Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Falling For You - Christian Fiction Review

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

Falling for You by Becky Wade is the second book in the Bradford Sisters series. I was definitely looking forward to this book after being introduced to the characters in the first book. It's about model Willow Bradford and former NFL star Corbin Stewart. When we met them previously we found out they had been in a relationship a few years ago, and it ended badly. Apparently, very badly. Somehow they both get wrapped up in a decades old missing persons case and are forced to face the reasons their relationship ended as they work together.

I thought Willow's fears within relationships rang true given her past, and I enjoyed seeing her deal with real struggles like guilt and unforgiveness. I thought Corbin's character was interesting as a new believer, but my heart hurt that there wasn't anyone discipling him. His understanding of the gospel seemed pretty self-focused (what does God do for me), and I really hope we can see him continue to grow in the future. In fact, the biggest thing that bothered me was how manipulative he could be, and it was never really addressed to my liking.

The other part I had a hard time with was the missing persons story. I can't quite figure out how three amateurs are able to uncover all this new evidence when no one else had been able to. And why wouldn't Corbin (who clearly had a lot of money) just hire investigators? I had to suspend disbelief a bit here, but it didn't detract too much from the story.

I'll definitely be reading the next book because Becky Wade has done a fantastic job of setting up the main characters. I really enjoyed this book and read through it quickly. Hopefully the next one will be even better!

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April Recap

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

April was definitely a busy month for me, but I got a lot accomplished which I am excited about. Here are my updates on my April goals.

Starting a Podcast
I did it! I technically took The Collective Perspective Podcast live on May 1, but I was able to get a lot done in April.

  • Record the first few episodes - After figuring out the equipment I was able to record the Introduction episode and the first official episode. I'll post those two in consecutive weeks, but then I plan on having an episode air every other week.
  • Finish setting up Facebook page and Instagram - I wouldn't say that social media is exactly my forte, but I've got something set up that I'm happy with. If you haven't yet, you should check them out.
  • Get hosting set up - I set everything up with my podcast hosting site, but I'm still working on getting it to all the podcast apps. You should be able to search for it on iTunes and Google Play, but Stitcher is being fickle.
If you're at all interested in listening to the podcast I'd really love it if you would check out my website and/or take a listen to the introduction episode. I'm really looking forward to seeing how God uses this.

Personal Growth
I managed to get a bit of reading done this month. I met my nonfiction goal of reading two books this month which puts me at 9/15 towards my 2018 goal. As usual, I've linked to my personal reviews for some of the books.
Health & Fitness
  • Still continuing to incorporate healthy meals that everyone enjoys. One night when Lee was out I made this Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken that was good.
  • I was finally able to get up early on some of the days I work to reach my workout goal. Yay me! Now to keep it up.
Home Improvement
  • My garden is (almost) done! Lee worked like crazy to help me get it ready and I got almost everything planted. We didn't get mulch on everything because we ran out, but we'll get to that when he gets back in town. Hopefully now I can keep everything alive!

  • I kind of fell off with the dates with the girls. Every weekend has been packed so I'm really hoping to get back to it this month. Plus, now that it's warm we can do some one-on-one time at the park! Oh, and snow cones. Don't forget the snow cones.

Anybody else still keeping up with their goals? How is it going?

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

936 Pennies - Review

I just recently finished reading 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting by Eryn Lynum. This book really challenged my thoughts on parenting and gave me the encouragement to make some changes to how I interact with my girls.

The author, Eryn Lynum, was given a jar of 936 pennies on the day of their baby dedication at church. Each of the 936 pennies represents one week out of the 18 years that child will hopefully live in their home. Each week, she would take one penny out as a reminder to use that time wisely. The purpose of the book, 936 Pennies, was to help parents see how to invest the time a child lives in your home in an intentional way so that when they leave the home, they are prepared to live their lives according to the god-honoring example set during each of those weeks.

Eryn presents realistic and practical ways of "investing" those pennies in a child. From spending more time outdoors and less in front of a screen to relying on God when fears in parenting threaten to overwhelm us. Through stories with her own children she shares insight into the ups and downs of parenting.

As I mentioned before, many parts of this book really challenged me. I know I'm not always intentional with my time. I give into my laziness and selfishness and don't take advantage of enough opportunities to spend quality time with my children. I've recently found myself saying yes to my kids more often when they ask me to play with them because I know that is time I'll never get back. This book was a great reminder of the blessing my kids are in my life, and I would strongly recommend it to any parent.

The main issue I had with this book was how child-centered it made the family. And while she mentions the need for Jesus in parenting, she still sometimes makes it sound like how your child turns out completely relies on your parenting. What a terrifying thought! She wouldn't say that, I don't think, but she could have made it more clear in some cases. (For more of my thoughts on how important Jesus is in our parenting, see this post.) In spite of that, I highlighted many parts of the book, and I look forward to seeing how I transform my parenting through the principles I learned.

