Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading {2017} Book List


One of the goals I set for myself this year is to read more. 
I love reading, and the older I get I realize what a blessing it is to actually enjoy and learn from reading. 
We also homeschool and we read aloud a lot together as a part of our school, both fiction and non fiction. Some of the best book discussions I've ever had have been with my kids, and that's just.... awesome. 
In the past, for my personal reading time, I've spent a lot more time reading non-fiction than fiction. I read a lot of homeschool books, christian/Bible based books, books on speech and learning struggles, and other topical books on things that our family is into (Yes, I've actually ready several books on chicken coops). I plan on continuing to read these types of books (of course) but I really wanted to start reading more GOOD fiction. 
A few of my closest friends and I started a book club last year and I think that is really at the foundation of what has gotten me back into reading fiction for myself. 


All of that being said..... I plan on posting more often about the books that I've been reading. Mostly just for my personal records (I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to my own reading lists to find the name of a book). 

So without further delay.... Books I've read so far this year. 

Fiction 

"The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom 
Goodreads Rating = 4.17/5 
My Rating = 8.5/10 
Book Club Selection for January 

Honestly, my rating is probably higher for this book, it's up at the top of my list for favorites, but I struggle with commitment issues, hence, the 8.5 rating. 
I LOVED this book. I mean, loved. It's set in the late 1700s early 1800s in the south. Pre-civil war (for those of you that aren't good with dates). 
Dealing with issues of slavery, family bonds, love, survival, and life on a plantation. I was struck once again by the resolve of  the slaves, the acceptance of their life, and yet their ability to persevere, love fully, endure and to continue, regardless of circumstances, to work hard and push through. 
This was not a fairy tale book, in any sense. It was tough. It was truthful. It wasn't always pretty. But it was also heart-warming at parts. It was eye-opening and a reminder about how far we can stray from the laws of the Bible (and obvious human ethics) and yet think we have the right to do so. 
This was one I could not put down, and well worth reading! 


"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett 
Goodread Rating = 4.45/5 
My Rating = 7.5/10 

I read this book after hearing about how it was similar to "The Kitchen House". It was set in the 60s (I believe) and deals with civil rights issues. I feel like most everyone has either read the book or seen the movie but me. I genuinely enjoyed it. It wasn't as "heavy" as "The Kitchen House" but dealt with some pretty real and tough issues. I can see why it was so well received, and then turned into the movie. Like with most books, I'm glad I read the book before I saw the movie, because the book was much better and offered much more insight and detail. I appreciated that there was some humor in this book, even in dealing with the heaviness of the reality of that time. You couldn't help but fall in love with the characters. I mean. Seriously. I wish they were real, and that they were my friends. 


"Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult 
Goodread Rating = 4.38/5
My Rating = 8.75/10 

I loved this book. The timing was impeccable and "coincidental" having read so many books dealing with race in America. I genuinely loved that the perspective of this book came from a thought-she-wasn't-racist white woman, a hard-working-middle-class black woman, and a white supremacist. The book (as quickly as I can describe it) is about a black nurse on trial for murdering a baby that she had been commanded to not touch (because of her race). Painful, real, raw, eye-opening on so many levels. I always love reading the author's notes and I love the amount of time Picoult put in to studying a subject that was so sensitive and important to our time. 


"Atonement Child" by Francine Rivers 
Goodreads Rating = 4.26/5
My Rating = 6/10 

This was a good book. I just didn't feel like it was a GREAT book, parts of the book seemed somewhat predictable to me. A story about a young girl with, what looks to be, a perfect life in front of her. She's attending Bible college, engaged to a good-looking promising young man, but one night on her way home from work she's raped, and everything changes. She finds out months later that she is pregnant, soon after she's asked to leave the Bible college, and decides to move back in with her parents, where life continues to seem to unravel. I feel like Rivers did a great job handling some difficult topics. Overall, I'm very appreciative of some of the overarching biblical themes/lessons held throughout the book, like that God is sovereign AND good. I'm a big Rivers fan, so that's probably why I rated the book as high as I did. I felt like parts of the story really drug on. I also found parts of the book a little unrealistic. 


"Truly, Madly, Guilty" by Liane Moriarty 
Goodreads Rating = 3.55/5 
My Rating = 2/10 

Would not recommend this book in the slightest. So so so slow. I could NOT get into this book. If it wasn't for my personality of having to finish things, and see them through, there is no way I would have finished this book. Though I will tell you I skipped about 70 pages at one point, and no kidding, didn't seem to miss anything of useful/crucial value to the story. 
I hate to give an outright negative review of a book, honestly, but with so many good books out there.... I have to recommend avoiding this one. 

