Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

My personality is as such that I don’t gravitate to things that are new or uncertain. In such situations, I tend to be shy and wary. I’m proud to say that I’ve put myself into just such a situation over the past week and a half and have loved it!

Several weeks ago, I noticed in the church bulletin that they would be holding a women’s Bible study using the book Run for God by Mitchell Hollis. Joining the group intrigued me on several levels: it would be a great way to try to meet some of the ladies at the church we have been visiting, it would be a way to push me back into running/working out, and I was simply curious about what running and God had to do with each other. However, I tried to find a million excuses as to why I shouldn’t do it. First of all, I was scared to face a room full of unfamiliar faces. I worried that an old knee problem would make it impossible to participate. I thought of my son’s music lessons that were at the same time and how could I be in two places at once. There were so many excuses I could use.

At the gentle prodding of my supportive husband, who graciously agreed to go in early to work so he’d be home to take our son to music lessons, I agreed to try it. I emailed the study coordinator who gladly answered my questions. As I drove to the first meeting, I was nervous. I was relieved to have several ladies introduce themselves to meet and start chatting with me. I so excited to see the start of some great friendships blossoming.

I’m also enjoying the running days outside of the group meeting times. I’ve added a new playlist to my phone that has Christian music and really inspires me on those tough running sections. I also am enjoying spending time with my kids on my last two runs. They enjoy being outside and are continuing to develop a love of running. I haven’t put fitness as a priority in quite some time. That has affected not only my health, but also my ability to keep up with the kids. I’ve also been concerned that I’m not modeling the of attitudes towards exercise that may get passed along to them. I’m happy to say that although it will take a lot to change the family’s mindset, we’re on our way.

Of course, there are days when it’s hard and moments when my knees hurt, and I just don’t want to run. However, that is something that was discussed on our first night. Running can be paralleled with a journey of faith. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, sometimes we’re not as strong as we should be, and sometimes we lack to discipline to do what is needed. I thankful that I making a conscious effort to work on this, both in a physical and spiritual way. I pray that you too reach out to the unknown and make yourself better for the glory of God. Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is exactly what you need.

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

Book Review: “Drawing Fire” by Janice Cantore

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I just finished reading Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore. It was a intriguing book full of suspenseful twists and turns. It follows the lives of homicide detective Abby Hart and private investigator Luke Murphy. Abby is haunted by the unsolved death of her parents and is consumed with bringing their killer to justice. Luke is also tortured by the death of a family member, his wife. The characters are well developed, and I often found myself feeling sorry for their circumstances while also being in awe of their determination to make a difference in the lives of others. The book also has a romantic angle where Abby feels torn between her missionary fiance and feelings for Luke. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a clean suspense novel. The book left me wanting more, and thankfully I’ll get it. The second book in the Cold Case Justice series is scheduled to be available in the spring of 2016. I’ll be on the lookout for it.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “Grill It, Braise It, Broil It” by the American Heart Association

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I was drawn to this book in search of healthy recipes since I’m trying to learn to cook for my family in a more healthy way. There are over 175 recipes contained in the book, along with some basic information regarding healthy eating. The book is divided into twelve different techniques (slow cooking, microwaving, blending, grilling, stir-frying, braising, stewing, steaming, poaching, broiling, roasting, and baking). Each section lists the recipes, tips, and tricks associated with that specific cooking method. Being more familiar with some of these techniques than others, I’m looking forward to changing up my cooking methods more often with the help of this book. Each recipe contains a complete nutritional profile and some have really useful cook’s tips (such as how to freeze extra pesto). Another interesting section lists serving recommendations by calorie levels and even includes some sample sizes for specific foods. My only complaint is that there are almost no pictures. I’d love to see what the end result should look like. However, the book seems to be full of scrumptious ideas for healthy foods that are also appetizing.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “War Room” by Chris Fabry

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I was so excited to read this novelization by Chris Fabry. I decided to read it after seeing a trailer for the movie. This book did not disappoint! It introduces us to Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, a couple who seem to have it all, but don’t. Tony is an almost absentee father who is annoyed by his wife and turns to dishonesty and flirtation with another woman. Elizabeth is resentful of her husband and lets her irritation with him affect her and her marriage. This dynamic changes when Elizabeth meets a client named Miss Clara, an elderly widow who starts to impart wisdom to Elizabeth. What Elizabeth thinks will be her next real estate sale may also be the answer to saving her failing marriage. Miss Clara teaches Elizabeth how to use prayer to change the course of her family’s legacy…from one of certain divorce to a thriving, loving family.

