Monday, August 21, 2017

Winter and Spring Reads (catching up on reviews!)

This entire post was written in the note section on my phone or on my laptop in the car. 
I'm sure this is a common practice for some bloggers, but not this one. 
No way.
Typing this post, book by book, on my phone or in between cities on road-trips is just a small representation of how crazy this year has been for us. 
Crazy in the best way!
We relocated, got a new home, new city and so many new & old friends. I've been back and forth to Kenya twice and Uganda once, traveled domestically for HVG & leading worship, finished homeschooling 7th & 4th grade, packed up and headed to Scott River Lodge to serve for the summer. We have loved our summer crew and hate to see the season come to a close! July was the busiest of times for us. A wedding, leading 2 weeks of marriage retreats, Houston Project, Kenya, all while shepherding our SRL Summer Crew.  

CrAy. Fun. But CrAy.

That said 2017 has held some sweet reading but little time to document. I hope these little reviews are helpful and you find some great reads to add to your wish list!

I started 2017 reading this book with a little texting book club. (friends who don't live around each other but want to read the same books! It's fun!) I had already read quite a bit of NT Wright's works but jumped right on in with my friends knowing this book was a compilation of essays he had written on different subjects. If you don't know that ahead of time, you may find this book repetitive so understanding Wright's purpose and that each chapter is "stand alone" really helps the reader engage in each subject. He covers topics that cover a wide array of contemporary subjects and, like he so often does, Wrights brings in literary & sociological history to support Biblical ideas.  This book is a good “group” book as its subjects are ones that don’t have to be read together.  It also makes for a great reference on contemporary topics such as Christian involvement in politics, women in ministry, evolution, Christian's need to be involved in environmental movements, etc.

I can not say enough about this book.  This is a wonderful bedside table book but also a morning encouragement book. You will breeze through these pages as if you were talking to a friend who loved you deeply enough to speak into some of the harder parts of life. Shauna is gracious and kind as she shares from her own experiences of being a friend, a mom, a wife, and an adult child of parents in ministry. I took so many life lessons from this book as if I was learning from a mentor just a few years ahead of me in life (although I think I’m probably older than her! ha!).  I recommend this book to anyone in the daily grind of life who needs to relinquish some anxiety over being perfect. I actually put off reading this book because the title made me think I probably need the opposite book, HA! (I struggle with being too present that ALL THE THINGS get dropped! Eeee!) But boy am I glad I picked it up!  I needed it more than I ever could have known. 

The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus

I wanted to start this review by saying, “this one is for the artists in your life.”  But that would have been a gross understatement.  In this book Erwin McManus outlines for us, with great passion, in true McManus form, the Biblical ideas of artistry.  He pleads with the reader to find the artist inside of you. He contends that we are all created in the image of God, the true & purest artist, so deep within all of us, we have the desire to create. Art takes on so many forms and in this book Erwin allows you the freedom to search your soul for creativity.  While this book breathes life into all the “creatives” out there, I believe this book could make a huge impact lives from all spheres of society.

I have been deeply impacted by the ministry of She Reads Truth, so when I heard the co-founders wrote a book together, I was in the pre-order line!  Staying true to there heart to get Scriptures into the hands and hearts of women (and now men!) around the world, this book is full of Truth.  The authors take turns chapter by chapter telling stories from their lives, testifying to the reader of how God was near to them in good times and bad and that the Word of God is alive and active and helpful for encouragement and correction. This book was like a drink of water, refreshment to the soul.  Filled full with Scripture, you will be so deeply encouraged by this book and the testimonies in it.

This is one of those books that by watching friend after friend be deeply impacted by it, I decided to pick it up. I have read all of Jennie Allen’s previous books and have really enjoyed and recommend each one. Nothing to Prove sits right up there with all of the others! This book is fitted with wonderful questions at the end of each chapter that don’t let you move on from the thoughts you just read. Jennie stops you in your tracks and helps aid true change in your heart and mind, reminding you that you are loved by God and you can be you. I recommend this book for book clubs, bible study-like small groups and the like. Her questions and insights are worth discussing and have the potential to be life giving and life changing. 

What an incredible book! Vernon read this to our family out loud each morning to begin our day.  I had read parts of it before but going through it all together as a family was a delight.  This book takes the entire story of Scripture and puts it in a beautiful narrative as if you were sitting around a campfire among exiled Israel. This book brings clarity to the story of the Bible to all ages. We recommend it to all people. It is helpful to those who grew up hearing all of the stories but are unsure how it all fits, as well as it is helpful to those who have never heard the good news of Scripture. And boy is it beautifully written, easy to read and even easier to listen to.

