5 Books to Read in 2018

I love to read.  If you look at my bookshelves you would be able to see that I love books!  2017 was a great year of reading.  I have read the following books and highly recommend you add them to your reading list for 2018!

Fervent:  A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer   (Priscilla Shirer)

If you need encouragement and a plan to help you have a better prayer life, this book is for you.  Priscilla lays out ten areas in our lives where the devil loves to attack.  She gives a strategy for our prayer life to knock the devil out.  Each chapter ends with a call to prayer and Scripture we can use as a prayer, too.  I also love the tear-out prayer cards in the back of the book where you can write down your prayer for each area and post it where you can pray it everyday.  This is an excellent book in helping you fight the devil through prayer.

Discerning the Voice of God:  How to Recognize When God is Speaking  (Priscilla Shirer)

Do you ever wonder if what you are hearing is the voice of God or if it’s just your own thoughts coming through loudly?  In this book, Priscilla takes us through three sections:  realize the way He speaks, recognize the sound of His voice, and remember what He wants to accomplish.  God speaks to everyone and this book will help you discern His voice. I think one of my favorite quotes from this book is, “You don’t need a seminary degree for this…For some reason we have been duped into thinking that God only speaks to certain people and only in ways that the “elite” saints can understand.”  (Shirer, 2007, p. 92).  God speaks to all of us and this book helps us in knowing the voice of God.

Love, Skip, Jump   (Shelene Bryan)

This is a book about the true story of Shelene Bryan and her quest to meet her Compassion International sponsored child.  Shelene is a Hollywood Producer who doubted whether her money was actually being used for helping her sponsored child.  What she finds through this quest is a passion to serve more and do more.  This passion leads to her developing a non-profit organization called Skip1.  This a wonderful story about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Love Does:  Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World  (Bob Goff)

Bob Goff is a whimsical man who lives life to the fullest.  If you’ve ever heard him speak, then you know this to be true.  In his book, Love Does, he writes his stories of love in action.  Each story is inspiring and encouraging.  I smiled and laughed all the way through this book, and I believe you will, too.

Goliath Must Fall:  Winning the Battle Against Your Giants  (Louie Giglio)

This is Louie’s latest book and it’s phenomenal.  He shares personal stories and Biblical wisdom (focusing on the story of David and Goliath) in helping you knock down the giants in your life.  Some of the giants he discusses are fear, rejection, comfort, anger, and addiction.  He helps us realize how battles are won:  “It is not by the strength of man that battles are won.  It is by the work of God.”  (Giglio, 2017, p. 91).  This book is a must read if you are struggling with any Goliath in your life.

5 Books to Read in 2018

If you would like to read other books I recommend, check out these posts from past years:

Favorite Books of 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015

‘Twas the Evening of Christmas Book Review & Giveaway

'Twas the Evening of ChristmasDo you have any Christmas traditions you remember from your childhood?

One I remember from when I was a little girl and continued with my own children was the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.  When my girls were little we would get them all snuggled in bed, trying to calm their excitement, and read to them.  It was always the last thing we did with them on Christmas Eve.  Then they would settle down and close their sleepy eyes, ready for morning to come.

I am excited to share a new book you can begin reading to your children or grandchildren on Christmas Eve.  Glenys Nellist has written a wonderful book called ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas.  This book begins with one of my favorite verses from the birth of Jesus,

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news.  It will bring great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.  He is the Messiah, the Lord.'”    Luke 2:10-11

In this book, Glenys recounts the magnificent story of Jesus’s birth.  From their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were unable to find a normal place to stay, but found refuge in a stable. Shepherds were visited by angels to tell them the good news.  Wisemen followed the star and brought gifts to baby Jesus.  One of the things I love about Glenys’ book is how she calls attention to the animals. The pigeons, cows, doves, mice, oxen, and lambs are all present for the birth of our Savior.  She doesn’t leave out these precious animals who were more than likely present for such a glorious moment.

I read the book to preschool and Kindergarten classes at church.  They all loved it!  When it talked about the animals we stopped and made animal noises (something they quite enjoyed).  When asked if they had ever slept on hay like baby Jesus, they laughed and said, “No, that’s silly!  We sleep on sheets!”  The girls said their favorite part was when the angels came to the shepherds.  They even picked out which angel they loved the best (the illustrations are amazing!).  I think the funniest part was at the end when I asked if they remembered who Jesus’ parents were.  One 3-year old boy said, “Joseph and Judy!”  I laughed so hard at this!  It was a cute moment for sure!

