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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.


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