the weapon of gratitude.

Pause with me to drink in these words from Dan Allender about the weapon of gratitude:

Gratitude is one of the strongest weapons we have against the work of evil. And it is not a silly positivity that finds good in all sorts of harm. We need a meatier gratitude that can stand up to the most hideous harm known to humanity. This is the gratitude for life itself, for the pleasure of breathing and moving. For the pleasure of watching a sunset and hearing the coo of a turtledove.

Healing the Wounded Heart, 161

In a book about sexual abuse, these are bold words indeed. I am amazed to think of the power in recalling the specifics of a moment, the slowing of my heart to appreciate the grace in this season, what it means to be truly grateful.

March, as with any month, held the bitter and the sweet. But I want to wield my weapon against bitter. By no means do these sweet things negate the pain, annoyances and tears of these past weeks. Those were certainly present. But I think speaking about these sweet graces in the midst of the hard things, do battle to help my heart believe what is good and true about who the Lord is.

He is the giver of good gifts. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is the savior of the crushed in spirit. He is the best of fathers.

Here is some of what I’m grateful for from March days.

Things I enjoyed.

Picking wild daffodils from the backyard. I am absolutely thrilled with all the yellow that is popping up all around. And let’s be honest, I’m pretty excited about all flowers right now. Daffodils are what I’m experiencing the most of, but the flower delight is certainly not limited to them.

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Discovering that I am a Hufflepuff (and not a Gryffindor, as previously supposed.) Once the shock wore off, I have fully embraced my Hogwarts house. (You can read more here.) I’m also mildly obsessed interested in finding out what house everyone I know would be sorted into.

The discipline of drinking water. This month, our family has been trying to be intentional to drink more water. I think I’ve known for a while that I don’t drink enough, but haven’t felt motivated to do anything about it. I’ve been working to carry a Nalgene around with me during the day, working my way through as much as I can before bed. Some days are better than others. When I’m on my A game, I’m getting through 3-4 and feeling really good. Other days, I’m trying to offer myself grace and celebrate the 1 Nalgene that I drank, which is honestly more than I was doing previously. I’m still processing how this is impacting my heart, but I see the discipline of drinking water and taking care of my body in this way changing me.

Mail love. I was reminded so much of how loved I am through packages in the mail. From letters to a surprise box of clothes that made me cry, to an Easter-basket-in-a-box to books, I’m beyond grateful how love shows up in my mailbox.

Watching good movies. We don’t watch television, and we try to keep movies as an occasional treat, instead of our every day evening entertainment. (This is a big part of why I get through so many books, for those of you who marvel at my book quota.) This month I loved watching a few superhero movies, Persuasion, We Bought A Zoo, and The Martian, with my favorite man.

Spring sunshine. It makes my heart so happy. I can hardly handle it.

Bunnies & goats. A farm only a few minutes from our house has these animals for visiting. My daughter can’t get enough, and I’ll admit that I love our visits quite a bit myself.

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Warm cookies & ice cream. Friends, have you tried this? I’ve started keeping balls of gluten free cookie dough in my freezer, so that a moment’s notice, I can pop a few in the oven after dinner, to be eaten immediately with ice cream. The warm and the cold, the flavor combination, it is hard to beat. We’ve had to limit ourselves to indulging only on special occasions or with friends, because otherwise we’d eat them every night. HIGHLY recommend, and it pairs wonderfully with decaf hazelnut coffee. I speak from personal experience. Please try this at your earliest convenience.

Airplane mode. This option for my cell phone has really been helping me the past few weeks. I feel like it helps me have self-control, be more focused and intentional. It doesn’t solve everything, but I feel myself choosing how to use technology more than just giving myself over to it. You can read more about what I’ve been learning about my heart + technology here, if you’re interested.

The start of making our own wine. This was an early Christmas gift for my husband that we bought back in the fall, but collecting wine bottles a while. The past few weeks have been full of SCIENCE, and we’re hoping the result will be delicious red wine that we made ourselves in the coming months. We’re still in the midst of grape juice fermenting, but it sure feels exciting to have the bubbling bucket in our pantry.  