I absolutely loved this book! It was an easy read. I found myself carving out extra time to read it to find out what happens next. Wouldn’t the world be so much better if everyone had a Miss Clara to point them to prayer as an answer to life’s problems? I loved that prayer was the central thought woven through every storyline. It was wonderful to see how much each character developed though the book through their commitment to improving their prayer life. It encouraged me to evaluate my prayer life and make a plan to improve it. Now, I can’t wait to take my family to see the movie! Check out more information on the movie at War Room Movie

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens”, Third Edition by Carol Christen

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This book is the third edition of the popular series What Color is Your Parachute?, written specifically for teens. The book is divided into three parts:
1) Discover Your Dream Job: And Plot to Get It
2) On the Way to Your Future: Help if You Don’t Know Where to Go
3) Land Your Dream Job: Create Your Ideal Life…and More
Each section contains discovery exercises to help the student to think through the larger idea that the author is presenting. The step-by-step approach of the book offers a no-nonsense plan to achieve their goals. By using an easy-to-read graphic called My Parachute, the teen can assess their skills, interest, skills, likes, and dislikes. Tips and inspirational quotes are peppered throughout the text. I also enjoyed how the book guides them on how to make the most of their high school and college experiences to further their career goals.

I was interested in this book for my children to help them organize their thoughts about their long-range goals and dreams. They enjoyed dreaming as they explored the book. The book made them sit down and think about just where they want to be long-term and how to get there. It was so wonderful to see them think through all the possibilities that are out there for them. In fact, one of my children thought of an entirely new career path that combined two of his most loved interests. He was excited at the prospect of being able to do two things that make him so happy at the same time. I’m not sure he would have thought of it so early in life if this book hadn’t challenged him to think such things through. It’s a good book for tweens and teens who are interested in guiding themselves towards a career that makes them happy.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBook.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Pssst…moms, it’s ok to have fun!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home with an impulsive idea to go on one more trip before the end of summer. I am the planner of the family and love my vast array of spreadsheets and lists (a little too much). I mentally checked my list when he suggested it. My mind came to a quick conclusion, “No, we don’t have a trip planned.” However, I tried to not be thrown off-balance by the lack of planning and embrace the prospect of having some fun. I jumped straight into planning mode. I came up with a few suggestions, and the kids picked a weekend trip to Greenville, SC.

We visited the Greenville Zoo, Cleveland Park, Discovery Island (try surfing if you visit), and just played in the hotel pool. Although the zoo isn’t that large, the kids excitedly moved from exhibit to exhibit. We then visited Cleveland Park which is adjacent to the zoo. The play structures are so cool here. While they have the regular slides and swings, they also have a lot of rope climbing structures that the kids loved. Towards the end of our time there, I spotted an old-school balance beam similar to the one I used to have on my school’s playground. I don’t know why, but I just jumped up on it and started across. Granted, it took a few tries, but it was fun to be a kid again. At some point, I noticed that my husband was taking pictures of me. “Farmer Boy” asked why he was taking them. My husband replied, “Mom doesn’t act silly that often.” Sadly, it’s true. I spend so much time organizing, scheduling, cleaning, planning, etc., and it seems there’s very little time for just being goofy. The kids need to see that in me, in us, as moms. It is a slow passage from the carefree silliness of childhood to the seriousness of being an adult. It happens so slowly that we hardly even notice it happening. Yes, there are times where we have to be a “grown-up”, but shouldn’t there be a majority of the time that we can just be silly, happy, and carefree with our kids? I know that I will be trying to make an effort to do just that. After all, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” -Proverbs 17:22.

