Friday, October 27, 2017


Today is the day! For what? The release of J. Grace Pennington's new book, October. Yep, she named her book after the month we are in. Check out the great giveaway, and the other posts in this countdown!

About the Book

For Emily Baxter, life is simple. Her world is made up
completely of school, church, and the community in the small farming town she
calls home. All that changes one fateful Sunday, when a new girl shows up at
Pleasanton Baptist—a girl unlike anyone Emily has ever seen. A girl with long
red hair, crystal green eyes, and style and posture like royalty.

A girl named October.

The months that follow are filled with magic—the magic of
ordinary things, of finding pictures in the stars, of imagination and a new sense
of beauty. But as time goes by, Emily begins to sense that her enchanting new
friend may have secrets that could break the spell. Is October really all she
seems to be?

Character Introduction:

Pastor Jonathan Ulrich

The last character I'd like to introduce is not as prevalent in the story as the previous three.  He's more of a quiet presence throughout, without whom something important would be missing.

Jonathan Ulrich, who generally goes by “Jon” is the pastor of the Pleasanton Baptist church.  He is relatively young—in his early to mid thirties—but he's pastored the community for several years already.

He's a gentle, bearded man who speaks with a soft Alabama accent, whose favorite sermon topic is faithfulness.  While not perhaps the most gifted speaker, he is a pastor in the truest sense of the word, a 
shepherd of his flock, counsel, or step in whenever anyone needs it.  
He wants to be truly acquainted with the members of his congregation, to know them by name, to greet as many as he can each Sunday.

He's a gracious man, not overlooking flaws in others but willing to see past them.  He makes it a policy, when at all possible, to have time for anyone in the church who needs him.  He speaks the truth in love but at the same time is an excellent listener.

When things become difficult for Emily, he's the one who is best able to shine a light through the fog of the situation, ultimately pointing her to the higher Good Shepherd whom he serves.

About the Author

J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could
talk and writing them down since age five. 
Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as
adult life permits.  When she's not
writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and
looking up at the stars.

Grace has generously offered a paperback book of her new
book as her giveaway prize. You can enter at this link or
the widget below.

Excerpt/Spotlight/Interview/Guest Post/Review

Tour Schedule

October 25, 2017
– Introductory post
Peculiar Treasure Rae
– Character Spotlight
from Annie Douglass Lima
– Character Spotlight
Queen of Random
– Book Spotlight
– Book Spotlight

October 26, 2017
– Excerpt
– Character Spotlight and Excerpt
Elizabeth Huneke
– Review

October 27, 2017
Author Interview and Excerpt
Thoughts, and General Rambling
– Character Spotlight and Excerpt
– Book Spotlight
– Guest Post

October 28, 2017
– Review
Character Spotlight and Excerpt
– Special author’s post

October 29, 2017
– Giveaway Winner

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Endings - My Time As A CNA


Yesterday was my last day at my Long Term Care job, as I am getting married in 14 days and moving to Pennsylvania afterward.

Honestly, my first impressions about this job was being told by my team while volunteering at the hospital, "We came from there - if you work there, be ready to run. It is crazy over there." I didn't much want to work there, but they were the first ones to offer me a job ... My first day of orientation a girl was crying and mad because she was getting mandated to stay for another shift. My first few weeks I struggled a lot with managing my time - something I continued to work through, my entire three years... I can not be and give everything I wish to, simply because - I don't have the time...

It's a job that can be hard on the emotions... I've had days there I've cried so hard I literally can't stop - or days where I've been so frustrated and weary it sits in my chest... I've had days where I've wondered if I really wanted to stay... I'm glad I did.

Because you know what? I've also laughed there - hugging elderly residents, singing with them in the bathroom while helping them with pajamas, listening to their stories of life. I've worked with some amazing people who I honestly don't know how they do all they do. I've been able to lead church services when the church group doesn't show up - and I've taken my little sister Virginia to visit so she can be an encouragement to them. I've had the honor of meeting some people of beautiful faith - who after all their years, tell me how God has been good to them. I've been able to comfort people in their grief and hold them tight in the tears and the pain. I've been able to love people where they're at, and give of God's love to them.

 I've learned to understand people in new ways... We all have pains, regrets, and weaknesses - but we also have our own set of strengths, joys, and triumphs. I believe I will always look at life a little bit differently, because I have been a CNA.

~Ophelia - Marie

Picture Credit: Link

Thursday, June 8, 2017

To Be Known

Loving people and being trusted, I think are two of the most beautiful, inspiring things.

It's filling and draining - good and painful. It's a chance for a deeper knowing of someone, if we choose to listen. It's a chance to glimpse Jesus' love in a moment of letting down barriers between ourselves. Trust and Love.

