Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loecher (book review)

Slow. That almost seems like a curse word in today's world. You ask a friend how they are and their answer is inevitably "busy." And I am, too. We have cub scout meetings, small group, Bible studies, playdates, laundry, supper. Our ancestors were busy also (laundry, cooking, butchering, farming, mending and sewing, quilting...everything took so much longer), but that word seems to be a badge of honor...or a badge of martyrdom (??). It's something we say almost with a tinge of pride (aren't you proud of how not idle I am? how productive we are?) when I don't think "busy" has ever been the ideal. We could have loads of free time and down time with all of our modern conveniences but it seems like we just naturally (selfishly, perhaps) fill that time with "busy."

It's exhausting, isn't it?

image via amazon.com

Erin Loecher is an hgtv.com reality show star and blogger and author of "Chasing Slow." She found herself caught up in the busy (hers accompanied by panic attacks). "Chasing Slow" is her journey to finding a balance between a perfect online self and her real in-real-life self, between productivity and living life with eyes wide open, from wondering if there was more to life to knowing a real true God.

This book is so beautiful and full of lovely writing and photographs. What I find even better is that it spoke real truth, God truth, to my heart. Loecher seems to have many of the insecurities that plague me and my friends: doubt, self-worth, enough. I've tried to be enough in so many areas of life: mom, wife, blogger, Christian, friend, storytime lady, homemaker, teaching parent, college student, daughter. What I've found in each of these is that I have little control over so much in each area that I can very easily come up feeling like I'm failing and drowning.

"The reality of mountain climbing is that if the stars are your goal, you'll be scaling forever."

I am not enough on my own. I am enough through Christ.

"Chasing Slow" has allowed me to open my eyes to this reality. To really soak it in and believe it. Be still in it. Dwell in Him.

"God, teach me what it means to forgo the riches of this life. Change me. I am spent." 
Amen.

She even touches on the world that Pinterest has turned upside down. Allowing us to see so much has made us feel unworthy. I have wonderful boards on Pinterest but this is after a time of deleting my account because of the time-waster it was (spending my life looking for more and more and more but not living) and how it made me feel (I can't do most of those things or afford the others). I have very specific boards for very specific items (birthday themes and quilting patterns), but I am very careful to pin only what I'll use and delete what I won't. Because "who could have known that more would make us feel less?" I don't think the creators of Pinterest had this in mind when they beta tested this site: it's wonderful in theory.

I'll leave you with this thought from the book. I think it sums it up nicely.

"But the answer is not to lower the expectations we have created. The answer, I believe, is to live up to the expectations we have been created for." 
image via Design for Mankind

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others'.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Anger by Gary Chapman (book review)

A few months ago at my moms group, a few lovely ladies told me that I seem like a very patient and calm mom. Let me be the first to say, that is unfortunately not true. I struggle so very much with yelling and being angry with my children and my husband. Usually, it is over things that are not important. Mountains out of molehills.

So this year, I decided to fight against it. I have read other books about anger, including "The Orange Rhino," and studies on Bible verses that speak of anger and patience. I started to read "Anger: taming a powerful emotion" by Gary Chapman because the author is someone that I have grown to trust through his other publications (The 5 Love Languages).

I don't know if you are a yeller or if you struggle with anger (passive-aggressive is also anger), but I will say that this book has helped me so greatly. I will say it is a divine intervention for me.
image via amazon.com
Chapman introduces his book with a reminder in the first chapter that anger is an emotion given to us by God, not a sin. God himself shows anger in the Bible, as does his son Jesus. Chapman says that anger has been given to us in order to move us. If we are mad about the sex trade and slavery, it will move us to pursue justice. The creators of the group MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) were mad about people being killed by drunk drivers!

So if anger is a God-given emotion, why is it that we feel so guilty about it? It comes down to realizing that there are two kinds of anger- definitive and distorted. "Definitive anger is born of wrongdoing." Distorted anger "is triggered by a major disappointment, and unfulfilled desires, frustrated effort, a bad mood, or any number of other things that have nothing to do with any moral transgression." This was a huge turning point in my head. Most of my anger is distorted. My children make annoying noises, I am in a bad mood, I can't have this or that, I was not a productive person today. Any of those things can lead to me exploding. None of those things is a moral issue.

