Friday, July 10, 2015

Anything: the prayer that unlocked my God and my soul by Jennie Allen (book review)

I first heard of Jennie Allen a few years ago through Jen Hatmaker's blog. A friend and I co-hosted an if:gathering in our local church (Allen is the founder of if:gathering) and it was amazing. Then I borrowed Allen's book, "Restless," and wanted to mark it up so badly (worst part of borrowing books) because it just spoke a lot to me. Restless. I feel restless in my journey with God, like I don't know my exact place.

image via jennieallen.com

When I had the opportunity to read "Anything" by Jennie Allen, with a new Bible study included, I jumped on board. Years ago, she and her husband prayed to the Lord to do anything in their lives. Jennie said she felt numb in her walk with the Lord and in life and wanted not this mediocre life she was truly living (aren't we all???).

I want that. I want big things out of my life but not for my glory but His. Through reading this and Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" I am more and more convinced that I don't have to move to Africa or Haiti or the Philippines to allow God to do anything in my life. I don't have to adopt 15 kids (or even 1). I don't have to sell all my possessions or only wear 7 articles of clothing for a month (although I've done the latter, thanks Jen Hatmaker's "Seven" -- read it). Allen says that her life, from the outside, may not look so different but on the inside it's way different than before she prayed "anything." Chambers talks about how we can serve and life only for God in the mundane parts of life. Not everyone is lead by God to HUGE (in our eyes) things; so many of us will live day to day lives with families, 9-to-5 jobs, and PTO. That doesn't mean God can't do anything in our lives.

I want that. I want God to be the ultimate. Yes, I still love my family and will take care of them, but I serve God. My life. My body. My parenting. My mind. My everything is His. I listened to an Andy Stanley podcast called "Free" and in it he says to "Decide. Declare. Devote." in regards to surrendering ourselves to the Lord (that's perhaps not in the right order but I hope you understand what I mean). That's what I want. I want to really surrender, to let Christ live through me, to stop trying to "be good," to really allow Him to do "anything" in my life.

I know there aren't many (any?) quotes from this book or probably a good synopsis of what it's about other than giving God the allowance to do anything in your life, but please read this book. I think it's a game-changer. Life-changer. Find out more here.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not have the same opinions as mine. I also want to clearly state I've only read through chapter 10 in this book and Bible study, but wanted to get this review out with the impending birth of my kiddo any day. 

The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir by Dikkon Eberhart (book review)

Just the title of Dikkon Eberhart's book is enthralling: "The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told." Right? Who wouldn't be curious to hear these stories? I was and so I read.

Dikkon Eberhart is the son of a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Dick Eberhart. I have honestly never heard the name until I read this book. I'm not huge into poetry, though. Like, at all. I did recognize many of the names thrown around in this book: Frost, Ginsberg, Woolf, Hemingway, etc. Truly this Eberhart (the younger, the author of this book) grew up knowing many artists and walking alongside giants, it seems.
image via Amazon

While the stories in the book, about his family's past and his mother's meeting with Hitler and his and his wife's conversion to Christ, were very interesting, I just couldn't fall in love with the book. I don't know if it was just too slow in most parts or too wordy. I'm not quite sure what I didn't like but one part I loved was his explanation about Jesus Christ:

"We're like youngsters. But we can't get our arms around God's neck. It's too far to reach. God's too - other. We'll get burned if we actually touch God. So what we nee dis exactly what God gave to us. He gave us Himself in a way that we can grasp Him and struggle with Him. He gave us Himself, but as one of us. He made Himself man but was actually God at the same time. That is, God became Jesus.
"So Jesus is the translation. He's God we can grapple with. And when we do, we are held so tight by Him that we know - we absolutely know - there's something stronger and bigger and more powerful than we are, no matter how angry or frightened we are, and that the stronger and bigger Thing loves us enough to wrestle with us, and to test us, and that we are therefore safe."

Isn't that perfectly the truth? The only part I disagree with is that God became Jesus because He already was Jesus - the whole Trinity thing: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But this was written when Eberhart was just beginning to understand so that's understandable and a very complicated part of theology.

