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Here it is February 11...almost Valentine's Day and this is my first post of 2016. That should give you some indication of how life is going right about now....fast. Very, very fast. Juggling homeschool, housework, health, parenting, church responsibilities, kids' activities, and well, life in general tends to eat up a giant portion of the day (and sometimes the night)...every day. 

Oh, don't get me wrong...after a 16-month battle for my life, I'm soaking up every moment of actually living it. Still, a crazy and overwhelmed schedule tends to leave this type-A-deadline-driven, perfectionist feeling stressed, anxious, and terribly, terribly behind.

I am learning--yet again--that being is better than doing. That's a difficult lesson for this over-achiever. I like my lists. I like to check things off my lists. And I like my lists done before I go to bed.

Your type-A streak might not run as deep as mine, but I’m guessing you can relate to my feeling of being overwhelmed. Life is crazy. Life is hectic. Life happens at breakneck speed. But here's the crazy irony of it all: If we don't stop to simply be in God's presence, we'll never become who He intends us to be.

Be Still and Know That I am God...Compassion That Compels | www.thereisgrace.com

I'm privileged to be sharing the lessons I'm learning over at Compassion That Compels today. Won't you stop over there and join the conversation? And while you're there, check out the incredible ministry that Compassion That Compels provides for women battling cancer. Do you know someone who is facing cancer? Encourage them in their battle by sending them a Compassion Bag, or support the work of Compassion That Compels by shopping at one of their sponsors.

 

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It happened again this year...

Even though I said I wouldn't let it...

Even though I vowed, just last year, to kick crazy to the curb and remember the real reason for the Season this Christmas...

Then, just last week...I lost my ever-lovin' mind.

When You Need Peace This Christmas | thereisgrace.com

We were preparing to host out-of-town family for the holidays, and there was so. much. to. do. I don't remember what insignificant detail sent me into an emotional tailspin, but I do remember my wise and loving husband coming to the rescue (as he always does).

I rattled off the endless list of things still needing to be done, on top of the normal, everyday things like laundry and dishes, and homeschool. He let me rant, then he calmly said, "But we're not in a hospital recovering from surgery or chemotherapy." Then he lovingly sent me off to bed for a good night's rest, promising things would look better in the morning. And, of course, they did.

I woke up the next morning with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Still, I had learned a valuable lesson. That simple statement from my husband was a gentle reminder of all God has done for us. God used those words to help me pause in the midst of a hectic season and realize a painful truth: It's easier for me to trust God with the big things--like cancer--than the normal, ordinary, everyday things.

But that's not what Christmas is about. Christ didn't come just for the big moments in life--the mountains that we face or the valleys we walk through. He came for the everyday moments.

Why else would He have been born in a manger, rather than a palace? Why would He come to ordinary people, not royalty? Why would He make His entrance on an average day, without pomp and fanfare?

[Joseph] went there (Bethlehem) with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.  While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born.  She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay. (Luke 2:4-7)

Why would heaven choose to first announce the Birth of the Christ to shepherds? Simple, ordinary shepherds?

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were taking care of their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:8-11)

Yes, there would be kings coming from the East to worship the Messiah. But the first who came? Shepherds. Because God is for everyone. On every day. In every situation.

Imagine the scene the Baby Jesus caused in the quiet little town of Bethlehem...a young couple, bedded down in a stable for the night where she gives birth to their first son. Then, when things are just beginning to calm down, here came a whole herd of shepherds trapsing through town with their sheep (you don't think they left them in the fields do you?), searching for the newborn King.

I can only imagine what the new-to-motherhood Mary was thinking when a group of smelly roughians approached her and her baby. That's exactly the kind of chaos every new mother needs! But tucked into the midst of all the chaos of the scene is my favorite verse in the Christmas story:

Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over. (Luke 2:19)

In the midst of the crazy and the chaos, Mary found peace and stillness in the presence of her baby...the Savior of the world.

