Book Review: Disquiet Time

I wasn’t raised in the church.

I became a Christ-follower in late middle school/early junior high. I was a part of a fairly conservative Southern Baptist church, but I remember there being a few outliers who, looking back, probably pushed the envelope. To this day I can name these influential people in my life for whom I still hold a fond memory.

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It’s in this vein that I introduce Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels. A compilation of essays put together by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani, Disquiet Time is a book that discusses many of the things that you’d never hear in church or a Bible study but are actually either quite interesting, entertaining, or profoundly necessary.

What I loved about these essays is that they are honest and they resulted because someone thought that something didn’t line up quite right, and so they asked questions. Some asked questions of the Bible, others about the “norms” of Christian culture, and yet others of God Himself. I believe that asking questions is absolutely essential to a healthy, growing faith (I mean, actually to life in general!), so to read a book full of people asking them? I will settle in and listen intently.

The foreword of this book is written by Eugene Peterson, which says a lot. Eugene is a faithful pastor who loves God, loves Scripture and loves pastoring people into the fold of God. He’s one of those teachers that I really trust, and so to have him foreword such a book says something.

The essays range from topics like what the Bible says about “crap” (this was a funny chapter and I immediately filed this away to bring out in a couple years for a fantastic Bible lesson with my kids), to wrestling with Scripture during seasons of painful doubt. Several of the essays sought to uncover potential bias we have when we approach certain Biblical texts, and generously suggest a reframing to understand them better. What I love most is how the authors entered into the Scriptures in an incredibly honest, real way.

This is mostly of a book of invitation. The authors invite you to come around as they share a piece of their faith journey. They give room to say, “Oh wow, you struggle with that? Me too. I thought I was the only one.” They also offer a place to lighten up and laugh about really funny things that happen both in Scripture and in our quirky church circles. So, if you’re looking for a place to rest and prop your feet up for awhile, you’re invited.

 

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A disclaimer: a least one of the essays in this book will frustrate or offend you, most likely. I ended up skipping over a few that I thought were misguided. Also, apparently in order to write in a book like this you have to curse. So to be fair not every essay includes cursing, but a fair amount of them. Typically no more than one word per essay.

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Thanks to the publisher for this complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. :)

How to Find a Good Book

One of the most frustrating things is having the time to read a book, but not knowing what to read. Although, perhaps the only thing MORE frustrating is having the time to read, only to find out that you don’t really like the book you thought you were going to love.

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Of course it’s inevitable for these kinds of things to happen, but I’ve found I can decrease the likelihood of this by using a few key book-finding strategies.

1. Personal Recommendations 

Not all recommendations are created equal. I used to think I needed to be nice and give everyone’s suggestions a chance, but I soon learned that since reading time is precious, I need to be spending it reading books that I’m going to enjoy reading, or that are going to teach me something important. DON’T FEEL BAD when you don’t take someone’s recommendation. It’s kind of them to offer it, graciously thank them for it and just keep on moving on with your life. BUT, if you’re lucky, you’ll find those people who seem to always have a really interesting book on their nightstand. Hold them close :). I’ve found it’s a true gift to have those kinds of people in my life.

2. Who Published the Book?

It helps to “get to know” the publishers.  If you are being observant while reading a variety of books, you’ll begin to get a general feel for kinds of books the different publishing companies put out. You will probably even find yourself gravitating towards certain publishers or imprints (imprints are the different divisions of one publisher). For example, I know that I’m probably going to love anything published by Intervarsity Press. Their books have a trek record of being high-quality, thoughtful books. I also know that they are a not-for-profit, meaning that they can publish books with interesting views because money is not their bottom line. On the other hand, I have a love/hate relationship with Tyndale books (sorry, I know lots of people love them, i don’t know, it’s just a thing), so because I know this about myself, I can be extra cautious when choosing a book published by them. I’m signed up on several publishers’ email lists, and they send me newsletters about upcoming books. I quickly scan and add it to my amazon wishlist (which is more like a “to-read” list than a “to-buy” list) or my Books I Want to Read pinterest board.

