Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#Struggles by Craig Groeschel

Product Details

Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World

I'm not sure where to start with this book. It was really, really good. I don't really consider myself too wrapped up in social media. I have a Facebook account and a blog, but I'll be honest, Instagram and a few things like that are still a blur to me. I don't understand them and I don't need to. I was still convicted on certain aspects from this book. I care about people liking what little I post. I like comments on the blog posts I like. Even when I have my phone's volume turned up, I can still check it to see if I got a text that I might possibly have missed hearing come in. I can be guilty of having my phone out during face-to-face conversations.

Craig doesn't discount social media; he encourages its use for profitable and uplifting purposes, but he does warn against letting it consume our lives. There are so many quotes I could give from his book, but I'm going to stick with just a couple.

There are eight areas that he addresses that can be harmed through excessive social media. I'll give the eight topics and one quote from each chapter to whet your appetite for reading the book. This is the first book I've read by Craig and I hope it isn't my last. He's a good writer.

1. Recovering Contentment: The Struggle with Comparisons  "When Christ is all you have, you'll finally realize that Christ is all you need."

2. Restoring Intimacy: The Struggle with "Likes" "Make sure that the person you're with is the most important person in the world when you're together." and "Life is not about how many Likes you get. It is all about how much love you show."

3. Revealing Authenticity: The Struggle with Control "We've become skilled at filtering our lives, showing others only what we want them to see."

4. Resurrecting Compassion: The Struggle with Desensitization "If you say that you care but then don't act on that feeling, ti's the same as not caring at all." and "Clicking is clean. Compassion is messy."

5. Reviving Integrity: The Struggle with Secret Impurity "It's hard to be whole-hearted in your pursuit of God when your thoughts are polluted by worry and anxiety."

6. Remembering Encouragement: The Struggle with Constant Criticism  "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

7. Reclaiming Worship: The Struggle with Idolatry  "Our news feeds can be full, but our hearts and souls empty. Anytime we allow our souls to be consumed with anything other than God, we will never be satisfied."

8. Replenishing Rest: The Struggle with Constant Distraction "Many of use, when we're bored, have a default, brain-off habit of picking up our mobile devices and lazily clicking around."


The book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it. All opinions expressed are my own.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

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Experiencing God's Presence in Every Moment of Life.

I've experienced a bit of a caution in reading books by authors that I'm not well acquainted with. I like to think that I can read a book, take the good and leave the questionable and move on, but I realize not everyone looks at books the same way I do.  Books that I read and am encouraged in, others may read and see it as a license for them to go do something that I never even saw hinted at in the book. So in giving reviews, it has caused me to stop and be a bit more cautious in my reading.

And this book was one of those I thought I should exercise caution in. I actually had a harder time just really enjoying it because I was trying to dissect stuff to make sure it seemed to follow Biblical teaching. In my opinion, Darlene did follow Biblical teaching. Yes, she gave a few interpretations of Scripture that I had never heard interpreted like that before. I am not entirely sure what to think of them yet, whether she was correct or not. What I did like about her book is she used a lot of Scripture. Yes, I know Scripture can be interpreted and used a lot in a book and the book can still be wrong, but I like that she backed up her points with Scripture.

All-in-all I was impressed with the book and I'm laying it down with a renewed vigor to worship, to worship everywhere and in all circumstances. It can be easy to say, "That's easy for you to say; you are a well-known song writer, worship leader, etc. Of course you worship." But it does give you pause when she talks about her very recent journey with breast cancer and she is still worshiping in and through that journey. She does say it was hard to worship in that time, but she still chose to. She says we need to worship in the desert, in church, in our private devotions, in our service, in our love for others, in our attitude, in the words we say, in suffering, with our money, through loving ourselves, through our work, through our marriage, through our children, and in eternity. Basically, all the time, everywhere, whatever we are doing. I needed that reminder to be constantly aware of God's presence and allowing my life to be a reflection of Him and giving Him continual praise through worship.

I received a complementary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Randomness



My mind has been rolling over the last 24 hours. We are almost done with 2015 and what have I accomplished? I, all of a sudden, feel driven to do something, to be the wonder woman who is scheduled and organized and calm and cheerful about it all. How do I do that?

I ran across the idea yesterday again of having a word for the year: a word to focus on and try to live after. I keep thinking about what that word should be for me and if I'm committed enough to do it. On top of that, there are so many things I feel I should be focusing on and trying to do better in that one word feels insufficient. There's the word joy, but doesn't everyone want that. What about gratitude? Well, yeah, it's good to be thankful. Love? Ouch, I need that, but a whole year? Rest? That seems to be a driving force to a new group of thinkers out there and I'm not sure I agree, so don't know if I want to go there. Don't get me wrong. Rest is good, but not if comes at the expense of relationships and family and even finances. Rest is not good if it means protecting myself at the expense of others. Anyway, enough on that. Beauty? Well, again that seems to be a hitch to ride on as well, to be beautiful and attractive and etc. etc. My thoughts behind that word would have nothing to do with me and my physical looks. The challenger in me would like to pick that word to show people that there is so much more to beauty than looking attractive, but I'm sure they realize that too, if they are honest with themselves. 

I realized today that in the next month, we will have the 3rd birthday of my miscarriage and the 2nd birthday of Nicole. In the last 3 years, I have lost at least 4 people precious to me: two children, a dad, and a good friend. I have felt loose-ended and irritable a lot of those three years. I have been selfish and self-centered with brief relapses out into the world. I have been difficult to get along with, I know. My man has been very patient with me. I'm trying, but right now, I'm not doing that great at it. I let little things bug me. I don't know why I'm not into Christmas this year, but I'm not. So I don't go to the cookie exchange, I'm not making a single batch of Christmas cookies. I did decorate and enjoyed it and surprised myself a little. I have played a few Christmas carols, but haven't dug out the Christmas CD's. I did get Christmas presents taken care of.  And I am sitting here caught up on my list of things I wanted to get done in December. I have one or two things left on my list and that makes me happy. But I feel a need for focus, a need for some goals, a need for self-discipline. I don't like to hole away in my little world. I like people, I really do. Yes, they tire me out sometimes and sometimes with a baby who doesn't always nap the best away from home, gatherings are just not worth it, but there are other ways I can reach out and I want to. 

So I said all this to say this, I want to have focus and purpose this year, but I also need to work on being flexible and caring. Flexible, maybe that should be the word. We all know I need help in that. I'm not sure what the word will be, but whatever it is, I plan to have a few blog posts that follow that word throughout the year. 

Things like this excite me. I love goals and planning schedules and etc. etc. Now, if only I could do as good at following through on them, we would be all set to go. 

But enough of that, how about some cuteness for your day and then a little project that I did for Amber's Christmas. 



You were working here Mom? Really? But don't I just need to be here too? I like to help you work. 
 Hat lady.

And lastly a board book of Amber's Family that doesn't live around here.

We started with this





















And ended with this. I'm quite happy with it except it doesn't lay nice and closed because of the extra space the pictures take up, but I don't think Amber is going to care. I modge podged over the pictures too to give them a little more authenticity and to protect them a little more.


The Time Chamber by Daria Song

Product Details

A magical story and coloring book.

If you've been around the block at all, you have noticed the increased surge in adult coloring books.  I use the term "Adult" here very loosely with no suggestive theme attached. (In case you wondered :)). As a child, I always had big plans of coloring; obviously dreaming and planning have been life long staples of mine. Anyway, just recently I was able to snag to ebook coloring books and I printed off a few pictures to color.

Then I got the chance to review a coloring book.  What good fortune. It is the story of a fairy girl who lived inside a cuckoo clock and wanted to get out and see the world. The pictures are more magical then real, but I see some real potential for coloring them and making them look pretty.  The story doesn't completely make sense to me. It's really more like a paragraph with a couple lines on only a couple pages, but obviously I'm not touched with fairy knowledge because the story ends totally different from how I understood it at the beginning. This doesn't really bother me except to make me wonder what I missed, if the pictures are supposed to be showing me things, I'm obviously not getting or what.

