Book Review: Tell Me About Easter

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

description of the book from the publisher:

Is it Easter yet?

Rhyming text fills this short-and-sweet die-cut board book that helps toddlers celebrate the true message of Easter—Jesus! Plus, foil and flocking will engage little readers’ senses as they spot and pat each fuzzy animal. Welcome, Easter!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

As usual, my five point review:

  • This a short and sweet book about Easter–both sweet spring animals and Jesus. It is absolutely perfect for toddlers! Aside from the content, we’ve been able to use it as we teach our son about colors and animals–asking him questions about what he sees and whatnot.
  • We love the illustrations in this book. It’s not just your average everyday board book–many of the animals (lambs, chicks, bunnies), flowers, and leaves are covered in soft felt flocking. A great tactile way for your kiddo to interact with the book. There is also gorgeous foil in this book as well. Both elements make this book very engaging to young readers. And a pretty book is fun for adults to read, too!
  • The book rhymes, but not in an obnoxious way like other books can. Apologies for using the word obnoxious to talk about books, but please tell me you know what I mean here! 🙂 This rhyming is sweet and sing-songy… it’s precious to see my son nodding and grinning along with the text. He even claps at the end!
  • My husband and I value good theology for books–especially kids’ books. This one is great–very straightforward and simple. You can see the majority of the spiritual content on the page above.
  • All in all, I would highly recommend this book for a way to prepare your kids for Easter, especially for the little crowd (under 3-ish?). It’s simple and sweet. My almost two year old son loves it, either when we read it aloud or when he “reads” it to himself. I could see this book being fun for older siblings to read to their younger siblings as well.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to B&H/Lifeway for the chance to read this great book!

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

Book Review: Sacred Rest

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

description of the book from the publisher:

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested- there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear. Learn more about the author and the book.

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As usual, my five point review:

  • This book is so practical in our day and age. We are all busy, and in need of rest in so many ways. The author, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, is no different. She set out to write this book as a way for her to address the need for rest in her own life, both from a perspective worthy of her Christian faith as well as her medical background (read: lots of research went into this book!).
  • The author divided rest into seven categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative. Though I’ve never thought of rest as needing to be some of those categories (sensory, for example), it makes perfect sense. The wide variety of categories do not really overlap, as I feared they would. As I was reading this book, that lack of overlap allowed me to zero in on areas in my life where I would appreciate (or need) more margin and more rest. That is so helpful!
  • Since this book aims to target the busy, the burned out, and the frenzied among us, the chapters are short, sweet, and concise. The majority of chapters contain practical advice on how to reset and rest so you can “recover your life, renew your energy, and restore your sanity.” This is very compelling! Though I read this book from cover to cover for the purposes of this review, the author encourages savoring the chapters to get the most out of them. Additionally, she gives an option of starting the book partway in (which I thought was very interesting!) so that the desperate can get practical tips, now.
  • There were two issues I must address with this book. The first is the lack of Christian content. Depending on your side of the coin, you may appreciate this (or you may not). There is some scripture in this book and you can definitely tell the author is a woman of faith. There wasn’t as much of a spiritual basis for the author’s beliefs and arguments for why we should rest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and maybe my perspective would be different if I savored the book rather than read it straight through. This leads to my second point to address: part of the book, like most self-care/self-help/psychology based books, definitely had a me me me feel to it… a selfish feel. Maybe that was hard for me to read because, like most women, I want to take care of others, particularly my family. I didn’t get a good sense of the author’s why for rest besides just a healthy self. I think I was looking for something more here… I may not be articulating it well, and perhaps that isn’t even the point of the book. It’s just something I want to mention.
  • All in all, this is a good book. The practical tips for rest are great. Nothing earth shattering, but breaking it down by areas is a unique approach. Additionally, there is a quiz in the book to help us self-diagnose where we need to pursue rest. Though the Christian content is lacking and may not align entirely with my beliefs, there are parts that I still appreciate.

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Litfuse for the chance to read this book!


Book Review: Refresh

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

description of the book from the publisher:

Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes it feels as if everything and everyone demands all of our time, our resources, our energy, and our very lives. Writing to women in the midst of this busy, do-it-all culture, husband-and-wife team Shona and David Murray offer practical tips for living at a more sustainable pace and avoiding exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Sharing personal stories of their own struggles with overwhelming demands, they give counsel on everything from sleep to social media, relationships to recreation, and exercise to eating. This book encourages women to cultivate a healthy approach to life motivated and moderated by Christ’s transforming grace.

As usual, my five point review:

The premise of Refresh focuses on evaluating our lives through various lenses such as rest, relaxation, reduction, etc. Each of the ten chapters begins with the letter R and is called a “station” at the Refresh Gym. If you read the introduction, you’ll note that Refresh is a feminized adaption (by Shona, presumably) of of a book that David Murray wrote for men, Reset. I found the gym analogy a bit cheesy and did wonder how many women that imagery would appeal to. That aside, I would recommend the book. It began with Shona’s story, detailing her journey towards burn out. The trajectory introduced by the book argues that most (Christian) women are somewhere on this spectrum: stressed –> anxious –> overwhelmed –> burned out –> sad –> depressed –> suicidal (p. 24). I would agree with that notion; I think in our culture it is tough to not fit into one of those categories. I wasn’t clear if that trajectory was research based or not, because I would perhaps organize the spectrum differently, but for the sake of this review: I don’t think it matters.

