“Invincible Joy” ~ a review & giveaway (ends 11/27/22)

*this is a sponsored post*

Hello there!

I have been a fan of the missions model of ANM (Advancing Native Missions) since I first learned of their organization. Essentially, it’s about equipping the members of a people group to share the gospel among themselves. So when I heard that Oliver Asher, the president of ANM, had just written a book, I was immediately interested. His book, Invincible Joy: Chasing God’s Dreams for Your Life, was itself an enormous joy to read. Let me tell you more, then you can enter to win a copy of this book for yourself!

About Invincible Joy

Here’s what Invincible Joy author Oliver Asher has to say about his new book:

“I’m not an extraordinary person. I came from next to nothing, from almost nowhere. But God had a plan and a purpose for my life. He picked me up from where I was and took me places I could never have expected to go. He invited me to join him in chasing his God-sized dreams for the world. And that is where I found invincible joy. You may have the same story. Or at least you can, and I hope you will. That’s what this book is for. I pray you will benefit from my story as you follow the Lord on your own adventure from where you came to where he wants to take you. I believe, as the Lord leads, you will end up with a stronger sense of God’s purpose for your life and your place in his plan for the world. That’s where you can find invincible joy too.”

Over the course of 12 chapters (plus a little extra), Asher shares experiences from his own life. These include: his childhood in the “holler” in southwest Virginia; his football scholarship and player time for the University of Virginia; meeting his wife Andrea there; their short-term missions experience; his engineering career; and his foray into full-time missions employment with Advancing Native Missions. Asher came to faith as a child, and over the course of his life he experienced both ups and downs. What he learned in times of danger, loss, provision, and success was that the source of the invincible joy in the book’s title is God and His presence.

This joy is something that each and every person who follows the Lord can have access to, and daily live in. Asher has broken the concept of this invincible joy, and its sources, into three foundational qualities:

  • an unshakeable faith in the Father, our provider
  • an unshakeable love for Jesus, our Savior
  • and an unshakeable hope for the future

How Invincible Joy impacted me

This is what my copy of Invincible Joy looked like on the outside, when I finished it. The inside is pretty colorful as well, since I used both my peach and lavender highlighters on it!

I’m always surprised (but I shouldn’t be), by how God will put exactly the resource in our hands that we need; be it a book, a film, art–or last, but definitely not least, a Bible passage. Again, this book was given to me at just the right moment. Reading it nourished my soul, warmed my heart, and reminded me that God has a wonderful plan for my life. That overall plan will never change, although the particulars of it may (circumstances, jobs, provision). Of course, change does happen in our lives. Our jobs change, our children grow. We may have health issues, or other losses.

But God is not only ALWAYS there–but we can have joy always as well.

And that’s not just joy that’s birthed out of denial of troubles. It’s the joy of: His love and His constant support; of faith in Jesus, who loved us enough to give His life for us; and the hope for the future that we can have because of them.

“God has a plan for you. He will give you hope and joy, no matter what your situation, no matter how chaotic and dark. He’s the one who will shine the light in the darkness. He’s also a provider–not just the physical necessities such as food and shelter, but also the spiritual nourishment you need and the people who will help guide you along the path. Look to the Lord for everything you need.”

Oliver Asher, Invincible Joy

In Invincible Joy, Asher has described these three truths that can place us in the joy of the Lord, regardless of our circumstances. He uses Scripture to define that for us and illustrates them by the stories of God’s hand leading him throughout his own life. The result is a book that will comfort you, inspire you, and bless you as you read, and thereafter. Wonderful, rich, and encouraging–one of the best books I’ve read this year!

Some of my favorite passages

  • Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?…With these simple illustrations, Jesus shows the people listening to him that God is aware of our needs. Because God is sovereign and because God designed and created us (and the birds and the flowers), he understands who we are and what we need.” (p. 25-26)
  • “So you see, God is a dreamer. He envisions what can be and what will be, and he invites us to move toward that vision with him.” (p. 46)
  • “God is writing a beautiful story through his people. I encourage you to find your role in that story and join in. I believe that the great purpose of our lives–my life and your life–is the Lord’s purpose. And I believe that is good and exciting and fulfilling.” (p. 114)

This is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend to you. It will encourage your heart and remind you of God’s enormous love for you (AND for everyone!). Perhaps more than that, I believe that God can use this to help bring healing to you of the moments of suffering you’ve experienced during your own life. God loves us. He cares for us, so deeply. Sometimes we need someone else to remind us of those truths. And Oliver Asher has done that here, as he’s shared with us the ways we really can have joy in in the Lord, every day.

Where you can find Oliver Asher and Advancing Native Missions online

Just click on the links below!

At Oliver Asher’s website, you can find out more about his book Invincible Joy

Oliver Asher on Twitter

Oliver Asher on Facebook

Oliver Asher on Instagram

And, here’s the About page for Advancing Native Missions, where you can find out how they’re enabling leaders in people groups around the globe to bring the gospel to their own.

Where you can purchase Invincible Joy

Invincible Joy is available to buy on Amazon. Just click on the highlighted link below to go to the purchase page.

Purchase Invincible Joy here

And, how to enter to win your own copy!

You can enter to win a copy of the wonderful Invincible Joy from Blessed Freebies! Just click on the link below that says “Enter here!” for your chance to win, then follow the instructions. Giveaway closes 11/27/22. Winner will be contacted by FrontGate Media. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed here are my own honest ones.

“Room 1010” ~ a review & giveaway of an incredible story of a little girl & answered prayer (ends 11/26/22)

*this is a sponsored post*

Here’s a wonderful book that will encourage you and remind you of the miracles of prayer, as mom Billye Survis and cowriter Brenda E. Cortez tell the story of Billye’s daughter Elynn’s accident. It’s a remarkable story told with honesty (and all the mom feelings you’d imagine) by the pair. I received a copy of this sweet book from the author and FrontGate Media. Here’s more about the book, plus a giveaway you can enter to win Room 1010 for yourself!

