She's Still There Wellness Revelation

REVIEWS: Two Self-Help Winners!

I’ve been having a hard time finding a day for these reviews, but I enjoyed the books so much, I didn’t want to push them off any longer. So today, you get two reviews. Happy Valentine’s Day! Show some love to yourself and check these out.

She’s Still There – Summary


Have you ever found yourself in a moment or at a cross roads and wondered “How did I get here?” And not in a good way! You had these plans, these dreams, these expectations. But nothing in your life looks like you thought it would.

Maybe you drifted. Maybe you took a short cut, lowered a standards, or took your eyes off the path and that changed your course. Maybe you got distracted. That temporary move, temporary job, “short season” of something has become your permanent location. Maybe circumstances outside your control have left you in a place you never intended to be. No matter how you got here, you can find your way back. The person you were once upon a time is still there. And Chrystal Evans Hurst wants to help you find her.

She’s Still There – Review


While this book is targeted to women in the title and in many of the examples, this really works for anyone. The book is broken into 6 sections with multiple chapters. Each chapter has reflection questions and Bible verses to go through. There are practical applications for every point from doing an assessment of your gifts and skills to ways of setting small goals to help you stay on track.

I read the book as part of a study with Proverbs 31. This included videos and Bible study ideas and conference calls. And all of that “bonus” content was great. But the foundation is the book, and it is all you really need to take a long look at your life and your current direction.

I found the book both challenging and encouraging. The writing is approachable. There’s a “me too” feel where the author shares from her own journey. She’s not perfect or an expert. She’s lived this and coaches from her place a few steps ahead of you. Great for personal study or for group study. I highly recommend this.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

 

The Wellness Revelation – Summary


The subtitle for this book is “Lose what weighs you down so you can love God, yourself and others.” For a diet/health/fitness book, this has a HUGE faith component.

There are 8 sections of the book, designed to lead the reader on an 8-week journey. Each chapter has five components, easily broken down for weekday usage if you choose. The first two sections include a chunk of information and encouragement and often an action step or two. There’s a set of Bible study questions in another section, reflection questions in the fourth, and a final “testimony” piece at the end.

The journey is intentionally slow paced. It doesn’t address much with food until week 3, and the exercise kicks in in week 4. This is by design. The author spends two weeks setting a spiritual foundation, encouraging readers to approach food and movement from healthy places. And she reinforces this message in each workout, podcast and Facebook Live posting.

The Wellness Revelation – Review


I loved this whole process from the beginning. I loved the faith pieces that are part of every breath of the program. I read the book as part of an online course through Facebook, and every leader online encouraged participants to seek the Lord and follow His leading on food, on movement, on pacing and on how our past influences our present.

There’s enough material in the book and online (workouts, podcasts, etc) to make this process a full time job. I had to choose to be content to do what I could, to emphasize the parts that were encouraging to me and be okay when I couldn’t keep up with it all. I’ve become a fan of their online workouts at RevWellTV (available for a monthly fee) – there are different types of workouts, different instructors, and different skill/intensity levels. Something for everyone.

If you feel like now is the time to invest in your health, I can’t recommend this book and the people behind it highly enough.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

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365 Encouraging Verses

REVIEW: 365 Encouraging Verse of the Bible for Boys/Girls by Jean Fischer

These new devotional books for kids have released this week, just in time for holiday gifting. These are written in an everyday, comfortable language for kids. Each entry includes a Bible verse, the devotional thought, and a prayer. The devotional thoughts focus on giving context to the verse, interpreting it, or applying it to every day life. There’s a mix of Old and New Testament verses, as well as a mix of familiar passages and less common ones.

There’s no apparent structure to the layout of the verses; they don’t go in Biblical order or follow a discernible set of themes or have dates assigned. Readers can start day one whenever they like. There is a scripture index in the back if readers want to see if a favorite passage is in there. There is also no difference between the girls’ and boys’ version except for the cover. The devotions are laid out in the exact same order. Therefore, if you have a boy and a girl who are going through the book together with family or friends, everyone can literally be on the same page from start to finish.

I think this would work for readers from age 8 through early middle school. Younger readers may need support with the text, but the content is appropriate for their age. Older readers may want something deeper and more challenging.

Thanks to the folks at Barbour Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to review an electronic review copy of the devotionals in exchange for an honest review! I think this would make a good Christmas gift for the kids in your life.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Enjoying Jesus

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Spiritual Growth Resources from 2017

I have had fantastic luck this year finding terrific spiritual growth resources. I wanted to highlight a handful of them here today. These would make great Christmas gifts.

Draw the Circle – A 40-day prayer challenge. This was inspiring! I would have preferred to read it cover to cover because I enjoyed the writing so much, but I’m so glad I took it one day at a time.

Enjoying Jesus – This study on spiritual disciples from the folks at IF: Equip was exceptional. I completed the study with the folks at IF, and I enjoyed the videos that went along with the study. I have tried a lot of studies this year, trying to replicate the experience I had completing this study.

