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Monday, April 10, 2017

We Stood Upon Stars

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson is all about finding God in lost places. The subtitle spoke to me immediately as that is often when I feel closest to God - out in His masterpiece of nature, feeling the sun upon me and hearing the birds sing. 

"Spearfish Creek descends from heights of the Black Hills like a chinook wink. The canyon whispers of a previous age, a sacred time, when people communed with creation. They were drawn to the mountains because language there spoke of a Creator.
    No one seemed to speak this language anymore. Motorcycles and buses of tourists sped through the canyon from waterfall to waterfall, with brief stops so people could insert themselves into photos to prove they'd been here. We are not meant to be tourists in this life. We are all travelers, like those before and those after. The proof we've been in a place is the part of us we leave there. We know we've been somewhere special because we are forever different as a result of it.
    This land and time are gifts. If we stop long enough, we might hear in the wind the voice of a Creator. We don't have to search for it. It has always been and always will be. We just have to remember the language." Page 142-143

This book calls us back to the wild, to our Creator and what He created. It reminds me of the John Muir quote of "And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."

Each chapter begins with a drawn map of the area with suggestions of places to visit, eat, etc. then goes on to tell a life lesson Thompson learned while on that particular adventure.  While I got a lot out of this book I felt as though it was a bit disjointed. It would go from a trip he took while single, to one he took with his children, to one of the first trips as a newlywed. That back and forth made this book not flow so well.

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


Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Tranquility published by Tyndale Publishing is a prayer and reflection coloring journal.  I find that meditative art can be very relaxing and a time to focus on God's words. By coloring a page which focuses on a specific verse I am able to memorize it a lot quicker. 

This is such a beautiful journal. The cover is very thick and inside you'll find verses, quotes, coloring pages, and blank spaces to make this your own. I think it can become a very beautiful collection of your thoughts and prayers to reread over and over again.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

And Still She Laughs

When I learned of Kate Merrick I knew I had to read her book. Her story and mine are quite similar - both our children were diagnosed at the same age with the same type of cancer, both spent three years battling the monster before passing away, and both of us are trying to find joy in the aftermath. 

And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick is about a mother trying to find joy within the depths of suffering. Merrick delved into the stories in the Bible of real women who suffered deeply and emerged somehow joyful. This is not a history of Biblical women but rather Merrick weaves a bit of their story within her own, making this a very relate-able story to anyone who has suffered pain (and haven't we all?). 

"We want the blessing of a Christian life but none of the pain. We think twice about diving in, risking love because we might lose it, risking reputation, comfort, all these things we think will keep us safe and happy." (p. 170)

Merrick digs deep into the fact that our culture equates being loved by God by being blessed by Him by receiving the life we ask for. It's the type of thinking that leads so many people to discontentment, and sadly leads people astray from God Himself. If our lives are rough we must not be loved by Him, if our prayers aren't answered in our ways we must not be blessed. While in reality the Bible points out that we must "take up our cross daily" and that the path of a Christian is narrow and hard but that the rewards are worth it. THIS is what Merrick comes to realize while searching the Bible and stories of hardship and pain.

"Choosing to live for eternity is such a game changer. It holds much meaning for the future, yes, but for the here and now it brings with it the ability to laugh. A hundred years ago, when I was in college, my pastor used to say "You do what you believe." He meant that we say much-we talk, talk, talk-but what we do speaks louder. We can talk until we go hoarse, but our actions show what our faith actually looks like.
    If I believe I will see Daisy again, I can grieve, but not as those without hope grieve (1 Thess. 4:13). I can cry and hurt and wail and get it all out, but I can be confident in our future reunion (1 Thess. 4:14). I can wonder joyfully about her and what she's doing. I can picture her in Heaven riding a bear-or any of the crazy animals she loved so much-while eating a juicy mango, wild and free. I can see her meeting new friends and Jesus swinging her around like an airplane. I can trust she is well, she is whole, and she has done more than the things on her bucket list. 
   I believe she is with the Lord. I can rejoice in that, and maybe, if I really think hard about it, I might even be able to laugh."

It comes down to the fact that as children of God, who know that the treasure of eternity awaits us, we can find joy within any circumstance because we know that a reward far better will be ours. That's not to say we can't grieve, but within our grief we can find hope. In our pain we can find purpose. In our trials we can find wisdom.