Young Adult Fiction 


"Wolf Hollow" by Lauren Wolk 
Goodreads Rating = 4.31/5 
My Rating = 8/10 

We read this book as a read aloud for school. We all genuinely enjoyed it. Based after World War 2 (I believe), it reminds me a little of "Little House in the Prairie" without nearly the overly-wordy detail. The kids all enjoy it and I don't think I read it once without them asking me to "read another chapter".  The children loved the suspense of the book, and trying to figure out "who did what" - we always seem to have multiple perspectives and opinions, which makes for great discussion. 
Based in Pennsylvania, it's told from the perspective of a young girl named Annabelle who lives in a quiet town, until Betty shows up, a girl who, from my perspective, is some type of socio/psycopath who takes pleasure in the pain of others. Betty's presence quickly causes Annabelle's (and the entire towns) world to turn upside down. 
My kids and I would certainly recommend this book. 


"The Inquisitors Tale" by Adam Gidwitz 
Goodreads Rating = 4.23/5
My Rating = 3.5/10 

Based in the middle ages about three unlikely (and outcast) children, a giant monk, a small jewish boy, and a peasant girl, becoming friends and joining together on a mission (against the king) that puts their lives in danger. I read this book because Alexa had wanted to read it and I wasn't sure if it would be age-appropriate for her. Throughout most of the book, I was fairly certain I would let her read it. There were a few things that I knew I would want to discuss with her (as you can imagine, the catholic church, saints, "miracles", and the middle ages would provoke a lot of much needed discussion) but nothing that I saw as a "deal breaker". (Side note: I tend to be a parent that wants to discuss these things rather than avoid them, and I can see why other parents would choose a different approach at certain ages and with certain children). 
However, once I got to the end of the book, I did change my mind (without giving too much away) because there are some biblical characters/stories that are brought up at the end as a part of the story..... I tend to avoid writing that attempts to mix biblical history/characters with a fiction story, especially for the kids. I find it to be confusing at this age, and with so many other good options available, I would rather avoid it. 

Non-Fiction 


"The Broken Way" by Ann Voskamp 
Goodreads Rating = 4.46/5 
My Rating = 7/10 

I loved the overall message of the book, but I struggled even more with this book than I did with 1000 Gifts with the poetic writing style of Voskamp. Some of the crucial points she is attempting to convey are hard to dig out of the muck of her musical tone. In many instances I find her writing to be beautiful, but 275 pages worth ended up being a lot for me. 
The book is about sacrifice, and living out of our brokeness, living broken and poured out for the world around us the way the Jesus was an example to us all. True love does not happen without pain and suffering - it's sacrificial by nature. While, I didn't see anything in her writing that is directly heretical, I know many people complain about some of the liberties she takes with scriptures, and I can kind of see their points, but at the same time, the over-arching message was certainly in line with what scripture teaches. 


"Nothing to Prove" by Jennie Allen 
Goodreads Rating = 4.55/5 
My Rating = 8.5/10 

I was genuinely encouraged by this book. Easy to read. Well organized. Powerful message. 
Dealing with the struggle of constantly trying to prove yourself and measure up to people, is one that I have (in spades). and no as I begin to serve in positions of leadership this struggle can feel debilitating at times. Using stories from the book of John Jennie Allen walks through the clear messages of the Bible that while we are not enough, Jesus is, and the freedom that comes from truly understanding this. 
Some of my favorite quotes: 
"We are not defined by our worst or our best: we are defined by our God." 
"It's not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it's my sin that I keep trying to be." 
"When we hide, we diminish ourselves, we diminish our worth, we diminish our belief in God." 
Allen's writing is practical, real, and biblical. I love how honest she is lovingly pointing out some of our (those in the church) ongoing mistakes - like distracting ourself with entertainment (binge watching TV anyone?), distracting ourselves with the work of the mission rather than God himself, allowing our identity to be defined by lies, isolating ourselves from other believers, and more. 
I highly recommend this book. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Book List 2016


As the end of the year approaches, it always brings about reflection. Like most years, a lot has seemed to happen this year. Some good. Some bad. Some great. Some really tough. 

Books have always been a tool that God has used in my life to help teach me, guide me, bring me some enjoyment and even a little comfort at times. So as I was reflecting back over the year, I couldn't help but thinking of some of the great books that I read throughout the year, as well.

