This IS the Day (whether I feel like it or not).

This morning I awoke to an old song:

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Breakfast! This is what my man can do with leftovers!

This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
Jesus is King! Come now and sing! Rejoice and be glad!
I took the admonition as straight from the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who’ve I’ve asked to help me rejoice in my God in all circumstances. Not for their sake, but for HIS!
But ya’ll already know that I’m flawed (which only means, because of Jesus, that I’m still Free to Live As Worthy!) So even though I awoke to such a happy song (based on Psalm 118:24), I wanted to burrow down beneath the covers. I may have asked my hubby to hold me for a bit. And okay, I might have felt the well of tears as I faced the day’s tasks, challenges, and questions.
I got out of bed and spent a few moments with King David in Psalm 69. Maybe it wasn’t the best passage to choose. It’s entitled “A Cry of Distress.” But good old David still hung in there in his distress. In verse 3 he says, “I’m weary, exhausted with weeping. My throat is dry, my voice is gone, my eyes are swollen with sorrow,” Then he says something I underlined with my pretty pink pen. “and I’m waiting for you, God, to come through for me” (TPT).
David whines a while longer (with good reason. I am NOT judging here. I am in no place to judge), and then he says in verse 13, “But I keep calling out to you, Yahweh! I know you will bend down to listen to me, for now is the season of favor.” Out came my pen. “Because of your faithful love for me, your answer to my prayer will be my sure salvation.”
Then in verses 16-17 David said some stuff that made me write, “yes, Lord,” with that pink ink of mine. Wrote those words three times.
“Oh, Lord God, answer my prayers! I need to see your tender kindness and your grace,”
Yes, Lord.
“Your compassion, and your constant love.”
Yes, Lord.
“Just let me see your face, and turn your heart toward me.”
Yes, Lord.
And then I think awhile about how God is faithful. About how Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross drew us near to God. How we are always one with Him. He is always with us whether we feel Him or not. How his kindness, grace, compassion, and love is always ours. How His face and heart is ALREADY turned toward His New Covenant children.
And I’m grateful, but I whisper, “But I really like it when I feel You, Lord. When I hear You. When I sense Your tangible presence.”
I scan the next verses full of David’s angst. Then comes verses 31-34, and out comes the pink pen again. “For I know, Yahweh, that my praises mean more to you than all my gifts and sacrifices.”
Oh, God! Help me praise. Let me rejoice in my God!
“All who seek you will see God do this for them, and they’ll overflow with gladness. Let this revive your hearts, all you lovers of God! For Yahweh does listen to the poor and needy and will not abandon his prisoner of love. Let all the universe praise Him! The high heavens and everyone on earth, praise him!”
And then I know I will come here. To write to You. I place my Bible near my computer instead of next to my recliner.
I will declare that THIS is the day our God has made!
I will will rejoice and be glad in it!
I will praise God for He is worthy of praise!
How about you?
Come now and sing! Jesus is King! Rejoice and be glad!
~ Paula Moldenhauer (www.paulamoldenhauer.com)
PS Just for fun I looked up the old gospel tune on YouTube. I was surprised with the first one I found brought tears to my eyes even as my toes began to tap. I listened to it the whole way through, nine minutes of a powerful admonition to rejoice. Maybe you’ll enjoy it too:
If your taste tends toward a different direction, there is also a lovely choral arrangement of Psalm 118:24. Some theme, totally different approach. Soothing!
Here’s the way I remember the old chorus:
He has made me glad.
He has made me glad.

I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

Until Next Time,

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PS this post appeared on my author/speaker page on Friday. The thoughts are actually a compilation of a few days . . . but all mine–and David’s. lol

Rejoicing: Day 2

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Photo by Carmen Barber

Rejoice:

To Re-Joy or find joy again
To feel or show great joy or delight
To cause joy to
To be well or thrive

These are the thoughts that jumped out at me as I nosed around the Internet this morning, checking dictionaries, commentaries, and blogs. But here’s my favorite:

To experience God’s favor and be conscious (glad) for His grace.

