Book Review: In the Middle of the Mess

Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

How could I not pick up a book with a title like In the Middle of the Mess? Though it was the title that initially caught my eye, there’s a lot more than a catchy title going for Shelia Walsh’s newest book.

9781400204915Shelia talks very openly and honestly about her mental health history in In the Middle of the Mess, and it’s refreshing to see this topic being discussed more in Christian circles. It’s a times shocking to read a believer admitting to deep struggles with mental illness, but it’s also encouraging to anyone else who’s been there in the past, or is in the middle of it now. It’s not just a book about Sheila’s struggles though, she shares certain concrete strategies that help her weather the hard times in life, and will help you too. While this would be a wonderful resource for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, or grief, there’s something to be learned for everyone. All of us go through difficult times, and the advice shared in this book may be applied to anyone’s life to help us weather the storms and grow closer to God. It’s not a book of neat, easy answers, but it is a book of encouragement and helpful suggestions.

My biggest take-away from the first reading of In the Middle of the Mess was the idea of being honest in my prayers. I had never felt like I could really open up to God when praying. It seems silly given that God already knows the depths of my heart, but I always had this idea that I needed to present a “good front” to God when I prayed. I never told God that I struggled, or that I was disappointed, or that I didn’t know what to do. That just wasn’t the type of thing that good Christians are supposed to pray. Shelia’s book radically challenged my thinking in this area! I often journal my prayers, and since reading this book, I’ve noticed a much more open and honest kind of prayer written in my journal. There is something incredibly freeing about admitting that things are not the way that I’d hoped, and that I’m angry I have to deal with that. Even more than that, in the admitting, I can start to let go and let God work on my heart. I’m planning to read through this book again after the holidays because it was truly that helpful!

The church hasn’t always supported people with mental illnesses or people suffering through truly hard things, and I think it’s in part because we don’t always know how to help. In the Middle of the Mess is a must-read for anyone dealing with mental illness, and for those who walk through it with them. It’s honestly a book that’s good for anyone who has to walk through the hard things though. In addition to the book, there’s also a study guide and DVD video study. Those resources would be wonderful for a support group!

Book Review: 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart

Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

Between Sunday School and VBS, I learned a lot of Bible verses growing up. I hate to admit that I rarely memorize any scripture now that I’m an adult though. I’m guessing that there are plenty of others out there who did a fair amount of memorizing as kids and teens and then sort of stopped once they became adults. Maybe part of it is that we are so busy, or maybe it just doesn’t occur to us to keep up with memorization. Whatever the reason, I know this is an area that I’d like to improve in! That’s why I was so interested in Liz Curtis Higgs’ book 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart.

I’ve read a number of Liz’s books, and have always enjoyed her writing style. In 31 Verses, she has written a short devotional to go along with each of the 31 verses that she’s chosen. A number of the scriptures included in her book are familiar ones, but others are surprising! The list of verses in the book are all great ones to memorize, whether you’re new to faith in Jesus, or have spent many years studying the Bible. At the end of each devotional is a tip for memorizing, and one of my favorite features, a place to write the verse in your favorite translation. (The verses already printed in the book are in the NIV translation.)

Most devotional-type books are designed to read one chapter per day. Most of us need a little more time than that to memorize a verse though! You could easily read one chapter of 31 Verses
each week and spend some time every day just working on learning the “verse of the week”. Maybe you memorize a little faster than that, or maybe it takes you longer. You can spend as much or as little time per chapter as you need, since Liz doesn’t pressure you to move through the suggested verses in a particular time frame. It might be a neat idea to make a note of the date that you’ve memorized each verse so that you can look back through and see when you memorized each one later on!

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart is an excellent book for anyone who would like to get into, or get back into the habit of memorizing scripture. It’s also a great gift idea to consider for the upcoming holidays. Bundle the book, a journal, and a nice pen in a basket! (And maybe include some good tea too.) Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for a gift, it’s worth a look!

