Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: Come As You Are

Lisa Troyer is gifted and talented in so many ways. Her love of the Lord and passion for others to find hope in Him shine brightly in this devotional journal she has created. Each page has Scripture or thoughts from Lisa to encourage, strengthen and inspire one to write down what's on their heart and mind.

This journal would be a great gift for many occasions and has several uses, such as, a prayer journal or a gift for someone who is going through a rough time/major life event. What a wonderful way to point people to Christ as they sort through their thoughts on the pages of this journal.

*Special thanks to Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing this book for review through

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: The Son of David

Nancy Guthrie is one of my favorite authors! Her real life humor and passion for explaining Scripture well keeps bringing me back to her Bible studies. Her "Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament" series has been wonderful and the latest book in that series, The Son of David: Seeing Jesus in the Historical Books, is no exception.

This study covers the Old Testament books of Joshua through Esther. I love seeing how each of these historical books points to Jesus. The Personal Bible Study sections are deep and insightful and challenge you to dig into Scripture to make connections that are scholarly and practical. They are followed by teaching chapters that have powerful insights to help you reevaluate your understanding of Scripture. Each chapter concludes with questions, some designed for group discussion and others for personal reflection.
This Bible Study is great for personal use, small groups and Sunday School.

*Special thanks to Crossway for providing this book through for my honest review.

Book Review: Pastors' Wives

Besides being entertaining, I hoped this book would accomplish 2 things:
1. Show that pastors' wives are human just like everyone else.
2. Show the redemptive power of the gospel of Christ to be forgiven and to forgive others.

The first expectation was met, almost too well. The three main characters all had different backgrounds and struggled with temptation and sin, just like everyone else.
However, I was deeply disappointed that none of the characters were truly focused on following Christ, but used God and the Bible to serve their own agendas. In the end you have a mega-church leader who has made an idol of her husband, a former bad girl trying to pay for her sins through outreach ministry and a pastor who's cool with his wife being an atheist.

Even though this is fiction, having been a pastor's wife, with many friends who are also pastors' wives - I don't feel  this book represented us well. I'm not naive to think that there aren't women in ministry very much like these characters, but most of us are not.

Theology aside - I still have other issues with this book - unnecessary swearing always looses points for me (I rarely find that it adds to the quality of a book). Also, it doesn't make sense for the main character, Ruthie to narrate her chapters in the book because she's not privy to the details of the other characters and doesn't narrate their stories.

 If you need a reminder of the depravity of man, here you go. But if you're looking for inspiring stories of godly women, this isn't the best pick.

*I received this book from the publisher, Plume through for my honest review.

Sounds like Church

"Worthy of worship, worthy of praise, worthy of honor and glory..."*

"Mom, it sounds like church in here."

It's the best compliment I could ask for from a six year old boy.

It's 8:30 - bedtime. I'm sitting on the couch singing hymns and praise songs to my restless little ones as they toss and turn on the mattresses in the living room floor. Trying to get 3 kids to all go to sleep in the same room, at the same time, when it's still light outside it a challenging feat. The house we are renting for the summer doesn't have central air and the last few days have been HOT. Plus, we are moving next week, so it made the sense to put the three younger kids in the same room downstairs with a fan and pack up their bedrooms. A whole week of this may make me reconsider my forward thinking plan. But in the mean time, I will keep singing because I always want my home to sound like church...

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
Worship his holy name**

*Words by Mark Blankenship; **Words by Matt Redman

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Too Tired to Play

After dinner last night, we decided to play a few hands of "Go Fish" and "UNO" at the kitchen table. Mom, Dad, and all four kids enjoying an evening of cards...until someone was too exhausted to continue. Sweet little Katie Grace wanted to be near us, but needed to "rest her eyes", so she brought her pillow, blankets and stuffed animals to the kitchen and took a nap right on the kitchen floor. Hilarious! Not even our loud teasing and joking during "Garbage" could wake her up. 

She slept there for about an hour. I was sure that meant she would be up until the wee hours of the night (because she is 3 1/2 and at the awkward stage of "I still need a nap, but if I take one, I won't go to sleep at bedtime, so mom tries to get me to survive without a nap, even though I get really grumpy and sometimes fall asleep at dinnertime anyway"). Thankfully, the heat and busy day wore her out and she asked to go straight to bed - which she did without any issues!

"Behind the Scenes" is a fun link up where we show those photos - but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it. - Crystal Stine

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chasing History: A Mother's Wisdom

Today I am linking up today with It Just Takes One  for her Chasing History series.  We’re learning about the women of the Bible and how their stories can impact OUR stories.

Much has been said about the "Proverbs 31  Woman". Books and ministries are based on verses 10-31 of Proverbs chapter 31. But I want to take a moment and look at the woman who taught all this wisdom to her son: King Lemuel's mother.