3. Blogs

I have a few go-to blogs that keep my book lists full :).

Modern Mrs. Darcy: I just started following her blog a month or so ago, but I already look forward to her updates. This lady loves to read a variety of books and she seems to always have a book ready to recommend.

Englewood Review of Books: A weekly review of books put out by Englewood Church in Indianapolis, this site has been HUGE for me in connecting with interesting, kingdom of God, “another world is possible” kind of books. They have a weekly newsletter where book reviews are sent right to my inbox, as well as a quarterly print magazine with its own set of book reviews.

Amazon.com: Weird, right? Well, not so weird, really. They have a really good algorithm going on that shows me books I’m pretty much going to like. If you click on a book, scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see a list of what other customers also viewed. I love scrolling through these to find books I haven’t heard about. About 50% of the time, I’ll add a book to my list.

Her.menuetics: A blog of Christianity Today, the women who contribute are thinkers, which I love. The blog continually updates their side widget (see: “What We’re Reading” –good stuff) and I also like to look up the contributors to see if THEY have written any books. Many of them have.

4. Endorsers

If you’re on the fence about a book, check out the inside cover and see who endorsed it. Do you know any of the people? Are there many people who you have heard of but don’t really agree with their outlook on life? Or do you enjoy reading those who are endorsing the book? I always think that I’m going to like a book, even if I don’t really enjoy the endorsers (“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be great. How could this book NOT be good?”). That decision has been a bad choice every. single. time.

I currently have 37 books on my amazon wishlist, 20 library books on my desk shelf, and a big board on Pinterst that I want to get to and I’m pretty sure I’m going to like most of them. Hopefully these tiny tips will help your next book be one you can’t put down! :)

 

How to Find Time to Read

We all have the same amount of time in a day, but that doesn’t mean we can all use our time in the same way. I’m continually amazed at women like Modern Mrs. Darcy and Money Saving Momma who reads TONS of books in the midst of having children and managing a successful blog. For me, tackling ONE a week was a true challenge. Nevertheless, the question I most often get concerning my love for reading is-

“But when do you have time to read?!” 

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1. After kids to get bed

This is where 80% of my reading happens. Kids go to bed between 7:00 and 8:00 and I go to bed around 11:00 (well, that’s my goal, often it ends up pushing midnight). That leaves a lot to time to do whatever my little heart desires! I have some general guidelines for my evenings:

  • No chores. We try to make sure that the necessary chores (dishes, sweeping, tidying) are done right after dinner with everyone helping out. The day-to-day chores happen during the day, sometimes with kids helping me, sometimes not. Chores are not for nighttime. Rejuvenation and personal hobbies/writing is for nighttime.
  • I have a plan BEFORE the night begins. This is huge. I can’t take 30 minutes figuring out what I want to do. Time is too short for that. Instead, I know what I want to do as soon as I turn on the music and shut the kids’ bedroom door. Ready, Set, Go.
  • I try to read at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. But sometimes my whole night will be earmarked as “reading” and that’s 3 hours logged!

2. During naptime/rest time.

From 1:00-2:30 I can almost guarantee time to read, if I so choose. At 1:00 Anaya goes down for her nap, and Ada has a quiet time in her room. She’s a rockstar quiet-timer, so I can generally count on her being in her room for almost that whole time. Admittingly, I mostly use this section of the day for emails, blog writing, planning kid activities for the week, household management stuff, or even a nap, but occasionally I’ll read too. So, I’d say I fit 10% in here.

