Book review- "You’re Already Amazing"

“I believe the desire to know who we really are
has been placed within us by the heart of heaven itself.
God wants us to understand who he created us to be
so that we can fulfill the purpose he has for our lives.”

I have to admit, the title threw me off.

I am not really interested in a feel-good, pat-me-on-the-back book that skims the surface of my problems.  Holley Gerth’s new book seemed like it would be like that.  {I admit, I judged the book by its cover.}  I picked it up, thinking it would be a quick read.

But I was mistaken.

The Lord brought this book to me for a very specific reason, in a very specific time, to deliver a very specific message.  And while the title tells me, “You’re Already Amazing”, and most of the time I don’t really believe that and could stand to internalize that message also, the message I have been receiving is rather different.  And a lot deeper.

I am hearing the message that it’s OK to search for the calling God has placed on my life, that I am more complex and more worthy of deep recognition on a soul level than I give myself credit for, that the parts of me that are not mom and wife and homeschooler deserve a bit of attention, because those are God-made as well.

Holley- author, speaker, co-fouder of (in)courage, and a licensed counselor and life coach- draws out these messages from a well of chatty and comfortably-disarming language and serves them in paper cups labeled with a Sharpie.  She asks questions, gives assignments, and requires more thought than I expected.  The reader becomes a part of her discoveries and a-ha moments.  From emotional wardrobe to your life map; from finding your own personal “next” to analyzing your social strengths.  This “quick read” has become one that I am chewing on slowly, and living through in smaller chunks so I can truly embrace all that God wants me to learn.

Maybe the Lord wants you to receive a different message.  Maybe He is waiting for you to discover a purpose for you that is different and complementary to your current path.  Be open, and don’t judge a book by its cover.

You can find Holley’s book anywhere, of course.  For a quick peek, try here.

I received this book for the purpose of review.  My opinions are solely my own.

Keeping the Faith through unemployment- (ebook review)

Rosann knows from experience.  It’s an experience no one wants, no one welcomes, and no one likes.  But it’s a matter of fact that in these trying economic times, many of our husbands will find themselves unemployed.

As wives, what are we to do?  How should we respond?  As Christian wives, how can we honor our husbands and our God while we too suffer with fear and worry, stigmas, embarrassment and feelings of despair?

In her newly published ebook, Unemployed Faith, Rosann lays her heart bare as she walks the reader through this challenging and heart-breaking time in her life.  Right in the thick of it, she shares her family’s struggles and pain, all while giving coping tips and structured action points to follow.  The book is laid out clearly and practically, and the reader finds true life moments written from the heart of someone mired in the trenches herself, amidst suggestions on how to support husbands in their darkest time as providers.

This is not a book on how to get your husband a job.  This is a book for wives.

How can you lift up your husband while feeling the stress yourself?  How do you release your own stress without overburdening your husband?  How do you tap into the divine power and strength available to you as you climb the mountain out of the valley?  Is it even possible to remain optimistic?  Is there anything to learn in this struggle?

Maybe you will see yourself in Rosann’s scenario.  Maybe you have handled this time in your family’s life with grace, or maybe you feel as if you have no grace left to give.  Either way, you will benefit from her experience and come away with a sense of hope, and active ideas to keep you on the road of unity and growth in your marriage and family life.

It’s your turn to figure out where God wants you in this challenging time.  That place is right by His side, and by your husband’s.  Rosann’s book beautifully and gently hands you the tools to do just that.

Also check out Rosann’s partner blog to her book, which you can find here.

Drink Deeply- Savoring Living Water review

When my oldest was a toddler he was a champion napper.  In the year which should have, under the banner of convention, been filled with “terrible two-ness” he would nap consistently for three to four hours in the afternoon.  I know.  Feel free to be jealous, even just a little bit, but believe me when I say that time was short-lived.  Subsequent children in our family weren’t as accommodating.

At that time I was a part of a small Bible study group of wonderful women in much the same life stage as I was.  We were working on a Beth Moore Bible study (my first) and I was spending nearly every nap time immersed in the Word, happily writing in my answers, drawing diagrams, and praying for wisdom. Being a structure-lover, having blanks to fill in fulfilled me, and as one who had a childhood apart from God and church, I felt like I was following the formula for intimacy with the Lord.

Alas, the marathon naps didn’t last forever, and before long I was struggling to have any quiet time at all.  I tried multiple times over the years at different times of day, with different books and Bible studies, but nothing seemed to work.  Part of it was a lack of “formula”, a desire to have someone tell me just what to do to make my time in the Word meaningful.

