Monday, December 4, 2017

Indescribable by Louie Giglio

(The legal stuff required by the FCC: I was given this Bible to review for by FrontGate Media. While I was given the Bible for free, all thoughts and opinions are my own.) 



It is hard to get kids to read. Look at pictures, sure. But, read? Not so much. At least the kids in my life, anyways. They read very well -- it is just a matter of finding something that grabs their attention. Only then do they keep the book open, turning page after page.

When it comes to devotionals or talking and reading about God, they are always all-ears -- if we do it together as a family. But, regardless of how well-intentioned we are, we have a hard time sticking with a nightly plan. Life takes over, interest is lost, routines change, or whatever the reason may be.

I presented them with the copy I received of Louis Giglio's book, Indescribable: 100 devotions about God and science. And, so far, it is a winner. They are boys -- ages 7 and 10 -- and they LOVE to learn how things work. The book is bright, colorful, and easily engaging.

This devotional is amazing for kids. Adults, too! Giglio takes everyday science that references things such as our minds and bodies, dinosaurs and animals, space and planets, etc. and shows a relation to God. For example, in talking about ears, Giglio explains the parts of the ear and how they work. Then he goes on to teach you that hearing is one of God's gifts and that we should listen to God. Each devotional has a section called Be Amazed that lists fun facts or gives ideas for hands-on activities and then a short closing prayer. 

There is truth found in these pages -- truth between God, creation, and science. You will find prayers, scripture, science facts, activities, and so much more. Not to mention you will find time with your kids, a head full of new knowledge, and a closer relationship to God.

To be honest, when I first received my copy of Indescribable: 100 devotions about God and science, I was hesitant. I had heard several sermons by Louie Giglio and have always enjoyed listening to him. But, in my experience, science and God have often left me with more questions than I started with. So, bringing myself to check out this book both sparked my curiosity and made me keep up barriers at the same time. 


However, once I cracked it open, it didn't take but a few moments before I was able to let my guard down and realize that this book is truly amazing. It is full of fun -- useful -- information and it relates it all back to God and creation.

What is not to love? 

If you have little ones in your life, I highly recommend introducing them to this devotional. If you don't, I still recommend it -- you will learn something, too. You can even register to win a free copy by clicking here: Giveaway. Or, if you don't want to wait -- you can simply purchase one. 








Wednesday, November 29, 2017

She Reads Truth Bible review

(The legal stuff required by the FCC: I was given this Bible to review for B&H Publishing by FrontGate Media. While I was given the Bible for free, all thoughts and opinions are my own.)   
I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself all over the place when trying to absorb some of God's word. First, there is my bible. Then, of course, the devotional on my desk calendar. And, then the app on my phone. And, of course, I can not forget my book of daily devotionals. It's like I need to create a schedule to have time to read from each and pray that I can absorb something. Its a bit much, I know. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the "things" I want to turn to that I am not nearly as focused as I would like to be. 


That is why I was really excited when I was presented with the opportunity to review a bible that includes everything I need between the front and back covers! The She Reads Truth Bible has some great perks:
  • It has a reading plan that provides you with chapters to read in the Book you are in, but also with other verses to look at to "Go Deeper" into the Word. 
  • It gives visuals -- maps, timelines, charts. 
  • Its color-coded, feminine, and has key verses scripted at the beginning of each Book.
  • It has not one, but two ribbons to mark your pages. For someone who is all over the Bible, this is perfect!
  • And, my favorite perk is the devotionals that are found throughout. They fit my life -- and bring the verses into real life, making application so much easier!
The only downfall for me is that it is a hardcover, but that is just personal preference (and what they sent me -- they have many different options!). Every time I open this bible, I feel like I am getting just what I need to hear. It is God's truth with all the extras a woman wants - and needs. Best of all, its pretty. And, well, that counts for something, right? 

If you are like me and always struggling to find a Bible that is a right fit for you, then you should definitely check out the She Reads Truth Bible. Its spot on. 

Oh, I almost forgot. You can get the She Reads Truth Bible for free. All you have to do is enter to win one of 7 copies they are giving away. Check it out here: Giveaway.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gratitude attitude

Why is it that so many of us only say what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving? Truly, what is the difference between Thursday, November 23, 2017 and Wednesday, November 15, 2017?