I found that one on a blog. It said, “In the Greek text, the word is chairete which comes from the word chairo which comes from the root char meaning “favorably disposed, leaning toward . . . [It] is also a cognate of charis which means “grace.” Thus, we are not favorably disposed and leaning toward our circumstances; we are favorably disposed and leaning toward God’s grace.

So here’s the Paula version:

Rejoice – To thrive in God’s grace and live in joy by leaning toward relationship with God and not toward my circumstances. To “Re-joy” when joy feels distant by stopping to remember who God is and who I am in Him.

Loved your comments yesterday about YOUR rejoicing. I hope to hear from more of your today–and another rejoicing from those already participating! They encourage me–and I believe it encourages us to write these out. Here’s my rejoicing today.

I rejoice that Jesus made a way for us to live in constant, intimate relationship with our Creator. I rejoice that we can know He is there for us every single moment of our lives. I rejoice that sometimes He lets us actually feel His presence. And that when He doesn’t, ww have the promise of God’s own Word that He is there. I rejoice that because of Jesus the Holy Spirit dwells with us. Since we have leaned our hope upon Jesus and His saving grace, we are always, every second, day in and out, connected to all the love, hope, and power of the King of Kings. I rejoice that that we are never alone. When we feel loneliness, we can stop and thank God that He will never leave us by ourselves. I rejoice that Jesus made us ONE with God and that for the rest of our lives we can live in the perfection of community that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoice in.

I am also grateful for His earthly gifts–which though I experience them here feel like a taste of heaven. Today I rejoice in precious relationships with His people here on earth. I’m rejoice that He has given me a loving husband, beautiful children, a joy-giving granddaughter, and good friends. I rejoice that He gives moments of fun, peace, and refueling. Like spending time with those I love. Reading a good book. Watching a good movie.

What do you rejoice in today?

 

Until Next Time,
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(BTW, this post is also on my author/speaker page on Facebook.)

Join Me in Rejoicing?

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Photo by Denisa Kerr

Will you rejoice with me?

Here’s the thing. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I’m in a time of questioning. Not God. Not faith. Just how to navigate the recent challenges of life. It’s been hard for me to be consistent posting here while I’m processing–and balancing the joys and demands (there are both) of life change. But yesterday I was challenged to one simple thing. To rejoice.

Will you help me? Can we do this together? Over the next week, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment here that is focused on rejoicing in our God. We can always rejoice in Him, no matter our circumstance, right?

So here’s my rejoicing:

I rejoice that our God is a good God. A loving God. A God who never leaves us. I rejoice that God is personal. That Holy Spirit is always working within us and also in our life situation to shape us and grow us and make us more like Jesus. I rejoice that Jesus is good and that He offers us His goodness to replace the darkness that once dwelt in us. I rejoice in God’s many good gifts. Right now one of the most healing of His gifts is time spent with my baby granddaughter. I am very grateful. But there are other gifts, too. Like the crisp autumn air. Like cobalt blue skies. Like yellow leaves. I rejoice in the cheerful color of sunflowers and the fact that I could buy a small bouquet of them at the grocery store. A little splurge that lights up my kitchen.

Your turn!

Until Next Time,

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(BTW, this post is also on my author/speaker page on facebook)

In the Mirror

Note: I’ve been posting devotional thoughts on my facebook author/speaker page for some time. From now on, I’ll  endeavor to post them here as well. If you follow me on facebook, this is the same devotion I posted there this morning.

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Photo by Carmen Barber

My friend Dianne bought a magnifying mirror. When she looked into the mirror, her face—enlarged seven times—didn’t even look like hers! She got rid of the mirror. Her story reminds me of my past relationship with Scripture, especially passages like James 1:23-25:

“Anyone who hears the Word of God and does not obey is like a man looking at his face in a mirror. After he sees himself and goes away, he forgets what he looks like. But the one who keeps looking into God’s perfect Law and does not forget it will do what it says and be happy as he does it. God’s Word makes men free” (NLV).

