefs (our personalities).These lies grow invisibly in our root system, manipulating our behaviors.
What we believe dictates our behavior, training us to act, or react, in a certain way. If we are still controlled by the fallout of a particular event in our lives, chances are we never reached the bottom layer—the core lie from which everything is shaped.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. My default core lie is that I’m not good enough. My pursuit of perfection is actually a journey to somehow prove my worth. I often drive myself (and those around me) batty trying to be a super-achiever, controlling things I have no business controlling. All because of unreasonably high standards I long ago placed on myself.
While excellence is a respected virtue, it’s more than that with me. Those times I don’t have it all together, I sure want you to think I do.  It’s actually painful for me to fail. (That’s when you know you’re out of bounds.) When I fail, my belief system tells me, “You see, you aren’t good enough!”
Truth is, we all make mistakes. I have to give myself grace, and respect. Do my best and not be afraid to grow publically.
The lies we believe stand behind every negative thought percolating in our minds. These beliefs limit what we think we deserve because of who we think we are.
Emotional wounds have their own convincing language, and too often we make decisions based on the voice of those wounds. It’s a survival code of sorts.  For example, if someone we love betrays us, we may commit to never trust again. If someone rejects us, we decide we’ll never fit in no matter how hard we try. These crippling covenants we make with ourselves aren’t always cognizant choices, but they are choices still, and they have the power to separate us from the life God intends us to live.
Like weeds in a garden, Satan loves planting these little lies that choke out truth. And he’s thrilled when he manages to make the weeds so cute that it’s hard for us to tell the difference, hard to tell they are lies until they’ve already taken root.
I’m no gardener but I’ve learned the trick for getting rid of pesky weeds. Start with soft soil; the softer the soil the easier the process (bring your hearts tender as we dig in). Then, trace the roots back to where they first broke ground (ask God, when did I first believe this?). Gently twist the weeds and pull upwards—but not so hard they snap (allow truth to replace the lie). If you snap them off without going to the root, it only eliminates them temporarily and we don’t want these things growing back (allow God to complete the work).

The truth of God’s word cuts through the good and bad of our lives like a trowel digging up hard-to-remove weeds without damaging the plant.

Why Trusting Our Feelings Is Sometimes Dangerous
“Please, come away with me—bring your children with us.” Becky Spencer’s eyes met the plea of the songwriter she had worked closely with over the past months. Like a spike of water frozen in place, the words pierced her hungry heart. Becky had fallen in love and longed to run away.
There was a slight problem, though—her upcoming tenth wedding anniversary with her husband.
Various church projects had pitted a vulnerable Becky and her songwriter friend together. Conversations grew longer, deeper, and eventually intimate. Because of her love for God, she felt guilty, but the desire was stronger. Becky caved to the succulent feelings of validation and comfort, and found herself in an emotional affair. Unwilling to turn her back on God, she chose to remain in her marriage—but the choice infuriated her.
“God, you are a trickster—you duped me into marrying my husband. You don’t care about my feelings,” Becky said. “I’ll still read my Bible, but I don’t believe you will speak to me. Even if you do, I won’t believe you.”
Our lives are shaped by our thoughts. Focusing on miserable things makes one miserable, keeps us stuck in the hard places. There is an alternative when negativity overtakes our minds. We can switch the focus. We can allow God’s intentions to change our perspective. We must stop rehearsing the negative and reframe our lives with truth.

God’s truth dismantles a lie. Strips away its false sense of power.

I use a simple question when I’m stuck, when I need to redirect my thoughts:  Is there another way to think about this?
How about we practice this? (Yes, it’s that important.)
Let’s consider some common faulty-thinking traps and reframe them with scriptures taken from The Message translation of the Bible.

Self-defeating thinking: When we default to automatic negative thoughts, when we sabotage the potential good.
Mental Trap: I simply can’t change.
Reframed Thought: When I fix my attention on God, I will be changed from the inside out (Romans 12:2).6

Emotional reasoning: When our feelings dictate our situation; if we feel it, it must be true.
Mental Trap: I must deserve this.
Reframed Thought: Through the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am worthy of love. Whoever hurts me hurts God, and that can’t be good (Zechariah 2:8b).7

Conclusion-jumping: Without facts to support our assumption, we interpret things negatively and anticipate the worst.
Mental Trap: People will think I’m dumb; they will never listen to me.
Reframed Thought: God himself gives me wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).8
Over-generalizations: When we think “always” and “never.” We tend to consider one event as the catalyst to an on-going, never-changing pattern.
Mental Trap: I can never say anything right; I may as well not ever speak up.
Reframed Thought: God will give me the words and wisdom that will reduce my accusers to stammers and stutters (Luke 21:15).9

