The Year Of Reading Challenges - Book List For 2018



I don't really make New Year's resolutions, and I kind of gave up on the word-of-the-year thing (for now at least).  But one thing I do enjoy is making reading goals for the year!  You all know how much I love books, so these kinds of New Year goals are less burdensome and more fun.

I have three basic goals for this year:



3. Read 75 books this year.

I read a lot of books anyway, so 75 books won't be too much of a stress.  It comes out to about one more book a month, which I'm hoping will challenge me to spend those spare moments less on scrolling my phone and more on flipping through pages on my Kindle.  But looking at my reading list over the last year, I think I could increase the quality of the books I read.  I'm hoping participating in both of these challenges will help me pay more attention to the kind of books I'm reading, so I can make sure I'm actually growing in some way from my reading.  I especially hope to read better quality fiction books (even though I know I'll still have some light reads on the fiction side, because sometimes you just need some chick lit).  Here are the categories for both of these challenges, and my preliminary picks (which I can almost guarantee will change, but it's good to have a plan).


Jaime Balmet's Christian Women Reading Challenge

I listen to Jaime's podcast and really enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to her reading podcast that will start sometime this year!  Her challenge focuses mostly on Christian non-fiction, and I'm hoping to read some winners in these categories this year!

Practical Homemaking - Three Books

1. Hello Mornings by Kat Lee (already completed, see review here).
2. The More Of Less by Josh Becker (I own the audiobook.)
3. How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

Biblical Womanhood/Marriage - Three Books

1. Housewife Theologian: How The Gospel Interrupts The Ordinary by Aimee Byrd
2. Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur
3. Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph

Parenting/Family Life - Four Books

1. Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Lindenbach (completed - I'll count it here, but it wasn't my favorite. See review here.)
2. Reset For Parents by Todd Friel
3. 30 Ways To Save Your Family In 30 Days by Rebecca Hagelin
4. Six Ways To Keep The Good In Your Boy by Dannah Gresh (I read the companion to this one about girls and it was great.)

5. Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur or Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic (Bonus books since the first book in this category wasn't my favorite.  Both would be re-reads - I know they're good!)

Christian Living - Six Books

1.  You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith (I already started this book and it is excellent!)
2. Adopted For Life by Russel Moore (I own this one and have wanted to read it for a while.)
3. Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
4.  How Then Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson  (I own it, haven't read it.)
5.  Brass Heavens: Reasons For Unanswered Prayer by Paul Tautges
6. Glimpses Of Grace by Gloria Furman (I own it, but I'm not sure if I'm a fan of Furman's style.  I'll give this one a try.)

Theology - Four Books

1. None Like Him by Jen Wilkin (To buy!  I really liked the other book I read by Wilkin, and her Bible studies are great.)
2. Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips (A classic my pastor mentioned years ago that I have wanted to read.)
3. Expository Listening by Ken Ramey
4. The Work Of Christ by R.C. Sproul


Biography - Two Books

1. A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, And A Great War by Joseph Loconte
2. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes (I have the audiobook, which is an ideal way to get through biographies in my opinion.)

Finances - Two Books

1. More Than Just Making It by Erin Odom (Started it, great so far.)
2. Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruz

Christian Classic - One Book

1. Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (the one fiction book on this list, but it counts, right?)

Church History - One Book

1. Still trying to figure this one out.  Suggestions?



Modern Mrs Darcy Challenge

Anne's blog is probably the most prominent book blog out there.  This reading challenge looked fun - I decided to add this challenge into the mix this year since it seems to be more conducive to picking fiction.  Here are her categories, and what I might pick for each.

A Classic You've Been Meaning To Read

-So many choices...I will probably either go with A Tree Grows In Brooklyn or To Kill A Mockingbird.

A Book Recommended By Someone With Great Taste

-Throw me some suggestions, people!

A Book In Translation

-I'm struggling with this one.  I'm thinking of trying My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.

A Book Nominated For An Award In 2018

-To be determined when the nominations are actually made.  But I'll probably be going for a Newberry because I like Children's books for this category since I think they will have less of a chance of being political statements.