Two toddler arms wrapped around me. REAL hugs. I felt like my heart would BURST the first time she gave me a full blown hug: two little chubby arms around my neck. And the best part is, it keeps happening. I think she likes how much I like it. In the midst of learning “no” and some hard boundary-pushing days of parenting lately, these hugs have felt like a gift straight from Jesus. There is much grace in the hard.

Pink trees. Without fail, my heart is happy every time I see one.

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Dying Easter eggs means tasting lots of vinegar water, playing with cats and eating snacks. Definitely the most interactive egg dying experience I’ve had in a while! It was a sweet gift to share these moments with our next door neighbor.

Things I made.

Fish packets. It was my first time wrapping fish and veggies in parchment paper, and it was certainly a hit. Sometimes necessity truly is the mother of invention. I only had a little bit of salmon, so everyone got some salmon and tilapia in their packet. It was certainly a hit to have two kinds of fish nestled in against the asparagus, lemon, garlic and butter! Truly delicious and fun to unwrap a present for dinner.

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Raise pie. I love celebrating my favorite people. My husband got a raise (small, but encouraging) this month, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make chocolate silk pie. We dubbed it “raise pie” and it truly was the perfect celebration food, with it’s creamy chocolate and buttery chocolate cookie crust. YUM.

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Enchiladas. Green enchilada sauce, plenty of jack cheese, corn tortillas layered with chicken made for a wonderful dinner. This recipe came from Bread & Wine, and I made it for ourselves and a pan for another family. We paired it with black beans and tortilla chips and salsa. If you’re into Mexican food, this is for you.

Popcorn cookies. I love the combo of sweet and salty. These cookies were a fun mixture of textures and tastes.

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Blueberry cornmeal butter cake. This seemed like the perfect Easter dessert. With the hint of lemon, blueberry gems and course, rich cake, it was.

Things I read.

I’m so grateful for those who take the time to create and write and share truth. I loved these articles this month. Here are the BEST of the good, beautiful words that were a gift to my heart on the internet

Naked Love. [on parenting like Jesus]

We Will Stay. [on home]

One:: A Letter for a birthday. [on celebration and babies and mothering]

Hear Me Roar. [on vulnerability and anger]

The Overlooked Hope for Narnia’s Susan Pevensie. [on redemption and the Last Battle]

Waiting and Arriving. [on seasons of waiting and grace]

The Unexpected ‘Problem’ with Grace. [on, you guessed it, grace and when it is messy]

Which Lesson is Life Giving You? [on pain and pausing]

About Simplicity. [on hiking the PCT and living with less]

My husband calls me his prolific reader, or affectionately, a book nerd. I embrace both titles, as I know the truth in them. I think sometimes I can hide behind others’ stories instead of facing and sharing my own. But on my good days, they give me the courage and strength to do the same, to tell brave stories about who the Lord is and what he’s doing in me. Here’s the stack I made it through in March:

Letters to my Daughtersletters-to-my-daughters-the-art-of-being-wife-by-barbara-rainey-1441229892

This book was like sitting over a pot of tea with an older, wiser woman, full of wisdom and life experience. Barbara Rainey shares stories, metaphors and her own adventures in marriage as a series of letters written to her daughters. I can’t help but feel like one of her own, as she shares openly and with care. Marriage is truly a mystery, with higher highs and lower lows than can be anticipated on day one in a white dress. But to know you are not alone, to find someone next to you in the thick of it, cheering you on and giving you the perspective to keep going is a tremendous gift. This book offers that gift. I felt myself bolstered and encouraged as I read this collection of letters. Her motherly advice is spoken kindly but firmly. She challenges the reader to a deep look at one’s own heart, inviting the Lord into the intimate and sometimes dark places that marriage can bring. From learning to do another’s laundry to seasons of winter in sex, Barbara’s letters are both practical and big picture. I was so grateful to have spent a Sunday afternoon soaking up her wisdom, in this visually beautiful, encouraging volume. I walked away with a deep appreciation and renewed commitment to my husband. A- for me.

