Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?

Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?
Philip Yancey
Five Stars

 "The Bible is a great help to me in this practice, since it reminds me that God does some of God’s best work with people who are truly, seriously lost." Barbara Brown Taylor

Christian. What are some words that come to mind when many people are asked to define us? Judgmental, intolerant, ignorant, rude, forceful...this word, this "label" now comes with some very heavy negative connotations. As believers we are called to spread the word of a loving God who desperately aches to have a relationship with his children. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, the good news became some not-so-good news and people began to feel judged, to feel looked down upon. It's started to trigger some sort of fight-or-flight reaction in people any time religion, particularly Christianity, has come up. Philip Yancey's book addresses this change in the tides regarding not only the attitude toward Christians, but how it has affected peoples' ideas of religion, God, and the Bible. It is a crying shame that people charged with ministering and bringing others closer to God and to salvation are seen as a nuisance, or worse, as a direct contradiction to everything God has called us to be-loving, kind, full of grace.

Not only does Yancey's book discuss this changing attitude toward Christians and Christianity, he explores ways in which he has personally ministered to folks with different beliefs...not once does he sacrifice his own beliefs to appease someone who shares a different view, and not once does he take a condescending attitude toward the person, which is one thing many non-Christians are afraid of. He discusses that the best way to minister to people, the best way to share our faith and the love of God, to bring people closer to a relationship with Him, is to live out the gospel, not simply TALK about it. We need to live in grace and in love in order to reach people. Continuing down this path will get us nowhere. 

In one chapter of the book, a section I personally enjoyed, was the discussion of the gap between science and faith, between all of these other religions and Christianity. What is the truth? The author explored the beliefs of a handful of other major religions, and it was nice to see it laid out in a format that I could actually understand about the basic idea behind these religions and what these believers believe. 

Overall, this book is extremely interesting, entertaining, and I feel that I come away from this book learning something new and having a renewed vision and vigor for my life and duty as a Christian. I really *appreciate* Yancey's book and his take on things and I would highly recommend this book for anyone. Five stars all the way!

I'd like to leave you with a quote from the book...a quote that I feel really rings true: 
I have painted a bleak, one-sided picture of post-Christian ethics in order to show that the modern West is floundering over a basic sense of right and wrong...Because of our failure to live out our beliefs, our own lack of moral clarity, and our meddling with partisan politics, Western culture no longer looks to Christianity as its moral source.  (Ebook version, Loc 3378)
 What are we, on an individual level, going to do to change this? How can we as individual believers implement changes and perhaps change the perception of Christianity as a whole? We may be saved, but that doesn't make us better than others that don't share our beliefs. We may not believe in certain popular ideas, but criticizing or ridiculing those who make decisions to partake is doing Christians as well as God a huge disservice and is a major missed opportunity to share the love of our Heavenly Father. We cannot change people, but God can...He only has the opportunity to do that if people open their hearts to Him.

If you're interested in obtaining a copy of this amazing book to add to your library, you can purchase it here!

I was provided a free eBook copy of this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for my honest review. This is my personal, honest opinion.
Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review: Move on: When Mercy Meets Your Mess

 Move On: When Mercy Meets Your Mess
Vicki Courtney
Five Stars

THIS is a book that I would deem a must-read. There are a whole host of books about personal trials and god's love and mercy, but this one offers the perfect balance of personal testimony, testimony from others, and the repeated message that life is messy and you can ALWAYS count on God to meet you in your mess. 

The book is so much more than just testimony though, discussing issues like shame and legalism, prompting us to explore our very own ideals about what it means to walk in the light and help other believers. She also discusses something very important, which is putting all of our stock in other peoples' opinions and not enough in God's opinion.

At one point in the book, the author speaks about an experience at a women's retreat where she felt so alone because it seemed as if she was the only person in the room that had problems...the speaker was a perfect picture of a perfect life. If you have ever heard the song "stained Glass Masquerade" this song mimics her experience, and both are a message to guard against being fake. The premise of the book is to acknowledge that we are flawed, we all have's about embracing the mess, and the author does a great job of showing that we aren't perfect, nor are we capable of being perfect. We all have issues. Such a statement is a true breath of fresh air in Christian literature where so often I feel as though the person behind the pen is a robot-perfect picture of Christianity and offers up sugar coated testimony. This is NOT one of those books, and I am thankful for that.

Nobody is perfect...short of Jesus, that is. There is no room for judgment, there is no room to stay trapped by our past sins, and there is no reason to hide the fact that we do in fact sin. This book is wonderful for those who are having issues escaping past sin, but I really recommend it for ANYONE to read. 

All in all, this is a five star book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing. Highly recommended! You can purchase the book here!

Disclaimer: I was provided this book free of charge from BookLook bloggers in exchange for my personal opinion. All opinions expressed here are my own!
Thursday, August 28, 2014

School is in session!

It's that time of year again! School started yesterday for the boys and I find it to be an extremely bittersweet time of year...
I also find it sad how so many parents are open about "Oh thank GOODNESS...summer is over!" 
Is it really that difficult to be around your children? 
Now, I understand it's hard to be around children 24/7 and we all need a break, but seriously, openly celebrating your kids leaving and having your "free time" again makes me kind of sad. If you're going to celebrate, consider guarding there hearts and celebrating in private :P
Thursday, August 21, 2014

Quiet is violent

I was listening to a new song today titled "Car Radio", I cannot remember the artist, but one of they lyrics was that "Sometimes the quiet is violent". It is...quiet can be scary, our minds wander to scary places. BUT, sometimes that quiet is filled with whispers from the Lord, so we shouldn't be scared of it, we should listen intently!