But I'm looking forward to coloring it. It's not completely my style and I was debating keeping it and giving it for a gift sometime, but I think my selfish ambitions have taken over and I will keep it and probably get about one picture colored in it a year, but we shall see. I also view it as a challenge to uncover the hidden as in the case of some maze looking pages.  Perhaps coloring will figure into my new year's goals for 2016.

This book was given my be Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Birthdays in Heaven

It seems like too many people are having heavenly birthday celebrations this year. Nov. 13 was  the first birthday of a little boy who couldn't stay. Nov. 30 was Cheryl's first birthday in heaven. Beings I could never remember when her birthday was, I for sure couldn't remember how old she would be. I think 26 though. I saw that somewhere. And today would be Dad's 80th birthday. 

How does this happen? Yes, I know they're all better off up there. That is true; I believe that. But I'm down here and I'm seeing the pain these dates are causing loved ones and feeling the pain myself and I just wonder why? All of these deaths feel so untimely. Yes, Dad was almost 80, but he was strong and hard-working and seemed to have many years ahead of him yet. I want to say: "Why not take the ones who aren't healthy, the ones who would love so much to go to heaven? Why take the young and the strong and the ones who have never had a chance at life yet?" I know God's way is perfect and His plan is right and there's such a thing as sin and the curse that has messed life up from the perfect way it feels like it should be.

But as I sit here this morning and I think about the pain that people are going through as they face birthdays and holidays without their loved ones, it hurts. We are going over to Mom's tonight for supper and it hurts because it's a stark reminder that Dad is gone and Mom is hurting and there is nothing I can do to help her in her pain besides being there and hoping that at least she knows how much I care. But it all feels inadequate.  Today should have been a day of celebration: Dad was 80. We wanted to throw a party for him this year--he would have loved seeing a lot of his friends, etc. He wouldn't have said much, but he would have enjoyed it. Instead, he is up in heaven where he joined a brother and now since has had a brother-in-law and a niece join him up there. He's up there with his own son or daughter and his three grandchildren and I can imagine him sitting there watching quietly as they play or talk, a contented smile on his face.  And I know he's happy. And it's because of that happiness and that fulfillment that Dad is enjoying from living a life for God down here, that helps me get up and go on. 

We know Dad and Cheryl and Bryan and all the others who are celebrating birthdays in heaven are in a better place. We know they are having a party that rivals no others. And so I must get up and go on. I must face each new day, content only to live for God to the fullest extent of my ability so that someday I too will go to be with them.

But in the interim, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!  

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider

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This cookbook was an initial disappointment to me. I'm not sure what I expected in a Mexican cookbook, but more pictures for sure.  I love pictures in a cookbook and I'm quick to disregard a cookbook that isn't full of pictures unless it's one of the tried and true spiral bound old-time looking cookbooks like The Basics and More or Simply Wonderful, etc.

On closer perusal, I saw that this cookbook takes a lot of ingredients that I know nothing about and have no idea if I would even be able to purchase them in our local grocery store. I'm not sure what I expected if the book was supposed to be authentic. Peppers like New Mexico chiles, guajillo chillos or other things like chicharron, Chihuaua cheese, etc. There are some good-sounding recipes in the book: Tacos de Res Dorado (Crisp Shredded Beef Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa), which unfortunately doesn't even seem to use the slow cooker; 'Tinga Tostada (Chicken with Chipotles and Onion on Crisp Tostadas), Shredded chicken, and some yummy sounding bean recipes. I think I will likely use this cookbook some, but will probably tweak the recipes to incorporate ingredients I have on hand or will do without the specialty peppers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

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I finished it. I have been talking about this book a lot lately and I even read from it in Sunday School yesterday. It is a really really good book. It totally stretched my thinking and has given me some food for thought. I'm still not sure if I agree completely with everything Caleb says, but he knows way more about this subject than I do.


The caption on the front of the book says this: "How a pastor with gay parents learned to love others without sacrificing conviction." Doesn't that make you raise your eyebrows and say, "I wonder what his views are?" In a day, when it seems like so many churches are accepting practicing homosexuals and modifying the Bible to fit their beliefs, it's refreshing to hear Caleb's take on this. He grew up in the LGBT community, he went to their parties, marched in their parades and became a Christian at the age of 16. He then had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what the Bible says about homosexuality. His conclusion? It is a sin to have sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

This book is somewhat his journey, but it is also a call for individuals and churches to reach out to those in the LGBT community and I would broaden that to say reach out to all those people who are different from us.  So many Christians have been mean and rude to this group of people that it has turned them sour, but what would happen if we were to show them Christ's love, to love them as we love any other person, to treat them like a beloved child of God, to develop a relationship with them and then to speak truth into their life. Caleb defines this all as a tension between grace and truth.

There is so much I would like to quote from this book, but I will try to stick with one or two or three and say this "Read the book".

On the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus, Caleb says this: "When releasing the woman caught in adultery, he displayed both qualities [grace and truth]. Jesus had grace when he set the woman free. He along, being the true God, had every right to condemn this woman if he wanted to, but instead he chose the path of mercy and forgiveness. yet he also had truth. He did not condone her activity. As a matter of fact, he used strong language for it: sin.

"This story is a call for us to live in the tension of grace and truth. I've often wondered what the best word is to describe this tension. While thinking through this story, I finally figured it out: love is the tension of grace and truth.

"Here's what I mean. When you have a person in your life involved in activities or life choices that aren't healthy, you feel the tension. On the one hand, you feel extreme love for them, but on the other hand, you know that somehow you need to speak truth into their life. It's the same feeling when someone you love makes decisions outside the bounds of Scripture-- you have the desire to show them grace and help them understand the truth of the matter. If you have ever been in this circumstance before, then you understand.

"We see Jesus's loving action toward the woman throughout the story, and it's because he was living in that tension of grace and truth. Jesus loved her enough to tell her the truth and show her grace.

"Somehow, despite the messiness we encounter, we have to figure out how to be the bearers of grace and truth, because it always results in love."

One other thing that Caleb talked about that was a new thought to me is on the issue of identity. Being gay is a way bigger thing than just sex; it's an identity, a community, friends, etc. We all identify with something, but what is most important first and foremost our identity needs to be as a disciple of Jesus Christ. So can a gay person go to heaven? His response to that is this: "I think if we're going to ask that question, then we have to ask if someone can be an alcoholic and go to heaven. Can someone be addicted to drugs and go to heaven? Can someone be a gossip and got to heaven? Can someone be a worrier and go to heaven? Can someone be jealous of others and go to heaven? Can someone be an arrogant know-it-all Christian and go to heaven?" He does go on to make distinctions between someone who is tempted to sin and fails occasionally and someone who just blatantly sins without regard for what God's Word says.  It's a challenge for me to be reminded once again that sin is sin and there aren't levels of sin; it's way more about our hearts and if we are trying to live above sin or just ignoring the Bible and doing whatever we want.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for ways to reach out to the LGBT community or just reaching out to your neighbor who is different from you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What is Truth (Part 1)

Yes, I said part one because thoughts have been going through my head on this subject and I'm not going to write much tonight and I want to give myself the option of continuing it later.

I'm teaching SS tomorrow and the title is "Walking in Truth". I'll admit, I saw that title and thought, "Oh this will be easy" and then I read the text and I was blank.  2 John and 3 John for those who want to read and offer insight.

I read it a few more times and thoughts started to come, questions mostly. I like to come to class armed with questions and I will ask them in different ways until someone starts talking and if nobody talks tomorrow, I will call out names. That is a threat to anyone out there that might read this tonight or early tomorrow morning and attend my SS class, so take heed.

How do you "love in the truth?"

How do "truth and love" work together? I'm reading a book that explains this a little I think, but I won't talk about it now because I need to write a book review on it.

"And this is love, that we walk after his commandments."

And then there's some verses on deceivers and antichrists and how you should not let them into your house and you should not bid them God speed and I want to cry. How do I know if they are false teachers? What if they are really seeking and confused and I turn them away? And then there's Diotrephes in the next book and he was proud and arrogant and turned away missionaries of the Gospel and yet he wasn't kicked out of the church.