Book Review: She’s Almost a Teenager

Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

Cover ArtI’ve said more than once that this parenting gig is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Now that Munchkin is right at the edge of becoming a teenager, I’ve had more than a few moment of panic. In not too many years, she’ll be an adult, but there’s so much that I need to teach her first! How do I make sure that I cover everything that I need to? Truth is, none of us jump into adulthood completely prepared for everything that will get thrown our way. Despite my efforts, my kids won’t be any different. I’d still like to make sure that I have the important things covered though…

That’s what drew me to She’s Almost a Teenager in the first place. With the tag “Essential Conversations to Have Now” how could I pass the book up? The book is broken down into eight conversations:

  1. Big Picture
  2. Friends
  3. Academics
  4. Body
  5. Faith
  6. Boys
  7. Money
  8. Tech

A few of the topics may seem like they don’t really apply yet, but as pointed out in one chapter of the book, it’s not a bad idea to discuss some topics before the issue comes into play. Thankfully, you don’t need to cover all of these topics in one big conversation! Breaking things down into smaller conversations makes it less overwhelming for everyone.

What I liked most about She’s Almost a Teenager, is that in each chapter there’s no one way of doing or discussing things that laid out as the only way that you should do it. Instead, a couple of different suggestions and scenarios are discussed. The book is less about telling you what guidelines to use, and more about getting you thinking about them and starting conversations with your daughter. Even academics discusses how differences in children will require different approaches. It’s terribly refreshing to read a parenting book that avoids the “one size fits all” point of view!

Navigating the teen years still seems a bit daunting. Since reading She’s Almost a Teenager, I feel like I have a better idea of where to start with the important conversations. This book is perfect for parents of tween girls, but it would also be helpful for parents who’s girls are already teens.

Tell me about your favorite resource for parenting in the tween/teen years!

Book Review: Safe House

It took me a long time to read and process through Safe House by Joshua Straub. It’s a great book, with plenty of useful information, but it’s not a light read!

safehouse_3dKids need to feel safe when they’re growing up. I think most of us would agree with this. Safe House delves into why it’s important, and how to create a “safe house” for your own kids. The book starts off by talking about looking at your own story and why that’s important. This was actually the hardest part of the book for me to work through. It took a lot of time, and a lot of writing to sort through that for me. Next, we move on to the important characteristics of a “safe house” and how to build those into your own family relationships.

Safe House does contain some more personal stories and examples that break up the reading, but if you’re not a professional counselor, some of it can seem a little dry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good information to have, but mental health and childhood development is not the most interesting subject for some of us to read about! It is nice for a book to delve into some of the whys behind the hows. It did help me to understand some of the strategies discussed and suggested in the book. Do expect to do a lot of thinking and writing as you read the book and consider the questions at the end of each chapter. You may find it handy to keep a journal or notebook close by while reading. It is written from a Christian perspective, which is something I look for in parenting and self-help books!

Safe House is good reading for any parent, but I think that educators, counselors, pastors, and other professionals who work with kids and families would benefit from reading it. Parents who come from a difficult background in particular might benefit from working through that during the first few chapters. All in all, it’s a good, solid resource, but one that you’ll need to take your time reading.

Book Review: Beginner’s Bible

Note: Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

My sister had a copy of The Beginner’s Bible back when it first came out. (It’s one of the books that Mom used to carry on the shelves in the bookstore!) She held onto it and passed it along to my kids, and it’s been a favorite with each of them! When I heard about the updated version being released with new illustrations, I was more than anxious to take a peek!

As soon as my review copy of The Beginner’s Bible arrived, my daughter asked if she could look through it. She’s 11, so it’s been a few years since she had been in the target age range, but she was curious how it compared with the original design. She was most impressed with the new illustrations, as was I! My daughter said that there was more color on each page, so that’s what she found most attractive in the new version. Next came the real test, handing it to my 5-year-old. He’s not reading quite yet, but he still enjoyed looking through all of the pictures, and asked us to read the stories to him. As he works on learning to read in the coming year, this will be a wonderful book for us to use for reading practice!

All of the usual Bible stories are presented in the simplified way that you would expect from a story Bible aimed at the younger set. The pictures really are beautifully done, and still in a style that’s reminiscent of the original illustrations. While a story Bible is by no means a substitute for reading the actual scriptures to our children, I think The Beginner’s Bible is a wonderful tool to encourage interest in the Bible stories. It’s also perfect for beginning readers to practice their skills!