Nothing. There is no difference at all. Well, other than one comes with a feast and the other does not. 

Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful. And it is a feeling you should be actively seeking every moment of every day. 

  • When you are stuck in traffic and will be late -- be thankful that you have a car to sit in amongst that traffic. 
  • When you fall face first in front of a potential employer -- be thankful that you have legs you can walk and trip with. And, be thankful that you are able to show how genuinely human you are. 
  • When your kids act out every time you need them to be on their best behavior -- be thankful that you have been blessed with kids who aren't afraid to share their voice. And be thankful that they have lungs to breathe with and life to share with you. 
  • When you are in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of guests and your power goes out -- be thankful that you have just created the future most-talked-about Thanksgiving memory ever. 
Get the idea? Having an attitude of gratitude can help you find the faintest of rainbows in the darkest of clouds -- and to focus on the good and let the bad fall away. 

Not only is gratitude helpful for your mental well-being, it can also be physically rewarding. In fact, by maintaining a positive attitude and looking on the bright side, did you know that you can reduce the stress in your life? And we all know that stress can cause so many ailments, such as headaches, sleeplessness, digestive issues, increased blood pressures, etc. 

Now that you know just how important gratitude is, here is how you can implement a plan to make it a part of your day -- and change your life!

1. Find yourself a notebook, a note pad, a journal, an old composition book. Anything that you can write on regularly and keep it set aside for this specific purpose. 
2. Write at least one thing every day that you are thankful for. This can be one word, one sentence, or a whole darn story. 
3. Dedicate a specific time for reflection and writing. It could be when you wake up, before you go to bed, or on your lunch break. Whatever time works for you and allows you to be consistent. 

Try this -- even if only for a week or two. I promise you that focusing on just one thing that makes you thankful will slowly turn into more thanks and, eventually, a whole new habit. Out with the old way of thinking and in with the new; out with dark, in with the light. 

Don't just focus on gratitude for Thanksgiving. Make everyday a day of thanks. Starting today. 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
- Alphonse Karr

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Love is an action

"Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying"
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you heard that quote before? I happen to love it. I discovered it a long time ago when I was going through some rough stuff -- and it was perfect for how I was feeling at the time. Since then, it has just stuck with me.

Face it -- people talk. A few speak real and honest words. Many others, though, only talk to hear their own voice. It is as if in some way they truly believe that if they talk enough they will eventually convince you to see them for something other than they are. As if the words will form the person in your mind and override the visual actions and body language you are face to face with.

It works. Sometimes. But only for a short time.

Eventually, actions show through and we are able to fully discover the real person who has been yapping all along. Come on, you've all experienced this at some point in life.

So, when it comes to spreading God's love, do you think actions or words make a better impression?

I could share with you how much I absolutely love black olives. However, if we were out to dinner and one shows up in my salad, you won't witness me showing much love to the little sucker as I pass him on to Tina -- and not necessarily in a graceful manner. I honestly find them disgusting. My actions will show you that.

Jesus knew that showing love was more important than the sound of his own voice. How did he do it?

By staying connected to God

"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." -- John 15:9 (NLT) Jesus stems from God, like a branch and a strong trunk. Love comes from God. Therefore, if you have a heart full of love, there is a lot of God in there, too. After all, "We love each other because he loved us first." -- 1 John 4:19

By loving everyone

There are some people who seem difficult to love. You may find that your love can't penetrate the hard, protective shell on the outside. Kinda like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the tax collector who Jesus visited in his home. He was a deceitful sinner. Jesus could have acted like he was not worthy because of his sins and passed on by without a second glance. But he didn't. In fact, he took the high road by going to his home.

God wants us to love everyone -- even those who seem unlovable. "...Love each other in the same way I have loved you." -- John 15:12

By helping others

Be a beacon of light to lead those who are lost. Be the strong hand that can lift someone up. Be kind and help others -- for no other reason other than it is what your heart knows is right. "...Love your neighbor as yourself." -- Luke 10:27 

In our relationships and friendships, it is sometimes the little things that make us feel loved, right? Your spouse could say "I love you..."  a thousand times a day. But, when you find your car has been blessed with a full tank of gas and one stop removed from your errand list (thanks to a loving spouse) -- THAT is when you feel loved.