*Bethany House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Letters to my Daughters,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

9781589978492_p0_v1_s192x300After the Boxes are Unpacked

In these days of adjusting to a new place, this book felt like a kind older woman at church taking me under her wing and fixing me a cup of tea. Susan Miller speaks with wisdom and experience, gently offering correction and pointing the reader towards the Lord. She doesn’t minimize the pain of leaving home and being transplanted, especially if it is the third, fourth or tenth time. In a time with much moving, this resource is truly a gem. I haven’t found much on transition or moving, and the simple truths Susan offers felt like a salve. She encourages the reader practically and spiritually, offering Scripture for any emotion during the transition and tips for how to proactively work towards a new beginning. I loved all Susan’s encouragement for self-care and realistic expectations for settling in. “Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your house won’t be settled in a day either. Have one goal per day. Don’t try to get new license plates, a library card and a driver’s license all at once.” (43) My heart came away encouraged and pointed towards the Lord as the one who goes with me wherever I go. B+ for me.

“Being uprooted by any life change can leave you feeling like you’ve hit rock bottom. You can either stay there or see God as the rock and foundation upon which to rebuild your life.” (54)

*Tyndale House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “After the Boxes are Unpacked” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

wild-in-the-hollows-413x6001Wild in the Hollow

When I opened this book up, just to taste the first few pages while I sat in the library, keeping my eye on my daughter as she greeted all the strangers, I was immediately drawn into this open, engaging woman’s story. And I found myself choking back tears, surrounded by toddlers and moms there for a playdate, stunned by her honesty and pain.

This book was a true gift for my heart. Amber Haines lets you see her heart, the beauty and the pain of it. She is an excellent writer and it felt like a privilege to be invited into her story. I ended her book and felt like I had just closed the pages of something sacred. I sat with the Lord and looked for my own sacred moments. It didn’t take long for words to pour out of me and tears to fall, thanking Jesus for the ways he has told my story, just like he had told Amber’s. The best story tellers help us find ourselves in their stories. Amber truly did that for me. Hers is a story of brokenness into wholeness, pain into healing. Jesus can do beautiful and incredible things with our weak, splintered life if we’ll let him. A solid A for me.

“When we finally sold our house, we had no house to purchase. Those opportunities had passed us by, and we were forced to learn that a house is not a good hope. If we wanted to experience hope, we couldn’t shortcut to it, for hope is never without a wait. We sold some things and put others in storage. We had plans, money and every material thing we needed, and yet we were homeless. Close friends were leaving town for the summer during our days without a home, and so we lived in their space, used their towels, played their records and cooked from their stove. None of it was mine. The metaphor rang loud and clear. We were growing into health, spinning Neil Young, and resting on their back porch, and none of it was under my control. Even though Titus was still in limbo, I was living a new surrender, a new openness to the voice of God, a new hope. When leaning into the Spirit, it is not a process of mere hearing and then being okay. It is always an active work, a doing, but it is a work in conjunction. It is the work of receiving. It is the work of moving forward in intimacy and in rest.” (146)

41h3SwJH+KL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Coming Clean

This book was raw and disarming in the best of ways. I loved picking it up immediately after reading his wife, Amber’s book (Wild in the Hollow.) Seth Haines shares his first days after declaring his alcoholism and “coming clean.” Although it could be dismissed as a book about a man’s drinking problem, it was so much more than that. The alcohol was only a symptom for something far deeper in Seth, something I think we can all relate to. His anger, his fear, his hurt, his desire for his son’s healing, his doubt, his uncertainty was something my heart resonated with, as I think, any honest human heart would. Being human means all of those things. Seth doesn’t mince words to share his weakness with the reader. He offers several “warnings” in the first pages that this isn’t a step-by-step process or a book with answers. This is a book of the pain of the process. Seth shares a deeply personal look at what it looks like to follow the Lord into the mess of the dark corners of our hearts, uncertain of what we will find there. A- for me.

