Friday, July 21, 2017

My Great Big God by Andy Holmes

Product Details

Illustrated by Marta Alvarez

20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith

This is a beautiful hardcover board book that tells 20 Bible stories in rhyme. Each story has 2 four line stanzas and is preceded by "My great big God...." And then it launches into the story about something God did, from Creation to Samson to Esther to Jesus' Birth, the Feeding the 5,000, His death and so on. Each story ends with a clinching sentence such as "My great big God keeps me safe!" "My great big God guides me!" "My great big God does amazing things."  I think that is my favorite part of the book, because to me, it just reinforces the great God we serve and helps to drive home the point of the story. You can't tell much of a story in 8 rhyming lines.

The pictures are brightly colored and nicely done, through they are more cartoonish rather than realistic. I would say that book is about a 5 by 7 for size. Age wise, I would put it at about a year up to maybe five years old? Board books, I tend to classify as much younger books and books children would grow out of sooner, but I think this book might even be fun for a young reader to read through. I don't know, I don't have a young reader to test my theory out on.

I was just very impressed by this book when I first looked at and am now trying to decide if it's going to gain immediate access to our bookshelves or be shelved away for a gift.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ambivalent Love of a Mother

Ambivalence[1] is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object.[2][3][4][5] Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.[6] The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness.

Thank you Wikipedia for your definition.

I'm not even sure how to broach this topic, but it's been rattling around in my head the last couple days and I need to post something other than book reviews on this blog. I don't even know if I can adequately explain what I am even feeling, but here goes.

Almost two and a half years ago, this little bundle made me a "real" mom. I now had a live baby to hold in my arms and play doll with. It was exciting after the hard times of the previous year and a half. And a rather difficult nine months on top of that. But sometimes, I wondered: do I really love her? Where is this pitter-patter, jump for joy, hold my baby close feeling that I thought I should have? Where is this I don't want to lay you down, I want to hold you forever feeling? Would I even miss her if she died? These thoughts would go through my head and I would wonder, do I really love my little girl? And what is wrong with me if I am struggling with this? Why am I not just giddy at the idea of being a mom to her?


The first year passed and it was good. I loved her, I told myself I did. I took care of her, but I was tired. She took a lot of care. And she was a good baby, but it felt like she needed a lot of entertaining. But she had a good daddy, she really did. Her mom sometimes felt like she single momming it, but that was more my fault and my attitude than anything her dad did. I still struggled with wondering how much I loved her. 


And now another year has gone by, another baby has gone to be with Jesus and my heart is full. She is two on this picture and she is sick, but she is my joy. That time between one and two has solidified the fact that I do really love this little girl. She plays by herself, she plays at my feet, and she loves to "help" me. I don't really feel ambivalent in my love anymore. I still stare at her sometimes and get tears in my eyes over the way God has blessed us with this amazing, healthy, little girl. I stare at her and listen to her talk and wonder what in the world we are doing as parents and how we think we even have the right to try and parent. I'm still growing up myself. She still has the best dad ever and she has him solidly wrapped around her finger. She talks constantly, gathers big piles of books to look at and has been a little obsessed about playing with "baby brother's toys". 

But now baby two is on the verge of making his debut: is it going to be the same thing? Am I going to look at him and wonder if I really love him? Am I going to have the pitter patter in my heart, the joy in the middle of the night, the "I can't live without him" feelings? I don't know. I somewhat dread the first year because I know how it was with Amber. But I'm better now, right? I know how quickly that stage passes and what fun it can be, right? I'll grin and bear it, right? I'll hold the memories tight in my heart, right? Someone tell me!! I need to know it's okay. Or isn't it? 

I feel a little vulnerable with this post. I look at moms around me, my friends, and they make mothering seem so natural, so a part of them. And somedays I still want to just walk away and go to town all.by.myself and sit down at a coffee shop or even McDonald's without a care in the world. And yet, I remind myself, that day will come soon enough. In four years, she will be off to school and a whole new life will open up for her. And then I get excited and a little bit sad all at once. So is the ambivalence a part of being a mom? Is it the same thing we discuss about marriage, that you don't always have those feelings, but you choose to love and do the right thing in spite of it all?

And my answer to that is, yes, I think so. I think if my little girl had been taken from me in that first year, she would have left a hole so big, it could never have been filled in completely. I think I would have cried buckets of tears and probably fought off some guilt, (I've already had to apologize so many times to her for an improper attitude or improper discipline, etc) So yes, in the midst of feeling ambivalent, I think I still made the choice to love, at least most days.

And that is what I want to continue to do, for my children, for my husband, for those around me. Ambivalence is a feeling and it will come, but the choice remains mine. And I want to choose rightly. 


And now just some fun stuff: that was a well-spent 75 cents. She calls it her "puzzle" and I'm sure if you were to ask what color it was, she would say green. Instead of rose-colored glasses, she lives her life through green-colored glasses.

She is wondering these days if she should "be excited" or not. And yesterday, the prospect of a four-wheeler ride to watch Daddy get his paperwork was met with much hopping up and down and running and jumping.

I am amazed how much she catches. She can pretty much pray "God is Great", a lot of "Our Father, which art in Heaven", and sing snippets of songs like Jesus Loves Me and Behold, Behold. She also has a book or two that she can recite pretty much from memory. I stand agape and in awe and in fear as well. What am I teaching her that I don't even know I'm teaching her?

It melts my heart, when after getting disciplined, she will look at me and say, "I'm sorry, Mama."

And yes, the teacher in me has bought her a preschool program that I am excited about starting with her. It will wait until life has become a bit more normal for us, after the baby and maybe even after our trip to New Jersey. It's more for the mom at this point in my endeavor to be intentional and in order to make sure I spend time with her after the baby. She is used to my full attention now and I want to make sure she doesn't feel left out after "little brother" comes. And because her mom loves stuff like that. 

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck

Product Details

I have read a few of Rachel's book and some of them have been pretty good, some of them have been terrific. If you get a chance to read her Wedding series or whatever it's called: The Wedding Dress, The Wedding Chapel, and The Wedding Shop, do. If you like fiction anyway.

The Writing Desk comes in just under the above mentioned books, which I should mention, I don't think I've ever read The Wedding Shop, so I can't testify to its goodness. But Rachel is able to shift between time periods and between main characters, at least two from each time period in an effortless manner that makes it easy to follow along. Sometimes, when authors do this,  I find myself chafing at the bit as I read the one section, just wanting to get back to the other time period and the other main characters. But Rachel keeps you interested in both throughout the book. You know the two are going to tie together somehow and you're wondering how it will work.

This book it's a writing desk. For the one, it has produced many books where she wrote as the ghost writer for a famous author. For the other, it was supposed to be her muse, her "people", her inspiration, but it didn't work that way.

This is a book about mending relationships. Tenley, the modern day character, learns to love Blanche, her mother, and to, I think, even forgive her for abandoning her at a young age. Birdie, the Gilded Age character, is manipulated and controlled by her mother, but is actually given a chance at love at the altar. Her and her mother do come to a truce of sorts too. Both find comfort in the same Bible, in learning to know who Jesus is. I'm not sure where Birdie comes out on, but Tenley, I believe does come to believe in God and to trust Him for her salvation as well as for guidance on what to do.

Of course, there's the heroes who sweep in to rescue the ladies, but that's for you to read about.

I did enjoy this book. I was reminded again that I don't need to be afraid or dismayed because God is with me and I can trust Him to guide me and lead me. And I'm so grateful for that fact.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Farewell, Four Waters by Kate McCord

Product Details

One aid worker's sudden escape from Afghanistan

This book, this book, if you have time for only one book, make it this one. Yes, it's called a novel, but it's based on true events though they have been mixed and match for security reasons. I just am not sure you could make up these kinds of stories. It's the kind of book I dreamt about at night. And last night, I confess, I had skimmed ahead just a bit and I think I thought about the book every time I woke up last night. So it wasn't a wise move on my part.

