A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

As someone who really likes bright colors (and who tends to make somewhat unique style choices), I was absolutely captivated by the cover to this book – bright, bold colors and lots of pictures of projects that I was sure the book would give directions on how to make.  What a great combination!  Once I opened the book up, I wasn’t even remotely disappointed.  This book has amazing ideas, incredibly easy (but fun!) things to do, and a whole lot that’s affordable for those of us on tighter budgets.  Hooray for ALL of that!

Some of the ideas I enjoyed were:

– Coffee filters used to make flowers on a headboard, so it’s 3D and super fun.

– Balsam wood that’s cut out to “frame” around those picture strips from photo booths – wonderful way to be able to show off those memories!

– Ideas for making your own jewelry “tray” with a glass plate that you glue/paste things to the bottom of (keeping the top smooth) and then epoxy over.  Easy, cheap, and so much fun to completely personalize for yourself!

– Great ideas for personalizing a play room with kiddos, including how to make a bookshelf out of an old wagon.  SUPER cool!

There were a whole ton more ideas, and lots with bright colors that I really want to replicate in our own house.  But this is definitely the kind of book that would be great for anyone – especially those who are willing to think outside of the box.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

 

 

Watershed Moments by Gari Meacham

Watershed moments are defined by the author as being “those turning points that inspire us, challenge us, stop us in our tracks, and change the course of our lives”.  The whole book is all about the moments, and the things we can learn as we go through them.  There are seven “watersheds” that the author uses: Change, Awareness, Rebuilding, Control, Approval, Overcoming and Belief.

In the section on the Watershed of Change, the author makes a statement that really stuck out to me:

“What a joy it is to realize that, like those (mountain) flowers, we don’t change so that we will be noticed by others.  We don’t change out of guilt or duty, but rather for the sheer pleasure of learning the ways of God.  We know He will acknowledge our courage, even if no one else does.”

What truth there is in that – any changes that we need to make, should be made out of pleasure, just for God.  We should never try to change ourselves to satisfy people in our lives, because we don’t need to be worried about them.  We only need to worry about one Person.

In the section on the Watershed of Rebuilding, the author takes us back to Nehemiah and his desire to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.  It referenced a lot of the book of Nehemiah, and talked about how he struggled, but he was real and honest with the king about the things he would need.  Then it went on to show how standing up to the king, and being extremely open (even though he knew that could have back-fired!) was exactly what he was supposed to do.  The king sent him, not just allowing him to rebuild, but supplying him with the materials he needed to do it!  How many times are we held back, not because people in our lives wouldn’t support or encourage or even help us out when we need it, but because we aren’t bold enough to just tell people what’s happening, the things we’re convicted by, and what they could do to actually help us?  It was a good reminder, that we all need to be willing to stand up and do the same thing Nehemiah did, when we’re called to do it.

There are many other great nuggets of wisdom in this book, and I literally couldn’t put it down once I started reading it.  It was everything I had hoped it would be, and more!  The book includes some fantastic discussion questions at the end, and that would make for a great study among friends, or in a small group.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it was really fantastic.  I’m excited to look for more work by this author, who is truly an engaging writer, who bases everything she says on Scripture – as well as personal stories from her own life.  She didn’t hold back on the hard things that have happened in her own story, and that was really very refreshing.  So many authors would just quote Scripture, and never tell you about how that relates to their own lives.  She was very real about her struggles, the things that have been hard for her, and the areas where she’s learned about these “watershed moments” for herself.  That definitely made it much easier to relate to her, and what she was sharing!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Watershed Moments Cover

Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman

This book is part six of the Daughters of the Promise series, but is the first one that I’ve read and I can definitely say that even if you haven’t read anything prior, it was a great story.  Many parts of it were “typical” or “common” in terms of Amish fiction – a boy meets a girl, they fall in love, there are challenges along the way, they wind up getting married in the end and everyone is on great terms… but many (many!) parts of this book included things I’ve never seen before in Amish fiction.  Hoarding, secrets (on a pretty big level!), lies, adultery, and more – things that you wouldn’t expect to see in Amish fiction, but at the same time, I wonder why that is.  Why do we think that the English world is more apt to have issues like these?  It was really good, in many ways, to see that even thought we have completely different lifestyles from those who are Amish, we’re also very much the same.  I appreciated that in the midst of it being a love story, it also showed the power of forgiveness – what a great lesson to learn, and so well portrayed.