A Book Of Poetry, A Play, Or An Essay Collection

-I'm strongly considering tackling a Shakespeare play, since I've never actually read Shakespeare.  Have any of you?

A Book You Can Read In A Day

-I'm just going to fill this in with Love And First Sight by Josh Sundquist, since I already read it and it's definitely doable in a day.  Read my review here.

A Book That's More Than 500 Pages

-Started The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which could also technically count for "a book in translation".  I'm planning on reading a chapter a day until I finish it, which is absolutely doable.  This book is more interesting so far than I thought it would be!

A Book By A Favorite Author

-Definitely The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which was a gift for Christmas from my dear friend Felicia!  

A Book Recommended By A Librarian Or Bookseller

-To be determined when I get up the nerve to actually ask a librarian for a recommendation.

A Banned Book

-Either To Kill A Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 411, both of which I've started and haven't finished because of my bookish ADD.

A Memoir, Biography, Or Book Of Creative Non-Fiction

-It is very likely this category will change, but I'm hoping to either do Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior (about Hannah Moore) or John Adams by David McCullough.

A Book By An Author Of A Different Race/Ethnicity/Religion Than You

-I've been wanting to read more stories from people who escaped North Korea, so I'll be going with The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee for this one.


Both of those challenges should take me through about about 38 books, which means I'll have 37 other books to complete.  I may double up in some categories or do some of Tim Challies reading challenge to keep me reading books that will grow me throughout the year.

What is on your reading list for 2018?  Any recommendations for me?







When It's Right To "Judge" A Fellow Christian



We went back to our community Bible study group this week, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to get together with other believers and study from God's word.  It's been far too long since I've been involved in a Bible study like this, and I'm reminded of that verse about "iron sharpening iron" (Proverbs 27:17).  The discussion time challenges me to think a little more carefully about different biblical topics.

This week the theme that stood out to me was "judging".  We talked about it in Bible study, and then I read this article that brought it to mind again (written from a Catholic perspective, so I don't agree with some things he says, but the underlying point made me think).  

I have thoughts.


18 Books I Would Recommend From My 2017 Shelf



At the end of December, or the first week of January at the latest, everyone posts their favorite books from 2017.  But the fact that I'm posting mine now, solidly in the middle of January, just means that it will stand out more, right?  I'm going to pretend the late date of this post was done purposefully for this reason!  Aren't I so smart?

This last year was a pretty good reading year for me, overall.  I didn't read too many duds, and I have a fairly substantial list of books I think were well worth my time, and yours!  Let's just get started, because this will be a long post.  

The non-fiction list is much longer than the fiction list.  I'm hoping to read more end-of-year-post worthy fiction in 2018.  Click on the links to read my more extensive reviews on Goodreads (including content warnings where applicable).

Non-Fiction

Strange Fire: The Danger Of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur

I had been reading this book through 2016, and finally finished it in 2017.  This book is basically a critique of the modern charismatic movement, particularly the branches that are theologically and biblically unsound (I'm not saying everyone who labels themselves "charismatic" would fall in this group, but it is worth a careful evaluation).  I think MacArthur comes off a bit harsh at times, but I couldn't disagree with anything he said, and I think there is definitely reason for concern about the charismatic movement.  Worth a read because we all should have our eyes open on these issues.


I listened to this as an audiobook, and I regretted not buying a paper copy because I would have been highlighting all over the place!  I love how Wilkin walks us through different pitfalls to avoid in studying the Bible and outlines a sound method for Bible study.  The paperback is definitely on my list to buy, so next time I can go through it with highlighter in hand.


I wish this book was a little more focused so I could give a better summary of it here, but I guess I'll just say that it addresses problems with women's ministries and the way women are often viewed in church, all mixed in with a call to discernment.  It got five stars from me specifically because of the challenge to discernment, and it made me realize the areas that I have been a little lazy with discernment.


One of my more intellectual reads of the year, this book series presents different world religions and what they believe, but does it from a biblical perspective.  It presents Christianity, how these different religions differ from the Christian belief system, and how to witness to people who may be involved in these different religions.  I'm collecting this whole series for my own information, and also to use as a religion/apologetics study for my kids when they reach high school.


