Keeping My Sister {And a Giveaway!}

keeping my sister

I’ve reviewed this author before so some of you will know Nancy is a childhood friend. I need to confess, though, that I never knew her sister, Heather. And after reading this book, my heart aches for a childhood do-over.

Keeping My Sister: A Story of Sibling Survivalry is a story of two parallel lives on divergent paths, separated by miles and happenstance.* It’s Nancy and Heather’s story. The book will tug on every sense you have, especially the need to survive. Towards the end, that urge will morph into the desire to save. And if you allow your heart in to the story, you’ll gain a glimpse of how God feels for us. My how He loves each one of us…not wanting to leave any behind.

After reading, I desperately wanted to sit down with Nancy and talk more. We are separated by states now, but she was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had. I thought I’d share them with you so you can know the heart behind the story.

I can think of a number of reasons Keeping My Sister needs to be read. Which ultimate reason gave you the purpose and drive to finish it?

This is going to sound cliché, but it was God from start to finish. I felt burdened with this project (and sometimes, if I wasn’t careful, by it). I needed to tell my sister’s story because she was so much more valuable and beautiful than what her life was able to reveal. I needed to show the grace and consistency of a redemptive Father and the truth that if you look for Him, He can always be found. He never leaves or forsakes us. NEVER.

How long did it take you to write your second novel from beginning to end?

This was another whirlwind project for me. I started on June 23rd, 2013, and finished by Feb 2, 2014. These were significant dates for me, as the first is her birthdate and the second is her re-birthdate.

Unlike my first book, which was a completely creative, fun write, this one was tough. I knew going into it two things—I would be facing things I’d much rather suppress, and I could trust God’s lead completely. I was right, and He did not disappoint.

An author once told me you can’t help but picture someone holding your words while writing them. If that’s true for you, whom did you picture?

I honestly didn’t think about that at all while writing it, other than picturing reading it “to her” at her memorial. I know she’s not “there”, but this is a part of my grief process and healing. I can’t explain it all yet, I just know this book has profoundly affected me and seems to be doing the same for others.

There is a quote at the beginning that says, “When the little girl speaks, healing will come.” I thought that quote was just for me, but as I get readers’ responses I realize that God had more in mind than just my healing. Readers from all walks of life seem to be given permission, just as I was—to grieve, to feel, to celebrate, to hope, to worship, to find their voices and to use them.

It’s safe to say this novel is a caricature of you and your beloved sister, Heather. Your writing is so vivid it’s hard to picture which details are spot on historic and which ones you had to imagine or gain insight from the Holy Spirit first before writing. Tell us, which portions were the hardest to write for you?

The hardest part to write was my sister’s descent into self-destruction and victimization. I chose to write it all through her eyes, in first person, to fully give her a voice. I dreaded going there with her. Finally, it was the last thing I needed to write.

God surprised me that night. I wrote feverishly and joyfully what I “saw” in my mind’s eye. It ended up being the most beautiful thing I’ve ever written about Heaven, and reunions, and the heart of the Father. It fueled me in the next weeks as I courageously went into the darkness of her story with her. I would re-read the ending; it gave me the strength to not only work through the details of the difficulties she experienced, but to do so in a way that was personal without destroying my own heart in the process. Knowing the ending kept me from being discouraged by the beginning, or destroyed by the middle.

If I were able to ask your sister what message she hopes others gleam from your story, what do you think she’d say?

She’d joke, smirking, “Stay in school, don’t do drugs.” Then she’d get all serious, shrug and say, “The best things in life are the things worth running toward instead of away from—family, sobriety, help, healing, and especially the loving arms of the Father.”

NOTE: There is an awesome Epilogue and Author’s Note at the end of this novel that brings the story even more to light. When you pick up your copy–don’t skip it! And if you find yourself wanting to do something about the feelings you have after reading, Nancy has a section of options for you at the end as well.
*I didn’t write that brilliant sentence–it’s on the back of the book. I just couldn’t find a better way to describe it.

keeping my sister - back

This double giveaway is now closed.
Winners have been contacted. Thank you for reading!

