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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Touched By Heaven

While I hate to discredit someone's personal life story, so much of Touched by Heaven just did not jive with me. This is a touchy review, as spiritual encounters are touchy themselves. The fact is, several things I have witnessed or experienced in life could be explained away, or laughed away, or totally unbelievable to someone else. 

I felt like things didn't add up. The book starts with Nancy Ravenhill's memory of being five years old and the first time her dad beat her. Her recollections seem too much, right down to exactly what she was wearing and what she was thinking. Her thoughts that day seem too advanced, as though she is portraying her adult thoughts now onto that day. 

To me, it didn't make sense that she lived her life for five years and then suddenly one day her dad turns on her saying it is her fault that her mother spends all her money on her. And then her mother goes on to buy her more things each times she is beaten in order to make that up to Nancy. It may be a vicious circle of an unstable family but it seemed odd. Especially when Nancy recounts how her mother used to lie in bed with her each night while they read Bible stories together. Except for the nights following the beatings, then her mother wouldn't show at all. Portraying her mother in such a loving way, but then to go on to say that her mother never tried to intervene with the beatings or come to her afterwards to soothe her seems out of character.

Nancy paints her father in a very unflattering light. I believe he could have been an angry man, and also an abusive one. But when she states that her dad paid for her college tuition to "get her out of his care and away from him" I don't understand how she could view it that way. Could he have just been caring for his daughter and paying for her college tuition?! 

Nancy also recounts when she lost so much blood during childbirth that she died and went to Heaven. Yet, she asks God to send her back to Earth. Never have I read a near-death or death experence where someone wants to come back to Earth. It is always the opposite. After seeing the beauty of Heaven no one wants to return.

Even after having several personal experiences with seeing Jesus, even after seeing Heaven, Nancy still has a fear of death. I can't imagine fearing death after seeing Jesus himself.

Or the fact that Jesus apparently showed her the spiritual world of the demons when she was six years old. That seems unfathomable to me. 

Basically, I got a weird feeling from this book. I've read several spiritual near-death books and like and believe about a quarter of the ones I've read. This book goes with the other 75% for me.

It was a quick read though. So you may just want to read it to see what you think of it.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jesus Outside the Lines

Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls is "a way forward for those who are tired of taking sides."
We are being forced to take sides on whatever the popular issue of the day is--whether it is health care or marriage, whether it's a scientific worldview or a religious one. Polarizing us-versus-them discussions dominate Twitter, seeking to divide us. Scott Sauls, like many of us, is tired of the bickering--and he is weary of the Jesus he loves being forced into the ideological boxes of our day. "Jesus Outside the Lines" presents Jesus the way he is: someone who doesn't fit into our culture's categories. 

I found this book to be perfect and riveting. I nodded my head at a lot and took notes. Christians, as noted in this book, are often viewed as "anti" towards several important issues in today's culture. Anti-divorce, anti-gay, anti-choice, and so on. Yet Jesus is filled with love and His people should be as well. This isn't about taking sides, this is about being more Christ-like. 

Some paragraphs that hit home with me were

"For Jesus, just as was the case for Martin Luther King Jr., "There are no gradations in the image of God." In other words, in Jesus' eyes there is no such thing as one type of person who is more special than another type of person. A crying infant is as significant and valuable as a famous actor, a homeless person as a president, a student as a teacher, a private as a general, a concessions worker as a quarterback, a patient as a surgeon, and a janitor as a CEO." 

"I dream of a day, hopefully soon, when Gandhi sympathizers will begin saying, "I like your Christ and I like your Christians," not because we Christians have ceased to be hypocrites, but because we have become increasingly endearing in and honest and sad about our hypocrisy. There is something incredibly attractive and inviting about people who stop pointing fingers and posing and pretending to be totally good and totally right, and instead start taking themselves less seriously and openly and freely admit that they are not yet what they should be."

