Friday, October 06, 2017

End of Spring and All of Summer Reads!

Summer is over and Fall is beautifully making its way to the midwest! Here are reviews of the other six books I read over the spring and summer, as promised in my last blog post.  I hope you find some fun reads to add to your Fall reading!  I am about 2 books into my fall books and would love to know what you are reading as I make my choices for fall and winter!!

Brennen Manning is by far my husband’s favorite author and because of that I have read everything I can get my hands on by Manning. His words speak straight to my husband’s soul and so I want to know ALL THE THINGS. This book, however was somehow one I missed. I thought I had read the books, watched the films, all things Brennen, covered, check. I’m going to be honest here and say I would not have read this book had it not been required reading for our HVG staff.  BUT had I not, I would have VERY MUCH MISSED OUT.  We read through this in a space of our life that was crazy busy and not very consistent. So reading this was a challenge becauese I wanted to give it my entire head space but often only opened the book with 1/3 of my brain J. In true Manning fashion, all his writing requires is for you to take a deep breath, open your heart and read. He does all the work with his provocative question asking and prolific stories. I have so much to say about this book, but if you cant find a copy (its not easy to get a hold of sometimes) than pick up anything by Brennen Manning and be challenged and encouraged.

You Are Free by Rabecka Lyons

Rebecka Lyons does it again! You are Free beautifully and vulnerably stories through Lyons quest towards freedom, specifically freedom given to her by God. Her previous book, Free Fall to Fly, stories your battle with anxiety so profoundly and openly that it aided so many to a freedom in that area.  You Are Free opens up the idea of freedom beyond the area of anxiety to all the areas of your life. She speaks to the rat race of feeling like you need to meet every one's expectations and gives you tools to know how to throw off self doubt and condemnation. At the end of each chapter she gives easy to work through questions to help you along the journey.

Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times Best Seller and blogger, know to many as The Hands Free Mama, wrote this book with a desire to encourage people to put down all the distractions and see the people right in front of them. Stafford gives 9 intentional habits to help you live, love, connect, and dream at a richer level. Hands Free Life is easy to read and full of helpful, practical advice.  Stafford shares stories of how she has applied each of the 9 habits, making it easy to connect with her suggestions.

Braving The Wilderness By Brene Brown

Y'all. Stop reading this right now and click on the link and buy this book! Or run out to the book store and grab it! The message in this book is so important to the cultural climate, especially in America, today. Brene Brown, a research professor in Social Science, urges connectedness and belonging, both to yourself and to others. She shows us the cultural effects of our individualization and the shame responses we have that result in a lack of belonging. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 are crucial concepts for us to learn as we navigate this modern world. The chapter titles tell it all :: Chapter 4::  People Are Hard To Hate Up Close. Move In. Chapter 5:: Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.  Chapter 6:: Hold Hands. With Strangers.  Brown encourages us to get to know people who do not think like us and shows the negative cultural implications of surrounding ourselves with only like minded humans. I can not stress enough how helpful and encouraging this work is. I highly recommend you add it to your reading list...soon!

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

If you are looking for a fun book that makes your feel like you are talking to your best friend, this is your jam! Jen Hatmaker is HILARIOUS as always, but in her brilliant way, makes you think hard about the how's and why's of life. This book is full of camaraderie and encouragement. She tells stories that make you laugh until your side hurts and cry the ugly cry. We got the audio of this book to listen to on our long haul across the US because my husband loves listening to and reading Jen's writings just as much as I do. This book guided us into wonderful conversations. Jen helped us look at our life and be tremendously grateful for our friends and loved ones. She helped us have courage for hard things, chuckle at things that were hard that shouldn't have been, and grapple with some cultural issues. ALL IN ONE BOOK. You will love this book. Get it and enjoy it with some friends!

This autobiographical account of Eddie Wadsworth’s life growing up as the child of a broken home, finding herself in situations almost unbearable to hear, is a must read. A fantastic story teller, Wadsworth helps you see into her life growing up in between an acholic father who lived with family in a trailer park and a single mother who was doing her best to get her kids out of the life they had and into a better one.  The author does an fantastic job of taking you along on her upbringing and writes in a way that helps you see and feel the things of her childhood. Her journey to finding God and growing into adulthood will pull you in and by the end you will feel as if you are longtime friends. This resilient child became a tenatious adult who loves the Lord and is trying with all her might to see All The Pretty Things.


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.