“All Things Lovely” by Johnson

Book Review: All Things Lovely by Jenn Johnson

This book less about pretty things (although it’s jam-packed with them) and more about cultivating a close relationship with God so you can listen and hear His voice. AND it’s not written from the perspective of someone who’s achieved perfection. It’s written by a woman who is transparent about her own struggles (past, present, and future) and her utter reliance on the Holy Spirit’s direction in her life.

Continue reading

Rachel Held Evans: More than Inspired

Book Review: Inspired by Rachel Held Evans

When I learned of Rachel Held Evans’ untimely passing this afternoon, my heart broke. It broke for her husband. It broke for her toddler and baby. And it broke for the world.

Our world is hurting, and an increasing number of Christians are awaking to the fact that their most sacred compilation of documents (a.k.a. the Bible) has been misappropriated for centuries to justify antisemitism, slavery, genocide, abuse, and more.

Rachel Held Evans

Unwilling to abandon the faith, many search for answers from those who have gone before them. Those who have not only deconstructed their faith, but also re-constructed it on a more firm foundation than bibliolatry.

Rachel Held Evans was a woman on a mission. She decided to share her faith journey publicly via her blog, then books, then speaking engagements. Her wish for any discussion that would ensue was simple:

“May it be lively. May it be civil.  And may it honor the One who prayed that our unity would reflect the sweet harmony of the Trinity…because the world indeed is watching.”  

Rachel Held Evans

As Rachel re-evaluated her conservative religious beliefs in light of modern biblical scholarship, she was transparent with her doubts and courageous in finding ways to follow Jesus wholeheartedly amidst criticism from all sides.

Click to purchase

Rachel Held Evans was a gifted writer whose faith journey mirrored my own, though she was more brave than I. She skillfully, articulately, and publicly detailed her struggles with the fundamentalist approach to Scripture on her blog, in her books, and everywhere she was invited to speak.

Being a woman Bible scholar in such a divisive world, she endured incredible cyber-bullying from hyper-evangelicals who—even while she was laying in the hospital in a medically induced coma—arrogantly tweeted their condemnation of her views and “prayers” for her salvation. Unreal.

If you’re struggling to hold on to your faith or curious about why people rely on ancient writings to inform their 21st century decisions, I’d like to recommend that you read Rachel’s most recent NYT Best Seller, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. It’s well-written, easy to understand, and filled with insights that will inform your understanding of the Bible.

You might disagree with her perspective; however, I challenge you to read it anyway. If you only read books written by authors who affirm what you already believe, you could be missing out on important conversations which can deepen and inform your faith. I highly recommend it.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The above Rachel Held Evans quote was excerpted from Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell on her blog.

“Simple Joys” by Payne

I knew Simple Joys was going to be a good read when I laughed out loud while reading the INTRODUCTION! ? The stories are genuinely hilarious and thought-provoking.

In her first book Laugh It Up! Candace Payne offered us a peek at the woman behind the mask: the Chewbacca mask. The woman who belly laughed for three minutes straight on a now-viral Facebook Live video with such contagious joy that the world laughed with her not at her. She shared the story behind her viral video and how she grew into a woman who was not only comfortable in her own skin but also undeterred by what others thought about her.

In her new book, Simple Joys: Discovering Wonder in the Everyday , the author shares even more events from her life to demonstrate how each of us can mine for joy in our own everyday experiences. From “taco sweats” and taffeta to an icy driveway and hot coffee, this gifted author will have you laughing out loud one moment and deeply reflecting on complex situations in your own life the next.

Oh, the Places She Went!

Candace is a masterful storyteller who recounts her experiences with such vivid detail, it makes you feel like you were right there with her at the roadside café in Zambia squirting ketchup onto her fries or sitting next to her in the back seat of the car as her father walked out of the house with his hot cup of coffee on a freezing cold morning.

Don’t be fooled. Simple Joys is not a book that you read, put down, and forget about. It’s one that makes you chuckle, wince, roll your eyes, examine your own life, and mine for nuggets of joy even in difficult times.

The most underrated tool we have at our disposal to shift an atmosphere of anxiety to one of joy is to speak out the good times.” page 63.

Simple Joys will help you discover wonder in the ordinary events your everyday life through fun stories, poignant reflection, and questions to spur introspection.

