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Book Review: The Farmer’s Daughter

Lisa Howeler’s novels never fail to leave my heart full and my spirit a little more hopeful. Enjoy my full review and grab a copy for yourself below!

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Molly Tanner is restless. After coming home to live and work on her parents’ dairy farm, life now seems to be passing her by.

She longs for something more, but every day is full of the same things: stubborn cows, an even more stubborn farm hand, Alex Stone, and the growing fear that her family’s life and legacy on the farm isn’t sustainable any longer.

So, Molly Tanner will have to decide…

Is it possible to find something new in the midst of familiar things, and can old fears truly be washed away by enduring love?

Every time I read a book by Lisa Howeler, I meet characters who are surprisingly real, who struggle with issues that hit close to home. The Farmer’s Daughter is no exception.

This is a poignant story of preserving legacy, believing for the impossible when all hope seems out of reach, and learning to trust that it’s still possible to find love that endures and is true.

If you’ve ever struggled to see your own worth or receive God’s grace, pick up this book. It will leave you feeling a little more whole and a lot more hopeful by story’s end.

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You can connect with Lisa on Instagram and her blog, Boondock Ramblings!

The Farmer’s Daughter is available on Amazon, along with all of Lisa’s other novels! You can read my review of her book, A New Beginning, here.

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Wishing you a weekend full of wonderful reads,

Alexandria

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Book Review & Giveaway of Luna’s Rescue!

This, week, I am so excited to share a book review and giveaway of Erica Richardson’s book, Luna’s Rescue, the first book in The Cottonwood Chronicles.

This story is an absolute, magical delight, and you won’t want to miss a chance to read it!

Read my full review and giveaway details below.

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Luna is just your average crested gecko: small, unassuming, and perfectly content with her routine of sleeping by day and enjoying fruit puree by night.

But when her family suddenly goes missing, Luna knows she must abandon the familiar and do something that no one expects of her: go on an adventure!

Along the way, she is joined by the prickly, but loveable, owl, Hoover, and the curiously quirky and ingenious wizard, Edwin. While they agree to help Luna, they also believe that, when it comes to rescuing her family, she is just too small.

But don’t lose heart! Wizard Edwin has a plan, and it’s bound to transform Luna’s adventure into something entirely unexpected…

Erica Richardson has created a charming children’s story in Luna’s Rescue, the first book in The Cottonwood Chronicles. Her characters range from the persnickety to the courageous, the quirky to the loveable, and every turn of the page is sure to bring fresh delight to readers of all ages. This is the perfect story for families to curl up with and read aloud together.

So, have you ever felt too small to face the impossible or help those you love?

What a magical coincidence! 🙂

Luna’s Rescue is the perfect adventure for you.

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Are you ready to start this magical adventure? Head to my Instagram to enter the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue!

And be sure to follow along on Erica’s writing adventures by following her on Instagram!

Luna’s Rescue and the second book, Hoover’s Horn, are available on Amazon 🙂

Once you’ve finished the adventure, please review Erica’s books on Goodreads! It’s the best way to support indie authors!

This Thursday, I’ll be sharing an interview with Erica!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from The Uncertainty of Fire

A repentant heart begs not to be turned away, but unforgiveness fights to have the final say in a young woman’s heart.

Join me for an exciting excerpt from Stephanie Daniels’ upcoming novel, The Uncertainty of Fire.

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I push the door open and trudge toward the bed.  His gray eyes—usually hard as steel, now like calm waters—meet mine. His hyena-featured face repels me as ever. Smells of leather and vinegar used to staunch the bleeding cause my eyes to water.  Instinct compels me to wipe my eyes, but I stop. Tears might help with my ruse.  I concentrate on commanding my twitching facial muscles from scowling. 

           He holds out a trembling hand.  No. I’d held his hand once through his pain and his unconsciousness. I’ll not do it again. I pick up the glass of water at his bedside and shove it in his hand pretending to believe that is what he wants.  His brow wrinkles in confusion, but struggling, he lifts the glass to his lips. I straighten the coverlet, unwilling to aid him in his task.

