November 16, 2013

Review: Seasons of the Heart

On our recent flight home from Arizona, I found myself with nothing to read. For some reason, this was a low-tech flight: no media screens or headphone jacks. After reading the in-flight magazine, browsed the catalog of unique and overpriced items, I remembered that I had downloaded a book by a popular Christian author to my laptop. This author promised to remind me that I'm deeply loved, accepted, and celebrated by God. As I read for the next half hour, it was clear to me that the author could weave a beautiful story, really trying to connect with the reader. And yet, I found myself longing for more -- more substance, more unpacking of Scripture, more focus on God and His glory.

When we returned home, I found another book waiting for me. Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another is a unique compilation of writings from women of the past. These women are from varied backgrounds and seasons of life; many endured hardships and sufferings beyond what most of us might experience. But the common element, the common thread, is their enduring faith in God. And their focus, even in the midst of their own struggles? Encouraging others to draw near to Christ, look to Him, abide in Him, and glorify Him.

I'm not a huge fan of devotional books, as a rule, but I'm drawn to this book. Because many of the writings are taken from personal letters and journals, composed with no thought of being published, an informal and personal tone is maintained. I found myself connecting with these women, especially after reading through the brief biographies at the back of the book (I'd encourage you to read these first). 

During our trip to Arizona, we took advantage of the great Mexican food and, of course, In-N-Out Burger every chance we had. As much as I enjoyed it, by the time we were heading home my body was telling me it needed something different, some nutrients I'd been lacking. When I read my first page of Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another, I felt like it was providing me with the substance that the earlier book had lacked. I think I devoured about ten devotions that night, wondering if I'll ever attempt to finish that other book.

Seasons of the Heart is a book you'll want to keep on your nightstand, and it would make a great gift for a woman in any season of life, wherever she might be in her walk of faith.



Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links.  

October 9, 2013

Where are the older women?

Every now and then, I come across something on another blog that's just too good not to share. When I saw Brian Croft's post on Practical Shepherding this morning, I knew that those who might benefit most from what he had written might not even see it since Brian's target audience is pastors.

Here's the post -- read it first then come back here for just a little more on subject.


Our family has visited the church Brian pastors, and it's full of young moms -- moms eager to serve, grow, and teach their children the importance of faith and the local church. It's easy to see why this subject would be on Brian's mind.

And his post brought to my mind a question that I've been asked so often in the churches where my husband has served: Where are the older women? This was asked by younger women who desired to be mentored, but often found the older women to be either disengaged or disinterested.

Ladies, here are some women with so much to teach, so much to share... but chances are, no one is asking them. These are women with so much left to give, and such a need to receive. These are often the forgotten saints in our churches, offered fellowship only with those in their own age group.

Recently, our family had the opportunity for a lengthy time of fellowship with an older congregation in the Highlands of Scotland. One of the members, a 93-year-old woman, fascinated us with impromptu stories of God's working in her life through faith-building tragedies. And yet, as she stood before us, the joy of the Lord clearly lit her face. We were challenged in our own faith even as we joined in her joy.

I hope you'll take this pastor's exhortation to heart. And when you do, I believe you'll not only bless someone, but you and your children will be blessed, as well.

Update: Brian followed up with a post on how to practically reach out to these older women. I hope you'll check it out and give it a try!

September 6, 2013

Review: Three Decades of Fertility



When I received my Kindle copy of Three Decades of Fertility: Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life for review, I really had no expectations. As a woman at the tail-end of three decades of fertility, I simply thought it might be an interesting read.

The main body of the book consists of the first-person stories of ten different Christian women, ranging in age from forty-three to fifty-five. As each story unfolds, we learn how marriage, family, and love for the Lord transformed these woman. After telling her story, each woman's answers to a survey on childbearing are shared.

The book closes with two bonus chapters on keeping our bodies healthy during the childbearing years. One is written by a doctor and deals with maintaining the physical structure of the body, the other is written by a an amateur herbalist and deals with nutrition.

