Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Beginner's Bible

The Beginner's Bible 
Timeless Children's Stories

Book Overview:

Introduce children to the stories and characters of the Bible with this best-loved Bible storybook. With vibrant art and compelling text, more than 90 Bible stories come to life. Kids ages 6 and under will enjoy the fun illustrations of Noah helping the elephant onto the ark, Jonah praying inside the fish, and more, as they discover The Beginner's Bible just like millions of children before. The Beginner's Bible is the 2006 Retailers Choice Award winner in Children's Nonfiction.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading through this Bible. We read the stories to our boys before bed, one is 9 years old and the other is 6 years old.  It held the attention of both of them although it is geared more towards the younger crowd. But it isn't too 'baby-ish' - meaning the 9 year old enjoyed it, even if it was a bit below his reading level. My six year old really enjoyed the story about Daniel and the Lions den. The facial expressions and illustrations are great for further conversation into recognizing different feelings during such events, which adds another unique element to reading through the bible. I enjoyed reading this book with my boys.

I received this book from FlyBy Promotions in exchange for an honest review, but my opinion of it is my own!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day
Written By: Mark Batterson

Book Overview:

Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn’t chase. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, a blessed and audacious act that left no regrets: “Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it” (2 Samuel 23:20 -21). Unleash the lion chaser within!
What if the life you really want, and the future God wants for you, is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure…your greatest fear?
Story Behind the Book
“Our best days often start out as our worst days. And our greatest opportunities are often disguised as our biggest problems. You can land in a pit with a lion on a snowy day, and it will seem like the end of the road. But God is in the recycling business. He recycles past experiences and uses them to prepare us for future opportunities. That is the story of my life. And that is the story of your life. Look in the rearview mirror long enough and you’ll see that God has purposely positioned you everywhere you’ve been—even when it seemed you’d taken a wrong turn.”
My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I underlined and highlighted so many places while I was reading it.  I also told other people about certain sections of the book as I was reading it because I felt it was something they could apply to their life. From the first chapter I was hooked, with the thought that God puts us where we need to be, when we need to be there... but often times it feels like the wrong time and the wrong place. Another great point was that "Lion chasers thrive in the toughest circumstances because they know impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles." I don't know about you but when I am going through difficult times its is hard to stop and think about the miracle just waiting for me.  The chapter on unlearning your fears hit me pretty hard. I thought, "yes, this is just what I need to do!" I loved what he had to say about spiritual growth, in that half of it is learning what we don't know and the other half is unlearning what we do know.  Guaranteed uncertainty, playing it safe, sacrifice, opportunity, looking foolish....this book has been such an amazing read.  I feel there is something for everybody within the pages of this book.

I recieved this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging For Books