 I'm more and more realizing we can only know others so well this side of heaven.... Because we all have dark spots and pain that doesn't quite make it into words - history, memories, broken bits... But we also all have beautiful joys, strengths and experiences no one but Jesus can truly understand the depth of ...

So we live and we reach, and we laugh and we dream, and we grow - going through life expressing pieces of ourselves to others, but not our true fullness... But someday we shall know as we are fully known... And I find a lot of peace in that.


"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us."
~Timothy Keller

~Ophelia - Marie ZA

Photo Credit:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sending Out Roots

      First off, I'll preface this post with a bit of explanation. As a lot of you know, I'm getting married next month and thereafter moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania. I'm super excited and can't wait to move into this new stage of life.

     That being said - Goodbyes are hard... They always are for me. (And I've written a lot about goodbyes.) I'm getting to the point where I'm acknowledging that my relationship with a lot of people is getting ready to change. I won't physically be close any more, and it won't be so easy to go hang out.

     I was talking to a friend last week and told her, "I just love them so much! .... When I went away for the summer and came back, nine people quit - and some of them were people I really liked - but then these coworkers came, and now I love them too... I keep reminding myself that this reminds me there are always new people to know and love, wherever I go."

    Saturday I was a part of my best friend's wedding - (and there is a ton I could say about that, but it's not the topic I'm rambling about right now.) I had some time Friday night at rehearsal dinner, and again several times on Saturday, to reconnect with a mutual friend I hadn't seen in about a year.

     I've probably only met her less than half a dozen times, but seeing her, there is an easy sense of, "Oh. I love you." She is such a deep and thoughtful person who speaks well on God's love and is able to share His goodness. She amazes and delights me in the way she brings depth so seemingly easily into conversation. I thought about aspects of who Jesus is differently than I had before... It was simple goodness, sharing in fellowship together.

      At the reception, I also got to meet a fellow writer, and we talked about writing, the hardness of accepting critique, and where she hopes her business will go. We exchanged FB info, and I told her when she's ready, I'd try to point her to some people who have been helpful to me when I first was looking at Self-Publishing.

    Now what does all this have to do with each other?

   Sometimes all the goodbyes of different stages of life make it difficult for me to want to reach out my roots and make more connections in the moment.... But In many ways lately, I feel I've been reminded how worth-it it is to hold people tight and love them fully in the time I have.

    Love is a risk in a way. My heart can want to pull back a bit, the closer goodbyes come. A bracing against the sadness that I feel...

    But tomorrows are never promised... I never truly know when goodbyes are final... and I've found there is so much joy in loving people in the moments I'm given...

    Whether that's 8 months getting to know some new coworkers. Whether its a few hours with a girl who encourages my heart to see Jesus. Whether it's a conversation where I can encourage someone in their goals...

    Love is a good, good thing. God made us to love, and care for each other. To inspire, uplift, and encourage each other.

   Laugh if you will - but here's one of my plants... It's a broken off leaf from one of my bigger plants. There is a wound on it that I don't know how it happened, but it's still got a lot of life... I moved to a new pot in hopes that it would grow.


     And here are its roots... Roots that I'm so proud of, because I've waited weeks to see any sign of them...

     There are things in life that hurt us - perhaps wounds we don't even quite know how they happened, just that they grew over time. There are times - even good times - where we are moved from one place to another... And we can send out new roots. Roots to touch people, to give and receive life, and to better embrace the places God has put us.

    That is what I'm being shown again... The beauty of sinking roots in, and having joy in the times of life I'm living.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Again and Again - I'll Ask You

Plane picture from my last journey to TX.

    Tomorrow I'm flying to Dallas TX for a dear friend's wedding. ^_^  It's still hard to grasp that I'm going...It won't feel quite real until I'm on the plane, haha.

Grace and I have been online friends for years, and this will be the second time I'll have been able to see her face to face. The last time was back in 2012 when I was 17, and I spent a week with her. 
   The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to ask God about the life choices I'm making. He's the Creator of time itself - He knows my life, and so I ask Him about it. Between it being a big financial choice - a plane ticket and a hotel room -  and a couple other reasons, I prayed and asked God to make it very clear if should go. Specifically, I asked God to help me have money over and above my regular paycheck.

      So I prayed about it.

     On December 13th, while sitting in a parking lot, about to go in to get my wheel changed on my car, I said, "Maybe it's best not to go." I remember gripping the steering wheel and looking out at the snow and feeling... torn.

    Those were words to hold back my emotions from simply making a decision. I was weighing options - wondering what was best. I'd been told several times that, "That's a lot of money to spend on a weekend away." And yes, I understand that, - buuut it's my friend's wedding...  And so I warred in my mind, and with others' opinions of my finances. That was the day I decided that without a clear answer, maybe I was supposed to stay home.

