Sheran Memories

Crafting a Remarkable Life

May 17, 2019
by Jennifer

Justice Delivered Thrills

I had the pleasure of reading Justice Delivered by Patricia Bradley. She is a gifted crime novelist with the ability to draw the reader in and keep them on the edge of their seat. 

Carly Smith made her way out of sex trafficking to find a better life. She lives in fear of the men who kept her bondage and was just making progress toward healing when she finds herself in a position to help other girls in the same situation. She must overcome her own fear, risk being recaptured, and learn to trust others again. With danger at every turn, Carly is determined to find the answers.  Even if that means trusting the one guy whom she thought was responsible for her meeting her captor years ago.

Now a detective, Logan is taken by Carly and swears to protect her. A clean romance slowly builds as they both fight internal issues and dangerous, external obstacles. I was rooting for Carly to finally find love and peace.

At the heart of the story, the theme is all about forgiveness. Forgiving oneself and others who did you wrong. Letting go of the past and embracing what lies ahead. 

The subject is also about human trafficking and the sex trade. A scary subject but one too real. This book could be helpful as a discussion starter for teens to understand the dangers that lurk out there. It is a topic we should be discussing with our children.

This was my first book in the series and stood fine on its own. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free as part of a Book Review Blogger Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

May 15, 2019
by Jennifer

Developing Discipline

In the book, “Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life,” Elisabeth Elliot gives seven disciplines for the Christian walk: body, mind, place, time, possessions, work and feelings.

Unfamiliar with Elliot, I was looking forward to the topic and expecting a straightforward and practical guide of sorts.  While she did give some practical, Bible-based insights, her writing at times was somewhat rambling and preachy. Using personal anecdotes and Scripture, the book is a compilation of wisdom that outlines seven disciplines that shape the Christian life. 

Elliot discusses how following the practices of disciplining your body, mind, honor, time, possessions, work and emotions lead to greater joy and asserts that through discipline and surrender to God’s sovereignty, we experience true fulfillment as humans.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, as part of its Book Review Blogger Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

May 9, 2019
by Jennifer

Building Mental Toughness

Mindset is 90 percent of the battle. To achieve a goal, you have to commit. To commit, you have to develop and practice the mindset of a champion.

Athletic teams don’t become champions without commitment. The New England Patriots didn’t win that many Super Bowls without embracing the pain and sacrifice entailed to compete at that level and win. In fact, Tom Brady lives a very regimented lifestyle to ensure his mind and body perform at peak condition.

Kenny Chesney Songs for the Saints Tour
Kenny Chesney, Songs for the Saints Tour April 26, 2019 – What a view!

My favorite singer Kenny Chesney didn’t get named “King of the Road” by the Wall Street Journal by slacking off. He earned it by performing a high energy show each night, selling out to millions, and giving everything he’s got out on stage. Off-stage during tour season he doesn’t drink, eats healthy, works out and takes ice baths. It shows. I digress.

He also goes to the farthest seat in every venue to visualize the fan experience and understand how much energy he has to put out to reach that person. It works.

What is most required to reach a goal is a daily discipline of denying temporary temptations and putting in the work that needs to be done. Every day. Rinse. Repeat.

It is easy to develop this daily discipline of denial and practice. Temptations are everywhere. Foregoing the cupcakes at the office is a mental practice as much as is it the physical task of walking away. Every time you succeed, you build mental toughness and are shaping the mindset of a fit person. Like lifting weights, every time you do it you build muscle.

Athletes, also mentally prepare for the challenges they face while in training and before a competition. They plan ahead. They visualize the play. The imagine how they will compete and succeed. 

Every day is my game day. To become a champion I need to mentally prepare for every day, every situation and get my head in the game.

In the morning, I review the challenges ahead and make a game plan.
I visualize myself making good choices. I equip myself with options. There is always a better choice available.

Daily, I review my “why.” Why do I want this goal? What will my life be like in a year if I don’t reach the goal? How will I feel when I do reach the goal?

I examine my mindset careful to call out the four biggest obstacles to mental toughness – the critic (you shouldn’t), the cynic (you can’t), the procrastinator (start Monday) and the rationalizer (one won’t hurt). I take that thought and reframe my thinking to that of a champion.

“I am doing it my way. I can succeed. I am tough. I will push through now.” “I am building momentum.”

And then I celebrate the wins. I walked every day this week for at least 15 minutes. I ate at Maggianos and chose the salad, steamed veggies, and chicken. Two victories. To examples of discipline. Many days of repetition to come.

How are you building mental toughness?

April 6, 2019
by Jennifer

Breaking the Power of Negative Words

As a writer, I understand the power of words to tell a story, shape perception, and create beliefs and feelings. From my own experience, I understand how remarks of others have influenced how I feel about myself and subsequently actions I have taken to negate or fulfill those statements.

Sadly, I know I have stung others with my own word choices including my friends, my husband and children.

I have also seen negative words spoken by others and about others shape how whole groups of people are seen.

I have watched loved ones talk about their lives in defeated, negative words and never rise up from that attitude to make true progress.

The book Breaking the Power of Negative Words by Mary Busha is a discussion with readers to help them identify the words spoken in the past that have stuck with them and the negative self-talk that we fill our minds with.

Using scriptures, brain science, examples, and questions Busha helps us understand the real impact of negative words, leads us into forgiveness of self and others, and illustrates how positive words can have enormous power in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Reminding us that we were created for a purpose and chosen by God, Busha also encourages us to explore the words that God speaks about us. The book is written in a practical tone with meaningful illustrations that bring key points to life. Each chapter ends with a set of questions to help the reader apply the insights to their own experience.

If there are words in your past that still sting, this book can help you move past them and understand how positive words can heal.

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

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.