Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Daring To Hope Review: Mixed Feelings



If you haven't heard of Katie Davis Majors, she is a young missionary who went to Uganda when she was 18, ended up staying and starting a ministry, and adopted 13 girls.  I remember reading her first book way back when I was first married.  I don't remember that much about it, but I remember flying through it and being inspired by Katie's devotion to serving the Lord.  So I obviously wanted to pick up her second book that came out this year.

I had mixed feelings about this one.  There were things I liked, and things I didn't.

Things I Liked

First, let me just say, it took me forever to finish this book because for the first half, nearly every chapter left me in a puddle of tears.  Katie picks up the book by telling of her life in a house with her 13 adopted daughters, and how they came to open up their home to people who were injured, dying, or just trying to get on their feet.  The rest of the book is her story of her own struggle to trust in God's goodness while living and personally witnessing so much suffering under her own roof.  It took a lot of vulnerability for her to discuss her doubts in a book like this, and she always comes back to the right conclusions - that God is sovereign, He is good, and even when people are not healed and there are no happy endings, He is working all of it out for the good of those who love Him, and for His own glory.  I think this book could certainly be encouraging to anyone who is struggling with similar suffering or doubts.  It was inspiring to read Katie's thoughts on this subject.

What I Didn't Love

Throughout this book Katie not only shares stories from her life, but she delves into different Bible accounts and relates them back to her own life, and she almost seems to allegorize the biblical accounts in the process.  I'm just not sure I like that - sometimes it worked, and sometimes it sat wrong.  She takes certain biblical passages that were meant for a certain people group at a certain time, and applies them to herself, so the hermeneutics here are questionable.  It also bothered me that her writing in this book is similar to Voskamp's (who also wrote the foreword) in that it sometimes sacrifices clarity for poetry.

Another thing she does frequently is speak about Jesus as if He were standing next to her, whispering in her ear, and she uses phrases like "I heard God say..." followed by a quote.  I don't like it when Christian authors do this.  1) Even if you are intending to use this in a non-literal sense, when you say you heard God speak...well, it sounds like you are saying you heard Him audibly speak those exact words to you.  I assumed Katie was speaking metaphorically, but I think it's a serious thing to claim to be speaking for God (which is what you are doing when you "quote" Him extra biblically), and I think Christians in general should take this a little more seriously.  2) The thing is, God HAS spoken to us, through Scripture, which should be sufficient for us.  I don't like to see authors putting words in God's mouth.

Finally, there were a few cringe-y moments for me when Katie said things like "In the darkest night, I was having a love affair with Jesus" (pg. 121), "I had all but given up on any notion of romantic love in my life outside of my relationship with Jesus" (pg. 164).  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Jesus is God, the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the Universe - JESUS IS NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND.  Yes, we are the COLLECTIVE, figurative bride of Christ, but to reduce His love for us individually to romantic terms is to diminish the greatness of the fact that God Himself chose to love us and die for us.  His love is so much bigger and grander than the "Jesus is my boyfriend" love that Christian women authors often portray.  It's just weird, and I wish Christian women would stop doing it.

There were a couple other little things, but I'll just stop there.

Conclusion

Overall, I liked reading a little more of Katie's story, but her story was definitely buried beneath her own analyzing of biblical accounts and musings on her struggles.  I think reading about her struggles and conclusions could be encouraging for a lot of Christians, so there is value in that.  However, I'd just say to read with your discernment antenna up. This book is mostly grounded in her personal experiences, which like anyone's experiences, are fallible.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

On Decorating With Photos


(This new metal print is so cool!  Thanks to Artsy Couture for sending me a metal photo print to review.)

Do you ever wonder if it's narcissistic that we decorate our houses with pictures of ourselves?

A few years ago I heard someone mention how it could be narcissistic to decorate with photos of yourself, and for a long time I wondered if maybe that was true.  I can certainly see how decorating with photos could become narcissistic, like those movie characters who live alone and have a huge canvas of themselves adorning the wall above the couch.  But still, I don't buy that decorating with photos has to be a narcissistic thing.

I've put more thought into it, and even read about it in recent years, and I personally think there are a few good reasons to decorate with photos of your own family.  This is what I think:

1.  Decorating with photos adds to a feeling of solidarity between family members.

I think about decorating with photos differently now that I have kids of my own.  I think that for kids, seeing pictures of themselves with their family on the wall reminds them that they aren't alone - they are part of a bigger unit, a family, and that means something.  They play an integral role in a family, they are woven through the collective family memories that photos represent.  They can look at the walls and visually see their place in the family. In my opinion, that can't help but add some security, knowing your place in the world by being able to see it on the walls.

2.  Photos are memories.

I went to my parents house for the 4th of July, and my sister and I stood looking at an old vacation photo from when we went river rafting.  I mentioned something specific that I remembered about that day, and she mentioned something she remembered, and there we were bonding over a shared memory because of a photo on my parents' wall. I'm the type of person who doesn't really remember things until I see a photo - and then a whole cascade of memories floods in.  Not everyone is like this, certain personality types are much better at remembering and honoring the past in their hearts without any external reminders, but personally, I need the photos around me to remind me.

3. Photos can be modern "remembrance stones".

Remember how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, and God told them to stack twelve stones from the river bed?  When their children asked about the stones, they could tell them of the Lord's faithfulness to Israel.  Well, to me, photos on my walls are something like a modern equivalent to that.  I want to work on this more in my home, by putting photos on the wall that are not only the perfect family photos, but photos that I can point to and say "Remember when God did that?"  He has been faithful to our family in many ways, and I want the photos on my wall to not just serve as an anchor for bonding and memories in my family, but also a way to point back to God's faithfulness.