For the first time ever, I'm a part of a book club, and I think I found another "home away from home" for myself. I love our little group so much. I'm blessed that all the members of the book club just so happen to also be my closest friends.  

It's been a few years since I've even attempted a "book list" but I think it's time. Reading is in one of my top "favorite things to do.... ever" and I love sharing what I'm reading. I hope that you can browse through some of these titles and find a few good ones to tuck away for yourself. 

I'm really hoping that next year I could possibly start posting my "monthly reading list" instead of a yearly one. 

Non-Fiction


The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges 
I actually went through this book with a small group of women, and am glad that I did. I think that the discussion and insight of others has made this book even better (if that's possible). 
Based on the Beatitudes, Bridges teaches the importance and blessings of humility (see what I did there) for christians. He makes the argument (and well I think) that the beatitudes are to teaching humility what 1 Corinthians 13 is to teaching about love. This book was well written, convicting and yet full of grace and hope. I've read several of Bridges books and have loved them all, this book is no exception.


Shes's Got Issues by Nicole Eunice
I heard about this book while listening to a radio program (possibly family life today). Anyhow, this book goes through the top five issues of women: control, insecurity, comparisons, fear, and anger. This book was so helpful to me. There wasn't a single chapter that I didn't at least somewhat relate to, and truthfully A LOT relate to. I would love to go through this book again, maybe with a small group of ladies.



Giddy-Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson 
A much needed book for the church, and particularly women, today. Sophie is hilarious, which I love, but I can see how it may be tough for some readers to keep up with her message as well as her funny and even sarcastic banter. Again, I LOVED it, if anything it made me read the book faster and more voraciously, but I realize it may not be for everyone. This book is on the biblical importance of mentoring relationships between women in the church. She uses the relationships of Elizabeth & Mary, Naomi & Ruth, and Eunice & Lois as examples to what these relationships might look like. This book has reignited an already held passion for the importance of mentoring/deep friendships between women of all ages.  Not the most "theological" book of all time, but certainly well founded on biblical principles. A good read! 

Adopted for Life by Russel Moore 
Fantastic book!! I am learning so much about the theology of adoption, the Biblical definition of adoption, heart issues surrounding adoption, information about orphans and most importantly I am seeing a glimpse of the heart of God towards us, his adopted children. This book is not just for those interested in adoption or supporting those who are - it's for EVERYONE. If you want to better understand your salvation and God's heart towards you, I would recommend this book. 



Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler 
Quickly moving to one of my favorite reads. Of all time. I have always loved Pastor Matt Chandler and have been listening to him since.... forever, and now I love his wife Lauren just as much! This book is all about placing our security and hope in the Lord rather than the many idols we find all around us. It has been one of the most effective books I have read on helping me work through some of my anxieties and fears. It's been a little bit of a slow read for me only because it's one that I've had to process through bit by bit. 



No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohnannon 
I got this book (for free) at least a year ago and had forgotten about it until recently when I happened to catch a glimpse of it as I was walking by our bookshelf and decided to picked it up. An hour later, I was still reading. Technically speaking it's an easy read. Content wise.... I have cried through most of it. Focused primarily on the terrible living conditions of millions of people leaving in India, it forces you to come face to face with the fact that there is so much work to be done and that God has called us to be a part of it. Someway. Somehow. This book has driven me to my knees to pray for the people in India, and to find out if God has a part for me to play in bringing glory to His name in that place. 

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung 
Such. A. Good. Book. A must read for any Christian. Any where. The disconnect in our hearts and minds regarding the holiness of God, our sin and our purpose is (in most cases) HuGe. We need to pray and ask God to soften our hearts to seeing the severity of our sin and start taking the necessary self-disciplines seriously. DeYoung does a great job at biblically walking us through this, while reminding us of God's amazing grace. I actually started this group with our small group but we haven't actually met in a while so I had to finish it myself, I enjoyed it so much. 


Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 
This is a very practical and applicable book for women on how to read and study and use the Word of God. We are sadly living during in a time in the church when books like this one are not read and applied often enough. I will be reading this book again. 


The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler 
A book on marriage, written for both marrieds and singles, using the Song of Solomon as a guide. 
Powerful. Good. 
Haven't actually picked it up in a while because I've started more books than I should have, and I may have actually forgotten about this one (~disappointing~). But now that I'm looking at it again, I remember how great it is, and I plan on finishing it. 

Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton
Another book I cried through parts of. Not just for those considering adoption. Definitely for those who call themselves Christian and take following the word of God seriously. We are commanded to defend and take care of widows and orphans and that can look very different in every family. There is an orphan epidemic in the world, we don't have the luxury of closing our eyes to this problem. This book provides chapter-after-chapter of practical ways individuals and churches can work towards living out James 1:27 --- please, take the time to read this book. 

Screens and Teens by Kathy Koch 
This book is not one that I needed so much for my kids (yet) but for myself. Sometimes I don't realize how attached to my phone I am and one day, I'll have certain expectations of my children, and I want to set a good example now. It's title suggest it's heard for parents of teens, but it's not necessarily. It's really applicable to anyone with a cell-phone or computer. 
This book does a good job of not simply bashing technology but showing the need for moderation and control - she talks a lot about tech-free times and areas to protect that which is sacred in our lives. 
The book goes through common lies that technology causes/encourages us to believe. I tend to be an overly-logical person so there were times that I was a bit put-out only because I was like "Teenagers (and all people) have always believed that lie." However, that's me being nit-picky because regardless of the cause the lie still exists and technology absolutely does play into the common lies we've all always believed. 
There wasn't anything particularly eye-opening or mind-blowing about the book, but it did remind me of some of the things I tend to ignore or overlook. 

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman 
Honestly, it took me a while to get through this book. It was good enough... it just.... I don't know, never caught my attention. Maybe it was because it was stuff I'd already heard a bunch of times before. Then again, there are lots of books I could say that about and yet I still loved them and needed to hear the truth being preached again and again. But this book, I found a little more boring and maybe less engaging. I really wanted to enjoy it because I had read several good reviews. So it may have just been me, or maybe I was trying to read it at a bad time.... I don't know. 

Devotional 
I usually use several devotionals throughout the year but this year I stuck to two, as I was also working on reading through the OT one time through and the New Testament and Psalms two times, in the year, and that took up the majority of my quiet time in the morning. Doesn't get much better than the straight up WORD OF GOD.

I usually try to read through the Bible every other year, and on the off year will work on reading a little more in-depthly smaller portions of scripture. 
I love the idea of reading through the Bible in the year, but I have to be careful because sometimes if can become a checklist item and I'll forget to actually meditate and savor the Word the way I should. 

The two devotionals I turned to throughout the year were 

Good. I didn't like the translation of the Bible he used, but the devotions were short and included a prayer which I really liked. 

Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon 
My go-to devotional every year for the past 3 years. I LOVE this devotional. I like that there are two entries, though I usually read them both in the morning. Love Spurgeon. 

Based on a True Story
 
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park about two different 11 year olds living in Sudan at two different times, one in the 90s and the other in 2008. It's a small but powerful book. I ended up reading it in less than an hour and a half. LOVE. A must read. 

Fiction 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I enjoyed this book. My favorite part was that the author actually wove in the victorian language of flowers, and I felt like I learned a lot - truthfully, I had no idea about the language of flowers, and on the off chance that you don't either.... In victorian times, the language of flowers was used to communicate (certain flowers held certain meanings and people would send them as messages to one another). Using the story of a girl who lived her entire life in the foster-care system and is now an adult who struggles making relational connections, the language of flowers is a deep and touching story.
I had a hard time relating to the main character, which I think is why I didn't "love" the book, but in saying that, I would recommend it, for sure.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 
Love. Love. Love.
I've read this book before (more than once) and it was as good the second and third and fourth time around as it was the first. I am fairly sure this book will remain my favorite fiction title for many many years to come. A beautiful portrait of the gospel, true love and forgiveness (of others and self). Highly recommend. 

My opinion on this book was.... ehhh. It wasn't bad it wasn't stellar. Overall, fiction books of this type of content tend to worry me as far as the theology that they may encourage. Pros: it was a "clean" book, not something I would be worried about my kids picking up. It was an easy read, finished it pretty quickly. Wouldn't necessarily recommend it. 


Wonder by R.J. Palacio 
Another book that I had picked up for Treyton but started skimming it before I actually gave it to him to read. Thought it looked great. Let him read it and then he told me I HAD. TO. READ. IT. He said it was one of his favorite books "Of. All. Time." (and I quote). It took me only a few days to read it. So so good. I cried. I'm still quoting parts of it to my kids (namely the mantra "It's better to be kind that right."). If you're looking for a good book for you or for your young man or woman. Look no further.


