yarn along

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This beautiful book arrived in my mailbox yesterday and I began the first chapter last night.  Christie Purifoy’s first book, Roots + Sky, was such a gift and came to me at just the right season in my life when we were in the early stages of looking to buy our first home, dreaming of a place to put down roots.  Since then I’ve followed her on instagram (and more recently her podcast called Out of the Ordinary), enjoying the beauty she shares with the world.  In Placemaker, Christie discusses what it means to co-create with God in the work specifically of cultivating beauty. I am always drawn to the theme of beauty–and I’m not talking about skin-deep beauty, but the breathtaking beauty of an arctic landscape, or the neat tidy stacks of laundry, or even the unlikely beauty of a somewhat disheveled home full to the brim with life and laughter.  I’m also drawn to the theme of ‘home’ and the way our hearts long for it, hunger and search after it, and why that is.  So I am eager to see what Christie has to share with us about these things.  I am thrilled to be able to read her words again and to share this book with you!  Yes, I will have a copy to giveaway to one of you readers very soon. 🙂

I’ve been working this week to wrap up a few smaller knitted projects, and in between I’ve been knitting on my cosmic remix shawl which feels like it’s knitting itself.  It’s just quietly and unobtrusively coming together and I can’t wait to wrap up in it once it’s done.  The yarn is so airy and soft.  What are you reading and/or making lately?

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
Amazon links are affiliate links.

 

 

Courage, Dear Heart

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Hey friends.  I finished this book, Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World, not too long ago and wanted to share about it with you here!  Written as letters to the brokenhearted and storm-battered, in each chapter Reynolds strives to offer three things: words for our pain, the presence of a friend/companion in the journey, and hope so that we can run the race.

You cannot be human for very long and not feel some heart ache, some brokenness.  As you live and walk farther, you only gather more hardships along the way–no one gets through life unscathed.  Of course, life is not only about the hardships and there are rivers of joy.  However there are seasons where the grief and pain seem to swallow up all of the light and we aren’t sure that we’ll ever recover.

In my own life there have been a handful of excruciating seasons, most I can’t really share in this space.  One such season for me was in the first couple of years immediately following Phoebe’s diagnosis with Celiac disease.  Of course the shock of the diagnosis and its implications for lifestyle changes was one overwhelming aspect.  There was so much change so quickly, so much to learn about, such a huge leap in our grocery budget, medical bills from multiple procedures, etc.

Even now as I sit to write this, I am overwhelmed trying to explain the depths of what this journey has been like for us.  I’ve tried writing this post out a few times and keep coming up short.  There is so much, so many layers.  Emotional pain, physical pain, spiritual ramifications, financial strain–the way all of that hits a marriage, the way my husband and I process it all differently and then have to work through it somehow together.  The way it makes a mother nearly go crazy to watch her child suffer and to feel helpless.  Then there is the PTSD of sorts of having gone through something like this, and the temptation to live now in the shadow of the next shoe dropping.  It has been one of the hardest seasons to date, one I’m not sure I’m totally through yet and certainly not one I can fully unpack or process yet.  I was sharing about it with a close friend + confidant recently, how going through this has somehow fundamentally changed the landscape of my soul.

All of that to say, Reynolds book strikes a chord with the storm-battered and weary.  So many words have sounded empty and hollow and lifeless in this season.  Few seem to speak the language of the suffering.  Maybe only those who have walked through these kinds of dark valleys can speak the tongue of it, sending forth words to pull another groping traveler along.  Her words are honest, simple yet profound, hopeful.  It’s rare that a book will make me cry, but there have been time that her words have reached that inaccessible closed off part of my heart and helped to crack it open a bit so the pain can be released.  That is a gift, friends.

She offers permission to suffer, to be human–which we so desperately need when in the company of fellow Christians who often unknowingly communicate that we must be strong in our trial.  She offers a realistic view of what it looks like to be human and yet carry the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  (What a mystery!)

