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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

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,

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?


Meg Chaney


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. 




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. 



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?



Meg Chaney


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?


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


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?

HCSB Notetakers Bible for Teens: A Review

Meg Chaney

Hello all! I know this little blog has been quiet. I'm excited to hop on with another book review from the BH/Lifeway Blogger Team today! This was given to me for my honest review. 

Last Christmas, a journaling Bible was #1 on my wish list. My husband searched high and low for the HCSB version in particular, but ended up buying me a black, ESV version. I've been loving all of the extra room to write in the margins as I'm reading, adding prayers, specific dates that I read a certain verse, or just thoughts and questions about the text. It's been a new Bible study habit for me this year, an intentional way to spend more time in scripture.

 I was so excited when I saw this HCSB Notetakers Bible For Teens on the book review list.  The cover makes me so happy, and the color gray is so on trend with life right now, am I right? When I first opened this Bible, I was surprised by the 12 templates. (My black ESV journaling Bible just has empty margins). The templates have ended up being quite fun to trace! Coloring can be a very therapeutic way to start your day! It does lessen my ability to write what I want on each page, but sometimes coloring prompts can be nice as well. My approach is to read a few verses, and then think and pray about them as I'm coloring the picture. 

I'm still a little torn over whether I like blank margins, or color templates like this Bible, better. I like the freedom to write notes next to each verse . But this Bible definitely wins for pretty cover, and HCSB version! It would make a super sweet gift for someone special, or just serve as a new, encouraging way to delve into scripture. If you have any suggestions on journaling Bibles please share them below. I'd love to hear!

Life Verse Creative Journal: A Review

Meg Chaney

Hi friends! I'm excited to share my latest BH/Lifeway Blogger Team review with you! This book was given to me for free, for my honest review. This month has been such a crazy month for our family, with packing up our house, moving down South, and settling into a new place. Plus, the kiddos are out of school for the summer! But now that we're settling in (and my computer has finally been delivered!), I'd love tell you about the Life Verse Creative Journal by Jana Magruder & Morgan Grace Magruder. It comes as a two pack, one journal has completely blank pages, the other journal has various prompts and drawings to fill in. All the prompts focus on portions of scripture, words that could truly become your life verse. For me, it's been a great way to spend time with the Lord in the morning. I grab my cup of coffee, sit in my favorite chair, and read the verse over and over as I'm coloring with my favorite pens. Some of my favorite verses so far are pictured above. Honestly, I don't often have very much time to myself in the morning. My kiddos are early risers, so they're usually close by while I'm attempting my devotions. This Bible journal has been so nice, such a sweet way to focus on Jesus, even if I only have a few minutes of quiet. The journal is small, so it easily packed in my travel bag during our move. I've really been enjoying it! 

Bittersweet Changes

Meg Chaney

My word of the year, PLANTED from Psalm 1:3, never seems to escape me. The image of a tree being deeply rooted, supported and held upright by God alone is so encouraging in a season of change.

 This month is a big month for our family. We have a PCS coming up soon. Whenever we move, I feel a certain sense of excitement, but also sadness, for what we're leaving behind. Once again, we're leaving behind a church family, a house that we've made into a home, and countless memories. Once again we've run out of time to do all the things we planned to do. Once again, we're packing up our house, taking down pictures, sorting through what we need or don't need, stuffing others things away to sort through at a later date. I'm spending extra moments cleaning baseboard, putting some shine back on the kitchen cabinets, starting a pile of things we want to pack in our cars. Overall, our kids seem really excited about this move. It's mostly me that feels the sadness over a season that's about to close. 

But haven't we all felt that sadness at times? Graduating college, saying goodbye to friends, finishing up a job, realizing your little one can no longer be classified as "baby." There's a certain joy over what lies ahead, while at the same time, an ache deep in your chest remains.

Changes are so bittersweet.