The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him...    Proverbs 31:1

I have so many unanswered questions about this amazing woman. However, Scripture tells us nothing about her background or earthly life other than she taught these wise sayings to her son.
What did she teach him?
-Stay away from bad habits (wine & women) that will impair your decision making (v.4-7)
-Defend the sick and poor (v.8-9)
-Find an excellent wife - one that will care for her home and her children and will make her husband look good (v.10-31)

I want to be a wise woman like the King's mother. I should be the one to explain to my children how the world works:
-how to avoid sinful habits
-how to treat others, especially caring for those in need
-how to conduct business with honesty and integrity
-what to look for in a lifetime marriage

These lessons are not just taught once but repeated over and over during the formative years of childhood to be ingrained in their minds. I pray my instruction to my children is encouraging, inspirational and memorable - that they would treasure it and pass it on the next generation. I pray that I would leave a legacy of faith and devotion to the Lord like King Lemuel's mother did for him.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and hundreds of others. We write for five minutes. All on the same prompt. No extreme editing. No worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.Unscripted. Unedited. Real.  



 I don't know how everyone else is using the word "present" but I'm going to use it as a noun - as in a gift. It reminds me of the short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry. It's about a wife who sells her hair to buy her husband a chain for his pocket watch for Christmas, only to find out he sold his pocket watch to buy her the beautiful hair combs she really wanted. It's a sweet story of self-sacrifice to give generously to someone you love.

It also reminds me of the best present my husband gave me. For our first wedding anniversary, Dave gave me a pair of opal earrings. We were in college and pretty much broke, but he made sure he gave something beautiful to his bride. Those earring are my favorite piece of jewelry because every time I wear them, Dave always says how pretty I look. He doesn't realize the correlation, but I do and it always makes me feel special.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Homemade Mess

To prevent boredom this summer, we are marking things off our "100 Fun Things to do this Summer" List (based off this wonderful list). One of those fun things was to make homemade playdough. What you see in this picture is my 6 year old son playing peacefully with his green playdough - reality is that only lasted about 3 minutes! It was too sticky for him. Amazingly, my rough and tough boy hates having sticky, dirty hands. My girls actually played with it for about 2 hours and had a wonderful time making  cakes, pies, mountains, balls, animals, monsters...

What you can't see in this picture is the giant mess on the floor. Flour and playdough crumbs are covering the floor. We had to keep adding flour to get the right consistency and so much of it ended up on the floor. Which isn't a surprise in my house. Any creative activity happening at my kitchen table usually includes a mess on the floor. My children love to cut paper into tiny pieces, paint, color, name it, they can turn it into an art project - and they go all out - spread all over the table, overflowing onto the floor, through several rooms of the house and most recently they've discovered how to incorporate the stairs into their projects.

I love to see their creative minds at long as they follow one rule - at bedtime it all gets cleaned up! The floor gets swept, the table wiped off, the pieces and projects put in a basket or thrown away...all so we can begin again tomorrow with a new mess!

"Behind the Scenes" is a fun link up where we show those photos - but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it. - Crystal Stine

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jael: A Gutsy Lady

Today I am linking up today with It Just Takes One  for her Chasing History series.  We’re learning about the women of the Bible and how their stories can impact OUR stories.

Usually I get queasy at the sight of blood - but somehow I am the designated tooth puller in our house. When there is a super wiggly tooth in the mouth of one of my kiddos, I pull out the Orajel ,a wet washcloth, and do what has to be done. It's not my favorite motherhood task, but, I'm willing to do it to care for my children and that overrides any feelings of nausea that might arise.

On a much greater scale of gruesome, a woman named Jael does what needs to be done for the children of God, the nation of Israel in Judges 4.

But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.   Judges 4:17-22 (ESV)

Jabin, king of Cannaan, was trusting the defeat Israel to the hands of the commander of his army, Sisera. Sisera was confident and well prepared with a great number of soldiers and chariots. However, Deborah, Barak and their 10,000 men annihilated Sisera's army, every last one of them (Judges 4:16) and now Sisera is running for his life. Jael offers refuge and a drink of milk, then slays the enemy with a stake through his head, pinning him to the ground.

This is one gutsy lady! Her bold move put an end to the war between Israel and Cannaan and has taught me a few things about living life:
  • Sometimes obeying God means I have to do the dirty work - for me that means pulling teeth, cleaning up spills and messes, telling a friend a hard truth, or helping someone who's not very nice.
  • No complaining, whining or pouting, she just did what had to be done!
  • You don't have to have a big title to be used by God in a big way.
 Father - please help me to be obedient to your Word - even when it's hard, or messy. Give me boldness, peace and contentment in bringing honor to You.