Happy Reading, y'all! 
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 :: RESTORE

{my word is top right
but please don't miss Justus's...
you will know}
Until Timehop reminded me today, I had no recollection of the word I chose for 2016:: RESTORE.  I love choosing A Word of The Year and in the past those words have helped keep me focused year round. Ironically, I forgot my word at some point this year as I moved from surviving to thriving.

Many parts of 2013-2015 are ones I hope to never re-live. Hurt, loss, despair, confusion, while intermingled with joy, fun and hope, the heaviness won out in those years. The end of the summer 2015 and into the fall of 2015 brought light to those dark days and I was resolute that 2016 would bring full restoration to the things in our hearts that were still lost, stolen or destroyed. Only this time, I knew it would not be me that brought the restoration but it would, one hundred percent, need to be the Lord. I smiled so big when I saw the Timehop post today reminding me my word was RESTORE because I distinctly remember acknowledging to the Lord it would need to be Him at work to bring restoration in our hearts and that we were going to step out of the way and watch Him work this year...and that He did!
Just yesterday I was looking through my iPhone at all the photos from this year and thought to myself, "even with all the loss we had this year, our hearts have been restored with joy through all the places we've been able to go and all the people we've been blessed to be around." Restored. With out so much of a thought beyond a few prayers at the beginning of the year on my part, God did just that, Restored.

We deeply miss the loved ones we lost and the next years will continue to be full of grief as we continue on with out them. We said pre-mature good-byes to a dear, amazing Aunt, a strong, loving Grandpa and our hilarious, best hug giver, wonderful Mother/Mother-in-Law/Grandma.

While we went through tremendous loss, 2016 will be remembered as a true gift.

January -

January started off hard with the news of my Aunt Ann's passing. We packed up as fast as we could and headed to Austin where we stayed for the next few weeks. Family and friends came in from all over to honor her life that week. We are truely a blessed family.

Vernon got his letter stating they accepted his PHD disertation and defense making him Vernon M. Burger II, PHD!!  We are so proud of him. He has worked so hard to achieve this.

We ended the month with our annual His Voice Global Board Meeting. We discussed and planned and enjoyed eachothers company.  We have such a tremdous, robust board of directors. We LOVE being around them.


February was full of soccer and travel.  We started the month on with a trip to Michigan to see Vern's Mom. We had a ball. We went to the Ice Sculptures and to Bronners, two of her favorite winter activites. We never could have known this would be one of our last weeks with her. We are so thankful we went.
Justus had a blast joining up with his longtime soccer buddies to play the winter/spring YMCA league.
We sent Vern off on his yearly trip to South Sudan. He had a great visit and came back so encouraged.


March was a month of enjoying Houston, catching up on school and a few short trips to visit dear friends. We spent Easter with our beloved Durham & Billups families, and traveled to Baton Rouge to see all our people there (and came away with some great family pictures!)


In April we said good bye to friends and headed across the US.  We stopped at 8 national parks :: Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde , Arches, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Great Basin. We made it to our final destination, Scott River Lodge. We did school along the way and basically all of the rest of April!


In May I headed to Kenya with some of my dear friends. The Lord did so much on the trip in all of our lives. He restored hearts, mended wounds, opened hearts and minds and provided a way where it seemed impossible. I included a deliriously tired picture of Phyllis and me because we took a fun risk at the airport in Amsterdam on the way to Kenya and went through customs to meet up with friends in Amsterdam. It was so fun!


There is absolutely nothing in the world that could have prepared us for June.  We found out that the condition Vernon's mom had, which we thought she would be able to fight and recover from, had worsened.  We all got on a plane to Michigan, not knowing what the next weeks would hold. We laughed, we cried, we played songs, read scripture and held hands as we walked through Stephanie's last week of life with her.  This was one of the hardest things we have ever gone through. We miss her tremendously, especially this time of year, as the holidays were her favorite and she always made them so special. She was and continues to be such a gift to us.


Coming off of June with our sweet friends at Scott River Lodge was such a blessing to us.  We had the privilege of partnering with some the best college students around the US as we worked the summer at the lodge.  These students are so much fun and full of life.  They let us cry, let us grow and let us lead even when we were weak. We love them so much.  We went on SO many adventures on our July off days. 
We crossed off another National Park, Lassen Volcanic.
We also had a week long visitor, Titus's best friend, Johannes.


