Loving My Actual Christmas

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season
By Alexandra Kuykendall

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I was so ecstatic when I saw that Alexandra Kuykendall put out a call on Instagram for women to be a part of her upcoming Christmas book launch team.
Not only is Christmas my favorite holiday, but I enormously enjoyed her other book, Loving My Actual Life, which had a huge impact on my life and gave me perspective on where God has me in this season of my life; MY actual life.
Through my posts about her other book and helping to launch this book, I feel as if I have gotten to “know” Alex. You guys! She is just like us. She is down to earth, she is a hot mess of a mom, she is trying to just live in her actual life right here and right now while keeping herself and her family entrenched in His word. She needs Jesus just as much as we do. She is human just as much as we are. She just happens to write books is all.
Read her book. You will NOT be disappointed!

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Through her new book, Alexandra Kuyukendall gives us a marvelous fresh perspective on how we should slow down, stop and enjoy the Christmas season that we are living in RIGHT NOW. Because that is all we have, is the RIGHT NOW; our actual life. She beautifully entwines real life with scripture and biblical principles on how to not just “get through” the holiday but to relish in and enjoy the season that celebrates the beautiful birth of our Savior.

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Pause from the hustle and remember.
Remember a baby.
Remember a savior.

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~~Luke 2:11

We are only human. We can only do so much. We only have so many hours in a day and some of those we need to use to eat and sleep. We do not need to do every.single.holiday activity that is out there. If we tried to do that, it would take us an entire year. And then, Christmas would loose its magic, its significance and its importance.

Rather than overspending, overeating, undersleeping, and underrejoicing, I want to notice the goodness God has offered in the here and now. In this year. This. Christmas. Regardless of the circumstances. Because I don’t want to resent this actual Christmas, I want to love it.

Don’t you want to love your Christmas this year? This Christmas. Not last year’s Christmas or next year’s Christmas, but this one. The one right here, right now, in front of you, staring you in the face.

Hope.
Love.
Joy.
Peace.

The four weeks of Advent.

Alexandra takes us through each week of the Advent in her actual Christmas. As we journey through her life with her, she gives us scripture to steep ourselves in, biblical knowledge and tangible ideas that we can use to help us love OUR actual Christmas.

She reminds us that the celebration of the birth of Jesus does not end on December 25th. Amidst the wrapping paper, dropped needles all over the floor and new gadgets and gizmos, we have 12 more days in the liturgical calendar to relish in our magnificent Savior.

Advent is the period of expectation and waiting. Christmastide is the season of celebrating his arrival. I celebrate here in the middle of my actual life with my actual circumstances.

Celebrate YOUR Christmas in the middle of YOUR actual circumstances. Amidst the busy, amidst the crazy, the grief, the joy, the shopping and baking, the school plays and concerts, amidst the impatience and frustration, the strained budget, and even amidst the brokenness.

And you want to enjoy this Christmas. The one right in front of you. In the midst of all the imperfect circumstances. You want to remember it as one filled with celebration and love, rather than frustration and regret. 

Find Hope within it. Find Love within it. Find Joy within it. Find Peace within it. Find Your actual Christmas. Because we only get this actual Christmas once in our life. We cannot do it over again.

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I cannot recommend this book enough. And you need to get it now. You need to read it now. BEFORE the craziness of the holiday season overtakes your life. Because then, just maybe, this Christmas won’t be crazy. Then read it again throughout the Advent and Christmastide season. It will keep you grounded in His word and the amazingly beautiful story of a baby who came to rescue a fallen world.

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season

I received a free digital copy of the book in order to do this review.
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps to stock my library shelf*

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More Than Just Making It

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated
By Erin Odom

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In More Than Just Making It, Erin Odom shares her family’s story through their previous years of financial struggles. She tells about how they were drowning in debt, with not enough income, and struggling to feed their family, but how through it all, they learned to rely on and be content with God’s provisions. Erin shows us how her family found contentment right where God had them and that after following God’s lead, they were able to find the light on the other end of the tunnel.

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Through Erin’s transparency, we are able to see that God will provide for all of our needs; not wants, but needs. There were some stumbles and bumps for her family along their path but they continued to be faithful to His word and His path for them.

As Erin takes you through her own story, she equips you with tangible, realistic ideas and tips to save money, live within your means and dig yourself out of the dark hole while continually having faith that God will never forsake you. She provides you with encouragement, and empowers you with the tools you need to find the life God has planned for you.

I want to give you hope, but I also want to arm you with practical solutions that will take you from financial stress to financial success.