And then we move beyond the SS lesson and start talking about truth in the books we read and the things we listen to and then I must bid you adieu because I am starting to get a passion for this and I'm not sure I'm brave enough to tackle this hornet's nest yet.  I leave with one question: do the things you read and listen to and believe line up with God's Word? And some thoughts on a topic on the books we read: maybe coming later.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs; Illustrated by Nancy Munger

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Aww, this is a beautiful book.  I was expecting a thin hard cover book with fairly small writing and a couple pictures to go with each parable.  Instead I got a 3/4 inch or so thick hardcover book with a padded front cover.  Each page has just a couple lines of the story and a beautiful picture that matches very well with the story description.  What I really like is at the bottom of at least half of the pages is a Bible verse that goes along with the story. It's a beautiful children's book that would span a wider range of ages than some because the stories are parables and so the older child could read and learn the deeper meaning along with being able to understand the Bible verses.

There are four parables: one on Easter and new life, one on sunflowers and spreading the Good News, one on pumpkins and not Halloween, but on being a light to those around us, and one on Christmas and the Christmas Tree farmer who sacrificed the most beautiful tree to a poor family that couldn't afford to pay for one.  This story brought me close to tears.  It was a tree that the farmer's wife would not sell because of its perfection, but when the poor little girl with no concept of cost asked for this tree, the farmer's wife couldn't resist and told her that the tree was not for sale but she would like to give it as a gift to the poor family.  What a picture of God's love.

Like I said, the illustrations are very well done, brightly colored and would keep a young child's attention.  It even kept Amber's for split seconds at a time.

I would definitely recommend this book for a nice Christmas gift this year.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reframe by Brian Hardin

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From the God we made to the God with us.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book; parts of it were excellent and parts left me with questions of uncertainty, but the premise behind this book is right on. We need a relationship with God and that relationship needs to be a two-way street.  Relationships with friends, with spouses involve a giving and taking on both sides. If one side always takes and the other side is the giving side, it's not a solid relationship and it likely isn't going to last.  Too often that is what we do with God, we take and take and take and we forget that God wants us to give as well.  We need to give ourselves to God: all of us, heart, mind, soul, will, emotions, body, etc. etc. etc.  God wants a relationship with us.

Constant prayer is one thing I have been challenged with and want to do better--to just keep God in communication all day long in everything and with everybody.  Think of how my speech could change if He was the central focus of my life every day.

One of the counter ideas that Brian introduces in this book is: it's all about you.  Normally we say, life isn't about you and I still agree with that, but listen me out.  It's all about you.  You are the only one that can decide on a relationship with Jesus Christ.  You are the only one living in your body.  It's up to you what you do each day and how you live it out.  What you do today, decisions you make today will influence others. How you live your life will influence the generations coming after you. That's just scary, but if you stop and think about it, it's very true.

Then here is where I go off on my own tangent.  If I live selfishly as though life is all about me and I'm the only one that matters, I'm making decisions that could cause my children to grow up to be selfish brats.  That is where life isn't about me. It's about me making decisions that teach my children to live for God, to live devoted to having a relationship with Him, and teaching them to live selflessly and devotedly.

This book was given me by Tyndale House for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.  To learn more about the book go here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forgiven by Terri Roberts with Jeanette Windle

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This is an amazing story of forgiveness.  Remember the Nickel Mines Amish School shooting? This is the side of the story told by the killer's mother, Terri. She talks about the shock and horror they felt when they heard their son had done this awful thing and then she talks about the way the Amish extended forgiveness immediately to them and how in the years that followed her and her husband Chuck became very good friends with the Amish.

It's a story of grace and forgiveness and healing after a tsunami swept through and destroyed the old normal.  It's a story that is pertinent today because forgiveness is always pertinent. I can't imagine being Terri and Chuck or Charlie's wife, Marie, left to deal with the aftermath of such a disaster.  Trying to understand what would drive a man to do such a heinous crime; a man who was a family man, who provided and took care of his wife and children.

Terri talks about learning to give thanks in everything as she battled breast cancer and then when "The Happening" (as the Amish called it) happened, she felt God telling her to give thanks again in everything and it was hard for her to do, but as she was willing she could find things to be thankful for.

To me, it is an amazing testimony of what God can do when you are surrendered to Him. The Amish extended an open hand of forgiveness, they would go along with Terri as she gave talks on what she had learned and they would call her to help others in their group extend that same forgiveness.

In her last chapter entitled "What Now?", Terri gives a few pointers on what to do.

1. Move forward. This involves taking a deliberate step while still maintaining a perspective of grief and pain.

2. Think on These things. When dark times or memories of the sad event want to occur, think about the happy memories.

3. Practice forgiveness. Bitterness will lead to the choices her son made and that is not good.

4. Make right choices.

5. Share your story with others. It might bring healing to another person.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Be willing to ask hard questions even if it may make you seem nosy.

7. Pray with Thanksgiving

8. Focus on Eternity.

I highly recommend this book.  It touched me and I want to reach out and offer forgiveness easily and quickly.  Nothing in my life has been close to as traumatic as having my son kill innocent people and then commit suicide, but life isn't a picnic and living with people and building relationships requires a forgiving spirit to work through misunderstandings and I want to do that.

At the time of her writing, Terri had just found out that her cancer was back, Stage IV. She didn't know what the next bends in the road would look like, but she was determined to walk them with God.

This book was given me by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reading and writing a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Six Months

Six months already.  How can it be? And on the other hand, how can it not be six years already?  It feels short, it feels long, it still feels unreal.

Yes, it is six months today since the doctor told us that Dad is brain dead. Six months since we made hard decisions and released Dad to Jesus.  Six months since we stood around his bedside trying to be strong as we watched him breathe his last.  Six months since we went to Randy's one last time, this time to talk about planning a funeral; hope was gone.  Six months since we made that last drive from Eau Claire to home.

We were just in Eau Claire a few weeks ago on our way to New Jersey; we stayed there for the night right across from the motel we had spent over a week at six months ago.  There was no way I was going to stay in the same motel.  Not yet; maybe not ever.  But I would go to Randy's again, for their comfort pudding if nothing else.

Do those memories never fade?  I am blessed and grateful to have been with Dad in his final week of life. I wouldn't trade it, but I can still picture him laying there so still; machines in place doing their work, keeping him alive.  I can still picture the silence in the few minutes before he died; watching him take his final breaths and then all was still and silent as the color drained from his face and he woke up in glory land with Jesus.  Thankfully, I can still remember Dad the morning of the surgery as well, as we talked and he lay in his bed with his surgical cap on, not saying much as was Dad's nature.  We tried joking and talking to cover the seriousness of the occasion.  It's a treasured memory. I'm glad I have that one because the rest of them from then on can almost make me angry.  How can this happen?  How can a 96% success rate mean that Dad becomes one of the 4%?  He seemed healthy.  I was proud of my healthy parents and was looking forward to talking about my 90 year old parents and how healthy they were.  Was it pride?  I was anxious to see how much more energy Dad would have after this surgery? How much difference we would be able to see.  Well, I realize the difference is incomprehensible now; Dad has more energy and vigor than ever!!!

I know if Dad can see any of the goings on on earth, he would be proud.  Dad's death did bring us together as a family more than we were before.  Dad would be proud of how his sons take care of their mother; how they step up and do what needs doing, even when it isn't fun.  Dad would be proud of how Mom keeps going, doing things she hates doing like driving in the dark. I think he was cheering from the sidelines when Mom called to ask for help with her yard; maybe cheering because he didn't have to help this year :) :), but cheering nonetheless.

We as a family have been blessed with a good legacy.  We can be proud to say we are Amos' children.  Yes, the last six months have been brutal, but God has been there, church people, community, friends have been there.  Thank you thank you, but don't forget us now, especially mom.  We still have Thanksgiving, Dad's 80th birthday and Christmas coming up all lumped together in one exciting package.

Grieving is exhausting, but good memories make it endurable. And so we continue on with God.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Win or Lose I Love You by Lysa TerKeurst; Illustrated by Jana Christy

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This is a lovely little children's book for ages 3-8 or so would be my guess.  It's a nice hardcover book with very attractive pictures. The illustrator did a very good job.

