Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Counting Our Blessings - LinkUp!


Counting our blessings - one by one. Such a good thing for our minds and souls! Join me as we focus on our blessings!

72.  Our son finished off our deck this last week. We also changed the color, which I like so much better than the light color I had before. Such a lot of hard work was done by my son but my hubby and I helped as much as we could, too. We painted each board all the way around before he put them down. Lots of work but so worth the final result! This is the area of deck we've had for a couple years. I ended up not liking this color as much as I thought I would.


Here's my son working hard on the new deck addition. All those boards had to be painted on all sides before he put them down. He carried each of those boards by hand, by himself - 20 feet long!


Progress....


Finished!



 I absolutely adore this color and am so glad that I decided to go darker. It's so beautiful and we are going to enjoy sitting out there with our coffee, tea and just be in nature. I'm so blessed by my son for doing all this work!

73.  I've been working on my little gingerbread man ornament. I love how his little personality is coming through now. I can't wait to get started on the beading!


There's still quite a bit of stitching to be done before the beading though, so gotta keep stitching! 😊

74.  I'm so glad Fall is on it's way. It's still been really hot here but I'm thinking about pumpkins, leaves changing colors and cooler weather! I am working on this piece that will go above my stove when it's done. It's a ceramic piece that I've had for awhile and I thought it was time to get it done! Here's the start of the painting.


I started out by painting the whole thing with an autumn brown, then dry brushed white over the whole thing. Now, I'll add the colors on top of that. I think this is going to look adorable when I'm all done. I'm so glad I have the opportunity to make things for my home. I find it a blessing.

I changed the font on my blog to something easier to read and bolder. These old eyes were having trouble reading my blog! What do you think? Do you like it - is it easier for you to read? Let me know!

Share your own blessings on the linky below!


Blessings - Julie

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Thoughts



I think sometimes when we become Christians, we expect that we will change overnight and be a new person. Or we see the changes we've made since becoming a Christian, and think we are so much better than we were that we don't always look at the things in our life that could still be improved on. We're focused on all the positive changes, which is a good thing, yet sometimes it keeps us stagnated and rooted in one place when God wants so much more for us.

I see this in my own life. Things I thought I had changed or I compared to my old way of doing, kept me accepting that I didn't really need to work on a lot anymore. I was so focused on the filthy rag that I used to be that I wasn't even aware that I still had stains on my character that needed to be dealt with. Isn't it funny how pride in the good can completely blind us to the bad?

I can't change myself. Only God can make the changes necessary to make me more like Jesus. He sees me for who I really am - not some illusion that I've made for myself. He may allow hard things in my life to refine me. When I'm going through the hard things, it's not always easy for me to accept that God is using them for my good. However, His Word tells me that He is!


Here are the keys to growing in our faith, in our character, and in our love for others.

1.  Read your Bible every day! We won't know what the attributes of God are or how He wants us to live our life if we don't read our Bible. Everything we need is in this beautiful book that is a gift from God. I'm always amazed at the fact that I can read a Scripture over the years and gain a new insight from it each and every time. God opens our eyes to new things as we grow in our relationship with Him. I find this so exciting as I read my Bible...I just never know what wonderful nugget of truth I'm going to find even if I've read the same thing before.

2.  Pray every day, throughout the day. Ask God to reveal areas of your life that need attention. Ask him for the strength and extra measure of self control in these areas. I think we all know areas of our life that are not what we want but ask God to show those hidden things that are holding us back or creating problems in our life for ourselves or in our relationship with others.

3. When you're going through hard times or through a difficult trial, ask God to show you what He wants you to learn from it. Ask Him to work it for your good and to glorify Him in the process. Again, ask for an extra measure of strength, faith and peace as you go through this hard situation. Trust me, I know what it's like to go through something so hard, you wonder if you'll come out the other side whole. With God we will! Not only will we be whole, we will be better in so many ways Spiritually, if we allow it. Use the hard times to grow in your faith. Not always easy but so necessary for our mental and spiritual well-being!

