Hello Mornings: a book review

Hello Mornings

For years I’ve risen (though not always early) to start my day with time in the Bible. It was a simple habit, based on a simple need….to have the right focus for the day. I also knew that life’s craziness would probably happen, and if I didn’t get it done then, I probably wouldn’t get it done. It was also simple because I was only responsible for me. That was it. Barring unforeseen circumstances, my mornings went as I planned them. That’s not how it is currently…..

Currently we creep out of bed at 6:30 trying to make as little noise as possible so we can extend the quiet as long as we can.  When I get downstairs, I rush to let the dog out so her frantic “Help, I’ve been in my kennel all night! Let me out!” noises don’t become high pitched shrieks and wake the sleeping littles. Should we hear the toddler’s voice begin the initial calls, instantly my husband and I lock eyes and one of us says in a voice like we just woke the sleeping dragon…”she’s up”. Lately it’s been 7 or 7:15, so our quiet time is short and sacred.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Kat Lee’s podcasts ‘Inspired to Action’ and ‘Hello Mornings’ and was excited…..no…ecstatic when I saw her book, Hello Morningswas out to review. My expectations were met in this book!  I’ve drawn stars by key points, folded down corners to mark favorite sections, quoted on Facebook, and shared a couple Instagram snapshots of the pages.

Kat Lee’s platform, which she shares on her website, podcasts, Facebook community and now her book, is for women to start their day intentionally.  Her three minute morning routine (which you can expand on in time) focused on soul care, time management, and your health.  Starting simple eliminates most of the excuses we give for not spending time with God, nor being mindful of our time and health. In three minutes, you can read and pray Psalm 143:8, read your calendar/pray over your day, and drink some water. In time, you can expand the Bible time to include your own devotional plan, expand the planning time to include writing out and prioritizing items on your to-do list, and expand the health time to include a short workout or walk.

Kat focuses on developing a solid habit or ritual that part of who you are. In each season of life, it will grow and shrink due to the demands on your time, but it will always be there. Some of the points she covers include the importance of planning, setting up your personal space, developing accountability, establishing a habit, and the blessings that follow when you commit your first moments and your day to God.

This is more of a heart book, dealing with our personal excuses for avoiding this habit and calling us forward to see that more is possible. Honestly, I’m not sure what that looks like in this season. For me, it currently involves writing out my daily intentions the night before because my day starts off running, dealing with two hungry littles and a cooped up dog.  I would love to have a slow morning to sit and savor the Word, make a plan, and exercise, but I can’t convince myself to get up at 5 yet. 🙂 Especially not as long as at least one of the kiddos is up in the night.  But Kat’s book is grace filled, just calling us to do what we can in our season. If nothing else, we have three minutes in the shower  or the work commute to pray, plan, and think of something to care for yourself (fill your water bottle, plan a healthy supper, stretch, walk the long route to the office, etc).

I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the blogger review program with Booklook Bloggers. However, this book was on my dream wish list and all of the opinions are mine.


The Life Giving Table: a book review

(I don’t even remember what all was in this meal from our vacation, but it probably was not the healthiest choice 🙂

19,710……the number of meals you could have with your child before they turn 18. Even if you don’t count some meals due to summer camp, sleep overs or weekends at grandma’s, that still leaves you in the thousands. Thousands of opportunities to invest in that life. Over the years, how many life changing decisions, battles won, hearts encouraged, or wisdom shared has happened over a cup of coffee or a shared meal. Food brings people together, unites us in a common activity, then invites us to share our experiences in that safe (ideally) space.

In her book, The Life Giving Table, Sally Clarkson challenges us to use meal times and coffee times with intentionality. The power of the right word combined with the comfort of a good meal or hot drink warms both the body and spirit, and provides a sense of hope. The camaraderie developed over frequently shared meals knits people together in bonds that can be closer than family.

I love how in The Life Giving Table, Sally made it clear that to be memorable, a meal does not need to be elaborate. Currently some of my daughter’s favorite moments are eating her cheerios and raisins in the morning while I read to her, and getting cheese burgers with dad. Hopefully, when she is grown she will treasure her memories of cheese burger dates with dad when she was a kid. She already looks forward each week to when I’m gone to study, and she gets to watch a movie with dad and eat ‘cokcorn’ (popcorn). She loves making it with him, but never really eats it. 🙂 Cheery Coke is our drink of celebration and survival. When we got engaged, his cover up errand was for us to get Cherry Coke. Cherry Coke was also bought ahead of time, and packed into the hospital bag to wait for the arrival of our firstborn. It is also our drink of choice when we feel we have fought the long hard battle of the toddler ‘will’ that day, and require extra strength to finish.