Kate McCord has written three books about her time in Afghanistan. Kate is not her real name either, again for security reasons. Her first book is called "In the Land of Blue Burqas" and it's on my to-read list. Then this one is next and her last book is called "Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places" and is next on my list to request to review.

Now on to a look at the book. It only covers a two week span, starting with an NGO worker being killed in Kabul to Marie's (the main character) sudden flight from Shehktan and eventually out of the country. You don't think about the disorientation and mind chaos that can result from needing to flee, but this book very vividly portrays that.

It also portrays Marie's method of working through it, of learning to see God in her situation with her heart and not just her brain and mind. It shows her learning and believing that God is there, He does see and He does care.

It shows the risk NGO workers could live with on a daily basis, unable to trust anyone, constantly on the alert and yet willing to give themselves for the cause of helping the Afghan people. Marie's latest project had been starting a literacy program for the woman to teach them to learn to read for themselves.

I don't want to give a lot of details about the story, because I really think you need to go read the book. It's just that good.

This book was given to me by Moody Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund

Product Details

This is the first in a series called the Orphan Train Series by Jody Hedlund. I think this is also one of the first books I've ever read by Jody. It was definitely rather predictable with the normal fairy tale ending. That was a little disappointing, but it's what we expect in historical fiction.

What I did like about the book was, at the end, Jody mentioned the Orphan Trains, led by the Children's Aid Society, which were a real thing in the 1800's. In 1857, the era this book was written, there was a financial crisis and economic panic with women laborers being at a disadvantage and having a hard time finding working in New York. The Children's Aid Society, in addition to sending orphans out West, set up special placement offices to send women out West to find jobs as seamstresses, cooks, launderers etc. They were placed in the Midwest, most often central Illinois in the hopes of a better life.

This is the premise that this book is based on. Elise, the main character in this book, is the oldest of three girls and they have taken in two orphan children as well. When the financial crisis hit, she was without a job and so took the train West to the town of Quincy in the hopes of securing a little financial freedom and being able to send for her sisters and the two orphans. I like Elise. She is outspoken and witty and she challenges the status quo. Of course, she also falls in love with the founder of the town, who is the son of one of the richest men in New York City. Hence the fairy tale.

I don't want to give away any more clues to the story. I did like that the story is based on actual fact, though obviously Elise's story was an extreme case. But it is definitely in the light-hearted chick flick reading category for me.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

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I think this is the first book I have ever ready by Courtney and I hope it isn't the last. I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it had the predictable romance in it, but there was something else in here, something that I think a lot of use could relate to if we are willing.

Look at the title for instance. On first glance, if you think about why that title, you would assume, because the book is Christian fiction, that it would mean looking up to Jesus. Well, in all actuality, the main characters in this book don't seem to have a real close, walking relationship with Jesus. There isn't a lot of prayer mentioned, which could be the biggest downfall of the book to me. But still the main character, Lane, by the end has uttered at least one desperate prayer and I have to believe God is working in her life in some way. Again, I think we can all relate, at least I can, to the desperate prayers being shot heavenward as one sentence snippets. But when I read the author's note at the end of the book, I don't think that was the purpose of the title at all. She talked about being in New York and watching people and realizing they were all glued to their phones looking down. And she just wanted to tell them to look up, to look around, to take in the sights.

And that is how Lane was too, for most of the book. Her phone was her lifeline, her job, her security, her identity. She was wrapped up in it and wasn't looking up and around. How many of us can relate?

Lane has some real identity issues. Work was her security, hence the solid connection to her phone. She had grown up feeling like a misfit, feeling like very few people really cared for her, including her parents. She was overweight and people called her Pudge. She was serious, not the fun loving thrill-seeking girl. Her brother would come home early on Friday nights just to hang out with her because he knew she would be home alone. So she left her small town and didn't look back until an accident brought her home and face to face with all these people. I'm not going to tell you how it ends, you can probably already figure it out.

But the bigger issue is where do we put our identity? Do we shut people out because we have been hurt and betrayed and are unwilling to take a risk on people again? Do we put too much emphasis on our productive identity and not on our social relationships? Is it time to untether from our phones and look up and around and see the blessings all around us?

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more by Courtney Walsh. I received this book from Tyndale and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Run with Me by Sanya Richards-Ross

Product Details

The Story of a U.S. Olympic Champion

I had never heard of Sanya Richards-Ross before I read this book, which I suppose is not that surprising as I don't keep up with athletes and their performances all that much. I will have to say that, after reading this book, I am very impressed with the dedication and hard work required of someone who makes running their career.

Let's be honest here, I hate running. I am out of breath before I've run 10 meters, much less 400 meters, so the story of Sanya and her dedication to running since she was 9 is impressive to me.

This book was written with the 8 to 12 year old audience in mind. It's been awhile since I've been that age and I don't have any children that age to use as a comparison. I thought the book was definitely written in easy to understand language. I would say that some of the concepts seemed like they might be a bit hard to understand, especially for an 8 year old, concepts about God's grace and things. On the other hand, the personal discipline that Sanya had at that age would be a great challenge for that age group to emulate. The book was about 99% about her running and her races and her championships which could get a little boring for this age group.

I did enjoy the book, but I wouldn't have minded hearing about other parts of her life, things she did besides running, what Sanya's doing now, and so on. That would have added a bit more interest for me.

But again on the flip side, I really liked how Sanya brought God into the running aspect of her life. She relied on Him in her races and made comparisons of how the various aspects of racing can be applied to the race of life.

All in all, it's a good book and will go into my library of children's books and I will hope that in a few years my own children will enjoy reading it.

This book was given me by BookLookBloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Glad News! by Samy Tanagho

Product Details

I did not read the description of this book very well when I asked to review it. I was thinking it was a book that was going to explain how to refute Islam and give me a good background for that.

It does that, in a way, but it is geared to be read by a Muslim. Samy does a very good job of incorporating verses from both the Koran and the Bible and showing how Christianity is superior. It was interesting to me to note how much the Koran approves of the Bible and recommends it, even above their own book.

The book is written is a very simple easy-to-understand format. Like I said, it was very different from what I was expecting, but that was my own fault. I found it a little hard to follow because I know virtually nothing about the Koran, so all the references got a little mind-boggling, but I think for a Muslim well-versed in the Koran, Samy did an very good job of taking the concepts apart piece by piece and explaining Christianity.

One advantage that Samy has too is he learned Arabic, so he has been able to read the Koran in the Arabic language and also read the books of the most important Muslim scholars and commentaries would wrote about the Koran and Islam. He has spent 30 years sharing Christ with Muslims and his wife, Hala, often joins him to share her story of being imprisoned for becoming a Christian.

This is a very good book and I would recommend it if you have a Muslim friend with questions about Christianity.

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Threads of Suspicion By Dee Henderson

Threads of Suspicion (An Evie Blackwell Cold Case) by [Henderson, Dee]

I am a Dee Henderson fan. She is a good author that mixes mystery, crime with romance and can write a pretty good story. But she totally outdid herself on this one. I could totally read lots of this style of fiction.

Cold cases are very interesting to me because they involve a lot of digging and a lot of guess work and not so much  in your fact, heart-stopping crime scenes. It's fascinating to me to watch Evie dig into an old case and see what she can come up with that is different from all the detectives before her. How accurate it is to real life I don't know, but I find it very interesting.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

So in this book, I don't want to give away too much about the book, but she is working with David, another detective. They are each working their own crime, but float ideas off each other and work back and forth. So you already know where the story is going, right? Wrong. David is in a long-term relationship with a very popular singer.

Why aren't they married, you might ask? Because David became a Christian before they were married and he believes the Bible when it says not to marry an unbeliever and so he refuses to marry his girlfriend as long as she is not a Christian. I really liked David in this book. He is very devoted to God, talks to Him about his job, sees Him as a very personal, all-knowing God. He is committed. And this is good for Evie, the main character, in strengthening her relationship with God. She is also in a relationship, one in which she needs to decide if she wants to get married or not.

This was another reason I loved the book. It didn't turn out as expected and I love that, while there was still a bit of romance, it was actually somewhat of a real-life thing. The two partners working together didn't magically fall in love, etc. etc.