My approach to reading the Bible used to be like looking into a magnifying mirror. I read Scripture to scrutinize every blemish. When I did this, I fought feelings of unworthiness, shame, and failure.

But this week I saw something different—and exciting!—in this passage in James. In verse 25 James talks about God’s “perfect law.” Other translations use words like “perfect law of liberty” (KJV) or “perfect law that gives freedom” (NIV). While theologians disagree on which law James refers to, many believe it is the new covenant living ushered in by Christ’s death and resurrection.* So the “perfect law” is what Paul calls the “law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2). It is the new “system” that Ezekiel talked about, when God fulfilled His promise to give us a “new heart and put a new spirit within” us (Ezekiel 36:26). It’s the New Covenant life where we are a people with a brand new heart, the heart of Jesus, beating within us.

So James is telling us to look into the New Covenant mirror. This understanding fits with the context of this passage. James is talking about living a life that overcomes sin. In verse 21 he wrote, “Receive with a gentle spirit the Word that was taught. It has the power to save your souls from the punishment of sin.” Other versions tell us to receive the IMPLANTED word. Friends, the only Word that is planted within us and can save our souls is the living Word, Jesus Himself.

THIS IS GOOD NEWS!

When James talks about overcoming sin, he tells us to look in the mirror and remember who we are. He wants us to look in the mirror and see ourselves AND the implanted Word. There are TWO people in that mirror: Jesus and us. And we are seen as people “in” Jesus. Scripture says we are “new creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “righteousness” of God in Christ (Philippians 3:9).

So HOW do we view ourselves when we look in the mirror James talks about? We view ourselves as whole, forgiven people who have beautiful new hearts. We remember that because Jesus indwells us through the Holy Spirit, we have been CHANGED. We are no longer people who WANT to sin. We are no longer people who are hidden in shame. We are no longer unworthy, shame-filled creatures who constantly fail to live up to God’s goodness. NO! We have been transformed by Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself, and we’re brand new.

What joyful, glorious, empowering news! When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you are not magnifying it seven times to find your blemishes. When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you look to see who you REALLY are: A new creation who is being made into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

We read Scripture to remember the wonder of our salvation. We read Scripture to discover the goodness of God. We read Scripture to better know the One who has transformed us. We look in the mirror of the Word to remember that we have received a whole new identity in Christ.

When God looks at us, He sees us and Jesus. When we look in the mirror, we see the same thing—Jesus and us.
I don’t know about you, but being beaten down by my blemishes never empowers me to act differently. But remembering that the Living Word, Jesus Himself, has made me different empowers me to live out the new identity I’ve ALREADY been given.

I don’t overcome fault by focusing on it, beating myself up, and working hard to change. I overcome by remembering that I’ve already been changed and that there are two people in the mirror—me and the Jesus who cleansed me from sin. Me and the Jesus who empowers me not to sin.

Oh friends! James wants us to look in the mirror and remember we are a people who embody the implanted Word of Christ. We are a people who are forgiven. Whole. Beloved.
We look in the mirror. We see. We remember. Then we go out and live like the new person we are!

Precious God, What a wondrous thing You’ve done. You’ve changed me and given me the power to live as the new person You made me to be. Next time I look into the mirror—whether it is in my bedroom or my Bible—remind me to see myself as You see me. And help me to tap into the grace to live—to behave—like the person You say I am.

Until Next time,

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* If this is a new thought for you, consider this: If we look at the New Testament as a whole, then we read James in context with the other NT writers and passages like Galatians 5, which show that Christ’s work on the cross set us free from sin and death. Paul often refers to a new “law,” the law of the Spirit, which gives liberty. In Romans 8:2 he writes, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (ESV). In this context it doesn’t make sense that James refers to Old Testament rules, but to new covenant living—freedom in the law of the Spirit, the new “system” put in place by the Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture never claims that living the law sets us free. The only freedom claim it makes is living free in Jesus and the grace He offers. For more thoughts check this out. 