4.  When you see something that needs work in your life, make the effort in your own power to work on it, but more importantly, ask God to help you and rely on Him to work on you. I have seen areas of bitterness building up in my thoughts and it was coming out as harshness to those around me. I didn't really see it and when it was brought to my attention, my first response was that if anyone deserved to be bitter, I did! However, as I thought about it and prayed about it, I realized I was becoming someone I never wanted to be. How could God use a bitter person? How could I fulfill all that I knew God had for me if I wallowed in bitter and pushed people away through a harsh attitude? So, I am working to consciously stop this bitter root from taking hold myself but, more importantly, I am asking God to help me. He has way more power and might than I do so I need to ask Him for help, which He willingly gives!


God loves us so much and He knows that we are sinners. This is why He gave his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us. He is our Savior and Redeemer. We can't be better without Him. He is our strength, our refiner, and the One who loves us no matter how we are. However, I love Him so much that I want to be better for Him! That is my heart's desire - to be used for Him and His Kingdom!

Have a blessed Sunday!

Blessings - Julie

*I have used Bible Gateway for all my Scripture references. I enjoy this site so much as there's so much available for reading and studying the Bible. You can visit their site at BibleGateway.com

MyMagazine Sharing Network Samples

I received a sample pack of snack goodness from the MyMagazine Sharing Network. There was Kroger brand cookies and fruit snacks in the box wrapped up really pretty in tissue paper. This sharing network is really fun to be involved in because you get such nice things and they go the extra mile to present everything in a pretty way.

Anyway, I received the Chip Mates Chocolate Chip cookies and the Fruity Flavored Snacks in my box. I have never tried either of these before but was so pleasantly surprised!


The chocolate chip cookies were filled with tons of chocolate chips and the cookie was crisp without being too hard. They were much better than the brand name ones I've bought in the past. I have to confess here that this package of cookies is empty. Before I had a chance to take a picture, my son ate them all! 😂 He really liked them! Obviously, when I buy cookies again, these will be the ones we buy.

The fruit snacks are delicious, too! This is something my son takes to work in his lunch every day and, again, he normally buys the brand name ones but we both liked these better! He said he's going to buy the Kroger brand now as he enjoyed them so much! That goes for me, too - I'm buying the Kroger Fruity Snacks from now on, too!

These snacks were provided to me by the MyMagazine Sharing Network. These were Free Samples given to me.

Blessings - Julie

Friday, September 14, 2018

Music Review - Hiding Place by Tori Kelly


ABOUT THE CD:

While working on the follow-up to her debut album Unbreakable Smile—a 2015 release that premiered at #2 on the Billboard 200—Tori Kelly felt compelled to include a track that honored her lifelong passion for gospel music. With the help of her manager, Scooter Braun, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter soon connected with Kirk Franklin, a 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel artist and one of Kelly’s musical idols. “I flew to Dallas and Kirk showed me a few songs he’d written, and I fell in love with all of them,” says Kelly, a 2016 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist. “Next thing you know, one song turned into us doing a whole album together. It just took on a life of its own.

”With its R&B-infused, deeply melodic take on classic gospel, Hiding Place offers up what Franklin refers to as “hope-pop”—a classification that fully resonates with Kelly. “One of the things I want for this album is for people to feel uplifted and encouraged when they listen,” she says. “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”

As Kelly explains, the title to Hiding Place draws inspiration from a line in one of her favorite psalms (“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance”). “That always stuck with me: this idea of God being a place of safety, a place where you can hide from all the crazy things that this world can throw at us,” she notes.

Produced by Franklin, Hiding Place unfolds with a lush yet simply adorned sound beautifully suited to Kelly’s incomparable voice.“I’ve worked with Mary J. Blige, Bono, Yolanda Adams, and I’ve never seen anyone that’s a monster behind the microphone like Tori Kelly,” says Franklin. “She’d nail one song in three takes, and all those takes were amazing. It set the bar higher for my whole career.