Okay, I feel like I've given enough spoilers about this book. I don't like to do that, but in order to really express why I liked the book, I felt like I needed to. That being said, I said nothing about the cold case files being worked and those are interesting in and of themselves, so go read the book.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I'll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

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A Journey of 500 miles
Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair

This is an amazing story. Justin was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease and has lost the use of his hands and arms. He is unable to take care of himself anymore. Patrick is his best friend basically since birth. Their families have taken trips together and spend time at each other's houses every year. Patrick will take time off of work to go to Justin's house to take care of him to give Justin's wife a break. This is dedication and true friendship.

Now Justin has the dream of walking the famous Camino de Santiago, a spiritual pilgrimage through the mountains and rough terrain of northern Spain. Patrick volunteers to push him these 500 miles. It is an arduous trip requiring much planning, many resources, a new wheelchair and even so, many tired and sore muscles. It cannot be done on their own. People volunteer to come along and help, pilgrims walking the journey with them stop and help. Complete strangers become friends united on this journey, maybe only for a couple hours, maybe a couple days.

While very physically taxing for Patrick to do the hard work of pushing Justin in his wheelchair, Justin is pushing Patrick in a completely different way. (It also is hard on Justin with all the jostling and bumping he experiences in the wheelchair.) Patrick has allowed the need to succeed, to be successful, to take care of himself and his family to get in the way of relationships. He has let his family down. Justin has tried to embrace every moment. He knows his disease will eventually kill him. He misses being able to play with his kids and hug his wife, but he is determined to make the most of every moment. Through this six-week-journey, Patrick has had to face that he has let his family down, that work has taken priority and he is determined to change that. He has also had to face his pride. It was hard for him to accept help in getting Justin over these mountains. Justin has had to learn to accept help because of his many limitations.

It's a beautiful friendship that is rare in today's standards.

There are a few things shared in the book that I wanted to share here, things that struck me. One was the living in the moment, enjoying each and every moment. This is something I have been working on in my own life. But I can get distracted and be only half present. I want to take the time to stop and listen and look and really really see what's going on. They talk about this a bit in a part on Sabbath. "And we're learning how to keep close to use the relationships and moments that define who we are. If we didn't practice this sort of Sabbath in our friendship, if we hadn't taken this break to walk the Camino together, we'd have missed out on all of this.

"Whether resting in my friendship with Justin or in my relationships with my wife and children, I find a greater appreciation for whoever is at my side when I take a moment to keep them close, to be present with them.......Every moment we rest in the presence of others and appreciate the time, beauty, and joy they have to offer, we practice Sabbath. It's a mentality...an existence...a way of life."

And then this is another quote from Patrick as he wrestled with himself at the Iron Cross. He had really struggled with Justin's diagnosis earlier on and had become bitter at God for it. This is kind of flashback to those times and also to right now where he realizes he needs to relinquish safety in order to really experience life in all fullness.  "That's when I realized that, more often than not, the miracle isn't the absence of struggle, disease, or pain; it is the presence of grace and certainty, the ability to face strife, the unknown, or a slow death, without fear." This is in the flashback section where he had just heard Justin say that he wouldn't trade his current condition to be able to walk again and it had completely shocked Patrick. "Every human interaction, every relationship is an opportunity to provide for one another, to provide time, energy, resources, hope, love, compassion, or grace. There is no limit to what we can provide for others, or what others can provide for us."

This was a great book, filled with good thoughts like this, filled with humor, and just good human kindness. I highly recommend it. It's an easy and fast read. There is also a documentary out about their journey. A film crew went along at the request of Patrick's boss who said it would be selfish for them not to share this unusual friendship with the world.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Beginner's Bible Carry-Along Treasury



The Beginner's Bible Carry-Along Treasury

By Zondervan 


So I got this book with the deluded hope, I'm sure, that this would be a good book for Amber to take along to church and look at and hopefully keep her occupied for the two hours that church lasts. However that turns out, the book is a delight either way.

The handle feels like a cheap little plastic thing in comparison with the rest of the book, but I think it will hold up all right. The book is on the smaller side so perfect to carry along. The closure is magnetic so a child can easily open and close. The pictures are bright and colorful. The stories cover some of the popular stories from both the Old and New Testaments. 

We haven't sat down and read any stories, but I'm confident they will hold my two-year-olds attention, but she loves books and these stories are short. 

I am very pleased with the book and even if it doesn't help with sitting still in church, it looks like such a fun book/Bible to carry along. I should clarify, it is more of a Bible story book than Bible. Though it's called a Bible, it is just the common Bible stories. 

I would recommend this book for 2 to 5 year olds. It would make a great gift for that little person in your life.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Gratitude

I have been convicted.

I taught Sunday School yesterday on the Israelites and their rebellion about entering Canaan. I asked the question about attitudes and preconceptions affecting our situations and experiences. And how to keep a positive perspective, even when life looks hard.

And one lady made the comment about gratitude and it has stuck with me. Isn't that pretty much the answer?

How you can grumble about a situation and crabby and pessimistic and see the worst in the situation if we are grateful? It's hard to complain when you have a grateful spirit.

OUCH!!!!!

So D is home late tonight, I'm guessing something didn't go well in the woods. I don't know what, but I know it involved unloading and reloading and that's usually not a normally occurrence, so... I have a choice. I can be grumpy because I don't know if we can wait to eat until he gets home and I just don't want to get supper on and eat by ourselves. Or I can be grateful he had work all day today, and that he tackled what needed to be done and that, Lord willing, he will be home later. And if we need to eat, it will be perfectly okay.

I can grumble and be discontent that this pregnancy has once again landed me on the couch or I can choose to be grateful that so far this baby is still growing and developing as he should inside and not outside in a NICU.  Let's just say, that really helps put things in perspective.

And days when I am discouraged with the job of mothering a high-energy two-year old, I only need to stop and think and really look at her. Then I see a very, Very, VERY chatty little person who is developing her own personality, who loves her music and her schoolwork and was just working on developing her muscles with resistance band (which by the way have got to be about the best toy ever). And when I stop and look, I see a mom who is so blessed beyond measure with a little girl who is mostly good and cheerful and busy and developing on schedule  and then I wonder, what did I do to deserve this?

There are so many things to be grateful for in life and I want to make a commitment to see the good in each day. There are way too many negative people in this world who seem to delight in seeing the worst in every situation. And I've been there, done that, and it isn't that fulfilling or satisfying. I would much prefer to be that annoyingly grateful, optimistic person.

I have tried a bit of this with my Instagram account of trying to post the little moments or the happy moments of the day.

And now, my little girl has climbed up on my legs and is "sitting on mom's lap" behind my computer, going, "ready, set, go." I don't know where she learned that or her other new favorite of "let's race".


Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler

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Praying with confidence, boldness, and grace

This is a 193 Page book that talks about prayer and then a 21 Days to Spiritual Breakthrough Devotional at the back of the book. The book was in a different format than I am used, but I think there are some good points to the way it is written. The odd chapters talk about "I Am....", "I Am Chosen" "I Am Honored." I Am Secure" and etc. The even chapters talk about learning to pray.. with faith, with conviction, with grace, etc. The even chapters are more like a Bible study with lots of verses to look up and questions to answer. I think those chapters could be very valuable if you took the time to go through them and answer the questions and journal your thoughts.

For me, I didn't find the book to be so much about praying with fervor as getting rid of the things in your life that could hinder your prayer life. Each odd chapter started with a story of someone who had overcome whatever the chapter was about. Maybe I read it too fast, but I was expecting more of a how-to-pray book. Now, this book might actually be more of what we need. If there are things in my life that hinder my communication with God, those need to be dealt with first.

I probably started with a bit of mental block as well. Sue talks about being raised Mennonite and had a story or two of her Mennonite friends. I know there are many "varieties" of Mennonites, but the stories didn't really resonate with me and my own Mennonite culture, so I struggled with that a bit. Also the fact that she is an ordained pastor, which again is contrary to my culture and often makes me treat the author with a little more caution.

