Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge by Karen Ehman (book review)

I didn't get a chance to read Karen Ehman's Keep It Shut (although I should), but I fell in love with her reading her "Listen Love Repeat" book about loving others. When I had the opportunity to read "Zip It," the 40-Day Challenge that goes along with Keep It Shut, I jumped! Well, I read.

Ehman is so personal in this challenge/devotional. She shares her struggles, her successes; something I think we need to do more for one another. Share our struggles so none of us know we're alone but then fight the good fight together so we know we can be successful with Christ in this struggle to tame the tongue.

Each day starts with a Bible verse pertaining to the tongue or words, followed by a devotional. The day ends with "Today's Takeaways" which are snippets that summarize the story's lesson. "Lesson for the Lips" is next, which is the part that makes this a challenge rather than just a devotional. There's action in these lessons. This is the deed part of our faith, our faith in action! A prayer closes each day, drawing you closer to the Lord through your struggle and success.

Although I've made it through this book and challenge, I know Zip It will be one I continually go to for inspiration and conviction. Ehman has allowed the Holy Spirit to fill the pages of these books and go out into the world to make disciples of the Lord...calmer, gentler, wiser disciples.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from my own.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fandago gift card winner!

Thank you to you all for entering my "The Zookeeper's Wife" Fandago gift card giveaway. I'm excited to announce that the winner picked by random.org is....

Amanda Kaeb!

I loved her answer to my question: who is your female hero?

I just started listening to this book too ... While I run! What are the chances?!? So funny. 
I've always admired Sabrina Wrumbrand. She was the wife of pastor, Richard Wrumbrand, during the communist take over of Romania. In his memoir he recounts a time when he was faced with the decision to support the communist agenda or stand up for Christ and face certain imprisonment, torture, and probable death (which would obviously leave her abandoned and alone to raise their son in a very scary and unstable time). He writes about how he turned to his wife and said (something to the effect of) "Sabina, I can't stand up now, you know what will become of me" to which she responds "you must stand up, for they are spitting in the face of Christ. I'd rather have a dead husband then a coward."
Woah! Just woah! What a fearless woman to stare down the face of the enemy and stand for Christ without waver! (They were both imprisioned and tortured multiple times over the course of several years for their resistance to the communist agenda and continual preaching of the gospel)
By the grace of God if I could only be half the woman Sabina Wrumbrand was. 

 I loved it because that's not someone I've ever heard of and I love hearing of new people to inspire me. All of your answers were pretty amazing - Amy Carmichael, Ruth (from the Bible), Amelia Earhart, Kara Tippits (her blog Mundane Faithfulness is amazing...following her journey through cancer), Mother Theresa, and Betsy's SIL Kirby (she sounds courageous!!). Thank you all for your responses. Check back again for more giveaways (hopefully).

Disclaimer: I will contact the winner and she will receive the gift card as soon as I get it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife and heroism (giveaway)

I read "The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman about a year ago - rather, I listened to it while running. I fell in love with this true story of Antonina Żabińska and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński. They are the zookeepers at the Warsaw zoo in Poland during 1939. When the Nazi's arrive after Poland is invaded, they struggle to keep their beloved animals, their son, and their home. They end up working with the Resistance and "put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk."

They have made this wonderful book into a movie! Antonina's heroism throughout the book is extraordinary! Another woman who showed great heroism during World War II - Corrie ten Boom. She was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped hide and save many Jews from the awful evil of the Holocaust. She even ended up in prison herself for these heroic actions.


Standing up for what you believe is right is difficult under good conditions but I was amazed when I read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom and learned of her heroism. In a time when so many people stood aside and let evil overtake country after country, it's awesome that she was able to stand up for her God and not cave to terrorism and brutality. 


I pray that I am able to let my light shine bright for Jesus in my life, just as Corrie ten Boom did. And that shouldn't be a difficult choice when I live in a place where persecution for my beliefs means maybe some people don't like you. That's something we should all be willing to face when it means believing and stand up for someone who gave His life for you.


Here is the trailer for the movie "The Zookeeper's Wife" starring Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh). I really am so excited about this movie and have been looking forward to it for awhile. 





GIVEAWAY:
One (1) of you will win a $25 Fandago gift card for your use to see "The Zookeeper's Wife." 

HOW TO ENTER:

Please leave a valid email address in your comment so I can contact you if you should win.
-Please leave a comment (including your email) telling me about a heroic woman you admire!

Giveaway will run through March 30th (movie opens March 31st) at 11:59pm. Void where prohibited. Open to anyone 18 and over. I will contact the winner and announce the winner the following day, March 31st. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email to claim their gift card before I need to pick another winner. 


