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 

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

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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.

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...