Laugh it Up

Laught it upAuthor: Candace Payne

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Everyone fell in love with Candace Payne with the video of her wearing a Chewbacca mask and loving every minute of it went viral. Now she has a book out that will make you love her even more.

Candace Payne had no idea that buying a simple Star Wars toy would lead to the life she has now. She is a wife and mother of two from Dallas Texas and has captured the hearts of nearly 200 million with her infectious laugh all while wearing a Chewbacca mask and recording a video on her phone for Facebook.  It quickly became the top viewed video at Facebook and lead to a slew of interviews and opportunities she might never have otherwise had. Laugh It Up tells the story of how she has found laughter in some of the most difficult circumstances and worked her way through to become the person she is today.

Like you, I can remember the first time I saw the video of Candace wearing the mask and couldn’t keep from laughing. There was just something about her laugh and wearing that masks that made me watch the video over and over just to put a smile on my face. Laugh It Up goes deep into what has made Candace Payne the woman she is today.  Without knowing the backstory, we can’t truly appreciate her.  Her words are both funny and heartfelt.  Just like most of us she has gone through her share of struggles and luckily has found a way to overcome those struggles and find something to laugh and smile about, which in turn, has made millions of others laugh as well.  There are going to be those that don’t like what she has to say, there always are.  But for the majority of readers they will hopefully come away with a better understanding of Chewbacca Mom and what truly makes her someone for us to look to and say there are good things in this life and things to laugh about, we just have to find them.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Growing Young

growing-youngAuthors: Kara Powell, Juke Mulder, & Brad Griffin

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As many church congregations across the nation are aging, Growing Young provides strategies to bring young life back into your church!

One of the challenges that many churches across our nation is facing is the lack of youth and young adults participating in their church body. Many churches have members that have attended for years and are now senior adults.  The problem facing these churches is that as these senior adults begin to die off, so does the church, possibly to the effect of having to shut the doors for good.  Many of these churches have begun to recognize the importance that these young individuals play in their organization and are taking steps to make adjustments within the church.  Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, all employees with the Fuller Youth Institute, performed a study across several churches in the United States to understand this issue and see what successful strategies that churches are implementing.

Growing Young really works to help people understand the younger generation of millennials to centennials.  How they interact, how they emphasize, and why they are so dependent on technology for communication.  In addition to this, they really layout potential strategies for church bodies that are serious about making the change to bring in accommodate these younger individuals, which does not include diluting or watering down the messages.  In fact, most people want more challenging messages.  This book is a great place to start or at least get yourself thinking about the issue.  The end of each chapter also provides some really good critical thinking/discussion questions that can help get to the meat of the matter.

I found this book really intriguing. In fact, my husband Jared decided to read it as well, which really generated some great discussion.  Jared does a lot of facility planning and master planning for churches across the southwest and he said that he has seen this issue at almost every church that he works with.  Many of these churches have aging facilities that they have deferred spending money on to keep updated, mostly because the congregation believes that the money should be spent on missions or activities, which is completely understandable.  Then when buildings and systems start to fail is when he gets called out.  Then his company and the church leadership team have to have really crucial conversations about the vision of the church compared to their current facilities need.  In most cases, this results in a realization of “we need to focus our money on our children, youth, and younger adults because that is the future.”  Very similar concept to the book.  Many of the facilities are not configured for how today generation is operating as they were constructed to the standards used in the 1950s and 1960s.  It is really interesting in how everything is connected.

rowing Young is a very insightful read on this issue.  The authors did a great job of explaining the issue and the generations.  They also did a great job in laying out the strategies to help make them more successful for those they want to try this out.  I also appreciated the examples that were seen at many different churches and that it shows that no matter where you are or what size you are, you can make a difference.

If you found my discussion on the facilities portion interesting or that it may apply to you as well, Jared’s work website is www.team-psc.com.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Mystery

the-mysteryAuthor: Lacey Sturm

Publisher: Baker Books

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Lacey Sturm takes you through her journey in finding a true Father and also on finding true love!

Lacey Sturm’s second book takes you through another part of her life that wasn’t told in her first book The Reason.  She opens her heart to bring out her experiences on both understanding what a true spiritual father does and also her journey that led her to her husband Josh.  The first part of the book is on having a father.  Lacey doesn’t recall ever meeting her father and she believed that she never needed one.  In fact she felt that if you relied on someone in that role it made you week.  But through experiences with a couple that becomes her spiritual parents, she begins to realize that they guide her and coach her, but still let her make her own decisions and lover her regardless.

The second half of the book focuses on her relationship with her husband Josh. Lacey entered into a previous marriage at age nineteen and was divorced by twenty-one.  Shortly after that she got tangled up in an emotional affair with a married man that almost led her to take her life.  Once she was healed from those experiences, she realized that she could (and should in her opinion) stay single for the remainder of her life.  But that wasn’t in God’s plan.  Throughout this part, Lacey recounts the trials, successes, and experiences of meeting Josh, his parents, and eventually becoming married.

I really enjoyed reading this book from Lacey Sturm. I always enjoy reading books written by people that I follow in the entertainment industry.  Sometimes you like them more, sometimes you don’t, but either way you feel like you get to know them on a more personable level.  Lacey does a great job of opening her heart to let people in to share in her experiences and lessons learned.  I especially enjoyed the first part of the book that was focused more on a parent.  It made me sit back and really evaluate my relationship with my own two boys to see how I was approaching to coach and guide them.  I recommend this book to those that may feel trapped in a relationship or searing for guidance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest and thorough review. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Made Well

made-wellAuthor: Jenny Simmons

Publisher: Baker Publishing Group

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When life seems too much, we need to stop and remember that God is ready to Make us Well if we are willing to ask and receive.

We all go through struggles in life, from fighting cancer to losing a loved one and even battling depression. Life is hard and we long for healing.  When Jesus walked the earth he asked, “Do you want to be made well?”  This was an invitation from him beyond just physical healing, it went deep down to the soul of man.  It is hard to wrap our minds around the fact that this invitation is still valid today.  Jenny Simmons is a singer/songwriter who offers help to those of us struggling on the journey toward wholeness.  With personal insight into emotional pain, she invites readers to encounter a God who is working to bring healing. Made Well is a tale of inspiration with humor mixed in for good measure that shows compassion in the midst of a messy life.

One of the benefits of Jenny Simmons being a songwriter is she has a way with words. She puts that to good use in her latest book, Made Well.  Life really is hard sometimes.  It can push even the strongest to their breaking point and it can be easy to forget that Jesus is there for us even when we don’t realize it.  He has the invitation open for us to be Made Well, we just have to be willing to ask and accept.  A few sections really stood out to me and resonated as what I needed to hear.  Living with Limps was a chapter that I think everyone needs to read, even if they don’t read the whole book, this one chapter needs to be read.  There are stories shared throughout, some deep down personal from Jenny herself and some from others she has encountered along the way that will make the reading resonate with readers.

I sometimes have a hard time reading non-fiction. For the most part it bores me.  I haven’t been able to say that about either of the books Jenny Simmons has written.  She writes with such raw honesty that you feel more as if you are sitting and chatting with a friend.  It is a breath of fresh air to read about someone having gone through such hardships and struggles and find a way to come out the other side.  Her faith played a large part in being able to overcome these hardships, and tacos.  I highly recommend this book to anyone going through a troubling time, or having had experienced the toughness that is life.  And let’s be honest, that is all of us.

I receive a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest and thorough review.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.