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April: The Month of the Military Child

Meg Chaney

I wrote this earlier this month, but thought it was too important not to share. It's still April, so here you go!

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Here's to my super heros! My little resilient souls who remind me time and again how to trust, how to live with excitement, how to love.

And here's to the Month of the Military Child. I'm so blessed to have two such kiddos to celebrate this April. I think I feel it all the more now that our daughter is school aged. With this move, we decided to place her in a public elementary school.  And what a great experience it's been! The location means that many military children also attend right along side her. Once a week, she's pulled out of class, or has a lunch date, with a military counselor. She gets a special time to talk and make crafts, and slowly learn what it truly means to be a military kid.  I love that from day one she's had this outlet. This trusted counselor. Admittingly, in kindgergarten, the talk may not be that deep, but I love that the resource is there. I know my girl talks excitedly about her lunch dates with Miss Brooke. She had and two other boys in her class have formed a nice little friendship, military kids experiencing life together. 

Today is an extra special day at my daughter's school. I know when she walked into her school this morning, the front steps where all decorated in purple, celebrating military kids everywhere. Her classmates wore purple today too. And I sit here crying, becasuse it's all so precious.

 May the Lord continue to grow and form your character through this military life. 

You are awesome Military Kids. 

And here's to the conselors and teachers that love on military kids each and every day. That make each move, each deployement season, go a little smoother. Thank you for the tremendous work you do each day for our military kids. You are superheros. 

A Military Family Goes to Disney

Meg Chaney

Over Spring Break, we suprised our kiddos with a trip to Disney. I don't know about all of you, but my husband's job in the military makes it hard for us to plan trips. We honestly didn't know if he'd be in town that week, or if he'd even be able to take leave. This makes it harder to plan a big trip, especially to somewhere like Disney. People make dinner reservations months out, and reserve Fast Passes for rides 1 to 2 months out. My perfecitonist/planner brain was going a little crazy with not being able to plan. 

But even this turned out fine in the end.

It was a great lesson in not worrying and not over planning for a trip.

Our biggest tip for the parks? Arrive early and leave at lunch time. We really took Disney in small bursts, made a few ride reservations (Fast Passes), and then left the park when those were finished. Or at some parks, we just enjoyed the sights, had a nice lunch, and then when back to our hotel. 

 

SHADES of GREEN

Shades of Green is a military resort located right on Disney property. The location really is ideal. Each room has either a balcony or a walk out. We were on the bottom floor, just around the corner from the splash pad, kid friendly pool, and playground. We've never stayed at a resort with such a nice pool! I also loved how close Shades of Green was to the Magic Kingdom! The shuttle bus was there in just a few minutes. It's also in walking distance to the Polynisian Resort, so a few times we were able to just take the short trek between the two resorts, and make use of the Monorail & boats that cross the lake between the resorts & the Magic Kingdom. Really, the location couldn't have been nicer! Only downside of Shades of Green? The buffet downstairs was just decent. Enough to fill us up after a super busy day, but not spectacular. But when it's close to bedtime, descent meal near your room is enough! But, their  little cafe serves Starbucks, so that may make up for it :)

 

FAVORITE PARK

I'm sure my little ones would answer Magic Kingdom, but my favorite park was Epcot. And honestly, my kids seemed to really enjoy our day hereas well.  The Flower Festival was in full swing! The displays were beautiful, and there were plenty of things for the kiddos to interact with along the way. They had a little passport book to stamp in each "country" we went too, and also enjoyed the butterfly garden and the musical playground. The kiddos were especially excited when we saw the Eifffel Tower in the French section! Epcot is the one place that I honestly could have gone back to for another day, I loved it so much!

 

FOOD

We enjoyed two different character meals, Holywood & Vine (Hollywood Studios) & Tusker House (Animal Kingdom). The food was excellent at both, and the kiddos really loved meeting Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy & Goofy! It was fun eating, wondering when the next character would show up at our table! Definitely less stressful than standing in lines at the parks! The price of these meals wasn't cheap, but it really is a special experience, at least once.  I noticed at Animal Kingdom & Epcot that there were many quick dinning places with yummy sounding food. Next time, we may make less reservations and just depend on the quick service a little more! It's part of the adventure! 

FAST PASS+

I was really happy with our Fast Passes. The Fast Past+ system means that you can use the fast line for rides throughout your trip. You can only reserve 3 in advance, per day, and those 3 have to be in the same park. 

Our first morning at the Magic Kingdom, we used our Fast Passes to meet Princess Rapunzel, ride Dumbo, and hop onto the Buzz Light Year Ride (at lunch time, when lines were very long). 

After we used up our Fast Passees, we were able to book more. We grabbed up It's A Small World, right as the park was starting to get crazy. Then we left for lunch and naptime. 

