Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: Every Mom Needs This Book (If You Have a Boy)

Bethany House Publishing blessed me with a complimentary copy of What a Son Needs from His Mom by Cheri Fuller in exchange for an honest review.
     If you are a mom of a boy, I am sure you have noticed that boys are entirely different creatures. They think differently and act at times oddly, making decisions that sometimes boggle the female mind. Author Cheri Fuller has enlightened this mama with her wonderful book, What a Son Needs from His Mom. Sure you can wing it, but intentionally setting up your little man for life is a much wiser choice. He needs the feminine viewpoint in his life without cramping his style. The world demands so much from men and boys alike, that we need to be a refuge or lighthouse so to speak, as to provide guidance, comfort and encouragement. Storms rage around us, boys need to be encouraged and upheld to become the strong men that God has called them to become.
      That isn't an easy task. Through Fuller's own experience and those of fellow mothers, she provides seasoned wisdom ranging from directing your toddler to befriending the adult child. Motherhood weathers many seasons, through infancy to adulthood we see a lot and are there to provide for our children. Finding the right balance of control, advice and gentle nudging are key to building up our sons. The eleven-year-old needs more autonomy than that of his three-year-old brother who can't tie his own shoes. Fuller includes topics such as: confidence-building, praying for sons, staying connected and nurturing faith to name a few.
     Though the chapters aren't all quick reads, they can be valuable tools in our mothering arsenal. The different stages of life seem to intermingle in the chapters so, I would suggest highlighting passages in different colors for easier reference later. What a Son Needs from His Mom is a book to be kept on your shelf for different developmental phases. I may be honing in on a couple of ages now, but two years from now will need to tinker with my relationship with my boys to better accommodate their emotional and spiritual needs. I was very impressed with the research the author included to back up her experiences and suggestions. She is candid, frank and passionate.
     The journey of motherhood is always an adventure. It is wonderful to have advice of those who have walked this path before us. I hope every mother who wants the best for her little guy picks up What a Son Needs from His Mom not only to enhance her comprehension of what he can grow to be, but also to ensure she can give him a launch.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Looking for Wings

Handlebar Publishing in conjunction with Tyndale Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Rebekah Lyons' memoir Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning in exchange for an honest review.
     Sometimes just when we think we have our lives figured out God seems to drop us into unfamiliar landscape. A landscape so utterly foreign to us that we can't stand on our own two feet. It is as we gather our bearings and stumble a few times that beauty is beheld and something amazing appears.
     Author Rebekah Lyons provides a candid account of her journey through such a scenario. Rebekah's days in Georgia were nice and sweet. She had a great group of friends and a supportive husband. Before she knew it life indelibly changed as her family moved to New York City. The change from suburban, Southern mama to an NYC urbanite was a switch that seemed to throw her off and left her helter-skelter grasping for normalcy. Panic attacks and anxiety punctuated her day affecting her kids and her daily life.
     It's in this desolation Rebekah seeks encouragement from other women and begins to find her calling. If God had never led her to New York she would have missed out on the opportunities to uplift others in similar situations. Women today in the hustle and bustle of life can easily fore go their own identity in exchange for feeling like the super mom as we easily tend to our families before ourselves. We need to find a balance. Rebekah while sharing her own story lends inspiration to the reader to identify her own calling, her own beauty reclaimed.
     As a woman who has struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks for almost 20 years I cannot only see myself in Rebekah's story, but also am relieved that someone else is voicing such pain. Freefall to Fly is gripping and heart-wrenching. The rawness and sheer emotion that is lent to the page lends validity to my own emotions and journey and I'm sure to many others as well.
     If you are a co-sufferer or know a woman who is in her own desert right now Freefall to Fly is a must. Rebekah's story may look different than your own, but the emotions will unite your heart to the author's. Even if you are someone who simply wants to reflect Lyons' book will help you do that. I urge women to grab a hold of their journey and dare to dream, dare to fly. These pages just may open up a new sky to spread your wings.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: Hope for Family Outreach