1 Peter 1:3-8:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 
This is not just for the grieving. As a matter of fact, it's more for any pain and suffering you may have experienced in life. As we all suffer, we all can use this reminder. This book will be going on my shelves to be read time and time again.
This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

FInding God's Blessings in Brokenness

The photographs in Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness by Charles F. Stanley are magnificent and bring peace of mind as you gaze upon God's masterpieces. Unfortunately, the writing itself did not sit so well with me.
    The theme itself seemed like something I could use a reminder in: how pain reveals His deepest love. Stanley states how we can be broken and blessed and how sometimes we get the most blessings in our brokenness. That I agree with. He then goes on to say that when going through trials we often try to assign blame, such as saying "The devil caused this" or "God caused this". But that the greater likelihood is this: the devil caused it, and God allowed it. Yes, I also believe in that...that God allows some bad things to happen in our life as we all have freewill and also there is evil in this world.
   But Stanley contradicted himself soon after as he said God uses trials to brake us (much like one would brake a horse). He uses this many, many times in the following chapters and tells us that God will do anything to break us to His will. This type of thinking would make many people wonder why some people have so many trials in their life and others clearly not as many. Does that mean the latter people are better people? That God has to break some people more than others? That way of thinking, especially if I was reading this book at the beginning of a new trial, would lead me to believe that I was a bad person and God was trying to break me down to make me a better person.
   The truth is, bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. We don't know the rhyme or reason. Yes, blessings can come through trials and sometimes you truly need to hit rock bottom before you learn to lean on God and make Him and His ways the top of your list for your life. Things do have a purpose in our life and God will work for the good of those who love him and sometimes what's good for us isn't always what we desire. 
   This book felt like a parent spanking you while telling you "this is for your own good." It wasn't comforting at all.

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

Zip It

Zip It by Karen Ehman is a Keep it Shut 40-Day Challenge. While not hailed as a Lenten devotional it arrived at the perfect time for me to start it on Ash Wednesday and use it as my devotional until Easter. I've just finished week one and by day 2 I knew this book would be a powerful message for me. A somewhat *cringe-worthy* one at times I recognized some of my faults within just the introduction.

"I have learned something in my decades of relationships on this earth: words are powerful, and they have consequences.
    Combative words have sparked wars, bringing about death and destruction. Soothing words have calmed souls, quieted hearts, and prevented potentially volatile situations from escalating and producing dire consequences. Encouraging words have imparted bravery and empowered doubting souls to accomplish what they never dreamed they could. Loving words have birthed relationships and bonded soul mates." (p. 21)

"The consequences may be stellar-or sorrowful. They may be amazing-or awful. They may make an impact on lives for the better-or affect souls for the worse." (p.23) I'm sure we can all remember a time as a child, young teen, or adult when someone has said something that has stuck with us. If it was a positive thing it can uplift you and be brought to mind in the future when you need an extra encouragement. If it's negative it can affect how you view yourself or how you view the person who said it. Words do stick with us and I do not want to be the type of person who spouts out wounding words.

When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable. But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise. Proverbs 10:19

Each chapter has a verse, thoughtful insight into that verse, *Today's Takeaways which are really just points to ponder, *Lesson for the Lips (questions that bring about more pondering), and a prayer. I've gotten so much out of the first week and look forward to each chapter every single day. I've found myself stopping in mid-sentence when I realize what I was saying wasn't so nice and have even been pausing before speaking. The message each day really sticks with you and the fact that there are more than 3,500 verses in the Bible speaking to us about our words and/or silence these daily meditations get the point across of how important it is to control our tongues (or in this day and age, our fingers when at the computer) and thoughts. 

I highly recommend this to everyone, especially during this season of Lent.

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



June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is about "Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers who is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery's vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?"

It was a fascinating read for me. It didn't go quickly (I started it over a week ago) but it drew me in every single time I picked it up. I typically hate books that go back and forth between time periods but this one flowed seamlessly back to the 50's (to highlight Cassie's grandmother June's early adult years) and then back to 2015 to Cassie's current situation. 

I liked how the house seemed to be "alive" and remembering all it's past inhabitants. Sometimes I feel like houses can be be alive with their rich history and I often wonder what happened in the rooms of older houses...births, deaths, happy times, sad times, etc.

I do feel like the first 2/3 may have dragged on too long (each time period only covered the month of June of that year) and then all the loose ends were tied up so quickly at the end, which left the last few chapters feeling just a bit rushed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story though and think it would make an interesting movie!

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

Friday, February 24, 2017


Watch by Rick James "dives deep into the New Testament's teachings on spiritual wakefulness, calling Christ-followers to defy the darkness and remain awake as they await Christ's return. Because being awake--continually in prayer, watchful for God's will, expectant of open doors, cautious of sin, desiring to serve, eager to repent, continuously giving thanks, willing to witness, embracing of humility, overflowing with kindness, persevering in obedience--changes everything."

This was a book I was looking forward to reading as I have noticed all around the world how Christians seem half asleep. To me, that means being politically correct, to being "luke warm", which is where Revelation 3:16 talks about being luke warm as worse than being cold. At least by being hot or cold you know what your beliefs are and stand by them.