The story line is about being graceful winners and losers and how it's not so important that you win as the attitude you have about the game itself.  In the story, the animals were competing in a Field Day to see who would be the leader of the forest.  In the end, the leader was not an animal that had won anything, but the animal who had worked hard to make everything okay for those who lost. I really liked this book. Lulu and Max are nice little people who go on adventures together.

At the back of the book, Lysa has ten Bible verses that go along with attitude and things like that. Verses like the Golden Rule and working diligently, etc.

I would definitely recommend this book to others and will look forward to seeing more books by Lysa.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review about it.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

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A memoir of loss and love.

This is the story of a mother's journey through grief after her 12 year old son went out to play on a rainy Thursday evening and never came back.  He got caught in a creek that was normally almost non-existent, but because of the extensive rainfall had become a raging torrent.

To be honest, I really have no idea what to say about this book.  I finished it with very mixed emotions.  The writing style is not really my style at all.  Everything is written present tense with some past tense mixed in for the things that happened before the accident. Otherwise, it is present tense whether it happened the day of the accident or 2 years later and so it was hard for me to tell exactly when some of the things happened.

One thing I have learned as I've gone through my own journey(s) of grief and walked with others through theirs is that everyone grieves differently. There is no right way to grieve.  I have learned that it is best to get down and messy with those who are grieving than to just be a stand-by observer.  I have done too much standing by when I should have been getting more involved. Losing someone precious to you helps to change that, I think and I hope.

So with the previous paragraph in mind, I can understand her process of grieving to be her style, her method of dealing with it: I don't have to agree with it, but neither do I want to say that that is not healthy grieving. It is impossible to judge that, in my opinion. I will be honest and say that her medium/psychic/intuitive friend who claimed to be in touch with Jack and to see/hear what he was saying made me nervous. I believe God can bring comfort through dreams and objects and images, etc. but the whole psychic things was a little off to me. It would be one of the things that would make me wary about loaning the book out to someone else to read.

That and the bits of poor language scattered throughout the book.  I have no use for the "f" word to ever be used and for sure not in a book when you can definitely edit it out and still get your point across. That being said, I am convicted about the extracurricular words I can say in a day as well.

While the story was nice and I think Anna gained a bigger perspective of who God is and how much bigger He is than she believed before the accident, it just didn't flow with me.  It's the type of book that I'm actually trying to decide if I even want to keep. I likely will because I have a very hard time getting rid of books, but we will see.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Glory Days by Max Lucado

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I really, really like Max Lucado's books.  They are filled with stories, lighter reading, but deep truths. I like how he will often emphasize points with multiple one liner sentences like: "When you lost your job...When your marriage went south. When your business went broke." etc.  His writings get me every time and this book was no exception.

The premise of the book is: are we living in glory days?  He uses Canaan is our metaphor for a victorious Christian life.  The Israelites got to Canaan and had entered their Promised Land, not heaven, but the land of victory.  I was only going to quote from about one chapter, but let me add a few things from the first chapter to let you get a feel for where the book is taking you.  It's basically a book study on the Book of Joshua.

"Our Promised Land isn't a physical territory; it is a spiritual reality. It's not real estate but a real state of the heart and mind.

" A Promised Land life in which 'we are more than conquerors through [Christ] who loved us'
"A life in which 'we do not lose heart'.
"A life in which '[Christ's] love has the first and last word in everything we do'."

"Canaan is a life defined by grace, refined by challenge, and aligned with a heavenly call. In God's plan, in God's land, we win more often than we lose, forgive as quickly as we are offended, and give as abundantly as we receive.  We served out of our giftedness and delight in our assignments. We may stumble, but we do not collapse. We may struggle, but we defy despair. We boast only in Christ, trust only in God, lean wholly on his power. We enjoy abundant fruit and increasing faith."

This is what I want, this is who I want to be.  This is how I want to live.

The chapter that spoke to me (actually they all had good stuff in them, but this one made me get out my pen and paper and write more down)  was called "The God-Drenched Mind". Really, do I need to say anything more?  Caleb relied fully on God to help him take his mountain, the mountain Moses had promised him way back after the 12 spies went to spy out the land. He had filled his mind with God; he says "but I wholly followed the Lord my God."  You can only say that if you are filled with God and His Word.  When something is drenched, you think of soaking wet, unable to soak in anything more.  How far I have to go.  Listen to some excerpts.

We all have problems. "But not all people see problems the same way. Some people are overcome by problems. Others overcome problems. Some people are left bitter. Others are left better. Some people face their challenges with fears. Others with faith.

"If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts. But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes.

"Troubles pounce on us like rain in a thunderstorm. Finding God amid the billows will demand every bit of discipline you can muster. But the result is worth the strain. Besides, do you really want to meditate on your  misery? Will reciting your problems turn you into a better person? No. But changing your mindset will.

"Maybe the reason your problems feels so great is because your cause is too small. Perhaps you need to set your mind on a holy cause."

I have been spending a lot of time obsessing over something lately.  I know I need to pray more and talk less, etc. etc.  But this hit home.  Do I want to marinate in my problems, in my life? Or do I want to get outside of myself and take on a cause that will keep my mind busy?  This is my goal.

Max also has a nice study guide in the back of his book written David Drury. I didn't read the whole  thing or use it as I was reading the book, but I think it would make a nice accompaniment and part of me wishes I had used it when I was reading it chapter by chapter.

I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone wanted to live in the Glory Days of victorious Christian living.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review about it.  All opinions expressed are my own.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Naps

I should or I could be napping right now.  My eyes feel weighted down by a load of bricks; my coffee is growing lukewarm and my fattening pick me up pumpkin pie bar is gone. (You should really make these, by the way. They are delicious. I'll come back to that.) And so I sit here on my computer, prying the eyelids open and wondering why I don't follow D's suggestion and just lay back and take a nap.

I'll explain a little: Amber's naptime is my time to get stuff done.  I work on transcribing. I hula hoop. I wash dishes (only if absolutely necessary). I work on my hobbies. I try to be productive. Obviously, also I can waste time on the internet. I was going to transcribe, but the people were talking too quiet, it was too hard for me too hear and therefore required too much work and effort.

Naps also make me feel lazy and can make me feel grumpy.  Though, I tried to take a nap on Saturday.  It resulted in a conversation with God in which I felt told to get over myself, be cheerful, be submissive and happy, and to pray more and talk less.  Can you understand why I might be hesitant to take another nap?  That was a real sound thrashing there and I haven't mastered that one yet.  But it's true; it often takes me awhile to wake up and regroup from a nap and it can often leave me bewildered and zoned.  It does help if you are woke up to a baby because then there is no gradual waking up.

Some sleeping quotes I like:



This last one describes Amber perfectly, except last night it felt like more every 15 minutes or half hour.  I'm not sure what was wrong.  She seems to be back to her cold which I had thought triumphantly she was over.  Probably should have double guessed that beings I'm fighting a nasty something or other that just involves my voice and my throat.

Any way, maybe I will just go take that nap after all.  Because really, toothpicks start hurting your eyes after awhile.

Take care everyone and nap away.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The One Year Home & Garden Devotions by Sandra Byrd

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Ah, I might have a weakness for one year devotional books like this or any kind of daily devotionals. I like to have them, but I can struggle to stay caught up and it really is hard to find a good one, one that speaks to me.  I also recognize that there is no way one human author can write a devotional that will speak to me every day of the year.  But still, I continue to collect and I think one of these days I should have a purging party of my various books.  I'm not sure how many I have, but quite a few. Okay, I went to go look and count.  I came up with 15 of them: not all of these are for a whole year, but they are devotionals of some sort. I think Dave might have had one or two of them too when we got married.  I have devotional for married couples, for wives, for moms, for women, and just unspecified for everyone.  And now, I have a Home and Garden one.  And I like it.

It's a nice, bigger soft cover book. I wasn't sure when I first opened it because most of my devotional books are the nice little hard cover books that scream Daily Devotional Book.  This doesn't scream that and I like it.  The pictures on the front are warm and inviting.

