Category Archives: book review

“Mother of the Bride” Review and Give-Away…

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*This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Cindy G. who will receive a copy of the book via Amazon. 

I love a good book, especially during these summer months when I have both the time and the energy to absorb a new story. And while I always have a compelling, fiction story sitting bedside, my favorite books fall into the category of non-fiction – truth-tellers, stories of “Been there, done that, and have the battle-scars to prove it”, a come-alongside-you-for-the-journey kind of book that feels more like a companioning presence than an uninvited stranger.

Cheryl Barker’s book Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride is one such book. To clarify (lest any of you think my thirteen-year-old daughter has recently become engaged), I am not currently an official MOB (mother of the bride). I hope to have that honor in a season to come. As the mother of three older sons, I’m mostly sitting on the sidelines in that department.

But it’s fun to dream, is it not? When I was in college, my girlfriends and I saved up our spare change in order to purchase the latest bride magazines at the grocery, check-out stands. We’d cut and paste our favorite images into a notebook of sorts, planning for a perfect wedding, all the while praying anxiously (and rather insistently) for the perfect groom to slide onto the scenes of our lives. For most of us, that moment came. When it did for me, the worn and torn bridal pages from those earlier years were nowhere to be found. Instead, my mother and I started the process from scratch. Bless her heart; she didn’t have a come-alongside-you-for-the-journey kind of book in her pocket. Instead, she had me. Again, bless her sweet, patient heart.

Had Cheryl’s book been around then, no doubt it would have been a huge blessing to my mom, a gentle hug to remind her of all that’s good and right and honorable about her role as the MOB. Mother of the Bride truly is a “gem” for the wedding journey. Included in this beautifully packaged book are twenty-three seasonal vignettes written to highlight the special moments of the bridal journey. Each entry concludes with practical planning tips, as well as personal pampering ideas. There’s even a space for journaling your thoughts as you reflect on Cheryl’s heart-felt renderings. Some of my favorite vignettes include:

To Have and to Hold … Until She Gets Married

This vignette is all about the “letting-go”; whether you’re a MOB or a MOGroom, this is a relatable tug of any mother’s heart. A favorite quote from this selection is: “Let go of your daughter with grace and you’ll find her calling on you with joy.” (pg. 43)

Bye-Bye, Comfort Zone: Diving into Unfamiliar Waters

No doubt, the MOB will wear many hats during the wedding-planning process, some more comfortable than others. Cheryl challenges MOBs (and women everywhere) that “… each time we square our shoulders and say good-bye to our comfort zones, it leads to growth and more self-confidence.” (pg. 74)

Be Very Careful: No Do-Overs for the MOB

This reflection is a gentle reminder for MOBs to consider how important her responses/reactions are during a season where first responses are measured (and well-remembered). Cheryl writes, “Some situations, like various tasks or games, lend themselves quite well to do-overs. However, when relationships and feelings are involved, that’s another matter. Even if we get a second chance, the memory of the original situation will never be entirely wiped out.” (pg. 97)

My MOB and me, 7-19-97
My MOB and me, 7-19-97

Also included with the twenty-three vignettes are wedding venue worksheets – a very practical, thought-out list of questions to keep in mind when planning for your daughter’s special day. Truly, Cheryl has given all MOBs an inspiring gift in writing Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride. She’s thought of everything and has packaged it beautifully as her “gem” to you during your special season of love and grace.

As for me and my future as a MOB, well, I’ll tuck Cheryl’s treasure away for a season longer. But when that day arrives, when my little girl looks at me with dreams of satin and lace and budding bouquets, I’ll know where to start. I’ll start with a hug from a friend named Cheryl who “once upon a time” penned a few thoughts about the glorious steps that await me as a Mother of the Bride – a come-alongside-me-for-the-journey kind of book that feels more like a companioning presence than an uninvited stranger.

Thank you, Cheryl, for writing your story and for inviting me to the wedding. What a lovely celebration this has been!

PS: Hey readers – leave a comment today for a chance to win a copy of Cheryl’s Mother of the Bride. The deadline for entries is July 17th.