So, even if the shopping is not yet done. Even if the house isn't quite clean. Even if the gifts aren't wrapped. Take a tip form Mary and snuggle up with a cup of coffee, gaze at the Christmas tree, treasure this precious Baby--Immanuel, God with us, and treasure all these things in your heart.

Wishing you and yours and blessed and restful Christmas!

 

 

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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School starts today, at least for most of the friends in our smallish community. This is the day my Facebook feed will be packed with excited faces, posed eagerly in front of a school building with brand new clothes and a heavily-laden backpack. But for the first time in five years, my kids won't be with them. I won't be driving them to school, and we won't walk down those familiar halls packed with anxious parents to the freshly-decorated room they will call home for the next nine months.

This is the year my kids (and I) begin a new adventure: homeschool.

How and Why We Made the Transition from Public School to Homeschool | www.thereisgrace.com

It still seems a little strange to say, We are homeschooling. Not strange in an uneasy way, but strange in a "we're about to embark on a whole new way of life" way.

I am a firm believer that a family's decision of how to educate their children is a very personal one. In fact, the goal of The Great {Education} Debate series I did a couple of years ago was to explore the different educational options that work for different families in different situations.

In that series, I was very open about Why We Chose Public School, and as I recently reread that post, I realized I still stand behind everything I said. It was the right decision for our family at that time. When I wrote it two years ago, homeschooling was the furthest thing from my mind, but God has a funny sense of humor. In fact, I chuckled when I read this quote I wrote back then:

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Ironic, that the very principle that confirmed our decision for public school back then is the same principle that led us to homeschooling now: obedience. Crazy how we simply can't put God (or His plans) in a box, huh? (Even crazier how many times I try to do so!)

So, how did we come to the decision to homeschool? Very carefully. 🙂 In fact, it was a multi-step process that all came down to that one, simple, frightening word: obedience.

Here's what that looked like for us:

Desire

Back in January, in an effort to #BeIntentional in every area of my life, I began to pray--really pray--for God's blessing and favor on our family. After battling cancer for more than a year, I wanted desperately to regain the time I'd missed out on with my family. It didn't seem fair that my kids had been without their mom at times, simply because I was fighting for my life. I believe God desires to do more than simply heal. I believe He also wants to restore what the enemy tries to take from us. So I prayed for God to restore the time that cancer stole from my family.

I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. (Isaiah 58:11-12, The Message)

As I prayed, God began to whisper, homeschool. I chuckled to myself and continued to pray. He would whisper again, homeschool. I would laugh a little louder and whisper back, Disney World. Seriously, wouldn't it make more sense for God to bless us with a trip to Disney World than to radically change our lives with something like homeschool?! And yet, God doesn't seem the least bit concerned with what makes sense to me! 😉

I continued to pray (for a free trip to Disney World), and as I did, the idea of homeschooling began to shift from being "great in theory" to becoming something I really wanted to do. I decided to casually mention it to my husband, hoping he would dismiss it and we could move on with life. But he didn't. Instead, his response was, "Maybe we should consider it." (WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?)

Discussion

I am blessed with a fantastic community of like-minded mamas, many of whom homeschool their children. So I asked them questions...A LOT of questions. I went to meetings. I read blogs and articles on homeschooling. I messaged FB friends whom I knew were homeschoolers. I called my sister (who homeschools) and talked her ear off on more than one occasion!

The more I learned about it, the stronger my desire grew. Isn't it funny how God directs your steps by leading with your heart?

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Psalm 37:23, NLT)

I took all my information and research back to my husband, and we both agreed: homeschooling seemed like a good fit for our family at this time. There was one problem: We didn't know how to make it work. I was only a few months from my battle with cancer; was it really a good idea to take on a huge life change like homeschooling? Plus, I had just released my book, and the promotion alone would be a full-time job. Then, of course, there was the financial side. Unfortunately, homeschooling is not covered by our taxes like public school, not to mention that huge pit of medical debt we are still climbing out of.