3. With my kids

Somewhere along the way, our family started listening to books, and it’s a favorite pastime of ours. We will often listen to books that are for kids (A to Z Mysteries, Calendar Mysteries, Mercy Watson, Fudge series, and Nate the Great are some of our families’ “go-to”), but we’ve started venturing out into books that Jake and I actually really like too. We’re on the 5th book of the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins (it’s FANTASTIC), and so those are books I would read even if the kids weren’t around. I look forward to doing this more with the kids as they get older– just think about all the good stuff we’ll be able to listen to and discuss!

4. Listening by Myself

This past year I listened to a couple books (from the library) and this was pretty great for me! I would download the books on my phone and then listen while I was folding laundry, doing dishes, taking a walk, and grocery shopping (with headphones, of course).

5. In the Midst of Everyday Life

I’ve just begun to read in the midst of the chaos of life. I read somewhere that it’s important for kids to see their parents read and love books in order to keep their love for reading strong, and this made total sense to me. Do my kids know I like to read since they never see me do it? Do my kids know how much I LOVE to read? Or do they think that I LOVE to clean/Facebook/etc.? I’m sure there is no question in my kids’ minds (books are littered all over our house), but I decided to use this excuse to read a chapter here and there while my kids are reading their books, or even during a time when the kids are playing kindly with each other. I just plop myself on the couch or in the playroom and read while they play around me. I’ve discovered they often really desire my presence with them in the room, but they don’t necessarily need me interacting with them the whole time.

A few more “tips” that I find useful:

  • Always have a book with you. Even if you think you won’t have time to read it, bring it anyway.
  • Have a stack of books ready. Use your local library. Borrow all kinds of books that you think you might like. Don’t be afraid to have 5, 10, 20, 100 books checked out at one time (or whatever your library’s limit is). I typically read about 25% of what I check out and return the rest unread. I like to have a variety of books available, depending on what mood I’m in (fiction, christian living, comedy, memoir, biography, parenting, etc.).
  • Have a pen and paper ready at all times for recommendations. Or your phone (or both). I love getting book recommendations from people. Sure, I might not actually read them, but I can at least check them out online to see if it’s something I’d be interested in.

If reading is something you love and want to make more time for it, I’m convinced there is a way!

Simplicity: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Tiny house, less stuff, minimalism– simple living is a booming industry these days. When looking for an image for this post, I searched “live simply” in google images. I came across a large number of totes, pillows, posters, necklaces, coffee mugs, cell phone covers, etc. encouraging others to “live simply” (you know, because we definitely need more totes, more jewelry and certainly more coffee mugs!).

Everywhere we look, someone wants to tell us how we can live more simply. Oddly enough, we like those kinds of articles and posts, even if we really don’t WANT to live simply. I guess because we know in our heart of hearts that less is more, but getting “one more thing” feels so good (at least for the moment).

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One of my personal struggles with simplicity as it is espoused in popular culture is that simplicity still says that it’s okay to buy whatever we want– just make sure that when we buy something, we get rid of something else. So, I have a drawer full of sweaters. I see another one that I really like. I don’t need it, but go ahead and buy it. Just make sure I get rid of another and I’m still “living simply.”

I see the cutest “live simply” poster on sale for $116.90. Buy it, put it up, but just be sure I take something else down first and give it away or sell it or something.

Does this unsettle anyone else?

To me, this sound like consumerism dressed in disguise. Continue to buy. Continue to give in to the new, the fashionable, the whatever. But just be sure to get rid of the old so it doesn’t look like I have a lot.

I have a different kind of simplicity challenge:

Just don’t buy anything we don’t need. 

When we see a new scarf that we like, but don’t need, we say to ourselves and others around us, “I really like that scarf!” and keep on walking. It’s a strategy that I use with my kids, and have found it to work with myself too. We are acknowledging the scarf’s beauty, admiring its uniqueness, and then we get to recognize that we don’t have to own it just because it’s beautiful. We have enough. I also try to thank God, in that moment (Because often I REALLY WANT to take that scarf home with me.). I express my gratitude for the scarves in my closet that keep me warm and that I enjoy wearing.