Disclaimer: I received a Fandago gift card in exchange for writing this post. I would go see this movie anyway! All opinions are my own and may vary from others' opinions. Giveaway is void where prohibited.

Monday, March 13, 2017

LifeWay gift card (WINNER)

I do love the giveaways I host on here but it's especially fun when an IRL friend wins! The winner of the LifeWay gift card (chosen by random.org) is...

Mari Carnes!

A big thank you to my friend, Sarah, for teaching me how to do screen shots from my desktop! Now after almost 8 years of having this computer, I have a new skill. haha!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Check back for another giveaway or book review.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen (book review)

I have been a fan of Jennie Allen for several years now. She is the founder of IF:gathering. My friend Cari and I hosted IF:gathering two years ago, attended another last year and are hosting it again this year. It is such a vital time of encouragement and learning for me.

Jennie's new book, "Nothing to Prove," has that same type of encouragement and learning. The subtitle is "why we can stop trying so hard." Don't you feel like you've been trying so hard? Striving for success or a goal of some kind for so long. I have. No, don't misquote me here saying that I don't think goals are worthwhile. I do very well when I have a goal to strive for. However, when that striving becomes overwhelming and exhausting, something is wrong. 

Even in the Christian world, we are all striving. Usually, we are striving for good things: doing good works for God, mission work, discipling, evangelizing. These are good things but they can make us exhausted. In that striving and exhaustion we can forget that we have nothing to prove. We have grace through the blood of Christ Jesus.

"Nothing to Prove" is Jennie's story to stopping the striving and to learn to rest in the grace of her Lord. Many times we start work for God to give Him glory and somewhere in that we twisted to strive to "build platforms for applause rather than to display God." We forget that we are supposed to be filled by the living water of Christ in order that it can  "come pouring out of you into a thirsty world."

I love the interactive qualities of Jennie Allen's books. They're always places to answer questions and think through what she has been sharing and write your prayers. I feel like more books need to be like that because I write in them whether they have the room or not. I very much appreciate the suggestions in her book, the freedom to use the information in ways that work in our lives and our walks with God.

One thing that really struck me while reading this book was when she spoke about the miracle at Cana. This is when Jesus was that a wedding with his mother and disciples and they ran out of wine. In their culture, this was awful! But I never noticed that it was wine. His first miracle was wine! Stay with me here...

"Near the end of Jesus is life, at the final supper with his disciples he poured wine and said of it, "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. When you drink of it, remember me. Every time you drink or eat, remember that my body was broken for you and my blood spilled for you, all to fulfill a purpose, to confirm a new covenant between God and you." The wine that symbolized "The greatest news on earth, was foreshadowed at the beginning of Jesus's ministry! "The fact that, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus had the servants fill the huge ceremonial cleansing jars with water is like the ultimate goal of his life and death and resurrection: he would replace the in adequate religious rituals with the flowing promise of nearness to God." And that's it! 

People today are so tired of religion and for good reason. Religion will fail you. It is run by humans who are prone to sin. I just listened to a whole Andy Stanley podcast on atheism and the "non" generation (people who are non-affiliated).

But Jesus with his love and goodness replaces are human striving with his godly grace. 

Isn't that amazing news?

We have the opportunity to serve the God who loves us simply because he loves us. He doesn't need us and we cannot do enough good works to deserve his love or praise. But he loves us and we have the opportunity to glorify him in all that we say, think, and do.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. I would have bought it anyway! All opinions are my own even if they are different from others' opinions.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

LifeWay gift card GIVEAWAY

Thanks to those special folks at Grace Hill Media, I have a $25 gift card to LifeWay to give to one of you lucky readers.

TO ENTER:
Please leave a valid email address with your comment so I can contact you if you win.

Look at http://www.lifeway.com/ and tell me what you want to get with $25.

That's it. I like to keep it simple here.

Giveaway will run until Sunday March 12, 2017 at 11:59pm CST. To enter you must be 18 or over with a valid US mailing address. Void where prohibited.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is not associated with LifeWay stores or their .com at all. Just a perk. I received a gift card of my own for writing a post about my faith. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery (on CNN March 5)

CNN has a show called "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery" and the 2nd season premieres on March 5 at 9PM ET/PT. One episode this season is about Thomas, or "doubting Thomas" as he can be known. 

If you don't know the story of Thomas, he was one of Jesus Christ's 12 disciples. Ever so faithful during the life of Christ, he is called the doubter because of the passage of John 20:24-29 where he says he will not believe that Christ was resurrected until he saw it for himself.