I highly recommend it for those of you who might be in a trying time for one reason or another, needing letters from a fellow sojourner who can offer real hope and care and help you grope for God through the dark.  I leave you with this little excerpt from the introduction:

“In C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, young Lucy finds herself trapped inside a thick, enchanted darkness in which all nightmares come true.  Overwhelmed by fear, she cries out to the great lion, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.’

At this moment of desperation, Lucy notices a light.  She looks along its beam and sees something inside:

‘At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an airplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross.  It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow.  It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them.  After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. . . .No one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.’

So courage, dear heart.  I know you are tired.  I know the darkness is thick, and the way is longer and harder than you ever expected it to be.  But God sees you, he hurts with you, and he welcomes your honesty.  Even to the ends of the earth, he will lead you on.”

A special thank you to Tyndale Publishers for their complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions my own. 

yarn along

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I cast on for a Maile cardigan for Wren in quince + co tern, color way driftwood.  Would love to have this done before Easter but I’m sure that’s too ambitious.  May also be too ambitious to try to make this out of one skein of yarn.

Still re-reading Christie Purifoy’s memoir Roots + Sky (affiliate link).  If you don’t follow her on instagram, you should.  She is a beautiful writer and her account is full of beauty.  (And read her book!)

Also, I’m behind on a review of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck (affiliate link) by Bethany Turner.  I had a hard time finishing this one a bit.  It wasn’t a bad book, per say, just a bit predictable and romancy and maybe a tad bit shallow?  Not sure, I just didn’t love it.  I did finish it, and it did get better toward the end.

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.

Thank you to Revell/Baker Publishing Group for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I’ll Push You

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Hello long-lost blog!  It’s been a bit of a weird summer, and I’ll share more about it soon, but there’s been good reason why my blog has sat unattended for a couple of months.  I’m terribly far behind on book reviews, so I hope to catch up on those soon.

This book caught my eye as I’ve been wanting to read more fiction/stories over the summer.  I watched the trailer for the documentary that is coming out and found myself in tears.

I’ll Push You (affiliate link) is the true story of two friends, Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck, who grew up together and have stayed close through college and marriage and the early years of parenting.  Justin began to have nerve problems in his feet during high school, progressively losing mobility and control in his feet and legs.  For years doctors did tests and studies but were unable to give him a clear diagnosis.  The autoimmune neuromuscular disease acted much like ALS but wasn’t ALS.  As his disease progressed, Justin began to have less and less mobility and the Gray family decided to move closer to the Skeesucks to help and do life more together.  Patrick and Justin had enjoyed many adventures together over their years of friendship, so it was’t much of a surprise when Justin approached Patrick and told him he really wished he could do the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile trek through the mountains and rough terrain of Spain, usually done as a spiritual pilgrimage.  As soon as Justin mentioned the idea to Patrick, Patrick’s response was, “I’ll push you.”

The book chronicles their adventure, how the pieces came together, how their journey went, and all the amazing things they learned and grew in as they went.  They also share much of their story, the history of their friendship, and their faith in God in the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was maybe most impacted by the intensity, depth, and sweetness of their friendship.  Their friendship is something special and rare, and it makes me wonder if I would love my friends so sacrificially.  It makes me want to be a better friend!  I was also struck and blessed by Justin’s attitude toward his weakness and dependency.  He is peaceful and surrendered, even as his body slowly succumbs to his disease, and in my own season of weakness and dependency, it has been challenging and helpful to see his example.  I’m eager to see the documentary when it releases!