IF YOU DIDN’T WIN OR CAN’T WAIT TO READ: Click HERE for an easy link to Amazon (not an affiliate). Or contact the author directly via her BLOG or Facebook Page.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,


Coffee Talk With Jesus {A GIVEAWAY}

I was a reader of her blog before Simplystriving ever came to be. I believe it was in my twelfth post I mentioned how her words had made me think and ultimately encouraged me. That was two years ago now and I can still say the same today: Barbie’s words soak through to my soul and percolate. Because they’re written with Him in full view…

And now Barbie’s written a book! A 31-day Devotional no-less. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m elated to give away one to you…

If we’ve shared moments on the screen together before, you’ll know I often talk about this scandalous love affair our Savior offers. How He doesn’t just want our obedience, He wants the intimate depths of our heart. Our soul. He longs to take residence in that place we harbor what is most sacred to us.

Barbie gets it and has a way of taking you there…of showing you glimpses of Him for a few minutes each day. That’s all this book requires–just enough time to finish your morning cup of coffee.

Coffee Talk With Jesus: Intimate Chats With The Savior is written as if Jesus is at the kitchen table with you, sipping on Breakfast Blend Brew while you enjoy each other’s company. Or maybe you’re eating coffee toffee bars or it’s chocolate mint coffee {there are quite a few wonderful recipes in the book as well!}

Friends, I would have been thrilled with her devotional if that’s all it was. Truly. But Barbie goes one further. She makes you commit as she offers these moments of reflection. This safe place to pen your own response of what God is sharing with you each day.

Here’s what I loved most: The reflection moments dig into uncharted waters. Most focus on Him. Not so much what you should do, but what He can do for you. You’re not asked to look in the mirror, you’re asked to look at His reflection… You’re also asked to look within, to where He should be and see if there’s anything blocking you from having the kind of relationship you both long for.

There’s so much I could share about this book. About how real and personal it can take your relationship with Him, but I’d rather you explore it for yourself. And in hopes you do, Barbie has offered to give away one copy here to one of you!



One winner will have their choice of either a signed copy of the book itself or the kindle version of Coffee Talk With Jesus. Winner will be chosen at random using on Monday, December 2nd, at 12:01am Central Time.


Simply answer in comments this question: If you had a coffee date with Jesus, what is one thing you would want to make sure you talked about?

Comments will need to be entered by Sunday evening, December 1st at 11:59pm Central Time and have a valid email address to respond to if you win (all email is confidential and will never be shared).


You may use any of the share buttons featured below to offer this giveaway to your friends. Simply share in comments which one you used.


If a hard/soft copy of the book is requested by the winner, please note these will be shipped out mid-December. And my readers outside the US of A are more than welcome to enter–thank you, Barbie!


To learn more about this wonderful Journal/Devotional, you may visit:

  • Amazon (I’m not an affiliate — just making it easy) Click the “Look Inside” to get a taste of what to expect each day.
  • The Author, Barbie’s blog ~ Freshly Brewed Life (and if you hurry, she’s also giving some copies away!)

Thank you for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


NOTE: I was provided with a PDF copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Everything expressed here is my own opinion. Barbie would never ask anything from me but my own perspective. She is, however, the one supplying the book for the giveaway and for that, as well as the copy I received, the honor is all mine. I am truly grateful.

Worship Always {Janelle’s Story and a GIVEAWAY!!}

I’ve shared her handiwork here before –the story of the one I wear proudly. But what I haven’t shared with you is how amazing the artist behind it really is. How she radiates her Savior with amazing grace.

Friends, I’d like you to meet Janelle. And hear her worship song.
PLUS, she’s offered to give away one of her pieces of art! Details will follow.

Janelle, I’m honored to have you here. Please, sing your song:

The phone rang loudly, springing me from my restful sleep, the last restful sleep I’d get for years. My husband handed me the phone with a forlorn look on his face. This can’t be good, I thought to myself. I was right. It was the absolute worst news anybody could think of; my brother was on the run for a crime that would eventually land him in prison for life.

For. Life.

Worship always.

Several months after my brother’s crime, my mother attempted suicide. I was 6 months pregnant with my second son when my step-dad called with the news. Walking into ICU I could hardly catch my breath, she looked dead. Hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines, she could have been dead for all I knew. The doctors gave us little hope. She beat the odds.

She survived.

Worship Always.

While pregnant with my third son, I became seriously ill. I ended up in the ER a few times, and knew in my spirit that whatever was affecting me would affect my growing baby, so I prayed… a lot. He was born apparently healthy. And my own health seemed to get a little better after giving birth. One year later my doctor’s last resort was the Mayo Clinic. She’d run all the tests she could. She sent me to all the specialists she could think of. Nothing was showing up.

I remembered the tick that had bitten me during my pregnancy and asked one simple question: can you please test me for Lyme disease? The test came back positive. An active infection had been inside my body for two long years before being diagnosed. I was in very poor health. Treatment would make symptoms even worse. I would be told by my doctor that I might recover completely, and I might not.