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Growing Up as a “Mean Mom” … {and give-away}

DSCN1598 (935x1024)I had the privilege this evening of praying with a friend. The focus of our prayer? Our children – hers grown, mine half-grown. Or so it seems. Does the growth factor really ever come to an end? Does our growing up have an expiration date? I don’t think so. In that sense, we’re not so unlike our children. We, ourselves, are just big kids, a few steps ahead of the pack coming up behind us.

I’ve been a parent for the past twenty-six years – over half my life. I’m still at it with two children under my roof. In these almost three decades of doing mothering, I’m not sure anything about parenting has gotten easier. I’m certainly a calmer person today than I was twenty-six years ago. Years of living and growing beneath the shadowing wings of grace have afforded me this gift. Even so, I suppose there are times now when my parenting (as a job) has grown stale; day-old parenting as well as day-old bread isn’t as tasty as a loaf fresh from the oven.

This is why I’m thankful for my friend, Joanne Kraft’s, recently released book The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. I didn’t secure my copy thinking I had a whole lot of new mothering tips to learn; instead, I knew I would learn something further. I would have the opportunity to lean in and to listen to my friend’s heart. I trust her heart, and anytime you and I pull up a chair alongside a heart we can trust, we learn. We expand. We grow … up and beyond and further into the person God has ordained us to be.

Joanne’s book reignited something inside of me – a push of sorts to be more engaged in these final years of parenting the two children beneath my roof. The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is not about getting your “mean” on. Instead, it is a grace-filled invitation to invest in the everyday worlds of our children and to say, “I’m here. I care. We’re in this together, and by God’s grace, I’m going to help you walk these next steps successfully.” Mean moms don’t leave the parenting to others. Mean moms fight hard for the hearts and futures of their children. I, for one, needed a reminder along these lines.

Did you know that Mean Moms …

• Walk by faith
• Put Marriage First
• Pray
• Model Honor
• Don’t Take Sides
• Make’em Work
• Use Their Words
• Say No to TV
• Slay Goliath
• Don’t Speak the Language of Busy
• Mean Business
• Embrace Failure
• Rule Technology
• Talk Purity
• Drag Kids to Church
• Eradicate Entitlement
• Friend Their Teens
• Focus on the Future

I didn’t either. Oh sure, I’ve been modeling most of these behaviors for years. I just didn’t know what to call myself. Thanks to Joanne, I now know. I am unequivocally a member of the Mean Mom Team. Why? Because as Joanne says in her book (pg. 18),

“I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.”

DSCN0766 - Copy (1024x791)And I, for one, want to give my kids the necessary tools to become necessary adults in a society crying out for sound minds, good hearts, and godly souls. My children are my gift to the world. The grown-ups they become are a direct reflection of the intentional, mothering investments I’m willing to make now … today. Their growing up doesn’t wait until I have it together. Neither does mine. Growing up, instead, happens along the way and as we go. Accordingly, I pull up a chair alongside my friend, and I pull up my heart alongside my kids. Together, we say grace around the table to our Father who gives grace and who lends his strength to our growing-up days.

I don’t know if, years from now, my kids will remember me as a “mean mom.” That label is irrelevant to me. What does matter to me is that I am remembered as a mother who walked their journeys with them and who, in the end, led them straight to the front porch of heaven.

Thank you, Joanne, for the permission and for the invitation to revisit my mothering heart. This is rich privilege. They (Nick, Colton, Jadon, and Amelia) are my legacy. As always …

Peace for the journey,

This contest is now over – random.org selected the winner. Congrats to Natasha Grimes!

PS: Leave a comment for an opportunity to win an official “Mean Moms” travel mug AND an autographed copy of Joanne’s book. (USA addresses only.) Even if you think your parenting years are behind you or you simply need a shot of parenting adrenaline, I promise that there’s something in this book for you! It’s a strong encouragement for all of us.

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my playdate with God (and book give-away) …

playdates with God

I watched her as she read to me a chapter from her book. It was her “tucking in time” and she closed the day with words softly spoken in her sweet, Amelia voice. I just listened – the holiest response I could give to the moment.