Now, on to some practical things...

What is your favorite way to decorate with photos in your house?

Personally, I am constantly changing it up.

-I have small, square prints on a bulletin board above Derek's desk.  
-We have a wall collage of canvas prints.  Two of the pictures are of Derek and me from our 5th anniversary (they probably need updating since we just hit our 10th!), and there are smaller canvas prints of each of the kids' newborn pictures.
-I had pictures hanging along our stairwell, but I recently took those down because I want to re-do that wall.  I'll update when I figure it out.
-A metal print on my piano-top (which is basically my version of a mantel display, since I don't have a mantel).

The metal print is the newest addition to my photo decor - Artsy Couture recently asked if I'd like to check out one of their products and sent me this gorgeous metal print!  In case you haven't heard of metal prints, the photo is actually printed on a thin sheet of aluminum.  The colors are supposed to be brighter and sharper in printing with this method.



I ended up picking a beach photo from our vacation that I knew was not perfectly focused, but I was so impressed when the print came at how crisp it was anyway!  The colors really are gorgeous and vibrant, and it kind of has a certain glow about it that I am assuming is an effect of printing on aluminum.  I love the way it turned out, and it looks just as good as I thought it would on my piano-mantel.






Bonuses to printing on aluminum: it doesn't get retain dirt like textured canvas might, and there is no glass to break if it falls!

I poked around on the Artsy Couture website and they have a ton of options - not just for metal prints, but canvases, wood prints, traditional prints, cards, photo books, etc.  They also happen to be having a sale on large prints that ends tomorrow, so if you are interested, hop on over there and check it out!

What do you think?  Do you decorate with photos or not?  What are your reasons, if you have any?

936 Pennies Review - Recommended!



I somehow found Erin Lynum on Twitter a few years ago, and I specifically remember clicking through to her blog and reading her post about receiving a jar of 936 pennies as she dedicated her baby at her church.  The 936 pennies represented the weeks she would have with her baby from birth until their 18th birthday.  In that post she challenged moms to make sure they were spending their 936 pennies well.  That idea stuck with me, so when I saw this book, I knew exactly who had written it and I snagged it!

I would classify 936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting as memoir/encouragement for moms.  Erin shares a lot of her own mothering journey and ways she has learned to "spend her pennies well" over the years.  She doesn't get preachy or tell you what you "should" do, but instead presents her personal experiences as an encouragement and challenge to parent intentionally, with the passing of time in the forefront of our minds.  Her kids are about the same age or perhaps slightly younger than mine, so while there were certain sections that I no longer struggle with as much, I could deeply relate to 95% of the book.

There were a couple little quibbles I had here and there with how she worded certain things, but I can definitely say this book is solid doctrinally and is thoroughly grounded by biblical truth and the gospel.  She doesn't just focus on superficial suggestions to make our days smoother or more fun, but she digs down deep into what it means to parent our children with not just 936 pennies but eternity in mind.  I especially enjoyed the chapters toward the end about memory-making and keeping (something I spent some time writing about last fall), and about how we can gain some time back by using technology well.

I highly, highly recommend this book!  I found myself so encouraged to invest in my kids and put some of my own strategies in place to use my time with them in a way that will matter for eternity.  I also think this would make an excellent baby shower or first birthday party gift, along with a jar of 936 pennies, of course.  If you are a mom, check this one out!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

A Book On Prayer You Should Read

(Affiliate link below.)


Prayer is not something that comes naturally to me. I constantly struggle to fit in dedicated time for prayer, and then once I have it, I struggle to make my prayer time really meaningful. Any time I have a chance to read a book on prayer that I think will be actually helpful, I snag it.

The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down by R. Albert Mohler Jr. is a book that focuses on the Lord's prayer, and specifically why this prayer was so radical in Jesus's time (and now as well!). Mohler takes each line of Jesus's prayer in Matthew, and explains it in detail, including the theological truths that Jesus was communicating through each line.   I honestly never thought about the actual theology communicated through the Lord's prayer, even though I've had it memorized since I was a child. 

I found this book not only fascinating, but also very practical when it comes to figuring out WHAT to pray. So often I get stuck in praying about things that feel trivial, and then not really knowing what else to say. The Lord's prayer is a wonderful basis for directing us to the things we truly should be praying for, and this book really inspires you to actually spend time praying about the things that Jesus told the disciples to pray.  After each chapter I found myself closing my eyes and taking a minute to apply what I was learning. 

This is a book that I'll refer back to again and again - I already have so many passages highlighted that I want to go back to now that I've read the whole thing! Highly, highly recommend if you find yourself stagnating in your prayer life.  I think it will inspire you to focus your prayers on things that will last, obeying Jesus's example and honoring God in the process.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review. This is my honest opinion.


What I Read In March | 2018



Now that we're halfway through April - let's talk about what I read in March!  If you follow me on Goodreads, you have probably already seen a bunch of these.  Prepare yourself for one very unpopular opinion.






Books I Mentioned:

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle
Chronicles Of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
When Is It Right To Die? by Joni Eareckson Tada
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
What Came From The Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Answers For Homeschooling by Israel Wayne
The Reformation by Stephen J. Nichols
Anne Of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Emily Of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

What are you reading these days?


When Is It Right To Die Review - Highly Recommend



(Affiliate link below.)

I live in a state with legalized assisted suicide, so when I saw When Is It Right To Die? by Joni Eareckson Tada up for review I thought it would be a really helpful read. I knew Joni Eareckson Tada is a voice on these subjects that I would truly respect, and I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say.


