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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Open Hands-Laura Story's Newest CD {A Flyby Review}

When the "call" came out to review this new album by Laura Story, I was eager to say "yes"!  Her song Blessings was a real blessing to me, as I'm sure it was to so many people out there based on its popularity. For those of you not familiar with Laura, here's a bit of her bio:

GRAMMY® award winning artist, speaker, songwriter, author and worship leader Laura Story has a gift for penning songs that connect with people all around the world. Among her successes as a solo artist with her smash hits “Mighty to Save” and “Blessings,” Laura has also penned hit songs for other renowned artists including Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable.” Her solo artist music debut in 2008 with Great God Who Saves led to four Dove nominations and the award for “Inspirational Album of the Year.”

I loved this backstory that we were given about the inspiration for this album:

Throughout the Bible, there are countless stories of ordinary people whole-heartedly attempting to live a life fully surrendered to God’s unique calling on their lives. More than once, God asks people of faith to relinquish control and simply trust Him. These days, singer/songwriter Laura Story is discovering the beauty found in letting go. It’s this posture of surrender that she’s striving for on her fifth studio album, Open Hands (Fair Trade Services).
“We have this picture all the way through the Scriptures of all these great leaders in this process of surrendering everything. What the Lord is asking them is not, ‘You need to hold on tighter. You need to manage this better.’ What the Lord asks us is to surrender,” she offers, “It’s about learning to live with open hands, learning to live life in this constant state of saying, ‘Lord, my life is Yours. My time is Yours. My resources are Yours. All of this is Yours. Do what You will.’”

I found this to be such a true sentiment.  Having just finished a study of Ezekiel, I was struck by all the odd (to the observer), difficult things God asked Ezekiel to do, and he lived a life fully surrendered.  Time and time again in the Bible, ordinary people do extraordinary things when they let go and let God.

And this quote was so insightful:

 “Worship at the very core of what it is is ‘worth-ship.’ It’s the easiest definition I’ve ever heard of worship. It’s giving God worth, and sometimes that means verbal adoration and praise. Sometimes that’s showing Him worth with our calendars and our checking accounts. No matter what it is, it always begins with open hands. It always begins with a willingness to say, ‘You are worth whatever cost you call me to give,’” she maintains. “Worship in its very core begins with surrender. That’s how we really show God that He’s worth it all.”

OBM says: Open Hands does a wonderful job of taking you to the throne of grace.   From the title song, which features guest vocals from Mac Powell of Third Day fame, to my personal favorite For the Love of My King- a beautiful updated version of My Jesus I Love Thee, each of these songs definitely speaks of God's worth-ship.  The last song, Grace Abounds, is simplistic, but lovely, and such a great reminder on days when everything seems to be going wrong.  Overall, Open Hands is truly a worshipful CD that would make a wonderful addition to any collection.

To purchase the album or any of the songs individually, you can go to iTunes.

To follow Laura Story and her music, you can use any of the links below:

I have great news for one reader!  I have a copy of Open Hands to give away this week.  Just enter the raffle below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Returning by Rachelle Dekker {A Tyndale Review}

***I want to start by saying I was meant to post this on the 17th for the book's launch, but my computer has been misbehaving terribly, and I have not been able to get it working, even with a “tech guy” for a husband.  I feel terrible, and I am ever so appreciative to Tyndale and Ms. Dekker for the opportunity to review this book.***

I was SO excited to be chosen to review this final book in Rachelle Dekker’s The Seer series.  I’ve had the chance to review each of the other books in the series and was very much looking forward to reading The Returning and seeing how the story concluded.  Before I get too much into my thoughts, here’s a little background on the book and the author.

 The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair.

Tyndale provided some Q&A about the book directly from the author, which is so insightful.

Set the scene for The Returning. What has happened since The Calling ended? Well, it’s been nearly 20 years, and the world has changed. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read the first two, so I’ll just say the world is very different and much more dangerous than it once was. But something is brewing under the surface. Change is coming, and people know it. 

What themes are explored in this book? Identity is something I am always exploring, so that’s no different in The Returning. But in this novel I took a really hard look at forgiveness and how that relates to our journey of discovering who we really are.

The theme of identity is explored in all three Seer books. How does forgiveness relate to identity? For me, forgiveness is more about the one who feels wronged than the one who committed the wrong. What if, for a moment, you believed that nothing could harm you? That you, as a believer, are seated at the Father’s table and standing with him? Can anything harm the Father? If you believe no, then can anything harm you—the true you, the true spirited self? So then, forgiveness becomes more about letting go of false belief and stepping into the true identity that the Father gave to you. I know it’s radical, but belief like that could change the world, don’t you think? 