This was the highlight of my week. Really. After listening to the voices of fifteen others drown out my own, hers was a welcome refrain. She didn’t whine or whimper or demand her due. Instead, she just gave me words from her purest place, and I was transported to wonder and awe. All I could do was receive them and thank God for this close proximity to the sacred. That time with my daughter smelled and felt like heaven on earth – a moment that slowed down long enough for me to capture God’s kingdom come, coming down and tapping me on the shoulder.

Qualitative time vs. quantitative time. My friend, Laura Boggess, speaks to this kingdom pause in her new book, Playdates with God (Leafwood Publishers, 2014):

“There are two kinds of time talked about in the Bible. Chronos time, which is calendar time—the gradual ticking away of the minutes—and kairos time, which can be thought of as the appointed time—the right time. Kairos time cannot be measured; it is qualitative rather than quantitative; it is the perfect moment—for such a time as this. … When we speak of the kingdom of God being here—right now—we are talking about kairos time. …

Haven’t I felt the kairos? My eyes are open to the knowledge that each moment passing is unlike any other, and so I grab each one by the beard . . . slow it down and look it in the face. Those are the moments when time stands still, when beauty seems to speak in ways that make my heart weep, when I feel the presence of God like a second skin ….” (p.134-135)

Like a second skin. Yes, this is the beauty I felt while listening to my daughter read her words to me. In that moment, nothing meant more to me. Nothing. It was peace on earth; a life could finish well on a note like that, all wrapped up in tranquility and perfect perspective.

These are the moments when the kingdom is most real to me – when I see God in flesh, spirit, and truth. This is how I know he’s real and that he is very much touch with what’s going on in my life.

I want more of them – more playdates with God. More times of noticing with him. More times of wondering with him. More times of celebrating with him . . . his peace on earth. I imagine we all want that, don’t we? And I imagine we all have that from time to time – kairos moments reminding us that there is but a thin veil between our now and our next and that, every now and again, God isn’t reluctant to lift the veil so that our hearts and souls might see beyond the temporal to take hold of the eternal.

Laura’s book is a field guide to this journey of discovery. Certainly, we don’t need to read a book to schedule a playdate with God. But I wonder … how many of us are really taking the time to pencil him into our busy schedules? Playdates with God is a generous, grace-filled invitation to do just that, to find God’s kingdom in the here-and-now, right where we are. In reading Laura’s thoughts and in hearing about her adventures with the Father, my heart is inclined toward the same. My hunger is not unlike hers – to seek, to find, and to hold holy moments that lead me straight into the arms of Jesus.

And when that happens, friends, the veil is lifted. What is unseen is seen and what is yet to come, comes.

The kingdom of God is near. It’s here. So, go ahead. Schedule your playdate with God and find rest for your souls. His holy playground awaits your presence. His presence is already there. As always …

Peace for the journey,


PS: Leave a comment to enter a give-away for Laura’s book. I’ll pick a winner with my next post. The winner of Peace for the Journey is Beth Herring.

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words rightly written . . .

love ruby lavender

My mind is full. Really full. The kind of full that’s difficult to sort out. The kind of full that just sits there, weighing down on a heart and refusing to budge. Accordingly, it’s been hard to move forward – even toward one little thing that needs doing. So instead of doing all the little things that need doing (which invariably includes a few big things that need doing), I’ve been doing some reading. Not for myself (not really) but, instead, for them—the 4th grade students that will soon sit beneath my tutelage.

It’s been a long time since I’ve orally disseminated the contents of a chapter book to a captive audience. To be certain, Frindle has made the cut, as well as Where the Red Fern Grows and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But I’ve felt the need for some fresh words to share; hence, my recent search-and-retrieval mission for some new titles (at least ones new to me). And today, I found a gem waiting for me at my front door when I returned home from a road trip to visit my folks.

Love, Ruby Lavender. A few chapters in and I knew it would make the “after-lunch-read-to-the-class” list. I like the main character, Ruby, as well as her grandmother, Eula (she reminds me so much of my Judith-friend). The story is funny, poignant, and right in the middle of a 4th grade life. Deborah Wiles’s debut novel from 2001 will strike a chord with my students. How do I know?

Well, sometimes a heart just knows about words rightly written . . . words rightly released in the right season. Sometimes words just show up, freeing a mind from unnecessary cluttering and helping a heart breathe a little easier . . . think a little clearer.

And so, what began as a way for me to move out from beneath a burgeoning load of little “need doings” has now become the venue God has used to lighten my load. Fitting that he would employ a few good words to move me to a place of rest.

I love a few good words, don’t you? Whether a nursery rhyme for toddlers, a novel written for ten-year-olds, or a history book for advanced readers, words have a way of transporting a soul to a more spacious place—an expanse that allows us to absorb and to breathe and to find perspective for the little doings that need doing. For whatever reason, I think I can better tackle them now.

How about you? What good words are you reading in this season of your life? I’d love to know what’s on your bookshelf. Keep lending your heart, mind, and soul to good words, friends. They’ll enable your moving forward by expanding the horizon in front of you. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: The winner of a set of Melanie’s note cards is Tara Nelson. Tara, please be in touch with your choices of 5 cards and your mailing address via the contact page.

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“HeBrews: a Better Blend” Bible Study Release and Give-Away

HeBrews-Cover1-796x1024It’s been four years since my friend, Leah Adams, published her first Bible study – From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest: Creating a Godly Legacy. On July 1st, her second Bible study, HeBrews: A Better Blend will be released by Warner Press. I’m so excited to share this interview with Leah that highlights her new study as well as the author herself. Leah is a dear friend, and I am greatly looking forward to digging into God’s Word, utilizing her heart and pen as my guide.

Be sure an leave a comment with today’s post, and I will pick one winner to receive a copy of Leah’s new study!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leah, I may have readers who have not met you online. What would you like for my readers to know about you?

 
I am a North Georgia girl who loves Jesus—A LOT. I asked Jesus to come into my heart at the age of 15. Within a few years, I made some horrible moral choices that drew me away from Him. I spent the better part of my 20s walking far from Jesus, and God let me go my own way until I was sick of it. Then, just like the prodigal son’s father, God welcomed me back, and overwhelmed me with a desire for His Word and His presence. He made it clear that nothing I had done, no sin I had committed, changed how He felt about me. God loved me with a ridiculous love. He lavished grace on the heart of His daughter, and ultimately called me into ministry in 2007.

 
My passion is teaching God’s Word, and He allows me to do that through two avenues: speaking and writing. I have had the privilege of speaking to groups all across the United States. While my signature message is about the legacy we are leaving for the generations that come behind us, the ultimate message is always about the grace, love, acceptance, and mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ. I love speaking to women of all ages, but my heartbeat is for women under 40 years of age. My hope is that the words God gives me encourage and challenge women to walk intimately with Jesus every single day they walk the dusty sod of earth. I want them to know that Jesus loves them more than they can imagine.

 
Another area of ministry that the Lord has assigned to my husband and me jointly is ministry to international students who are studying in the US. Over 750,000 students from other countries study in America every year, and the vast majority of them are never in an American home. What a missed opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to show the love of Jesus to students who might, otherwise, never hear about Him! Greg and I regularly host international students in our home, and have developed close friendships with many of them. In fact, we have become ‘American parents’ to a delightful young woman from Australia. God brought Bree, Greg, and me together, and she is now very much a part of our family. We love her as if she were our own.

 
What occupies your free time? Hobbies, interests?

I love to read. Christian fiction and biographies are what can be found on my bookshelf, alongside lots of biblical commentaries, Bible translations, and cookbooks. I enjoy cooking, camping in our fifth wheel RV, and spending time with my husband and my girlfriends.

 

What are some items on your bucket list?

 
I would love to visit Australia, Germany, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Grand Canyon. Speaking gigs in any of those places would make the trip that much sweeter! My husband is a golfer, and we would like to attend the Master’s golf tournament. I sponsor two girls in Tanzania through Compassion International, and visiting them one day is definitely on the list. I would like to write another Bible study, or ten, if the Lord gives me the words. As I said, I love to cook, and attending a weekend Southern Living cooking school would be great fun. A return visit to a hummingbird haven where many different types of hummingbirds are together in one place is on the list. I’m amazed at those little fliers.

 
untitled-65How did you develop an interest in writing and when did you begin writing seriously?