In August, the boys went to Kidder Creek Camp and had a blast!
We said good bye to our sweet college crew, with lots of tears and laughter.
We went to some more beautiful places.
Started school.
Dyed Titus's hair blue and celebrated the new Harry Potter book!


September started with harvest fun at the farm. There were fires all around the area which made the air quality too poor to have guest at the Lodge, this ended up being a blessing to us as that same week all the programs were postponed, we got a call that my Grandpa Bud was being taken home and put on Hospice.  We jumped on a plane and got to Missouri as fast as we could. That week with family was full of emotions. I am so thankful we were able to be there before he passed away. I am a lucky girl to have been raised so closely with my cousins. We went to school together, played ball, FFA, gymnastics, we were such a big part of each other's lives. Being home with them, in my Grandma & Grandpa's house was such a sweet spot in the midst of sadness.
We returned to The Lodge the following week and were so thankful to have friends come through the program. The rest of the weeks at the Lodge we had friends come through the programs. It was like Gods arms around us. We finished September celebrating Fall at Kidder Creek with friends!


October started with closing up programs at the Lodge. Packing for our drive home and getting to a good stopping point for school.  When the programs were finished, we loaded up and drove back across the US.  We stopped in St Louis to celebrate Allison's wedding and see family. We ended October back in Houston, and on a plane back to Kenya with some super fun ladies!


November started in Kenya celebrating a friends wedding, hanging with my sweet friends at RVF and hiking crazy hikes on Safari. Upon return to Houston we celebrated Tommy & Haley's wedding, voted, dyed Titus's hair platinum.  We through our annual Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving feast followed by Black Friday shopping!


We started December with Titus's new glasses!
We traveled to Missouri for Early Christmas with family.
We celebrated a final adoption for our sweet friends.
We said good by to our beloved 13527.
We traveled back across the US stopping at HARRY POTTER WORLD!
We arrived at The Lodge in time for a beautiful, magical, white Christmas.

I am excited for what all 2017 will bring. I am so thankful for 2016. I want to remember.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fall and Winter Reads

Like I said in my previous post, 2016 got away from me.  It was long and crazy but somehow I still found some time to read!  I lacked in getting my reviews out in a timely fashion but I am using the next few days to catch up on them so as to hopefully start 2017 off with a clean slate. I am not sure how I will continue these reviews but hopefully I will find a more efficient way to get them out with less time in between. 

Garden City by John Mark Comer

This may have been my favorite book of the year.  That's hard to say, though. I don't tend to finish books I don't enjoy so you can rest assured all of the books posted were ones I found intriguing at some level. :) Garden City: Work, Rest and The Art of Being Human, is a beautiful book in every way.  The book itself is artistically laid out in a modern design. Its thoughtfully put together to enhance the fantastic reading. Comer lays out the Biblical ideas of work and rest then ties it all together with how those two thing enhances your life as a human.  Grab it! Read it and put it on a shelf or coffee table to be seen because it's pretty, too!

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs 

Looking for Lovely is just that, lovely. Throughout the book the reader is encouraged to look around and find the lovely no matter what the situation that is at hand. Annie Downs shares deeply personal stories from her own life as she helps the reader "collect moments that matter." This book is a great bedside book to encourage your heart as you close the day. Annie's writing feels like you are sitting across the table from her at a coffee house hearing her heart as her stories transform yours. 

Univited by Lysa TerKeurst 

I put off reading this book for fear it would bring up (not so) old wounds and in some ways I am super thankful I waited, but in other ways I so wished I would have had this resource right in them middle of it all.  Lysa TerKeurst boldly goes where many female writers don't dare go, right into the middle of a common female insecurity, feeling "less than, left out or lonely." She approaches these areas with gentleness and understanding using her own personal stories, yet she leaves you feeling empowered to change your heart and mind and believe the truth about how God sees you and choose to believe the best about others. She uses the phase that my husbands says all the time, "Live Loved."  This book is for those who are hurting and alone, yes, but it is so relevant for all women. I am SO thankful I finally picked it up. 

This book grabbed my eye by the title. I have had that thought so many times, "How do I help my boys be grateful when everything around them screams entitlement?" When I saw this book I quickly snagged it up and jumped right in.  Kristen Welch lays out practical ways to help cultivate gratefulness and combat entitlement all in a sympathetic tone, as she is a mother herself.  The Welch's let us look a little into their daily lives and let us see how they have tackled issues from social media, Internet use, gaming, screen-time, devises and much more. This was SUCH a helpful book for me as we are starting these pre-teen years. I highly recommend it to all parents in America. 