The Giver by Lois Lowry
I read this one as a read-aloud with the kids. We read several this year, and many of them we thoroughly enjoyed but this one definitely stuck with us. The kids and I are still talking about it.
When I first started it, I thought, oh great, another story about another utopian society, but the reality is, there's a reason why there is so many of these type of stories out there.... they're intriguing and really make you think. Is peace worth the loss of love and choice?
I love that the kids loved it as much as I did and I'm very grateful for the in-depth discussion we were able to have which included discussion on: the importance of memories, euthanasia/assisted suicide, the importance of choice (even when it's wrong), what a perfectly peaceful society might actually be like, would we want it, and at what cost, and best of all we discussed the reality that we have the hope of heaven and perfect peace which has been bought by the blood of Jesus and will not cost us true love, choice or hope.


The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck
I was surprised how small this book was when I got it. I read it in 2 or 3 hours one afternoon, while my laundry sat nearby waiting to be folded. I hadn't mean to start reading it, I had just picked it up and started reading the first couple of pages and the next thing I knew..... and hour had passed and the book "had" me. This book, set in the south eastern United States (Georgia or Florida, I think) is written in the first person as a recollection, or confession rather of a now old woman who knows the true story of a murder that happened in 1976. A murder that an innocent homeless black man paid the price for. I started reading just "knowing" how I was going to feel about the book, and as I turned each page I found myself more and more unsure. Proof that life is not black-and-white, I would absolutely recommend this book (and already have to several people :))!


Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
Not going to lie, I cried through most of this book. And not just tears. I mean. UG-lee. Cry. I felt an immediate connection to the main character, and through the ups and downs that she faced, I felt like I too was facing them. Such. A. Good. Book. Dealing with life, loss, death, dysfunctional family drama, true love, love lost, motherhood and so much more. I loved every minute of this book and will definitely be reading it again!


The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate
Loved. Read this book in like a week. I was a little slow to make connections that I think others made a little sooner, but that's fine by me. Well written. Fun to read. Made me think. Also made me want to get better at journalling :) 




Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Steadfast Love of the Lord


Today in my Bible reading, I came across several verses on the steadfast love of God. A few minutes later, as I was doing my daily browse of Facebook, I saw that a friend of mine had posted yet another verse on the steadfast love of God. 

The Lord clearly had a message for me this morning, and without going into a really long explanation of the details, let's suffice it to say that I needed to hear these words today. And of course, He knew that.

Reminders are good. 

God is faithful. 

I don't know where you all find yourself today, and it doesn't really matter, whether you're in a valley or enjoying the mountain peaks of life, God's steadfast love will never change. 

I pray that you all are as encouraged by these verses as I was today. 


Isaiah 54:8
"In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you" says the Lord, your redeemer.

Isaiah 54:10 (2 verses later) 
"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you and my covenant of peace shall not be removed" says the Lord, who has compassion on you." 


Psalm 119:64 
"The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love, teach me your statutes." 

Psalm 119:41 
"Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promises." 

Psalm 63:3 
"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." 

Psalm 136:1 
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever." 

Psalm 25:10 
"All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies." 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lies of the Rabble

One of my favorite things about reading and studying the Word of God, besides getting to know my Creator and Savior better, is the "coincidences" that so often seem to happen when you hear or read something in one place and than a day or two or maybe even a week later you read something similar to what the Lord was already speaking to you in a different place. Does that make any sense at all? 

I commend you all for trying to follow me through this maze I call a train of thought.  
Truly, you're all amazing! 

I digress. 

What I mean is, those times when you seem to hear a "random" scripture or nugget from the Lord and then a little while later you hear the same "random" verse or idea. It's creepy awesome and it's one of my favorite things about how the Lord works through His word. 



This happened to me recently. I was reading in Lauren Chandler's "Steadfast Love" and she referenced the story in Numbers 11 where the Israelites began complaining about eating manna and how they longed for meat. 

A few days later, I read the same portion of scripture in my Bible reading..... so I stopped, I said a little prayer and I started reading again. Slower this time. More intentionally. 

I encourage you to read the entire account. It's a truly remarkable story and one that, if we're honest with ourselves may expose a few blindspots in our hearts and lives. 

Numbers 11:4 "Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, 'Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing." 

According to Chandler, the rabble were those Egyptians who (going against God's will) were intermarried into the Israelite nation while they were still in Egypt. 

