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The Sacrament of Happy - Book Review |
Book Reviews

The Sacrament of Happy – Book Review

Book Description:

Imagine hearing your physician tell you that chips and queso contain more nutritional benefits than kale and quinoa.

In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, Lisa Harper unveils a similarly extravagant, unexpected surprise, declaring that happiness is a gift from God that we can unashamedly enjoy.

Wearing the twin hats of both seminarian and belly-laughing adoptive mom, Harper builds upon solid theological scaffolding for happiness in a warm, vignette style. She dismantles the old-school idea that joy, not happiness, is the truly spiritual emotion of the Christian family and asserts that Christ-followers are actually called to happiness . . . to such a deep conviction in the unmitigated goodness of our Creator-Redeemer that we are free to feel and express genuine joy, fulfillment and contentment, regardless of personal and global tumult.

Harper’s personal story includes such happiness killers as sexual abuse, the death of loved ones, and heartbreaking failed adoptions. Yet she writes on themes like:

“The lost sacrament of laughter”
“Happiness is not the absence of sadness”
“Tuning out the Pharisees who try to mute your happiness in the context of spiritual maturity”

This book goes well beneath most people’s surface understanding of happiness, gently guiding readers closer to the heart of God . . . with naturally a few genuine guffaws to enjoy along the way.


Lisa Harper is a God-send!   The End.

Oh, you mean you need more of a review than that?  Well, alrighty.

Lisa Harper is a down to earth, God fearing woman that loves life!  She writes books that are so easy to read, it is like a conversation with a dear friend.  Honestly!  She tells stories that tug on your heartstrings, and then others that make you literally laugh out loud!  She has been through some crappy days, and she chooses to cultivate happy.

The Sacrament of Happy is a collection of stories that show us that God does have a sense of humor.  It shows us that we can choose happy, how to get happy, and how happy changes the world.

I recommend that you get a hard copy rather than an ebook, because you will want to highlight several parts of this book.  You will want to remember some of the wisdom of Lisa Harper.  Another reason you will want to highlight is because you will start a story and will know what the main points are, but by the end you have laughed so hard that you might forget what you were supposed to learn from it all.  It could just be me though.

I don’t re-read a lot of books, but I will keep this one around to read every now and then.

The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World Book Cover The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World
Lisa Harper
Women's Christian Living
B & H Books
May 31, 2017
Received an advanced eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
The Space Between Words Book Review |
Book Reviews

The Space Between Words – Book Review

Book Description:

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?


This is two stories set three centuries apart.  It’s about a present time woman learning how to heal, live and love from a woman in the past.

The story is well written and well plotted.  With that being said, some of the details seem a bit questionable.  The historical backstory of the Huguenots (French Protestants) fleeing from France to avoid persecution was quite interesting, and has made me want to research that piece of history.  There is a bit of a mystery, and I have to say that there is quite a twist that I never saw coming.

This book was easy to put down, and hard to pick up again.  But… every time I read it, I enjoyed it.  I really like this book, and I would recommend it to everyone.  It is a great story of friendship, healing and hope. It is also considered a Christian Fiction novel, but it isn’t preachy by any means.  There is a bit of romance thrown in, but that does take a backseat to the mystery.

I hope you’ll read this one, and let me know how you like it!

The Space Between Words Book Cover The Space Between Words
Michele Phoenix
Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Contemporary
Thomas Nelson
September 5, 2017
Received ARC from Thomas Nelson publishing via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

the sea of galilee |
Faith, Travel

One of My Favorite Places on Earth – Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee was so peaceful that day. It was almost hard to imagine a storm big enough to make the disciples fear for their lives happening here.

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!””

Matthew 8:23-27

on the sea of galilee |

The Sea of Galilee isn’t exactly the kind of “sea” you are thinking about.  It is a lake.  Sea means basin, so it is a large basin of water.  My family spent lots of time on the lake when I was a kid, and I have some of the best memories from then.  But, I cannot remember there ever being a storm so big and bad on the lake that we were scared for our lives.  Granted, the boats we were on had motors, and were not an oversized canoe looking boat.

While I sat on the tour boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee I felt a calm like I’ve never felt before.  I could say it was because I love being at the lake, in a boat with fish jumping all around me, and bonus, it was a beautiful day.  But I don’t believe that was the reason.  I believe with all my heart that it was because I asked God to be with me, for the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the places Jesus spent time, and He did! I can’t explain it, but there were only a few places I had the same feeling, and I believe it was God answering my prayer.

selfie on the sea of galilee |

This was at the beginning of our boat ride, and we were so thankful that it was a calm day.  We both have issues with motion sickness, and had even thought about skipping the boat ride.  We are so glad we didn’t miss it.

at peace on the sea of galilee |

Let me tell you what is happening in this photo.

