I have discovered over the years, that life can be challenging. God desires to sustain us as we look for "splashes of His grace" every day. My desire is that through posts, or book reviews, you may find something that points you to the grace of God, and that He ultimately will make a difference in your life.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pug Love

My son loves pugs.  He and his wife recently adopted one from Austin Pug Rescue in Austin, TX where they live.  They named him Samwise (my son loves Lord of the Rings too!) -- but they call him Sam for short.
Sam (photo by Ashley Lowrie)
Sam is 5 years old and a loveable little guy.  Most of the dogs at this rescue center are adult pugs and pug mixes.  Occasionally they have puppies to adopt (they actually do have some at the moment), but most of the rescue dogs are adults. Some of the dogs there have been abused, and others were simply abandoned.  The desire of this agency is to find loving families to adopt these dogs.  This group also tries to find foster families for dogs waiting to be adopted.
A couple months after Sam became “family",  they decided to try their hand at fostering too.  When they found out a temporary foster family was needed for a couple of weeks, Gene came to visit. 
Meet Gene (photo by Daniel Lowrie)
Gene was not your typical looking Pug.  He had a slight irregularity that made him different than most Pugs.  He had a LONG tongue .  It was so long that he couldn’t put all the way in his mouth.  It just kind of hung there ---- on the side of his face ---- in an endearing kind of way!  It’s a genetic thing.  He was born that way and people stare, giggle, and perhaps sometimes even wonder what’s wrong with the little guy.  When I first saw a picture of him, my initial response was “Oh, bless his little heart”.  (For those of you who do not live in the south, the phrase “bless your (his/her) heart” usually involves an unpleasant situation that you’re trying to soften. It’s a way of empathizing while being thankful that it's them and not you!)
That got me thinking.  When I look at myself, I want to think I look like Sam (in the human sort of way).  You know, "normal", cute, fun, loveable, someone people look and at and think, "she's got it all together."  In reality though, I often feel like Gene looks -- a little "different", pathetic, and needy.  It's genetic!  We humans were all born looking this way.  We ARE pathetic (we are born with a sin nature).  We ARE needy.  We NEED love and acceptance. 
I am thankful that when God looks at me and sees "Gene",  He loves me anyway!  I didn't have to get my act together and look or act a certain way before God adopted me. He decided to do that long before I was even born! Though my tongue still hangs out the side of my mouth regularly, He shows me mercy and meets my needs anyway.  He calls me His daughter and loves me just the same. Though I still feel like I look like Gene most of the time, He loves me in spite of that -- and maybe even BECAUSE of that!  And I am grateful!
For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted
through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,
to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:4-6
After spending three weeks with Gene, my son had to give him back to his foster family.  It was hard for him to say good-bye.  He came to love that "odd" little guy and hopes that one day he will find a family that will adopt him and love him forever.  I do too!

Sam and Gene (photo by Daniel Lowrie)

P.S. I just checked the website and he is still available on pg. 2 under the adopt tab/available pugs if you want to give him a loving home!

Friday, September 26, 2014

A New Journey

I have a hard time distinguishing between "self-care" and "selfishness" in my life.  To me there has always been a fine line drawn between the two.  How do you take care of "self" without being "selfish"?  
As a middle child and a people pleaser, often what I wanted, and at times what I needed, was overshadowed by the needs of others around me. Maybe it was my own fault.  I didn't want to make a scene.  I didn't want to "appear" selfish.  Sometimes it really didn't matter enough to make a big deal out of it.  But little by little, self, and what I needed took the back seat, and now I'm at a point in my life where I struggle with knowing how to do those things that I need to do -- FOR ME.
Now, don't misunderstand me -- I fully understand that when "SELF" takes over -- when "SELF" becomes the primary focus -- TROUBLE is waiting to happen!  Nothing good comes from pride and selfishness.  We are instructed in Scripture to "not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4)  The Bible also says "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling." (Proverbs 16:18)  I'm not talking about becoming self-absorbed, self-sufficient, or neglecting those around me to do those things that please me.  (If I could even figure out what those things are!)  I'm talking about taking the time to do those things I need to do to take care of myself so I can be the person God created me to be. 
Being a minister's wife for 31 years, and a mother of three children (who are now grown), provided plenty of opportunities for me to put "self" on the back burner.  Any mother with small children knows that even taking time for a shower, or having a conversation with another adult without constant interruption can sometimes seem  impossible.  The needs and wants of children can be overwhelming.  During those years, I rarely took time for myself.  I didn't know that I could, actually!  (I did shower though -- most days, anyway!)  So I say to young mothers -- take a little time for "you" to refresh yourself so you can be the mom you need to be for your little ones!  But even as I write that, I feel a twinge of the old "guilt" -- a little voice saying, "Now, don't be selfish.  Don't take TOO much time for yourself!"  (I may need to see a counselor!)
Being in the ministry can also take its toll. Guilt often accompanies "self-care" when you talk about it in relationship to working in a church setting.  Some members wonder why ministers even need a day off during the week-- hey, everyone knows the preacher only works on Sunday!  But there are a variety of things during the week and on weekends that  arise and drain the energy of pastors (and their families).  If you don't take time to care for "yourself" you end up burning out and becoming resentful.  My husband  and I were thankful to be able to learn some important lessons a few years ago about self-care at a minister's retreat called  SonScape.  They taught us some valuable lessons that we need to remind ourselves of when ministry gets busy.   