The Israelite's craving was about far more than just food - it was ultimately a desire for the pleasures (the choicest parts) and conveniences of Egypt

Egypt. The place of their greatest deepest bondage. The home of their slavery. 

How could anyone want to go back to that? 

It seems like such a ridiculous thing to say, and yet, it isn't all that different from what we do in our own lives. 
We all have a tendency to lie to ourselves about our past, especially when the present isn't what we think we want. We question God's goodness and believe lies about what He has set us free from. 


"The rabble" within us, is the part of us we've given over to things other than God. The part of us we "hold back" from complete surrender to Him. When we're honest, we all know we have our own form of "rabble" in the deep parts of our hearts. Our feeble attempts to keep the rabble under control rarely works, yet we continue to act like we control "it" and that it doesn't control us, but eventually the truth that the rabble is uncontrollable comes into full light when it rears its ugly head and demands its own way. 

In verse 10 we're told the people were literally standing in the doors of their tents, weeping.
An adult-sized, communal, temper-tantrum! 

While it may not look the same, I'm guilty of this same thing. Pitching my own version of a fit when life doesn't go my way. It may not always be verbal, but it's almost always obvious. 

The Lord ends up (for good reason) punishing the people (v. 18-23) and He tells them exactly why (v.20) "because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him saying 'Why did we come out of Egypt?'" 

"Because you have rejected the Lord."  

That's exactly what we're doing when we complain and grumble about the places God has brought us to and blessings that God has provided for us. 

The grass always seems greener. 

When will we learn it is better to be in the dessert eating manna with the presence of God, than filling our "bellies" with the "choicest" foods the world has to offer all the while living in bondage? 

We have to refuse to hear and believe the lies. The lies that tell us bondage is worth it, that the sin and compromise "cost nothing"! That we deserve whatever we want even when it's not what we need. 

Rejecting God is the opposite of trusting Him.

If He's brought you to the dessert He has a good reason, trust Him to provide for you to get you through. 

The dessert isn't easy, it isn't always pretty, but God is there, and He's speaking (maybe for the first time in nearly 400 years) He's providing, He's leading. Your job is to trust, to be grateful and to follow. 

In my Bible reading this morning, I was brought to Psalm 66, I think it applies beautifully to what we've been seeing in Numbers, it says in verses 8-12

"Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of His praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living 
and has not let your feet slip. 
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water; 
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance." 


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Currently On My Nightstand


I love books. 
I mean love. 

I'm pretty sure I love books even more than reading if that's even possible, because I love reading, too. I am typically reading multiple books at any one time. 

Since returning from Haiti, I've been reading even more than normal. 

I feel like this is a safe place and that I can be honest with you all: there's much (MUCH) I don't know. 

I have always had a constant desire to know more and to do more with what I do know. It's one of the reasons this blog was started in the first place, it was basically a place for me to "talk" about what I was learning. 

I love hearing from people who have been there and done that and studied in ways that I haven't (or can't). I like to read different perspectives on the same topic to get a full picture. I like to evaluate multiple sides. 

I find that sort of thing fun. And very energizing. 


Anyhow, I was recently looking at the many piles of books all over our house and thought back to a time when I used to blog about what I was reading (seems so so so long ago now), but I really enjoyed it. So.... I'm going to do it again. This may just be for me, and if it is, I'm good with that. Or maybe a few of you might find a book you may enjoy and be encouraged by.
So here is goes: 

My Currently-Reading List: 

Adopted for Life by Russel Moore 
Fantastic book!! I am learning so much about the theology of adoption, the Biblical definition of adoption, heart issues surrounding adoption, information about orphans and most importantly I am seeing a glimpse of the heart of God towards us, his adopted children. This book is not just for those interested in adoption or supporting those who are - it's for EVERYONE. If you want to better understand your salvation and God's heart towards you, I would recommend this book. 

Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler 
Quickly moving to one of my favorite reads. Of all time. I have always loved Pastor Matt Chandler and have been listening to him since.... forever, and now I love his wife Lauren just as much! This book is all about placing our security and hope in the Lord rather than the many idols we find all around us. It has been one of the most effective books I have read on helping me work through some of my anxieties and fears. It's been a little bit of a slow read for me only because it's one that I've had to process through bit by bit. 

