Book Review

Unexpected Love

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Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women 


You can read more of Julie Zine Coleman’s work at her website Encounter an Unexpected God.  She has been an educator for 20 years and a prolific Bible teacher.

You can also check out her Unexpected Love landing space and get chapter guides and lesson plans for group study.


I would sum this book up with this statement:

Jesus loves us unconditionally.


Each of the nine chapters covers a conversation Jesus had specifically with women in the Bible. Women mattered to Jesus. We still matter.


As a Biblical teacher, you learn when you read her words and you are unexpectedly encouraged.

I love the applications for today’s woman, discussion questions and the journal prompts at the end of each chapter.


Jesus commended the faith of those who admitted their unworthiness, their brokenness, their need.

He did not let judgement cloud his interactions with others. He reached out his hand to all. These women came from all walks of life.

Jesus was interested and intentional about each encounter.


In my faith, at times I have struggled to believe I could be significant to God… He is interested. His concern does not depend on how spiritual I might be or how important I might seem in his eyes. It is not dependent on my performance or even my good intentions. I matter to him not because of who I am or what I do. I matter because of who he is. 

Jesus is personal. He cares about you. You. Me. Sometimes I need to remember that better.

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of the book!

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Praying Circles around your Children

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I won this book! It was seriously the first time I had won anything. Thank you to my writing friend Becky Doughty for hosting the giveaway!

So, I read it and now I can give it away to you!

Mark Batterson wrote the New York Times Bestselling book The Circle Maker. In this book he uses those principals to teach us how to pray for our children.


“You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent.”

Batterson’s books come from the true legend of Honi a circle maker of the Jewish Talmud who believed that God always hears.

  • circle Bible promises and pray them around your children
  • prayer is a way we fight our battles
  • irrational fears only submit to prayer
  • make prayer lists, a written record: do this in a graphic way, lunch box notes, a book of prayers
  • focus on life themes where passions and God given abilities overlap
  • pray with your child not just for your children


There is something mysterious about prayer.

The amazing thing is that we are part of something so much bigger. Your prayers circle, strengthen, surround and guide your family.


This book really reminded me of how important prayer is… something I tend to forget in the busy stretches. I would love to do a special prayer week at About Proximity in the future. If you have anything you would like to share about prayer send me a note! I’d love to have you for a guest post! This would be one of mine: 

My first summer as a camp counselor, my first week with campers, my assigned prayer partner was a guy named Kris Van Engen. (Who I would later marry.) He asked me to pray for his brother Kirk, sister-in-law Maria, and nephew Michael who were expecting a baby in a few weeks. I prayed for the baby’s safe arrival. I prayed for Nikole after her safe arrival.

The next summer, Kris was called away from camp when his brother Kirk was killed in a vehicle accident. I prayed for Nikole and Michael who had lost their Dad and for Maria. 

Of course, when I married Kris, they became my family. Sometimes I feel sad that I never met Kris’s big brother. Sometimes I wish I could have been there for his family during such a painful time. Then, I remember. In a way, I was there through those prayers. I had the blessing of knowing them and loving them through prayer before I ever knew them personally. 

We don’t exactly know what God is doing when we pray. We might not ever have the complete answers. But, we can trust he hears our voice, and loves each expression of our faith. He uses each word given to him for something greater than we can imagine. 

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of the book! 

Wise and Funny Words

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Rachel Held Evans : super smart, super funny, and super courageous. (Click on her name to visit her website and widely popular blog.)

This book is no joke. I’m telling you the girl was on The View and NPR!

This sister in Christ took on a challenge to take the Bible’s instructions for woman literally. Each chapter of the book is a month where she focuses on one aspect of biblical womanhood.


My favorite parts:

  • The month of January where she found the mystical woman of Proverbs 31 is actually better suited to be described as a woman a valor.  “The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it- with valor.” We can all be woman of valor.
  • Her friendship with Ahava an Orthodox Jew whose insights spark the words of the Bible alive in new ways.
  • Her honest humor while she sleeps in a tent during “her visit from Aunt Flo” all you girls know what she means :), sits on a roof in repentance, tries to be silent during a stay in a monastery, calls her husband master, and conquers homemaking like a regular Martha Stewart. (She includes lots of funny pictures.)
  • The partnership she and her husband Dan exemplify through the year long journey. His journal entries add another layer of depth to the project.