Chapter titles:

  • Prologue: There’s Joy in Them Hills!
  • The Year I Spent with My Head in the Clouds
  • Trash-bag Choir Dresses and the College Crush
  • The Waterbed Where I Said, “Amen”
  • The House on the Hill, the Coffee that Would Spill, and the Stories Shared Around the Table
  • The Day Inadequacy Tried to Squash My Joy
  • Run for Cover
  • Selfies with the Last White Rhinos in Zambia
  • Take the Good, Toss the Bad
  • Epilogue: Prospecting for a Heart of Gold

At the conclusion of each chapter, Candace poses one related, thought-provoking question to the reader and provides ample space for the reader to jot down their own thoughts. There are also a few blank pages at the end of the book for additional notes.

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Pictured above: End of chapter with question and space to journal.

Simple Joys Is Small, but Mighty!

This small, but mighty 176-page book measures only 5-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ x 0.9″ and is the perfect little gift book—but I’d totally buy this for myself, too! (Actually, I did.)

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne

Each chapter features at least one inspirational quote digitally illustrated by the author (see photo above). I’m hoping they make them into a calendar or coloring book, because they are totally cute!

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Simple Joys is small and mighty!

The cover is a smooth hardback with smyth-sewn and perfect-bound pages. The inside pages are printed in full-color on a heavy, matte paper stock which is perfect for highlighting, note-making, drawing, and journaling.

Over Too Soon!

MacaroonsThe book ended too soon for me. It left me wanting more. So, I sincerely hope that Candace is already working on her next book. While I wait, I will read Simple Joys again. And probably again. 

I highly recommend it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

By the way, I had the opportunity to participate in a live video chat with the author immediately prior to release, and when she revealed the book cover she said, “Well, it’s supposed to be watercolor dots, but they remind me of macaroons…and I love macaroons! So, that’s a simple joy!”

Yes. Exactly. 

Simple. Joys. All you have to do is search for them, and you will find them.


Photo credit:  of macaroons by @holly_anewlookat on Unsplash.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I also decided to purchase the book because I really enjoyed it. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: “The Dream of You” by Jo Saxton

Book Review: The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

"What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told youwho you were allowed to be?" — Jo Saxton, The Dream of You

IsisWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be Isis. From time to time (usually after watching the “Shazam! Isis Power Hour” on Saturday mornings), I would suddenly strike a pose, speak the magical phrase, “Oh, Mighty Isis!” and transform myself—mentally, at least—into a superhero goddess ready to use all my powers to fight against evil!

I loved everything about this nerdy female archaeologist with huge glasses and a secret superhero identity. (I’ve included a video at the bottom of this review for your entertainment.)

Who did you want to be? Do you remember? If so, feel free to share it in the comments below. I’d love to know!

Headshot of Jo Saxton, a Nigerian-Londoner with short natural hair and a beautiful smile.
Jo Saxton

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors, Jo Saxton. As a little girl growing up in London, author and speaker Jo Saxton had a dream: She wanted to be Wonder Woman. And I mean, she WANTED to BE Wonder Woman—red boots and all!

In case you are unfamiliar with this wonder of a woman, Jo is a Nigerian Londoner who currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.

Her book, The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For, traces Jo’s lifelong transition from childhood dreamer to adult achiever.

The Dream (and Struggle) of You

What I find so striking is the similarity between Jo’s struggles and my own—even though we are SO different!!! For example:

  • OppositesWe have completely different cultural backgrounds (immigrant vs. born citizen);
  • We were raised on two different continents (she in the UK; me in the US);
  • We have different personality types (she’s an ENTJ; I’m an INTJ);
  • We have different enneagrams (she’s an 8, and I’m a 1);
  • We have opposite body types (probably because she doesn’t like chocolate and I do!)

We are basically opposite, and yet our struggles were/are very much the same. How is this possible?

On her quest to explore the different things that held her back or kept her from moving forward in her own life, Jo dug deep and discovered that the root causes of her brokenness, although personal, were not unique to her. They were, in fact, quite common to the human experience—especially that of women.

And like any good Bible teacher, she found biblical examples for each struggle!

The Struggle Is Real

Weaving the story of her own life’s journey together with that of Joseph, Esther, David, Naomi, Hagar, Ezekiel, and others, the author reveals thread-by-thread that God is present with us through our most difficult experiences, and how they add color, dimension, and texture to our character.

Jo Saxton Live Video ChatOver the past few months, I’ve been privileged to interact with Jo as she discussed her book and her thoughts behind the various stories she shares in it. Reflecting on the first few chapters, she said,

There are times when we have an earthquake in our souls, habits, the way we live. We don’t simply rise up and get over it…but we also don’t want to be defined by it the rest of our lives.”