           He props up on his elbows, the empty glass in his hand poised on the bed. “Whimsy.”

           I freeze at his use of my true name, as nettling as leeches on bare skin. 

  “I didn’t think you’d come.  Did Colin convince you?  I’m a changed man. I can’t believe God can forgive me for all I done.  For what I done to Co–“

           He chokes on his words and grunts in pain, then he grips the bandage on his side. His body goes rigid then quakes and seizes. His features twist, then relax.

I thought I’d be happy to see him brought low. To be humbled as he had often humbled me.

           “For what I done to you.” Wheezing breaths follow his finished statement.

           My pounding heartbeat thuds in my ears. Maybe it will block out his words. But I stand defiant, waiting to say my part and never face him again.

           “God’s forgiven me. Colin’s forgiven me,” Mattie rasps.

            I cast my gaze downward. 

“I can die in peace now.  Well, almost. I know I’ve done wrong. And it must be hard to listen to me say this.” 

           He has something right at least.

            “But if you can. Please. Forgive me.”  

           The pallor of his face pales, as if the effort of his words drains the life from him. I raise my gaze as slowly as a hoisted flag. My fists clench then I shove them behind my back, out of his sight. I can’t risk his thinking I’ve not forgiven him and in one last moment, he reveal it to the Bradshaws.  He’ll not ruin another day of my life.  I’ll not be thrown back to the streets because of him.

           My nod is so small, I’m not sure he sees it. Will I need to say the words? I forgive you. Because I’m sure I can’t. Even if I don’t mean them.  But slight color suffuses his face, and his head drops back onto the pillow. 

“Thank you. Thank you.”  His eyes close and a tear slides down the side of his face.

           A battle as mighty as The War of the Rebellion rages inside me. Is Mattie truly a reformed man?  Had he really asked God’s forgiveness? Does he genuinely want mine? The brawling liquor-filled boy that invades my dreams doesn’t resemble the still form in the bed. The features are the same. But the hardness in the jaw has relaxed. Not a flutter behind his eyelids. Even the horse flare of the nostrils had ceased. 

             Should I forget the day he’d made a pyre of my hiding spot at the top of a lumber pile? Should I push aside the memory of his boot thrust into my back or my cheek bruised from his brutal beating?  How day after dreary day I’d dreaded how I’d sidestep his aggression? 

           No.  I will not. I cannot. God cannot expect this of me, even if Colin did.

           Mattie’s breathing slows. His face flushes as hot as the irons I’ve left on the cook-stove.

  I creep from the room, ridding my features of any trace of anger in case Colin waits on the other side of the door. Which of course, he does. 

           Clicking the door shut behind me, Colin steps close, peering down into my face. “How was he?  Did you do it?”

           My eyes still damp from the medicinal smells, I glance at Colin and muster my sweetest smile. “Yes.” 

           Better not to say too much in case my anger spills over.  Anger at tending to that man. Anger at Colin and the Bradshaws for requiring this of me. To hold my security and peace of mind ransom so that the brute in that bedroom could die unburdened before his Creator?

           I push past Colin, escaping downstairs away from his praise and relief before my face clouds with emotions he’ll read all too well.

            I duck into the butler’s pantry, grabbing an unused apron to swab the real tears I’d tamped down. I breathe in, then expel a shuddering breath that causes the silver to sway and tinkle. This heavy iron cauldron in my chest is Mattie’s fault. I’m sure it is. But Mattie is near to death, unable to harm me. And his sorrow, much to my dismay, seems real, unfeigned, genuine, despite my doubts.  Why then, did the heaviness continue?  Why does my chest burn like I’m unable to breathe? Can it be that Mattie isn’t the only one that carries a burden in need of release?

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Be sure to join Stephanie for all the exciting writing adventures to come! You can follow her on Instagram and her blog!