“To ask for relief from God–this is human. To pray through the pain, to live in it instead of numbing yourself to it, to subjugate your will to the will of God, even in the face of potential suffering–this is what it means to be like Jesus. This is what it means to yield to the mystery.” (150,151)

511EioTuyUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Honestly

I was excited to pick this book up. Anything that acknowledges the mess of our lives and how Jesus fits into it is something that gets me excited. I finished Honestly and couldn’t decide what I thought. Daniel Fusco had good truth that he shared. He has a heart for Jesus. He doesn’t deny the mess and invites Jesus into it. One of my favorite things he shares about is how Jesus makes dead people come ALIVE. He is tremendously excited as he shares about this truth:

The good news is not that Jesus makes bad people good.

The good news is not that Jesus makes decent, moral people even better.

The good news is not that Jesus takes rebels and failures and does an extreme makeover on them.

None of that.

The good news is that Jesus makes dead people alive. (52)

I’ll admit though, this book didn’t jazz me as much as I hoped it would. I think the only explanation I could come up with was a lack of chemistry. Daniel shares a fair amount of sports stories and pop culture references. This Jersey boy is crazy about music and the pages are littered with footnotes with his silly and serious commentary on what he’s talking about. I think I’d like this book more if I knew Daniel, if I went to his church and experienced him beyond these pages. I think I’d connect more with what he shared, if so. But as it stands, this book was good but lacked a deeper connection to my heart. I still have no problem recommending it, as I though the theology and truth sound. Just lacked chemistry for me. B- for me.

*Tyndale House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Honestly,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Allender_HealingtheWounded_wSpine.inddHealing the Wounded Heart.

I didn’t want to read this book. I didn’t want to spend time with the mess and pain of sexual abuse. But I felt the Lord asking me to. What a good, hard book.

It can be scary and awful to enter into someone’s story, especially when it includes sexual abuse. But this dark, frightening place is not without hope or healing. I love Dan’s heart, as he writes this book to help and care for the hurting. He shares articulately, intellectually about some of the psychology behind this kind of pain, while also telling stories from his own abuse and others’ he has cared for. Whether sexual abuse is part of your story or not, it is part of the world we live in. It is impacting the people we love.

Dan offers a realistic and probing look into the mess of walking through the healing process of sexual abuse, while pairing it with the hope we have because of Jesus. The truth he shares about this kind of sin isn’t limited to sexual abuse. I found myself resonating with so much of what he shares, because it is truth for every human. I’m so grateful for Dan’s courage to write this tremendous book. A for me.

*Baker Books Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Healing the Wounded Heart,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

EveryBitterThingisSweet_finalcoverEvery Bitter Thing is Sweet

This book was like coffee with a good friend, who is willing to let you see behind the curtain of her life. Sara’s vulnerable stories were refreshing. Her rule-following and perfectionist tendencies were something I could say, “yes, me too” even if our specifics were different. I deeply appreciated how she paints the pain and beauty behind what the Lord was doing in her life. The anguish of infertility truly becomes something glorious in her story because of what the Lord was doing. My eyes filled with tears as I got to appreciate the kindness of the Lord to Sara in retrospect, while also feeling the uncertainty in the moment as things did not make sense. This book was a wonderful read, and I had to remind myself that I’m not actually friends with Sara Hagerty as I closed the pages. A for me.  

51szsJbYt-L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Fierce Convictions

I honestly hadn’t heard of Hannah More before reading this book, and now I want to tell everyone about this incredible woman. I don’t want to give too much away, because I want you to learn about her yourself. My favorite thing about this woman is how the Lord used her and her gifts. This woman was a gifted writer. In a time where women authors were not respected, the Lord used her talent and skill with the pen to initiate and produce some immense change. Her writing got to be part of the slave trade ending in England, part of incredible reform for education, part of caring for the poor, part of challenging the rich. I want to be like her when I grow up.  A for me.