As my faith matured, my family grew (along with my trials), and my need for the Lord became more apparent, I struggled with lack of commitment to focused time in the Word.  Only this year have I figured out that it’s not about having a formula or filling in the blanks.  Sure, filling in the blanks can be a part of it, but more than that, time in the Word is about satisfying a deep and dry place in my spirit with the only One who can.

“We have the choice in the moments of our everyday.  We can pursue
the things we see on this earth for fullness.  Or we can drink of Him.
We can chase after the ways of our thirsty world.  Or we can
dare to take Him at His Word.  We can worry about
what-ifs and maybes.  Or we can hold fast to His promises,
regardless of life’s circumstances.”
~Savoring Living Water

Do you struggle with your quiet times too?
Lara and Katie would love to come alongside you.  For those of us who feel more comfortable with blanks to fill in, there are those, but more than that what you’ll find in this beautiful little book is heart and devotion.  And a true desire to see every mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter find her Father in the words He breathed for her.

In Savoring Living Water is the experience of brokenness made beautiful, of the Word as balm and mirror and refiner.  These are women who know it, have lived it, and are bubbling over to share it.

If you want more of Jesus, more of His face and His companionship and His truth, you have to spend time with Him.  But many of us just don’t know where to start.

Now you have the answer.    
Not only do Lara and Katie want you to find your joy in Him, but they also (generously, wonderfully, humbly) want those who have no Word in their own language to have the simple ability to find Him.  For Him to be able to meet them in their own tongue.
So two dollars of every single purchase of their book will be donated to One Verse.  Your life will be changed, and another life, perhaps across the globe, will also be changed.
I can’t express enough how meeting with the Lord on a regular basis, digging into the truths and promises and commands within scripture, has redeemed and restored me over and over again.  Find your place at the table.  And drink deeply.

What do you do with YOUR Wild Things? (with a Giveaway!)

I found Jessica’s blog, Bohemian Bowmans, through another homeschool blog last year.

I kind of lurked for a while.  I think that unschoolers are so cool.  I kind of secretly want to be one.

After a while I came out of hiding, began commenting, and found that it’s not just her unschooler-ness that is cool.  She just has a lot to say about a lot of things- and much more wisdom in her young self than you would expect.  Not to mention she pokes a lot of fun at herself, which is always entertaining and makes the rest of us feel not so alone in our imperfect-ness.  That’s a good thing, y’all (spoken in true Jess fashion).

This self-deprecating wisdom-filled young mom has produced an eBook on parenting.  I was thrilled to read it, and it didn’t disappoint.  Jessica’s charm, very simply, comes from her ability to think deeply, to reason humbly, and to take her parenting, though not herself, very seriously.

But don’t expect fluff.  Readers, be prepared to answer some hard questions.

Parenting Wild Things is a collection of chapters from the heart of a loving mom.  Each chapter delves into a thought about or method of conventional parenting, and then very succinctly and boldly asserts a different option.  The end of each chapter offers a challenge and a place for a journal entry.  The challenges, like the chapters, make you think, in a good way, about the way you handle your Wild Things.  I personally have four of them, three boys and a girl, and while my family looks and functions differently than hers, the ideas she presents hit nerves all over the place.

Like I said, be prepared.  You might not agree with every thought, but you quite simply can’t ignore her logic.

Jessica looks at her children and sees aliens.  Aliens that are new to this world and deserve our respect and our gentle guidance, not our authoritarianism and frustration.  This image is one that reminds me of those little hand-sticky-stretchy-thingies that you throw against a wall.  (You know, the ones your kids love to play with but get all covered with hair and dust and then don’t stick anymore? If you want such things to deal with, check out  It’s unique, and, well, sticky, and since I read the book, I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Best thing about it?  Jess is a believer of the most refreshing kind.  She doesn’t follow convention, she follows Jesus.  And she looks for herself at what He said and did to make her choices in parenting.

That should be reason enough to buy her book.

But one lucky reader will not have to!  Jessica has agreed to gift one of her newest babies (the book, not an actual Wild Thing) to someone on my blog.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment here and tell me what alien-like thing your wild things have done recently
  • For extra entries, tweet this, put it on FB, and/or like Bohemian Bowmans on FB
  • Leave a separate comment for each of the extra entries
Winner will be chosen on Wednesday, August 10th at 9 pm.
I love Jess, and you will too!  And she’ll help you see your kids differently.  Enter the giveaway.  Or buy her book.
Your Wild Things will be happy you did.