The key is to be intentional with the time we are given and opportunities presented to us to be a blessing in the lives of those around us. That invitation to dinner, cool drink on a warm summer day, or hot coffee might be the key to creating a safe place for someone to open up about the deep things. Giving them the invitation lets them know they are valued and their voice in the world is welcome.

This book is not a quick read. Rather it goes indepth into Biblical celebrations that happened over a meal, and how Jesus used food and drink to reach people where they were. It also provides plenty of opportunity for soul searching as she leads you through seeing how being intentional with people looks like in different seasons. Sally shares stories and personal testimony of being intentional during the season of small children through her friendships with her now adult children. She also shares how being intentional with invitations blessed her in return during seasons spent in new communities and during times where she needed the invitation herself.

Life passes so quickly, and it was never meant to spend alone. We are given the opportunity to breath the breath of spring into the winter of someone’s situation, and they in turn to ours. I look forward to studying the book more closely to see how I can implement some of the principles. Start simple. Perhaps instead of quickly handing out the afternoon snack to a child, it involves sitting down to share it with him/her and listening to the stories on his/her heart. And just…being.

I was given a copy of this book for review purposes by Tyndale Publishing Company, but the viewpoints are entirely mine. When given the opportunity to read this book, I jumped on it as I have heard so many good things about Sally Clarkson’s writing.

Zaide: Mozart’s Lost Opera (book review)

Not being an opera fan, or a lover of classical literature, I was unsure of what I would find when I cracked open Rollan Wengert’s new book Zaide: Mozart’s Lost Opera.  Intrigued by the story line, but mostly wishing to support a local author, I agreed to read it with no promise of how long it would take (having little ones tends to limit the reading time).  However, I finished the book in record time due to it’s engaging story.

The book fleshes out the missing details from Mozart’s unfinished opera around 1780. It follows the story of Zaide, a slave in the Sultan’s harem, as she meets and grows to love Gomatz, a new slave of Puritan background. Desperate for happiness, and for someone to really care for her as a real person, she schemes to be near him which endangers her position of safety in the Sultan’s harem. She must then decide between comfortable safety and knowing real love.

The author went to great pains to develop the story around the pieced together details we have of this incomplete opera. Woven throughout the story are musical references that both set the tone for the current events and remind the reader that this was originally intended to be a musical masterpiece. The story was well developed and contained detailed descriptions of the characters and setting to help the reader experience the story. The ending will leave you wanting another act to be written.


Zaide: Mozart’s Lost Opera


The Character Builder’s Bible

One thing I feel we can never have too many of are children’s Bible’s laying around our house. The little one often pulls out one, then the other to “read” it herself or to beg us to read it again to her. She often surprises us with her accurate retelling and the details she retains.

Somehow Jonah has become her favorite Bible character. I’m assuming it has something to do with the giant fish and unusual event of being swallowed by it. Even our garden gnome was graciously bestowed with the name ‘Jonah”.

One copy she likes to “sneak” is The Character Builder’s Bible. It’s a rather fitting title…Character Builder’s. Don’t we all need some work done with our character? No matter how much I learn or grow, there’s always some new area that requires growth. With that in mind, it becomes an even more humbling experience to dwell on my responsibility to shape my children’s character as best I can. I need all the help I can get.

The Character Builder’s Bible offers 60 different themed mini lessons with full color illustrations to grab your little one’s attention. Each mini lesson contains a memory verse, child friendly Bible story, character trait, and a short comic modeling that character trait in action. All the illustrations and comic pictures are of kids.

If you are looking for a simple 5-10 minute reading/character lesson to do with your toddler through early elementary age child, this is it. It comes fully toddler approved. 🙂

Marvelous Mud House: a book review

I just received this charming book in the mail this week and LOVE it! It’s just a children’s book, but the message hit square in that little spot God’s been nudging me on. It’s the story of a family that was constantly looking for more….more toys, more house, more stuff. There was no joy in simply being with each other, nor contentment in their own belongings. This family visited Kenya and met George and Mama George who live in a vastly different world. With their new friends, Ben and his family learn the value of family, caring for others’ needs, and gain a much different perspective of “stuff”.

