A Letter From Lancaster County – a Review

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I remember almost 20 years ago, my first trip to Amish County.  I traveled together from St. Augustine for a wedding of two of my dear friends in northern Indiana Amish Country.

Our borrowed mini van cruised into a country of small stores, pretty house lit with candles, and wagons that were pulled by horses.  It was certainly idyllic and different from tourist beach land where I was from.

Since then I’ve been a fan of most Amish fiction, some of the books good enough to rope me in during the first chapter, compelling me to keep reading it until I finish.

Kate Lloyd’s A Letter From Lancaster County was one of those.  I finished it in about 3 days and found myself really identifying with both of the main characters.

I think that’s what a good fiction does.  It pulls the reader in and makes you want to be in the setting, joining in on the conversation.

Her fiction tale of two sisters, an aunt, and a love interest of course, helps you think about marriage, singleness, death, life, living, and adventure pulls you in and helps you think about your own life.

For a married reader, I do find it hard to read romance fiction, even if I have a happy marriage, because it takes any romantic thoughts pulls you away from your spouse to another man, which never good.  So, while this is very light in romance, I would still caution readers to guard your heart.  Its not going to ruin the story for you to skip to the next chapter!

Thanks to Litfuse for the book.  All opinions are my own.  You can win some goodies by clicking on the above link!


Dragon Seed – a review:

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I fell in love with Marty Machowski’s writing for kids, youth, and parents when I was working on designing a curriculum for a church in Raleigh 7 years ago.  And I’m still influenced by how he handles the Gospel to others.  Whether its kids or teens or parents, any body can benefit from his writing.

His use of the Gospel and application and getting to the heart of the matter and correct theology – is all important parts of his writing.

And how hard is sin to explain to teens?  When lives are hard, emotions run deep, friendships are off and on, hormones are raging, parenting relationships can be difficult.  In his new book, Dragon Seed, Marty does a really good job using his sanctified imagination to explain sin, how it cuts us to the core, and how spiritual warfare is a real thing.

The Gospel is so crucial to that and the empty tomb wins though.

This would be a great book for parents to read with their pre-teen sons, I think especially sons.  Maybe a good one for Dads and sons to read together or go on a weekend trip to discuss.

Thanks Litfuse for a chance to read this book.  All opinions are my own.

Unsinkable Faith (a review)

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One of the best things we can teach our children is to be children of faith.  That may seem like a strange thing to say, because faith is a gift, but we can train them in that way.

Faith, saving faith, is indeed a gift from God.  But, throughout Scripture we are encouraged to be faith-filled, faithful, and men and women of faith.

In her book, Unsinkable Faith, Tracie Miles encourages us as women to develop a game plan to be women of faith.  For me, most of it has to do with a combination of mind and heart – especially when things aren’t going exactly the way that I would like.  When we combine how we feel and how we think – it will change the way we live.

Romans 12:1-2 is a popular verse to use about how we live our lives for God.  And not for this world.  And really it starts with two things: worshiping God (knowing that we aren’t everything in this life) and training our minds by reading the Word of God.

Belief is an active process.  We need to read what the Bible says about us, God himself, and the world around us. Actively believe it – repeating it to ourselves, memorizing it, embarking on a journey to apply it, and then acting upon it.

When this world doesn’t go exactly like we want it to, when our instagram pages don’t look as perfect as others, then we tend to start going down in our belief of the Word.  Did God really say something and is that really true?

This book is a good read to encourage you to build your faith on something solid – the only unchanging thing in this world – God.

The Elusive Miss Ellison (review)

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I need to learn some things about reading.  You think I’ve been reading for decades, I’d have it down, but my reading brain needs to be retrained.

For about 10 years now, post seminary, I’ve been reading mostly for review purposes, so it is hard for me to read for fun.  I’ve read books that I love and adore, but most of those aren’t the ones I’m reviewing (there are exceptions of course).  And when I read for review, it is hard for me to read for enjoyment.

And it is hard for me to read fiction, because it is hard for me to think that this will affect my heart and life.

Insert: why I don’t read much fiction anymore.  I don’t know why it is so difficult.

Carolyn Miller, in her new book The Elusive Miss Ellison, has so many important things about life.

“But although she prayed and tried to believe things would somehow work out for good, the mortification continued to ebb and flow, the questions whirled, and heaviness of heart made sleep impossible.” – Carolyn Miller

Pride, love, family troubles, societal obstacles – you’ll find them all in this book.

