A Letter From Lancaster County – a Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dragon Seed – a review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praying the Bible (a review)

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Recently, we’ve been inviting our children to pray at meal times, when they go to bed, or really whenever they want.  It is sweet (ok, maybe not after the 1000th time) to hear them pray for going to the dinosaur park.  Or the fire trucks.

But, really, to hear them speak to God, in little faith, not really understanding fully what that means, is engaging.

Last night we read in our family devotion the chapter on the Lord’s Prayer in the Jesus Storybook Bible.  How Jesus has a complete understanding how His Father works and hears prayers.  And how he didn’t have to write down his prayers, use big words, or have his eyes closed.  He just prayed. He spoke His heart.

Donald Whitney, in his typical pastoral, effective teaching style, in his book Praying the Bible, encourages his readers in a method of praying the Scriptures back to God.  It unites our hearts with the heart of the One who hears our prayers.  His chapter on praying the Psalms was interesting to me.  A pastor friend of mine shared this with me when I was going through an extremely hard time a few years ago, and it was definitely one of the best pieces of advice I received.

Whitney acknowledges the problem of our weak prayer lives, but doesn’t leave us there. He guides us in a how-to of sorts of praying the very words of God.  If we believe that the Bible is sufficient and perfect, then we can use it to pray for every area of our lives.

I don’t know anyone who would say they pray as good as they ever want to, so this would be a good book to engage your prayer life more.

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

Is the Bible Good for Women (a review)

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People who name the titles of books need to have a marketing degree.  There would be several ways you could market this book by Wendy Alsup, but I don’t think any would be as catchy without being condescending as this one.

Is the Bible Good for Women?  Well, we would say of course it is.  The author uses her upbringing and her theological worldview to answer so many questions that women especially have about the Bible.  She wants to help her readers develop a Jesus (gospel) view of Scripture.

In her book she covers everything from Creation, submission, the Fall, how Jesus models “women’s issues” and how Paul advised the new church to work in regards to women, and everything in between.  She engages hew audience, which could both be women who grew up in the church and are solid conservative women, or these women who are reading her book could be feminist believers (or unbelievers).

She overs her topics well, and always points to Jesus.  So, whether you agree with her completely or not, it is up to you.  But, I do think this book would be a good start in the topic of women and the church.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the book.  All opinions are my own.  amazon

Unsinkable Faith (a review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Affection for Amish Lit

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I remember making my first trip to Amish country.  I was attending a wedding of some friend’s in college…and the bride lived in Amish country of Indiana.  It was neat to see a culture within a culture.  One so different from normal American culture, yet nestled in the quaint neighborhoods outside of the city.  The food was spectacular and the people were friendly.  The horse and buggies were iconic.

Now, I read Amish lit because it is fun.  Most of the books are filled with a culture I don’t know very well and are in some form religious.  Most of them are about romances.  Most of them have some form of “coming of age” story.

I think as I get older though, I’m realizing that I’m more removed from young adult fiction.  I love a good story, don’t get me wrong.  But, I have sensed that most YA fiction is filled with a little drama, but not much.  So much of it doesn’t tend to hit on the real hard stuff that hits most of American families.

Home to Paradise was slightly different: stories of God’s acceptance, forgiveness, family, heartbreak, and friendships.  Troubled hearts are clearly in this book. If you like Amish lit, you will like this third book in a series by Barbara Cameron and you don’t even have needed to read the first two books.  It draws you in and gives you enough of the backstory.  Hey, it might even make you go back and the first two.

Cultures are always intriguing.

Litfuse is hosting a giveaway (and thanks for the book).  If you would like a chance to win, enter here.

Nothing to Prove (a review)

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Every single week, there is one specific area where I feel like I have to prove something.  Don’t we all – you may have more than one area, but I know specifically there is one area.  Sometimes there are more, but always this one.

And this doesn’t communicate to my heart that I am loved.

When we always feel like we have to compare or measure up – or we feel that we will never master or hit the mark – we feel unwelcomed and insignificant.

In Jennie Allen’s new book Nothing to Prove, she knocks it out of the park with creative prose on Bible stories, the highlight and masterful connection of the Gospel in every chapter, and you can tell she loves women.