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas at Arbor Terrace

I have been blessed with the opportunity to help at a memory care facility with a life enrichment group.  In some ways this 'job' has given me purpose.  I feel like they help me more than I help them.  I feel like the lessons that I have learned are priceless. I am learning how to just be and be completely where I am, at that moment. My counselor hopes that can spread out into my life as well. Some days are harder than others.  It is a very emotionally demanding job which is a bit ironic coming from somebody who faces so many internal struggles. The priceless moments where I feel like God is speaking through these people definitely outweigh the days that I leave and just cry on the way out to get the boys over what this disease is doing to these amazing people. It is fascinating to me what remains when this disease starts to take over.  The mental functions they lose, the memories that they can't recall....yet everybody in our group has that fear of abandonment. It's like separation anxiety with a baby all over again.  It does not seem fair to me that they lose their memories and mental functions but the fears remain. I don't know that it would be any better if they lost their fears too, just seems more fair that way.  But who am I to say what is or isn't fair?  I guess in one sense I am grateful for the disease because if it wasn't for Alzheimer's then I may not have ever had this opportunity or met these incredible people. We had a little Christmas party for them yesterday, they all had reindeer antlers and snacks and we sang Christmas Carols. They also had some children come in and do some caroling for them from a local church. They sure did light up when they saw the little people and let me tell you - what an incredible sight for me to soak in.  The old and the young.  One is just entering life, one is near exit. One is learning how to walk and talk and eat and smile while the other is forgetting these daily life tasks. The magnitude of that moment was like nothing that I can put into words. It was intense. It was profound.  It was moving.  It was sad. Yet they brought so much joy to each other, regardless of how brief that moment was. I have connected with the people in our group, over one thing or another.  The lady I work with has told me she is grateful for my hard work and dedication and willingness to connect with each person.  I have learned that you have to join people where they are. With being there weekly I have gotten to know some of the residents. I look forward to seeing them.  They each are unique and special in their own way.  Ms. Helen tells me that I have such a gentle nature, that it is nice that I help could she know?!?! I wonder if there is any coincidence in that my grandma Helen told me that I would help a lot of people one day. They share the same name and tell me the same thing?  Or is it my grandma Helen, speaking through this Helen who is currently residing at Arbor Terrace? One lady, Ms. Betsy always tells me that she is happy to see me.  Maybe she tells everybody that but hey, some days its what I need to hear. I think to myself, 'somebody is actually happy to see me? Most days I avoid the mirror because I can't stand to see me!'  I asked her this week what was one thing she wanted for Christmas.  She looked at me and clear as day she said, "Why I would like peace and happiness.  I want my family to be healthy." Then just as easily and she said that, she then went back to mumbling, couldn't make out exactly what she was saying but I listened until she walked away. I thought about what she wanted - peace and happiness...  Freedom from disturbance, tranquility, and a feeling of contentment.  I suppose that is what we are all looking for, no matter the age, no matter the life struggles that we face. Never did I ever think that this is what I would be doing at this point in my life, but I can't imagine not doing it now. It's not easy, but nothing in life worth doing is ever easy. Connecting with people, no matter where they are in their life journey, is truly a blessing - don't take it for granted. The word of encouragement yesterday at Arbor Terrace - "Encouragement may be the greatest gift we give this Christmas."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Think about others...

I have two incredible little boys.  I live for these boys.  They are the air I breathe.  They give me the strength and energy to keep going when I am exhausted from physical and mental battles.  They also give me hope for the future, for humanity. Hope is a good thing. We have a nighttime/bedtime routine.  They get their showers, they get ready for bed, we always do a family hug - all four of us, then we read to them.  We have been working on reading the bible to them, so they hear a little at a time.  I then put the bible back on the dresser and turn off the light.  I always tell them I love them, I am proud of them and I hope they sleep good.  To which they reply, I love you, and you sleep good too. Tonight before turning off the light Ivan jumped out of bed and said, "I am so excited about the pizza party tomorrow and getting to wear our pajamas to school."  I said it sounded like fun, 'pizza party, pajamas, movie and friends.'  He then walked over to a shelf in his room and pulled out a Ziploc bag with coins in it.  I asked him what he was doing and told him he needed to get back in bed and he said he needed to take these to school tomorrow.  I asked him why and he said, 'well what if some kids couldn't bring in money for the pizza party? they will be sad if they don't get pizza, I want them to have pizza too.'  I love this boys heart. I told him that sometimes I will send in extra money just in case somebody else can't contribute, not always, but sometimes. I love that my sweet little boy, at six years old....thought about others going without and wanted to do something about that - all on his own.  He has grasped a concept that some adults I know still don't understand. 

Monday, December 19, 2016


I stood behind you in line.
You looked me in the eyes.
You looked back at your cart.
You handed the cashier the money.
You told her Merry Christmas
You were pleasant and warm and nice
but was it real?
You confused me today.
You have talked in days past about the incredible person I am.
You have told me that I am a friend like no other.
You have told me we should get together.
For some reason my guard remained up.
I don't know why.
My intuition is something I constantly question.
Time went on.
It stops for no one and nothing.
My family experienced some tough medical situations.
Where were you?
Oh right, you were commenting on my facebook posts telling me to text you.
Sure thing.
It looks good – to others.
You feel you did your part – you reached out.
But do you really care?
I have yet to text you.
You have yet to text me.
But thats just life.
When you saw me today, you didn't even recognize me.
I got a glimpse into what life would be like if I wasn't here.
If I was dead, if I was gone.
That's how I feel.
People don't care.
That's life, that's reality.

