Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard: A Book Review

Journey with Much-Afraid to new heights of love, joy, and victory!
For the first time, this beloved Christian allegory is a mixed-media special edition complete with charming watercolor paintings, antique tinted photography, meditative hand-lettered Scripture, journaling and doodling space, and designs to color. As you read and connect with the story of Much-Afraid and her trials, the pages of this book become a canvas on which to chronicle your own story, struggles, and personal triumphs.

Hinds’ Feet on High Places, with more than 2,000,000 copies sold, is a story of endurance, persistence, and reliance on God. This book has inspired millions of people to become sure-footed in their faith even when facing the rockiest of life’s terrain. The story of Much-Afraid is based on Psalm 18:33: “He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.”

The complete Hinds’ Feet story is accented by 80 full-color paintings, photography, and hand-lettered Scripture.

My Review: Wow! I am so impressed with the design of this book. I absolutely love how this classic story has been refreshed with the inclusion of beautiful full-color painting and photography. It’s gorgeous and such a joy to read! I love that the book also includes areas where you can write short journaling notes and there is even an opportunity to color scriptures in the back of the book. Beautifully and thoughtfully done.

This book is one that will have a cherished place on your shelf for years to come. It would also make an incredible gift item. Highly recommended.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

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31 Proverbs to Light Your Path by Liz Curtis Higgs: A Book Review

Wherever you are on your journey, here is the wisdom you need for the road ahead. Maybe you’re stuck and want to move forward. Or you feel anxious and long to know what’s next. Or you’re ready for an uplifting reminder that God holds your future in His loving hands.

Chosen by hundreds of women as their favorite verses in Proverbs, these thirty-one nuggets of truth reveal how faithfully God honors His promise, “I will instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths” (Proverbs 4:11).

Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs examines each word with care and adds a sprinkling of humor through her honest stories and personal examples. For each verse you’ll find a unique “One Minute, One Step” challenge—a do-it-now task that requires one minute or less. You’ll soon discover how practical and meaningful the book of Proverbs is as you apply its ancient wisdom to your thoroughly modern life.

With a study guide included, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path is a daily devotional and a small-group Bible study, wrapped in a beautiful gift book brimming with encouragement!

My Review: This is one of those devotionals that really make you think, ponder and grow. It’s a study in Proverbs that teaches and encourages you daily with deep and insightful devotions. This is one of the “meatier” devotionals I’ve read. Each devotion is about 3-4 pages with an additional page called One Minute, One Step. I love this page. It encourages you do to something now that will only take one minute, but can have lasting effects. There is a good amount of scripture used in each devotion too. This devotional is encouraging, practical and full of wisdom.  I highly recommend this devotional to anyone looking for a deeper study of Proverbs and a desire to grow in God’s word.

*I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

The Beautiful Word for Christmas: A Book Review

Enjoy the beauty and wonder of Christmas with The Beautiful Word for Christmas. The hand-illustrated Christmas story Scriptures are accompanied by 31 devotional readings. Featuring a lovely, embellished cover and beautiful color interior, this book will be a welcome addition to your home as you and your loved ones celebrate the birth of Jesus.

My Review: What a beautiful book! This 31 day Christmas devotional is as unique as it is beautiful. This book is filled with gorgeous full color pages, thoughtful devotions to focus on during the season and  activities to inspire your heart. What a wonderful way to draw near to God during this busy time of year. Take time each day of this 31 day journey to focus on the true meaning of the season. This book is wonderful to own, but would also make an excellent and inspiring gift for anyone on your list.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander: A Book Review

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas—and sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year-old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity—and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

My Review: Christmas at Carnton is a novella set during The Civil War. The author does a great job in capturing the emotion of that era. The uncertainty, fear, harshness and heartache of the time period really show through the characters and their stories. I found myself immediately absorbed in the storyline and I was actually quite sad that this was only a novella. However, I am looking forward to reading the series that this novella introduces.

This was an emotional and gripping love story, full of hope and life. This was my first “Christmas” read for this season, but I wouldn’t say it was a central theme to the book, but more of a backdrop. Still, it was a cozy and sweet story, and a nice way to shift into the holiday season as it approaches.

I really fell in love with the characters and I’m eager to see which of them become a central part of the series. I think the author does an excellent job at making her characters relatable and emotional.

* I received a copy of this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

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Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker: A Book Review

New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, with playful hilarity, shameless honesty, and refreshing insight, assures readers they have all the pluck they need for vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

Jen Hatmaker believes backbone is the birthright of every woman. Women have been demonstrating resiliency and resolve since forever. They have incredibly strong shoulders to bear loss, hope, grief, and vision. She laughs at the days to come is how the ancient wisdom writings put it.

But somehow women have gotten the message that pain and failure mean they must be doing things wrong, that they messed up the rules or tricks for a seamless life. As it turns out, every last woman faces confusion and loss, missteps and catastrophic malfunctions, no matter how much she is doing “right.” Struggle doesn’t mean they’re weak; it means they’re alive.