The only thing I would have done different? I probably wouldn't have scheduled my first Fast Pass for 8:30 AM. The lines really weren't that crazy yet. The Fast Passes closer to Noon really were helpful. We came back to the Magic Kingdom a different afternoon for a few more Fast Passes.  People were standing in line for the Winnie the Pooh ride for more than an hour, in a few  minutes, we had seats. Definitely nice with littles! 

 

 

 

There's so much more I could share, but I'll leave you with this: as with any family trip, give each other a lot of grace. Remember that any given day won't go perfectly, little ones will still have meltdowns, plans just won't work out, you probably will all be a little tired at the end of your trip, such is life! But precious time was spent together as a family. That's really all that matters. I'm sure it it will be quite awhile before we try to take on Disney again. That time, our kiddos may not need naps, we probably won't be pushing a stroller, we probably will stand in line for thexample big rides. I'm excited for trips when they're older, but I'm treasuring those moments of wonder through their young eyes. My son may not give Minnie Mouse kisses the next time we go. Cherish each experience friends, even with it's ups and downs ❤

Treasured Grace: A review

Meg Chaney

Hello friends,

This week I have a book review for you, Treasured Grace by Tracey Peterson.

To start, the premise of this book fascinated me. Grace marries, not for love, but to provide for herself and her two younger sisters. They head West with her minister husband, in order to join an Indian Mission on the frontier. Along the way her husband dies, leaving the girls once again on their own. Thankfully, there's room for them to live and serve at the Indian Mission. But their story is far from over. While at the mission, they experience the Whitman Massacre, a horrible incident, drawn from real life, in which one of the local tribes turned on the mission and killed almost everyone there. 

I love the amount of research that went into this story. Peterson did a lot of work to bring a real life incident to life. The intermingling of fact and fiction has always fascinated me. Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genre's. I really thought Peterson did an excellent job with the historical aspects of this story.

I will say this: the dialogue felt extremely stilted and unrealistic to me. Even way back when, I doubt that people talked the way that they do in her book. I also felt like a few of the interactions felt a little too scripted. Would the head of a settlement really sought out Grace and her sister's like He did, taking such an intentional interest in her well being, over others?
 

For me, the research and setting made it fascinating, but the dialogue was too unrealistic for me to really dig in. It left me distracted, skimming through certain parts so that I could get to the end of the story. I don't really like when that happens.

And so you have it, my honest review of Treasured Grace.  If you had a different reaction to the book, please let me know! I'm sure there are different viewpoints out there :)

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Bethany House Blogger Review Program is awesome like that :)

That Girl

Meg Chaney

This weekend was a big one for our girl.  She had her first loose tooth. She chatted about it all weekend, chewed on lots of apples, and repeatedly had us check the tooth to see if it was wiggling anymore. It hasn't fallen out yet, but it will any day now. In addition to her tooth, she was also convinced that she no longer needed training wheels on her bike. 

I warned her that it might take some time. 

I told her she would probably fall. but that falling was ok. It was just a part of the process.

And then we were off. Papa, Mama, little brother, cheering her for every few feet of freedom. 

And she made some progress. She even made it down to the stop sign before falling over. 

We were all so proud of her! But what amazed me most of all was her positive spirit.

She never gave up.

She approached every fall with grace.

She looked at the progress.

She kept her eyes looking toward the goal ahead, not on the falls.

She simply saw the falls as something to overcome.

If something didn't work, she just tried it differently next time.

And she kept going further.

She's far from done. I'm sure she'll be back at it after school today, wanting to go even farther, even further.

But her sweet spirit touched my heart so very much.

It made me wonder how I face defeats in my own life. If was honest, I would admit that I often want to give up, I want to go back to bed, burry my head in my pillow, and give up on the day. I take defeat personally. 

My daughter believes she can ride her bike. She believes that she's learned the necessary skills, and that, with hard work and trust she'll get there. But in order to do so, she has to keep looking ahead. When she wobbles to the side, she falls. 

My trust needs to be the same. I have to keep looking ahead. I have to keep trusting that God has given me the gifts I need to complete each task through the day. I have to trust that He has a great purpose for me. I can't give up when a setback happens, but instead, need to keep going. 

Oh the beautiful lessons our children teach us. I think I'll always say that this child has been my greatest test, but also one of my greatest treasures in this world. 

 

 

 

Uninvited

Meg Chaney

This book has long been on my list of books to read. It's a book title that resonnates with me. I mentioned that reviewing Craving Connection really affected me. It touched on a sore area of my life. 

And so, I pray over this Bible study we're about to study at church. 

The girl who feels so uninvited has THREE meetups with friends this week. The girl who doesn't feel like she fits, is suddently surrounded by people. What exactly that means, I'm not sure. 

I do think we go through seasosn where we have to stand on what we know. I know my God is faithful. Iknow my God provides. But it still astounds me when he shows up. I'm still just so amazed at his unending faithfulness and love. 

Yesterday, I had a wonderful morning at church, went out to brunch with family, and then the hubby and I took the kids to a playground. It was there that I ran into a sweet friend. We sat down on a bench, and both said just how uninvted we've felt in this season. How we both feel like God is calling us to this study for a reason.