If you are interested in thinking on the subject of assisted suicide and other end-of-life decisions from a Christian perspective, I HIGHLY recommend this book. This book addresses not only those who might be considering assisted suicide, but those, like me, who are wanting to look at this subject in a God-honoring way.

Joni not only doesn’t preach in this book, but she presents a truly compassionate look at these subjects while remaining uncompromising. She addresses those who may be facing suffering or death with compassion and a challenge to use every day to God’s glory, and she addresses those around these people to consider the situation with compassion and biblical truth. She speaks from personal experience on both sides of these circumstances, and I don’t think you will find a more well-balanced Christian approach to end-of-life decisions than in this book.

As someone who is strongly against assisted suicide, I especially appreciated this book because it made me look at the whole subject with more compassion. Joni challenges you to think about the real people who are facing suffering and death, to put yourself in their shoes, to imagine yourself as their friend, and to consider how you would handle these things in a Christ-honoring way.

I also personally found some of her distinctions in the last section interesting as she addressed end-of-life decisions, and she made me realize I really should sit down and write an Advance Health Care Directive. Even though I’m healthy and don’t expect to die soon, you just never know. People get in care accidents every day, and it’s important to think about the potential healthcare decisions that could be made and how to approach these things in a way that glorifies God, should a difficult ending be part of my story.

I highly recommend this book for every Christian to read. It’s not a happy subject, it’s not one that’s “fun" to read about, but I think it’s important to think about these things from a biblical perspective - both for the sake of those who may be facing these kind of issues, and for ourselves should we, God forbid, face them ourselves on day.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

What I've Been Reading! January And February Books



Last year I had full intentions of doing a recap of the books I've been reading each month.  I had the same intentions this year.  You know what they say about good intentions...

But nevertheless, I decided to just squeeze in book updates where I can this year, and I wanted to try something a little different by doing a vlog instead!  Here is the first installment:



Books I mentioned in this video:

(affiliate links below) 

Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach Hello Mornings by Kat Lee Love And First Sight by Josh Sundquist Murder On The Links by Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen I See You by Clare Mackintosh Castle Of Water by Dane Hucklebridge The Discipline Of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies
The Lost Art Of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson
I mentioned getting a book recommendation from a blog friend, and that would be Rachel at A Country Vicar's Wife. Hop over to her blog and say hi!

Also, you can follow me on Goodreads here if you want to be in the know before I put these videos together.

What have you all read so far this year? Have you read any of these?


18 Books I Would Recommend From My 2017 Shelf



At the end of December, or the first week of January at the latest, everyone posts their favorite books from 2017.  But the fact that I'm posting mine now, solidly in the middle of January, just means that it will stand out more, right?  I'm going to pretend the late date of this post was done purposefully for this reason!  Aren't I so smart?

This last year was a pretty good reading year for me, overall.  I didn't read too many duds, and I have a fairly substantial list of books I think were well worth my time, and yours!  Let's just get started, because this will be a long post.  

The non-fiction list is much longer than the fiction list.  I'm hoping to read more end-of-year-post worthy fiction in 2018.  Click on the links to read my more extensive reviews on Goodreads (including content warnings where applicable).

Non-Fiction

Strange Fire: The Danger Of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur

I had been reading this book through 2016, and finally finished it in 2017.  This book is basically a critique of the modern charismatic movement, particularly the branches that are theologically and biblically unsound (I'm not saying everyone who labels themselves "charismatic" would fall in this group, but it is worth a careful evaluation).  I think MacArthur comes off a bit harsh at times, but I couldn't disagree with anything he said, and I think there is definitely reason for concern about the charismatic movement.  Worth a read because we all should have our eyes open on these issues.


I listened to this as an audiobook, and I regretted not buying a paper copy because I would have been highlighting all over the place!  I love how Wilkin walks us through different pitfalls to avoid in studying the Bible and outlines a sound method for Bible study.  The paperback is definitely on my list to buy, so next time I can go through it with highlighter in hand.


I wish this book was a little more focused so I could give a better summary of it here, but I guess I'll just say that it addresses problems with women's ministries and the way women are often viewed in church, all mixed in with a call to discernment.  It got five stars from me specifically because of the challenge to discernment, and it made me realize the areas that I have been a little lazy with discernment.


One of my more intellectual reads of the year, this book series presents different world religions and what they believe, but does it from a biblical perspective.  It presents Christianity, how these different religions differ from the Christian belief system, and how to witness to people who may be involved in these different religions.  I'm collecting this whole series for my own information, and also to use as a religion/apologetics study for my kids when they reach high school.


This book tackles some tough topics surrounding gender, but I thought it was biblically grounded and really deep.  It gave me so much to think about, and I particularly found the chapter on motherhood to be encouraging.


One of those books that made me want to say "THANK YOU!" throughout, but it also made me think about many of these stories from the Bible in a different way.  Very grounded in a proper interpretation of Scripture, and I thought his tips for avoiding misinterpreting Scripture were right on.



The information in this book was based on a survey of adults who went to church as a child but no longer do, and it was completely fascinating.  Lots of solid information here that parents can apply to training their children, picking a church, etc.  It also may have you thinking about ways you may have compromised God's word, and how that might be affecting your kids.  A great, and possibly convicting, read.


A pleasant reading surprise, this book talks about the biblical view of work, and how our work in the home (which often seems mundane) brings glory to God.  I wished I had read this a year earlier when I was struggling with no longer working outside the home!  I listened to the audiobook and will probably be listening to it again.