Sometimes You Don’t Want Advice

Sometimes you don’t want advice. Perhaps that’s why I’ve pulled back the last couple of years. This blog has been barely touched. No new books written. I’ve even been more quiet in “real” life–with most of my face-to-face community.

I’m trying to figure things out. And well, frankly that’s exhausting. The thing is, I really don’t want a plethora of other voices adding to my confusion in a particular area of my life. I want to learn to rest in the hope of the One Voice who leads. Trust in the One who knows the end from the beginning. But it’s been a long two years around this issue–and I do need prayer support. But I’m not ready to talk about that yet–I promise I will. At the end of this post.

The whole fear of advice thing is not all that’s  going on.  Life has simply taken a lot of energy and left little for blogging. After Jerry’s heart attack almost two years ago, we began a health journey that required our focus. Much of the last two years was about doctor’s appointments, diet change, and adjusting. (I talked a little about that here.) The exciting update is that Jerry is healing!!

But even though I think of the last two years as hard, not all has been hard. Some of it has been incredibly good, wondrously good, gloriously good!

My son Sam married the beautiful Ariel!

I spoke at retreats and a writer’s conference and gave a keynote at the Whole and Free Women’s Conference.

 

I traveled to NYC (which I actually told you about) and then to Afghanistan to serve with an NGO (non-governmental agency). Maybe someday I can dig deep enough to write of the great impact of that experience. Today I’ll share only one quote from a brave, female health care worker in Afghanistan. Through an interpreter she thanked me and said, “We know that you come from a place that is safe and traveled to a place that is not safe to encourage us.”

Yes, I cried.

A bonus for this huge life event was that I was part of an all-women’s service team–and my daughter was one of the team leaders! So I got to experience this humbling, beautiful, painful place with her.

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I came home from these trips and couldn’t rest until I found a way to connect with an Afghan woman nearby. I’d simply fallen in love with these beautiful, courageous, resilient women. I found my place as an in-home English tutor for an Afghan refugee. What precious, precious moments this woman and I have shared! We don’t know much of each other’s story–we don’t have enough words in common to tell our stories. But we share each other’s hearts. We are women. We are mothers.  We want to love, grow, and expand.

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Back to the home front–Jerry and I celebrated 30 years of marriage with a week in the mountains!

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And  . . . Drum roll please . . .

Jerry and I became grandparents! Oh the joy!

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There’s more. So much more I could write of God’s blessings. Our small group. The women’s Bible study. Faithful friends. It’s good to stop and remember. Any time. But maybe especially when you start a post with the words, “sometimes I don’t want advice” and admit that you’ve pulled in.

So let’s loop back to my “more on that later” promise.

The thing that has been the most draining for me (except of course for the emotion you feel when you almost lose a spouse and then watch them fight their way back to living over a two-year period) is that I was totally unprepared to be the primary wage earner for our family.

Jerry and I have always lived on a small, one-income (his!) budget. It wasn’t easy raising four children this way. But we believed I was called to some primary things–being a writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother (not necessarily in that order). So we limped along to allow me to do the things I’m passionate about. Making an income through books, speaking, and the occasional article was/is feast or famine. (Well, to be honest it’s more like a normal meal or famine. Never really a feast.)

God was incredibly gracious to me right after Jerry had his heart attack and was unable to work. Our Lord miraculously paid every single bill for six months. I’m so thankful. I really didn’t have it in me to figure out how to make more money on top of all we were dealing with. God is good. Faithful. Steady.