This book tackles some tough topics surrounding gender, but I thought it was biblically grounded and really deep.  It gave me so much to think about, and I particularly found the chapter on motherhood to be encouraging.


One of those books that made me want to say "THANK YOU!" throughout, but it also made me think about many of these stories from the Bible in a different way.  Very grounded in a proper interpretation of Scripture, and I thought his tips for avoiding misinterpreting Scripture were right on.



The information in this book was based on a survey of adults who went to church as a child but no longer do, and it was completely fascinating.  Lots of solid information here that parents can apply to training their children, picking a church, etc.  It also may have you thinking about ways you may have compromised God's word, and how that might be affecting your kids.  A great, and possibly convicting, read.


A pleasant reading surprise, this book talks about the biblical view of work, and how our work in the home (which often seems mundane) brings glory to God.  I wished I had read this a year earlier when I was struggling with no longer working outside the home!  I listened to the audiobook and will probably be listening to it again.


One of my reading goals for 2017 was to read more about the Cold War.  I got distracted by the whole having-a-baby thing and didn't read as much as I wanted to on this subject, but I did read this book and it sucked me in!  A narrative non-fiction from a former KGB spy.  It was fascinating to read about the process of becoming a spy, and I loved that it ended with his testimony of coming to Christ.  Great read!


This was another one of my pleasant surprises of the year.  I had never heard about this author, and was unsure of this book, but it was excellent!  A solid look at the history of the Bible, why we can trust the it is the Word of God, and lots of great Bible Study tips!  I'll be reading this one again.


I didn't agree with every point in this book, but overall I found Merkle's message really encouraging! I love the idea that we as women could do so much more with our work in the home if we would just throw ourselves into it, instead of pining after the same roles as men.  And Merkle has quite a high view of women and their abilities that is evident in this book, so don't get your hackles up before you give it a read.  I'll probably be coming back to this one.


This was a really fascinating look at the feminist movement and some of the consequences that we are just starting to see now.  This made an interesting companion read to Eve In Exile because it looked at feminism from a slightly different perspective.  Of course I liked both of these books because I am decidedly not a feminist in the modern sense, so if you consider yourself a feminist, prepare to be challenged (and probably offended).  Just warning you now.



Fiction

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

This one was difficult to read because of emotional reasons, and it had some content issues, but I don't know, I thought it was worth mentioning here.  The story follows an autistic girl in the foster system, and her struggles to find her "forever home".  Sweet and suspenseful, sad, but the ending was hopeful and I liked that.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

Have you ever watched "The Wonder Years"?  This book reminded me of that show, except I like this book better!  Holling Hoodhood finds himself stuck in class alone on Wednesday afternoons with a teacher who doesn't seem to like him, but we get to see how his studies and activities on those Wednesday afternoons help him grow up over the course of the year.  I loved this book so much I went right out and grabbed the companion book, Okay For Now.

Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt

I loved this book too!  Similar in type to The Wednesday Wars, this one follows Holling's friend Doug as he moves to a new town.  Doug stumbles upon the library and an original volume from Audubon, and between learning to draw the birds and his friendship with the girl he met in front of the library, he starts to make the most of his less than ideal circumstances.  The ending of this one seemed just right to me, happy, but a little bittersweet too.


This one was purely for fun!  Some content issues, but a funny and happy read.  The main character goes to "Austenland", a resort that puts it's guests into the world of Jane Austen.  I don't think I really need to say more than that.  I also liked the sequel, Midnight In Austenland which was more of a mystery.  Both of these would be fun summer reads!

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Have you seen the movie?  The book is basically the same as the movie, and I loved them both!  I'm a sucker for a good coming of age story.  

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My first Kate Morton, and basically the best novel I read all year!  (Well, maybe tied with The Wednesday Wars/Okay For Now.)  The main character saw her mother kill a man when she was a teenager, and the story follows her investigation to figure out what really happened that day.  This book will surprise you!  I loved it.

All of these books are ones I would recommend to a friend!  But now, friends, what would you recommend to me? What should I add to my reading list in 2018?  

