Reading Corner

Raising Grateful Kids: A Review and Giveaway


When I first stumbled across Kristen Welch's blog, We Are That Family, a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a keeper. She had just released her first book, Rhinestone Jesus, and I was immediately drawn to her story. On a Compassion International blogger's trip to Kenya in 2010, she saw things she couldn't un-see, and when she returned home to Texas she knew she had to do something about it. So she, along with her husband Terrell, founded Mercy House to give women in the most unimaginable circumstances a hand up and a way out. Kristen's blog offers a behind the scenes look at her work as well as inspiration and encouragement for parents.

Even though I don't know Kristen personally, I feel like I know her through her writing, and she's so open and honest that I keep coming back for more. She's recently (like just this week) released her second book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy. She's quick to point out that she's not a parenting expert, but she is a parent to three kids, and the book is a direct reflection of her family's experiences, struggles, and little victories along the way to a lifestyle of gratitude.

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it for a few reasons:

Reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World feels like sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend. The advice comes straight from the parenting trenches, and as someone who is trying really hard to raise two little girls to be grateful young ladies, I appreciate words of wisdom from another mom who has traveled the same road. 

Kristen offers practical tips and age-specific strategies for instilling gratitude. She covers everything from the pressures that teens face in our selfie-obsessed society to giving little ones responsibility with chores. And that's just in the book itself. There are also helpful appendices like a cell phone contract for older children and the Christian Parent Manifesto, as well as a list of recommended resources. 

It reminded me that we're not alone in this. Sometimes I look at the world around me and wonder if everyone else is crazy or if it's just me. Even when I know we've made the right choice, I feel guilty for telling my children no when it seems like all the other parents around us are saying yes. I loved these words from Kristen:

We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will end up being just like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands we fit in.
— Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids

I don't know about you, but I don't want to fall into that trap. I want my children to grow up with eyes wide open. I want them to recognize how tremendously they have been blessed. I want that knowledge to foster gratitude within their hearts. And I want that gratitude to move them to serve others. I want it for our whole family.

If that sounds like something you want too, then reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is a good place to start, and lucky for you, I'm giving away a copy to one lucky reader.

The nitty gritty details: Earn up to three entries by  (1) Leaving a comment on this blog post, (2) Following @leslieannjones on twitter, and (3) Subscribing to the LAJ newsletter. Contest closes January 31 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the contest closing. 

Good luck! Until next time, grace and peace.

More Chances to Win!

I'm not the only one sponsoring a giveaway of Raising Grateful Kids this week. Here are a few other places you can enter for a chance to win!

Five Books to Help You Study the Bible


So. I'm part of a women's Bible study that meets weekly at church, and last week, we took some time to share some of our favorite devotionals and books with one another. The whole session got me to thinking about what books I would recommend to someone who wants to study the Bible a bit more seriously than the average church-goer.

I grew up in church, and though I'm incredibly grateful for that background, for the most part, I was biblically illiterate by the time I got to college. Don't get me wrong. I knew the stories, and I even knew tons of verses by heart, but I didn't know a thing about Israel's history or how it played into the Bible's overall message. I didn't know anything about the exile, or the divided kingdom, or even the patriarchs for that matter. I knew the Roman Road, but I couldn't see the Big Picture of the Bible. I had never even heard the word covenant. I was clueless.

It was sitting in an Old Testament class at Mississippi State that Israel's story was first broken down for me. And it was in the New Testament class the next semester that I formed a picture of what the early church may have looked like. Those classes ignited within me a passion and hunger for reading, understanding, and teaching the Word of God to believers who may be a little on the clueless side (just like I was). 

Studying the Bible can be intimidating, to say the least. First of all, you have to figure out where to start, and once you get started, there's the problem of deciphering what in the world the text is saying. I promise that you don't have to go to seminary to understand what the Bible says—there are tons of books to help you with that. A good study Bible is always a helpful tool to help you understand what's going on, but if  you want to go a little deeper, then you're in luck. Here are five books to help you get started.

1. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Fee & Stuart). I really can't recommend this book enough. It covers everything from the differences between translations to the various genres of literary forms used throughout the Bible. You wouldn't interpret the poetry of the Psalms in the same way that you would one of Paul's letters. This book teaches you the difference between the two and how to rightly handle each one. I highly, highly recommend this book.