Thank you to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me so far this month! It has been an absolute joy to share your stories 🙂

Next week, Erica Richardson is joining us for an interview and exciting giveaway of her book, Luna’s Rescue, the first installment of The Cottonwood Chronicles! You won’t want to miss it!

I’ll meet you back here then!

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from Evergreen and the Silver Tree

A mystery waits to be solved.

A fantasy world waits to be explored.

Are you ready for the adventure?

Good 🙂

Enjoy this special excerpt of Jessica Smith’s upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree.

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Evergreen looked at the table Abby was pointing to. The table reserved for the Senior prom king and queen’s crowns. There were two crowns sitting on the table. One was a fairly plain black metal crown for the prom king. But the other crown was a golden band speckled with striking emerald stones in the shape of small leaves.


The Senior Class President came up to the table, appearing frazzled even in her sleek, black dress. “Don’t ask me how that emerald crown got there. I have no clue. The school ordered a silver tiara with some fake, I repeat, fake diamonds for the prom queen. That fake tiara was sitting right there only a few minutes ago, and now it’s gone, and I’m pretty sure these emeralds are real, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve looked everywhere for the tiara the school bought and paid for, and I’m responsible for it, so if you see it…please let me know.” With that, she turned on her heels.


Evergreen and Abby focused their attention on the emerald crown.


“Well, I think this is much prettier than the other tiara would have been,” said Abby.


Evergreen nodded and mumbled, “It’s very pretty.”


Whoever designed this crown was a master of the art. The emerald leaves were gorgeous. Evergreen was captivated, unable to peel her eyes away from the emerald stones. She resisted the urge to touch it, to pick it up and place it on her head.


“Pretty green leaves,” Evergreen said.


Green. Her nickname—the nickname her first-grade teacher, Ms. Nell, had called her.

Oh, poor Ms. Nell.


And Madeline. And Henry.


Missing. Lost. Gone.


Mrs. Dale. Heartbroken. Hurting.

Crushed.


“Um, Evergreen?” Abby’s voice sounded faint, like she was a long distance away. “You’re zoning out. Is everything okay?”


Evergreen tried to come to, but even the loud music inside the auditorium began to fade, until all was quiet. She felt herself being pulled, sucked through a tunnel inside her mind. Her vision blurred, and then—


“Where am I?” She sat upon a familiar rock upon a cliff overlooking a forest of pine trees. Only a few feet in front of her were her first-grade classmates. And Ms. Nell.


She was back at Purple Fire Park.


She looked down at her clothes. The same clothes she had worn the day of the field trip. And suddenly, she realized she had been shrunk into a first-grader again.


Looking to her right, Evergreen saw a boy isolating himself from Ms. Nell’s class. Henry!


Henry. Mrs. Dale’s son. He was quietly eating his lunch.


Evergreen looked down at her classmates. They, too, were eating their lunches, smiling and laughing and as happy as they could be. Every part of them, from their features, to the texture of their hair, to the precise color of their clothing was right there in front of Evergreen’s eyes.


She had dreamed about this before, but never so vividly. The memory of her former classmates had always been hazy, but now, it was as if she had crawled into the dark corners of her mind and unlocked the memories of the field trip completely.


Evergreen heard crying and turned her head. It was Henry. Tears streamed down Henry’s face.


This didn’t happen at the field trip, she thought.


Evergreen stood up and walked closer. Henry wasn’t just crying; he was speaking.


“Help me. Help me. Please, somebody help me.” Henry’s voice was weak. So weak.


“Henry?” Evergreen asked. “Wh—what’s wrong?”


She gasped and took a couple of steps back when Henry locked eyes with her own. His gray eyes pleaded. “Help me. Help me. Please, somebody help me.”

Another nightmare. That’s what this had to be. Except this was a nightmare Evergreen had never had before.


Like in a lucid dream, Evergreen could control what she said and where she went. “I can’t help you,” she told Henry. “You’re—You’re gone. You’re not really here.”


“Help me,” Henry said with more strength. “Help me. Please, somebody help me.”


“But I can’t,” Evergreen said.


“Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me! Help me, help me, please somebody help me!”


