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.

Finally, fun vegetables!

A review of Inspiralized:Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci

This book starts with an introduction to spiralizing, the cooking method that uses a spiralizer tool to cut vegetables into spaghetti-like shapes. The recipes cover breakfast to snacks to desserts and everything in between. The book is filled with lots of beautiful pictures with such vibrant colors. Each recipe has a difficulty rating, number of servings, cook and prep times, and nutritional information. It also provides extra information that identifies a recipe as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. I also appreciate that the author lists alternative vegetables in case you don’t care for her selected vegetable.

I was intrigued by the idea of spiralizing vegetables. This book gives you ideas on how to turn comfort foods, such as pasta, into healthier versions. I’m not sure exactly why, but the vegetables just look like more fun in a spiralized form. It maybe that it reminds me of a childhood favorite of spaghetti. Anyway, I also enjoy the texture of spiralized vegetables. This book would be a great addition to the library of someone who wants to enjoy fresh and healthy eating!

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. 

Good beach read

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I just finished reading Chance of Loving You, an anthology by bestselling authors Terri Blackstock, Candace Calvert, and Susan May Warren. All of these Christian novellas are similar in that the main characters must remember what’s important and rely on God. There is also a theme of food that is in each story. In fact, each story is followed by a recipe which I thought was different, but good. I have enjoyed several stories from Ms. Blackstock and one from Ms. Calvert. While those other stories were more suspenseful and action-filled, these were more of a pure romantic nature. Although it is a collection, the anthology was no longer than a regular novel. It would a great find as a beach read.

For Love of Money by Terri Blackstock
Waitress Julie Sheffield finds herself working on a rainy night and thinks she’s found a great guy to talk to in her customer. That is, until he leaves her half of a sweepstakes ticket as a tip. The story is a little implausible, but a wonderful escape from reality. This warm story follows the development of romance between Blake Adcock, a down on his luck engineer and Sheffield. The question is whether greed and differing attitudes towards money will drive them apart. I’d recommend reading it to find out.

The Recipe by Candace Calvert
When Aimee Curran, hospital dietician and aspiring chef, angers a coworkers she ends up helping to care for the elderly grandmother of Lucas Marchal, a CSI photographer. Soon she finds herself attracted to the doting grandson. She thinks that her big career break will come through winning the upcoming Vegan Valentine Bake-Off, but soon discovers what’s really important in her life and finds true happiness. I loved this story the best because I could connect with these characters more than the other stories because I also looked towards my career for fulfillment and happiness only to find it in the love of family and God. I also loved that Aimee used family recipes for the contest. It was a great read.

Hook, Line & Sinker by Susan May Warren
Spunky grad student, Abigail Cushman, finds herself entered into the same fishing contest as her old flame, Ross Springer. Although she knows nothing about fishing, she is determined to win the contest to raise money for the Bible club she’d founded a couple of years ago. The reader wonders when or if Abigail and Ross will ever communicate their feelings to each other almost until the end. This was a fun story of a rekindling romance that I enjoyed reading.

I’d recommend this collection to anyone who is a fan of Christian romance. All of the stories are easy to read and will make great summer reads.

Read more about these great authors:
Terri Blackstock
Candace Calvert
Susan May Warren

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

First sewing project-done!

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One of my goals for the year is to learn to sew. So far, my skills encompass making aprons with my grandma as a child, replacing buttons, and helping my mom on various projects. Although I still did have to call Mom with a few questions, but I’m marking my first project down in the books. Sparkly Princess and I had the weekend to ourselves since the boys went out of town. She has been asking me to make her something, and I’ve been putting it off. I figured there was no time like the present. After looking through my patterns and Pinterest pins (and me saying no to several really advanced projects), she decided on a hospital gown for her American Girl doll (“in case she gets sick,” she said). The pattern is located at Arts and Crafts for your American Girl Doll. Sparkly Princess did a great job picking out the fabric, thread, and bias tape. She also helped me cut the straight edges. Needless to say, the gown isn’t perfect, but she loved it. I enjoyed sharing this challenge with her. At least, we’ll learn together!