The positives:
  • As a mother, I found myself drawn into many of these women's lives as they dealt with various aspects of pregnancy and motherhood, including miscarriage and adoption. 
  • It was obvious that each woman desired to honor God through her testimony, even as she shared her struggles and failures along the way.
  • The bonus chapters include numerous links for further information, including tips that even a woman in my stage of life might find helpful.
The negatives:
  • This book is written from a "full quiver" perspective. While I realize the book was not intended to explain this perspective, I did find myself desiring a more complete biblical explanation of this presupposition since it was an integral part of each woman's story.
  • In one woman's story, her life seemed to be transformed when she began attending church and a ladies' group, but I did not read any mention of salvation. I felt a gospel opportunity may have been missed here.
  • I was a bit troubled by the perspective on miscarriage shared in one chapter, "What if miscarriage was God's means of showing mercy and love on a human soul, and if He chose you to be the honored vehicle to usher that child into eternity?" (Quote by Doug Phillips, shared by Carmon.)
  • I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed to find that the chapter on nutrition was written by a 32-year-old amateur herbalist. She provides lots of information, but most of the references she provides point you to her own blog or book.
I think this is a book that will be enjoyed immensely by those sharing a full quiver viewpoint. For many of the rest of us, while we may enjoy sharing in the sisterhood of maternity with these women through these stories, questions will be raised and remain unanswered.


Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links. 


August 20, 2013

Review: Woolzies

Since I'm doing a bit of traveling in Scotland over the next two weeks (can you picture the huge grin on my face?), I thought it was a great time to share a new-to-me product with you -- through a review AND actually giving the product to one of my readers!

Several months ago, I started seeing reviews and giveaways of Woolzies popping up all over blogdom. About this same time, my daughter was becoming more interested in natural products, so I thought I should see what the Woolzies rage was all about.

What are Woolzies Dryer Balls ? The company website gives this description:
Woolzies are pure handmade New Zealand wool dryer balls that soften your laundry naturally without any of the chemicals of conventional fabric softeners. Unlike the plastic dryer balls, they are PVC free and won't fall apart or melt on you. Woolzies save time and energy by cutting down on drying time by an average of 25% per load. They also help reduce static and wrinkles.
The men in my house tend to have dry, sensitive skin, so I was happy that Woolzies are 100% hypoallergenic. And unlike dryer sheets and fabric softener, Woolzies don't leave a residue on your clothes or in your dryer and dryer filter. I'd already stopped using dryer sheets and fabric softener for the most part, substituting a vinegar rinse in the washer instead (which I still do, even when using Woolzies). I never liked using liquid fabric softener anyway -- I find it a bit messy.

Using Woolzies Dryer Balls is so simple. Just throw the six balls in on top of your clothes and turn on the dryer. While the clothes are drying, you may hear a soft thumping of the Woolzies doing their job.

I've been using my Woolzies for about a month, and here are my observations so far:
  • Our clothes are coming out quite soft and with no static -- even my fleece throw blankets.
  • My loads seem to be drying a bit faster and definitely more evenly.
  • The laundry feels cleaner to me than when I used softener or dryer sheets, and I enjoy the lack of scent.
  • My Woolzies continue to get softer with each use, and seem to work even better over time.
  • Woolzies make me smile. Really, they do! It's just a little bit more fun to do laundry with them, especially when I find them in funny places like a sleeve or pant leg. But then, I might just be easily amused.
Would I recommend Woolzies? Absolutely! At less than $35 for at least 1,000 loads,Woolzies are cheaper than dryer sheets and are chemical free. And they may just make you smile, too.

Woolzies provided me with a set of Woolzies Dryer Balls to try -- and they want to give a set of Woolzies Dryer Balls to one of my readers, too!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is now closed -- congratulations to our winner, Lori J!
 
Disclaimer: While a free sample was provided by Woolzies, all views stated here are my own. This post contains affiliate links.




July 30, 2013

Review: Palooza Packs


About ten years ago, I had the privilege of meeting one of the most contagiously energetic and upbeat women I've ever known. At that time, she was a newlywed working hard on getting a brand new business off the ground (which she did, with great success). Over the years, I watched as she worked hard, feathered her nest, encouraged women, and began raising children. But the one thing that continually drew me to Ann Marie was her genuine joy and love for the Lord. Everything in her life seemed to be an outpouring of that.

Now, all these years and five kids later, she and her family are launching another business together. When I found out what she was doing, I asked her if I could see it for myself and share it with some little friends. Here's the low-down.

First, here's a description of the concept, taken from Palooza Package's Facebook Page:   FUN, Educational SCIENCE and ART Packages integrated with Biblical Truth! For kids ages 4-10 complete with all supplies included for hours of engaging, creative fun! Themes Change EVERY month! Come Discover, Explore, Believe and Create with us! Each month, the company offers a different seasonal or theme based kits with lots of projects. The kit comes with everything you need, as well as teaching guides that will help you make this much more than just another crafty project for your child.