Chronic Lyme disease is very difficult to cure.

Worship Always.

One year after my diagnosis, my youngest son, whom I was pregnant with while unknowingly infected with Lyme disease, began to get sick. His personality changed and grew fatigued. I just knew it was Lyme disease. I got him tested and braced for the results. They came back positive for an active Lyme disease infection. My sweet son had been infected while growing inside my womb, where he should have been the safest; he was actually being attacked by bacteria.

It was a very hard day.

Worship Always.

The thing about life is you never get a free pass. You aren’t exempt from bad things happening in your life just because you’re a good person, or a Christian. Trials will happen but it’s how you handle them that will determine your healing. I choose to worship always. I choose to rejoice in the storm.

I choose joy.

These are some of my favorite phrases I stamp on my jewelry because they reflect the desire in my heart. I don’t always get it right. Some days I am lost in sorrow and despair but more often than not I rejoice in the storm, knowing God didn’t bring me to it, but He will bring me through it.

My brother and I are closer than ever. We talk nearly every day. We write each other often. I see him as much as I can. He’s taught me the true meaning of grace, of unmerited favor, of how to honestly love and honestly forgive and honestly see somebody for who they are and not what they have done. I love him like Jesus loves him.

My mother is a miracle. She had no lasting damage from the suicide attempt. She is alive and breathing when she should be dead. She was there to watch my son be born. And watching my step-dad’s faith for her miraculous healing inspired my own faith for healing when my son and I would end up sick years later.

Lyme disease has taught me that sickness and disease are evil. Their sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus is the life-giver and He gives in abundance. And because God works everything out for the good to those who love Him, I’ve been drawn closer to the heart of God, learned more about Jesus in these few short years than my entire 34 years of life, have been given my purpose in life. I’ve have prayed for countless others and seen their healings manifest, have been gifted amazing visions, and dreams from God, and have experienced my own level of healing and miracles that I rejoice about.

I believe that, even in the worst experiences in life, beauty can be found. Not that God sent the experience so you would experience the beauty in it, but that God can turn around what was meant for our harm, and give us beauty simply because He loves that much.

In all things rejoice, for we serve a mighty God who performs mighty miracles simply because of His mighty love for us.

Janelle BioJanelle writes about grace and healing. She writes about a good God reflected beautifully in the life of Christ.

She writes about a Savior who is also a Healer and shares her own journey to supernatural healing, offering encouragement to those who believe for their healing also.

You may follow her story here:

And now for the giveaway!

Grace Tags Janelle

Congrats, Karrilee on winning the giveaway!

Didn’t win, or want more than one?
Janelle is offering all Simplystriving readers 35% off!
For a limited time.
Simply use code “striving35” at checkout.
Seriously, friends, you won’t be sorry — I LOVE mine!

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

I hope you win…but more importantly, I pray you worship always.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Janelle)

My One Thing {And a Giveaway!}

PLEASE NOTE: This giveaway is now closed. But the story is still very much alive!

The series of events I’d like to tell you about today is not of the coincidence variety. I’m convinced.

It all started with my dear friend Alene. Or so I thought. Turns out, it started with my friend, Janelle.

Confession time: I’ve followed Janelle of Grace Tags for six months or so. And I’ve tried to win one of her giveaways longer than that. You see, she makes the most amazing Christian Jewelry and I’ve ached to wear it around my neck. Any of it.

So I would enter a giveaway when I saw them. I started following her on twitter. Then started reading her blog regularly via email. Before I knew it, I was convinced we were kindred sisters in Christ. And she has become a dear friend.

Then it happened. I received this in the mail! I had finally won one!!!

I was elated to say the least.

A day or two after receiving it, I read THIS POST from my friend Alene. Titled “Say What You Need to Say.” In the post, she mentions a quote from Jeff Goins where he asks the question:

If you had one thing to say to the world, what would it be?

Instantly, my indecisiveness fought to take over. Trying to cause me to miss what my heart was longing to reveal. But I knew how I would answer it. I just wasn’t sure how to phrase it quite yet.

Insecurity took over next and I ended up tweeting Alene about it. Asking her if she thought it was okay that I hadn’t perfected my one thing yet. Is it even worth it? Can it be my one thing? Would the world hear me, even though I don’t have all the answers?

Alene assured me. And encouraged me to jump and claim it. Still, I spent days mulling over even how to phrase it.