One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read more about the Cold War.  I got distracted by the whole having-a-baby thing and didn't read as much as I wanted to on this subject, but I did read this book and it sucked me in!  A narrative non-fiction from a former KGB spy.  It was fascinating to read about the process of becoming a spy, and I loved that it ended with his testimony of coming to Christ.  Great read!


This was another one of my pleasant surprises of the year.  I had never heard about this author, and was unsure of this book, but it was excellent!  A solid look at the history of the Bible, why we can trust the it is the Word of God, and lots of great Bible Study tips!  I'll be reading this one again.


I didn't agree with every point in this book, but overall I found Merkle's message really encouraging! I love the idea that we as women could do so much more with our work in the home if we would just throw ourselves into it, instead of pining after the same roles as men.  And Merkle has quite a high view of women and their abilities that is evident in this book, so don't get your hackles up before you give it a read.  I'll probably be coming back to this one.


This was a really fascinating look at the feminist movement and some of the consequences that we are just starting to see now.  This made an interesting companion read to Eve In Exile because it looked at feminism from a slightly different perspective.  Of course I liked both of these books because I am decidedly not a feminist in the modern sense, so if you consider yourself a feminist, prepare to be challenged (and probably offended).  Just warning you now.



Fiction

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

This one was difficult to read because of emotional reasons, and it had some content issues, but I don't know, I thought it was worth mentioning here.  The story follows an autistic girl in the foster system, and her struggles to find her "forever home".  Sweet and suspenseful, sad, but the ending was hopeful and I liked that.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

Have you ever watched "The Wonder Years"?  This book reminded me of that show, except I like this book better!  Holling Hoodhood finds himself stuck in class alone on Wednesday afternoons with a teacher who doesn't seem to like him, but we get to see how his studies and activities on those Wednesday afternoons help him grow up over the course of the year.  I loved this book so much I went right out and grabbed the companion book, Okay For Now.

Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt

I loved this book too!  Similar in type to The Wednesday Wars, this one follows Holling's friend Doug as he moves to a new town.  Doug stumbles upon the library and an original volume from Audubon, and between learning to draw the birds and his friendship with the girl he met in front of the library, he starts to make the most of his less than ideal circumstances.  The ending of this one seemed just right to me, happy, but a little bittersweet too.


This one was purely for fun!  Some content issues, but a funny and happy read.  The main character goes to "Austenland", a resort that puts it's guests into the world of Jane Austen.  I don't think I really need to say more than that.  I also liked the sequel, Midnight In Austenland which was more of a mystery.  Both of these would be fun summer reads!

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Have you seen the movie?  The book is basically the same as the movie, and I loved them both!  I'm a sucker for a good coming of age story.  

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My first Kate Morton, and basically the best novel I read all year!  (Well, maybe tied with The Wednesday Wars/Okay For Now.)  The main character saw her mother kill a man when she was a teenager, and the story follows her investigation to figure out what really happened that day.  This book will surprise you!  I loved it.

All of these books are ones I would recommend to a friend!  But now, friends, what would you recommend to me? What should I add to my reading list in 2018?  

What were your favorites from last year?



Hello Mornings Book Review - Well, Rats



2.5/5 stars

So, this book did not make a great first impression on me.  Here we go.

Negatives

My main issue with this book is that I felt from the very first chapter the gospel was presented very weakly, or even misrepresented because of ommission of the key points of the gospel.  Kat Lee opens the book with this explanation:

“Friends, I don’t know where you are in your journey with God.  I don’t know how many times you’ve tried to spend time with Him or read the Word or prayed and felt as if you failed.  But I do know that He does not merely stand at the finish line awaiting your triumphant victory.  Our loving God, our faithful Father, is fighting to come alongside you in the journey.  To push past all the discouragements and distractions.  To speak words of love, hope, and courage over you. To wrap His arms around you and finish the race with you.  Because of Jesus, God does not require our perfection; He wants a relationship with us.”

This is all good and fine if she is speaking exclusively to fellow Christians, but I fear that for the many non-Christians that may be reading this book, she leaves out any real explanation of the gospel here.  I kept looking for a fuller explanation, and Lee never got there.  The truth is that God does require our perfection, but we are wholly unable to attain perfection, and that is why Jesus came - to cover our filthy sin with His perfect righteousness when we quit trying to save ourselves and put our trust in Him.  That is why we who trust in Jesus no longer have to worry about perfection and can have a relationship with God.  To me, she really missed the boat on explaining that here.  

It didn’t help when later in the chapter she mentioned that some women reading this book may have had a great life and "wish they felt like they needed Jesus a little more".  If a Christian is feeling that way I’m not sure they really understand the weight of their sin.  Even if we haven’t had a single difficult thing to deal with in our entire lives, we are still in desperate need of Jesus because of our sin!  We can't be righteous enough to be in a right relationship with God on our own.  This is the problem Jesus came to solve!  He didn’t come mainly to help us through the difficult seasons of life or to overcome our feelings of a lack of purpose, and I am afraid the way Lee presented things in this chapter gave the impression that this is all we need Jesus for. 

Positives

Once I got past this frustration in the first couple chapters, I thought Lee had a lot of good things to say about developing a morning routine.  I definitely appreciated her tips about how to develop habits effectively.  She gives a lot of ideas for different habit-forming methods and how you can apply them to developing morning routine.

The Hello Mornings method focuses on three areas for a morning routine - time with the Lord, time to plan the day, and a jumpstart for making physically healthy choices during the day.  I thought this was a thoughtful way to focus a morning routine in a short amount of time.  She encourages developing a three-minute morning routine with these three things.  While that sounds like it wouldn't be enough time, I liked the idea of having an "anchor" habit so that whether I have only those three minutes or a much longer stretch of time, I can start the day off right.