I love conversion stories, especially complicated ones like this where he grew up in a church, became Jewish, and then really understood the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love how he wrestled with his faith - any faith - and still came to the truth. It's just amazing how God works in lives.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not share my opinions on this book or its author.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Anchored by Kayla Aimee (book review & GIVEAWAY)

Kayla Aimee brings laughter to the scary story of her daughter being born (after years of trying to have a baby) at 25 weeks. I am writing this at almost 34 weeks and cannot even imagine my baby being born today let alone almost 10 weeks ago! Reading "Anchored: finding hope in the unexpected" by Kayla Aimee really was a great read while on this pregnancy journey of my own.
image via Icon Media Group
 As Aimee and her husband struggled with the NICU stay of their daughter, Aimee's faith was really shaken. I just love her honesty in this book. I felt like she was my friend, telling me her story. Her story of fear, love, surrender. It's so beautiful. And funny. Strange, right? But she weaves this humor (and not dark humor) into the story in such an authentic way.

I was just entranced with this story. Hearing about the procedures this poor baby went through, the sweet nurses that worked with her, the way God was with them through it all. Just really an incredible story with such an amazing ending: her Scarlette lives. I don't mind sharing that with you because if you just read the author's bio info, then you'd know that.

image of Kayla Aimee via Icon Media Group
At the end of the book, Aimee shares that while she thought she was just telling her daughter's incredible story until she realized that God had changed her through all of this. Scarlette's story is really Kayla's story, too.

"Anchored" by Kayla Aimee will be released July 1, 2015 so get your hands on a copy beforehand. You can find the book on Amazon.com.

One of you lucky readers will get your own copy from Icon Media Group and ME!

TO ENTER:
MANDATORY ENTRY: Leave a comment telling me about a time in your life when your faith was strengthened by a hard time in your life. If you don't wish to share personal information, just tell me what God taught you or is teaching you now. You MUST leave an email address in this comment in order for it to be a legitimate entry. I need a way to contact you if you win!

OTHER WAYS TO ENTER (one comment = one entry):
- Share this blog post on any social media outlet (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc). Please leave the URL where you shared in the comment.

- If you have kiddos (or fur babies), when were they born? Early? On time? Late?

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in order to write an honest review. Your opinions may not match mine. This giveaway will go until July 7, 2015 at 11:59pm (CST). Void where prohibited and you must be 18 or over to enter. Winner will be contacted via email and will have until July 6th to email me with their mailing address to send the DVD to (I'll give them some time over the holiday weekend). 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys by Rob Elliott (book review)

Squirt is our family artist. He makes really detailed drawings and colors nicely. He dislikes that his brother scribbles, but hey, art is not all of our thing! I thought Squirt would like this "Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys" by Rob Elliott. Something to do in church or in the car.
image via amazon.com
Basically, you have a joke: "What do magicians like to eat for breakfast?" An answer: "Trix cereal." Then an incomplete picture to go along (this one is a table with a magicians hat full of cereal with a rabbit peering over the edge of the table). Then there are directions on the bottom of how to doodle the rest of the picture: "Finish the magician. Make his absence disappear."

Super cute idea. Not all kids like to draw but maybe they like to complete a drawing. Not all kids like to draw but maybe they will because of the jokes. Some kids love jokes and drawing so this is right up their alley!

I gave this book to Squirt for a read and rest time at our house a week ago. He loved the idea of it, but only completed 4 pages. I tried to get him to do them in church, too, but he did not want it then. He wanted to read a book. Maybe this will be a good road trip book. Moose loves the jokes in it, but drawing just isn't his thing.

The other thing I really like about this book is that it's little. Little enough to stick in a diaper bag or other bag to carry around. Small things like that are so appreciated by this mom.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not have the same experiences I've had with this book.

My Sing-Along Bible by Stephen Elkins (book review)

I thought the "My Sing-Along Bible" by Stephen Elkins would be a great resource for the new baby and my boys to learn parts of the Bible together.

The book itself has a paragraph about a Bible story (Moses in the river or Elijah being taken to heaven). Then it has a Bible verse followed by the words to the song that goes along with that story. I was afraid by the simplicity of this book that it'd be too little for my boys, but they actually enjoyed the music.
image via Tyndale.com
I think this will be a very useful resource to help raise my children up in the Lord. I like that some of the songs are ones I haven't heard before, others use music I'm familiar with, and some are songs I know. It's exciting to find a resource to be used from ages 0-8.

Disclaimer: I received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in order to write an honest review. Others may not have the same experience(s) with it as I've had.