And here we can rejoice from her experiment:

“… the notion that it [the Bible] contains some sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”

“Among the woman praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister wives, apostle, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women’s stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture  or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith.”


I say thank you to Rachel for a fresh perspective and the invitation to go forth exactly as God made us and pursue our faith with valor!

Leave a comment and win a copy of The Year of Biblical Womanhood. 

Children’s Books about Homelessness

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Four Feet, Two Sandals By: KC Pathways  (A story of two girls in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Ages 6 and up) 

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Fly Away Home by: Eve Bunting (About a homeless boy and his father who live in an airport. Ages 6 and up.)

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Voyage to Shelter Cove by: Ralph Da Costa Nunez (A group of sea friends find shelter after their coral reef is destroyed. Ages 3 and up.) 











Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by: DyAnne DiSalvo (A book about an urban soup kitchen. Ages 5 and up.) 












Harry the Homeless Puppy by: Holly Webb (Introduce the concept of homelessness through this story. Ages 3 and up) 

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The Berenstain Bears Help the Homeless by: Jan and Stand Berenstain (Kids serving others. Ages 3 and up.)

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The Can Man by: Laura E. Williams (A young boy faces the reality of homelessness and offers an act of kindness. Ages 6 and up.) 

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December by: Eve Bunting (A book about a young boy, a cardboard house, and a Christmas angel. Ages 6 and up.)

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The Lady in the Box by: Ann McDonald (A boy and his sister care for a homeless lady near their apartment home.  Ages 6 and up.) 














A Shelter in our Car by: Monica Gunning (Zettie’s Mom is unable to find work and they must live in their car. Ages 6 and up)

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The Family Under the Bridge by: Natalie Savage Carlson (A book about a family who lives beneath a bridge and the man who befriends them. Ages 9 and up.)

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Ivy Homeless in San Francisco By: Summer Brenner (Children deal with the difficulties of poverty and homelessness. Ages 9 and up.)

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Esperanza Rising by: Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza and her Mama flee from Mexico to a California farm labor camp. Ages 8 and up.)

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Also Known as Harper by: Ann Haywood Leal (Harper, an aspiring poet, must deal with her family’s eviction notice. Ages 10 and up.)

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Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (In India, 13 year old Koly defies fate after being sold for dowry. Ages 10 and up.)

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Selavi by:Youme (About street children without homes in Haiti. Ages 6 and up.) 

All About Proximity involving kids children’s books can be found at my Make a Difference Kids Books pin board on Pinterest.

Win the Unglued Devotional


Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times Bestselling Author of 15 books. Here is the link to her encouraging website.

She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.


Lysa wrote the book Unglued: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Raw Emotions. 

The Unglued Devotional is a companion to her book. Today we have an opportunity to review the book and one reader will win a copy!


An amazing inspiration to women, Lysa touches on our experience when people irritate, disappoint, or criticize us in a way that moves us to become emotionally unglued. (Hmmm… does this sounds like something we might encounter from time to time?! I’m thinking yes.)

The devotional is designed as a 60-day journey to restore peace and calm in our relationships.

I love her call to live in the grace of imperfect progress. Those around us, and ourselves are not perfect and are never going to be.

She encourages us to shift from overreacting to speaking life-giving words. I think of situations where life-giving words would have changed everything, when instead I choose to overreact.  (I am totally guilty.)


Her devotions have a verse, thought for the day, devotion, and a prayer.

She draws on real-life stories that will resonate with the hearts of women.

I love her honesty. It’s not easy to change. It’s not easy to look at yourself instead of blaming others for your emotions.

This devotional is full of practical steps, awesome encouragement and just the right amount of real.


Is over-reacting something you have experienced? What touches your heart when you read the phrase “imperfect progress”? 

Comment to be entered to win a copy of the Unglued Devotional! 

Keep entering the book giveaways, you have great odds of winning!

Tough Guys and Drama Queens

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Mark Gregston writes with Heartlight Ministries about parenting today’s teens. Heartlight is a residential counseling center for teens. He has worked with teens and their families for 38 years.

When I had the opportunity to review his book, I was very excited. My daughter is eight cruising on to nine, and honestly it freaks me out. We read tons of books when we learn we are expecting and during the baby and toddler years, the teenage years should be no different.


I love how all his words center around the work he has actually done with teenagers and their families. This is a good read because of his daily experience with teenagers. In his findings, kids today are overexposed to everything. They have information overload. Teenagers pull toward electronics and virtual worlds prevent them from having deep connections. Parents today, tend to be over responsible and this leads to irresponsible kids.