I also really appreciated how Lee focuses on the "why" of developing a morning routine, which is to serve the Lord better through focusing on Him first thing, making a plan to be effective for Him that day, and developing healthy habits so we have enough energy to serve the Lord well.  The section at the back of the book where Lee includes different ideas for Bible study time was also a great thing to include, and I thought these suggestions were really solid.  

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that I'm a little bummed about this book.  This would have been a higher-star-rating for me if it wasn't for my frustrations about the way she didn't explain the gospel.  

While I can understand that she was mainly writing this book for Christian women, I don't think any Christian author should assume their readers already know the gospel, especially when it's a book about a subject that would be of interest to non-believers as well.  I thought that because she didn't explain the gospel it gave the impression that she was saying that if you just "spend time with God" each day, you're good to go.  That's just not the case.  We need to trust in Jesus's sacrifice for us on the cross and His righteousness to save us from our sins and an eternity in Hell.  Only when we understand that, and stop relying on our own works to save us, can we have a relationship with Him and look forward to eternal life.  That piece was missing from this book, so I wouldn't recommend it to someone who I didn't feel was a solid believer already.  So that was a bummer.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Why I Didn't Rebel Book Review - Meh





It was sheer curiosity that prompted me to pick up Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach. The subtitle states that the book is written by a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager and I was also a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager, so I wanted to see if our experiences were similar.


I thought the author presented some interesting reminders in this book. I could relate to a lot of the points she made because a lot of the things that she experienced in her family were things my parents also did.  I think this book may offer some value in helping parents to start thinking about how they can aid of their children in not rebelling (or how they may inadvertently push them toward rebellion). So many of her points had to do with building a strong family unit through communication, traditions, and a family identity, and I thought she had great things to say on these subjects (though her "evidence" is almost purely anecdotal).

However, there were some areas where I felt that the author's lack of experience on the parenting side started to show. I am a millennial who is a little further down this road because I have children of my own now. Coming at this as a parent of young children, I felt that some topics that she tried to cover can be a bit more complicated than she made them out to be. A good example is the chapter on discipline. Entire books have been written on the topic of discipline from many different perspectives, including different strategies than the ones she presented in this book. I felt that she oversimplified that whole topic and didn't take into account viewpoints that were different than her own.  I was also surprised that she didn't mention any biblical principals in this chapter, because God obviously has something to say in the matter of how to train children. The only mention of Scripture here was an expert's opinion on why he thinks the Bible doesn't advise spanking (which people obviously also have a lot of opinions on, but only one side was presented). A huge opportunity was missed here to make this whole book more biblically grounded, so I found that disappointing.

(It also irked me when she stated her opinion that it was better not to focus on what are right and wrong decisions when talking to teens, but rather what is "smart or dumb". Why can't we include both? I think it is more effective to include both angles, so I disagreed with her here.)

The further I got into this book, the more something started to bug me.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it until the last chapter, and I think it boiled down to two things.  First, I felt that the way she presented her points in this book came off very formulaic, as if doing certain things would almost guarantee that your kids wouldn't "rebel".  And while I thought a lot of her advice was good, I finally figured out why her approach was bugging me - it's because overall, this book felt very weak to me on the Gospel.  The author mentions "authentic" Christianity, and even repentance or forgiveness of "mistakes", but it is never tied together into a full picture - that ALL children are naturally rebellious against God.  That's called sin.  And in order to not rebel against us, they first need to stop rebelling against God, turn from their sin, and believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness to cover the debt of their sins that they cannot pay.  

If our children aren't first truly saved, it doesn't matter one wit if they don't "rebel" in the traditional sense - they are still lost in their sins, and that is the most serious rebellion of all.  I thought the author was perhaps trying to communicate that with her "authentic Christianity" talk, but it sounded like a bunch of buzz words, and to me, she failed to communicate what should be the main point for Christian parents, which is communicating the Gospel effectively to our children in every way we can, in word and deed. 

So overall, I don't know, maybe I'm being a little hard on this book, but something didn't sit right. I won't be recommending this book.  I feel there are more complete resources for Christian parents out there.

(If you are looking for a more biblically grounded book about raising children, including preventing rebellion and teaching them how to trust Jesus as their Savior, I highly recommend John MacArthur's Successful Christian Parenting.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Everyday Watercolor Review - Highly Recommend




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This fall, before I had Georgie, I decided to try to get better at watercolor painting.  I have dabbled in it for a couple years, but I haven't been consistent about practicing at all.  I love the look of watercolor and it's one of those things that I know I need to practice more consistently in order to get better.  I signed up for an online class this fall, and I snagged Everyday Watercolor by Jenna Rainey as soon as I saw it!

This book is a thorough introduction to modern watercolor painting.  Rainey explains her choice of supplies and color theory in the introduction, and then she jumps right into 30 days worth of watercolor projects designed to help you develop your own painting skills.  I loved that Rainey didn't just tell you how to paint each project, but she really explains the reasoning behind the different techniques that she uses so you can take them and apply them to different subjects.

The book is also just gorgeous to look at.






I really appreciated how Rainey guides the reader into thinking about the shapes of the subjects and how the light should fall, and I am excited to practice.  I love Rainey's style of painting, and this book is perfect if you would like to learn to paint in a similar style.  After reading this book I feel like learning to pain in watercolors is that much more attainable. 