Reading this story made me want to find the other books in this series – I think that if they’re anything like this one, they would be just as hard to put down!  I highly recommend the book.  It was thought-provoking, and at the same time, a really great read.  There are discussion questions at the end, which makes it the perfect book to use for a book club.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Plain Peace Cover

The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs

This was an absolutely delightful little book, filled with snippets of the different stories we are told in the Bible, thoughts from everyday people (like you and I), and the author’s whimsical thoughts about each part.

The book tells the stories of three women – Mary, the mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, the mother of John, and Anna, the prophetess.  For those of us who have heard the Christmas stories over and over again, you would think it would be the same thing as normal, but it’s really not!  The author takes you through the stories piece by piece, commenting on all aspects of what’s said – and not said.  I loved the way she made them come to life, and really make sense for us NOW!  She asked questions about parts of the Scriptures that made me laugh out loud, they were so funny.  But she had some really, really great points!

At the end of the book is a study guide, with three questions for each chapter.  It’s an easy guide, not a whole lot of work there, but would make a great starting point for a small group study, or even for a group of girlfriends who read through the book together.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

The Wayfinding Bible, New Living Translation (NLT)

I don’t think I have EVER been more excited to get a Bible in the mail.  When I saw the opportunity to request a copy for review, I knew that I absolutely HAD to do it.  That was, by far, the best decision I have made in a long time.  What an amazing Bible, that honestly makes reading it seem like such an adventure!  Having grown up with more than one Bible, and knowing lots of the Bible stories inside out, I was excited that this Bible had three separate “routes” to choose from: the flyover route (with about 50 readings, covering “the most important events in the Bible”), the direct route (with about 200 readings, helping you to “develop a better understanding of how God’s story develops”), and the scenic route (with about 400 readings, that give you a path to “explore new territory, discovering the depth and richness of God’s Word like never before”).  It’s got fun colors on the cover, amazing pictures (in full color, not just black and white!), and there is a very easy to understand guide running across the top of most pages, leading you on the journey – whichever route you choose.  For people who have read those mystery books, that let you choose what happens, then if you choose the first option you turn to a certain page, and if you choose the second option you turn to another page – that’s what this made me think of.  It truly was a complete adventure, and made the Bible come to life in ways that I had never seen it do that before.  As a person who spends (and has spent) a good amount of time in Bible study, that’s pretty significant.  I’ve done individual Bible studies that made individual stories come alive, but I have never seen the entire Bible come alive in the way that this Bible did it.

As you read, you see different “stops” with observation points and exploration points.  For example, in II Chronicles 31, it talks about Assyria invading Judah, gives some information about King Hezekiah, and then goes on to observe that everyone was “terrified of the Assyrians”, but still “trusted their king and their God”.  It explores the fact that God “displayed his strength and sovereignty through a miracle that shamed the mightiest and most feared king in the world”, and then went on to quote from Luke 18:27 “What is impossible for people is possible for God”.

As a person who values color in life, I tend to find it hard to read the Bible for very long with it all being in black and seeming like a never-ending book filled with black (which I really do not think is a very friendly color at all).  I know that sounds a little bit strange, but it might help you to understand why the color in this version was so great for me.  Orange, green, and blue were the colors for the different “journeys” and there were even pictures of the locations being talked about (such as the Sea of Galilee) and those were in color too!  For people who do better with color, you will really appreciate how much color is in this Bible.  It definitely makes it more fun!

