Saturday, April 30, 2016

Great Gift Books by Max Lucado {Pocket Prayers}

My Thoughts on Pocket Prayers by Max Lucado:

The various Pocket Prayers are small, 40 day prayer books specifically geared to one of the following target audiences: moms, dads, teachers, friends, teachers, and those in military. I kept the mom one for myself, and am in the process of giving the other ones as gifts.

The books begins with basic information about prayer, and is written in a way that is great for the Believer, the Seeker, or someone who hasn't thought much about a personal relationship with Christ, but is open to understanding more about prayer (or simply will enjoy an 'inspirational' book). After the informative section comes the 40 days of prayer, each of which has a verse of the day and a short prayer that is personal & intimate. Believers will find themselves renewed and encouraged, and Seekers/Non Believers have the chance to see the truths of Scripture presented in a clear, tangible, and relatable manner. Both the gift giver and gift receiver could see some great conversations open up thanks to the Pocket Prayer books.

*I received complimentary copies of each book in exchange for my honest review.*

About the books: 

Pocket Prayers (with various authors; Thomas Nelson, March 2016)

Bestselling author Max Lucado has teamed up with six authors to write the Pocket Prayers series for those in need of peace, renewal, rest, faith, hope, joy, direction, serenity, and courage.

Short, simple prayers are very effective, which is why each book in the series contains forty guided prayers and complementary scriptures for any situation, including for:

-Moms (written with daughter Andrea Lucado)
-Grads (written with daughter Andrea Lucado)
-Dads (written with Mark Mynheir)
-Military Life (written with Mark Mynheir)
-Teachers (written with blogger Jennifer Hale)
-Friends (written with Betsy St. Amant)

Purchase your copies:
About the author: 

More than 120 million readers have found inspiration and encouragement in the writings of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother {Book Review}

Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother was written and shared to display authentic view and insight from an Amish person living in an Amish community. But I'll be honest--I simply related to Marianne as a mom! Here is a woman juggling a business, running a household, raising four children, doing life with her husband, and carving out time to write. I love (LOVE!) how universal those roles are for moms. Yes, we may have different lifestyles and ways of doing things, but at the core we are far more similar than I had ever had thought about prior to reading this book.

Marianne Jantzi (the author) clearly loves her family but isn't afraid to say that her days are often as hectic as mine! Seriously, one of my favorite lines is on page 184: "How did I manage to mess up such an ordinary, not-much-going on Monday?" She goes on to tell the story about that specific day and event, but she already had me nodding and counting her as a kindred spirit. 

Yes, there is much within this book's pages about Amish life that is very informative and interesting, but I simply enjoyed getting to know Marianne. The book is not written in chronological order, but it is still pretty easy to follow. I enjoyed the book and the opportunity it gave me in expanding my knowledge and awareness of an Amish Community.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

About the book: 
Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother(MennoMedia, March 2016)

Young Amish homemaker Marianne Jantzi invites readers into her family's life on the snowy plains of Ontario.

The mother of four young children and wife of a storekeeper, Jantzi writes about her daily routines and heartfelt faith with equal measures of wit and warmth. Sewing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and helping to manage the store take up most hours in her day, but Jantzi finds time to pen columns for the Connection, a magazine beloved by Amish and Mennonite readers across the United States and Canada. Never sugarcoating the frustrations of motherhood, Jantzi tells it like it is, broken washing machine and bickering children and all. But through her busy days, Jantzi finds strength in simple pleasures of family, fellowship with her Amish community, and quiet time with God. 

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Marianne Jantzi is an Amish writer and homemaker in Ontario, Canada. Formerly a teacher in an Amish school, Jantzi now educates and inspires through her "Northern Reflections" column for The Connection, a magazine directed mainly to Amish and plain communities across the U.S. and Canada. She and her husband have four young children and run a shoe store among the Milverton Amish settlement of Ontario.

What a fun read! The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder {Book Review}

I grew up reading mystery novels; in grade school I read my mom's Trixie Beldon books, followed by her Nancy Drew collection. I checked out every Hardy Boys the library had, and then moved onto works by Agatha Christie & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while still in Jr. High. Throughout high school and college I added various authors, genres, and time periods and quite frankly, turned my love for reading and analyzing works into a Bachelor's of Arts in English.

But there's still something special about a "lighthearted" mystery novel....and I didn't realize that until I read The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder two days during my kids' spring break. It took me back to that simpler time in my life when I'd stay up past my bedtime and wouldn't put the book down until I reached the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendship between Merinda & Jem, their strengths as well as their mishaps, their subtle push for women's equality, their interaction with both male protagonists as well as male antagonists, and the 'gumption' they show when trying to solve two murders. I look forward to more works by Rachel McMillan, and hope she gives Merinda & Jem a new adventure very soon!

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review*

About the book: 

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder (Harvest House, April 2016)

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city's underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto's premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever---if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Rachel McMillan
 is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A {Locked Out} Lesson

Sometimes, you need to be thankful for the silver lining within the chaos. Today, I'm simply thankful that Charlie chose to lock me out of the house AFTER the adoption specialist was here, as opposed to being locked out when she arrived!

(Do you know how tricky it is to continually switch from a stern discipline voice to a sickening sweet voice in the hopes you can convince a 3 year old to open either of the doors he has locked? A threat of putting ALL his M&M's in the garbage finally did the trick.)

I often post about foster care and adoption, as this portion of my life has truly become a passion. Despite how some people 'ooh' and 'aww' when they see our 3 littles, my "good works" don't make my life extra special and blessedly serene; opening my heart & home has made my life busy, hectic, and requires more faith than I ever imagined. I'm always behind, always tired, always counting heads, and always under the state's watchful eye (Ok, the ways we are held accountable aren't overbearing, but it still involves many, many people).

Here's the thing--fostering and adopting are how I serve my Savior. I am continually stripped of self, and I'm constantly being transformed. And that transformation includes accepting a messy house, a child who giggles when mommy is stuck outside, and not having a clue when the last time was I got an uninterrupted night of sleep (1 year? 2?).

Christians are called to serve. To give. To sacrifice. That's not tossing some nonprofit your cash and heading off to your quiet, tidy, and perfect home where you'll get all your beauty sleep before you leave for the gym the next morning. Serving means getting your hands dirty. You don't have time for all your wants because you are taking care of a stranger's needs. You have to expect that your heart will be broken. You'll weep, experience anger, and cry out, "God, this is too hard!".

Would I love some spare moments and a calmer house? Of course. But to know my mess is beyond beautiful to God, and to know the words "Well done, my good and faithful servant" will be uttered by Him as he recalls the boy who locked me out today? You can have your organized life--I'm running after my Savior. And I pray more Christians will become part of the best race of all & truly (TRULY!!) serve Him.