My favorite points of encouragement:

*As long as my Mom and Dad do everything. I don’t have to do anything. Gradually transfer age-appropriate responsibilities.

*Don’t expect perfection from your kids. We don’t live in perfection.

*I don’t need criticism and ridicule right now… what I need is help. Offer love not judgement.

*Having a relationship with your teenager is essential for their survival. Give them your TIME. Every relationship is important; parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts.

*I love his examples of what grace looks like in a family. Love even when you don’t feel like it…

*Home should be a place where teenagers can rest and feel safe, accepted, and loved.


Our kids NEED us.

That is something we can all offer.

To be there, FULLY PRESENT in the chaos of life.

To love them fully with all our hearts.


(The book has a great appendix of conversation starters and ways to discuss conflict.)

Do you love that this is not a complicated theory or formula? What are your greatest parenting challenges?

Win a copy of Tough Guys and Drama Queens by leaving a comment below! 

Hope: Choosing to See

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Mary Beth Chapman knows hope.

She is married to Grammy Award Winning artist Steven Curtis Chapman.

They have six children. Three of their children; Shoahannah, Stevie Joy, and Maria Sue were adopted, a life changing experience for the Chapman family.


Together, they founded the non-profit Show Hope.  Show Hope is a movement to care for orphans. (Follow Show Hope on twitter and facebook.)

Show Hope operates a six-story facility in China, equipped to meet the medical needs of orphans with special needs.

The cost of adoption can be out of reach for many families. Show Hope operates an adoption grant program and assists churches in implementing their own grant funds for families that long to adopt, helping more children into forever homes.


On May 21, 2008 the Chapman’s youngest daughter, 5 year old Maria, was struck by an SUV in the family’s driveway and later died of her injuries.

Read more of Maria’s story here.  Mary Beth wrote the book Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope.  As a Mom she has endured tragic loss and unimaginable grief. She shares her journey to heal and her choice to see faith and hope. Mary Beth is completely real and honest about the struggle.

If we are honest, sometimes the pain is so deep we might feel like never rising up again. Sometimes, we have to make a conscious choice. Mary Beth inspires all of us to choose to see faith and hope.


“Everything, including our pain, is His. I am thankful He will meet me in it.”

That is courage. That is hope. We thank Mary Beth Chapman for it.

Visit Mary Beth’s website here.

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Be Still: Joanne Bishof

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Be Still my Soul is a novel of hope and forgiveness. Love stories are my favorite and this book needed to be finished in the late hours of the night! This touching story is also not your typical story of love. The author, sweet Joanne Bischof shares some words of encouragement about hope. I am so excited to read more of her work as it is published.

1. What role did hope play in lives of Lonnie and Gideon in your book Be Still My Soul?

Great question. For Lonnie, she clung to hope in a great way. Being married to a man she did not love, and who did not love her could have been a recipe for a life of sadness. But she held on to the hope that God would see her through somehow. That His eye was on her and that He had her best interest in mind. It wasn’t an easy road to walk, and though it was laced with heartache, she trusted in Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

For Gideon, he experienced the absence of hope. He was certain that a life of goodness, a life with the Lord, was too far gone to him. He didn’t think he was worthy of that. As he went through his days with Lonnie by his side, he began to sense something in her that was different from anyone he’d ever known. What he saw in her was God’s love, grace and goodness, and this planted a seed of hope within him. Throughout Be Still My Soul, that seed blooms and blossoms as Gideon learns what it means to care for others more than himself.

2. What encouragement can you give to someone who feels like they are in a hopeless situation much like Lonnie in your story.

There is a verse that I clung do during a very difficult time in my life, one that felt quite hopeless. “‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2) This is such a powerful reminder that we are never alone. Though it may feel like the river is going to overflow us, or that surely, the fire will scorch us, God’s word says that neither shall happen. And that he will be with us. Take comfort in these words and rest in the promise that you are never alone.

The Hope Chronicles:

Read a Letter from heroine Lonnie Sawyer.

“I’m reminded that the Lord works in mysterious ways. That hope and heartache can entwine.”

joanne-bishof Joanne Bishof is the author of Be Still me Soul and the forthcoming Though my Heart is Torn. Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their home schooled children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life. Follow her work at her websitefacebook, twitter, and pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter here. 