Have you read 936 Pennies? If so, what did you think? Do you have any other awesome parenting books to recommend?

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

**Amazon affiliate links where appropriate. Thank you for supporting this blog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Unity Vs Uniformity

Some of you know that I've been a part of a virtual group in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) this year. I'm a big fan of the model of BSF so I was excited when they opened it up virtually for those of us who can't make it to a physical class. We've been going through Romans and I've loved being able to discuss this book from Paul with people from around the world. Being a part of such a unique group has hammered home the idea of unity in Christ.

One of the things the book of Romans shows us is that if the Jews and Gentiles could be unified in the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, then anybody could. God had chosen the Jewish people, not based on their own merit, but because of his mercy. They were a set apart people and they had God-given rules to keep them holy (set apart). But they took God's gift of being his people and allowed sin to warp it into hatred for anyone who wasn't like them. They added even more rules and spit in the face of those Gentiles who did want to worship the one true God (Jesus getting crazy in the temple). They assumed that if God was going to reconcile the Gentiles to himself (which he promised over and over in the Old Testament) that he would make those Gentiles into Jews. What he did instead was something totally different.

God's plan was a new covenant. One in which Jews and Gentiles were on even ground at the foot of the cross. This was difficult for some of the Jews to understand, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, bitter enemies became brothers and sisters. That same Holy Spirit lives in all believers today, so why can't we get along with our neighbor whom we have way more in common with than the Jewish and Gentile peoples? Why do we find ourselves so divided when all Believers are part of the family of God?

A couple of phrases that I liked from the BSF notes for Romans 15:1-13 are these: "Christian unity does not happen automatically" and "the diversity of the Church is not accidental." I think these two statements represent two big misconceptions about unity within the church.

Intentional Unity
Unity in the church doesn't just happen. If the church weren't made up of a bunch of sinners then it would. But it IS made up of a bunch of sinners. Unity takes effort. Romans 12:16 says, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." These statements require effort on our part. Earlier in the chapter is one of the places in Scripture that it talks about parts of ONE body. But unity is not something we do on our own either. Romans 15:5 says, " May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus." God is the one who enables unity. And it's not just for our good either. It goes on to say in verse 6, "that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our unity is for His glory!

The book of Romans is full of practical ways to move towards unity. One is to "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:10) Truly loving one another leads to unity. All of Chapter 14 is about not judging other believers on disputable issues. Allowing for everyone to be in a different place in their journey with Jesus is critical in building unity. And Chapter 14 goes on to discuss giving up Christian liberties for the benefit of others. Unity requires action to achieve and to maintain.

Purposeful Diversity
The flip side to unity within the church is the diversity of its members. None of the verses mentioned above say to build unity by striving for uniformity. In fact, some of the verses (especially the ones on the body in Chapter 12) speak to the fact that diversity is necessary within the church. If we were all the same, then we wouldn't be as effective in reaching others for Christ. We shouldn't expect the members of the Church to all look, act, or think the same. God has a purpose for differences within the church and we should seek out a church that models that.

How do we get diversity in the church? Make sure others feel welcome to be there and to be themselves. Find ways for people to use their giftings within the church and celebrate what God is doing in and through them. Make it a priority. But remember, the goal is to glorify God. So we aren't to strive for unity at all costs. Especially if that cost is sin.

I could pull from many other verses to talk about unity and diversity within the church (and I have included just a sampling below). They are just as relevant today as they were in the first century church. So what are you doing to seek out unity and diversity within your church?

This very idea is one of the reasons I wanted to start a podcast. I wanted to hear from individuals who are unified under the cross but are being used by God in different ways. It is critical to have honest yet gracious conversations with people about topics that are important to us. If you're interested in hearing such conversations then stay tuned because it's coming very soon!

Other verses about unity:
John 17:20-23
1 Corinthians 1:10
Ephesians 4:3-13
1 Peter 3:8
...and many more

**All verses quoted are from the English Standard Version (ESV)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

First Impressions - Christian Fiction Review

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

Lawyer Eddi Boswick lands the role of Elizabeth Bennet in her small town's production of Pride and Prejudice. Playing opposite of her as the famous Mr. Darcy, is none other than Dave Davidson, the most arrogant, rich (and handsome) man in town. As their initial disdain turns, to friendship and eventually love, they find their lives mirroring the characters in the play more than they bargained for. With many of the other characters in Jane Austen's story represented, you'll soon be drawing the conclusion that sometimes, life really does imitate art.