Friends, He's precious and relentless. And He never ceases to put people in your life each and every day. Be encouraged by that today. 

 

Lent

Meg Chaney

This Southern world that I now live in celebrates something known as Mardi Gras. In the North, we literally called it Fat Tuesday. It'sa day of excess, of parties, before a time of pentitence. It's a day of craziness before Ash Wednesday. 

I've never attended a church that applies Ash crosses to foreheads on Wednesday. But I'm aware of the ritual. I'm aware that it's a outward sign of inward repentence. I'm aware that it's the begining of Lent. 

Lent is a season that has gone by in the past without too much notice, for me. In recent years I have participated in some special Bible studies, or gone through specific devotionals. I've even written about Lent on this blog before. 

But it does make me wonder, what should I be doing in a year of Katergazomai? If I'm working out my faith in a new, intentional way this year, how should I approach Ash Wednesday? How should I approach Lent? I thought about purchasing a special Bible Study, as I have in the past, but I'm already two Bible studies deep in my life right now. So what else? I've thought about actually eating Fish on Fridays, it's something Catholic's do during Lent, and a practice my family could pretty easily take up without much trouble. I've also wondered about giving something up for this Lenton season, but I'm just not sure....  

I think for one, during Lent, I'd like to pick up one of my journals again. It's a practice I fall in and out of, depending on the season, and how busy my outside life is. 

February in The Influence Network was on Bible Literacy. I loved the extra resources, and the extra podcast. It was all really encouraging for me. I struggle in Bible Studies at times, feeling as if I almost know too much. I've grown up in the church, attended Christian schools, and read plentiful books, so I know lots of random things about the Bible. I know a lot, so I'm afraid that I'll come across as a know it all. At the same time, Scripture truly is living and breathing. There's always more to learn. And so I want to encourage myself to grow in new ways. I want to take advantage of those in between times. I want to seek out what He may have for me this year. I want to learn. And for me, that might means journaling, taking apart scirpture, looking up verses in commentaries, looking up the original Hebrew and Greek. Really learning the meat of it all. That excites me, and I always want to be excited when I delve into scripture.

I also want to embrace contentment, letting God fulfill me right here, right now. Living fully in the life He's given me, but also opening up my heart to new friendships, new opportunities to write, new opportunitiees to reach out and love others. But to do that, I feel like I need to delve in. And for me, that begins with a pen, a Bible, and a journal. Will you join me? This blog is such a tiny corner of the world. But I'd love to share what I'm learning with you. 

How do you approach Lent? Do you give something up? Focus on reading certain scirptures? I hope, whatever your approach, that you're waiting with anticipation for Easter to come. 

 

Seamless

Meg Chaney

Our Bible Study has been going through Angie Smith's Seamless. I love Angie's genuiness, she's hilarious, but also gives a really clear outline of the Bible. It's been a really helpful study for me! I know so many stories from the Bible, but it's wonderful seeing it as the big picture, all pointing toward Jesus. This week, we've been looking at the Prophets, all of the men and women that prophesied to the Israelites and the surrounding nations about their sins, but also prophesied about the rebuilding of Jersulam, and the ultimate redeemer to come, the Messiah, Jesus.

I have felt so empty this week. So spent. My nights have been restless, my dreams distressful, my kiddos have been bikering. I have felt drained and low. And then I read through the Bible scriptures for today. I read, yes, of the discipline the Israelites and surrounding nations would face, but I also read about Isreal's restoration. These words were meant for them, but they spoke so sweetly to my tired spirit. They spoke of the ultimate restoration He does in my heart again and again. They spoke of the tremendous picture, not always seen to me, but always seen to Him. They encouraged me, as I hope they will encourage you. 

May your soul be satisfied today. May you find solace in the LORD God, who restores and makes whole, who is at work, even in the dryest of seasons. 

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. ‘Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. ‘The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years the swarming locus as eaten, the hoppper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent amoung you. ‘You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wonderously with you. And my people will never again be put to shame.
— Joel 2:21-26, ESV

Craving Connection: A Review

Meg Chaney

I received this book from the B&H Bloggers Program, in exchange for my honest review

I've been a following (in)courage from the begining. Have you heard of them? Over the years I've read their blog posts, and even participated in some online book clubs. Craving Connection lives and breathes the very message of this community. You're not alone. You have a God who loves you and created you for community. The book itself is a 30 day devotional, written by women in the community. Each day has an inspirational verse, a devotion, some questions, a practical suggestion for community living, and a closing prayer. I love the aesthetic of the book. The pages remind me of a scrapbook or Journaling Bible, with pretty details along the margins. It makes me happy to pull it out and look through it.

Honestly, the subject of community can be a raw one. I've been in some intensely lonely places. But at the same time, I can relate. All of us as women crave community. 

