Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are You Ready To Learn?

Oh, how I wish I could go back to school. Yes, I am that geeky girl who loves to learn. Gimme a book and my nose is in it. I'd love to sit in a classroom again. But, wait. I am in a classroom. This earth is my university. My Jesus is my Teacher. This life is a lesson. I can pay attention. I can choose to participate. I too can take the option that I know it all and try to do it on my own. Remember that saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now?" Yep, that's me. I wish now I could go back to school and do it all over again. Oh sure, I think I would apply myself and do great, but on the other hand I too could repeat my same old mistakes of thinking I knew it all and didn't need to pay attention. 

I have learned the hard way on many lessons in my life. Stubborn could be my middle name. Now, before high school, I was a straight A student. Even as a freshman I was a great student, but then it was as though my common sense just left me and I chose to do things I knew were wrong. But they seemed fun at the time. Those fun things soon turned into consequences I didn't want to own up to. Yes, that's part of growing up. Oh, how I wish I would have listened to the wisdom of others, but I chose to do it my way. Don't listen to Frank's advice on doing it his way. Doing it my way is what got me into trouble. 

Everything. Every choice. Every action. Every word spoken. It's all pass or fail. There are days I soar with an A and then I have days where I know I have a failing grade. But Jesus knows the lessons in front of me. He has them planned out and has guided me. What a Mentor we have. But I don't always listen to my Jesus. His instructions are given, but many times they are ignored. 

"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him." James 1:2-5

Our faith gives creates endurance. We are an unfinished work. A work in constant progress. Oh, it may seem that we are stagnant at times, but no, the Lord is always at work in us. Even in those who do not know Him yet. He is moving and creating in their life of unbelief to bring them to a life of faith. One in which they are perfected through Christ. 

He is teaching me daily to depend on Him and Him alone. He provides for me. Every need I have is within my reach when I call upon the Lord. Even my biggest dreams bring me to learn more of Him as I seek Him for the right path. There is nothing in this life that goes to waste. He gives us the ability to persevere. 

I don't want my life to be unacceptable to my Lord. I want to be used of Him. I want to walk this journey with Him teaching me all the way. I'm no longer that young girl who thinks she knows it all. I am becoming the woman who calls upon my Jesus for wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge go hand in hand. I can't have one without the other. As the knowledge is right in front of me, I must have the wisdom to know what to do with it. 

"I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery-Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him." Colossians 2:2-3

There are hidden treasures everywhere. Lessons to be learned at every turn. He is forever preparing us for tomorrow. Those lessons of yesterday are not by coincidence. There is purpose in everything and yes, even in our greatest mistakes, God can make beauty from our ash. Everything in life is connected. It is these lessons that make us who He has created us to be. I'm not to be someone else. I am to be the very best Robin Prater I can be and through Jesus I can find everything I need to soar. 

"Get wisdom, get understanding; don't forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don't abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme-so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding." Proverbs 4:5-7

Let Go and Pick Your Feet Up!

What is a favorite memory of your childhood? One of mine is riding my bike. Living in the country was a blessing. When I was a kid I could hop on my bike, ride all day with friends, and be home in time for dinner. I rode my bike everywhere. We lived right near the river. So, I could ride down to the river and watch the barges pass or I could take off and ride through the back roads surrounded by corn and bean fields. 

No cell phones to distract us. No internet to keep us indoors. Just hop on your bike and pedal to your friends house. We lived in a small town. I guess you could say it was quaint. Life seemed easy on my bike. Freedom. Wind in my face. Sunshine splashing down on me. Sometimes I would just take off all on my own and dream as I pedaled. 

I never had training wheels. Dad taught me how to ride a bike on a gravel road. Many times I took spills and dug rocks out of my knees, but I dried my tears and got back up again. Looking back all those years ago makes me long to ride again. I would get all my chores finished and wave to mom as I danced out the kitchen door. She would say, "Rob, be home by 4:00 for dinner". No watch on my arm. You just seemed to know what time it was. Boy, did time fly on my bike. 