I highly recommend this sweet story.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for their complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

long days of small things

In order to find God it is perhaps not always necessary to leave the creatures behind…The world is crowded with Him…
The real labor is to remember, to attend.
In fact, to come awake.  Still more, to remain awake.
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

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Yesterday I woke up to the laughter and squall of children in the room next to mine.  The day began in the rush and hurry of need and hungry tummies.  I normally try to get up before the children, but I had been struggling with sleeplessness and a bout of anxiety in the middle of the night and slept fitfully.  My plans for the morning were interrupted by an unexpected trip to the doctors office to check on one child who woke up with pink eye in both eyes, then running to pick up a prescription and grab a few groceries before heading home.  It was afternoon before I breathed a breath of prayer to God and realized I had completely missed my time with Him in the morning.  My soul instantly cringed–how could it have been nearly all day before I even remembered God?  Then came the familiar rush of guilt with a dose of self-hatred to boot.  All this soul amnesia.  I shake my head as I wash the dishes.

Last November I retreated away to a hermitage a few hours from here.  I went alone for the weekend, Brandon had offered to keep the kiddos.  Motherhood and the constant presence of people all looking to me with their pressing needs–it can wear an introvert out.  It can wear any person out, I’m sure!  We need to pay attention to our souls, we must take small breaks, place spaces in our calendars, slip away when we can to refuel.  We need silence, we need reflection, we need sleep and solitude.  That weekend was glorious.  The cabin was perfectly cozy at the very tip top of a mountain.  I kept my journal open and wrote endlessly, read the scriptures and studied, read other books, knitted without interruption, went for walks in the woods, cooked simple meals, rested, worshipped, prayed.  It took me almost the whole weekend to really relax and unwind, and I realized how tightly wound motherhood had made me, along with the added role of care taking for phoebe.  All of the worry and strain, the financial burden, the roller coaster of her improvement and decline.  I needed that time away, so I could reenter the fray with renewed energy and focus and love.  I needed time to seek God in the quiet, as I used to in my days before children.  I needed uninterrupted time alone with Him to hear from Him.

If only we could have these times whenever we need them.  If only we could guarantee some respite, rest, and silence throughout the year, then we could seek God as we desire to, as we think we should.  And I do believe times of refreshing will come, pockets of rest.

However, when we would flee difficulties in motherhood, most of the time God would have us press in.  Where we would avoid and escape, He has us pick back up, day and night.  Motherhood is so constant, endless, around the clock, with needs that can simply swallow us whole.  Our souls can cry out–

“Oh, that I had wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee away and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
(Psalm 55:6-8)

We think we will find relief in escape, in a break–a sometimes we do.  But is it good for us to set our eyes on the next break on the horizon and survive until then hanging on by our toenails?  Beyond that–can we only find God in our escapes, our breaks, in the quiet place of refuge?

Or could He possibly have treasures for us right in the maelstrom of motherhood, right in the trenches of it?  Must we wait for Him on the sidelines of life–sidelined by little people and their needs–or can we have Him right here to the full in a way we never expected or anticipated before?

Could pressing in and finding Him in the weary work–could this possibly be the point?  The thing He wants us to learn, the muscle He wants to strengthen?  Of course its far easier to find Him in the quiet place of refuge.  But if we can’t find that quiet place of refuge, do we wave the white flag of defeat and turn our hearts off to God until we can have a moment alone?  Or can we find a way to God in the very mundane, simple, undervalued work/tasks of motherhood?

Could the tasks turn out to be a path to God?

What if the very practice of mothering and doing the work of motherhood–washing the dishes, feeding the hungry mouths, wiping the bottoms, folding the laundry, teaching, admonishing, disciplining, training, guiding–could these things possibly be a spiritual discipline of sorts, leading us to know God, experience Him, enjoy Him in a way we never could or would choose otherwise?  Could there be treasures here for us–right here in this season–that we’ll miss if we shut down and vow to hold on until the crazy ride is over?

What if God is not only found in the lofty theological ivory towers, the seminary classroom, the pew, the sanctuary, the prayer closet, the monastery–but here, scrubbing the floor around a toilet.
Here, chopping onions and carrots.
Here, holding a feverish child.
Here, in the pickup lane at school.
Here, singing a hymn over a sleepless child.
Here, organizing shelves, stacking piles.
Here, in the rush-hour traffic home from work.
Here, in the weary waking hours.