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What’s your favorite way to have fun with your kids?

Lazarus Awakening

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I am proud to be part of the Lazarus Awakening Blog Tour. I can’t express what a personal blessing this Bible study has been to me. It has been so encouraging! Even though I thought I was familiar with the story of Lazarus, I have learned so much more about it in the past few weeks.

Just like Mary and Martha, I have found myself feeling disheartened when things didn’t go according to my plans and timeline. I know that God has my best interests at heart, but it is so hard to let Him take control when things don’t work out like I thought it should. Instead of giving up that control wholeheartedly, I often will become fretful and upset about situations, wondering why He doesn’t swoop in and save the day like I have planned. It’s at those times that I have to remember that His plan is always on time and is perfect in every way, even if it doesn’t match mine!

This study also helped me to remember that bitterness and unforgiveness has the ability to have us stuck in metaphorical tombs. Jesus wants us to be free of those tombs and live an abundant life. As someone who has been in situation where I just did not understand why things were going a certain way, I have found myself living in a metaphorical tomb of sadness and bitterness. God has used this study to show me to get up and move forward in seeking His will for me.

In addition to the book, a more in-depth study guide and DVD are available. I enjoyed the extra material presented in the stand-alone study guide. I also loved the DVD. I have always wanted to take a trip to the Holy Land, but haven’t gotten there yet. It was so exciting to be able to see the places that I have read about so often. It made the story of Lazarus come alive for me.

Please enjoy this wonderful excerpt from the book:

“To obey or not to obey—that’s the question we face continually in our Christian walk. Some days it’s easy to comply, but other days it feels all but impossible. Espe­cially when God asks us to do something that doesn’t make sense to us.

Like opening our tombs by choosing to forgive.

For many of us, our tombstones and spiritual blockages result from what has been done to us—and our attitudes about it. We’ve been hurt. We’ve been falsely accused or misunderstood, misused or betrayed. And we can’t seem to get past our anger, resentment, or bitterness.

We want to forgive—well, most of the time. Trouble is, we aren’t sure we can forgive. The hurt has gone so deep that the tendrils of our pain seem to go on forever. How do you let go of something that has such a hold on you?

That was my dilemma several years ago. “I have to get alone with God,” I told my husband, John. “I’m in a very bad place.”

We’d walked through a trying time in ministry and, for the most part, I’d handled it pretty well. A space of grace had opened up for me to walk through the difficulty without feeling the intense need to fix it or change the people involved. Opportunities for self-pity had floated through my mind before, but up to that point I hadn’t indulged them. Instead, I’d been experiencing the also-miraculous phenomenon of a disciplined mind.

I’d learned that just because a painful recollection came to memory, I didn’t have to embrace it—a revolutionary discovery, let me tell you. Instead of nursing and rehearsing the past, with the Holy Spirit’s help, I was learning to disperse it, refusing the offense entrance to my heart and, more important, denying it occupancy in my mind.

But somewhere near the anniversary of the hurt, I began to nurse a grudge against someone in the situation. Pain-laced memories began to stick in my craw and bother me anew as the darkness of resentment casts it shadow over my heart.

After experiencing so much victory in my thinking, I grew a bit careless. A particularly painful memory slipped in through a side entrance of my mind. At first it was so tiny I hardly noticed it. But as I allowed my hurt a platform to state its woes, it began to grow, and a boulder of unforgiveness began to move across my soul.

Finally the chill of bitterness sank in so deep I couldn’t even find the “want to” to forgive. That terrified me. With John’s blessing, I holed up in a friend’s cabin and poured out my heart before the Lord. It was slow going at first. My emotions were rock hard, but as I hammered out obedience to forgiveness, things began to change.

At the Spirit’s prompting, I wrote a letter to the person who had hurt me. I didn’t measure my words; I just spilled out my pain. I knew I had to get honest before God about what I was feeling in order for the infection to drain from my heart.