All that to say, that I think there is much good to be gained from this book even so.

This book was given me by Bethany Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

Product Details

Yup, this book is pretty much what it looks like. I was a little disappointed in it. I am realizing the more nonfiction I read, the better the fiction has to be to be worth it. I also realize that I look at fiction differently that I have to review than fiction that I just read for the sheer lark of it. Fiction that I review, I want to have more substance and growth. And yes, it's a pride thing because I don't want to look like a shallow reader for the books I read. So maybe that's been the biggest difference rather than my style of reading actually changing.

Now, let me also explain a little bit about why it was disappointing. I haven't read a lot of Melody Carlson's books, but I have one called "Armando's Treasure". I've read it long enough ago that I don't remember a lot of it, but I do remember it being a really, really good book with a fair amount of depth. Now, I could be completely wrong if I were to reread it today, but that was the premise that made me pick this book.

Now this is a very well-written story. Melody is a good author and can tell a good story, but that's pretty much all it was. I didn't find a lot of nuggets to go after, except for one thing. Nicole, who is the main character in the story, is a fill-in manager at an art gallery working with a very difficult employee. Rather than fire the employee like she is encouraged to do, she gives her some boundaries and tries to work with her. At the end of the book, the difficult employee actually gives her a compliment or two. I was impressed with Nicole's persistence to giving second chances. Isn't that what we are all called to do at times? Isn't that what God does with us over and over? He gives us many more chances than just two.

There was really no hold on to your seats drama, just the unfolding of a romantic love story that didn't seem real true to life. But as far as well-written, I would give Melody great kudos for that. I enjoyed the book as it was, simply a book with no high drama and no real inspiring points, just a nice chick flick.

There was also no real faith expressed in this book, a few random prayers by two of the characters, one of which stated he doesn't always pray before meals just when he feels really grateful. Really?

This book was given to me by Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Chazown by Craig Groeschel

Product Details

Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life

What makes you want to get up in the morning? What fills you with a sense of passion? What makes you angry with a righteous indignation? What fills you with bliss? These are questions to ask as you seek to find what God's will is for your life.

God has a plan for you and a purpose, and there are many people just aimlessly wondering through life with no purpose and no direction and no fulfillment.

This book was challenging to me to seek out what God has for me and to do my part for His Kingdom. Craig talked about three main areas that can help reveal to us our Chazown: core values, spiritual gifts, and past experiences. What talents do we have? What do we value and hold dear to us? What have our past experiences taught us?

And there are the smaller areas of life, but areas that still need to be guided and disciplined in a godly manner: relationships, finance, work, physical health, and God. He calls these the spokes.

Goal setting was another thing he touched on. Setting short-term goals with a long range plan in mind. And accountability to help you know where you've gotten off track and to keep you on track.

A few quotes:
Key Thought: If you don't know where you're going in life, put aside your pride--stop and ask.
Key Thought: God's gifts in your equip you for your gift to the world.
Key Thought: Accountability closes the gap between intentions and actions.

I really enjoyed this book. For me as a wife and a stay-at-home mom, it's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and not look at how I could be using my talents right here where I am. Are there things that I would like to do, but am afraid to take the step? Are there people that I can encourage and be a blessing to without even leaving my own home? And my husband and daughter, there are so many ways that I can serve God through serving them. I do feel I am where God has called me, but I also recognize that there are many ways that I could be living more effectively in His will and thriving my way through life and not just merely surviving each day. That was a challenge to me.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell

Product Details

Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard

First, let me talk about the beauty of the book itself. When I requested this book, I was expecting a normal paper-back book about 5x7, you know the standard size. But when I got it? I got a beautiful hardcover book that was more 6.5x8. Not only that, but it has a ribbon marker that comes with it. Inside, scattered throughout the book are beautiful pictures. The writing and size of font begs you to grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and start reading, which is sort of what I did, except I couldn't put my feet up and my coffee might have been gone already. (We were on a 15 hour trip.) The book begs to sit on a coffee table, it's so beautiful

The premise of the book is get out of your back yard and into your front yard. Engage the people in your neighborhood. Sit outside, invite people over, keep it simple. Hospitality is different from entertaining. You don't have to have a fancy spread, just have a welcoming heart. Kristin shares how she uses plastic cups and a water pitcher to sit out on her picnic table to welcome people. She also now has a dog water dish and some dog treats as well so that people walking their dogs can stop and get a drink and the dogs can too. Be friendly, be open, be observant.

It was a good read, a reminder that we are here for so much more than just ourselves and I need to be open and willing to engage in community. Now granted, I don't live in town, so there's not a lot of people walking by my house, actually pretty much no one ever walking by my house, but hospitality isn't limited to living in town. It's not even limited to sitting at a turquoise picnic table in your front yard. Hospitality is first cultivated in the heart and then it spills out over into practical living in many different ways.

I don't have any quotes to share from the book, because I left it at my sister's house this weekend. I had to show her the book because it was so pretty and fit something we were talking about and then she started reading it as well. It's a great gift for someone who is looking for ideas and ways to engage people. There are simple tips and tricks as well as some fun little recipes to try. The book is an easy and fast read, and I don't think you'll be sorry you read it.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Gifts from Heaven Compiled by James Stuart Bell

Product Details

True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer

Sometimes it's easy to wonder if God is still doing miracles today. It's easy to question if He really cares as much about us today as He did about the people back in the Early Church. And then it becomes easy to question why? If God doesn't perform miracles today, why not? Is it because of our unbelief, our dependence on technology and medicine and our pocket book to save us?

Reading this book helped me realize again that God is still doing miracles today. Sometimes they are big and amazing and over the top and sometimes they are small and hidden and you must look hard to find them. Sometimes the miracle is in what didn't happen. When the little girl was hit by a car, she didn't fly under the vehicle, she flew up. She had very few injuries and nothing permanent as a result of that experience. She was still hit, but God protected her from sever injury. That's a miracle.

This book has a wide variety of miracles, if you want to call it that. Some of them are small miracles, if there is such a thing and some of them are dramatic healings or involve angels. But for me the good reminder is that God is still in the miracle-working business. Maybe it's me who isn't in the miracle-believing or miracle-looking-for business and I need to work to change that.

How many times has God kept me safe without me even being aware of it. We just got back from a 4 day trip out to PA and back. Hundreds of miles passing thousands of cars and nearly hitting several deer. Is safety on trips when traveling within feet of other vehicles not miraculous? Do we take these things for granted?

It was a good book for me to read and be reminded again that God does answer prayer.

This book was given to me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Under a Desert Sky by Lynne Hartke

Product Details

Redefining Hope, Beauty, and Faith in the Hardest Places

This is a good book. I'm not sure what adjectives to use to describe it. Let me start by saying that I find the back cover synopsis of the book doesn't do it justice. It sounds like it will by Lynne's own journey through cancer, when in reality, while that was a very real part of the story, to me the most talked about story was her own parent's journey through cancer. While it didn't affect the beauty of the book, for me it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

But moving on, there 28 chapters in the book. They are fairly short, but I think each chapter contained some nugget of gold that needs to be pondered and considered. I will also say that Lynne and her family have to be more in shape physically than I can ever hope to be. Granted, that's not saying much for this stage of my life where walking is rather limited for me. However, it seems like a lot of the chapters talked about a hiking trip they had taken into the desert or up the mountains, even in and out of the Grand Canyon. Truly the chapter title, "Under a Desert Sky" is very fitting. Lynne does well to capture on page the beauty of the desert. It makes me want to go see it for myself and even try a bit of amateur hiking.

And now, like I often do, I want to show you a few of those nuggets with you. They might be out of context and a little hard to understand, but hopefully it will make you want to get the book and read it for yourself.

From the preface: "I fix my eyes on her face, for I have learned that sometimes the greatest act of compassion we offer the dying is not to look away."

From Chapter Six: "Love is in the details. Love is found in the bending over. The stooping low. The care shown for the small things."

