Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: OVERLOAD: How to Unplug, Unwind, and Unleash Yourself From the Pressure of Stress by Joyce Meyer

Proverbs 12:25(NIV)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Publishers Description

#1 New York Times bestselling author Joyce Meyer shows readers how to become free from the burden of stress so that they can achieve God's best for their lives.
Sound & simple directions to decrease the stress in your life! 

As technology increases your accessibility, it becomes harder to mute the background noise of your life and receive God's guidance. Joyce Meyer calls this OVERLOAD, when the demands of your busy life become all-consuming and overwhelming. But to experience the joyful life God has planned, you must make time to focus on His Word. Then you'll receive His healing calmness and gain the strength to take on life's challenges, from physical ailments to problems in relationships. Through the practical advice and Scriptural wisdom in this book, you'll learn how to unplug and free yourself from burdens that weigh you down. You'll gain simple, effective tips for better rest and stress management and discover the fulfilling life you were meant to lead.

My Personal Review:

OVERLOAD: How to Unplug, Unwind, and Unleash Yourself From The Pressure Of Stress by Joyce Meyer is a multifaceted book aimed at helping the reader deal with stress. There is literally something for everyone in this book!

You won't be disappointed in Joyce Meyer's newest book, Overload. In this extremely well organized publication to be released tomorrow, Joyce identifies stress as "an indiscriminate thief that will take whatever it can from whomever it, peace, rest, relationships, laughter...stress wants to take it all away!" She doesn't stop with assisting the reader in identifying areas of tension in their life, but goes a step farther by providing very concise direction for how to deal with those areas of your life that are creating havoc and stealing your peace. 

 The selling attribute for the book, Overload, is not that there is a large volume of new information being presented, but that the knowledge is presented all together in one place in a very easy reading fashion. The highlighted gray boxes throughout the pages, as well as the "Things to Remember" list at the end of each chapter are a very effective tool for improving retention. Joyce sufficiently covers the effects, common causes, frequent triggers & poor responses of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stress. In addition she delivers tangible instruction on how to decrease the presence of stress in one's life and deal better with those situations that are unavoidable.

Joyce Meyer ( has focused her entire ministry on teaching the Bible, so it is little surprise that the guidance she presents is backed up with scriptural references. She reminds the reader that they have a choice to make each day...they can trust themselves or they can put their trust in God  referencing: 

In a very detailed breakdown of practical solutions, Joyce addresses: confidence in the Lord, making necessary changes in our lives to decrease stress, doing our part to respond to uncontrollable stress in a Godly manner, remembering that God is good, simplifying our lives when possible, laughing more, choosing to live in the security of Christ, monitoring our speech, enjoying the life we have been given, adjusting our perspective and choosing to
become more outward focused by blessing others with acts of service. The book is a catalyst
that promotes personal reflection and serves to assist the reader in discovering those areas
in their life that might be a hindrance to living a stress free life. 

Get outside, take a walk, enjoy a hobby
& drink more water! These are just a few
of the many suggestions to help decrease
stress taken from Joyce Meyer's new book: Overload
There is a tandem workbook with Overload: How to Unplug, Unwind, and Unleash Yourself From the Pressure of Stress that will be available for purchase in May 2016. I would like to go through this workbook with a group of friends or within a Bible Study setting. I think it would provide a beautiful opportunity to connect on an extremely transparent level with a community of believers. This subject matter presented in a Biblical workbook format could be life changing. In the meantime, I plan to reread and apply the advice in this book, one chapter at a time.'s that good!!

I would like to thank FaithWords Publishing for this review copy of OVERLOAD: How to Unplug, Unwind, and Unleash Yourself From the Pressure of Stress by Joyce Meyer. I received this complimentary copy in exchange for reading this book in it's entirety and giving an honest review. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Rian Field by Krista Wagner

Job 7:4 (NIV)
"When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise?' But the night continues, and I am continually tossing until dawn."

Mysterious...until the very end!

Rian Field is living her dream as a Marine Biologist, but when she is attacked by a shark, it triggers memories from the past and changes her understanding of her present world. After surviving the shark attack, Rian Field continues her work at the Institute, determined to continue living her routine life. But as she attempts to cope with her growing post-traumatic stress outbreaks, she is plagued both by memories of an earlier trauma and a sudden onslaught of mysterious and ominous events. She soon finds herself immersed in an inescapable danger as she suspects that her former assailant is still threatening her life--and it may be someone close to her; more disconcerting, though, is the growing certainty that the trauma is somehow connected to the shark attack, compelling Rian to uncover the truth of her past and discover who is after her.

My Personal Review:

Rian Field is the second novel written by Krista Wagner. Her first novel, Intent published by TouchPoint Press in August of 2014 is a suspenseful read with many surprising twists and turns that create a great adventure for the mystery thrill seeker. This latest work released in January 2016, by CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC fits into the same genre of fictional mystery & suspense.