Decision

By this time, we both wanted to make the leap to homeschool, but we just couldn't figure out how. We were at a crossroads. Then I got a phone call from the homeschool community we were interested in. I'd already met with the director, asked questions, and expressed our interest in the community if we chose to leave public school.

She was calling to let me know the community would be growing in the fall, and they would need to open another class for 9-12 year olds (my daughter's age). If we decided to homeschool, would I consider tutoring the class...which is heavy on English grammar and writing. It would pay enough to cover the tuition for both our kids.

If she had asked me to tutor science or geography or Spanish, I would have had to politely decline (and keep from laughing out loud). But English and writing.....um, let me think about...YES! Sign me up!!!

I kept my composure and told her I'd discuss it with my husband. Honestly, there wasn't much discussion, because when I told him, he simply said, "This is obviously God. Tell her 'yes.'"

That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about our decision to transition from public school to homeschool. So, why share all of this? Maybe your feeling a tug toward home education, or Christian education, or private education. Maybe you're considering a huge life change in another area--a move, a job change, or a relationship. Maybe you simply need direction in your everyday life.

Whatever the decision--whether big or small--remember God is working for your good. Your job is simply to seek His wisdom, follow His leading, and trust His plan.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5,6 The Message)

In what ways has God ordered your steps lately?

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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The thing about being a first-born, type-A, chronic planner is that you tend to make plans...lots of plans. After awhile you might even get pretty good at it. In fact, you might become convinced that you can accomplish anything if you simply have the right plan.

As any good planner will tell you, nothing ruins a good plan like an unforeseen interruption, especially one beyond our control--a sick child, a flooded basement, a 45-minute detour due to road construction. Any number of things can throw your plans off track and send a type-A person like myself into near hysteria. Not a pretty picture, I assure you.

My life and plans were rudely interrupted with a single word: cancer.

I didn't plan for it.

I didn't want it.

And there was not much I could do about it.

I was shaken, and I needed Someone who would be unshakable.

Thankfully, I happen to know Someone whose plans are never interrupted. He's never caught off guard by my circumstances or worried about how a situation will turn out. In fact, He says things like:

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)

and...

I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8, NLT).

So, when my plans crumble in the face of unforeseen circumstances, I can be sure that God doesn't worry. He doesn't fret.

When I am anxious that God is not answering my prayer at the moment I expected Him to, or in the way I hoped He would, I can be confident that He doesn't need to rush or hurry.

I can rest knowing He has a plan...and it is unshakable!

When You Need #Unshakable Plans |www.NancyBackues.com

I am honored to be sharing part of my story today at Intentional by Grace. Won't you join me over there to discover How Cancer Gave Me Unshakable Faith?

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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My daughter and I are all signed up for camp again. This will be the third year we've gone. Some may say I'm crazy for going to camp at the age of 42 (and they may be right), but when your daughter asks you to be her leader, you do it because: 1) there probably won't be many more summers when she wants me at camp, and 2) we make camp a priority for our kids (and here's why).

This is also the first year my son is able to go. I'm excited for him and for my husband who is going as his leader, even though he's never been to camp before! So, in honor of all you church camp veterans and the newbies, I'm sharing my top 10 tips for camp leaders. We need all the help we can get, because camp at the age of 42 is an entirely different experience than camp at the age of 15, or 25 (or, who are we kidding...35)!

Top 10 Tips for Camp Leaders | www.thereisgrace.com

1. Be informed. Read the information, attend the meetings, and ask questions. The more you know, the more prepared you will be, which leads me to #2...

2. Be prepared. Don't simply read the information, do what it says. Camp organizers didn't create those guidelines because they were bored one day. They have answered hundreds of questions, handled numerous issues, and lived through camp a time or two themselves. Glean from their wisdom.

3. Get sleep. Between homesick campers and sturdy-but-not-so-comfy cots, you won't get much sleep at camp. Don't start out exhausted; do your best to go into camp rested. (And make time to catch up on it after).

4. Eat well. If you're over the age of 30, you understand your body doesn't bounce back from physical strain quite like it used to. Whether you're over 30 or not, your body can use all the help it can get to endure the physical rigor that comes with camp. That means nutrition, and lots of it! Camp food isn't typically health food, but you can find good options if you try, so do the best you can.

