Tag Archives: parenting

Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids by Mark and Jan Foreman

Offering the Openness of Yes {Book Review – Never Say No by Mark and Jan Foreman}

I’ve read quite a few Christian parenting books, all aiming to share a blend of encouragement to seek after grace-drenched parenting styles and practical tips on everything from talking to your children to discipline to sleep tactics. Some of these books create a bit of disconnect between the author who is seen as a “master” here to teach the reader, while other books effectively reach the reader through sharing personal stories.

Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids by Mark and Jan Foreman

Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids by Mark and Jan Foreman (David C. Cook, 2015) is definitely one of the latter – an inspiring and intriguing book that welcomes to the reader into a journey of growth in parenting, a journey that doesn’t separate the parent from their child, but rather shows a parent and child can grow up together, hand-in-hand.

Mark and Jan take alternating turns telling stories of their own upbringings and of their two sons, Jon and Tim.

Mark and Jan do not dare label themselves as “parenting experts,” but only two people who have stories and lessons they’ve learned to tell. I found myself agreeing quite a bit with much of their parenting ideals, which fostered trust between me and the authors, while still finding I have much to glean from their journeys.

“We never saw ourselves as parenting authorities; we just knew we’d been given two phenomenal kids to be raised. It was more about not messing up God’s ingenious creations.” – p. 17, Never Say No

Mark and Jan begin by breaking down the process they underwent to look at what parenting should accomplish and the why behind it. Did they want kids who thought the main goal of life is to be happy, do good, have success? As believers, that’s often too limiting in scope. Playing their part in God’s story is bigger. And, as parents, to guide our children to their God-given purposes, we need relationship – with both God and our kids.

“Staying close to our children was critical not only for their survival but also for finding their purpose in life. We believed that as we fed and watered our relationship, we would grow our children’s confidence to find themselves in God’s big story.” – p. 34, Never Say No

This couple addresses reflecting on your own childhood and your current ideals as parents to make new family roadmaps, self-sacrifice as the highest form of love, leading by example, creating space for creativity, truly enjoying our children (and realizing that God enjoys us), discipline while still being open to “yeses” and opportunities, raising children who think, and parenting young adults. Through the book, Mark and Jan share their own mistakes and the joy in seeing their own children become unique individuals.

I’m one of those who usually can’t write in books, but because I was writing down a quote from nearly every single page, I may have to take a highlighter to this book in the next read through. I’m reading this book at a perfect time: the start of our “official” homeschool journey. (Mark and Jan didn’t homeschool their kids, yet intentional parenting is essential in homeschooling, so this book is helping shape my home environment!) My husband and I also plan on reading this together to discuss options together.

“An open environment leaves room for wonder and doesn’t try to fill in the blanks. Wonder is the gift that grows a robust imagination. And imagination is what can change the world.” – p. 110, Never Say No

Added bonus: My husband and I have been emphatic fans of Switchfoot for 12+ years. Switchfoot is in the top three kinds of music requested by our young kids in the car (whether it’s a long trip or a short jaunt to the library). It’s absolutely fun to picture young Jon and Tim in the entertaining and sobering stories Mark and Jan share in this book. Plus, I found several spaces where I read a great though from Mark and Jan and thought, Huh, this sounds rather supportive of a certain Switchfoot lyric.

I fully see myself rereading this book in the future, and I can’t say that for most books. I highly recommend parents taking a look at Never Say No.

How do you truly enjoy your children daily? What do you look for in a parenting book?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker

Listening and Learning {Book Review – Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker}

Ever since my son was 1 or 2 years old, I’ve said that I’ve learned much more from being parent than I ever did in the years in was a public school teacher. And that statement keeps growing in truth.

Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker shares numerous examples of this growth in her book Small Talk: Learning from My Children About What Matters Most (Zondervan, 2014). This memoir-style book follows Amy Julia’s journey through several years of parenting two, then three, children, including one of whom has Down Syndrome. This series of stories encourages readers and highlights how we can see grace in the small moments of our lives.

“In the midst of snow days and sickness, in the midst of yelling and tears, grace enters in.” – p. 12, Small Talk

Amy Julia tells the story in present tense with some past tense reflections to draw readers in. She lets the reader know in the introduction that this is not a how-to book. She utilizes a lot of “I think” and “I wonder” and “I understand” sentences to show her own thought processes and conclusions on what she’s learning as she grows along with her children.