What I loved most about Rian Field is that it teaches the reader about an increasingly prevalent disorder called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Mayo Clinic defines it this way:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

The main character, Rian Field, suffers with this illness from a previous event in her life. Throughout the story, the reader gets to tag along inside her thoughts. The narrative is done in such a way to allow the reader to endure the mayhem inside of Rian's head. The thinking and repetitive circling of paranoia, night terrors, physical symptoms and unrelenting emotional trauma from this disorder are communicated in an informative manner without feeling the sensation of reading a text book. In addition, there is enough intrigue to keep the reader guessing and confused as to where the action will go next and from whom it will be initiated.

The author has a skillful ability to bring a compassionate look at this dreadful phenomenon.
Throughout the work the main character undergoes some therapy for PTSD which sheds light on some of the techniques for treating the illness. In addition to the emotional treatment with counseling sessions and the physical attention to a medical model for stabilization, Wagner touches on the spiritual realm as well. The hidden treasure found unobtrusively towards the middle of this book is the prevailing message that prayer has the ultimate power to break chains of fear, confusion, guilt, mistrust and deceit. Don't miss out on that nugget of truth! 

Anytime a book is able to entertain, inform, keep the reader engaged and give hope, it gets a stamp of approval from me. If you have a special interest in PTSD or you love to devour a good suspense novel, you will definitely enjoy this work. My only recommendation is that you do not read this one at the beach!! 

The Wisest Counselor

Psalm 119:99-100(MSG)
I've even become smarter than my teachers since I've pondered and absorbed Your counsel. I've become wiser than the wise old sages simply by doing what You tell me.

Hmmm...I definitely do NOT feel smarter than my teachers. 

However, I do know that the more I choose to be aware and responsive to the Lord's presence in my life, the more confident I am becoming in my role as a daughter of the most high King. I know that when I ponder the word of God and put it into action, I feel an indescribable strength coming from within. When I absorb verses like John 14:15-18 (NIV), I find a fresh resolve to listen and obey the "Spirit of truth." Read the following words slowly, as it is Christ, the Son of the living God, promising to help us forever!

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him or knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

My birds have given up on trying to chase this
big fella away. I guess they figure if he stays on
his side and they stay on their side nobody
will get hurt! Now that's what I call wisdom!!
Let's face it, in this day and age of technology, a person could feel very overwhelmed and unintelligent extremely quickly. I know this to be true...cuz...I'm living it. I did not grow up with cell phones and key pads. I just recently broke the habit of the "2 spaces" after a period, reducing it to only one space. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay, I can explain. Apparently the current industry standard is to only use one space at the end of a period and before the next sentence. Many of us more, shall we say, mature folks...ahem...were taught to leave two spaces post period in "typing class". Now it's "digital computer class" and it's one space. How did I learn this? From my daughter as I was reading one of her research papers. Yep...I tried to "correct" her and she ended up correcting me. Oh dear. My most recent "learning adventure" involves working the Mac Book without a mouse! I don't know what's so wrong with the mouse. I suppose it is more efficient without it in certain circumstances, however, it's a whole new hand eye coordination game to tap, touch, slide, hold, two finger, one finger & swipe the touch pad to simply check your email or write a blog post. Must I really give up my mouse??!! Oops...I'm getting off topic here. 

So, you see, now you know why it is that I do NOT feel smarter than my teachers...and never will! I wasn't meant to. I need the wiser counsel of the Lord. I need the presence of His Spirit to guide me and continually teach me the will of the Father. Pressing on...

You are so good to have left us with a close friend; One who lives within us and gives us the substantial amount of help that we need to navigate the waters of this fast paced world. May we be ever mindful and responsive to the voice of the Wisest Counselor. May Your name be praised today and forever.
In the powerful name of Christ,

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl & Mary Carver

 Habakkuk 3:18 was Sara's life verse.
"If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
-Dolly Parton"

Habakkuk 3:17-19(MSG)

Though the cherry trees don't blossom and the strawberries don't ripen, 
Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, 
I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. 
Counting on God's rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I'm king of the mountain!

"Sara's story only grew louder, braver, bolder with her death. It's a story that we all need to keep hearing." --Lisa-Jo Baker, bestselling author of Surprised by Motherhood

Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn't let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy--again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.
CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.
In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task--but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.

My Personal Review:

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is a tender love story between Sara & God, whereby she allows the reader to peek into her world of chronic illness. Her clearly communicated message of  hope that life is really a precious gift from God, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, is one of encouragement and immeasurable faith!