All-or-Nothing thinking: When we think in extremes, view everything as black or white, good or bad—no gray areas. The times a simple setback seems a complete failure.
Mental Trap: I messed up again; I may as well give up.
Reframed Thought: I may not have it together, but I am well on my way . . . God is beckoning me forward. I’m off and running and not turning back (Philippians 3:13-14).10

Please don’t write this exercise off as simple inspiration, as another good-girl “to-do.” No matter how bad the hurt in your life is or has been, this is our kickoff to emotional wholeness. We will learn to control our emotions by reframing lies with God’s truth. Being equipped with the truth will give us the power to change our lives.
My friend Becky made a powerful choice in spite of her feelings—she maintained communication with God.
“That (connection) allowed me to process the pain and find answers, much like a new mother who eats properly and takes her vitamins. As a mother processes the food, she provides nourishment for her own health and her suckling baby,” Becky said. “My wounds became a window to my soul, then a door of invitation for God to move.
 “God gave me promises for my marriage. And, he showed me how we can be taught, as women, to love our husbands. I didn’t know that could be taught. I thought you either did or didn’t love your husband and that was that.
 “God instructed me to do for my husband the things I wanted to do for the other man I’d fallen in love with. Honestly, it made me sick to my stomach. But God blessed my obedience. My feelings toward my husband changed; and I eventually fell in love with him—and learned that God had my best interest at heart all along.”

God is greater than our feelings—the Bible tells us so.

Conditioning Ourselves for an Optimal Life
Over the years, I’ve noticed a surprising link between the numbers of women who have been emotionally wounded that also suffer with a chronic illness.
That equation includes me.
A war between lies and truth led me to my own ultimate battle for not just my emotional health, but my physical well-being.
My life had spun out of control like some tornado-ravished midwestern town. Joy-thief that he is, a chronic illness mocked my attempts at maintaining a normal life, stole my ability to travel, poisoned  personal aspirations, and threatened intimate relationships. Robbed of much, I gravitated toward a dark discouragement.
Many times I recited to God, slowly and emphatically, all the hard places I’d been, all the tight spots I’d endured. I paraded before him my trophies of survival: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, depression and post-trauma stress. And now, this illness that was threatening my life?
How much can a woman be expected to endure, God?
It was time to untwist my thinking. But how?
One day as I flipped through a magazine, an article caught my attention. The author, Bill Irwin, was a certified Counselor who practiced his profession by merging a former discipline of Clinical Chemistry with counseling skills and his faith in God. In the feature, Bill explained how most health issues are directly linked with a non-satisfying personal relationship, the adverse stress serving as a negative modulator on our immune systems. Bill went on to suggest that we have considerably more control than we realize over the way we act and think, and that our total outlook directly impacted our health.

We could choose to think differently.

For someone struggling with ongoing disappointment and negativity, that sounded a little too good to me. I contacted Bill to further examine his theory; luckily he agreed to chat.
“The body has a unique ability to heal itself from most anything provided we line it up under God’s mandated balance,” Bill said. “We must bring all the elements of our basic needs into balance, the body, mind, psyche, and spirit.”
 How much was I sacrificing with my out-of-balance life? The fatigue, the pain, the frustration—were they a strong enough motivator for me to consider real change?
“You have to make intentional choices,” Bill said. “The type of choices that bring your life into balance spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s going to take discipline. But if you can learn to hold to the promises of scriptures and make certain behavioral changes, you will effectively take control of your life.”

Living like we matter is an intentional step, one that gets us where we need to be.

For years, my thinking was skewed. I wanted to change, but I didn’t have the tools to do it on my own. A hand of hope grabbed my heart—here was my how. Bill would help me. Bill who was faith-filled, passionate, inspiring.
And blind.
Yes, God’s plan was for a blind man to help me see. Made sense, really. I had many of my own blind spots; unruly raw-to-the-core emotions tucked in deep places that discredited any budding hope of emotional wholeness. But if Bill didn’t use blindness as an excuse, how could I?

How Right-Thinking Fuels Our Dreams
Although blind and dependent on others, Bill enjoyed a unique level of freedom most of us only dream of. He was the only blind person to ever thru-hike the 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
 Blindness wasn’t Bill’s first taste of a handicap, though. Alcoholism, loneliness, and childhood abuse substantially impaired his earlier years. But his life was radically altered when he learned he could make a conscious choice to think different thoughts about past experiences, and that this new perspective would dramatically impact the quality of his life.
More proof (in case we need it) that our thoughts shape our reality.
It’s not our external circumstances that dictate our quality of life, but rather our response to those circumstances,”  Bill said.

Every day we have a choice, and the choices we make dictate our future.