Real Peace

Image credit:
 Peace. Everyone wants it and most seem to think it is the answer to the world's problems. But what does it look like and how do we get it? In his book, Real Peace, Andy Farmer offers some answers to what peace is, how to find it and how to apply it to the struggles of life.

In chapter 1, Farmer defines peace as: harmony, order and fullness. With a full explanation of each, he shows how this fallen world fails to experience these three things. "If we can't have harmony, we'll settle for tolerance...But the best tolerance can do is keep tension at manageable levels. It will never deliver harmony."

In chapter 2 Farmer explains that "shalom peace" is the way things are meant to be and when sin entered the world, creation lost that perfect harmony and order.  Humans are constantly in search of that "shalom peace" and chapter 3 gives us the answer to that search: the Prince of Peace. True peace in our human existence only happens when we are made right with God and this reconciliation comes from Christ's atoning death on the cross.

Chapters 4-8 describe how to have peace in the struggles of life - stress, anxiety, grief, depression and conflict. Each chapter takes a passage of Scripture and applies it to the particular struggle in a helpful, encouraging and practical way. For example, by evaluating Phil. 4:8-9 in detail and applying it to daily life, Farmer helps us see where stress can be eliminated/reduced by thinking on the right things.

Chapter 8 had some great thoughts on how understanding the forgiveness we have received in the gospel of Christ should make us more willing to forgive others:

"We need to see that in every conflict there is an absurd commitment to things that destroys peace."

"Trust me, if you wait to hear someone's confession to gather the motivation to forgive them, you will never hear a confession that motivates you to forgive." 

"The deeper the gospel penetrates our hearts, the more the Peace of Christ will govern our actions."

 The final two chapters help us choose to respond to others in ways that promote peace. Chapters 9 and 10 describe how to have peace with God's people and the world respectively. 

I thought this was a wonderful book that dealt thoroughly with the issues related to the peace we long for by using Scripture to teach and encourage us. This book has helped me understand how to respond better to those dealing with grief, how to let go of stress and anxiety and to be more intentional with forgiveness.

*Special thanks to Crossway for providing this book for review through 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and hundreds of others. We write for five minutes. All on the same prompt. No extreme editing. No worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.Unscripted. Unedited. Real.



The sparkle in his eyes when he smiles.
You can tell so much about a person by looking into their eyes. Some say it is the window to our soul.  Making eye contact is not always easy. Maybe they are ashamed, hiding something, afraid, unsure of who they are. But when you do make eye contact and smile - perhaps they will smile back - and you can see hope, childlike faith, curiosity, questions wanting answers, a potential friendship. These are the eyes of so many foster kids we had in our home for 2 years. I may not know where they are all at now, but I will never forget them, will always pray for them and will never forget their beautiful eyes.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Behind the Scenes: New Kids on the Playground

A few years back we were living in a house on a circle with a playground in the middle for all the neighborhood kids to play. Behind us was some farmland and wetlands where we occasionally saw wildlife off in the distance. Ahhh...the beauty of God's creation. I snapped this picture of a young deer whose curiosity brought him closer than usual. However, he is not just in a grassy field...

That afternoon on our way outside to play, we spotted some unexpected visitors already out playing on our playground. A mama, two babies and this young male deer were exploring the playground. They seemed very curious and brave to come that close to our homes. My children and I tried to be very quiet and get close to take pictures. However, the kids could not hold in their excitement very long and ran toward the deer family, which quickly ran off into the trees. But what a fun memory we made..."Remember that time the deer was playing on the playground"...***giggles***

"Behind the Scenes" is a fun link up where we show those photos - but tell the real story behind them. The sneak peek behind the scenes, a look past the edges of the photo to the real life behind it. - Crystal Stine

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Widow of Zarephath

Today I am linking up today with It Just Takes One  for her Chasing History series.  We’re learning about the women of the Bible and how their stories can impact OUR stories.

I love being in the kitchen. Baking chocolate chip cookies with my kids is one of my most favorite activities. Have you ever been in the middle of making something and run out of one of the main ingredients?  That will sure ruin a dish or even a meal! 

In 1 Kings 17 we meet a widow who is just about to run out of everything during a drought in the land. Elijah asks the woman to trust that God would provide for their needs if she would feed him. 1 Kings 17:15-16 says “And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”(ESV) 

We must put our faith in God alone and trust Him to meet our every need: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When we feel like we’ve given all we have and there’s no help or hope, we cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7) and then we keep on giving, not growing weary of doing good for others at every opportunity we have (Galatians 6:9-10). How do we do this? We can only do it through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus for our forgiveness.
May the mercy and grace God has given us through Jesus encourage and strengthen us to trust Him in all things.