Until the young cashier asked me the question point-blank. And I knew.

So, is that your motto or something?” she asks while swiping the jeans for my boy I found on clearance.

I’m sorry, what?” and friends, I seriously thought she was talking about my frugal shopping.

Your necklace. I noticed what it says. Is that your life’s motto?

My back straightened, shoulders swung back as the light bulb went on. And I declared proudly, “Why yes. Yes it is my one thing. It’s what I’m striving for anyway. How about you — what’s your motto?

She finishes swiping as she declares, “Oh, my mom would love you. I think mine is ‘live in the moment’ or something like that.” …. and then we proceeded to talk about what she wanted to do this summer, with her new drivers license and all.

Friends, all this time, it had been hanging from my neck. And oh how I want you to be able to say the same thing!

On to the Giveaway!

Dear Janelle has offered to give one of you (via any Grace Tags Aluminum Necklace found in her Christian Jewelery Line! (your choice which!)

THERE’S MORE! Janelle has also offered all of you a discount of 15% off any of her jewelry pieces FOUND HERE. Simply use the code “nikki” at checkout. Discount valid through July.

Would you like to win one of the aluminum pieces featured? Here’s how:

  • MANDATORY: In comments, please answer this question:

Which necklace would you pick and why?

I would love it if you would also share with me your one thing…
which is optional for now. Because I’m not done talking about mine.

For Additional Entries:

  • Follow Simplystriving either by email or Facebook and let me know in a separate comment which one you have chosen (Or both). Please leave an additional comment for this so random dot org works properly.
  • Share this giveaway via social media. Your choice how (there are a plethora of options at the end of this post). Let me know in an additional comment which one you chose with the shared link if possible. One share per person is plenty.

NOTE: Only additional comments will be valid for an additional entry. Any Continental U.S. Resident may enter.

Winner will be chosen via on Thursday, July 19th at 10pm Central Time. I will contact the winner around that time. Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

UPDATE: Congrats, Christina! You’re the winner! She has been contacted and has gotten back with her selection: Because of Grace. Thank you all who entered!

Here’s me today with my Grace Tags necklace. I LOVE IT!

And friends, I would love it if you would take the time to get to know my friend Janelle. She has a story to share and does it well on her blog. She is a joy to follow via Facebook (and does giveaways there as well). She shares about joy. grace. her battle with lymes. her son’s battle with the same illness. and brings God glory through all of it.

Thank you, Janelle, for sharing your handiwork here. Your friendship and display of grace astounds me.

And thank you, dear reader, for sharing your time with me.

Me. Who’s simply striving to let go and let God…


Disclaimer: I won a Grace Tag necklace in an  unrelated giveaway. Janelle is too gracious to tell me what to say here. She is simply offering another. All opinions, including that I love her handiwork, are my own.

You’re Already Amazing {Giveaway!}

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. has spoken and picked #3.
Kristin, you’re the winner!
Email me your mailing address.
Thank you everyone for participating!
I hope you will find a way to get your hands on this book.
When you do, let me know. I’d love to chat with you about it.

Friends, I must admit I started this book a bit skeptical. I doubted it would convince me the title is in fact true. You see, I have my mother in me. And she is not one to talk about herself, or make note of any of her successes or try to prove anything of herself in words. Why, that would seem selfish and self-centered. And I truly am my mother’s daughter. I have never used the word ‘amazing’ to describe myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to admit when I fall short in areas. Why, just look at the title of my blog. But I have a very hard time admitting I am anything close to amazing.

Until now.

Holley reeled me in in the first chapter (yes, I’m on a first name basis with the author. I read her blog after all). She called me on the carpet right away and said:

“If you want to understand yourself just so that you can do whatever you’d like for your personal gain, then it’s self-centered. If your intent is to love God, others, and yourself more, then knowing who you are is one of the most unselfish things you can do.” (pg 24)

And it just got better from there.

This book is not a self-help book to becoming perfect. It’s a book to help you learn how to turn to Jesus and give Him your all. To be brave enough to be who He has made you to be. Not be like anyone else. Just you. Amazing you.

If I were to sum up the book with one quote, this is the one I’d pick:

All you are, everything God created you to be,
becomes a gift when placed in His hands.
There’s nothing He can’t mold, shape, redeem,
form into something beautiful.
You don’t have to be afraid or hold back —
just hold out your heart to the One who
promises to complete the good work He’s already started in you. (pg 184)

A part of me wants to share with you all the ways God spoke to my heart while reading. I’m sure I will at some point. But that’s not what I want to do today. I want to give a book to you. So we can talk about it together. How it impacted each of us.