Bill’s words wrapped hope fresh around a painfully raw heart. For years, I nurtured a decided bent toward self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. I focused on my misery as I complained of powerlessness. I felt ashamed. Silenced.
To think I was somehow contributing to that unhappiness? Imagine—a chosen misery. How does one respond to news like that?

Will we focus on our weakness, the powerlessness, or will we consider it an opportunity?

I won’t patronize (I wouldn’t dare). Escaping negatively charged, emotionally disruptive memories is hard. All firsts are hard. But do you desire real change? Long to grow?
  For me, a recovering control-freak and type-A over-achiever, it was difficult to accept that emotional healing was not some task-driven process. That I couldn’t just check this one off my list as I completed the necessary steps. But I could make better choices. And if God’s essential truths governed those choices, I would walk in the freedom and joy I have long craved.
I’m sharing my story and others to offer you credentials. A resume of sorts. We get it—we’ve been there. We’ve made it through this, and so can you.
But not alone.
When we’ve been hurt, it’s hard to trust. When I trusted folks I got hurt, so I learned to depend on myself. To lean on what I could do on my own. I tried to convince myself (and others) how very capable I was.
It didn’t work.
God already knew I would develop this stubborn streak. Thousands of years ahead of me, he planted instruction in a little quiet Proverb: Trust in me. Do not lean on yourself. (See Proverbs 3:5.)
Those times we think we can make it through life’s hurts without leaning on God, trusting him—how prideful of us. We can do nothing meaningful without him. Nothing. When we truly understand that, we find it much easier to lean into him, lean like we mean it.
As we fully surrender to God’s working in our lives, he somehow molds these hurts of life, uses them to chisel our voice. A voice that later inspires others to do the same.

Seeking God
God, are you there? I imagine we should talk.
There are these words that sit lodged in my throat, clutching at my heart, begging for release. This pain, it’s always on the verge of speaking, even when I try to silence it. These hopes and dreams for my future, I can remember them even now, though life has tried its best to stamp them out.
But I’m afraid, Lord.
It’s easier to be what I “should be,” say what I “should say,” hide away, lying to myself and trusting wrong feelings.
I need your help. Really, I’m desperate for your intervention, your healing. I want to be that woman, the one who made it through to the other side of the craziness in her life. The one who, yes, may have been hurt, but because you reworked her heart she stands whole. Emotionally whole. Free.
 I don’t understand these things that have happened in my life. How do I trust you—fully trust you the way you ask—with this lingering pain, doubt, and confusion in the recesses of all that I think and do?
Help me to gently probe these deep pockets of pain that remain. Not so I can linger in the pain of the scars, but so that I can identify these negative behaviors that are blocking me from the freedom you designed for me to live in. Help me to stop living my life based on my feelings. To replace lies with truth.
I want to be whole. In fear, I commit this healing journey to you. With you leading, I will walk it. Please bring me out of the other side free. Safe, validated, and respected. Significant. Worthy. Authentic, secure, and emotionally whole.
Thank you, Lord, for the work you are about to do in me.
 With an open heart I pray. Amen.

The Voice Studio: Responding to God’s Call to Develop Our Voice
Recognizing the Powerlessness of Silence

Have you ever felt forced to keep a secret? Intimidated or shamed into keeping something quiet? What was it? How does it make you feel to write it out now? Does that secret filter into your daily life—the way you see things, choices you make?
How do you handle shame? A sense of powerlessness and frustration?
Do you ever feel like you should “be over this by now?” If so, why do you think you aren’t over it? Is the push to be “over this” external (coming from someone else) or internal (coming from within yourself)? Does the notion discourage you? What is your response to this idea?
Did you recognize yourself in any of the masks—the people-pleaser, perfectionist, or others? How do these masks seem to help you cope with any lingering pain?
What mental traps are you aware of? What action steps can you take to overcome those?
Have you made any sort of covenant with yourself? Never to trust? Never to love again? What lie triggered that response?
What is your most common default thinking pattern? Example: There’s no need to try and change. Do you feel like that thought-pattern is in line with God’s Word? Why or why not?
What boundaries would you put into place if you felt like you could?
Are you ready to go beyond a routine relationship with God into a genuine healing experience? Can you think of some ways you could prepare yourself for this journey?
Why does your voice matter? Locate and memorize one scripture that reminds you of the importance of using your voice for God.

1 Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1997), 20.

2 Jimmy Evans,  Marriage Today broadcast

3 See Genesis. 3

4 “Genesis 3:11(The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013,

5 Mary DeMuth, “Opening the Door to Healing,”Marriage Partnership, accessed 1/14/2013,

6 “Romans 12:2 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013,

7 “Zachariah 2:8b (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013,

8 1 Corinthians 1:30

9 “Luke 21:15 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013,

10 “Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013,