It’s a different kind of simplicity, but perhaps a more honest one, especially for those of us who really want to own less, give more, and wriggle free from the grip of consumerism that we all struggle with.

 

 

IF:Gathering 2015

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a new conference called the IF:Gathering.

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The IF:Gathering exists to “gather, equip, and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.”

The basic guiding principle was, “If God is real, then what?” and we spent a couple days listening to speakers and discussing and praying in small groups.

My experience:

The speakers did a good job and I was introduced to several women that I hadn’t really heard of before. I especially like that it opened my world to a few new books and resources that were helpful to me last year. Rebekah Lyons and Sarah Bessey were the two that I liked most and I hoooooope they’ll be speaking again this year.

I ended up going by myself because I didn’t really know very many people yet in this new city of mine, and figured this would be a possible venue for budding friendships (I spent my whole first year in Madison doing this- whew, if that’s not exhausting for an introvert!). I ended up meeting a couple of women a little further down the road than me, and they were a huge blessing to me. They listened, they shared, they asked questions, they were totally honest– such a great experience!

This year will be the second year of the IF:Gathering (February 6th and 7th) local, and I’m super excited about it as well. I’ll be going with a few women that I already know, which will be fantastic, and I’m looking forward to a weekend of refreshing time with speakers and discussion and prayer and time to think (!). The really cool thing about the IF:Gathering is that you don’t have to fly to a big central location to attend. Community leaders have set up a bunch of local gatherings around the country, OR if there are none right near you, you can also just attend by yourself (or with a friend) from the comfort of your own home!

I’d recommend this gathering if you are in need of some space to learn and pray and discuss with other women what it looks like to live out whatever calling God has placed on your life.

 

 

 

 

Goals for 2015

I love goal-setting and have been doing it yearly for the past 14 years. Some goals I meet, others I don’t, which is totally fine, but it’s the process of prayerfully making the goals and dreaming about what I’d like to do during the upcoming year that helps me to think and set my heart on the year in an intentional way. I find that it helps me to live more “on purpose” and it’s fun to look back on them too!

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Ladies and Gents, my 2015 goals:

PERSONAL

  • Read and journal through Scripture with our FB group
  • Learn about the Enneagram
  • Learn biblical Greek
  • Learn the countries and capitals of the world (this is a rollover from last year- whoops!)
  • Learn a word a day (I’m subscribed to Wordsmith)

FAMILY

  • Catch up on our family scrapbook (2011+)
  • Plan an activity a day during the week for Anaya and Ada, and on Mondays for Asante and Aly too
  • Have one-on-one time with each kid every. day (even if it’s just a little bit)
  • Learn some girl hairstyles
  • Vocab word a day for the kids
  • Send cards/emails/make phone calls more intentionally this year with those afar
  • Potty train Anaya (Diaper free in 2015!!!)
  • Transition Anaya to a toddler bed (Jake decided to do this on January 1st, and she’s rocked it, so I think this one is completed- yessssss. :))

WRITING/BLOGGING

  • Tiffanymalloy.com- new logo, goal of posting 2x per week, add a disclosure page, add a few book recommendation pages
  • PEG- update theme, add a disclosure page
  • Read 2 books about writing
  • Enter into the writing process at least once per month (sidenote: I’m more of an “off the cuff” writer than a planned writer, but recognize that my writing improves greatly when I plan, write a draft, edit, and then publish a final work. I dread rereading anything I write, I’m not sure why).

Are you a goal person? If so, which goal are you most looking forward to accomplish in 2015?

{Book Review} In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World

For the past couple years, I’ve all but done away with cookbooks. They take up too much space in my kitchen and any good recipe I can just pin to a board. It will be there always and forever. Just click my Pinterest app, a quick search, and bingo!

It’s only been in the last couple months that this ancient kitchen artifacts have been slowly creeping back into cupboards. There’s something about the work of a cookbook — a collection of stories and photos and themes– that I just haven’t been able to recreate on Pinterest.

