Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pressing Pause, 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet Jesus by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk


I remember my first year of college thinking "Life is so busy!" Only to reassure myself that studies were for a season and then life would settle down.

I remember being a newly wed. Exploring the joys and realities of merging two into one, thinking that it's only a season and then life will settle down.

I remember our first son being born. Endless sleepless nights, rocking, cries, and a diagnosis of autism with suspicion of sensory involvement. It's only a season. . .

Our second son was born last summer two weeks after his brother's 2nd birthday, welcomed to the world by a week in the NICU.

Life isn't a season. Life is life and it can be filled to the brim - sometimes through choices of our own making and sometimes through the realities of a season, but business always seems to follow.

As a result I've struggled to find a good devotional lately.
For awhile, I wondered if it was due to the simplicity many follow. Life as an academic suited me, I thrived through deep studies - studies that aren't practical in this season of family life.

Then I wondered if it was subject matter.
Becoming a mom was surrounded by a time of loss in our lives and it was beautifully (in my sarcastic mind) capped off with a loss of self. I was the mom to "that child," our beautiful little boy who wasn't quite like the other children.

So I went looking for mom blogs anything to help me along as I struggled to find my feet and faith under this new title of mother.

In the middle of my search I found a blog titled The Better Mom. It was filled with articles that were useful, helpful, spoke to me. . . and life was so chaotic I was lucky to stumble there more than once a month, half asleep, with a crying baby at 2am.

When I saw that Ruth Schwenk from The Better Mom and Karen Ehman from Proverbs 31 Ministries had put together Pressing Pause, a devotional for moms. I wondered if this could be a missing tool in creating a "pause" in my day.

The book itself if beautiful. Hardcover with shiny purple accents and a silky purple bookmark.
You may laugh at me describing a book, but hear me out on this.
The design of the book was considered, it was purposeful, it looks a bit special. It also reminds me through that care to be careful with my time and set some aside each day.
Plus I love me some girly purple accents!

The devotionals themselves are exactly what I'd expect from these women.
They are short. They're meant to be "pauses" not in depth research.
They are thoughtful,well-composed, engaging and invite response. The response space is limited, but I find with my "pauses" journaling gets put to the wayside and instead I spend more time recalling and pondering the lessons and messages as I go about my day. The topics covered are both varied and yet still retain a cohesive and interwoven feeling (often leaving me tempted to read it more as a book on the rare occasion the kids are both sleeping). While the topics are grounded enough in Scripture and bear a wide enough covering of topics that any mom and even some women who aren't moms should be able to find points that resonate with them.

Because, m ost importantly for me, is that this is a book for women by women. I struggle so much with the messages of value and importance thrown through the world, media, and even my conservative Bible college education that says being a mom isn't enough. Here are two women who have crafted a devotional that, well remaining focused on scriptural truths, also take time to point out the value and need for having moms who take those quiet moments for their faith and find their identity in that vs. the millions of reasons the mommy wars and everyone else throws out each day.

I'm glad to have found this gem and I'm so glad that Ruth and Karen took the time and care they did.
5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Red Door Inn - Liz Johnson

Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his  uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancĂ©e who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got–and they have to find a way to work together. In the process,  they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.

     Taken from back of book.

Liz Johnson is a new author to come across my desk. Contemporary literature doesn't usually hold my attention the way a solid historical or creative fantasy can in giving me a world outside my own. That said, Johnson has me from the moment we stepped out onto the cold pier.

Things I loved.

The characters - honestly it was not hard to fall in love with the characters Johnson has assembled for this new series. Marie instantly wormed her way into my heart and I only wish I could pop down the road my very own Caden, Jack, and Aretha. The characters all showed their own unique quirks and development but in ways that felt true to the story and the location.
Honestly, I found myself making comparisons to the tv show Gilmore Girls with the same small town charm and quirkiness and I think fans would find themselves just as at home at the Red Door Inn.