I now remember the combines the fields churning and spitting corn. Young kids picking beans. I'd ride my bike to my softball games when they were in our town. People outdoors working in gardens or cutting grass. You would raise you hand to say hello. 

My hands would by high in the air, my feet high off the peddles and a smile on my face as I raced down a hill. What joy that was to fly down hill and coast through the valley. But then before I coasted I had to climb the hills. It wasn't easy. I wrapped my tiny hands around the handle bars, dug my feet in and pedaled hard and fast. Changing gears wasn't an option on my bike. I just powered through and gave it all I had. Strength would kick in as sweat dripped off my face. I'd reach the top of the hill and then I could relax a bit and enjoy the sweet breeze that would dry the sweat and cool my face. 

My dad didn't believe in training wheels. No easy route for his daughter. He taught me to dig in and be strong. I was the girl who he taught to play softball with a baseball. Looking back brings me to deep gratitude to my dad and for those sweet years of riding free. Little did I know then that teaching would create in me the woman I am today. 

It isn't unlike our lives today. It seems we struggle and fight, but then the more we continue to move up the hill that sweet glide into the valley comes and we appreciate the journey all the more for going through the trial and knowing without a doubt our Father is there to catch us. He is there to build us up and make us strong through Him. 

We continue our journey onward. We know our home is not on this earth. We will have have good days and bad. But through it all we continue on in faith. Remember that sweet breeze on your face? The sunshine warming you on a chilly day? Jesus refreshes us. The more we dig in the more He is there. Yes, in Him we find that same sweet freedom. 

While your digging in and pedaling fast, don't forget to enjoy the ride. It's those moments of riding free handed that makes me understand how it can be when I allow Jesus to guide me through the valleys and hills in life. They say you never forget how to ride a bike. I think there is a special reason why. It's one of those times in life where the struggle didn't overtake the joy of the ride. The sweat didn't bother us. We just hopped on and were ready to go wherever our bike took us. 

Be ready to go where the Lord is calling. Wherever He calls. Whatever He asks of us. He will prepare us. He enables us. We already have everything we need for the ride. Get ready. Because He is about to show you something spectacular!  

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."  Isaiah 40:29

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." Ephesians 6:10

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one." Psalm 28:7-8

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is it midnight already?

As little girls we find ourselves dreaming as though we are Cinderella waiting for our prince to come. We dream of that white gown we will fit in perfectly. We see the aisle we are walking down and it seems just a short walk to our prince. We envision our home. Two children, a dog and a sweet home surrounded by a white picket fence. Many times we dream of what our parents shared or sometimes, what they did not.

The carriage picks you up, your dress is white and your prince is standing ready to take your hand, but we never really dream past midnight do we? I know I didn't. We never ponder over the struggle. We never envision a trial coming. If we are not prepared, what do we do? Sometimes we lose sight of the carriage that picked us up. We no longer see a carriage, but a  pumpkin escorting us down a bumpy road into the darkness. We want to scream at the driver and say, "Excuse me, what happened to my carriage? What happened to my perfect night? I think your going the wrong way!!" We didn't sign up for a pumpkin, but a carriage to carry us through life.

My husband and I have been married for twenty-three years now. Sometimes it seems like yesterday we married and others it seems like forever. There are days the road seems smooth and others I think my carriage must have a flat, because the road is way too bumpy. Between us we have five children. My husband came with two and I too brought my two beautiful daughters into our marriage. Together we had our son, Jacob. He was the child that seemed to tie our family together. I must say when we were raising our children, we didn't use words as, step, half or mine. We were simply a family. Was it always easy? No, not on your life, but we found ways to make it work. We put our children first. Now, some might think that is how you should begin your marriage, but my friends, you must put the Lord first, then your marriage. The Lord is the foundation in which everything else builds. Next, your marriage must stand strong. It is this very relationship that your children will witness and learn from. A happy and healthy marriage makes happy children and a healthy family.

We worked very hard giving everything we had in raising our children. I believe raising children is the hardest job in the world next to building a successful marriage. They both take 100%. That 50/50 thing we are taught is so off the mark. You can't just give a little and expect a lot. Somewhere in the midst of raising our children our marriage suffered. In placing our children first we were often placed on the back burner and left there. I would focus on teaching our children and our home as my husband focused on working. He was out of town much as he drove across the country. Over time this takes a toll on your marriage and even yourself. Not only do we need to take time for our spouse, but for ourselves.