Yesterday I opened my Bible to Psalm 139. I've always loved this Psalm. It's a beautiful Psalm about our Creator God and His wondrous plan for all of our lives. I've poured over these words many times, but, yesterday, a few of the verses struck a different cord:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
— Psalm 139:7-10, ESV

These precious words were such a sweet reminder of God's guiding hand. Friends, we can't move anywhere in this world without Him by our side. Even the ends of the earth are within His grasp. We can't escape Him (not that I want to). He will always be there, holding on to us ever step of the way. Some days in the military feel like a wondrous adventure, others are downright hard. But He's got us. Each and everyone of us. Any change you may be facing in this world, any bittersweet ending, any scary new beginning, God is there, holding on fast. He's not letting go, which is so wondrous, so precious. And He's with my loved one as well. The people I'm sad to leave behind with each move, the sweet people who have forever changed my heart, He's got them to.

And so, although my heart squeezes painfully at times, I praise my Savior for the road He's taken me on so far, and praise Him for what lies up ahead. Oh the blessings I've experienced, and oh the exciting new adventure that's about to begin!

Looking For Lovely- A Review

Meg Chaney

Last year I signed up for the B&H Blogger's program. It sounded like fun to read books and then get to review them. Right up my alley. And then... life got busy, other things took precedent, and I never really go down to reviewing books. They sent me a few, and I failed, horribly. 

But life is about redemption, am I right? Last month, I saw the email from the blogging team, and requested a copy of Looking For Lovely by Annie F. Downs. So yes, this is a review of a book I got for free from B & H, but the words are definitely my own. Now Annie is someone I've enjoyed for a long time! I've always loved her writing style. It's so candid and down to earth. I loved her book Let's All Be Brave, and Looking For Lovely didn't disappoint either, in fact, I may have enjoyed it even more! 

Annie encouraged me to really seek out joy in my own life, to come to terms with some things, and to see to be more complete, more the woman God created me to be. In this book, Annie share about her body image struggles, something I can definitely relate to. She writes how, when she found Zumba, she finally found an exercise she actually enjoyed. Something that gave her joy, and made her feel good about herself: "I could feel that God was restoring things to me-- confidence in myself and my body, gratitude for how He made me" (p.124).

I have been on a very similar journey, as of late. Back in March, I happened upon a Pilates challenge and took it on a whim. Since then, I've found something that I'm excited to wake up and do each morning. I'm excited, because I love doing it, and I can also feel myself getting stronger and more confident through the process, more the woman God created me to be, not someone hiding behind body image issues, but free, lovely, joyful. 

Annie brought such words of encouragement in her book. I found myself seeking out moments of lovely in my own life, sunshine, dancing with my children, the details at a Ladies Tea at my church. It's all so beautiful, and I'm blessed to live such a life. Here encouraging voice and easy reading style was exactly what I needed during this crazy season of my life. So yes, pick up Annie's book when you get the chance and be encouraged :) 

Drawing Near

Meg Chaney

I've been preparing my talk for a Ladies Tea this weekend. As I read through my notes, the words struck my heart. They were such sweet encouragement to my own ears. Do you have do that? Do words you wrote in a blog, wrote in a journal, come back to encourage you on a different day? 

Psalm 1:3 has been the sweet verse of my heart this year. I'll be sharing some of those thoughts with my friends on Saturday. In my notes, I wrote about God's steadfast love for each of us. How a life firmly planted in Him doesn't fade with time, but only grows stronger. 

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long
— Psalm 25:4-5, ESV

Growing can be such a painful thing. A friend pointed this out to me in Bible study last night. As we grow closer to God, we see the painful reality of how we don't measure up. Sins that God may have not pointed out when we were a new Christian, now come to light. But it's so important that we have a teachable spirit. While it is painful to ask, to draw closer to God, we have to go through the painful process of pruning, getting rid of what shouldn't be. It's hard to be honest with ourselves sometimes. It's hard to admit that we have an area that needs work. (Even more so for a perfectionist like me!). But, in growing closer to God, we have to do the hard work. The Holy Spirit's influence on our lives prods and pushes us to bring those things out in the open, to admit that we have faults, have things that need to be worked on, and to truly get rid of those yucky things, so that we can draw closer to God. 