6184MkUvtwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World
is one of those collections- a beautiful and diverse group of recipes compiled by Gabriele Galimberti- yummy dishes from grandmas all over the world.

Each recipe starts out with a picture of the grandmother in her own home. The photos are authentic and wonderful in that the photographer lets the picture really represent the woman’s place of cooking. In a couple of the photos, there are small things that are “off”- crooked candlesticks, a calendar featuring a woman in a bikini poised somewhat provocatively, and even one picture has the cook’s husband in the background, sleeping in a chair- ha!

Even more than the recipes, I love that this book celebrates generations of culture and food of REAL LIFE people. No Pinterest photos in here. Sigh of relief.

In-Her-Kitchen-excerpt_Pagina_052As for the recipes, there are some delicious ones indeed! Readers will learn how to make Mboga and Ugal from a grandmama in Kenyai, Lok Lak from a woman from Cambodia, Chicken Vindaloo from India, and Cosksu from Malta. Most of the recipes include ingredients that can be found in the U.S., but you’ll probably need to visit a speciality store for a few of the spices.

This would be a great book to both cook from and to put on your coffee table to enjoy with your family and guests. I love talking with my kids about different cultures, and this is one tool in helping kids get a taste of a little something different.

Check out the author’s video for a little bit behind the story of the man who travelled the world to find out what other grandmas are cooking around the world.

Thanks to BloggingforBooks for this review copy in exchange for an honest review– I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

52 Books in a Year…. barely.

Nearly 365 days ago, the kids and I came up with a plan to read 52 books in a year. And while Asante and Aly finished up back in October, I spent much of the last week reading :). BUT, I’m so EXCITED (and grateful) that I can say I did it, and I’m also resolved to not do that again for awhile. While I do love that I was able to read so many books on “my list”, I felt like I had to move too quickly through them and couldn’t really absorb and think about the implications of what I was reading. So, 2015 will be less books, but closer readings. Lesson learned. :)

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In case you’re interested, here are the lucky 52 (in the order I read them), and I’ve provided links to reviews where applicable.

  1. Free by Mark Scandrette
  2. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey*
  3. Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford
  4. The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul
  5. Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
  6. Restless by Jennie Allen
  7. Wonder Women by Kate Harris*
  8. The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio
  9. Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel*
  10. Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
  11. Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons*
  12. 20 and Something by David H. Kim
  13. Hyperlinked Life by Jun Young and David Kinnamen
  14. Fighting for Peace by Carol Howard Merritt
  15. Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown*
  16. Greater Expectations by Claire Diaz-Ortiz
  17. Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
  18. Faith Forward, edited by David Csinos and Melvin Bray
  19. Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker*
  20. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith*
  21. When We Were On Fire by Addie Zimmerman
  22. A Child’s Work by Vivian Gussin Paley
  23. Hand in Hand by Jenny Doh
  24. Tinkerlab by Rachelle Doorley*
  25. Soul Keeping by John Ortberg*
  26. Slow Family Living by Bernadette Noll
  27. Sacred Roots by Jon Tyson
  28. A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves
  29. The Brainy Bunch by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding
  30. Found by Micha Boyett
  31. 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha
  32. Simplify by Bill Hybels
  33. Talking Taboo, edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro
  34. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
  35. Lean on Me by Anne Marie Miller
  36. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
  37. Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? by Avi
  38. Faith shift by Kathy Escobar*
  39. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigon*
  40. Still by Lauren Winner
  41. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins* (LOVE THIS SERIES!)
  42. Not Yet Christmas by J.D. Walt
  43. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins
  44. A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker
  45. Small Talk by Amy Julia Becker
  46. Making All Things New by Henri Nouwen
  47. Exploring and Engaging Spirituality in Today’s Children, edited by La Verne Tolbert
  48. Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel
  49. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
  50. Love Does by Bob Goff
  51. The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting by Brene Brown*
  52. The Invitation: A Simple Guide to the Bible by Eugene Peterson

The ones with a little star behind them were my favorites! There were a few that I struggled to finish but in all, it was a good reading year.