I received April's Spring into Motion Palooza Packet, which arrived in a box. When I opened the box, I found what reminded me of a party bag -- it was a large plastic bag lined with bright tissue paper, tied with colorful ribbon (like those in the picture above).  I love this packaging -- it's not only fun, but it keeps the kids from immediately seeing all the goodies inside (and digging right in)!

I opened that bag to find another bag containing a set of color-and-number-coded Learn Cards with matching project bags.


It's easy to locate the exact supplies for each project, as they are separately bagged and labeled with the appropriate project number and color.

My friend, Kathy, agreed to test-drive the Spring In Motion Palooza package with her kids. She's only made it through a few of the projects so far -- there are so many! -- but she and the kids had a great time.

Josiah and Sarah enjoyed working their projects, and Kathy appreciated that all of the supplies were right there for her, including instructions and a biblical truth to teach.


And they enjoyed using their projects, too -- I don't think they even realized that they were continuing to learn!


Here's what Kathy had to say about her Palooza Package:

Spring into Motion Palooza Package has been a blast! It has been so handy to reach in the bag and pick a project for the day as well as helping this busy Mom stay on task of enriching/teaching my kiddos during these busy Spring days! The kids come to ME asking what they can do next! My favorite part of the packs is how every project teaches us something about our Wonderful God...it is a Win-Win!!
The Palooza Package website will be up soon, but in the meantime you can get more info at the Palooza Package Facebook page -- check out them out on Pinterest, too!   To place an order or ask a question, contact Ann Marie here.







July 11, 2013

Book Review: Touching the Hem (A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering)

When we were expecting our first child, I also experienced my first kidney stone episode. I ended up in the hospital for about a week and began a journey of learning about medullary sponge kidney, stone removal procedures, spinal blocks, pain medication, and God's faithfulness. Almost 27 years, several hospitalizations, two more pregnancies, and innumerable stone episodes later, I'm still working on developing a biblical response to physical suffering.

So when I learned that Elizabeth Johnson of Dogfur and Dandelions was going to write this book, I was intrigued. And when the opportunity to review it came open, I jumped at the chance.

The seeds for this book were planted when Elizabeth faced her own serious illness several years ago, at a time when she was planning her wedding and a new life with her love, James. Suddenly, "the question of healing became extremely personal." Over the past six years, as Elizabeth has come to terms with her illness and its effects, her faith has driven her to God's Word to gain wisdom about dealing with daily, chronic illness and how to think about healing today. This book is the result of that study.

The book starts with a look at God's character. This is so important because, whether or not we like to admit it, pain can often lead to a questioning of God's character. Why is God allowing this? Does He love me? Is God punishing me? Does He not have enough power to change this? I appreciated the heavy dependence on Scripture rather than personal opinion or experience to sketch God's character. And even as Elizabeth encouraged ongoing Bible study to know God's character, she emphasized that a head knowledge is not enough. "Knowing and walking with Him daily teaches us His character better than anything else."

Next, the book discusses God's works, specifically through Christ. During the years of His earthly ministry, Christ did heal many of their physical ailments. Yet His ultimate purpose was that of ultimate healing -- atonement and salvation for man. Without an understanding of this, the gospel, the rest of this God's purposes (and this book) will not make sense. In this section, I especially appreciated the emphasis on using sound, contextual methods to interpret the Bible.

The book then addresses the circumstances of our suffering -- why is suffering a part of life? -- in order to lay the groundwork for the next section, which deals with our response to suffering. This section addresses the subject of healing, from scriptural principles to biblical examples to prayer and stewarding the care of our bodies. The issue of faith healers is also addressed with discernment.

It's worth noting that you can download a free study guide here. I think it would be helpful for individual or group study.

Touching the Hem's strength lies in directing us to look at the issue of physical suffering through a biblical lens. And by helping me better understand God's character and work, it has helped me be in a better position to respond biblically to my own suffering.

{If you'd like read more about the book from Elizabeth, check out her recent guest post.)



Ambassador International provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting princapecos!


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June 20, 2013

Guest Post: Elizabeth Johnson on Touching the Hem

While wandering through a linky party some months back, I was introduced to Dogfur and Dandelions. I'm almost certain that the post that caught my eye in that sea of links had something to do with living with chronic illness. That day began a friendship (via technology) with Elizabeth Johnson, and I wanted to let her tell you about the book she is launching this week. (Look for a review from me next month.)


How do you respond to a life-changing illness?