The dead things have to be cleared away, so that lasting fruit can even begin to grow in it's place.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you
— James 4:8-10, ESV

This verse may seem like a bit of a downer, but I love it. Draw near to God, and yes, He probably will point out some areas of your life that need work, some areas that need cleaned up, cleansed of the bad so that He can replace it with something good. Draw near, bringing your messiness, and He will draw near to you. It's a promise of His presence. It's an admittance that, yes, we all have yucky in our lives. We all have messy moments, things we do, or say that we quickly regret. But bring them before God. Ask Him to draw near to you and change those things, and replace them with something new. With lasting fruit that only He can provide. Draw close and He will show up. 

On My Bookshelf: April Edition

Meg Chaney

It's been awhile since I've done a bookish post, so I thought I'd hop on for a moment.  Here's some books from the first few months of 2016 :) Also, follow me over at Goodreads, where I review some of my favorite finds!

Finished Reading: 

The first 3 books were audiobooks, one of my favorite things to do when I'm sitting with my kiddos at bedtime. I used to only listen to audio books on road trips, but I've found that they're great for bedtime, long walks, cooking dinner, and even folding laundry :)  

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was not for the faint of heart. It was a  WWII tale of two French sisters. There were so truly hard moments in this book to stomach, but I found it so fascinating, seeing Nazi occupied France through their eyes! I listened to this as an audiobook, which I would highly recommend! The narrator was excellent, really pulling out the stocks with some french accents (which I thought would annoy me at first, but I ended up loving). I found myself seeking out moments to listen to this one, even staying up late at night, which is the sign of a good book! 

If I Run by Terri Blackstock was very suspenseful. It's a worst nightmare come true! Casey Cox is on the run for a murder she didn't commit. She somehow has to convince the rest of the world that she didn't do it, even though her fingerprints are all over the evidence. This was such a quick listen. It definitely left me waiting in anticipation for the next book in the series to come out!

Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This is another tale of a worst nightmare coming true. Neva Shilling's husband dies, leaving her alone to run their general store, raise their two children... plus the three small children of the second wife he had hidden on the side... oh dear. An emotional story of finding God's forgiveness in the hardest of moments.

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey. I'm a bit sad that her Alaskan Courage series is done, but this new series, Chesapeake Valor, does give us some interesting new story lines. I was reminded of the show Bones, but in a Christian setting, ha! There's an FBI agent, a former sniper, and an extremely intelligent forensic anthropologist, among others. The romances are a little predictable, but the story is a compelling one. I'll be tuning in for the second book!

Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. The fascinating true story of Elizabeth's husband, and the 4 other missionaries who gave their lives to share the gospel in the jungles of Ecuador. Seriously, my respect for Elisabeth Elliot only grows with time. A beautiful story!

Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis.  Slow a times, but fascinating to read about a young C.S. Lewis and his search for God. He goes from knowing God as a boy, to becoming an all out Agnostic, to realizing that God really is the only option in life. I love the candidness Lewis brings, and also the stories of the horrible conditions of English boarding schools. 

Currently Reading:

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson 

 Mrs. Roosevelt's Confident by Susan Elia MacNeal

 A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart by Lauren Chandler

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11) by Jacqueline Winspear. 


For the Transient

Meg Chaney

My husband has said that one of the hardest things about military life is the feeling of being transient. We move every few years, setting down roots only to pick them up again. We form friendships, find a church family, build memories in a town that we will, only temporarily, call home. We've lived in rental house after rental house, building such sweet memories, only to have to leave it behind.

It's hard living without that permanency. To always sense another move up ahead. Often, we've wished we could make big changes to our house, tearing down wall paper, remolding a kitchen, wishing the place actually belonged to us, but we couldn't. We were transient. 

We didn't belong.

