Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

STUFF. It’s everywhere. Lurking in corners and closets, spilling onto counters and coffee tables, creating havoc everywhere we look. And it’s not just the physical clutter that weighs us down. Oh no, it is the stress of overbooked schedules, and the weight of life that sometimes feels oppressive and totally out of whack.

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup feels your pain–she has been there too. Through personal stories, Biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire and empower each of us to finally declutter not just our home, but our mind and soul as well. Unstuffed is real, honest, and gets right down to the question we are all facing–how can we take back our lives from the stuff that is weighing us down?

In this book, together we will:
• Create a comprehensive vision for our homes, and make instant changes to improve its overall function.
• Discover that more closet space is not the solution, and instead learn how to set strict limits for the stuff we bring in.
• Overcome the frustration of dealing with our kids’ influx of stuff and implement practical solutions for keeping the chaos at bay.
• Recognize the pitfalls of an overstuffed schedule BEFORE it gets out of hand, and instead learn to combat the culture of busy that keeps us running from one thing to the next.
• Finally conquer that mountain of paperwork that threatens to tumble down around us at any moment.
• Let go of the guilt that gets attached to gifts and instead learn to separate our loved ones from their stuff.
• Begin to cultivate our real friendships while eliminating the toxic relationships that weigh us down.

My thoughts:

The author blends practical with inspirational in a fairly well-rounded (for the intended audience) book in Unstuffed.

When picking up this book, it’s important to realize from the start that the book will not focus solely on decluttering physical possessions. Thankfully, the subtitle conveys this right away: “Decluttering your home, mind, and soul.” The book is organized into three main sections (Home, Mind, and Soul), with three chapters in each section tackling different components, like living areas, storage, kids, schedule, paperwork, gifts, and soul aspects of living (friends, wellness, and spiritual). The author uses both personal anecdotes along with practical step-by-step lists to offer what she’s learned and researched about decluttering our lives – physically and mentally. She incorporates a few faith-based statements throughout, but especially focuses on spiritual ‘decluttering’ and focus in the very last chapter.

A few aspects to consider: This book will be most helpful to its intended audience, which is first world, middle class with an overabundance of material stuff and crowded schedules. If outside of that group, this book will either be not useful, or possibly frustrating. However, considered within the intended audience, she begins with the physical stuff because many readers feel like that can help them gain some sanity if they’re in a position many middle class Americans are with too much all around.

The practical tips begin right away (on page 17), and her ideas will likely help much of her intended audience. If readers have researched decluttering techniques at all, many of her tips will have been heard or read before, but can still serve as good reminders. Perhaps more helpful is how she includes examples of applying those tips before or after each such numbered list of tips. The second section of the book is perhaps more useful because it deals with the why of decluttering (and why we get so cluttered in the first place), which allows readers to reflect and look at ways to change (and ways to accept grace). I particularly appreciated her thoughts on balance.

"We want to believe we can create balance. But balance comes from rest." - Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

There is also a DVD study available to accompany this book, as well as an app and website with access to many of the resources discussed in the book.

What books or articles have helped you refocus on what matters?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Jesus as High Priest (study on Hebrews 4:14-5:14 at DoNotDepart.com)

A High Priest of Encouragement

This month at Do Not Depart, we’re studying Hebrews 4:14-5:14 and learning about what Jesus as High Priest means to our walk in faith.

Today, I’m writing about Hebrews 5:7-10 and what spiritual resources are available because Jesus is our forever High Priest.

Join me today and share what you’re learning through these verses, and please check out the rest of posts from this month.

Jesus as High Priest (study on Hebrews 4:14-5:14 at DoNotDepart.com)

 

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan/Zonderkidz, 2016)

Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. She was Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year in 2012. This story tells of her rise in fame and humbleness in the sport.

My Thoughts:

My kids and I enjoy watching the Olympics and marveling at what our bodies can do with training, dedication, and respect for what God gifted us. With the Summer Olympics coming up, this seemed like an opportune time to read about one of the US’s Olympics athletes, swimmer Missy Franklin.

You can read this book to learn much more, obviously, but Missy grew to love swimming from a young age and began swimming competitively at age 5. With natural aptitude shining early on, a desire to improve, and extremely supportive parents, she competed in her first Olympics in 2012 at age 17. She’ll be returning to the 2016 Olympics this year.

Geared towards perhaps around third grade reading level and up, this book presents information about Missy’s childhood and training in a fact-focused way. The book offers highlights of her swimming career, side notes about how her faith spurs her journey, and excerpts via other media interviews of quotes from Missy, her parents, and coaches. The matter-of-fact approach and short chapters make this a quick read, but the organization of the chapters can be a bit cumbersome at times. The first chapter overviews her whole story and the second chapter then overviews her process of getting into swimming, but in doing so, we jump back and forth chronologically, which can be a bit confusing to read. Beginning in the third chapter, readers find the timeline flows more naturally. Several statements and sentiments are repeated across chapters unnecessarily (particularly a fixation on Missy holding off on receiving prize and endorsement money for years to remain ‘amateur’ status to be able to compete on high school and college swim teams). While these oft-repeated facts are important to Missy’s story and understanding her character, but I feel it’s a bit of a disservice to readers to repeat them so frequently from chapter to chapter (and sometimes even within chapters). The information about her faith is brief, but can still be inspiring for readers exploring trust and their own faith.

