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Awaken (A Review)

Meg Chaney

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I was asked by B&H Publishing I wanted to take on an additional review for this month, Pricilla Shirer's new devotional, Awaken! Lately, it feels like my world has been surrounded by Pricilla! For awhile now I've been reading through her book Fervent. My Bible Study at church is in the middle of doing her re-released Discerning the Voice of God study. And just last Spring, my church also did her Gideon study. I love how Awaken feels like a continuation of all of these. A peek into her quiet time throughout the years, what she must have been mulling over as these other Bible studies and books came to be. 

Awaken consists of 90 separate devotionals. Each devotional has a scripture for the day, some thoughts, and additional space for journaling. My favorite part has often been the extra scriptures at the end. I find myself hunting them down in my own Bible, tucking them away in my own journal for remembrance.

Each devotional isn't supposed to take long, but is supposed to strike a cord, make you think, encourage you to pause at the beginning of your day for prayer and reflection. 

Here are a few of my favorite thoughts:

So give. Even in your deficient places. Especially in those places. Given, even when what you’re giving is more than you feel like you can afford.
— Shirer, Awaken, p.28
Abundant living mandates different living—different even from other believers who amy be complacent with their freedom, lulled to sleep in their wilderness wanderings
— Shirer, Awaken, p.40
Digging deep, hitting bedrock, and pouring a solid foundation on Christ alone and His Word alone are what secures you solidly to the ground. Because, listen to me, the storms are coming. And yet you can be strong, steeled, and storm-proofed because you’ve not only heard what the Spirit says, but you’ve put hammer to nail and implemented it into your architecture
— Shirer, Awaken, p.180
Give yourself permission to wait, remembering that waiting is not the same as inactivity. Waiting is a commitment to continue on in obedience until God speaks
— Shirer, Awaken, p.336
You need only to start operating in the power He has granted you as His child, and then you are on your way to witnessing the steady growth of spiritual transformation you’ve been struggling so hard to generate yourself.
— Shirer, Awaken, p.356

These are deep thoughts, thoughts that I truly want to tuck away in my heart. I love when any book hits home like that. This devotional is extra sweet, because I can come back to it time and again. The connections I'm making to her other various books and Bible studies only make it better for me. A certain devotional may strike a cord, and remind me of a truth from a past study. Sometimes we need to see the connection, we need to hear that a storm is coming, but that He has us firmly in His hands. This devotional is that for me. Truly a gift! 

 

The Proving (A Review)

Meg Chaney

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Don't you love Beverly Lewis? Her stories of Amish life always fascinate me. Each story is so different. It amazes me that she can still create such interesting plot lines. I read The Proving as part of the Bethany House Bloggers Program. They give copies of the books in exchange for our honest reviews. Selecting a Beverly Lewis book was a no brainer for me. What, and excuse to read one of my beloved authors? Sure! There is always a bit of a risk involved. I would hate to give a favorite author any less than a stellar review, but I also always desire to be honest and forthright. This book did not disappoint. 

One thing I love about Beverly Lewis is her authentic people. You really delve down into the deep with them. Mandy Dienner has not had it easy. Years before, she left behind her Amish life to live in the outside world. This sudden leaving was brought on by a betrayal, a betrayal and angry words that seemed to leave her with no other choice than to leave. When she comes back, it's for sad reasons, sad reasons and a challenge: Live at and manage her family's Bed & Breakfast for 1 year, and then it will belong to her. This is easier said than done. The Amish community in the area doesn't look kindly on a former-Amish Inn Keeper. They see her as a betrayer, an outsider, and interloper. These Amish neighbors were the very people she was once close too. Now Mandy is at odds with them all. Redemption doesn't come over night. The battles are inward, and they go on for most of the story. 

The on going struggle is part of what I enjoyed about this story. The solution wasn't instant. Fences weren't just magically mended over night. But isn't that true to life? I was truly happy with the end of the story. It came up gradually. It seemed more realistic than fiction often can be. 

I hope you truly enjoy this latest installment from Beverly Lewis, I did! It's a nice book for a rainy Fall day, just brew a cup of coffee and start in! 

 

Calling

Meg Chaney

It's always been thrilling to own a blog. To know that I can share my heart on a tiny corner of that internet. At times, that reach has felt so endless and wide, at other times, that reach has felt so entirely small. I've always felt a pull to words, but sometimes, I still wonder, just how God will use this passion. At times, I can't help but write down the words tugging at my heart. There's no way to keep in. And then other seasons come. Seasons of defeat, seasons of busyness, or simply seasons of peace, where there's nothing to say. 

It's a struggle, feeling what seems to be an intense calling, but then not seeing that calling come to fruition in the ways I expect.

Does any of that make sense at all?

For years I've struggled with the balance of health, of family, of responsibliities-- cramming into any writing time that I have. I've never wanted my family to feel like an imposition. I've never wanted to live distracted.