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to read this until after Georgie was born, and I haven't been able to actually sit down with paint between adjusting to five kiddos!  But one of my goals for the new year will be to get back into practicing, and I'm excited to work through all the projects in this book.  I'll hopefully share some of the projects in 2018 - my goal is at least one a week!  Highly recommend if you are interested in the watercolor medium.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Austen Escape Review



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I've only read one other book by Katherine Reay (Dear Mr. Knightly), and I really enjoyed it, so I was excited for the opportunity to read another one of her books for review!  Though the publisher is Christian, I wouldn't say Reay's novels are Christian or even religious at all - but they are clean, sweet stories, usually with a little romance thrown in.

The Austen Escape is about an electrical engineer, Mary, who has a crush on a consultant at work, Nathan.  She also has a tumultuous relationship with her childhood best friend, Isabel, but Mary ends up going with her to England anyway for an Austen-era experience at a house in Bath.  While they are there, Isabel has a nervous breakdown and thinks she is actually living in the early 1800's, and Nathan shows up to help Mary.  

I would say I enjoyed this book, but I thought it could have been stronger.  While in Bath, Mary works through a lot of her own internal feelings about the way Isabel treats her, but I felt the ending left a lot of things unresolved.  Isabel has a moment of repentance at the end of the story for the way she treats people, but it didn't really feel like she and Mary were fully reconciled.  Through the story we also learn that Mary had emotional problems connecting with her mother growing up, and while I suppose knowing this about Mary added some depth to her character, I didn't really see how that struggle added to the story since there was no realization related to this in the end aside from a brief conversation with her father.

I also felt like the main character was a little hard for me to personally relate to, probably because of personality differences.  Mary's character was very introverted and analytical, and though Reay tries to convince us at certain places in the book that Mary is a "romantic at heart," I didn't get that at all.  Nathan seemed to be the one in the relationship that was more emotionally in tune with Mary.  Though I'm not saying that women can't be analytical or men can't be emotional, I do think that it is a less common relationship dynamic, and somehow with the way it was executed I had a hard time buying it.  

I also felt that some of the relationships with the peripheral characters could have been developed a little better, and it would have strengthened the story.  But then, there was a lot of emotional issues going on in this book, so maybe it would have been too much.  I just know that I would have liked the secondary characters integrated more into the main storyline, and Mary's inner turmoil focused a bit more.

Aside from some of my frustration with the elements listed above, I did actually enjoy the book!  Reay's novels are always slower-paced, but while they take longer to get into, they have a comforting vibe to them.  I also think it could be argued that the multi-faceted emotional side of the characters does add a real-life element to her books, because rarely do we have all of our emotions resolved and tied up into a neat little package in real life.  In that way her characters and situations are really believable.  

I really liked the ending and thought it was nicely done, though I wish I could peek a little further into the future and make sure it all turned out well long-term!  Maybe she'll give us a glimpse of some of her characters in future books? (Katherine Reay, if you are reading, that's a request!  Because I will pick up more of your books in the future.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

My No-Stress Christmas To-Do List




Okay, maybe "no-stress" is a bit ambitious, but my goal is to keep my Christmas to-do's as low-key as possible this year!  Here are a few things I would like to squeeze in.  If they get done before Christmas, that's great, but I also love the idea of celebrating the whole yuletide this year and extending the fun activities beyond the 25th too.  So if some of this doesn't get done, we're just going to celebrate Christmas until January!

1. Gingerbread House.  The kids all requested a gingerbread house this year, so I want to make sure that happens.  Derek put the structure together last night, and we're hoping to get to the decorating this week!

2. Christmas Cards.  I addressed cards to all the critical people, like family, and I'm just going to keep this low pressure and either 1) write a few addresses here and there as I have time or 2) just focus on returning cards to people who send them to me.  

3. Baking.  There really isn't any way to simplify the work of baking, so my goal is just to do one type of cookie a couple times a week until Christmas, and then freeze them.  I've already got ginger cookies in the freezer.

4. Finish our stack of Christmas books.  I rented a whole stack of Christmas picture books from the library,and we are slowly working our way through them!  The kids are so excited every time I pull one out.  We also got this adorable book from Tommy Nelson to add to our permanent collection!





Christmas Blessings has a different Christmas poem on each page, and my plan is to pick this up this week and read one poem a day to the kids.   The poems are sweet celebrations of different aspects of Christmas.  I think my littler ones will especially like this book, because the illustrations are so cute, and it would be fun (and easy) to even memorize one of these poems with the kids!  I also love how so many of the poems point in some way back to the reason we celebrate Christmas as Christians, which is to remember what Christ has done for us through His birth, and later his death and resurrection! This book is a great starting point for reminding little ones of that.

5. Wrap Presents.  I have a couple presents left to wrap for my extended family, but I'm happy to report that Derek and I knocked out most of the present-wrapping before Georgie arrived!  So there is not much left to do here.

6. Advent.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law make doing advent with the kids so easy, so this one is more for me to remember to do my own advent devotionals each day!  As I wrote last week, I have to make time for focusing on Jesus at Christmas, or I start to resent all the Christmas to-do's instead of celebrating the joy of His birth.

Notice one thing that is not on the list is shopping!  I am very happy to have all of that done early this year, but if you are still struggling for some gift ideas, I've got a post on Tommy Nelson idea with gift ideas for boys that will last!  Read and tell me what you think. 

What do you have left to do before Christmas?

Note: I received a copy of Christmas Blessings for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Four Tendencies Review

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You get a bonus book review today!  As you all know, I've been on a personality kick lately, and one of the personality books I picked up was The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.  I haven't read anything else by her, but I've listened to a couple episodes of her podcast, and I heard her talking about this concept.  It seemed interesting, so I was excited to read the book!