You can say you want to help the homeless or the family in the hurricane who lost everything. Unfortunately, your verbal compassion will only get you so far -- and it does nothing to help those individuals.

You have to actually take action to make a difference.

Be aware of your actions and know that others are watching you. It doesn't matter what you say, but rather what you do. Act like Jesus and show love like Jesus. Stay connected with God, love everyone, and always help those in need.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Letting go of time...

To track the time is like counting your hours. In fact, since time is a gift, keeping track of it is like counting your money, counting your presents, or counting any other so-called good fortune. Perhaps that is why my watches keep breaking. No, really. At first, I thought it was just a plethora of time-device bad luck, but now I am beginning to think it is something bigger. 

You already know how I feel about coincidences -- I don't believe in them. Things just don't happen the way they do out of mere coincidence. That just seems way too petty for someone as great and good as my God. So, therefore, everything that happens must happen because it is supposed to. 

Up until a little over 3 years ago, I always wore a watch. I had a few of them, but there were two that I was pretty darn fond of. I would alternate them -- and then mix in the pretty, colorful ones for special days or to match special outfits. 

Then, slowly, one by one, each of my watch batteries died. All of them. Our next door jeweler at the time was kind enough to replace the batteries in 6 watches. It wasn't long after that they all died again. It didn't bother me as much at that point because I was wearing my Garmin vivofit everywhere and it kept me apprised of the time.  However, one day, on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a trip to the mall and I had all six batteries replaced again. 

Unfortunately, before I could start wearing some of my favorite watches, they died. All of them. And then my Garmin started dragging with the time, slowing down until its inevitable death. My alarm clock which so perfectly shines the time on my ceiling still works but has recently stopped projecting the time. If I am honest, that was my favorite feature of the clock -- especially in the middle of the night. 

So, I did what every late night, one cracked-open eye, ceiling staring, time watcher would do -- I jumped on Amazon and ordered a new clock! It arrived last weekend and, to my dismay, it does not shine the time on the ceiling unless I bump it. And, even then, it only stays on for 3 seconds. This does me no good when all the strength I can muster in the night is to lift an eyelid. 

Then it hit me.

While in the shower this morning (the place where I have my greatest epiphanies) I had a thought: I need to throw out that new alarm clock! Or give it away! I am beginning to seriously feel like for some reason I am to stop keeping track of time. I need to quit counting the numbers. And, by purchasing that alarm clock, I actually feel like I went against the path I am being drawn toward. 

Although it sounds great in my head, it seems goofy to share it. But, if you love planning and keeping track of time as much as me, you would likely be feeling strongly about this, too -- especially when it appears that some greater force is insisting you stop. 

I remembered this verse this afternoon, from James 4: 


Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog -- its here a little while, then its gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that." Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil." -- James 4:13-16 (NLT)


I carry my calendar everywhere I go (yes, a paper calendar because it lets me see the bigger picture easier). I am always making notes and making plans. I get anxious when we are running behind (which is common since my family runs on what I like to call "island time"). Simply put, I live my days by the time on the clock. 

How do you not keep track of time living in the world we live in? Transportation, work, schools, deadlines -- they all require us to keep track of it. I am not quite sure how to stop looking at the time and still succeed at life. But, I am sure it is possible with a lot of strength, just as with overcoming any addiction. And, I will start now.

It is time for me to let go. My wrist will now remain bare. 

In their hearts humans plan their course, 
but the Lord establishes their steps. 
- Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Recovery for the high-strung

It is fairly safe to say that I am in high-strung recovery. Because I know I have a problem and I am a working on not being so high strung, I refer to this as being in recovery. It is an inside battle that I am fighting. Albeit, slowly. See, I am a worry-wart, I dislike the feeling of not having control over a situation, and, although it is a joke within my family, I really am sensitive. 

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to know that I understand how hard it is to relinquish control and let someone else lead. And why would I let someone else lead? Because there is someone who knows me so much better than I...

God. And, I have been called to follow him.

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." - Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

When we don't give up control, we are, in a sense, God's opponent. He is trying to do his work in our lives and we are fighting against him by trying to do our own work. We don't see the whole picture -- the whole universe and its ever-forming masterpiece. We are only privy to what is inside of our little bubble that we think we control. How can we lead when we can't see where we are even going?!