Oh, how familiar is this cry for more! My toddler has started proclaiming, “But I want it!” But how quickly that perceived ‘must have’ item is quickly tossed out for another ‘must have’ item. 🙂

The more I parent, the more I realize how God must view me. Far too often, I cry for more instead of delighting in the blessings I’m all ready covered in. Too often do I move from one answered prayer to the next request, instead of just dwelling in a moment of gratitude and praise. Too often, I sound like my toddler…..content until she realizes someone else has something she doesn’t.

I look forward to giving this to her for Christmas, so somehow we can both walk this journey of learning contentment, dwelling in gratitude, valuing eternal things the most, and caring for others.

I was giving this book by B&H Publishing for review purposes, but the views held are my own.

The Marvelous Mud House

Bibleman Bible Storybook: book review

Part children’s Bible and part family devotional with super hero flavor, the Bibleman Bible Storybook is perfect for elementary age boys and girls. Bibleman, Biblegirl, Cypher, and Melody, our super heros, invite them to learn from scripture how to fight against temptation and how to be a hero for Jesus.

Each story begins and ends with children’s story, then concludes with a family challenge to live out the scriptural principal and a memory verse. Each lesson is about 8 pages long so it’s perfect for a family bedtime story or with breakfast in the morning. It has eye catching art work with colorful illustrations to draw in little listeners. Many parents want to share Jesus with their children and to show them how God’s Word is lived out, but don’t feel like they know how to share it in a kid friendly way. This book lays out the scripture, main lesson, activity application and memory verse, making it simple just to pick up and use.

I think this book is well put together, and I recommend it. I’m excited to be able to gift this book to another family. This was received as part of the blogger review program at BH publishing in return for my honest assessment. However, all of the views are mine.


Bibleman Bible Storybook: 25 Bible Stories for Heroes


Pause.  Step away for a moment. From the chaos, from the noise….into a still moment.


Often when my infant is cranky in the morning, he just needs a 10 minute reset with a bottle and a short snooze. Oh wouldn’t that be wonderful?  If we could just  have some milk and a short snooze and have everything be right in our world again?  How often do we long to push the reset button, so we can undue whatever has caused us to be in this stressed, weary, frustrated mindset.  I know that feeling of just being…’done’.

A Moment to Breath was written just for that purpose. Short five minute devotions to help you pause and reset.  I’ve only read 81 of the days, but I already have many of my favorites marked to go back to reread. Just as with anything written by humans (anything but the Bible), not every entry will be inspired for you.  But they are so short and simple to read, you can just skip to the next one.  Written by 80 different authors, there is bound to be one voice that connects with you.

We all need a moment to reset, just to step back and breathe.  When we take our eyes off of ourselves and our current situation, and refocus back on Jesus, we gain a more true perspective of the situation.  Instead of how big it is compared to us, we see how small it is compared to our Savior.

Let me encourage you to simply pause….often.     Even if only for 5 minutes in whatever form fits you.  Just to listen to His voice….and reset.

A Moment to BreatheA Moment to Breathe

So close to Amazing:a book review

It’s so easy to look through Pinterest boards, Instagram photos, or other snapshots of someone’s life, and long for that beautiful moment we see on the screen or in the magazine.   It’s easy to see that perfect picnic picture without hearing the squabbling between the kids right after, or the perfect hair style without seeing all the time, money, and product that went into it. We often look at snapshots and assume that person’s whole life is peaceful and beautiful, without remembering that indeed it is just a snapshot, a moment of beauty pulled out of the mess of life.  We each have our own beautiful snapshots, if we would just pause to look. As I look around my living room, I can grow frustrated with my lack of cleaning and the piles of kids toys taking over, or I can pause to appreciate the simple beauty of our cat curled up for his nap or the baby’s sweet face while he sleeps in his chair.

In her book, So close to Amazing, KariAnne Wood works to find the beauty and life lessons in all of the mess of life. She is the blogger behind Thistlewood Farms and has made many guest appearances in magazines and blogs, sharing her DIY expertise to help others create beauty out of the ordinary. Her family made the jump from big city Texas to small town Kentucky, and began the adventure of restoring an old farm house. She tells the story with humor and honesty, while being mindful of the lessons God was teaching her through farmhouse living.