I read a few readings and they seemed to be applicable to me.  I like when daily devotionals start with a story; in the interest of honesty, I like when any inspirational book starts with a story. Most days seem to start with a story and so that is a plus. I think I will enjoy it.  Of course, being the personality that I am, I cannot stop my current devotional book (which came as a review book last year) to start this one. Oh no; this book will sit until January 1st and then I will get it out and use it for the year 2016. That is my plan right now anyway.

I am going to put one day's reading here:

September 29: Laborers, Craftsmen, and Artists

After a couple of bad experiences, my husband and I decided that from now on, the people we hire to work on our home need to come with good training, good reviews, and professional credentials.  It's not that beginners can't be good; they can. And when beginners work under the guidance of a mentor, their work can be both fresh and solid. It's just that we've had a few experiences with those wanting to make a few bucks on the side without having the proper training.

My favorite people to hire are those who are nerds about their professions. They know all the ins and outs of the plumbing pipes, why some paints set better than others, or how some plants will sprawl and some will not. You know them--the kind of people who talk on and on while your eyes glaze over. I have to admit to being the cause of glazed eyes sometimes too. I've been known to drone on about historical  or biblical accuracy or how not to drop a souffle, because I care about those things.

I love this quote from Louis Nizer: "He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his art is an artist."

You, too, are an artist. You were created to create, to love, to excel. You have gifts and interests and skills that intersect in a unique way. What are you passionate about? Where do you share that passion?

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  I Corinthians 10:31


I'm looking forward to starting 2016 with this book and seeing what I can learn from it and grow in and be challenged.

This book was a complimentary copy from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In the Interest of Being Honest

So, the thing with blogs and Facebook and all other forms of social media is you can hide.  You only post the pretty pictures, the nicely arranged living room, the meal that turned out as you meant it to, etc. etc.  You only tell the happy stories, the stories of triumph and you keep the dirty little secrets all carefully hoarded to yourself.

This hiding thing has the potential to cause a lot of jealousy and loss of self-worth and feelings of inadequacy to develop in the readers.  To be a good mom, do I have to let my child play in the oatmeal/flour/water mixture and get it all over their hands and face? Is that the only way they can explore textures and tastes?  Am I a bad mom if I give my baby a bottle while reading book? Am I hindering bonding time by not looking into their eyes as they drink their bottle?  Amber closes her eyes most of the time while she drinks her bottle so I figure she's not too interested in the bonding thing anyway.

So, what are the messy things that happen in your house?  The things you don't want to take a picture of and post because you don't want anyone else to see?

Okay, I didn't take a picture because I wasn't sure I wanted anyone to see, but has anyone else done this?  Amber is enthralled by the washing machine.  I have a front loader washer and dryer and she is intrigued by watching it go around.  Has anyone else sat your baby down on the floor next to the dirty laundry and let them watch the washer go around knowing full well that they would soon be grabbing the dirty clothes and prewashing them for you?  It allowed me to get the dishes washed and the fridge wiped out before the game got old and for those of you completely freaking out because you would never let your child do this?: they were her own clothes she played with and I just hoped the washcloth she sucked on was a washcloth that had been used on her face and not to give her a bath. She was happy: who am I to care?

She just took a 2 hour and 40 minute nap and I hear her upstairs in her crib.  She doesn't sound traumatized by the adventure of playing with dirty clothes.  So there is my "dirty secret" pun intended. What's yours?

A Moment of Weakness by Karen Kingsbury

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I was tickled to see this book available for reviewing.  The last book in this series, "Halfway to Forever" was the first Karen Kingsbury book I had ever bought.  I had read the first two books later, but now I have been able to get both books for myself through my blog review program.  That makes me happy.

This book did not disappoint.  The story of Jade and Tanner: they were playmates as children, spent a memorable summer together in which they failed to listen to the Holy Spirit's warnings and Jade winds up pregnant.  Tanner's mother determines to keep them apart and spins a big yarn about Tanner's infidelity, etc.  Jade immediately marries to provide her child with a two-parent stable home. She misses one important detail: making sure her husband is a Christian.  She is a strong devoted Christian who goes to bat for morality.  This irritates her husband who eventually divorces her and sues for full custody of the child.  The judge gives full custody to the father, who isn't actually the father and Jade goes to Tanner's law firm which is solely for the purpose of religious freedom.  They reconnect and eventually the whole twisted story comes out and Jade and Tanner win the fight for custody and eventually marry as well.

It's a case of divorce and remarriage so that is the key point in the story that I don't agree with.  The rest of the story line is scary and compelling all at the same time.  Is this what is going to happen? Will we lose our children because we are considered religious fanatics?  Or on the other end of the scope, do we just profess to be Christians, but our lives are not changed and so people do not see us as a threat to society and the new "Norms" that are being established? Is that a worse fate than fighting custody of your child because you really are trying to make a difference in the community and the world around you?  Some points to ponder.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my reading and writing a review about it.  All opinions expressed are my own.

To learn more about Karen Kingsbury and to see other books she has written, you can visit her here

Fire and Ice by Mary Connealy

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This completed the Wild at Heart Series, I think so anyway.  That is the main reason I went with this book was to have the complete series.  It's the story of the oldest Wilde sister, Bailey.  It's a fairly predictable story.  Bailey is pretending to be a man so she can homestead her claim in the West.  She homesteads over the mouth of a canyon that has excellent grazing fields because this gives her cattle a good spot to graze.  This causes fights with Gage Coulter who owns the canyon, but can't access it without going over Bailey's property.  He finds another way in, yada yada.  Anyway, they marry because he needs a wife and eventually find love together.

It's an interesting enough story, but there is zero depth. God is mentioned a few times, but almost like an after thought. "Wait, this is supposed to be a Christian book. I better mention God and prayer quick here at the end before I finish the book."  It almost would have been better in my mind to have left God out of it completely rather than put Him in almost like an afterthought. But the application for me here is this: how many times do I treat God like an afterthought in my own life?  Once I come to the end of my day or the end of my rope, than I say, "God, can you help me?" or "God, I'm glad you're around when I need You."

God needs to be front and center of my life and my focus as I go throughout my day.  I know this is a bunny trail, but it is what struck me when I wrote the line about God being an afterthought for the book.

I did enjoy the book--it doesn't rank in the top 10 list or anything, but it made very light, easy reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my reading and reviewing this book.  All opinions expressed are my own.

The Reckless Love of God by Alex Early

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Do I really claim the love of God for myself and do I allow it to pour out of my life into the people around me?  Alex says we are not silos to be filled with God's love and keep it for ourselves, but we are conduits to pass that love on to others who need to know God's love.

A few quotes that stuck out to me:

Jesus comes to us face-to-face with honest eyes, open hands, and a willing heart to touch the deepest human wounds with the healing balm of God's presence.

A covenant agreement says, "I am committed to your good no matter how many times you break my heart, and I will lovingly abide with you through my unmet expectations." That's God's heart toward his people.

When Jesus looks at you, both in your greatest strength and most profound weaknesses, his gut wrenches with love.

He finishes the book by saying we need to be careful how we talk about the church.  It is Jesus' bride and as such should be treated with respect.  If we think there are issues in the church now, imagine what it was like before it met Jesus.  It was a sobering thought to me, because it is way to easy to criticize churches and church leaders and to think about how we would do things differently. But these churches and the individuals in them, both leaders and lay people, make up the Church or the Bride of Jesus and as such need to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

I enjoyed this book and I want to more fully embrace God's love for me and allow that love to flow out of me to those around me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for reading and writing an honest review on the book.  All opinions expressed were my pwn.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Living Room Redo

So this is more of a boring post probably, but it will have pictures anyway.  I talked about the book "The Nesting Place" here on my blog a few weeks ago.  It has inspired me to think differently about decorating. It has inspired me to actually decorate even if we are living in a rental and it has challenged me to do it any way even if my style isn't the latest in fashion or my decor isn't perfect. If I like it, what else matters? I am coming to believe it is better to try and have a failure than be too scared to try.  For instance, in my kitchen is a piece of plywood off of my dad's scrap/burn pile.  I spray painted it off-white and painted, in brown, the words: "Coffee & Friends make the perfect blend".  D told me it was so homemade looking, it was almost cool.  I like it and so it hangs on my kitchen wall at least until I try round 2 and find I like that one better.

