The idea behind this book drew me in right away. Life requires bravery, and sometimes an immense amount of it! I was hoping to find encouragement and wisdom within these pages, and it came through above and beyond my expectations.

Lee Wolfe Blum shares many stories from her own life and the lives of women who have faced many of the hard things we fear. Abuse. Husbands with addictions. Family members with personalty disorders. Health crises. Loss of dreams. Loss of loved ones. Heartbreaking stories of things we wish did not exist in our world. Yet we face them every day, in our own lives or the lives of those around us. These things often don't make for polite conversation and they certainly aren't seen on social media. How can you live bravely and honestly when you feel the world doesn't have a place for your story?

One can start by recognizing that your story is valuable and you are not alone. We need each other, and we do not win by keeping these things to ourselves. As the author says in chapter 12: "When [the Enemy] makes us feel like we can't share the most broken parts of ourselves with one another, he wins. If I'm afraid of what you might say or think about my choices or decisions, if I believe that you can't understand, I stay alone in my pain." Please don't stay alone. Share with someone trustworthy and you will immediately begin to feel a difference in the weight of these things. I loved the wisdom from this quote on page 58: "Telling our stories is only the beginning of the healing process, but as the first step, it's often the hardest."

I felt the author did an excellent job being real and focusing on healing while not glorifying pain and tragedy. These things are hard, but they are not all there is, and we need to remember that. It's part of being brave and making the best choices we can even if we don't like the options. We don't stay stuck. We reach for Jesus, we reach for our community, and we be brave. I found something thought-provoking in every chapter, but I especially loved the last two where the author explored the importance of realizing God is not through with our stories and that we need to be cheering one another along the way. This is so important, and it's where we can find the courage to go on one step at a time. "To think we don't face this choice between life and death every day is denial. We need to talk about this. This is why we need a Savior and why we need one another. Real life is hard stuff." (page 202)

I would recommend this to all the brave, beautiful women in my life who need to know they are seen, loved, and appreciated. We are in this together.

I received my copy of the book from
LitFuse Publicity. All opinions in this review are my own. If you would like to see what other people are saying about "Brave is the New Beautiful," click here.

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This is a book that takes a very, very honest look at pain and redemption and asks: What does redemption look like? Can everything be redeemed? There are so many horrors in the world, and whether they are atrocities on the other side of the world or the private horrors that lurk within our own homes, where is God?

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who wasn't ready for the honesty. A lot of people aren't. But if you know what it's like to look at life's ruins and wonder what it's all about, this could be a book that would help you. I found a lot of good things here, but I also disagreed with a good portion of the theology, so I can't really give it a full endorsement anyway. Use your own discernment about this and all reading choices.

It is so hard to wait for redemption for life's circumstances. "Sometimes it feels as if God has invited Himself into my pain, when I had hoped to be invited in His healing," Matt Bays says on page 133. I'm so glad we can know God is with us in the pain, but it certainly is a journey to keep believing in the hard moments. We'd like our lives to be beautiful and free of hard things, like glitter-coated rainbows that children might draw. I thought this was an interesting quote from Chapter 5: "I think God has grown weary of our drawings of rainbows... "Let's put these away for now," I can imagine God saying as He takes our brightly colored crayons and places them high on a shelf where we can no longer get at them. "This picture of your life isn't really accurate anyway, is it?" He asks, dumping our bowl of glitter into the trash. "I'd really love to see what you can do with these." He is holding out some of the drabbest crayons we've ever seen, a fist filled with the colors of alone."

Often we don't get to choose the circumstances which cause our pain. Abuse doesn't ask permission, tragedy comes uninvited, and the world is harsh. The ruins of our lives could very well be not of our own making, and balancing that with the belief that God allows these terrible things is more than some can take. This author almost decided to throw God out, but his quest for the redemption of his pain kept leading him back to God. "Each of us has a calling that comes from the core ache within us - a calling to write with our lives the beautiful stories of God's redemption," he shares in Chapter 17. Just like we don't get to choose our pain, we also don't get to choose our redemption. Our redemption may come not by a miraculous resolution of our problems - although God is capable and may provide that. It may come by allowing our pain and the fact that we survived it by His grace to be a beacon to others, a lighthouse of glory showing that even in the ruins His love is there.

My favorite chapter was the one called "Someone Else's Story," because it talks about how telling our stories honestly can bring healing. I really cheered through that chapter. Unfortunately I could not cheer throughout the whole book, but I will be taking the highlights with me on my own healing journey.