Next God provided me with a ghost writing job with the potential to support us for a while. The work started more slowly than expected, which freaked me out. (You can think you’ve been tried and tested and grown in faith–and I had–but then comes something that draws your faith in a whole new way and though you truly thought you were done with freaking out (because you know your God is good) you find yourself there again.)

Eventually the work became somewhat steady. I loved being able to bring in more consistent income while holding onto the flexible schedule that allowed me to drive Jerry to the doctor, occasionally babysit my granddaughter, and continue tutoring my friend. (And take the occasional speaking engagement, service trip, etc.)

But it was a huge learning curve. This trying to become the primary provider.

(Okay, not was. Is.)

For too many months I stressed over every penny I thought I needed to make. It was hard to balance my schedule, much less my checkbook. Finally, I learned to trust, to believe God was providing, and lean into the work without freaking out.  (To date I’ve sold 78 stories to this company.)

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But not long after I was able to wrestle my fears, questions, and stress to the ground–Not long after I was doing better at leaning on God–Not long after I could work without freaking, the project began winding down. Which meant the work slowed down. Which meant the paychecks did too.

The project is almost completed. I may have enough work to get us through October.

Now what?

(I know I just asked, but . . . um . . . please don’t give me advice.)

Last night I lay awake freaking again.

It’s so not how I thought I’d learned to live with Him. It’s so not how God wants me to live. It so not how I want to live.

I know I am a capable, educated, talented woman. I have skills. Marketable skills. I also have dreams. Whether or not they are marketable remains to be seen. And then there are the hopes I treasure . . . .

I’m not sure where all of those intersect. I’m not sure if they will anymore. I’m not sure how to move forward.

And I am so very sad. And tired. And afraid.

Please pray for me.

Earlier today I did part of what I love. I wrestled with a new spiritual truth that excited me. And I wrote it out to share with others. (I’ll post it here tomorrow–and on my author/speaker page on Facebook.) I have a feeling this new understanding of a Bible passage I’ve previously misunderstood relates to the struggle. Not because it is a direct correlation, but because–as you can read tomorrow–what we see in the mirror matters. (What I wrote talks about what we can see.) But I have a feeling I’m barely beginning to understand the vast applications of that view. Maybe instead of worrying as I climb into bed tonight, I’ll ponder that.

Meanwhile, here in Colorado, I’m just a grandma looking for Jesus. Believing He’s hanging onto me and being grateful for that, because my hang-er-on-er strength feels faint. Sometimes I don’t get that. How God can be so good, so faithful, so kind–and still I feel things that don’t match who I know Him to be. Tonight I may feel overwhelmed, scared, a bunch of things that don’t speak to the truth of the power of my God, but I promise you this. I still seek Him. I still love Him. I still reach for Him.

He IS my all in all.

Until next time,

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Why Did Jesus Do it?

2d6f00940e456a368404153933242329Why Easter? Why would Jesus choose a horrific rejection and death? 
 
Ponder:
Worth
 
Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What is that joy? The passage continues by saying that Jesus was given the place of honor when He returned to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
 
My thinking used to stop there.
 
But Scripture also calls you and me Jesus’ “rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT) and says that we’ve been seated in the heavenlies with Jesus. There are also a lot of passages which talk about how Jesus longs for the final ceremony when His bride (us!) is presented to Him. It’s hard to believe it is true, but Jesus died, in part, because He wanted us as His inheritance. His beloved bride.
 
Then there’s Father God. What would cause a loving Father to ask such a thing of His son? Luke 12:32 tells us that it was the Father’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to us. Ephesians talks of the wonder of God adopting us as His very own children, allowing Jesus to pay the redemption price, to purchase us from darkness.
My friend, we are of great worth to our Creator.
 
Maybe you blaze past those thoughts, accepting them quickly, in the context of the unfathomable actions of the cross. You believe you are loved, treasured even, by God. Why else would God allow the cross of Christ?
 
But will you believe it tomorrow?
 