And so I pull back, I pray, I focus, and I wait for the next words to come. I trust that this desire to write is for a specific reason. I remind myself that God is always working for the good, that He uses each season to teach us something new. 

I never want to forget my calling, but I also want to open myself up to the idea that a calling can take so many different forms. My neatly defined box may not be what God has for me in this season.

All those ramblings to say, I've misseed this place. Please, continue to hop on and check out my blog. I'm hoping to still pop on here and share my thoughts, my encouragement, especially now that my kiddos are back in school for the year. 

We're in this together, friends. 

Could you pray for me in this new season? I'd love to pray for you as well. Leave any requests below.

Be blessed.

 

 

A Name Unknown: A Book Review

Meg Chaney

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

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

Hello Friends! I'm excited to share another book review with you today. I'd love to come back soon and share all my summer reads with you. It's wonderful to have at least a little more time to read again. Hooray for kids getting "slightly" older.

Reading is one of those things that relaxes me, centers me, and gives me a bit of that "introvert" space I desire, space that's hard to come by with kiddos at home. 

A Name Unknown, by Roseanna White was right up my alley. It had a spy, a little bit of mystery, and pre-WWI England backdrop. This story left me really wanting to read more. 

Rosemary, an orphan and thief, learned early in life how to fend for herself on the streets of London. Over time, she's formed an unconventional family made up of other orphans. They've learned the skills of the streets, perfected gentile accents, and learned how to steal with the best of them. For them, stealing is survival. Stealing is the way they are able to keep a roof of sorts over their head and food on the table. One day, Rosemary is given a mysterious job: travel to the countryside, befriend a nobleman there, and find proof that he's a German traitor. Rosemary, who has never had a tremendous love of books, must now pretend that books are her profession, that organizing them is what she does for a living. She must play a part of a librarian, so completely different from her upbringing, and play it convincingly. If she does so, and proves Peter Holstein is a traitor to the Crown, she will make a enough money to truly provide for her family, to give the youngest ones schooling and a true chance at life. But what will she find as she starts to dig into the past? Who will she find?

At time, I found Rosemary's responses a little unbelievable. She's a street rat/thief at heart from London, so I'm not sure she would have responded as a lady quite as much as she did.  I couldn't really always understand her, which made some of her reactions confusing. The story also seemed to drag for me in spots. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it had nothing to do with the story at all, and more with me being distracted by kids and summer and life :) 

 The romance part of it was gentle, not over done as I feel some Christian novels are. In some novels, I find myself rolling my eyes, because the scenes feel so over dramatic. I never felt that way in this book. The characters seemed like real people, the development of the romance seemed pretty realistic (well maybe a little rushed, but I still liked it!). 

In the end, I was left waiting for more. The downsides didn't really matter to me, in the end I was satisfied with the story.  I'm looking forward to reading more books in this series, which will focus on Rosemary's siblings, former thieves turned spies during WWI. I think they will all make for fun reads!

Thank you for joining me for this book review. If you know if books you think I should read, comment below! Also, be sure to find me on Instagram @megchaneywrites  There you'll find me latest reads and encouragement for the heart! 

 

 

 

With You Always: A book review

Meg Chaney

Bethany House bloggers program gave me a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. 

With You Always, by Jody Hedlund, came in the mail just as we were heading out of town for our road trip! Over the next few days, I quickly raced through the pages, immersed in the world of a young immigrant girl, Elise, who has to earn a living in order to provide for herself, her sisters, and some other orphans they "adopt" into their family. This was a different Orphan Train saga than I expected. When I saw that the series was entitled Orphan Train, I expected another saga of young children. I didn't realize that Children's Rescue Mission sent more than just young orphans west. They also sent women out west to help form new towns. These women worked as seamstresses, laundresses, cooks, cleaners. It was a chance for a life outside of poverty, a chance to hold down a respectable job, so that they wouldn't be pulled into jobs of ill-repute. It was a chance to send money back home and hopefully bring relatives out of the desperate poverty of the big city. 

Elise finds herself in such a place. She is struggling to survive as a seamstress in New York City, when The Great Panic of 1857 occurs, leaving her and many other women without jobs. It's heartbreaking for her to leave her young siblings behind, but she knows that this chance to ride the train west could mean something good. And so, she goes, and it's not easy. The work is still backbreaking, but the hope is always there. 

The romance part of this story is a little weak for me. I don't want to say too much, in the worry that I'll give too much away, so I'll just leave it as this: for me, some of the dialogue, the way the characters act toward each other, just isn't realistic. I admit, I rolled my eyes a bit. 

But outside of the romance, the story itself is a great one. It's definitely a series I want to come back to again. This book ended with some unanswered questions. I would love to tune in again, and find out what happens next to Elise's family. If she finds her other siblings and is able to take them west with her, and what other, new sides of the orphan train we'll learn about in future books. 

Happy Summer Reading! 

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.