Yall, this girl understands the gospel and loves women.  You need to read this book.  I even loaned it out and already want it back to re-read all of it – and underline more of it.  It will be a yearly re-read for sure.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for this book. All opinions are my own.

The Art of Control

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

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

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

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

Team Us – Building a Great Team

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Marriage is a blessing…and marriage is tough.  Marriage takes a lot of work and you don’t get a break.  Having little ones makes every marriage harder.  And having kids adds so much more love and fun into a marriage.  And every marriage looks different.

One of the things I love about Ashleigh Slater and her little family is that they play by their rules.  They are a unique family who is on a unique journey.  They live and love well.  And she has written a book called Team Us.  In it she shares some mentalities to implement in a marriage.  “In the coming chapters, I’ll share with you how Ted’s and my decision to adopt a team mentality has shaped our marriage.  How it’s helped us remain united as we’ve encountered things like annoying habits, different hobbies, conflict, job loss, and parenting.” (pg 16)

I love Ted’s little comments throughout each chapter and their real life experiences to help us remember that no marriage is perfect – and their questions to consider at the end.

One of the points I really love is you have to cultivate a lighthearted marriage. You have to incorporate non-heavy moments in your marriage.  Every marriage will have its lows.  Our marriage has had its share of lows brought on by outside influences.  But, then we get away and have a date night, stay overnight somewhere to just enjoy sleeping in without preschoolers coming in at 5am, we eat meals together without kids, we go to the playground with kids, we have taco night once a week, we enjoy cocktails together while watching Netflix.  Whatever it takes – we enjoy being with one another and we don’t always have to have heavy conversations.

This would make a great marriage book to read in 2017.  Here’s to your (and my) better marriage in the year ahead!

Thanks to Moody Publishers for the book and Ashleigh and Ted for your friendship and example.  All opinions are my own.


How to Find Practical Parenting Help (and giveaway)

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One thing that I think every parent longs for is a how-to manual.  Well, maybe that, sleep, silence, and some time alone, and more money, but I digress.

How-to manuals do not exist.  They don’t.  I think it is mainly because every child is different so I don’t know how anyone would write one anyway.

I’ve only been parenting for over 4 years now – two boys are different then I thought they would be, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just different.  So, where do I turn for parenting advice?

Actually, my number one piece of advice on how to find parenting advice: seek out parents whose parenting style (and kids) you actually like/respect.  Find a couple who has parented well (and of course, every parent makes mistakes) and ask them to hang out with you (and your kids) and give you pointers.  In our parenting careers, there are a few parenting pairs who are further along in the parenting journey than we are – that we respect them, their walk with God, and how their kids have turned out – and we ask them questions.  When I’m facing a decision or a discipline issue, I want tangible advice, so I text a friend or send an email to a few moms.  They are a wealth of information.

Here’s what you need to do though.  If you ask a few people, and they may each give you different advice – you still have to work it out in your own home.  I take in all the advice, run it by my husband, talk to him about it, get on the same page, try it out, and maybe still regroup if that doesn’t work.  Everyone will give you advice on how to raise your kids – but you can’t possibly take all the advice you receive.  God has given you a teammate (hopefully) in your spouse, and he’s given you the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom and partnership, prayer and community.

Another helpful tool in the parenting game is books.  I’m an avid reader and honestly had read most of the philosophical parenting Christian books before I even had kids.  I worked in ministry with parents and went to seminary in the Christian education department.  But, man, it is different applying all of those when you have kids.  One book I recently have read is Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Became Parents by Gary Chapman (of the Five Love Languages fame).  Through general topics, real-life experience, humor, and practical steps, talking points, and hope – he helps parents navigate through some big obstacles in parenting.  I wasn’t surprised by any of his topics, and most of his advice was a refresher course, but so helpful to hear tips from someone who has been there and done that. One of the aspects of the book I like the most is the talking points at the end of each chapter.  Parenting is tough.  When you are talking about it with your spouse, or if you are a solo parent, with others – you are already anchored with questions to ask, or discussion questions to help point you in the right direction.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, then just leave me a comment with the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received.  That’s it.  Thanks to Sidedoor Communications and Northfield Publishing for the chance to read this book, give a copy away, and all opinions are my own.