This military life means that I know what it's like to be the new girl in town. I know what it's like to feel like I don't quite fit in. I also know that it takes investment, it takes time, time seeking out Jesus, time seeking out community. Reading devotionals on this subject doesn't discourage me, but instead fills me up, reminds me of God's perfect plan in my life. I hope it encourages you as well. 

 I was surprised at the length of the devotionals, this definitely isn't quick in and out reading. It takes time to read through, time to ponder. I also think it would be helpful to have a journal on hand, a place to write down your own answers to the questions from each day. Overall, it's a sweet book, and one that I think any Christian woman can resonnate with. We've all been lonely, yes? Even in the midst of busy lives, we crave connection. 

 

Abiding and Katergazomai

Meg Chaney

Abiding seems to be a crucial part of Katergazomai. 

As we "work out our faith" we have to abide. 

Abiding means living like his Sons and daughters. It means seeking out fellowship with Him. When we love God, we want to be close to Him. We want to live in His ways. But it does take work, it does take intentionality. It does take moments when we chose to sit down with a Bible study, when we chose to change the chanel or listen to a different type of music, when we chose to go to church, to fellowship with other believers,to learn more about Him. To me, abiding in Christ is katergazomai. It is working out my faith. Works don't make us a Christian, if we could work hard enough, we would, but we needed an ultimate sacrifice, Jesus. Just the same, works reveal our faith. Reveal our true heart. Yes, those works may be imperfect, but I would hope that, over time, the way we act, the way we speak, would only become more like Jesus. 

You know the Jars of Clay song,  "They will know we are Christians by our love?" (also see John 13:35), that's the song running through my brain at the moment, but I think that's it at the core. We shouldn't have to scream it, we should be able to display it. Imperfectly admit to our faults, but also express our true heart intentions.

Abide. 

Live.

Seek out.

Work out.

 

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the begining abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life....And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
— 1 John 2:23-24,28, ESV

Word of the Year 2017

Meg Chaney

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Katergazomai

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...
— Philippians 2:12, ESV

My word is so different this year, so personal. It's hard to describe, exactly. All I know is it's something my husband and I are working through this year. It started with our PCS in June. As we searched for a new church, we found ourselves really drawn to services with a little more liturgy, and little more tradition. We were at a point that we were craving some good old fashioned hymns. We found ourselve attending a United Methodist chruch. Very different from the last church we attended, but good. Isn't it amazing how vast the kindgdom of God is?  We're all so different, but Sunday comes and all draw together and worship Jesus. Worship comes in so many ways. It's fascinating. At this new, United Methodist church, there were things we were unfamiliar with. Why the different colored robes? Why the focus on different scriptures through the year? These are new things the Christian church as a whole, but they were new to us. It piqued our curiosity. 

And then I took an Influence Network class. This teacher talked about how she and her family found their rythmn in the seasons of the church. She talked about how, for them, Advent was the begining of the year. The birth of Christ was only the begining.  Each season had a specific focus, that looked toward Jesus, instead of crazy schedules. Advent, Ephipeny, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time, these season weren't a completely unheard of concept to us. We were both raised in the church. But we loved the idea of focusing on them a little more intentionally. Of making it a point of dicussion with our children throughout the year.

We wanted to work out our faith.  

For us, we've started reading through this book: and doing a weekly devotion with our kids on Sunday nights. It's been great, because they seem to be talking about the same thing at church as well! So far we've looked at Jesus' Baptism, the calling of the disciples, and his first miracles. I think I'm really going to enjoy this new change in our family time! 

We also picked a word for this year. It's the first time my husband and I have picked a word together! 

Katergazomi: to work out

Work out means I'm activiely thinking about ways to make Jesus the center of our family's life. The center of our rythmn. That's the first part, right? Not necessarily knowing all the answers, but finding new ways to emphasize that Jesus sets the rythm of our lives, not busy schedules.

Philippians 2:12 was an endorsement from Paul to the early church to continue working out their faith with fear and trembling. Not as one who is afraid, huddled in the corner in the dark, but as a people who understand just how great and awesome God is. Who understand that He really does hold all things in his hands. I really enjoyed this definition of fear and trembling: " [Work out is] used to describe the anxiety of one who distrust his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty" (Blueletterbible.org, accessed 01/26/17). Isn't that us, as humans? Or is it just me? As a child of God, I honestly want to do my best to serve Him each day. I honestly want each word I say, each action I take, to mirror Him. But I also know that I mess up alot. I honestly know that I could never do it all on my own. I would never be enough. I honestly know that I need Jesus. I need Him to work through me each day. I need Him to ulitimately bridge the gaps that I honestly can't complete. But that doesn't stop me from working. That doesn't stop me from seeking. That doesn't stop me from ever moving closer to Him. Praying, spending time in His word, being intentional with my children, reevaluating priorities in my life: all of these things are part of the Christian walk, as we ever seek after Him. 

And so, that brings us to 2017. The year of katergazomai.  The year of experiencing more of God, and seeking after Him all the more.