What were your favorites from last year?



Why I Wear Makeup



The first time I wore makeup I was 13, and I was getting ready to go to an event with my Bible study group.  We had just gone shopping for some back-to-school clothes earlier in the day, and for some reason my mom decided I was old enough for a little mascara.  I remember feeling so grown-up and pretty, headed off the the event wearing makeup for the first time.  There have been many times since then that I was grateful to my mom for introducing makeup and teaching me how to apply it, especially as I grew and encountered people who didn't share my feelings about makeup.

I remember being bewildered the first time I heard someone say they felt makeup was akin to lying.  I also didn't know how to respond when a friend stopped wearing makeup after her daughter was born, saying she didn't want to show her daughter by example that she wouldn't be pretty without it.

Honestly, I'm still not sure what to say about those arguments.  I suppose everyone has their own reasons for wearing, or not wearing, makeup. All I can really speak to is why I, personally, like to wear makeup, so that's what this post is about.  It's not an argument for why you should or should not wear makeup, it's basically some philosophical (and some silly) thoughts from someone who actually likes makeup quite a lot! 

Arguments Against Makeup

First I thought I'd address my take on the two arguments against makeup that I mentioned above, because though those arguments made me stop and think, they didn't make me quit it.

"Makeup is lying.  You are trying to make someone think you look better than you do."  

This argument didn't really stick for me because it's not as if I'm putting on makeup and then trying to tell people I'm not wearing any, that I'm just naturally this beautiful (ha!).  I assume they'll notice that I'm wearing makeup, and I wouldn't really have it any other way. If we're going to use this argument, we might as well extend it to clothes and say that choosing a flattering cut is "lying", and you must wear clothing that shows all your lumps and bumps if you're going to be honest.  Don't brush your teeth with mint-flavored toothpaste, or you might be "lying" by giving someone the idea that your breath naturally smells that good.  Sorry, it just doesn't fly.

"If I wear makeup, my daughters will think they need makeup to be beautiful."  

I was honestly a little taken aback with this argument when I first heard it, and I didn't know what to think.  I can see why my friend started thinking this way, but I came at makeup from such a different perspective that I couldn't agree.  My own mom wore makeup, and she taught us girls how to wear makeup, and I honestly never thought I was less beautiful without it because of something my mom said when she introduced makeup to me.  I vividly remember her telling me that makeup done right doesn't "make you beautiful" but rather enhances the beauty that is already there.  I took that to heart and always approached makeup with that in mind.

Why I Wear Makeup

So without further ado, the reasons I personally wear makeup, and why I'll show my girls how to wear it too.

I think it's fun.  

This is probably the most superficial reason why I choose to wear makeup, but nevertheless, it's true.  Over the years I've experimented with different makeup looks, found my favorite makeup products, and I honestly just find the whole thing pretty satisfying and fun.  For some women makeup is a an artistic expression, and while I wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about myself, I do appreciate the skill it takes to do it right.

I feel more ready for the day with makeup on.  

I got an email newsletter from Diana Kerr (a blogger I follow who is also a life coach) this week, and was reminded of this point.  I've heard it said many times that most people are more productive if they get dressed for the day instead of just staying in their pajamas.  Their brains takes getting dressed as the queue to get started with the rest of the day, and it's harder to get going without it.  Like it or not, makeup has become a similar queue for me.  On days where I don't do my makeup I typically am more tempted to be lazy.  When I wear makeup, I'm more ready to get on with my day and be productive.

I especially like the point Diana made about what effect our taking care with our appearance might have on how we serve the Lord.  Will we use our days to serve Him better when we feel more prepared to face the day?  And does makeup play a part in that?  Not for everyone perhaps, but for me, I think makeup might actually make a difference here too (as weird as it is to type that out).

We live in a sin-cursed world, and that does, unfortunately, affect our faces.  