I have spent a good deal of time lately just being quiet-sitting in the quiet, waiting to hear something. My heart has softened quite a bit regarding situations or people, so sometimes we don't even hear Him speaking, but we feel Him :)

Don't be afraid to sit in the quiet...amazing things might happen.
Thursday, August 14, 2014

How do you do it?

It's no secret that I have a big family, and I do, for the most part, LOVE having a big family. What I don't love, are silly comments from usually well-meaning strangers about "Oh, better you than me" or "Wow, how do you do it?"

Has anyone ever considered that those types of comments may be hurtful? Especially to the curious little ears listening in on the conversation? 

It is so important to be mindful of our words, regardless of who we are talking to. Words can be powerful, words can be profound-they can build or they can burn. 

Now, I don't say anything mean to these well meaning strangers as you attract more flies with honey rather than vinegar, I've certainly heard my fair share of funny or witty comebacks, but they always seem so bitter. I don't want to convey a spirit of bitterness, even to a stranger and *especially* when it comes to comments about my family. Sometimes simply saying "Thank you" and walking away is all that is necessary.
Thursday, August 7, 2014


Music sets my soul on fire, touches me in a very deep place. It is something I am passionate about, and I always have a song in my head AND in my heart. 

Some people are very particular with their music choices...but not me-I just go with the flow, listen to what feels right at the moment. 

Recently I was criticized for listening to a German band, a quite popular one at that. I was listening to my radio in my car with the windows rolled down and someone said I had "no business" exposing my children to such trash. First of all, it's in German and unless you speak German, you have no idea what they're saying. Second of all, if you DID know German, you'd know this wasn't trash at all-it was a *love song*! Third, if someone is going to judge a song based on the language it is in, then that is too bad for them. 

I won't let the naysayers put out my little spark ;) Keep on keepin' on!
Thursday, July 31, 2014


BABIES! Who doesn't love 'em? They're cute and cuddly and soft and have the cutest little noises :)

Babies are something to be treasured, and yet I feel like society as a group is starting to devalue these tiny humans and it makes no sense to me. When people start looking at a baby as nothing but a burden, I think it reflects something really deeply wrong in our society. These babies are our future, we should put so much value on to these little ones...we should treasure them for their innocence and their sense of wonder. 

One of my favorite things is to sit and watch my baby discover, explore, and learn. The sense of discovery in her eyes, the achievement, and the look she gives me even while she's getting in to something she knows she's not supposed's addicting! It's one of the best things in life, watching someone learn and grow. Making sure they know how important they are and to create an environment conducive to learning and growth is a close second ;)
Thursday, July 17, 2014


Many people are surprised to find out that I am in fact, a "gamer". I love to play PC games...I like the social aspect of multiplayer games, I love the strategy involved, and I love the hour of "me time" that they provide. But, video games, and gamers for that matter, get a bad rap. 

I'm not going to let my children go off and play an extremely violent video game, nor am I going to play one in front of them, but there is nothing wrong with blowing off a little bit of steam while playing a video game-AFTER we have spent our time in the Word and with our Lord. 

We all have hobbies-some people like to sew, or work on cars, or hunt. Some like to play video games. I would love it if people would stop snap judgments on others because of something they enjoy, especially if it provides no harm to others...yes there are bad people out there, yes there are people that take video games too far. Is that the video game's fault? Or maybe was there something wrong with the person to begin with?
Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: God's Beloved Daughters

Five out of five stars!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for devotionals. I have at least four sitting in my bedroom right now,mall of them having been read in their entirety at least once. When I saw "God's Beloved Daughters" available for review on BookLook, I absolutely HAD to read and review it.

This is an excellent devotional. It's easy to read, rich with scripture as well as elaboration from experience or other places to really drive the point home. Each month has a theme, or a focus of sorts, making this devotional unique from the ones I've read before. Granted they all have a focus, I just appreciated the way this one was organized. 

I definitely recommend adding this devotional to your library and give it five out of five stars! You can find this book at Amazon.

*I was provided this book at no cost in exchange for an honest review for BookLook bloggers. The opinions expressed here are my own, honest opinion.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beautiful-God's country

My family and I recently got back from a trip to Glacier National park...what a treat that was! We were able to visit with family and have wonderful fellowship in truly one of God's greatest creations.

The trip was particularly wonderful because my family and I are used to the mountains, and the mountains where were currently live are anything but...they're more like "hills". As for trees...what are these "trees" that you speak of? It was nice to tap in to that which is familiar to us. 

However, it really got me wondering...what is so wrong with appreciating the beauty that is our current location? We are choosing to build a life here, surely it isn't all that bad. And it really isn' may have to look a little harder, but beauty is all around us, and places can certainly be their own kind of beautiful!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Simple eye candy

Sometimes we need to stop and appreciate the beautiful things in life, and this is what this post is about :) I took these pictures myself...hands off!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Being a "momtographer"

My mom got me a decent camera for Christmas in 2012. Although I didn't spend much of 2013 using it because I was pregnant or recovering from medical complications, I have been putting the camera to use quite a bit this year. I have to say, as a mommy, a decent camera is an absolute MUST! My desire for a camera was born out of necessity-I cannot afford to pay a photographer to do my pictures, so I've been doing them myself. Here are several of my family that I've taken over time this year! Trust me-a good digital camera is money well spent! Spend some time playing with it and getting familiar with it and you'll be able to capture beautiful memories of your family, candid AND posed.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Schooling decisions

This year I was sad to learn that my four year old will miss the kindergarten cutoff by a few weeks. Preschool is out of our budget and she needs something to keep her learning brain going. With some internet surfing and lots of research, I finally settled on the Heart of Dakota Little Hands to Heaven curriculum. 
At only $80 for a teacher's guide, the books, and a music seems to be money well spent. I will update the blog when we get our school year underway, approximately the first week of September! I'm excited, the curriculum seems great, and with a few supplemental supplies and worksheets I think it's going to be a blast to use!
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sad state of affairs

This has nothing to do with my typical content, but something I feel compelled to write about.