Many sort of scoff at this man for his doubting, but they overlook how faithful he was during the life of Christ. John 11:16 shares his passion for the Messiah in wanting to go with Jesus even if it meant his (Thomas') death.

I feel like Thomas is one of the more relatable characters in the Bible because of his momentary doubt. The story of Christ's life and resurrection is unbelievable without faith! And some are more hard-headed than others. I feel like my faith is a gift from God. Having not really been raised in the church outside of VBS and occasional Sunday school, catechism classes, and such, statistically, I probably should not be a believer. Kids generally take after their parents in matters of religion and faith. 

However, here I am, a believer in Jesus Christ as my savior. A sinner covered by His grace. This faith has helped me through so many life events. Small events such as quitting my college softball team because I felt God telling me to do so as it had become an idol. That seems like such a trivial thing but having played softball for 14 years at that time (I was 19 years old), it was a huge thing. I asked advice from believing friends, as I didn't really have a mentor at that time. And one of them asked me if I thought I would regret it looking back. 

There are moments I wish I'd played longer. The team was quite successful the year after I played. I missed the camaraderie associated with teammates. I missed the traveling and excitement of close games. 

I don't regret it for a moment. The reason being that I will follow God even when I don't want to or don't know if it's quite His voice I'm following (do you have that problem? was that You, Lord, or am I just talking to myself?). I do my very best to follow Him and eventually I see His wisdom.

The Lord has lead us through very financially lean times in our marriage. He brought us across the country and back with several job losses in those first seven years. In these closer years, he has brought us autism and epilepsy and a new baby. It's challenging to follow the Lord, and I'd be lying if I said I never doubted. But what I doubt are my choices, my faith, my convictions. 

The story of doubting Thomas is relevant to our modern day world because we can be so passionate about following Christ! Let's move to the jungle and evangelize a native people! Let's start a blog and write devotionals! Let's knock out slavery, homelessness, and all sorts of justice issues.

And yet when we hear His voice or even stories of Him, sometimes we doubt. Was that really the Lord? Would He really do that? Could He? And so we are all doubting Thomases.  

Disclaimer: I received compensation for writing this review. My opinions are still my own and I still think you should watch “Season 2 of Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact Forgery premieres Sunday, March 5 at 9 PM ET/PT on CNN.”


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner (book review; children's)

My greatest desire would be to fulfill this Scripture: 
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4

Truly, the Lord has blessed me with my children and I try my very best to instill in them a love for the Lord. My hope is that this discipleship of my children will lead to their ownership in their faiths. That they may walk in the truth.

One way I've found necessary in our lives to teach them is through books. We are bookworms, my children and I (my husband has come very far in his non-reading ways lol). My boys naturally lounge with a book daily. Even Princess, as small as she is, likes to be read to. One of her first words was "buh" which means "book." She is quite violent in placing them on your lap for you to read to her but it's with a good heart, a bookworm heart.
image via amazon.com

I love to have books that speak of God. Our favorites include "Look What God Made," "God Loves You More Than That," and "Captain Sun" comics. Another I've added to our list is "When God Made You" by Matthew Paul Turner

Children naturally like to hear about themselves so this book really reaches them on that intimate level. When God made you, He made you wonderful. My favorite line from the book is,

"Out of billions of faces from cultures, all races, 
people God made, from all different places,
God knew your name. Your picture is framed.
God's family without you would not be the same."

What a lovely picture of our Father's love for us. I greatly appreciate how "When God Made You," Turner really affirms God's love for us, his children. It's a lovely word picture written in a lyrical manner. 
image via patheos.com
The illustrations are gorgeous. Very colorful, bright, artistic. The illustrator is David Catrow. He has a fine attention to detail with textures on the walls, the main character's curls, the fur on animals. The illustrations are just lovely to look at; they will keep your children's attentions.

This book is currently on the Amazon Best Seller list and is thus back ordered. They will have more soon, but in the meantime, feel free to purchase it from Walmart.com.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loecher (book review)

Slow. That almost seems like a curse word in today's world. You ask a friend how they are and their answer is inevitably "busy." And I am, too. We have cub scout meetings, small group, Bible studies, playdates, laundry, supper. Our ancestors were busy also (laundry, cooking, butchering, farming, mending and sewing, quilting...everything took so much longer), but that word seems to be a badge of honor...or a badge of martyrdom (??). It's something we say almost with a tinge of pride (aren't you proud of how not idle I am? how productive we are?) when I don't think "busy" has ever been the ideal. We could have loads of free time and down time with all of our modern conveniences but it seems like we just naturally (selfishly, perhaps) fill that time with "busy."