One of the pieces that I thought was fantastic is how Erin opens up conversation about the stigma of using government assistance. WIC, welfare and other forms of government aid have gotten a ginormous stigma of shame, abuse of the system and lazy people who do not want to go out and get a job. Erin does a wonderful job of getting rid of the stigma by explaining how the help is there for those that TRULY need it. Yes, there will be exceptions and those who abuse it, just like with anything else; but if we were to take it away completely then there would be families just like hers that would not be able to even feed their children. She does a effective job of bringing it back to scripture and what God intended for His people.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. ~Proverbs 19:17

We need to help those that have fallen on hard times. Life sometimes has a way of kicking you while you are down and it by no means says that you are lazy or abusing the system. The system was put in place to help families for a short term while they regained their footing during a tough time of financial struggles.

What if our generation could live with less than the Joneses while reaching for a new American Dream that leaves us fulfilled, less stressed, and re-imagining “the good life”? What if we learned to be satisfied with our needs being met? What if we aligned our wants with God’s design and own callings, instead of basing them on what the family next door has chosen?

What if we stopped living above our means and using our excess to help those who are in need? What if we were content with what God provided for our needs and used the excess to change the pah of a struggling family? What if our generation tried to “keep up with God” rather than the Joneses? What would our world be like then?

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This book has at least a little bit of something for everyone.
If you are in the dark, swimming, trying to figure out how to put the next meal on the table, then this book is for you.
If you are just getting your head above the waves and finding your footing, then this book is for you.
If you have already been through the darkness and you’re on the other side, finally living comfortably without financial worries, then this book is for you.
If you have never known the depths of the darkness that comes with financial strain and not being able to feed your family, then this book is for you.

There is a lesson for each and every individual within the pages and words of Erin Odom. I highly recommend it to all.

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Be sure to get your lowest price, pre-order copy from Amazon by clicking my link at the top or bottom of this post. After you have pre-ordered, be sure to get all of the fantastic freebies (only available to those that pre-order the book!) by going to the More Than Just Making It website. Scroll to the bottom and you will see how to get your freebies. 🙂

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps to stock my library shelf*

Present over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
By Shauna Niequist

Webster’s Dictionary defines Perfectionism as~~~ a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.
Whether because of my dysfunctional childhood or if it is just my nature, I have struggled with perfectionism nearly my entire life.
It has just been within the last couple of years that I have truly understood it and the implications it has had on my life. I have really been trying to overcome it and recover from it. So as soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew that I absolutely needed to read it.

This is a love story, like all my favorite stories. It’s a story about letting yourself be loved, in all your imperfect, scarred, non-spectacular glory. And it’s about the single most profound life change I’ve yet encountered.

After reading the first paragraph, I knew that it was no accident that I had discovered this book. I felt an immediate ah-ha moment, as if I were about to read from my own journal.

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I don’t usually like highlighting in my books; books are sacred, historical and should not be damaged in that way. I made it to page 128 before I realized there was too much good stuff that I would want to remember or revisit. So I started putting sticky notes next to a line or paragraph that grabbed me. As you can see, there are many of those moments within the book and I only started adding sticky notes on page 128. This book made an impact on me with a gigantic amount of light bulb moments.

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There were many years of my life that I felt like I didn’t even have time to eat, sleep or barely breathe because I ran myself from one activity to the next to the next to the next. In my quest for perfection, I thought I had to do all, be all, and be an infallible wife and mother for my family. I felt the drive to do this in order to fill the gaping hole in my heart and finally *maybe* to feel complete.
In the process of trying to be perfect, I lost my own sense of self and who I am; who God intended for me to be. I forgot to be me because I was too busy running around trying to be whomever everyone else in my life needed me to be.

I’m learning to silence the noise, around me and within me, and let myself be seen and loved, not for what I produce, but for the fact that I have been created by the hands of a holy God, like every other thing on this earth, equally loved, equally seen. 

This.
This above is what I am trying to learn to do.
I have been created to be equally seen and equally loved.

It is not easy. I have spent 3$ years of my life striving for perfectionism; something I will never be able to truly achieve. As I talked about in my review of Gospel-Centered Mom, I will never be fully enough or seamlessly perfect; If I were, then why would I ever need Jesus? I will eternally be imperfect.  I can never be perfect and that is okay, because I absolutely DO need Jesus.

After a lifetime of believing that the voices that mattered were Out There, approving or disapproving of me, I’m learning to trust the voice within, the voice of God’s Spirit, the whisper of my own soul. And when you learn to listen to their voice, the screaming crowd matters less. In some blessed moments, it matters not at all.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. ~ John Steinbeck

It really is a feeling of relief, of freedom, knowing that I do not have to be perfect. Once I rid my mind of the idea that I have to be perfect for everyone else, I can just be good at who and what God created me to be.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”~ Ephesians 2:10

You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely.

I am weird.
I am wonderful.
I am imperfect.
I am messy.
I am lovely.
I am good.
I am me.

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Anyone and everyone who has ever struggled with perfectionism, with not feeling like you will ever be good enough, should read Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. I hope it has an impact on your heart, your spirit and you life as it did upon mine.