Today I received several links to an article by an anti-gun group stating that there had been a whopping 74 school shootings since Newtown. I was genuinely saddened by this, but also puzzled because I certainly haven't heard of 74 shootings and, since Columbine, school shootings are something that make national, if not global news. 

I read through the list, then came across an article disputing the 74 shootings figure reported by the one group. Never being comfortable in trusting someone else's word entirely, especially when it comes to controversial topics like gun control, I did my own research. I was shocked at what I's my list of just the first sixteen shooting on their list, and a few from the end of the list. I did not research the list in it's entirety because I was pressed for time...

Milwaukee girl caught in crossfire at 7 PM on playground

A suicide attempt in a parking garage on college campus

Occurred in front of the church attached to the school, something personal between shooter and victim. Victim was taking his kids to daycare.

Man upset over financial aid shoots advisor...gray area, not necessarily a "school shooting"

Quoted in the article that it had nothing to do with the school, it was a domestic dispute...occurred at 6 PM when people were exchanging a child

Fight broke out at 9:20 PM after a basketball game

Two males, altercation, one started shooting the other, collateral damage but no deaths, gray area...

Guy shot sitting in his car NEAR but not ON campus-he was at an intersection.

Reports around town of man brandishing a gun-hit and run-man and police exchange gun fire in parking lot after 4pm

Man killed in field BEHIND school after playing a game of dice with others...

17 year old girl accidentally shoots herself in her thigh with a .380 during school hours (GA)

Gunman had plans to kill fellow students, but ended up shooting himself after midnight.

Boy commits suicide in school bathroom before classes started, left a suicide note

Off-campus shooting of student by two teens

Shooting in the evening outside of dormitory, shooter not a student, I couldn't find motive

These are all being reported as "school shootings" which, in my book, all of the incidents in my list have nothing to do with school shootings from MY point of view. When I think school shootings, I think Columbine and the terror that rang out across nearby schools. It was scary. Believe me, I was in a school twenty miles away from Columbine when it happened, delivering passes and doing errands for my school office when we got word to "lock the doors, there's been a shooting at Columbine". I was immediately pulled out of the hall and was told to stay in the office until further notice-we didn't know if a shooter was loose or if there were several attacks planned or what was going on. So please, do not preach to me about my lack of understanding of the gravity of school shootings...I get it. 

I don't know, 13 of the first 16 incidents reported in the article had almost nothing to do with what I would classify as a "school shooting", which to me means alarmist reporting and SCREAMS "this organization has an agenda". This is why I always recommend one do their own research, and to never take anything reported by an organization at face careful what you read, believe, and what you put your stock in. How many people are going to read this and believe every single incident reported had something like Sandy Hook happen? 

Does something need to be done about violence? Yes it does, but unfortunately I don't have any answers. Do I think tougher gun laws are the answer? No, I don't...bad guys don't follow laws. I am saddened to hear of each and every shooting where innocent people are targeted, where they die at the hands of a sick person. I wish I had answers, I wish it would stop. Sadly, skewed reports and misleading lists are not the way to being about change. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vacationing with a big family

As summer vacation has gotten underway, the harsh realization that we have many a big trip planned this summer has hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm nervous...there is so much potential for things to go wrong! I have been scouring the internet for tips on taking a very long road trip with kids of all ages and I found a few gems-plus some of the tricks I've been using before.

1. Pack a lunch box instead of a cooler...each kid gets a lunchbox packed with snacks and a few drinks. This has to last them the day, and if they run out, it's too bad, so sad. This has worked WONDERS for me in the past!

2. Walmart sells colored lunch baggies-buy them! My kids have a nasty habit of leaving trash in the car. Each child picked their own color of bag and I packed all their snacks accordingly. When someone leaves trash out it's no longer a game of he said/she said...if your baggie is on the floor, you're getting in trouble.

3. Pack the suitcases as far in advance as possible. I've already started packing for our trip to Michigan in a few weeks-the stuff that my kids don't need but we will be taking, that is. Actually, the girls' suitcase is completely packed, and the boys' suitcase is almost done. I'll pack mine later on!

4. Invest in some activities! We recently had a dollar store open here which has been a fantastic place to get cheap coloring/activity books and keep little ones' hands busy. I packed a medium sized tote, small enough to fit on the floor, full of fun activities for the boys and girls to do. 

5. Presents to open at certain intervals. I purchased other small gifts from the dollar store so the kids would have something to open when we stopped. I also picked up some of the $5 DVDs from Walmart and wrapped those. At each stop, ONE kid gets to open ONE thing...

Things that do not work for me...

1. Packing specific outfits in gallon ziploc bags. I find my kids like to march to the beat of their own drum...predetermined outfits are a no go.

2. Letting the kids pack their *own* suitcases. For one, we don't have the room to have them all take their own bag. Second, I cannot trust my kids to pack a proper amount of clothes. They would wind up with tons of swimshorts, two t-shirts, and no underwear...
Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's my birthday!!! my golden birthday! 
I don't understand why some people get weird about their birthday-I think aging is amazing. Of course I still have a lot of aging left to do-I suppose when I'm older my attitude about birthdays being cool might change. 