Enough – I chose “enough” as my word for 2017. Our pastor’s wife posted about this study  on Facebook, and as soon as I saw the title, I knew I had to try the study. It was excellent. I felt like I was able to split the sessions into polite-sized chunks to cover a portion each day and really dig into the material. I wanted to go deeper, not just check something off a list. I have a second study by these same folks waiting on my shelf for 2018.

Nothing to Prove – I read this with a group that was meeting each week on Facebook with the author. It was a timely book, working with my word for the year, “enough.” And I have purchased the Bible study that goes with this so I can spend more time with the material in 2018. You can read my review of the book here.

She’s Still There – Proverbs 31 hosted a study of this book that included videos and conference calls. The entire experience was excellent! I grew so much from working through this book. I’ll be reviewing this in 2018.

The Wellness Revelation – This may be the resource that impacted me most this year. This 8-week journey toward lifestyle change and pursuing wholeness was like a breath of fresh air. I’ll also be reviewing this in 2018. I highly recommend this book!

Sacred Slow

REVIEW: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

“A holy departure from fast faith.” That is the sub-title for The Sacred Slow, new from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“Fast faith” is defined on page 4 as “a restless spirituality that often craves what is new and what is next in the recycled hope that the latest ‘it’ can satisfy an ache that can only be described as timeless.” The material is broken into 12 sections, and the content within each can be completed in a week. Readers who really want to embrace the “sacred slow” could work through one experience a week, stretching the content through one full year, really digging deeply into each experience.

Every experience has a reading and a “guided response.” The reader can decide to complete a guided response that is internal (thought-based) or external (an exercise or action step to complete). Obviously, you can also do both, especially if you are working through one per week. The author suggests just choosing one based on your time and opportunities. Exercises sometimes build on what was completed on an earlier step. For example, the first several exercises walk the reader through the completion of a “Life Scroll,” a worksheet included in the book.

The book includes a facilitator’s guide, a blank Life Scroll, and some personal inventory pages. The exercises are intended to be done prayerfully, listening for God’s input throughout the process. If you walk through these steps in your own mind and power, you will miss the point.

This would make a great study for an individual or for a group. I love the idea of one exercise per week to really take the material in slowly and dig deeply into what God would say to you through each one. With a new year almost here, this would be an fantastic resource to add to your quiet time in 2018.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and the folks at Handlebar for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Moment to Breathe

BONUS REVIEW: A Moment to Breathe by The (in)courage Community

(In)courage is a website that offers encouragement for women of faith. They have daily devotional posts, a shop for mugs and stationery and such from Dayspring, book clubs, and other opportunities for connection.

A Moment to Breathe is the latest book from the folks at (in)courage. It includes 365 daily devotions written by a variety of (in)courage contributors. Each devotional includes a scripture reference, the devotional, and an encouraging thought about taking a moment to breathe and reflect. A Moment to Breathe releases today. And I enjoyed it so much, I am posting this bonus review today – when I usually just talk about books for kids on Tuesdays – because I don’t want to wait to get the word out about this book.

Before publication, (in)courage made the first ten devotionals available to the public to sample the pieces in the book. I loved what I read in the sampler, and I was fortunate to be chosen for the Launch Team. I received a copy of the full book for review purposes and found it full of excellent encouragement and opportunities for growth.

When I first read the sampler, I tried to pin down a “favorite” from the first ten. But my favorite changed regularly; there were so many good pieces in just that small taste of the larger book. When I received the book, I was determined to jump around, sampling entries from all over the book. I was pleased to see the quality was consistent from start to finish. In fact, I could apply every entry I chose to something going on in my life.

I have bought bunches of devotionals in my life, and they usually end up on a shelf within 30 days. I get out of the habit of reading it, and it starts to gather dust. That won’t be the case with this one. This is the kind of devotional that I will use. I have been dog-earring pages and underlining passages and posting pictures since I started reading it. I look forward to digging in, seeing what each day has in store for me, and journaling or praying about what I read.

This book would make an excellent gift – for yourself and your spiritual life or for a friend or family member. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to the folks at (in)courage for the review copy and the opportunity to be part of the Launch Team and an early reader of this meaningful devotional.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Fervent

REVIEW: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Summary


Author, Bible teacher, and star of the movie War Room, Schirer puts together a book of prayer strategies. She focuses on ten ways Satan attacks believers to keep them from being effective for God. For example, believers may struggle to understand who they are in Christ (Identity) or to embrace forgiveness and live free (Your Past). Shirer outlines each area with personal examples and scriptures. Readers are encouraged to apply each one to their lives and then to write out prayers and scriptures to address them. The book includes tear out index-type cards to record scriptures and prayers.

Review


This was a great prayer resource! I really connected strongly to several of the chapters. This also encouraged me to spend time in my Bible, noting passages that applied to what I was reading.