I'd never thought much about it, until I was faced with the question personally in 2007. I was a recent college grad, engaged to a wonderful man, and involved in every activity possible. And then I got horribly sick, and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.

Almost a year went by before I finally ended up being admitted to the hospital, practically comatose, around 2 AM on Easter Sunday. Finally, a good team of doctors was focused on figuring out what was wrong with me. They ran tests -- MRI's, biopsies, blood-work, and I'm not sure what else -- and within a few days, they diagnosed me with a rare disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis.

Basically, my immune system went into overdrive and started attacking my body. And the treatment to fix that is a nasty combination of immuno-suppressants and corticosteroids (ie, daily chemo pills and prednisone). Some of the side effects are as bad as the initial disease!

I walked out of the hospital (or rather, rode out in a wheelchair) about a week later, overjoyed to be alive. But as I settled back at home, I realized my life would never be the same again. Wegener's is a life-long thing. It can be treated, but not cured, and can flare up at any time without warning. I could no longer work, hang out with friends, or spend much time at all expending physical or mental energy.

Life had changed, and I wasn't sure how to respond to that.

I went searching for books to help me handle things in a biblical manner, but I didn't find much. So I decided to study it out for myself.

 
Touching the Hem: a Biblical Response to Physical Suffering is the result of that study.

It's for all of you who have asked the same questions I did. You who have suffered, and wondered how to glorify God in your suffering. You who have feared to ask if healing was possible. You who have been overwhelmed by physical grief.

Touching the Hem begins with an overview of who God is -- because we cannot accurately interpret our circumstances, or respond to them in a correct manner, until we know and believe that He is who He claims to be. It considers His character, the names given to Him throughout Scripture, His short ministry here on earth, and His eternal works of atonement and glorification.

It then transitions from looking upward at God, to looking outward at our circumstances: Why do we face physical suffering in this world? Where does it come from? What examples do we have of those who have suffered?

Finally, it considers our personal response, based on biblical instruction. God's Word contains specific commands to remain steadfast in prayer and faith. It includes principles to follow in any circumstances, but especially in physical affliction. It even offers guidance about seeking faith healers, or attending healing services.

Touching the Hem brings all of that together in about 160 pages. It also includes practical suggestions for dealing with illness, and suggestions for further reading.

It's available from several major retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There's also a FREE study guide (PDF) available at touchingthehembook.com!

    Elizabeth Johnson
Elizabeth Johnson blogs regularly at DogFur and Dandelions, where she shares her passion for Christ-centered living and encourages others to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). A few of her favorite things are strong coffee, good friends, sound theology, long books, and mountain trails. She also loves connecting with people on Facebook and Twitter!

May 16, 2013

Come visit Dogfur and Dandelions with me!


I'm happy to be guest posting over at Dogfur and Dandelions today. I've been blessed to get to know Elizabeth a bit via her blog, a few emails, and some Facebook conversations -- isn't technology grand!

I hope you'll pop over today and see what I'm sharing about our new ministry... and browse around her site a bit while you're there. I know you'll be encouraged!

May 8, 2013

Reflections on A Mother's Prayer | Kristyn Getty

I'm happy to have a very special guest on the blog today as Kristyn Getty shares her perspective on dealing with the joys and fears of becoming a mother. And Kristyn has graciously provided a couple of surprises at the end of this post -- happy Mother's Day!


In the spring of 2008 I first prayed for a baby, and in the spring of 2011 God answered that prayer with the birth of our beautiful daughter.  My joy was full but so were the fears I wrestled.  In some ways I felt like a baby Christian again, caught in a whirlwind of emotions, learning and applying what I have known and trusted into a completely new life - I know I'm definitely not the first to feel that!  

Friends of ours had given us a card when their first son was born; it was full of prayer requests for his little life, a prayer for every day of the month. My prayers were not quite as coherent as those, especially at first, but the urgency of the moment drove me to my knees.  “Help her, help me” baby prayers at 3am; prayers as I heard the baby monitor light up in the morning; prayers when I thought of her safety, her soul, her future; prayers  with my husband; prayers while Eliza listened in.

When people found out that I was pregnant one of the most frequent comments I received was how my creativity would discover a whole new vista of inspiration as I became a mother.  So, when Eliza came I was anticipating a fresh flow of profound poetic thought, but instead I was swept up in the constant flow of changes and feedings and “Old MacDonald had a farm!” I was expecting full sentences, but I was blubbering looking at my beautiful girl! I actually wondered if I'd ever be able to write again.  I just about tucked some thoughts away to ponder later when my brain would start to fit itself back together again (still nowhere near a completed process!). As I continued to learn the wonderful balancing act and privilege of mothering, homemaking, writing, traveling and singing, Keith and I began to write a song for Eliza choosing this theme of praying for her, and the end result was “A Mother's Prayer.”