The plot - While I tend to lock in more quickly on stories with something I can identify with, I love how Johnson took the time to give both Jack and Athena their own stories and voices without making their age the central focus or a reason to relegate them to the shadows. All 4 of the characters readers are introduced to are given satisfying stories that intermix and resolve in a clear and understandable way (Caden fans will get to see her story unraveled in book 2 this fall so I'm thoroughly satisfied and excited on that front too).

The setting - Small town P.E.I.! Okay, maybe I was able to connect to Marie a little quicker as a fellow lover of Anne and her wonderful world but I really did enjoy the imagery and way that Johnson was able to enliven North Rustico with that something special those old, little towns have, that history and spirit you can feel in your bones even if the town is past it's heyday.

On a side note,
Marie and Seth's pasts are a central focus within the past and I applaud Johnson for bringing in such  a serious topic. I do think her retelling is leaps and bounds ahead of what I usually come across in Christian lit (so readers do be warned). The time line felt a little rushed at times for Marie's healing but I really appreciated Johnson's willingness to show that journey with its twists and turns as she learned to trust again.

I am so excited to get my hands on book 2 this fall!

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Nuts About Books in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Counselor A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer's The Counselor exists as a edited collaboration of his earlier works When He is Come and The Tozer Pulpit, Vol. 2. The book definitely fits with the publishers goal of providing thought provoking material. However, my thoughts on this book are definitely torn.

The bulk of Tozer's argument is a necessary call to holiness and a cry for the return of the Holy Spirit in the church. His material constantly points readers back into the Word. He has a clarity and certainty in his material.

His presentation leaves a lot to be desired though.

Tozer's argument lives in a world where there isn't room for grey and operates in stark black and white. He simplifies life into a world that doesn't include the messiness of community (despite sections supporting the work of the unified body), an equality of believers in their sinfulness and redemption (prefers a very top down style, assured always correct preacher popular in his day), or a clarity in terms.

I found some of his points quite confusing as terms like joy and happiness switched from being interchangeable to individual terms (confusing the argument), points regarding the presence of the spirit in believers seemingly contradicted itself, and the indwelling of the spirit under his definition left very little room for sanctification.

I realize Tozer is still well respected and some of his points are worth exploring. However, due to the clarity and cultural differences which his writing is rooted in this wouldn't be my first choice for a book on this topic.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Moody Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion, the views expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Treasure Concealed - Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson is back and this time she's taking readers back to the time of the gold rush and out into the wilds of Montana.

Even though the gold rush is over in Yogo, Henry Carver's family and a handful of others have stayed behind in the hopes of finding riches still concealed. Life isn't easy for the townsfolk. Nyola Carver lies dying after a lifetime of following her husband from claim to claim. Emily Carver rails against the nomadic lifestyling and its slow claiming of her mother. Jake Hoover and the other claimsmen recognize the signs of another hard winter, and the new stranger Kirk Davies has come about stirring up trouble on behalf of his employer.

For his own part, Caeden Thibault wants to escape a past and it's expectations into the untamed wilds. What he doesn't expect is the Carver's and their simple welcoming into their lives.

When new discoveries and old consequences reappear for all involved will Caeden and the Carver's find their peace or be thrown apart?

I've reviewed Peterson's work before and eagerly anticipate new books when she releases them. Although Peterson's work often follows similar patterns and archtypes I find the effect is less overdone and more being welcomed by an old friend.

As usual, I appreciated the detail Peterson includes in her work. The mines of Yogo did exist and there really was a Jake Hoover involved. Little details like this make me happy and, I find, add a level of depth thanks to Peterson's care.

I also appreciated the character development. This is a quality that always brings me back to Peterson. Her characters have something going on, they aren't perfect, one-dimensional beings. Emily struggles with her loyalties, faith, and values. Caeden struggles with whether his past defines him and how to move into his future. Henry's discussion by the river with Emily about his life's value was painfully real and pulled at all the right emotions.

As I said earlier, Peterson doesn't usually pull out many twists when it comes to plot line and A Treasure Concealed  does not break this trend. However, the book's focus on character development and quality of storytelling overlook this potential weakness.

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book from Nuts About Books in exchange for my honest opinion, The views expressed are my own.