From Chapter Eleven: "We are in the waiting, when it can be difficult to hold on to promises. To hold on to hope. Every day clouds mushroom the skies, but we are left standing in the dust.....I pick up that anchor, that hope. I throw it out, toward the sound of rain. It is not a hope resting in doctors, in treatment plans, or in the number of days. It is hope based on Someone who stood with those He loved at the edge of a grave and faced death."

From Chapter Twenty Three: "Kindness can lead people to gaze once again into the face of God......Sometimes the desire to do a great thing (fix the entire problem), keeps us from doing a good thing (be kind in a small way)."

I really liked this book and should really take the time sometime to just ponder it more slowly and let some of these truth seep into my soul. I think Lynne talks somewhere about treasuring the moments, which is something I have been trying to do more lately as well.

This book is for more than those battling the fight with cancer. It is for anyone who is struggling in the desert, with dark days, trying times, anything. I think there is something to be learned here.

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Indescribable Coloring Book




Based on the hit song as recorded by Chris Tomlin
Written by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves

This is a really cool coloring book. I love how it takes a praise song and puts pictures to it. Each double page spread has a phrase from the song on it. It gives you time to meditate on the phrase and offer your own praise to God while you color the picture.

The phrase "All powerful, untameable" is repeated three times, I believe. One picture has lions running in it. Another one has wild horses, (At least I decided they were wild). And the final picture is water running over rocks on a downhill slope. I just think the pictures fit so well with the phrase. Not all of the pictures and phrases go that well, but I think that most of them fit very well.

I would love to just grab some pencil crayons and get started with this book, but beings I am just a bit of "do things in order" person, I will resist for now. I was thinking it would make a great gift for someone, but I'm not so sure anymore. I kind of want to save it for myself. However, if you have a coloring enthusiast for a friend or a family member and you need a gift for them, this is a great book to give. Especially if they are also love this song.

As you can tell, I think this is a great book and I look forward to coloring in it or giving it away. I love the idea of being able to color worship/praise songs. It seems if I could keep my mind focused, it would be a great way to worship while I am coloring or even just to have the song playing in the background while you color, which is what I did while I wrote this review.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friends, Partners & Lovers by Kevin A Thompson

Friends, Partners, and Lovers by Kevin A. Thompson

What it Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

I like to read a few marriage books a year. I think it's good to do that. Books can give me a fresh look at marriage and inspire me to try harder to be the wife that my husband needs. I often am revived and ready to go the second mile after reading a marriage book.

I often say this too, but this was one of the best books on marriage I've read. I thought Kevin had a different look at marriage than a lot of marriage books do. Maybe it's just the stage I'm in now, but I just really enjoyed the book and may have quoted from it to anyone who would listen.

There are three aspects to being married, according to Kevin. You should be best friends, not exclusive friends, but best friends. This is the foundation in my mind. You love to be together, to do things together, to have fun together. You are also partners: Partners in raising a family, maybe in running a business, financial partners. There has to be a level of trust here. And then you are lovers, referring to the sexual aspect of marriage. If you are good solid friends and partners with a deep level of trust, the lovers part will be fulfilling and lots of fun. Kevin gave a three hour talk once on marriage where he spent most of the time talking about the friendship aspect. Afterwards in the Q&A session, one person went off about how important sex was to marriage and they couldn't believe that Kevin would spend three hours talking about marriage and never give serious consideration to sex. After this introduction, the question was what the biggest misconception about sex is. Kevin's answer? "The biggest misconception about sex is that a three-hour talk about friendship in marriage is not a direct discussion about sex."

One of the first things that stood out to me in the book was this quote:"Knowing our spouse isn't our soul mate allows us to expect problems. We aren't surprised by frustrations. We understand differences. When we fight, it doesn't cause us to wonder if we married the wrong person. We know it is just part of marriage. The great challenge of relationships is not to find the one person created specifically for you. It is to pick someone and work at the relationship to such an extend that eventually you feel as though there could never be anyone else for you." I love that. It's all about choice. Marriage takes a lot of effort, but if we are aware of that and willing to do our part, it is a beautiful thing.

On June 6 of this year, it will be nine years since our first date. Has it all been easy? No, we have faced things as a couple in those nine years that I wouldn't wish on anyone, but would I change what we have? Absolutely not. When you get married, you chuckle to yourself when people say it gets better because you can't imagine it getting better. Now having been married 8 years, I look back and chuckle at the people who are starting to date because you know it does really get better. And while there's a twinge of jealousy because you know the fun times to be had in dating, there is a level of security and comfort that comes with time that you don't have when you are dating. And I can only imagine another 8 years will have me looking back and chuckling again.

So, if you are looking for a good book on marriage that is easy to read and enlightening and encouraging, pick up a copy or if you live close to me, I might let you borrow it. Or if you are getting married, I might even get you a copy.

Kevin blogs at www.kevinathompson.com 

I was given this book by Revell Publishing and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Esther, a Drawn in Bible Study

Product Details

Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble
By Eugene Peterson

This is a Bible Study coloring book that goes through the book of Esther. The Bible passages are all there in the Message translation. There is a section of Scripture followed by a few questions and then another section of Scripture. There are only four sessions so each session is quite lengthy and would take a bit of time to do. At the end of each session, there is a section called, "Until we Meet Again" that is for reflection and/or consideration and a prayer.

There is also a section at the back for leaders that gives advice and ideas on how to lead the Bible Study and some notes for each session.

Throughout the book are various pictures to color. Some are full page with a quote or just picture. Other times, it's just a small leaf or flower in the corner. The pictures do look nice and a lot of fun to color.

I am looking forward to doing this Bible study and it will definitely go on my list of Bible Studies to do.

The one thing I don't like about this book is that it does not lay flat. Coloring and writing in it are going to be a bit difficult unless you are rather harsh with book in an attempt to get it to lay flat. A different kind of binding would be nicer for coloring purposes, but otherwise, it's a great little book.

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

and Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick

Product Details

Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering

Losing your 8-year-old daughter to cancer is not what any mom ever wants to do, Kate Merrick included. And yet that is what she had to do and this is her journey through that grief. It's not so much about the cancer journey, so if that is what you are expecting, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for hope in the midst of grief, then this is the book for you.

She looks at Biblical women like Sarah, Bathsheba, and Mary and the journeys they walked through and provides insight for today. For example, we often look at the Proverbs 31 woman and grow discouraged and yet it is thought that Bathsheba wrote that. Look at Bathsheba's life, not very perfect, but she made the most of it and was most blessed.

One of the things Kate talked about that stomped on my toes was the thing of bitterness. "Just a teeny bit, just enough bitterness that I feel justified about it. Just enough bitterness that it colors my sense of humor and peppers my thoughts, but it doesn't show up on my face. Hidden so well I didn't even see it at first. I almost missed it. A slight hint of bitter, just a little on the side, for dipping in now and again. "  "Bitterness at the desolation of life. Bitterness at people who apparently have no pain. Bitterness at women who have kids to spare. Bitterness because I lost. I lost the contest, the race, the fight."

This struck me, because I have been guilty of this very thing. Bitter because other people have children with seemingly little to no effort and I am left thinking about my babies in heaven and struggling for every child on earth we are blessed with. But it is still bitterness and it still needs to be dealt with.

"Becoming aware of my hindering attitude of bitterness started a chain reaction that has since led to those bigger, better things - a deepening of faith, a realization that all things point to eternity; and this life, with all its trouble, is quickly coming to an end." I don't know if I'm there yet, but I want that deep faith, that ability to count on eternity and the capacity to laugh once again.

And then she ends the book with talking about treasuring the moments. The Proverbs 31 woman talks about laughing without fearing the future and Kate invites us to experience that deep laughter.

"Can we please laugh together? Can we please honor God, the Giver?....When he gives sweet memories, camp out there a little while, sweeping your soul with goodness. Let the food you eat not only nourish your cells, but let it be beautiful and delicious and flavorful and plentiful. Walk in the rain, splash in puddles, catch snowflakes on your tongue......If he has given you babies to love, pour it on thick. Rock and sing and kiss and bless, in the same way your Abba pours out to you. The home you have been given, have fun making it pretty....."