Thanks Litfuse for this book.  All opinions are my own.

Finding Balance

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I have learned one thing in the last few years: there is no such thing as balance in life.  If you are doing one thing – then you aren’t doing another thing.  And so many of us women try to spin about 1000 plates.

Whether we are mommying and working, or mommying many, or doing a ministry at our church or teaching bible studies in our home, or being involved in creative communities, balance is hard to get right.

When I was younger I wasn’t very good at the balance beam in elementary school PE, but now that I’m older I have gotten better at the tree pose in my yoga practice.

Lisa Pennington gets the life of balance.  In her book, Tightropes and Teeter-totters, she doesn’t appear to have it altogether, but instead, through humor and great tips, she helps us all maybe not fall completely off.

She hits on marriage, parenting, having a peaceful and clean home, all done with humor, personal illustrations, and biblical truth.  Its a quick read and one you can for sure pull some tips from.

Thanks to Litfuse for this book.  All opinions are my own.


The Art of Control

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If you love purple mosleskins, you will definitely want to enter this giveway, which also includes a book, bag, bracelet and more!

I have always liked to be in control.  I can tell it in my driving, my learning, and my relationships.  This is one area that has been the hardest in terms of living the Christian life.  I’ve really never doubted God’s sovereignty – but if His sovereignty is true, then I am definitely not in control.

Shannon Popkins’ book Control Girl is a good heart searcher to see if you might have control issues too. And in some way I think we all do.

I loved how Shannon shared personal stories and was real about her own struggle with control.  Even though she wrote this as a Bible study, I think it was more of a book that included Scriptures and make sure you ask yourself some questions.  She didn’t really hit the Bible study part hard.  Bible studies study the Bible, dig in, really take time to invest in the Word itself.  While this book was well-written I think it missed the mark on the Bible study part.  That isn’t to say it doesn’t have merit – it would still be a good book to read.  And maybe you can take the Scriptures she gives you and invest and dig deep in the Scriptures – more than she does.

Quiet Time Plans for the New Year

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New Years is almost upon us.  We start thinking about our plans for reading and for goals, for lists, and new adventures. How we want to grow?  What we want to stop or pursue.

This year my plan was to read through the Word and write down what it tells me about God.  Its been rather insightful, even though I’ve not gotten as far as I would like.  I think I will keep at it though not as systematically as I’ve done this year.  I love flipping through already read passages and quickly seeing how God shows up in the Word.  How brilliantly he displays himself.

This next year, I want to read the Gospels and tell what they tell me about how Jesus, the Son of God, makes God known to the world because He reflects His Father, perfectly.

Two new devotionals I’m going to start out with: Earth Psalms (which I just got for Christmas) from Francine Rivers (a review later) and Waiting for Wonder.  Litfuse sent me this book (all these opinions are my own) and I’m super excited to really dig into this book and study the life of Sarah.  In the Old Testament, we read and study so much about Abraham, but we don’t know much about Sarah – or maybe not as much as we would like.  In this book, Marlo Schelesky, writes for women who are anticipating what God is going to do in their life – much like what Sarah had to do.  Wait  and Wonder.  She picks up the Biblical narrative of Sarah and adds to it (like making some of it fictional).  I think any woman who has ever waited for anything should be able to understand and internalize many thoughts she puts out there.  I love how it is chock full of Scripture and will use it in the new year to not only study the Word more, but hopefully bring my heart around to God’s in this prolonged season of unknown we are in as a family.

You can this waiting for wonder gift pack! Head over and find out how!


Coloring and the Gospel

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I love being creative.  That is no secret, especially on this blog and my instagram account.

And when books, encouragement in the Word, and creativity combine – that’s definitely a winner.  That’s why I love lettering the Word and using colors to help the Word come alive and be a pictured part of my day.

April Knight, in her two coloring books, combines her love of the Scripture and encouraging others with her love of art, drawing and coloring.  This one, more than others I’ve seen, offer a devotional and just allows for a small getaway in your day to be creative and focus and meditate on the Word.

One thing all of us need to more is repeat and rehearse the Gospel to us.  We live in a world full of expectations and self-imposed expectations that we will never be able to meet.  The Gospel frees us from those.  And coloring the Gospel might allow us a break from the expectations and time just to square our hearts and minds on truth.