About the book

When Elynn Survis was ten years old, she and her brother Ethan were riding their bikes in their neighborhood when a freak accident occurred. She was brought home, but her symptoms worsened and Elynn was taken to a children’s hospital and admitted–during the height of Covid-19, when only one family member could accompany her inside. It became clear that surgery was necessary to repair the traumatic injury–surgery which could leave her with lifelong health issues and complications. Or is there another way?

Room 1010 is the story of how people around the world were rallied to pray for this little girl–in a remarkable and miraculous true story. Coauthored by Elynn’s mother, Billye Survis and Brenda E. Cortez, Elynn’s journey will remind you that God answers prayers; and often, in ways we’d never expect.

And about its author, Billye Survis

Billye Survis was born and raised in rural Wisconsin. After spending a few years working and traveling, she settled back in Wisconsin where she met her husband Dan. Billye has spent the last twenty years helping to build, grow, and lead talent acquisition teams, where she is able to share her passion of helping others. Billye and Dan still reside in Wisconsin with their two children, Ethan and Elynn.

You can read more about the Survis family’s story at their website.

My thoughts

Do you ever read a book, and the experience of the believers in it transports you to a time when you saw amazing faith and answered prayers happen? That is exactly what I felt as I read Room 1010. The Survis family’s experience took them out of what we’d consider regular life, into a frightening experience when their precious ten-year-old daughter was terribly injured (on the inside, where it wasn’t visible, other than externally with a bruise on the skin). Emergency care. Surgeries. Some potentially awful life-long prognoses. Potential months in the hospital.

And yet, God.

As I read Elynn’s story, penned by her loving mama, I was reminded of, and encouraged by, so many Bible verses. Here are two of them:

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14, The Holy Bible

and,

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:19-20, The Holy Bible

Life is hard sometimes, isn’t it? Especially when it’s our own children who are suffering. We would do *anything* to be the ones who are going through the hard things instead of our little ones! I so often forget that God must certainly feel that way about us when we are going through suffering. He made all of us–and how His heart must grieve when we suffer!

We don’t always know what we should be doing when we’re suffering, much less what we need to be doing when our kids suffer. We try to love them, and support them. To help them to make (or make ourselves, depending on their ages) decisions that will be good ones. And yes, we pray. Constantly. We ask our friends to pray. We turn to the One who sees everything and ask Him to help our babies.

This is what Billye did. And in Room 1010, we get an intimate viewpoint of the suffering both Elynn (and her mama, as she watched and held her daughter) endured. But oh, the faith. And the prayers.

Room 1010 reminded me that we can all come to God as we pray with the faith of a child. Even if our faith is as tiny as a mustard seed! And that God still does miracles today.

Where you can purchase Room 1010

You can purchase a copy of Room 1010 from Amazon, via the purchase link below.

Purchase Room 1010 here

Enter to win your own copy of this inspiring book!

You can enter to win a copy of Room 1010! Blessed Freebies is giving a copy away to one entrant. Just click on the link below that says “Enter to win!” Giveaway closes 11/26/22.

Enter to win!

Again, I believe that this lovely book will encourage and bless you! Enter to win your own copy or go purchase your own at the links above!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author. All opinions expressed here are my own.

“Where Is God In This?” ~ book review

#sponsor #partner

Is “Where are you, God?” a question that ever resounds in your heart? If your answer is “yes,” as mine was, you’ll want to hear about Landra Young Hughes’ honest, helpful, and heart-touching new book, Where Is God In This? Thanks to Landra and JustRead Publicity Tours, I was able to read (and highlight!) this wonderful book. Let me tell you about it!

From the publisher:

Title: Where Is God in This?
Authors: Landra Young Hughes and Holly Crawshaw
Publisher: Baker Books
Release Date: October 18, 2022
Genre: Christian Living

Life is unfair. Bad things happen to good people. Not all dreams come true. We lose people. We fail people. And when we encounter the inevitable struggles of life, we may be tempted to ask God Why me? as we try to reconcile our pain with God’s promises. But a far more helpful and life-enriching question for us to ask God is What are you trying to teach me in this?

Tackling ten common struggles, such as isolation, fear, rejection, failure, insecurity, temptation, and more, Landra Young Hughes shows you how to have peace even when life doesn’t make sense. Speaking with great empathy born from her own losses and years in ministry, Hughes doesn’t suggest you “get over” your hard times. Instead, she helps you recognize that, while you will always live in a broken world this side of heaven, your pain has much to teach you about God and yourself. With her empathetic help, you’ll discover how to grow through grief and thrive despite adversity.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Baker Bookhouse | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub

My rich experience reading Where Is God In This?

So I have to admit, ANYONE who starts a chapter with these words:

“Y’all, I give you my word, I am not a pyromaniac. But I almost burned down my parents’ house the other day. This is a totally true story.”

Landra Young Hughes, Where Is God In This?

…is an author I want to hear more from.

It *isn’t* that I like to read true crime stories about arson. (Just no. I don’t like true crime books. AT ALL.) What those sentences told me? That Landra is honest about her own life and struggles–and that she can tell her stories with great warmth and humor. Which encourages me so much as I read a book about pain and the issues of life that we wish we didn’t have to deal with. Where Is God In This? had so much to share with its readers about those deep issues (including failure, forgiveness, addictions, loss, and more). Isn’t it encouraging when an author can speak about human beings’ troubles in ways that make you want to keep reading?

Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of suffering, we have an understanding somewhere in our hearts that we can make it to the other side. We just don’t always (or often!) know HOW. (I can tell you from personal experience that gutting it out is not necessarily a healthy way.) And yet faithful friends, wise mentors or counselors, or members of our communities can offer us practical ways. Where Is God In This? completely offers this! But that practical help was hard-won by Landra. She lost a beloved sister to an addiction. She is a PK (preacher’s kid), is in ministry, has overcome her own eating disorder, and is a busy mom and wife. She has experienced devastating pain, pressure, and loss…

…and yet. And yet God was there for her–and she held on to Him, while being utterly honest with Him about her own pain and struggles. This, at its heart, is what makes this book SO worth reading. It’s loving, kind, funny, and so full of the kind of help I wish I had had years ago! But it is also something that is incredibly useful and comforting to me today. I can apply it to my life looking back AND in the present; and I can remember that our God is a God we can trust. And know that He has our hearts in His hand and beautiful intentions for our lives.

I highlighted so many passages that I want to incorporate into my journey. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • “Have you lost your health? Have you lost your dream? Have you lost faith in someone you trusted or faith in the entire country?…I lost…But I know my God. And I know he is good. Because of that, I can be certain that he will not waste my suffering. He will not waste any suffering–including yours.”
  • “In Mark 11:23, we read about the kind of belief we’re capable of through Christ: “What I’m about to tell you is true. Suppose someone says to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea.’ They must not doubt in their heart. They must believe that what they say will happen. Then it will be done for them.”…Let’s start speaking God’s Word into our struggles. Instead of blaming him or withdrawing from him, let’s partner with him by believing what his Word says.”
  • “If you’re feeling burned out right now, take a beat…Finally, Jesus, perhaps struck by empathy, issued an invitation to all those listening: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover from your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG) There it is–our situation to the burnout epidemic. Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Jesus says, Come to me.”
  • “One way to reframe our opinions of others is to recognize that we all value different things. Just because someone’s values vary from our own doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means that they have different priorities.”
  • “So if Jesus required rest, we require rest.”

My own personal journey, recently, has helped me to focus a bit more on two things, the essences of which seem to run throughout Where Is God In This? One of them is how important it is that we get some rest; so important for us to be able to see clearly, to make good decisions, to love our people. The other is something that makes my heart grow warmer: how tender and kind Jesus really is. Even (and maybe especially) when we are suffering.

If those are things that speak to you? Watch for Jesus’s words and actions in Scriptures. And, maybe read Landra Young Hughes’ lovely book. What an encouragement!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

“My Jesus” ~ a review of singer Anne Wilson’s lovely new book (& giveaway, ends 11/8/22)

#sponsor #partner

Have you had the chance to listen to singer Anne Wilson’s song, My Jesus, yet? The #1 Christian song of 2021, it encapsulates the story of the Wilson family’s loss of Anne’s eldest brother, Jacob–and how, despite that unbearable loss, Anne’s Jesus was there, and showed Himself in a multitude of ways to the Wilsons. In Anne’s new book of the same name, the singer/songwriter shares the story of her family, their loss, and the ways He moved in healing and their lives. My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope is a remarkable and moving book, and Momentum Influencer Network provided a copy for me–plus a copy for one reader to win. Keep reading for more on the book and how you can win an advanced reader copy for yourself.

About My Jesus:

My Jesus is Anne Wilson’s story of life, joy, and tragedy–and how a good God’s love and care was beside her all the way.

Anne and her family lost Jacob Wilson, Anne’s brother, in a car accident when he was only 25. Grief, shock, and anguish overwhelmed them all, and they began the walk that no one wants through the valley of the shadow of death. In My Jesus, Anne shares her story; not only what happened, but the ways God worked for her family in healing and moving them all into new callings and new seasons. It is a remarkable and intimate memoir, of a young woman who’d experienced inexplicable pain and loss…but also of how God brought her hope, new life, and grace.

“Whatever you are feeling, God can handle it—all of it. The tears, screams, and questions. God invites you to let Him tend to your heart.”

–Anne Wilson

It’s also a book which will come alongside those who are suffering, who need God’s comfort at their deepest point of pain. Anne understands that, and she freely and openly shares her own walk of grief, and how God met her, spoke to her, and ministered to her; and in so doing, ministered to those who heard her and listened to her music.

My impressions

Pain is not my favorite.

In fact, I’ve spent many years of my life boxing it up and tucking it away in my heart. Sometimes, I’ve felt like I didn’t have time to grieve, or I had to care for others in their grief. But I think that the bottom line is that I likely didn’t ever learn *how* to grieve. That it’s okay to have big emotions (God didn’t make us robots, after all; He made us human) and even to let those out. And that boxing up that pain just leaves it for later…and in that process, it can even make us harden our hearts.

Recently, however, I’ve learned more about that. That it’s okay to *feel* those big and overwhelming emotions. To sit in them. And, that that is part of the process of moving through grief.

How wonderful, therefore, it has been to read Anne Wilson’s moving, lovingly-written My Jesus. She knows about grief; overwhelming, horrible, terrible grief. And while she (and we) would never have wished the events upon her that placed her in the valley of the shadow, we can learn about God’s goodness, healing, and intimate presence by reading about the ways she walked through it, and how God met her there.

Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 MEV

Anne openly and honestly shares about her loss, and her experience (and her family’s) walking out the years after Jacob’s accident and death. I find it incredibly remarkable that at such a young age, she opened herself to God’s presence, and His hand moving her through the days and months after that loss. She learned SO much about how to walk through suffering; and she shares that with her readers, and also how we can see God’s movements and calls to us in those times. Really, her entire ministry seems to be about worshiping God and telling the truth about His goodness in the midst of pain–and how He is there with us in the valleys.

Sometimes I think as Christian women, or as parents, we feel that we have to hold ourselves together, to be positive. For me, that has too often caused me to box up and shove down my pain. Unfortunately I found that the boxed-up pain never goes away…and it’s going to make itself known somehow. Isn’t it a comfort to be reminded God made all of us, emotions included? I love Anne’s recounting of her journey, her humanity; and that God could handle everything that she was going through. Not only that, He WANTED to help her with it.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to you. You will be blessed and helped by Anne’s story–and by the goodness of the God who authored it.

My favorite moments from the book

As you can see in the photo above, I tabbed a LOT of pages that spoke to my heart in a special way. Here are a few of them that might speak to you as well!

