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Lessons from the heart

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Imagine being a young woman who exercises regularly, eats healthy food and is about to give birth. And then your heart stops.

Those are the events in the life of author Julie Manning in her biography My Heart. She didn’t know the muscle that pumps blood throughout her body was failing.

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After the birth of her first child, a boy, she was given the devastating news that she was in heart failure, a diagnosis no young, first-time mother expects to hear. But this became her life.

And it changed everything.

Mrs. Manning’s story is gripping as she walks through the days after her son’s birth and the years that follow, always wondering if her heart will last long enough for her to see that sweet baby boy grow up.

She writes honestly about dealing with the shock of her health condition, wrestling with her faith in God, wondering about her and her family’s futures. Through the struggle she came to a place of acceptance and began living each day with purpose, grace and thanksgiving.

“. . .  What if women spent more time looking into the eyes of people around them and had conversations about Jesus, reading through the Bible together and praying to the One who is worthy above all else?  . . . What if we chased our children around the park and on the way home tell them that Jesus is chasing after them, and He never runs out of breath like Mommy? What if we stopped calling our minivan a taxi and begin seeing the opportunity for discipleship of the souls that are buckled into their seats with no place else to go? What if we actually shared the gospel with our children instead of rushing them through life?

“May we turn into a generation of women who live with constant intentionality. Not just for the sake of being intentional but for the sake of living like Christ. May we also be a generation of women who dares to dream of how God might just use our lives tomorrow while we are in the trenches of today.”

My Heart is a gripping story. It made me look at my own soul-heart, to examine my motives for living out the rest of my days.

I want to be part of that generation of women who lives with intention and purpose, investing in the lives of people around me.

It will not happen accidentally.  It is a choice I must  make.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of My Heart, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Always with you

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

“I am always with you.”

I read those words in my morning devotional, words I’ve known since childhood, but words I need to hear often. Reminders are good and necessary.

I just finished reading The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, and the same truth became evident once again: that the ever-present God, who continues to work out His purpose in every situation, is always with His children.

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Priscilla Shirer has ventured into the genre of fiction books, appealing to elpriscillashirer2ementary and middle school children. The first in the series, The Prince Warriors, introduced us to a group of children whose lives intersect at the Rec Center in their home town. They are different ages, different ethnic backgrounds, and different personalities. Their personal stories intertwine as they are called to the adventures in Ahoratos, a world somewhere in another dimension where good battles evil.

In Ahoratos, they meet Ruwach who dispenses wisdom from time-honored Scripture. He is the one who equips them with armor for battle.

The children encounter attacks from the creatures of the dark kingdom, and they learn how their armor operates, how it helps them fight and protects them from the enemy.

As the story continues, we see how each piece of armor issued to the young prince and princess warriors mirrors the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6.

The second book of the series, The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, highlights the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. One of the girls is harassed by the enemy who tries to invade her thoughts and speak lies to her because she is not wearing her helmet.

During the invasion, the children begin to understand the truth that God is always with them

Though our trails are hard and last long; though the battle rages and we fight hard; though the road ahead look ominous and our strength is gone; one thing is a fountainhead of comfort. Jesus Himself said it,”I am always with you.”

“I AM always with you.” Be reminded.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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How big is love?

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Sometimes a book surprises, sometimes it delights. Sometimes a book disappoints and I wish I had not bothered to spend my time on it.

Once in a while a book gives me an “Ahh, this is precious,” experience.

How Big Is Love? is one of those delightful kind of books. Aimed at children and in a board-book format, it is perfect for little hands to handle. It features Little Hedgehog and his mother as he asks questions about love.

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“Mama, just how does love get so big?” Little Hedgehog is determined to understand just how love works. His curious questions will warm your heart, and his sweet story will remind you that love grows every time you give it away.

The book is the third in a serious based on 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

Amy Parker combines her engaging words with Breezy Brookshire’s beautiful illustrations as Little Hedgehog wonders if love is “bigger than the mountains” and “brighter than the sun.”

Mama Hedgehog assures her little one that love is indeed bigger and brighter and stronger than anything. Her final description of love is both simple enough for a child and profound enough for a grown up to comprehend.

“Our love grows every time we give it away.”

How Big Is Love is the companion book from Parker’s series, How High is Hope? and How Far Is Faith?, and would be perfect in the hands of a new mom who wants to read to her baby without fear of the little one tearing pages. It is equally superb for any adult to read to children and begin to practice love in an active way.

The story line is even relative for someone like me. It is simple yet straightforward in its message.

I would have loved to read this book to my one and only son or my grandchildren when they were small.  I hope I can still convey its message to them though they are beyond the board-book stage.

