Book Review | Hope Unfolding

Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart
by Becky Thompson

I think what every mom truly needs deep down is for someone to say, “I see you.  You’re doing a great job.  We’re in this together.”  That’s Becky Thompson’s message in her book, Hope Unfolding.  She’s giving all the moms out there, especially the young moms in those toddler/preschool/early elementary years, the promise of hope and the encouragement we need when we’re weary.hopeunfolding

The book includes 10 messages moms need to hear like: You’re Not Alone, God Hasn’t Forgotten About You, You Are Not Your Mess, God Loves You Just As You Are, You Are Enough, etc.  She uses her own personal stories, both funny and sad, and adds in a light touch of Scripture for each theme.  The chapters conclude with “Let’s Talk” where she ‘chats’ a bit with the reader, “Let’s Pray” and “Let’s Hope,” which picks out the big-idea and shares it in just a sentence or two.

Hope Unfolding isn’t a parenting how-to book and it’s not a Bible study.  The looks at Scripture are quick and encouraging without digging very deep.  It’s a lovely look into another mom’s heart and a reminder that we’re in this together, and reads very much like extended mommy-blog posts.  The book could also make a wonderful gift for young moms who maybe just need 5 minutes of ‘hope,’ a cup of tea and some chocolate to help them remember the beauty of this holy calling despite the mess of the moment.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | 5 Minutes with Jesus

5 Minutes with Jesus: Peace for Today 
by Sheila Walsh

Peace for Today is the second book in the 5 Minutes with Jesus series, written by bestselling author, Sheila Walsh.  I have loved both of the books in the series so much, I’ve begun giving them as gifts to friends. They are encouraging and perfect for busy women on the go.  The books themselves are also absolutely beautiful.  The size, feel, color and style of the binding and cover are definitely worthy of a gift!!peace for today

I started reading the first book on January 1st of this year and I loved it, so I was excited to read Sheila’s second book in the same format.  The devotions are quick and easy to read, definitely the “5 minutes” the book promises! The stories are funny, heartfelt, tender, and interesting, ranging from personal anecdotes to Biblical accounts to historical events.  She ties each story to a lesson for the day and then concludes with several Scriptures for you to read that go with the theme.

These little devotionals could be the first thing you read each day, the quick time with Jesus you need during your lunch break or while waiting in a carpool line to pick up your kids, or the last thing you read each night before you go to sleep.  There are lessons here for new Christians, women struggling in a difficult season, or seasoned believers who are looking to be refreshed.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review: The Gift for All People

The Gift for All People
by Max Lucado

In The Gift for All People, Max Lucado offers up sweet and simple thoughts on grace.  This collection of short stories is a perfect gift to give away because it is so very accessible (clear and easy to read, quick-moving chapters) and offers a clear presentation of salvation, grace, and forgiveness.  More particularly, this could be a perfect Easter gift as Max spends time talking about the gift of Jesus’s death and resurrection.  giftforallpeople

Many (but not all!) of the stories will be familiar to long-term Max Lucado fans as they’ve been compiled from his longer works.  As a long-term Christian book reader and Max Lucado fan, I wasn’t sure that there was anything new in this book for me. Even so, I still enjoyed it.  Sometimes it’s just a joy to celebrate the clear and simple Gospel.  What a great reminder, especially during the season of Lent, of how God loves us.   I could see reading one of these small chapters each morning or evening in preparation for Easter  and it being a blessing.

I think this book would be even more fitting, though, for those seeking and asking questions, new believers, or even those in a season of struggling to accept forgiveness and grace.  The book description itself says, “If you’ve already accepted it, you’ll thank Him again. And if you’ve never accepted it, I pray that you will. For it’s the gift of a lifetime. A gift for all people.” That’s a perfect description.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | Breaking Busy

Breaking Busy
by Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington, the executive director of Propel Women, adds her voice to books about busyness and rest in Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy.  Alli’s style is funny, honest, and easy to read.  With all of the books I’ve read in recent years on simplicity, Sabbath, saying ‘yes’ and saying ‘no,’ cutting busyness, etc., I wasn’t sure another book on the topic would have much to add to the discussion.  I’ve gleaned some tips and wisdom from Breaking Busy, though, that I felt were fresh, truly helpful, and from a new perspective.  That’s a win!breaking-busy-cover

In this book, Alli covers topics like finding your own capacity for activity, discovering your calling, editing your options, choosing what traditions to let go of, making decisions without paralysis analysis, improving communication, and monitoring your time.  She knows that all women aren’t the same.  Some of us are more comfortable with a great deal of activity and others need more unscheduled time to be healthy.   She says, “Embracing our personal capacity allows us to live out our calling.”