The same goes for the living room.  The loveseat and couch are kind of squished together and you can't lay back in the love seat anymore, but the rest of the living room is more open.  I like it because soon Amber will be getting around and getting her own toys and now her toy area is more open to the living room and more visible from all corners of the living room, so I will hopefully be better able to watch her while she plays.
 This has become my new favorite spot in the living room.  I stole the stand out of our bedroom (so now I have things just sitting on the dresser because there's no place to go with my stuff, but that's another project), put it beside the couch, threw a little tableclothy thing on because the stand is ugly and my lamp that I also have dreams of repainting and recovering.  I actually like the lamp, but I have this hankering for a white fabric lamp shade decorated with white flowers, so...we'll see.  The cool thing is the stand has a shelf and I can hide things down there, like my stack of books waiting to be read for reviewing.

Someday before I am ready for it, I'm sure, this corner will be minus the car seat and the bouncer and my little girl will be all grown up, but until then, I will enjoy the messiness of baby stuff.  Really, the bouncer should go away, she pretty much never sits in it anymore.  Actually, it is probably time to make it into a rocking chair.  


 And this is my very unfinished toy corner.  Yup, that's an ivy growing around the toy shelves and a lamp and another plant all very close to the toys.  The decision has yet to be made: to babyproof or work very hard on teaching what is not okay to touch and what is.  And yes, that diaper box makes a really cool toybox after I cut it down and shaved off the one end and taped it back together and yes, I do have material to cover it.  I said this area was a work in progress and it really, really is.  Those photo frames are going to be painted with pictures on the inside.  There are buckets of blocks and wooden animals to be painted to join the toy section here.  All of this has made me realize we should have bought the eight cube instead of the six cube.

That door to the right leads into the office which is very neat and tidy at the moment.  It looks so much better now.  Sometime, I might post how I put some old wooden bushel crates to use in their to help organize and hold stuff.  

The living room is not finished. I have dreams of some brightly colored pillows for on the couch and I really need to do some thing behind the couch on the big wall. I know what I want to do, but it is going to take time and patience and some practice painting letters on boards because I don't want this one to look quite so homemadeish, but winter is coming and I am excited about having more time to do projects maybe.  

But now I am going to go sew on a quilt. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty by Angela Hunt

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Oh boy, I like to have positive reviews for the book I read, but I'm just not sure I can on this book.  I'm not a big fan of Biblical fiction for starters, so this book immediately had my bias against it when I started it, but I have read some really good Biblical fiction and thought I would try it.

I would say Angela has a very good writing style and definitely stuck with the facts that we know for sure in the Bible.  It was just some of the fictional liberties she took didn't strike me.  The story is written from Bathsheba and Nathan the Prophet's perspective flipping back and forth between chapters.  To me, while Nathan the prophet was very instrumental in Bathsheba's life as far as correcting David for his adultery, I didn't think writing half the book from his perspective made a lot of sense.  I also didn't care for the idea that Nathan was in love with Bathsheba and had made plans to marry her until God told him otherwise.  I definitely think this could have been the case, but it just seemed weird to me. Angela also had Bathsheba as the granddaughter of Ahithophel and I couldn't find that that was true anywhere.

I think I do appreciate the way that she played Bathsheba as the victim of a royal rape and not as inciting his passion by purposely bathing outside where everyone can see.  From the research Angel had done, it was common for the women to do their ceremonial bath outside because they would bathe in the animals water trough and that generally wasn't located inside the home.

I don't think this book is unscriptural in any way, it just didn't resonate with me and I doubt that I will pick up anymore of Angela's Biblical fiction.

This book was a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Carrying on a Legacy

My next post was going to be about my living room rearranging project or my office clean up, but it's not.  I just read this by Jennie Zimmerman and it set my mind to whirling.  Jennie, I'm not trying to copy you and I'm not sure what I'm about to say even goes with your letter, but my mind rambled on in this direction.

It hurts so bad to lose someone we leave.  I'm getting a real collection of friends and family waiting for me up in heaven and I'm looking forward to the day I can go and see them.  The whole death thing is still so very scary and all that, but I think once I'm passed that and can see Jesus and all my loved ones, it sounds pretty awesome.  But in the meantime, what happens?

I was going through my collection of cards that I've gotten since we moved up here, so about 15 months worth.  When you have a baby and lose a father and people remember you daughter's first birthday, you get a real accumulation of cards in a year's time.  I kept finding cards from Cheryl--I think I might have 4 or 5 cards from her in the last year.  Talk about extremely special!!!!  I can smile when I look at them because Cheryl always spelled my name wrong, but that's just one more special thing about the cards now!!!  But the real thing that got me to thinking this morning was Cheryl's caring.  She cared enough to send me a card.  She gave Dave and I an anniversary gift 6 weeks after Nicole died--just a thinking of you.  She sent me a gift at Nicole's first birthday and she gave some awesome baby gifts. And it struck me-- this is something I can do and should be doing.  I can carry on this legacy: I can care for others in the way Cheryl cared for me.  No, I can't do it exactly like Cheryl--I don't want to.  I'm not Cheryl and to try would only cause pain for me and for those I am trying to care about.  So, I want to be that person that thinks about others and not only thinks puts actions to her thoughts.

We talk about my dad and how he always just tackled the job that needed done.  He didn't mopse around about the bad job, the crawling around in that dirty, yucky crawlspace or that complain about the awful plumbing job he had to do.  The job was there, he was hired for it and so he bit the bullet and did it.  I can learn from that too; instead of procrastinating on the yucky jobs, I need to just do it and do it right away.  

There are so many things to be learned from the people around me--I think I should sit up and take notice and learn now before they are gone.  It's way less painful this way.

So here's my challenge to myself--send some cards this week.  It's been on my to-do list for the last month. This week is the week it will get done and while I'm at it, add someone new to my list and send them a card as well.  It doesn't have to be a fancy card, it can just be a little note card or even just a note on a piece of paper.  I have piles of paper and note cards and I have a cricut sitting at my house that I'm sure would love to be used to make a card.  So get up and get to it and brighten someone's day this week.  I'll try and report back next week with my success at carrying it out.

Deadlock by Diann Mills

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I read my first Diann Mills book last summer during the Summer Tyndale Reading Program.  It was a great book, so I was excited to be able to review another book by her and I was not disappointed.  Both books were from her FBI series.

Deadlock is the fictitious story of two FBI partners working to find a serial killer called Scorpion. The partners couldn't have been more different: different gender, different ways of looking at life. One was a rules person; you followed protocol, you used logic while the other one was a psychology major and would run on hunches or gut instinct. Both had attempts made on their life in the course of the book. And of course, they fell in love with each other.

I realize the book is fiction, but I do enjoy reading this style of book: the intrigue, the many resources available to be able to hunt down murderers and other criminals.  I also appreciate the Christian perspective which keeps the book from becoming graphic because I am not okay with graphic details in stories like this.

I know the Christian perspective would be argued by some: can someone who is willing to shoot another human being be a Christian?  I am glad I am not the judge of that.  I am also glad we have professing Christians and good, honest people in positions like this to ensure that justice is meted out, that wrongs are righted and bribes are not taken or heads turned to ignore the evils.

Diann did a good job of showing the difference God can make in a person's life.  Thatcher Graves, the main male character of the book, seemed to have a reputation for being a womanizer, a bad-boy reputation, if you will.  Before the start of the book, he had become a Christian and this was making a big difference in his life.  He was learning to let go of those things in his life and to trust God to lead and direct him.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and if given the opportunity would review another Diann Mills book.

This book was given me by Tyndale House for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it.  All opinions expressed are my own.


Friday, September 18, 2015

An Unlikely Couple

So, I don't know how many people have watched Shrek, but that song phrase: "I'm a Believer" has been running through my head since last evening.  Why?  Because of the unlikely marriage of two things.