I'm Happy For You (Sort of...Not Really) by Kay Wills Wyma (book review)

Comparison. It's everywhere! We in America get thrown into Glimpses every day of people's lives: their perfect living rooms, their perfect recipes, their perfect baby showers or birthday parties, their perfect families. What's a Glimpse? Well that's something I learned in "I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really)" by Kay Wills Wyma.

A Glimpse is exactly what those things mentioned are: glimpses of the good things in people's lives. We see what people (friends & strangers) want us to see on social media - on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. Those are their best moments. And what do we compare them with? Our worst moments.

I see my friend who is ever patient with her children. I see her in public and compare that with our private moments. I'm sure she has her moments she'd rather not everyone see, too!
image via amazon.com
 Wyma's book really forced me to look at how comparison runs in my life - and has the potential to ruin it! I look at everyone's best but forget that their best is not my best, necessarily. I've been trying to teach my children this lesson, too. We have these measuring sticks in life - some are good and healthy and help us reach goals, but some are really dangerous. We try to live up to others' expectations (or our own unrealistic ones) without taking into account God's plan for our life, His design of us. He doesn't make mistakes so why do I get all crabby when my house isn't HGTV ready or I can't run through a pregnancy? What does it really matter, too?

I have so many notes throughout this book but my favorite part came toward the end when Wyma's daughter was talking about being the setter in volleyball. She was upset because she wasn't a hitter and hitters get the applause. Then she thought about it, saying, "It feels good when people cheer for you...Then I thought about all the girls on the court with me and how great they must feel when people cheer for them. Then...I started to realize what a great spot the setter job is. oh my word! My whole role will be setting people up to feel good." It's ok to stare slack-jawed at this one. I did, too.

What if we, instead of comparing ourselves in made up life competitions, started to look at life as an opportunity to set people up to feel good about THEMSELVES? What if we took our eyes off of ourselves and put it on them? I believe that's one of our purposes here on earth; God made us for community but not so we could compare and compete but to build one another up.

That's my plan. I want to set people up to feel good about themselves. Is this going to be easy? No, I am very selfish and self-centered. I talk a lot about myself and forget to ask others questions or listen to them. It's going to be really hard for me, but I want to do this. How glorifying to God would this be if His people started to look at others and how to build them up?!

Disclaimer: I was given this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not have the same experience with this book as I've had.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

anything...but autism...or that

When I was pregnant with Moose in 2006, I was taking education classes and we discussed autism. I remember thinking, "oh Lord, anything but that." My husband remembers me praying about it, too.

It wasn't until 2010 his autism was diagnosed.

It was hard and full of emotional questions: was this my fault for past transgressions, was this my fault physically, why, now what. In those 5 years since, I've learned SO much about being a mom, a wife, a human being, a Christian that I otherwise would not have learned if I'd had a "normal" kid my firstborn (Squirt does not have autism).

I have learned to pray that God be glorified in these really hard moments (when our firstborn had his first seizure this year and subsequent epilepsy diagnosis). Whether He is glorified in how we handle the situations presented, in our parenting, in our struggles, in our lives.

We want Him glorified and so I say "anything" as we await this third child this summer. It's a hard decision to make, saying anything. It's scary because anything means anything!

But I have seen God glorified and use this situation for so many things and I am willing to say "anything" for this daughter growing in my womb because I can't handle anything, but God can.

Jennie Allen's book, "Anything," is being re-released this summer to include a study guide in the back (order the book here). I have this book sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to start it. June 15th, FaithGateway is kicking off a summer Bible study using this book (register here).

You can share your own "anything" story to enter to win a few prizes (plus it's good to get it out there!). Do so here.

*I have no pictures because I've been too lazy to upload them, sorry!*

Saturday, June 6, 2015

baby shower

I have the best friends ever. Seriously. They threw me and Baby Girl a baby shower. It was PINK! I love pink, so this is not a problem with me. I thought I'd share some pictures from the shower. Please ignore my facial expressions; I look silly in most of these pictures (we'll blame it on the pregnancy).

My friends, Rachel & Kim, who threw me this awesome shower to welcome our girl!

 
This beautiful quilt not only matches the baby's room but it was made by my good good friend/mentor, Linda.


My storytime boss, Kim, made this beautiful blanket. I love the pattern and colors. Very girlie.