The book reads more like a series of articles, which some readers may enjoy, others may not. Certainly, Missy’s story of dedication, perseverance, eagerness to help others, and learning to trust God’s timing will encourage many young readers pursuing their own dreams with God-given talents.

In this year’s Olympics, from what I found, Missy will be competing in the 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle, and the 4x200m freestyle relay. We’ll be watching out for her! She also keeps a fairly active Twitter account to follow along some of her swimming journeys.

Which athletes inspire your families?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

Book Review – The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer (with Gina Detwiler), (B&H Books, 2016)

The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. Based on Ephesians 6:10–18, The Prince Warriors is the first book in Priscilla Shirer’s epic new series that brings to life the invisible struggle ensuing in the spiritual realm. Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.

Written by New York Times Best-Selling author Priscilla Shirer, The Prince Warriors series was created for middle-grade readers and will include the fiction trilogy as well as Unseen: The 365 Prince Warriors Devotional and the Unseen app.

My Review:

I’ve read several of Priscilla Shirer’s adult Bible studies and love her perspective, writing tone, and insights. She’s one of my go-to, trustworthy Bible-study writers. In her first foray into children’s fiction for middle grade readers, we see great insights into living for God and spiritual warfare, in particular, with this series (the first of a planned trilogy).

There’s a lot to like about this book, particularly the magical realism and otherworldly-ness found within the spiritual realm of “Ahoratos,” which four main characters find together, and the teamwork and trust they learn together. The plot remains interesting and action-packed throughout the book’s twenty-five chapters. The characters offer some range in personalities (and includes one girl as a main character, too, which makes the title of the book a bit misleading), though some of the traits and comments can lean a bit on the stereotypical side, particularly when referring to gender stereotypes. But there are several things to like there, too, like boy/girl friendships (yet not necessarily romantic) and varied interests (science, skateboarding, drawing, etc.).

The biggest obstacle in reading is that the point-of-view perspectives change constantly within each chapter, and even within paragraphs from sentence to sentence. Though the book is told in third person, it is still told through a character’s perspective because readers ‘see’ internal thoughts and characteristics that would only be known through that character’s perspective. But, most novels switch perspectives chapter to chapter, or perhaps at page breaks between scenes, not actually from paragraph to paragraph within the same scene. This constant perspective change can be a bit distracting while reading because readers regularly have to switch their own frame of mind to be able to envision which character is saying and feeling what, and which characters are getting to know someone else or seeing something through observation of that character. The writing could also be tighter in some places as several spots “told” instead of “showed” a key characteristic or feeling.

But, if readers can get through the perspective changes, the intriguing plot and the strong faith-based themes are what really carry this book. The book ends satisfyingly with the current adventure wrapping up, yet more adventures promised in future books, as well as some unanswered mysteries and a newly introduced character to learn about in the second book. This story also discusses great themes (trust, believing without seeing, kindness, forgiveness, redemption) through action and then lets the reader see how these characters apply the themes in their ‘real world’ lives, which makes this book great for parents to read with their kids and discuss together.

What are some of your favorite faith-based middle grade reads?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Listening and Learning

Grieving Together and Growing Together

I shared this photo and caption on my Instagram account yesterday after spending much of this past week trying to read people’s experiences and listen to their stories:

Listening and Learning

I’ve mainly been listening to conversations and needs and experiences over this past week and grieving over the suffering in so many places. I want to learn. I want to grow. But no matter how much I try, I will never totally be able to understand the fullness of my white privilege. But I will try to listen and to support and to be willing to change.
Because change is the only way things get better.
And maybe one way to change is to remember each of us is a person. A person on this one earth at the same time together, called to share love. (@mercyhouseglobal bracelets made by some amazing, skilled people, neighbors on this planet. Thank you, Lillian and Esther.)

I don’t know the answers, but I do know we all need to share love more and more. I pray we can learn to do that together.

A few of the voices I’ve been reading and listening to this week:

“It’s just that it’s unhelpful. It’s an attempt to erase an actual crisis under the guise of being fair. And by continuing to use “All Lives Matter” to drown out the cry of “Black Lives Matter,” the real problems the movement is trying to address are being ignored. … The context of “Black Lives Matter” is not that other lives don’t. The context of “Black Lives Matter” is that the value of black lives remains under assault in the United States.”

  • This tweet about listening.
  • This from our President during a press conference: “To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement … So to all of law enforcement, I want to be very clear: we know you have a tough job, we mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives. … When people say Black Lives Matter, it doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter, it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives…”
  • This post from Lecrae on humility being key to understanding race relations.

Just a sampling of the people I follow on social media that are voices I trust and are involved and I try very hard to listen to and learn from:

How about you supporting neighbors during this past week and beyond? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Side note: I also believe where we spend our money votes on what kind of world we want. When I’m looking for certain items or for gifts or something to brighten someone’s day, I love to support non-profit organizations that work to help real people with real stories. Today, one of my favorite organizations, Mercy House Global, is having a one-day flash sale on some great fair-trade items for women, kids, men, and home. (Earrings are buy one, get one free today only. The “fair trade grab bags” are only $10, which make great gifts. And our family is going to be working through one of the global family kits together this upcoming school year.) These items provide jobs for refugees here in the States and for women in various countries around the world. Please explore the site and learn about the amazing work Mercy House Global does.

This post includes my referral links. If you visit and purchase, I receive store credit, but this does not affect your price in any way. Thank you!

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.