For awhile, I have been disturbed by the these ugly marks on our shower surround and on the tub as well.  You know, that soap scum or water marks or whatever it is.  Maybe you don't know because you religiously clean your shower regularly and that takes care of it, but anyway if that's the case, I'm not sure we can be friends.  So this dirtiness, stain, etc. was really bothering me.  I had tried to get it off, but nothing seemed to work.  Websites would talk about the wonders of Dawn and vinegar and I would try it and it would help some, but nothing seemed to really take it all off.

Then I read something about warming the vinegar and adding an equal amount of Dawn. So, last night, I was desperate.  I heated a cup of vinegar, dumped in some Blue Up & Up dish soap (comparable to Dawn and handier than my Dawn), put it all in a spray bottle and went to work spraying the shower.  I sprayed it all down and left it set while I went to do other things like clean the rest of the bathroom.

Oh my!!! I came back and started to wipe down the surround and it was a breeze.  The surround actually shone!!  I declare it sparkled and said thank you all except for the places I missed spraying.  But GONE was the yucky off-colored soap scummy yuck.  It was now smooth surround again.  I looked in the shower again this morning and yup, it's still shiny.

I do not know how Dawn and vinegar work together.  To me, vinegar as a cleaning agent is just weird.  I don't get it at all, but hey it works.

Now, I suppose this analogy could be directed into people marriage as well, but it has potential to have a really good point and a really bad point.  You could say by eliminating the distractions of the third party, the water, the cleaning agents were really able to make their point and get the job done.  Distractions in a marriage can have the same lackluster influence.  Or you could argue the point that the water was the glue that held it all together which would equate to God being in the center of our marriage and then there is no point to make anymore. So here is where all analogies break down and I will stop trying to spiritualize my shower cleaning experience.

I should have before and after pictures, but I'm really bad at taking pictures to begin with and for sure of things that I don't know if there will be an after to capture.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Disturbing or Comforting Passage of Scripture?

The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die will rest in peace. Isaiah 57: 1-2 (NLT)

I've been making my way very slowly through Isaiah since Dad died.  Isaiah was Dad's favorite book of the Bible and it seemed a fitting tribute to read it in memory of him.  These two verses stuck out to me this morning when I read them and I thought how lucky Dad is; how lucky Cheryl is and how lucky Nicole and Bentley are.  Yes, perhaps many would say, Dad lived out his time, but he still died long before we expected him to. No one will deny that Cheryl, Bentley and Nicole went to heaven too soon and yet look at what they were spared: "the evil to come."

This begs the question: what is wrong with us?  Are we not righteous enough? Why are we still here? Resting in peace sounds like a beautiful thing and yet for those of us who can't see the other side, it is also scary. The unknowns are often scary.

So how do we take this passage? Do we use it as a comfort for those who left us for heaven? Or is it a warning to us on earth that we need to "try harder"? What are your thoughts?

Waiting for Morning by Karen Kingsbury

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Here's the deal: I'm a Karen Kingsbury fan.  I don't read a lot of her books because I have this weird phobia that if I read them all, then I'm all caught up and then what?  Tragic, isn't it? Combine that with the fact that I can barely keep up with the books I read for my reviews and I don't get a lot of Karen Kingsbury read.  That being said,  this is the first in a series and I already have the last in a series and I'm tempted to go borrow the middle one in the series from the library, so I can get the whole story all at once.

This is not a new book by Karen. In fact, it was first published in 1999, so I'm not sure why it was an option for reviewing, but I'm not complaining.  I will say that I didn't care for the style of book: it was one of the short and fat kinds rather than the taller thinner version.  But, I suppose this time the book fit the reader, at least this one!

The story is fascinating: a drunk driver runs a stoplight and slams into a Ford Explorer killing the dad and 15 year old daughter, injuring the 13 year old and sending the mom who was at home at the time of the accident into a hating tailspin.  For the next year, the mom, Hannah, is consumed with nothing but getting the drunk driver jailed.  She was a professing Christian until the accident at which time she decided that God was not there or He would have protected her family.  Not a good assumption to make; I haven't had my family ripped from me in that sense, but I've lost too many people I loved in the last 18 months and God is Someone you need desperately during those times, even if you don't really communicate with Him. The comfort of knowing your loved ones are with Him is healing in itself.

Okay, back off my rabbit trail, but the book's focus is forgiveness.  Hannah didn't seek God again until her daughter lay on a bed of suicide and the doctors were unsure if she would ever wake up again from her coma.  Forgiveness for the drunk driver didn't come until a message was delivered to her from someone who had sat with her husband during his dying moments.  Her husband knew her tendency to hold grudges and refuse to forgive and his final words for her were: "please forgive...forgive."

Another focus in the book was Lamentations.  Lamentations is a sad, depressing read for the most part. Listen:

The Lord determined to tear down the wall around the Daughter of Zion. 2:8a
Together they wasted away. 2:8b
My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed. 2:11a
He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. 3:7

But then listen to this:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 3:22-23

This was a great book. Yes, there was a tiny bit of romance, I guess, but hardly.  You knew where it was headed anyway.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Plans I Have for You by Amy Parker and Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

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Written by Amy Parker
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is a lovely children's book for ages 4-8. It is based on the verse from Jeremiah that says: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It is written in rhyme and talks about how God has a plan for your life and He made you just right for the job he has for you. The second to the last page says this:

The whole world will be better,
thanks to little ol' you...
all because you did
what I created YOU to do.

That struck me: if we just do our part, we can make the world a better place even if it is just in our own little corner, in our house just taking care of our six month old baby. If nothing else, we make the world a better place, by contentedly and happily doing what God has called us to instead of whining and fussing.

The illustrations are really good--bright, bright colors and pictures depicting various occupations with a theme that coincides very nicely with the story line.

I love this book and have already read it to Amber twice.  She seemed to enjoy the pictures.

This book was given my by Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed were my own.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

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I promise you guys, this is not a book review, but it should be.  This has got to be one of the most inspiring decorating books I have ever read.  Granted, it may well be the only decorating book I have devoured from cover to cover and tried to drink it all in. I wonder if the library would miss it if I never returned it.  If I never went back to the library for anything ever again, would I have to pay the over due fine?

Let me start by giving you a few lines from  "The Imperfectionist Manifesto"

WE BELIEVE that home should be the safest place on earth.
WE BELIEVE that home has a greater purpose than looking pretty
WE BELIEVE in mismatched sheets and unmade beds.
WE BELIEVE that toys and homework and smelly shoes and spilled milk are signs of life
WE BELIEVE in using the good stuff now, not waiting for some future better purpose
WE BELIEVE that contentment results not from stuff but from gratitude
WE BELIEVE that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

These were a few that I need to remember.

One thing she mentions in the book that I also need to remember: don't apologize for your house.

At the beginning of every chapter, she has a quote that is inspiring in and of itself. This book has just made me look at my house so very differently.  Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, my head is now swimming with a gazillion ideas on what I can do to make my house even more me.

This woman writes this book while living in a rental house. She's moved a total of 13 times at the time of her writing.  She knows what she's talking about.  You can't push off decorating to your next house, your dream house, etc.  That may never come.

Don't apologize for your house is a big no-no.  It shows discontent and that you don't think your house is up to par.  Every house has good points, emphasize those and work with the rest. She's been very creative: duct tape on her bedroom wall to give it a diamond design, contact paper on the fireplace to improve the ugliness of the eye sore. Go big: get the next bigger rug than you think you might need, get big chandeliers.

Can you tell I love the book?  It has inspired me-- we are only living in a rental as well, but let's make it home.  So my living room has become my first project.  I rearranged it yesterday and mostly I love it.  The couch and love seat are a little crowded together but between them is one of my favorite things about the new look.  I took after pictures, because I forgot before pictures that I will try to post in the next couple of days.  It's not done-- I want to redo the lamps, put the saying on the wall finally, the toy area needs much much help yet, so it's all a work in progress, but I'm very excited.  In the mean time, I do have to tackle cleaning up the office a bit.  There will be no before pictures there because quite frankly it has become a dreadful catch all and is embarrassing; but maybe it will be good for my pride to show my mess as well.  I'll contemplate.  Remembering to take pictures is not in the forethought of my mind when I go to tackle a project.

