Sheran Memories

Crafting a Remarkable Life

March 19, 2019
by Jennifer

What would you do to undo your greatest regret?

There is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotics and how they will soon change the way we get around, our career opportunities, and our educational experience. However, I never considered how it may play a role in the very basic issues of life. Author Joel Ohman offers a suspenseful tale and poses a moral dilemma in this thrilling dystopian story, Other Bodies, a story about a young woman facing challenges and choices in a world of the near future.

Other Bodies review by Joel Ohman

He tells this story of a young girl, alone, trying to make ends meet, betrayed by a man, and unexpectedly pregnant. This is an all too familiar story that women throughout the ages have found themselves in yet in a futuristic setting. Ohman paints a disturbing picture of how virtual reality can take people to adventurous and peaceful places, perhaps to be distanced from the realities of present choices; How robotics and technology can take people out of the medical process and stretch ethical boundaries; And how women will continue to be sold a message of freedom while being diverted from the inevitable consequences. 

Other Bodies is a thoughtful, page-turner that helped me see the discussions we are having, and the bills we are passing today could make possible, or prevent, such a future from happening. I fear such a future is already on its way.

Sky Above Us Book Cover

March 5, 2019
by Jennifer
1 Comment

The Sky Above Us; A novel by Sarah Sundin

The Sky Above Us is a story with a backdrop of history, a little bit of finding one’s way, a portion of redemption, and a big measure of romance, which all add up to a great story.

I had the opportunity to review the latest Sarah Sundin book, The Sky Above Us. Sundin write Christian historical fiction and she focuses the on World War II era. She has a deep knowledge of Army, Navy, Air Force practices and operations during the second Great War. 

This story centers around a young woman, named Violet Lundstrom, who has traveled overseas with the Red Cross to support the war effort. She believes she should be a missionary serving God in the remote regions of the world. The people she meets while at the Red Cross show her there are many mission fields in life.

The other main character is Lt. Adler Paxton who entered the Air Force to escape from his sins of the past. He ran away from a horrible tragedy made worse by actions he made in despair. He learns many lessons about God and life as he faces the dangers of air combat. 

Violet and Adler find each other and help one another find answers and purpose. The characters are believable and interesting. The chemistry is real. By switching back and forth to each character’s view, you see the differences in how people think and how making assumptions can really impact decisions and situations. With a backdrop of history, a little bit of finding one’s way, a portion of redemption, and a big measure of romance, The Sky Above Us adds up to a great story. Sundin did it again!

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for a fair and objective review. My other reviews of Sarah Sundin books include In Perfect Time, In Waters Deep 

February 27, 2019
by Jennifer

I Couldn’t Let Go of Never Let Go

Never Let Go by Elizabeth Goddard is a riveting mystery where genealogist Willow Anderson takes over an unsolved case to find a baby who was abducted from the hospital 20 years ago. During the investigation, she runs into an ex-flame and for her protection, must work with him to solve the case.

With a long-unsolved child abduction, a possible murder, death threats, the regret of lost love and secrets of the past that are bound to come to the surface, this book packs plenty of intrigues, to keep you turning the pages.

Unfamiliar with genealogy, I found the description of Willow’s job and approach to solving cases interesting. Willow is a likable character. A woman of strength and compassion, but also vulnerable and worried she won’t live up to her expectations or compare to her beloved grandfather.

Her love interest Austin McKade is the strong sensitive type. Slow and hesitant to open up, keeping a secret that drives a wedge between him and Willow. The two make a good investigative team and spark up plenty of sexual tension.

Ultimately, Austin’s big secret wasn’t as earth-shattering as one might have expected. I think that could have been a bit more dramatic. 

The background to the story was set up well, beginning with the kidnapping incident and then taking us to present day 20 years later. Two areas that could have used a little more detail were the relationship with JT and Willow and more about the relationship and break up between Willow and Austin.

There were several twists in the plot that were well constructed and let to a riveting ending. I seriously had a hard time ending my lunch break because I wanted to find out the ending, Being a fan of crime drama, I enjoyed reading Never Let Go and look forward to her next book in the series.

January 31, 2019
by Jennifer

Tackling Your Goals, Setting Priorities

How are you doing on your goals so far? If you are nailing them! Rock on! If you have slacked off, every day is a new day to work on your goals. If you haven’t set any yet. It’s never too late!

Goal setting and the pursuit of these goals are a big part of intentional crafting the remarkable life you were destined for. No one but you can know what that looks like for you and only you, and the grace of God can make it happen!

I think it’s empowering to know that God has equipped me with everything I need to fulfill my purpose. My purpose is to be the best version of myself, to make the world a better place, and use my unique talents to bring awareness and inclusion to people with developmental disabilities.