It's doing those special things with each other. It's sharing a quiet dinner or a walk in the park. It's taking even just a few minutes a day to hold each other's hand and just dream together. It's knocking yourself out for your husband and he too, knocking himself out for you. It's making time for one another. Too often we make time for what we want and forget making time for what is important. When we don't make time for one another our marriage can only suffer and ours did.

In looking back I know I was a wonderful mother. I had a close bond with my children, but somehow I was pushing my husband out of view. I wasn't even meaning to, but it was happening. Have you too been there? I know when my husband and I would try to plan a night away, one of our children would need us. We would put our bags back in the closets and place our child first. There is nothing wrong with that, but over time we stopped planning. We stopped dreaming and became more so of room mates than husband and wife. It is a trap that is easy to fall into and one that is even harder to grow out of.

We are now almost an empty nest. That is kind of scary, but kind of exciting all the same. We have raised our children and now it is our turn to renew, rebuild, and catch hold of a new wind to set our sails upon. A home filled with sounds is now almost quiet. What a change in just twenty-three years. But through these years in our ups and downs, the Lord has been molding us. We have been through some trials I never thought we would escape, but the Lord was good to see us through each one, only making us stronger and wiser. Humbling our hearts and allowing us to see what is really important.

Only a few years back my husband had been laid off for three years. He lost a job he thought he would retire from. It set us on another course of trial, only this one would strain our marriage even more so. Stress and unknown are deadly combinations that can wreck havoc on a marriage already unsteady. But this trial brought me to my knees like no other before it. I was afraid this trial would break us. Satan loves to entice us with fear. He loves to separate us to where we feel alone. I couldn't see past my own pain as my husband was suffering from depression. We forgot how to reach out to one another. We forgot to put one another first. We lost sight of that carriage. Somehow midnight seemed to last  forever, but for the grace of God He has brought us back together. See, He was doing a work in both of us. We were not communicating so we did not know what the other's heart was feeling, until someone just had to take that first step and reach out.

I pray for my husband every day as he too prays for me. We have learned not to hold in our feelings, but to share everything. We have learned to let other things go and take time for one another. Marriage is a gift from the Lord. May we not forget and lose heart, but go to the Lord in prayer asking Him to strengthen our marriage. To build our home on His foundation and give us a heart for Him. I learned I cannot look to my husband to complete me. I cannot look to my husband for each need to fill my soul. Only the Lord can meet those needs. When I can find who I am through the Lord I am free to be the woman God has called me to be for my husband.

If you are going through a difficult passage don't give up. It is through those trials that we learn so very much about ourselves and each other. Struggles have a way of bringing us together when we take our eyes off ourselves and simply place them upon the Lord. He will meet our needs and bring healing when we reach out to Him, making Him the Lord of our home. I believe it is the Lord who will help us find that very slipper we lost along the way.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:22-33

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but
also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:1-4

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Painted Table by Suzanne Field

The Painted Table is a novel that spans from the years of 1858-1975. A Norwegian table that has lasted through four generations. A table created in love with a message of hope, love, and faith. But for all this table doesn't have the same message. For Joann life was not easy as a child. She seemed to be the child unloved. The child seeking and never gaining an inch. She was the child left out and wanting. This life seemed to own her all of her years. Joann would be diagnosed with schizophrenia. This would be years after she left home, married and had children. 

Joann married her sweetheart Nel and had two beautiful daughters, Saffee and April. This home now holds the heirloom table. A table with a legacy that would be a choice of those who owned it. For Joann, this table brought many emotions. Unsettled feelings from her childhood that never healed. Joann was torn from past and present. So wanting normalcy, but never escaping the the past. Joann was haunted. 

Yes, this is the story of Joann, but her story carries on with her husband and her children. For the most part, this is Saffee's story. We watch Saffee from her birth, her childhood and into her marriage. 