25795228Annabel Lee

I liked this author before I even started the book. He shares his journey to get it published, many discouragements and rejections along the way, and the people who cheered him on. As a published author in other genres, it seemed like it should happen easily, but just the opposite was true. His humility, humor and candor in the acknowledgments alone made me excited for this story.

I was not disappointed. It was a fun suspenseful story. Relational problems were not immediately resolved, although progress was made.  I deeply enjoyed the characters and found them realistically flawed and endearing. I look forward to more in the series. B+ for me.

*Revell Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Annabel Lee,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

41FyFyW2POL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_One Dress. One Year.

In high school, Bethany decides to make and wear the same dress for a year, as her way of standing with those who are still in slavery. At sixteen, her goals were lofty for raising funds and awareness for human trafficking. She shares her story, now as a college student, reflecting on what she learned and how she grew in that year.

I think one of my favorite things about Bethany’s story was her failings. She doesn’t raise even close to the amount of money she hoped for. Not everyone understood or appreciated her dress-wearing. She shares her own disappointments and annoyances throughout her year, honestly telling the journey as a high-schooler. (And bonus, Bob Goff plays a cameo!)

I love how this story reminded my heart that my job is not outcomes. My job is to be obedient to the Lord, showing up when he asks me to. He is the one responsible for outcomes. I loved seeing Bethany change and grow in her trust for the Lord, and found myself encouraged to do the same. A solid B for me.

*Baker Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “One Dress. One Year,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51jFA9AuDzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Red Door Inn

For anyone who has read Anne of Green Gables, there is a certain charm and nostalgia to Prince Edward Island. I was excited to read a book that was set there.

I really liked this book. I liked the flawed characters. I liked the unfolding of the story. It had a Nicholas-Sparks feel to me, but better. I felt like the conflicts were realistic. I appreciated the inter-generational relationships. And I always have a soft spot for romance finding the older generation. This was a fun read for the sappy part of my heart. B for me. 

*Revell Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Red Door Inn” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51FdXkyNJNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Flirtation Walk

The premise of this story drew me in right away. The daughter of a con man has grown up being part of his schemes, now finds herself orphaned. She makes her way to connect with the family she is certain wants nothing to do with her.

As much as I enjoyed the romance that unfolded and the story that was told, I think my favorite part of this book was the journey from believing lies to believing truth. The stories our parents tell us (whether explicitly or implicitly) are powerful. How beautiful it was to see the redemption and grace of coming to believe what is true. I really enjoyed this one. A- for me.

*Bethany House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Flirtation Walk,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

41zsVIpuevL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A Fool and His Monet

I’m a fan of shows like White Collar and Sue Thomas F. B. Eye. I like getting to know the people who are trying to solve the mystery and catch the bad guy. There are motives and false leads, suspense and surprises. And my favorite is when you’re experiencing all of those with characters you are really rooting for.

I liked this book a lot. It reminded of of those shows I like, with all my favorite elements. The main character is quirky and fun. She has overprotective parents and a nosy aunt and several guys who wouldn’t mind dating her. Her love story is in process, without getting wrapped up by the end of the book. I’ll admit that I liked that, since it made her feel even more real. (And because I haven’t fully decided who I like better for her!) I’m looking forward to the next in the series. B for me.

*Revell Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “A Fool and His Monet,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51d2I+EjbyL._SX365_BO1,204,203,200_8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

I’m a little wary of parenting books AND of books with numbers in the titles. It is a small wonder I picked up this book. But I’m so glad I did. This book didn’t offer formulas or promises. Instead, this book pointed parents to tools for healthy relationships and creating a positive home culture.

Todd is a clinical child psychologist, and offers many examples both from his own parenting and the families he meets with. Each tool is broken down into five short chapters, with parents in mind. It felt clear that Todd wanted this book to be easy and accessible to full, busy schedules. I loved his heart FOR parents and kids, encouraging each towards being responsible for themselves. His tools and examples of things to say and do aren’t complicated or earth-shattering. I’d heard many of them before. But I still needed to hear them. I came away with my heart was encouraged towards loving my daughter in a way that reflects what I believe, parenting in a way that reflects the way the Lord parents me. A- for me.