What if we could find God in the ordinary work of motherhood rather than trying to fit our old habits and disciplines into this new rhythm–which for most of us feels cramped, incompatible, impossible.

Is it possible in this season of little ones to be both a good mother and to keep close company with God?

This is what is addressed in Catherine McNiel’s book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.  This book exceeded my expectations.  I was a bit afraid it would be another moany-groany book about motherhood without being terribly helpful.  Instead, it was honest.  Real.  Insightful.  Provocative.  Thoughtful.  Helpful.  It addressed our great hunger for God, our desire to know Him, our frustration with all the things that seem to work against us and keep us from Him.  She ends each chapter with a practice, tangible things to anchor us to God throughout the day.  Things like our breath:

“Inhale deeply and realize you are breathing in God’s unfailing love.  Exhale and release into his unceasing presence.  Suddenly, breathing–your easiest daily accomplishment–is an act of worship, meditation, and prayer.” (McNiel, p. 12)

Without adding a burden of more tasks to our schedule, McNiel helps us to find God in each of the tasks we already perform daily, and do them as unto the Lord.  Like walking, eating and drinking, cooking, household tasks, sleepless nights, pregnancy, diapers, breastfeeding, to name a few.

McNiel commiserates without sounding whiney, encourages and exhorts without loading on a heavy burden of guilt.  She feels like a true companion in this journey of motherhood, someone who understands its complexities and enjoys them, glory, grit and all, because of the way they point us to God.

I devoured this book, crying over sections of it, marking up nearly every page, returning to it over and over, savoring it.  It is one I will need to reread more than a few times, I believe.

If you are a mother afraid you might be missing out on some great spiritual life because of your busy role as mother–maybe this book is for you.  If you ever feel a bit like you can’t breathe under the pressing weight of this season, a bit like you can’t breathe–Maybe this is one to ask for for Mother’s Day?

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Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
Affiliate links included in this post.

 

 

 

Falling Free

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You guys.  I am so terribly behind on posting a review for this book and I feel awful about it because IT IS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE BOOK!  It deserved a really great, lengthy, shining blog post a long time ago.  I received it last fall when it released and read it within a week or so.  Honestly it was maybe in my top five favorite reads from 2016.  It was one of those books you finish and want to immediately purchase copies of for everyone you love.  I highly recommend it!

Shannan Martin’s book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted came into my hands in the middle of our house search.  In a sense I was resistant to reading it, since Martin’s book is a memoir sharing about their leaving behind the life they thought they always wanted for something that seemed far riskier, smaller, and challenging.  Its good to read something like this while in the midst of your own home search.  What Martin was leaving behind–a cute farmhouse, a mini homestead, a comfortable community–these are some of the things my husband and I are looking for and dreaming about.  And not that there is anything wrong with having a farmhouse or a homestead or a wonderful church community.  But Martin sure does challenge our notions of what we need, what we expect, what we feel entitled to, what we think God would have for us, what we think is safe, what we hope for.  She brings perspective.  She gives courage to truly abandon your life to the faithfulness of God, even in the face of the risk and discomfort involved.  She holds out the glory of Jesus and the life of following and obeying Him as higher and greater than our small dreams, our small hopes for a comfortable, safe, monochromatic life.

An author I have loved, Emily P. Freeman, has highly recommended Martin’s writing, which is what led me to check out her first book. I was not disappointed!  She is at turns hilarious, witty, and yet poignant and insightful.  She can turn a phrase like few authors I’ve read, bringing fresh insight and conviction to our typical American way of life and thinking.  And her taco recipe has become a regular staple in our home.  (Thank you, Shannon.)

I can’t tell you more about it because I simply can’t decide what to emphasize most.  Just go read it.  If you at all feel bound up, go read it.  If while you have most comforts and pleasures accessible at your right hand yet can’t shake the niggling sense that you’re missing something, go read it.  If you’re hungry for the kingdom of God, go read it.  If you’re hungry for more of God, go read it.  If you’re just plain bored, go read it.