Throughout the book "Anger," Chapman gives strategies on how to identify our anger and what to do when we feel that anger. Many of the strategies seem easy but will not necessarily be easy for a person who is angry. However, I believe with a little bit of discipline and practice before getting angry (visualization), many people can be helped through their anger with this book.

It has been a few weeks since I finish this book and it took me a few weeks to get through. I have already seen personal transformation in this book. I can only name one instance in the last several weeks when I yelled at my kids. It is humbling to admit even that one instance but my hope is to encourage other people, especially moms.
We are all under enormous pressure from outside sources and ourselves and sometimes we just buckle under the pressure. We snap and yell and react horribly. But I am not alone in this and neither are you. We can, in fact, overcome anger to be able to use it in a constructive manner that God intended it to be used in.

I think the best thing about "Anger" is that each chapter ends with "quick takes" that share the information in a condensed form from each chapter. I believe that these "quick takes" will allow people who read this book to go back quickly and see steps and techniques needed to help them.

You can take a personal anger assessment at 5lovelanguages.com

image via 5lovelanguages.com



Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others'.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Race to Win (movie review + giveaway)

I was an avid watcher of the original Beverly Hills 90210 as a child (don't judge me). That's where my love of Luke Perry kicked in, aided immensely by the movie 8 Seconds. I've seen very little of him over the past decade so was pleased to learn he was in the movie "Race to Win."

However, my disappointment kicked in when he DIED (not a spoiler - in the movie description) at the start. He was off and on during the rest of the film but not in a main character way that would showcase his acting. So if you're looking for a Luke Perry film; this is not the one you want.


BUT! That doesn't mean you should write this movie off entirely. Danielle Campbell plays his daughter who rallies things together on their ranch so they don't have to sell it to the bad guy. I don't want to give too much away because it is a good movie to watch, but just know there are trials!

Another disappointment is that there is no mention of God in this movie. I was expecting that because of the company I received the movie from. They "pray" but it's more to the dead father, so that's a little weird. They don't attend church; this is definitely not a "Christian" movie. That being said, there aren't curse words and the bad guy isn't a scary type (it's not an intense movie).

Give this a shot because there is redemption in this movie. It's quality made, the acting is good, the story line is perhaps predictable but still a good one.

GIVEAWAY
I have one (1) DVD of "Race to Win" to share with a lucky reader!
To enter, tell me what show you watched when you were in junior high.
One entry per person (with a valid email so I can contact you)!

Disclaimer: I received this movie in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others'. Giveaway is for 18 and over with a US address. Void where prohibited.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Beautiful Garden of Eden by Gary Bower (children's book review)

I was the story time lady for 2 1/2 years at our local library - I love children's books! I especially love well-written children's books. There are a few things to look for in a good story time book. I'd like to share those with you using the illustration of "The Beautiful Garden of Eden" by Gary Bower because it exemplifies those characteristics.

1. It must be beautiful. This, of course, has more to do with the illustrations than the writing but a book with pictures that look like I drew them (definitely no artistry coming from my hands) are not going to draw in a child. The Beautiful Garden of Eden is illustrated by Barbara Chotiner. They are not too intricate but not too elementary. It's a beautiful blend of the two that lends wonderful pictures with this story. I love the bold colors she uses - deep pink and luscious green. I adore her details of the serpent's scales and the bramble thorns.
image via Amazon.com

2. The words must dance. This is why Dr. Seuss is so popular - he knew how to make words dance and bounce! The Beautiful Garden of Eden has a lovely lilting quality to the words. It's lovely to read aloud. If you struggle with reading a book aloud, it's not a good story time book. Bower has made these words dance with rhyme and rhythm.
image via amazon.com

3. It's repetitive. This is not 100% true but kids tend to remember by repetition. The Garden of Eden follows "the same whimsical style of storytelling as the beloved classic 'The House That Jack Built'" and the repetition will leave your child asking for this book again and again.

4. There must be a good plot. I've read some bad books where you end up scratching your head, trying to figure out what the plot was exactly. Now, The Beautiful Garden of Eden, of course, follows the Biblical account of Adam and Eve and their fall. I love this plot because it's true, it teaches kids why we sin, and the last page leaves you with a hint of the end. Galatians 3:13 "Christ has rescued us from the curse." I'm glad Bower doesn't just leave us with a fallen Adam and Eve but skips to the end and the redeeming love of Christ.