I don't completely know what that will look like. But I do know that I want to be intentional. And that's why I'm sharing these words year, on my little corner of the Blogsphere.

I hope you join me in finding a word for this year. 

Being intentional.

Seeking the Lord. 

Let's see what happens.

Amish Weddings: A Review

Meg Chaney

Amish Weddings, by Leslie Gould, was a book I received from the Bethany House Bloggers Program, in exchange for my honest review.

Amish Weddings is book 3 in the Neighbors of Lancaster County Series. Amish Promises and Amish Sweethearts come before it in the series. I was surprised when I realized that I had actually read the first book in this series. It, honestly, really helped that I knew some of the background. Amish Weddings did stand as a good book in it’s own right, but I do think you gain a lot by reading the previous books. The Beck & Lehman families have a lot of history together, so their past often comes up in conversation. Definitely pick up the first two books if you can.

But now onto Amish Weddings.

When this story picks up, sisters Lila & Rose Lehman are both looking to be married. Leila, to her longtime friend, Zane, and Rose to the bishops son. But they both may need a little work done on their hearts before they’re ready.

Lila is all ready to marry Zane, but then a few outside circumstances change everything, and make her question her own heart. Are her priorities where they should be? Or has her desire for a husband and a family taken precedent over her relationship with God?

Rose, also, has a lot of questions to ask of herself. She’s been seriously dating her Amish boyfriend for awhile, and is convinced that a marriage proposal is close at hand. But does she truly want this life? Does she want a dependable man, or does she want adventure and the unknown?

Both sisters have a lot of hard questions to ask themselves. The answer isn’t always so clear to them, or to the reader. I really enjoyed the deep questions that were brought up in this book. The characters were well rounded, and grappled with real life issues. Their struggles really kept me coming back, wanting to read more.  I love it when a fiction story pulls me in and keeps me invested in the relationships. I also love when their struggles are real life struggles, things I can relate to and learn from. This book did that for me. 

What have you been reading so far in 2017? Feel free to share below. I'm always happy to add a new book to my wish list!

Come check out my Goodreads list here. 

Happy Reading!

 

Life Giving Lists

Meg Chaney

I entered 2017 hesitantly. The past year hadn't panned out exactly as planned. I felt a bit discouraged. A bit at odds. How do you truly measure up the sucess of a year? Writing has come with so many more road blocks than expected. While others seem to have great sucesses, I still flounder, waver. Write, not knowing where it will take me. Honestly, 2016 was a year that almost nothing got published. Everytime I submitted something, it felt like it was sent back. And all of that was mostly in the first part of the year. The second part of the year? I didn't really even try. That's what feelings of discouragement and defeat can do for you.

But yet. 

But yet there may be something left to say. But yet, new books are being written everyday, new voices are being heard. 

My goal from the begining has been encouragement. My objective? To be transparent. To let my voice be heard. 

I wasn't sure what to write down as my objective for this coming year. 

And then, I wandered over to Emily Freeman's blog and read this: 3 Gentle Ways to Review Your Life in the New Year. Yes, gentle was the way I needed to go. Not overally critical, or with a feeling of defeat, but honest, optimistic, introspective. I loved Emily's idea of writing a Life Giving List. It's been a great way to look at my house, my daily responsibilities, expectations, the things I do in those empty moments between one thing and the next. A new year is a great time to think about such things, to declutter myself, my life. Techonology is always a big one for me. It's so easy playing on my phone when I'm waiting for my son to get out of school. But I'd much rather spend that time with a good book! Oh, I never want to say that my time here was wasted!

Christmas was such a good break for my family. A break from routine, appointments, schedules. There was more time to just sit and read a book, or for my kids to play independently. I've noticed the changes with school starting up again. I have more books sitting next to cozy chairs, reminding me to dive on in, before I turn to my phone. It's also getting rid of more craft accessories, things that only stress me out because I never have the time to get to them. It's reminding myself that I love to bake bread, and thinking about how that could become a part of our weekly routine again. Life giving lists are great like that. If distrations are keeping me from the things I love then maybe something has to change. If my old writing routine isn't working, then maybe I need to plan things different, become BRAVE in my writing in whole new ways. If I desire to be closer to God, then what do I need to change to spend more time in His word? What other things might have to be sacrificed a bit?

Life-giving lists force a look at the positive side of things, while gently reminding you to get rid of the negative. I love that! Thank you Emily Freeman for making me think, and truly encouraging my heart!

 

 

 

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill: A Review

Meg Chaney

Hello friends!

As 2017 begins, I have a great big pile of books to read. I'm so excited about all the book adventures I'll go on this year. Before I share any book goals for this year, I'd love to share the last book I read in 2016: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen. The Bethany House Blogger Review Program gave me a copy of this book for my honest review. 