Read at your own risk.  Prepare to be perturbed, disturbed, challenged, convicted, awakened, and set free from the life you think you want to the life God would have for you.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

a couple of books

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I am months behind in posting reviews on these two books.  (Eek!)

 

Wild & Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

I took this one on my anniversary backpacking trip with Brandon and really savored reading it in the quiet of the wilderness.  The subtitle for this one reads: A hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough.  I’m not sure I know a woman who couldn’t resonate with that statement!  Looking out over the landscape of women today, I see many of my sisters held captive and caged by fear, by desires, by the push and pull of culture, by comparison.  I even find that after all these years of walking with Jesus, having come to know Him as a little girl, and then growing up in the church and raised in the Scriptures, these same things often pull me back into bondage in different seasons of my life. This book reminds me of Captivating by Stasi Eldredge, similar message written for a new generation of women.  I feel like the author’s target audience was probably the 20 to 30-something year old woman, and also somewhat directed toward a newer Christian, but I still greatly benefited from reading this!  Who doesn’t need to revisit the truths of our value as women, our identity, the source of our worth, our motivation, and our definition of success?  At first glance, the terms “wild” and “free” both invigorated me and also raised my eyebrows.  But I love the direction the author’s went in defining their terms, grounding them in the gospel:

“If God is wild and if God is free, what does that mean for us?  The answer we’ve landed on is that we believe we have the liberty to walk out our own wild freedom in pursuit of His kingdom, and He will help us as we go.  He is the one who calls us to be wild–walking in who God created us to be.  And He is the one who calls us to be free–resting in what Jesus has done for us.”

The authors talk about their own histories of living “small and scared” and living “defensively,” ways that they struggled to understand the freedom we have in Christ.  The authors are calling for renewed understanding of what it means to be hidden in Christ and to live a life for Him, calling for revival amongst women in the church today.  I think it is an important book and enjoyed reading it.  If you want to read an excerpt, you can find one here.

The Prophetess: Deborah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith

I finished this one months ago.  I’m not sure why I’ve lagged to post this review because I really enjoyed it!  I read it at a time when I was studying through Judges, and I love to compliment bible study with historical fiction.  I find it breathes new life and perspective into a text that can sometimes seem boring.  It helps me to remember that these people we are reading about in the pages of Scripture were real human beings with emotions and fears and struggles much like my own.

This book is book 2 in a series by Smith entitled “Daughters of the Promised Land,” and after reading it I will probably read the rest of the series.  She writes interestingly and did an impeccable job of telling Deborah’s story with biblical accuracy and a ton of side research on the cultural context.  As such, the story of Deborah truly comes to life and sparked a lot of curiosity and fresh perspective for me in thinking about this intriguing, powerful woman used mightily by God in a time when the people of God were far from Him, entangled in idolatry.  I especially liked the way she imagined and depicted Deborah’s visions and gift of prophecy, as well as Deborah as a woman–both strong and outspoken, yet battling her own fears and humanity, growing in faith and dependence on God.  Deborah was truly a “wild + free” woman!  Smith’s imaginative biblical fiction reminded me of Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace series.  Surely a story to get lost in and one I highly recommend!

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Thank you to Revell Publishers + BookLook Bloggers for the opportunity to read these books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

 

reading lately

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These three books have been on my stack lately and I wanted to share them with you today!

Hannah’s Choice by Jan Drexler

I haven’t made much time for fiction lately so this one was a real treat!  I really enjoyed this book, set in 1842 in the Amish Pennsylvania.  The protagonist, Hannah Yoder, comes from a strict and large Amish family, finding themselves battling the lure and sway of the outside culture.  Change is in the air and all around them, and Hannah’s parents want to set out for new territory west where they can raise their children protected from the outside world.  Hannah finds herself torn between two men seeking her hand in marriage–one who offers her familiarity and home, the other seeking to adventure west.  I found myself enraptured with this family, the tragedies and losses they faced, the way they both held together and splintered over the pressures of the outside world.  What I think I enjoyed the most was knowing that the author had done extensive research on her own family’s history as some of the first Amish, Mennonite and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania, and that this was her imaginative retelling of their story.  I also found myself familiar with some of the Amish way of thinking, coming from somewhat of a Brethren background myself.  This is the first book in a series and I’m definitely planning on reading book 2 in the fall of this year!

