December 29, 2013

A Talent for Trouble Review~


     Miss Felicia Murdock firmly believed her destiny was to become a minister's wife. When the minister on whom she had set her sights marries another lady, Felicia is forced to take a close look at her life and comes to a few uncomfortable conclusions. Determined that something needs to change--and soon--Felicia discovers she is finally ready to spread her wings and embrace life the way she's always wanted.

     Grayson Sumner--or Lord Sefton, as he's officially known--has had more than enough of spreading his wings and only hopes to settle into the life of a normal, respectable New York gentleman. Prompted by some well-meaning friends to lift the spirits of the disappointed-in-love Miss Murdock, he is surprised to encounter a young lady who seems to have become quite adventurous and quite determined to get herself into all sorts of troublesome situations. 

     Intent on remaining independent, Felicia is reluctant to accept Grayson's help, especially as she finds herself developing feelings for him. However, just as Grayson decides he's had quite enough of her antics, his past comes back to haunt him and his presence in her life has endangered Felicia. Will Grayson and Felicia decide they want to spend the rest of their lives keeping one another out of trouble?


     I am writing all of this out of love.

     I say that, because, if Mrs. Turano were to ever read this post, I would like her to know that I'm not writing this review to be discouraging, but to be encouraging-- and honest. With that being said, here is an honest review of A Talent for Trouble:

        This book started out strong. I was laughing at all the right parts in the first chapter. I liked the fact that Mrs. Turano had the brilliant idea of making her story comedic and serious at the same time. The heroine, Felicia, was a real person. I could totally relate with her quirky character and ideas. She was me. I knew exactly how she felt, because Mrs. Turano introduced her so expressively. All of Felicia's reactions were so real that I was sighing with her, able to relate with the "tragedy" that had just befallen her. I know it is a very difficult thing to make a story serious and funny, but, in with first chapter, I was very intrigued.

    Unfortunately, it was only in the first chapter that I found the comedy entertaining. In the second chapter, my intrigue and enjoyment started dwindling. Felicia started acting like a six year old. I couldn't understand why a young lady would act so dramatic. She seemed so self-absorbed. Always doing things to call attention to herself. It seemed like she couldn't have a normal conversation with anybody, ever.

     As the book progressed, I noticed that Mrs. Turano was bringing in a pretty serious theme. My question, is: was the story supposed to be all comedy, or was it supposed to include a dramatic plot too? I felt like was the one who wasn't getting it. It was a serious theme, but I couldn't stay serious while reading, but I wasn't finding much else humorous... I was just ready to fall asleep. Maybe I've been reading too many cliched historical romance novels (which is why I decided to request this story), but I felt like every scene was a rushed mess, and towards the end, it was a quick clean-up and let's-get-everything-to-rights. I found the comedy mixed with the attempt of being intelligent lack in the characters' personalities very much. Mrs. Turano seemed to have made her characters sort of dimwitted in a quite a few scenes, in order to make them funny. Which reminds me of the television show Sponegbob. I think silly is funny, but a lot was just unreasonable or unintelligent thinking on the characters' side. Which made me just think that Ms. Turano was trying too hard and it took away from the intelligence of her characters and the sweet personalities they all seemed to have.

     One instance of the unreasonable and unintelligent attributes I noticed was when the start of the actual mystery (not the book) took place. It began with the heroine, Felicia, going into an opium den without any sense. I was very surprised by why she went  into the opium den. Her only answer to Grayson, our hero, being that she was trying to be kind to an older man and ease her curiosity. I get that Mrs. Turano wanted to create her heroine to be an adventurous and eccentric young lady, but the reasoning behind Felicia's motives was nonsensical. When one is writing a book, there are many ways of getting a character into an opium den, without making a character seem completely foolish. I am a curious person, as well. However, I could not relate with Felicia during that scene at all. I will say, after that scene and when they had been in the opium den for a little while, there were some funny parts. Especially when it was Grayson's POV, observing Felicia react to the people in the den. It made for a few smiles and a chuckle.