  • “But more real than the Enemy’s whispered lies is the reality that God draws near to our shattered hearts. In His goodness, He enters our pain…At the worst moment of my life, God spoke to me and asked me to trust Him; He promised to help me through it. He did not turn His back on me. He came in even closer.” (p. 52)
  • “Here is what I learned: When the pain, memories, and what-ifs overwhelm you, surrender them to God. Take every thought captive to the truth (2 Corinthians 10:5). Give God what you yourself cannot bear…The way out is not through your own strength, but through surrendering to God and allowing Him to lift you out.” (p. 121)
  • “When a longing for Jacob was triggered, I no longer distracted myself from the pain. I let myself sit in it. I let myself feel it…I trusted God in other areas of my life, and I could trust Him with my painful emotions.” (p. 183)

Where you can buy My Jesus

Just click on the “Buy Link” below. That will take you to the Amazon page where you can purchase the My Jesus book.

Buy Link

And…how you can enter to win a copy!

You can enter to win an advanced reader copy (galley) of Anne Wilson’s book, My Jesus. To enter, just click on the link below that says, “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes on 11/8/22. One winner will be selected to win. US only.

Enter here!

Bless you! –Wren

Disclosure:

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Books for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.

Brittany Ann’s newest book, “Follow God’s Will,” is a joyful & fantastic way for you to understand God’s love & leading! ~ Review & Giveaway (ends 10/24/22)

#sponsor #partner

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read Brittany Ann’s newest book–and to tell you about it! Follow God’s Will is a rich, readable book which will help believers understand God’s very good plan for their lives. Let me tell you more. And you’ll even be able to enter to win your own copy of Follow God’s Will!

About Follow God’s Will

Have you ever wondered if you were following God’s plan for your life…or if you were missing it completely? If you have, you’re not alone! Brittany Ann’s Follow God’s Will offers a clear explanation to readers of what God’s will for our lives is, starting with the very broad and narrowing it to the most specific for each individual. Each chapter includes some Bible study which will help readers understand not only what God has in mind for them, but how that fits into the universal Christian church overall.

The book is divided into two portions; Discover God’s Will, and Follow God’s Will. There are 12 chapters, including:

  • The Two Greatest Commandments
  • The Four Calls on Every Christian’s Life
  • Understanding God’s Written Word
  • Making Wise Decisions
  • Cultivating Spiritual Disciplines
  • Witnessing with Truth and Love
  • Cultivating a Faith-Filled Mindset
  • And more

Brittany draws her inspiration in sharing what we can know about God’s plan for our lives from the Bible. Follow God’s Will is both beautiful and highly practical. It’s beautiful because, I believe, it represents God and His character so very well. God is not a harsh taskmaster, nor an angry supervisor who shakes his finger at us every time we get things wrong. Instead, He is more loving, and kinder, than most of us could imagine. He invites us into relationship with Him, tells us how Jesus made the way for us to do so, and welcomes us with a warm embrace. And then He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us, teach us, and comfort us!

Follow God’s Will is also a practical guide for helping believers (both newbies and experienced ones) understand, Scripturally, what God’s will is for us. This will is both general (love God and love people) and very specific, according to the Word’s instructions for Christian discipleship, and then even more personal according to the gifts, opportunities, and abilities that He has given to each one.

My thoughts and experiences with Follow God’s Will

God LOVES YOU.

And God LOVES ME.

And that is amazing.

You know, we ALL want to know God’s plan for our lives. Often, we feel as though it is this huge mystery that maybe, just maybe, we’ll stumble upon somehow. When all the time, God, the good Father, has purposed a lovely, personal plan for each of us that has noted who we are, what we’re good at, the special spiritual gifts He’s placed in us, and the moment in history where we’re living–and what our life can look like as the Holy Spirit in us guides us and leads us.

Reading Brittany Ann’s book was such a rich and personal experience. I love the orderly way she describes living out God’s plan. She shares Scriptures, her own experiences, and God’s good intention for the church as a whole, and for us as part of that church in His unfolding plan.

I found myself doing a lot of highlighting and tabbing important thoughts and pages. I did the mini-Bible study that is included several times in each chapter, under the headings “Dive Deeper into Scripture.” That made the experience even more meaningful and personal (plus gave me some new Bible verses that I’m putting on cards to meditate on further).

Are you familiar with the Bible verse, 1 John 5:3? Here it is:

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

The Bible, New International Version, 1 John 5:3

I forget that. A lot! But here’s something amazing about being God’s children: He cherishes us. He is a kind and loving Father. And He reminds us again and again of this truth, as He is leading us every single day, in the opportunities, relationships, callings, and moments that we have.

As I read Follow God’s Will, I was reminded of God’s personal plan for me, as He has revealed it over the course of my life. (And as He continues to reveal it!) His plan for me is good. But more than that–IT IS NOT BURDENSOME. He is kind. He is loving and gentle. And He invites me again and again, back to Him, and His goodness. His directions and plans for me will build on what He’s already done in my life; they will be those that I can sometimes even recognize; and, while they or life might be challenging at times, God will be there with me to help me carry them out.

Now THAT is the kind of reminder that I need–shared wonderfully in just the book that I want to read. I loved Follow God’s Will. And I think you will too.

Where you can purchase Follow God’s Will

You can purchase Follow God’s Will on Amazon. Just click on the link below!

Purchase link for Follow God’s Will

About the author, Brittany Ann

Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author of Fall in Love with God’s Word, speaker, and the founder of Equipping Godly Women – a popular Christian-living website featured by CBN, the Christian Post, Crosswalk, and others.

You can find Brittany Ann online at:

Now–enter to win your own copy!

The FINCHNWREN blog has a copy of Brittany Ann’s exceptional Follow God’s Will to give away to one reader! To enter, simply click on the pink link below that says “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. US only; ages 18 and older. Giveaway closes on 10/24/22. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from The BlogAbout Blogger Network. All opinions are my own honest ones.