To celebrate, my mom came out and treated us to a weekend in Glacier National park, the first of two planned trips there this summer. We stayed in an AMAZING vacation rental that was in the perfect location WITH a hot tub. The stars were amazing...the smells were amazing...

We spent a good bit of time in the park and driving around to different touristy areas like Kalispell and Whitefish. Going to these places makes my heart ache to live in the woods again, but sometimes God's plan is greater than our own desires...I suppose if, in His time, he brings us back to the woods, then I will obviously embrace it wholeheartedly. For seems like he wants me settled here in the prairies of Montana :)
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Companion to the Old Testament


                                               Companion to the Old Testament by Ted Leach
                                                                  Rating: 4 stars

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing this book for BookLook bloggers, and I was pleasantly surprised. Please keep in mind that although I received a copy in exchange for my review, these opinions are my own, honest opinion of the book!

I love learning more about the learning about the meaning of passages, hearing interpretations, and furthering my understanding. This book did just that, not only giving the reader a look from a Christian perspective of the Old Testament, but also from the Jewish and Muslim perspectives as well. What many fail to realize is that although these religions are different, they have the same foundation and all are monotheistic religions. This book does a great job of explaining how certain aspects of these three religions are interwoven.

The book itself is written with a thorough introduction about the concept of this book, followed by ten in-depth yet easy-to-read chapters chock full of great information about the Old Testsment. Following each chapter are thoughtful questions that really probe the reader to think deeper and reaffirm the knowledge that was passed on in the chapter. I love discussion questions at the end of every book, so of course that was one of my favorite features. 

This book is an excellent tool to have for expanding on one's Biblical knowledge and I highly recommend it. I give it four stars! The book can be purchased from Westbow press.

Happy reading!
Thursday, May 15, 2014

End of school year

Nothing quite like the end of the school year, or the start of one for that matter, that puts things in to perspective. The end of the year has certainly crept up on this momma, and I'm shocked to realize that I will soon have a fourth grader, third grader, and first grader. Miss H would normally be going in to kindergarten but unfortunately she misses the cutoff for kindergarten this year by only a few weeks. I'm sure I'll come up with something for her.

I am also one of those weird moms, apparently, that is excited for summer break! Not only do I get to sleep in a little bit now, we have a lot of fun things planned for the summer that are sure to keep the kids happy and busy. Lots of new sites to see, lots of things to's going to be a blast. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014


As much as I love my kids and hate sending them off to school, I just don't think I have the guts to homeschool. If we're being completely honest here, which we are, I'm terrified of the idea of teaching my kids. Education is extremely important and, believe it or not, it CAN be done WRONG. I'm terrified of being that mom that messes up her kids' educational career by taking it in to my not-so-capable hands. It's scary. 

Blog after blog says "You can do this" but my brain says...nope. This is the nopiest nope you're gonna ever encounter. You cannot do this.

But God has put it on my heart to consider the notion...and when God puts something on someone's heart, he usually makes it possible to fulfill that dream/notion/whisper. He puts the body behind it...He makes the way. Sometimes remembering to trust God is extremely hard to do! 
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Adults should act like adults

Recently I had a falling out with a friend over a ridiculous misunderstanding. Rather than work it out, this person chose to sling mud at me until I felt lower than dirt. 

Since when did it become okay for adults to act like the third grade bully on the playground? Since when can people be okay with acting like that? What happened to rising above the circumstances and hearing someone out? We mustn't rush to snap judgments because our own perspective is skewed...

It is also extremely important to remember that, in our digital age-something that makes communication and keeping in touch very easy, it is also extremely easy to misconstrue something that we are reading on a screen. We cannot hear the tone of voice in which something is said, we can only *assume*, thus putting our own spin on what someone has written. 

I don't know where this friendship will go from here, as there has been significant damage done. But, I trust the Lord that He will guide me through this bump in the road and if He sees fit, repair of the relationship will happen. Why? Because God is good!
Friday, April 25, 2014

Post-nesting place bliss

I recently wrote a review on a wonderful book that I have reviewed, and I'm excited to say that the effects of that book are still with me. In it, she talks about finding beauty in where you are NOW, and that decorating your home, or making a house a home for that matter, don't have to be expensive. 

I recently perused the shelves of the local craft store looking for SOMETHING to do...and I settled on some paper mache letters that I have painted and glittered for the girlies. I'll have to share a picture at some point...

It's amazing to see the transformation of a room with just a few details. But what's even more amazing is the transformation of a room when we *feel* different about it. Sure, the details can be lovely, but if you take time to love the space you're in, nothing can trump that! 
Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Nesting Place: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful

The Nesting Place: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful
Myquillyn Smith
Rating: Five stars
Where to begin? This was one of the easiest and most enjoyable reads I've had the pleasure of reviewing thus far. It gets a five/five star rating and I highly recommend it. The end. 
...Just kidding. Y'all know I'm long-winded ;)
While perusing the BookLook available books I came across this one. Since I literally breathe anything decorating-related, I was thrilled to find this book. I was in for a great surprise, as this is so much more than a "how to make your house pretty" book. It really took me by surprise.
Since I apparently live in a cave with no TV and a limited understanding of the potential of the interwebs (did I say that right?), I was unaware that the author of this book also runs a popular blog with lots of followers and amazing decorating/home ideas and advice. This book chronicles her journey from house to home, literally, 13 different places of residence. It also includes tips for renters, tips on choosing which type of home you'd like to create, and of course, beautiful pictures of her amazingly beautiful lived-in home. *swoon*
In addition to all the money-saving tips, the author suggests finding beauty in where you are and not living for "the next house". It's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to have mismatched pillows, and it's okay to not live in perfection. What matters is making a home where you and the people you love feel comfortable. She speaks about embracing things in all their majesty, from ugly carpet to cookie cutter plastic. There really is beauty in everything, you just have to try and see it. 
Hi, my name is Christina, and I live in a crappy rental.
That's why this book really struck a chord with me. Coming from a fellow renter really meant something to me, she understood the plight of the everyday renter...not being able to do whatever you want with a space, maybe not having the resources or not wanting to spend the money on someone else's house, I found this particularly useful for me. Her suggestions on decorating for your family and using the space that you have were brilliant-especially when it comes to having a husband who is hesitant to spend any money because we won't see the return. The pictures were a real inspiration-she uses things like logs and plates to decorate her home-something I can definitely do. The best part about the book was that this all seemed so doable!
But like I said, this is so much more than a "how to" book...
For me, it spoke about contentment. I have been convicted of having a jealous or greedy heart before (paper my post on paper blinds), but lately with all of my friends buying gorgeous homes or moving to places where they have, you know, trees...I've been really discontent with my situation. I longed for a place to call my own, to make my own garden and pick out my own flooring and paint. The author speaks of her epiphany-when a famous stranger died-but this book led to my own personal epiphany that home is what we make it...I need to examine myself and discover what type of environment I'd like to create for my family. I've envisioned myself in a comfortable, functional, yet well-decorated home, and I certainly can't do that if I'm living in "nexthouseland". 
All in all, a great book, a fantastic and easy read, and very easy to relate to. I give it five stars and I highly recommend you go over and pre-order the book here!
Disclosure: I was provided this book in exchange for my opinion. All opinions expressed here are my own, awesome opinion!  
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Random musing: God-led decisions

I recently read something on Facebook that said "The devil doesn't doesn't show up painted red and with pointy horns, he shows up as everything we've ever dreamed of". 

That, folks, is some SERIOUS food for thought...

Several years ago we made a decision to move from our cute little town to the place where my husband grew up. It was *not* a God-led decision, it was a decision we made based on money and promises from people who realistically, should have never had the power to make our decision for us. Oh, but our fear of disappointing those people ran so deep, even when we had second thoughts we went anyway. Soon, it seemed like all of our dreams were coming true. And then slowly, one after another, our dreams turned to dust...slowly dismantled, piece by piece, at the hands of S*tan. I'm sure of that, yes I am. 

Everything about this move, about what we were getting ready to do, what we had done, how blessed we seemed to be, seemed too good to be true. We were telling someone in our homegroup about how blessed we felt when they chimed in and said "Remember, S*atan can call you to things, too. He can tempt you. Always pray before a decision is to be made." At the time I was actually really put off by their comment, but that stuck at the back of my mind each time something happened. 

That stuck at the back of my mind when I realized that I had participated in more than likely irreparable damage to relationships with people I desperately wanted to be close to, all because of things I expected (and at times, was under the impression the way they were to be) when we moved. That stuck at the back of my mind when the rug was pulled from under us and my husband was laid off not one, not two, but three times in just four years. That stuck at the back of my mind when we were going through financial hard times and I was told that we were tens of thousands of dollars upside down in our house. And that stuck in my mind when we finally said "enough was enough" and we made the awful decision to file for bankruptcy. Six years...six years of damage because I believe we were fooled...we were deceived. 

That six years represented more valleys in my life than I can even count. We hit some of our lowest of lows because of that decision. And I'm not saying all was lost because we made this decision, but I can say that we are now wiser and have grown from the experiences. After all, maybe God's hand *was* in it and we had to experience all of that in order to be where we are now. 

But, how do you discern between God's plan and God's promises versus the temptations of s*atan? What to do when there lies an opportunity in front of you, something that again represents something amazing and means so much to you, but you're just not sure about it? I have some knee-mail to get to, it seems. 

Review: 4 Abundant Life

4 Abundant Life: 4 Biblical Truths to Experience a Life of Abundance
Drs. Eric and Joanna Oestmann
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Everyone would love to live a life of abundance, am I right? At least, an abundance of the good stuff in life, like love, prosperity, happiness, etc. I know I would! That sort of attitude is what really intrigued me about this book, the title itself implies that the Lord would like us to have a life of abundance and provides Biblical truths to back up that assumption. I was really excited to read this book, but ultimately it only got three and a half stars. Why?Well, I'll get to that ;)

The book is broken down in to four sections which serve as the four Biblical truths to living an abundant life:
1) We are annointed to prosper
2) at an appointed time
3)when we use our talents and gifts
4) for the glory of Him

Each section goes in to further explain the meaning of the title of the section and uses scripture to back up what is being said. The chapters are rather comprehensive and give the reader the opportunity to probe for deeper meaning/thinking, as well as ask the reader questions that allow the person to apply it to their life. Sure, it's nice to have things spelled out for me, but I'm so much more a hands-on person...I want to know how what I just read will affect me and help me in my life, so the recap section at the end of the chapters was just wonderful. There are other sections and probing questions that are conducive to a greater understanding of the book and help really make the reader think. 

However, I did give the book only 3.5 stars for a reason. The first reason is because the authors refer to another work/religious figure that I simply cannot endorse and will not mention here. It's enough for me to take a tick out of the score, but is likely not a big issue for other people. My personal preference and in my own opinion, this person's "works" could've been left out of the book and nothing would have been missed from it. 

The second reason is because the book felt slow to start and really had a hard time keeping my interest at times. I don't like a boring doesn't have to be "exciting" by any means, but it does need to be engaging. I did not feel that this was as engaging as it had potential to be. 

Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend this book to a friend, simply because it *does* explain, in a rather effective way, some great Biblical ideas about living an abundant life that is outside of maybe what "mainstream" abundance looks like...we're talking Biblical abundance, and I think there's always something to be said for books that do explore ideas from a more Biblical perspective. 

If you're interested in this book, you can purchase it on Amazon!

Notice: This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts expressed here are my honest thoughts on the book...
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 32

Over the past couple of days, the message has been clear: We must love our brothers and sisters because God is love, and in order to live in the light, we must practice what we preach! Today's selection wraps all of this in to a neat little package for us ;)
Today's focus:
1 John 5:1-6
Everyone who trusts Jesus as the long-awaited Anointed One is a child of God, and everyone who loves the Father cannot help but love the child fathered by Him. Then how do we know if we truly love God’s children? We love them if we love God and keep His commands. You see, to love God means that we keep His commands, and His commands don’t weigh us down. Everything that has been fathered by God overcomes the corrupt world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.
Who is the person conquering the world? It is the one who truly trusts that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus the Anointed is the One who came by water and blood—not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. The Spirit of God testifies to this truth because the Spirit is the truth.
My Compass study Bible has this to say:
Just as we do not get to choose our biological brothers and sisters, we do not get to choose our spiritual brothers and sisters either. But what comes along with loving the Father is loving all His other children—even the really annoying ones! While it might seem to be easier to go off and live in isolation rather than put up with those we are not naturally attracted to, there are responsibilities that come with living in a spiritual family. We reflect our worship of God by living in respect with our Christian brothers and sisters. How we treat the people around us on a daily basis is the real test of our love for God.
DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER! We are called to love everyone, saved or not, biological or not, because we are supposed to keep God's commands. That's part of living in the light, that's part of being a daughter/son of Christ, and that's part of showing our Heavenly Father's presence here on Earth. Awhile ago I noted that no one wants to be around someone judgmental and rude, saved or not, and that people will naturally gravitate toward those who truly "live in the light". This reiterates that to "be the light", to walk the walk and talk the talk, is expected of us.
Monday, March 3, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 31

 Because today's passage is rather long, instead of typing it out, I'm going to provide the notes from the Compass study Bible (The Voice translation) for added dimension! 

Today's focus:
1 John 4:7-21
How can the words of prophets be tested to discover the truth? The most important question is whether they acknowledge that Jesus is fully God and fully human. In the first century, many people were so convinced that this material world was corrupt and evil that they couldn’t imagine how a perfect God could wrap Himself in imperfect skin. Many today still function as if the physical world is a bad thing; this understanding is demonstrated when they downplay the hope of bodily resurrection and emphasize the heavenly destination of souls. Implicitly, this belittles Jesus’ own incarnation and resurrection.
On the other hand, many people accept Jesus’ humanity but deny His divinity. He may have been a great teacher, they say, but certainly not the incarnation of God. However, Jesus made bold claims about who He was and what He came to do. These are not the things a great teacher would have said or done if they had not been true. It is fair to say that no other life has drawn so much scrutiny, and no other life has ever elicited such praise.
This selection reiterates that we know God lives in us simply by the gift of His spirit. We are also, once again, called to love one another-an idea that sets us apart from others and reaffirms our trust, faith, and love in Jesus. In verses 19-21, it also states that it is impossible to love God and hate your brother or sister because not only the fact that "God is love", but it challenges the idea that you can love God, whom no one has ever seen, but hate your brother/sister, whom you come in to contact with every day. That is definitely something to ponder and reflect on!
Sunday, March 2, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 30

Go figure I get caught up again on the blog and then BLAMMO...tummy bug hits, meaning I had absolutely zero time to spend in the Word let alone doing this retreat. Satan works in interesting ways; he always tries to find a way to steer us wrong and make us veer off course, but even when you persevere, he just looks for another avenue. Sorry guy, you're not winning this one ;)

Today's focus:
1 John 3:17-24
If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things. My loved ones, if our hearts cannot condemn us, then we can stand with confidence before God.  Whatever we may ask, we receive it from Him because we follow His commands and take the path that pleases Him. His command is clear: believe in the name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed, and love one another as He commanded. The one who follows His teaching and walks this path lives in an intimate relationship with God. How do we know that He lives in us? By the gift of His Spirit.
These passages really speak some serious truth...first of all, you need to put your money where your mouth is. God calls us to love one another, care for our neighbor, and to be our brother's keeper. We need to take care of one another. This isn't only essential for spiritual purposes, but I truly believe that giving does a body good, and by body I mean it in a personal sense as well as us being the body of Christ-the church/the saved. Second, this says that despite what our hearts (or more likely our *heads*) tell us and remind us of our mistakes, we are loved and the presence of God is most definitely present in our lives. Don't get lost in feelings of self-pity, doubt, past mistakes...give it up to God! It's been mentioned time and again that God wants to have a relationship with us, he wants us to come to him! Finally, simply the gift of His spirit is enough to know that He lives in us...
Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Compass: The study Bible for Navigating your Life

                                      Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life
                                                         Thomas Nelson Publishing
                                                            The Voice Translation
                                                             Rating: Five Stars

Oh sweet Jesus, how I LOVE me some Bibles! I'm not sure when it started, but I have loved Bibles for as long as I can remember. So, when the opportunity came up to review this study Bible from Booklook Bloggers, I jumped at the chance. A week and a half later, this beauty was sitting on my doorstep. I couldn't wait to crack it open...and it turns out, my excitement was everything this was chalked up to be. 

