Monday, March 19, 2018

Keturah by Lisa T Bergen


The Sugar Baron's Daughters Book 1

Set on the Island of Nevis at a time when the island was used for producing sugar, Keturah and her two sisters are trying to revive their late father's plantation and make it profitable again.  They have left England and are willing to work hard in the fields themselves to try to make it work.

Keturah carries some deep hurts from her marriage. Her late husband was a cruel man who abused her however he saw fit. This has left her determined to avoid marriage again to any many, including her childhood friend (You all know where this is going right?)  Keturah also had written off God because of this. Now, after being on the island, she recommits herself to God, to trusting Him, and letting Him into her life.

The other plantation owners are determined to run her into the ground. They don't like her way of operating, her way of kindness with the slaves, and for sure not her way of hiring a former slave as an overseer. It is a fascinating story of life on the island. Lisa did some research to try to make the story as authentic as possible, though she did modernize the language for ease of reading.

Another thing Keturah has to battle is forgiveness. Upon arriving at her father's plantation, she discovers something that shakes her world. She respond terribly at first, but is slowly gaining ground as she learns to forgive and build bridges.

I enjoyed this book. Yes, it is a bit of a chick flick, but one thing I liked about the book that you don't often seen in books of this era, is how the sisters flung aside the normal "ladies of leisure" entitlement and were willing to get tanned and dirty to make the plantation a success. There is something good about good, hard, manual labor.

I received this book from Bethany House and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom


This is not the typical book I review, simply because I try to avoid having to write reviews on these subjects, but I think this is a very pertinent book with some thoughts we would do well to listen to. There are some practical things here both relating to sexuality as well as relating to life in general.

Mo is a former All-American goalkeeper for the Louisiana State University soccer team. She was also very sexually promiscuous while boldly proclaiming her commitment to virginity. Exposed to pornography at 8 years old by finding pictures in her dad's truck, she became addicted. This led over into her relationships with boys where she would go as far as she could while still being able to hold on to her virgin title. This would be one conversation the church could do better at. She was told it was good to remain a virgin until she got married, but neither the church nor her parents gave the deeper reason: purity. She saw it as a thing to accomplish, not a heart matter or a commitment to God. She missed the why of remaining a virgin.

I was blown away by the stats she gave on pornography. Yeah, I knew it was a big money making industry, but I had no idea how big. In one single calendar year, "people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website. That is 524,000 years of porn - 17,000 complete lifetimes. Just in 2016."  The other thing that staggered me a bit was how many women are exposed to porn and view porn regularly. Moving into adulthood, about 18% of women will admit to viewing porn once a week and 49% of those who view porn see it as a healthy way of expressing their sexuality.  Clearly, we have a big problem on our hands.

This was good for me to realize that we need to have these difficult conversations. Our children need to know the why behind the "don't do this" rules. We need to be looking out for the next generation both male and female. Mo will say she was just another statistic, she fit right into these categories. Then God got a hold of her. She goes into that more in her first book called "Wreck my Life" She was able to stay single and free until she met her future husband, then the cycle of going as far as she could began again. And I don't want to tell her whole story.

Another thing she touches on is sexpectations in marriage, both for those who are virgins and those who are not.  She has some good things to say there as well.

A lot of the things she says can be applied to other areas of life as well. In two of the final paragraphs in the book, she says this and I think this is so applicable to all of life and the temptations we face and sins we commit. "I don't blame the conversations that the church forgot as the catalysts of the roller-coaster ride that was my sexual testimony. I don't blame the men involved....I don't blame family....

"My sexual struggles were a result, from the very beginning, of my sin-nature. My wants. My thoughts. My actions. My pride. My choices. My rebellion. My desperation for affirmation. My desires. My decision to make myself the god of my own story."

I appreciated how she took the full responsibility and that is what all of us must do. God is willing to redeem our stories just as He was willing and ready to redeem Mo's story.

I received this book from Baker Books and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

So Much to Celebrate by Katie Jacobs

So Much To Celebrate: Entertaining The Ones You Love The Whole Year Through
Entertaining the ones you love the whole year through

Wow!! It's beautiful. And big. Gorgeous pictures. Yummy looking food. These are all descriptions that could be used to describe this book. A nice big hardcover book, I would guess about a 9x10 size, with nice thick pages full of beautiful photographs, decorating ideas, and yummy looking recipes, it's a cook's delight.