Beautiful new movie, especially for parents: “An Unlikely Angel” from Pure Flix (plus giveaway! ends 9/9/22)

#sponsor #partner

If you’re a FINCHNWREN blog reader, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been talking about wholesome faith & family streaming service Pure Flix lately–and sharing about their Pure Flix Original films and series. I have another one to tell you about today, plus a giveaway for a Pure Flix subscription! Momentum Influencer Network and Pure Flix provided the new An Unlikely Angel to stream (premieres August 26, 2022). Honestly, I am still catching my breath over this one–IMO the best Pure Flix Original yet!

About An Unlikely Angel

Janie is a workaholic who is falling apart at the thought of becoming a first-time mom. She whispers a small prayer for help and it’s answered in a very unlikely way when an angel intervenes and fast forwards her life. Will her second chance change how she approaches life?  Janie is lucky enough to be given a second chance, but will she change before it’s too late?

With a fantastic cast including Jillian Murphy, Robert Amaya, Aaron Mees, and the delightful child actor DeLyla de Castor (and also Sam J. Jones as Janie’s dad), An Unlikely Angel is a beautifully-told story of new mom/project designer/workaholic Janie, whose short prayer invites an angel sent straight from God to help her. This help comes in a way that sends her 6 years down the line after the birth of her daughter, shows her what life could end up as, then gives her a choice. What kind of life would Janie embrace…if?

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

New International Version Bible, Proverbs 19:21

My thoughts about this film

Can you remember the last time you laughed AND cried as you watched a movie that warmed and encouraged your heart?

An Unlikely Angel might just be the film to do that for you, especially if you’re a mom. (Or if you’re a fan of the classic Checker cab.)

The newest Pure Flix Original film, An Unlikely Angel, affected me profoundly even as it charmed and entertained me. I find so much in it to recommend. The actors are exceptional, the story pacing is even and clear, and the results and consequences of Janie’s choice make total sense. While the movie evoked a lot of emotions in me, the story is told gently and kindly: what *could* a woman who’d missed six years of her life (and her daughter’s life) actually be experiencing?

But back to those emotions. I’ve gotta tell you I shed a LOT of tears as I watched this movie! (Not until about the three-quarters mark; til my heart was wound up in the characters.) Janie’s kind dad. Her vulnerability to him and to God as she asks for help in an overwhelming situation; where, she seems to have no talent or skill. Gabe’s truthfulness and kindness. The unexpected things life threw at Janie. Her precious daughter. Janie’s story reminds me a little bit of the story of Hagar from the Bible, in Genesis 16 and 21. Hagar feels (and is) alone; forsaken; in need of help and so truly knowing that she herself can’t provide the help she needs so desperately. And God speaks to her and sends help!

We may not get that second chance or do-over that Janie is offered. But we have a good God whose plans are good and whose ear is bent toward even the whispered prayers of His dear children. Actually, He’s so attentive to us that before we even call on Him, He answers us. (Isaiah 65:14) I will take a movie that reminds of of that, any time!

Join Pure Flix and watch An Unlikely Angel. You will be encouraged; you will smile; and you will hug your kiddos. (Just keep that box of Kleenex handy. And maybe a wastebasket.)

Watch the trailer here!

How you can enjoy Pure Flix–and subscribe today

Pure Flix is a one-stop shop for faith and family-friendly movies and shows where you can confidently stream in your home with the entire family. With new premium and exclusive original entertainment choices every week, Pure Flix streaming service has the largest variety of high-quality, curated, positive, encouraging, wholesome movies, series and kids’ content in one service. Pure Flix is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment, alongside AFFIRM Films.

Your Home for Wholesome Faith & Family Streaming

Pure Family. Pure Fun. Pure Faith.

You can subscribe (monthly or yearly) with plans varying from $5.84-$7.99 per month. With these, you’ll receive access to thousands of series and films that will bless, encourage, strengthen, and edify your family. New content is added weekly that’s perfect for every individual or family, of all ages!

You can even enjoy Pure Flix for 7 days free! Just click on Pure Flix trial for more info and to sign up.

Enter to win a Pure Flix subscription!

There are SO MANY positive and lovely movies and series that you and your family can watch together on Pure Flix. I’m so happy to be able to share Pure Flix with you–and to give away one 3-month subscription to Pure Flix streaming service!

To enter to win, just click on the pink link below that says “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form where you’ll be able to enter to win in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes on 9/9/22. One winner will be selected to win. If you have won a Pure Flix subscription in the past six months, you are ineligible to win this giveaway.

Enter here!

Meet star Robert Amaya in this fun interview with Jean Thomason!

Robert Amaya has been one of our family faves since we saw him for the first time in the movie Courageous, then in subsequent films like Moms’ Night Out, War Room, and Family Camp. He is just as genuine, fun and funny in real life, as you can see in this interview with the marvelous Jean Thomason from Momentum Influencer Network.

And some encouraging words for parents from Pure Flix

In addition to providing access to fantastic faith & family films, Pure Flix also has some encouraging and lovely words to inspire you. Here are some of them; just click on the links for free access!

Back to the Basics: Activities & Ways to Simplify Life

15 Bible Verses to Encourage Mothers on Mother’s Day and Beyond

5 Powerful Quotes from Women in the Bible

5 Tips for Learning How to Pray Without Ceasing

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure:

Many thanks to Pure Flix for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own.

A new way to view our struggles: “Breaking Open” by Jacob Armstrong (a review)

**this is a sponsored post**

I have yet another incredible book to tell you about! FrontGate Media provided a copy of Pastor Jacob Armstrong’s Breaking Open for me to read and review. I so appreciated the perspectives he shared on suffering and our struggles; and how we can approach walking through them differently. Just amazing. What if, when we try to run away from painful moments, we are missing something transformational?

