Saturday, August 24, 2013

Motherhood: Grace Desperately Needed

     I hope no mother has ever said motherhood was easy. There is no way you'll ever hear those words coming from my lips. In fact, my prayer last night went something like this. "Lord, please don't let me screw up this child." Not exactly the eloquent quote I wish I could claim. However, as blatantly raw and true to my emotions, that is where my heart laid.
     My youngest child is one of my greatest joys. Yet, he also has been the most challenging. Every mother needs one child who keeps the excitement going. My guess is our personalities (read: tempers) are a bit alike, probably more than I wish. He is quirky and witty, sweet and loving. He can also be ornery and difficult. Can't we all at one time or another? Time and time again, I find myself losing my temper, yelling, doing the monster-mommy thing, red-faced with those eyes that shoot daggers blazing afire. And those are the moments I live to regret with every ounce of my being. Here God has blessed me with my sweet, little guy and I turn that blessing on its head and breathe out frustration and anger.
     Every child, every precious gift of life on this earth deserves the chance to be nurtured and encouraged to become the image of God that they are. My reaction was anything but loving.Yes, they sin, as do I when I lose my cool. God doesn't scream at me when I mess up or have a fit. He shows me the grace that He is, the grace His love births. That same sweet grace is exactly what every child needs and craves when a mistake is made. It is what this mom desperately needed last night after a long, trying day.
     As I continued to pray, His sweet spirit embraced mine letting me breathe a little easier. God's mercies are new every morning and I can praise Him for that every evening. When we awake, we can rest assured that just as the sun rises and warms the earth, we can rest in the Son and allow his warmth into our hearts no matter how frigid yesterday may have seemed.
     This morning God used a complete stranger to encourage my heart. After watching the kids and I build a little project at Lowe's this woman walked up commending me for my patience with my kids. (Those are her words, not mine.) Of course, that is not always the case. Nonetheless, God was showing me that yes, I do mess up. But, in His grace and mercy my kids are growing and I am blessed to be a part of their story and His, too. There are going to be days where it takes another voice to point out what it is we are doing right as parents. So, this is my dare to you today and hereafter: Take the time to encourage another mother. No matter how pulled together she may seem, we have no idea what hurt or regret her heart is hiding. We have no idea what words may come when God gives us the chance to impart His love to others.

I ask that You will open my eyes to the hearts of others. Provide opportunities for me to extend that same grace to my children and others that You have graciously extended to me. Give me words that will encourage and nurture. May I rest in knowing that You alone Lord are holy, mighty and good. Every day that I feel faint and weary remind me I can find rest and renewed strength in You. Father, help me be the best mother for my children and the best friend to other women that You want me to be. In Your Son's precious name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
John 1:16
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
Acts 20:32
So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: A Fun, Whimsical Devotional

WaterBrook Multnomah provided a complimentary copy of A Sisterchicks' Devotional: Take Flight! by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan in exchange for an honest review.
      What is a Sisterchick? This is the friend that does life with you. The friends that love you so much they are willing to tell you when you're wrong (of course, in the nicest way possible). They accept you, flaws and all, loving you just the same. These are the friends that will squabble with you and laugh with you and maybe, sometimes at you.
     From the first page the reader will get the idea she has book a devotional quite original in its own right. Friends and authors, Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan, have collaborated to bring us A Sisterchicks' Devotional. The name itself screams fun! Robin pens Robin's Nest with a flourish-filled, story-telling voice and shares personal experiences for a few pages making the reader ponder their own life experiences. In the subsequent pages titled, Cindy's Perch, Hannan delivers questions and thoughts to provoke more engagement building upon the story. Tie that in with Bible verses and room to jot down a few thoughts we have a promising devotional.
     Apparently, there is a Sisterchicks line of fictional books that Gunn has written that inspired this work. However, by no means would any reader have to read those other books to gain from A Sisterchicks' Devotional. This volume has stories that deal with genuine worship to hospitality to getting out of a funk.  This is for a woman's everyday life. Every story/experience that is shared is not an extraordinary moment within itself but, the repercussions of seeing God in that moment bringing the extraordinary into the seemingly ordinary.
     One of my favorite devotions from this book was Cindy's desire to relinquish control of her heart to God as she stood in awe of a sunset. Rather than simply admiring His handiwork she wanted to worship His work unabashedly, with abandon of her own inhibitions. In each reading there is some wisdom to be gleaned and treasured. There isn't one Christian woman who wouldn't  benefit from this collaborative effort in some measure, for our walk is never complete here on earth.
     Gunn and Hannan our obviously good friends as it comes across on the pages. A Sisterchicks' Devotional would be a great small study book. Although, there isn't a lot of content; there are 14 devotions in under 150 pages. However, I could surely see these pages leading to deep conversations with our sisters in Christ. This is also a great gift book or nice devotional for the solo reader. No matter what, these ladies will encourage your heart to Take Flight! and soar with the Lord.

Visit Robin Gunn's site here.

Click here for info on A Sisterchicks' Devotional

Check out Chapter One here.