Whether you’re an old fan of The Beginner’s Bible, or have never picked one up, the new version is definitely worth checking out if you have younger kids, or if you’re involved in children’s ministries. Now, how would you like to win a copy?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway fine print: Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Book Review: Where Jesus Slept

Please Note: Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

Where Jesus Slept - By: Norma Lewis I love a good Christmas book! I guess I’m becoming a bit more like Mom as I get older, because I do enjoy holiday-themed stories much more than I ever did before. Where Jesus Slept by Norma Lewis sounded like a lovely excuse to sit down with my Little Guy and read a Christmas story!

Before I get into my review of the book though, I want to share and idea from my mother-in-law that the kids had great fun with one year! She wrapped up one book per day for the days in December leading up to Christmas. Each day, the kids picked a book, unwrapped it, and we settled in to read the story. There are so many possibilities here! You can stick with just Christmas themed books, or you could just pick out anything that your kids would enjoy. You could wrap up new books, or just put together a basket of “old favorites” and read one per day. However you decide to do it, Where Jesus Slept would be a nice addition to any advent reading list!

Where Jesus Slept is a peek into the night of Jesus’ birth that’s geared for younger kids. (Though my older ones also wandered off with the book!) There’s a bit of rhyming, and a lot of repetition, the type of thing that is common in books for younger kids. The illustrations by Katy Hudson are perfectly lovely! Cartoons can be cool, but I personally appreciate children’s books that have illustrations more like fine art. Where Jesus Slept certainly does!

This is a great little book to read to little ones in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Where Jesus Slept would also make a wonderful gift! Children’s ministry leaders might also want to keep a copy handy to use during December.

We also love our Little House on the Prairie Christmas Treasury this time of year! What are some of your family’s favorite Christmas books?

Leave me a comment letting me know what book you love to read every year, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Where Jesus Slept! Hurry though! Winners will be chosen on Monday, November 21st! (Winners must have a US mailing address.)

Book Review: Parenting

Note: Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

 

Book Cover of Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your FamilyI’m only half-joking when I claim that I was a better parent before I had kids. For a long time, I was convinced that finding the right method would give me a guaranteed result. Oh if only that were true! I still read plenty of parenting material though, and the title of Paul Tripp’s book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, caught my eye.

Reading Parenting sort of confirmed that which I’ve finally started to understand: I have very little control over the kind of people my kids grow up to be. That seems pretty disheartening on the surface, and I’ll admit that it discouraged me at first too. The more I think about it, and after reading this book, I’m convinced that it’s actually a freeing and hopeful thing. It is a very good thing that the people my kids grow up to be is not completely dependent on me. I still haven’t gotten the whole life, faith, and relationships thing figured out!

Parenting is, as you might expect, broken down into 14 chapters addressing one principle per chapter. The chapters aren’t terribly long, so it’s a pretty easy read in the respect. However, this is the kind of book that you’ll need time to mull over each chapter read. I read through it quickly for review purposes, but I’m already planning to go back and read just one chapter at a time and let it really sink in before moving on to the next. The chapters are titled:

  1. Calling
  2. Grace
  3. Law
  4. Inability
  5. Identity
  6. Process
  7. Lost
  8. Authority
  9. Foolishness
  10. Character
  11. False Gods
  12. Control
  13. Rest
  14. Mercy

Whew! Those are heady topics to cover in just one book, but Parenting does it well. Honestly, what I liked the best about the book, was that it made me uncomfortable. It forced me to take a look at myself and my own sin, my own need for grace, my own failures, and my own lack of character. Ouch. Now I can see why it’s a good thing that the kind of adults my kids become is not solely based on how good of a parent I am. This isn’t a book about how to make my kids behave, but more about how both of us can grow, mature, and draw closer to God.