What was your favorite book of 2014? What are you looking forward to reading in 2015? 

 

Review: Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters the Most

In our house, there is one word that can be used at any time, as long as it’s not used by itself.

Whatever.

It’s an innocent enough word, but left to stand by itself, it can be relational harmful. Using this word often signals a premature disengaging that, if said often enough, can cause a wall between two people. In a house full of know-it-alls (how did this happen? Jesus help us), this word is the equivalent of a curse word.

I don’t even remember the context now, but for some reason I let the W-word slip. Ada, startled all of a sudden, looks right at me and says, “Mom, did you use that word in a sentence?” At first I felt indignant- how dare my 3-year-old challenge me in my usage of the English language? I’m the mom, don’t I have the right to say whatever I please? But, with the next wave of thoughts, I recognize my lack of respect with my words and quickly admit my error and began mending the situation.

I’ve been learning from my kids these days that just because I’m the parent and have the so-called “power” in the relationship, I still don’t get to break the rules. I don’t get to show disrespect or use relationally hurtful words that my children aren’t allowed to use with me or one another.

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In her new book, Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most, Amy Julia Becker writes about some of the important things that she has learned from her children, whether it be in the van on the way home from school, observing her kids during an after school playdate, or on the back porch eating dinner. She writes in the introduction:

This book is a series of reflections from my past few years of parenting…it is not a how-to guide. It is not filled with advice. It is, I hope, a word of encouragement that good things can emerge out of the hard but ordinary everyday moments. It is, I hope, a reminder that on those days when you wonder if there is any meaning in the dishes and disputes and diapers, you are not alone.”

In this book, Amy Julia travels the path of friendships, traditions, beauty, disability, baptism and everywhere in between in a way that leaves the reader feeling encouraged, contemplative, and with an eagerness to listen a little more closely to what comes out of the mouths of our babes.

While Amy Julia is a great writer and thinker whose writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode blog, the Atlantic, Christianity Today, etc., in this book she stumbles upon what all of us parents come to know eventually- some of our greatest learning, our deepest theological musings, our most potent catalysts for spiritual transformation begin with an interaction with our children.

To learn more about Small Talk or about Amy Julie Becker, you can read her blog, Thin Places or connect with her via FB or Twitter.

Thanks to BookLook books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.  

 

Review: Zondervan Plush Bible, NIrV

A little over a year ago, for Asante’s 6th birthday, we presented him with his very own, full-text Bible. I had done quite a bit of research and we had ended up settling on the Adventure Bible for Early Readers, NIrV, which he’s enjoyed. As I’ve been searching for one for Aly, one thing was for sure- I’d again purchase a NIrV (New International reader’s Version), which is very friendly towards young readers. Other than that, however, remains unclear.

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Zondervan has just put out the Plush Bible (NIrV), which has a cute sparkly pink cover that is a little bit furry and has exactly the kind of flair that a 5 or 6 year old girl would get excited about. The binding of the Bible is well done, which is important for little ones for obvious reasons!

I was a bit surprised that the inside of the Bible was very traditional– it would look like any other adult Bible that you pick up (no colorful inserts, no pages at the beginning of each book to tell the overall story, etc.). I know that some people are minimalists in that department, so it’d work out great for them, however, my early Bible days is filled with using those developmentally-appropriate inserts to guide me to passages of Scripture that would become blatantly applicable to my daily life. So, while i think the Bible’s translation is perfect for young readers who are ready for a full Bible, I think the plainness of the inside might be geared towards those older kids (high school students?) who want the flair of a sparkly pink Bible.

Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for providing this Bible in exchange for an honest review!

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