About Breaking Open, from the publisher

Everyone aches to be whole. We ache to be healed. We ache to be restored. But most of the time we wouldn’t put it into words. We just know we are broken because our child is addicted. We ache because the depression of our youth is now the depression of our golden years. We are stretched to the point of breaking because our career ambitions position us to commit to a pace we can’t sustain. Miscarriage, divorce, loneliness. In all of it, we ache.

In Breaking Open, Pastor Jacob Armstrong exposes the seven dangerous ways that we commonly seek to avoid a breakdown, showing how these seven ways are stealing life from us, and then walks us through a progression of seven Jesus-ways that move us from merely breaking to breaking open. It is these Jesus-ways that get us to the good stuff: a life filled with hope and opportunity.

In Breaking Open, you

  • discover how your greatest heartaches can open you up to the life God desires for you,
  • learn how to slow down from a frenzied pace and settle into the spacious life you have been longing for right now,
  • stop living a cheap imitation of life and develop trust in who God says you are,
  • receive permission not to have it all together by finding the power to love and live vulnerably, and
  • find the courage to name the achy undercurrent in your soul so you can break it wide open and let Jesus heal you and make you whole.

Jesus never intended for us to break and stay shattered, but to fall and rise differently. To rise with power, rise with hope, rise with purpose. In Breaking Open, learn to rise open to a new way of living!

My thoughts about Breaking Open

There was a time in my life when I thought I really had the suffering thing down. (Don’t laugh.) Let’s just say that my personal pair of rose-colored glasses was VERY rosy. Also, I was still in my twenties and obviously naive in many ways.

But, as it can, unexpected suffering hit me hard and fast for a number of years, later on. And none of the things I thought I had learned during that first dramatic time of adult suffering really seemed to apply. These more recent years of suffering really began to wear me down and in some ways, I felt, changed my outlook quite a bit. I struggled as I tried to navigate those years and situations, and I never really felt that I was able to get on top of them and manage them.

How refreshing, useful, and hopeful Jacob Armstrong’s book was to me! It seems that there are a lot of behaviors that not just I, but many humans, try to utilize in suffering: running faster and harder; trying to hide from it or “hunkering down,” as Armstrong describes it; turning the focus on myself and my own pain; and striving to be capable, among others. All of these coping mechanisms don’t really solve our problems or reduce the suffering. They can just make us numb.

Sometimes, without a guide, our attempts to navigate struggles can take us down the wrong paths of building useless habits, overworking, hardening our hearts, or even wearing down our bodies. How grateful I am for Breaking Open! In this incredibly good book, Armstrong doesn’t try to give us the perfect 5-point sermon for overcoming suffering. Rather, he tells us how humans can go the wrong routes–but then shares Scriptural truths along with the contrasting paths, to help us to choose and open our hearts to better ways that might just help us to know that Jesus is near; and He has never left.

The practices that Armstrong recommends in Breaking Open might feel counterintuitive. After all, when we’re in pain sometimes the last thing we want to do is to open our hearts and be vulnerable. But perhaps, like me, you are actually looking for something different to help you navigate the painful parts of life. I learned so much on my first reading of Breaking Open. In fact, I ordered an additional copy from Amazon today for my family. So much good, for areas of life where we really need some good counsel and kindness.

Some of my favorite moments from the book

I’ve got a lot of bookmarked places in my copy. From the many well-loved passages, here are a few of my faves:

  • “First, we have to notice that we are hurting. We might have to pause for a moment here, because there are all kinds of ways the ache can be numbed. Some of us are experts at ignoring the ache. We may have an unintentional routine to push it down every day.” (p. 31)
  • “We, the people of God, who live in the midst of so much promise, can actually settle for way less than the real thing. Over and over and over. It can become normal. That is why we can have such trouble understanding our breaking points. That is the ache–the ache for the real life Jesus holds for us.” (pp. 59-60)
  • “But life is crazy and filled with brokenness and grief, and that can lead us to live in urgency. An urgent need for Jesus, for real love, for real connection.” (p. 88)
  • “Whether we identify with the haughty teachers, the passive onlookers, or the condemned woman, the call is the same. Jesus is beckoning us to see ourselves in desperate need of grace. Neither the teachers the crowd, nor the woman can escape the stones until they hear the call to holiness.” (p. 142, on the Gospel of John, chapter 8)
  • “Some of us began reading this book with some places in us that were really broken. And as we come to the end of the last chapter, we still feel that brokenness. But with a miracle-working Jesus, we can reframe that brokenness in our lives. With a Jesus who experienced all the brokenness and then walked out of the grave whole, we are given an entirely new way to experience brokenness and an entirely new invitation to wholeness.” (p. 183)

And so…

Now that I have finished Breaking Open, have I returned to the perspective of that naive young me who thought she had suffering mastered? No, not at all.

What I do have is a new set of tools, or perhaps a new pair of glasses to look at suffering. I have longed for healing and restoration, as perhaps you have. I believe this lovely book will help me as I walk toward those; and to embrace God in the process, as truly Emmanuel. God with us.

About the author

About the author

Jacob Armstrong is a published author, speaker, and pastor of Providence Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Jacob and his wife, Rachel, founded Providence Church in 2008 with a vision to see people who feel disconnected from God and the church find hope, healing, and wholeness in Jesus Christ. Providence Church has been one of the 100 fastest growing churches in the nation the last three years.

Where to purchase Breaking Open

You can purchase this wonderful book at Amazon, by clicking the link below.

Purchase link for Breaking Open

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions shared here are my own.

Here’s a song to encourage your heart: Josh Blakesley’s “Jesus, I Trust in You”

**this is sponsored post**

Friends, I have the most lovely and encouraging song to share with you today. FrontGate Media provided Josh Blakesley’s new song for me and I have to tell you, today was the PERFECT moment for me to listen to it. It is going to go on my phone and into my regular worship song rotation. Let me tell you more!

About Josh Blakesley

Josh Blakesley believes he has a calling to make music that moves people into prayer and action. As a Christian songwriter, the question that provokes him is, “How do I create a song that will honor traditions yet speak to the modern Church and lead them to worship?”