First Impressions is a bit more explicit in the moral failings of the characters than Austen's original book. Sometimes, the connections between the two stories was a bit too on the nose for my taste. In some cases the characters seemed to realize their real lives were following along with the play, such as the relationship between Eddi and Dave. Other times they were completely oblivious, like with Eddi's younger sister and the Mr. Wickham character, Rick Wallace. I didn't find myself having some of the same strong emotions towards the character's in Debra White Smith's book as I did in the original story. I think she did a pretty good job of modernizing the characters and situations, but it's always tricky when you're working with a classic.

It was an enjoyable book, but I would have preferred either they completely acknowledge the connection to the original tale, or not acknowledge it at all. That's just my personal opinion though. Also, the book is from a Christian publisher, but I personally thought the themes were so subtle that I'd classify it more as a clean read than a Christian fiction. The book, First Impressions, was originally published as part of a series with a different publishing house, so there will probably be other Jane Austen favorites coming out. So, if you enjoy all that is Jane Austen, check this series out.

As a side note, I've really enjoyed these Pride and Prejudice related stories:

  • Lost in Austen is about a modern woman named Amanda who suddenly finds herself in the shoes of her favorite book heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. Unfortunately, she manages to mess just about everything up.
  • I recently watched Death Comes to Pemberley and I enjoyed it more than I thought it would. I haven't read the book, but if you have Netflix the movie is currently on there.

Do you have any Pride and Prejudice or other Jane Austen favorite retellings?

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson - Christian Fiction Review

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Camri Coulter is in San Francisco in 1905 to find her missing brother. Her family hasn't heard from him in months and so her parents encourage her to take the trip from Chicago to see if she can discover what has happened to him. Along the way she meets two women, Kenzie and Judith, who have come to San Francisco with stories of their own. They've decided to work together as they seek their answers. Camri runs into difficulty trying to find her brother and in a town filled with corruption she doesn't know who to trust. She's hoping she can trust Patrick Murdock whom her lawyer brother helped defend against false murder charges. But as the lies (and murders) begin to mount, she doesn't know if she can trust anyone.

I saw a great deal of myself in Camri. She values education and truly believes it is essential for people to better their lives. What she learns as she makes new friends in Kenzie, Judith, and Patrick is that not everyone has the opportunities she's had and not everyone wants the life she does. While I cringed at a lot of the thoughtless things she said at the beginning of the book, she took her humbling in stride and really began to see the people behind her cause. I thought Patrick was a good character, but I would have liked to see him fleshed out a bit more. We were told what he thought and felt it, but I wanted to feel those things as well. I also thought Kenzie and Judith were good supporting characters and I look forward to continuing their stories in the next books.

I thought Tracie Peterson did a good job of highlighting some of the issues of the time such as racism, classism, and government corruption. How unfortunate that we continue to deal with these same issues today. It was also a good reminder that we too can carry around a good deal of pride that we don't recognize until we open our eyes to what's going on around us.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It didn't shy away from some of the harder things that fluffier books often avoid. While I thought the ending was a bit rushed and too convenient in some ways, I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction and who have liked Tracie Peterson's other books.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

March Recap

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please read my full disclosure here.

I'm a few days late in posting on my progress towards my March goals because of Easter and some other stuff I had going. Better late than never right? Here's my recap of March.

Starting a Podcast
So, I really wanted to hit the ground running on my podcast this past month. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I did get a few things accomplished though, and I'm looking forward to building up momentum in April.
  • Set up website ✅
    • I did get this one done. It's pretty much finished minus a bit of tweaking. I'm looking forward to launching it with my podcast.
  • Record introduction episode 🗷
    • I wrote the script for this, but I haven't actually recorded it yet. I plan on releasing a short introduction episode first and then the main episodes soon after.
  • Contact guests for first episodes 🗷
    • Didn't get this one complete yet either. I know who I want to be my first guests, but now I actually need to ask them.
Personal Growth
I didn't get as much reading done this month, but I'm still pretty happy with the progress. I finished 2 non-fiction books which puts me at 7/15 towards my goal. And I only read one fiction book because it took me forever!
Health & Fitness
  • I did pretty well with incorporating healthy meals in my day. But that Easter candy was a hurdle for sure!
  • I ended up doing PiYo for my workouts. I did some of these workouts while pregnant, and let's just say they're a lot easier now!
Home Improvement
  • Our crew went to a lawn and garden show, but I didn't find it that helpful. It might have been easier if hadn't been so distracted by trying to keep tiny people from running off and/or breaking things.

  • I managed to get my one-on-one dates with each of the girls. I ended up taking each of them to breakfast and/or shopping before appointments that they had. My girls LOVE to eat, but now that it's (hopefully) getting warmer we can branch out to other activities.
  • Lee and I did another Datebox. Here's a review I did on our first one. Unfortunately, the second box was a tad disappointing. I think we'll give it another try this month to see if they improve.

How are you doing on your goals?

Some of the links in the post above are Amazon referral links. I may receive money or products from them, but it's at no cost to you.