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Free of Me {a review & giveaway}

“Parenting is not about you.”

I can still hear Paul David Tripp’s words ringing in my ears. A handful of us had gathered to watch a livestream of his parenting event. It was a like a balm to my weary heart. Tears sprang to my eyes as I reminded that my  job as mommy is not controller or commander of my children’s hearts, but ambassador of God’ authority in their little lives. When I make parenting all about me, my reputation, and my comfort, it is “neither Christian nor parenting and I am simply left with a punished rebel.”   A weight lifted off of my shoulders as I remembered that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to break, change, and mold my child’s heart.

On our way home, Adam and I discussed  the parallels between parenting and ministry in the local church context. The shepherding, ministry, and counsel that occurs on a regular basis can so easily overwhelm our hearts. It’s only when we realize that church is not about us and that it’s success is on the Spirit’s shoulders not ours, that true freedom is possible.

Ultimately, all of life is NOT about me. God must have needed to drive this point home to my heart this past weekend, because I also had the opportunity to read the brand new book by Sharon Hodde Miller, Free of Me: Why Life is Better when it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Sharon, a “serial people-pleaser,” found herself bound by a self-focus and self-absorption that had seeped into virtually every area of her life. I was immediately convicted as she described our tendency to make life about ourselves when it’s not! We are trapped in the idolatry of self-image and can only be set free by a “reprogramming” of our hearts and minds.

I love how she addresses very specific areas of our daily lives. Self-focus can rear its ugly head in our relationships, calling, appearance, and even our approach to God Himself. I was especially encouraged by the Interlude where Sharon wisely reminds us that any change in our lives will not be automatically permanent and requires the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The human soul is a lot like that [out of tune musical instruments]. It drifts. Without deliberate retuning, it goes out of tune with the gospel…..Salvation unbends our souls and points us toward God and others, but left unchecked, our souls will always drift back to the inward position.”

The last half of the book focuses on four ways to be “free of me.” These are practical habits to implement into our lives to effectively live with an outward focus. She reminds us that in Christ we can find balance between self-sacrifice and the healing we so desperately need. The Spirit enables us to obey God’s call while still experiencing the incredible joy He offers His children.

I was left challenged, convicted, and encouraged by the words in this book. We all too often are handicapped by a constant over-awareness of self, and true freedom is only found in our Savior.

I would love for you to read it too! Grab a copy over at Amazon (it’s available now!) or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy. Details below:

*Let me know a book you’ve been reading lately for your comment to count towards the giveaway! I will pick a winner on Sunday, 10/8/17.

UPDATE (10/9/17)

Congratulations, Suzette! You have won the book! Look in your email inbox for the details!

Glory in the Ordinary {a review}

This summer we have instituted a new chores chart in our home. My boys earn “technology” time by completing various activities throughout the morning. They can choose from a variety of jobs such as  vacuuming the living room or collecting the household trash in exchange for minutes of play. They also have to complete time investing in creative activities or outside fun before picking up the Nintendo.

Although it wasn’t my initial purpose, this system has been extremely helpful for me! Even small jobs done by my nine year old, relieve the pressure of running a busy home. Sharing the load of work, has allowed me to take a breather every now and then.

While I am currently a stay-at-home mom to three young children, the jobs I have to complete in a typical week are very surprisingly similar to a big city attorney or third-world shepherd. We all have food to cook and clothes to wash. We are slaves to the cycle of household work that has no end. The monotony of it can be a heavy burden to bear.

That’s why I was so grateful to read the brand new book by Courtney Reissig, entitled Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God. She addresses two misunderstandings about work: it is only valuable when it is rewarded with payment and it is only valuable when it is great or successful. I love how she sums up a feeling that most of us have experienced:

We are living in a time when being ordinary is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and nothing screams ordinary like at-home work.

I know I can relate! She develops a critical point throughout the beginning of the book which lays a foundation for the rest of the chapters. Our work is rooted in our role as image bearers of God. Creating order from disorder not only reflects our Creator but brings glory to Him no matter how small the job may be.