I must tell you I am not sure I enjoyed this story. If I must give it a rating, it would a five star. The writing is spectacular. As I read it was as though I was right there with this family beaten and bruised. This wasn't a feel good read for me. It was more of a hit you in the gut read. Being  a mercy, my heart was wrenching for this family. Suzanne brings us to feel each emotion. I wanted to escape with them. But more so I wanted to see healing come.  All I wanted was to be finished with this story, but still yet, I couldn't put it down. Almost half way through I had to skip to the last chapter. I had to see how Saffee turned out. I had to see if there was grace and redemption for this sweet girl trapped. For this family after all they had been through. After reading the last chapter, I turned back and finished the novel. This isn't something I often do, but with story I had to. Suzanne is such a gifted writer. Her penned words not only touch the heart, but leave you pondering. This is not a book you will soon forget. This is not an easy read, but one that is so real for so many. One that is heartbreaking and healing at the same time. 

I applaud Suzanne for writing such a powerful story. Yes, it is one of redemption and grace. We move from house to house with this family and they continue to try to create a home. I love the words of Saffee. Near the end of the story she realizes, "People are not perfect-until you fall in love with them." There are so many life lessons to take away from this beautifully written story. We inherit many things. But our legacy is our own. 

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 

This book will be available December 3, 2014. You can order it now at Amazon. 

Suzanne Field, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, has taught English as a Second Language in China, Ukraine, and Hawaii. She has also been a magazine editor and home-school teacher. Suzanne writes to encourage others to rise above memories and embrace the goodness found in each day. She and her husband have five children and divide their time between Dallas and Hawaii where she is a tutor and mentor.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sights From My Scope

Sitting in our deer cabin looking out with the scope on my gun. Everything so clear and precise as if the whole world makes sense. I am in awe of all the different trees standing tall around us. Some still holding leaves. Leaves are dancing off others. It's like I see these majestic beauties in a whole new way. They almost look like old men. Knotted and arms open wide. They look so wise. I wish they could speak and tell me stories of long ago when they first started out and how things have changed over the years. The storms in life they have witnessed first hand. Winters cold as ice,  springs that bring new life, and autumns that add color. They have been through the seasons of life. Some need pruned. Some branches are just dead. There are trunks that hold nothing but a shell. Somehow I think this could be the lives of those I know. 

These old gents sway in the brisk wind today. Their deep roots hold them in tight. I notice how each leaf falls differently. None the same. None has the same dance. Some fall quickly while others have a gentle sway. Again, this could be our life. So much we can learn by just opening our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us. Too often we just pass it by. We miss out on so much by living fast. I want to slow down like one of these leaves swaying to reach the blanket of leaves that crackles as a squirrel scurries to beat his buddy up a tree. They flutter their tails as if they are flirting with joy. 

There are times we need to see close up. All those things that escape our view. We need to pay attention and see the grandeur that makes life so sweet. And then are are times we need to just bask in the glory of it all. Backing up, tilting the head back and just gaze at all that surrounds us. When we slow down we see the glory of God. When we are moving quickly through life we miss it all and only catch it in spurts. I don't want to be a spurt catcher. I want to take each moment in live it in wonder. 

We walked out to the deer cabin in total darkness. My hubs moving in front of me and me stepping small and sure. We watched the sun come up together. A glorious sight. The world around us begins to come alive. My heart stirs as I wait and watch. When we leave that evening the sun is setting. Another magnificent sight to behold. I wouldn't wanted to have missed this day. To share in this glory with my husband was a gift. 

Sitting in that cabin we giggled. Oh, we laughed out loud. We spoke of the beauty around us. We shared our sweet times with Daisy, our Dachshund. We said good-bye to our sweet girl on the evening of October 31st. Reminiscing brings such healing and comfort. So much to be shared. Not one moment of this life I want to miss. I want to be able to stand tall like the Oaks around me, but gentle like the Maples. 

Such lessons for me to learn. Life is to be lived, not squandered away with regret. I planned on taking paper and pen, book and snacks. I left them all at home including the flashlight I was to grab. Yes, this is why we walked through the woods in total darkness. My hubs knew the way. Every step his feet have walked for years.  With no light to lead I could have had a drastic fall, but not with him leading the way. Another life lesson that leads me to know and understand the sureness of our Father's leading. Our steps must be calculated and trusted. This we can find in our Savior. He is our forever compass.