Again and again and again, Henry yelled.


Evergreen covered her ears. “Stop shouting at me. Stop it!”


Henry fell silent. Once more, he whispered, “Help.”


Evergreen’s vision and hearing became clear again. The music blared, and she found herself standing in front of the table where the emerald crown lay. However, her hands were pressed firmly to her ears, as though she really had heard Henry’s pleas for help. Had it been a dream? It couldn’t have been a dream. Evergreen hadn’t been sleeping. What happened? What was that?

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Longing to know more?

Evergreen and the Silver Tree is not published yet, but you can support Jessica on her writing adventures (and find out the moment it’s available!) by following her on Instagram or her blog, Christine’s Smithereens!

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Next week, I’ll be sharing an interview with Stephanie Daniels! If you know anyone who loves YA historical fiction that’s deeply rooted in faith, please let them know!

I hope your weekend is filled with wonderful books!

Alexandria

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An Interview With Jessica Smith

Welcome to my next author interview with Jessica Smith! It has been such a joy to get to know her and learn more about her upcoming novel, Evergreen and the Silver Tree!

Below, Jessica shares about the books that ignited her love of reading, what writing teaches her about God’s character, and lots more!

Enjoy!

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Most writers start out as avid readers. Which books ignited your love of reading and your desire to create worlds of your own?


I used to loathe being forced to read in grade school, until I picked up The Secret of the Old Clock, one of many in the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Suddenly, books weren’t just for school but for transporting myself to other places and times. I also loved C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew and, of course, his beloved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As a child, I would often pretend I was Lucy finding the entrance to Narnia or the White Witch creating Turkish delight. Playing pretend was essential to me as a child but is also just as essential today, and I’m thankful I can use drama and writing to keep childhood alive.

Tell us a little bit about your book, Evergreen and the Silver Tree! What inspired this story?


Writing has always been a solace for me, but I had never considered writing a full novel until after graduating from college, during a transition period in my life that was both scary and lonely. Spiritually, I was in a desert land, and the Lord provided me with a stream in the desert: An idea for a story. The idea started out as a picture of a giant evergreen tree with a prophecy engraved upon its trunk. It didn’t matter how small and unformed this idea was at the time, it ignited such a joy within me, that I knew I had to brainstorm, plan, and finally, write.


In a nutshell, Evergreen and the Silver Tree points to Hope for the hopeless, Truth in a world of deception, and Light that darkness will never overcome. Ten years after Evergreen’s first-grade classmates disappear from Purple Fire Cavern, Evergreen is called into Ezra City to find her classmates, to break deception’s spell by restoring truth, and to battle a dragon king in a war for freedom. In meeting Silverman, the dragon king’s faithful servant, Evergreen finds his bitterness and his cold silver hands are uninviting, but she learns he might be the key to unravel the lies coiled around this enchanted realm.

What’s your favorite thing about writing in the fantasy genre?


The FREEDOM and the JOY! I will never tire of exploring different worlds, different kinds of magic and creatures. In another world, I can defy gravity or create birds that glow or a tree that turns silver in the sunlight. Writing fantasy is just as Willy Wonka puts it: “A world of pure imagination.”

Writing stories is such a beautiful way of drawing closer to God. What is the most meaningful thing you’ve learned about His character through the writing process?


Through writing, I have learned and experienced so much of His mercy! He is the Creator, but the fact He would allow me or any of us to have even the smallest taste of creating art, whether it be through writing or drawing or inventing, is just…mercy. Art is a joy, a breath of fresh air, a stream in the desert lands of life, and the Lord is so kind to not only allow us, but to desire us, to be “miniature” creators.

Will readers get to explore Evergreen’s world soon? I know I absolutely can’t wait!


I hope so! I am currently working on finishing a book proposal and also querying literary agents in order to traditionally publish. I’m thankful for you, Alexandria, and our friendship. I really had no idea Instagram was such a wonderful place for writers to form friendships and encourage one another until recently. Thank you for interviewing me, and I look forward to reading Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!

