Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

As a disclaimer, this is the first title I've read from the author, and this review is based on the audiobook instead of the book. I'm glad I chose the audiobook because the material was made more personable orated by Shauna than probably reading the actual book. 

As you listen, it is as though Shauna is reading her daily blog posts to the reader: each "chapter" is short, yet meaningful as she shares the discovery of her frantic, overloaded and people-pleasing life to the transition toward a peaceful, satisfying life with better choices and higher priorities. 

Shauna is honest and transparent, which will allow many readers to easily identify with her. Overall, the topic seems written to be relatable to a secular audience as well as the church attender; however, it may be less relatable to a stay at home mom seeking balance than to a woman who is working outside of the home and struggles with career priorities. It also may not seem relatable to a single mom, who does not have the same financial means or resources as the author. Regardless, we all have messy lives and hearing how Shauna was able to identify her struggle, learn to say no to distractions and walk through it to a more positive outcome gives us all hope.... however...

There were a couple of things that made me go "hmm" as I listened, and I have a feeling it may have been purposeful to draw in a secular audience. First, I hesitate when a Christian talks about their pursuit of finding themselves or discovering their purpose by experimenting or incorporating facets of other denominations in order to expand their spiritual horizon (or to find the real/right God). This was apparent in Shauna's use of the term "spiritual director" (which sounds much more New Age than saying "counselor") and having sessions with a Jesuit counselor instead of someone who has more similar religious beliefs. In addition, she and her husband created a more interfaith type worship service that included facets of the Catholic faith and others. This rang bells for me. Not so much that they included the Eucharist in their service, but that the whole thing seemed more experimental, mystic - like combining things to find the right recipe and get the right high -- instead of simply allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the worship service. 

Secondly - and again I feel this was purposeful in order to come across to a more secular audience - there was not much Scripture used. The very few used seemed to be added as an afterthought while putting together the book. There were no exciting revelations she discovered from the Bible that led her to a closer relationship with God or provided the route to the better choices and balance she finally experienced. It just seemed more like the message was "I figured this out" instead of "look at what God has shown me/done through me." 

Needless to say, the ending, while a "happy ending," was anti-climatic. Knowing that this was more of a memoir or biopic, I felt happy for her but also didn't feel satisfied after finishing the book. I had hoped for more depth, more concrete concepts that I could apply in my own journey toward a God-centered, balanced life. 

Did the book deliver what was promised?  Yes. She shares her discovery of how balance comes with being more present with family and home, saying no to those things that distract her and creates stress and struggle.  

Would I recommend this title to someone I know who is struggling, yet doesn't go to church? Maybe. It is written in a loose, easy to understand vibe that they may connect with. 

Would I recommend this book to the Christian, the church-goer, the bible study girl? Um no. While you would sit down and have coffee with Shauna, this book will probably be somewhat disappointing to you. 

And unfortunately, this was my first book to read from the author, and I think it may be my last.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Homeschooling: Upcoming Faithlife movie a resource for Ancient History, Biblical Worldview studies

Next Tuesday, Faithlife is releasing their original movie, "Fragments of Truth"  through Fathom Events for a one night showing on Tuesday, April 24 at select theatres.

Here is the synopsis of the movie, via the Fathom website:

Fragments of Truth
"The Christian faith is based on the New Testament - but can we really trust the Bible?  Skeptics say no, arguing that the Gospel manuscripts have been doctored to push a theological agenda . . . Dr. Craig Evans take this claim head-on, traveling the globe to track down the most ancient New Testament manuscripts.  Along the way, he highlights groundbreaking new evidence, demonstrating that the case for the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts is stronger than ever." 

In a culture consistently trying to prove that creation is a myth and the Bible is only a series of stories with no historical relevance, this movie will be an excellent opportunity for homeschooling teens to see real evidence that will strengthen their faith and reinforce their Biblical worldview

Visit the Faithlife or Fathom Events website to watch trailers, buy tickets and also download a free discussion guide. 

#Ancient History  #Biblical Worldview

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Real Scoop on Essential Oils: It's Not Necessarily From Your Favorite Blogger

In the past couple years, I have read numerous reviews and testimonials by bloggers, in addition to hearing many sales pitches, on essential oils.

And I believed all of it.

I believed that essential oils are well, essential.  To healthier living.