 

With the death of her husband, Jane Bell finds herself unexpectedly thrown into the roll of Innkeeper, quite uncommon for 1820s England! Jane grew up in a wealthy household, and  has no idea how to run a business. At first Jane seems rather meek and dull, but as the story progresses, readers start to see a little fire and determination inside. It's as if Jane has always been asleep, but now, circumstances have changed, and she's forced to stand on her own two feet.  As the story progresses, Jane must fight for the Inn itself, and uncover the mystery surrounding her husband's death. I loved the addition of this mystery. It really added to the suspense of the story, and pushed me toward the final chapters. The secondary characters were also quite interesting. Some of their back story is left rather hazy, building up for future books in the series. At the end of the story, I was left wanting more. I'm really looking forward to book 2, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage. Overall, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill was a beautiful story of a woman coming into her own, finding strength in herself, but also forming some new, unexpected friendships. I hope you enjoy it! 

What was your favorite read of last year? What are you looking forward to reading in 2017? Comment below, I'd love to hear!

 

The Significance of a Star

Meg Chaney

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
— Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12 (NIV)

Early this morning I was out by our fireplace, watching the light flicker, enjoying the first moments of the day. As I sat, I wondered about the Wisemen, these men from the east who traveled amazingly far to worship the King of the Jews. These foreigners, who didn't even practice the Jewish faith, who may have even been kings themselves, but desired to worship this little child. Jesus' birth was largly un-recognized by his own people. Most didn't see Him as being anything out of the ordinary. All the prophets had pointed to this specific moment in time, when a child would be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem of all places, but the Jewish people ignored it. But foreign wise men saw something significant. Imagine the journey it must have been, the caravan, the amount of animals, servants, wisemen that must have been in their company. All because they saw a star. 

Who were these men of the east? We can really only speculate. We're not even sure on the number of them. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, writes the Persian Magi were their philosophers and priest. The people there wouldn't allow a new person to be king, until he had studied with the Magi. These were truly wisemen, who knew the stars. Knew them so well, that they recognized when a certain star appeared in the sky. Wouldn't you have loved to have seen that star? 

They, in their country, which was in the east, had seen an extraordinary star, such as they had not seen before; which they took to be an indication of an extraordinary person born in the land of Judea, over which land this star was seen to hover, in the nature of a comet, or a meteor rather, in the lowers regions of the air; this differed so much from any thing that was common that they concluded it to signify something uncommon
— Matthew Henry, Commentary on Matthew 2, Blueletterbible.com

They saw it as something uncommon. They saw it as something worth seeking. As worth putting up with months on the road, dirt, hunger, bright sun. This one special star said something important. It was the long awaited star that proclaimed the Messiah. They saw that special message, and they focused on it, they sought it out. It's a good reminder for us as well to make the effort, to seek out Jesus. To remember the true meaning of this Christmas season. It's a celebration of the most precious gift of all. The king of all kings coming into this world. It's worthy of all of our praise, isn't it so?

Proclaimers

Meg Chaney

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The change has been slow, but over the past few years,  we've found ourselves drawn back to a more traditional, liturgical,  style of worship. There is just something so beautiful about the rituals. With our recent move, we started attending a Methodist church with more than one service. The early service is traditional, the later service, contemporary. We love our new church as a whole. The last Sunday in November was the beginning of Advent. To celebrate, we had a special Hanging of the Green service. It was a whole service devoted to lighting candles, singing beautiful hymns, listening to the bell choir, and hanging other decorations around the church. 

I love building traditions with my family. Going to special church services, reading advent verses together each evening, lighting a candle on our Advent wreath each Sunday. Those are some of the sweet memories. 

I was reading Luke 2:8-20 this morning. In these verses there are shepherds out in the fields at night. Suddenly the sky is filled with angels. Angels proclaiming the wondrous news that a Savior has been born, the Messiah. The Shepherds then go and find the infant king so that they can worship him.

And I wondered: why didn't the angels appear to everyone? The whole world could have just heard in that single moment. There wouldn't have been any doubt about who Jesus was. Or would there have been? Would a worldwide proclamation have been enough? Or would stubborn hearts still refuse to believe? Would lives still refuse to recognize what is right in front of their eyes? The angels coming to the shepherds were no mistake. I believe that the LORD saw people who would believe. Who would respond to the proclamation. 

When it comes to Advent, I think that we, as parents, have such a significant role. We are the proclaimers. We're telling our children, with their young, malleable hearts, that Jesus has come! We're proclaiming the wondrous news. 

I've never considered myself in the role similar to an angel before. But isn't it amazing? We have such a beautiful job to do. And how do we do it? We do it in what we chose to focus on this Christmas season. It doesn't have to be big or extensive. Children don't always have the greatest attention spans. But it can be a verse each evening, or maybe just choosing to meet around an advent wreath every Sunday, to light a candle and talk about God's amazing love, the love that sent His only son into this world as a tiny baby. And that time spent together as a family, may be the greatest gift of all. 