2. A Survey of the Old Testament (Hill & Walton). We used this book in my Old Testament Survey classes at Beeson. It's not a book that you would read cover to cover, but it's a great reference tool. Let's say you're following a Bible reading plan that has you reading Ezekiel this month. That's a tough nut to crack, to say the least. So, you pull this book off the shelf and read the chapter on Ezekiel to give some context to your reading. It will give you a general idea of when the book was written and what was going on in Israel at that point in time. It will also give you an outline and introduce major themes that you'll find in the book. It's a super handy tool to keep on your shelf.

3. Old Testament Theology (House). Y'all. This book is a treasure. And I'm not just saying that because the author, Dr. Paul House, was one of my favorite professors in seminary. I'm saying it because it's the truth. If you want to learn more about the character of God as it is revealed in the Old Testament, this book is for you. In each chapter, Dr. House demonstrates how we can see a different aspect of God's character in the separate books of the the Old Testament. In Ezekiel, he is the God Who Is Present. In Isaiah, he is the God Who Saves. In Ecclesiastes, he is the God Who Defines Meaningful Living. You get the picture. Seriously. So good.

4. Encountering the New Testament (Elwell & Yarbrough). This is a great introductory text on the New Testament. We didn't use it in my seminary classes, but my New Testament professor referred to it often, and I purchased the book after I finished her class to keep for reference. This one is similar to the Hill & Walton book above, except it covers the New Testament. You'll learn about the authors of each book and when exactly it was written, as well as the major themes of each book and a basic outline. If you're studying 1 Corinthians, you can turn to the corresponding chapter and learn what the city of Corinth was like at the time Paul wrote the letter. And, bonus, this one is full of pretty pictures and maps. Great reference book to add to your collection.

5. Theology of the New Testament (Thielman). This one was written by another one of my favorite professors, Dr. Frank Thielman, and it's priceless. He does a fantastic job of looking at the historical situation of each book and then interpreting the theology of each one accordingly. It's a great theological introduction to the various books of the New Testament, as it highlights the major concerns of each book and helps you understand why it matters. It's a keeper, for sure.

Now that you have the lowdown on the books, there are a couple of things I want you to keep in mind. These books use big words sometimes. Words that aren't used very often outside of theological education. If it makes you feel any better, I spent my first semester of seminary looking up all sorts of words I didn't understand. So even though a dictionary isn't officially part of this list, I'd say you should keep one at hand to look up words like hermeneutics and exegesis and eschatology. Don't let the big words scare you off. You can do this. I promise.

Aside from the big words, some of these books also have big price tags. I wouldn't want to go out and buy them all at one time. Feel free to build your library slowly. If you're working your way through the Old Testament, just spring for the Old Testament books. But at the very least, please buy How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. It's a game changer. I promise.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Reading Corner: It's National Reading Month, Y'all!

i read past my bedtime chalkboard art

"I Read Past My Bedtime" Chalkboard Art by Peter Farago for NOOK

I don't know who named March national reading month, but I'm glad someone did. It's no secret that I'm a self-proclaimed book nerd. I LOVE reading. Granted, there was a time in my life when books and I quit hanging out for a while, but our separation was short-lived, and as my husband can attest, more often than not, I have my nose stuck in a book (or glued to my Kindle, but it's all the same, right?).

I recently read an article that claimed that readers of fiction are more compassionate and empathetic than our non-fiction-loving peers. Reading fiction helps us see things from someone else's perspective. Through books, we visit places we've never dreamed of and become friends with people who are quite different from ourselves. Reading literature exposes us to a vast array of opinions and mindsets in the form of characters, which has the real-life effect of helping us understand where other people are coming from. That seems like a good reason to read a book this month, don't you think?

National Reading Month has given me the push I needed to introduce a new little section of the blog that I've been thinking about for a while. I thought I'd pop in every now and then and share my recent reads and thoughts on them. I'll tell you if I loved them or hated them or just kind of tolerated them. I'll give you the reasons why you should read them AND the reasons you should avoid them. And we can both pretend that we're having this conversation face-to-face on my couch. Preferably while we're enjoying steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

All of that to say, be on the lookout for book reviews and updates on my recent reads in the Reading Corner. Until that time comes, though, I'd love to hear from you. What have you been reading lately? How has reading affected your understanding of others?

Until next time, grace and peace.