Since changing our entire way of eating at the beginning of 2016, my husband and I have each lost about 25 pounds, and we are still maintaining a good diet, along with regular exercise.  We tweaked our eating patterns various times in the last year to get to a point where we know what foods work best, and which ones we need to avoid.

Recently, a sweet friend told me about her success with essential oils. (In fact, she became so impressed that she joined the company.)  Her enthusiasm encouraged me to once again spend some quality time learning more about essential oils, to see if this is something that we could add to our health regimen.

As a result of my friend's information and reading through two published books, I experimented with a small variety of oils in my newly purchased diffuser.  While the scents were wonderful, I didn't necessarily feel all the benefits that many essential oil users claimed to have.

From the books that I read, the authors related their experiences with essential oils that were good, compelling and interesting.  But that's mainly what it was - their own personal experiences.  The authors gave their insights based on nothing other than what worked for them and repeating what they learned from other users, or from the companies that they associate with as representatives. 

Then I came upon this book.

"The Healing Power of Essential Oils" is in my opinion, the new go-to handbook for essential oil use.  As a medical writer, the author has pored over documented research and elicited doctors to provide information that is useful to the reader.

This isn't a medical tome, but easy to read information; not only on the recent essential oil phenomenon, but on different oils and their uses, recipes, and quick-start guides to get you going on essential oils immediately.

He also provides videos and more information on his website: HealingPowerOfEssentialOils.com 

The most rememberable statement from the book is that essential oils don't necessarily give the same results for every person.  It takes experimenting to find what works best.

Encouraged, I purchased a couple new oils and I'm off to once again experiment with that diffuser.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#musesofamom: How to Grow Deep Roots in Your Garden

In early spring of 2015, our family embarked on an extensive landscaping project in our backyard which we managed to accomplish all on our own, creating four beds along the back fence to minimize the amount of grass that we would need to upkeep. After many man hours of preparing these landscape beds, I was looking forward to adding all sorts of flowers, bushes, and trees to fill two of the four large beds while planting zucchini, squash, and tomatoes in the other two beds.

In my mind, I had an ambitious plan of what I intended to do.

My treasured purchase was this apple tree.  What grand expectations I had for this tree! My mission was to help this tree grow to it's glorious, fruit-bearing potential.

I staked the tree.

I mulched around the tree.

I faithfully watered the tree.

I diligently pulled weeds that would spring up around the tree.

I even talked to the tree. I did everything I knew to do.

I imagined the crisp, tasty apples that would make cobbler, apple pies, apple cinnamon bread, applesauce and all the other wonderful treats that would come from that tree once it matured enough to grow fruit. Oh yum! I didn't mind the wait.

As we entered into the late spring rainy season, my dreams for the tree were dashed.  

Because ... the storm. Texas-sized. 

Dreaded hail pelted our neighborhood with enough pellets that it accumulated like bright white snow on yards, roofs, and streets.  Many homes had damage to their roofs and landscaping. Several cars had dents and cracked windshields.

Our front yard the amount of hail that came from the storm.

The following morning, I checked on the backyard landscaping and observed that the apple tree didn't fare well through the storm. There were gashes and pit marks on the trunk and branches where the hail had whipped it unmercifully.

But the apple tree was still standing, so all was well.

As late spring turned into a blazing hot Texas summer, I would regularly water the tree but noticed that it never returned to the healthy stature it had when first planted. Even with faithful watering, by September the leaves had turned brown and brittle -- an unquestioning sign that the tree had breathed its last.

With nothing else to do, I left the tree as it was until the following spring.

In the following year, I planted a few more hearty Texas flowers and my landscaping project continued to progress quite well. However, when it came to planting fruit trees, I was a newbie who had a lot more to learn. In the case of the "Apple Tree Casualty of 2015," it was when I did additional research that I discovered some crucial tasks that I should have done -- but didn't:

. . . I should have dug a deeper hole when planting that would allow a deeper root system.

. . . I should have watered more thoroughly and added fertilizer directly after planting to help build a stronger root system.

. . . If I had done research before buying the tree, I would have learned that apple trees need another tree in close proximity in order to cross-pollinate and produce fruit.

. . . I should have covered the tree to help deflect hailstones as the storm approached.

As the unfortunate apple tree was dug up and removed from the garden, the Lord brought to mind a life lesson to be learned in good gardening.