In The Four Tendencies, Rubin presents a theory of how different people respond to expectations, both internal and external.  We have the Upholders (who respond well to internal and external expectations), Questioners (who resist external expectations only), Obligers (who resist internal expectations only), and Rebels (resist both external and internal expectations).  She argues that a person's "tendency" affects how they respond to everyday situations and interact with other people.  If you know other people's tendencies, you can present things in a way that will make sense to them and let them respond positively.  If you know your own tendency, you can implement strategies that will make it easier for you to form good habits.

I am a little skeptical about some of Rubin's claims (like tendencies being part of our personalities from birth - I don't know that there is a way to prove that), but the more I read of this book, the more her overall points made sense.  She covers each tendency in detail and gives examples of difficulties and strengths related to each tendency, how to relate to different tendencies, and how to improve your own life by working with your tendency instead of against it.

I learned that I'm an Obliger, and I'm pretty sure Derek is a Questioner - so we keep each other on the straight and narrow!  I kind of hate being an Obliger, as the tendency that has trouble saying no and can tend to run ragged and get resentful of all the external obligations that "must" be kept.  I had started to recognize this about myself even before I read this book, and it confirmed to me that for my tendency, it's a really good thing to be setting boundaries around my time and energy (as I've been trying to do this year), so I don't go into "obliger rebellion" as Rubin calls it.

Anyway, if you struggle with setting good habits, have conflicts with those in your life about what "should" be done, or just want to understand yourself and others a little better, this book was interesting!  This is a secular book, so not everything in it is something I'd condone or agree with, but overall I thought Rubin had some interesting things to say.  I'd recommend it for personality junkies for sure.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

A Book You Should Read (And Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church)




How's that for a blog post title?

A few years ago, I discovered a podcast produced by Moody Radio called Up For Debate.  It's a podcast where Christians on different sides of certain issues come together and have a "debate".  It's about as friendly as a debate show can get, and though I usually pretty strongly agree with one guest over the other, it has been helpful to me to understand different arguments on "gray areas" within Christian circles.  The host, Julie Roys, always wraps up the debates by giving her opinion, and I've come to really appreciate hearing what she has to say.

So, I found out Roys had written a book, and I decided to pick it up recently.  This is one of those reviews that is going to be hard to write, because I am just not sure I have the words.  There is just so much in this book (in a good way).

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In Redeeming The Feminine Soul  God's Surprising Vision For Womanhood, Roys shares her own story in discovering more about biblical femininity, and more personally, how it applies to her own life.  Her story starts out with her struggle in not really understanding or accepting her feminine nature in some ways, and how that lead her into discouragement related to her spiritual gifts and dangerous relationships.  However, God lead her to read more about the unique ways that masculinity and femininity reflect the character of God, and her perspective began to change.  She eventually got to the place where she could see the true value in the feminine that she was missing before.

On the way she tackles so many issues, like gender roles in the church, misogyny (not what you think), gender identity, feminism...like I said, there is a lot in this book.  I have a bit of commentary on gender roles in the church below, but first let me say that I thought this book was very well-done.  Roys keeps a good balance as she discusses these issues, while also not wavering on biblical truth, which is a brave thing to do in this culture.  Overall, I thought her arguments were very well thought out and presented, and she supported so much of what she said biblically and also with research.

This book was not a light skim-over of these issues, she took a surprisingly deep dive in a short amount of pages, and I left with so much to think about. For example...

My (Very) Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church 

At one point in this book, Roys shares her struggles in coming to terms with biblical gender roles within the church.  She shares her story of feeling called to preaching, but not being allowed to, and the internal conflict that caused her.  Eventually she comes to a complimentarian understanding of gender roles in Scripture (meaning God created men and women to fill different roles that complement each other), and how these roles (especially in marriage) are a symbol or reflection of the relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity - particularly how the Son (Jesus) submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father.  Our relationships as men and women, our very genders and their accompanying biblical roles, are meant to be a reflection of those relationships in the Trinity, and that is how we should be framing the whole “submission” issue. 

I am pretty familiar with all that already, but the part I found interesting and that made me think was when she also applied this understanding of being a reflection of the Trinity to gender roles within the church.  She presents the concept that men's and women’s roles within marriage and the family are meant to reflect God’s character and relationship in the Trinity, and that the church also reflects that as well by reflecting the family (this is biblically backed up by the way Paul refers to himself as a spiritual "father" of different congregations, etc.).  

Here she argues that though the main leadership biblically should be reserved for men in order to maintain that very important symbolism, women can be allowed to preach and teach as spiritual “mothers” in the church as well, while submitting to the leadership of the spiritual “fathers”, so not having ultimate authority over men in the church. This is to be done from a position of mutual love and respect between the men and women in the church, while also acknowledging and honoring their respective biblical roles.  

I never really thought about it that way before.  I’m still mulling it over, though I will say that in general I think it is fine for women to speak in church occasionally, even to the men - I grew up in a (conservative) church which occasionally heard presentations from our female missionaries when they were visiting on a Sunday morning, and women in the congregation were welcome to contribute to the church service during prayer, testimony time, etc.  There was a pretty beautiful respect of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ there, and the older I get, the more blessed I think I am to have experienced church as I did growing up.  I am supposing that this kind of thing may not be allowed in some conservative churches, but since I grew up in that kind of environment, Roys's understanding of this makes sense to me.  I agree that these occasions don’t constitute women having “authority” over the men, so they don’t contradict 2 Timothy 2.  

The one thing I don’t agree with Roys on though is when she implies that she thinks it’s fine for women to be given the title of “pastor” under a head pastor - I think the very word “pastor” conveys authority, and would seem to put men in the church under the woman’s authority, muddying the gender roles again.  This was the one sticky area in the book where I wasn't always sure where Roys was going, but like the rest of the book I thought she did a pretty good job of staying balanced and seeking truth from God's word, even if I don't 100% agree with her application.

