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


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. 

Big Trucks Getting the Job Done Together, Illustrated by Sergio De Giorgi

A dozer, a digger, a crane and a dump truck work together to get the job done. Written in rhyme, it reminds me a bit of the book "L...