The food was delicious. I could eat that popcorn every day. The watermelon was perfect. And the leftover gumballs have made the boys very happy, even if they were pink.


There was a headband making station. This girl's bald head is going to be beautiful! 


A pink ombre cake. It was SOOOOO yummy!!!


and beautiful!


Baby naming game. Not sure if we had any contenders but some good laughs for sure.


More trying to think of names. Big A's grandma came to the shower; I really appreciate her support always. It means a lot! Everyone who came (and those who couldn't make it) are so loved in my life. 


My little sister got baby the book "Vader's Little Princess." Hilarious book and the boys have read it probably 15 times each since getting it.


My friend, Jessie, said this Avengers shirt screamed our baby as she was walking by in Target. For sure. And the boys have worked out that baby will be Wasp for Halloween. 


Baby's first dollhouse from college friends Jessica & Kate. They brought their baby boys (cousins born 20 days apart, I believe) with them. It was nice to meet their sweet guys. And Moose really wants to play with this dollhouse - this kid and baby toys that make noise.


Baby Girl got some beautiful clothes! She is going to be well-dressed.


This little doll and teether are from my friend, Judi. Very unique and so cute. So tiny!


Diaper cake made by Kim. I love diaper cakes; they are creative and functional.


My parents watched our boys while we went away for this weekend, our first "babymoon." While we were gone, she had the boys make these butterfly prints for baby's room. Not 100% sure which wall they will go on but it will be nice to have something from them in her room. Love them!

Overall, this was the nicest shower. Just fun. I got to laugh with family and friends, stuff my face with good food. I felt so loved!!

Signed Sealed Delivered: With Love From Paris (Hallmark movie premiere review)

Back in the day, I loved Martha Williamson's tv show, "Touched by an Angel." Who didn't?! Well, she has a tv series on the Hallmark channel: "Signed Sealed Delivered." This series is expanding into a movie series and "Signed Sealed Delivered: With Love From Paris," premieres TONIGHT, June 6 at 9pm ET/PT (8pm CST).

image via Grace Hill Media
Here is from the press release: Williamson’s signature laugh-while-you-cry style is evident in her highly anticipated new movie SIGNED SEALED DELIVERED: FROM PARIS WITH LOVE. Lead postal detective Oliver O'Toole is a man of faith whose wife has left him to pursue her dreams in Paris. In this inspirational story, his wife returns to explore the fate of their marriage on the same day the POstables deliver divorce papers to another couple grappling with the true meaning of love and the sanctity of marriage.
    Primetime television veteran Poppy Montgomery ("Without a Trace") guest-stars alongside returning stars Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”), Kristin Booth (“The Kennedys”), Crystal Lowe (“Smallville”) and Geoff Gustafson (“The Interview”) in this world premiere two-hour movie from Martha Williamson.
    “At the heart of the franchise is Oliver, a modern day gentleman with old world values played brilliantly by Eric Mabius. He and his wonderful team of postal detectives will continue to make it their mission to solve mysteries behind lost letters that can change lives when they reach their intended recipients. And in SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED: FROM PARIS WITH LOVE, the life that’s changed is Oliver’s, said Williamson.

I got to watch this movie premiere yesterday (fun to be in on things before they're released!). I was a little confused at the beginning with some back flashes. If you're a fan of the tv show then you'll be just fine. If you're not (like I'd never seen the show), you'll catch up in no time! 

This was a really cute romantic movie. I don't want to give much away because I think it's easily spoiled. Like many romantic movies, it's kind of easy to see where the plot will twist and turn. I will say that I enjoyed it and the ending was great! My favorite part of the movie was when the divorce papers couple plot wrapped up. Very cute!

So check out the movie premiere tonight (8:00pm my time Central) and keep checking back here at the S Club for a giveaway soon having to do with this!!!

Disclaimer: I received a link to watch this film in return for my honest opinion. Others may or may not the same experience(s) with this film as I've had.

Monday, June 1, 2015

American Sniper DVD/Blu-Ray WINNER

Thank you to all who entered the American Sniper DVD/Blu-Ray giveaway here at the S Club. Please stay tuned for new giveaways soon.

The winner, chosen by random.org, was Joseph Wallace. I've emailed Joseph and he will have 2 days to email me with his address or another winner will be chosen. Congratulations to Joseph!

in case you missed something