This particular study Bible uses a translation that I had been unfamiliar with until now-the Voice translation. This takes traditional scripture and turns it in to an easy-to-read, beautiful format absolutely perfect for study, reflection, prayer, and even just for something I like to call "ear candy". The first thing I noticed was the different types in the Bible; it had bold-faced type, italics, delineated material, and of course, standard type. Each type of type (haha, that's hard to say) indicates either a dynamic translation, an added point, or thoughts and ideas that help bring out the original meaning of a phrase or the original idea. This, in addition to the screenplay format, was immensely helpful in reading and understanding, even for a guy like my husband who, although extremely brilliant, can barely read due to his dyslexia. All of this is explained in the preface and in the pages prior to the start of the actual Bible, and I highly recommend taking a gander at all of the explanations and read about how this Bible was put together and how it works. 

Additionally, there are supplements to the normal readings. There is a 40 day retreat with Jesus reading guide, as well as a guide intended to get you through the Bible in one year. The 40 day retreat is something I'm doing myself and I'm finding it highly enjoyable. The other thing I love about this Bible is that it's the whole kit-n-caboodle...Old Testament, Proverbs, Psalms, New Testament. Sometimes that can be hard to find. 

As for the quality, well, it's stunning. The book jacket is durable and smooth and hasn't fallen off my Bible once; the hard-cover and binding are of superb quality; and the pages are not easy to tear. Believe me, with five children running around and one nursing while I'm trying to read the Bible, many a page has fallen victim to tiny hands tearing at them. Not so with this Bible, the pages are durable and not at all flimsy.

I really, REALLY like this Bible, if you couldn't tell. I'd even venture to say it is my absolute favorite so far which really says something because I was a HUGE "The Message" fan up until now. This presents the Bible in such a beautiful, easy-to-read format that it's almost as if I want to ask "What's NOT to like?"

Overall, I highly recommend this, I think it's a great addition to anyone's bookshelf! Yes I would use this as my main, go-to Bible and I actually plan to do that. If you are interested in a copy of this Bible for your collection, you can purchase it here

Disclaimer: I was provided this book from BookLook Bloggers for my fair and honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own, unbiased opinions.

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 29

Today I was definitely feeling pretty weary. So much so that I didn't even pull out my Bible until well in to the evening. It was one of those days where I couldn't make myself happy and sort of wondered what the point of *today* was...where was my value and why did I feel like today wasn't of any value, either. Then I read today's verse for the 40 day retreat...

Today's focus:
1 John 3:1-3
Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either.My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure.
Well that's certainly interesting...on a day when I'm feeling like I have no value, like I'm invisible and don't matter, I'm reminded that I need to "consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us". I'm sure I'm not the only one that seems to find verses tailored to their specific needs for the day, but this hit the nail on the head. So, even though I felt invisible today, I'm reminded that I'm never invisible, that I'm God's child.
Friday, February 28, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 28

It is the last day of February and the 28th day of the Retreat with Jesus. This month sure has flown by!

Today's focus:
1 John 2:15-17
Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. 16 All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s will—that person will never cease to be.
It is so easy to be tempted by all of the worldly pleasures I encounter every day, I really have to work at saying "no" to these temptations and remembering where my treasure *really* is! Earthly things are temporary, but building up our kingdom in Heaven is very much permanent.
While slightly off-topic, my husband and I got in to a discussion today about how many young people are concerned with doing things that "feel" good or "feel" right. While I love feelings and like to have them validated, it concerns me for this next generation that is just now growing up and being released in to the world. I hope that the faith-minded youth keep this passage in mind when pursuing anything in life, whether it be their life partner or their career or whatever pursuit they've set their minds to. Does it glorify God and build up the kingdom of Heaven?
Thursday, February 27, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 27

Today's focus:
1 John 2:7-11
My loved ones, in one sense, I am not writing a new command for you. I am only reminding you of the old command. It’s a word you already know, a word that has existed from the beginning. However, in another sense, I am writing a new command for you. The new command is the truth that He lived; and now you are living it, too, because the darkness is fading and the true light is already shining among you. Anyone who says, “I live in the light,” but hates his brother or sister is still living in the shadows. Anyone who loves his brother or sister lives in the light and will not trip because his conscience is clear. But anyone who hates his brother is in the darkness, stumbling around with no idea where he is going, blinded by the darkness.
We're supposed to love. That's been the message all along-love one another. We cannot hate someone and still "live in the light". We are called for a complete re-working of our attitude, our thoughts, and our deeds. We cannot have both, we cannot live in the light and be holy while continuing to sin.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 26

Today's focus:
1 John 2:1-6
You are my little children, so I am writing these things to help you avoid sin. If, however, any believer does sin, we have a high-powered defense lawyer—Jesus the Anointed, the righteous—arguing on our behalf before the Father. It was through His sacrificial death that our sins were atoned. But He did not stop there—He died for the sins of the whole world. We know we have joined Him in an intimate relationship because we live out His commands. If someone claims, “I am in an intimate relationship with Him,” but this big talker doesn’t live out His commands, then this individual is a liar and a stranger to the truth. But if someone responds to and obeys His word, then God’s love has truly taken root and filled him. This is how we know we are in an intimate relationship with Him: anyone who says, “I live in intimacy with Him,” should walk the path Jesus walked.
My compass study Bible has an excellent addition to this, so I'll share that and leave it at that :)
The word “sin” has virtually disappeared from modern conversation. Afraid of sounding judgmental, we call sin something else—a mistake, an addiction, a tendency, a bad decision—and ignore it as normal and natural behavior. But John is calling the church to a radical holiness where those in the church will regularly remember their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. Each sin, small and large, injures us or someone else; it imprints on our soul, makes us imperfect, and separates us from the perfect God. If we confess our sins to God each day, then He will purify our hearts and draw us closer to Him.John is affectionately addressing this letter to his “little children,” and he is writing to help them avoid sin and the pain and guilt that come with it. The glamour of decadent lifestyles devoid of God is often advertised as the epitome of joy and freedom. But what are often conveniently left out of these portrayals are the agonizing consequences of such destructive lifestyles. Meaningful pleasure comes not when we are enslaved by the empty promises of the world, but when we are living in loving obedience to God. 
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 25

25 days in to the retreat with Jesus and I'm learning a lot about myself and God's word. I'm convinced to keep going despite the fact that challenges arise and I may not be able to devote as much time to the blog as I'd like. 