So I wanted to like this book before I even began, but was sorely disappointed by the first few chapters. The writing was too rambling for me, James veered off in so many directions within one chapter that it was hard to keep up. He stuck anecdotes, paragraphs from books, and life experiences that didn't seem to align properly with that the topic at hand was. I started to feel it was too academic, getting too deep and educational where a simple explanation would have sufficed. I got lost - fast.

I ended up skimming the rest of the book. Where it gets hard is how to rate it. There were many, many good topics discussed (how we often we mistake the voice of God with our own voice, how evil truly does prowl around to tempt and destroy us in subtle, almost unnoticeable ways, etc.) but I felt I had to wade through a lot of unnecessary words/thoughts/quotes/etc. to glean those snippets of wisdom. I think a really good edit would have trimmed this book down into a more direct and readable book.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

What Falls From the Sky

What Falls From the Sky by Esther Emery is a
"fiercely honest, piercingly poetic account of a year without Internet - 365 days away from the good, the bad, and the ugly of our digital lives - in one woman’s desperate attempt at a reset."

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but a whole lot better as well. 

Esther Emery gives us a peek into her head space while she learns to reconnect with herself and with God while disconnecting from the internet. She shows us that those moments of silence that we often fill with scrolling are actually very important moments that need to BE, not be filled. By allowing herself that free space in her head she was able to find a connection with God again, reconnect with her inner self, learn some new hobbies (bread baking, playing music), and find a new type of relationship with her spouse and children.

It seems so simplistic, something we already know, right? And it's true - I think deep down we know there is just as much bad in the internet as there is good. From needing to find validation in complete strangers to letting people we don't even like into our online space, we are living in a virtual world while neglecting the real world around us. 

What drew me to the book in the first place is that I had already come to that conclusion last year. While I didn't disconnect completely from the internet I have shaken it up to the point that I would be completely okay with disconnecting from the internet all together. 

What I took away from this book is that when Emery was at her most lost (dealing with a huge personal struggle) she was able to be found by connecting to what really matters - and disconnecting from what doesn't. It's a reminder we all can use!

This book was give to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.    

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Sisters of Sugarcreek

Many lives were changed the day a fire burned down Faith Community Church, devastating the small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.Now a young Amish widow, Lydia Gruber faces an uncertain future. Her husband, a craftsman and volunteer firefighter, always took care of everything, keeping her isolated from others in their community. Without anyone or any skills, how will she survive?With the death of her beloved aunt Rose in the fire, single mom Jessica Holtz inherits Rose's Knit One Quilt Too cottage.

The Sisters of SugarCreek by Cathy Ligget is a sweet story about an Amish widow and a young niece as they gather up their lives after losing loved ones in a church fire. Liggett interweaves the Amish with the English so that it's neither a traditional Amish story nor a traditional Christian story. Unlike either of those books, which tend to be a bit too preachy or a little too forced, this one flows nicely and though can be a bit cliched at times it was interesting to the very end.

I read it in a weekend and thought it was just the type of book I needed on a dreary cold day!

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Spectacle of Glory

After nearly 50 years of living as a quadriplegic, and dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis, Joni has learned firsthand the importance of glorifying God through the toughest of situations. Through this devotional, Joni will help you discover how to put God’s glory on display—how to say no to complaining and say yes to daily following God down even the most difficult paths. 

A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada helps us to explore the purpose of why God created us (to glorify Him) and how to do so, even when it is the toughest choice. 

I read once that people aren't able to see the goodness of God through us until His joy is truly in us. That made me pause for several moments because as much as we, as Christians, may proclaim to love and serve Him, we have to truly know Him deep in our hearts. That involves lots of prayer, devotion, and doing the hardest thing of all - picking up our cross and following Him daily. This devotion shows us how to be a stage for His goodness.

While I've scanned ahead slightly so I could honestly review this, I've studied the nine days into the month that we are and am enjoying Tada's insight. For example, today's devotion is about rough edges.

Know anyone with "rough edges"? Maybe that describes you. Perhaps you've been told that you sometimes come across a little harsh, a little impatient. Today's Scripture (Philippians 4:5) has good advice for us all. "Let your gentleness be evident to all." The Greek word gentleness implies an appropriate response to the people in your life. It speaks of moderation in choice of words and tone of voice, with a healthy dose of patience.

    How do we manage such a thing? The answer is in the very next phrase: "The Lord is near." In other words, He's listening to every conversation. He's sitting with your family at supper. He's in the car when you are on the phone. He is near. And that's why we should be gentle in our words and actions. Think before you speak. Consider before you hit send. Jesus holds us accountable for our words and the intentions behind them. 

A short but powerful devotion to start off the day. One that will hopefully lead you to watch your words more carefully that day and realize that Jesus is near and only we are accountable for our words and actions. Each devotion leaves me pondering the words for that day and I look forward to learning how God's light can shine through me every day.

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


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