And in the midst of writing this book, Kate experienced a miscarriage bringing her number of children to three in heaven and two on earth. She knows the meaning of loss and yet she chooses to laugh and love in the midst of all of it.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Hope Remembers by Johnnie Alexander

Product Details

So in my last book review, I said I was on the lookout for some new to me authors that write books with depth. Well, Johnnie is on my list to read more of. This was the third book in a series and I'd like to read the first two sometime. For the most part, this was an easy-to-understand-on-its-own-kind-of-book, but there are some unanswered questions at the end about some of the other highly visible characters that make you want to know their stories.

Hope. Redemption. Second Chances. Forgiveness. I think those themes run solidly through this book. While there's not a lot of God in this word in terms of lots of Scripture or church attendance, to me He is there. He is what made it possible for Gabe to survive his years of an unfair prison sentence. God is who changed the lives of several key characters in the book.

I don't want to make this post be a spoiler for the story and so I will try to be purposefully vague. And yes, the hero got the heroine in the end and lived happily ever after, things did not go just perfect. There was some sad tough things that happened in this book. There was some carnality and meanness, but there was redemption. Amy, the main female character, was learning to look beyond her past, beyond her mistakes, beyond her eating problems to see what she could be, to see the person she could become if she was willing to make the efforts.

Anyway, I did enjoy this book and I will be on the lookout for any books by Johnnie Alexander because I felt like she can write a book with some depth and body to it. Now I would like to know what other people think of this book and this author.

This book was given to me by Revell Books. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bible sleuth: New Testament

Product Details

Illustrated by Jose Perez Montero

Who likes the "Where's Waldo" Books? Well, here's another option for you. Mike loves adventure and loves going back in time, especially to Bible times and looking at some of the most exciting events in history. On every open spread, there's a short Bible story and then eight objects/people to find on every page. And, of course, you also have to find Mike on every page.

The stories include Jesus' birth, His first miracle, the Beatitudes, feeding of the five thousand, Triumphal entry, Pentecost, stoning of Stephen, and others. While I didn't try to find all the objects, I'm not very good at stuff like that, I didn't think they were too terribly hard to find. The pages are definitely packed full of people and objects though, so it's not just super easy to spot stuff.

I think it looks like a fun book for a little bit older of a child. The genre is listed as juvenile nonfiction/religious/Christian/games and activities, so it doesn't list just a specific age. I do remember the secretary at one place I work enjoying the "Where's Waldo" book so this could go on up to adults as well. I would guess around five or six for a starting age of who could start finding the pictures.

I think it would make a great gift or a perfect thing to introduce when going on a long trip, (as long as the child doesn't get car sick). It is a bigger, hardcover book. I would estimate it to be about 8 x 13 or so, so they would need the ability to be able to hold it on their lap. It's not very thick though.

There is also a Bible sleuth: Old Testament book as well. That one I have not seen, but I would imagine is equally fun.

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Trusting Grace by Maggie Brendan

Product Details

Virtues and Vices of the Old West Book 3

I am on a lookout these days for good fiction authors that I haven't read yet, so I will be attempting to try a lot of books by new to me authors. And then, of course, will be writing reviews on them here on my blog. So Maggie Brendan is one of those new to me authors.

The basic characters are a widow and her father and a widower and his three stepchildren that he didn't know he had until his wife died. So there's some trust issues on his part regarding women. And understandably so. But as these books go, trust was gained between the widower and the widow and they were bound to live happily ever after.

The book was fine as far as fiction books go. The setting was Montana in 1866, so the genre is historical romance. And really that was all there was. There was a small amount of intrigue caused by some missing goods shipments and subsequent kidnapping, but it was all quickly resolved.

One of the more interesting things in the book was that the widow's father, Owen, had this odd muscle disease that they called muscle neuritis back then. Today it is called chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy. The author's husband suffers from this condition and I found it interesting that she put it in the book. I liked that. It makes the story more real to life to me, I think.

Basically, I will say that it was a book of stuff and fluff and while I don't discount Maggie Brendan as an author, this book doesn't get to rank up in the category of "have to read". I think the older I get, the more I look for fiction books with body and depth. I don't want the book to be all preachy and do nothing but quote Scripture, but I like books that show a real depth of character development and a true dependence on God.

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Silver and Gold Have I None

This morning I was again working my way through the Act Bible Study, "An Unexplainable Life" by Erica Wiggenhorn. I take several days to go through what is meant to be a one day study, so I've been working on the story of the lame man for a few days now. But this morning, it hit me in a different way, partly because of something she said and partly because of where I'm at right now in life.

Peter makes this famous saying that's a fun children's song as well,
"Silver and gold have I none,
But such as I have give I thee
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Rise up and walk."

Erica posed the question, why did he mention that he didn't have money. In my mind, and these are my own thoughts now, wouldn't that have been rather disheartening for the man. Why bother to stop, to look at me, if you aren't going to help. But Peter knew the bigger story at this point, he knew he had something better than money.

How often do I want the "money" without recognizing and waiting to see what better thing God has for me. Right now, I'm struggling a bit, I just want a normal pregnancy, a pregnancy where I can come and go as I please, where I can still take care of my family, go on walks, cook meals, etc. etc. That's my silver and gold. It's what I think I need to make me happy. Instead, God is calling me to a different path, a different way of life. I am realizing I will likely never know a "normal" pregnancy, whatever that is. But I can experience so many blessings without that. God has something bigger for me. He wants me to choose to be grateful despite.

Dave told me the other day, you've made it 23 weeks, there's only 13 more to go. That doesn't seem that bad anymore. Well, in my down moments, it still feels pretty bad, but he's right. It is only 13 more to go. It's truly becoming spring, so I can go outside and enjoy the sunshine. I have lots of little hobbies that can be done while I sit on the couch. I am truly blessed without having the silver and gold I think I want.

I think it can go beyond the here and now too. Things that come hard are generally taken care of better and treasured a little deeper. I am not saying moms with normal pregnancies don't love their children, please don't hear that from me. But, for me at least, having faced death in my babies, having given them back to God, you hold the living ones a little closer, you treasure them a little more and you also realize that they're being on this earth is not a guarantee, so I probably worry a little more too. Now, I'm normal and there are days when the treasuring and the holding close is replaced by just wanting a little peace and quiet and a little break away from the demands of a two-year-old. But there are days when I stop and I look at my little girl and I think, "Wow, we really have her. She's ours to raise and to train and to guide." And the tears can still come when I think of the gift we have been given.

Now, I don't know what silver or gold you're holding on to in your life. What you need to let go of to be able to claim the healing power of Jesus in your life, but for me, I need to let go of what I think would make me feel good and I need to realize that this is where I am in life, this is the life God has given me and I need to claim it. I don't need to worry that others are thinking me wimpy or inefficient or even lazy. I have to do what I need to do for the sake of my family and my baby and I need to let the rest in God's hands. I need to let go of my fear of what do people think and simply claim Jesus' power and let Him work through me.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Never Give Up by John Mason

Never Give Up--You're Stronger Than You Think by [Mason, John]

You're Stronger Than You Think

Well, in keeping with my post earlier today about lists, this was a book that had quite a few lists scattered throughout.

Divided into basically 52 bullet point chapter, John talks about looking inward, looking outward and looking upward and the keys found in these three places to not giving up.

Some of his bullet points include: 

* For every reason there is to lie, there's a better reason to tell the truth
* Fear isn't reality
* No gift from God is insignificant
* Our words create our worlds
* Never start your day in neutral
* Find yourself by giving yourself to others
*There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going
*Rise by lifting others
*Stop every day and look at the size of God
*The Bible is a Book of directions, not suggestions
*God will use you right where you are today

There are 52 of these as titles for a two to four page chapter that delves into the idea a little more in depth. And yet, it's still kept short and sweet. I like the idea of this book because it does give so many good ideas, but to me, John doesn't overstate his points. However, to just sit down and read the book from cover to cover, it can feel like you are just barely scratching the surface of what you could learn. So I would recommend reading this book, more like one chapter at a time and letting it marinate in your heart and soul and mind before moving on.

