Book Review: More Food From Small Spaces by Margaret Park

gardeningbook

In preparation for planting my vegetable garden, I picked up More Food From Small Spaces by Margaret Park from the library. I have two small raised beds that I normally plant 5 or 6 different veggies in, but they did not all fair well last year. So, I am doing some research on companion planting, vertical gardens, and proper spacing of plants to see if I can be more successful this year. This book has been very helpful. I bought my first seeds the other day and am looking forward to growing tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce, and corn. I have not had the best experience in growing corn, but the kids and I love to see the tall stalks growing in the garden. It is ornamental and makes me smile, so I will keep trying. I did harvest a few delicious cobs that I used in making salsa and other salads, so it wasn’t a total waste.

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Book Review: Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah

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As I look at all the events unfolding in our world, it is hard sometimes to not give in to uncertainty and fear. From the state of our country financially and morally, to the tensions in the Middle East, threats of terrorism, and the upcoming election, it is easy to remove my eyes from Christ and focus too deeply on the troubles of this world. “Lord, help my unbelief!” is something that I have uttered in prayer on many occasions. I do not want to live in defeat or lose my peace. This non-fiction book was incredibly encouraging to my faith.  Dr. David Jeremiah gives a strong, Biblical basis for holding fast to our faith in his book, Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World. I found it to be easy to read and filled with practical solutions to brave the chaos. I love God’s Word. It brings such comfort to my soul. He did not fill the pages with empty platitudes, doom and gloom, or quick fixes. Dr. Jeremiah used Scripture to point my gaze back at Jesus who is the author and finisher of my faith. Christ promises peace, and He can deliver on that promise even in the midst of this earthly mess. But, he did challenge me to LIVE out my faith to a hurting world. One of the answers to what we should be doing was to stay compassionate. We don’t just hunker down in times of trouble and look out for our own well-being. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He gives 5 ways to prove we have compassion by looking at the way Paul conducted himself. (more…)

Book Review: Seamless by Angie Smith

seamless

Seamless

Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story

by Angie Smith

I was looking for a new Bible study a couple of months ago and found this 7 session study by Angie Smith. I had never heard of her before, so I read a little about her prior to purchasing it. I was intrigued by her love story with Jesus and the journey that led to her redemption. I was also just drawn to the simplicity of the book. My heart and mind needed a clutter-free, simple book. This definitely delivered on those criteria. Unlike Angie, I grew up in church and heard Bible stores repeatedly for years, but somehow they had become rote and stale. I found her simple journey through the Bible refreshing. I was able to see God working in new ways as I revisited forgotten passages of Scripture. (more…)

Book Review: Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

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As I finished this book tonight, I found myself wanting to reread parts of it and copy quotes that I found encouraging before returning it to the library tomorrow. I may have to recheck it out at some point and revisit it. I related to so many things that Emily, the author, shared. It is so easy to get caught up in being busy and trying to accomplish great things for God. She reminded me that there is purpose in our everyday Tuesdays where the mundane, simple living happens. I forget that God asks us to plant a seed in faith and then watch Him grow it into something beautiful and purposeful. In our eyes, things are only good or worthwhile when it produces big results and outcomes. We are prone to base success on numbers and worldly measurements. But, success in God’s eyes is allowing Him to love us and then reflecting that love to others. It is in realizing our smallness that we see how great our God is. We are not meant for fame. We can’t handle it. Yet, we don’t want to feel invisible or lonely, so instead of relying on God to fill these holes, we work to build a name for ourselves. She delves into many aspects of why we are not satisfied to simply be who we are in Christ. It is very thought-provoking.

Simply Tuesday encouraged me to find joy and peace in my smallness, because that is where God has taken up residence.

Christ is building His kingdom in us. I don’t work to produce a certain result. I work to glorify God “in all things” – that includes the laundry, cleaning, dinner-preparing, child-rearing, etc. on a mundane Tuesday. Instead of viewing Tuesday as a holding place for a more exciting weekday, I was reminded to see it as a place of worship and beautiful, simple moments.