My favorite components of these stories are the family conversations. The dialogues between children (child-to-child and child-to-parent) are so realistic and so pure. Any parent can identify, and, as a parent of a child with multiple special needs, I especially relate to many of those conversations and specific fears. She doesn’t present herself as perfect, and these thoughtful stories help spur reflections of the reader’s own family and circumstances.

She covers holding on to certain things, letting go of others. Her children help her realize the importance of forgiveness, understanding, growth. She recounts stories of waiting, of tragedy, of community, of understanding dependence, of marriage. All while exploring God’s presence in all of it.

The reader won’t leave this book with all the answers, and the reader might not even agree with all of the author’s conclusions. But the book will allow readers to marvel in the insightfulness of children and the ability to reflect and grow, no matter one’s situation.

“…But the reminder of God’s promises quiets my soul. A gentle encouragement to trust. This Christian life of ours if messy and mysterious and beautiful. Like water, running down and spilling over.” – p. 219, Small Talk

What have you learned most from your children?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher (through the BookLook bloggers program) in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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A review of Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Staffford

Creating and Opening Opportunities {Book Review – Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford}

Every time I’ve read a blog post from Hands Free Mama, tears have pooled in my eyes. Seriously. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t begun to cry.

As soon as I saw I had the chance to review Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book, Hands Free Mama (Zondervan, 2014), I knew I wouldn’t pass up that opportunity.A review of Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Staffford

Rachel is a storyteller. Her writing pulls you in to every story she tells and helps you look for the same situation in your life and look for the same lessons and opportunities she is.

That’s the other part of her writing: you don’t feel excluded at all. Rachel needs renewal in her hands-free journey just like the rest of us do.

Hands free sounds like what it is – a journey to keep our hands available to help, hold, love, and be present in the gift of now. And our eyes open to all these grace-given opportunities.

Rachel writes specifically to mothers, but I think any parent should read this. And even any spouse or anyone who has someone they love so drastically and don’t want to miss precious time together. Though Rachel’s stories center on parenting, anyone can learn from living with open eyes and intentional focus on creating love and channeling our energies to what’s really valuable (not “things”).

The back copy explains the essence of the book (as it should):

“[Hands free] doesn’t mean giving up all technology forever. It doesn’t mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is…living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions.”

This book is not unrealistic, but instead focuses on putting distractions and the urgent (but not important) in their proper place rather than letting them control us. This book also expands on what’s on her blog. She talked more about personal forgiveness to be able to see now more than I thought she would – and I needed that.

“Letting go of past mistakes is an integral part of the Hands Free journey because it allows the gifts of the present day to become more apparent.” – p. 172

Some of what I learned in this book:

  • “Someday” is a dangerous word, especially when talking about what matters.
  • I’ve been very intentional about being present for my children, and that focus continues to increase. Partially because of my son’s many special needs, my children are a constant reminder that they are gifts and any time we have together is a blessing. But I can always grow, and I always need renewal. I’m thankful they serve as such strong, beautiful, amazing reminders.
  • It’s easy to not be as intentional about time with my husband, especially when we’re exhausted at the end of the day. But I loved him first, and I’ll love him after the kids are grown. Intentional time with him matters, too. (I knew this, but I needed the reminder.)
  • Sometimes I get stuck on my own lack of personal progress. But, as Rachel reminds, small everyday choices impact your path to a hands free life and increase progress.

Rachel shares her setbacks and her successes in beautiful, heart-connecting ways.

“The truth hurts, but the truth heals – and brings me closer to the person I aspire to be.” – p. 38

A main message: Rachel recommends accepting time as a gift and treating it as such with loving purpose rather than fighting it or lamenting it. I highly recommend this read.

“Time does not wait. Therefore, I chose to stop wasting time.” – p. 143

How do you keep your mind on time with your kids as a blessing?

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 was not compensated in any other way.

Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom by Tricia Goyer

Finding More Than Balance {Book Review – Balanced by Tricia Goyer}

When I used to teach in public schools, I remember doing a diversity unit with a Kindergarten class. We were reading a poem about how you could be all kinds of “labels” at once – a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student. When we translated that to parents, I said something like, “Your mom is your mom, but can she be a daughter or a sister or a friend or even a doctor, too?” One child piped up, “Nooo, she’s a mom!”

As we get older, we learn that everyone has many attributes, many jobs, and many character qualities.

That definitely does not change when you become a mother.

We balance even more things when we add on the job title of “mother.”

Or, in many of our cases, we may be very unbalanced at times.

Tricia Goyer, author of over 40 books, understands this. Because she’s such a prolific writer (she even pops up on so many of the major blogs I read!), she’s often asked, “How do you do it all?

To which she (thankfully) answers: “I don’t!”