BookSneeze on behalf of Zondervan Publishing provided a complimentary of Organic Outreach for Families: Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse in exchange for an honest review.
     The Great Commission that Jesus called all believers to fulfill isn't an easy task. Add parenting, careers and any other responsibilities into the equation and it equals a full plate. Step into church on Sunday morning, the pastor mentions our obligations as Christians and guilt may set in. Where does one find more time? How can one reach out without sacrificing life? Where can kids fit into the equation?
     Authors and husband and wife team, Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney, want to share what has led to a successful life and outreach strategy for them. Organic Outreach is as it sounds. Outreach should be an extended part of our lives, sharing it with neighbors and strangers alike. It isn't a five step, one-size-fits-all approach. Their approach is natural and doesn't require a lot of know how. Rather, it requires you to open up your heart and home, and best of all, as a family.
     Through three parts the Harneys encourage the believer to live out their beliefs. The authors want you to first make sure a couple important aspects of your life reflect godly living, not perfect living, by the way. In Part One: Reaching Your Own Family ensures that we are reaching our children and family members before reaching out to the neighbors. Part Two: Raising Children of Light in a Dark World guides the reader to instill proper living into their kids. Parents can help equip their children to fulfill the Great Commission. Finally, Part Three: Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse gives instruction and encouragement to families to extend God's presence into the lives of others.
    I have a hard time opening my home to others as I look at it as my place of solace and refuge from the world. However, there lies the key. Our homes can be refuges for others in need of comfort and fellowship. Darkness surrounds us. His light can abound through us. The Harneys really press into the fact that organic means natural. Being a lighthouse is to allow the natural warmth and joy we have found in Christ to exude and invite others into the glow. I love that. I can relax and know with some effort my family can be an example. Perfection is out and a smile and a listening ear are in. My kids can run around and draw their playmates into our home, dust and all. I don't have to go up to someone, tap them on the shoulder and ask if they know Christ. Care and compassion can go a long way opening up doors that will lead to conversations of salvation and eternity. Organic Outreach for Families has opened up new thinking and with practice some new doing.
     This book is easy to read and has a lot of charm. Just as Christ's light beckons, Organic Outreach for Families does the same. It beckons us into our calling to shine His light for others and lead them to the Beacon of Hope.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: More Delicious Than I Thought

I received a complimentary copy of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.
     When I first sat down with my glasses on ready to dig into this book I thought I might be bored with Bread & Wine. When I realized how food-oriented the book was I questioned my liking for such material. It's not that I don't like to cook and bake, I enjoy it when I do get in there, but I am lazy. After a long day corralling my young ones and fighting and sometimes slaying the laundry dragon, I am tired and scramble to put something together. Or worse yet, feed each individual when hunger strikes. There's actually an appendix for me on that one. But, here's the thing: I'll read a book an any subject once to give it a try and see what insights that author brings to life.
      My goodness, to my delight and joy, I was enthralled by Niequist's ease and flow. Her work is more like a cohesive collection of essays that shifts one's thinking about food, the dinner table and life differently. Each chapter is her monologue to you, to bring you into her world, her thoughts, her life. It's in the process of listening that it dawned on me Niequist was rubbing off on me, stirring the cook in me. Bread &Wine is dusted with new recipes to try and play with if you want to taste the foods she describes so well. Even if you're not ready to jump head-first or even to toy with the idea of heading into the kitchen, your mouth will  be watering. She teaches you recipes are to be tinkered with until they become your own.
     For Niequist food is about life. There's the physical sustaining energy found in food. As well as the spiritual and emotional connections that food can concoct between family and friends between bites. Memories are recollected at the instigation of certain tastes and smells. Her cookbooks are the foodie's album as scrapbooks are to moms with a camera. Milestones are marked by food, sometimes in a celebratory manner or other times in grief. Food can comfort the soul as it nourishes the body.
     I would recommend this book for any woman. We all face trials in life and have moments full of joy. Bread & Wine contains both and celebrates life. It is a great book to have at your bedside for leisurely reading or in your purse as you wait at the doctors' office. The chapters are short and sweet, heartfelt and engaging, the perfect ingredients for a delightful read.

In similar fashion, I want to briefly share one of my memories that came about as food was shared.

A Sapphire Star and Remembrance

     Both of my grandparents have passed on now. In fact, I am still shocked at how long ago they departed. I consider them staples in my life I am unwilling to let go of. Lucky for me, love always remains. The funny thing is when I remember my childhood I often think of a particular table and the love that surrounded it.
      My grandparents' had a mid-century, dark wood table that hosted so many birthdays and family dinners the laughter and use ingrained themselves into the surface. The wood was warm and buttery almost, so smooth and covered in memories that its curves are etched permanently in my mind. It has been years since I sat there. My childhood birthday wishes were blown out on that table. I remember once playfully pulling back on my grandpa's finger as he sat at dinner, but I hurt him and hid in shame for a while. I would sit in my grandpa's lap and draw houses with him. He was an architect, so really the drawings were his. He had a real appreciation for stone and would always embellish the chimneys with penciled-in rock. I can see him sitting there still, inviting and warm.
      After grandpa passed away when I was 10, I would go stay with my grandma to keep her company. It was at that same table in her dining room I finally began to see my grandma as more than just Grandma. One evening after dinner was done, we sat at the table talking, sharing in this moment. I was probably 13 or so. She shared with me the events that unfolded in the ICU when grandpa was there. I was too young to see him in the hospital and never did say farewell. Tears were welling in her eyes and began to fall behind her glasses. I was seeing her vulnerability. Grandma was always my rock. In fact, she was the family rock. She brought us together, around that table to share life together. She recalled with grief those days in the ICU, when she lost the love of her life. As she shared her heart with me I knew she was sharing a part of herself that few grandchildren have the privilege to witness.
     I don't get to sit at the table anymore. Grandma gave me a necklace that night Grandpa had once given her. When I look at the star sapphire in its silver heart I see Grandma's heart, her love for family and I remember sitting at the dinner table.

Bread & Wine comes out Tuesday, April 9th!