Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jesus Loves Me: A Sing-Along Book illustrated by Gynux (children's book review)

"Jesus loves me
This I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so."

This is one of my daughter's favorite songs to sign along with (along with The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus). She doesn't quite sing yet but will sing "me" at the end of the chorus in this song. It's pretty much as sweet as it sounds! I adore toddlers singing and loving music.
image via BookLook
I was really excited to see a book with this song in it! It's really a foundational song in a child's spiritual walk. Jesus loves me! Jesus loves you! That's it, people! He loves us! Amazing! We try to say this is just a song for toddlers but it's a song for us all. I believe the song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn proves that.

However, this book was a big disappointment to me. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting because I saw the cover with its raccoon, weasel (??), and rabbit with their little instruments on the cover. That's really the whole book. These animals are gathering and playing instruments and singing as they walk along to listen to an elk or deer or something presumably tell them that Jesus loves them. Then they have a picnic, bonfire, and go home. It's really shallow as far as the art goes, even for a children's book. Even animals reading a Bible would have been great.

The book did include a second verse I was unaware of:

"Jesus loves me still today,
walking with me on my way.
Wanting as a friend to give
light and love to all who live."

I really love that. It continues on that Jesus is with us which is so important to understand. And I know that it's important, even still for me as an adult, to remember that He is with me.

I will continue to read this book to my little girl, but with a grain of salt. I want her to know that following Christ is not a Disney movie with animals talking and birds chirping and such. It's real hardship and dying to self. But it's amazing because He loves us and won't leave us.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own even if I'm a bit picky about books. 

And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering by Kate Merrick (book review)

I haven't written anything personal on my blog really since December 2016. It's been nothing but reviews and things of that nature - nothing wrong with that, of course (or I wouldn't be writing this), but I'd like to explain why.

I have been lost in a sea that I had only vaguely known prior to this past season of life. The sea of depression. It's weird to even write that, to be honest. I think I had some postpartum depression after my second son, Squirt, was born in 2009 but I started running after that. I think the endorphins honestly helped me get out of that fog.

Fast forward a few years. I injured my foot in 2013 and I'm still not sure if it's healed properly. My running hasn't been the same since, so less endorphins. I believe that has left me vulnerable emotionally. In 2015 we welcomed our sweet Princess into our lives but that first year of her life was marred by the epilepsy of my oldest son, Moose. He had brain surgery last summer, 2016, to remove ablasia cells that were causing his seizures. In that time period, I think things just built up and up and up and up. People prayed and helped and kept us feeling the love of God - being the hands and feet of Christ.

Afterward, it was like my guard was let down and the enemy kicked me hard. I have been struggling through this - talking to my husband and best friends, medication, and getting back to exercise/running - for a better part of a year. I believe that shows that people can look fine from the outside but you never know where their hearts are hurting. I'm doing well most days but I must keep my eyes focused on the Lord. In Kate Merrick's book "And Still She Laughs," she writes, "Perspective is a giver. Comparison takes. Perspective is generous. Comparison pares down the loveliness of your life until it appears a thin shred of its former glory. Perspective carries us through life laughing. Comparison evokes cursing and frowns and grumbling." How true and timely for me to read this book.

I have found myself these past few weeks grumbling and complaining (and yelling and crying). I wanted to read "And Still She Laughs" because I heard Kate Merrick and her husband, Britt, speak at the IF:gathering this year. I wasn't sure what I would get out of her book, never having lost a child like she has lost her Daisy to cancer. But God knew I needed to read this and so plopped it in my hands.

Reading is like oxygen to me but I've found these past few years that it's taken more motivation for me to finish books (you wouldn't guess that when you see I read 40+ books last year). I've numbed myself a lot while also trying so hard to live up to expectations (mostly my own) and to be there for my children (one of whom is growing like a weed...make that three of them, but one is still learning much of this world, one is better but has struggled in this season with anxiety, and one who is a wild card much of the time...a box of chocolates, if you will).

"Nothing stays the same. Nothing. Children grow up and people change. Church communities ebb and flow; hopes rise and fall. Marriages grow and weaken; some break up. ... For Pete's sake, even my rear end has changed, traveled south - and she's not coming back up where she belongs anytime soon, if ever.
So I drink in truth. I drink in the only life that is sure, the very Word of God. What was that he said? Remind me, for I can't see through the muddle of tears, the feeling of rejection, the shaking in fear.
If I idolize a certain season of life, I will drown. I must learn to extract the joy from each and every season, or I will experience a different kind of death. I can't life in the past; I can't live in a place of missing the good old days. I need to agree with Jesus that, while things can be different or even disappointing, there is still abundant life for me to grab hold of."

Nothing has pulled me from the muck and mire of despair, loneliness, and depression quite like the Lord has. From music about Him, to books by authors who love Him, to friends and church family who speak truth into my life, and especially from His actual Word, the Bible - that's been the real life giver.

I appreciate Kate's book for its honesty, beautiful writing, and how she wove her story and the stories of Hagar, Sarah, and mother Mary around the hardship, through the deep cracks that were welded together in the way of kintsugi from the Lord, and into the deep faith in Christ that sustained them and sustains her and sustains me. She also gives a fresh perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman we all love to hate. Really! I don't hate her anymore!

If you need to read something that speaks truth in love without brushing aside the hardships of life, this book is for you. If you need some perspective to see how life is still beautiful even in the darkness, this book is for you. If you need to laugh, this book is for you (she's awfully funny).

Disclaimer: thanks to BookLook and Tommy Nelson Publishing for allowing me to read this book. I received the book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own even if you disagree with them. 

The Frightening Philippi Jail by Gary Bower (children's book review)

Awhile back I wrote a review on "The Beautiful Garden of Eden." My older boys (7 and 9) really enjoy reading that book and I enjoy reading it to my daughter (almost 2) because of the lilting, poetical way it's written.
image via Tyndale Blog Network
I thought "The Frightening Philippi Jail" by Gary Bower would give my big boys a good visual for them for this Bible story. Honestly, we haven't talked a whole lot about the apostles in our home; we have mostly focused on Jesus. I think this is a good starting point.

I love the writing of this book. It's the same lyrical type of writing based on "The House That Jack Built." It just flies off the tongue so well, so don't miss reading this aloud! Even encourage your little readers to do so.

The pictures in this one are a little more drab - brown color palette with some orange and red. But they are in jail back in the day, so who says it was colorful? Just comparing it to "The Beautiful Garden of Eden," visually a person would be more drawn to the Eden book. It's just lovelier in color; although the artistry in "The Frightening Philippi Jail" is great, too.

I would highly encourage Sunday school classes or story time readers to consider these books. They are very captivating for young and older kids alike.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own although they may differ from others' opinions. Some links are affiliate links with Amazon Smile which will help support my choice of charitable organizations which is Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti which trains Haitians to spread the word of God to their nation.

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.”


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