So, if you're looking for inspiration, go the library and check out your own copy, or borrowed copy, of The Nesting Place and be inspired.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I need some suggestions

Good morning,

This is going to be very brief, but I have been toying with the idea that it is time to make this blog more than just book reviews.  Oh no, I'm not giving up book reviews; I like free books too well and am loving stocking my library with brand new books and not just thrift store specials that are 5+ years old already.  But adding to this blog, meaning that I would post one to two non-book posts a week.  But I need ideas of what to write about, not that I'll listen or anything, but it might spark an interest or something.

Here are a few things I've thought of:

Amber (for her friends and family who follow my blog)
Home decor projects or sewing projects (I'm reading an amazing book right now and am full of ideas for how to change up my house and make it a real home that reflects me)
Menu options (a thought has been there to get into menu planning for people--any takers?)
Deep theological discussions and thoughts
Random things that strike me funny or cause me to ponder life which could come under the previous idea
And so on and so forth.

I've also thought about trying to expand this blog more and get into some advertising with it, but I just don't know.  I first want to see if I can pull off any kind of a scheduled update first. So there you have it, my non-book review update that wasn't really an update, but rather an update about the possibility of future updates.  This is getting confusing.  I better get to my book work.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Potter's Lady by Judith Miller

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This is a story of a family that took over a potter in the 1800's after the older brother had basically been kicked out of the brick making factory where he had been promised to be made part owner. So they bought this pottery at his sister's insistence.  Then their bid proposal were stolen by the nanny and passed on to another potter who would then underbid them and take the contracts.  And so on and so forth.

For some reason, this book just didn't hit the right nerve with me.  Something felt off about it; I did enjoy the suspense at the end of seeing if they would win this big contest and how they would figure out about the cheating going on, but something felt missing.  I think it didn't seem 1800ish enough; like the mother-in-law ran the house and had the money and there was no mention of what had happened to the father-in-law.

I did think Judith did a very good job of bringing God into the story and talking about prayer changing things and peace happening as a result of trusting in God and asking for His help.  I could learn from that a lot.

I received this book from Bethany House in order to read and write a review on it.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

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I'm not really sure what to say about this book, but "Wow"!! I started to read it over the weekend and then D's oldest niece started it as well and read it and she couldn't put it down.  I didn't want to put it down either, but duty did call and so I just now finished the book.

The story is written in two different time frames: one by the daughter Hannah seeking to understand her mother Liselotte and the other by Liselotte herself telling what she went through in Germany during WWII. She was the daughter of a prominent officer who would offer the Jews false papers, etc. in exchange for their wealth and then he would turn them in and they would be captured and taken to concentration camps or wherever, but not offered freedom. Liselotte was involved in trying to help the Jews in hiding and apparently her father was following her and turning these same people in.  I don't want to say more because it gives away too much of the story.

It's a story of redemption and forgiveness.  Nothing undoes the crimes and atrocities committed during World War II; nothing can bring back those killed in horrible ways. But forgiveness must still happen, but as humans we are not able to forgive in our own strength-- God must forgive for us.

Listen to a few portions from the book. This first one was taken when Liselotte was concerned that her daughter may be the product of a rape and not from the love of her and her husband and this is the "Sister's" response: "My dear," she laughed softly. "We're all trash. It's only His love and grace, His forgiveness, that makes us clean. And it's only by forgiving that we can be free of that poison that would steal our life. Don't hate, my child. That's a prison worse than Ravensbruck."

So true, but so hard to do sometimes. Cathy also weaves in a bit of Corrie ten Boom's story into the plot lines. In the end Hannah meets Corrie and Corries tells her story of needing to forgive the SS officer who had been one of her guards.  Forgiveness was able to bring peace.  I need to remember that in my own life. My inability to forgive will hurt myself more than it will hurt the one I cannot forgive.

The book is excellently written. I will not hesitate next time to get a book by Cathy Gohlke.

This book was given me by Tyndale House for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wild About Creation Sticker & Activity Book



Designed by Jody Langley

This is a fun children's activity book talking about Creation and Adam and Eve's fall into sin.  It is geared for younger children--I would guess 3-6 or so maybe.  It would depend on each child to a certain extent.  My 6 month old thought eating it would be an appropriate response to the book, so in that regard she loved it.  I salvaged it from her hands and hope to have her enjoy it even more when she is a couple of years old. I thought the book accurately portrayed the story of Creation while keeping it interesting. There are lots of places to use the stickers which is a hit in my book, plus coloring, counting, dot to dot, a maze, find a word, etc.

The book on first glance is very nice.  Glossy front and back along with glossy smooth pages with full colorful illustrations.  There is enough variety to keep a child's attention or so I would think. I would definitely recommend this book to others. The retail price is only $3.99 and only $2.09 on Amazon, so it would make a great add-on gift or just a good book to have on hand for when you need a quick gift for a little child.  It is gender-neutral as well.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers for the purpose of reading and writing a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Called for Life

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By Kent and Amber Brantly with David Thomas


This, this is a good book!!  Dr. Kent and Amber have felt a life long call to be missionaries and Kent determined to do it through medicine.  They moved to Liberia and were caught in the nastiest outbreak of Ebola ever.  Even through extreme safety precautions, Kent still managed to catch Ebola and became very sick.  This book is the story of that journey from health to sickness to near death to restored health.  It was a very fascinating and interesting book, well-written and captivating.  I can't imagine being Amber and being thousands of miles away from my husband while he is fighting a life-threatening illness.

One section of the book stood out to me when I read it: this thing of saying yes to people.  We cannot say yes to everybody all the time.  We are still finite beings, but if everyone would say yes to one person, then everybody would be taken care.  He stresses how you cannot use the doctor/patient relationship to force religion down the patient's throat, but because of that relationship, opportunities may arise to share why you are showing compassion and care beyond the normal standard.  For me, I think it means being in tune with God and listening to the Holy Spirit and letting Him guide you to the right people to say yes too.  That is my own words and thoughts, but I think Kent would agree with that.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a good well-written true story.  While you know the outcome because Kent is one of the authors, it is still a gripping story.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books for the purpose of reading and writing a review

Friday, August 14, 2015

Refining Fire by Tracie Peterson

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This was the second book in a series called "Brides of Seattle", so because I like to read things in order, I quick got the first book from the library and read it.  Actually the quick thing isn't quite true.  I checked our library and saw that they actually had it, so I waited another week or so and then went check it out and ta da--- it was out on load already, so then I had to request the book from a different library.  Long story short, the moral of the whole thing is: don't procrastinate and then assume that nobody in the city in which I live and surrounding villages is going to want that book.

Okay back to the book.  The underlying story line is a Bridal school where girls can come to be trained in the ways of housekeeping and then prospective suitors pay to go to receptions put on by these girls and learn to know them and hopefully find a wife.  Odd, I know, but this was back in the 1800's as well.  Abrianna, who is the main character and yet not, is a young, impetuous, no thought for herself kind of girl who reminds me a bit of Anne of Green Gables with the way she talks and talk constantly. Militine, who is supposed to be the main character of the book came to the Bridal School to hide; she has no intention of getting married, but, of course, falls in love anyway.

It was a well-written book that did hold my attention especially during the part about the Seattle fire and the two heroines and their cronies rescuing ten Chinese girls who were going to be sold into prostitution.  I wanted to be frustrated with Abrianna's naivety and trust in the man who obviously did this and the girls were given back into his care because he was going to send them back "home".  I am definitely hoping there is another book coming because the story ends at a poor spot where a lot of things are awaiting conclusion.

I was impressed with Abrianna's trust in God: she was completely committed to helping Seattle's poor and was completely mindless of social standing or etiquette or anything else.  If it meant being courted by a scoundrel because he promised her a big building so the homeless could have shelter, then she would do it.  She was completely committed to God and ready to do whatever it took to serve Him.  I could learn from that commitment.

I did enjoy the book and if I see the third book come out, I will likely read it so I can see how the story ends.

This book was given me by Bethany House for the purpose of reading and writing a review on it. All opinions expressed were my own.

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy by Dorcas Smucker (It's Giveaway time)

Ah yes, this was just what the doctor ordered. I've wanted to review Dorcas' last book or two and was always too chicken to ask, b...