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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "Finding God in the Ruins," click here.

I think you could say that Kara Tippetts has become one of my heroes. This courageous woman faced aggressive metastasized cancer in her late 30s, and although it did claim her life in 2015, she never stopped seeking to glorify God and exhort others through their own times of hard. This book is a collection of Kara's blog posts over the final years of her life, the years she was fighting cancer. It is a beautiful look into the heart of a woman who loved God and her family well even through such awful devastation. I first met Kara in her book The Hardest Peace, and I would recommend both that book and this one to all who are struggling with what life has brought them.

"In our many different ways, we're all living in the desperation of life that hasn't turned out like we'd planned," Kara says on page 155. Kara never focused solely on the shattered dreams of her own life. She recognized that there are hard things for each of us in this world, and the way she wrote allows us to connect our pain and difficulty with her words of encouragement. That's what makes these books such precious gifts, because these words meet us in our deep needs and fears. "We are all desperately afraid of what's hard, but once we face it, it's possible we find a new joy we hadn't known before." (Page 131)

Kara speaks emphatically on the importance of love, specifically loving well. "Love matters, always." That simple sentence from page 236 makes a great motto. Our relationships should always be marked by love, even when they are difficult and it has to be tough love. Hopefully most of our relationships are positive, life-giving ones that build each other up. That is important for when hard times arrive, as I agree with Kara's point on page 171: "The investment in love you make today will affect your tomorrows. Suffering will come, I promise. Work at building the foundation so when the storms come, you can stand, together."

My favorite chapter was the one called Five Thoughts on Dying Well. They're five really good thoughts for those of us who want to live well, too. Kara's perspective on "the long goodbye" of cancer makes you stop and think about your own priorities and goals. What is important? Am I doing those things? Am I living well so that one day, may God be gracious that it be many years from now, I can die well?

None of us are guaranteed more than today. We do take it for granted that we'll have more, and it's not wrong to have hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. But don't let those stand in the way of intentional living today. We have today. What are we going to do with it? "A bucket list? No, I don't need one. I'm so rich. It's relationships that matter. And for me, paying attention to the precious gift of today is the only thing on my list." (Page 113)

Kara bravely faced death and leaves behind a legacy of love for her husband, her four young children, her friends, and those who only know her through her written words. She lived well. May our own lives be marked by such grace and beauty even amidst the hard.

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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "And It Was Beautifu," click here.

Jim Burns and Jeremy Lee have a sincere desire to help parents find practical, intentional ways to promote faith and faithfulness in their children. As they say on page 139, "Parenting does not have to be about survival." With wisdom and experience that comes from raising their own children and shepherding other parents along the way, these authors share specific things you can do with your child for every year they are in school to point the way towards developing a personal faith of their own.

Using Biblical-based themes of ceremonies and symbols, Burns and Lee believe that kindergarten is a good age to get started on the various rites of passage which they lay out. "Your child may only be in kindergarten," they posit in Chapter 1, "but he was created to make a difference in the world around him." Beginning with lessons about generosity and responsibility, each year's themes grow to include topics like identity, friendship, and finances. Each chapter not only talks about the age-appropriate rite of passage, but also spells out what to expect from your child physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually at each grade level. The chapters are fairly brief and very easy to read, and they leave lots of room for you to incorporate their suggestions according to the unique needs of your child and family, as well as the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I liked the encouragement on page 66 to "...strive to parent in such a way that will cause the 35-year-old version of your child to say, 'Thank you.'" Other highlights included the focus on intentionally making memories as a family, and talking about how to help your child discover who they want to be rather than what they want to do when they grow up. Those are such good points!

I am not a parent, but I take seriously my role to influence young people as a sister, aunt, teacher, and friend. I feel like this book would be an excellent resource for parents, as it is full of good ideas and information. I know no parent desires for their children to fall away from the faith, but true relational parenting is not seen much these days. By exhorting parents to take full responsibility of passing on their faith to their children, Burns and Lee set the pattern for you to have a home where love and communication reign. Every childhood and adolescence is bound to have some turbulent times, but a solid foundation can go a long way toward surviving it with grace.

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I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "Pass It On," click here.

Last year Kara Tippetts wrote an amazing book, "The Hardest Peace," which shared beautiful truths about living a life of grace in the midst of hard realities. Her diagnosis with cancer completely changed her life, but what a gift she gave the world as she shared how Jesus walked beside her. Kara lost her battle with cancer in March of this year, but before her death she was able to coauthor this book about relationships with her friend Jill. From their own personal experience, Kara and Jill share about how to help our brothers and sisters in Christ as they walk through intense seasons of suffering.