When writing a book like this, it can be so difficult to engage women in all situations: stay-at-home moms, single women, work-outside-of-the-home moms, etc.  I think Alli’s fun personality helps make her relatable and accessible to most women.  Other books probably lean more to the stay-at-home mom’s perspective; this book doesn’t.  That can be a good thing!  Sometimes women in the traditional workforce can be left out of these discussions in Christian books.

Alli is the primary breadwinner in her home, an entrepreneur and executive, so many of her stories are about flights around the country, business lunches, running companies, and the like.  For a woman who is overwhelmed by busy because she’s trying to make ends meet as a single mom, some of Alli’s advice might not help.  Stay-at-home moms might feel a little left out of her stories that sound so much more valued and successful by the world’s standards.  I didn’t mind so much as I read the book, but some days you really do want someone to say they totally get your carpooling, homework, dinner-making, after-school-activity kind of crazy instead of the I-run-a-hugely-successful-ministry/business kind of busy.

For many women, the sections on monitoring social media time might be some of the most helpful sections in the book.  I personally thought her chapter on making decisions had the most impact partly because I’m so stinking indecisive at times, and partly because she had advice I’d never read before and plan to try.  I also liked the perspective of ‘editing’ our activities.  When I think about it as editing, things start to click for me. I realize that this is a matter of refining my choices and eliminating what is good so that the best has more impact.

Each chapter ends with a few Action Steps for you to consider or implement.  These would be great for individuals reading the book.  Reading group guides, decision making tools and other resources are also available for free on her website, making this work for book clubs and women’s small groups, as well.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | The Comeback

The Comeback: It’s Not Too Late and You’re Never Too Far
by Louie Giglio

Louie Giglio’s newest book, The Comeback: It’s Not Too Late and You’re Never Too Far, is drenched in grace and written in his classic style:  straightforward, easy to follow, and full of stories that keep your attention.  He’s writing about broken dreams, troubled relationships, financial pitfalls, loss, and more and how “God always sees our needs right now, whatever our needs are, and how God’s plans will always prevail…He comes through in his time and in his way–he always comes through.”louie-giglio

When he talks about comebacks, he doesn’t ever promise that God’s going to make everything in your life perfect.  He tells the example of a young woman whose high school sweetheart and now-husband died in an unexpected cycling accident.  Two years later, her comeback still means her husband is gone and she’s grieving, but she’s seen how God has walked with her closely during that season of loss.

In this book, I think Louie Giglio really tries hard never to assume people know the Bible accounts he’s using in his writing.  He makes this book accessible for anyone–the unchurched, the unbeliever, the new Christian, the college student looking for some hope.   That’s a good thing!  At the same time, when he refers to a Bible story, he retells it in great length (taking a couple of pages to recap Joseph) and that can feel kind of basic for someone who loves Bible study and knows the stories of Joseph or Paul or Peter already.  So, this book could encourage anyone with the reminder that God hasn’t given up on you, but I do think those who will love it the most are those really digging into those stories at a beginner level or for the first time.