I did this online with a handful of friends. We tackled two strategies each week. For me, that was a good pace when one of the two chapters didn’t click. At others times, though, a month would not have been long enough to dig into certain strategies.

Personally, I needed the accountability of a group to keep moving forward and not get stuck on one strategy. I am horrible about finishing non-fiction books. If there’s no story to draw me all the way to the end, I can get easily pulled off track. Because I finished the book, I have a starting place for each topic and a plan for digging deeper on the ones that are really key for me right now.

I enjoyed the writing style. It’s direct but relational. Like hearing from a true friend with your best interests at heart. She offers Bible verses to get you started and examples from her own life. She’s not an expert, dictating how you respond, but a friend a little farther along on the same journey.

This is a book I will revisit and keep working through.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

For the Love

REVIEW: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Summary


A series of essays for Christian women. Some are designed to get readers to think about their lives and consider making changes – finding balance, dealing with difficult people, and taking a look at how we do short term missions.

Some essays are about accepting and embracing the life you have.  That includes the rowdiness of your family, the changes that come from getting older, and the quirks in your personality.

Some essays are just for laughs – like Thank You Notes à la Jimmy Fallon.

There’s something for everyone in this collection of thoughts on Christian living. The central message is be who you are and love who you are. Good words for all of us.

Review


I am a huge Jen Hatmaker fan. I enjoy her honesty, transparency and self-deprecating humor. If you enjoy her on social media, she has much the same tone in her essays.

I’ve read this twice, once on my own and once for a discussion group with a few friends. The book works for both purposes. Early on with the group I tried to come up with discussion questions. It worked just as well, though, to ask what stood out to the other readers. We let the conversation go from there.

As with any author, Hatmaker’s personal biases drive the essays. She’s big on relationships, loves cooking for her family, and has strong opinions on how Christians should engage in the world. I might not agree with her on everything – especially the cooking parts – but I had plenty to think about and plenty to chuckle at as I read this.

Her new book, Of Mess and Moxie, will release later this summer.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

My Heart

REVIEW: My Heart by Julie Manning

Summary


Julie Manning tells her story of discovering a serious heart problem when she was delivering her second child. That discovery changed how she viewed her life and how she related to God.

The book includes journal entries, Julie’s prayers at various points in her journey as well as letters to her boys with her hopes and dreams for their lives and their relationships with Jesus. Through life’s hills and valleys, Julie shares how her thinking and her faith have changed and evolved. How trusting God with her life – literally – has helped her trust God in new ways in other parts of her journey.

 

Review


This is an inspiring story!! I was challenged from page one to the end by how the author thinks about God, where she finds her identity and peace in the midst of struggle, and how she prays for her boys.

This is a terrific book for those who love memoirs and spiritual growth stories. It’s inspiring like the Steven Curtis Chapman memoir was. But if you are looking for a book that will challenge you to grow and mature in your faith or in your prayer life or in your identity in Christ, this would be an amazing book for that as well.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Between Heaven and the Real World

REVIEW: Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman

Summary


 

An autobiographical look at Christian music’s superstar, Steven Curtis Chapman. The book covers Chapman’s childhood, the start and growth of his music career, his marriage and family, and of course the tragic death of his daughter, Maria.

Review


This was outstanding! I started listening to Chapman’s music around the launch of his second album. It was fun to read about all the things that went on behind the scenes with his songs and tours as I attended many of those tours and own many of those songs.

This feels like a very honest book. Chapman is up front about hard moments in his upbringing and his marriage. He works at being transparent about his struggles – personally, professionally and spiritually.

Anyone reading this book who is familiar with the Chapman’s story knows that the book is moving toward the tragic death of their daughter, Maria, in 2008. And the story is as painful as you can imagine. But again, that honesty and transparency is on display. Steven shares the struggle to keep moving forward after their loss, their questions for God, and their pain.

This was an engrossing and moving read. If you loved his wife’s book, Choosing to See, I highly recommend this. This fills in some of Steven’s part of the journey, and it gives more current information about how the family is doing as they continue to miss Maria, and yet choose to keep trusting God day by day.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Summary


Do you ever find yourself craving simple living? Do you push yourself to do more, do it better, or do it ALL? Shauna Niequist shares her life experience of trying to do it all. It left her physically sick, spiritually dry, and wondering if this was really the best life God had to offer. If you’ve ever been in such a place, Present Over Perfect might help you find another way to live.

Present Over Perfect

Review


I read this right after I quit my job, so I couldn’t identify as readily to the busy life vs. simple living messages of the book. Those might speak to me better in another season. But I did identify with the pieces where she talked about her identity. When your identity and value are tied up in a job you just left/lost or in a pattern of living that says, “I can do it all!,” you can be left wondering who you really are.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Read this book if:

  • you feel worn thin from doing all the things you think you’re supposed to be doing
  • you need encouragement to find your best self
  • you need help saying no to good things you are not called to do
  • you are wondering where God is and what He thinks of your struggle to live a busy, perfect life.