I remember a time, in the early years of ministry, when we were about to go on vacation.  I was so proud of myself for getting everything ready on time. (I was usually still packing at 2:00 am for our 6:00 am departure) This time it was different.  I was so looking forward to getting away from all the stress, that I made it a point to do things early.  I not only was packed, but everything was LOADED IN THE CAR!  We were completely ready to leave bright and early in the morning. I couldn't believe it!  And then it happened!  The phone rang.....a church member had passed away.  My mind began to race.  What did that mean?  I didn't handle things well at the time.  I still remember my husband taking me by the shoulders, looking me straight in the eye and saying very slowly -- "SOMEONE DIED -- We are still going on vacation, but it will just be a couple of days from now."  I'm embarrassed to say that at that exact moment I didn't really care that "SOMEONE DIED".  What about me???  What about my plans that JUST DIED.  I've matured a little since then, but in a way, in my mind I began to associate thinking about my needs as being "unspiritual".  After all, Jesus put the needs of others  first.  Thinking about "me" is wrong.  Putting my needs aside is the "spiritual" thing to do.  "Others first, me second, third, last -- or maybe not even at all".  
I've realized lately that yes, meeting the needs of others is important.  Thinking of self less is necessary to live in harmony with those around you.  But there are times when I have to be bold and realize I have to express a need.  There are times when I need help. ( I have to let someone know.)  Times I need to be refreshed.  (I need to take time away from the stressors)  I have to acknowledge my needs are important too.  I need to exercise (instead of deeming it less important than getting the laundry done).  I need to eat right (not so others won't judge me for the way I look but because I want to be healthy).  I need to find something I enjoy doing (so I won't become a grumpy old woman).  But that last one is one of the toughest obstacles in my life right now.  I don't even know what  I enjoy doing anymore.
So now, as my "baby" has gotten married and my nest has officially become empty, I'm thinking it's time to get to know "me" again.  It's a scary proposition.  I don't want to do it.  I feel "guilty" doing it.  But I really need to.  And if anyone else has experienced these feelings and have made it to the other side, please let me know how YOU did it. I need to discover what God has for me in this next phase of life.  I NEED all the help I can get!  Let the "journey" begin!

(Oh..... and I had a good laugh just now!!  As I'm writing this, I glanced at the clock and thought -- I really should be making dinner INSTEAD of writing this!  Where is that counselor when you need one!!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Whatever You Grow Up to Be ~~ by Karen Kingsbury

Whatever You Grow Up to Be, written by Karen Kingsbury and illustrated by Valeria Docampo, is a delightful little book that tells the journey of a mother and her boy from the time he is a little baby until he is married with a baby of his own.

A mother's love is like no other. When a tiny baby comes into her life, a Mom has no idea how this little guy will change her life. But as Karen Kingsbury writes, "Ten little toes right from the start, make footprints on your mommy's heart!"

In this book, as the boy grows, a variety of possible future occupations are seen, all of which are viewed by the mother's watchful eye. She has no way of knowing how the story of his life will actually play, but her love will support him in whatever he grows up to be.

The book cycles around through his life and ends with him getting married and having a baby boy of his own. Once again, the mother discovers that those "Ten little toes, right from the start make footprints on his grandma's heart."

The illustrations are bright and colorful and would be attractive to a child's eyes. Children can identify with the occupations this little boy is "trying out".  Each two-page spread also includes a verse of Scripture. The only slight downside to this book is that the verses are very small and in
a light print. I almost missed them!

Since my "baby boy" is getting married in July, I read through this book with tears in my eyes. Time goes by so quickly and I found myself reminiscing as I saw my own little boy in many of situations. I was pleased to see a mother portrayed as a loving and supportive person throughout her child's life. I would recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion

Have you heard of Paula's Choice Skincare Products? I hadn't until I had the opportunity to try the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion (for all skin types).  I have been using it for a little over a week now, and I can say that my skin definitely feels smoother already. The salicylic acid gently exfoliates your skin to reveal a more even-toned skin with smaller pores. The clear liquid, which is fragrance free, is applied with a cotton ball or cosmetic square. Even though I thoroughly wash my face before using this product, the cotton ball still picked up additional make-up residue. You can use this exfoliant once or twice a day. I have been using it twice a day without any drying or problems.