Jen Hatmaker, beloved author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF, offers another round of hilarious tales, frank honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie. Whether discussing the grapple with change (“Everyone, be into this thing I’m into! Except when I’m not. Then everyone be cool.”) or the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”), Jen parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere who, like her, sometimes hide in the car eating crackers but also want to get back up and get back out, to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold.

My Review: I have some very mixed feelings about this book. From the start, I wanted to love it and the very beginning of the book set me up to do just that. Jen was very intentional about emphasizing that this book was for every woman. She specifically listed women in most all scenarios of life and it made me feel included from the start. That feeling is very important to a woman who doesn’t always feel like she fits.

Unfortunately, the content of the book did not match her statement. This book was supposedly written for every woman, but about 90% of it was geared toward mothers. Much of the content made me feel like it was assumed that the reader would be a mom. This was disappointing and only served to make me feel less included. I realize that Jen is a mom and I’m sure that much of her life story revolves around her kids, but don’t set up a book to be for “every woman” if it’s not. Just saying it is, doesn’t make it so.

I also was unclear as to the whole point of the book. There was some humor and a few relatable things scattered throughout it, but mostly it seemed like a random, eclectic set of thoughts on parenting.

It really saddens me because even toward the end of the book, Jen talks about being aware of who is around you and realizing that not everyone is in the same place in life. She talks about women whose stories are outside the lines and she acknowledges that sensitivity to that is needed, but yet her book doesn’t live up to her words. While on this subject, she makes the statement “It means considering the stories around the table before launching into an assumed shared narrative.” I absolutely love the idea of this, but if her readers are those seated around the table, she surely is not considering their stories before launching into an assumed shared narrative.

I wanted to appreciate her acknowledgement and consideration so much, but how could I when the whole book is about being a mom?

Those of us women who live lives that are outside the lines, don’t need anymore reminders that we don’t fit in. The infertile certainly don’t need to hear sections on “How to plan a family” in which she jokes about her husband glancing at her, and becoming pregnant.

It’s not that I expect her to not want to write about her experience in parenting, but acknowledge that your target audience is moms. Not. Every. Woman.

One last major issue I have with this book is the theology of it. Jen makes comments that seems rather flippant and disrespectful toward Jesus. She also embraces sinful lifestyles in the name of inclusion and love. While we are certainly called to love, we are not called to ignore sin or embrace it.

One last thing I loved was near the end. She encourages her readers to fangirl their friends. Cheer and support them and be their biggest fans. I love that thought and wholly believe that we should be supporting each other and cheering each other on.

It makes me sad that this book had such an opportunity to really speak to every woman, but it sadly just fell so short. The idea of making sure all women felt included and being considerate of who is around you, is an awesome, awesome thing and I absolutely believe it should be more recognized that not all women “fit the mold” Unfortunately, I finished the book feeling more glaringly left out than before.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer: A Book Review

When Danger Arrives, It’s More Than Just Her Heart on the Line

Grace Mallory is tired of hiding. She hungers for a normal life, perhaps even a suitor like two of her friends in Harper’s Station have found. But when the man she believes responsible for her father’s death discovers her whereabouts, survival takes priority.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His fellow telegrapher, the mysterious Miss G, has been the ideal companion. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–over the wire has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intends for him. However, when he intercepts an ominous message and discovers her life is in peril, Amos must shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

My Review: Love, suspense, humor and a little bit of mystery make up this lovely story centered around Grace and Amos. I thought Grace and Amos were the cutest couple and I loved watching their romance unfold. I think it’s really neat how they were able to communicate with each other in a way that most others could never decipher.

I love that Amos isn’t the “typical” heartthrob male lead. He’s a bit of a geek, but he proves many times throughout this story that he is brave, heroic and selfless. I enjoyed all of the characters and the story-line of this book. I loved the town full of women, who somehow seem to keep accumulating men!

This is a sweet love story, but ultimately it is a story of redemption. It is a story about how God plans our steps, redeems our stories and creates beautiful things out of the ashes of our pain. I love the quote near the end of this book:

“Only a master weaver could intertwine dark and light threads in such a way that all one saw was beauty when looking back at the finished tapestry.”

This is a beautiful depiction of how God cares for us and works in our lives.

My only complaint regarding this novel is that I was unaware that it was book 2 in a series. I really hate reading books out of order, so I’m once again bummed that publishers don’t more clearly label a series as such. This book can easily be read solo, but I just prefer to read a series from beginning to end.

I do highly recommend this book!

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

 

Karen Witemeyer

Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyerwrites historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at http://www.karenwitemeyer.com.

I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck: A Book Review

I’ll Push You

Patrick Gray, Justin Skeesuck

Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime.
Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin.

So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was: “I’ll push you.”

I’ll Push You is the real-life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humor, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits—and make us the best versions of ourselves.

My Review: I’m not even sure where to start with this review. This book touched my heart in so many ways that I’m not certain I will be able to do it justice. The description above tells you the story of what this book is about, so I am going to focus on what I found within the pages of this book.