 If you work in or want to be involved in the non-profit world at any level, I highly recommend this book. It is strategically divided into two sections, one that is written by Peter Greer and the other that is written by David Weekley. In the section by Greer, he outlines for us an beautiful Kingdom mindset on fundraising and partnership. He address the awkwardness of "the ask," and encourages you to see it from a different perspective.  The second half of the book, written by David Weekley, is a compelling perspective from the one who is being asked to give. Mr. Weekley graciously encourages non-profit leadership to pursue long time friendships and partnerships not just one-time asks, as well as encourages the asker that most givers see it as a gift to be able to give.  

This was a fantastic little book to finish the year off.  Tim Keller put together this short, sermon manuscript like, book that will indeed help thousands let go of their modern ideas of pride & humility and grasp a truer, beautiful form. Keller lays out clearly the difference between self-hating and true humility. He also articulates the pride involved in both over acknowledgement of self and under acknowledgement, encouraging readers to land in the middle which he calls self-forgetfulness. That place, he says, is where freedom lies. 

Spring and Summer Reads

Y'all,  2016 got away from me.  It was long and crazy but somehow I still found time to read!  I lacked in getting my reviews out in a timely fashion but I am using the next few days to catch up on a Spring/Summer post and a Fall/Winter post.  I hope these will help you with some reading choices in 2017!  I have contemplated changing the format of keeping the reviews more up to date and more often, but I am not sure what that looks like for 2017.  I was sure I was just going to stop posting them anymore, but I have had so many people ask for book recommendations over that last few months so  I decided to catch up on the year. I sure hope these reviews help y'all spend your Christmas money wisely! Here goes some catching up!
(if you want to read about why I started writing these reviews click here)

The In-Between by Jeff Goins

 Waiting is something that most people avoid these days. Jeff Goins makes the case in this book that being present in the moment and surrendering to the waiting is where we grow into more mature humans. As Goins shares his journey of waiting, the reader is compelled to embrace the wait, look around at their present and learn from the moments. I highly recommend it for anyone in "The In-Between."

Carol Dweck's perspective and research on human attitudes has changed so much about the way we parent, teach, train and encourage.  It has deeply impacted how I personally relate with myself and in turn how I relate with others. In her book Mindset, she documents her research on those with a "Fixed Mindset" verses those with a "Growth Mindset," revealing that those with the "Growth Mindset" become versatile, well-rounded, confident, hard working, emotionally healthy adults.  I recommend this book to anyone who works with young people at any level. This book is also great for self evaluation to see what areas of your life you may have the "Fixed Mindset."

Fervent quickly made itself onto a VERY short list of "books I want to re-read every year."  This book is a fantastic jump start for those looking for hands on tools to a deep, healthy, vibrant prayer life.  Mrs. Shirer does a wonderful job of laying out effective prayers for specific areas of your life, giving you Scripture to pray and memorize as you seek God's heart on giving situations. She reminds us throughout how wise it is to pray specifically and strategically, not to "get what you want from God," but to open your heart to His nearness. This is a book I plan on keeping by my bedside and referring to it each morning, reminding my heart to stay serious, specific and strategic in prayer. Believer, grab it, read it and re-read it.  No matter where you are in your relationship with Christ, you will be challenged and encouraged!

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessy

Out of Sorts captivates you with it's refreshing honesty.  In this book, Sarah Bessy covers topics that most Christian authors/leaders are unwilling to address.  Similar to her book, Jesus Feminist, Sarah writes openly about her struggle with church as an institution, her fight for community and remaining in community despite disagreeing.  She encourages the reader to embrace differences rather than forming a circle in which everyone thinks and looks the same. Bessy pushes the reader to a place where they can find comfort, as she did, in the places of uncertainty. This is a great read for those who are searching for a place to land or feeling shaken by uncertainty.

The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner

We read this book as a leadership team of HVG.  This book is deeply encouraging and spiritually challenging when you read it alone, but adding the element of group discussion brought so much depth to the experience of reading this!  The Gift of Being Yourself is the second of three books written together to focus on loving God, loving yourself and loving others.  This is the second in that trilogy.  In this read, Benner focuses you on how you personally were made in the image of God and how you were created differently than others on purpose.  Benner reminds you through out that God enjoys you, and that God created you and wants to spend time with you.  This book is full of self assessment and is worth all the time and effort you have to give.