This book is wonderful!  It will make a great bedtime story on Christmas Eve for your little ones.  Go out and grab a copy of this Christmas book for your children!

Or perhaps you can win it!  Zondervan is giving away a copy of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas”!  To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below and tell me your favorite part of the Christmas story. (This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, who have a physical street address…no PO boxes).  Winner will be announced Monday, October 9.

To learn more about the book check out this video on YouTube:  ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas

Glenys’ book is blog hopping!  Next week you can find her book featured on the Purposeful Moms website:  http://purposefulmoms.com/

Book Review & Giveaway! Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart

Love Letters from GodDo you need a good book or resource to help teach your young daughter, granddaughter, or niece about the women of the Bible?

I have the perfect book…Love Letters from God:  Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart.  Author Glenys Nellist has written another fabulous book in the Love Letters series (if you have never heard of this series check out Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Christmas Love Letters from God).  In this series titled Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart, Glenys beautifully re-tells the story of fourteen different women of the Bible.  Some of the women include Eve, Miriam, Deborah, Mary (mother of Jesus), Martha, Mary Magdalene and others.  Each story includes a Bible verse for your daughter and a lift-the-flap love letter from God in which she can personalize the letter by writing in her own name.

What makes this book a good resource for that special girl in your life?

As a mother of two girls, I want to teach them that God loves everyone, speaks to everyone, and can use anyone to do His will.  I believe it’s important for them to see how God used women from Bible times to do mighty things for Him.  You don’t have to be special, have a lot of money, be important, or even be popular to be seen, known, loved, or used by God.  God loves everyone and can use anyone to accomplish His perfect will.

My 9-year old daughter and I sat down to read this book together.  As we came to every story, she would tell me whether she knew the story or not.  I was surprised to hear that she did not know several of these women.  My initial thought was, “I need to do a better job of broadening the stories we learn from the Bible!”  But then I thought,  “I can use this book to help me teach her about these amazing women from the Bible!”  Our time together reading this book turned into a special moment for me to share with her and teach her about some pretty cool women in the Bible.

I decided to ask her a few questions about the book.  Here are her responses:

Which of these stories was your favorite and why?   I loved the story of Mary the mother of Jesus because I love to hear about the birth of Jesus. 

Which of the Bible verses that are included in the book was your favorite?  I like the verse that was included in the story of Miriam that was from Isaiah 41:13, “I am the Lord your God.  I take hold of your right hand.  I say to you, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

If you could go back in time and visit one of these women from the Bible, who would you visit and why?  I would like to visit Deborah because she was not afraid.  She was very brave.

As I listened to her responses, I could see there was a theme…do not be afraid.  My child was learning there is no reason to fear in this life.  God gave Deborah strength and courage to defeat Sisera and his army.  He also gave Mary faith and courage as she became the mother of Jesus.  God gave my daughter this special Bible verse from Isaiah that showed her when she gets afraid, all she has to do is remember that He holds her hand and whispers peace to calm her fears.  This makes a mama’s heart smile!

I am excited to announce that Zonderkidz is giving away a free copy of this book!  If you would like to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this blog post. A winner will be announced on Monday, April 24th.

**All entrants must live in the United States.  Zonderkidz cannot ship to P.O. Boxes.  You must have a physical address.

If you would like to learn more about the author, Glenys Nellist, and listen to her story of why she wrote this book, click on this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnsp-OL-WCs&t=14s


To read more about this book, you can click on this Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Bible-Stories-Girls-Heart/dp/0310753287/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

I know that special girl in your life will be blessed by this book and I hope you will grab a copy of it!  Thank you, Glenys, for sharing the Word of God with all children!




Favorite Books of 2016

This has been another great year of reading!  I love books and I especially love the encouragement I receive from the Lord by reading the books He has written through these wonderful authors.

Check out my favorite books of 2016:

Come With Me:  Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads   by: Suzanne Eller

As a woman who hungers for Jesus, Suzanne shares with us her journey of following Jesus wherever He leads.  That means doing things and going places we never believed or thought we would go.  It means surrendering and giving Him control.  It means walking deeper and deeper with Him.  It means living a life sold out for the Savior.  Do you say yes to Him?  My prayer is that you do!

The Circle Maker:  Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears   by: Mark Batterson

I did an online Bible study of this book on my blog this past August and absolutely LOVED it!  Get out your highlighter because you will be lighting this book up!  Mark Batterson teaches us how to circle our dreams/hopes in prayer.  He give us three circles:  dream big, pray hard, and think long.  And he encourages us to keep on circling our dreams in prayer.  Don’t give up just because God has not answered your prayer.  Keep praying and keep circling!  This book will change your prayer life.