”While half of the songs on Hiding Place were penned solely by Franklin, the remaining tracks came from a collaboration between him and Kelly—the first time that Franklin’s ever co-written in a decades-long career that’s seen his songs performed by legends like Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. (“It blew me away that she wanted us to co-write, because she’s a phenomenal songwriter and could’ve easily done it herself,” Franklin says.) And at Franklin’s urging, Hiding Place was mostly recorded at his studio just outside Dallas. “The most important thing to me was that if Tori wanted to do a gospel album—a real, authentic, heart-throbbing gospel album—she’d have to come to the South,” he says. “Then she showed up at my studio with no entourage, no handlers—just Tori and her guitar, standing at my front door.

”With its sonic palette gracefully rooted in live instrumentation, Hiding Place first reveals its unbridled spiriton the album-opening“Masterpiece”(featuring Houston-bred hip-hop artist Lecrae)—a joyfully uptempo track that instantly sweeps the listener into a more radiant state of mind. From there, Kelly delivers her slow-burning lead single “Help Us to Love,” whose breathtaking harmonies feature the famed HamilTones(official background vocalists for Grammy Award-winner Anthony Hamilton). Proving her versatility as an artist and musician, Hiding Place then shifts seamlessly from the silky groove and playful scat singing of “Sunday” to the sweetly ethereal soul of “Just As Sure” (a duet with chart-topping gospel star Jonathan McReynolds) to the quiet intensity of “Psalm 42.” “So many of the songs on this album are so intricate, I wanted a song that I could play completely stripped-down, just me and my guitar,” says Kelly of the tender piano ballad.

One of the most profound moments on Hiding Place,the hushed yet urgent ballad“Questions” finds Kelly tearfully examining the current state of the world(sample lyric: “What happens when the healing never comes?”). “It’s about trying to make sense of all the dark and heavy things that keep happening, sort of crying out to God and asking, ‘What’s going on? I don’t like what I see down here,’”says Kelly. Then, on the subtly determined “Never Alone,” Kelly recollects her own struggles(“I’ve cried many rivers/I’ve walked through some pain/Seen my world crumble”)and ultimately re-discovers comfort and peace through her faith.

On “Soul’s Anthem,” Kelly closes out Hiding Place with an acappella, full-choir-driven rendition of the beloved hymn “It Is Well.”Perhaps the most powerfully captivating track on the album, “Soul’s Anthem”also gave way to what Kelly considers a landmark moment in her musical career.“Before we started, Kirk said to me, ‘Don’t look at me or the choir, just look down and get into your own world,’” says Kelly, who recorded “Soul’s Anthem” at the iconic Capitol Studios. “So I sang it all the way through, and at one point there’s a part where the choir takes over. I looked up and saw all these incredible singers, and it finally hit me that this was really happening. You can’t hear it on the recording, but I’m crying at the end of the song.”

Looking back on the making of Hiding Place, Kelly still marvels at the experience. “I always thought I would do something like this, but I thought it would be much further down the line,” she says. “It’s been in my heart for some time, but the timing didn’t feel right until now. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to work with someone like Kirk just yet, and that people would be so excited and accepting.” And though the album marks a stylistic departure from her work in the pop world, a commitment to uncompromising artistry carries through all of Kelly’s music. “No matter what genre you’re working in, there should be a level of excellence, and Tori definitely brought that excellence to this album,” says Franklin. “A lot of artists out there will rely on Auto-Tune or studio tricks, but there’s no button you can push for emotion, and there’s no button for skill. Tori is excellent in everything she does, because she’s a real, pure artist.

”As she gets ready to share Hiding Place with the world, Kelly hopes that it might give others the same sense of solace and joy she’s found in gospel in her entire life. Andas the album’s creator, one of the most rewarding aspects of Hiding Place was embracing gospel’s boundless intensity, and pushing her vocal performance like never before. “With gospel music, you can’t sing without all your heart being in it,” says Kelly. “This album was an opportunity to not only express my faith and my love for God, but to do what I felt and never hold back. I could just be free and let the song take me over.


MY REVIEW:

If I could only tell you about this CD in three words, it would be...I LOVE IT! I have listened to this CD over and over because it's so good!

There is a little bit of everything on this amazing CD and Tori sings each and every song beautifully! Her voice is so amazing and, seriously, she can sing anything and it's gorgeous! I love the gospel over-tones on the songs!