The Dream of You was never intended to be  a survival manual. It’s about wholeness and redemption and purpose.

The first part of the book not only prompts us to reflect on what (or whom) we’ve allowed to define us but also challenges us to re-imagine what life could be like moving forward: Mended. WHOLE.

It's Powerful

Jo explains the profound impact negative and destructive comments and experiences have on us—minimizing nothing. These experiences simply underscore the reason she wrote the book: to remind us that there is wholeness to be found in relationship with a redeeming God.

When the grit and guts of your broken identity meet the grace and goodness of God, it will reveal you, but He will transform you. You’re in Him now, with all His resources available to you. You have access to His power, mercy, and grace.” (p. 21, emphasis mine)

Each chapter in the The Dream of You begins with a short, heartfelt letter from the author to the reader. In it she offers words of encouragement while setting the stage for the theme of that particular section.

Jo expounds on each theme by sharing a formative experience from her own life as well as a similar story from the Bible, and you don’t have to be familiar with the Bible to benefit from this! Jo has provided quick summaries and backstories of each character so the reader will not be lost in the explanation.

Then, without the use of a Venn Diagram, the author focuses her attention on the intersection of the stories, exposing the root of the issue. She culls out transformative biblical truths and challenges the reader to face the facts in her (or his) own life. She concludes the chapter with suggested action steps geared towards fostering personal growth and spiritual maturity.

Book Flow & Themes

The chapter titles, though creative, are pretty vague if you haven’t read the book yet; therefore, I complied a list of themes (noted in parentheses) followed by one or more of my favorite quotes from that chapter to provide a more helpful overview of the text:

  • Introduction (Dreams)
    “What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told you who you were allowed to be?” (p. 3)
    .
  • Chapter 1: Don’t Call Me “Pleasant” (Insecurity)
    “Insecurities, if left unaddressed, can grow from momentary emotions to a definitive worldview that determines how we feel, think, and act. Insecurity becomes our identity.” (p. 12)
    .
  • Chapter 2: What’s in a Name? (Compromise/Hiding)
    “Throughout biblical history, God transformed people…God changed the names of people and in doing so changed their stories.” (p. 35)
    .
  • Chapter 3: The Talk (Perfectionism)
    “Many of us know what it feels like to hide our identities in order to survive. We do what it takes to fit into our family, our workplace, our friendship group. We spend our energy trying to fit into our context, into society, into what is demanded of us according to someone else’s terms.” (p. 44)
    .
    “God wants to redeem it all. Rather than your being transformed into a broken identity by the pressures of your world, He wants to transform you to recover who you fully are. Are you ready to be led toward redemptive wholeness, even when you might still fear for your survival?” (p. 56)
    .
  • Chapter 4: The Day I Lost My Voice (Bullying)
    “At times, women apologize for who they are. They minimize their abilities as if they’re expecting someone to tell them they’re arrogant for having talent, ability, and dreams. Some women, particularly those who reach high levels of influence in their field, are plagued by what is known as Imposter Syndrome, or the impostor experience.” (p. 66)
    .
    “When our voice has been taken, we redirect our lives toward ‘more acceptable’ interests. We excuse the damage caused by having been silenced…we make ourselves small.” (p. 68)
    .
  • Chapter 5: God’s Child (Redemption)
    “If we are going to embrace our full identity, know our name, and live out our vocation as we speak with our true voice, if we are going to embrace who we are and what we’re living for, we need to know whose we are.” (p. 82)
    .
    “The things that once defined you don’t have to shape you forever. He [God] transforms your entire life.” (p. 88)

    .
  • Chapter 6: Known and Loved (Vulnerability)
    “You are fully known. He has seen it all and He knows it all. And still you are deeply, deeply loved.” (p. 108)
    .
  • Chapter 7: Slay Your Giants (Courage)
    “It seems that when God redeems a person’s identity and leads her to her purpose, there’s a backdrop of battle and vulnerability.” (p. 112)
    .
    “You will battle the giants that stand in your way, but when you do, don’t even try to fight in someone else’s armor.” (p. 122)
    .
  • Chapter 8: The Wander Years (Refinement)
    “Even with abundant examples in Scripture, when the wilderness experience makes up part of our faith journey, we may not always understand when and why it’s happening.” (p. 132)
    .
    “Wandering in the wilderness exposed the truth that in order to be fully free, the Israelites didn’t just need to get out of Egypt. They needed to get Egypt out of them.” (pp. 136-137)

