the antelope in the living room

IAntelope coverf you’re looking for a light, easy, hilarious read, look no further.

The Antelope in the Living Room, by The Big Mama blog author Melanie Shankle, is guaranteed to entertain.

I read her book, Sparkly Green Earrings, a few months ago, and laughed out loud with every chapter.  That one, her first book, was filled with stories about becoming a mother and navigating the path through the daily hills and valleys of parenthood. Earrings cover

In this, her second book, Melanie shares a host of stories and anecdotes about married life, and they are just as funny as her parenting quips.

I particularly related to her chapter on home improvement, in which she relays her experience of taking on the self-imposed torture of painting their “back house.”

She literally could’ve been writing my own story of recently deciding to paint our interior walls when she wrote:

“I scraped for a grand total of three minutes before I felt my forearms begin to cramp up.  Which is when Perry helpfully called out, ‘Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!  This whole process will probably take you a month!’”

I heard the exact same words.  Except my husband’s name isn’t Perry.

Melanie goes on:

“As the endless painting stretched before me, the whole thing began to feel like heaven.  Not so much in the ‘there will be no tears or sorrow’ kind of way, but more in the ‘this will be how I spend eternity’ kind of way.  I had just one request.  I told Perry, ‘If this kills me, which I have no doubt it will, please make sure I’m buried in a sleeveless dress, because I have no doubt that the silver lining in all of this is that my arms will have never looked better.’”

Amen, sister.  I feel your pain.  I have a whole blog post written in my head already in which I blame The Nester for the fact that I haven’t been able to feel my arms for the past two weeks.  You know, since she wrote the book that inspired me to paint in the first place.

But that’s another story. Coming soon to a blog near you.

About The Antelope in the Living Room: Besides it being so consistently funny, the second best part is how Melanie paints such a realistic picture of marriage.  She tells it how it is, in a nod-your-head, yep-I-know-exactly-what-you’re-talking-about kind of way.  Which is probably why the book is a bestseller.

Finally, I really appreciated how Melanie incorporates her faith and weaves it into her story in a very appealing way.  Her chapter on grace and forgiveness is beautifully written, and it’s obvious that her dependency on the Lord is what seals her commitment to her husband.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

captured on the high seas – a review

Captured on the High Seas - Cover

 Captured on the High Seas is Book #14 in the Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station series.  When I received a free copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review, my kids were overjoyed.  The older two in particular (ages 9 and 12) have long enjoyed this series.

I read the book aloud to all three of my kids, and when I stopped after reading through chapter nine one evening, my daughter took the book to her room and finished it herself.  She simply couldn’t wait to find out how the story ended.

The plot takes place during the Revolutionary War, in which cousins Patrick and Beth find themselves on an American ship that is about to be taken hostage by the British.  The book is full of suspenseful activity, and kept my kids eager to hear more.  It addresses issues relating to slave trade, as well as moral questions on human rights and fighting for freedom.

In terms of criticisms, I was mildly disappointed that there wasn’t a more clear faith message within the pages.  The story was clean and wholesome, but didn’t really have a direct message about the Christian faith.

Also, as a writer, I found most of the sentences to be overly concise and succinct.  Having said this, however, the recommended reading level as noted on the back cover states that the book is intended for ages 7 and up, with a grade level recommendation of 2.3.  My 7-year-old really enjoyed the story, but probably would’ve struggled to read it on his own.  As a homeschooling mom, I would say that the book would be most enjoyed by kids ages 6-11, and easily read by children 8 and above.

Overall, I highly recommend the entire Imagination Station series as educational, wholesome and family-friendly reading material.


Another Christian book your children might enjoy:

Seekers of the Lost Boy, by Taryn Hayes

Seekers Cover


atlas girl


This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, click here.


Years of anorexia.  Disillusionment with the church.  A grandmother’s suicide.  A two-year break-up.  A mother with brain cancer.  A heartbreaking miscarriage.

Emily Wierenga‘s story is not an easy one.

It’s not easy, and yet she tells it with such grace and gratitude in her new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, published by Baker Books.