We age.  We get wrinkles.  We experience sun-damage.  We get tired or dehydrated.  All things that wouldn't necessarily have happened pre-Fall, but things we have to deal with now.  I struggled a bit with this point when sitting down to write this point, because what exactly should we do about this anyway?  Is it just vanity, a "chasing after the wind" to try to counteract the effects of a fallen world on our faces?  It does feel vain in a way, but another part of me doesn't think it is necessarily wrong to try to bring out our natural, God-given beauty even while fighting against the impact of the effects of sin on our skin and hair.

As in so many things, a lot depends upon the attitude with which we use makeup.  Certainly makeup can be used in a vain, prideful way, but does it follow that makeup is always used that way?  I don't really think so.  I read something in Eve In Exile by Rebecca Merkle that made me think about this a little differently.  Running throughout that book is this theme that one area that God often gifts women is an ability to take something and improve it, make it beautiful. Overall, Merkle applied the idea to much more meaningful things, like bringing beauty and reflecting Christ into our homes and families.  But the idea really stuck with me, because I think it explains some of my (and many women's) love of beauty, and desire to take something less then attractive and bring some beauty to it.  That could show up in hobbies like photography or other art forms, in the way we decorate our houses, the way we cultivate gardens, or yeah, maybe even in the way we use makeup.  And I don't really think that's a bad thing, if we can avoid focusing on our own glory in the process of using makeup and rather try to bring glory to God by taking care with our appearance.  Something to think about. I'm still mulling it over.

When Makeup Goes Wrong

I started thinking about this post in the first place because I somehow found myself in a section of the library next to all the books about makeup.  Weirdly, I didn't know there was such a section, even being a fan of makeup myself.  "How fun!" I thought to myself, and grabbed a couple of the books to peruse at home.  

I read a few chapters, and I have to tell you, something just wasn't sitting quite right.  I wondered if I should really be spending all this time thinking about my outward appearance.  Not to be cliche or anything, but there is that whole verse: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Now, I don't think that verse is necessarily saying that the way we present ourselves outwardly doesn't matter at all.  There is, after all, the Proverbs 31 woman who looks after the outward appearance of herself and her family, dressing them in "scarlet" and herself in "fine linen and purple", and she is commended for it.  We are representatives of our families and ultimately of Christ to a watching world, so being a slob is certainly not a virtue.  But the idea, talked about further in 1 Peter 3:3-4 is that we should take care to cultivate a good character above worrying about how we look.  

So I started thinking, how does the time allotment compares when it comes to caring for my outer appearance and taking care to cultivate "gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in God's sight"?  Do I spend more time doing my makeup (and fixing my hair and getting dressed) each day than I do reading God's Word?  Maybe that's a problem.  I think the most significant way I use makeup wrongly is by getting distracted by it and focusing too much on my physical appearance.  I often want to look good for other people, so that I will feel good about myself, and so I prioritize applying makeup.  

This is the one reason I wear makeup that I feel is the wrong, and even a sinful, reason.

Going forward, I am hoping to think about these things further and make sure that I am approaching makeup with the right attitude as a Christian woman - and especially making sure I am prioritizing time in God's Word over applying makeup in the morning.  Because a good thing to remember is that for those of us who put our trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, someday this old, sin-affected body will be replaced with a perfect, glorified body, with a glorified face, and there will be no reason to put makeup on.  I think it's fine to wear makeup while I'm here, but it's certainly not the most important thing.  It's infinitely more important to make sure I'm investing in things that will last when makeup no longer matters at all.

So what do you think about all this?  Do you wear makeup?  What role do things like makeup play in our walk with the Lord?







Hello, January




Watch out World, I finally discovered I can narrate blog posts into my phone whilst doing something else! This is how it works. I'm currently narrating into my Notes app while driving to the gym (don't worry, it's hands-free with the little microphone on my earbuds). When I get to the gym I have a big mess of a paragraph with no punctuation, but the bones are there, and I edit while I ride the stationary bike. Multi-tasking at its finest! No, I don't get as good of a workout in while tapping on my phone, but what can I say, blogging is worth it to me.

I've been meaning to write another old-fashioned blog post like this for a couple months, but it just doesn't seem to get done between figuring out how to take care of all five kids while homeschooling, so this is my solution for now. 