As the holiday season approaches quickly, the gift of How Big Is Love could become someone’s favorite. It is simply a charming book.

NOTE:   I received a copy of How Big Is Love?, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Coloring and note taking

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

When I was a little girl, I loved to color, and I loved it that my mother would sit and color too. It was fun and creative for me, and we shared the experience making it all the sweeter.

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My mother was my first playmate and confidant. She was my teacher and the one who told me about Jesus for the very first time.

As I became a teacher of children, I recall preparing color sheets for wee ones in Sunday school classes many times. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then maybe coloring can help us remember those words even more.

As I grew up, I replaced coloring with note taking. If I had colored pens to do it, well, even better. I made lists, kept a calendar of events, took minutes of meetings, and wrote in journals. As more years are added to my life, it seems the more words I write.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to receive The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible from B&H Publishing Group for a couple of reasons. It had wide, lined margins on the pages, with plenty of space to write personal notations during sermons or daily study. I like having room on the page. Some notes I’ve made in my old Bible are scrunched in small areas and often written so small I can barely read them or remember why I wrote them.

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The second reason is The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible has over 600 images and filigree designs for coloring.

The adult coloring book trend is popular, with books turning up for purchase everywhere. One article cites reasons adult coloring can be helpful. It can relieve stress, help one focus, and has been used in art therapy for years.

The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible “combines two hot trends: Bible journaling and adult coloring. Each Bible spread contains a line-drawn illustration that can be filled in by the reader with whatever colors they choose. Includes three varieties of illustrations: (1) filigree, (2) Scripture quotes, and (3) drawings that illustrate the topic of the corresponding Bible text.”

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From the title page to Revelation 22 the opportunity to color abounds in this book, offering illustrations of a story or a verse in creative lettering. Even the Table of Contents can be colored. I especially like the two-page spread for Old Testament and New Testament that incorporates coloring and almost a full page for note-taking.

The plan of salvation is the first thing after the Table of Contents, and next is an Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the textual basis for this particular translation. This Bible also includes a concordance and a maps section.

Overall, I found this to be a premium book with its bonded leather cover. (It does come in other covers and translations. Plus, there is a version especially for teens.) It is lovely to look at and lovely to hold. The quality of the pages has a touch of elegance.

Don’t expect a lot of extra notes and explanation of Scriptures. This is not a study Bible with scholarly information throughtout. The purpose of The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible is this: a place to write your own thoughts and notations, and a place to be creative as you meditate on God’s Word and who He is. The book fulfils its purpose very well.

I think this Bible would make a wonderful gift for someone you know or even for yourself.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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We are in this together

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

We met for an early morning coffee chat. She’s young enough to be my daughter. Our friendship began at a chance meeting, the two of us at a women’s event when the Spirit brought us face to face.

She shared her recent life events and then asked about me. I could not speak for a couple of seconds, emotions tightening my throat. She waited quietly until I was able to talk about things that concern me. Nothing big, just the small pebbles that can pile high and begin to look like a mountain.

I told her how I sometimes say “I’m good,” when asked, but hiding underneath the cheerful face is sadness I can’t account for. It’s not that I mean to be dishonest, but I don’t think most people want to hear my litany of complaints. She’s not most people. She’s my friend.

Lying on the table between us was a book I brought to share with her. As she expressed her concern for me, she pointed to the front cover and smiled. The subtitle read, “because women need each other.” And that is exactly right.

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When I chose Giddy Up, Eunice as my next book to review, I was intrigued by the title and what might be waiting for me within the pages . Sophie Hudson picks out three Biblical friendships and shows the vital important of relationships between women.

“. . . there’s no getting around how much women need each other. The heart of the gospel is relationship, and God has hard-wired each of us with a longing to be seen, to be loved, and to be known.”

A woman understands this at her core. Her DNA shouts it. Hudson challenges women to look beyond their “same age, same stage” groups. She points out that women who are ahead of us (the older generation) and the ones behind us (the younger generation) are rich friendship opportunities.

The title of the book comes from 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul remembers the faith of his youthful protegé Timothy, how it began in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.

Hudson writes about three inter-generational relationships: Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, and Lois and Eunice.

She suggests there are women already in our circle who may be a potential friend. She says,

“In fact, in each of these three pairs of women, there’s already a built-in cross generational connection. That’s important, because it reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to take on anything new; we may just need to open our eyes and look around at the people in the places where we already are.”

That’s a relief, not having to add more to my plate. I don’t have to sign up for a new ministry or start attending another small group. Our own family members cross the generational lines to be a source of support and encouragement. If I simply look at the places I live, work, and serve, there are women on both sides of my generation, and we can share our journeys. We can help each other grow.