This is the true story of two best friends and their journey, not only a journey across 500 miles, but in all of life.

Never in my life have I dog-eared so many pages in a book.

The friendship between Justin and Patrick blows my mind. It also inspires me and fills me with hope and determination.

People often ask Justin and me what makes our friendship so strong. Our answer is simple; We choose to share life’s adventures. I make his “I wonders” mine and he makes my  “I wonders” his. We pursue life together. We always have.

Friendship is fiercely important in my life and I absolutely love the way they view their friendship. This is exactly the way I want my friendships to be. I feel like so often in this world, friendship takes a backseat to everything else in life. We live in a busy time and everyone is running in a million directions and it feels like friendships are the thing that gets pushed aside. It’s so easy now to maintain a friendship using social media or other modern technology. And, while those are great tools, they can be a hindrance to the true connection of friendship.

Would you press pause on your everyday life and take a 500 mile journey with your best friend? Would I? And, would you do it with the commitment that Patrick had to Justin? “I’ll push you.”

Those three words may sound simple, but they are powerful beyond anything I can grasp.

Patrick knew he would have to take care of all of Justin’s basic needs. He would be responsible for feeding, clothing and bathing his friend, yet he didn’t hesitate. In this self-centered world, we see “friends” who won’t even keep a commitment for a coffee date, and these friends are committing to a 500 mile journey that is going to be beyond challenging, and quite realistically impossible.

I can’t even fathom.

This is a privilege. It may be work at times; it may mean I’m the first one up in the morning and the last to bed, but to have the opportunity to tangibly express my love for my friend, to serve him, is a gift I cherish.

Patrick considered taking care of his friend a privilege. The opportunity to serve and show tangible love to our friends should be viewed this way. What a gift!

The bible says Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. What does this look like? I think it looks exactly like the friendship between Patrick & Justin.

Along their journey, they met many people who not only impacted their journey physically by helping to lighten their load, but they impacted them spiritually and emotionally as they shared true community among each other. This is a picture of what the church should be. A place where all are welcome and loved and where we carry each others burdens, lighten each other’s loads and live life side by side.

Sitting here in this square in the middle of Spain, I’m thinking of all the damaged relationships that could be healed and the broken relationships that could be mended if we all chose to stop the distractions, rest in the presence of those we love, and keep them close.

This. I have seen and experienced too many damaged and broken relationships in this life and I think it’s because we don’t know how to love completely, sacrificially, deeply, transparently, unselfishly.

We have to pursue each other. We have to make time for each other. If we want to have deep, meaningful relationships in our lives, we have to be willing to lay down our lives for our friends. This might not mean literally dying for a friend, but it might mean giving up a convenience, sacrificing some time, showing up when you don’t feel like it, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent.

As adults it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we must pursue one another, even when it gets in the way of our own priorities. We can tell people how much we love them, how much they mean to us, but this means nothing if we don’t pursue them. We have to pick up the phone, make time to be together, get in a car and make the drive, or hop on a plane and fly across the country. Like it or not, we are what we do, not what we say we will do.

We live in a world where the mentality is “me and mine first”. If my needs, wants and desires and those of my immediate family are satisfied, I might have a moment or two to spare for you. That is NOT the way to pursue a friendship. To value a friendship, you must be committed to it, and your efforts and actions must reflect that.

In this unique friendship, we see at the forefront, a willingness by Patrick to push Justin on this 500 mile journey. What we may not realize is Justin’s willingness to be pushed. Think about it, how difficult would it be to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough with your friend, to let him bathe you, clothe you, feed you? There is a humble servant in both of these men. They both know what it means to lay down their lives for each other.

How often are we afraid to be vulnerable in every day life? To open up and let someone in?

Another thing that really resonated with me in this book is the transformation that took place in Patrick during their journey. He realized that his priorities weren’t where they should be and he acknowledged that he had a hard time letting go of control, allowing God to lead and letting others help him in his journey. He felt in order to succeed and do things right, he had to do it perfectly and completely, without help. As he struggled with allowing others to come along side them to help push and pull Justin through the trails, he realized that embracing his limitations, and allowing himself to be vulnerable were his greatest strengths.

We can’t do everything on our own, and we weren’t meant to. God desires that we live life together, support, encourage and lift each other up. We are meant to live in community and fellowship with one another. This means living in a way that is sacrificial, selfless and vulnerable.

Along the journey of Justin and Patrick, we see the most beautiful picture of friendship I’ve ever seen, except in biblical history. Their friendship inspires me more than I can say. I want so desperately to be the kind of friend that they exemplify, and I want to have friends like that too. The reason Patrick and Justin’s friendship works so well is because they are BOTH committed to each other.  I’ve never been in a position to push a friend 500 miles, or to bathe or feed them when they could not bathe or feed themselves, but I’d like to think that if the circumstance ever arose, I would joyfully say “I’ll push you.’ and consider it a privilege.

I highly recommend this book to every person EVER. *I received a copy of this book free of charge from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.