That feeling, of not truly belonging, really isn't a strange one. The Old Testament Patriarchs were often nomads, traveling from place to place (check out the story of Abraham starting in Genesis 12). Even in the New Testament, Peter & Paul refer to Christians as being aliens in this world. As not really belonging ( 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 2:11). We're reminded that our citizenship isn't here on earth but in heaven up above (Philippians 3:20). Such a great reminder for all of us! Yes, things change. Lives are ever changing. We're meant with circumstances that we never thought we'd have to face. The unpredictable, the unsettling. the larger than life. But this I find confidence in: when other things in my life change, He is never changing. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8, ESV

Yes, I may often feel like I don't belong. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to feeling like the new girl in town again! I get anxiety just thinking about the awkward situations. But I do know this. God will come along with me each step of the way. It's amazing to think that He's been preparing the perfect school for my children, a great church for us to be a part of it, and friends for us to meet. He's been preparing all of the details since before time began. He knows the full breadth of our stories (see one of my favorites, Psalm 139!). He's got all the answers, we just have to walk along, experiencing the next chapter of our story. When I think about it that way, it's really not so bad. When I focus on Him, His truth, His promises, I feel a lot more settled. Because I know that my identity is set in Him. He is my foundation. He is the one whose planted me (Psalm 1:3). 

In that confidence, I do put down roots. I strive to make each  house that we live in a home. I seek out a church family, look for new friendships, love on others. And I fill our house with familiar things, memories, decor, things that come with us each an every move. The familiar.  I make the best of this life God has given me here and now. I've truly been blessed, and so I want to live each day to the fullest. 

The truth is this: circumstances may change, but our hearts remain planted in Christ. 

And isn't that what really matters?



Steadfast Love

Meg Chaney

I've mentioned it before, but I love The Influence Network! From the monthly classes, to the small groups, to the book clubs, to the conferences and meet-ups, I love all the opportunities to learn and grow as a Christian woman, and the encouragement to live out my life of influence. We're just about ready to start our Spring Book Club, Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler. 

It's probably because of the book club that the phrase "Steadfast Love" has been jumping off the pages of my Bible lately. It's a glorious phrase. A reminder of how deeply God loves us, of how firm His grip is on each of our lives.

And I think it's a phrase that rings so true for the image of the tree in Psalm 1. In a sense, isn't it what the Psalm is all about? Psalm 1 compares us to a tree, a tree that is planted firmly and deeply, who is nourished and deeply rooted. Who doesn't wither with the passing of time, but instead, grows lasting fruit. It is a tree that is there because of God's steadfast love.

Truthfully, we wouldn't be here without His love. He is our creator and sustainer. He is the one that prunes off the bad in each of our lives, and grows beautiful, lasting fruit. It is because of His unending love that we have lasting roots, that we even have the ability to grow in His knowledge and truth. That we even have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. 

Steadfast can be defined as: resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.


Isn't that great?

It is because of His unwavering love that we are here to today. It's because of His unwavering love that Jesus came, died, and rose again. 

It's all because of His steadfast love. We, ourselves, are humans who love imperfectly. We make mistakes, unintentionally hurt those we love, fall and fail, but He, He's perfect. His love never fails. 

And for that, I'm so thankful. 

His love is steadfast.

In what ever you are facing today, rest in that truth my friends. 




Sustaining Leaves

Meg Chaney

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3

Let's be realistic here: leaves wither. It's part of the natural process. The changing of seasons. One of my favorite times of year is Spring, watching new life begin, watching the beautiful trees bloom out in frothy whiteness, watching bright new green leaves being formed. But those leaves are only formed because the leaves of the last season withered up and died. That process is beautiful. The transformation each year is beautiful. I've heard sermons comparing the changes of live to the changing seasons. But Psalm 1 is striking a different note. In this case, as believers, we will never wither. We'll never fade away. We will remain vibrant and strong, not of our own accord, but because God is the one reinforcing us, God is the one reinforcing our roots, nourishing us, sustaining us through good time and bad. 