Friend, do you think you could benefit from reading this book? Or do you know someone you’d like to gift it to? I’d love to hear.

This book was given to me by my friend Mary (as I won her giveaway for it) and I would love to do the same. I have a new copy ready to gift to you! I so hope you win.


I plan on giving away one book to one winner randomly. I’m sorry–US Residents only.

Any valid entry can win as it will be via random selection (yes, my dear sister, even you could enter).

Giveaway will end Memorial Day, May 28th at noon. I will contact the winner shortly after and update this blog post with the results.

Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another name will be chosen.


Simply comment. Tell me why you’d like to win. And if you would also share the book with someone else. Please make sure I can contact you if you win by commenting with a valid email, Facebook or twitter log in.


If you follow Simplystriving either by Facebook or email/reader, let me know in an additional comment for an extra entry.

NOTE: You must make an additional comment for this extra entry (it’s the only way works fairly).

Feel free to share this giveaway if you think someone else could benefit!

I can’t wait to hear from you! And look forward to notifying the winner.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Redeemed {And A Giveaway}

My hands were drenched in play-dough, colored markings, and confetti stuck on with glue droppings when the doorbell rang. My senses shifted from the task at hand as I noticed the familiar whirring of the delivery truck. My son joined in, trying to yell out the letters on the truck before it raced out of view. I sprang down the steps like it was Christmas morning. For I knew this package was for me. For me to share with you.

I had no idea what was inside, but I knew I was going to love it. For I had seen Dayspring’s Redeemed line online and was encouraged by the intent behind it. When (in)courage invited me to take part in the redeemed journey, I happily obliged.

The vase was opened first. It glistened in the sun breaking through storm clouds and I instantly knew what I wanted to place inside it. Hydrangeas. Full bloomed, color-dripping hydrangeas. But there are none to be found. Not yet anyway. I reached for a tall candle instead and my thoughts started stirring when I surrounded it with polished rocks.

For isn’t that what happens with redemption? We are polished clean by His scarred hand. Our ordinary is made extraordinary with His unfailing love and unfathomable grace.

My preschooler oohed and aahed alongside me and said “Mom, I’m so excited! You love rocks as much as I do! Can I pick some rocks to put in your beautiful thing?”

The long, thin, heavy box was next. When I opened it and saw the caption on the back, I was captivated.

Life is a patchwork of the meaningful things we keep with us…
daily reminders of where we’ve come from
and who our loving Heavenly Father says we are in Jesus.

And my finger traced along the lines of the patchwork design on the package. Inside it were amazing coasters glazed with glory. Perfectly selected Bible verses adorn each one. Except the one graced with one of my adored hymns: Blessed Assurance. And I scanned quickly to ensure my favorite stanza was on it:

♪♫ Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Saviour am happy and blest.
Watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with His goodness, lost in His love. ♪♫

Yes, this is my story. My song. One I am striving to live all the day long.

May you discover how to celebrate the way “God, in His generous grace, sews together every beautiful bit of our lives to form one masterpiece creation after another.” For every piece of every day is stitched together perfectly with grace. Every note of every lifesong is an essential part of the great score.

And so I choose to delight in the journey. I strive to get lost in His love. And as I sit down to play the hymn glazed on my new favorite coaster, I praise the One who chose to redeem me.


Friends, Dayspring is allowing me to give away my favorite item of the entire Redeemed line to one of you! PLEASE NOTE: You do have to pay shipping.

Would you like to have this Redeemed “Beautiful in It’s Time” Tabletop Mirror?

I adore it. And would love for you to win.

TO ENTER: Simply leave a comment letting me know where the mirror would go if you won.

FOR ADDITIONAL ENTRIES: you may follow Simplystriving on Facebook, Twitter, or via email. Simply leave an additional comment(s) letting me know which one you chose. (Feel free to choose all if you don’t mind hearing me jabber.)

Winner will be chosen via random Friday, April 20th at 12pm Central Time. I will email the winner a coupon code to redeem your prize soon after.

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Winner is #3: Kris! You can visit her at one of my favorite blogs: AlwaysAlleluia . Thank you, everyone, who participated!

{DISCLAIMER: I was given these products for my review, but was not told what to say. These thoughts are my own. There are numerous links in this post that allow you to purchase these items and more. Please know I am not an affiliate of anything and will not be rewarded if you do.}

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,