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Jen Wilkin is a fantastic Bible teacher and as you turn the pages of this book you can see why many eagerly awaited her latest book, None Like Him. Each page points you towards God and teaches you about His character. This book is about 10 ways God is different than us as humans and why that is good thing.  This book is well laid out and easy to read as a devotional, for a book club or community group.  Each chapter is dedicated to one of the ten ways God is different, making it easy to read, think and discuss.  She kindly gives questions to reflect at each chapter personally and also questions for a group discussion.  Such a great book!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Winter Read Reviews

The winter has past and spring has come with a furry.  I made quite a bit of time to read over the past five months but made little time for writing these reviews. I am going to reach back and try my best to review my winter reads and keep up better through the spring and summer.  Here goes catching up! (if you want to read about why I started writing these reviews click here)

This is a beautifully written gem, straight from the heart of a child of God who has been tested and pressed in on all sides and come out stronger and lovelier than ever. In Steadfast Love, Lauren takes you piece by piece through Psalm 107, weaving portions of her personal story throughout, taking verse 2, "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story," literally. You will be encouraged, enlightened and challenged as you read this poetically written work.

**and bonus:: it has a great cover & spine so it makes for great decoration around the house!**
The Wisdom of Each Other by Eugene Peterson
Eugene Peterson is one of the most influential authors/pastors/teachers in my life. I found this book as I was searching through works by Peterson that I had yet to read. This little 112 page softback is packed full of wisdom, as the title implies, but not just theological wisdom. In Wisdom of Each Other, Peterson creatively explores how we, as Christians, need each other. He does this by briefly opening with some insights on having older, wiser mentors in our lives and the need for Spiritual Friends. Then he unpacks his points by setting up a letter exchange between two spiritual friends. Right before your eyes you read a back and forth conversation of friends who agree, disagree and agree to disagree. You watch as the back and forth conversations about life grow both parties. While one is more of a mentor figure and the other is a newer believer, the depth of their friendship never wavers as they both have mutual respect for each other's opinions. Inadvertently, Peterson ends up pastoring you a long the way, just as he always does.

Brain Maker by David Perlmutter

In this work, Dr. David Perlmutter presents his (and many others) long standing peer-researched findings on the effects that the gut microbiome have on the brain. This book is chalked full of information on the gut-brain connection.  Many of you know our story with our youngest son and how working on his gut health took him from non-verbal anti-social to fully caught up on all spheres in a matter of a year.  I believe in the gut-brain connection and am so happy to hear that many more doctors and researchers are pushing for this research to be so pervasive that it stops sounding absurd.  I have read Perlmutters other works on Grain & its effects on the guts, which in turn effects the brain, but this book specifically hones in on the living microbiome in the digestive tract.  He teaches about probiotics, prebiotics, the effects of anti-biotics and how to treat the onset of my autoimmune diseases by focusing on the GI. He breaks down how to choose a probiotic, which strands are useful and which are not.  He introduces the reader to FMT and how research is supporting its help towards all kinds of things from Autism to Alzheimer's, from Thyroid Issues to Dementia. This book is technical but well worth your time.  It left me looking up all the resources in the bibliography and trying to find more!

Audacious by Beth Moore
Every page of this work had me feeling like I was sitting across from a dear old friend, full of wisdom and insight, who was pouring all she had in to my young little heart. Some people mentor across the table from you, standing by your side as you cook or parent and others mentor across the pages of their books. This was the perfect way to start 2016, being challenged, encouraged and loved so well by this beloved author.  Beth takes time to unpack what it means to live audacious lives with audacious faith and all who read it will be encouraged to do the same. Grab yourself a copy, pour yourself a cup of joe, get your journal, a pen and a blanket and curl up with this book for a day or so. You will be so glad you did.

 Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
 I read this back to back with Mindy's first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, and it made for an interesting contrast.  Mindy Kaling is still hilarious as ever in Why Not Me? but a lot changed in her life in the 3 years between publications. She changed jobs, moved to a new city and grew in fame. Her first book was more of a story of her life to that point, how she grew up, how she made it in NYC and how she came to be on The Office in LA.  This book, however, is more of a collection of essays of her life in LA, the starting of her own show, her transition to stardom and how she handles life in the public sphere.  She is extremely witty and you will laugh out loud along the way as she tells her stories and gives you glimpses in to the life of a celebrity.