Enter a comment below and WIN A COPY of Be Still My Soul.

Hope: Jenny Guiton

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Today, I would like to introduce you to Jenny Guiton and her remarkable story of hope.

She shares her heart, struggles, and faith with a remarkable honesty. Her book Controlled Chaos: A Story of Redemption inspired me. She shares a rare glimpse into the space of Christian counseling, recovery, and courage to be all God calls us to be despite our past.


Jenny, “I think the most important thing I wanted to do with this story was share hope, because I think a lot of us find ourselves in hopeless places and we think everyone is doing life right but us.  I learned so many GREAT things during my recovery that helped me develop relationships I didn’t think were possible, I just couldn’t keep that kind of information to myself.  But I don’t like “How To” books with twenty five easy steps to a perfect life.  I think everyone’s story is unique and God works with each one of our unique circumstances.”

What encouragement can you give to someone who is afraid to ask for help?

Asking for help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I was taught to be tough and do whatever it takes!  But it was taking an unneeded toll on my marriage and harming the relationships I had with my children and it might have eventually taken my life.  I’m not sure where the stoic martyr idea came from, but it wasn’t the best way for me and my family and it’s not Biblical.  God made us to need one another.  “Opposites attract” isn’t just for marriages, but all of our relationships.  We’re attracted to people who aren’t like us because we need the gifts and talents they have just like they need ours.  The very best relationships I’ve built have come from walking together down long, bumpy roads holding each other up and pulling each other through deep pits and valleys.  Journeys aren’t very fun when you’re alone.  If you don’t have a best friend you can trust, pray for one.  God is faithful.  If you have a good friend, ask for help!

It actually takes much more strength to ask for help than to take on struggles alone.  And when you finally get up the courage to ask, I think you’ll be surprised how many other people admit to their problems and issues and feel safe with you because they don’t feel judged.  It’s such a wonderful feeling to stop hiding what our real life looks like under some fabricated stories of how great everything is.  Once you share who you really are and what your life really looks like, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.  It’s SO freeing!  And you’ll learn who your real friends are.

 What was the most challenging part of your recovery?

Definitely, one of the hardest things I had to do was learn to trust people.  I could ask someone for help, but if I didn’t trust them, it didn’t really matter because I wasn’t going to listen to what they were telling me.  Since I grew up not trusting anyone I didn’t have the skills I needed to trust people.  I didn’t even trust my therapist for the first few months or more.  It took a lot of little baby steps.  I had to overcome my fear of rejection by learning how to develop a relationship through sharing my thoughts and feelings with someone.  When my therapist asked me one session what I needed from my husband, I was clueless, because I didn’t need anything from him.  I was self-reliant.  I didn’t even know a relationship was about needing another person.  My poor husband.  It makes sense to me now why none of my current friends are “needy” types of people, because I didn’t have anything to give them.

I’m still working on trust.  I’ve been sober for almost 9 years and I’ve been married for 21 years and I feel like I’m just starting to really share how I feel with my husband.  I’m finally starting to feel like we’re actually friends instead of just roommates with the same three kids.  Ha.  I’m sure I’ll be working on that for another forty years or more.  But putting in the work to build relationships has relieved the loneliness I’d felt for so long.

 I think many Christians Mom’s struggle with guilt, how have you overcome those feelings?

The guilt I felt over what I had done to my children while I was drinking and how often I blew up in a rage at them was so tremendous I would have done anything to give them a different mom.  But I learned that no one could replace me.  I would always be there mom, good or bad.  So, if I wanted happiness for my kids I had to make some changes.  I came to terms with reality that I couldn’t change the past, so wasting time and energy on the past was only continuing to worsen the future for my kids.

One of my favorite skills I learned in my Dialectical Behavior Therapy group was “Effectiveness.”  It meant focusing my energy on what was effective.  Feeling guilt wasn’t effective, so I had to think of something that WAS effective like going to a twelve step meeting or paying attention at their athletic events or helping them with their homework.  When there seemed like there was too much ground to make up and I’d never become the mom I wanted to be I focused on “doing the next right thing.”  Because that’s all I could do.  So, I listened to my therapist and my mentors and I did what they told me to do.  And when the guilt tried to creep in  I asked myself if there was anything else I could do to be a better mom and when I realized I was doing all I could, then I told myself that’s all I can do and the guilt is not helping anyone.  That actually worked.  It’s sounds simple, but it took a lot of practice.