Back To The Book

So that probably gives you an idea of what I mean when I say that each chapter was a deep-dive into these issues...I really don't know how this book is not much longer.  

She does discuss "healing ministry" in this book as well, and I felt that might need a note because I think the term is confusing - from what I gather, when she refers to healing ministry, she's not talking about something hokey but about biblical counseling ministries to help people overcome wounds from their past, whether they be emotional, sexual, etc.  I get a little leery of putting too much emphasis on psychology, but the way she described the healing ministry from which she received counseling put me more at ease, which included Bible study/prayer, and personal application and discussion/counseling within groups.  I did feel the term could get confusing though, which is why I put this little explanation of my take here.

I really appreciated the chapters on our culture's misogyny (hatred of the feminine that is often perpetuated by women today), and the chapter on motherhood was so personally encouraging to me - I know I will be going back to read that one again.  I'm not saying this book won't step on your toes in some way, because it probably will, but if you are ready to think more deeply about these issues and God's original design for us as women, this book just gave me so much to think about.  And she explains everything so much better than I am doing here, so if something I said seems confusing, I'd just say check out the book yourself and tell me what you think! I definitely recommend it.

(Also, I can count this review as part of my memory-keeping 31 Day Challenge, right?  I shared a memory from my childhood church, after all!)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.






Before You Hit Send Review

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I picked up Before You Hit Send by Emerson Eggerichs 1) because I think Eggerichs usually has interesting points to make, and 2) couldn't we all use a little more help when it comes to thinking before we comment?  In person and online?  I think so.

This book wasn't quite what I expected, but I still had plenty to think about while I was reading it.  

I would say the title of this book is a little misleading in that it doesn't actually talk specifically about social media.  I was all ready to be self-righteous and nod my head as he gave reasons against social media rants, but this book focused more on interactions with people in general.  There were no self-righteous head nods as I realized that yes, I do have some of my own problems with each of the points he listed, and it challenged me to think a little more carefully about how I am communicating.

His focus in this book is to remind readers to ask themselves four questions (that you've probably heard) before speaking: Is it true?  Is it kind? Is it necessary?  Is it clear?

He takes a section for each question and shares different ways in which people may not be true, kind necessary, or clear in their communication.  I thought he did a good job of breaking things down and getting you to think about different ways that you may be falling into less-than-helpful communication habits - including some that weren't as obvious.  I think we can all think of an interaction where someone else was less than true, kind, necessary, or clear, but Eggerichs made me think about where I need to work on those areas, which made this book really helpful.

My only complaint is that some of his suggestions for what to say to different types of people about their communication didn't necessarily come off as kind to me, but that probably depends on the tone in which it is said (or maybe it's just because my personality is different than Eggerichs).

This book is definitely helpful if you want to become a more constructive communicator, so if it sounds interesting, check it out!  (Just don't expect a lot about social media.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Loving My Actual Christmas



A little confession: I've struggled for the last several years to really enjoy the Christmas season.  Maybe it's the extra pressure that comes from being a mom and having more people to juggle, maybe expectations outside our immediate family have ramped up...I don't know, but no matter how much I prepare, the season still seems to be more stressful than I would like.

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Knowing this about myself, when I saw Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, I knew I had to grab it.  Because I am self-aware enough to realize that I do need to take some pressure off myself and learn to love the actual Christmas I have, even if it doesn't look the way I want.

This book is less a how-to, and more of a personal memoir of how the author herself managed to enjoy her Christmas even amidst all the hustle and bustle.  Each chapter is centered around a week of the Christmas season and focuses on a theme - hope, love, joy, and peace.  She writes about how her actual Christmas season pans out as she tries to keep her focus on these different themes each week.  

It might seem like reading about someone else's Christmas experience wouldn't be overly helpful, but I actually found this whole book really encouraging.  Because it wasn't perfect, and she was busy, and she cried a couple times, but in the end she found she enjoyed the season more because amidst the busyness she took time to focus on her themes, and how they relate to the reason we celebrate in the first place!  

I loved how she ties it all back around to the nativity, and how God became a man in order to save us.  It wasn't preachy, just reflective, and it gave me hope that maybe this Christmas season I can find time to prepare my heart too.  That's really what I think I'm personally missing during December, the focus on Jesus's birth.  I've usually blamed it on not enough time or space to really reflect, but I have tried preparing early and the busyness still gets to me - I need to find time to focus on Christ in the midst of all the Christmas tasks, and this book encouraged me that it's possible.

(I also just have to say that I LOVE the idea of Christmastide that she includes in this book - i.e.. extending the Christmas celebration and reflection beyond the actual holiday.  I think this might provide me some of that space and time that I want so desperately at Christmas.)

The line that really got me was in the last part of this book:

"...I wondered if that's the point of this Christmas.  The over and over.  The message on repeat.  In all circumstances. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this message of "I love you" this love note of a Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes - more importantly, wrapped in skin - is to be the wave over us every year. "I love you."  And again, "I love you".  And a year later, when we've had a heck of a go at life and things aren't looking as we thought the would or should, "I love you" again." pg. 91

Isn't that a beautiful way to look at the Christmas season?  As a yearly reminder, a yearly "I love you" from the Lord.  I hope to take that attitude with me this year and leave some of the stress behind.

Overall, I recommend this book if you are consistently finding yourself stressed out every Christmas season - it encouraged me, and I'm hoping to take some of her ideas into the season in a couple months!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.
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