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Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing such thoughtful answers! Having your friendship and encouragement has been such a blessing the last couple of months, and I’m also so grateful for the writing community on Instagram!

If you’d like to follow along on Jessica’s writing journey and hear all the latest news on Evergreen and the Silver Tree, follow Jessica on Instagram or on her blog, Christine’s Smithereens.

This Thursday, be on the lookout for an intriguing excerpt from Evergreen and the Silver Tree!

Until then, happy reading!

Alexandria

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Installment Twelve of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Sometimes, it takes the words of family and friends to remind us of what wonder truly is.

For Penelope Grace, it’s taken the child-like faith of a beloved uncle, the patience of a wolf led by grace and the Wind, and the fierceness of a bold arctic fox.

When you’ve finished this winter tale of wonder, find the people who remind you of what wonder is and thank them.

They are more precious than we’ll ever know.

Thank you, Penelope Grace/Mom. I am so humbled that I get to be your daughter. Without your devotion to God and your fearless sense of child-like wonder, I wouldn’t have been able to write this story. I love you.

And to everyone who has come along on this winter adventure, thank you so very much. Sharing this story with you means more than I can say. I hope you’ve delighted in it as much as I have!

If you’d like a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, click here.

Through midnight tonight, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the story!

You can also subscribe below to receive digital installments.

Either way, I hope this story fills you with a sense of awe and wonder for our great King.

Living in wonder with you,

Alexandria

Join the Fight for Wonder

Subscribe below to read digital installments of the story. When you subscribe, you will have access to all past installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, as well as access to all future digital book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber.

Next week, there will be an announcement for something new from 21:25 Books 🙂 Can you guess what it is?

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An Excerpt from Installment Eleven of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

This week, dangers abound and Penelope Grace and her friends are desperately seeking refuge.

Do you suppose they’ll find it?

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The companions were just reaching the rise of a crisp snowbank when the other snow sprites appeared, speaking so quickly in their small voices that Penelope Grace failed to catch the words. But Aralie understood their warning, and she turned to the others. “Denagon’s creatures are ahead, moving to cut us off. They must have spotted us from above. We must change course. Follow me!”

She darted to the right, and they rushed to keep pace with her as she flew ahead. Penelope could hardly breathe for the biting wind and her own exhaustion. Her legs felt weak beneath her, but she pushed on, knowing that if she could reach the camp, she could rest. But the thought of rest only made her feel more sluggish, and she stumbled despite her best efforts.

Immediately, Aira was there, speaking encouraging words and helping her to stand once more. “Think of Georgie, Penelope Grace. Think of your family, and run with me.”

With a ragged breath, she nodded, praying that the camp was not far and that her feet would carry her the distance. She barely made it several paces before a cry sounded from above, alerting them all to the presence of Denagon’s winged slaves.

Penelope risked a glance up just as the creature swooped down towards her. Though she dodged in time, its jagged claws snagged on the hood of her cloak, and she lost her balance in the deepening snow.

Scrambling to her feet as the creature screamed in frustration, Penelope whirled around to face the next attack just as the snow sprites shot past her. Penelope Grace’s eyes widened as she watched their remarkable work, unaware until now what the sprites were capable of.

Before her, a wall of thick, swirling snow appeared, blinding the enemies pursuing from behind and affording Penelope and her companions safe passage, if only for a short time.

Aralie came to hover before Penelope’s eyes. “Hurry now! The camp is not far from here, but the further away we fly, the more fragile the wall will become.”

With that, they were off. Penelope could see Elafry and the others racing ahead of her through the trees. They ran a great distance, yet Penelope still saw no sign of the camp. The trees nearby looked hazy, and it was not long before she could hardly make them out at all. In fact, the whole forest about her was fading from sight, hidden by a blanketing of white.

Nevertheless, she could clearly see the faint blue light of the snow sprites flying just ahead, which proved enough. Moments later, the snow sprites halted, and the others along with them. Penelope Grace could see nothing but white in front of them, and for a moment, she could not comprehend what she was looking at.