I had never heard of John Mason before this book, but it appears that this was his 19th book and he has over two million books in print in 38 languages. I guess he knows the meaning of not giving up. 

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

A List of Lists

The other night I was thinking how much I love lists. I like reading lists on blogs, I like making lists on paper, and I like having mental lists in my head. I also have a wish list on the sticky notes on my computer, you know, just in case.... the right person would see it or something. So I thought, for fun, I should do a posts about the lists I have or have made in the past and maybe a few random things I'll put in a list at the end.

So here goes: my list of lists
1. A to-do list in my daily planner
2. A list of things to do before summer Bible School this summer
3. A list of things I wanted to get done before 24 weeks
4. And a list of things to do after 24 weeks.
5. A list of all the freezer meals that are in the freezer along with breads, etc.
6. A running list in my head of things I want to accomplish
7. As mentioned, my wishlist on the computer
8. Many wish lists on Amazon
9. Goals
10. One time, a long time ago, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life, both hobbies and otherwise. I wonder where that list is. If I remember right, it was quite lengthy
11. Menus, though those are generally listed out on the days I want to make them in my planner
12. Grocery lists
13. Gift ideas
14. Books I want to get from Moody Publishers for reviewing purposes.
15. This isn't a list, but there is a row of books in the cupboard that I want to read this year. It starts with the review books I get and then moves on to other books that are high on my list to read.

Okay, now just some random things put together in a list
1. I had no idea 2-year-olds were quite the sponges for learning that they are.
2. Dry cereal is quite a great thing when you are two
3. Laundry is a necessary evil.
4. 23 weeks is reason to celebrate
5. Only 13 weeks left to go until I can waddle wherever I please again.
6. I am very ready for spring and sunshine and warm weather.
7. My yellow daffodils and orange tulips really do look quite stunning together, though I was trying to figure out this spring why I bought orange tulips of all colors.
8. We are going away for a belated anniversary getaway this weekend and I am pleased as punch about the idea.
9. I want to drink lots of coffee, have quality conversation and otherwise engorge myself on yummy food while we are gone.
10. I'm becoming a fan of kombucha.

Okay, and now I need to go put the small child to bed. It seems almost sad because she is playing nicely, but I prefer to do it before we are both having meltdowns. It feels more peaceful that way.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado (My own thoughts mixed in)

English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith by [Lucado, Andrea]

The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith

Apparently, the subtitle has changed since the book I received. Mine was an uncorrected proof and the subtitle says "The Crooked Little Grace-Filled Path of Growing Up".  I think both apply.

This is Andrea's memoir from her year spent at Oxford getting her Master's degree and writing her thesis. There is basically nothing about her studies, but lots about her journey, in making friends, and finding her place in Oxford and also in life. England isn't necessarily known as a Christian country despite the old churches that still remain there. This caused Andrea to doubt what she grew up believing and wondering if it wasn't better to just go through life without faith as her non-Christian friends seemed so okay and content not believing in God. But in the end, she realizes that her faith is her foundation.

There are a few things I want to quote and comment on. When one of her friends asked her what her pillars were, she recited the creed. "I was shaky and not confident. I was unnerved by the smart, Oxford graduate across from me, but I said it, and sometimes saying it out loud is all we can do. Sometimes reciting the Creed we are uncertain about is what leads us to eventual certainty, or at least to a deeper assurance. This is why we write and sing hymns. This is why we read one book over and over and over again. Words, remembering them, saying them and writing them, are foundational for us. Our words make up who we are."  I like this thought. Sometimes going through the motions is all we feel capable of and I think that is okay. At one point in the book, Andrea also talks about letting other people's faith carry us for a bit when we struggle to find our way. Relying on that faith of our fathers in times of stress and turmoil.

Reading this book at this time of year and remembering the goodbyes of two years ago makes some of the things she says more real. When life is hard and you are struggling and groping, just continuing to do the foundational things more out of a sense of duty than any heartfelt reason is all that you can cling to carry you through. Eventually, you can come out into the light and you will again feel and believe the things you clung to so tenuously. I know there may be those that doubt that, but I think there is some truth in there.

Another thing Andrea talks about is good-byes. "Say the good-bye. Actually say the word, and then the words that need to be said before it and after it. Articulate it. Make it real, for yourself and if the good-bye is to someone else, for the other person too. If words need to be said, say them. If they need to be written, write them. Whatever you need to do." And I would add, do that on a regular basis, because you never know when the final good-bye will happen.

And then on saying good-bye to one's self. "Sooner or later we have to say good-bye to that someone we were before. To the parts of us that no longer fit. This is okay, I think. If we continued on in life with every version of us that we have ever been, we would all be very large and heavy people having difficulty walking down the street." It is about shedding the old skin and wearing a new skin that is "More humble and maybe less pretty and taut, but at least more honest." Life changes us and we need to accept that as well. While we may not notice the changes at the time, we can look back and see the changes.

And finally, if you made it this far, this is the last piece I want to quote and I think it is so fitting for this time of year for me, the second anniversary of some hard and sad good-byes. "We all have people over our mantels, don't we? The frames and the faces change as we go along, but we remember each of them. They have imprinted us in one way or another. All the people that make up so much of who we are and are becoming. No matter how far from them we go, no matter how disparate our twigs and sticks and leaves are in the end, the people over our mantels have played a part in creating us, and that keeps them with us in a way that no fire can burn up." I just love that thought of a picture over the mantel. Life is moving on and two years have passed since Dad and Cheryl and Bentley left this earth, but their picture lives on in my heart over my mantel. I will never forget them and I want to be a better person for having said good-bye to them. I would have rather not said good-bye, but this is life and so good-byes happen whether we are ready or not. And so to say good-bye in a real and authentic way without denying the fact that they are gone allows me to truly appreciate their lives and legacies.
I guess anyway, this was a new thought to me when I read this, but I like it. And I want to be changed and to be a better person because I have been willing to grieve and say good-bye.

Okay, this is a combination of a book review and my own thoughts on some of these subjects that Andrea addressed. If you made it this far, then good for you. I enjoyed the book. And for those of  you who don't know, Andrea would be a daughter to the all-popular Max Lucado, whose writings I very much enjoy, though, I think, he writes with a completely different, although very engaging, style as well.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books and I was not required to write a positive review.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Berenstain Bears Read-Along Classics

The Berenstain Bears 5-Minute Inspirational Stories: Read-Along Classics (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights) by [Berenstain w/ Mike Berenstain, Stan and Jan]

5-Minute Inspirational Stories by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain

I may have mentioned my love of the Berenstain Bears a time or so on here when I've done reviews of their books. Their Living Lights Series is a Christian-based series that teaches godly principles. This book is a collection of 12 stories including:

The Berenstain Bears God Loves You! (in spite of who you are or what you do)
The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers (God hears our prayers and answers but not always how we think.)
The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors (A bear version of the Good Samaritan)

And so on.

I do love the good principles that are taught throughout the book through forgiveness, not gossiping, etc. My only complaint is one little filler/swear word. I consider it a swear word yet, but in our day, I think it is so common that people don't even think of it as a swear word. I'm not saying that it makes it right or wrong, it's just a word I don't want my daughter learning to say.

I read bits and pieces of the book to my two-year-old, but mostly just read it to myself. She does like Berenstain Bears, but we were outside so her attention span wasn't as long as normal.

The illustrations are as good as always. The stories are divided into paragraphs with the pictures scattered throughout.

It's a lovely padded book perfect for gift giving. I wasn't that keen on reading that many stories to my daughter anyway because this book is going to get tucked away in the drawer for a future gift. It's too pretty not to give as a gift. It's a bigger book, more like an 8.5 x 11 size and then is 3/4 to an inch thick.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Product Details

Apart from the Crowd

This was a fluffy book, by this I mean that there wasn't a lot of depth or insight I gained from reading the book, but it was fun, fluffy read that required no thought.