I don’t typically underline or highlight a book as I’m reading it, but I was tempted to more than once when going through this one! Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the chapter on Grace…

“My children don’t cause me to do and say what I do and say. No, the cause of my actions is found inside my own heart. My children are simply the occasion where my heart reveals itself in words and actions. So I need much more than just rescue and relief from my children; I need rescue from me. This is why Jesus came, to provide us with the rescue that we all need but that we cannot provide for ourselves.”

That quote should give you a taste of how appropriate the “Gospel Principles” part of the title is! This is not a formula for perfect parenting, and let’s be honest, perfect parents don’t exist. It’s a very hopeful book though. In the midst of conviction, there is encouragement too. This would be a great gift for new parents, but I’d highly recommend it to any parents, no matter what age their kids are! This principles will apply to any age range from toddlers on up.

Now, who wants to win a copy? Just leave me a comment and on Sunday, October 30th, I’ll draw a winner!

Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Book Review: My Mother’s Quilts

Mom was a quilter. I’m… sort of a quilter. None of my quilts will ever compare to Mom’s though, and I treasure the ones that she made! The title of Ramona Richards’ book, My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family and Faith absolutely grabbed my attention because it made me think of Mom.

When I opened up this little hardcover, I was mesmerized by the full-color quilt photos that accompanied each chapter! This isn’t just a book that talks about quilts, but one that beautifully displays them. Each chapter is short, only a few pages long. They feature a Bible verse, inspirational story relating to the quilt pictured, and end with a short prayer. My Mother’s Quilts isn’t a Bible study book, so I would necessarily consider it a devotional book. Rather, something along the lines of one of the “Chicken Soup Books” for quilters. While there are no patterns in the book, the name of the quilt pattern is always listed at the beginning of the chapter for anyone who may decide that they’d like to make one of their own.

The stories Ramona shared in her book are about her own family. It was nice to hear many family stories, rather than just one or two snippets. However, I’d also love to see another book like this that included photos and stories from many families. The quilts pictured in My Mother’s Quilts aren’t typically modern colors or designs. Someone who prefers the modern look might not enjoy it as much as someone who appreciates a more vintage aesthetic. (Personally, I prefer the charm of the vintage quilts!)

Whenever Mom got a new quilt book, she always sat down and enjoyed looking at the pictures. I could easily picture her reading a chapter of this each morning with her coffee! The full-color pages, hardcover, and ribbon bookmark make My Mother’s Quilts a lovely option for gifting. It’s exactly the type of thing that I would have picked out for my own mom for her birthday or Mother’s Day. Whether the quilter in your life is your mom, grandmother, sister, or friend, consider picking up a copy for them. If you’re the quilter, then this is the perfect book to reach for when curled up under one of your own cherished quilts.

 

thumbnail_Win This Friendship Quilt!

Win one of the quilts featured in #MyMothersQuilts by Ramona Richards. Also up for grabs: loads of other prizes including quilting hand warmers, coloring books, and 25 signed copies of Ramona’s book. Winners will be emailed after the contest ends on June 30, 2016. Click the image to get started!

 

Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Book Review: The League and the Lantern

Finding good books for my older kids is always a challenge. That’s why I was intrigued by The League and the Lantern
by Brian Wells. A clean read, aimed at middle school kids, packed with action and adventure? Definitely a book that I want to check out!

Jake Herndon is on the cusp of seventh grade, and hoping that it’s an improvement over sixth. What started out as a simple class event before the start of the school year, turned out to be the beginning of an adventure filled with intrigue, secret organizations, and a bit of Civil War history thrown in. No one is who they seem to be. Jake and his new friends need to figure out who to trust, and they need to do it fast…

The League and the Lantern certainly delivers a fast-paced story, and unlike a lot of the YA fiction available, it’s a book that I’d feel comfortable letting any of my kids read. There are some “fight scenes”, but no graphic or gratuitous violence. The book is completely free of profanity and sexual references. I would not categorize this as “Christian fiction” specifically, but I don’t believe that Christians would find anything in the story particularly objectionable either.