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The Gentle Art of Discipling Women by Dana Yeakley

I was drawn to this book because I’m always hungry to be both discipling younger women and be discipled by older women.  I also think this piece of our Christian faith can often be lacking.  Many times I wish I had an older woman who would walk me through my current seasons and help me wrestle through issues of faith that I can seem to surmount.  I also find myself eager to spend time with younger girls and have been missing that so much in these years with little ones at home.  I also was drawn to this book because Yeakley calls discipling a “gentle art,” which had me both curious and thankful, as “art” suggests something organic rather than something formulaic and staid.  I admit I haven’t entirely read this book, but am definitely going to finish.  Yeakley has been on staff with the Navigators for many years and also spent eleven years in Indonesia as a missionary.  I felt her words carried weight because of her life experience.  The book is structured in two larger parts, the first section grounding the Christian in their own role as a disciple of Jesus first, the second section equipping and encouraging us also to make disciples.  First we must be a genuine disciple of Jesus, then we must go and make disciples.  I appreciate her emphasis on all that Christ won for us in the first section: we are forgiven, we are safe, we have access, and we are becoming.  In the second section she answers these overarching questions: how do we create a life-giving atmosphere?  Whom do we help?  What do we share?  How does discipling one-on-one actually work?

This book comes with a leader’s guide and each chapter ends with a bible study that challenges you both as a disciple and discipler.  This makes it a great choice for a group book study maybe for a group of women who want to learn more about the art of discipleship and be equipped.  It’s also not a terribly long book, and is quite practical.  I am eager to take what I’ve learned and find someone to intentionally disciple and also someone who might be open to discipling me!

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The Life-Giving Home: Creating a place of belonging and becoming by Sally + Sarah Clarkson

This mother/daughter co-authored book is a TREASURE.  It’s one I would want to put in the hands of every woman if I could.  This is not just written for women who are married or who have children, but for any woman who wants to create a home on purpose.

I am familiar with Sally Clarkson’s voice and have loved some of her other books, but her daughter’s writing in this one swept me off my feet!  She is an incredible writer and I found her to be a kindred spirit (even though she doesn’t know it yet).

I think the preface that the Clarkson’s make to the importance and value of making a home and why that matters in the scope of the Kingdom is so crucial for all Christian women to read.  Here’s a snippet about it:

“One of the first obstacles I find in presenting a vision for the importance of home is the almost unconscious assumption on the part of many modern people that home is inherently a sentimental notion and that beauty is peripheral to spiritual formation.  We discount our own homesickness as a form of weakness.  We marginalize the beautiful.  We dismiss the aesthetic as second class.  We think of beautiful spaces and comforting traditions as spiritually unnecessary and underestimate the profound importance of a safe place for growing minds and souls…

We must understand homemaking not as a retreat from the fallen world, not as a retrenchment from culture, but as a profound engagement with it.  We must understand the creation of home as a work of incarnational power and creativity.  “Kingdom come” doesn’t happen on some cosmic scale; the whole point is that it invades the physical at the humblest level.  As Christ was born a tiny human child of Mary, so Christ comes again, invading the human realm in and through our ordinary love of children and friends, spouses and siblings.  His Kingdom comes in the way we celebrate, the shelter we make of our homes, the joy we put into what we cook and eat and create, our willingness to welcome strangers into our midst.  As the Holy Spirit fills us, our families and friendships and the particular physical spaces of our lives become the spaces where Christ is born again and again–growing, ordering, renewing, healing.”