It's the story of a wallflower in New York society. By wallflower I mean someone who wasn't really accepted into society and so spent their time at events, up against the wall or hiding in corners observing the goings on of the elite class.

Permilia was an outspoken girl with a heart for others, despite being raised in privilege. She tried to be frugal while still maintaining the fashion style her stepmother required of her. She did this by finding out of the way dressmakers who were working to put bread on their table, but who had very nice fashion sense. This is probably the takeaway from the book, to care about people less fortunate than we are and to not allow our wealth to make us look down on others less fortunate.

And of course, there is one of the wealthiest men in the city, who Permilia gets into debates with, haggles with over pricing, and generally messes with his view of women. They, of course, fall in love. He sets her up to be vice-president of his department store and she adds great value to his business and life.

I enjoyed the story, though I will admit that Permilia seemed a little dense about society standards even though she was "only a wallflower". It just seemed a little unreal, but then I don't really know what it was like back then either.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

Product Details

Heart of the Frontier Book One

This was a Christian Historical fiction book where, of course, the main two characters fall in love with each other, so I'm not going to go into that too much. You know how it works, the feelings, the misunderstandings, the corrections, etc. But I do like Tracie's writing and I think she does a good job at what she does.

What I really liked about this book was the historical event that Tracie sought to portray as accurately as possible. That even was the Whitman Mission in Oregon Country and the Indian's attack and subsequent massacre of Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and the men that were staying there. And then how they held the woman and children hostage, raped the women, and how they were ransomed by Peter Ogden. Of course, Tracie took liberties with her characters, but she tried to stick with the main facts and the stories that surrounded it. I did a tiny bit of research on it as well and found it to be quite accurate and fascinating. I really did not know anything about the mission and even less about the attack.

While I don't think reading historical fiction is your best way to learn about history, it is a most interesting way and I like it when I can learn true facts from a fiction story.

Another good point of the story is the main character's sister Hope, was at the attack, was raped and became pregnant. While she was contemplating suicide, hope was offered to her and she chose to give her baby life and allow another couple to raise her as her own. Through this time, Hope was able to experience a bit of healing and hope in her own life as she realized her suffering was bringing someone else great joy.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Frightening Philippi Jail by Gary Bower

Product Details

Illustrated by Barbara Chotiner

A Faith that God Built book

This is the second Faith that God Built book that I have and I really, really like them. For any of you that know the book "The House that Jack Built" it is the same idea. There is an initial sentence and every line is added to it, so that by the end of the book, you have the whole story on the final pages, but it is fun to read it and to hear it build on each other. It does rhyme as well adding to the charm of reading it.

While there's not a specific age attached to the book, it's just called juvenile nonfiction, my two year old loves these books. Since I just got this one, I don't know how she will like this one, but the other book we have, (she calls it the "Ark book"), we read a couple times a week at least. So I'm thinking this one will also be well-liked.

This book is about Paul and Silas being in jail and singing praises to the prisoners who were "crusty and cold with nothing to nibble but crackers with mold". And then how God set them free and saved the jailer. It's a nice little story and I am happy to add it to my collection.

The pictures are well done as well. To me they very well portray the creepiness of what a jail cell would have looked like with the bugs and rats and slugs.

I was given this book by Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Has Happened to the Early Church?

35 empty tomb clip art . Free cliparts that you can download to you ...

So this is not the post I mentioned yesterday, but it was that came to me while having my devotions this morning. I have been slowly working my way through a Bible Study called "An Unexplainable Life" taken from Acts 1-12. Slowly is a key word here. It's a ten week study that I started at the beginning of the year and I am now nearing the end of week two. There's been some lack of self-discipline involved as well, but let's not get into that now.

This morning I was reading about the early church again. Do you know what they did E.V.E.R.Y D.A.Y? They worshipped God together, they ate together, they praised God together, they enjoyed the favor of the people together. And they did this all with joy and gladness. What has happened? Or should I say, what would happen if today's church would try that? What if everything we did was done with joy and gladness? What if, when we got together with other Christians we spend our time praising God instead of gossiping and complaining about other Christians? 

What would change? How would you change? How would I change? How would relationships change? How would churches grow? At the end of all this, the Bible says, "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." And why not? With that kind of attitude, wouldn't people come in droves? Why would they come to your church? Because you have a church full of praise and gratitude? Or would they come because they are attracted to fightings and bitterness and gossip? It's a huge challenge for me. I want to be the person that's annoyingly optimistic, that sees the good in every situation. I want to be part of a church like that too.

Another thing, do you know what Jesus prayed in his prayer in John 17:20-23? First of all, he prayed for us, even here today, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." Then He prays that we may be one in Christ so that the world can see and believe that God sent Jesus. He wanted us to be "brought to complete unity". Why? "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

So maybe we should quit fighting each other and start praising together. I think we all know churches who are struggling or who have struggled in the past. This is not God's way. Yes, I believe there are times when there are Biblical issues that need to be addressed and people may have to split ways, but are there times that we make Biblical issues out of personal preferences? Are there times we ignore Biblical concepts, like praising God continually and being unified, because we want to follow a man or a man-made concept and therefore we justify our attitudes? I I am not your judge, but I know I have been way too guilty of this. 

I want to be one of these people who is so busy praising God, I don't have time for bitterness, envy, debate, deceit, jealousy, gossip, etc. etc. to become a part of my life or of my family's life. 

Just my two cents on the verses I read today. I would love to hear others' thoughts on these verses as well. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

Product Details

Finding God's Best in the Most Unlikely Places

God, Adoption, Down Syndrome, Love are a few of the themes that carry through in this book. Many things come to mind when you hear these words and rather than confuse a book review and a blog post, I may actually do a blog post in the next little while addressing some of those thoughts. So stay tuned for that.

This is the story of Josh and Heather Avis and their journey through adoption. Not just normal adoption, but the adoption of two special needs children with heart defects who needed open heart surgery. Their middle child, Truly, did not have special needs as far as Down Syndrome, but she was a wide open, energetic, wild and free child, so she kept them very busy as well.

It's the story of saying yes to God and having your lives forever changed. I really liked the emphasis on saying yes to God and being willing to do what He calls you to do.

Another thing I appreciated was the open honesty that Heather expressed in the book. One area where I think she was vulnerable was in her relationship with her middle child, Truly. She didn't have the warm, fuzzy feelings for Truly and it bothered her, but she chose to love in action and that love ran much deeper than any warm, fuzzy feelings ever could. She was open and honest with this and I believe she can be a big help to other mothers who can struggle with similar feelings.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to know what God can do with a yes even if it seems wild and crazy and overwhelming.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

Product Details

This is book two in the series Chesapeake Valor

I'm really not sure what to say about this book. Let me start with the good stuff. It is very well-written. This is the second book I've read and Dani is a very gift author in her writing style. The story captures a group of friends who often investigate crimes together and are very good at what they do. To fully understand this book, you do need to have read book one. For me, I struggled a bit because it has been awhile since I read book one.

There is an element of trust that happens in this book. Avery has a very bad past and is struggling to fully believe that God loves her in spite of it, that her giving her life over to Christ truly does make her a new person and her past doesn't need to drag her down. Parker, her boyfriend, does a very good job of assuring her of that as well as still loving her despite her past and allowing her to tell her story at her own pace.

All that being said, I found the storyline rather disturbing. I won't go into a lot of details on here both to protect the essence of the story and because I don't want it on my blog. I am not doubting that there are psychos out in the world like that with a sick enough mind to do what happened in the book, but to me it was all around gross and creepy. I would certainly not be wanting just anyone to pick up the book and read it. The element of suspense and unexpected endings was alive and well put in this book, but the main story just ruined so much of it for me.

It's also not a book I would recommend reading just before going to bed. Every time I woke up, the story was on my mind gnawing at me, wondering how it really was all going to end.

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

My Great Big God by Andy Holmes

Illustrated by Marta Alvarez 20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith This is a beautiful hardcover board book that tells 20 Bible ...