Friday, December 14, 2018

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

Things Left Unsaid

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found...."

Guilt, grief, regret, shame, and secrets meet grace, forgiveness, and second chances in an exceptional novel.  I have become a little disillusioned with some of the fiction I've been reading and its predictable plots, but this book leaves me wishing for more. Yes, it has the guy meets girl and the predictable ending, in a way, but it is filled with so many deeper things.

A decade has gone by and the guilt and grief, regret and shame have only continued to hound at the doorsteps of three different individuals. Another couple is at loose ends and only coexisting because they too don't know how to go on together anymore.  Everyone is reunited by a wedding and a celebration of life. Tucker has been told that some things need to be spoken aloud so that he can really find and accept forgiveness  and the ability to fully go forward and live life. He gains the courage to do just that and so do the others. Of course, in the end, everything does work out and yet, it is also a portrait of God. I don't know if Courtney intended it to be that or not, but when the real truth, the deep secrets come out, each person finds themself still fully loved and accepted. And that is how God is. He loves us and He wants us to come clean with Him and seek His forgiveness.

I just don't want to say much about the characters themselves, because I'm not sure how to say anything without completely giving away the story and I can't do that. You need to read the book and see for yourself how amazing grace can be and how found you can feel when you let go of the secrets, tear down the walls, and let someone else share your pain with you.

I received this book from Waterfall Press through NetGalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-room Guide To A Decluttered, Refocused Life

A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life

Well, I feel like I should be decluttering my house rather than writing this book review. Joshua gives detailed room by room to-do lists, if you will, for how to get rid of clutter and stuff in your house. Ten years ago, he took on minimalism and hasn't looked back yet.

I really enjoyed the book and now I find myself looking around and thinking of all the things I should or want to get rid of. It's probably not all feasible, but reading this book just days before I am planning to clean up and clean out our office/storage/sewing/hobby/whatever it needs to be room and I feel inspired and defeated both to get going on it. I know there are things to throw out and definitely ways to organize to take up less space, but I also know I love my hobbies and projects....

This book gave some good ideas. I don't consider myself a true minimalist. I like decorations, books, memorabilia, etc. but I do like simple. I like clutter free bookshelves and a clean table and there's a breath of joy when the one side of my kitchen counter is clear except for my stack of papers (planner, menus, etc.)  I have also been thinking of the fact that I still have too many clothes, even after I thought I thoroughly purged my closet a year or two ago. So I have been given many good ideas that I would like incorporate. We are hoping to move within the next year and I have grand ideas for the moving process and the settling in process, ways I can incorporate some of these ideas from this book.

One thing I really liked that Joshua said in this book is to get rid of the things that distract. If you have a decor item that is really special to you, then clear away the five things around it that prevent you from even noticing the item itself. Keep the things that mean the most to you. If you don't need it or it is an extra special memento, get rid of it.

"The people are the life of a home. Successful family living was never about the size of a house. So make more of the people within your household, and make less of the house itself."

I really enjoyed this book and think it would be helpful for anyone who wants to embark on the journey of minimalism.

I received this book from Waterbrook and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Let's Get Ready for Bed by Michael W. Smith and Mike Nawrocki

Let's Get Ready For Bed

This book is the first book that I did not read first. I listened to this book for the first and only reading so far, something I don't think has happened before. We all sat on our daughter's bed and listened to Daddy read the story. Of course, as soon as it was finished, our daughter immediately wanted it read again and was quite disappointed when that didn't happen. This was a book I let her pick out of a few options and she was so excited about it coming in the mail.

Written by the popular singer, Michael W. Smith, G-Daddy to 14 grandchildren and Mike Nawrocki, co-founder of the popular Veggie Tales is whimsical bedtime story about a little puppy getting ready for bed. It's all rhyming verse, which endears a story to me immediately, and goes through the basic bedtime routines, brushing teeth, saying prayers, a story, and a lullaby. The puppy's friends look on until they are needed. It's just a cute, fun story.

The pictures add to the whimsy of it. You can see from the front cover the style of illustrations, not really true to life, but to me they are cute and just fit with the story. The cover is also fun with some tactile sensations included on the clouds. This would make a great Christmas gift to the little ones in your life who need a good bedtime story.