 In the years that have passed since therapy, what have you done to keep hopeful and healthy?

I still go to see Jen, my therapist, when I need it, which turns out to be  2 – 3 times a year.  Sometimes I just need to go back in to process something or to figure out why or where I’m stuck on something.  I still take my anti-depressants.  I’ve tried to get off of them over the years, but it just isn’t working for me and it’s another reason I go back to see Jen.  We decided I’ll probably be on them for life, but what’s so bad about that if they work?  She’s so smart.  I still go to twelve step group meetings, which I will attend the rest of my life.  My church has some big changes, so I’m not sure if I’m staying there or moving on to another church, but either way, I know I need to keep reading my Bible.  I don’t do well when I’m not at church or in a Bible study.  I guess it allows a lot more of my own ideas to take up space in my head and my ideas are not often very good ones.  I’ve continued to work on my relationships.  Sometimes I have to focus hard or write things down in order to be a good friend to my best friends.  Saying I’m forgetful doesn’t cut it as an excuse, so I find ways to make my friends feel and know they are important to me.  My relationship with my husband is getting better and I’m still working on that.  I’ve started writing a book about us.  I think that one will be interesting.
And my favorite thing I’ve kept up is being intensely interested in my kid’s lives and it is totally paying off!  All three of my kids are in high school this year and I have a fabulous relationship with each one of them.  Andy and I write and dream together because we have almost identical personalities and gifts so we understand each other.  Jenna and I shop together.  I don’t love shopping, but I love spending time with her.  We found that we both love to shop at antique stores, so we’ve been collecting antique bottles, like those old apothecary bottles.  We are very different personalities, so she fascinates me because I’m still learning new things about her.  We dye her hair deep red and she has some extra piercings, but she is very introverted, which I find interesting.  She plays the guitar and writes songs and we’re talking about writing a song together.  I’m so excited.  And Johnny is my sports buddy.  We are both super competitive, so we watch football every Monday, Thursday and Sunday and talk about our fantasy football teams.  I take thousands of pictures of him playing lacrosse and we always post the best picture on his facebook page.  In the car, when our favorite songs play, we do synchronized head bops and hand gestures, especially when we get to a stop light and we look to see if people are watching us.  I started playing xbox with the boys years ago as something to do in common.  Now, one person will start a turkey gobble somewhere in the house and the rest of us start gobbling and without a word being said, we all meet in the basement to play an xbox game.
Recovery was hard, but my life now made it SO SO worthwhile.  I’m so grateful I got a chance to change before my kids left home.

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I’ve been married to my husband for 21 years.  My kids are all in high school.  I have a senior, a junior and a freshman.  I squeeze my writing in between part time jobs and school.  If all goes as planned I’ll be a licensed alcohol and drug counselor by May 2013.  I’ve always wanted to be a full time writer, but with three kids going to college, I knew I needed a guaranteed paycheck to add to my husbands career so we could help them out.

Follow Jenny’s journey at her website. You can also follow her at twitter.

Jenny’s outstanding book is available at amazon. You can read the first full chapter here. 

Leave a comment below and win a copy of Jenny’s book!

Graffiti By: Alene Snodgrass

Do you know who lives on the opposite side of the street?

The  ebook Graffiti scribbles from different sides of the street releases November 26th.


Alene Snodgrass writes about heart graffiti. Her story is interwoven beside street graffiti, the story of Rick who lives on the street. Alene encountered Rick at church, when he showed her poetry he had written. A friendship of shared voice was built, resulting in this story of graffiti.


Graffiti: “It’s the scribbles of story and love that God intertwines upon your heart.”


Their voices alongside one another are inspiring.

The other side of the street is not so very far away from where you reside.

Rick was burdened with a false accusation in his life that resulted in excessive drinking and drug use. His poems and heart are beautiful: Ignoring the Lonesome, What Would You Do?, and His Love.


Alene’s heart to give voice to someone on the other side of the street is moving.

This holiday season be reminded to look deeper and extend a hand of compassion.


We all have a beautiful voice.

We all have a story worthy to be heard.

“While all is silent and calm, will you listen for the voice of a Savior, coming to your side of the street?”


Venture out…

Visit the Graffiti website and read the first chapter.

You can read Alene’s blog here. You can also follow her on facebooktwitter, and pinterest.

On her website you can download her free ebook Suburban Girl Meets the Streets.