5. Pray. Don't forget to prepare your spirit as well. God may have an opportunity just waiting for you to impact a student's life. After all, that's the whole reason you're there, right?

6. Pack light. If there is a suggested packing list, follow it. It's there for a reason. It will help you determine what types of clothing you will need. Are chapels dressy or casual? What type of athletic activities should you prepare for? Do you need bedding? Flashlights? An alarm clock? Following a list, will help you be prepared without overdoing it.

7. Check your preferences at the door. There's a good chance something will happen over the course of the week that you don't care for. See that as your opportunity to put on your big boy or big girl pants and be the adult. Campers will look to you in how to respond, so dig deep to find a good attitude and set an example.

8. Build relationships. You're there for the kids, so be there for the kids. Make an effort to search out that one kid who isn't having a great time and include him. Find that girl who is especially homesick and help her make friends.

9. Be the adult. You're not simply an oversized camper. You are the adult...so be one. Make every effort to reflect the standards, the attitude, and the heart of the camp leaders. You are an extension of their leadership.

10. Have fun! Church camp can become one of your fondest memories if you go into it prepared and have the right attitude. So when all is said and done, relax and  enjoy it!

Want to be a Rock Star Camp Leader? Find out how, here!)

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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While the calendar does not yet officially say it's summer, it's officially summer break around here. That means a lot of resting, a lot of relaxing, and a lot of fun! Now that my brain has had a few days to shift into summer break mode, I've realized we need to get back to being intentional about some things around here.

Thankfully, I've managed to keep my focus on the big things like Bible reading, prayer, and community, even in the midst of a crazy spring schedule and a book launch. (I'm not saying it was perfect, but those areas remained my focus when life got crazy!)

One area we definitely need to regain focus around here is being intentional with our food. I don't know about you, but when schedules get crazy, we tend to default to quick and easy foods. And if I've learned anything in my food journey, it's that quick and easy food doesn't typically translate into healthy and nutritious.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” -La Rochefoucauld | thereisgrace.com #BeIntentional

This post is sponsored by De Nigris USA.

Although I still consider myself a novice when it comes to nutrition, I have learned a lot over the last year. Perhaps the greatest lesson I've learned is that if this girl--who used to live on Diet Pepsi and animal crackers--can make some healthy changes, anyone can!

If you're wanting to make some simple changes for your health, here are 7 quick and easy steps to get you started and help you #BeIntentional with your food:

1.  Read labels. This is the most important thing you can do for your health. Don't stop at skimming the calorie and fat content, either. Pay special attention to the ingredients. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming, but the only way to know what you're eating is to, well, know what you're eating. Profound, I know.

2. Choose food with the shortest ingredients list. As a general rule, the shortest list will be your best option. And always choose the list with the most ingredients you can recognize and pronounce.

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. ~Michael Pollan

3. Take baby steps. Don't try to change everything at one time, or you'll end up frustrated. Start with one thing: Cut out sugar (that one will be big enough!). Or commit to avoiding unfamiliar ingredients (that one will save you from a lot of yucky stuff!). Maybe you can start by making your meals at home, from scratch, and choosing simple, whole foods as snacks. Determine your first step. When you're comfortable with that one, move on to the next.

4. Make simple swaps. Here are a few easy ones you can make the next time you go shopping:

  • Swap sugary, flavored yogurt for plain yogurt sweetened with honey and frozen fruit.Swap flavored chips (they have an abundance of additives and preservatives) for simple corn or potato chips seasoned with salt. (Yes, the oil isn't great for you, but one step at a time....see #3).