5. It must be short. I absolutely love Berenstain Bear books and Arthur. They are not really good preschool story time books because of their length. Exceptions can be made but I prefer to use books about the length of The Beautiful Garden of Eden, Bear Snores On, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Children have short attention spans and if you would like to read more than one book at a time, then you must keep them short and sweet.

I do hope you will purchase The Beautiful Garden of Eden by Gary Bower. It would make a lovely addition to any library. I want to share this YouTube video from Bower's grandchildren.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others' opinions.

Listen Love Repeat by Karen Ehman (book review)

God has really been speaking to my heart in the past year or two, showing me how self-centered I have become. And it's easy to do that when you have gone through a crisis as we have and having a new baby. But He really is calling me to "other center in living in a self-centered world." That is the subtitle of "Listen Love Repeat " by Karen Ehman. 
image via Proverbs 31 ministry

I found great practical advice in this book. How to listen for the "heart drops" that other people leave in every day conversation. We must listen for things such as their favorite childhood toy, their favorite drink, a hardship they are going through, something they are celebrating, or of many various other things. We can you and then use these things to come alongside them in their sorrow or joy or reminiscing.

Other-centered living seems like it would take a lot of work, but I believe that it takes one very precious thing: time. Time is a precious commodity in these very busy days but something that I feel that we actually have more to give of then we realize.
image author's website

This book shares advice on how to share with those we love, those who are necessary (like librarians and mailman and garbage man), how to come alongside those who are hurting, and how to share a life of welcome. It even digs into how to love those who are lonely and unloved, and the cranky and cantankerous! I know that I have a few of each of those in my life.

Some of my favorite things from this book include her ideas for cooking for a crowd, her advice on how to love those who don't know allow Christ, "kindness rather than judgment. Choose it every time."
image via thegildedwife.com

I also love the set up of this book. I love her chapters are separated in various people we may meet. And in the back she has a "quips and quotables" portion where she share some of the things that really wore what I had underlined in the book. I noticed many books doing that now, which is wonderful when you are writing a very few or you really need those practical tips at your fingertips. 

In our very western self-centered world, this book is a breath of fresh air that I am very thankful to have read. I cannot wait to use what I have learned in my actual life. To love those nearest to me, that was hurting, and even those who are cantankerous.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions.

The Lord's Prayer by Rick Warren (book review)

Many of you may remember a little book phenomenon called "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. It came around either in my late high school or early college days and was a sensation world-wide. I can tell you right now, what that book is about: living for Christ! Although I've never read the book myself, I know what it's about because I know what Rick Warren is about - living for Christ!
image via BookLook

I had the opportunity to read "The Lord's Prayer" by Rick Warren. It's a board book for small children, walking them through this prayer made by Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. Warren provides the commentary to the prayer, taking kids through the whole prayer little by little.

The prayer and commentary are accompanied by illustrations of children by Richard Jesse Watson. These beautiful pictures give a clear idea of the meaning of the Scripture.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever.
Amen.

That's from my memory. I memorized The Lord's Prayer probably not until middle school going through confirmation classes. Big A and I have attempted to have our big boys memorize the Lord's Prayer (although it was difficult when we disagreed on the verbiage - thy or your?). I'd like to give this another shot going through this book with our boys and our little girl. She's probably a long while off from memorization unless it's to a song tune, but it's a wonderful book to read to her anyway, to show her God's love.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee (audio book review)

Anyone who knows my family, knows we love superheroes (or, in my husband's case, tolerate them). We've been almost every well-known superhero for Halloween (I've been Wonder Woman 3 times in various forms):
2009
2010
 2013
 2014
 2015
 2015

Other than a few stints as Star Wars, Mario, and Scooby-Doo characters, this is us. We read a lot of superhero books (as in, I read to the kids, I don't read my own...) and we've learned a LOT about characters, both popular and totally obscure. It can be ridiculous sometimes but it's fun, too. There are a lot of books about teamwork and you can see how Batman has changed over the years (from no low voice to really deep voice, from caring and kind to selfish - I'm talking to you, Lego Batman - boo).