With that said, this book is an encouragement for those moments you feel lost, discouraged and defeated. It’s a reminder that there is hope.  God gives fresh starts and new beginnings, and He never gives up on us.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage

Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage
by Greg Smalley and Erin Smalley

Greg and Erin Smalley share what they call 12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance in their new book, Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.   Each chapter offers up a tip/secret/marriage principle, such as honoring one another, communication strategies, serving each other, and being committed to each other and to the relationship.  The Smalleys specifically combat some of the lies we buy into about marriage like “marriage is easy when you find ‘the one’ or ‘marriage is about being happy.’  crazylittlethingcalledmarriage

The book is written with a great deal of humor and honest stories from their own marriage.  Most of it seems written from Greg Smalley’s perspective with Erin jumping in occasionally.  I thought some of the best content in the book covered the area of the husband struggling as the spiritual leader in a marriage.  For so many women, when we say we want our men to be spiritual leaders, we define that very specifically:  He needs to initiate prayer time with us every day.  He needs to lead us in family devotions and devotions for us as a couple.  He needs to have daily quiet times that include a prayer journal and then talk about those spiritual insights with us.

I’ve found over the years that for most women, this is a trap of disappointment and frustration and leads to dishonoring our husbands.  Greg Smalley said it so well in this book:  “I want to challenge men to let go of preconceived notions about what it means to be a spiritual leader–where they’re only focused on spiritual disciplines. I want to challenge each woman to broaden her definition of what it means to be a spiritual leader and to notice all the ways that her husband loves and cares for his family….God has gifted every person with specific strengths. Certain gifts help men lead the family toward God, using His methods of humility and grace. A man can give spiritual leadership in all kinds of ways. (pp. 40-41).

It was eye-opening to read this book when you remember that Greg Smalley is the son of the quite successful Christian marriage author and speaker, Gary Smalley.  So, you’d probably expect Greg to have a pretty good start in his own marriage.  He’s fairly open and honest about the fact that his marriage actually struggled quite a bit in the beginning and there was a lot of head knowledge about marriage that he had to learn over time how to actually put into practice.

I would have loved to hear even more from Erin Smalley in this book.  I’ll be honest, a lot of the time Greg sounds like he’s defending some of his choices by emphasizing how his wife does actually love that he’s fun and spontaneous. For instance, I think even at the end of the book, he thinks it was ‘cool’ and ‘fun’ that he jumped into some water on their honeymoon that was clearly marked “NO SWIMMING” and thought his wife was the one with the problem since she refused to join him.  To me, that’s not ‘cool’ or ‘fun’ or remotely ‘romantic.’  It sounds pretty unwise and foolish.  Even more than that, it sounds childish, dangerous and illegal.  So, I had a hard time applauding him or even feeling remotely swayed by his perspective that their disagreement was a mutual problem or that she also needed to grow and mature so she could appreciate their differences.  But, what can I say, I didn’t marry someone who would do something like that and I guess that’s just one more reason I can be so thankful for my own husband!

In addition to all of the material within the book itself, they include links at the end of each chapter for date night ideas and followup questions for couples and small groups.   I can’t say that this was the most insightful book about marriage I’d ever read.  Most everything in the book could have been picked up from any other Christian marriage book and the “12 secrets” didn’t really seem like secrets at all.  But as a basic Christian marriage manual, this is a good read.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | Safe House

Safe House
by Joshua Straub, Ph.D.

In his new parenting book, Safe House, Joshua Straub shares less about specific parenting techniques and more about how to set a tone in your home of emotional safety.  He starts with the parent, encouraging you to examine your story, the people and events that influence your parenting and where you might already be on the spectrum of grace and truth/exploring and protecting.

The whole book is written from the perspective of a parent in the trenches himself, struggling with some of the very issues he’s writing about.  His goal, he says, is not to make you feel judged as a parent, but to encourage you as you try to build a beautiful story for your kids.

Straub covers some specific parenting topics such as how to keep communication open with your kids even while disciplining them, how to nurture your child’s brain, how to build a support community so you aren’t going it alone, and how to tend to your marriage and work together as a team.   He spent a large part of the book working through what he calls the ‘four walls of a safe house’—grace, truth, explore, protect—with charts and graphs and psychological analysis to determine why you are the way you are and whether you’re out of balance.