7 Ways to Be Intentional with Your Food #DeNigris1889

  • Swap salad dressing for some quality olive oil and vinegar, like DeNigris vinegars. Did you know vinegar has many health benefits and medicinal uses? It's great for treating things like sinus infections, sore throats, and even acid reflux! Plus, it's super high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. You can even clean with it! DeNigris has a selection of vinegars and other products, plus great recipes. Be sure to check them out!
  • Swap sweetened applesauce for unsweetened. Do apples really need extra sugar?!
  • Swap soda for sparkling mineral water flavored with a little fruit juice.
  • Swap heavy veggie dips for salsa or guacamole.
  • Swap sugary granola bars for homemade protein bars.

5. Make time for food. Being intentional with your food will take time. It will take time to read labels and find alternatives. It will take time to prepare food (oh, the time you'll spend chopping veggies!). And it will take time to see a difference in the way you feel and look. But your health and your happiness are worth the investment, so don't give up!

Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~Hippocrates

Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! ;)
Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! 😉

6. Choose the best options available. Life isn't perfect. Even with the best intentions, you'll eventually find yourself at a dinner party or a potluck with no idea what's in any given dish. Or you may have no other option for dinner one night than a fast food drive thru. Survey your options and make the best choice you can. Choose real food with the least ingredients (hint: focus on simple meat, veggies, and or fruit.) When in those situations, I try to remember this advice:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. ~Michael Pollan

7. Give yourself grace. So you caved and raided the cookie jar at midnight last night. Don't beat yourself up, and don't throw in the towel. Show  yourself grace and move on. Focus on the things you are doing right and keep moving forward!

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Luke 12:23

It won't always be easy, but things that are truly worth it are rarely easy--and your health is definitely worth it! I will let you in on a little secret: the more you stick to it, and the more changes you make, the better you'll feel. The better you feel, the less you will desire to go back to your old habits. You are creating  new habits, a new lifestyle, and eventually a whole new you!

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What can you do to #BeIntentional with your food this week? What additional resources do you recommend to someone wanting to #BeIntentional in their eating habits? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Food:
What's Wrong With Our Modern Diet?
Jumpstart Your Health with the Whole 30
Begin Your Journey to Whole Food
Understanding Your Food
30 Day Clean Eating Challenge
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
The Omni Diet by Tana Amen
The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

Faith is the presence of Hope | www.thereisgrace.com #unshakable

We will all face circumstances that shake us and threaten to destroy our resolve and our faith. Those moments when we are just not sure we can carry on.

For me, that moment came with the words, "It's cancer." No one wants to hear those two simple words, but to someone who has battled that deadly disease before, those words carry extra weight. They undo all the fighting and bring immediate defeat. That simple statement stole every ounce of triumph—all the success of my previous battle—and left my emotions and my faith in a crumpled heap.

Yes, I had beaten cancer once, but I didn’t want to have to do it again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fight...

I'm incredibly privileged to be sharing another chapter in my story today over at Message in a Mason Jar. I would be thrilled if you'd join me there, and together we can become Unshakable.

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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When your doctor tells you the cancer is back and uses the words, "non-curative" and "chemo for the rest of your life," your mind reels, your world is shattered, and your faith is shaken.

Then there's that moment you recall the lessons you learned as a child in Sunday school, and you realize...This God—He is THE ONE for my situation. HE is unshakable.

I'm privileged to be sharing part of my story today at LiveLaughRowe.com. Won't you stop in and see me over there?

 

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Unshakable book

It's here!

Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm is now available on Amazon!

When you purchase a print copy here or the Kindle version here, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the cancer compassion organization I work with. Simply select Compassion That Compels. You can read more about Compassion That Compels here.

Happy reading!


 

 

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It's coming...May 17!

Unshakable book-2
I got my proof of Unshakable in the mail last week! That means it's gettin' real up in here, y'all!

The book is scheduled to release on May 17!! There is a lot going on, and a lot of details to tie up before then, so please be praying we make that deadline!

In the meantime, I am offering you a special sneak peek! Because so many of you have been on this journey with me, I am giving you the first chapter...before the book is even available!

To begin reading Unshakable, download the first chapter here. Then on May 17, you'll be able to purchase the entire book here or on Amazon!

 

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Feel free to share this image on social media!

 

Happy reading!

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.