     Side notes:  For a Christian fiction, I was very unpleasantly surprised that Grayson was not saved until the epilogue. I was dumbstruck. The EPILOGUE. I feel like this book was an attempt to glorify the Lord to it's bare minimum. If one is going to write a book with  the point Christian authors intend to do, when they write a novel for other believers, and even unbelievers. I wholehearted do not believe that a Christian should fall in love with an unbeliever (that is being unequally yoked, 2 Cor. 6:14). However, many Christian authors are writing that into their romantic stories, so I've just had to ignore that. In the mean time, I usually remember that the character will most likely be saved towards the middle or ending of the novel.

     Nope. It was the epilogue. I thought that was pretty disgraceful for Mrs. Turano.

     The dialogue of this book was very different. I think the conversations between fifty characters at a time was supposed to attribute to the comedic side of the book, but I was not laughing very frequently. I actually felt overwhelmed, trying to keep up with the characters. I also did not think that what many of the characters had to say was relevant, but some people may have found some of their comments amusing.

     With all that being said, and I hope I'm not being too harsh, I do want to say with a much more positive scope, that I have huge hope for Mrs. Turano. I was most aggravated while I was reading, because I knew that there is so much potential in her writing and that she can do so much better. She has great ideas, but I desire for a smarter way of going about them. Mrs. Turrano is funny and she is smart. I mean, who thinks of a man dealing with the guilt of murdering people and of once being a part of a major crime, ruining hundreds or thousands of lives--just by being a "small" part of an opium business-- while trying to keep a storyline comedic and different? You have to hand it to her. It was a unique idea. I hope to try one of her future books and I will continue reading up on reviews with her books.

     Overally, I rate this book 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

     I hope that this post was helpful and edifying.

Sincerely,
Maiden of Emmanuel

P.S. A Talent for Trouble was a given to me as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

December 2, 2013

True Joy~

It’s December and it’s official, Christmas is only 24 days away. So excited!
However, Christmas is not what I am posting about today…. sort of. I am so emotionally overwhelmed. Thanksgiving just passed and I have so much to be thankful for, especially afterthe holiday. Does that happen to you? You think of great things you can be thankful for after Thanksgiving?
That’s the way I should think everyday. And I know, you hear that from everybody, but it’s good to be reminded, right? In fact, when I had a very ungrateful attitude and my dad was teaching me a lesson, he made me read the book of Colossians 4 times in 3 days. And let me tell you, he made sure I knew what was in Colossians 3:14-17:
“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Read how many times it says to be thankful. Part of a godly heart is being continually grateful to the Lord. So I’m just giving a friendly reminder. However, I did not get on my computer to post about my Thanksgiving either.
This past week has been a whirlwind of so many emotions and happenings. I’ll start at the beginning.
Thanksgiving week came and went, and it was magical.
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I’m serious. Whimsical is another good description.
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These are photos of our church’s annual Thanksgiving Fellowship. For the first time, we held it in our backyard, an my mom and another church member, who both decorated, outdid themselves.
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What a fantastic time of fellowship; laughing, eating, photographing, talking, freezing (that’s a blessing, when it’s always so hot here!), and giving thanks. Normally, we have someone come up and give a testimony of thanks, and a man that has been attending our church with his family for about a year now, described our church like the one in Acts 17 (vs. 11-12, I believe). That was so encouraging.
The whole week was so great. Then last night there were a couple phone calls made–to us, and from us. My dad received some bad news, and I will not name it, but it was pretty heartbreaking. And right before Christmas too.
And it just made me think today, as I was sitting on a pew during service. We are to stand firm in the Lord. To encourage one another in the Lord. To rejoice in all things.  To reach out to the lost. To bear each other’s burdens. To endure trials. To pray. To always, always give thanks to the Lord. To live according to the gospel. To be witnesses.
Not all of those are happy things. I mean, in essence, they are all things that should be done in joy, but that joy doesn’t mean it’s always “say cheese, and everything is alright”. No, it’s an inner joy, that we receive when we are saved. When we know we are saved, we know that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. That is what brings us joy and peace.
Our hearts burst with an overwhelming love, too! Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’s birth, and Thanksgiving, a day designated to share our and hear others’ testimonies of what God has done in their lives, are reminders– good reminders–of what we need to do year round. There will be tragedy in some moments, and there will be happiness in other moments, but it should not keep us from doing what we are called to do.
True joy should not be a momentary thing. It should be everlasting.
On a couple holiday notes, because I absolutely love the holidays, one thing I will be definitely praying for is cold weather! I also wanted to express out loud, because I wasn’t given much of a platform during dinner, what I am thankful for. I’ll just name a few things:
  1. My youngest sister, who is a major ray of sunshine to us.
  2. My mom, who shows agape (selfless) and phileo (“brotherly”) love towards everyonearound her everyday. Such an example.
  3. And education
  4. My dad, for teaching and exhorting me through God’s word.
  5. All of my siblings, for loving me and keeping me accountable.
  6. And many more, but I promised only a few (;
I hope everyone is doing well, and if there are ANY prayer requests, please drop me a comment (or any other way, if you know me personally). I’d love to pray for you. Pray that I submit myself to all of God’s word.