Book Review

Words by Ginny Yttrup

Words is the story of the intersection of two journeys: 10-year-old Kaylee’s journey from pain and abuse to a new life of hope and restoration, and 34-year-old Sierra’s journey from a prison with walls built of her past sins, to healing and redemption.  The two meet, changing the course of each of their troubled lives, and through heart-wrenching events and personal discoveries, learn to trust each other and the love of Jesus Christ, who ultimately saves them from the inside out.
This is a story with a light all its own.  There is amazing power in a book that is essentially about the horrifying evil that is child sexual abuse, but that never needs to explicitly describe or discuss any details.  Ginny Yttrup has a gift for expressing this dark topic without removing hope, a gift with origins in her own painful past and subsequent spiritual redemption and healing.  
Plot-  The story gripped me immediately.  Told from the dual perspectives of Kaylee and Sierra, in alternating chapters, it easily flows forward while often giving glimpses of the past.  The book is written almost exclusively in first-person present tense and this gives the story an immediacy which keeps the reader personally involved.  Knowing the thoughts, memories, and fears of each of the two main characters adds an element of omniscience and the reader doesn’t just learn about what’s happening, but practically experiences it herself.  
Characters-  Kaylee is a strong little girl, mature beyond her years for all the wrong reasons.  She is smart, thoughtful (she collects “words” in her mind from a dictionary she keeps stashed away), and resilient, but is not without faults.  We see her obstinacy and her phobias, and learn of her deepest fears.  She is, above all, a lovable, heartbreaking character, and the reader feels her pain, and rejoices with her when her life turns down a new path.  Sierra, a woman with a dark past and a well of self-hatred that keeps her from trusting, loving and moving on with her life, is an artist whose work reflects her inner turmoil.  After learning of her sins, the reader is taken in by her remorse and becomes her champion, hoping and praying for Sierra to forgive herself and open up to love and renewal.  The other more minor characters of the story are no less substantial and add tremendous color and depth to the storyline, and to Kaylee and Sierra’s personal journeys.
Literary quality-  The subtle shift of character voice as each chapter moves from Kaylee’s story- shorter sentences, more concrete imagery, to Sierra’s- more artistic and mature thoughts, brings the two stories to life.  This is a genuine and flourishing look at the inner lives of these two, and everything fits into one seamless whole- vocabulary, sentence structure, dialogue.  The highest praise a reader can give is that nothing distracted from the importance of what was happening to, and happening within, the characters on the page.  This is what I experienced reading Words.
Spiritual Content-  This book is overtly Christian, redemption for both characters coming through Jesus Christ.  Yet, there is no pretense, no struggle, no trying-to-fit-it-in.  Every spiritual touch seems to flow organically from the characters- their doubt, their searching, their memories, their letting go.  
When I was thirteen, I was baptized.  Mother and Daddy
said it was time to make a public declaration of my belief
in Jesus Christ.  So I did.
Today, twenty-one years later, I make that declaration myself
because I want to, because I need to.  Because it’s more than
time.  Alone before God, I declare that I will trust Him.  I accept
the forgiveness that he’s offered all along, and symbolically, I 
leave myself- the old Sierra- on the ocean floor.”
I can say without reservation that I recommend this book.  Though the subject matter may give you pause, it is ultimately a story of two lives that are intertwined by God to lead each other to the healing they so desperately need.

I wrote this review for another blog, but they ended up not needing it.  I liked the book so much, I thought I’d share it here!  Enjoy!

Children’s Book Monday

For the first time in a long while I’m actually linking in to Children’s Book Monday. That doesn’t mean, however, that our reading takes a back seat! We snuggle in on the couch every day for at least an hour of reading together (my four blessings and me), and every other day I take aside one of my older two for special read-alouds of books that will speak to them in their tween happenings.

A book that has captured all of us (that I also got at our homeschool convention last year, Elise!) and has been often a reminder in our daily walk is The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop:

The subtitle is “A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart”, and the story- wonderfully illustrated in watercolors by Preston McDaniels- is based on Psalm 119:9:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

A young squire, accompanying a famed knight in the kingdom, sets off on a journey to reclaim The Lantern of Purest Light, which is the treasure of the entire kingdom. The Lantern has been taken by a fierce dragon, but before they even reach the dragon the knight and the squire must make it past many treacherous obstacles. Only by keeping their eyes, ears and steps pure can they succeed in their quest.