To be the best I can be, I have work to do. So I set goals. When setting goals, I look at all the areas of my life. I look at the past year and the progress or lack thereof I have made. I identify where I got off track and why, and I pray for guidance. 

With that prep work done, I begin to define how I would like to grow or what I’d like to accomplish  in each area of my life, including:

  • Spiritual 
  • Relationships 
  • Home
  • Career
  • Personal growth
  • Service 
  • Finance
  • Health

I believe that each of these areas play a role in having a remarkable life. Sometimes one area needs more attention than another. But we should have a vision for how we want to live out each area and be able to set meaningful goals to strengthen each area.

That doesn’t mean you have to have big hairy goals for each area of your life this year. Depending on what stage of life you are in, one or two areas may need more attention and you may need to invest more time, energy and resources toward those. That said, consider writing down one sentence or a one-word intention for each of the other areas. This helps you keep moving toward your targets.

Writing goals and setting intentions will only get you so far. I set my primary goals for the year and then each week, I identify the mini goal for the week that will get me closer to my big goal. Then I break it down into daily action steps.

For example:
 Big Goal: My son will become a reader 
Week goal: Make a high interest book

  1. Design book template in Canva
  2. Identify Dolche words to use
  3. Choose topic and write story (Baseball)
  4. Find pictures to go with story
  5. Finalize design and print
  6. Bind and laminate 

Now I look at my calendar and see when I can do each step. I may have a window open where I can sit down and knock out the whole project. But I likely won’t. But If I can take one or two steps a day, I will meet my weekly goal. 

At the end of the week, I review. It’s this series of tiny wins that will help me and Joey reach our big goal! 

Each week, I know what big goals I’m focusing on, what mini goal I want to meet, and what steps I’m taking to get there.

Right now, getting to a healthy weight and fitness level and getting our main level renovation done are my two priority goals. I’m still working on other goals like helping Joey become a reader. The key is having time each week to prioritize and generate some tiny wins! Progress not perfection. 

January 21, 2019
by Jennifer

How to understand the Bible Better

Have you ever tried to read the Bible cover to cover or got confused about references in Scripture? In 15 minutes a day, the book 30 Days to Understanding the Bible can equip you to understand more about the world’s most-read, most controversial, most translated book – The Bible.

The Bible is the story of God’s love for his people and the guidebook for Christians of all denominations all over the world. Even so, it is not the easiest book to read. It is not written in a traditional story format, it is not in chronological order, it contains various forms of literature and covers thousands of years of history.

Even if you have grown up in Bible study, it still can be confusing. I recently received a copy of 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders for review. It is a straightforward guide to the Bible in what could be described as Cliff’s notes for the Bible. Anders writes in a no-nonsense, practical tone giving a clear explanation for Bible structure, format, and historical and geographical context.

Book Cover 30 Days to Understanding the Bible

I particularly like how Anders provides modern-day examples to help the reader place teachings in context such as comparing the size of a region in the Bible with the size of a U.S state.

To make it even more accessible, the book is designed for the reader to spend 15-minutes a day for 30 days. At the end of each teaching is a review “quiz.” In bite-size teaching chunks, Anders takes readers through the arc of Bible history, the overarching story of the Bible, the core beliefs of Christian teaching including the major doctrines, the Parables of Jesus, Biblical miracles, prophecies, and more.

I think this is a great resource for the person who just wants to have a general understanding of the Bible and for those who want to have a solid foundation for further scripture study.

We Hope for Better Things Review

January 8, 2019
by Jennifer

Book Review: We Hope for Better Things

If you enjoy historical fiction, this book brings it on in layers! Set in Detroit in the 1860s, 1960s, and modern day, the novel tells the story of three women in the Balsam family. Each woman faces her own journey of self-discovery alongside national turmoil and racial divides. It is like reading three novels in one. The author moves us through each time period giving us just enough of the story to get captivated before moving us along to another part of the tale in another time.

There is an underlying tension that runs through each plot. As the story unfolds, author Erin Bartels gives us tidbits of information so we can begin to piece together the tragic string that ties each generation together. Confronting love, race, class, and sexism, Bartels illustrates the struggle of America through this family and key moments in Detroit and US history.

The character development is strong. Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth all have depth and believability that makes you want to visit with each of them for a cup of coffee or a walk on the farm.

The novel made me feel like a reporter or historian uncovering a family mystery. I would love to have this be a series of three books so we could delve deeper into each story.

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Purpose & Pause Series 2

December 21, 2018
by Jennifer

Purpose & Pause Post 2: Where are you?

Last week, we reviewed the first step in crafting a remarkable New Year –Seeking God first

Did you spend some time reviewing the truths that He has declared about you and seeking His guidance and direction?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. 