That being said, there were some things about The League and the Lantern that I didn’t love. After reading the dialog in the first chapter, I asked my IT staff, “Is this how real life 7th graders actually talk?” It drove me a bit nuts, but that’s my typical complaint with the dialog in most YA books. I’m not the target audience though. One of the characters who was an agent sounded more like a kid than a professional in my opinion. Not likely something that would bother a kid reading the book, but it kept bugging me. Personally, I would have preferred more detail in parts of the story. There were several times when I wished that the author had provided more details about the setting and characters, or delved deeper into the backstory. That being said, not everyone has the patience for Tolkien-esque detailing in the books they read! Most kids in this age group would likely prefer a story that moves along and doesn’t get too caught up in details that aren’t vital to the plot.

The writer did play a little fast and loose with history in The League and the Lantern at some points, but he also offers a page on the book website that offers details on what’s fact and what’s fiction. When handing the book to one of my kids, I’d just be sure to remind them that not everything mentioned in the book is historically accurate, and make it a point to discuss some of it with them after they read the book. Because the Civil War figures strongly into the backstory, there’s a bit of the typical idealization of Lincoln in the book. Again, I would just use this as an opportunity to discuss how people, even presidents, make both good and bad decisions.

The League and the Lantern isn’t fine literature, and it’s not exactly my cup of tea. However, it’s a fun book that kids will likely enjoy reading. More importantly, it’s a clean book that I can feel OK about letting my kids read. It could also be a great discussion starter about history. I would not consider it a Living Book to be used for school, but there’s nothing wrong with reading a book just for fun sometimes either. This could be a good option for summer reading, or a book to take along on a road trip. I think it would appeal most to upper elementary and middle school kids who are fans of action and adventure books and movies.

Now, who wants to win a copy? The publisher has graciously offered to allow me to give a copy of The League and the Lantern to one of my readers! How to enter? Just leave me a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite adventure book or movie was when you were in middle school. I’ll be randomly picking the winner on May 21st, so be sure to comment before then!

Here’s the legal fine print associated with the giveaway:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are completely my own, and I received no monetary compensation for my review.

Book Review: 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

I enjoy reading long books that require me to think deeply about the topic being discussed. It takes time and focus to read through books like that. These days, I don’t seem to have much of that to spare! Books like 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell are exactly what a busy parent needs.

No one ever said that raising kids would be easy! I think most of us would say that we could use a bit of encouragement and a few tips to help us along. Dr. Cartmell’s tools are talking, listening, influencing, connecting, teaching, encouraging, correcting, and leading. There are five chapters addressing each of these in 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids. I’ll bet you just added up how many chapters that makes, and now you’re thinking that a 40-chapter book is definitely a long one! Ah, but each chapter is only a few pages long, so you really can read a chapter in just five minutes. It’s even the perfect size to toss into your purse or laptop bag for those days when you hit the ground running. Just pull it out while you’re waiting in the dentist’s office and read a chapter!

While I was reading 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, I definitely noticed things that I could do differently or maybe just better. And the tip at the end of each chapter sums up the main idea in a way that makes it easy to figure out how to apply the idea in my own parenting. (All of the end of chapter tips are listed at the back of the book for easy reference too!) I’ll be honest, there were a number of things mentioned that just hadn’t really occurred to me. I’d guess that’s true of a lot of parents. We’re so busy, that some pretty simple ideas for really connecting with our kids and developing a relationship just don’t occur to us. That’s why this book is a great idea!

There are 40 short chapters in 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids. What if, we parents read just one chapter a day and focused on using that tip at the end of the chapter? What would our relationships with our kids look like at the end of 40 days? That might be a challenge worth taking on!

If I’ve piqued your interest, you’ll want to check out this website: http://www.8simpletools.com/

You’ll find assessments you can take to pinpoint areas of your parenting that need a little work. Take a peek at an excerpt from 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids while you’re there! And, for a limited time, you can download the Essential Workshop Collection for Parents free with the purchase of the book. Just to sweeten the deal, Moody Publishers gave me a coupon code to share with my readers! Just use GREATKIDS16 when you order your book directly from Moody to receive a 50% discount. (This code is valid April 15, 2016 through May 15, 2016.)

Now that I’ve read through the book once, I’m going to go back and read one chapter per day, focusing on implementing that particular tip in my parenting. Who else is up for the challenge?

Please Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.