February 3, 2015

By Your Side: A Review

The book: ER nurse Macy Wynn learned essential, gritty lessons in the California foster care system: land on your feet and trust no one. She’s finally located the fellow foster child she loves like a sister, but the girl’s in deep trouble. Macy’s determined to help, no matter what it takes. Her motto is to “make it happen” in any situation life throws at her—even when she butts heads with an idealistic cop.

Deputy Fletcher Holt believes in a higher plan, the fair outcome—and his ability to handle that by himself if necessary. Now he’s been yanked from Houston, his mother is battling cancer, and he’s attracted to a strong-willed nurse who could be the target of a brutal sniper.

When everything goes wrong, where do they put their trust?

January 22, 2015

What Happened When Termites Ate My Mementos

Sunshine warmed the slightly chilly air on a late spring afternoon. Determined to conquer the dreaded task before summer arrived, with all its sweltering heat, I asked my husband for help getting started.

Four boxes stood in the corner of our garage.

They’d been living there since we moved from out of state over a decade ago. Once in a while when we brushed past them, on the way to the car, I would make a mental note to go through them in the near future.

I never followed through.

January 20, 2015

How Life's Thorniest Paths Can Lead To Great Joy

I lay still that early winter morn soaking in the silence of the house. Our bedroom remained artificially dark by the drawn window shade. My head was pounding and nothing could stop the battle that raged deep within.

The sound of the ringer on the phone interrupted the internal dialogue.

Picking up the receiver I heard the voice of a woman from a Bible study group I’d attended at a local church. We’d not connected in a while due to my ongoing medical issues.

She explained that God had told her to call me and read a page from her devotional Streams in the Desert. She didn’t know why or have anything else to say and only wanted to be obedient.

Here’s an excerpt of what she read... 

January 14, 2015

The Secret To Living A Defiant Joy: A interview with Margaret Feinberg

One of my favorite authors, Margaret Feinberg, has been through a brutal fight with cancer and shares the unexpected lessons she discovered along the way in her new book and Bible study Fight Back With Joy.

It’s been inspiring to learn how Margaret has been practicing a defiant joy. The book is a phenomenal read and on my list of new favorites. I'll be sharing my review of the book and additional thoughts over the next few weeks.

In the meantime,  I thought you might like to get an insider’s look, so I am sharing an interview with Margaret and a sneak preview of the 6-Session DVD Bible Study. 

Your newest book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy, was born out of your fight with a life-threatening illness. What was your difficult diagnosis, and what has your journey to health entailed?

For the last 18 months, I’ve been battling breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t just one disease represents thousands of different diseases with their varying components and factors. Being diagnosed under the age of 40 is significant. I’ve been through a brutal year of chemotherapy, radiation, and more surgeries than I can count or want to remember.

Why did you write Fight Back With Joy?

I studied joy for a year and was putting the finishing touches on book on joy—just two weeks from turning it into the publisher, when I received the diagnosis. I had been pursuing and activating joy in my life in the relatively good times, now I had to do it in the midst of darkness, depression, and torturous pain. Through the process, I’ve discovered the breadth, depth, and power of joy—that despite hundreds of sermons and many decades in the church—no one had told me of before.

In the Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study, you really push the reader to reevaluate their definition of joy. Why do you think this is so important?

Much of the teaching I’ve heard on joy over the years is oversimplified. I remember those days in Sunday school learning that JOY is spelled Jesus, Others, Yourself. While that made perfect sense at 9 years old, I’ve seen how distorted that can become as an adult.

I see friends who love Jesus but spend so much time pouring into their kids, grandkids and others that their joy looks something like this: jOy.

Technically, it still spells joy, but more than anything, these men and women who are so exhausted, so empty, so running on fumes from pouring into others need to pause and take time to focus on themselves. Laying hold of joy right now will require them to reevaluate for a season and discover the joy that comes with JYo.

I also noticed how most of the definitions of joy define it more by what it isn’t than by what it is. I constantly heard that happiness is based on circumstance but joy is not dependent on circumstance.

Biblical expressions of joy turn out to be far different than what I had been taught. I am now convinced the writers of the Bible would say that, the reason we have joy is because we have great circumstances. If you are a child of God, you are drenched in the grace and mercy of God.

No matter what you’re facing: Your circumstances are better than you think.

If you’re not experiencing joy, perhaps it’s because your definition of joy is too narrow.

On a scale of 1-10, how hard was it for you to write this book and Bible study?
An eleven! This journey has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard. But I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey—it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.


Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

Pick up a copy of Fight Back With Joy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble today.

January 12, 2015

Get Your Joy Back: A Review

The book: Parents of specials needs children are exhausted. They've done all the research, consulted all the experts, joined support groups, gotten counseling, fought for the best life for their children. Often just caring for their children's needs and attempting to maintain a home maxes out parents' mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves.

Laurie Wallin knows firsthand the difficulties of this journey. With Get Your Joy Back, she steps forward to make a bold, audacious claim: in the midst of this long-term, intense task, it is still possible to have an abundant life, full of joy. The key to radically changing daily life and restoring joy to the weary is forgiveness. Wallin gives parents a lifeline to find that restoration, pulling them back to shore when they feel like they're drowning.

This book is full of practical, biblical insights and strategies to shed the resentments that leave Christian special-needs parents themselves spiritually, emotionally, and socially drained. Wallin meets readers right where they are, sugar coating nothing, but addressing issues with honesty, humor, and--above all--hope.

The review:  First, let me begin by saying "wow, what a book!" I'm doubtful that there is anything like it out there which is why I immediately recommend that you either read a free excerpt, purchase a copy, (it's available in paperback & Kindle versions) and or read my review and decide.

The choice is yours.

There are many books on the market these days designed to help both parents and professionals to better understand and deal with special needs children.

But what about the needs of the parents? They often go unacknowledged, unnoticed, and uncared for.

That is what makes Get Your Joy Back: Banishing Resentment and Reclaiming Confidence in Your Special Needs Family such a unique and valuable tool. It is written especially for YOU--the parent of a special needs child. It is about your struggles, needs, hurts, frustrations, and disappointments.

And very true to the title it is about getting rid of the extra baggage that comes with the very challenging assignment, that you face daily, to make room for more joy.

As the mom of four girls, two of them with mental and developmental special needs, Laurie has her finger on the pulse of special needs parents. Her training as a certified life coach enhances her ability to tackle difficult subjects graciously. Her own experiences have allowed her an insider's view on many of the struggles that are common among special needs parents. She has also surveyed other parents dealing with special needs to glean from their stories. All of this has led to her being in many ways an "expert" on a subject that many have chosen to push aside altogether.

Her thorough understanding of what special need parent's deal with physically, emotionally, and spiritually resonates clearly throughout the book.

I feel that Laurie did a outstanding job of validating many of the feelings that parents of special needs children typically deal with but are often hesitant to admit. How did she do this? By sharing with humility and vulnerability her own experiences. (and some from the 70+ parents she surveyed)

What I love is that she doesn't stop there. She gives solid biblical counsel and just plain good advice for dealing with the feelings and moving forward to a healthier place. These aren't abstract notions but ideas for concrete changes.(be sure and check out the trailer at the end of this review)

The author's writing style is warm and caring. She doesn't sugar-coat things but has a way of allowing her grace and humor to shine through enough to make the tough stuff easier to take. It makes reading this book very much like sitting next to a friend for a discussion.

Since Get Your Joy Back was written with weary readers in mind it is important to note that even the weariest reader won't feel taxed while reading.

I found this to be a book that is full of encouragement. I also noted that it contains a lot of valuable information on places and ways to connect to find additional support.

Laurie Wallin is not "that friend" who is jaded or embittered by life's struggles but rather one who, despite dealing with tough situations constantly, has found ways to reclaim something that each one of us needs to survive in life--joy.

I wanted to read this book because I have family members and friends who are parents of kids with special needs. It was my desire to better understand what they are going through so that I can be a help and encouragement to them.

I've got to tell you I learned so much from this book. Despite trying to be sensitive to what my family members and friends deal with on a regular basis I'll admit, I was fairly clueless.

And even though the target audience is specific I found that Get Your Joy Back also helped me in some of my own personal struggles as a parent and just as a person in general.

I highly recommend Get Your Joy Back for anyone who is dealing with parents of children with special needs. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, I'd say this is a must-read book. If you their family member, friend,pastor, teacher, ministry worker, or counselor I also believe it is equally important for you to pick up this book. I'm confident that no matter who you are you will benefit from the insight and information that Laurie Wallin brings to the table.

I know that I have.

You can download a free excerpt of Get Your Joy Back here

The author: Laurie Wallin is a certified life coach with a passion to help others get unstuck and have joy and confidence, right in the middle of life's mess. As former science researcher and teacher, she loves to learn and challenge how we think about life and the world, especially as it pertains to how we view ourselves. As a speaker and author, Laurie shares with humor, compassion, and honesty because she gets how hard it is to love others, find balance, and pursue our dreams on a daily basis. Laurie writes weekly for her own site LaurieWallin.com and monthly at SpecialNeedsParenting.net. She lives in Southern California with her husband, children, and their cat that pilfers leftovers like a dog.


 [I was provided a free copy of this book. The choice to review it was solely mine.]

January 7, 2015

Gospel-Centered Counseling: A Review

 There comes a moment in every believer's life when someone that they care about approaches them in the midst of suffering and sorrow for advice. If you haven't experienced this yet, you will.

Perhaps a "picture perfect" marriage is crumbling, they are dealing with a wayward teen, the company is downsizing and they're about to go under financially, or depression and anxiety is robbing them of sleep. Situations and circumstances vary but one truth is universal. We live in a fallen world--and sometimes it falls on us.

Most of us know how to provide comfort at some level. We validate the pain, offer our prayers, give advice or exchange stories, and when all else fails we give hugs. Lots of hugs.

But what about after the hug?

January 1, 2015

The blessing of getting stuck

Initially I wasn't going to join.

Accept the challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words a day in the month of January, yes.

Add yet another Facebook group into the mix of my already cluttered life, no.

Getting stuck the first day changed my mind.

Meandering over to the link for the private group I found myself asking to join. My request was accepted immediately.

A prompt was pinned at the top of the page.

I'd never written using a prompt before. In fact, in recent years I rarely wrote at all. What once had been both enjoyable, and a huge part of what I felt called to do, had become a nearly impossible task.

Writing daily for a month now seemed like a pipe dream.

But, apparently it was one that was shared by people from all over the world. People who just like me wanted to write, needed to pen words, but faced a battle that was all to familiar to me.

I so love to encourage people in battles.

That probably explains why most of my initial interactions within the group were based on leaving comments on posts or blogs to cheer people on.

I believe in other people.

It has never been difficult for me to rejoice with others when they experience success or a breakthrough of some kind.

I love to see dreams come true.

What I'd not anticipated when joining the group was that I was not alone. There were many others who were very intent on offering encouragement, advice when asked, or an outstretched hand when someone fell of the "writing wagon."

I'd never experienced this before.

Despite being a part of many large groups both online and offline (in real life) for the first time, not only did I give encouragement, I received encouragement in very generous amounts.

I completed the challenge and stayed.

By then it was obvious that there was a great deal to be learned from these more seasoned writers, publishers, teachers, literary geniuses, etc. Essentially everyone on the journey brought something unique and interesting to the table.

I began to wonder what I might offer.

As time passed some of my interactions with people grew more lengthy and warm. There was also laughter and light-hardheartedness mixed in with a whole lot of hard work.

I really needed the laughter.

Many didn't know it but in addition to writing struggles our family was experiencing a very long intense personal battle. Most still don't know, and that's okay, because we're there to write.

Some days just breathing took effort.

This is when the group which had once been about a mutual writing journey, with accountability, morphed into something much more for me. It became a haven against the onslaughts that threatened to take far more than my words.

Lives hung in the balance daily.

Going to the group page provided opportunity to use my gifts. It also offered a safe place to share an occasion writing which I didn't feel safe posting on my blog. That would essentially be all of my recent writing. By this time it had also become a great gathering of acquaintances who were gradually becoming friends.

I needed friends.

In the late spring, a series of "unfortunate events" forced me into taking a break from social media altogether. Little did I realize, at the time, that I would be gone for nearly five months.

I kept writing if only to stave off insanity. (whether successful or not is debatable)

I missed the group severely but lacked the energy to participate. However, it wasn't long before a number of people made contact via email to check on me and to offer continued encouragement. Unable to go to the group, they had come to me.

There was no pressure to return.

Those who reached out just wanted to let me know that they cared and were available if needed. By this time, I cared about them, too.

Bonds had begun to form.

In the late summer, with limited energy and resources, I returned to the group page and was treated as though I'd never missed a day. It was good to catch up with everyone and be a part again.

By this time the group had exploded.

I had no trouble understanding why. Given the environment which was non-judgmental, free of competition, gracious, and helpful it's a wonder that everyone in the world didn't join.

It is why I'm still there.

Yes, imagine that. One year later I still belong to a group that I didn't plan to join. When I did my intention was only to stay 31 days. It was the place where I'd decided I would fail, before ever starting, thus proving to myself that I was no longer a writer.

I arrived lonely and disheartened.

My what a difference a year of writing and hanging around other who are writing has made. I am now in a circle of friends who I never planned to have. We're writers who laugh together, cry together, pray together, and listen intently for the muse. 

We also fight off the dragons of distraction, discouragement and despair never afraid to point out a stick, lend a sword, or jump in to offer reinforcement when necessary.