This is my dear, dear friend Sandy.  She was brave enough to embark on this journey with me, to put up with me for 24/7 for 16 days, and I love her more today than ever! She has truly blessed my life!

On the right you can see the platform that I was sitting on, and taking in the absolute beauty that surrounded us.  I was imagining the people looking across the lake at the crowd of people gathered to hear Jesus teach, and them heading in his direction to see what all the fuss was about.  I don’t know what Sandy was thinking about while she stood at the side of the boat, but I know she was at peace. (We discussed it later.)  The men in charge of the boat tour started playing worship music as we headed back to shore, and we were singing along.  It was perfect.  I can close my eyes and put myself right back on that boat, and I can feel that calm all over again.

God is so good about calming things in me.  Being on the Sea of Galilee reminded me that I always need to ask God to calm my storms.  I have known that all along, and going half way around the world didn’t suddenly bring that to light.  I just need to remember that daily.  I can almost hear Him saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Church of the Small Things |
Book Reviews

Church of the Small Things – Release Day!

YAY!! It’s release day for Church of the Small Things!  Run to get your copy today!! Okay, maybe not run, but walk, click a button, or drive, whichever works for you.

Did I mention that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, wrote the Foreward?  Another reason to get it!

Click here for my thoughts on Church of the Small Things.

I promise that you will love this book!


Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up A Life
Melanie Shankle
Christian Living, Humor, Religion
October 3, 2017

Imagined Nativity Scene |
Faith, Travel

I’ll Never Look At A Nativity Scene The Same Again

Most of us have been taught about the birth of Jesus all of our lives.  We have been told how there was no room at the inn, and we have visions of Mary and Joseph in a stable with baby Jesus in a manger.

By definition, a manger is a trough or an open box in a stable designed to hold feed for livestock.  All my life I’ve imagined a stable and a manger to be made of wood, and be a cute little scene for the story of the birth of Jesus.  I imagined a wooden manger filled with soft hay for the newborn baby.

Manger with straw |

Does this look about right?

Well, hang on to your hat because it isn’t the kind of manger used those days.

A Real Manger |

See what I mean?

Did you have a “What?!?” moment like I did when I first saw it?

The “stable” that Mary and Joseph went into was not a cute little barn looking stable.  It was a cave.  Yes, really.

In the Holy Lands, cities are built on top of cities and churches are built on top of what people considered to be sacred sites.  Below you will see the entrance to the cave where people believe Jesus was born.

Entrance - Jesus's Birth Place |

Today there are several very steep steps going down into the cave.

14 Point Star |

This is the 14-point star that people have placed in the spot they believe Jesus was born.  Almost everyone wanted to kneel down and touch the star.  I honestly don’t believe that this is THE spot where Jesus was born, but I do believe that it resembles the true location.  This is just my opinion, and I know that I could be wrong.

Manger Location |

This was several steps away from the 14-point star, and it is where people believe the manger was that He was placed in.  Here again, I’m not sure this is the exact location, but we played along nicely.

When we think of babies being born into this world we imagine softness.  Soft hay, a wooden manger and not a hollowed out stone, a barn with the moonlight and stars shining bright not a dark cave.  No wonder we like to use the pleasant looking nativity scene at Christmas.  I for one, will never look at a nativity scene the same.


Faith, Travel

Spending Time Abroad

Several months ago, March actually, I was asked if my husband and I would be interested in going to the Holy Lands. He couldn’t take off for the 16 day trip, but I could. I talked to my friend, Sandy, and she could get away too. So, for the last week, we have been in Israel! 

We’ve tried new things, taken adventures, walked where Jesus walked, and floated in the Dead Sea. This has been a great trip for both of us! We can now read the Bible and remember what they looked like because we’ve been there.

Coming to the Holy Land is such a personal journey for each individual. Everyone sees the same thing, but we all walk away different. Touched in our own ways. I will never be able to describe this trip. Sure, I can say where I’ve been, but there are some experiences that are just indescribable. This is one of them.

The take away from this is that every Christian should make this trip.

A Fierce Love |
Book Reviews, Faith

A Fierce Love – Book Review

Book Description:

Love is easy to give when you are getting it back. Are we still called to God’s plan of how to love when we are getting none in return? Shauna Shanks’s brave journey through obedience reveals the outcome of when we dare to follow God’s ludicrous outline for love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Wrecked with news of her husband’s affair and his request for a divorce, Shauna finds herself urgently faced with a decision. Does she give up and divorce her husband and move on, or does she try to fight for her marriage? The former choice seems to contradict God’s plan for how to love, such as “love never gives up,” “love is patient,” and “love is kind.”