ROBIN JONES GUNN is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy books, with over 4 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Best known among them are the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, and Christy and Todd: College Years teen series. A Christy Award winner and a two-time finalist for excellence in fiction, Robin has also been a Gold Medallion finalist. She and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: A Fast-Paced Read

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Into the Whirlwind in exchange for an honest review.
     Author Elizabeth Camden journeys with the reader back into the year 1871. Here is where the heroine, Mollie Know, owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, is introduced as a fire blazes in Chicago around her. The first few pages are a whirlwind into the story, vying to pull you back into history past. The heart quickens with Mollie's has she tries to escape the flames licking at her feet.  In the chaos Zack Kazmarek, a lawyer for Mr. Hartman's top-of-the-line department store, puts his life on the line for the sake of Mollie.
     Mollie has a heart of gold for the veterans that work for her at the watch factory. She must rebuild the 57th in order to preserve the welfare of the forty-some families that depend on paychecks from her. Sometimes her heart is defeated at times, by an overly analytical mind. Zack has pined for Mollie for years wanting more than a business relationship. Finally, in the heat of the moment he confesses her love for her. As their world crumbles around them, Mollie must figure out how to allow herself to love without having reason to. Can she love unconditionally without putting conditions on her own heart? Will she let business take precedence over a matter of the heart?
     When I first thumbed through Into the Whirlwind I was a bit hesitant to begin. Some 374-page books seem a daunting. I suppose I enjoy fiction more than I allow myself to believe. As soon as I began to read I was drawn and compelled to continue my reading. The scenery is so well-written the story swallows you whole. You feel as if you are running with Mollie through the streets of Chicago. The clamor and bells ringing are loud and deafening. The chaos is felt, the whirlwind of emotions is experienced and the heart is submerged into the storyline. The mannerisms of the time seem genuine and reflective of a culture that I only long to have known.
     The pages fly by as you try to keep pace with the developing storyline and character growth. The development of the characters is fluid yet, realistic. Fear and hope intersect, love and betrayal collide and life and death contrast. For any lover of historical fiction will be fascinated with Zack's Polish descent along with the overall 19th century flavor. Elizabeth Camden has penned a beautiful novel once again. When you pick up Into the Whirlwind, into the whirlwind you'll go.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: Give Your Worry to God

Chosen Books provided a complimentary copy of Kent Crockett's The Sure Cure for Worry: Learning to Trust God No Matter What Happens in exchange for an honest review.
     Problems plague our daily lives. Bills pile up. Unemployment can deflate us. Relationships can sour. And the list goes on and on. We have two choices as we usually can't turn our circumstances around fast enough. One: we can allow worry to rule the day. Yet, there is a second option that author, Kent Crockett, zeroes in on. In The Sure Cure for Worry Crockett proposes we rest in a sovereign, almighty God and hold onto our faith. If we allow worry in, we are lacking trust in God. We are assuming He is not watching over us, that He is not ruling from on high and He isn't as big as we say He is. Jesus already said there would be trials in our lives but, He has "overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33)
     The Sure Cure for Worry is broken into three sections: Learning to Trust God, Deciding to Follow God and Claiming God's Promises. Learning to trust the Lord can be difficult if we forget how big He is and what He does. Nothing is out of God's view. If the sparrow is noticed, surely we are as well. Even if we claim to know God is sovereign we need to make a choice, intentionally placing our trust in Him. Once that trust is established we can be sure to find God's guidance in our lives, looking for it, knowing our infinite God has our eternal best interests at heart. Sometimes visions and dreams can be followed but, more often than not, He will speak to us through His Word and others placed around us. Finally, the last chapters dare us to place our lives in His hands as we look to Him for provision and protection and hand over our worry.
     There are many self-help books out there claiming a easy-to-do check list will be a sure fire way to rid your life of stress, as if stressors can easily be flung far. Crockett uses a biblical approach to help believers let go of worry, not rid your life of difficult circumstances. While you may not find a job tomorrow or a spouse or whatever plagues you, you will find comfort, provision, love and an eternal, broader perspective of your current situation.
     There were a few places that I found redundancy. However, the subtopics overlapped into many chapters. So, really the material was well-placed, just rehashed with some minor differences. Other than that, I enjoyed the book. The content of the book is of high quality and can actually be utilized with some practice. Worry is a heart issue that can be addressed with God's Word and hope.The Sure Cure for Worry is well-written with plenty of personal accounts of God's divine, guiding hand. Any reader I would hope, will set this book down with a renewed, strengthened faith. Circumstances will change daily, but Our Creator remains the same always.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Everyone Has a Story to be Lived