Courtney touches on some very important topics relating to work including rest, the idol of work, and the calling in our work. She emphasizes that our work here in this world is training for the jobs we will have in the new and perfect Earth that is to come when Jesus returns.

The book is a perfect length – long enough for thought provoking content, yet short enough for a busy mom to read in between her responsibilities throughout the day. Courtney leaves the reader with hope that there is a deeper purpose in our work. She closes the book with this encouragement,

Your work might be ordinary, but it’s filled with glory. Your work might be mundane, but it’s taking you somewhere. Your work might be born out of blood, sweat, and tears (literally), but it’s producing life in others for people who have eternity in front of them. It’s good work. It’s meaningful work. And it matters to God.

I highly recommend this book to those struggling with the never-ending cycle of work that is required of you each day. If you feel swamped and dismayed at the jobs that never seem complete, this book is for you. I was refreshed after reading Courtney’s words and now have a renewed perspective of the importance of the work I am called to do in my home.

You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

She Reads Truth {a review}

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Even though the view was terrifying, the tremors weren’t horrible. They were just enough to jiggle us around and produce uncontrollable laughter between my sister and I.

We were at the Alaska Experience in Anchorage. We had hoped to truly experience the historic earthquake of ’64 but the technology in 1999 only produced a mild back and forth shaking of our stadium seats while we watched the crumbling city on the screen in front of us. It was far from terrifying. It was down right funny.

The farther I’ve walked through life, I’ve learned that our days are filled with tremors and earthquakes too. The difference is that few of them are humorous. Most produce real anxiety, agony, and anger in response. Even if the ground of our life is currently stable, our lives seem to be built along a fault line that can produce upheaval at anytime.

What do we cling to in a world that is shifting and trembling underneath our feet? Is there a safe place when the ground seems to be crumbling?

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Yes, there is safety, peace, and comfort found in the truth of God’s Word, but Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams explain it much more beautifully than I could in their new book, She Reads Truth.

These women founded the online ministry also called She Reads Truth in the hopes of encouraging women to be reading Scripture every day. It has blossomed into community of women from all parts of the globe who dig into the Truth together each day.

While this book definitely touches on that online ministry, it focuses more specifically on the personal stories of Raechel and Amanda and how the Truth of the Bible met them in the most difficult of times.

Early in the book, in a chapter written by Amanda, I was struck by this quote:

“Trusting in God’s Truth does not mean ignoring everything else. We do not have to explain our fears away in order to earnestly believe God’s promises to us. It is not an either/or situation. It is both/and.”

My copy of the book is full of stars and underlines drawn through tears. Even though my personal “earthquakes” are very different from the authors’ life stories, I was reminded over and over of the sufficiency of God’s word in every area of my life.

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I will be returning to this book in the days and years to come. It offers hope and gentle rebuke to those who desire to be “Holding Tight to Permanent in a World that’s Passing Away.”

Disclaimer: I received one copy of She Reads Truth  for free in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

Humble Roots {review and giveaway}

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In case you were wondering, I do not have a green thumb.

From pumpkins to mums, even the easy, beginner plants seem to wilt at my presence. I watch the master gardeners around me in our rural community cultivating gorgeous blooms and impressive crops of zucchini and tomato. My one attempt at green beans was accidentally weed whacked by my husband. I inadvertently forgot to tell him I was trying to grow something!

Sometimes the struggle to grow spills over into more important areas of my life. Anxiousness chokes out effectiveness in ministry and busyness uproots a flourishing family. The peace I desperately want to harvest seems as elusive as success in my horticultural endeavors.

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Every once in awhile I stumble across words that are beautifully written, simply profound, and poignantly honest. The new book, Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson is full of such writing.

She submits to the reader that our struggles with worry and stress are byproducts of a heart rooted in pride. We believe the subtle lie that we can produce humility on our own by intentionally squelching the lies of our ego.  She takes us on a journey through personal stories, historical accounts, and introductions to a variety of plants and herbs as she gently points the reader to a life-altering truth. Maybe our hectic lives don’t need better planning, harder work, or more self-made remedies. Instead, the fruit of peace and rest naturally grow from humble roots pressing down into Christ.

As I read through the chapters, I underlined dozens of phrases and quotes that brought both conviction and comfort to my soul. Over and over, Hannah returns to this idea,

“Humility, then, is not simply a disposition or set of phrases. Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Humility is knowing where we came from and who our people are. Humility is understanding that without God we are nothing. Without His care, without His provision, without His love, we would still be dust.”

Humble Roots offers so much wisdom and I know I will return to its pages over and over again.

I’m so incredibly excited that Moody Publishers sent me an extra copy to share with you. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on October 23, 2016 and announced on Facebook. Winner will have 48 hours to email rachel@dishesanddoctrine.com or another participant will be chosen.

Disclaimer: I received two copies of Humble Roots  for free as a part of the book launch team. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

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Little Bible Heroes {a giveaway}

You don’t have look at many parenting magazines or websites before you come across the strong recommendation to read to your children from a very early age. Reading can increase literacy and fluency in speech and allows for parent/child bonding. That’s the reason why my pediatrician gives books to my kids at every well-child visit.

Since I’m naturally a multitasker, I want the time I spend reading with my small children to increase not only their language skills, but their knowledge of our God. So I was super excited to discover a new kids series in the bookstore at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference which accomplishes just that.

Each book in the Little Bible Heroes series includes two stories. When the child reaches the end of the first story, they flip the book to read the other. My little girl quickly claimed Ruth & Heroes of Babylon as her book of choice. We read each story over and over again as she pointed out tiny details in the illustrations such a tiny mouse or duck that appears on each page. Although, we haven’t used them yet, each book also includes a Parent Connection in the middle of the two stories. This section would be great for children ready to answer simple questions for comprehension and discussion.

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Often building a children’s library can be expensive, but these books are very affordable. This eases my mind when pages get ripped or chewed. (Please tell me that your children are very rough on their books too!). You could eventually build a library of all of them!

Here are the books in this series:

Creation/Noah Flip-Over Book
Miriam/Daniel Flip-Over Book
Joshua/Rahab Flip-Over Book
Samuel/The Little Maid Flip-Over Book
David/Esther Flip-Over Book
Joseph/The Good Samaritan Flip-Over Book
Christmas/Easter Flip-Over Book
Jesus’ Miracles/Martha Flip-Over Book
Elijah/John the Baptist Flip-Over Book
Heroes of Babylon/Ruth Flip-Over Book
The Little Giver/Zacchaeus Flip-Over Book
Peter/Paul Flip-Over Book

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I want to help you get your own collection started, so I’m giving away one copy of the Miriam/Daniel Flip-over Book. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on August 27, 2016 and announced on Facebook. Winner will have 48 hours to email rachel@dishesanddoctrine.com or another participant will be chosen.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Fresh Out of Amazing {a review}

ListenonitunesYou may define that feeling as….

Burnt-out.

Exhausted.

Drained.

Stressed.

Weary.

My sweet friend, Stacey, calls it “fresh out of amazing”.

No matter the name, we can all identify with the hopeless places in which we find ourselves throughout this journey called life. From chaotic grocery store trips with small children to the agonizing pain of a cancer diagnosis, we have all experienced the loneliness and despair in those moments.

That’s why I’m so thankful for the honest reflection and gentle encouragement that Stacey offers in her new book aptly titled, Fresh Out of Amazing.

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The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 introduces us to five different “fresh out of amazing girls”. Before she begins, however, she reminds of the faithfulness of our Father to begin AND finish the heart renovations He is accomplishing in our lives. He promises to give His perfect grace and complete the work with an infinite eternal view. This was such an important reminder at the start of the book.

I would have to admit that I saw glimpses of myself in each one of the weary women Stacey describes, but my heart was especially challenged and encouraged by the chapter, “Burdened and Busy”. Stacey used Martha, the distracted servant, as an example of a woman who was busy but didn’t need to be burdened because Jesus offered to carry that load for her. Stacy says, “A heart full of duty is no comparison to a heart full of devotion”. She also points out a beautiful transformation in Martha’s life when later in her story we see her actively seeking her Lord in the midst of her brother’s death. She had learned to seek the “better thing”.

In the second half of the book Stacey invites the readers to “gaze into the heart of Jesus”. She spends time explaining practical ways to rest in the burden-carrying grace Christ offers. My heart was especially touched by Chapter 10: Worship – Even If…..I Still Will. Based on an earlier discussion from Habakkuk’s message, she emphasizes his powerful words, “The righteous will live by faith” which is quoted later on in Scripture. We worship our God by reflecting on His faithfulness and waiting in silent expectation for Him. “Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is worship God.”

Stacey includes a mini-challenge and study guide for small groups at the end of the book for those readers who would like to dig deeper. This book is perfectly laid out for a book club discussion. In the midst of real and raw confessions and “fresh out of amazing” stories, Stacey does a wonderful job of pointing our eyes to the One who is always and forever amazing. I thank God for laying these words on her heart and for her bravery in sharing them with us!

Find out more about Stacey and her newest book (Coming September 2016) at freshoutofamazing.com

Pre-order your own copy on Amazon and receive the first 6 chapters right away!

**I was given a free advanced reader’s copy to read and review. These thoughts are completely my own.

Frolic Series {a review}

I love diving boards.

Strangely though, I actually never dive correctly off of them. Instead I walk to the very end and jump feet first into the pool. I can vividly remember swimming at the olympic size pool at my college. I loved the way time seemed to stand still as I fell from the high board. I would allow gravity to take me deep into the water hopefully to feel the cement bottom with my toes.

As parents, we have the special privilege of sharing the depths of Scripture and the gospel with our children as they grow. We will be their swim vest during the early years, keeping them afloat with core doctrines and beliefs of our faith. We offer them the diving board to know God through Jesus in an intimate personal way. Our ultimate goal is their ability to navigate the waves of theology with their own grasp of biblical truth.

These “swimming lessons” must start very early in life. Even when a little one’s language is just forming, he can learn truths about God, our sin, and our Savior. It is never too early to begin.

Recently, I was asked to review the brand new Frolic Series from Sparkhouse Family. Because of my role as a pastor’s wife, I am asked often about resources for children so I was eager to explore these books.

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Frolic Board Books (Ages 0-3)

Appearance:

My daughter who is almost two, wanted to read these books right away. As she flipped through the pages, she pointed out small details like a butterfly or flower. This age is naturally enamored with animals so the use of a sheep, dog, hedgehog, dove, and goat for the main characters is a fun touch.

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Content:

These books introduced initial concepts about God and faith in a gentle way. For instance God’s Wonderful World uses the five senses to introduce Creation and Pray to God focuses on praying to God anytime and anywhere.

Conclusion:

These books are a good fit for its target ages. Babies and toddlers can easily begin to understand very basic tenets of our faith. The topics and pictures help them learn about the world around them in a gentle way. I would label these books as good “diving boards” to deeper topics as they get to age 3 and above.

 

Frolic Friends (ages 3-5)

Appearance:

Again, I loved the illustrations in this set of four books. My four year old begged to read them as soon as I opened the box. The size of the books is perfect for little hands to hold and their hardback cover is definitely a plus for busy little ones.

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Content:

These books cover a variety of character building topics such as patience, anger, friendship, and sharing. When each character struggles with those respective qualities, he stops to pray to ask God for help resulting in an answer to prayer and change in the situation. The last page of each book includes verses, discussion, and prayer for the parents to use with the child.

Conclusion:

It’s important for children at this age to realize that being a good person will never come naturally because of our sin nature. I appreciate the prayer in each of these books pointing to a need that can be solved only outside of ourselves. However, I do think these prayers could have been written to more specifically point to the answer which is Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Because he was perfectly patient, giving, etc…. we have hope to show those same qualities. This is an extremely important age for beginning to truly comprehend the gospel and our desperate need for a Rescuer. I would hate to short circuit that understanding by focusing mainly on outward behavior.

 

Frolic First Bible (ages 0-3)

Appearance:

I was impressed with the quality of this little Bible. It’s binding looks like it would hold up well with toddler use. The illustrations are bright and colorful which would definitely interest little ones.

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Content:

This Bible includes 20 of the most well-known stories from both the Old and New Testaments. Each story is two pages with simply written text and a short application at the end.

Conclusion:

I have mixed feelings about this Bible. While, it is geared for very small children who cannot read and will mainly be interested in the pictures, I was disappointed in the faith message at the end of each page. Even at two years old, I want my my children to understand theological truth on their level. For example, one story concluded with “God is pleased with me.” When in reality, God is only pleased with me through the blood of His Son. The story of David & Goliath goes beyond bravery and ultimately shows us the One who defeated the giant of sin. On an age-appropriate level, even the smallest of children can begin understanding these truths.

If these books are a part of your family library, I think they could act as great beginning diving boards for your child’s faith.

Thank you to Sparkhouse Family for the opportunity to review these materials! Check out these and other Sparkhouse products at their website or the Sparkhouse blog.

Praying Together {a review}

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I don’t recall the first time I prayed.

Since I was born to two believers who pray often, I’m sure it was around the age when my language started developing in other ways. I can remember taking time to pray as a family each Sunday morning over homemade cinnamon rolls. In high school, I joined a group of students each morning before the 1st period bell to pray for our teachers and classes. In college, I attended a prayer meeting each Tuesday night focused on the needs of missionaries around the globe. As a pastor’s wife, I continue to pray regularly with my church family.

I guess I could say that prayer has become second-nature to me. I easily volunteer to pray out loud in social situations. My husband and I share times of prayer with both each other and our children. It has become natural thing to take my concerns and praises before the throne of God.

Praying Together{a review}In my comfort, though, I have lost my awe of the privilege and calling of prayer. That’s why I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to have recently read, Praying Together, by Megan Hill. She beautifully reminds us of the foundation of praying together, the fruit of corporate prayer, and the practical outworking of the first two in our churches and homes.

She begins by emphasizing the fact that prayer is all about relationship. Many of us have heard teaching and preaching on the need to go beyond lists of requests and complaints in our prayer times remembering that we are participating in a two-way conversation with our Heavenly Father. I was especially struck, however, with Megan’s point that we are never alone in our praying because we are interacting with the entire Godhead – the Trinity. This removes the pressure of praying perfectly because “the one-in-three in whom we trust lovingly takes all our prayers, cleanses them of sin, and reorients them to match his holy will.” What a reassuring point!

Many look at the modern Church and see strife and discord among her members. Could it be that many of our local congregations have forgotten the importance of joining together with a common Savior and an common cause? We have forgotten the rewards of praying together. Megan spends time discussing the sweet unity and deep bond that develops when people from different backgrounds take time to approach the throne of grace with one another. The result can only be a unified relationship which allows us to truly share in both the joys and burdens of our brothers in Christ.

The final third of Praying Together focuses on the how-to of corporate prayer. What does prayer look like in our church services, with our best friend, or with our dinner guests? I especially loved the section on praying with your children. According to the book, “As Christian parents, our first responsibility to our children is to pray in front of them and on their behalf“. It is from our prayers as a family that our children learn both how to pray and key theological truths that will deepen their knowledge of God. When praying, both the parent and the child approach the God of the universe on equal footing (through the blood of Jesus) and with the same neediness.

This book is packed with both theological truth and practical points for all believers. It could be used for a small group study using the discussion/reflection questions at the end of the book. She reminds all of us (whether we’ve been praying for 3 days or 30 years) that praying together is a treasure worth cherishing. Personally, it filled my heart with a renewed passion to value this privilege and use it often with my brothers and sisters.

Purchase your own copy at Crossway or Amazon.

**I received a free digital copy of this book from Crossway for review. 

 

 

Blotch {a giveaway}…

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Email subscribers, click through to the website to listen. 

She shook her tiny toddler finger in my face and scowled. “Stop,” she commanded with all the authority she could muster. My mouth fell open. How had she learned to be so bossy, so demanding?

The truth is that I shouldn’t have been the least surprised. After three children, I’ve clearly seen how early and naturally sin manifests itself.  As my husband said while holding each of our newborn babies for the first time, “What a cute little sinner”.

In order to correctly teach the doctrine of sin to our kids, we must reinforce the fact that we are inherently or naturally sinners from the time of our conception. It is that original sin that then reveals itself in wrong behaviors and attitudes. In other words, we fail to meet God’s perfect standards before we have officially committed our first misdeed.

Just like when we teach about the eternal punishment for sin, it’s this bad news that makes the good news so wonderful! Jesus took the separation and consequences of our evil choices on himself to offer us a way out of the horrible mess we all find ourselves in from birth.

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It can be intimidating to explain these concepts to our kids and we fear that we might explain it incorrectly or somehow confuse their little minds. That’s why it can be so helpful to have resources like the brand new book, Blotch by Andy Addis.

This 5-chapter parable, follows the story of Blotch who is a boy who lives in a kingdom where everyone is born with one mark on their skin. Each time they act or think wrongly, a new blotch appears. He is determined to find out a way to get rid of these embarrassing spots, so he sets out on a journey. Along the way, he meets different people dealing with this blotch problem in different ways (hiding them, ignoring them, etc…). He finally finds the answer to this pressing dilemma when he meets a kind stranger who is willing to offer himself in a sacrificial way.

I won’t spoil the end for you, but I will say that this book explained the gospel in a gentle, yet clear way. It’s illustrations perfectly fit the story and my boys couldn’t wait for me to turn the page. It also includes notes for parents and a discussion guide to accompany each chapter. It worked well for us during our homeschool Bible time, but it would also be a great tool for family worship in the evenings as well.

I would encourage you to add this tool to your family library as you seek to share the simple yet profound story of the gospel with your children. You may even find yourself gripped once again with the beauty of the King who offers to remove your stains too!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have one copy of Blotch to giveaway. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on April 16, 2016 and contacted via email.

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Steadfast Love {a giveaway}….

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It seemed to go on forever. The 165 mph winds tore at shingles and twisted pine trees. This monster of a hurricane unleashed tornadoes and blinding rain. We attempted to get a little sleep in the crowded shelter, but it was practically impossible to rest with the sound of metal banging against the outside of the building all night long.

When the gusts finally died down, we emerged to find something similar to a war-zone. Pieces of bent metal and shattered glass covered the ground. The still air caused an eerie silence as we stood amazed the damage as far as we could see.

The two weeks following Hurricane Ivan consisted of clean-up, military MRE’s, cold showers, and more sleepless nights in the humid Florida air. The memories of sweet outdoor church services and hour-long waits to fill up our gas can will stay with us forever.

It was a storm we will never forget.

You may quickly see some parallels in your own life. You may never experience a storm of that magnitude where you live, but I know you have experienced the howling winds and battering rain of life’s storms. Cancer – Broken relationships – Financial ruin – Unanswered prayers — all tempests of life that leave us wondering what in the world hit us and where can we run for cover?

“Sometimes He wrings worship from our hearts.” – Lauren Chandler

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In 2009, Lauren Chandler found herself thrown in the middle of one of those storms of life. Her husband experienced a seizure and was rushed to the hospital to later be diagnosed with a brain tumor. The next weeks and months were filled with wave after wave of emotion, worry, and fear. It was in that whirlwind that Lauren learned some of the most beautiful lessons about God and His faithfulness.

In her new book, Steadfast Love, she takes us on a journey through Psalm 107. Its poetic style gracefully points our focus to the True Anchor for our souls in the middle of life’s tumultuous sea. Our enemy seeks to distract us by other, less effective anchors that will never survive the gale force winds of life, but God is faithful to hold on to us in spite of our wandering. She reminds the reader, that even when God says “no” to our pleas for relief, we can be confident in His love and the freedom He offers from the idols of our heart.
He is not only our anchor in the storm, but the master controller of the storm itself.
I love what she says near the end of the book…..

“He uses the adversity of the storm more than the advantage of the calm.”

I don’t know the current status of the sea of your life today. You may feel tossed about like a little rowboat. The waves may not seem too overwhelming right now, but either way, I encourage you to dig into this promising passage of Scripture with Lauren. I know you’ll walk away overwhelmed with the all-consuming steadfast love of our Savior.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I have one copy of Steadfast Love to giveaway. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on March 5, 2016 and contacted via email.

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