Wait and See:  Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans   by: Wendy Pope

I just finished reading this book as part of an online Bible study by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  I really enjoyed this book as I am in a waiting phase myself (waiting for someone to want to publish my book).  Wendy draws her insight from David’s story.  I love how she looks at his life and helps us to see that waiting is not a bad thing.  Sometimes God uses our waiting phase to grow us and shape us for that next phase of our journey.  If you feel like you are waiting on God, read this book.  It will encourage you so much!

I Know His Name:  Discovering Power in the Names of God   by: Wendy Blight

One of my favorite things to do is to really dig into Scripture.  These days when I’m reading a verse, I find myself trying to find out as much as I can about that verse.  In this book, Wendy Blight digs into knowing the names of God:  Elohim (The One who created you), El Roi (The One who sees you), Jehovah Nissi:  (The One who stands guard over you), and Jehovah Rapha (The One who heals you).  This is a book I LOVED because I yearn to know more about God and all of the many names of Him.  I also loved it because it wasn’t just a book to read, but more like a Bible study with questions and Scripture to look up at the end of each chapter.  A great ready and a great study!

The Purpose Driven Life  by:  Rick Warren

I know what you’re going to say….Vanessa, this book was written in 2002 and you’re just now reading it?  It’s crazy, I know!  This fall, my community group tackled this book.  I am so glad I finally read it, because it was amazing.  Rick Warren does a beautiful job of describing the five purposes for our lives:  you were formed for God’s pleasure, you were formed for God’s family, you were created to become like Christ, you were shaped for serving God, and you were made for a mission.  If you are searching for your purpose and want to know more about God and what He desires for you, then read this book!

Fear Fighting:  Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears  by: Kelly Balarie

This book has not released yet (it will be available on Amazon on January 3rd), but I am on the book launch team so I’ve begun reading it.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  Kelly has dealt with fear in her life and she writes about how she found the courage through God to conquer it.  Kelly cheers you on and wants you to be a part of the fear fighting team.  No more listening to the lies Satan feeds us!  Stand on the name of Jesus and proclaim freedom from your fears.  You will finish this book and will have hope that you, too, can be an overcomer.  Go buy this book next week!

My prayer for you in 2017 is that you have a hunger and a thirst to know God more.  You can first find Him in the Scriptures.  He is there and speaks directly to us.  And you can also search for Him in books that He has used other Christians to write.  God is amazing and speaks to us in many different ways.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13


Fear Fighting: Are You a People Pleaser?

I am excited to share with you a guest post by Kelly Balarie, author of the new book, Fear Fighting:  Awakening the Courage to Overcome your Fears.  I have been privileged to be a part of her book launch team. I love this book because I can relate to much of the fear she talks about.  God has helped me overcome the fears I have and see that I was not created to live in fear.  Kelly’s book is a must-read for those of you who struggle with fear and want to find the courage to overcome it.  Her book releases January 3rd!  Enjoy her post today below.


God told me to pray with all my heart. So, I did. I don’t think they liked it very much.

I think they had thoughts about it. Opinions. Perspectives. Perceptions.


What do you do when God prompts your heart, but man judges it? They may not say it. They may not whisper it. They may not even admit it, but somehow you know, under the cover of their Christian guise it brews. What do you do with that?

This is what I’ve been considering. Do I take care of man or do I take care to follow God’s lead?

There’s risk, big risk, in following God. Moving outside norms, beyond bounds or having an air of “different” can feel like a punishment waiting to happen.  It can feel like you’re letting people down. It can feel like their charge over you marks you condemned.

Even more, the fear of being judged, ostracized or talked about behind your back – is real. It is really real. Even worse, in some cases, it is likely to happen. Add that to the enemy, who spits out ugly words, like: “Bad child, you are messing things up and stirring up problems,” and, at this point, you can be thrown into the sea of doubt, in a split-second.

Still, I want to do what is right by God, don’t you? I want to live for Him – first. I want to answer to Him – above all. I want to be like Christ – in every way.

God knows, I want to be brave. I think He sees my heart. So, like a gracious father, He leads me, His child, to truth; He brings me to these words:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.    Galatians 1:10

I can either win the approval of man. It’s fleeting and tiring.

Or, I can win the approval of God. It’s enduring and up building.