November 27, 2013

Love's Awakening, by Laura Frantz~

 
     Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

     This month I read Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz. There were a few things I enjoyed about it, and there are a few things I was discouraged by. I was interested in and enjoyed this book for two reasons:

  1. I like the very unique way Laura Frantz writes, and
  2. I'm interested in the Underground Railroad and abolition.
  3. The redemption of a very lost and torn character.
    With that being said, I like the way she writes-- it's very unique, in a good way. You don't have pointless scenes, but there's a feeling of suspension that there's something more to what the characters are feeling and thinking. It is a little difficult to read on, when Mrs. Frantz keeps it up too much, but I do enjoy knowing that what I'm reading is not pointless. 
     I won't try to spoil the book for you, but I was very intrigued by a lantern that was a symbol of safety and new life. I was also intrigued by the plot's including a family of wealth and upstanding housing runaway slaves. Mrs. Frantz gave a little insight on how many abolitionists lived.
     Okay, my next point IS a SPOILER. So I will highlight this paragraph and if you want to read it, just highlight it for yourself:
     Jack Turlock, the hero of the book, was an illustration of a very lost soul. I loved how Laura Frantz also showed that God is the One who saves. Throughout most of the book, Jack was battling a spiritual war, and when he is at his end, God brings him out of the consuming darkness that unbelievers are blinded and wrapped in. I very much enjoyed seeing Jack's transformation, becoming a child of the Light.





Now, for my critiques of the book:
  1. I wanted more depth in the plot. Though the book was intriguing-- I felt like I was always on the shallow side of the pool. I wanted to read more on what abolitionists did and how they did it.
  2. I also believe that it is wrong for a believer and an unbeliever to be unequally yoked (to be married). "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:13-15. Now God forgives those who have sinned in that way, but it is a sin to be a believer and to marry an unbeliever.
  3. I think that the romance between Jack Turlock and Ellie Ballantyne was shallow. They barely interacted, but when they finally announce their feelings, it's this whirlwind passion-- and I just feel like that's all it was.

     So, I'm going to expound more on number 3. And this is more of a general critique for the author, Laura Frantz. This has been a concern of mine for a while, because it's been a recurring problem in a few of her books. The passion she integrates with her characters is so sudden that sometimes it just seems to be lustful. In this book, Jack and Ellie didn't even know each other as friends. They were merely acquaintances, getting to know each other, as well as attracted to each other (which is natural), but all of a sudden her characters are brought alone together and they express their feelings and then it becomes this very passionate scene. (Yes, I know I just wrote a run-on sentence. I tend to do that when I'm excited about a subject...). Jack and Ellie were developing feelings-- but, even if a couple is developing feelings towards each other, I have never heard or seen of a romance that is so passionate so fast, except for the lustful kind. I don't know whether to call Jack and Ellie's love a great infatuation, or actual love. Ellie only knew Jack by the traits he expressed-- which were mostly negative-- and by what Jack's little sister told her. She rarely ever talked to Jack, and when she did, it wasn't very deep.
     I've read most of Laura Frantz' other books, and I've found that she has a tendency to just put all this passion into a romance that you've barely seen blossom (there are only a couple exceptions in some of her books). I have to ask myself, is it because of the way Laura Frantz writes? I know you're thinking, "You just told us that you like the way she writes!" And I do. However, I do believe that developing a friendship (at least a budding one) to a blossoming romance is very important. Those are not pointless scenes, and I feel as if she held back with those romantic scenes with shallow ones, when Ellie thinks something, such as, "Wow. I finally realize that I am in love with Jack and can never marry anyone else."
     Overall, those are really my only main critiques. The book was a bit boring in places. I know Laura Frantz can do better, because I've read her better stories. However, I enjoyed the plot of the book, and hope that she writes more on themes regarding abolition. In summary, this book was an okay, yet intriguing read. I don't know if I'll ever come back to it in several years, but I may come back to it eventually. I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

I received Love's Awakening as an advanced readers copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I do not own this book.