I have enjoyed writing and public speaking from my junior high school days. I always excelled in English, and term papers were never a drag for me. I know . . . I’m a geek.
My deep-end dive into writing came in 2002 when my Daddy was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. As he progressed through his chemo treatments, I would write a weekly email to family and friends who wanted to keep up with his progress. Each email would close with a few inspirational thoughts that usually included Scripture. After my Daddy graduated to heaven in late 2004, people began asking if I would write a weekly devotion and send it out via email. After a year or so of doing that, over 125 people were receiving each email, but unfortunately, my ISP was deleting the emails as spam. It was at that point that I made the jump to a blog format, where I now offer my writing.

 
When the Lord called me into ministry in late 2007, I needed something to speak about, and that something was the topic of legacy. For my first speaking engagement, I wrote a 15 minute message about the legacy we, as Christians, are leaving for the generations that come behind us. Eventually that message grew into an hour-long message, and ultimately became the foundation of my first Bible study, From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest: Creating a Godly Legacy, which was published in 2010.

 
What is the back story behind HeBrews? What was the impetus for you to write this book?

I began writing HeBrews: A Better Blend purely out of obedience to the Lord. Several years prior to writing the study, I had done a pretty intense self-study of the book of Hebrews. It was my hope that the Lord might allow me to write something out of that time of study, but I wasn’t sure. Perhaps it had just been for my edification. In 2012, I sensed the Lord giving me the go-ahead to write a Bible study from the book of Hebrews. I’ve learned that when God says do something, the best response is ‘Yes sir’. So, write I did. I had no intention of publishing HeBrews, thinking it would just be an act of obedience, and perhaps a study that my Tuesday morning small group would do. God had other plans. When I was about halfway through the writing, my friend, Brooke, introduced me to the wonderful woman who is now my Editor at Warner Press. One thing led to another and before I knew it, God had opened the door for HeBrews to be published. It was totally a God-thing, and I often tell Him that this is His doings, and the responsibility is on Him to place HeBrews into the hands of the people who need to read it.

 
Share with us a bit about your book.

 
HeBrews: A Better Blend is an eight-week Bible study that takes the student through the entire book of Hebrews. The Old Testament constructs that were so important to the Israelites, i.e. Old Testament tabernacle, priest, sacrifice, and covenant, are examined alongside the New Testament parallels that we find in Jesus. Jesus was the BETTER priest, administering a BETTER covenant, offering a BETTER sacrifice, and ultimately bringing us into a BETTER tabernacle.
There are five days of homework each week, and most days the student studies from both the Old and New Testaments. HeBrews: A Better Blend can be done by individuals, and in group settings. At the beginning of each week of study, I offer a dessert recipe taken from my collection, or from the collections of some of my friends and family. Dessert definitely makes Bible study richer. No pun intended!

 
Why should someone read HeBrews: A Better Blend? What does it offer them personally?

The study of Scripture, God’s Love Letter to humankind, is as important to me as taking my next breath. Without it, I would be right back in the ditch of sin that I crawled out of 20 years ago. HeBrews: A Better Blend offers the reader a guided study of the book of Hebrews, as well as opportunities to apply faith principles to their own life, and grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.

 
How can my readers find you? Blog? Social media?

I would love to meet your readers. They can find me at my website and blog, The Point, at http://www.leahadams.org.

I am also on several social media platforms:

Facebook Ministry page

HeBrews Facebook page

Twitter

When and where will HeBrews: A Better Blend be available to the public?

The release date for the Bible study is July 1st. It should be available at major e-tailers, as well as Christian bookstores.

 

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with my readers?

 
I want to encourage your readers to fix their eyes on Jesus. My prayer is that they will raise their eyes above the horizon of their circumstances (good or bad), and look to Jesus for their strength and hope. He is everything we need. EVERYTHING! Developing an intimate relationship with Jesus will not happen accidently. It requires intentionality, perseverance, and lots of time allowing Scripture to speak to the heart. Once a heart gets a taste of walking in intimacy with Christ, there is no going back. I want that for your readers, because I know what a thrill it is to me.

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