Book Review | Beauty Begins

Beauty Begins
by Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha

As a mom with three daughters, I was excited to read Beauty Begins: Making Peace with Your Reflection by the mother/daughter team Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha.  Our culture truly is obsessed with beauty and it’s disheartening to see how girls are pressured to live up to impossible standards.  Most women find it hard to be happy and comfortable with what we see in the mirror everyday.  Chris and Megan tell us, “Generations of women have become casualties in this war on self-worth.”beauty begins

This book is a quick and easy read with reminders about what true beauty means in God’s eyes and how beauty is eternal, but pretty is just temporary.  They cover everything from choosing encouraging friends to shifting our focus off of ourselves and onto others.  Megan in particular shares honestly about struggling with depression and how God transforms brokenness into beauty.  They also cover issues like mother/daughter relationships, making wise choices when dating, and how to be a ‘fashion rebel’ by choosing compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love, etc.  Their husbands also write a chapter at the end of the book specifically encouraging husbands and dads to praise the real beauty in their wives/daughters and be their biggest fans.  Overall, the book is practical and uplifting, not an in-depth Bible study or a cultural critique so much as a gentle, sweet reminder that “You are, and always have been, beautiful.”

Each chapter begins with Scripture and quotes and concludes with brief reflection questions and a prayer.  While any woman might enjoy the reminders in this book about true beauty, I think it could be particularly powerful for young women from teens to college age/young adults.  It could also be a great book to read together for a mother and daughter in order to help pass on a legacy of encouragement.

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 | Having a Martha Home the Mary Way

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and a Satisfied Soul
by Sarah Mae

In her new book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, Sarah Mae gives you tips, encouragement and a lot of grace as you spend 31 days achieving a “clean house and a satisfied soul.”  As Sarah Mae puts it, this isn’t a book about ‘good housekeeping;’ it’s about “‘gentle homemaking’, which is the ability to be gentle and kind with ourselves in the process of making and keeping a home while being gentle and kind to those around us.”  Her dedication is also beautiful:  “This book is for everyone out there who needs to know that being a ‘good’ homemaker has less to do with having a clean home and more to do with loving others well.”Having-a-Martha-Home-the-Mary-Way-by-Sarah-Mae-Cover

One of the things that set this book apart for me was Sarah Mae’s confession that she isn’t naturally great at cleaning!  Since she doesn’t like cleaning herself, she isn’t looking down on the reader. She’s coming alongside the readers and cheering us on.  The tone of the book, as a result, is so full of humor and grace. She’s not lecturing; she’s encouraging.  She’s honest about her own struggles and constantly offers room for mistakes and learning and differences in personality and style.

The other things that sets this book apart is the beautiful balance of Mary and Martha, spiritual and practical, emotional and physical.  I’ve seen blog posts that preach the organization/cleanliness gospel with rigid expectations.  So many of us jump into plans and programs and then fail because there’s no grace or flexibility.  At the same time, I’ve seen blog posts touting the benefits of a messy and even dirty house because that means you love your kids and spend time with them.  Neither extreme is actually healthy!

Instead of camping out in either extreme, Sarah Mae is encouraging us to spend time with Jesus, to love our family well, and to keep our homes comfortably clean and cozy.  Each day’s entry includes a brief devotional/inspirational reading and then includes two challenges: A Mary Challenge, and a Martha Challenge.  The Mary Challenges typically involve a short Scripture reading, responding to a thoughtful question or maybe a simple assignment that connects cleaning our house with the state of our own hearts.  Each Mary Challenge also includes the space you need to write answers or journal thoughts right there within the book itself instead of needing a separate journal.

The Martha Challenges begin super-simple:  Wash the dishes. Fold all the laundry.  They expand from there, though, into organizing junk drawers, cleaning out the fridge, sorting through papers, and more.  The goal is to take on one project a day so that you’ll have a cleaner, more organized home by the end of 31 days.

Here’s where the flexibility comes in.  You can adapt the plan based on the size of your family and the size of your home.  I think you could also easily adapt it to your schedule.  Are you a working mom who can only do project on the weekends?  Then do two days each week.  Or, maybe you have three days a week where you can work on projects.  Do that!  Obviously, there’s something powerful about the momentum and focus on doing projects for 31 days straight, but if you can’t, then just adjust the plan to something you can do.

Sarah Mae includes plenty of opportunities for you to get your kids involved in the cleaning process.  She also adds in extra tips and suggestions such as “5 ways to create a sense of ‘Welcome! Put Your Feet Up” and other elements of hospitality from “don’t make everything perfect.  Let your house be lived in….” to “be a listener.”  She writes, “The goal of homemaking isn’t to have perfectly decorated, perfectly clean homes.  The whole point is to have a place that is welcoming, and you know where that begins? In your own heart.  Your home is a reflection of who you are.  If you are warm and welcoming, your home will be.  The cleaning? That’s just the cherry on top, you know, so no one trips on the way to your couch!”

One of the beautiful take-aways for me is the reminder that caring for my home doesn’t need to be mundane or insignificant.  She talks about creating beauty, peace, and safe places.  I can make my home a refuge for my family, a place of gentleness and calm.

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

Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist, Book Review

Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free
by Amanda Jenkins

Amanda Jenkins is a list-maker, so she had my attention from page one of this book, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free.  I’ve never really considered myself a perfectionist.  I’m more of a pragmatist, more focused on getting things done than doing it perfectly.  But I can totally relate to Amanda’s incessant standard-setting for herself, creating unrealistic and impossible expectations and then feeling like a failure when I fall flat on my face trying to attain perfection.perfectionist

She starts each section being as vulnerable as you can get, sharing whatever listed expectation she made for herself. and how she measures up to her goals.  Her weight, her bank account, or how many Diet Cokes she’s had so far today, it’s all fair game in this book.  Ultimately, her light-hearted and gut-honest storytelling walk you through authenticity and grace in areas of your life like obedience, vanity, coveting recognition, making plans and then having God change them, and depending on anything other than God to fill us each day.

She’s no perky, pasted-on-smile Christian, there to motivate you without being honest about the down-and-dirty problems in life.  She talks about her family’s international adoption and dares to tell the hard things and how God transformed her in the process.  She talks about the shocking death of a friend’s young husband and the financial struggles of loved ones and other times that she found God, met with Him and was blessed to see Him even when life got ugly.

Ultimately, the book is about finding grace.  It’d be an encouragement and challenge for any woman (whether she thinks she’s a perfectionist or not) and even perhaps teen girls.  The appendix includes Bible study notes that could work well for any women’s small group, 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.”

To read a sample chapter, you can click here!

For a Q&A with Amanda Jenkins, you can click here!

About the Author . . .
Amanda Jenkins attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with a degree in biblical studies and communications. She has
worked in sales and marketing for a number of Christian retailers, as well as in visual communications and advertising. For the past 14 years she has taught Bible studies for women of all ages and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and humorous way.  She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, Dallas, and their four young children, including their newly adopted son.