Other letters followed, but not one would be postmarked. I wasn’t writing them for anyone but me. My friends may not have felt the stranglehold of my judgment, but I certainly had. Finally, I wrote a letter to God, relinquishing all rights to resentment and asking Him to bless the people involved.

I was absolutely exhausted when I penned the last note. But with the exhaustion came the beginning of a sweet sense of release.

For in the mind-over-emotion choice to forgive, my stone of unforgiveness started to move. And somewhere in the letting go of those who had hurt me, I walked out free.” – Joanna Weaver

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Again, I can’t say enough about this wonderful study! I have learned a lot and felt God directing me to certain passages. Even the circumstances of this study appearing on my doorstep have been remarkable. It seemed to have just shown up on my doorstep. When I saw who the author was and what the subject manner was, I thumbed through the material late that night. I was struck by all of the phrases and thoughts that pierced my heart as I glanced through the pages. Now, it seems like the story of Lazarus is all around me. While working on this study, the next podcast I listened to was on this subject, and most recently, a sermon. God so obviously has a plan, a perfect one! Trust in Him and abide in His love. I pray you will enjoy this study, and it will be a blessing to you too!

You can find more information about this Bible study at Joanna Weaver Books, including how to enter her generous giveaway.

I received a complimentary copy of this study, but all opinions are my own.

A Great New Bible Study!

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I am excited to be a part of the launch team for a new Bible study, Lazarus Awakening by Joanna Weaver. Mrs. Weaver is also the author of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World that I previously reviewed and loved. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting more information about the study. While I have just gotten started on the study, I can honestly say I’m impressed. In just a few sessions, I really feel that I have been helped in several ways by thinking differently about the story of Lazarus. I hope you enjoy reading about the study. For now, enjoy this preview:
Lazarus Awakening Preview

Also, visit Joanna Weaver Books to enter the “Bible-Study-in-a-Box” giveaway!
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Note: I was provided a copy of this Bible study from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr

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I really enjoyed The Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr. This was my first time reading a book by Ms. Parr, and I look forward to reading more from her. This story has elements of surprise, faith, heartbreak, loss, mystery, and romance. The main character is Martha Cade, a widow and mother. Just like her beloved grandmother, she is the midwife of Trinity, Pennsylvania. She lives with her brother and sister-in-law who help care for her daughter, Victoria, when she gets called to care for a patient. You can almost feel her heartbreak when she returns from a birth to realize Victoria has ran away. She follows Victoria’s trail to no avail. Ironically, the women who cares for the town’s mothers and children can’t help her own daughter other than to pray and patiently await her return. Her absence while looking for Victoria also exacerbates another problem in Martha’s life. While she was gone, a doctor moved to town to set up practice and now provides an alternative to her services as midwife. So, she comes back and has to grapple with two lost identities of being a hands-on mother and being the sole provider of birthing services. The story follows her through these turn of events and adds a few more twists and turns.

I enjoyed exploring how differently medical practices were portrayed in the book from what we have now. I also found it interesting all of the different ways that Martha was paid contrasted with our “cash only” system we currently have. I loved how her faith is tied into so many facets of the story. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading future books in this series and learning the outcomes of these characters.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a postive review.

Book Review: My Sing-Along Bible by Stephen Elkins

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When I saw this book, I thought it would a great way to review or introduce Bible stories with children since I always remember things better when I learn it through music. This book doesn’t disappoint on that idea. Within just a minute, the kids I showed this to were singing along and loving it. Each page contains beautiful illustrations by Susan Reagan in bright hues. In addition to being pretty, the illustrations clearly present the main idea of the passage which would be helpful to non-readers. The pictures accompany a short Bible story or Bible-based life lesson. A Bible verse is listed for each story along with a little lessons box that summarizes the story and the lyrics to some, if not all, the song for that story. The pages are made of thick paper and lay flat for easy reading. While I feel it would be best for toddlers and preschoolers, I think all young children could find enjoyment in this book. My only complaint is that there seems to be no way to correlate the track number on the CD to the story in the book without counting through the stories. Perhaps the title of the songs show up on different CD players than the one I tried. Otherwise, I think it’s a great find for small children!

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.