I appreciate that this version used the New Living Translation, because most of my study is done in the NIV or ESV, so this gives me the ability to study the same stories, but in slightly different wording.  Sometimes that can make a world of difference in being able to grasp ideas or concepts – just having a few different words.

It would be a great gift for new/young Christians, but it’s also a fantastic Bible for those of us who have spent our entire lives studying the Bible and need a way to look at it through new eyes.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend it!  You can get it in softcover, hardcover, leather cover, or for your kindle.  There is definitely an option to fit everyone!

For a video with previews of all the fantastic stuff in this Bible:

http://goo.gl/9qpoalT

There is also a website for this Bible, with great study resources that are definitely worth checking out!

http://wayfindingbible.com/

I received a free copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Fashioned to Reign by Kris Vallotton

This book was definitely interesting to read, primarily because it centered around the idea that women need to be “empowered” to “fulfill their divine destiny”.  This is a highly contentious issue for people in general, but especially among Christians.  Depending on your denomination, your beliefs about where a woman can stand in positions of authority can be dramatically different.  The author in this book was trying to show that women should not be limited, that they can do all the things men can do.  It was an interesting debate to read about, that’s for sure!

The author definitely had a very specific “bent” to the way things were presented, and he worked hard to show that his way was the right way.  I’m not convinced that he was as respectful as he should have been though, and feel very troubled by the idea that he was putting God in a box when he said things like “when the women of God are not honored…. half of the nature of God Himself is “imprisoned” – something that clearly can’t be, because we KNOW that God does not (and can not!) allow Himself to be limited by what WE do.

At one point, the author said that “I find it interesting that Jesus grew up with a mother who supposedly got pregnant with him out of wedlock”.  Supposedly?  Comments like this make me seriously question the author, and how much he knows/understands about the Bible.  There is NO supposedly about that.  She DID get pregnant out of wedlock.  I would have been fine with the sentence if the word “supposedly” wasn’t part of it.  It IS interesting that Jesus grew up with a mother who was pregnant before she got married, and who had a lot of people treating her differently as a result.  But there is nothing “supposed” about it.

There was a lot of Scripture referenced throughout the book, and I struggled to follow along with the way the author interpreted it.  I feel like he kept saying things that just didn’t sound right and really didn’t feel right… and while I hesitate to challenge a well known, and well liked pastor, I really did have a hard time with this book as a whole.  Not because I disagree that women are often held to lower positions than the ones they should be able to go after, but because I don’t think he acknowledged at all that women who choose those positions can still be operating in the complete will of God.  His idea that we should all push against what we’re being told, assumes that we are all told that we can’t do or be anything more than quiet and submissive.  But there’s nothing wrong with being either one, and there is a time and place for both things.  Even with those of us who are outspoken.

This book is thought-provoking, for sure, but not at all a book I would recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Cover Art

Little Book of Great Dates by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley

This little book was filled with some truly fantastic ideas.  I’ve been married for seven years (hooray!), and while I know my husband and I love each other, we rarely go out on dates with each other now that we have two young children at home.  I appreciated the introduction, and how it talked about the need to make “date time” important.  Even when you have kids.  Our idea of “date night” is both staying in same room “together” after our oldest is in bed, and before the baby falls asleep.  Honestly. Fortunately for us, quite a few of these date ideas aren’t things that would require paying a babysitter for – they’re things we could easily do at home.  I like that!

It started with “A New Year’s Date”, and a great idea, but it did make me feel like the book may be hard for some to start at any other time than the start of a year.  I mean, I can’t be the only one who likes to do things in order… can I?  The book was clearly meant to be done in order, as some of the dates built off what was done in previous dates (for example, date 11 says “during the previous date, you developed a list…”).  This would be a great gift – ideal as a Christmas present, so they could start using it on January 1st.

Completely not related to the content, but the “innards” of my book were put in upside down and backwards.  Literally.  I had to flip the book to the back cover in order to read it.  I wonder why that was?

Overall, I thought it was a great book, and one that I am anxious to start using!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.