If you’re interested in this book, the publisher is offering this code: GREATKIDS16 for 50% of retail price for the book through May 15, 2016. The book must be purchased through Moody Publishers for the discount to apply.

*Moody Publishers and Fly By Promotions have provided me with a complimentary copy of “8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

the-lake-house-9781451649321_hrThe Lake House

I loved this book. I picked it up on Saturday morning while my husband was working a half day, and it turned into my Sabbath activity of choice. 492 pages and a few hours later, I finished a satisfying, beautiful story. This 70 year old mystery is told both in the present and in the past, taking the reader back to the 1930’s to solve an deep family secret. This was the first book of Kate Morton’s that I’d read and I was beyond impressed. Her character development, her skill at unfolding the mystery over time, her incredible story telling all had me hooked. Sexual content was all handled tastefully, and was all key to the plot. A for me.

7120022819_bbeac91ac1The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I’m seriously a sucker for beautiful food photos and this book is full of them. Smitten Kitchen has one of my favorite food blogs. Although it probably isn’t one of the healthiest places, it certainly is one of the most delicious. I’ve loved flipping through the pages of this book. I made her chocolate silk pie to celebrate. I made her lemon bars. Our blueberry Easter cake and popcorn cookies were from these pages too. I felt myself inspired by her commitment to good food and it was a treat to have her “with me” for my recent cooking endeavors. Deb is fun to read and a friend to the “common cook.” A for me.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-31-at-9.42.55-AM-e1433167975937The Better Life

This book reads like a series of blog posts. Claire gives practical tips on how to live “better.” While very little will come as a surprise, she offers her own experience in the midst of sharing how to slow down, how to enjoy life, how to be more grateful. (As a side note, I loved the cover of this book. The cover is one of those that actually feels soft. How do they do that? I liked all the gold stars too.) I was honestly a little disappointed with this book. Each vignette felt far too short to go anywhere terribly deep. I wanted more. I wanted more of Claire. I wanted more of the “why” behind the “how.” I wanted more Jesus infused into her writing. It wasn’t a bad read, but it wasn’t great. I wanted it to be so much more. C for me.

*Moody Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Better Life,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51MO56dT0ZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Love the Home You Have

This book is half call to contentment, half practical tips for making your current space more homey. It was a short, fun read. I would have preferred pictures of the decorating ideas she had instead of descriptions, but she still had good ideas. I’ll admit that some of the tips weren’t helpful for me, as I currently share common space, where all her tips are geared towards a single family home. This contrast, actually led to a few moments of discontent for my heart, which felt comical after the fact, considering the book’s purpose. Time with the Lord helped my heart tremendously and I was able to finish the book in a better spirit. No blame to the author, as I think it was my own selfish heart acting up, nothing more. C+ for me.

3090282A Homemade Life

After this book was recommended several times, I picked it up. My Life in France and Bread and Wine have converted me to enjoying food memoirs from time to time. Someone’s stories mixed with rich descriptions of hearty meals or sweet moments with a dessert are a treat to enjoy. I was looking forward to diving into this one.

I am mixed about this book. I liked Molly’s writing style and her ease with inviting you into her life and her family. Yet, I had trouble connecting with her. I couldn’t help but see how different our ideas about food are. I see food as the Lord’s provision. I see food as a daily reminder of the grace and goodness to be tasted. I see food as a way to connect with others. While some of my values for good food definitely match Molly’s (I loved her opening description of growing up with food that is better than most people eat in a restaurant!), I found it hard to enjoy and relate to much of her writing. Maybe I read this book on an off day. But either way, A Homemade Life wasn’t what I hoped it would. Molly is a good writer, but even so, I felt distracted by our differing values and not even good food felt like it was enough to bridge the gap. C for me.

It's not too lateIt’s Not Too Late

As a leader with high schoolers and for my years working with college students, this topic is near and dear to my heart. How do parents healthily parent their teenagers and college-age children? What does it look like to stay engaged? The truth is that it is messy. Dan Dupree shares research and stories about kids who stay with their childhood faith into adulthood. There is no formula or right answer. But there is much grace and HOPE.