How often have I gone forward with my own designs and with my own (and often limited) knowledge of what I thought was best?  How did I respond when an unexpected storm arose for which I was in no way prepared?

You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

Planting my own plans in life in my own wisdom gives me excitement and motivation, but it after pushing through the plan, it ofttimes results with hailstones of trouble that shake me from the securities that I thought were rooted firmly.  And again I realize that I neglected to spend time with the Master Gardener to discover what His gardening plans are best.

But Jesus is so faithful; even when I am pelted and tattered, He pulls me back to Him and directs me in the path I should take.  No doubt a little slower, a little more deliberate. 

If you are struggling in a storm right now, unsure or discouraged, allow Jesus to be your Master Gardener!
  • Water your day with prayer in order to build a stronger relationship with Him, 
  • Dig a deeper root system by reading and studying the Bible regularly so you know what He has to say to you, and
  • Spend time with other believers to produce relationships that will get you through tough times.
Allow the storm to grow your faith as you let your life be built on Him.  

Monday, January 01, 2018

Why the One Word Challenge is Important

Happy New Year!  The celebrations have ended, and today will be a lovely respite before returning to the regular schedule tomorrow.

Today, however, I'm feeling a little behind the eight-ball.  Not with celebrating (although I did a good deal of that with a plethora of chocolate!).  No, late in choosing my One Word.  One Word to live by in 2018.

What is this One Word Challenge phenomenon?  It is simply, yet deliberately, choosing a word which will be the objective of how to live in the New Year.

Alece Ronzino, from her website oneword365.com, encourages people to choose One Word because it is "one word you can focus on everyday, all year long . . . One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.  It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you.  It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps."

For me, it was recognizing that choosing One Word isn't so much about the doing, as it is with New Year resolutions, but instead much more about the becoming.

The resource I found incredibly helpful was Margaret Feinberg's One Word Guide.  It is available now at her website, www.margaretfeinberg.com, and I highly recommend it.  For the past two years, this free guide has helped me discover the right word and put it into practice.

Why is taking the One Word Challenge important?  Because it is an exercise in creating purposeful,  yet more attainable life changes. 

Choosing One Word for the year is certainly more preferable to me than New Year Resolutions.  Resolutions have the tendency to weigh me down and create unreasonable standards.  However, taking the One Word Challenge makes starting the New Year a little more . . . sane.

Once I've selected an appropriate and hopefully a life-changing word, I've realized that it vital to keep it in daily focus throughout the year.  Here are a couple of my own recommendations:

1.  Use a journal . . . or not.  A journal is a common method for making notes and recording results for the year's word.  However, because some people are just not the journaling type, a visual concept, like a vision board, may do the trick. (Just google images for "vision board ideas" for an abundance of samples.)  I have a friend who has "Vision Board Party" at the beginning of the year: a creative time with others, collectively creating vision boards.  Designing a vision board -- or creating a board on Pinterest -- is a possible solution.

During the year, I use a journal for my personal Bible study and reflection, and I dedicate the first few pages of a brand new journal to write about my chosen word: why I chose that particular word, what I think it will mean to me in the coming year, and possibly one or two Scripture verses to memorize.  Throughout the year, when I am convicted by a daily devotion, find a nugget in a book that I'm reading, or discover something on social media that emphasizes my One Word, I will copy it into my journal, marking the page with a tab so it can easily be referred to again when I need to refocus.

2.  Find a community . . . or not.  At oneword365.com, there is a signup to "find your tribe," a group of people who have chosen the same word and want to connect with like-minded people with similar goals.  While connecting with online or local friends for support is appropriate for many, it isn't necessary to share the One Word journey with others. For 2017, my One Word represented something that I needed in my life, a trait that would only be possible with some intentional time with God as I worked out and prayed out things that today are still too personal to share.

This year in our homeschooling, I plan to have the Youngest choose One Word for the year, which I think will help him manage and work through situations that are currently tedious and frustrating for him.

Having One Word for the year may seem overly simple and incompatible when it comes to setting work or business goals. However, because the One Word is more about a personal transformation, it can certainly be advantageous in relation to active, strategic plans.  Living by One Word may help focus responses, actions, and motivation, creating the more desirable results.

The One Word Challenge has become an important exercise for me every year, as I desire to become all that God wants me to be.  It's my hope that you will also take the One Word Challenge toward an exciting transformation in 2018!