As an added plus, there's a link included with the book that allows you to listen to Michael W. Smith singing the lullaby that's written in the book. This is the second in a series of bedtime books put out by Nurturing Steps. Nurturing Steps was founded by Michael W Smith and is an infant and toddler series of children's music and books with a simple mission to enliven a child's journey with hope and faith through music and storytelling.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

The Ministry Of Ordinary Places: Waking Up To God's Goodness Around You

Waking up to God's Goodness Around You

"Ordinary places and average people remind me of everything I'm pretending not to be."

But isn't most of life made up of ordinary moments? And that is what Shannan points out. Called to leave her dream farmhouse in the country to move to the city on the wrong side of the tracks, (You can read more of that story in her first book, Falling Free) Shannan and her husband Cory are looking to reach out to the people right there, their neighbors.

It's not about success in the big things, it's about faithfulness in the little things, in the mundane, in seeing what's around them and reaching out. Cory is a chaplain at the jail and so they see the brokenness of the inmates, but they also see the difficulty that is the life of the incarcerated set free. They see how hard it is for them to find jobs, to find housing, to find someone who believes in them, to live free from addiction, to build or restore relationships. And they strive to be there for these people, to pray for them, to offer them a meal, a ride, whatever they need.

This book challenges me to see God in the ordinary moments of life, to see God in the "interruptions" of a normal day. I don't live in the city, I don't have lots of close neighbors, but that doesn't excuse me from reaching out and trying to make a difference.

"The health and well-being of our communities depend on our willingness to taste sadness with joy and pain along with redemption."  So very true.

I really enjoyed this book and think there is much to be learned on its pages.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and was not required to leave a positive review.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel by Christopher Yuan

Holy Sexuality And The Gospel: Sex, Desire, And Relationships Shaped By God's Grand Story

Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God's Grand Story

"Holy sexuality: chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage." This definition is repeated multiple times throughout the book. "This term holy sexuality is meant to simplify and disentangle the complex and confusing conversation around sexuality. The truth is that God's standard for everyone is holy sexuality: chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. Different expectations for different people are not only unfair; they're unbiblical."

Christopher Yuan is a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. He and his mother wrote a book together called "Out of a Far Country" which gives the story of his journey through the gay lifestyle and his conversion to Christianity, along with the journey of the mother who prayed for eight years for his salvation. Now Chris is back with a book about what the Bible has to say about sexuality.

First off, Christopher helps the reader figure out their identity. In the case of same-sex attraction, the reason we often hear is this is who I am and I can't help it. Christopher helps us debunk that theory both for same-sex attraction and for every other issue we may face in life. "True identity is not what I do. Nor is it how I am. True identity is who I am." And we are made in the image of God and as such we represent God. Gender and sexuality is not our identity, it's what I am and what I do, but not who I am. And when we let "experience supersede essence - what I feel is who I am. In other words, psychology usurps biology. When anyone embraces this ideology, truth is no longer absolute. Truth becomes what I think and what I feel."  Our first step must be to place our identity in Christ and recognize that we are made in His image and need a Savior.  And then as Christians to, out of that knowledge, treat all humans with dignity and respect.

Another thing he debunks is that sin is a result of our upbringing, he was speaking primarily of same-sex attraction because that is the gist of his book, but I think it could apply to many sins. If we say it was our upbringing that made us sin or made us struggle with sin, then we are not acknowledging the sin nature within us and we are basically saying that we don't need Jesus, we just need a better environment.

I could go on and on quoting things from this book. It was so good and eye opening for me. I was made to recognize that sin is sin. Chris gave the example of a mother weeping brokenly for her son who had turned to the gay lifestyle and wondering why he couldn't be normal like his brother who had a steady girlfriend and a baby on the way. Chris' point was that both boys were in sin, why was one so much worse than the other. He also gives a really good chapter on desire and temptation, but I don't have the space to go into it right now.

One thing I really appreciated about the book is how every topic went back to the Bible and was dissected and based on what the Bible had to say. Chris didn't sugar coat anything. While he struggles with same-sex attractions, he doesn't make any allowance for acting on it, just as he doesn't make any allowance for acting on your desires for an illegitimate relationship with the opposite gender.