Psalm 139: 13-15

For I know the plans I have  for
you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm 
you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

– Jeremiah 29:11

As we look ahead to making our plans to craft a remarkable 2019, it is wise to pause and get a reading on where we are right now.

Author Anne Voskamp points out in her book The Greatest Gift, the first question God asks in the Old Testament  is “Where are you?”

It is a good question to ask at this time of year. It is also a fitting time to take a personal assessment so we can begin 2019 with clarity.

Get my free Year in Review Guide

Step two in crafting our remarkable year is to make a self-assessment.

  • Where are you in your life?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • What is holding you back? (hint it is probably not what you think!)
  • Are you better today than you were last year?
  • What did you do this year that brought happiness?
  • What did you do this year that made you restless or unhappy?
  • Why did you chose these things?
  • What did you do this year to bring happiness to others?
  • Did you harm anyone physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually?
  • What inspired me you this year?
  • What are you proud of that you accomplished this year?
  • What is something you planned to accomplish but didn’t? Why?
  • What are you most thankful for that happened this year?
  • What areas of your life do you need to improve?
  • What areas need more attention?
  • What, in your thinking, actions, lack of action, or relationships, is keeping you from living your best life?
  • To aid you in this process, I have created a free, downloadable Year in Review PDF.

    Devotional Review Ellie Claire

    December 14, 2018
    by Jennifer

    Choosing a devotional

    A few weeks ago I told you about the Ellie Claire Art Journals. These were based on the tradition of illuminating the text and teach these techniques along with giving you space to journal.

    Today, I was given the opportunity to share my opinion on her 365-day devotional series, which include three different devotionals. Ellie Claire products are known for artful imagery and these devotionals are no exception. Each devotional has an artistic and beautiful design. The cover is a thin semi-hard material that is sturdy but allows for some give. The interior pages seem to be around 20lb weight. I would probably use an ink pen with the journal rather than a marker to be sure it does not bleed through. They can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for around $15 – $17, which is a great price for such quality.

    Devotional Review Ellie Claire

    The first devotion I will introduce is The Earth Is the Lord’s and Everything in It. The cover features two teal peacocks perched majestically in a blossoming tree. The underlying theme of this devotional focuses on nature as the creative expression of God. The devotions and quotes within the journal connect back to God as a creator and aspects of nature and lessons we can learn from them. Each page includes a title, one verse, a short narrative, a brief prayer and a lined section for journaling.


    Barnes & Noble:

    Another devotional in the collection is “Peace Begins with Me” The cover is a marbled mixture of mint green with a touch of blue and the title is embossed in gold. The journal is designed to help readers find peace by pursuing God. The scripture choices are those that describe God and His plan for His people. The devotions focus on illustrations that help us draw closer to God through knowledge and understanding. If you experiencing anxiety or unrest than this may be a great choice to grow in confidence as a child of God.


    Barnes & Noble:

    The last journal is Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and the cover is a bright pattern of pink and peach flowers such as carnations and hydrangeas (my favorite). The theme of this devotion is discovering God’s grace in our daily life with meditations that help us focus on how God is working in our lives.


    Barnes & Noble:

    All of these would be a great companion for your quiet time. What is your favorite devotional? Do you use a devotional in your quiet time?

    The First Step

    December 10, 2018
    by Jennifer

    Purpose & Pause Series: The First Step in Crafting a Remarkable New Year

    Sacred Questions Review

    Welcome to post number one in my Purpose & Pause series, a guide to planning an intentional and remarkable New Year!

    I have always tried to live a purposeful life, I did Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of  Highly Successful People when I was a year out of college and developed a personal mission statement that still rings true today. Several years ago, I designed my own planner/diary called the Purpose & Pause Planner, which is centered around intentionally planning your year, month and days. I will be sharing more about that planner in the days to come.

    Even though I try to live with foresight and intention, the tide of life has often carried me away. There have been several times when the circumstances of life have loomed over me like a giant wave sweeping me up in the current, precariously carrying me along so I could do nothing but take a deep breath and focus on staying upright until I could get my feet on the sand again. Over the past ten years, it seemed that just when I started heading back to the safety of the shore, another wave would carry me away again.

    Last year one such wave, took me to a little island where I began a time of self-reflection and inner mind work. During this time, I dug into the practice of mindfulness, researched principles of brain science, and learned you can change your thinking and literally retrain your brain from old thought patterns that have dug deep neuropathways in your mind. This period of discovery also led me to discover the time-honored Christian practices of contemplation and renewing your mind through scripture (Romans 12:2).

    I have been applying this learning to my life and look forward to sharing them with you. One thing I have learned is that no matter the conditions of the present, I can rest in the knowledge that I was created to live a remarkable life (Jeremiah 1:5) and crafting that life is in my hands. The first step?