Back To School

Speaking of homeschooling, as of the second week of January we started school again for the first time since Georgie was born. Five days a week until the end of May will get all of our required days in before summer. That seems pretty good to me considering I took two months off for "maternity leave". I find myself putting a lot more effort and creativity into homeschooling the last couple weeks, more than I did last fall. I think I underestimated the amount of energy that being pregnant took out of me at the start of the year. Even though I have a newborn now, I feel like I'm able to put so much more into our days without getting worn out.

I shared my homeschool bullet journal on Instagram last week (don't worry if you missed it, I will have a blog post about my homeschool bullet journal in the months to come once I refine my process a bit more). So far this method is working like a charm! I really love keeping track of what we're doing this way, and I'm finding it really motivating to write down everything with my highlighting method to make sure we're getting a good variety of subjects in each week. Some homeschool moms really seem to thrive on a weekly schedule for different subjects, but I am doing better with just having weekly goals for our subjects and squeezing them in wherever it happens to work for that week. We've accomplished so much more with this flexible method than we did when I was trying to schedule our whole week out.

Family Outings And My Toy Strategy
Let's see, what else? We've had some fun weekends so far this January. We took a weekend road trip into the mountains and did a short hike with the kids. It was freezing cold, but I tucked Georgie into my Solly wrap, and she was asleep within two minutes, despite my frozen fingers.  It was nice to get outside. It's so beautiful in the mountains, even in the winter. 










We also took a trip to the stock show on MLK Jr. Day. The stock show is a family tradition going back to when I was a kid myself. It's fun to take the kids now and show them all the animals and wander through all the vendors together (and sometimes go to a rodeo, though not this year). We ended up getting the kids some really sturdy metal toys so they can set up their own little ranch. The set was expensive, but it came with a tractor and three trailers, and fence pieces that fit together, and a cow. The kids have been playing with it nonstop since we got it. We feel a little sheepish for spending so much on it right after Christmas, but this is a toy set that will last through all our kids, and probably even until we have grandkids. It's also an easy set to add to, which is something I'm working toward with the kids' toy collections. I don't know about you, but I really don't like getting random little toys for the kids that will break two months down the road.  I'm trying to narrow all the kids' toys down to a few categories that can be added to - like this ranch set, Legos, pieces to the boys' train set, Calico Critters, and eventually Barbies (yes, I'm getting my girls Barbies - I'm not one of those anti-Barbie people).

A New Bible Study
In more recent news, we did try a Community Bible Study in our area this week. When I was a child we went to our local CBS for years.  In case you might have forgotten, I was homeschooled from fourth grade through high school. CBS was one of the ways we got in our social interaction and Bible curriculum (all at once!). I have so many fond memories of those Bible study days, and I am still in touch with some of the friends I met then.

So I have known for a while that I wanted to get involved again when my kids reached grade school. I decided now was the time. On Wednesday we tried it out, and the kids LOVED it.  It was so cute to hear them talking in the backseat on the drive home, all about the Bible lesson, and what they played in the gym, and the snacks they had. I was also surprised when I went into the sanctuary for the concluding lecture to see Clyde, onstage, dressed in a furry robe. He was acting out John the Baptist for all the moms!  He was waving at me and blowing kisses. That's Clyde for you, my little extrovert! I am looking forward to next week.


This is where I would normally start talking books (because when do I NOT feel like blabbing about what I'm reading?), but I have an entire post waiting in my drafts about my reading plans for the year. I am hoping to have a little blogging time in the morning on Saturday (Derek is so sweet and lets me escape to the coffee shop every now and then).  I have several posts in the works, which makes me want to ask a weird question: which post should I try to get up next week?  My blogging time these days is limited. I'll let you all choose, if you have an opinion...you can help me prioritize!







What I'm Drinking: Coffee with Southern Butter Pecan creamer (because I forgot I was supposed to bring it to our mom's group yesterday - whoops).

What are you drinking on this fine Friday morning?  How is your January going so far?

How I Use Bullet Journaling



Every year in January, I head to Target and buy a new, crisp planner.