This is a wonderful resource for those who are wanting to come alongside someone in the midst of a deep trial. As Kara says, "Life can be numbing when the story is flailing along in suffering" (page 10). Those in the hard time desperately need community to help them, but so often we don't know how to offer our support or even what to say at all. That's where "Just Show Up" can help us out, with practical advice and examples of things that worked as well as things that didn't. Jill is vulnerable to share about some of her biggest 'foot in mouth' moments, letting readers know they aren't alone in feelings of inadequacy.

I really liked how these friends shared openly about the spiritual component of walking through suffering together. It changes both the person in the trial and the one called to support them. Both must look to God and lean upon Him. As they say on page 93, "Walking with someone through suffering is going to stretch your faith. You may have to give up pieces of your faith, assumptions you may have grown up with or cultural ideas as to how faith is supposed to work. Remember, stay soft." Not everyone is going to be open to having their perceptions changed, but no one's lives or trials are of the cookie-cutter variety. Each one is unique, and in each one Jesus will be there.

Something that may be even harder than showing up for a friend is when the friend must show up for herself - and that comes by asking and receiving help. Independence may be highly valued, but God designed us for loving community. It's a brave kind of willingness to open your arms and let other people into your suffering. Learning to let others love you through tangible actions brings new beauty and grace to a situation.

While I felt like this book was mostly for those who are dealing with very specific kinds of trials, I think there is a wealth of wisdom for those who have a heart for walking with others. Learning to give and receive, to balance relationships with personal responsibilities, and how to extend grace towards others are all authentically modeled within these pages. The Body of Christ would find much strength if we all walked with each other in such a way!

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own. If you would like to read what other people are saying about "Just Show Up," click here.

Just Show Up Tippetts Buteyn

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The subtitle of this book caught my attention immediately: "How To Be a Safe Haven For Other Women." I have been blessed with those who have been safe havens for me, and my desire as a sister, teacher, and friend myself is to develop relationships that would foster safety and closeness. I was hoping that this book would be helpful in encouraging me or showing me other ways to open doors with the women in my life.

Unfortunately from the second chapter I got a vibe that I just couldn't shake for the rest of the book. The author describes how she was at church one Sunday and could tell something was wrong with a friend, but when she asked about the problem the friend didn't want to say what was going on. So the author told her, "If you can't tell me the truth, we can't be close friends" (page 44). Say what? That is a very emotionally manipulative statement and not the kind of thing that we should be promoting as good communication. Any sign of manipulation is a huge red flag for me, and I wanted to stop reading the book right then and there.

I was also disappointed with the content in the fact that there wasn't much besides common sense in how to form close relationships. Live well ourselves, be forgiving, be vulnerable, don't try to fix people but encourage them where they are. All fellow Christians need encouragement, and as women we can do much to help our sisters in Christ along the way.

There were some quotes that I really thought were good. "As adults, we can't expect others to read our minds, so we must name our grief out loud. This is not a sign of weakness, but of humility" (page 81). I often struggle with speaking my personal pain and inviting others to share it with me. Learning to ask for help when you have a caretaker personality is an ongoing process. I also really liked this thought from page 181: "I believe the more you and I know for ourselves God's loyal love in the depths of ourselves, the more able we will be to model and teach it to others." That is so good!

My very favorite quote came from Chapter Four: "Women who are comforted can comfort others." Let us each seek to look to God for His comfort, embrace those He has placed around us for community, and in turn be bastions of safety and hope for those in our lives.

Join the Flock! Litfuse Publicity Group blogger

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
2014 was a great year for reading! I'm thankful to have had the ability to read so many good books this year. Now I get to present my favorites to you and hope you'll check some of them out for yourself! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

In a zany series of capers, Ellis Eton tries to trade identities with one friend and save the life of another. Ellis makes an endearing heroine because she has a good heart but she's also terribly scatterbrained. This one is an amusing and charming read!

Young Adult Fiction

Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

This year I read more young adult books than I have since I was a young adult myself, and while a number of them were good, I am still resonating with the spiritual truths and character growth found in "The Fairest Beauty." This was a lovely retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale.

Speculative Fiction


Awakening by Tracy Higley

Museum worker Kallie Andreas suffers from amnesia, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she's offered to lead a team in quest of finding a crucial artifact. As her journey takes her to Egypt, Italy, and the Greek isle of Santorini, Kallie discovers much about herself, her past, and our amazing God.