How do you hope this book will resonate with your readers? I hope, as with both of the other books, that the reader sees themselves in the characters and that the story causes them to look inward. To ask hard questions like, Who am I? What am I capable of? Do I see myself the way the Father does? Can I? I hope it challenges their idea of identity and then gives them hope to see themselves and others more clearly. Because that’s how these stories have impacted me, and we are all really just the same. 

OBM says:  I read this book over the course of a day.  It sucked me in, the wanting to know the end of all the characters’ stories.  I personally enjoyed this book so much more than the second one and felt that it came back around to the original feel of the first book, The Choosing.  I love that there are discussion questions at the end, not because I am in a book club, or because I have anyone to discuss the book with, but because they make me think a bit more about the story.  It’s an odd genre- this post-apocalyptic/dystopian but decidedly Christian one-since that possibility doesn’t really line up with how I understand end-times to work, but it does give YA readers who enjoy the post-apocalyptic genre a faith filled series to enjoy.  And reading Ms. Dekker's Q&A made me look at the themes beyond the possibility of whether the scenario was plausible or not belief-wise in my mind's eye.  I did thoroughly enjoy the entire series-it's very readable, and definitely draws you into the story that she is telling.  The one character I struggled with a lot was Aaron, as I wasn't sure what he was exactly supposed to represent, and so I'll share Ms. Dekker's words on him from her Q&A:  What is he supposed to represent and what kind of spiritual leader is he? I like to leave this one open, which I know isn’t really the answer you want. I want the reader to decide who he is to them. For me he’s a guiding light, an angel maybe, a representation of the spirit who communicates with us and leads us. He can be many things—mostly, though, he’s a great way to hear truth.  I'd wholeheartedly agree that he was the character through which the greatest amount of Biblical truth was spoken.

The Seer series in general, and The Returning specifically, is available on and in bookstores everywhere.
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Monday, December 19, 2016

When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette by Max Davis {A Review and Giveaway}

It seems like it's been forever, but this Blessed Mamma has been plugging away at the Mamma part of her job a LOT lately.  Life is settling in a bit and I was really ready for this opportunity to fill my spiritual cup when the opportunity came to review When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette.  That title catches your attention, doesn't it?  Here's the official blurb:

When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette weaves heartwarming and miraculous stories of Jesus showing up in ordinary people, revealing that He knows us and is fully present in our everyday circumstances, especially in our difficulties. Those hurting and weary from worn-out religion are longing for a fresh touch from the living Jesus. Best-selling author Max Davis challenges us to do more than simply receive God’s grace—we need to allow grace to soften, change, and shape us. As you read this book you will laugh, cry, and come face-to-face with the living Jesus, much like Davis did, when he found Him living in a green-eyed brunette. As Davis puts it, “Jesus is very much alive today and still does incredible things—sometimes supernatural things—through us!”
I wasn't familiar with the author, Max Davis, and in case you aren't either, here's his bio:
 Max Davis is the author of over 20 published books and has been featured in USA Today and Publishers Weekly and has appeared on The Today Show and The 700 Club. He holds degrees in Journalism and Biblical Studies and is a much sought-after speaker for churches and organizations worldwide. He and his wife, Alanna, live on 50 beautiful acres in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.
His wife Alanna, by the way, is the green-eyed brunette in question, but you'll have to read the book to get more of that story.  In fact, the book is full of stories of people "Loving People Like God Does" as the subtitle suggests.   I think this quote sums up best the purpose of the book and the stories shared in it, "It's about allowing the Jesus inside us to transform us and then use us to touch the people who come into our lives..."  Mr. Davis further says our calling, with Jesus living inside us, is to "step where He steps, stop where He stops, and go where He goes."

OBM says: I took this book with me to read during "downtime" as I ran my brood from place to place, and frequently found myself moved to tears and having to discreetly wipe my eyes :).  More than that, I found myself challenged by some of the stories.  I try to touch the lives of people who come into my life for the better, but I'm no Corrie ten Boom.  And yet I'm reminded that I just need to honor and obey God in all my circumstances.  Go when He says go, stay when He says stay, and always strive to keep my relationship right with Jesus first and foremost.  I'd recommend this book for anyone who needs to be reminded of Jesus's presence in their life or of how He can work through them in the lives of others.

U.S. Residents can enter below for your chance to win a copy of When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Loved+Blessed Box Review

It's so nice when encouragement arrives on your doorstep.  Especially when all you've been dealing with for weeks is brown moving boxes and this one is a petite pink box with the words "loved + blessed" on the outside.  Even the mailing label says, "Encouragement Delivered."  And that's exactly what the Loved+Blessed Box is-encouragement delivered to your home.

Last month's theme was "Speak Life."  The box contained a mini poster reminding recipients not to believe everything they think, and then providing positive encouragement (you are loved, you are blessed...), a removable, repositionable sticker, two scripture cards (one was a bonus), a theme card, which is mounted inside the box to explain this month's theme, and a journal for recording encouraging scripture, quotes, or positive thoughts.  Here's what it all looked like:
Loved + Blessed Boxes can be bought in month to month, and 3, 6, or 12 month pre-paid subscription plans.  They are $10 each month to month, and less for the pre-paid.  You can also purchase them as a gift for someone else at the same price.  Previous boxes are available for purchase as well.  The price is slightly higher ($12), but you know what you are getting, so that's helpful if one box looks particularly appealing or encouraging for someone you know.

OBM says:  The idea of these little monthly subscription boxes is so popular right now.  And I love that this one is Christian and positive and NOT full of a ton of junk that I just feel guilty about throwing away because I paid for it.  They'd also make great, inexpensive, "I was thinking of you" gifts to send.  As to the box I specifically received, I wish the mini poster had stuck exclusively to affirmations that were Biblical and then put the citation beneath the saying, i.e. "you are wonderfully made...Psalm 139:14" and skipped the "you are smart" type things because I'm not sure that's among God's promises for each of us :).  Other than that, I loved the box, and I think it came at a perfect time for me.  Ephesians 4:29, the verse on the scripture card, is one of my favorites to be reminded of, especially in the stress of moving!  I am truly loved and blessed-it's a good reminder.

For you Facebookers out there, Loved+Blessed has a FB page where they post encouraging things on a regular basis.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

So, We Bought a House Today :)

This is the new home on the range ;).  It all came together rather quickly, and we've been crazy making everything fall into place between the time we made the offer and today when we closed, but it's officially ours.  There's some drama over the fence you see in the picture-it *should* be tethered to the back corner of the house according to the HOA guidelines, not the front corner.  So the HOA tried to stop the closing, but we have a fence company coming to move it, and the sellers under contract to pay for that fee plus any HOA fines, so we went on and closed because we need to get out of our rental house.

I'm super excited to say that we have plenty of room for guests to stay, and .79 acres of land for kids to run around.  A wood playset stayed, and we'll have a volleyball net up soon enough.

After living in a house built in 1883 for over a decade, and this "stuck in the 80's" rental for the past 2 1/2 years, a 3 year old house sounds really, really amazing to me.

I'll post some more pictures as soon as I take some of my own, although it won't look nearly as impressive with our stuff in it as it did with theirs :).

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Calling by Rachelle Dekker {A Tyndale Review}

Back in May of last year, I had the opportunity to review The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker.  Ever since that time, both my son and I have been eagerly awaiting its sequel, and so when the chance to review The Calling finally came up (you know how long it seems when you are waiting for that next book!), I jumped at the opportunity!

About The Calling:
Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk.
As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels—he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.
With dissension in his own camp—and the CityWatch soldiers closing in—Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing.
About Rachelle Dekker:
 The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. The Choosing was her critically acclaimed debut novel. Rachelle graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat Blair. Visit her online at
Some Q&A with the author:
The Calling is the second book in The Seer Series. Does it pick up right after The Choosing leaves off? No, a year and a half has passed when we rejoin the characters in The Calling.

 In the book you talk a lot about surrendering to fear. What does this look like and how does this help us to not be afraid? I think sometimes the natural reaction to fear is to hide from it, or try and push it away. It’s the idea that if we can’t see it then it must not be there, but we all know that unless dealt with the unseen things often come back to bite us. The only way to face fear is to walk through it; surrendering to Father God and letting Him reminder us of our true identity. Only then do we really see that the light within us is always greater than the fear we face.

What do you hope readers will take away from the story? 
I hope they take a moment to see themselves as children of the Father. I hope they see that true freedom and fearlessness rest in surrendering, and that when they stand with the Father than nothing can stand against them. There is incredible peace in that truth, and I hope, like I am beginning the experience, that readers feel that same peace.

What can readers expect in the final book of the series?
Characters they know and some new ones I hope they’ll love! More questions of identity, and fear, but the characters will also be looking at forgiveness and letting go. I’m really happy with the way the final book played out, and I’m hoping readers will be as well.

OBM says:  I was so looking forward to this next book in the series.  I had really, truly enjoyed The Chosen, and waited almost a year to find out more of the story for Remko, Carrington, and the others.  But almost a year is a long time to be out of a story, and so when I picked up The Calling, it took me a few minutes to re-acclimate. This book was so much about Remko and his struggle to just let go.  He's leading the Seers, but he's not really a Seer himself, at least not in a true believer sense of the word.  But Aaron, their spiritual leader, knows he just needs time, and trusts Remko even when Remko feels like a failure himself.  That struggle is one I believe so many people can relate to.  What I didn't love about The Calling, when I wanted to much to love it, was that it felt like a second novel...a middle book.  It didn't feel resolved, and it doesn't seem like it tells it's own engaging, stand-alone story.  Instead, it leaves me desperate for the third and final novel to see how the story will conclude.  Still, The Calling is a critical part of the story if you began the trilogy, and the third book promises to be full of surprises.

The Calling is available from Tyndale Publishing this month for $15.99.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Women of Faith: An Amazing Joyful Journey Preview {A Flyby Review}

It's not often I find myself without words, but this is one of those times.  Today, I'm asked to share a different kind of "review" with you.  

More of a personal story. 

But first, you have to understand Women of Faith
Over the last nearly 20 years, Women of Faith - - grew to become the largest non-denominational Christian women's conference, touching over five million lives with personal stories full of laughter and tears.  Stage events have included such inspirational and spiritual luminaries such as Campus Crusade for Christ's Mary Graham, author & reality TV star Corie Robertson, author & popular speaker Luci Swindoll, author Sheila Walsh, and others. 
My personal story with Women of Faith begins in Orlando, FL.  I had heard of WoF for years from some sisters in Christ, but they always went with their church groups, and I didn't go to those churches so I always seemed to miss out.  Then I got involved with MOPS, and there was talk about our steering team going.  I could not have been more excited.  I think I bullied the group into was the driving force behind our attendance simply because of my persistence, but God had a bigger plan.  See, that year one of my best friends, who was also our MOPS coordinator, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.  And she was part of the group that had committed to going to WoF.  Unbeknownst to us, the dramatist, Nicole Johnson's, skit that year was about "Stepping into the Ring" to battle cancer.  There was not a dry eye in our group.  God had surely brought us there, as surely as He brought me to here the message the year her skit began "I called her Amy, it means beloved..."  and I sobbed openly in an arena full of people as God showed me again not only His love for me, but my mother's love through this stranger's skit.  I've loved and laughed with Luci, nearly peed my pants with Patsy, and been mothered by Marilyn.  It's safe to say that Women of Faith changed my life and brought me closer to my Savior and my Lord, and showed me how beautiful corporate worship with tens of thousands of Sisters in Christ can be...and how amazing it will be someday in heaven.

My friend with cancer?  She bought some little boxing gloves they were selling at WoF that year, and hung them in her car.  They reminded her she fought a bigger enemy than just cancer.  And she won that battle, both with cancer and against the enemy.  She passed her gloves and the story behind them on to another friend who found herself dying of melanoma in her 30s.  Sadly, my friend needed them again for her second trip "into the ring."  This time she was victorious in a different way, and her life and death both shine as a testimony to God's ability to touch so many people through one special person's life.

And so now the "review":
If you've never experienced Women of Faith for  yourself, here's your chance  Or if you have, and want to relive it, now you can.  On February 18 and 20 and March 3 and 5th, Women of Faith is coming to theaters around the country!

The cinema event will take viewers on a journey of Women of Faith through the years, on stage and off, on their travels with World Vision, their impact on audiences, in short the way they've changed the world.  Partly historical, and frequently hysterical, this unique cinematic experience will be packed with some of the most popular pieces from the beloved speaking team to include Anna Trent, Thelma Wells, Mary Graham, Luci Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Jen Hatmaker, Sandi Patty, Patsy Clairmont, Nicole Johnson, and Marilyn Meberg as well as music and performances from Christian contemporary artists that appeared on the tour.  Featuring never-before-seen interviews, outtakes, and behind the scenes footage, this event presentation will bring back memories for all those who have attended a Women of Faith weekend as well as create new memories for those experiencing it for the first time.  

I'm super excited, and fully expecting to need to bring my Kleenex ;).  For information about the Women of Faith: An Amazing Joyful Journey experience and to see whether it is coming to your town, check out the social links below.  So join me at the movies (I'm going February 18th) and see Women of Faith!

Official website
Instagram: @WomenofFaith

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