We don’t always believe someone as successful as that when she says that, though, do we?

Tricia has a heart for encouragement, so she wrote the book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom to help all of us who are moms and we work at home (in any capacity).Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom by Tricia Goyer

In eleven chapters, she discusses stories of her own unbalanced times, as well as her more balanced times. But she’s quick to remind us that we can never be completely balanced. Not even for one day. Something always needs to give.

“And even the hard stuff, especially the hard stuff, that we face today is preparing us to be the people He has designed us to be.” – p. 39

Tricia offers practical tips on how she’s done that within these chapters. Each chapter also includes a “tips from the trenches” section with quotes from other work-at-home moms. These moms are mainly writers and many of Tricia’s tips focus on writing, but she explains (and I agree) that these tips can be applied to most at-home jobs. Each chapter also includes “think on this” quotes from various books, related Scripture, and “pause and reflect” questions to help you put these ideas in practice. All these components combine to show that work-at-home moms (with the right focus) can benefit their families, their own creativity and growth, and their purpose in God.

Tricia offers a reoccurring theme throughout this book: finding balance is really about more than finding balance. It’s about finding center. For Tricia (and myself, and many of you reading), finding center means focusing on Christ. This book remains very faith-focused, which is a needed and continual reminder of the mindset and work purpose we all need.

“My work-at-home journey moved from me trying to prove myself to allowing God to prove what He could do through a weak vessel like me.” – p. 65

Just during the time reading this book, I declined two tasks I felt I “needed” to take on, but can’t realistically do so at this time. And, though I still hold on to a little guilt for saying “no” (which I need to kick out the door), I feel better and less overwhelmed, which my whole family needs.

Tricia’s motto: “I want to live the type of life I can write about.”

Read more about the book and other reviews here.

How do you balance your many tasks? When you can’t stay balanced, how do you stayed focused on God?

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

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“We might feel unqualified or question our abilities, but God doesn’t. He could have done it differently, but He chose to use us because He trusts us.” - quote from Searching for Sanity by Lindsey Bell

When Parenting is Both Hard and Beautiful {Book Review – Searching for Sanity by Lindsey Bell}

Parenting is beautiful. It’s also hard. It’s not easy.

But, just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean we give up or feel we shouldn’t pursue it.

I have many challenging parenting days, and some days I desperately need even 30 minutes to just sit in a room with the door closed. But there’s sincerely no where else I’d rather be. My kids (and my husband) are some of these biggest examples God has set in my daily life of what undeserved gifts are.

It’s beautiful…and hard. Sometimes we need a little encouragement.

Enter my friend, Lindsey Bell.

I first met Lindsey through blogging, and her writing tone immediately caught my attention. It’s relatable, informative, and not at all judgmental. She willingly shows her own struggles to help the reader nod in agreement with her and figure out how to remember to turn back to God for guidance, too.

Searching for Sanity by Lindsey BellIn Lindsey’s new book, Searching for Sanity, Lindsey offers 52 one- to two-page devotions, each with a focus verse, reflection questions, a short prayer, and daily activities to practice throughout the week. This devotional is written for parents, so Lindsey intentionally kept the activities doable for busy, overwhelmed, tired parents to still concentrate on reflecting and growing. These activities also put what you’ve read into action – such an important step for growth.

The devotional overall looks at many parents from the Bible. Lindsey doesn’t spin a positive light on all those figures; she’s real with their shortcomings. We can all learn from both our failings and our successes while remembering that God offers grace and the best comfort. That’s what Lindsey helps us do in this book.

Some of the devotions that have stuck with me after reading them: Eve (Week 2), Hannah (Week 17), and Jeroboam (Week 23).

“We might feel unqualified or question our abilities, but God doesn’t. He could have done it differently, but He chose to use us because He trusts us.” – Searching for Sanity

I would particularly recommend doing this study with one other mother. (Small groups would work, too!) Having a friend who can relate for discussion and accountability can help us see a little clearer than by ourselves at times.

“He will give you hope when there’s no hope to be found.” – Searching for Sanity

Lindsey recently wrote a post about marriage here on this site. Click here to read four essentials of a healthy marriage. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway while there! Check out Lindsey’s site to read more about the book and for more giveaway opportunities.

How have you grown from the hard and the beautiful parts of parenting?

“We might feel unqualified or question our abilities, but God doesn’t. He could have done it differently, but He chose to use us because He trusts us.”  - quote from Searching for Sanity by Lindsey Bell

Disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed on my own, and I honestly would’ve shared about this book anyway. I was not compensated in any other manner.