BookSneeze ,on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing, provided a complimentary copy of Death by Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson in exchange for an honest review.
     Author, N.D. Wilson, has compiled a beautiful narrative of pivotal moments in his life leading to insights and illuminations that have resulted in Death by Living. Time moves on, as do we. It is when we embrace our moment in time, what has led to our being and the story we have yet to live out that we truly find our sense of being and worth. Once we accept nothing but God is permanent, we can open our hands and give of ourselves freely. We have been given legacies to follow, stories that have led to us. What makes us all unique is the culmination of our family histories. Our place in time has more to do with the history behind us than anything we have done. However, we are empowered to live our lives well, lives spent on those around us leaving legacies of our own for the generations that will follow.
     Wilson delves into his family's history with a nostalgic pen and voice of solemnity yet, covers it all in profound gratitude and grace. I was completely mesmerized by his captivating way with words. Words that are tinkered with and fine-tuned and seemingly dancing across the page. Words that bring substance to memories and envelop the soul. Wilson has blessed the reader with a gift of delicate nuances that stir the imagination and provoking an engagement of the senses as he recalls his relatives stories and memories from a childhood past.
     As I read Death by Living I found I was detecting the nuances in my own life that the surrounding environment lent. The nostalgia of chapters past brushed by me. Gratitude ran deep. A sense of quiet grace washed over me. For all the mistakes I have made and missed opportunities I let go, I sit in thankfulness knowing they are all part of a narrative bigger than I can fathom. Time is grace. It is a gift we cannot keep but, we can embrace its impermanence. We can pass memories, beliefs and values on. The lives we lead are the legacies we leave behind as we step into our eternal journey.
     Death by Living is not morbid but, very reflective. A couple of times I wondered where Wilson was headed. Then, I turned the page and a life lesson or a luminous epiphany took center stage. The lights were on and it all made sense. Even if you aren't in search of yourself the quality and character of Wilson's pen will draw you into his world. I only hope people take the time to pick this book up to begin a journey of reflection, gratitude and a deeper appreciation for the role they can play on the world's stage.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: An Incredible Story to be Told

Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of Dabney Hedegard's memoir, When God Intervenes, in exchange for an honest review.
     Imagine battling cancer while pregnant and trusting God to save two lives. Or imagine being told your wife is probably going to pass and to quickly get to the hospital to say your good-byes. Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too common with even more unfortunate outcomes. Other times, God brings you through so many adverse circumstances and health issues that all anyone can reason is that a miracle occurred.
     The Hedegard family walked very close to the valley of death multiple times beginning with Dabney's diagnosis of cancer at the age of 25. Add to that, bouts and ordeals with cardiomyopathy, pulmonary embolism and acute pneumonia to name a few, it is of great wonder how author, Dabney Hedegard, survived and her family grew at the same time. Yet, she lives to share her trials and triumphs, setbacks and steps forward in her memoir, When God Intervenes: An Extraordinary Story of Faith, Hope and the Power of Prayer.
     After devouring this book in a day I am amazed at Hedegard's unbreakable spirit and lively candor of her journey. I simply wanted to know what the next page held. She never seemed to let defeat set courageously waging battle against every obstacle that came her way. Yet, there was still an emotional toll as she just wanted to live freely. Dabney's faith carried her through. Although her battle was 10 years long and I would imagine could seem pointless at the time, God saw otherwise and foresaw the bigger picture in the making. She continued to trust and allow God to direct her path. How many times did God intervene? Only He knows.
      What I know though, is God is there and He will step in when all seems lost. When God Intervenes will bolster your faith if it is fleeting. Dabney Hedegard's story is amazing and awe-inspiring. I only hope that you will find, if you don't already know, that Almighty God is incredible and personal. He is right there waiting to intervene (in His ordained time).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: The Spiritual Battle is Real

Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity by Jack Graham in exchange for a review.
     In many circles speaking of the evil dimensions is taboo. Other people seem to shirk at the idea of angels. Jack Graham delves into the Bible and explores the spiritual battle that is waging and the entities that are not visible but, surely there. Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity not only leads the reader through biblical excerpts but, also gives personal accounts and practical application. Graham discerns truth from cultural fiction making sense of taboo topics. He relegates the pitch-forked-tongued, red-clad-bodysuit-wearing devilish character to the gutter and extracts Satan of the Bible. Angels surround us, assisting in the war we face as the targets of evil exploits trying to capture our souls.
     In the past I would have passed this read over. It has only been through the Spirit that has taught me the truth of Scripture. Some of Unseen will be difficult for some believers to swallow but, with the guidance of the Spirit this truth needs to be absorbed. I appreciated Graham's willingness to tackle these topics in a style that is personable yet, real. He readily admits that he doesn't have all the answers. The Bible has provided enough detail though to have a relatively good idea of what is there and what we can do about it.
     The highlight of Unseen is the practical use of the spiritual weapons God has given us. Graham looks at the weapons in Ephesians and provides helpful knowledge to wage war. He goes onto the power of prayer and really explores ways to have an impactful prayer life. The glorious hope of heaven awaits us that are willing to persevere to the end. That hope is painted in such a beautiful way that it is heartbreaking to think what many are willing to give up in exchange for the pleasures of this world.
     Unseen is recommended for believers, new and seasoned alike. This gives a comprehensive perspective of the reality of the spiritual world. If you have any doubt about the realm beyond our comprehension I beseech you to peruse this book and ask the Spirit to guide you to the Truth.