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
In this memoir, Rachel Held Evens walks the reader through her "loving,  leaving and finding the Church." She recounts her early love for the body of believers, her on going skepticism toward Evangelicalism and how it all morphed as she became an adult. She tells stories of how God revealed Himself to her through the sacraments and through the people in her life who loved like Jesus loved. This book is light and dark and light again many times over. She takes you on a journey of doubt, belief and the challenges in between.  She pushes in on many of the questions people have but feel unable to present to the evangelical crowd.  It reads like mini-essays you can pick up and put down but also flows well chronologically so it can be read as one.

**if you have ever been one who has written Rachel Held Evans off because of her social media or blog post or the misrepresentation of her by evangelical leaders, I would challenge you to give this book a read and hear her heart and know her story before you throw stones.

Hope these reviews were helpful and you get some books added to your wishlist!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Early Fall Reads

Thanks for stopping by again to catch up on the mini-reviews.  I hope you find some books you can add to your WishList for the winter!  {to read how this mini-review series got started click here}

Rising Strong by Brene Brown 

I have so much to say about this book that I am at a loss for words trying to fit it into a "mini-review."  Rising Strong is full of story, applicable insights and in depth research.  Dr. Brown, once again, brings years of behavior research and presents it in a way that is life changing when applied to the day in and day out happenings of life. Vulnerability, she says, is the key to rising strong after a fall. Brown walks you through a step process of how to "recon" and "rumble" with conflicts, both internally and externally, and she brings you to the stage she calls "The Revolution" where you see the fall (or conflict) in its truest form.  Please, grab this book and give it a read.  Sit with it, apply it and grab some friends to do the same.
"The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness—even our wholeheartedness—actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls."

{ If you are an audio book fan, Brown actually reads her own book.  I always enjoy re-reading (or reading for the first time) when authors are the voice to their own audio book. }

Kiss The Wave by Tara Leigh Cobble

I happened upon Kiss the Wave because many of my friends were posting about it via social media. A few years back I had read Cobble's book Orange Jumpsuit and REALLY enjoyed it. So I added Kiss The Wave to my wishlist and got it for Christmas. It sat in the "I really want to read these books next" pile for almost a year, when in the providence of God, I took it on our 2 month trip to California. Cobble is a wonderful story teller and brings you into her life so that you can see the hand of God moving. This particular book is on the attributes of God, so each chapter she tells a part of her life and in the telling the reader is able to see that attribute of God's character so beautifully.  This book was so timely for me.  If you are in need of seeing God move, longing for Him to still be at work, this is a great book for you.  I ended up reading a chapter a day, gaining courage and hope along the way.
{If you click over to buy this book or add it to your wishlist, I recommend you add Orange Jumpsuit too! You will enjoy both!}

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

 Oh that Jen, at it again! Hilarious and insightful as ever, Hatmaker delivered to us another fantastic book.  In For The Love, Jen covers topics ranging from raising children to giving yourself a break, from knowing when to say yes to addressing racism and prejudices. The last section of this book was my favorite as she addresses The Church. So good.  Hatmaker got hundreds of women around the globe in on this project.  She uses their quotes and additions through out the book adding an element of creativity and humility to her writings. This book is such great mix of serious and fun!  A wonderful book club choice for a lighter reading month.

Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs

 As I mentioned in the Kiss The Wave review, this book also got put in that ever growing "I want to read these books next" pile earlier this year.  It also went with me on our trip to California and was a timely read as well.  Let's All Be Brave is a series of stories from Annie's life where she had to rely on God to give her courage for what was to come in her life.  Each chapter is separate from the others in that you can pick it up and read one chapter and not have to know the previous details mentioned in the book.  Almost like little mini-memoir-essays....if that is a thing. :)  I enjoyed this book as a bedside table book.  Each evening winding down to a story about Annie's life brought me courage in a time I needed it most.