Side notes: I love her bench analogy throughout the book. I would love to visit her cul-de-sac and sit on their neighborhood bench and chat. But, more importantly, I hope to be able to sit with Jesus daily and receive my daily bread without constantly thinking about what I have to be or do to feel content. He is contentment. He is life. I pray that I am not so busy “being busy” to miss experiencing the life He has to offer me.

What are we reading in 2016?

bookexchangeI love reading! I love seeing what others are reading. I enjoy all the “What books are on your nightstand?” or “What are you reading now?” posts. Perusing these lists has led me to leap out of my literature safety nets, so to speak. I don’t always have time to search the library for my next book, so seeing like minded individuals post book suggestions, reviews, and pictures gives me inspiration and a quick way to keep a good book handy. I wanted to challenge myself to include a greater number of reading genre to my year, so I found a guide that I will use to steer me in new directions. I want it to be an enjoyable experience and not cause me stress, so I will use it as a guideline and challenge while being flexible to find joy in books! (more…)

Book Review: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

essentialismIn an effort to read from a wider array of genre, I picked up essentialism by Greg McKeown from the library a few weeks ago. The subtitle, “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, piqued my interest. I enjoy reading about how others prioritize, organize, and manage their time. In a culture that is easy to become enamored with success, busyness, and materialism, this topic is very relevant. I chose to listen to the audio book while I cleaned or waited for my kids at different appointments. Personally, I enjoyed listening to Greg McKeown and loved his accent. Although I did enjoy parts of this book and had some positive practices reinforced, I felt like it was redundant at times. Many of the chapters seemed to echo the same introductory concepts with only a sprinkling of personal stories to back them up. I skipped over part of a section on sleep because I know sleep is important and didn’t need to hear how many people did or did not benefit from proper sleeping habits. Perhaps there are people who needed to hear that, but for me, it was not an essential part of the book. I agree with other critics of this book that much of what was said could have been condensed to a great blog post. Nevertheless, this blog is for me to remember what I am reading, and I try to learn something from everything that I take the time to ingest, so here are my takeaways:

Mr. McKeown reminded me to seek the wisest use of my resources and time. I can’t learn and do it ALL! If I try, some things will be mediocre. Some things will go undone. Other times it will lead to burnout.

I liked the paradox of success:

1. The clarity of purpose allows us to succeed at our endeavor.

2. This success earns us a reputation as a go-to person.

3. This leads to increased options and opportunities and defused efforts.

4. Too many options distracts us from what would be our highest pursuit.

Our culture is overrun with information. We often suffer from decision fatigue and opinion overload. I can relate to this with all the social media at our fingertips. Being hyper connected socially is not always healthy. It leads us to question decisions that we once felt confident in.

He talked about the fact that in the 1400’s the word priority meant “1st thing”. It was singular and not plural. I found this interesting. Now we go to meetings, and they go over the top 10 priorities. How can this be? It can’t. Multitude of priorities leads to nothing being a priority. Maybe it will all get done, but if one thing was the main focus, it might actually be amazingly exceptional instead of just “done”.

The three main points he makes in keeping the essential things essential are:

1. Explore – it is good to explore our options but only commit to one or two. Discernment is key!

2. Eliminate – actively choosing to get rid of non-essentials. If we don’t, someone will choose for us.

3. Execute – have a regular routine to maintain priorities. Always have a plan and remove obstacles.

I can apply many of these things to our homeschooling lifestyle. It is a choice I have made. It is my highest priority at this time in my life. I can’t choose all of the good curriculum I see. I can’t listen to everyone’s opinions on our educational choice or how we should live that out. There are trade-offs to all choices, and I have to act on the choices and stick to it. I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. Essentialism reminded me that I have the free will to make decisions. Turning down the noise, recognizing the trade-offs, and focusing on making the main thing exceptional will keep me from overloading our lives with non-essential filler. I definitely have clarity of purpose in educating my children at home. Sometimes reading too many blogs, curriculum reviews, or listening to the critiques homeschooling receives from those around me can distract me from that purpose. My goal is to eliminate the white noise, remove any obstacles, and keep my eyes on the end goal of raising young people that love God, life, and learning. Any book that encourages me to invest as wisely as possible to this endeavor is a worthy read.

I would be interested to hear how others keep from being overloaded or inundated with the outside distractions and noises in this technological age.