271487_Wierenga_WB2Emily is an artist, and her gifts shine through as she paints pictures with words in this travel memoir that spans countries and continents.

Frustrated by the rigidity of religion, the lack of attention by her pastor father, a tense relationship with her mother, Emily turned to one thing she thought she could control — her own food consumption.  She decided to starve herself, and for four years, she succeeded.

Little did she know the ramifications her decisions would have on her early adulthood, her marriage, her relationships.

Then her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and life was turned upside down.  Nothing was the same.  Emily writes of how she moved home to care for her mother, whose right frontal lobe had to be removed in order to combat the cancer.

And she makes me remember.

She makes me remember what it was like for the roles to be reversed, when mother can no longer care for child, but daughter lifts the woman who birthed her onto the toilet, tucks her into bed, lifts the mug to dry, thirsty lips.

And through it all, Emily sees God.  She sees her God in each crease of her mother’s broken smile, each brush of the cheek, each muted sunrise, even on “the fuzzy days.”  And she writes,

“I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know how this story will end. All I know is that there is a very real God whom my mother adores, and if she, in all her pain and suffering, can still radiate worship, how much more should I?  He sees the little sparrow fall.  He sees my mum dancing to the rhythms of his grace, and he sees me in all my anger trying to love him in spite of it all.  So I will continue to trust, even if it means letting her go” (p. 228).

I remember the pain and the strain of that tug-of-war, and then the surrender.  The surrender and the acknowledgement that the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Emily, too, comes to this realization and depicts it so strikingly as she writes of her own pregnancy, a time when the Lord chose to give life:

“I am starting to understand the concept of second birth — the one God desires of us.


To be born again; to become like infants in God’s womb, entirely dependent, utterly quiet, never alone.  Wordless communication, unspeakable love, cushioned against the world’s blows.


Grace within the belly of our Maker” (pp. 240-241).


It’s words like these that leave me coming back for more.  I came to respect and admire Emily‘s gentle spirit and soft heart that radiates in her writing even before I read her first novel, A Promise in Pieces.  Hers is a voice that inspires me to greater writing, and her words linger in my mind long after my eyes have left the page.

The generosity of Emily’s heart is evident in her efforts to start The Lulu Tree, an organization dedicated to “preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers” in Uganda.

All proceeds from Atlas Girl go toward The Lulu Tree.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, in exchange for my honest review.

my top four books on marriage

Know someone who is experiencing conflict in their marriage?

Looking for a boost in your own relationship?

Going to a wedding this summer?

Here is my personal list of books I recommend on marriage.  My husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage this month, and since he is a pastor, we’ve had numerous opportunities to meet with couples for marriage counseling.  Whenever someone asks me for a good book on marriage, these books are included in my answer:


Love and Respect - Cover

Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs

“Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs is my #1 marriage recommendation book. It talks about a woman’s need to be loved and a man’s need to be respected, and the vicious cycle that happens when one or both of those are lacking in a relationship.  Every person I know who has read this book has raved about how much its message resonated with them and their own situation.

Strengthening Your Marriage - Cover

Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mack

This book has great doctrine and theology on marriage, but what I most appreciate are the discussion questions.  The questions are so thorough and deep that they addressed issues my husband and I had never talked about even after a year-long engagement and eight weeks of pre-marital counseling. We use this book often when conducting pre-marital counseling with other couples, but is very useful for those who have been married for a long time as well.

Sacred Marriage cover

Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas

This book asks the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  Of all the books, I would say this one provided the biggest challenge for me personally.  It caused me to think of marriage as growing in holiness and selflessness, as opposed to thinking about “what I can get out of this.”

Team Us - Cover

Team Us: Marriage Together, by Ashleigh Slater

This book was just released, and is very light and conversational.  It gives good tips on how to work together as a team in marriage, when the temptation is often to veer towards a “Me” vs. “Him” mentality.  It also has great discussion questions at the end of each chapter which will promote unity and oneness in the marriage relationship.