It didn't matter that we didn't see a deer. The full moon and the high winds didn't make for terrific hunting. It didn't even matter that we had to cut our evening hunt short because a migraine hit. I may have started my day with high hopes of having a deer in my sight, but I had something of much more of value in my vision. It was lessons on living. 

Every Waking Moment by Chris Fabry

 Every Waking Moment is a sweet and tender read. There are many characters, but the one who stands out among all others is Treha Langsam. As the story begins we see Miriam Howard, the director of the assisted living facility speaking with a family about this being home for their mother. The family isn't quite sure. They are unsettled about leaving their mother and the guilt is about to topple them over. In the beginning I thought Miriam was going to be the main character, but as the story evolves we learn more and more about Treha. 

Treha works at the facility. She has a special gift at reaching those who have been unreachable. She connects with them on a level that has others guessing. Treha is different and has qualities that make some question her ability to work in this environment, but because Treha is different  it makes her perfect. I fell in love with her character. So loving, tender and understanding. 

Treha's life unfolds and we this young woman give to others as she has never been given. She has a heart of love. I admire her strengths and her gentleness. Some are so quick to judge, but Treha is quicker to forgive. I found her to be so beautiful. 

We too meet Devin, a story collector. Film is in his future, but for now, we get a chance to watch him take off and grow. These characters all connect. Their lives intertwine and we see something spectacular happen. 

This novel was a little slow for me. I enjoyed it immensely, but there wasn't really a standout moment for me. You may pick up this wonderful story and find it to be the best novel you have read all year. With that being said, the characters were real and the story line sweet.  

This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you. 

Chris Fabry is an award-winning aruthor and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live! on Moody Radio. His novels have won two Christy Award, but it's his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more. Chris and his wife, Andrea, have nine children and live in Arizona. Visit his website at www.chrisfabry.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Be Brave

Be brave. 

It's a new year approaching. Leave your fears behind and stretch forward with courage. 

Be brave. 

A new season has arrived. Lay your doubts down and choose to be confident in Christ. You are beauty. You are unique. Quirks and all. You were created with purpose. 

Be brave. 

Uncover who you are as you discover more of God. Imperfect in sin, but perfect in Christ. 

Be brave. 

Remember who you are. You are a child of the King. You come from royalty. Your heritage is found in Jesus and He holds your inheritance in wait. You were created to soar. To break through the chains. To go beyond the drawn lines. It's time to step out of your comfort zone. 

Be brave. 

Unwrap the gift that is life. Experience life in a new way. Past the boundaries. Live in God's unlimited supply of grace. 

Be brave. 

Know your worth. You are more than sin. You are more than your past. Your circumstances do not define you. You have a future in Christ. He wants you to experience life beyond all expectation. 

Be brave. 

Make the choice to live without regret. Don't allow opportunities to lay dormant. Reach for all God has created for you. 

Be brave. 

Be yourself. Shine Jesus! Uncover your talents. As this new year begins embrace who you are. Dream big. Take the challenge. Don't fear change. Embrace it. Grow with it. Through every situation choose to see Jesus. Take time to enjoy the moment your in and don't be rushed into tomorrow. God has tomorrow under control. Most of all, surrender. Surrender everything to Jesus. Choose to celebrate your life by living it for Christ. 

Be brave. 

As this new year draws near breathe deep. This is your year. God has been preparing you. Believe that God is up to something big! Use those ordinary moments to create an extraordinary legacy. 

Be brave. 

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men may stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint." 
Isaiah 40:28-31

"For I know the plans I have for you-this is the Lord's declaration-plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." 
Jeremiah 29:11-13

The Prodigal A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

This is one of those books that leaves you pondering long after the last page has been read. The story of the prodigal son is the basis for this novel. A story of redemption, forgiveness and deep love. A father and his son. Reunited. Leaving the past behind. Beginning new with covered grace. 