Contemporary Fiction

All My Belongings

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Becca Morrow is trying to get a fresh start on life by changing her name and moving half-way across the country to escape the notoriety of her father's high-profile murder trial. While she's running from her past, her new friend Isaac is seeking his in the form of searching for his biological parents. The themes and lessons in this book were beautiful and insightful, and the wonderful balance of storytelling elements makes this one you can't put down.


Hardest Peace

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is a pastor's wife and mother of four young children who has received a terrible diagnosis: terminal cancer. As her life on this earth fades away, Kara encourages all of us to trust God as the Author of our story, let His grace fill our lives, and love well those around us. Find the beauty in the heartbreak. This is an amazing book with applications for you no matter your life circumstances.

Classic Literature

Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series is a coming-of-age tale set during the anxious days of World War I. Anne's daughter Rilla is one of my favorite literary characters ever written. She grows from a dreamy young girl into a mature and strong woman whose heart beats for the needs of others. Every emotion is written in such a way that you feel you're on the journey, too.
Hardest Peace

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Tammy L!

"I'm so weary of my own story I could run away." Just reading those words makes me feel like crying. I have certainly felt that way at times, and I know many others who have, as well. Does anyone's life story play out the way they expect? Sometimes in the pain and uncertainty the ability to run away, even temporarily, would be most welcome. But this isn't a book about running away. It's a book about looking at life's difficulties and knowing: "...If God has called me to this hard story, His promise is one of sufficient grace."

Author Kara Tippetts is a young mother and pastor's wife who is living with the crushing reality of aggressive, metastasized cancer. Unless God radically intervenes, she is not long for this earth. With a heart broken for her husband and her four small children, Kara writes about her life's journey and how Jesus has met her at every turn, even in this stage, when it looks as though she will lose every hope and dream she had for this life. How can one have peace in such circumstances? Only by embracing God's grace and the belief that He is good and in control. "Grace is the sweet moment you never expect but turns up to get you through a day, an appointment, a reality you never, ever dreamed for yourself."

This is a timely message for a world who spends so much time on Facebook and Pinterest, looking at happy, shiny people and things. Those pictures do not reflect everyday reality. Walking in God's grace means you embrace truly living the life God has given you, and don't let yourself fall for the performance trap. It means living with humility and intentionality because God has you here for a reason. It means looking for what is truly beautiful and not just pretty. It means living faithfully in a world that barely even knows what that means anymore. "Tomorrow we get to wake up and be faithful. Whatever each step brings, and whatever comes, people will always disappoint us. But tomorrow, tomorrow we get to be faithful in that moment."

This isn't a book just for those who are fighting cancer. This is for anyone who knows what it is like to have broken dreams, unfulfilled desires, or suffering due to difficult circumstances. "...Suffering... is the gift you never wanted, the gift wrapped in confusion and brokenness and heartbreak."

Everyone faces twists and turns in their lives. Beauty comes when we are able to let God work out His purposes instead of clinging stubbornly to what we want. God is the redeemer of all things, and our pain does not have to devastate us if it drives us closer to Him. He is working. He is a good God. He is with you. "Your story is a good story. In the grief, pain, and hard, the Author has a plan. It may feel like a desperate breaking of your very heart, but suffering is not the absence of God or good."

For a chance to win a copy of "The Hardest Peace," please leave a comment right here on this post with a way for me to contact you should you win. Comments will be open until Saturday, Oct. 18. You can also enter the prize pack giveaway at the link below.

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

kara tippets the hardest peace

Kara Tippetts' brave and touching book, The Hardest Peace is launching with a blogger challenge. Celebrate with Kara by joining the #HardestPeace conversation and share how you are finding grace in the midst of the everyday and in life's hard moments.

The Hardest Peace, Kara Tippetts

Share your stories of everyday grace in the midst of life’s difficulties and enter to win a #HardestPeace prize pack:

  • A book club pack (10 copies of The Hardest Peace for you and your small group!)

  • A handcrafted candle

  • Journal

  • Custom Etsy The Hardest Peace print and coffee mug

To enter to win, simply blog about your #HardestPeace story and then submit the link to your post via the link-up (or see link in the Rafflecopter below). Plus stop by others’ stories to leave encouragement and offer prayers as we all travel the journey of life together and discover that the hardest peace is often the most fulfilling peace.
Then follow Kara online (via the Rafflcopter) for additional entries into the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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