Read my review here:


What about you?  What books have been most beneficial in your marriage?




team us: marriage together – a review

Why should I take the garbage out again?  I did it last time! It’s his turn!

I’ve cooked supper four nights in a row.  He could at least give me a break once a week.

She always leaves her wet towel on the bed.  It drives me crazy.  No matter how many times I tell her, she never hangs it up.

I woke up with the baby last night.  He should get up this time.  If he doesn’t, he should wake up two nights in a row next week.

I shoveled the snow from the driveway every morning this week.  I deserve a back rub.

Though fictional examples, I’m guessing you could fill in the blank with at least one instance when you’ve used a mental tally system in your marriage.  Times when you’ve chalked up points for yourself in your mind based on your own good deeds.  Times when you’ve waited for your spouse to get to work around the house, pull his own weight, and even up the score.


The trouble with this type of thinking is that it can easily divide the husband and wife into a “him vs. her” mentality.  At its root, it’s plain selfishness, and throws the concept of servanthood out the window.  It creates two different teams in one household, with an ongoing competition between a unit that God has declared “one.”


In her new book, Team Us: Marriage Together, author Ashleigh Slater reminds couples that we’re actually playing on the same team.  As easy as it is to nag, complain, and even compete in marriage, a better, more God-honoring mindset is to remember each day that it’s not “Team Me” vs. “Team Him.”

It’s “Team Us.”



Team Us: Marriage Together is challenging encouragement wrapped in light-hearted language.

Team Us - CoverI’ve had the privilege of getting to know Ashleigh Slater through her role as founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine.  When it comes to communication, she is a natural.  Her writing voice is so conversational that reading Team Us is like having a lively and engaging chat with a friend over a chai latte at Panera.  For that reason, I think a wide variety of people will enjoy and benefit from this book — young marrieds, and those with a lengthier track record; those who love to read, and those who rarely open a book.  After all, who wouldn’t love a book with plentiful references to The Hunger Games, The Princess Bride, and even the Olympic sport of curling?

I particularly appreciated Ashleigh’s honesty and vulnerability as she recounts what she has deemed, “The Weeping Years.”  She shares with raw testimony about a devastating miscarriage, and how she and her husband processed their grief differently.  She also describes how they have endured several job losses, resulting in multiple cross-country moves and stretching tests of patience.  Even as she struggled to wait while her husband sought the right job that would suit his gifts, Ashleigh was quick to point out, “The keys to our longevity are found in those moments we decide to assume the best of each other instead of the worst.  In those times we offer grace, not irritation.  On those days we offer grace, not irritation.”

Poignant advice for all.

The next time you are tempted to tally up points for yourself against your spouse, think first and consider what’s best for the team.


A free excerpt of Team Us: Marriage Together can be found here:

To order the book from Amazon, click here.



books to read this season

Deidra Riggs aptly dubbed this year, “The Year of the Books.”

After being inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee’s list of Summer Reading recommendations, I decided to post a list of my own.  (Granted, there is a significant amount of overlap, I admit.  Apparently we have a very similar taste in books.)

However, since a sizable chunk of my readership resides in the southern hemisphere, I’ve decided not to call it a Summer Reading list, as many of you are heading into winter and will soon be sitting in front of the fire place drinking

Hot Chocolate in June - cover

Whether you’re donning sandals or slippers these next few months, do yourself a favor and settle down with one (or all) of these books:

Team Us - Cover

Team Us: Marriage Together

by Ashleigh Slater


Watch this space!  I had the privilege of pre-reading a copy of this soon-to-be released book by Ashleigh Slater, and I’ll be posting a review later this week.

As an appetizer, this is an easy-to-read book, filled with encouragement to think of yourself and your spouse as members of the same team.

In a world where tension and internal competition between couples are rife, this is a much-needed book and is likely to bless and enhance many marriages in the months and years to come.

Stay tuned for more ..

A Fall of Marigolds Cover

A Fall of Marigolds

by Susan Meissner


I fell in love with Susan Meissner’s writing when I read her novel, A Lady in Waiting.  Her latest book, A Fall of Marigolds, was no exception.