Sincerely,
Maiden of Emmanuel

October 30, 2013

Andrea | "...Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Romans 12:1-2

Romans 12:1-2 Is the passage I would describe my beautiful cousin.  She has made a complete turn-around in her life after surrendering herself to the will of the Father.  She has a mind set to be transformed, not conformed, and is striving to be a living and holy sacrifice to the Lord.  I am so thankful for the example she has shown me.

I had the complete honor of shooting her photos the other day, and after being patient with me, I've had the opportunity to share her inward and outward beauty with you.

Andrea.

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And because I love everything about her laugh, I had to post at least two more of her cracking up at my gemela (twin), Care, who was my reflector that day. :)

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We had such an adventure finding these groves of trees. We called a friend, eyed every green open space we saw and then finally slammed on our breaks and found this beautiful area.

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As we prepared to leave, we passed a field with a gorgeous sunset. Andrea pulled over, we scrambled out of the car and jogged (as much jogging as Andrea's wedges would allow, at least) onto the pathway. The sun was going down pretty fast, but we had some fun!DSC_0559-1

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This day is definitely on my top ten favorite days, and I will never forget it.

October 15, 2013

"A living sacrifice, no longer my own."



When I came back from my missions trip in Honduras my perspective on life and how to approach many things changed drastically. I wanted, and still want, to glorify God in all that I do. Yet, the Lord knew I was so stuck on a lot of my ways. I thought I had my whole school year figured out. I "knew for sure" I was going to do so many things. What's ironic is that even though I know I'm not in control, I get this idea that the Lord will give me all the things I desire and plan for, even if I know it's not to His utmost glorification.




And that's when He changes things up, isn't it? This month is completely different from what I had planned it to be, yet the Lord has blessed me greatly. I've found this month--dare I say it?-- quite "uncomfortable", which is good. The Lord is teaching me so many things and working on kinks that I've been struggling with, such as committing to deadlines, Human Anatomy, and getting out of my comfort zone by experiencing new things all by myself. I'm so grateful.





I also have gotten to experience some wonderful, comfortable things, such as watching the sunrise on mini road-trips with my dad every Thursday, developing better relationships with family at home and at church, and practicing my photo-editing.

There will be more days of rest, there will also be more days of business, but it's all for His glory. The sun comes up for His glory, and the moon reflects the sun for His glory.




My prayer is this, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Romans 12:1. (NASB)
"Take these hands
I know they're empty
But with You they can
Be used for beauty
In Your perfect plan
All I am is Yours
Take these feet
I know they stumble
But You use the weak
You use the humble
So please use me
All I am is Yours
I give You all my life
I'm letting it go
A living sacrifice
No longer my own
All I am is Yours
All I am is Yours
Take this heart
Set it on fire
Shining in the dark
I wanna tell the world of who You are
All I am is Yours
I give You all my life
I'm letting it go
A living sacrifice
No longer my own
All I am is Yours
All I am is Yours
I give You everything
To You I belong
Every beat of my heart
The breath in my lungs
All I am is Yours
All I am is Yours
I lift my hands up
God I surrender
All that I am for Your glory, Your honor, Your fame..."
~ All I Am, by Phil Wickham

September 24, 2013

Review of The Miner's Lady



   When Chantel Panetta’s younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope. The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families. Yet, unable to resist Isabella’s pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando…only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando’s brother. The older, more handsome one.

   Chantel can’t deny the attraction that flares when she’s with Dante. But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel’s hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?

   Let me start with this: if you like a cutesy, predictable love story with a good message, The Miner’s Lady is your kind of book. I started the series and have hoped to finish it, but, to be honest, if the anymore of her books are like The Miner’s Lady, I’ll already have read it because these last two have been pretty much the same story. Girl meets boy, boy is frustrated with her, boy doesn’t want to give her a chance, boy and girl “unconsciously” fall in love with each other, have a huge kiss, still don’t realize it…Wait for it…Wait for it……. then they kiss again and finally realize it. Wow. I thought they’d never figure it out! Let me just say, this book seemed to be a bit weak. It was weak in the plot and a bit weak in the some of the characters.