    .
  • Chapter 9: In the Valley (Doubt and Discouragement)
    “Had I been wrong when I felt called…Or worse, was it just some fantasy idea that I’d decided was a divine calling? Who did I think I was?” (p. 153)
    .
    “We feel too crushed to feel known and loved; we are convinced we have nothing left to offer as a voice or purpose…We’re at the end of ourselves; we are forced to face what life has done to us. It’s tempting to mute our pain rather than face it.” (p. 155)

    .
  • Chapter 10: Breaking up with Perfection (Authenticity)
    “Survival is not the same as being whole.” (p. 168)
    .
    “Are you ready to confront your brokenness, rather than keep hiding it underneath greater efforts to prove yourself to others?” (p. 170)
    .
  • Chapter 11: The Song in My Heart (Community)
    “You’ll need people who see you and know you, people unafraid to remind you of the fullness of who you are. They won’t be threatened by you because they are the kind of women who celebrate who you are. You need people who want to hear your voice and don’t mind how loud it gets. People who get excited about your dreams and your unfolding purpose.” (p. 173)
    .
    “God provides people to help us. Sometimes they’re further along in the journey, and they’ve seen more…They’ll celebrate resurrection of your name over the things that have falsely renamed you, and they’ll keep encouraging you.” (p. 185)

    .
  • Chapter 12: Practices (Disciplines)
    “We don’t adopt practices to prove ourselves or to perform for God’s approval. We already are seen, known, and loved. Instead, the practices make room in our overscheduled lives for God to meet with us. We find that by making time for God’s engagement with us, we are changed, transformed, redeemed.” (p. 192)
    .
  • Chapter 13: Pick up Your Keys (Stepping into Your Purpose)
    “A healthy identity opens our life to abundant purpose…There is less of me—of my self-absorption and self-protection—and there is more room for others. There’s less energy spent striving, proving, and more room for dreaming.” (p. 210)
    .
  • Epilogue (Action)
    “Let’s not allow a sense of inadequacy to tell us we’re not ready or not enough for the task.” (p. 219)
    .
    “Maybe we’ll remember to be tender and nonjudgmental as we remember our own stories.” (p. 220) 

It’s EASY for me to recommend The Dream of You because it is well-written, organized, funny, engaging, well-researched, insightful, empowering, and theologically accurate.

But what I would like to add is this: On every level, the teachings contained herein resonated with me. Jo’s journey mirrors my own—not on the outside, but on the inside. 

And I can testify that what Jo offers you in this book is the same thing I would offer you in my own book: Truth. God is faithful and ready to redeem the years the locusts have eaten (cf. Joel 2:25-27). He can take what was meant for evil and flip it for good. In fact, He does it all the time.

Are You Ready?

The question is, are you ready to recover the The Dream of You? If so, then you have found the right resource with which to start your journey. I highly recommend this to women of all ages, but especially those who have been waiting on God for what feels like a very long time.

🎧 Jo has also recorded an audio version which you will LOVE, if you’re into audio books. 

With no further ado, meet my childhood superhero: Isis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Worthy of the Calling” by Koontz

Worthy of the Calling Free OBS Sarah Koontz

“Worthy of the Calling” is the first Online Bible Study (OBS) that I’ve gotten a glimpse of from behind the scenes. When Sarah Koontz posted in our Christian Women Bloggers group that she was prayerfully pulling together a launch team for her new OBS, I was intrigued and threw my name into the hat.

I am so excited to walk through the doors God keeps opening for me to participate in book launches! It’s really neat to get to know the authors on a personal level and learn the story behind the book, movie, or the OBS. Launching a new product is a lot of work, and I consider myself blessed to have been a teeny part of helping to raise awareness of this study and, more importantly IMHO, the author. 

Who Is Sarah Koontz?

Sarah Koontz
Sarah Koontz ~ Christian Writer

Sarah Koontz is a passionate storyteller who enjoys using illustrations to communicate deep spiritual truths. She writes to inspire women of all ages to explore the beauty of God’s design at SarahKoontz.com.