There’s information in here for parents with children at any age.  However, I must admit as a parent of four kids from toddler to tween, some of this book felt difficult to relate to.  Even though Straub doesn’t mean to confine its reach to newer parents (and I can tell he really tries to address older parents), it felt like new parents would benefit from the book the most.  (Or, perhaps, it would work well for parents of older kids whose relationship is really struggling.)   I think that simply the nature of the book—the fact that the author only has two kids, a toddler and a newborn—meant that most of his stories, personal experience and advice seemed to fit parents of infants and toddlers.  There were times the advice felt overly simplistic for a mom with a kid older than three.  Also, when I read his parenting horror stories of sleepless nights and toddler tantrums, which is the season of parenting he’s in, I just wanted to encourage him and offer some of my own parenting expertise (instead of the other way around!).

With that said, this book could be great for parents starting out and wanting to make choices now that set a tone of safety and strong relationships in your family.  It could also work well with parents who know their past experiences make it difficult for them to respond with grace and love to their kids.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | She’s Almost a Teenager

She’s Almost a Teenager: Essential Conversations to Have Now
by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp

She’s Almost a Teenager isn’t a full-scale parenting method or even an all-around guide to your daughter’s tween years.  Instead, it’s a guide to eight conversations to have with your tween girl now before media, friendships, peer pressure, and hormones make these conversations more difficult. Each chapter introduces the themes of the conversation to have with your daughter: the big-picture, friends, academics, body, faith, boys, money and technology.  At the end of the chapter, they include the major questions to ask your daughter. The idea isn’t to talk at your child; this isn’t about making speeches. It’s about dialogue. Ask her what she thinks and then listen and respond.almost a teenager

I like the idea of starting these conversations young. Sometimes we want to put off talking about ‘boys’ and then by the time it’s an issue, the conversations are heated or emotional. The authors joked that you might not want to talk about a smartphone when your daughter is ten, but they promised, “She’s thinking about it already!’ So, open that conversation right up. What are her thoughts about getting a phone? What are yours? What expectations do you have for who will buy it, who will pay for the plan, how she’ll take care of it, etc?  Better to talk it over than to avoid it and get surprised by conflict later.

The book is clearly written for parents of tween girls, although the same basic format, ideas, and even a lot of the topics they cover could be adapted for boys also.

One of the things I appreciated about the authors is that they told you right from the beginning where they are coming from as either parents who currently have tween daughters or parents who have already been through their kids’ teen years.  This is huge for me. I’m currently reading another parenting book written by the father of two kids under two years old.  I have to admit it’s a little hard to value his advice and input on my parenting when his entire parental experience has lasted two years and he has no personal experience with children the same age as my kids.  For me, having an author say, “I’m with you” or “I’ve been there” makes me vale their input even more.

The other thing I loved is their emphasis on parenting with long-term goals in mind. This meant learning to know what really matters to us as parents and when we need to let things go. If your child worked diligently and faithfully in a class at school and still ended up with a C, and she doesn’t intend to major in that field in college or in any way make a career of it, can we let it go?  Can we get over a hairstyle we don’t like if she’s following the Lord, doing well in school, and being responsible?   We as parents know deep down that what matters is salvation and safety and integrity, but our messages to our kids sometimes suggest otherwise. If your daughter says that what matters to you is that she brushes her teeth, gets straight A’s, and keeps her room clean, then maybe there’s a problem.

They conclude the book with two ideas that I loved: Project Thirteen and Birthday Boxes.  I’ve read a lot of parenting suggestions for how to help your child have a “rite of passage” into adulthood, but these are probably my favorite. They are projects to do along with your child in order to prepare them to take on adult responsibilities (so they don’t end up living at home at 35 or out on their homew with no life skills!).