Will you believe it when life doesn’t go as you planned? When someone wounds you? When the vile voice of the enemy whispers of your inadequacy and failure? When you stare at your imperfections in the mirror (on the wall or in your soul)?
 
Can you know then, way down deep, that the King of All values you? That the cross took all of the shame and inadequacy, all of the outsider-living, and placed you in the center of God’s heart? That even before the cross God chose you as the recipient of His love because you are of great worth to Him? That you are part of the royal family of heaven?
 
If you’re like me, you’ll have good days and bad days when it comes to living like royalty. But whether or not we stand tall in the noble robes our Father gave us, it doesn’t change the fact that we were bought with a price because of our worth to God. It doesn’t change that fact that His actions rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us close to Him in the kingdom of light. It doesn’t change that fact that we are His beloved.
 
We belong with our family in the throne room.
 
Maybe it seems strange to start a Easter devotional series talking about our worth to our Creator, but I believe this is one of the places most attacked by the enemy and also one of the main points of the cross.
 
Prayer:
Precious Jesus, I believe it. I do. When I think of it in the context of the cross, I believe You value me. But sometimes I struggle to believe I have innate worth in the everyday minutes of life, especially on the days that are busy or full of struggle. I know You are love, and that You love me. You are perfect Love, so of course You love me. But to hold onto the idea that You value me—treasure me even—for my innate worth to You . . . that’s harder, Lord. Please help me to see You as You are. Please help me to see me as You do.
 
Meditate:
Hear the heart of Jesus for you in the following Scriptures* from the New Living Translation:
• You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes (Song of Solomon 4:9).
• Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices (Song of Solomon 4:10).
• Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one (Song of Solomon 5:2).
 
(People use different techniques to focus. Maybe you want to read each passage several times. Or only read one each day this week, really slowly. Maybe one of the verses jumped out at you and you want to create a picture, a sculpture, or a collage to remind you of its message. You could pick one to memorize. Write it out. Or listen to it on your phone as you walk or run. Or meditate on the passage as you color one of the free coloring pages offered on my website. These are just ideas. You and Jesus might have a completely different idea!)
 
Worship:
We love because He first loved us. He calls you and me His treasure. And we respond that He is ours. You might enjoy this song, “You are My Treasure,” sung by Chris Tomlin. As you listen, lift it up to the Lord as your worship.

Worth is the topic all week on Flourishing Moments. Flourishing Moments are posted each weekday on my Facebook author/speaker page. Would love to have you join us!

Maybe you’re not into Facebook or are looking for a more complete devotional book this Easter. You can download Soul Scents: Selections for Easter, which offers five weeks of thoughts centering on the difference Christ’s cross made,  for free in a PDF on my website or pick it up on Kindle for 99 cents

Until Next Time,
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*Some Bible scholars say the Song of Solomon is simply a love story between a real man, Solomon, and a real woman. Others say it is a metaphor for how God loves Israel. Still others say it is a metaphor for Christ and the church. I firmly agree with theologians who say it is all three. I also believe, as some teachers explain, that the Song of Solomon is a wonderful way to discover Jesus as my groom. After all I am His bride. When the Song of Solomon is studied as a personal journey into that bride/groom relationship, it holds treasures untold! I encourage you to consider spending some time there and seeing what the Holy Spirit reveals to you about how dearly you are loved.

Don’t forget your free novelette!

rsz_charisa_cover_55x8_96_dpiAll subscribers to my newsletter receive a free novelette, Charisa’s Chance, written just for them! Sign up today!

Charisa’s Chance tells the story of a secondary character from my award-winning novella, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch. I loved her when I wrote her many years ago, and she had a story that needed to be told! You’ll remember her as the young unwed mother who helped Rick and Edie find their way back to each other. Now she’s on vacation in Towering Pines, Colorado with your favorite charming Grinch and his lovely wife–and Charisa has a romance of her own to discover! You’ll get to visit with a few characters from the Towering Pines series, too. It’s a ton of fun!