     When I got back from the car dealership, my mom - who knew nothing of my prayers - informed me that instead of Christmas presents, my grandparents were sending us money. It was such a direct answer to prayer, I couldn't contain my joy. God? You answered me that clearly?

     But it still wasn't enough to cover what I needed, so I prayed again that night... Because it's good to ask.

      The next day, December 14, I got a message on my FB Clay-Art page, asking if I'd be available to teach clay-figure making at a kids birthday party. *Laughs* It's then that I knew that I knew that I'd be going to the wedding. I was totally able to cover my flight expenses.

      I remember sitting on my bedroom floor, rocking back and forth and laughing and almost crying. Because how else do you explain this, but God's goodness to me? How could I find words for that overwhelming, flooring joy? God had answered me twice, one day after another. And if God had answered me financially, then I trusted that I'd be able to take a three day weekend off from work to travel. He answered that too.

      God isn't some genie in the sky who grants all our wishes. But I believe we'd more readily see His blessings if we prayed more... I wouldn't have seen God's blessings so deeply if I hadn't asked Him to provide for me - perhaps I would have still received the blessing, but I wouldn't have been so floored by His grace. Prayer reminds me to be grateful for His goodness to me. Prayer gives me conversation and connection with my God - a way to hear His voice. Prayer allows me to better see His guiding hand in every facet of life. He is so Good.

    Tomorrow I am flying out on a grand, short little adventure that God blessed me with. Saturday I get to see my friend enter joyfully into marriage. What a beautiful joy.

       Again and again - I'll ask You, God. I'll ask You, and I'll listen. I know You see better than I do.


To God be the glory,


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Realize We're an Oddity to Some

"So when are you moving in with him?"

I've lost track now of how many times I've been asked this since I got engaged at the end of December.

 Jimmy and I have been dating long distance for the entirety of our relationship - he lives in PA, and I live in Michigan, and funny enough, we met via ChristianMingle. (But that's another story. ;) ) We Skype several times a week for hours on end, and he visits me once a month for a weekend. We've had two week-long visits together - once in the summer, and once in December. We miss each other, but we make it work. ^_^

All that to say - we're as "used to"  having a long distance relationship as one can get.

And still that question, "So when are are moving in with him?"

My response is: "After we get married in July."

 Well meaning follow up questions/statements from people include: "Don't you want to move in with him now?" - "It's nice to move in before getting married because it takes some getting used to." - "I lived with my fiance/boyfriend _____ before we got married."

 It's funny to me how backwards all this is, as well meaning as all these people are. Yes - I realize marriage won't be all easy-happy-fluff - I realize it takes work - but I don't need to start "getting used to" married life before I'm married. And yes - I want to live with him - that's why we're getting married... But I don't need a test few months of living together before the wedding to make sure I want to get married to this man.

God has things ordered in certain ways on purpose - I believe His ways are best for us. We're doing what God calls "good" - and it seems odd to a lot of people...

   Besides that - sometimes, the way we interact in public makes people comment.

   One time when we were out, Jimmy opened my car door for me to get in, like he always does. He shut the door, and a lady shouted over to him, catching him off guard. She wanted to know if his car door was stuck, because he had me get in first. He told her no, and she swore at him in an "approval" type of way, and told him that that was how to treat a lady.

Last time we were on a date, when the waitress brought the receipt for the dinner, he was gone in the restroom. The waitress had put the receipt upside down, instead of offering it to me. When I picked it up, she said in kind of an apologetic tone, "He didn't seem the type who'd want you to see the check. He seems like quite a gentleman." I laughed. "Oh yes - he won't let me pay for things. But I have a gift card, so we're going to use that."

 And then there's the times where I've been asked by people I know, "Is he religious too?" As if... it were a side thing, instead of the central part of a healthy relationship... Of course he's "religious" - if by that, you mean a growing Christian. Knowing Jesus is the center-point of who I am - I'm not going to marry someone who doesn't share that with me.

  The reality is - we're a bit of an oddity in the world's eyes, and people notice. It's a good kind of oddity - I pray we can be good examples of how to love, and follow God's timing, and be patient, and grow in Christ.

   The kind of example that speaks well of each other. The kind where he treats me kindly, and I respect him. The kind where we pray together, and attend church together. The kind where we manage our finances, and discuss our goals, and work together. The kind of people who live lives of strength in Christ.

That's the kind of example I pray we are, and will continue to be. :) God never promised life would be easy - He tells us there will be hardships - but I trust God knows the way. I'm excited to run through life with a man who will chase after Jesus with me.

To God be the Glory,