I don’t know that there’s anything hugely revolutionary in the topics the author covered, but I loved having this as an all-in-one-place resource!  The authors also encourage you to make the conversations your own. You know your child. Would this work best in 8 formal parent-daughter dates? Around the dinner table? Would they be best as casual conversations that flow at just the right time in the minivan on the way to volleyball? You decide and you tailor the conversations accordingly.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review: The Message 100 Devotional Bible

The Message 100 Devotional Bible: The Story of God in Sequence
by Eugene Peterson

I remember first being introduced to The Message paraphrase translation of the Bible in college.  I loved reading the Bible in The Message and then going back to my more familiar translations and reading with a new perspective.  I found that I’d often been missing out on the nuances of the original language until I read The Message and saw how Eugene Peterson brought the language to life. Now, Peterson offers The Message 100 Devotional Bible, laying out the ‘story’ of the Bible in unbroken timeline sequence and offered in 100 separate readings.The Message 100

We do have a way of trying to restrict God to language that sounds holy and formal, when in reality much of Scripture itself was written in the daily, everyday language of the people.  Jesus made Himself accessible to the people. So, The Message does the same. It doesn’t claim to be a study Bible.  It does, however, attempt to invite everyone into God’s Word and then encourage them to investigate and study and dig in deep to God’s Word, to absorb it, meditate on it, chew on it, and make it a part of them.

This devotional Bible is offered in the same vein as The Story and several other Bible studies that attempt to connect Scripture into one clear unbroken thread from creation to the cross to Christ’s return.  It would be particularly suitable for teens, young adults, new Christians and anyone who hasn’t read the Bible through, but who wants an introduction to God’s Word. It’s also great for long-term Christians who want a fresh way to read Scripture.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage
by Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire’s new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, accomplishes something quite difficult: Saying something fresh about marriage.  After reading and/or reviewing so many marriage books that focus on male/female communication and seeing the world as either pink or blue and offer cute little catchphrases, I loved how Gregoire dug a bit deeper.  She tackles commonly held cliches or superficial Christian marriage beliefs and replaces them with 9 thoughts that could change the way you think about what it means to love your 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriagehusband.

Her first thought sounds so simple: “My Husband is My Neighbor.”  But in that one simple thought, she addresses an attitude adjustment that we need to make as wives.  She writes, “it’s often easier to feel compassion for people in the abstract than for individuals we know up close and personal” (16) and also, “I have this sneaking suspicion that most of us save our best behavior for those whom we barely know and show our worst side to those we know the best” (17).  Isn’t that so true?  We often display grace, forgiveness, and compassion for those outside of our home, strangers even who we meet at the grocery story or the bank, but then snap at every flaw we see in the one person we are to treasure the most.

Her other thoughts are just as important, valuable, and challenging, including “My Husband Can’t Make Me Mad,” My Husband Was Not Put on This Earth to Make Me Happy” and (my favorite), “I”m Called to Be a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper.”  In this last chapter, she argues that “pursuing peace does not mean seeking an absence of conflict.”  Instead, God’s heart is for oneness, and sometimes that means choosing to work together to fix differences instead of simply ignoring them in an effort to “keep the peace.”

Gregoire manages to maintain a very difficult balance.  Submission and respecting our husbands does not mean allowing them to do whatever they feel like it, no matter how abusive, harmful, irresponsible, and hurtful.  Her question is, “If you step back and ‘submit,’ are you being a ‘suitable helper’ to him? Or are you enabling him?”  Nor does establishing boundaries in marriage mean threatening divorce or harping on his every flaw and failing.  She suggests that holiness in marriage results from lovingly helping each become more Christ-like, loving each other enough to speak truth in love when necessary.

Throughout each chapter, Gregoire includes Action Steps and then she includes a summary of all of the action steps at the end of the chapter so they are easy to find and implement.  You may not be able to do each action step in a chapter, but with several choices, there is usually something you can put into practice.  Some action steps involve your husband and some you can do on your own, like “Pray about where God is leading your husband. Ask God, ‘How can I tangibly support my husband in that?’

She also provides a helpful appendix with her favorite marriage resources in various categories, such as: Make Your Marriage Great, The Purpose of Marriage, Sex, Handling Conflict and Setting Boundaries, and Roles in Marriage.  I loved this resource list because it’s likely that as you read her book, you’d identify the weaker aspects of your marriage and then find further information and encouragement on those specific areas.

Ultimately, this is a marriage book for an engaged woman, the newly married, the seasoned wife with a great marriage and the woman in a marriage that is struggling.  While not every one of her thoughts will fit your own marriage needs, there are most likely at least some healthy reminders or fresh encouragements to help any wife make her marriage better.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com