I love to look at books like this. They make me want to throw a party and celebrate something, do some cooking, make something extravagant. There are some delicious sounding recipes in here, like cherry hand pies, blackberry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream, key lime coconut bars, ham and swiss croissants with poppy-seed mustard, and so on and so on. Yum, yum, yum. There are tips for breakfast in bed, hostess gifts, wrapping any gift, and doing a smores bar. There are decorating, styling tips for a mother's day brunch, bridal showers, wine tasting, tailgating, even a milkshake party, and so much more. Each party has a menu list, a get the look section (decorating ideas), and an enjoy the party section. Not all the recipes are included for every menu, but there is a section at the end of every season with additional recipes, plus a menu list at the back of the book.

One of the very handy things in this book is Katie has little tips throughout on recipes that can be made ahead and how to do it to keep everything fresh and tasty. I really like that.

On the negative side of this book, to fully pull off a party like she suggests, you need a padded wallet and a big house. I can't afford to buy new tableware for every different kind of party I want to throw, nor would I have the space to store it afterwards. Nor can I afford to have specialty invites custom designed for a party either, at least not on a regular basis. She also hosted a lot of these parties at various venues around the area in Tennessee, again not necessarily suited to someone on a budget. However, I can get some good ideas for decorating and do a much simpler style.  I also would have liked more nonalcoholic beverage recipes.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Push by Patrick Gray

The Push

A Story of Friendship
Illustrated by Justin Skeesuck and Matt Waresak

This is a beautiful hardcover children's book, with a dust jacket, that tells the story of the friendship between two boys, one in a wheelchair with no ability to use his arms and legs and the other boy who would carry him, feed him and push him where he needed to go. The illustrations are nicely done, watercolor with ink, is the style I believe.

It's an amazing story of friendship that I think kids of this age need to hear and emulate. It required something from both boys, John had to be willing to be helped and Marcus had to be willing to help. Both boys learned something from the other one.

What makes this story better is the truth behind it. Patrick and Justin are those friends. Even though, as young children there were no disabilities, today, as men,  Justin has lost the use of his extremities and Patrick is there to support and encourage him, including pushing him 500 miles on his wheelchair across the Camino del Santiago. Yes, Patrick had help at times to push Justin, but the responsibility for taking care of Justin was Patrick's. They have remained best friends through it all.

We need more friends like this in the world.

I am happy that my daughter seems to really like this book and I am hoping that through reading it numerous times, it will help her both to be a friend to everyone, including those with special needs, as well as making her aware that not everyone is like her.

I really enjoyed this book and thought the story line was well written.

I received this book from Tyndale Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

It's been two weeks now, since my mother-in-law passed away. In some ways, it feels hardly that long and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime. It's hard to believe life was normal only three weeks ago. We were planning a Valentine's supper and just enjoying life.

Yesterday, in church, our pastor talked about this Psalm: Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul.  How do you bless in the midst of bereavement? How do you see gratitude when all around it feels like grief? Is it easy? No, but it is vitally important. Have I attained? Not even close.

But I think what our Sunday School teacher said yesterday also applies to this: when you get into a negative spiral, things go south in a hurry. Everything starts looking bad, everyone is out to get you, and nobody can do anything right. But if you start looking for the positive, the same thing can happen in a positive way. Things can start to spiral upwards and you start seeing good in the midst of pain and sadness.

And that is what I want to focus on today: the blessings of the last two weeks. Now, this is not to say, I do not grieve or that I am callous. Yes, my tears have been few (and that's another subject), but I recognize their has been loss. But in the midst of that loss, I/we have seen huge blessings that we know is God looking out for us.

1. Close family. My husband's family has always been close and this has cemented that bond. Lesser things can take backseat when battling the reality of death. Family is such a blessing.

2. Church community. The funeral director and his wife from the church there were amazing. Every day, Mrs was there doing laundry, helping with the children, cleaning up after meals, offering a listening ear, getting us cookie butter because we just needed some, fulfilling every need as best as she could. The Mr did so much leg work for us and helped us organize and move forward with the viewing and funeral. People brought in meals, came to visit, babysat, gave baths to the kiddos, cleaned the houses while we were at the viewing, etc. etc.   And my church at home blessed us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Several have given cards, brought food, gift cards, toys, and so many texts. Two couples showed up for the funeral. We are so blessed.