It just stings coming from somebody who spoke such powerful words.
Leaves me questioning my discernment of people.
Leaves me questioning my life.
Leaves me with this pit in my stomach and a hole in my heart.

Do you think maybe next time you could just say hi?

Trust no one.
Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette

When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette 
Loving People Like God Does
Written By:  Max Davis

Book Overview:

As best-selling author Max Davis puts it, “Jesus is very much alive today and still does incredible things—sometimes supernatural things—through us!” Those hurting and weary from worn-out religion are longing for a fresh touch from the living Jesus. Davis challenges us to do more than simply receive God’s grace—we need to allow grace to soften, change, and shape us. As you read this book, you will laugh, cry, and come face-to-face with the living Jesus, much like Davis did, meeting him living in a green-eyed brunette.

My Thoughts:

My favorite quote, "Books are missionary tools." I enjoyed reading this book.  I must say the title was a bit catchy and it piqued my curiosity. I enjoyed reading about the faith stories.  None that started out as such, but those whose lessons were just as important. I have learned that often times that is how life works, we don't know when or who will need us and how God will use us.  I like how the author talks about one example of taking his shoes off and giving them to a homeless man and how it changed his life.  I like the way the book ended, giving us all a point of reflection in thinking back to when we met Jesus for the first time, who was He living inside?

This is a story about God's grace, how it works in us and through us to reach others in a way that none other can pull off .  I will be reading this book again in the near future.

I received this book from FlyBy Promotions in exchange for an honest review, but my opinion of it is my own.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How's Your Soul?

How's Your Soul
Written By:

Book Overview:

Judah Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Is ______, explores what it looks like to cultivate a healthy soul in the midst of a busy life and points readers to the soul’s only true home and place of rest and fulfillment: God.
“How’s your soul?” 
It may seem like an odd question, but it’s what pastor and bestselling author Judah Smith chooses to ask his friends, rather than “How are you?” It’s a way to look past the externals and consider what’s going on inside, in that essential part of us that is often overlooked in the struggle to make our way through everyday life.
In the rush of living moment to moment, many of us find ourselves simply surviving, struggling daily with frustration, restlessness, boredom, and ever-fleeting joy. But if we would pause, we’d find that the things that matter most in life, what we are searching for in our busyness—stability, peace, hope, love—are rooted in the health of what Judah calls the “inside you.” 
In How’s Your Soul?, Judah explores that “inside you.” Sharing his own, often humorous, mistakes and foibles, he helps us find our way through the emotional roller coasters of life to discover the soul-healing essentials of restresponsibilityrestraint, and relationships, all rooted in what he calls the soul’s only true home—God himself.
How’s Your Soul? is an invitation to find lasting emotional satisfaction and stability by bringing our feelings into alignment with God’s truth, moving beyond simply surviving, and learning how to live each day with eternal significance.
My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I would highly recommend this book to anybody searching for a different perspective behind the age old question - how are you? It is so easy to just answer with a quick, "I'm fine. How are you?" Most times people are struggling with something. I think I might have to try asking somebody, 'Hows your soul' just to see if its the same response, 'i'm fine how is yours?' or will it stop them in their tracks?! My favorite part of the book was about God and love, it clearly defined and outlined exactly what it looks like to love like Jesus - nearly 20 pages worth. I underlined and highlighted so much that I figured I should just put a paper clip on those pages because I will definitely be going back to them. I love that it could be applied to a relationship of any kind, with parent, child, spouse or friend. The basis for the break down of showing how to love like Jesus is based on the scripture verse 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 This book gave me a lot to think about.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

God has a plan...

God has a plan....that statement should provide more comfort than it actually does at times. It should be 'enough' on days when you just feel like you are chasing the wind. We want to know how everything will play out but our feeble mind is no match for the plans that God has for our life.  It is easy to get discouraged with the struggles that I face. a memory was made that will be seared into my brain.  It gave me hope. It encouraged me. It showed me that there are still good people out there.