Think about this: When you find yourself face to face in a battle with, say, for instance, your teenager, your spouse, your job, your neighbor, or even your pastor... what do you do? Do you fight the situation? Do you try to keep the upper hand? Do you try to control the environment with every ounce of persistence you have? Or, do you throw your hands in the air and walk away with your face down and your shoulders slumped? See, most people respond with either an uptight, all controlling mindset or a woe is me attitude. 

You cannot control anyone. I think I should write that again, just in case. You cannot control anyone. Yes, that means you cannot control your kids, your spouse, your friends, your parents, your neighbors, your co-workers, your congregation... These individuals belong to God, not you. He created them, you did not. They are his. Get over it. 

The world is big. In fact, it is HUGE. And there really isn't anything you can do to control anything in it, no matter how good your intentions -- You can't change the weather, you can't make sure that not a single soul goes hungry, and you cannot protect innocent children from being exposed to a fallen world. You just can't.

So, what CAN you do? You can stop trying to control everything and, instead, focus that energy on sharing hope and love. Be an example for others. When times get rough and you want to kick and scream and fight for control, make sure you have God in the driver's seat. (What a way to show by example to those around you, right?) Remember: 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28 (NIV) 

You can be a child of God and still find yourself fighting for control -- you are human and you have faults. Just know that when you realize that God has become an opponent, rather than your team captain, it is time to take a step back and re-center yourself. 

God is all-knowing. He knows where we are going, what our purpose is, and what the next, strategically-planned, move is. Let HIM make your move. 


Friday, May 26, 2017

Quench your thirst

In my mind, I keep coming back to this location, location, location thing.

I always used to get irritated when people would come to Florida to visit and harp on me about not having a killer tan -- as if I had all the time in the world to sit at the beach! But those who visit -- that is what they do -- visit the beach! They come into town, get a tan, and head on home to show it off.

When you live here, it is a different story. You have your daily routine that includes work, appointments, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. A trip to the beach has to be weaseled in. And, even then, it seems like something needs to get put on the back burner.

When you manage to squeeze it in and arrive at the beach, you can start to relax once you are able to let everything go that could've/should've/would've been done had you not decided to head east. The smell of the salty air, the crashing of the waves, the sand between your toes, and the smiles on everyone's faces... why don't we do this more often? A few hours later and we are convinced that someway, somehow we are going to make relaxing days at the beach a priority. After all, we need these moments of solitude to grow closer to God or to re-center our focus. A beach is a perfect place for this.

Unfortunately, those well-intended beach days never happen.

The funny thing is that it isn't about being in a particular location, or a quiet spot, in order to find that solace we so desperately need. We just think it is.

In a house of screaming kids, TV's blaring, teenagers talking on speaker phone, etc. you may think -- sure, how can I find a quiet moment amongst all of this? And you will convince yourself that the only quiet time you can find is when you have time to escape for a long weekend to a sleepy beach town, a stay at a vineyard, or just a few nights at a remote B&B. This is usually followed up with -- and how would I ever be able to escape to that?! I've got the kids, a dog, my job, etc.  It's hopeless!

Take a long weekend and visit a quiet place. It's a lot different than moving there because guess what? When you move to that quiet, sleepy beach town, you are taking those kids, that dog, a job...

My point is that you can go anywhere in the world looking for solitude, looking for peace, looking for perfection, but you aren't going to find it. Really, you aren't...trust me. Those things are not in any place. Ok, so maybe temporarily, but that is just a facade. 

The real thing isn't anywhere but inside you. So where ever you are, that is where you can find peace, quiet, tranquility -- all those calming feelings. BUT, there is a catch. Believe me, you are great and all, but if you don't have God in your heart or you don't have a relationship with him, then you will search forever for those lovely feelings and never find them. That's right -- without God, trying to find peace is like walking through the desert and only seeing mirages, but never any water. 

"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive that you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." - Luke 11:9-10 (NLT) 

So, use your vacations to enjoy time with your loved ones. Don't use them as a way to find the quiet you already have inside you. And, make your relationship with God a priority -- everything else will fall into place, I promise you. Last but certainly not least -- If you aren't sure how to start a relationship with God, please reach out to me: shell@shellblan.com