"I love how Anne Lamott said that it's okay to realize you're very crazy and very damaged, because all the best people are. I love this because it is in seeing and owning that we are crazy and damaged, it is in crying "uncle" to our failed self-reformation projects, it is in recognizing that we are most certainly "so unlike our Christ" - that Christ begins to change us. It is when we become tired of ourselves, weary of our own failed efforts, that Jesus meets us with hope."

Basically, it boils down to the fact that Christians should not be judged for not being perfect just as Christians should not judge others for the same reason. This book teaches us how to see with the eyes of Jesus and how to bring people to Him, not push them away. This is going on my shelves to be read over again (very few books make it onto my shelves, so this is a high mark!).

This book was given to me by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood

Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa B. Kruger is an eleven-week devotional Bible study for all of us mamas. 

Each chapter (11 of them, of course) contains five different days to focus on and study the topic of the week. For example, there is Walking by Faith, Walking in Wisdom, Walking in Joy, and so on. Each and every topic is one that mothers need more of and I think spending time in prayer and truly studying God's word on these topics will uplift you in your role of motherhood. 

The great thing about this is it is all self-contained in this book. No having to search your own Bible to find the verses to be studied. That makes it easy to throw this book in the diaper bag and pull out at appointments, to read while snuggling a baby or watching the kids play at a park. A perfect devotional for any mother!

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Be Slow to Speak

In the wildly successful book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne people were taught that if they only believed, things would happen. If you believe you are good enough for a promotion, you'll get it. If you believe that you deserve a new house, you shall have it. Basically, it says,

"Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life, and it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind." 

Christians has scoffed at this book and it's teachings. While it seems like a religious book, it's teachings are not Christian. It speaks of the Universe rather than God.

Yet, many Christians truly believe that if you ask God, with good faith and earnest, you WILL get it. They point to Matthew 7:7-8  "Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who keeps asking will receive, and the person who keeps searching will find, and the person who keeps knocking will have the door opened."

Are we to do God's will or is He to do ours?! We should pray asking for faith to do His will. We should search for His workings in our life. We should ask for His courage and the faith to do what He wants. We should knock on His door to have it opened in our life. Most Biblical scholars would tell you that the above verse means that when we pray, search, knock, and ask we are receiving the strength, courage, and wisdom to do God's will. Not for Him to do ours.
As someone on the receiving end of people twisting God's word I can tell you that we were told by several Christians while Jacob was sick that if we truly believe and ask God to heal him that Jacob will be healed. No ifs, ands, or buts.

So tell me this.Were we not good enough and therefore failed Jacob? Had our faith been stronger would he still be here with us?

Good people get sick. Bad things happen to the righteous. Everyone dies. What is faith if we tell God what to do rather than ask what He wants us to do? That's not to say that we can't ask, petition, and beg God for what we want. But in the end it is faith in God's will that will get us through the trial.
 Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Does this not sound like Christians, giving up their lives for God, may have it a little harder? A little more challenge in their life? To deny our own wants and desires? To trust in HIS? 

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." This points out that our knowledge is so little compared to God's. 

My point is that as Christians we need to be so, so careful when speaking to those around us. We can single handily turn people away from Christ rather to Him, especially in trying times. Saying God is good when our dear friend recovers from an illness is all right and good, but isn't God also good when He brings his followers home to him? Praising God for a miracle that happens in front of us is also right and good, but shouldn't we praise God even when we have fallen to our knees with the weight of the world on our shoulders?  1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Had I not been strongly rooted in trusting God's own will during the end of Jacob's illness, I may had clung to those who claimed Jacob would be healed with just a little stronger faith. Just a little more prayer. And then I would have been more devastated, completely self-blaming when Jacob did pass away. I would have turned away from God. Questioned why my boy wasn't good enough to save. All because a few Christians took it upon themselves to tell me that I could save my son. 

We need to be careful with how we portray God's word. Romans 16:17   "And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people's faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them." Is it not on us if we are to twist God's word and actually turn people away from Christ, because of what we say?!