Seven Women by Eric Metaxas

 I have to say up front that I am a big Metaxas fan. I have read many of his works and really enjoyed them.  His Socrates In The City podcast and video series are some of our favorites on the inter-webs.
In Seven Women, Metaxas writes a shortened biography on the lives of 7 women in history:  Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Marie of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.  Last year I read Metaxas' Seven Men and FLEW threw it.  I couldn't put it down.  I had the same hopes for Seven Women, but it wasn't the same.  While it was intriguing an superbly written, as a female, each chapter left me with so many more questions, hoping to find out more about the lady's lives.  I guess this was probably his intent, as the book made me want to know more and continue learning about these ladies.  But to compare, Seven Women seemed more informative and less story than Seven Men.  The first chapter on Joan of Arc was rough for me but I AM SO GLAD I stuck with it.  The chapters on Saint Marie of Paris, Corrie Ten Boom and Hannah More were beyond worth it.  Lastly, if ever there was a book you would buy or pick up ONLY for the Introduction, this would be it.  The introduction to this book is so well written and I found it profoundly encouraging as a female.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kaling writes a series of memoir like essays on life lessons she has learned through out her childhood and into her life as a writer/actress on The Office.  It probably goes without saying but I should take time to point out that Mindy is hilarious! What I found intriguing about this book was her relationship with her parents.  She portrays them with such dignity and class.  She has  deep respect for them and how she was raised.  If you are a fan of The Office or of Mindy, this would be a fun book for you to read.
{Again, if you are an audio book fan, Kaling actually reads her own book.  I always enjoy re-reading (or reading for the first time) when authors are the voice to their own audio book....she is hilarious.}

Happy Reading, y'all!

Monday, October 26, 2015

End Of Summer Reads

I have been slacking again on keeping up with these mini-reviews. But here goes::
(see THIS post for why I started posting these)

Disciplines of A Godly Woman by Barbra Hughes

On a trip to Kenya earlier this year, a friend recommended this book. I told her I had read a book by that title just a few years out of college and it meant a lot to me. When she showed me the cover I thought it was a totally different book, as I remembered that the one I read was purple. With out checking on the author,  I bought myself a copy. Less than a chapter in I thought it seemed SO familiar so I went searching through our family library for that wonderful purple book with notes in the margins and underlines all over. When I found said purple book, IT WAS THE SAME ONE. The publishing company had come out with a second edition {with a cute trendy cover} by the same author.  I decided to continue to read it but I used my old copy.  It was the dearest thing for my heart to catch a glimpse at what 24-year-old-me thought was worthy of underlining, to see the chapters that pierced my heart all those years ago. It struck me time and time again how much this book must have shaped my life ever so gently back then. I also found it very interesting that the chapters that lacked in underlining and that you could tell had not been revisited were the very chapters my heart needed this time through. Barbra Hugues does a beautiful job of gently spelling out spiritual disciplines and how they specifically relate to us as women. If I had to do a one word review on this book it would be :: timeless.  This is a wonderful book to grab some girlfriends and read through it at the same time. You will have a lot to talk about when you get together to discuss.

The Pastor's Wife by Gloria Furman

This book looks small on the shelf, but it packs a big punch. Gloria Furman is empathetic and kind, full of life and encouragement for Pastor's wives. {while it is specifically for Pastor's wives, I think this book could benefit a much wider audience!} The first part of the book, for me was something I knew I needed to read but wasn't what "caught" me. With her stories, Gloria snagged my heart in the second half and brought healing to some areas I didn't know need healing, and boundaries to the same.  I loved her balance of seriousness and hilarity. Her stories were honest, not all with beautiful resolutions but with earnest, wide open transparency which I found helpful as I navigate life in ministry.

Anything by Jennie Allen

I originally bought this book {and Restless- see below} because I know so many people who have read Jennie's books and have had major life change from reading them. I have been so proud of my friend's as they have stepped into all kinds of ministries as a result of the Lord's work through Jennie's writing. I have to be honest and say that I was reluctant, to say the least, as I did not want to read another blogger's book about a blog she read that made her want to quit her life and move to the other side of the globe and adopt a hundred orphans. **cynical much? sometimes I make myself gag**  I had witnessed a similar response years ago when Wild At Heart came out and all the guys I knew quit school, dumped their girlfriend's and moved to the woods...I kid...kinda.

Anyway, I fell in love with Jennie's heart as soon as I read the first few chapters. I read this books so quickly and repented of my aforementioned cynicism. ;) Jennie's story is compelling and challenging and the prayer throughout it is intriguing.  I am SO glad I read this book.  You will enjoy getting to know Jennie but be prepared for ANYTHING.

Restless by Jennie Allen

As I mentioned above, I was reluctant to buy this book but after reading Anything, it was a fantastic second act! I told my husband that this book is such a gift to the Church. The book itself is a TOOL. Restless is a workbook/tool to help you find out your passions and how God has wired you to serve, in your stage of life, RIGHT NOW. Jennie tells story after story of women and men who have found a passion they have had since childhood and are now applying it toward greater good of the Kingdom. If you are feeling like you were "made for more," this is a fantastic tool to help you find your strengths and loose the restlessness. While this book didn't apply directly to me personally in this phase of life, I am SO thankful I read this book.  I highly recommend it to those who are feeling restless, for sure, but also for those who tend to be giving advise to the restless.