Towards the end of the book, he does give some pointers on relating to those friends and family who struggle with same-sex attractions. He gives some dos and don'ts for relating to them. I am not going to go into all of them, but to say that to listen without condemnation or pushing them away is the first step. He also has different pointers based on if they are non-Christian or Christian as well.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I recommend this book. I think it is worth the read especially in the culture we live in. I also highly recommend reading "Out of a Far Country" as well.

I received this book from Multnomah through NetGalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Indivisible by Travis Thrasher

Indivisible: A Novelization

One Marriage, One Family Under God

This book is the novelization of a movie and is based on true events. Darren and Heather Turner, a couple committed to God and country and each other, but when life throws them a curve ball they are a little unprepared to handle it.

Darren is a Army Chaplain and sent to Iraq for 15 months. Heather holds down the fort at home and gets involved with support groups etc. for army wives, especially the group that provides support after a wife receives news of the death of her husband. All this is done while living on pins and needles, always wondering when the knock will happen at your door that rips your life apart.

So while I'm not a proponent of war, the substance of this book is very, very good. Regardless, we are in a spiritual war where Satan is waiting to trip us up and destroy us and our families. And in this book, he was using the scars and the battle wounds worn internally on Darren to do it. And he nearly succeeds, but not quite. And that is all the spoilers I want to give there except to say that it required vulnerability and trust on Darren's part to work through the internal wounding he had experienced.

One of the amazing things in this book is when Darren's children all of  a sudden run to their bedroom to pray for their dad and that was the time when Darren's convoy was in trouble. What a great God we serve.

"My family and I - we've made a promise to each other to protect ourselves from anything the might try to divide us. We've learned the best way for us to do that is to pout on the Armor of God and to seek to honor Him in all that we do. And we want to invite our brothers and sisters here and abroad to do the same."

One thing I do want to say is that the book is a bit challenging to read in a way. I did have an early copy where there were still corrections to be made, but this didn't seem like something that would be corrected. And that was the way the book went back and forth between present and past tense. One part of the book would say like "Darren sat down and thought about...." and the next part would say "Darren walks over to the young man" etc. While it is fine, I found it just a bit distracting to the overall ease of reading.

However, for the overall theme of the book: redemption, second chances, God's grace, etc. I would recommend it and I will definitely be interested in watching the movie as well. Along with that there is also a nonfiction book called Indivisible:One Marriage Under God by Robert Noland. This is a devotional for couples also based off the movie and the life of Darren and Heather Turner.

This is a Thomas Nelson book that I received through NetGalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

No or Yes, Which are You?

I realized something this week and it's kind of bothering me. I think I'm a "No" mom. A asks me if she can do something like her water paints or play with her train, things that will make a mess or cause a fight with her brother and my reaction is "No, not now, it's too close to supper, to bed, to naptime. L will just fight with you." And on and on go my excuses. Why? I mean really, how hard would it be to let her?

So I don't want to deal with the mess, but which is actually messier, cleaning up the chocolate milk that was spilled about 20 seconds after I poured it or helping her get some water so she can paint a picture? Or how about this, letting her get out the play food box that keeps both children entertained for hours versus just saying no? Let me add this, letting her get that food box out was a great decision. I was able to sew for about 2.5 hours yesterday after their naps. That's pretty much unheard of and I was so very happy and blessed and pleased and ecstatic and I got a lot sewed. And on top of that, she actually picked up the food pieces herself without complaining, something else pretty unheard of.

So why do I say no when it can provide so many hours of fun? Sometimes, I'll be honest, and this doesn't earn me any mom awards, it's because I don't want to be bothered to stop what I'm doing and go get the project set up or the item out of the storage room, etc. Really? That's embarrassing to admit here. And sometimes it's because I'm pretty sure if I get her set up with a project that I will then have to deal with the little guy being extremely crabby and again, I don't want to stop what I'm doing to entertain him so she can do something fun. Again, I sound like a selfish mom.

So what am I trying to get at here? I want to know if you are a yes mom or a no mom. And if you are reformed no mom I would like to know any and all secrets or tips you could offer, because I want to change and do better.

I know, I'll make it a New Year's Goal because everybody keeps their New Year's Goals right?

Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found...." Guilt, grief, regret...