Though I did not find the majority of this book to be “new” information, what I did wholeheartedly appreciate was the balance between psychological/medical research, self-help tips and tricks, and Gospel truth throughout this book. This was particularly poignant in discussions of physical and mental health, areas that the church doesn’t often address.

The Bible … guides us to care for both the body and the soul. The apostle Paul presents his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20. He starts by admitting that the human body has been damaged by sin (vv. 9–10). However, that doesn’t mean we just forget the body. No, Paul says Christ’s redemption is not just for the soul but also for the body. It’s a full-body and a full-soul salvation. “The body is . . . for the Lord,” insists Paul, “and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). He made it, saved it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. (p. 68)

One of the aspects of the book that I did not like was the approach to relaxation. There was great conversation about the Sabbath, but otherwise the application of annual vacations and daily personal times was a bit too privileged, specific, and (in my opinion) did not give room for factors such as family preferences, finances, and circumstances that do not allow for this. For instance, staycations were not encouraged because “being home” and “not doing anything” was not restful enough. I love vacations and I love personal time, but I know many people who logistically and financially cannot make things like that work, so the chapter seemed a bit exclusionary.

The number one thing I appreciated about this book was the recurring theme about vocation and work. This is so rare in Christian books written for women! Again, there was some privileged discussion here–a “choice” to work (not reality for all women, I know). Priorities in the workplace, balancing family and ministry and personal faith and work, and also accepting imperfection are all addressed at length. Other chapters addressed friendship, family matters, raising children in the faith, and our own personal relationships with God.

In general, I found Refresh to be thought provoking and helpful, a good analysis of how we can deal with life in our busy culture in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. The book closed with some thoughts for living the grace-paced life. So encouraging!

But God has taught me that, no, the grace-paced life is not only his will but more honoring to him. For me, to pace myself means less of my efforts and more of God’s grace. I have had to learn to fight hard against unbiblical, false guilt and personal expectations. I have learned to look up to God before looking across to people and ask: “What does God want me to do right now?” The key is to grasp that pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not. It takes faith to believe that and to follow through with it. To live it is in fact a dying to self—a dying to our self-will, our self-sufficiency, and our self image. Have you understood frantic living versus grace-paced living in that way before? (p. 173-174)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Crossway Blog Review Program for the chance to read this great book!


Five Favorite Things

Awhile back, in the pre-baby era, I used to write monthly update posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! Ha. But I do miss having a space to share randomness, so I’m going to try to share (regularly) my favorite things. I thought about implementing a schedule and/or categories… but nahh… I’ll just keep it simple!

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies | The Pajama Chef

ONE: I haven’t done tons of baking lately, but we hosted our church community group on Sunday so I decided to make dessert to go along with our simple dinner (baked sliders–half ham & provolone, half turkey & swiss, a big salad, and chips). I made these Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and everybody went crazy for them. Well, almost everyone. Apparently someone doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together, but likes them separately? Weird! Oh well, more for me! There were only a few left and now I’m contemplating making another batch just for us.

TWO: Before our baby was born, Ben and I had lots of free time, especially on the weekends (obviously). Now we don’t have very much unstructured time (obviously), and the time we do have on the weekends is filled with all the minutiae that we didn’t get to do during the week. In an effort to incorporate more rest into our weekends, we’ve been considering what it looks like in our life right now to treat Sunday as more of a Sabbath and less of an extra day to get things done. It’s definitely a mindshift, and one we aren’t perfect at… but this article has been something I’ve been considering lately.

THREE: Running has been my thing for 19 years now (eeek I feel old). I started running in the spring of my 7th grade year, in 1998, and never really stopped. Though I’ve run many a race before, I loved running in the Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday. It was quite hot and humid, but I finished and I only walked at water stops. I was quite proud of myself and am anxious to sign up for more races now!

FOUR: I don’t watch much TV but lately I’ve been catching up on DVR’d episodes of Victoria, on Masterpiece. I am in love!! Anyone else??

FIVE: I’m psyched to read Becky Wade’s newest book, True to You. My copy came in the mail yesterday and it was hard to leave it at home when I went to work today! I’ve reviewed Becky’s other books on my blog so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for Becky Wade’s True to You. She’s having a Facebook party tomorrow, and everyone’s invited! Read on for more information.

Raise your hand if you’re ready for Becky Wade’s new series! Celebrate the release of book one, True to You, with Becky and other readers on Facebook on May 4th during a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that’s 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Becky will be chatting about the book and answering your questions about the new series, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too!

Pre-order your copy of True to You so you’re ready for a fun book discussion. Find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on May 4 for Becky’s True to You Facebook Party!

What are your favorite things lately?