 Switch On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Dr. Caroline Leaf is a brilliant cognitive neuroscientist who has become known widely for her 21-day Brain Detox Plan.  In this book she details the research and highlights the important scientific evidence for each key phase of the detox plan.  Each chapter and EVERY piece of research she lists is backed by scripture, which I found fascinating. In fact she does most of her research by finding scriptures about the mind/brain connection and proving them true with science. This book was very technical and not for the faint of heart. I wouldn't recommend it for bedtime reading. This book will stretch your ideas about the mind and its ability to remember and receive information. It will encourage you as you learn about how the Bible aligns with most of her research. For my Calvinist friends, you may not like what she has to say quite often but I would really enjoy your thoughts.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I can't even think about this book with out chuckling. Tina Fey is hilarious as she lays out her life memoir for all of her fans to read.  I laughed and I thought and I disagreed and I changed my mind. I always enjoy reading about peoples lives, learning where they come from and why they do what they do. Tina chronicles her childhood and gives us a glimpse of her up bringing, her early years at UCB and then at SNL.  I particularly enjoyed the end where she told about 30Rock as Vern and I have laughed A LOT over the years at that show. This was a fun, quick read but definitely not for all audiences.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Latest Reads

I have been meaning to post this blog entry since mid-last month so as to help all of those who have asked me about summer reads but I am just now getting around to writing the mini-reviews on them. {see previous post for why I started posting these reviews!} 

Here you go, in case anyone is still looking for some summer reading!

Sara Hagerty pens an honest account of her deepest longings that seemingly are going unfulfilled. She shares stories from her life, specifically about their infertility and road toward adoption, where time and time again she has had to choose to see the goodness of God in the midst of pain and suffering.  Hagerty is a remarkable story teller. Her writing is poetic and beautiful.

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper talks candidly about what it is like to grow up as a Pastor's Kid.  He tells stories of his struggle to find his own faith and identity as people in the congregation seemed to place upon him expectations that were unrealistic. Because of his father's teaching has a large reach these expectations followed him into college as well as his adult life.  Piper gives fantastic insight and advice for pastors and their wives on how to help shape & protect their kids. I think this book would be beneficial for youth leaders, close friends of pastor's families, as well as many congregants.

Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle 

This book had me laughing and crying and then calling all my best friends and telling them all the stories!  Melanie Shankle memoirs her life by letting you meet her best friends in all the different seasons of her life. As she tells the stories of how various friendships shaped her life, I found myself reflecting on my own life and the kind of friend I hope to be. This was a wonderful book, a page-turner. (and if you are into audio books, she actually reads her own book so you get to hear alot of her personality through it!)
Scary Close by Donald Miller
In Scary Close, Donald Miller recounts his realization of destructive relational patterns in his life and how he went about working through them. His openness about such personal things draws you in and in a sense offers healing to you, the reader, as well.  He tells the story of how he got help, what therapists, mentors and friends helped him through along the way. Through his telling, I found myself reflective on my own patterns, milling through the advice he received, and finding clarity on some aspects of my own life.  Miller is a renown story teller and this book is no different.  He tells a story so well that some how you can find yourself right in it.

From Tablet To Table by Leonard Sweet
This is a book about a subject that I love: the sacredness of the table. I could go on and on listing quotes and ideas he gives, but you should just pick it up and give it a read instead.  While this is not my favorite book on this topic, Sweet covers A LOT in a small, easy to read book.  I said a few times while I read this book, "He could write an entire book off of each chapter." So needless to say he just skims the surface of why the table is sacred.  This will wet your appetite to read other books on the subject for sure!

Everything Else by Brett Laxton
Laxton had me laughing so hard I snorted, on a plane, next to strangers...yep, that funny. I tried to keep reading this book the rest of the flight but I had all the poor people around me worried about my emotional health because next thing they knew I was bawling.  Everything Else is full of true, honest, heart warming & hilarious stories from Brett's life. A fantastic story teller, Laxton circles each chapter around in such a way that you can relate to your own life.  He shares about his families ups and their downs.  Laxton self published this book as it is his debut in writing.  I HIGHLY recommend you grab a copy and support this longtime friend. You won't regret it.