 

 

Idols

Meg Chaney

I can't believe that we're nearing the end of our Bible study on Gideon (by Pricilla Shirer).  Six weeks have gone back way too quickly! At the end of Gideon's story, we find that the Israelites have, quite quickly, turned back to worshiping idols. This could bring up questions of leadership, legacy, and idol worship. 

It's not a new premise to me, things of this world being called idols, but I did find it interesting listing out the things in my life that (may) take the place of God. One of the first things was: schedules. Let's be honest here, I like my life to be organized. My little world thrives when it's in order. My children are the same way. They like the expected, the normal. When we moved, my littlest one keep asking when we could go back to the "normal church." Even this morning, he freaked out because we had to leave the house early, it was out of his "normal" routine. Long ago, we determined that surprises don't work well with our kids. If there's any change, we let them know. My brain works in a similar way. I want the normal. This week I've been stressed, because I had to add four unexpected appointments. It threw my whole little world out of order. My brain has been worrying and fretting over the changes. It's hard for me to look at the next few months and know that added appointments will be a part of our life. I don't like it because it's unexpected, it's different. I've been fretting and stewing over it, trying to think of a way out of it. Forgetting.

Forgetting that there may be something greater at work. 

My very stressing is taking the place of trust. My obsession is taking the place of time I could be spending with God. All that time staring at my phone, trying to work out calendars, could be spend on much better things.

I'm choosing stress over peace.

In a way, the scheduling is becoming an idol. Or maybe it's the worrying. 

An idol is anything that takes precedent in our life, anything that we give all of our focus to, place as priority number 1.

It's a stretch, but I can see the connection.

In the midst of worrying, I forget the blessing.

I forget that these appointments are in place for something good. There there to help me feel better. To, possibly, solve something I've been suffering with for years. 

I forget the hidden blessing, the promise of something at the end.

The LORD doesn't want the next 3 months to be months of worrying and stress for me. Instead, He wants peace.

He wants peace in my life. He's provided the peace.

He wants trust. Trust, letting go of what can't be changed, embracing this new schedule that will be ours for such a small season.

Peace, trust, joy, those are words I want to embrace this holiday season. 

I don't want any obsession, any distraction to take the place of peace. Peace that only comes from the LORD. 

 

Legacy

Meg Chaney

This election is the first major election my daughter has been interested in. This will be the first major election ingraned in her memory, the first President she remembers taking the oath of office, and the first time voting, the electoral college, politics in general, has come up in a school setting. Yesterday, she came home with her Scholatic newsletter for the week. In it was a simplified version of how voting works, along with the main two presidential candidates.  My daughter earnestly asked me, "did I circle the right one, Mama? Is that the one you voted for?" She also informed me that Tuesday was election day, and that we needed to tune into the news that evening for results. 

In her world, this election is a big deal.  To me, it's a subject I've been avoiding.  I'm, honestly, not that excited about this election. Yes, I voted, but I didn't really feel like talking about it much. It's diefnitely not something I've wanted to debate on social media. 

But then, my sweet girl reminded me of the incredible rigth that I have to vote. She reminded me of the tender hearts of this young generation. Young ones who are watching this election with wide eyes, soaking it in, learning from example. 

Just what are we teaching our children? Are we speaking respectfully, even when we disagree? Are we raising up young ones that understand just how privildged they are, just how amazing it is to live in this country? What ground work is being laid today, and everday? Just what kind of world are these little ones coming into?

My daughter's words were such a good wake up call for me. I want her to grow up intelligent, informed, independent, standing up for what she believes to be good and right and true. 

And the best way to do that? It isn't avoiding the subject, but instead living these things out by example. She's so much more aware than I give her credit for. She's hearing and seeing so much, and it's sinking into her soul. I want her to grow up in a world that she has a say, but I also want her to know that Jesus, the King of all Kings, will always be in control. Earthly leaders will come and go, but He will always remain the same, Amen?

 

Waiting

Meg Chaney

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Our study on Gideon (by Pricilla Shirer) has been talking a lot about calling. Gideon heard a distinct calling from God, but then kept doubting it. He asked God to prove it to Him, time and again. And God, in His extreme patience did so. I'm so thankful that God shows that same patience to me as well! Sometimes callings come so crystal clear. You're young, excited, full of energy. But then time passes, that calling doesn't come quite so easy. You're meant with trials, setbacks, years go by, and you wonder just what happend? Did you mishear the Lord all together? Have you ever experienced this?

I have. 

 I've lived in the excitement stage, but also the long stage of wiating, of holding back, of honing a craft. Of putting certain dreams on the back burner because now doesn't seem right. 

But then, it occurred to me, that now may be the perfect time for waiting. Waiting doens't have to mean sitting by the sidelines. Waiting can be proactive. Waiting can be time in scripture, time in prayer, time spent journaling. Waiting can mean studying, taking classes, learning how to improve upon the very gifts God has given me.

Waiting doens't have to be a season of feeling sorry for myself, feeling like I'm without a purpose. Waiting seasons don't have to be seasons of floundering. Waiting doesn't have to mean I feel stuck and discouraged.