The prodigal son is a favorite. Mostly because I too am a prodigal. Ran to my Father, with His arms wide open, ready to accept me and love me unconditionally. This is a retelling of that story. Jack Chisholm is a pastor of a mega church. He has it all. In fact, he thinks he has built it all. He is the people's pastor. But Jack is a sinner. An imperfect being, called by the Father. People have placed him on a pedestal. What we forget about pastors is that they too are people. They too are sinners. Preaching is their calling. But when our eyes are taken off the Father things go wrong. Terribly wrong and we find ourselves in the bottom of a pit looking up. It's from there that we finally see Jesus is all we need. 

To tell you that I loved this story wouldn't be enough. Jack moved away from home. He hasn't been back for years. To the world his life looks perfect. Perfection is expected. Nothing less. Jack not only stumbles, he falls and falls hard. A secretary.  A moment of wrinkled sheets and partial memories is all that is left. He could blame it on the alcohol. But Jack doesn't want to blame anyone, especially not himself. He tries to push it off as not happening. He could never..but he did. 

What I love is that the authors didn't dive into all of Jack's sins. They didn't spend a lot of time with the whats and whys, but that he just took a wrong turn and found himself facing the consequences of his actions. He loses everything. One of my favorite parts of this story is found in chapter two. Jack is face to face with a member of the church. He knows. Instead of being a friend. He asks Jack the reasons he didn't just come to him first so he could help make things right. The church wants him to leave. He has embarrassed the members. It seems there are more political reasons for Jack to leave than any other. The people of the church are worried about how they will look to the world. He is told that if he could go before the church he could somehow earn forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't earned. It's a gift that can only come from the Father.

Jack is left to walk away. He disappears for a great while. He doesn't hear from anyone. It's almost as though he never existed. The bottle becomes his best friend. But there when Jack hits bottom the last person he ever expected to see is knocking and he isn't giving up anytime soon. Jack's father appears. No questions asked. No finger pointing. He simple says, "I'm come to take you home."  

From here the story continues to build. Jack returns home. Everything is the same, yet somehow different. Here is where we see the love of his father. Nothing is easy for Jack. Some are judging. Some greet him with mercy. But how this story ends brings us to know, without a doubt, that the Father never leaves His children. 

Jack comes home broken, but it is through this brokenness that he truly understands what is most important in life. He sees that the small things mean just as much if not more than the big things. 

This is a story that will bring you to look deeper into your own life. Life lessons are found all throughout this beautiful story. You may just find yourself within these pages. Things don't always turn out how we imagine, but then again, we have a God that surprises us with extraordinary. 

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Raising Connor by Loree Lough

If it were not for Loree Lough I doubt I would have ever picked up a Harlequin book. I had those ideas of what I thought a Harlequin novel contained and it wasn't heartwarming Christian themes. But thanks to Loree I now know how wrong I was. Friends, there are some amazing books published by Harlequin. Don't let the name fool you. You can go to the website and find many novels to choose from that will leave your heart smiling. 

Raising Connor is part of the Heartwarming Selection at Harlequin. Another new release from Loree is, "Devoted To Drew". This is one I can't wait to read!!

Loree is at the top of my favorites list. I have had the pleasure of reading many of her books and I tell you, she just amazes me with the stories she brings. Just as in this one, the characters are real. They are family and friends we can connect to.  We see that every story doesn't end as we had hoped. It's hard to find a perfect ending in an imperfect world. But every once in a while we get that perfect ending. This is what Connor receives. 

Connor's parents are killed in an accident. He is left with Brooke, his aunt, only this isn't what his parents wished for. They want Connor to be raised by Hunter. Hunter happens to be a police officer who fell asleep on the job, during a robbery, that took the life of Connor's grandmother. Anger, resentment, and bitterness cloud Brooke. She has never been able to forgive. She hasn't understood how Connor's parents could have been such great friends with Hunter. But Hunter has been part of this family. He has loved Connor and wants to raise him. He uncovers the wishes of Connor's parents and now questions himself as to what he should do. 