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is a newly released candid writing filled with inspiring advice that will not only make you "feel" joyful, but will actually teach you how to choose joy even if your plans don't line up with what the Lord has assigned for your life. The book is presented as a series of blog posts from the deceased Sara Frankl and narrated by Mary Carver. 

Where do I begin with this book? First off, I had no prior knowledge or connections with either of these writer's blogs. I simply chose this book for it's title, because I want to "choose joy" in my life. I mean who doesn't want that, right? However, this quickly became more than just "another book" for me. It's depth and stripped down simplicity for all things pertaining to the true meaning of a well lived life are present in every single chapter.

Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author writes on the back cover, "This isn't a story about dying. It's a story about living." I would have to disagree with part of that. I think this is a story about living and dying. The book is pertinent for all of us, but I would quickly hand this book to anyone with a terminal illness, as Sara's walk through the valley of death could be very comforting to another who is in the same situation. 

Her contagious trust in a loving God and her ability to express it in an encouraging manner are incredible! She brings an authenticity that only someone actually enduring such suffering and one having been given the finality of a death sentence could manage. Those of us who have never experienced this kind of life altering illness can talk about how we would respond, but until we are living it, we don't know. Sara knew. This book transparently reveals her choice to stand firm in her conviction that God is a loving God and that He only does good. She doesn't throw out cliche' phrases, but instead provides a blueprint on how she chose joy...and how we can too. That is what makes this book so unique.

Sara shares that life is a series of moments. We need to make a conscious effort to be completely present in those moments with attentive intention, so that we don't miss a single opportunity that God has for us. Her statement that, "It's not easy, but it is simple," sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact is a profound thought that Sara applied to her everyday life and it served to fuel her fire to continually apply joy in every situation. Sara believed deeply that there was a purpose for her illness and she wanted to be sure she didn't miss the assignment God had given her by wishing for a different one.

Mary Carver flawlessly utilizes her talented writing skills to connect each of Sara's blog posts throughout the book. This gives the reader insight into what was happening in Sara's life at the time of the different entries. Mary helps to give perspective into Sara's emotional, physical, and spiritual state and therefore provides even further dimension to Sara's story.

The only regret I have in reading Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver is that I never got to meet Sara. I'm pretty sure, however, that if she were sitting here and heard me say that, Sara would laugh and inform me that God had another plan for our meeting and the timing of that introduction wasn't to be on this side of heaven. In honor of Sara and her life mission, Sara's blog (click here to go to blog) continues and there is a link to the "Choose Joy Sara Gitz Frankl Memorial Foundation" (click here) that clearly identifies the importance of spreading joy through the love of Christ to all who will listen. It is also a place for community, which was one of Sara's many passions. 

I will leave you with Sara's "favorite all-time quote" by Victor Hugo: 
"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones.
And when you have finished your daily task, got to sleep in peace. God is awake."

Thank you to FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc for this review copy of Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. The opinions within this review are strictly my own. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in it's entirety in exchange for honest feedback.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review: The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert

I Corinthians 13:4-8(NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Book Description:

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.
Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.
But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.
Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

About the author:
International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She's the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa.

My Personal Review:

The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert is a fabulous historical fiction book! I was drawn into the drama and suspense from the first few pages. 

The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert is unique in that it focuses on the time period just after World War II and the turmoil felt by entire countries, especially Poland. The story is built around the main character, a young Jewish German girl named Gretl Schmidt, who becomes orphaned as a direct result of the war. Circumstances leave the child stranded in Poland, homeless and starving. 

The details of her rescue by a Polish resistance fighter and the behind the scenes look at life in a post war torn country serve as the foundation for the story. The young child's eventual move to South Africa and placement in a new home continue the thread of determination, commitment, survival, conflict and love that form the structure of the novel. Of course, discovering that the author, Irma Joubert is a native of South Africa where she taught history for 35 years, gives credibility to this book and helps to make it feel even more authentic, despite it's fictional genre.

This book enlightened and informed me as it relates to Poland and the country's internal struggle to maintain their own identity in the years following WWII. I am not a historian and actually was not too attentive during my history classes in school, but this narrative spurred a desire to learn more about the period after WWII and the ripple effect it had on the people in various countries. 

The consistent attention to detail and the element of mystery right down to the final chapters of The Girl From The Train  by Irma Joubert is what sets this work apart from your average read. The author is able to take the reader into the scenes with her descriptive writing. The Biblical factor in this book was unmistakable. The need to rely on God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ was communicated softly without seeming too overbearing. The collision of different cultures, past experiences (both good and bad), age, environment, professional choices and religion each seem to come out unscathed when love is applied. This is not your average "love story" fact it is a tale of what real love...the love of I Corinthians 13... put into action should look like. Enjoy!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc for this review copy of The Girl From The Train by Irma Joubert through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in it's entirety in exchange for my honest opinion.