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Book Review - God Makes Lemonade

Sometimes, life throws a lot of stuff at us. Issues with health, loss of loved ones, broken relationships, financial struggles…and on it goes. Don Jacobson says, “It’s true that in life ‘stuff’ happens, but I’ve found that Lemonade HappensTM too!”
Don Jacobson has put together a book of stories from people who have discovered unexpected sweetness in the middle of sour situations. God Makes Lemonade: True Stories That Sweeten and Inspire is a collection of stories from over 70 contributors and Don has interspersed comments throughout the book that he calls “Lemon Drops”. In many cases, he has followed up with the authors to add a little postscript to the story. In other cases, he comments on his reaction to a story. This book is the first in a series.

What I liked: The stories are heartwarming and inspirational. It makes a great gift book, especially for someone who needs hope. The book is attractive with a really warm feel. It’s very peaceful with light blue accents on the pages and simple graphics added on the titles. It makes it an attractive gift book.

What I didn’t like: This will be nit-picky because I think like a writer and editor more than a reader sometimes. One of the pitfalls in a compilation of stories is that there are great stories, but they aren’t written as well as they could be. As the compiler and editor of the project, Don could have done a little better with removing clich├ęs, taking out excessive uses of passive voice, and tightening up in a few places. The book is formatted in business format with left and right justified margins and a space between paragraphs. This makes it harder to read than standard left justified paragraphs with the first line of each paragraph indented.

I received a free copy of this book from Glass Road Public Relations in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

From the Publisher - About the Book
I bet you could use a little good news right about now. We have just the book for you! In God Makes Lemonade™ you'll read stories from everyday folks
who discover unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances.

Some of these real-life stories are laugh-out-loud funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will have you reaching for a tissue. We sure did!

But these true stories all have one thing in common: hope.
There's no question that life gives us "lemons," like issues with health, employment, and relationships-truly sour circumstances we wouldn't wish on anyone. But when those lemons become lemonade, it's as refreshing as an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day.
About Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson's twenty-five years in publishing included serving as the president and owner of Multnomah Publishers, where he oversaw the production of more than 1000 titles, including the five-million-plus-selling series Stories for the Heart. He's had the pleasure of working with such best-selling authors as Randy Alcorn, Joni Eareckson Tada, Henry Blackaby, Robin Jones Gunn, Karen Kingsbury, Andy Stanley, and Bruce Wilkinson. Don's wife, Brenda, has been mentoring mothers for more than a decade.

Jacobson and his wife are passionate about helping single mothers and their children, so the royalties from God Makes Lemonade will benefit these unsung heroes through the LemonAid Foundation. Find out more about Lemonade Books LLC.

A Laugh For You

Last week, at Women of Faith, we heard comedian John Branyan. He's great! His comedy act is clean and family friendly. Enjoy a laugh with John today.


Wome of Faith Imagine - Recap

 Over the weekend, I attended Women of Faith Imagine in St. Paul, MN. It was a refreshing time with other women. I enjoyed the speakers and we laughed and cried together. I got to attend with complimentary tickets from Book Sneeze, Thomas Nelson publishing's review program, for whom I've reviewed books on this blog.

The Xcel Energy Center acoustics were great. No matter where you sit, you can hear and see well.
On Friday, we enjoyed Sheila Walsh and Dr. Henry Cloud during our sessions. 
Sheila Walsh
Guess I forgot to take a picture of Dr. Henry. His sense of humor and his wisdom were both a great part of the day.
 I just can't get the hang of self-portraits. Here's me on the right and my friend Terri on the left. As you can see, she's much more photogenic when it comes to self-portraits.

In the evening, we heard Mary Mary, a sister duo perform. Their "urban" sound was something outside of what I usually listen to, and it was a nice change from my usual.

Later, we got to hear Grammy winner Natalie Grant perform. What a big voice she has!
Natalie Grant
Natalie Grant
The Women of Faith worship team is awesome. I love the harmony and they have amazing voices. I liked that they mixed hymns in with the line-up.
For our Friday evening and all day Saturday seats, we had our own little balcony on the club level. I loved having the space to move around. And that floor had nice amenities.
The View from Our Balcony
A few thoughts about the weekend:

I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to attend this conference. I had attended years ago when the Friday daytime seminars were held at a local church instead of at the stadium. It was really nice to have everything all at one spot. Plus, I noticed the attendance for the day session was way higher than I remember. 

When I've attended in the past, the Friday session was much more of a note-taking in-depth sort of a seminar. This was different from the rest of the conference which was more inspirational, but not a deep theological study. However, this time, I noticed that the Friday session was more of an extension of the rest of the conference--an inspiring and biblically sound session, but not a deep study. And that's okay.