I was truly encouraged by how he shares about many myths that our culture perpetuates about this age group, that simply aren’t true. He counters them with the truth of a parent’s influence and some practical tips on staying engaged (without being controlling or aloof) into emerging adulthood. One of my favorite parts of this book was his confession of seeking comfort for himself and his family, and the challenge it is to stop trying to prevent any suffering for his kids, but to allow growth to happen. He shares the difference between how the Lord views and uses suffering and how often we see it. While this book is directed towards the parents of teens and young adults, I still found myself encouraged and appreciative of the truth here, despite finding myself outside of that demographic. No matter what it may look like today, the Lord is responsible for heart change. We can’t make that happen, even with our kids. Their story isn’t over. There is hope. Amen and amen. A solid B+ for me.

*Baker Books Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “It’s Not Too Late,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

you-re-already-amazing-lifegrowth-guide-embracing-who-you-are-becoming-all-god-created-you-to-be-by-holley-gerth-1493403737You’re Already Amazing

This workbook is meant for personal development or a small group setting. As a small group leader for high school girls, I’m always on the lookout for material and resources. While it is meant to accompany a video series (found online) and the book by the same title, I didn’t experience either of those, so my input is limited to the material itself.

I really appreciated this guide towards growth. There are examples and stories and excerpts from the book throughout the guide. It honestly provides A LOT of material for a workbook. I thought the questions were excellent, whether for individual growth or working through as a group. There is some lighthearted material and some that is deep and messy. It is written for women and is full of good stuff, for anyone looking to grow. A solid B for me.

*Revell Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “You’re Already Amazing,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

9781601428400Rooted

While I certainly say I want to grow, the actual process is much harder than I picture in my head. I have an idea for what God is going to do, and how he will act, and I am often frustrated when what I imagine is so different than the reality. I want to jump into the action NOW, instead of being faithful where I’m planted.

As I do battle in my heart over whether to choose comfort or trust, control or growth, this book is just what my heart needs in this season. It is a call to look at what the Lord says about what the process of becoming and to trust him with the outcomes of the kingdom work we’re invited into.

Banning Liebscher shares about his own story, an unknown youth pastor to the founder of Jesus Culture. He is humble and truthful. I truly appreciated his pastor’s heart and the way he speaks in “me too” language. His words on rest, identity, trust and process are all excellent and point straight back to Jesus and the kind of kingdom living we were meant for. A solid A for me.

God always develops us before He develops our vision. If we don’t understand this, we will resist Him, get frustrated, and ultimately end up disappointed and disillusioned. (14)

He wants to throw us in way over our heads, where He can make us successful according to His definition of success, rather than let us accomplish our own inevitably limited version of the vision. We must recognize that even when things seem to be moving more slowly than we think they should, or even not moving forward at all, the Lord is answering our praying. He’s giving us what we need and preparing us for what He spoke to us. (25)

The Lord spoke to my heart: Banning, you have a choice. You can either be a preacher or you can be a son. If you decide to be a preacher, you’ll be good sometimes and at other times you won’t be that good. But if you decide to be a son, you’ll be great all the time, because you are  a fantastic son.  Resting in the truth that God chose you to be His child will shut down the pressure to prove yourself. (64)

*Blogging for Books and Waterbrook Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Rooted,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51rPWyFeyLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane

I’m a fan of all of the Mr. Putter books, but this one really captured my heart this month. I loved the boyhood dream of airplanes come to fruition for this dear man, and the way he chose to love others with it. It is a simple, delightful read. A+ for me.

 

 

 

*I joined up with Emily Freeman as she lists what she learns each month and invites others to do the same, and with  What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer. What a gift to reflect and learn together!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine says:

    You’re fighting so well, my friend! And this is a beautiful call to arms / inventory of weapons 😉 I enjoyed celebrating with you delicious dishes and books and flowers and toddler hugs while I read.

    Like

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