Understanding came in a flash. Though the snow was spinning so quickly that it seemed to be at a standstill, moving it was, in an impossibly high wall in front of them. It was similar to the wall of snow that the sprites had conjured to throw off their pursuers, but what rose before them seemed altogether impenetrable in comparison.

Briefly, Penelope caught sight of flickering blue light through the swirling snow. “What is this, Aralie?” she asked.

The snow sprite flew so near to Penelope that she could feel the breeze created by her beating wings. “This is our camp, Penelope, hidden by snow. No slave of the enemy can pass through this wall. You and your friends may pass through without fear.”

Tilly trotted through with no hesitation, her courage undaunted by the impressive sight. Penelope, however, remained still. Noticing her hesitation, Aralie said, “The snow will not harm you. It only prevents our enemies from entering.” And with that, the snow sprite flitted through the snow, as if to prove the truthfulness of her words.

Taking a deep breath, Penelope Grace passed through the snow. For a minute, the world was purest white, and then she stepped through into a sprawling camp that must have stretched two miles at least.

Everyone from the stronghold was here, and more. Fires were blazing at regular intervals, and the smell of warm food soon reached her. Penelope Grace nearly collapsed with relief. The war against Denagon was far from over, but for the moment, she was surrounded by friends and roaring fires, and she was safe.

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Installment Eleven publishes this Friday, and then only one more installment remains.

I would so love for you to embark on this journey of wonder with us. It’s hard to believe wonder still exists in all the madness of the world right now, but I believe we need wonder the most when it’s most difficult to feel.

This year, I’m sharing a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co., and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland. If you’d love to have a physical copy of this winter tale of wonder, please head to our contact page and get in touch.

Holding on to wonder with you,

Alexandria

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Installment Nine of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

The end of Part Two: Winter approaches, dear Reader. But, perhaps, it arrives with a little bit of light.

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  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a wintry tale sure to spark your sense of wonder.
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  • Access to all past and future installments of the story, as long as you remain a subscriber!

Or, if you prefer a print copy, we are happily releasing our unique, manuscript edition of the story! This edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.

Please contact us if you’re interested in the manuscript edition or click below to subscribe for digital installments!

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Even When You Can’t See It

Have you ever longed to know the ending of a story a few hundred pages before The End?

Have you ever longed to see the finished painting before the first brush strokes reach the canvas?

Maybe God’s given you a calling, a dream, a drive to do something for His glory and His Kingdom.

But here you are, still at square one, with the vision so clear in your mind and seemingly invisible in the physical world.

Oh, I have been there.

I am there.

Are you?

Here is what God’s been teaching me in what I recently heard Dr. Sam Chand call “the messy middle,” that place between, where you’ve received your dream, but aren’t seeing fruit yet.

Yet.

Isn’t that the key word?

The one all our hope is hinged on?

It’s not bearing fruit yet.

On November 24th, I wrote these words:

“I’m so thankful for all You’re doing, both what I can see and what I cannot.”

Then, on Dec. 29th, I wrote this prayer in my planner: “Can’t believe how You’re moving, God. In ways I see and ways I can’t.”

God’s been weaving this lesson through my days. He weaves it through every one of yours.

I am moving, both when you can see it and when you can’t.

This is what He speaks over us, sons and daughters of the King who orchestrates everything, a perfect symphony.

He does all things well.

And this is what we can rest in, no matter how long we’ve been waiting:

We’ll always wait in good company. He never leaves.

And He is always working.

Even when we don’t understand.

Even when we can’t fathom what comes next.

Even when we can’t see it.

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I hope this encourages you, friends!

Please share below: what are you waiting on or struggling to see? How have you witnessed God at work?

I’d love for us to pray for and encourage one another!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Alexandria

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Installment Eight of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Eight, reader, in which a maze is entered and the way is lost.

Choose your next step carefully, and read on…

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Here is everything you’ll receive when you subscribe:

  • Weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • A chance to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber!