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Monday, August 07, 2017

I read Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson

Let me be honest. I didn't read this book when it came out because of the title. I never even read past the title to what the book was about. It was too goofy for me. Recently, as I was trying to find something to give to a friend of mine, the cover flashed in my head. Then I ran across it and actually read the premise. I thought, oh, I need to read this. So, I bought a few copies.

Sophie is a great author. Maybe you remember her from A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.
I loved that book. This one did not disappoint either. I needed to read it because I was reading some other heavy books and even though Sophie deals with hard hitting subjects, she does it in light-hearted story form. Sometimes, she drives me crazy because she says "like" a whole lot and then I start doing it and annoy myself. Past all of that, she has such a way with communicating things.

I have been going so hard all summer and ended up neglecting myself, especially my heart. I needed to be reminded of the beauty of friendship and how it nurtures our spirit (to give and receive). If you follow me on the interwebs, you'll know how much it all spoke to me. Here are a few screen shots.




I read that 60% of women in church feel lonely. Reading all of the quotes above, I was reminded of why people are so important. We need each other. I am thankful for the people who take the time to love me and those who let me love them. As she shared about the women generationally behind and ahead of her that are part of her life, I became very thankful for mine. These pages are packed with humorous, convicting ways to minister to the generations around us.

What stopped me dead in my tracks last night at the end of the book was when she started talking about her mama acting funny, withdrawing from people, not doing what she had always done. I knew what was coming. Her mama was diagnosed with dementia. Oh the pain of having someone be there physically, but withdrawing in every other way. I have been wading through this pain. It seems like personality shifts often and my help is not wanted. This is our new normal. It's not normal at all, but we have to trust God with it.

Read Sophie's book. You won't regret it. You might even become a better friend.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I decided to purchase this book to read for two reasons. It was a hot summer read and I am curious about what people around me are drawn to. It is also something I wouldn't normally read. Let me tell you, I had a difficult time getting going with this book. As I began, I was sure all of this book's readers were crazy. It's written as though you are reading portions of diary entries from people who could not spell or formulate sentences. My head wanted to implode. Even at page fifty, I tried to come up with how I would describe this book for a review. One line from from Truvy in the movie Steel Magnolias came into my head. "The nicest thing I can say about her is that all of her tattoos are spelled correctly." I read on.

Let me tell you, I finally came to see how George's writing style is brilliant. I actually felt like I was interacting with these people. The book made me do quite a bit of research. The story is based off of evidence that when President Lincoln lost his second son to Typhoid fever, he would go to the cemetery and hold his body. (They believe he contracted this from tainted water coming into the White House. His son sat in a borrowed tomb for 3 years until his body could be moved to their home state.)

The idea of the bardo is akin to a holding place. It's the idea that there is a space between when you die and when you go on to the next life. George mixed all manner of theologies in his cemetery tale. Some people were taken by demons. Some went with Christ. Some went on to become something else. Obviously, this doesn't line up with my own beliefs, but it is interesting to see what people put their hope in. 

There were many moments in the pages that you could compare to life as we live it. You can see how pain, grief, and regret keep us in this empty gap where we neither move forward or heal. As Lincoln released his son, you can see how healing it is to not hold on when you are meant to release. 

There were a few times when a random raunchy paragraph popped up out of no where. I'm not sure if Mr. Saunders was trying to engage our current culture or simply paint a picture of deeply depraved souls. I could also understand this base nature of humanity that tries to pour anything it can on hurt to numb oneself.

After all of that, I have no idea how I feel about the book. I wanted out of it. I found it riveting. I wanted to throw up on it. I wanted to know more. It is skillfully written. In my theology there is no bardo. I have however seen grieving people held captive in this holding place when they refused to let go of a loved one or something else that grieved them. This is a story of making peace with that pain.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Praying for Girls by Teri Lynne Underwood



I was reading an article the other day telling moms that being overwhelmed and unable to think is completely normal. It's called mental load. I have since dubbed this inability to think, process, conjugate, or think of what to make for dinner the MOTHER LOAD. Can't remember how to make pb&j? That's the mother load. Can't remember your first name? That's the mother load. Most days we coast on through and no one gets hurt.

The thing about mother load that drags me down is that often I cannot even think of what I would like to pray for my children. There are basic reactionary prayers and response prayers to scripture I am hearing or reading. I am always left wanting more. 

When I saw this book, I felt an ache to have it. Reading through it, I was truly overwhelmed by the wonderful, thoughtful prayers and guidance it offered. I prayed through the hundred or so prayers over my girls. They are beautiful. Praying them prompted me to start writing them out for all of my girls on note cards individually so we could all pray through them for each other. I am even making a set for myself. Prayer changes us and it helps us anticipate the presence of God. I highly recommend this book.

This book was graciously provided by Bethany House Publishers for review.


From the back cover:
What Are Your Biggest Concerns for Your Daughter?


Do you feel uncertain about what or how to pray for your daughter? You're not alone! Praying for our daughters can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. This easy-to-use book features 200 Scripture-based prayers that cover key areas of every girl's life:


Her identity--finding her security and strength in God's love and acceptance
Her heart--pursuing a life of purity and devotion to the Lord
Her mind--committing to growing in wisdom and discernment regardless of her circumstances
Her relationships--developing skills and attitudes to foster healthy relationships
Her purpose--trusting God with her life, gifts, and passions

With simple ideas to nurture your daughter's faith from toddler through teen, this encouraging book will equip you to pray with more confidence and power.

"This book is a lifeline. I might not be able to bubble wrap my girl away from the world, but I sure can wrap her up in fierce prayers and send her out into it bravely."
--Lisa-Jo Baker, author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Love Lives Here by Sweet Maria Goff

Most of the books I read and review are given to me by publishers, but I chose to buy this one. I had been waiting on it since I heard that it was being written. I had purchased to audio book because I was making a lot of long trips to care for my parents. Audio books seem to make the end of long drives go faster. I knew that the words in it would be encouraging. It turned out to be something I needed more than I realized. Sweet Maria's voice coming through my car speakers soothed my weary soul. It was like having a dear friend speaking into my heart when I desperately needed it. Being honest, I have had days where I have cried all day through this. Waves of emotional exhaustion overtook me when I stopped moving for a second. Then I'd hear her voice. It felt okay to cry. She kept reminding me that love is always the best option. It sows a deep unseen harvest in the lives of the people we are loving and those watching us. Love does live here. 

In this book we follow Maria through some of her most challenging and most beautiful moments. She navigated her way through hard days and best days with Christ and it is seen in every word she says. Her life is a beacon. As a person that struggled with opening my heart and life to others because of abuse, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Buy the audio. Let her read to you. It's lovely.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson

I was about to go on a road trip when I saw this book pop up in my queue to review. I thought it would be a great thing to accompany me through a few states. It was a bit difficult to get into at first. I don't know if it was my mindset or what felt like choppy story telling. Never the less, I pressed on. The stories were pretty interesting, but I was rarely drawn deeply into them. There were several things I could connect with personally. Most of us can connect with loss. Roger shares about losing people he loves and why he loved them. He tells of how adventure connected them. His story is one of redemption. His grandparents ended up raising him. I think the main thing I took away from the book was to go on adventure and create memories. 

*There are maps in the chapters of different states and things he loved there. That could be helpful if you are experiencing some wonder lust. Happy travels.

This book was graciously provided by Waterbrook Publishers for review.









Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I read Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Last week, on the banks of the Kentucky River, I read Connilyn's latest book. I have to tell you, I always enjoy her work. I don't think it is exemplary writing that draws me in. Sometimes I have questioned how a quick plot change came about. I just roll with it because her stories are good and redemptive. They are well researched. The most beautiful thing I pull from them is that they are infused with a rich love of God's word. Watching her characters conform (or not conform) their lives to God's teachings gives this new longing to know it more. It's not just doing what is right, but a love of honoring God and cherishing life. She clearly shows the exquisite compassion of God's character. Every single time I read something she has written, I am deeply thankful that God has given us his word to shape our lives. We are no longer bound to the sinning in ignorance. I think we can often forget what a miraculous gift this is. Thank you for the reminder, Connilyn.

This book, Wings of the Wind, was written from the perspective of a person who was rescued by the Hebrews in their desert wanderings after Egypt. I thought this was such a unique viewpoint because you could see how foreign good and godly things are from the pagan culture. It gave a picture of how long and hard it is to win the trust of someone who is not used to the loving attributes of the people of God. Foreign practices were also showcased in some of the chapters so you could get a clear picture of the stark contrast between the divine and the demonic cultures. 

I enjoyed reading this and have been encouraged by the story. I left my copy at a tiny house in the woods of Kentucky hoping the next person who comes across it will hear the gospel in it. 
Happy reading, friends.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for graciously providing this book for review. 

Read more about the book description and Connilyn on Amazon.





Thursday, June 01, 2017

Hello Stars as reviewed by Lulu

My Lulu and I received a book to review from the publisher. If you know her, you know she read this 6 times the week she received it. I had her write out her synopsis of the book. Mostly, she loved that it was written by a girl not much older than her.
 Lulu tells about Hello Stars by Alena Pitts.

Hello Stars is a great book. It's about a girl named Lena Daniels. She has three little sisters. There's an 8 year old named Ansley and 6 year old twins named Amber and Ashton. 28 days before school ends, her friend Savannah, went to her, Lena, and their other friend Emma's favorite singer, Mallory Winston's concert. Savannah tells Lena that Mallory is going to be in a movie and wants a girl between the ages of 10 and 12 to be in it with her. All they have to do is make a video talking about themselves and send it to Mallory Winston. Lena's video doesn't go so well because she has fruit snacks between her front two teeth. Mallory picks her anyway. She has to be in Los Angeles for 3 months and her whole family comes with her. Through the filming her family meets Kay who does her hair and makeup as well as Mr. Fenway who films it. The movie is called Above the Waters. It's about a mom, grandma, and daughter. All is fine until the grandma gets sick and the family is struggling to cope with the news. Then the daughter meets a woman named Nicole who helps the family cope with it. They learn to trust God in every condition. Lena plays the daughter who is 10 and whose name is Jennifer. Mallory plays Nicole.

"I loved this book and cannot wait to read the next one." -Lulu

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

I read Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

"It starts with us. If we are not moved by the Spirit of God, why on earth would anyone else be moved? If we don't experience His forgiveness and His grace on a regular basis, then how could we give away his forgiveness and grace to anybody else?"
—Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove

What do you do? It's the question we are asked when we meet people? Sometimes that can feel like our worth is being sized up by our occupation. What if we don't have one? What if we are quietly serving people the world deems unimportant? Will we ever be enough to impress them? No, but we can make peace with that. It seems that we have all taken up the occupation of trying to create light when we are not meant to create light. We are meant to reflect it and wield it. The pressure is off when we remember who Christ is and go to him to accomplish his desires.

That's why Jennie brought a breath a sweet, fresh air into my life. She reminded me over and over to just ask Jesus, to trust him, to anticipate him. In her simple, girl next door style, she spoke kind, affectionate words about God. The book fanned a spark in my spirit to just be near to him. Thank you, Jennie, for reminding me of the goodness of God and my inner desire to be close. Time to clean out the clutter and enjoy the relationship.

"When I looked up the word joy, I was surprised by all of its synonyms: wonder, delight, elation, satisfaction, fun, happiness. I hate to say it, but these are not words I would use to describe you and me most of the time. Here is my fear: we have somehow come to believe that it is wrong to be happy. Maybe it's because we're too aware of the suffering all over the world. Maybe it's because we're carrying the pressures of work and life. Maybe it seems that fun is an escape from responsibility rather than an attribute of people who know God." 
—Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove
I crave the beauty and joy and freedom that come from receiving our lives rather than consuming them.
—Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Little Update

What Are You Creating?
You  know those things you have always wanted to do, but just never did. That was me with painting for a decade or so. Over the past few years I have created thousands of things. I made a commitment to make something new every day this year. You can follow along on my Instagram or purchase pieces at thegospelmom.com. All of the proceeds go to benefit missions and adoption. Part of it will be funding my trip to Haiti in December. Thank you kindly for following along.

What Are You Reading?
Here is my book stack. What is in yours? My two Bible studies are almost over. I have truly enjoyed them both. Most of all, I have loved who I have shared them with. Breathe has brought fresh air to my soul. It has reminded me that I do not serve a harsh task master and I am free to rest. Sabbath was used by God to teach the Israelites that they didn't need to work to earn his favor like they had with their overseers in Egypt. He loved them because they were his. I'm reviewing Jennie Allen's book for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I love her. Thanks for supporting my book habit, publishers. I picked up the book Grace, Not perfection at Cracker Barrel because there is a chapter entitled "Savor Your Circus." Of course, I am slowly savoring Don Quixote. My original copy is on top. It's interesting that it is 550 pages and my updated version (excellently translated) is 940 pages. The second translation is also in smaller print. Apparently, Mr. Cervantes wrote and added to this book multiple times. There is also a part two that is included. It's very interesting and makes me happy every single day. I share about my thoughts on reading it on my Instagram account. Follow along. Have you read it?
I write to you wondering why there is a crystal salt shaker on the floor behind my bathroom door as my husband belts out the National Anthem. My thoughts of late are constantly on the Man of La Mancha. I feel a new fire to fight for hearts. It was lived out as we chopped up a snake with a machete. On this day I did not eat the biscuits at @crackerbarrel while dining with @emilyawylie ... but, decided to momentarily forgo the Lenten commitment I made to give up bread in the evening. @jsmitttty bringing homemade cinnamon rolls (her grandmother's recipe no less) must certainly be close to communion. Bless him who gives us freedom to partake of the roll and call it good. #breakingbread #donquixote pg 323/940 #manoflamancha It seems that our dear Mr. Quixote thought he killed a giant and spilled his blood, but he simply attacked a full wineskin hanging above his bed. #cinnamonrolls #lent #cheater #bookstagram #books #reading
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What Are You Cooking?

What Are You Doing?

I am currently pondering taking some classes, putting together a Women's Retreat on April 8th, and getting ready to speak in Amarillo in April. I want to personally invite you to the retreat. It's just for the day on April 8th. It's at gorgeous Thistlewood Manor in Kyle, TX. Do you ever feel so busy that you just miss Jesus? We even rush through our Bible studies. I became obsessed with looking for and capturing the beauty of Christ in my every day life. It has transformed my heart. I wanted very much for you to all come along with me. Listen to women and men who have been finding the beauty of Christ in their every day life and how it has changed every thing. The only cost is for the meals. Join me in enjoying Jesus. Eventbrite Tickets : Year of Beauty

What is Happening At Your House?

Well, we cleaned out the third floor. We brought thirty boxes plus furniture and other things down three flights of stairs and went through it all. We have begun remodeling it to serve as an apartment for ministers and missionaries. Come help and stay tuned. We have around 150 houseguests each year. Some are struggling through things and some just need rest. Thank you for supporting our journey and caring enough about those out there sharing the gospel that you give to us. If you are interested in helping here, come volunteer, PRAY!, or donate at GIVE!




Sunday, March 05, 2017

I Read Under the Tuscan Sun

Over the Christmas break, I read the updated 20th Anniversary edition of Under the Tuscan Sun. Is it possible that it has been twenty years since this book came out? Surely there is some miscalculation on the publisher's part. No. I got old. So, I can review this story for you as a 19 year old and a 39 year old. 

This book  includes many of my favorite things. It's about hope, hard work, restoration, food, and a culture that revolves around friends and family. I thought it was interesting following the Italian version of a  remodel. It seems much like the one I have experienced. Slow. Workers come and go whenever they feel like it. At least we have three things that help us keep our minds full of hope.
God. Food. People.

I know the real question is how people think it compared to the movie. The basic premise of her story is there. She had been through a terrible divorce and decided to buy a villa in Tuscany. In the movie she was single. In real life she was already remarried. In the movie she found this place on a gay tour of Tuscany (given by her friends that were pregnant and could no longer go). In real life, as I said, she was married and had been to Tuscany many times with her husband before taking this leap. There is no wild romance with an Italian man in the book or crazy sex scene. All of that must have been added in for theatrical flare. The book is just about restoration, food, and family. It's about the people we pass every day. It's more simple.

In her writing, Frances seems a bit low key. In the movie, Diane Lane brings exuberance, joy, and chutzpah. I enjoyed both. They are quite different, but both make you want to cook. Pass the pasta.

This book was graciously provided by the publisher for review.

Friday, January 27, 2017

I read The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I was at a Christmas party recently sitting at a table between my  husband and a man I had never met, a lawyer. I asked him every sort of question and his answers were equally deep and hilarious. I asked him if being a lawyer was his dream job or if he had something else he’d like to do with the next leg of his life. You know there were wild dreams in his heart. He turned the question back to me, quid pro quo. First, let me say that I have something I am working on for the next season of my life when my kids are grown. This question he asked was about the work we do at our house. Do I ever want to not do that anymore. That hit me. I couldn’t imagine a life without hospitality. I looked at him maybe a little too serious and said, “I can’t imagine a life not sitting among the broken.” There is this sacred space that pain brings us to. It’s a rare window when the walls come down and the heart opens up. You don’t find people like that often. In the quiet of the home, I am humbled to be in these moments. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and I want to be too. 

I have been reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way and settled onto the paragraph and read it again and again.

Somehow I wonder if it’s in shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ. What if we only find our whole selves through this mystery — the mystery of death and resurrection, of brokenness and abundance? Could this be what it means to live in the encircling embrace of communion: broken giving way to abundance — and then abundance, which is broken gives way to an even greater abundance. Why are we afraid of broken things? What if the abundance of communion is only found there in the brokenness of suffering — because suffering is where God lives? Suffering is where God gives the most healing intimacy. 

Out of the fullness of grace that He has received, He thanks, and breaks, and gives away — and He makes a way for life-giving communion. A broken way.

Brokenness can make abundance.

I read and kept reading about her learning to let her pain surface so that she can have deep communion with people. Most of us never get there. We never let our soul appear threadbare enough to help anyone that is hurting, I too am learning. I identified with her past of struggling with agoraphobia. I could not even lay out for you the pain I have experienced in this life, but I am learning a lesson. If I thank God for it and lay it out there for others, bitterness erodes and healing begins not just for me, but for the community of women around me that are hiding their pain. Shame is a liar. We are to be co-suffering communities. Like Paul says, "Suffer with me." Teach me how, God. Teach me how to take all of the pain deep within and shape it into a safe place for a heart. 

This is easily the best book I have read in several years. Buy it. Read it. Listen to it. Learn to share the unique path that you have seen and offer it as a love offering to divine fellowship.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I chose this book to review because it is about a woman who does restoration for a living. Restoring a one hundred year old house, that piqued my interest. In the beginning, I trudged through it somewhat. I do not like things that are designed to manipulate me emotionally and this felt like that typical romance novel. Sad girl gets swept off of her feet by an Italian man and moves to Italy with him. As the story went on, I started to embrace it more. It became about family and how loving people in all of their imperfection is part of our beautiful story. Sometimes we get stuck in a textbook version of life and forget to love people through and in their messes. . . and ours. It's how we grow. 

I thought the end of the story was rich and powerful as it slowly revealed Jesus and forgiveness. Most of the story purposefully barely leads to church. Its a seeking and finding. Of course, Italy is lovely too. You can follow the family through truffle hunts, wine pairings, pasta making, and painting. I enjoyed reading how our tortured restorer became who she had wanted to be through vulnerability and allowing herself to hurt. Pain is often a great gift and gives grand capacity for great joy.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers for graciously supplying this book for review.