Paula's Choice Skin Perfection Lotion can be purchased online on the Paula Choice's Website.  It normally cost $23.00 for a 3.3 oz. bottle, but now through April 1st you can buy it at a 20% discount for only $18.00!

Paula's Choice Skincare Products can also be found at Dermstore.com, SkinStore.com, Beauty.com and Birchbox.com, as well as at select Pharmacy stores.

Give it a try and see the results for yourself! 

I participated as a BzzAgent and received this free product as part of the campaign.  I am sharing my own honest opinion.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Pleasure of His Company by Dutch Sheets

From the Garden of Eden, man walked and talked with God. We as human beings were designed for relationship and fellowship with an Almighty God. In his book, The Pleasure of His Company, Dutch Sheets encourages his readers to seek and enjoy the Presence of God, through all their life's circumstances. Each and every day, God is there and wants them to enjoy His company.

The book has thirty short chapters which makes it ideal for a month long devotional book. Each stand alone chapter begins with an illustrative story that relates to the portion of Scripture the author uses to reveal a little more about the character of God. Each chapter ends with a "prayer" based on verses which are notated at the end of the prayer. I liked that a lot.

Overall it was an enjoyable book to read. The style is conversation-like, honest, and very casual, (at times, maybe a little "too casual" for me), but at the end of each chapter, I desired to be a little closer to the Lord. I saw God's grace, help, restoration, and His desire to be in my company too. It reminded me that God is not only a stern, disciplining Father, but one who loves unconditionally and mutually delights in being with us.  Our reward is the pleasure of His company!

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess -- by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess, written by Sheri Rose Shepherd, is a delightful little book that summarizes 37 well loved Bible stories from both the Old and New Testament.  The book begins with the story of creation, and ends with Jesus' resurrection. Each Bible story is only a couple of paragraphs in length and begins with the Bible reference and a verse from that chapter. Sheri uses the New Living Translation which makes it easier for a child to understand. Each story concludes with a "Princess Prayer" and a "Princess Jewel" as moments of child-appropriate application. This book also has a "love letter" from God and the "salvation prayer" at the very end. What a wonderful way to show the child that these are more than just stories. They are God's personal words of love to us.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Shelley Dieterichs. The colorful pictures illustrated the Bible Stories perfectly and with all the added details on each page, will definitely capture the attention of little girls. I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what was next!

I would highly recommend this precious Bible Story book if you have a "little princess" in your life. You will definitely enjoy reading it together and then talking about how she can apply what you've just read to her life right now.  Whether you are reading it to a toddler or preschooler, or an early elementary child is reading it for herself, she will come to understand that she truly is a princess -- God's princess!
And now, thanks to Tyndale Publishers, you can enter to win a princess themed prize package. Click here to enter!  Contest ends February 23, so enter soon!

 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Restless Bible Study DVD by Jennie Allen

I had the opportunity to preview the video sessions for Jennie Allen's new Bible Study, Restless. This DVD consists of 8 video sessions which are each about 20 minutes in length. Jennie teaches about how God weaves His story through our lives. Each of us is a unique creation of God, and He desires for us to find our purpose, even if right now it's just in the mundane. After we discover what he has for us, we need to run with all we have to accomplish His purposes.

The Bible Study is based on the life of Joseph. The video sessions mention Joseph occasionally, but he is not the focus of the teaching portion. I think I was at a disadvantage not having the book or study guide to do along side the DVD. Maybe it would have tied things together better.

Jennie Allen is passionate about what she teaches. She is speaking in front of a small group of women in each session which makes it more personal. The videos were shot in a contemporary style. Each one starts with a couple of women trying to answer a random question about themselves. They begin to answer and it cuts to another woman who also begins to answer it. Overall, I felt the topics were good and the videos were well done, but at times the delivery seemed a little dramatic, but hey, I'm on the "older side" now!

The subtitle of Restless is: "Because You Were Made for More." Through this Bible Study, Jennie wants you to understand that we need to look for the "threads" of our life to see how God is weaving them together. Then we can discover what we are meant to do. We were made for more than a lot of us are settling for.

I believe younger women will relate to the study and enjoy it's contemporary feel and style. I think the material is useful, but not necessarily deep, though my opinion of that might change if I did it along side the workbook.

I thought the study was good, but I was hoping to like the videos more.

I received a complimentary copy of this DVD from the blogger program "BookLook" in exchange for my honest review.