On this day, 32 years ago my mom and dad got married.  They took each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health and let me tell you - they have lived that out....they have walked the walk...despite how things have changed since my dads stroke, their love for each other remains.  They have set a good example for those around.  Love is messy and scary and overwhelming and there is some happiness and joy in the mix as well. 

I have been reading a book titled, "How's Your Soul?" and my favorite chapter is about God and love.  Stick with me, this might be a bit to read but is worth it because I do see it in my parents. "Paul says that all the time and in every situation, love does these four things: bears, believes, hopes, and endures....The first term is bear. This letter was originally written in Greek, and the term translated bear is related to the Greek word for roof.....Figuratively, it has the idea of covering or keeping something confidential; it can also mean to put up with something. Paul was telling the Corinthian believers that love is a roof and a cover. It protects, shields, and conceals the weaknesses of others.....The second word is believe. Love believes all things. In other words, love looks for the best. It doesn't mean you don't see the worst; it just means that even in the middle of the worst time of someones life, you remember the best, celebrate the best, remind that person of the best, and believe the best......What does it mean that love always hopes? It means that love holds on to eventual development. Love recognizes that where we are is not where we will always be. We are on a journey. We are works in progress....Finally, love endures. To endure means you don't retaliate or reject. Love will be tested. Life isn't perfect and neither are we. No matter how strong the bonds or how passionate the commitments, the people we love will let us down at times. If we are motivated with God's love, there is no limit to what we can endure." (Judah Smith) 

I think that is a pretty thorough way of describing the love that my parents have for each other.  Today I decided to take my dad out to find something special for my mom.  Last year they spent their anniversary at Mayo Hospital. That had its own goodness, but nothing beats being home.  I went out this morning to a few different places in search of charms for my moms charm bracelet.  I found quite a selection at Kohl's and they were 65% off!  I told the lady behind the counter that I was kind of looking to see what they had and then I planned to bring my dad back up to the store later in the afternoon to pick out a charm for my mom since they are celebrating their anniversary today.  I explained that he had a major stroke a year ago and has a language disorder and that going out is difficult but that I wanted him to be able to pick something special out for my mom.  She said no problem.  I then went to pick my dad up.  He was having a difficult day.  We managed to get him up to eat some lunch but he didn't want to leave the house, he kept telling me, 'i have no money'...I asked, 'if you look in your wallet and have money will you go?'.....he just kept repeating that he had no money.  I got up and went to pick his wallet up, but before doing so I slid $25 into it.  You see, I help my neighbor out with some house work and just yesterday she gave me a little extra and told me Merry Christmas.  When I handed dad the wallet, he opened it and his eyes got big.  My brother and I convinced him to go pick a charm out.  We were off to Kohl's.  When we got there I recognized the same lady from earlier.  She said, 'hi sir, how can I help you' dad said, 'a charm?' she filled in the gap and directed him to the ones we had looked at this morning.  She took the charms out, let him look at them, she read them to him, took them off the packaging, she was so kind and patient with my dad.  During a time of year when people are having to work more hours and deal with more customers, I was amazed by how well she treated my dad.  He picked out a charm.  The original price was $60, they were marked down to $21.50...I thought to myself, 'perfect, $25 will cover it!'....then when she was ringing us up she asked if we had any coupons, and then she answered for me - well of course you do!  When it was all said and done, tax included, the total was $13.48.  I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said thank you for helping us make this day special for my mom.  I think it is amazing that the price of the charm ended up being half the amount of cash that we had to spend. I guess that is God at work showing us that he will make a way.  That employee gave me hope for this world, that there are still kind people.  She didn't have to treat us the way she did, she certainly didn't have to help us find a deal, I rarely tell people anything personal about me, certainly not some random person behind the jewelry counter.....I set out to help my dad do something nice and I feel like I received a blessing in the process.  "The blessings of God are never ends in themselves. The blessings of God are always a means to an end. And the end is blessing others. We are blessed to bless." (Mark Batterson) She sold us so much more than a charm for a bracelet, she passed along hope that I so desperately needed.  

The charm for my mom - so appropriate - had a heart on one side and the following inscription, "Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think & twice as beautiful as you'd ever imagined."  He had four to choose from and this is the one he picked!