See what I mean?  Incredible.  Important.  I find so many women who feel that spending time making home cozy or warm or decorated is an unspiritual activity, surely less important that discipling others or sharing the Gospel.  I love the Clarkson’s gentle help all throughout the book in seeing that our homes are the very place where we redeem a small plot of this broken, cursed soil and show the world what it looks like to live under the beautiful freedom of God’s rule.  To invite others, both strangers and kindreds, into a place that is warm, inviting and intentional, be it decorated on a dime with thrifted finds, or with a comfortable budget.

I also LOVE the way the book is organized.  The first small section focuses on building an understanding and common ground for why making a home matters, and what exactly matters about it.  Is there a biblical foundation for the value of making a home?  Is it about keeping a spotless home, or having a home that is well-ordered and intentional, but prioritizes relationship over cleanliness?  Is it about owning a home, or can one build a sense of “home” in their dorm room?  Their tiny studio apartment?  Their parent’s basement?

The second portion of the book makes up the bulk of it and is broken down by month into “seasons of the home.”  I love this aspect of it so very much!  Each chapter then talks about the theme of that month generally and then the Clarksons share how this theme was found in their own home with stories and a ton of resources and suggestions.

You will read this book and be so encouraged and inspired to make a home that truly is a space where God’s glory dwells, where love is the common language, where weary souls can find rest and comfort, where growing minds can be inspired and nurtured.  A place where strangers become family, wanderers find respite, where discipleship and worship are everyday realities.

I highly, highly recommend it!

Happy reading, friends!

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Thanks to Tyndale Publishers + Revell for a complimentary copy of each of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Also, this post contains affiliate links.  In other words, your purchase of one of these books via my link above helps support this blog and my family at no extra cost to you!  Thank you so very much!

 

Parables

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“Turn to his teaching, and see if anyone else ever spoke so simply as he did.  A child can comprehend his parables.  There are, in them, hidden truths which are a mystery even to Christ’s deeply-taught disciples; but Christ never mystified his hearers.  He talked to them like a child. . .He never laid aside the simplicity of childhood, though he had all the dignity of fully-developed manhood.  He wore his heart upon his sleeve, and spoke out what was in his mind in such plain, clear language that the poorest of the poor, and the lowest of the low were eager to listen to him.”

C. H. Spurgeon

I’ve been reading slowly, savoring my way through the Gospels for a solid year.  I just finished Luke and am headed into John, the final Gospel account.  I have craved daily life with Jesus, daily walking with Him, to remember where He put His feet, who His hands reached out to touch, who He noticed, who He welcomed, who He rebuked.  I have needed to hear those red-letter words day-in and day-out.  It has been such a rich time just soaking slowly, line by line.

Thus, when John MacArthur’s latest book, Parables: the mysteries of God’s kingdom revealed through the stories Jesus told, came up for review, I was drawn instantly toward it, hungry to read more about the parables, the stories Jesus told.  The ways He taught about the Kingdom, the way He always came with stories, stories, stories.  The way He unveiled the mysteries of the Kingdom to us, to His listeners, in the stories He told.  The way He showed us that the Kingdom is not merely some high and lofty religious ideal; it meets the ground of our earth, our dust.  The way He showed us that we can best understand the Kingdom by observing mustard seeds, pearls, soil, the ways of the farmer, yeast and dough, the beggar, the downcast sinner versus the upright Pharisee, a wayward child.  The way He revealed to us that this world He formed and fashioned and set in motion, this world that He even today upholds and sustains down to the smallest detail, is rife with truth, with His meaning, His character, hints of His kingdom and ways.