Thanks Litfuse for these coloring books!  All opinions are my own.

Engaging Your Community During the Holidays

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Back in high school, I worked at a Christian bookstore.  Some of the best memories were concerts and friendships and knowing when all the new DC Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman, and 4Him music came out.  I loved seeing all the new Max Lucado books and cute Pass it One cards.  One of the downsides were all the cheesy Christian t-shirts (ripped from secular companies) and the cheesy books (some of which are still out there).

As a teenager, even though I had been saved for over a decade at that point, I was just learning how to pray, interact with Scripture, have a quiet time, share my faith – all the things that a growing Christian does.  Some of the books that were helpful were those little “Scripture” books that were a list of scriptures you could pray if you : were afraid, needed advice, scared of people, didn’t know anyone, had spaghetti on your tie (well, not really but you get my drift).  Some were helpful, some verses were pulled out of the context they were in in the Bible.  But, really, they helped you learn to pray God’s Word for any situation you were in.

What I know now that I didn’t know then, is how cruel this world could be.  How much sin totally affects and effects our lives – every bit of it.  And if sin affects my heart, it must affect those around me.  Now, that we are more than two decades out from my Christian bookstore days, I know even more of the people around me and the pain and reality that intersect their 24/7.

Amelia Rhodes, in her helpful prayer book, Pray A to Z, doesn’t teach us how to pray, but she gives examples of prayers that could be prayed for your community : your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, your church members, your friends – and gives a verse and sample prayer that could help you – jump start or continue – in how to pray for these.

Here is just a sample:

Adoption (I know so many in this process right now)

Abuse (unfortunately, I know some who have been or who are in a type of abuse)

Law Makers (are there any lawmakers that you know?)

Law Enforcement (the Word speaks to their lives as they protect the community, especially with all the violence escalating in our communities)

Pain (physical, mental, chronic)

Prince of Peace (especially around Christmas time, people are in search of peace more than usual).

What a great way to engage your people this holiday season – ask them how you can pray for them.  And, if time permits, stop and pray right then.  If you are just passing them and have a brief second, please pray later (don’t forget) and shoot them a text or a snail mail letter recording that prayer, or just telling them you prayed.  Maybe it won’t seem like a big deal to them in the moment, but I’m sure they will remember your kindness and gospel opportunity later.

This is also a great way to teach little ones some practical ways to pray – it is systematic and has verses and prayers right there, on one page.  It will teach kids to invest in the lives of others so they know what to pray and it will teach them how to include God’s Word in their prayers back to Him.

Thanks to Litfuse for this book and all opinions are my own.

Sadness in a Joyful Season

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It is just 9 days before Christmas, everyone is hurrying around, crossing items off their lists, getting dressed up to attend Christmas parties, and drinking eggnog.  Maybe blaring Christmas music from the ipods and car radios.  Making peppermint bark and addressing those family Christmas cards.

It is definitely meant to be a joyful season – the reason being is that Jesus came to earth as a baby and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

But, what do you if your holidays are mixed with sadness?  This world is full of sadness, and maybe, as you look back over 2016, you realize that your life is more sad than happy, not going quite like you wanted or hoped it would.

Sadness is not a sin.  We see throughout the Psalms (especially) that the writers were sad: they were saddened by the events going on around them.  They were sad because of things happening to them.  They were just sad.  And that was ok.  We need to dwell on what is going to happen with our sadness?  Do we have to immediately dismiss it and never deal with it – no.  We need to think about it, think about why we are sad, maybe get someone to help think through our sadness, and let God have it.  Let Him take away your sadness.

You may be sad because of relationships that are broken.  You may be sad because you’ve lost loved ones over the past year.  Maybe you are sad because you were hoping to share Christmas with a new baby but that baby was lost to a miscarriage.  There is so much sadness.  We need to be mindful of other’s sadness and have compassion on them.

Tanika Fitzgerald, in her book Miscarried Joy, helps point women to the gospel who have suffered a miscarriage, but the truths that she encourages women with would be applicable to anyone who who has been dealing with hurt and needs some help helping your heart.  You need to hear these gospel truths that God is for you, delights in you, and is working in you even through pain.  This season of Advent and Christmas can help you realize that there will come a time when Jesus makes everything sad become untrue (thanks Sally Lloyd-Jones for that one).

You can win a copy of Miscarried Joy and other goodies before Christmas!