Taking God at His word and assuming the love chapter was really meant to be followed literally word by word, she not only finds herself falling in love with her spouse again, but also falling in love with Jesus, which changes everything.

First Corinthians 13 presents an audacious, illogical, and irrational context of how to love, meant to be applied to every marital context not just the fairytale marriage. If God’s instructions seem illogical and audacious, you might just expect the same kind of results in return!

This book is not air-brushed. It was written in the midst of the author’s deepest trauma, and she purposefully did not edit out her mistakes and failures during that season. This book will resonate with women who do not feel like the picture-perfect Christian woman with the fairytale life and marriage. A Fierce Love is the story of a train wreck and reaching out to God not in the calm but in the chaos and finding hope for the future.


Watch Shauna talk about her new book, A Fierce Love, and answer all of our questions.  Loved being able to see this live last night!


I loved A Fierce Love!

Let me clarify.  I hate that Shauna and Micah had to travel this road.  I hate that anyone has to travel this road, whether it is the husband having an affair or the wife that has an affair.  It isn’t pleasant at all for anyone.  If you are one of the few that know our story, then you know that we have been down this road and we have come out on the other side stronger than ever.  Loving this book does not mean that I love what happened to them, it means that I love that they have shared their story with us.  I love that they are still writing the rest of their story.  No, I do not have any inside scoop about another book or a Hallmark movie (which was mentioned on the live chat), I mean that they are still doing life together.  They are still in this love story.  I love that Shauna listened to God, and applied the Love Filter to her life.  I love this book!

A Fierce Love is a book of life, hope, heartache, and healing.  Divorce happens, and it happens a lot.  I’m not judging.  I have friends, family and even my husband has been divorced.  A preacher man that I am “friends” with on the Book of Faces pointed out that even God has been divorced.  I’ll leave the scripture right here so you can read it for yourself.

Jeremiah 3: 8
New International Version (NIV)

I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.

I know that is a completely different blog post, but it is written right there in the Bible.

Back to the book, A Fierce Love.  When we get married, we make a vow before God, family and friends, and lots of weddings are in churches. LOTS!  We want God there when we are in the midst of all the wedded bliss, but when we are wronged we often forget to bring God into the situation.  This book is a wonderful example of how we can go to God, listen to God, and obey God in what seems like the end of our world.  Don’t get me wrong, this happily ever ending won’t happen for everyone, even with God being in the situation.  But shouldn’t we be willing to bring Him into more of our situations?

Oh I seem to be getting off track here, let me see if I can wrap it up with something about the actual book.

A Fierce Love is a book that I recommend to everyone!  Men and women! I admire anyone that is willing to showcase a terrible time in their life to remind us that God is good.  They are willing to share their story in hopes that someone will gain from it.  I’m sure there will be haters out there, because anytime God is glorified the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.  (Sorry!) Just shake it off! (I know, sorry! Couldn’t help myself!)

Love this book! Go get it! Read it! Share it!

A Fierce Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage Book Cover A Fierce Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage
Shauna Shanks
Nonfiction, Christian, Marriage
June 27, 2017
Received an advanced eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Last Minute Gifts - Burp Cloths |

Last Minute Gifts – Burp Cloths

Sunday at church, I found out that there was going to be a baby shower that I had not planned for.  Yes, it had been in the church bulletin all month, but let’s just say I’m lacking in my planning skills lately.  Oh, the dreaded pressure of last minute gifts.  Since we live in the middle of nowhere, quite literally, and I had ridden to church with my loving husband, I knew that I shouldn’t push my luck and ask him to take me to lunch AND go shopping for a baby gift.  I chose lunch.

When I got home I started brain storming.  This basically means that I sat in a lawn chair on the porch, in the shade, and browsed Pinterest.  What did we ever do before Pinterest?  Do you Pin on Pinterest?  Okay, now I am just seeing how many times I can get Pinterest into one paragraph.  Sorry.  So, after perusing Pinterest (HA!) I decided on either burp cloths or one of those thingys that attach to door knobs and a cloth goes over the do-hickey that actually secures the door; you know, so the door doesn’t make a noise when the new parents finally get the munchkin to sleep.  Anywhoo!  I thought about doing both, but then I perused a little longer than I should have, so I went with burp cloths only.

Then I had to shop my stash.

Last Minute Gifts |

You know what? It took me longer to peruse pins and pick fabric than it did to actually make the stinkin’ burp cloths.  And I felt pretty darn good after accomplishing all that that day.  I was rushed, and they weren’t as perfect as I would have liked them to be, BUT… I’m not perfect and nothing I do will be perfect.  Especially when it comes to sewing!

Here’s what I came up with…

Last Minute Gifts - Burp Cloths

What are the perfect last minute gifts you tend to go to?  You know, I might need ideas for next time.