No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohnannon 
I got this book (for free) at least a year ago and had forgotten about it until recently when I happened to catch a glimpse of it as I was walking by our bookshelf and decided to picked it up. An hour later, I was still reading. Technically speaking it's an easy read. Content wise.... I have cried through most of it. Focused primarily on the terrible living conditions of millions of people leaving in India, it forces you to come face to face with the fact that there is so much work to be done and that God has called us to be a part of it. Someway. Somehow. This book has driven me to my knees to pray for the people in India, and to find out if God has a part for me to play in bringing glory to His name in that place. 

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett 
I haven't actually started this book, but have skimmed and picked at passages here and there. As Tim and I pray about where the Lord wants to use us, our heart continues to grow for missions and for those less fortunate that we are. However, we want to be wise with our resources and time and we want to learn from those who know more on the best and most effective ways to not only help, but to always bring the most amount of glory to God possible. 

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung 
Such. A. Good. Book. A must read for any Christian. Any where. The disconnect in our hearts and minds regarding the holiness of God, our sin and our purpose is (in most cases) HuGe. We need to pray and ask God to soften our hearts to seeing the severity of our sin and start taking the necessary self-disciplines seriously. DeYoung does a great job at biblically walking us through this, while reminding us of God's amazing grace. 

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 
This is a very practical and applicable book for women on how to read and study and use the Word of God. We are sadly living during in a time in the church when books like this one are not read and applied often enough. I will be reading this book again. 

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler 
A book on marriage, written for both marrieds and singles, using the Song of Solomon as a guide. 
Powerful. Good. 
Haven't actually picked it up in a while because I've started more books than I should have, and I may have actually forgotten about this one (~disappointing~). But now that I'm looking at it again, I remember how great it is, and I plan on finishing it. 


Recently Finished 
Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton
Another book I cried through parts of. Not just for those considering adoption. Definitely for those who call themselves Christian and take following the word of God seriously. We are commanded to defend and take care of widows and orphans and that can look very different in every family. There is an orphan epidemic in the world, we don't have the luxury of closing our eyes to this problem. This book provides chapter-after-chapter of practical ways individuals and churches can work towards living out James 1:27 --- please, take the time to read this book. 

Screens and Teens by Kathy Koch 
This book is not one that I needed so much for my kids (yet) but for myself. Sometimes I don't realize how attached to my phone I am and one day, I'll have certain expectations of my children, and I want to set a good example now. It's title suggest it's heard for parents of teens, but it's not necessarily. It's really applicable to anyone with a cell-phone or computer. 
This book does a good job of not simply bashing technology but showing the need for moderation and control - she talks a lot about tech-free times and areas to protect that which is sacred in our lives. 
The book goes through common lies that technology causes/encourages us to believe. I tend to be an overly-logical person so there were times that I was a bit put-out only because I was like "Teenagers (and all people) have always believed that lie." However, that's me being nit-picky because regardless of the cause the lie still exists and technology absolutely does play into the common lies we've all always believed. 
There wasn't anything particularly eye-opening or mind-blowing about the book, but it did remind me of some of the things I tend to ignore or overlook. 

*** Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this post, which means if you click on the link and choose to purchase the book, I may receive a small compensation. This by no means affects my review or reflections on the books. 




Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Haiti 2016 - Day 7 & 8




Tuesday morning we all woke up with gratitude in our hearts!! The playset had finally arrived!! The men were up and at the site by 5:30 (I think, I only woke up briefly as Tim kissed me goodbye). 


Once us ladies got up and got ready, we ate breakfast just the 4 of us. Marie was in bed sick most of the day, due to the heat and a cold that she was fighting off. Lavaud made plans to bring the guys breakfast to eat at the park. The ladies decided to head on over and help out any way that we could at the park. 


Once we arrived, we set up breakfast. At around 8 o'clock and the kids were making their way towards school, and the crowds were starting to gather. 


The ladies had scheduled to meet with the students in the sponsorship program that are not yet sponsored to update their pictures and profiles. We also had dresses and t-shirts for each of them as well as goodie bags and Bibles. 

(The first group of unsponsored students) 

We were able to make contact with 24 of the 30 unsponsored students. 


After the unsponsored party, it didn't take us long to realized that we needed to put up the temporary fencing in order to keep the kids out of the work area. 


The women decided to take that project on while the guys continued to set up the equipment. 


It was breath-taking to watch the play set be put up in one day the way that it was. The men worked tirelessly, and the Lord certainly blessed their labors. Lavaud had hired several local men to help, plus they had Zoko, Wilson, and the older gentlemen from the orphanage (his name escapes me right now). 

It was a team effort.


The men continued their work throughout the afternoon while the ladies hosted our second sponsorship party at the school. 