“We would say that we want to be women of great faith, women who pass on the ‘sincere faith’ of 2 Timothy to the younger people in our sphere of influence. We also want to be women who learn from [the older women] in our lives.”

I am thankful for friends who are my age and stage of life, who remember when the Beach Boys first came on the scene and when television was small, black and white. We share similar life experiences. We understand each other so well.

I am equally thankful for those older women who nurtured me and advised me when I was younger. They were my role models, the ones who paved the way for me. I hope I always have an older woman in my life until I am the oldest one around.

And my young friends, they are career women and mothers. They home school and they serve in the community. They have babies, toddlers, teenagers and husbands, and their lives are full and running over. They help me remain hopeful for the future.

Giddy Up Eunice speaks to me, not so much as an instruction manual but more like a friend across the table where we laugh a lot and get really serious and talk for hours.

Sophie Hudson is a Mississippi girl and southern oozes from her pen. She is expressive and funny and often exhibits excitement with her ALL CAPS WORDS as she tells personal experiences that illustrate the truths she is presenting.  While this was my first time reading her work, I am already looking forward to reading another of her books.

NOTE:   I received a copy of the book Giddy Up Eunice, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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A good summer read

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

{Typed slowly with a little difficulty due to my one-handedness}

It’s been a long time since I sat and read to my grandchildren. They are so grown up now that their legs would drag the floor if they sat in my lap. The memories are precious.

I did it often when they were young and living in the house next door. When they spent the night, bed time was not complete until we shared our ritual of reading. They picked the books usually, and as it is with children, the same ones surfaced regularly until we could almost quote them line by line.

I miss those days.

As I began reading The Prince Warriors, I thought what a great book this would be to read with a young person.

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Prisilla Shirer (with Gina Detwiler), acclaimed speaker and writer of Bible studies, surprised me with her first book of fiction, aimed at the middle-grade boy or girl. I was pulled into the story line as the lives of two brothers and two friends became intertwined in an adventure children only dream of having.

“The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. . . . Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.”

While the brothers are typical siblings, fighting their way into trouble with mom, their adventure teaches them they are not enemies of each other. They learn they must cooperate and work together if they are to be victorious over their common adversary.

The young people are brought together for a purpose. They learn from each other. They help each other. They begin to see they need each other.

The book teaches a lot of truth along the way without being preachy. It is a compelling story that draws the reader into the dangerous scrapes and rescues the four friends find themselves.

Ms. Shirer based the story on Ephesians 6:10 through 18 which describes the Armor of God. Having completed her Bible study by that topic this year, it was interesting to see her weave the pieces of armor into the kids’ exploits. I could clearly see the message she was trying to convey.

If you have a child or grandchild in your family, or if you can borrow someone else’s for a few afternoons this summer, read this book with them. You both will enjoy the story and camaraderie of a shared experience.

The Prince Warriors is the first in a trilogy (Unseen Invasion estimated to be released in October 2016). I recommend you get the book, plan your strategy to read it with someone, and follow the escapades of Evan, Xavier, Levi, and Brianna.

Buy this book for a child or share the reading of it with him or her. Spend your summer by investing in something eternal.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book The Prince Warriors, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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The lovely

un{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I’ve seen Annie Downs via the simulcast of IF: Gatherings.  But I know her in a different way after having read her book, Looking For Lovely, Collecting the Moments that Matter.

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I really enjoyed this book for several reasons.  It’s an easy read with short chapters, and Annie is funny.  She often made me smile. It’s honest as Annie talks about her struggles and her victories.  It provides a glimpse of how Annie began to see beautiful in what once was dark and painful.

And isn’t that what life is about?  We grapple with the reason behind the bad things that happen to who we call the good people.  Yet it is common to mankind.  We will have tribulations in this world.  It is inevitable.  What we do with those experiences is vital to how we survive and live joyfully.

The book is divided into three sections.  The first is Annie’s “Absence of Lovely” and the transparent way she describes her clashes against the difficulties in her life.

Section 2 is her “Search of Lovely” where she describes events that point her toward the beauty of living out her purpose, how the dark threads are part of her canvas as much as bright and gold ones. It is in this section that she makes suggestions to the reader to take some kind of action to look for the lovely in life.

The book ends with a brief “When I Found Lovely” as a summary of the search and the found prize of living her days joyfully, knowing God is a redeemer of all things and will bring beauty from ashes every single time.

I enjoyed sitting on my deck where nature’s loveliness surrounded me and reading Annie’s stories.  They resonated with me.  Life is not an easy ride.  I don’t think it was meant to be.  But it is full of beauty and lovely and joy and glory if we will open our eyes and look for it.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book Looking for Lovely, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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