image via Google images

One thing I really dislike about superheroes is how they dress the women superheroes. Yes, in 2010 I wore Wonder Woman underwear over tights for Halloween (I was on a weight loss high...forgive me), but as I've matured, my boys are growing up and now my daughter is, too - I don't want them to see the revealing clothing most super girls wear!


image via Blogging for Books
 I am very thankful for the new "DC Superhero Girls" line! The dolls, the books, the show (which I haven't seen myself) for the simple fact that the girls (although still lacking in diverse -and realistic -body types) are dressed! Wonder Woman wears a costume that covers her parts!

All that to say, I was very happy to received this "Batgirl at Super Hero High" by Lisa Yang audiobook. It's good and I love that it's an audiobook. Although my husband claims audio books aren't really "reading," he's wrong. It is reading and it's allowing you to just read in a different way. I like to listen to audio books while I exercise or cook. We can listen to this in the car together! And my boys don't realize these are geared toward girls - and I won't be the one to tell them!

I really like Mae Whitman as the reader. You may know her as Amber from the TV show Parenthood or even before as the president's daughter in the movie "Independence Day" (thank you Imdb for that quiz factoid). She has a nice voice and does a great job reading.

image via Google images

I love the character Barbara Gordon - she's really smart and has no super powers. She's a genius and uses her brains to survive at Super Hero High. A great read (and its companion books "Wonder Woman at Super Hero High" and "Supergirl at Super Hero High" are worth 7 AR points) for any kid (or parent) who loves super heroes! You can find the paper book here.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions.

Race to Win (movie trailer)

I love Luke Perry - Beverly Hills 90210 (the old one, not the new), 8 Seconds. And now he's out in a new movie, "Race to Win." Check out the official trailer below. The DVD is out February 14, Valentine's Day. You can pick one up for an at-home movie date!

Friday, January 6, 2017

She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams (book review)

I have been a part of the She Reads Truth community off and on for a few years now. I love the insight from real women, digging deeper into the Word of God (and that it doesn't take a seminary degree to understand their devotions).

image via Barnes and Noble website

When Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams came out with their book, "She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away," I was excited to read it. I was not really sure what to expect, knowing relatively little about their lives or writing experience outside of devotions. I had little to dread, however. "She Reads Truth" has provided a balm to my soul in a wearying time of the holiday chaos.

Now, if I try to tell you about details of the book, I will mess up. It's written so that each chapter is by only one author at a time, telling a bit of her story and tying it to Scripture and lessons she's learned through reading Truth. While their stories are different, I could very well relate to both gals (although the details get mixed together after reading for me). I could understand the legalism one struggles with and the heartache of the other.

That's what is wonderful about this book and the SRT community - it's real people teaching real life lessons from the real life God. I've grown a lot through reading this book as it came at a perfect time to help me through some personal issues. And I plan to continue to grow as I participate in their online community (there's an app for that). You can find the book at amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from mine.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy for my family. We love the music (Pentatonix Christmas is our favorite this year), the lights, the food, the cookies, the movies, the atmosphere. But Christmas is so much more for us. 

image via here
I often forget that it's about more. I can get caught up in the hustle and bustle as much as the next person. But when I slow down, I can remember the real reason - Emmanuel. God with us.

God the Son came to earth, born of a virgin, born in a stable. He came to be with us. He came to lead us, love us, and die for us. 

Without Jesus, Christmas is bland. Gifts will break and be forgotten. Food will leave you too full and uncomfortable. Lights will be taken down, trees put away. But Christ is still Emmanuel. 

This is a time to put aside our differences and love like He loved us. This is a time to count our blessings, one by one, to remember how He has been with us (even in those really hard times). This is the time to celebrate His birth! This is a time to give gifts, remembering the greatest gift of all came wrapped in swaddling cloths. 

That's what Christmas means to me (wait, does that sound like a school essay? oops!). 

Also, if you're looking for gifts still, two great faith-based films release on DVD on Tuesday, December 20th: "Hillsong - Let Hope Rise" and "Greater." I'll share clips below from both. I think you'll like them.





Disclaimer: I received a gift card for myself and one for someone else in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from yours.

happy followers