I can either please people. It’s short-lived and peace-depleting.

Or, I can serve Christ. It’s long-lasting and peace-giving.

What man gives today, is gone tomorrow. What you put in to satiating him, is eaten up by his desires for more – the next day. However, the will of God, does not waver. It does not grow old. It does not change course. It has a destination. There, lives joy, His glory and grand purpose.

Will we push into it? We can’t do it if we are sitting on man’s lap and eating up the delight of his face of approval. Jesus didn’t get a face of approval on the cross. His on-fire pursuit of doing God’s appeared nuts to man. It appeared worthy of their highest condemnation.

Still, Jesus didn’t change course. He stood fast to His belief in what His Father had called Him to. He walked the road assigned to Him, anyway.

What road do you need to walk anyway? What person’s demands do you need to release? What calling of love do you need to pursue?

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.   John 12:26


About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.





Christmas Love Letters from God: A Review and a Giveaway

christmas-love-letters-coverGlenys Nellist has done it again.

The author of Love Letters from God brings you another powerful book for children that will open up their hearts and help them feel God is speaking right to them.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys tells the magnificent story of the birth of Jesus.  She begins with the story of Isaiah’s good news found in Isaiah 9, when he delivers a message of hope to the people:  a child will be born and He will be the light of the world.  He will deliver us and rescue us from the darkness.  He is our hope.

The book then tells each part of the Christmas story, capturing the hearts of all who read it:  Mary’s song, Joseph’s dream, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the Shepherd’s visit, and the Wise Men’s gifts.

What I love about this book is the simple, yet powerful way Glenys delivers the wonderful story of the birth of Jesus.  Her words make you feel that you are right in the story, experiencing it along with each person.  Her words draw the reader closer to Jesus, making you realize that His birth was meant to save you.

Besides the story, Glenys also provides the reader with two other pieces to this book:  God’s Perfect Promise and a lift-the-flap Love Letter from God.  God’s Perfect Promise is a nugget of truth from Scripture that the Lord writes to remind us of His perfect promise in Jesus Christ.  They are short, easy to remember verses that will allow a child to treasure that verse and recall it when they need to.

To me, the Love Letter from God is the most special part of the book. Every child that reads each letter tucked inside this book can insert their own name and read the letter as if God is speaking right to them.  And at the very end of the book is a lift-the-flap letter where the child can write their own love letter to Jesus, which is their gift to Jesus.

I read this book aloud with my 9-year old daughter.  She and I took turns reading the stories and inserting each other’s names into the letter.  When I asked my daughter what she loved about the book, she said the letters were the most special part of it.  At the end of the book, she wrote a letter to Jesus in the “My Gift to Jesus” lift-the-flap letter.  Here is what she wrote:

Dear Jesus,

I love you!  I am so glad that you were born.  What were Bible days like? 

I love you,  Shelby

That sweet letter brought tears to my eyes. Christmas Love Letters from God opened my child’s eyes and allowed her to see the love that Jesus has for her.  It opened her mind and her heart to wonder what life was like when Jesus was born.  And it also allowed her to express her love to Jesus.

One thing I was not expecting, though, was how this book would affect me.  Let me tell you…this book, I believe, is not meant just for small children, but for all children of God, even 40-year olds like myself. I felt God speaking directly to me through the words of Glenys.  The letter found in Joseph’s dream went straight to my heart:

“Never be afraid to say yes to me.  When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart – whatever I say, whatever I might ask you to do – remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you, too.”

I am so thankful for the ways that the Lord speaks to us.  He can use a book designed for children to be the tool He uses to speak directly to our hearts.  And when He speaks, you know it’s Him.

I highly recommend Christmas Love Letters from God . This not only would be a wonderful Christmas present for your child, but it would be a great family book as well.  You could use this book as a family devotion as you sit around the table for a meal or at night before bed.  You could read a section of this book weekly or each day leading up to Christmas Day.  You could speak each family member’s name into the letters.  You could use the verses of God’s Perfect Promise as your Bible verse to memorize each week.  You could also pray that Scripture verse over each child in your family, inserting their name as if God is speaking directly to them.  So many ways to use this book for a child or for your whole family.

I am excited to share that one person will win a copy of this special book! Zondervan is giving away a copy of Christmas Love Letters from God.  To enter, all you need to do is comment on this post.  A winner will be announced on Monday, October 24.

To see a video of the book, check out this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjKR8EQZIMo

Glenys Nellist