“Jesus’ parables had a clear twofold purpose: They hid the truth from the self-righteous or self-satisfied people who fancied themselves too sophisticated to learn from Him, while the same parables revealed truth to eager souls with childlike faith–those who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  Jesus thanked His Father for both results: ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight’ (Matt. 11:25-26).” (MacArthur)

MacArthur begins by explaining what parables are, and why Jesus used these as His main teaching method.  He corrects some sloppy thinking about Jesus’ parables.  Then he spends the rest of the book studying 10 different parables.  As a result, you find yourself learning about the intricacies of the Pharisees and their Sabbath observance, the farming techniques of the day, the way soil and seed interact, the cost of discipleship, justice, grace, the conflict between Jews and Samaritans, justification by faith, and so forth, and what each of these things has to teach us about the Kingdom of God.  You realize how much ground Jesus covered in these simple stories He told.  How much He has given us to chew on, how richly He extended the beauties of the Kingdom to those who would have ears to hear.  I have thoroughly enjoyed spending this time with MacArthur’s perspective on each of these parables and have been so encouraged and edified.  His book is a happy read, clear exposition and fascinating, a great accompaniment to a study of the Gospels or just to familiarize oneself with Jesus’ parabolic form of teaching.  For the seasoned student of Scripture, it will bring new light to all the dearly-loved parables.  For the newer student of Scripture, it gives a treasure trove of insight to what can, at first glance, seem so simple.  For those hungry for more of Jesus, to spend more time in His footsteps, to know more of who He is, to experience and see His Kingdom, you will find food for you soul in these pages.

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Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

7 Women

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I don’t typically pick historical or biographical books, it seems, but when Eric Metaxas’s 7 Women: And the Secret of their Greatness came up for review, I immediately snagged it.  After reading Metaxas’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer last year, I knew I would enjoy pretty much anything he writes.  His way of writing is very engaging, while at the same time being rich, heady and occasionally humorous.

In the follow-up, or compliment, to his previous book on 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, this book examines the lives of seven women who changed the course of history:  Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa.  I was familiar with a few of those women, but really digging into their lives brought a whole new level of understanding.  Each of these women were truly, in many ways, ordinary women who became extraordinary primarily by their sold-out obedience to God.  Each women faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties: armies and the brutality of war, abandonment by husbands, great poverty, loss of children, loss of family, personal attack, slander, misunderstanding, false accusation, hunger, need, disease, racism, abuse, and the list goes on.  Each woman’s life was, in its own way, extraordinarily difficult.  Yet each persevered.  Each chose to go forward in obedience to God’s call on their particular lives in faith and confidence in Him alone in spite of the difficulty + suffering that would inevitably follow.  Each woman offered open hands of surrender to her Savior.  Some received recognition + accolades in this life, though most did not and were not truly recognized as “great” until after their deaths.  Yet each made a profound impact upon their generation and the course of history.

This is such a needed reminder for us today.  I think many of us want to live lives that count, many of us want to be “great,” if we would be honest.  But not many of us are willing to suffer.  We desire to have the crown but not the cross.  We forget that the cross always precedes the crown.  We recoil from Jesus’ words: in this life you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

I highly recommend this read!  It is one I will share with my daughters when they are older.  It was inspiring to look at how obedience to God played out in the lives of a passionate teenager, a homeschooling mother, a prolific writer, a seamstress, a nun, a watchmaker’s daughter, and a twice-divorced poet + nun.  It spoke to me of trust in the Lord in the face of affliction.  It reminded me that the path of obedience will most likely be fraught with much adversity.  Often I assume when I encounter resistance that I must have been mistaken in choosing this path, that maybe I have misunderstood God’s will.  My natural flesh recoils at the thought of a call that might lead to my own death.  It is good for me to constantly revisit this, to see it afresh in Scripture, to see it over the course of history in the lives of the men + women of God I so admire.  I need to be reminded of these words from my Savior, especially in a day of ISIS and brutal attacks on humanity, a day where we can expect the hatred toward Christ-followers to increase:

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:19-21)

Maybe not all great lives will involve great suffering, but all great suffering will be greatly used by a God who promises to work it all to the good of those who love Him.

If you need to remember that, if you need to preach to your own soul about the powerful work of God in a small, surrendered life, I think this book would be helpful to you!  Readable, easy to get lost in the story, engaging, convicting, encouraging.


Thanks to HarperCollins Publishing for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.