The second party was slightly larger than the first but everything still went smoothly. It was a great success!! 


In the end we were able to make contact with 38 out of the 42 sponsored students!


And while we were there we added 3 new students to the program:


Tim and I ended up sponsoring Dienaylo've. 


Monica & Dan sponsored a little girl.


and Lynn picked out a new sponsor girl for her brother after we learned that his old sponsor student had moved to Port-au-Prince. 


Being "on the ground" (so to speak) watching the sponsor student program in action really ignited something in my heart for the program. 

It is an amazing opportunity to become involved in the work in Haiti as well as forming a relationship (across the miles) with a child. There are still students available to be sponsored! The funds that are sent help pay the teachers at the school, provide uniforms, school supplies and other school costs (like seating, blackboards, maintenance, etc.) The more kids that are sponsored the more the program grows, the more funds the school has to grow and to maintain a healthy educating atmosphere!

I challenge each of you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. The cost is $25 a month (or $300 a year). Voice of Compassion has worked hard at keeping administration costs very low, in fact most everyone who works with VOC does so as a volunteer, over 95% of the funds coming in go directly to the school, and the majority of the other 5% actually goes to pay those in Haiti who help administratively on that end.

If the Lord leads you to partner with Voice of Compassion through the student sponsorship program to make a difference in the lives of the children in Haiti, please contact me and I can get you the information you need. 

The guys did decide to head back to the compound for lunch to get a good meal and lots of fluids. 


They headed back to the playground right away though and worked until dinner time. 


By the end of the day most of the playground system was assembled and in the ground in the concrete! May all the glory go to God for what He was able to accomplish in His own timing, and His own way! 


Our flight was scheduled to leave Wednesday afternoon around 4 (I think), so we had a little time Wednesday morning to head back over to the playground. The guys were already there by the time the ladies got there (I'm not sure what work needed to be finished that morning), as we pulled up we could see the large crowd of children surrounding the play area. 


Dienaylo've was by my side as soon as I hopped down out of the truck. I grabbed her hand and started walking around taking pictures. She handed me a note written in creole, I couldn't read it but I tried to tell her I would have a translator read it for me. 


She wasn't her normal smiley self, so I just grabbed her hand and kept her close to me. I went to tell her I would be leaving today. She knew. A tear filled up in one of her eyes, which she quickly blinked away. I was not so lucky. 


Not long after we got there Lavaud led us all in a dedication. We sang "How Great Thou Art" and part of another song I didn't recognize, he prayed and then spoke (mostly in Creole). 


Afterward, he let a few children play on the equipment for about 10 minutes (it still wasn't completely dried) these few short moments standing in the middle of a play ground system, that 2 days prior we weren't even sure would get completed, watching the kids play and scream and laugh.... it was amazing and I will never forget it. 



God isn't God because He made everything work out and got the play system up. God is God because He knew all along the timing and what needed to happen and how it needed to happen when we didn't. 
In this situation it all "worked out" from our point of view, but even if it wouldn't have, God would still be God and He would still be good, and He would most certainly have been in control of the situation. 



I am so grateful and humbled to have been a part of this trip with this group of people. I learned so much. I was stretched for sure. 


Everyone was able to use their unique God-given gifts and talents for the glory of God. We relied on one another. We grew together and we worked together.
I praise God for all He did - for the things seen and unseen.



By the time the dedication was over we needed to head back to the compound to eat lunch.


This was the moment we had to say good bye to Dienaylo've....

It was one of the hardest moments I can recall in my life. 
I felt as though I were leaving a piece of myself with this little girl and as though I were letting her down. 
I had never meant to become so attached. I had never intended for her to become so attached. I wanted to bring her home with me. I don't speak much creole but I told her over and over how much I loved her, and how much Jesus loved her. I cried over her. I prayed over her. I pleaded with the Lord to bring her peace and for me to actually have the strength to walk away.


I have no way of knowing what the Lord has in store for Dienaylo've or for our family.  But I do know that she is forever a part of our hearts and our family. I know the Lord brought us in each others lives for a reason. Tim & I continue to pray for her daily and we will continue our sponsorship of her for as long as needed. 


Tim & I plan on going back to Haiti. We have committed, Lord willing, to going every year to work with the sponsored students, updating the profiles and making contact with the sponsored family's and students. I look forward to seeing all the familiar faces again and to see what new things the Lord has for the people of Haiti. 

(One last motorcycle ride for Monica and I)