Rarely does a book come along that so clearly, yet in a parable form that interests even the youngest “squires”, guides us to the truth of scripture and the way to live a life pleasing to God.

Visit Elise for more children’s books to share with your family.

Children’s Book Monday- Musical stories

We are musicians in our house, so music has a central part in our everyday lives. Our kids sing all the time and it’s no wonder that they love any books with music included! There are three books that have become favorites and they all have the written out tunes for the songs right in the book. They are well worth checking into and finding someone to sing the songs to you so you can participate with your children in the telling of the stories.

Abiyoyo is a legend retold by Pete Seeger about a young boy and his father, outcasts in their town, who help to save the town from the monster Abiyoyo. The father, through his magic, and the boy, with his ukelele and voice, successfully make Abiyoyo disappear. This story is a favorite for the music, the sound effects and the action-filled language. You can hear the tune sung by going here.

Based on an old Jewish folksong, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is a wonderful story about a man who continually renews his worn clothes and makes them into something new. He sews his overcoat into a jacket, his jacket into a vest, his vest into a tie, etc. until he finally ends up with nothing. But he then writes a song to prove “you can always make something out of nothing.” The pictures are in collage style, with cutouts to see onto the next page, and won a Caldecott Award for their unique style and brilliant colors. The song is written in musical notation at the end and is a fun way to end the book.

Another Pete Seeger storysong actually written as a lullaby for his daughter, One Grain of Sand is a lilting and peaceful tune with wonderful paintings to match. The images beautifully show children and animals in different lands in various quiet activites from sending candles out into the river in Asia, to a mother and baby giraffe in a sweet embrace. The book is not spiritual in nature but can easily be used to show God’s creation and how we are all special and have our place in His world.

Be sure to visit Elise for more reviews of children’s books.

Sharing a loss with my 6-year-old

Colin and I experienced a profound loss together this morning.

We traveled with Sterling as he paddled his canoe across Lake Koshkonong with the purpose in mind of letting Rascal go. And Rascal, as wild raccoons are wont to do, chose the call of a mate over his yearlong friendship with Sterling.

The moment that Rascal left and we closed the book was one of sadness for both of us. And, though I know well his sensitive nature, Colin’s tears took me by surprise. So we sat on the couch snuggling for a bit and silently shared the loss of our friend as well.

I wasn’t sure how much of the book Colin was grasping. Rascal had been one of the most advanced in vocabulary of the books we had read thus far, and probably the most serious as well. I occasionally explained something I felt needed it, but for the most part let the words speak for themselves. At the end when I asked what was his favorite part, he said, “The whole thing.” It is a privilege to witness the love of good literature grow in him.

On a more general level, I have thrilled to share with my children good books of any length and we have laughed together at the escapades of the characters in William Steig’s books (especially enjoying Dr. DeSoto), sung along together the rude songs of Squirrel Nutkin, oohed and ahhed over the magic of Alice’s Wonderland, and followed the journeys of Anno. Colin’s and my favorite thus far is James and the Giant Peach which had us in stitches with the descriptions of Aunts Spiker and Sponge, who met an unfortunate end when they were smushed by the enormous rolling peach.

Reading books with my children is such a gift, even if I do occasionally fall asleep. Today was one of those moments I’ll treasure. And Colin and I will always have Rascal in our hearts.

Should I finish?

As part of my Fall into Reading list (see side bar) which is hosted by Katrina, I am now reading Running with Scissors. I am really disturbed by it.

I have recently become interested in memoirs. I don’t know why actually, I never used to read them. In the past year I have read a number of memoirs and have found them to be satisfying in a way that novels are not. So, a new genre has hooked me. Running is a book that I have heard mentioned many times and so I picked it up and put it on my list.

Half of the time I am wondering if I should stop reading it altogether. It’s not just the graphic details of some scenes that disturb me, though they do, but the entire thought of the family he is a part of and all that is acceptable in the home. I won’t go into detail, so as not to spoil the book for anyone, but it is a hard read for me.

As a Christian, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to completely shun things that are secular. Some things, like soap operas, I have felt a need to avoid (I used to watch one many years ago), and there has been an occasional book that I have put down because it glorifies adultery, etc. But I feel this is a personal issue and I trust that God will let me know if and when those boundaries need to be made.

I guess I’m answering my own question here, but I’m curious if anyone has read this book, what you thought of it, or how you choose your media and when and if to avoid something.

I do know one thing: I will not be seeing the movie, Annette Bening or not.