A season of waiting could be exactly what we need for growth. 

Growth and dependence on the very one who gave us that calling. 

I've been making lists lately, crafting ideas, dreaming up new ways to grow, right where I am. I'm determined to find joy, right within this beautiful season. And I'm suddenlty so excited. So excited for what I may learn, how I may change. How God will use this season. 

So here we go season of waiting. What lesson do you have for me?

Weakness

Meg Chaney

This Fall, I've been participating in a Bible study on Gideon (by Priscilla Shirer).  Gideon was a man who was anything but a leader. He was a cowered, hiding from the Midianites in a winepress, but God saw something more. He saw someone he could mold and use. But it wouldn't be by Gideon's own power. No, in fact, God would whittle down Gideon's army from 32,000 to 300 men.  The ratio of his men compared to the other guys? 450:1.  The reasoning behind it? God didn't want any doubt about who won this battle. It wouldn't be by the vast number of men. It would be by God alone.

The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.”‘
— Judges 7:4, ESV
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts
— Zechariah 4:6, ESV

One of my greatest struggles, isn't in feeling overly confident, but a lack of confidence all together. I look at my own weaknesses, and cower. I'm ready to give up when something doesn't come easily to me.  I  start to wonder if I misheard. Misinterpreted the call of God on my life. If doing this will just lead to more disappointment, more failures, more mistakes. I forget, that He's called me to live my life exactly as I am.

He makes no mistakes.

He's called me to write imperfectly. To love my husband and children imperfectly. To struggle throuugh this military life, making new friends, setting up a new home, new life every few years. He doesn't call me to perfection.

No, imperfection is exactly what he wants.

He wants the people He can move through. H wants me to share my heart, so that I can point out that, Yes, God shows up. He shows up everyday, and big ways and small. And it's in our very weaknesses that He reveals himself. That way, there can be no doubt that He shows up.  He speaks to our hearts when our kids are screaming,  in the dead of the night when we're rocking a young child, when we laugh til our side hurts, when we take that scarey step and meet new friends. When we suffer through the awkward moments of feeling like we overshared. When we wonder, if we'll ever truly feel at home. When we take changes, stand on promises, and open our eyes to what He is going to do. 

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, harships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong
— 2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV

Yes, there are moments that I'm afraid. But then, there are the times that I open my eyes, and see the Lord revealed in my life. He's there, ready and willing to be revealed. He's ready to reveal Himself through your weaknesses. He's ready to show up. For if we didn't have weaknesses, why would we seek Him? Where do you see God in your life today?

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The Wish: A Review

Meg Chaney

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Hello friends,

I'm so excited to start reviewing books for Bethany House. Blogging programs are becoming such a fun outlet for me. I receive free copies of books, in exchange for my honest review of the book. 

When I was young, my family lived in Lancaster County, Penslvannia. I was so intrigued by our Amish neighbors there. They chose such a different way of life, without eletricity, authomotives, or even having their picture taken. They were private, devout, and rule holders. They had abundant gardens, raised countless animals, and made the most beautiful quilts. I loved going to the markets and seeing all their beautiful home goods and produce for sale. 

It's no wonder that I started reading about them as I grew older. While I don't think I could ever, personaly, be Amish, there's a certain draw, perhaps the simplicity. As a pre-teen, Beverly Lewis was one of the first Amish Fiction writers that I read. I still remember reading The Shunning, The Confession, and The Reckoning. Such good books! If you've never read Beveraly Lewis, I definitely suggest picking them up.

All that to say, I was really excited to start reading Lewis' newest book, The Wish.  

One thing I love about Lewis is there is no one answer. Sometimes her characters find a happy life loving and serving God outside of the Amish community, and sometimes that life is found within their family and faith. Each story is different, each circumstance is different. In The Wish, there's a bit of a mystery. Overnight, Leona's best friend, Gloria disappears. For some reason, Gloria and her family chose to leave their Amish community. Years later, Leona receives a letter from her friend, and has to decide what to do. Does she go get her friend, and try to bring her back home? Or does she leave her in the ouside world? Leona's decision is a tricky one, there are many feelings and opinions at stake. As a devout Amish woman, soon to be married to the decon's son, she has a lot of things she's putting on the line if she does go after her dearest friend. But if she doesn't, she might always live to regret it....

The importance of prayer is a thread through this story. When Leona didn't know what to do, when the answers, the results, weren't evident or immediate, she offered up her problems to God. She asked Him for wisdom. She asked Him for direction.

Such good reminders for my own life as well. Sometimes, we receive differing opinions, sometimes the answers are hazy, it's unclear what the right or wrong choice would be. And so, we give it all to Jesus. 

Good writing should make you think, should encourage you in your own life. Beverly Lewis has me thinking about faith, about prayer, which are such great things. And so, yes, go pick up her book. Find a little corner in a coffee shop to read, and be encouraged and uplifted today. Because good fiction should leave us feeling encouraged, yes?