In 2003, Josh released his first solo album, Immersed, which included “The Lord Is My Shepherd” and the popular anthem “Our God Is Good.” Immersed was followed by Waiting then FreeYou Are the Light was released to iTunes in March of 2012, debuting at #16 on the Christian and Gospel charts. Josh and his band’s latest album, Even in This, features songs co-written by Michael Farren, Mia Fieldes, Marc Byrd and Sarah Hart.

Most recently, Josh collaborated with guitar player Grae McCullough to write a new Mass setting paying homage to the hymns of the past and the culture of modern worship. This long-awaited project called Mass of Restoration is now available anywhere music can be downloaded.

Josh also recently launched a new, on-demand video worship series, The Way with speaker and author Paul George. The Way is a unique series of 10 worship night-style videos promoting introspection, thoughtful prayer and a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here’s what Josh says about “Jesus, I Trust in You”

“When we say ‘Jesus, I Trust In You,’ we’re not only expressing our faith in God, we’re making ourselves vessels open to all that God has for us. The divine mercy of Jesus pours out of his heart and cleanses us from our deepest sorrows. In suffering, it can be difficult to see, and even more difficult to accept, but when we trust in Him, we are made witnesses to his compassion—his deep and unconditional love for us. ‘Jesus, I Trust In You’ is a song about God’s mercy flowing out to his people offering peace and healing for all.”

–Josh Blakesley

My thoughts

I was so moved as I watched the “Jesus, I Trust in You” music video. Josh and his fellow musicians and singers in the video create are completely in the moment as they perform; there’s no awareness of the fact that they’re being filmed. Perhaps that adds to the incredibly worshipful atmosphere of the song. They make it all about Jesus, and not about themselves.

For me, this was THE message I needed to hear in this moment in time. There is suffering all around us in this world at this moment. I’ve seen it in my own life, in the lives of those I deeply love, and in the world as a whole. I may *try* to carry the burden of suffering on my own. But God never asks me to do that! Instead, He is present. And I can put my trust in Him even when I don’t have all (or sometimes, any!) of the answers.

He loves us so dearly. And we can trust Him. What a beautiful and timely reminder.

Where you can stream “Jesus, I Trust in You”

Just click on the link below. That will take you to links for Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, YouTube, and others, where you can stream this lovely song.

Stream “Jesus, I Trust in You” here

And–here it is for you, on YouTube!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own honest ones.

Do you want to live “A More Beautiful Life”? ~ then this review is just for you!

#sponsor #partner

I was captivated immediately when I saw the cover and title of Whitney English’s lovely book, A More Beautiful Life. FrontGate Media provided a copy for me to read and I am thrilled to share my experience with this book! Keep reading for more plus information on where you can purchase a copy!

About A More Beautiful Life

Whitney English’s remarkable book is subtitled, “A Simple Five-Step Approach to Living Balanced Goals with HEART.” Her lovely book lives up to its subtitle and its gorgeous cover!

Goal-setting can be so challenging. Most of the models we’re familiar with are the business ones that instruct us to picture where we want to be first, then list the steps that will get us to that place. These models don’t take into consideration the goal-setter’s life circumstances, personal challenges, or family responsibilities. Instead, the achievements in the future are the goal and vision focal points. And not that there is anything wrong with that! But…what about when life happens or intrudes upon this lofty professional vision?

Whitney English has been a woman who’s set and achieved incredible and amazing goals. But she has also experienced the challenges that life threw at her, that broke the plans she’d imagined. Those experiences drew her down the path of creating life goals that are based on what individuals actually NEED; as opposed to what they might want or think they should want when they compare themselves to others. This path enabled Whitney to design the most life-giving, encouraging goal-imagining process. And it’s something that, when we have an off day or some bad experiences, we can reset so simply. The process is is based on the acronym HEART:

  • H – Help Yourself
  • E – Empower Yourself
  • A – All Your People
  • R – Resources and Responsibilities
  • T – Trade and Talent

The book breaks down each part of the process and explains it clearly. Each chapter has not only lists of questions that help the reader determine their current challenges and needs, but also ideas for how to formulate what we need and how we can build these, simply, into our lives. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (but in reverse), the reader can establish strength and goals area by area, then move on to the next level of need. And at the end of the book, Whitney gives encouragement and ideas for how to start this process as well as what to do when life intrudes. (As it so often can!) Building on the HEART process or progression, readers can envision and develop–and then, keep returning to–the beautiful life we all want to live. (Even though that’s going to look different for each one of us!)

My thoughts

I can tell you all, I have been a goal-setter from the first time I heard about the concept! I embraced goal-setting quite eagerly and enthusiastically. But while I’ve enjoyed some lovely successes, I’ve also encountered LIFE — not only in its wonder and unexpectedness but also with roadblocks, health issues that sidelined me, and relationship issues that my hopeful rose-colored glasses weren’t prepared to solve. So what happened then, with my goals? In those moments they fell to the wayside.

Whitney English’s HEART process is SO different. First of all, it doesn’t start with the lofty goals that are built on (perhaps) what the media promotes. Instead, it starts with what I, Wren, need TODAY. And every day. I love that HEART’s first process is what my own body needs. I’ll give you a spoiler: it needs water, nutrition, movement, and sleep. Now, I don’t know about you, but that has, in my adult life, generally been the last thing I focused on. Instead, I was serving! Doing! But not really taking care of myself. And I will tell you, that caught up to me in a harsh way. Whitney’s HEART starts with “helping ourselves” because that’s what provides the strength and grace for us to do the next things we “need” to do: taking care of our emotional/mental/spiritual needs; then our needs of belonging, love, acceptance (a.k.a., our families, relationships, friendships); then, caring for our home, vehicles, and finances; and last, our careers, ambitions, and desired accomplishments. That makes SO much sense to me. Instead of starting with “careers” first, and toward “self-care” last, we start with caring for our own human bodies (the only ones we’ll have on this earth). And then we can move forward in our life goals.