Tori Kelly and/or Kirk Franklin wrote each and every song on this CD, and they are all so wonderfully praising of God. I have always like Kirk Franklin and you can feel his touch on this music, but Tori definitely makes it her own.

My very favorite song on this CD is Psalm 42. It's such a beautiful song that speaks of our soul needing God. It's so amazing. My next favorite song is Never Alone where Tori and Kirk team up to sing this uplifting and upbeat song. Here's some of the lyrics:

I've cried many rivers
walked through some pain
I've seen my world crumble
and I've carried the shame
but I know somebody, He calls me His own
I can hear heaven singing out
Oh, you're never alone
Oh, you're never alone

Can you relate to those lyrics? I certainly can! That's what I love about this CD - the music speaks to my heart of things that I'm feeling or have felt but reminds me that God loves me and calls me His own! You can enjoy listening to this song on this video:


Another great thing I love about this CD? They have the lyrics in the booklet! If you're like me, you love when artists give us the lyrics so we can sing along. 

I love everything about this CD. Each and every song is gorgeous and speaks to my soul with the truth of God's love. I highly recommend this CD and give it 5 out of 5 stars!

*This CD was provided to me by Fly By Promotions and Capitol Records. I received a copy of this CD to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while listening to the CD

You can purchase this CD here


Blessings - Julie

Book Review - Shadows from the Past


ABOUT THE BOOK:

"...It  is  the  price  you  pay  for  choosing  to  be  a  cop.  Your  brother͛s  life...͟Those  words  haunt  her  dreams,  and  her  waking  moments.  LAPD  officer,  Aurora  Kavvan  cannot  rest  until  she  finds  her  brothers  killer.  Digging  into  the  past  always  brings  back  unpleasant  things:  memories,  guilt...the  hit  man.  Now  she  is  in  a  race  against  time  to  find  the  murderer  before  he  finds  her.  ͞Kill  her.  I  don͛'t  care  how,  and  I  don͛'t  care  where,  but  I  want  her  dead  now!͟ Someone  was  trying  to  kill  his  dead  partner͛s  sister.  FBI  agent,  Jordan  Reiley  will  stop  at  nothing  to  protect  the  woman  he  loves.  Even  if  it  means  going  against  her  wishes;  putting  himself  between  her  and  the  man  who  murdered  her  brother.    Will  God  keep  them  alive  long  enough  for  them  to  find  the  truth?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ashley  Dawn  was  born  and  raised  in  rural  Arkansas  where  she  developed  her  love  for  writing  while  helping  in  her  parent's  office.  She  graduated  with  an  accounting  degree  from  the  University  of  Central  Arkansas  but  is  currently  working  as  a  legal  assistant.    Ashley  has  been  writing  professionally  for  the  past  twelve  years  and  has  three  published  books.  Her  Shadows  Series  include  Shadows  From  The  Past,  Shadows  of  Suspicion,  Shadows  of  Pain,  and  Shadows  of  Deception.  She  is  currently  working  on  multiple  projects  including  the  fifth  in  her  ͚Shadows͛  series  entitled  ͞Shadows  in  Black  and  White͟  and  also  a  standalone  suspense  titled  ͚One  of  Their  Own͛.  She  and  her  family  make  their  home  in  Texas.

MY REVIEW:

I always love a good mystery, especially if it involves a policeman or detective. That was one reason why I chose to read this book.  However, it was more a romance than a mystery, which I was surprised by.

I enjoyed the premise of the story and how dedicated to family that Aurora is. I also think the story line of her blaming God because of what happened to her brother was well done and very believable. I like that we see her struggling with her faith in a realistic way. Her guilt and self-blame are something I'm sure we can all relate to at one time or another in our lives.

I did enjoy the relationship aspect between Aurora and Jordon and enjoyed the dialogue between the two. I had a bit of a hard time figuring out, at times, who exactly we were "hearing" from as we read the inner thoughts of the characters. Sometimes, there wasn't a lot of explanation as to who we were reading about.

All in all, I liked this book. There are a few problems but not enough for me to dislike it. I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

*This ebook was provided to me by Celebrate Lit. I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this book.


Blessings - Julie