In Hebrew, the word wither is nabel. Nabel means to sink or drop down, to wither and fall, to droop, to fade. 

There are certainly times in this life, seasons that feel like we're withering away. Seasons where we wonder about joy, about peace. 

But my friends, can I whisper to your heart, and mine, today?

This verse has nothing to do with outward peace, outward happiness. This world, the things of this world, the people of this world, will never fulfill us. There will always be things that come up short, sadness, hurt, grief, loneliness will always find us. No, this verse doesn't have anything to do with the outer-world, and everything to do with our hearts.

Because here, in this verse, God has promised to keep us. 

He's promised to hold our hearts close to Him.

He's promised to be our refuge in all things.

He's promised that, even though this outer world may get messy, our hearts will always be sustained by Him.

No, this verse doesn't promise that we won't ever come head to head with the messiness of this life. 

This verse promises that He will keep our hearts. 

Psalm 90:14-15 has been on my heart a lot lately. I've been longing to be satisfied by Him alone. To seek out joy that only comes from Him, even when the rest of life swirls in chaos around me. I've been wondering what that looks like. What that feels like to live in His joy and peace. In His promise that He has me secure in His arms. That my leaves won't wither. That true satisfaction and joy can only be found in Him. This is, truly, a beautiful prayer to repeat as you start each morning:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
— Psalm 90:14-15, ESV

Satisfy us, dear Lord. Sustain us. Remind us that we are nothing without you. Because of you, we have the promise that our leaves won't wither. Because of you, we have eternity. It's so easy to get stuck on what I do or don't have in this world, on how my life may or may not measure up at the moment. Help me to focus on you instead. To focus on the very life you've given me for this specific time and season. And Lord Jesus, please fill it with abundant joy today. Because on my own, I like to see the cynical, the things that don't measure up. Help me to see with your eyes instead. Help me to show love and patiences where needed. Help me to find true satisfaction and joy that can only be found in you. 

I'll leave you all with one more portion of scripture today. It came to mind as I was writing out these verses above. This world, and everything in is, is truly withering away. It's our inner self that's eternal: 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

2016 Reading Challenge

Meg Chaney

Hi friends! I don't know about you, but I easily get overwhelmed by the amount of books on my to-do list. Last year I joined Modern Mrs. Darcy for her reading challenge. This year, I'm joining in as well. I started with her topics, but added a few of my own. As you can see, I still need a few suggestions for some different categories, so chime in if you have any must reads for me! Also, become my friend on Goodreads! I plan on keeping track of my books on there this year, as well as my special Pinterest board. Here's to a great year of reading!

A Book Published This Year: The Summer Before The War- Helen Simonsen

If I Run-Terri Blackstock 

Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan

Cold Shot- Dani Pettrey 

A Book You Can Finish In A Day: Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante- Susan Elia MacNeal

A Book You've Been Meaning to Read: Through the Gates of Splendor- Elizabeth Elliot

A Book Recommended by Your Local Librarian or Bookseller:

A Book You Should Have Read in School: Night-Eli Wiesel

A Book Chosen For You By Your Spouse, Partner, Sibling, Child, or BFF: Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life- C.S. Lewis  (Chosen by my husband)

A Book Published Before You Were Born: The Complete Pat of Silverbush & Mistress Pat-L.M. Montgomery

A Book That Was Banned at Some Point- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

A Book You Previously Abandoned: Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

A Book That Intimidates You: 

A Book You've Already Read at Least Once: A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery

A Biography: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill- by Sonia Purnell

A Book Recommended by a Friend: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond.

A Book I Want to Read on Audible: The Bronte Plot- by Katherine Reay

Books I've already completed this year:

Jane of Lantern Hill- L.M. Montgomery

Silenced &  Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey 

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent- Susan Elia MacNeal

The Girl Who Chased The Moon- Sarah Addison Allen

The Nightingale- Kristin Hannah (Check out Goodreads for my review)