Women of Faith is different from other conferences such as Beth Moore studies in that it has a different purpose. It's a great place to bring a friend who needs encouraging, or a place to be uplifted and recharged yourself. But the goal isn't to provide women with a deep Bible study. Women will be moved by the stories of the speakers and as women laugh and cry together and they'll hear of God's faithfulness.

I was moved by Angie Smith's story of her little girl Audrey who lived less than a day. And by Sheila Walsh's testimony and frankness. Lisa Harper had an incredible story of God's grace, and Nicole Johnson got real about her life too. 

Luci Swindoll made us laugh and cry and she gave women the opportunity to pray to receive Christ. I thought the explanation could have been a little more thorough so the women understood the step they were taking. 

We even got a bonus performance when Nicole Johnson's little boy Elliot a.k.a. "Michael Jackson" got on stage and danced to "I'm Bad" for us. He's got a future in show business and I think Nicole has her hands full! That boy likes the spotlight.

The one thing I noticed about attending a conference like this now as compared to when I was much younger is I'm at a different place spiritually. I no longer need it for the hype or an emotional high. Instead, it was a shot in the arm of encouragement that has helped me get unstuck from a place of complacency and normalcy. I needed the rock solid reminders that I matter to God and his plan is good for me. I'm so glad I went!


Like Dandelion Dust - the Movie

I can't imagine what it would be like to adopt a baby and find out when he was seven years old that the biological father's consent was forged on the adoption papers. And I can't imagine what it would be like if the courts ordered that I give my precious son over to his biological parents after the biological father is released from prison.

As a mother, my heart aches to think of what it would be like to let me little boy go visit people who live in a much different environment from our safe home. It would nearly kill me to know my boy was going into a potentially abusive environment.

In the movie Like Dandelion Dust, this is what happens to Jack and Molly Campbell. With the law on the side of the biological parents, they must decide what to do to save their family.

I was surprised that this movie was rated PG-13 since it was missing all of the tacky stuff that most PG-13 movies have. The movie description says the rating is for mature thematic material including domestic violence and alcohol abuse. I agree with the rating because the material would be scary for younger children and for once a movie got the rating right.

Read more details about the movie on IMDB

I have never read the novel by Karen Kingsbury that this book is based on, so I have no way of comparing the two. However, I thought the move was excellent.


Book Review - Why Church Matters

Joshua Harris says, “Church isn’t where we go. It’s who we are.” That’s backwards from how many Christians view church. Often, we see it as a place that is supposed to meet our needs, but we don’t think of our connection to a home church as part of our responsibility.

Why Church Matters addresses the issue of falling in love with the family of God. Harris calls people who go to church for what they can get, they are careful about getting too involved, and they are quick to find fault with everything.

Harris says we need the local church to encourage us, to help us apply God’s word to our lives, and to help us see our sin. But far too few people are willing to let the church carry out this role. He goes are far as saying that one of the 10 criteria for choosing a church is finding one that will kick you out if needed. This church discipline is part of the responsibility of holding Christians to their commitment  and the responsibility of loving people enough to do what is needed for the good of their soul.

One thing I liked about the author is that he isn’t afraid to stir up controversy and shake up people’s thinking. He places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the attendee and not fully on the church. For example, he says, “be careful how you hear.” He says listening is a form of worship and we are held accountable for what we have heard, regardless of whether it moves us emotionally. He says pastors should strive to make their sermons easy to understand and engaging. However, even if they do not meet that criteria, it’s still the responsibility of the people who hear the sermon to listen carefully, apply the truth they hear.

Harris’s approach is different from many and I liked his boldness. Even though I might disagree with a few things he says, most of it is spot on and just what churchgoers need to read to get a revival started. His fresh approach to the subject combined with solid scripture backing makes this an excellent resource tool for those who are seeking a church as well as those who church-hop frequently. I highly recommend that pastors read it as well.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for review purposes. I am not obligated to write a favorable review.


Women of Faith - St. Paul MN is Coming Soon

I'm counting down! I mentioned Women of Faith in a post a few weeks ago, but in less than two weeks, I'll be there! I'll be blogging and posting pictures from Women of Faith in St. Paul, MN so be sure to watch for those posts. If you haven't ever been to one of these events, I encourage you to consider joining me in St. Paul, or attending an event in your area.

I have found that the excitement at a large group event is contagious, and even though I don't condone basing spiritual life on emotions, there are times when it's appropriate to catch the excitement and celebrate God. In my past experience, the Friday intensives have been a fabulous time of spiritual growth, so I'm looking forward to that.

Here's a clip from Women of Faith:
I'm excited about my seats. Women of Faith sent me complimentary tickets via the Book Sneeze review program, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend and bring a friend.

Have you ever attended Women of Faith? If so, what was your experience. I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.


Fresh Brewed Life - a Book Review

Is the daily grind getting you down? Nichole Johnson invites readers to wake up in Fresh-Brewed Life. This book is an updated version of the one she released ten years ago. Much has happened in Nicole’s life since her first book and she’s open and honest about her life. A popular Women of Faith speaker, she’s inspired many women.

In this book, Johnson covers an array of topics: friendships, relationships, beauty, sexuality, dreams, and more. Each topic is handled with a biblical perspective and there are discussion questions in the back for those who want to use the book as a small group study.

Chapters have attractive callout quotes throughout as well as activities called “fresh brewed adventures” for the reader to do. Example: Write a letter to God, confiding in Him your deepest longings. Each chapter also has a box with suggestions for “directed journaling”. Example: What is someone else doing that you wish you were doing?

One of the most effective chapters in Fresh-Brewed Life was the one on anger. Johnson is open about her own struggle and gets to the heart of why people get angry. The other chapter that I found significant was the one on changing your world. So many women are hindered by fear, overwhelmed by life, and unaware of their real passion. This book helps then reconnect with their dreams and let go of what holds them back.

At first I thought this would be a collections of devotions. It isn’t. It’s more of a workbook to help women do just what the title promises—to wake up their souls and live a richer, fuller, more flavorful life.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review purposes through their Book Sneeze program. 


Could You Pack Up and Move to Africa? For Coffee?

When you sip your morning java, do  you ever wonder where the beans for that coffee came from? Do you ever wonder about the farmer? I didn't think much about it when I'd make my espresso and blend it up with some milk and ice...that is I didn't until I met someone who does care about the farmer. And he made me think differently about it.

Ben Carlson, a native of my little Wisconsin neighborhood has a passion for helping those farmers get paid what they deserve for their coffee beans. And he's in Africa helping those farmers. But such a passion comes with a price.

As a wife, I cannot imagine what it might be like if my husband's passion took us to the heart of Africa. To a place where the people don't speak my language, and where I'd fall asleep and wake up to gunfire, not peepers and crickets. I cannot fathom raising small children away from grandparents, cousins and friends. But this family is doing it.

I want you to see this stirring (pun not intended) video of Ben and his family. It moved me.

After watching that, I'm ashamed of my petty complaints about my minor discomforts and woes. I'm grateful for the safety of my rural neighborhood and the availability of doctors and clinics. And I'm saddened by the way farmers have been underpaid in Africa for a product that supplies our luxury in lattes and fancy brews.

Kristy and Ben blog about their life in Africa at Long Miles Coffee Project. I encourage you to check out their blog and Kristy's amazing photos and heartwarming posts. And remember, when you sip your next cup of coffee, to pray for Ben and Kristy and others who have given up their own comfort to help oppressed people in places like Burundi. Pray that their faith will remain strong and their hearts will be full of hope as they cope with the daily stresses of such a life.


Practical Advice on How to Clean Your Stove Top

It's everyday Tuesday and I'd like to share a quick cleaning tip with you. If you've never taken  your stove top apart and cleaned it, I think it's about time! Many people don't realize that you can pull apart your traditional stove without damaging anything.

I just finished canning the last load of tomatoes for the season and canning can leave a lot of icky stains on the white stove top. When I put the canner away at the end of the summer, I like to give a stove a polish and shine. That's polish, not Polish, lest those of you who have an aversion to cleaning think I was being politically incorrect.

I won't show a before picture, I'm too ashamed of how bad it was.
Gather your tools for cleaning. Usually a soft cleanser or a powdered cleanser and a scrub pad.
 Lift up the burner and gently pull it from the socket. It's made with ends that unplug, really!
Then remove the drip pan. The drip pan can be washed in hot soapy water that has degreaser.
Remove the knobs from the control panel and wash those in hot soapy water too.
 Then, use the scrubber and hot soapy water or soft cleanser to scrub the back panel and all around the burner openings on the stove surface.
Did you know the stove top lifts up like the hood of a car? You can clean up all of the spills from things that boiled over because they collect in the big metal drip pan under the surface. Most stoves have little props on the side to hold the stove top up for cleaning.
Then, put everything back together and enjoy the beautiful clean stove. It's almost like getting a new one, only cheaper.


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