Her book is the kind you take out in the gazebo on a hot summer day when you need something to refresh your spirit after spending hours with a demanding toddler.  I know……because that’s what I did.  Her stories left me laughing along with her.  They inspired me to look for my own beauty, for God’s hand at work in our story.  And to persevere in my goals for our home and family.  Some days you’ll reach it, and you’ll snap that Instagram photo.  Other days, you’ll be so close….”So close to Amazing.”

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. 

Daily Example

“Puppy big poopoo!”, she exclaims as she pulls the changing pad out of the diaper bag and spreads it out on the floor.  Instead of getting after her for getting out more of my stuff, I settle in to watch her walk in my footsteps.  She spreads it out, lays out her puppy, and proceeds to work on his diaper.  Yes, this stuffed puppy wears diapers quite often. 🙂   Daily observation of me caring for the baby has taught her how to care for her own puppy.

“Beebee on-y (lonely)!  Where mama? Where Abby?”, she cries as her ears are quick to pick up his cries.  Clearly this is a reflection of our multiple conversations that happen when I’m trying to convince her to hurry so we can go get the crying baby.  Other reflections are not as happy sounding as she often gives speeches to the puppy on the need to be quiet. 🙂

Little phrases and actions bear witness that our comments and actions are not done in secret nor easily forgotten.  Instead our lives are studied by those around us, most especially our little ones, as they seek to make sense of the world around them, and to learn how to respond to situations.

I remember one mealtime where my daughter freaked out as my husband made a spider with his hand, and “walked” it over to her. She was super freaked out, and upset…….until I taught her that spiders can be smashed.   Then it became a game between her and dad.  Because mom was not afraid of it and gave her the tools to handle her own fear, my little one could participate in the fun.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ”.  

Who do I imitate?  What example am I laying out before her?  While her worldview as an adult is her own choice, it is impacted by what she sees in us growing up. More than once, I have told others that children have definitely increased my prayer life.  From pleas for help as everyone is crying (even the dog), to desperate prayers for them to sleep through the night, to prayers for them to meet developmental milestones or heart changes. 

From the small things of the food she eats to heavy weight areas of the heart, her choices are strongly affected by what she sees I value.  She didn’t start eating oatmeal or scrambled eggs until she saw mom had them, and suddenly they were “cool”.  She prays for the sirens she hears as we’ve taught her that they mean people need help. She thinks coffee is good to drink, as she sees her dad often drink it. Values, whether intentionally taught or not, are constantly being passed down.  

Lord, please me to paint a true picture of you before her eyes.  As these “little mirrors” of my words and actions live life with me, may I mirror you to them.  

Long Days of Small Things: a book review

Motherhood……such a perplexing adventure that makes you feel like you are accomplishing nothing while you are actually cultivating future world leaders.  Often I’ve felt like I came up empty handed before the throne as my friends would talk of helping a widow rake leaves, spending time fasting, participating in children’s outreaches, or other active spiritual disciplines that don’t seem to fit my baby in the arms, feeding a little one, chasing a toddler stage that I’m in where most of any service time would have been spent making sure my kiddos didn’t mess up the actual work others were doing.

It’s easy to feel discouraged, wondering if what you do matters and if your hidden (I was going to say, ‘quiet’, but things aren’t really ‘quiet’ here) activities matter as much as all the formal spiritual disciplines. Devotional times?  Mine have been spent simultaneously feeding a baby or keeping an early rising toddler happy.  Prayer times? Mine are over dishes, or brief moments when I sit.   Solitude?  That’s a funny question. 🙂

In her book, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, Catherine McNiel writes of how she learned to recognize God’s molding and shaping of her through motherhood.  How pouring out her life for needy little souls was actually the refining fire of God developing the fruits of the Spirit within her. The perseverance and patience required of a parent are constantly more than what one naturally has.

You are endlessly brought to the end of yourself, as God relentlessly works out your selfishness to create His own character. 

 While I couldn’t connect with some of her use of symbolism or all of her liturgical background, I felt encouraged by her main theme.  Motherhood isn’t a side season until I can get back to the more important ways of serving Jesus or the more spiritual ways of developing His character within me, it is the main tool that God is using in me now.  My offerings given with the noise of a hungry baby and the screams of a toddler meltdown can be placed alongside the more public acts of service before His throne.

As with the widow’s mite, He doesn’t care about the size. He simply cares about our heart and if we are giving him our all.

Now excuse, I hear the baby crying again………

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing for review purposes, but the thoughts recorded are my own.

long days of small things