This story is delightful. There are moments when I was cheering for Hunter. I would then turn and cheer for Brooke. Most of all, I cheered for Connor. You just wanted the best for these characters who leave an impact. Life is unexpected and so uncertain. It's so sweet to pick up a book and escape into another time and place that leaves us full. 

This book was a gift from Loree Lough for sharing my review with you. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Who doesn't love stories about Christmas? There are, "101 Joyful Stories about the Love, Fun, and Wonder of the Holidays", that will warm your heart and get you ready for this beautiful season of hope. 

This Christmas edition has story after story about family, tradition, hopes, laughter, love, and messes turned into blessings. What a great way to snuggle in for the night. This is a treat for the heart. One gifted way to read this is to use it for the month of December and read a story each night with your family. There are great ideas for new traditions all packed inside this special book. 

Something I love is the added quotes shared on every story. Most of all, what I love is the honesty and pureness that comes with these gems. Each story is written from the heart. You may have a giggle as you remember your own similar story. Maybe tears will fall as you remember a Christmas blessing past. Something you won't leave without is a smile. 

I really enjoyed this sweet edition. It would make a great gift for those readers you love. Come check out the Chicken Soup for the Soul site and find just the perfect selection for you. 

This book was a gift from Chicken Soup for the Soul for sharing my review with you. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul Think Positive for Kids

Chicken Soup for the Soul is always busy bringing us new creations that warm our hearts. Each one unique and powerful in it's own way. This new release, "Think Positive for Kids", is another great addition to the collection. 

"Never let people bring you down because of who you are. You are special." Just one sentence that holds such powerful meaning. Yes, that is exactly what this, "101 Stories about Good Decisions, Self-Esteem, and Positive Thinking", brings us. Have challenges? This book holds many stories of over coming. Having self doubt? You can connect with others through chapter four, "Developing Self-Esteem", and find words of courage and inspiration. 

This is an entire book devoted to powerful stories about children. Chapter 5 covers handling bullies. Stories of great achievement and conquering our fears. Lovely stories of being who we were created to be. This is a great book for your children. They can read alone or you could make a tender moment of each day and read together. These stories have the gift of opening up communication and that is a great gift between a parent and child.  

This book was a gift from Chicken Soup for the Soul for sharing my review with you. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul Miraculous Messages from Heaven

You can never go wrong picking up a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. It seems they continue to cover every subject. New books are always being released. This shows us that we all have a story. A story that will bless others. Chicken Soup connects hearts across the world by bringing us stories we can relate to. Stories that bless, that create a soft place to land as we come to understand that we aren't the only one. 

The subtitle says it all. "101 Stories of Eternal Love, Powerful Connections, and Divine Signs from Beyond." Throughout these pages we see stories from mothers who have lost a child. Wives, husbands, parents, grandparents, friends, so many people relating to loss and finding a peace they never expected. Astonishing stories of hope. Miracles that bring us straight to knowing God is always at work. 

These stories were heart touching to me. Each one real, unique, and heartfelt. If you are going through a journey of loss you will find healing within these pages. Stories you can relate to. Stories that give hope and bring a smile. 

These books make such wonderful gifts for book lovers. They are great for just taking a few minutes over coffee and finding inspiration. After a long day, a hectic afternoon, grab one up and be ready to be blessed. 

This book was a gift from Chicken Soup for the Soul for sharing my review with you. 

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman

After I read, "Grace For The Good Girl", I couldn't wait to hear from Emily again. I was excited to receive my copy of, "A Million Little Ways". I can tell you this is a gem of blessings. Emily has a unique gift of writing. She's honest and pure. 

"Maybe you think it isn't the right time to show up. I'm not ready to write that book, try for a baby, take that job, quit the one I've got. There can be a real frustration for those who long to move but believe it isn't the right time. Showing up where you are with what you have is all you can do. You have your two hands, your sick parents, the items on your to-do list. You have your extra deadlines, your diagnosis, the children at your table. You have been given your life, what you hold in your hands, the ground beneath your feet. You have been asked to show up. How do I know? You were born."