James 1:19 
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,"


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Women Are Scary

Women Are Scary by Melanie Dale focuses on the totally awkward adventure of finding mom friends.

It started off so promising. Sentences jumped out at me.

Learning how to bless each other and not destroy each other.

All of us come to motherhood by different paths and choose different methods. Some things we choose and some things are chosen for us.

The humor was funny. Much like my own. But then it seems that Melanie tries too hard to bring the humor and it become more awkward than funny. "By third base, I'm full-frontal hugging, so prepare for that. If you're my third-base friend, get ready for our boobs smashed up together while I ask how you're doing right in your ear." Funny, or over the top?

I honestly couldn't tell if this was meant to be a comedic tale on finding mom friends or an actual how to book on the subject. I stopped reading mid-way as it no longer held my interest. 

This book was sent to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

U.S. Cellular Making Vacations Fun

It's that time of year again - time to start planning your yearly vacation! Whether it is a staycation, cross country trip, or even something abroad, having a mobile device can make your vacation more like, well, a vacation!

I don't know about you, but planning a vacation can leave me a bit frazzled, especially if it's in an area that we've never been to. It can be frustrating planning a route, finding reasonable accommodations, and figuring out the attractions nearby. It begins to feel like work instead of fun.

With information at your fingertips, in the form of apps, Google, and even your friends on Facebook, things can be a whole lot easier.

MapQuest can help you plan out your trip and show you how to get there. 

Apps such as Expedia and Orbitz can help you save money and stay organized with hotels, car rentals, and flights. The Around Me App will show you banks, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, hospitals, and more in the area in which you are.

Having your cell phone on hand means you can let friends and family know where you are and how you are doing on your travels, whether with a phone call or text. Postagram can turn your Instagram photo into a post card to send. 

Speaking of Instagram, you can take, store, and even print all your photos using that app. So much easier than having hundreds of photos stored on a computer or camera for printing who knows when.

Sometimes having the world at your fingertips really makes it easier when you are out and about in the world!

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March IPSY Bag

IPSY is $10 a month, which will get you a makeup bag as well as 4-5 sample (sometimes full size!) products.What you receive is based on the survey you take when you sign up as well as how you review the products you receive each month.
The March theme is Floral Fantasy. My bag included:
*NYX Cosmetics Butter Lipstick

*Evelyn Iona Concealer

*Marsk Mineral Eye Shadow

*A very pretty floral bag (one of my favorites so far!)

*Equitance  brightening serum and spot corrector (*sigh*, I'm in my 30's...I need this now!)

*pur-lisse cleanser and makeup remover 

This was not my favorite mixture to date but all will be useful to me. Sign up here to start getting your IPSY bags!

Referral links included in post.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Love Letters

While this isn't a book, this is something one would find at the book store. The World Needs More Love Letters is an all-in-one stationery and envelope set. By Hannah Brencher, who is the creator of moreloveletters.com, which has been responsible for more than 20,000 letters written by volunteers.
There are several different designs within. You write the address on front, your message on back, fold, seal, stamp, send.

There are 40 note starters (ideas) on the front and back covers. While I have never been a big fan of these one sheet letters 

(mine are more like novels!), I think these are great for those who don't typically write letters (which is kind of the point of this whole idea!). A one page letter is not daunting and this would be the perfect gift for that recent graduate soon going off to school or a way for you to get started with letter writing if you don't already!

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunny Days!

With the slightly warmer weather comes more sunshine. With more sunshine come more energy. Which means I have been working on some crafty projects around the house.
Amy had torn her vintage copy of "The Little House". The pictures were too cute just to throw away so I added a nighttime scene and a morning scene to some frames and decorated the wall around her bed.
We got her spring quilt out of storage and made her bed up all cute.
She even pretended like she was going to sleep in the bed at night. Silly girl! Hoping that when the warm weather arrives for good she really will transition to her bed for nighttime sleep. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Worry Less So You Can Live More

Exchange your worries for delight in God...and God's delight in you. Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta shows us surprising, simple ways to feel more peace, joy, and energy. Isn't that something we all need?