In fact, I received a copy that I had won in a blog giveaway the day before Mother’s Day, got a tummy bug, stayed in bed and read the whole thing within 24 hours.  It was captivating.

With masterful grace, Susan weaves the stories of two women from different generations together in a tale of loss, grief, healing, and hope.

Her story caused the depths of empathy to be stirred within me, and kept me thinking about the characters long after I put it down.

Warrior in Pink - Cover

Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts

by Vivian Mabuni


Providentially, I won a copy of this moving story on another blog giveaway, and I’m convinced it was meant to be.  I wrote some of my impressions in a review that can be found here.

If you know anyone who has been affected by breast cancer in any way, this book is for you.


Surprised by Motherhood cover

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom

by Lisa-Jo Baker


If you’ve clicked on this blog before, you’ve likely caught me gushing about this book far too many times already.

Like here.

And here.

Oh gosh, and here, too.

And did I mention I got to interview Lisa-Jo, as well?  Post here.


A Promise in Pieces cover

A Promise in Pieces

by Emily Wierenga


If you’re looking for a gentle, moving work of fiction, look no further.

I’ve written two posts about Emily Wierenga’s A Promise in Pieces — one on my blog, and one for Ungrind Webzine.

The writing is so graceful and fluid, it will carry you from page to page without you even noticing.

Just read it; you can thank me later.  😉

Compared to Her cover

Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment

by Sophie deWitt


Sophie deWitt’s Compared to Her is one of the most searched for posts I get on my blog.  If you’re female and you’ve ever struggled with comparing yourself to other women, you will definitely be able to glean much from this gem.

My interview with my friend Sophie can be found here.

Seekers Cover

Seekers of the Lost Boy

by Taryn Hayes


This middle grade children’s novel is the perfect holiday read, either as a family or to give to your kids to read on their own.

The story is set in South Africa, and follows a homeschooling family as they seek to find the original writer of a message in a bottle.  This book is not only enjoyable to read, but is also very educational and thought-provoking.  Highly recommended.

Read my full review here.


 Books that are on my “Must Read” list:

Rhinestone Jesus cover

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough

by Kristen Welch


Kristen Welch is the author of the We Are THAT Family blog, and founder of The Mercy House in Kenya.  I have the utmost respect for Kristen’s worldview, and particularly her parenting philosophy as she shares it on her blog.

All of the reviews I’ve read of this book so far have been glowing, and everyone says you will not be the same after you’ve read it.

Take the challenge, and say Yes.

Atlas Girl cover

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look

by Emily Wierenga


I’m thrilled to be on the launch team for this upcoming memoir, and even more thrilled to be getting a review copy in the mail very soon.

I adore Emily’s writing voice, her gentle spirit, and her masterful, graceful way with word pictures.  I had the pleasure of reading the first two chapters already, and they are dripping with beauty.  I’ve picked up snippets of her compelling story through her blog, but look forward to reading this memoir, particularly as it addresses a topic dear to my heart:


Nesting Place cover

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

by Myquillyn Smith (a.k.a. “The Nester”)


I admit, I followed the hype about this book, but didn’t really intend to pick it up until I read Lisa-Jo Baker’s post about it.  I had assumed it was more of an interior design book, and .. well .. that’s not really my thing.

But after reading about the impact this book had on Lisa-Jo, she persuaded me to request it from the library.


Return to Me Cover

Return to Me

by Lynn Austin


Speaking of the library, I was walking past the Express Book shelf this evening on my way to the Children’s section, and this book jumped off the shelf into my bag.

It couldn’t help itself.

It just knew that Lynn Austin is in my Top Three Favorite Christian Fiction authors, so it just had to land itself in my bag.

I read the entire Chronicles of the Kings series years ago, and not only did they leave a lasting impression, but they caused my understanding of Old Testament history to be much richer and far more cohesive.

I’ve read more Lynn Austin books than my ten fingers can count, and all have been delightful.  If you don’t read this one, read something of hers.  She’s incredibly gifted.


Well, that’s it from me for now ..

Happy reading!