Going through the motions? Has fear trampled your dreams? Don't quite know how to live out your life in God's will? This book is for you. I found this book to be simply amazing. Emily stretches you. She's been there. She has walked the journey and is still walking. We gotta show up. We must be ready. When we seek God He will deliver. This is one of those books that helps you get up off the couch, turn the television off, and start writing that book. Emily helps us come to the place where we no longer allow fear to overtake our dreams. She brings us to the place where we are ready to bloom where we are planted.

Emily shares many great quotes that inspire.

"Creativity is not about me. It is not about you. It is not us somehow acting like little gods, creating on our own in the same way God creates...The most we can hope for is to respond appropriately and creatively to who God is and what he means. Creativity is response." Michael Card

"This spiritual life is not native to us, nor can it be developed out of anything we have or are by nature. It must be given to us. So God has given us eternal life, "and this life is in His Son," through whose possession of us when we believed on Him we were born from above. The life of a Christian, therefore, is the life of Christ within us through the Holy Spirit. It is not a life similar to His, it is His life." J. E. Conant

I love how Emily says, "It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down he voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are." Get ready to be blessed, friends. I loved this beautifully written book. Each and every day we can glorify God, as Emily says, in a million different ways. You will not be disappointed by this purchase. It's one that will guide you to knowing a deeper you and finding purpose in every single move. 

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

mily Freeman is the author of Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful. Whether writing or speaking, Emily's words create space for souls to breathe, offering fresh perspective on the gracefulness of the everyday and the sacredness of our inner lives. She and her husband John live in North Carolina with their three children. Connect with Emily online at www.emilypfreeman.com where you'll find her blog, Chatting at the Sky.

A Confident Heart Devotional by Renee Swope

If you have read, "A Confident Heart", you know the blessings that flow when Renee Swope opens her heart, becomes transparent and shares her own journey. This added devotional is the same. You get an extra dose of blessings. Being subtitled, "60 Days To Stop Doubting Yourself", you see that this is a 60 day devotional. This book graced my life at the perfect time. I think it's more than a devotional. It's more of a journey. In Renee's opening words she shares this, "Over the past several years, God has been changing me and rearranging me, using His Word and His unconditional love to lead me to what I call God-fidence. It's a deep-down soul-security that has little to do with what we do or don't have but everything to do with all God is and all that He offers us each day." 

You could read this as a devotional. For me, I have enjoyed just sitting down and just soaking in these powerful words for a few hours an afternoon. Just this morning I read this words, "Yet, like this rosebush, we had reached the fullness of His glory in our current soil. We were ready to be divided so that His glory would be more fully displayed as He planted each of us uniquely and individually in new places of ministry." These words were so very poignant to me. After leaving my home church almost two years ago I have carried many hurts that have yet to heal. These words literally have set me on the edge of my seat in anticipation to see just what God is up to. 

This devotional is one that carries words of healing and brings a new attitude of walking in God-fidence

-When I start to measure my value by how well I am doing as a _____ (mom, wife, woman, friend, etc.), then I will thank God for the gift of my roles and for the gift of His unconditional love that determines my worth. 

-When I feel insecure about my position at work, church, or somewhere else, then I will thank God for the high or low position I have on earth and for my position in Christ that secures my significance forever.

-When I feel an aching emptiness that I'm tempted to fill with food, television, or anything other than God, then I will thank God for being the strength of my heart and my portion forever-and remember that He is the One who satisfies the hunger and thirst of my soul. 

After each devotional Renee shares a When I say and When God says:

When I say: I feel like damaged goods. 

God says: You are royalty to Me. 

You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isa. 62:3)

This is one of those extraordinary gems that continues to bless. I enjoyed this book. It's a keeper for sure. One that carries many highlighted areas that I will come back to again and again. This would make a wonderful gift. It could be an added teaching tool in your class. Most of all it's one it's a journey into healing. 

This book was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Renee Swope is a popular national women's conference speaker, radio show co-host, and the executive director of radio and devotions at Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is the author of A Confident Heart and a contributing author to three books, including a Gold Medallion finalist and a Retailer's Choice Award finalist, as well as several online and print magazines. Renee is featured writer for Encouragement for Today, online devotions that currently touch over 450,000 lives each day across the world. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. Find out more at www.reneeswope.com.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...