3. A spiritual legacy. We could pray and sing together. We had assurance that we know where Mom is. This isn't a hopeless grief, this is an active, hoping grief. We know what to do to see Mom again and that is just a huge blessing.

4. So much safety. There was so much travel and after a car accident, you can tend to be on high alert, but God was faithful. Even though we drove through the night and all the next day, I'm not sure we fought sleep that bad. And we were both able to rest while the other was driving, which doesn't always happen. On top of that, the gas smell coming from our truck was a sign of things going south in the fuel pump department and we were able to take care of that before we left instead of getting stranded enroute home. That was a blessing.

5. The prayers of people. About Thursday or Friday, I realized that I hadn't been praying, at all. You prayed for Mom's life to be spared and once you knew she had passed, it was like I shut down and went into shock and survival mode and other than the public prayers, private prayer was nonexistent. Yet, through it all, I didn't doubt that God was with me. I know His people were interceding and lifting us up, even when I was zoned out.

6. Jesus wept. That brings me to a conversation I had with my brother that long week. Look at Lazarus' resurrection. Why did Jesus weep? Wouldn't you think He would have been laughing or at least silently smirking, thinking you guys have no idea what I'm about to do. I'm going to raise this man back to life and your tears will all stop. But no, Jesus recognized the pain around Him and He wept. When we wonder where God is in the midst of pain or trauma, I know where He is. He's right there in the trenches with us and, while I know this might not be theologically sound, I think He's right there and wiping a tear away right with the rest of us. The Bible says He is touched with our infirmities, so there you have it. What a blessing to have a God who walks right beside us in the journey.

7. If you only knew. In the same conversation with my brother, he brought up the Samaritan Woman at the well. We think we know that story, but he pointed something out to me I hadn't seen before. Jesus, at one point in the conversation says, "If you only knew who it was..." Let's stop with the first four words, "If you only knew". If we could only get a glimpse of who God is and what He is able to do. Those four words can apply to so much about Jesus. If I only knew what is awaiting us as Christians, how much more would I be doing? If I only knew the abundant life Jesus wants to give me as I delve deeper into His word and grow stronger in prayer, why wouldn't I be studying so much more? If I only knew... and we know so much more than the Samaritan woman did and yet we fight against it and don't claim it.  What a blessing to have a God who knows and who wants us to know Him. (Disclaimer: I may have butchered up the ideas that was given to me, but this is what I gleaned from that conversation.)

Where to from here? With all these blessings, am I not held accountable for what I do with them? I knew my mother-in-law for about 9.5 years. She blessed those around her. Her grandchildren loved her. She made friends wherever she went. She would do anything for you. She still patched her daughter's children's pants (That's love right there), replaced zippers in coats, (Even deeper love there), made quilts, hosted the school teacher, and served food to whoever needed some. She lived in more pain than I think about anyone knew, but she didn't let it get her down. The week before she died, she was sick in bed, but that was an extremely rare situation. She had some Stoltzfus snip, but underneath it was a heart of gold. I didn't always see it that way at the time, but that had more to do with my own perception of life than it did with mom's responses.

And most important to me is her and dad raised a son who I love dearly, a son who is infinitely patient with me, a son who loves his family unconditionally, who comes home at the end of the day and picks up the pieces that have fallen apart when I'm sure he would rather shut down and relax. She raised a son who is friendly to everyone, sees the good in almost every situation, challenges me to accept people for who they are, loves God and wants to serve Him.

And now it is time for me to try to carry on the baton. No, I am not a true daughter, but I have seen and heard enough and been blessed enough in the last two weeks by the example of servanthood I have seen from Mom and from her friends and family that I have no excuse. I want to be that kind of a blessing to those around me.  I want to carry on her legacy. I need you to hold me accountable.

If I Live by Terri Blackstock

If I Live by Terri Blackstock

At last, the long awaited conclusion to the If I Run series. The one bad thing about reading new books is you can't read a whole series back to back. You actually have to wait for the next book in the series to be written, printed, and released. Oh the problems we have in this great land!!