My parents have faithfully prayed for me my whole life, and I remember when I was younger my mum met with other mums to pray for all their children – a “Moms in Touch” group in Belfast. Even just the knowledge of that helped me, and I want Eliza to know we are praying for her and trying to guide her in this context that reaches to the call and purpose of her whole life and an understanding of the Lord's grace and faithfulness. We're now in the toddler stage and some of the prayer needs are shifting.  We wanted the song to reflect the different seasons - ones we had discovered and then those still to come.  We also wrote it to remind us of our promise to pray for her through all the years we're given.  We hope this song for her – and even more our praying for her – might catch her ear and help guide her heart as she grows up.

Here's the video for A Mother's Prayer:


If you enjoyed this song and would like to share it, use the link below to send it as a special Mother's Day card. Your recipient will receive your special e-card, the video and the lyrics. And to thank you for sharing, you'll receive 15% off any order from Getty Music.


  

April 19, 2013

Book Review: John Newton (Bitesize Biographies)

{A Heart Enlarged by Gospel Grace}

I was excited to receive a copy of John Newton (Bitesize Biographies) by John Crotts to review. I'd heard a bit about the book in the making (the author is a friend), and after finishing Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce in February, I was ready to know more about Newton.

This book is the latest in a series of Bitesize Biographies published by Evangelical Press. At least for this book, bitesize seems to refer more to the size of the book than the quantity or quality of information provided. I learned about so many aspects of Newton's life as I read this book.

Three things most impressed me about Newton as I read:

First, he was constantly aware of God's graciousness in saving him from the wretchedness of his sin. This led him to be abundantly gracious to others -- his wife in her illness, young people wrestling with issues of life and faith, dissenting clergymen, and orphaned relatives are among those on the receiving end of Newton's patient and gracious service.

Second, Newton's pastoral heart recognized the opportunity and value of using music to teach doctrinal truth. I'm amazed at the sheer volume of theologically sound hymns he wrote in addition to meeting his normal duties as pastor, husband, and father. Learning more about just a few of these hymns made me want to find even more of them... and made me long for more of them to be sung in today's churches.

Third, Newton was a prolific letter writer, taking the time to answer questions and encourage others through the written word. This Bitesize Biography could provide only a glimpse at a few of these letters, which was enough to make me interested in reading more. Thankfully, John Crotts provides a list of recommendations for further reading.

I expected to learn more about John Newton through this book, but this Bitesize Biography gave me more than I expected. Crotts seamlessly wove application for today's Christian throughout Newton's story. Truths that applied to Newton in his time are equally applicable to me today, and I appreciate the nudge toward moving from observer to participant as I read.






Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting princapecos!

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March 15, 2013

February Reading Report

In February, I managed to complete some books for my reading challenge, as well as slip in a couple of extras. As in January, several new books found their way into our home last month... how could I just ignore them? That would not have been very hospitable!



 I completed Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ by John MacArthur. This was another book I started in 2012, and I was glad to get back into it. I won't say a lot about it in this post because I wrote about it in a previous post; I'll just say this: read it.





Our family has always loved Beverly Cleary's books, and my daughter was afraid I had missed this gem. So she borrowed Emily's Runaway Imagination from the library and made me read it. Turns out I had actually read it before, but I enjoyed it again. This is a bit different from many of Cleary's other books because it is set around 1920, and it's a fun way to get a feel for life around that time.





I needed a light read during a days-long bout with kidney stones, so I pulled  Spider's Web from our Agatha Christie collection. This novel was adapted from a play (and feels like it), which made it an easier read because both the characters and setting were limited. It's full of twists and turns with a bit of fun.





When John Piper spoke at Southern Seminary recently, the campus Lifeway offered a number of his books at a discount. I had enjoyed watching Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce and his role in the abolition of slavery in England, and I wanted to know more about the man. Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce gives a look at Wilberforce's conversion and devotion to a God-honoring life. I enjoyed it, and it's a great addition to our homeschool library.

Currently reading: 



Feminine Appeal (Redesign): Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney will be a reread for me, but it's one that can (and should) be reread annually.

If you'd like to keep up with my reading, come follow me on Goodreads. I've posted these books along with some memorable (to me) quotes from the Piper and MacArthur books.




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