So much has changed.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with one of my friends, who is also in the group. She helped me to clarify some of my writing goals for 2015. Yes, I actually have some! What a delightful surprise. She also opened some new lines of thought regarding my struggles with sharing and possible ways to overcome it.

I started with only a whisper.

Now, I'm dreaming and scheming about ways to use my words to leave a mark during my time on planet earth. Finding ways to slay the dragon of fear and share again. And I am not the only one making plans. There is a host of wonderful people, some who have become good friends, continuing on with this writing adventure.

All because of My 500 Words.

This post was a part of a blog hop. You might want to check out the posts of some of my other writer friends:

Roslynn Pryor’s Pushing the Bruise
LinzĂ© Brandon’s Butterfly on a Broomstick
Amy Bovaird’s Amy’s Adventures
Crystal Thieringer’s Muse and Meander
Tonia Hurst’s The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life
Carryl A Robinson’s Echoes from the Cave
Debbie Simorte’s Writing the Life Chaotic
Stella Myers’ Stella’s Starshine

December 3, 2014

Interview with Bob Kellemen on Gospel-Centered Counseling

 Several years ago, after finishing my doctoral studies, I went through the process of becoming certified as a biblical counselor. Along the way, I've met some very knowledgeable people with loads of experience.

One of the people who I have learned tons from is Dr. Bob Kellemen. Bob is the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, the Vice President for Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling Department at Crossroads Bible College, and the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries.

Obviously Bob stays pretty busy. And that's only a partial bio. I'll share the rest when I post my review of the book.

For seventeen years he served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. Bob has, also, pastored three churches and equipped many biblical counselors along the way.

Additionally, he has written over a dozen books, most of which I have read, including his latest book Gospel-­Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives.

October 31, 2014

Breathing On Her Own: A Review

The book:
Molly Tipton and her husband are looking forward to retirement, but Molly’s life suddenly spirals out of control when her oldest daughter is involved in a terrible accident. An icy road and a sharp turn leave one woman dead, another clinging to life.

While two families grieve, details emerge that reveal Molly’s daughter was driving under the influence. As she prepares her daughter for the prospect of a vehicular homicide lawsuit, Molly discovers her oldest child is not the only one injured and forced to deal with past mistakes. If it’s true that time heals all wounds, what are we to do with our scars?
The review:
To be honest, because this was the author's debut novel, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would it be slow moving? Will the plot be believable? Will it keep my attention? 
 
I must say Breathing on Her Own far exceeded my expectations. And if I wasn't armed with the knowledge that this is Rebecca's first novel, I would never believe it. She has mastered the art of writing fiction very quickly.

The storyline is very realistic. People face these types of situations each and every day. I've faced some of them myself. There's a good chance that you have, too. And if not, you know someone who has.

It took a chapter or two to fully draw me in. After that, I was up late reading the rest of the book. It really grabbed my heart. It also touched wounded places in my spirit and rubbed a few scars. 
 
Although we read books for enjoyment and also to pass time some books do far more. This is one of those stories that has depth. It causes reflection and pondering. I'm a big fan of that.

Rebecca did a masterful job of weaving the tale. She developed the characters enough to bring them to life and shared enough detail to bring the reader in close without being wordy or boring.

One of the things that stood out to me were the private thoughts of Molly Tipton. Oh how I could relate to her struggles of faith and just life in general. I really liked how the author included them as a secondary narrative in the background.

Breathing on Her Own is one of my favorite fiction reads for this year so far. I highly recommend it for individuals who enjoy fiction and also to those looking for books to be discussed in club or group type settings.

I'm very much looking forward to hearing more from Rebecca Waters in the coming days.

The author:
Rebecca Waters draws on her role as a wife, mother, and grandmother as well as her vast experience as an educator and researcher for her writing.

Rebecca sees writing as both a gift and a ministry. Although she has published in professional journals in the field of education, Rebecca now turns her pen to the world of fiction.

She has published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Lookout Magazine, and Home Health Aide Digest. Breathing on Her Own is her debut novel.

You can connect with Rebecca in the following places:
Website/Blog
Facebook

October 14, 2014

Hidden Blessings: A Review

The book:
Diagnosis: breast cancer. Prognosis: terminal. Life: only beginning.

Her diamond caught the sun's rays and refracted glittered light about the room. She'd asked herself again and again: How could she be so blessed? Partner at a prestigious law firm, engaged to the man of her dreams . . . there was no doubt. God had smiled on Kendra Woods.

But the moment Kendra is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, her world collapses. Within days, Derek backs out of the wedding and the firm suggests a leave of absence during her treatment. Of all the roles Kendra has played over the years—daughter, sister, friend, student, attorney, bride-to-be—cancer patient seems the most unwelcome in the world.
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