Since this is another long one, I'll leave it up to you to read for yourself in your Bible.

Today's focus:
John 8:1-19

This is one of the most powerful parables in the Bible, the message is unbelievably simple to is the parable about the adulteress. The pharisees come to Jesus asking what they should do with her, with every intention of "getting" Jesus for violating Moses' law. However, Jesus responds with the challenge that "let the one of you who hasn't sinned cast the first stone." The message? We're all sinners...who are we to judge? To condemn? Even Jesus doesn't judge, that's not His job ;)

The second part of the selection pertained to when the Pharisees were trying to call him out, say that he wasn't who he said he was. This is also very profound because the end message is that in order to know God, you MUST know Jesus. There is only one way TO God, and that's through Jesus. 
Monday, February 24, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 24

Today's passage is another lengthy one, one that I won't post here because, as usual, it's a lot of typing. goes ;)
Today's focus: 
Acts 13:42-52

Many a leader has been upset by the turnouts and crowds of people who wanted to hear God's word and learn about Him...this particular incident is no different. The "leaders" were upset by this and tried to cause hate and discontent. Eventually Paul and Barnabas were driven out of the region, and instead of getting upset and not continuing with their work, they adopted a "Fine, I'll go find my own sandbox" mentality and left the area full of joy. They were not deterred or intimidated by these people, they were trying to do them a favor by spreading God's word to them first, but when they were not welcome, they simply turned their focus elsewhere. I wish I could do that when I get my beliefs held under a microscope!
Sunday, February 23, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 23

Today's focus: 
2 Peter 1:5-11
To achieve this, you will need to add virtue to your faith, and then knowledge to your virtue; to knowledge, add discipline; to discipline, add endurance; to endurance, add godliness; to godliness, add affection for others as sisters and brothers; and to affection, at last, add love. For if you possess these traits and multiply them, then you will never be ineffective or unproductive in your relationship with our Lord Jesus the Anointed; but if you don’t have these qualities, then you will be nearsighted and blind, forgetting that your past sins have been washed away. Therefore, brothers and sisters, work that much harder to confirm that God has called you and claimed you. If you do this, then you will never fall along the way; and you can be sure that you will be richly welcomed into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King.
This passage is interesting because it provides the how, the what, and the why. It explains how we attain holiness, as well as the consequences of that achievement. Because we are saved, we are called to live a holy life...not doing so makes us ineffective and unproductive. If you work to claim these traits, then we're assured that we're not going to fall along the way and be richly welcomed in to Heaven. 
I have always felt and noticed that saved people, for the most part, feel different than those who have yet to experience the gift of eternal life from our Heavenly Father. It is important to take all of our good traits, gifts, and attitude and share that with the world. You can more ants with honey than vinegar, after all!
Saturday, February 22, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 22

Today we're in the book of Luke. Remember, I'm using the Compass study Bible that uses The Voice translation! Once again, this is a rather long selection today so I will not be including it.

Today's focus: 
Luke 11:29-36

This requires some context. Jesus is doing his thing, performing miracles and doing good works, and yet the people still demanded some sort of sign that he was "the guy". He knew that a million signs wouldn't change the minds of these people...

In doing this post and some additional study, I came across a magnificent resource from that breaks up this section and discusses it piece by piece. It's amazing work and you can find it here.  I highly recommend checking out this study as I believe it describes the church today and adds so much understanding to this passage!

Friday, February 21, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 21

So yesterday marked the halfway point in the 40 day retreat with Jesus. I've had my hiccups along the way, getting behind in posting as well as reading. I've been sick, things have come up, I just can't focus. I truly believe that when we try to do God's work, Satan uses whatever means necessary to deter us from our path. However, here I am persevering!

Today's focus: 
Colossians 3:12-17
Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.
Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
We have been forgiven. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We are called to pay that forgiveness, kindness, and selfless love forward...even in situations when we don't want to. Whether it be a person who doesn't share our beliefs, our values, or a person that we don't get along with, we are called to always extend the love and forgiveness we have received.
Thursday, February 20, 2014

40 Day Retreat with Jesus: Day 20

As I mentioned yesterday, that particular passage is one that I center my beliefs around. I think it represents a modern day truth. Today we are also in Colossians.

Today's focus:
Colossians 3:1-11
So it comes down to this: since you have been raised with the Anointed One, the Liberating King, set your mind on heaven above. The Anointed is there, seated at God’s right hand. Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things,  because your old life is dead and gone. Your new life is now hidden, enmeshed with the Anointed who is in God. On that day when the Anointed One—who is our very life—is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry). It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience], so avoid them at all costs. These are the same things you once pursued, and together you spawned a life of evil. But now make sure you shed such things: anger, rage, spite, slander, and abusive language. And don’t go on lying to each other since you have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices  for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you. In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror, or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all.
It is a constant message in the Bible that we need to cast the ways of the world away and focus on God. But it's not only the ways of the world, we also need to focus on our emotions. Emotions are a funny thing, but we cannot let them run our lives.