You can read my reviews on the first two books here and here . As I've said before, this style of writing is not normally my style at all. I don't generally like the first person style of writing. I like to be able to get a broader view of what's going on then just through the mind of the main character. Not only is this book first person, it hops back and forth between three people, all written in first person. And it's excellent writing. Not only that, but the subject of writing isn't really my thing either. I'm not a big mystery fan and for sure not murder mystery.

The series has Casey Cox being framed for murder and running and Dylan Roberts hired to find her and bring her in for "justice". Instead, he gets drawn in to help find the true murderers and that's all I'm gonna say about that. This book, there is a bit more of romance in the book than the previous three. I will also say this book is a bit more gory than the other two as well. Again, Terri writes a good story, because I anxiously waited for this final book to come out to find out how it was all going to end.

One thing that was impressive to me in this book is Casey's search for Jesus. She realized He was the true God, she wanted to believe, but she was also aware that if she truly trusted Him and asked Him to be her Savior then she needed to repent and turn herself in. So she was counting the cost. She does eventually put her complete trust in Jesus and experiences the peace that comes with that surrender. There was just something inspiring to me about her counting the cost and recognizing what needed to happen. If she was going to believe, she was going to go all in and that is a lesson for all of us: complete, unconditional surrender.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Oh Death Where is Thy Sting?

It was a normal Monday. I love Mondays, if I haven't mentioned that before. I don't really remember what I was doing. I know I did a few loads of laundry and just some of the normal household duties. I remember also that Dave came home earlier than he does sometimes. We were having a nice evening at home, psyching Amber up for her birthday the next day and her party on the weekend.

Then came the call that no one ever wants to get: Mom and Dad Glick were in an accident. We don't know much, but they were both taken to the hospital and the police said it didn't look good for Mom. Richard's and Allen were on their way. Then came the waiting. I realize that D and I process things so differently. I want to talk and talk and talk and D goes quiet. I'm trying to learn to be okay with this. I kept working and putting things away and getting the kids ready for bed.  Then came the final call: Mom is gone. She has passed into eternity. She is with Jesus.

Amber had the perspective we needed: "Why is Daddy sad? Grandma is with Jesus." Yes, child you are so right.

I wonder a little bit what that Bible verse means when it says, "Oh death where is thy sting?" Death still stings, it's the loss of a loved one, the ending of a generation, an empty spot at the family table. But yet, death has lost its sting because we know where Mom Glick is. She is living a life fully whole, fully complete, filled to the fullness. The grave only has her body, her soul is experiencing life in a way we can only dream about. We can't wish her back, but we can prepare to go to her.
 As we spent those days between her death and her funeral, I was struck by the fact that I didn't know my mother-in-law that well. There was a side to her that I don't think I had really seen and discovered yet. That makes me sad. I think of the letters I should have sent, the pictures I should have kept updated and I feel bad. I realize that it doesn't matter to mom now. What does matter is what I do with that knowledge now. I still have a father-in-law who I'm sure would enjoy a letter and some pictures every now and then.

One thing that stuck out to me when the family was sharing one morning was prayer. A couple of them mentioned Mom praying, one asked, "Who is going to pray for me now?" What would my children say about me? Am I known as a lady of prayer? Do I have an open door for my children and friends to come in and make themselves at home? Do I exhibit a hospitable nature?

It was a big viewing and funeral, in the 500 range for both, and you know why? I think it was because of the giving and hospitable nature of Mom and Dad both. Yes, they had lived a lot of places, but that wouldn't have mattered if they hadn't plugged in wherever they went and made friends. They have lived in New Jersey for the same amount of time as we have lived here and the neighbors that came to the viewing and funeral, it was amazing. Some of them even came to see Dad at the house, bringing food and comfort. Who of my neighbors would come to see me? It's scary to think about.

And so, grieving is normal and natural, but we have a hope beyond the grave, beyond the here and now and that is makes the grief tolerable. I don't know how people handle grief without Jesus. He is the only One who can comfort the grieving and bring hope in the midst of loss.

And so, in memory of my mother-in-law, I want to do better. I want to be more hospitable, to plug in and live fully right where I am at. While I won't care who comes to my funeral or what they say, I want my family to have a heritage and a legacy they are honored to be a part of. I want to do my part to make the world a better place.

Keturah by Lisa T Bergen

The Sugar Baron's Daughters Book 1 Set on the Island of Nevis at a time when the island was used for producing sugar, Keturah and he...