Sarah got her start in the blogosphere when she and her best friend launched a blog about family, healthy choices, chickens, and life on the farm. Since her ultimate goal was to become a speaker and  published author in the Christian Living genre, however, it wasn’t long until Sarah learned that her current writing platform would actually hinder, not help, her chances of being published. She recalls:

I had the privilege of speaking with the acquisitions editor from a respected Christian publishing house. When I pitched my first book idea, she asked me why I was blogging about health when it was obvious my passion was to equip Christian women to embrace God’s design for their lives.” Sarah

After much prayer, conversation, and consideration, Sarah took a major step of faith and walked away from her successful health blog into which she had invested blood, sweat, and tears and toward a brand new blog where she would write freely about her faith. The ultimate and overarching goal was to become a published author.

Writing on God’s Schedule

It was around this time that Sarah felt the Lord leading her to write an Online Bible Study on Psalm 119. Which she did, and the feedback she received on it was incredible! When it was finished, she assumed she would go back to working on her non-fiction book. 

Sarah Koontz Freebies from the Worthy of the Calling OBS
You will love these freebies!

But, the Lord had something else in mind for her (and her audience): EPHESIANS. Sarah was prompted to write this amazing study—but I honestly believe that she had no idea how big this would become! It’s YUGE!!! ? ?

God led Sarah not only to write this amazing Bible study, but also invite others into the process: creative partners and a launch team (of which I am a part).

“Worthy of the Calling” —BEFORE IT EVER CAME OUT— inspired a variety of artists who created items reflecting Paul’s main message to the members of the church in Ephesus. From bookmarks to coloring pages and original artwork to clothing and accessories—even a new song!—all of this was created for you to enhance your Bible study. Most have been made available to participants as free downloads and giveaways.

So Much Beauty. Such Wow.

Sarah had no idea that her study would impact so many lives before it even came out. But God did. He’d only just begun.

Worthy of the Calling Free Online Bible Study“Worthy of the Calling” is an original, exegetical, and inspirational Bible Study that arrives daily into your e-mail inbox for one month. Investing only 10-15 minutes per day, you will be able to complete a verse-by-verse through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

You’ll read a few verses every day, five days per week, and use the weekend as time to reflect on what you’ve learned and how to apply it to your life. The study is complemented with free downloads to help you in your time of reflection.

I needed this study in my life. Sure, I have enjoyed being part of the launch team, but more than that, I’ve enjoyed having someone else walk me through Ephesians with a completely fresh perspective on the message contained therein.

You Are Worthy 

Sarah clearly shows that the theme running throughout this letter is the Christian life—what that means from a practical standpoint. 

Sarah Koontz - Ephesians - Online Bible Study

These aren’t just esoteric or abstract concepts that are hard to grasp. They are simple. Profound. True.

Following Paul’s lead, Sarah lays a firm foundation explaining who we are in Christ: chosen, heirs, spiritually alive, reconciled to God with direct access to Him. Day 12 provided one of my favorite lessons: “You Are Rooted in Love.”

Drawing from her experience on the farm, Sarah was able to shed light on the importance of deep roots. She states that a “robust root system” is essential for us to withstand life’s storms, and then she explains exactly how a Christ follower could strengthen his or her root system. #sogood

As the study moves toward one of the most famous sections in scripture, the spiritual armor of God, Sarah walks us through each verse with care and consideration looking under every rock for some nugget of truth to help us live an abundant life worthy of the calling.

Worthy of the Calling Free OBS Sarah KoontzNear the end of the study, we walk through the armor of God. This is not a redo of Priscilla Shirer’s recent study which was in-depth and took weeks to go through a few verses. Instead, Sarah’s study of this section is more of an overview with excellent, memorable summations and practical application to our lives.

Working my way through “Worthy of the Calling” reminded me not only whose I am, but who I am in Christ. It reminded me of my calling—not “into ministry” or anything like that—but my calling to be myself, and to trust that being me is the best thing I can do.

The Big Takeaway

When I asked Sarah what she was praying would be the biggest takeaway for the folks working through her study, she replied,

You are God’s daughter. Created for His glory, and chosen by Him before the foundation of the world. You are holy and blameless in His sight and He has blessed you with EVERY spiritual blessing. You are worthy of the calling you have received, and God has provided all that you need to walk in worthiness.”

They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. If you’re interested in cultivating a habit of Bible reading, reflection, and application in your busy life, then let me recommend to you Sarah E. Koontz – Christian Writer‘s brand new, FREE, e-mail based Bible study on Ephesians. It’s called “Worthy of the Calling,” and it’s worthy of your time.

Click here to participate in this free study: Worthy of the Calling by Sarah E. Koontz


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”