   However, to lay and balance it all out, I’ll give you the book’s strong and weak points.

Strong points:
  •      I enjoyed the heroine’s character. Chantel was contemplative and strived to do what was right.
  •      The Calarco boys’ grandmother was a very strong character and I liked her.
  •      The message was good — there should be no favoritism and prejudice against thy neighbors. “36 ’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…’” Matthew 22:36-37.
Weak points:
  • The hero, Orlando, was weak. His only strength seemed to be his physical side.
  • I just didn’t enjoy the plot. It wasn’t just about the Orlando and Chantel falling in love, and their siblings falling in love also. The book had a side plot that involved Chantel’s brother getting involved with the wrong crowd, which personally bored me. I felt like I was 13 years old again while I was reading.
  • I also did not agree with the fact that Tracie named a character “Father Buh”. It wasn’t the name “Buh” that bothered me, it was the “Father” part. “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Matthew 23:8-9. I believe it is wrong to call a leader in the church “Father” because of this passage. I couldn’t even tell if Tracie was supporting Catholicism or not, but I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a Christian Catholic either, for that matter.
   When I began to read Tracie’s books (starting with Striking a Match series) I fell in love with the depth of the message and the lovable characters. I will still continue to read her books, especially the ones she has coauthored with Judith Miller, but I was disappointed with this book. Overall, I give this book three stars out of five.

   This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

August 16, 2013

Enjoying the little things...

This summer I took a trip to Honduras, which I will be posting about soon. Every time I go to Honduras it changes my life. This year it taught me many things, such as:

>> Enjoy the little things in life. The many "little" blessings we receive from our Heavenly Father who loves us dearly.

>> Serving people means serving Christ, so do it wholeheartedly and to the best of your capabilities.

>>Love is a verb, not a feeling. Which leads to...

>>Christ calls us to love everybody, even the one's who are not like us or are hard to love.

>> "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fear the Lord, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30 <3 p="">
Yesterday I received a package from my lovely friend Bryce (who has a great blog called http://christianbryce.wordpress.com/"> The Little Things
). She sent my tea and letters, which was perfect to brighten up my day. The Lord knew exactly what I needed and ordained a time for Bryce to think of me, which is so sweet, to write me, which is even more sweet, and to send me things I like, which is super sweet--literally.
The Father is the sweetest.

Just enjoying the little big blessings...

August 5, 2013

The Gospel

     Most of you will look at this note and smile, some of you will be convicted, and a small amount will frown because of their sinful nature and hardened hearts. I pray the majority who read this will be convicted and surrender their wills to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospel.

I will start with the fact that:  The Bible is the Word of God.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 2 Timothy 3:16.
 
“For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21.

The Bible is completely inerrant and nothing is able to add on to it.

     Another fact is:  God is perfect.

“And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5.
 
“For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! ‘The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.’” Deuteronomy 32:3-4.

     He is all-powerful, He is the Light; He is holy and without sin (1 John 3:5); He loves and He is just. All of these just touch on the surface of who He is. We are sinners.

     “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
We have sinned, disobeyed and rebelled against God’s Holy law, and therefore we deserve death.
 
     “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
We cannot be right with God if He is perfect and we are sinners.
 
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;” Psalm 45:7.
He can’t stand wickedness, and that’s human nature. We are born wicked. We’re unable to even work for our salvation.

“They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:3.
Sin comes out of everything we do. We’re unable to be righteous by our own ways. But before we lose all hope, we are given one awesome, loving, just, fantastic, gracious offer.
 
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
 
Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." Titus 2:14.
The Father sent His Son! The only way for the Father to act just and save our lives was through the blood of Christ. The Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay our penalty and forgive us.

     In order to receive eternal life, though, we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our only Savior and the Son of God. God wants to draw us near to Him, but you must surrender yourself to Him. It’s now a matter of your choice between eternal blissful life or excruciating death. Do not turn away from a loving Creator to your own proud, sinful ideas because you’re not God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10.