I loved reading every single page of this book. It was so physically lovely that I didn’t want to write in it at first. (That lasted as long as the introduction!) I changed my mind very quickly as I read and saw so many concepts I needed. I highlighted, wrote, flagged, and stuck Post-It notes with ideas on so many pages. And, encouraged by Whitney’s closing remarks, I’m going to be working through A More Beautiful Life again; but starting small. Maybe I’ll work first on drinking more water. Then maybe I’ll work on nighttime routines (turns out adults can benefit from those as well!) Then movement. And if I mess up, I can simply reset by going back to what I have done and adding again to that. I’ll be able to keep moving ahead, but in ways that will stick, because I’ll be caring for first things first.

It is a beautiful process. A simple one–and such a life-giving one. I want to continue to create a beautiful life. Whitney English’s book is going to help me do it!

Where you can buy A More Beautiful Life

You can purchase this book on Amazon at the link below. I so encourage you to consider this book! It really can enable us to live that beautiful life of our hopes and dreams.

Buy A More Beautiful Life here

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from FrontGate Media. All opinions expressed here are my own.

“Made for Eden” ~ a review & giveaway (ends 2/18/22)

*sponsor *partner

Recently, the BlogAbout Blogger Network sent me a wonderful, incredibly life-giving book to review. It’s called Made for Eden, by Dr. Bryan McIntosh. I am so happy to be able to share about this with you; it has been an absolute gift to me. And–I will be giving away a copy to one reader!

About Made for Eden

The “abundant life.” Do you ever feel like you’re really living that? Do you feel burdened and constrained by living “the religious life” or by pleasing others? Do you sometimes wonder if you will ever figure out how to live the Christian life?

I can answer “yes” to all the questions in the paragraph above. In fact, I have even felt sick and exhausted over trying to do those things. And even in these years of corona, I have still struggled with them. Because of these, and because Made for Eden was such an absolute joy to read, I was thrilled to make my way through this book. Dr. Bryan McIntosh addresses these thoughts, and so many more. As it turns out, many believers are probably struggling with the same things. Dr. McIntosh brings solid Biblical teaching and interpretation, as well as a kind voice to remind and instruct us that we weren’t actually made for this world where sin has its sway, where violence and selfishness direct so many. Instead, he wants us to understand that we were, instead, made to live in Eden, in a beautiful place where intimacy with God is what we experience every day. Oh, and I didn’t mention the book’s subtitle: “Promises and Provisions for the Life God Created You to Live.” Beautiful!

In this 12-chapter book, Dr. McIntosh unpacks this idea. Chapter titles include:

  • Stewards of Eden: What Creation Says About Our Purpose
  • The Return to Eden through Becoming New Creations
  • Eden’s Promise: Why the Good News Is Good
  • Eden’s Victory: Ambassadors of New Life
  • Skeptics of Eden: The Question of Suffering and Evil
  • and more

Dr. McIntosh begins in Genesis 1 and moves all the way through the Bible to Revelation 22, to show us our purposes as human Christ-followers. To partner with God in caring for God’s creation(s); to enjoy God’s presence; to fulfill God’s overall purposes but also His individual purposes for our lives by using our gifts and callings. But, he contrasts these with the ways we’ve mistakenly interpreted our relationship with Him, and the work we do with Him, by showing the fear that makes us afraid of Him and “trying” to do “good things” or follow a “religious life” instead of walking in intimate, trusting relationship with God. And perhaps most important: we can live this life because of Christ in us. He really is not only the hope of glory but the way we can live with God and in His power.

I can see seasons of my own life where I’ve done both of those; walking in love with Him vs. walking in fear and mistrust. How light and flowing the former is; how weighty and impossible, the second. I have told you what a joy this book was to read. Something else I truly appreciated is that the author takes time to fully unpack each of these ideas. It’s definitely a book where ideas are laid out before the reader carefully and clearly, which is wonderful and empowering, rather than just pronouncements of “Do your life THIS way!” And each one is backed up by Scripture, and cross-referenced with other verses to fully explain its meaning.

Some of my favorite parts of the book

I do want to share with you some of my most favorite moments of this book, so you can get a bit of the flavor of Made for Eden.

  • “Over the course of history, God has shown what He values: people. His current purpose for those He redeems is the same as what He intended in the beginning. He wants a relationship with man through which His excellency is displayed, and His goodness in salvation is made known. It’s not about how many times we fail. It is about getting up, repenting, and moving forward in our call as His stewards.”
  • “The life God meant for us…is not a religious life…but a life guided by His purpose for us…Because Jesus lived according to the Father’s purpose, He did not follow every human expectation or request placed on Him. He was not after men’s approval. He only wanted to follow His Father’s will and purpose.”
  • “Life here can be hard, but learning how to walk as He walked, in humility, gives us rest instead of weariness. The good works He has for us are not a burden. That makes His invitation to come to Him good news. Jesus knows that trying to live our life without the plan that He ushered in–to indwell us and create a new man–would wear us out. He knows that only His way offers true rest.”
  • “Abiding in Jesus means we depend on His life-giving presence and direction daily. We are a branch drawing its very life from the vine.”

I’d like to mention, also, that as Dr. McIntosh may reference “sonship” or the new “man,” it’s very clear that he is also speaking of and to women. I never felt that women were being excluded in this book.

So, who should read this book?

I could give you a list of who’d be blessed by this! But I think I can shorten the list to this: anyone who’s longing for the Matthew 11:28-30 life, where they’re empowered by Christ and walking moment-by-moment in God’s amazing love. That is SO appealing to me–and I believe it also might be to you!

So–here’s how to enter to win your own copy!

To enter to win Made For Eden, just click on the pink link below that says “Enter here!” That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. Giveaway closes 2/18/22. One winner will be selected. Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclaimer: The FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service, which we will talk about in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.