It's exhausting, isn't it?

image via amazon.com

Erin Loecher is an hgtv.com reality show star and blogger and author of "Chasing Slow." She found herself caught up in the busy (hers accompanied by panic attacks). "Chasing Slow" is her journey to finding a balance between a perfect online self and her real in-real-life self, between productivity and living life with eyes wide open, from wondering if there was more to life to knowing a real true God.

This book is so beautiful and full of lovely writing and photographs. What I find even better is that it spoke real truth, God truth, to my heart. Loecher seems to have many of the insecurities that plague me and my friends: doubt, self-worth, enough. I've tried to be enough in so many areas of life: mom, wife, blogger, Christian, friend, storytime lady, homemaker, teaching parent, college student, daughter. What I've found in each of these is that I have little control over so much in each area that I can very easily come up feeling like I'm failing and drowning.

"The reality of mountain climbing is that if the stars are your goal, you'll be scaling forever."

I am not enough on my own. I am enough through Christ.

"Chasing Slow" has allowed me to open my eyes to this reality. To really soak it in and believe it. Be still in it. Dwell in Him.

"God, teach me what it means to forgo the riches of this life. Change me. I am spent." 
Amen.

She even touches on the world that Pinterest has turned upside down. Allowing us to see so much has made us feel unworthy. I have wonderful boards on Pinterest but this is after a time of deleting my account because of the time-waster it was (spending my life looking for more and more and more but not living) and how it made me feel (I can't do most of those things or afford the others). I have very specific boards for very specific items (birthday themes and quilting patterns), but I am very careful to pin only what I'll use and delete what I won't. Because "who could have known that more would make us feel less?" I don't think the creators of Pinterest had this in mind when they beta tested this site: it's wonderful in theory.

I'll leave you with this thought from the book. I think it sums it up nicely.

"But the answer is not to lower the expectations we have created. The answer, I believe, is to live up to the expectations we have been created for." 
image via Design for Mankind

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others'.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Anger by Gary Chapman (book review)

A few months ago at my moms group, a few lovely ladies told me that I seem like a very patient and calm mom. Let me be the first to say, that is unfortunately not true. I struggle so very much with yelling and being angry with my children and my husband. Usually, it is over things that are not important. Mountains out of molehills.

So this year, I decided to fight against it. I have read other books about anger, including "The Orange Rhino," and studies on Bible verses that speak of anger and patience. I started to read "Anger: taming a powerful emotion" by Gary Chapman because the author is someone that I have grown to trust through his other publications (The 5 Love Languages).

I don't know if you are a yeller or if you struggle with anger (passive-aggressive is also anger), but I will say that this book has helped me so greatly. I will say it is a divine intervention for me.
image via amazon.com
Chapman introduces his book with a reminder in the first chapter that anger is an emotion given to us by God, not a sin. God himself shows anger in the Bible, as does his son Jesus. Chapman says that anger has been given to us in order to move us. If we are mad about the sex trade and slavery, it will move us to pursue justice. The creators of the group MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) were mad about people being killed by drunk drivers!

So if anger is a God-given emotion, why is it that we feel so guilty about it? It comes down to realizing that there are two kinds of anger- definitive and distorted. "Definitive anger is born of wrongdoing." Distorted anger "is triggered by a major disappointment, and unfulfilled desires, frustrated effort, a bad mood, or any number of other things that have nothing to do with any moral transgression." This was a huge turning point in my head. Most of my anger is distorted. My children make annoying noises, I am in a bad mood, I can't have this or that, I was not a productive person today. Any of those things can lead to me exploding. None of those things is a moral issue.

Throughout the book "Anger," Chapman gives strategies on how to identify our anger and what to do when we feel that anger. Many of the strategies seem easy but will not necessarily be easy for a person who is angry. However, I believe with a little bit of discipline and practice before getting angry (visualization), many people can be helped through their anger with this book.

It has been a few weeks since I finish this book and it took me a few weeks to get through. I have already seen personal transformation in this book. I can only name one instance in the last several weeks when I yelled at my kids. It is humbling to admit even that one instance but my hope is to encourage other people, especially moms.
We are all under enormous pressure from outside sources and ourselves and sometimes we just buckle under the pressure. We snap and yell and react horribly. But I am not alone in this and neither are you. We can, in fact, overcome anger to be able to use it in a constructive manner that God intended it to be used in.

I think the best thing about "Anger" is that each chapter ends with "quick takes" that share the information in a condensed form from each chapter. I believe that these "quick takes" will allow people who read this book to go back quickly and see steps and techniques needed to help them.

You can take a personal anger assessment at 5lovelanguages.com

image via 5lovelanguages.com



Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others'.

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