    Seek God.

    Before we set our goals or make New Year’s resolutions, we need to seek first the Kingdom of God. You see God has plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and he wants us to live in his will instead of going our own way. Scripture tells us “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established,” Proverbs 19:21 (RSV). If I seek Him first, I will have laid a solid foundation for the remarkable life to which I was designed. But take note, remarkable does not mean perfect.

    adjective: remarkable
    worthy of attention; striking.
    “a remarkable coincidence”
    synonyms: extraordinary, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvelous, wonderful, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, outstanding, momentous

    So, as we are in the midst of Advent and waiting on the coming of our Savior, it is a natural time to prayerfully reflect on your plans and intentions for life and submit them to God. Ask him to guide you and renew your mind so that as you consider your direction for 2019 so that He who commands the seas will carry you.
    Sacred Questions Kelly fabian

    But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Cor 2:9

    A tool I am looking forward to using this coming year to help me seek God first daily is Sacred Questions, a transformative journey through the Bible, by Kelly FabianTyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. This book is a 365-day guide to a deeper spiritual practice. Setting aside about 20 minutes each day, the book leads you through a practice of prayer, a scripture passage, a reflection, a series of questions that draw you deeper into the scripture to make personal application. Your session ends with a guided prayer of response.

    The practice of asking the sacred questions found in the reflections is meant to help you examine your attitudes, thoughts, actions, and beliefs. It is through this reflection that self-discovery is formed. We are all so busy but taking this time to grow and truly seek God through not just reading his word but reflecting on it with these scared questions will allow us to see the remarkable and extraordinary opportunities awaiting our lives.

    The book is 484 pages and is divided into 14 sections, including a section for Christmas and Easter. There is also a topical guide in the back. The book has a hardcover with a reflective design in cream and gold. The pages are thin, reminding me of the inside of a missal. The font is also quite small, especially the daily scripture passage, so if you are over 40 you may need your readers for this one! Jammed pack with scripture, reflections, and prompts, there is no space for journaling within the book. I would recommend a companion journal to record your answers to the questions and other reflections. This is actually a benefit because you can return to the guide year over year or to a specific topic to guide your prayer and thinking when wrestling with a particular issue in your life. This spiritual guide would be appropriate for men or women of any age, as the reflections are focused on God’s Word and do not include personal commentary from the author.

    The First Step

    If you are with me to plan a remarkable 2019, your assignment this week is Purpose & Pause Step One:

    Take some time to put yourself in God’s presence this week and meditate on the truth that God designed us each individually with a plan and a purpose, for us to prosper and have a future of hope (Jeremiah 29:11) and ask God to reveal his plans and desires for you in the coming year.

    Join my newsletter to make sure you get each update in the Purpose & Pause Series! Let’s plan a remarkable year together!

    Zumba Class

    November 26, 2018
    by Jennifer

    Having the Courage to Go After A Goal: I Became A Zumba Instructor

    It was my 45th birthday and I was having a pity party. I had not reached my goal of losing 45 pounds by my 45th birthday. In fact, with the stress of the past year, I had gained 15 pounds, reaching my heaviest weight EVER. I was not heading on a girl’s weekend to celebrate my birthday like so many of my Facebook friends had done this year. I was feeling alone, old, and ashamed. But in a moment of courage, I decided there was one goal I could achieve, becoming a Zuma instructor. I quickly signed up for the November 18 class in my area.

    So last week, overweight and out of shape, I went to a day-long Zumba instructor training class and became certified to teach. The training included a master class and lots of dancing as we learned each of the key steps to put together choreography and practice cueing. And I could hang! It was a lot of fun and I am so glad I did it.

    You see, I started dancing at age 4 with creative movement. I then took ballet, tap, and Jazz from age 5 through Training as Zumba Instructorhigh school and was in a performing company. I also took classes in college, and as an adult, took dance fitness classes. As life progressed and I had children and grew in my career, I stopped dancing. Until I landed a corporate job which offered a full-service gym with dance classes. The dancing bug came alive again. When I dance I truly feel free. Unfortunately, I was laid off in Sept. 2017 due to corporate restructuring and I no longer had access to those classes. I truly have missed it. I also did some volunteering at my children’s school teaching dance and I realized I could combine my passion, my need for physical activity and earn some extra income by becoming an instructor.

    Zumba ClassSo, I finally achieved that goal. Now, when I hold a class, I won’t be taking away from my family because I will become healthier and earning extra income. I will be a good role model and have an outlet for stress. And I will be connecting with other people and helping them craft their own remarkable life. All good things!

    I am looking forward to holding my first class.