There is a Study Guide that goes along with the book if you are interested in digging in a bit further. I did not use the study guide, but it will probably be something I do in the future.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps to stock my library shelf*

Gospel-Centered Mom

Gospel-Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need
By Brooke McGlothlin

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I have talked to countless women who feel that they’re failing or that they’re not strong enough, creative enough, spiritual enough, wise enough for the thing they most want to get right —–parenting.

How many of you moms out there feel this way?
I know that I often do. As a woman who has struggled with perfectionism and the “not good enough” mentality my entire life, it has now seeped into my parenting as well. Every.Single.Day. I feel like I am not getting it right and that I will never be a good enough mom that my children need.

The only thing I could hear was not enough. Actually it felt like the whole world was united in screaming at me, “You’re not enough!”

As soon as I read those words, I felt a kinship with Brooke; I felt empathy and I finally felt understood. Everywhere I turn, I feel like that is all anyone thinks about my parenting.
As I have mentioned previously, I have children that can be challenging to parent. We can have some pretty rough days and when days are rough, moms tend to (at least I do) blame themselves and feel like we have failed at everything.

The word enough means “to fully meet demands, needs or expectations.” It’s the “fully” part of the definition that catches me. If we’re “fully” able to meet demands, needs, or expectations, why would we continue to need Jesus? 

What?!? Did you read that?
This.
This was a humongous, gigantic light-bulb moment for me.

If we were enough on our own, we wouldn’t need Jesus, and, friend, we all desperately need Jesus.

I know that I certainly need me some Jesus in my life.  I need Jesus every single day. Without Jesus, I don’t have a way to get to my Father and I desperately need a way to reach Him. I need the love and the forgiveness. I need His grace and His mercy.

I’m not enough, because I was made to need God. I was never meant to do life without God helping me. Every moment of every day I need the work of God in my life through my Savior, Jesus. When I say I’m enough, I’m actually saying that I don’t have an ongoing need or that I’ve somehow arrived at enough and will always stay there. This isn’t the truth of the Gospel the way I see it. I will never arrive. I will never not need God.

This book has had many eye-opening, light-bulb moments for me. I know that it can do the same for many other moms out there who struggle with perfectionism and the “not good enough” mentality.

Brooke McGlothlin has a way of making you feel like you’re not the only one out there struggling and having the feelings that you’re struggling with. She makes you feel heard, understood and loved.
Brooke weaves scripture and biblical truth in and out of her book while giving you tangible things you can do to accomplish being a more Gospel-Centered Mom.

I highly recommend this book for all moms, who like me, need some Jesus in their life.

 Gospel-Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need

* I received an advance copy of the book to read and do this review*
*Post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps to stock my library shelf*

 

The Reason I Jump

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
By Naoki Higashida
Translated by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell

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I have read a lot of books on autism. A lot.
My 2 oldest children are on the autism spectrum so I have done a lot of reading on this particular topic.

The majority of books and resources out there are written by medical professionals, which is fabulous because knowing the WHY behind autism and how the brain works is great knowledge as a parent.

There are also books written by those who have autism. However, they are written after the person has become an adult. Those books do give a good perspective of life with autism, but it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
Most adults with autism have already worked through a lot of their disabilities. They have discovered coping mechanisms that help them to thrive in society.

As a parent of a child with autism, I wanted to know why they do some of the things they do. I wanted to know why they react to some of the things they react to. I wanted to know why certain things can cause a certain behavioral response for them. I wanted to know what goes on inside their head currently; not what they remember it being like once they have become an adult.

The Reason I Jump is unique in the fact that it is written by young teenage boy. It is written by someone who can give us true insight and perspective on the inner workings of a child with autism. Yes, each child with autism is different. However, there are some things that are the same or similar across the board for those on the spectrum.
Naoki Higashida gives us something that many parents of children with autism are seeking; answers.

I loved that the book was set up in a question and answer format. A question about a specific behavior was asked and Naoki answered it. There were times when he did not have an answer or reason; sometimes he really just did not know the cause behind a specific behavior or reaction.

Intertwined with small stories of his creating, The Reason I Jump gave me a unique perspective into the minds of my own children. There were a lot of light bulb moments for me that have helped change and shape some of my own responses and reactions to my children. Naoki helped open up the communication in our home even further.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who is looking for some insight and perspective into the mind of any child with autism. It is hands down, THE best book on autism I have read thus far. I had originally borrowed it from the library, but after reading it, I realized that it is a book that I will refer back to again and again in the future so I went ahead and purchased my own copy.
Buy the book. Read it and then read it again. Then give it to anyone else who is in your child’s life. You will all be better for it.

I wish there were more books written by children on the spectrum. The insight and perspective that I gained from Naoki is priceless.

Maybe I can convince one of my own children to write a book.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links helps to stock my library shelf*