While nothing struck me as life changing, due to the fact that I've studied worry and God's word before, I do feel that Rubietta gives us a glimpse into her own life worries and how she herself overcomes them. The theme of been there, done that comes across as genuine and hopeful.  She shows us that life can be so much more and how to look to God's word in those times of doubt, struggle, and worries.

With discussion questions and journaling prompts this is the perfect book for a Bible Study or small group. 

I was given this book by Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Fluff Love

Look at that colorful goodness that arrived in the mail this week!
A few weeks ago Fuzzi Bunz was having a sale on their "imperfect" diapers (as a side note I see nothing out of whack with the diapers so the imperfections must be slight!) and with a code for free shipping and a percentage off I was able to get 6 diapers for $32 shipped. This is an amazing price for brand new cloth diapers. I wish I could have stocked up on more but they were literally selling out as I carted so I had to quickly check out just to be sure I received some!

I'm an on again off again cloth diaper-er. I don't use them in the winter as I don't like to dry them in the dryer. Once the weather starts to warm is when my babies sport the fluffy cloth bums! We don't use them at night typically and when away for the day we use disposables. I have a large basket of diapers that I've picked up on sale as well as at garage sales. Many dating back to when Jacob was a baby (9 years ago!) so it shows you how long they can last. I'll almost be sad when sweet Amy potty trains!  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mary & Me

Last week I was honored to be able to read a rough draft of my mom and her friend's book Mary & Me (not to be released until Sept. 8th but already for pre-order through Amazon!).
It's a book about friendship. A book about women. A book about mothers, wives, and relationships. But especially about a friendship spanning close to 30 years and involving thousands of letters back and forth.

I loved it! 

And it made me want to sit down and write a letter. 
It was only fitting that a few days later I hit the jackpot at a thrift store of vintage stationery. All this for $3.55?! Who can complain about that?

I've had penpals since the age of 10. My longest standing penpal and I have been writing to each other for 20 years. There is just something about a letter that can not compare to a phone call, e-mail, or quick comment on Facebook. It truly is a lasting link through ink.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Until You're Mine

"Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe's glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there's something about her that Claudia cannot trust. 

Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?"

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes had me glued to my seat from the very beginning. It is a very suspenseful story with a very twisted ending! This is a "must finish me!" book and my husband had to ask me to shut the lamp off last night at 11pm...so upon awaking this morning I picked it straight up again.

After finishing the book I noticed a few plot holes, that did bother me as I think of them more. I still feel like this was a great read and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little "edge of the seat" reading. :)

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe

"Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Cafe, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle. 

Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea's door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Cafe, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They've come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the cafe has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life's biggest questions. When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask, and heaven answers in a most unexpected way." 

A book about coffee, cupcakes, and miracles? Sign me up! Or so I thought.

I love Max Lucado's non-fiction and devotional books. At 184 pages it was a quick read but I feel that because of that the characters felt flat. There was no getting to know them or any depth to them. 

I loved the concept of the human world as well as the spiritual. Seeing the light and the darkness.

I may be a bit disappointed that in a spiritual book everything was so easy. I know, I know, it's a book. It's fiction. But it was so unbelievable. In one day a small cafe made half of a tax payment due (that tax payment was over $9,000. Meaning I got hung up on the fact that a small struggling cafe could make $4,500 in one day!). Or that an unbeliever would ask God to help her uncle walk again and immediately he would take his first steps. Seriously? Was this inspiring? No, it left a sense that the author would rather make God do what the character wanted than show a real life struggle that could bring someone to God.

This book had so much potential. The storyline was fun and I saw how this could be an entertaining movie. If you want a quick, feel-good story this one will satisfy. Only if you go into it knowing that the storyline is a feel-good one at all costs. Meaning, completely unbelievable.  

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. 


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