And every year I use said planner for approximately 2.3 weeks before my motivation to get organized peters out and I forget about it.

I am one of those people who likes the idea of a planner, especially the ones with monthly goal sheets and weekly layouts - but when it comes to actually using the planner, I usually find that all my organizational hopes are disappointed.  I stare at the blank lines and want so much to fill them in, but I usually end up writing stuff in those spaces just so the blank space won't be staring at me, or not using it at all and feeling like I failed somehow.  I've never been able to find a planner that is structured enough to help me stay organized and motivated without being too restrictive for my actual life.  

So despite dropping a twenty on a pretty planner, I usually still end up with random pieces of paper in a pile on my counter with scribbled to-do lists, book lists, quotes, and reminders.

However, I'm happy to report that all that changed last fall when I finally figured out what people meant by "bullet journaling".  

A few days before Georgiana was born, I was walking through our newly remodeled library and saw a new wall with displays of DIY books.  I stopped to skim, and found a book called Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.  The subtitle said How To Start and Keep The Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That'll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together.  Honestly it just kind of looked pretty, so I picked it up for fun and started flipping through it in the car.  



I realized almost immediately that this was the planning and organization system I have been looking for!

Basically a bullet journal is a self-made planner and diary that can be anything you want it to be because you are the one who organizes it.  There are really no rules to it except the ones you make for your own journal.

I told Derek that I needed to give this a try, and we spent an afternoon driving around in search of a dot-grid journal.  On Sunday I finally got one, and I sat down to start getting my journal set up just as my labor contractions started.  I ended up bringing my bullet journal to the hospital with me, and one of my first pages is a timeline of my labor and delivery with Georgie!

To get a solid grasp on the system, you can check out the official bullet journaling website for free, but I highly recommend checking out Dot Journaling, because to me, it made the whole things seem more doable.  But that said, here is a little tour of my bullet journal to give you an idea of what it is.

Key

A page with a code for any of the symbols you choose to use in your journal (see "Daily Entries").

Index

Most bullet journals have an index, where you record what is on each page of your journal.  This makes it easier to find something later.  I guess some people write down the page numbers each time they mention different topics, but I think that sounds like too much work, so my index is pretty straight-forward.



Yearly Calendar

This is a calendar of the year, just for reference.  I have mine set up so I can write in dates of holidays, birthdays, etc. under each month.



Collections

In my journal, these are ongoing lists that I know I'll be adding to frequently.  I have:

1. Books To Read page
2. Books To Buy page, 
3. Products To Try page
4. New Words page (an idea I got from the Dot Journaling book that has proved really useful).

Trackers

I have a few pages dedicated to trackers for habits I want to nurture every day of the year.  In my journal these are:

1. Bible/Prayer Time Tracker
2. Exercise Tracker
3. Read-Aloud Tracker

The tracking pages are something I would like to be more consistent in using.  I have found that I haven't been updating my trackers that well, which kind of defeats the purpose.  I'll see how it goes over the next few months and evaluate if I think I'm using these enough to include them in my next journal.



Monthly Pages

In my journal, these pages are a calendar for the month where I write in events, doctor's appointments, etc (this was really useful to have in December).  It's nice to have my calendar all laid out and organized in a book I can carry in my purse, instead of just on the wall at home.  And I know they make pocket calendars, but I never use those.  For some reason I do use the calendars in my bullet journal.



For my monthly view I also have been including a habit/mood/health tracker, with categories like:

1. Drank 2 glasses of water.
2. Drank coffee.
3. Took a nap.
4. Had a migraine.
5. Feeling sad, irritable, anxious, happy, etc.

Once again, I feel like I haven't been as consistent as I would like with tracking my habits.  I would like to get better at this because if I could keep track, I think it would help me figure out some triggers for different health and mood related things (like migraines, being irritable, etc).  But the great thing about bullet journaling is that if I don't feel like I get the hang of it over the next couple months, if it's not working for me, I'll just drop it.


Daily Entries

In my journal I don't have any weekly planning pages since I don't find them particularly useful - I just skip right to my daily entries, which I organize with a to-do list at the top and notes about my day underneath that.

The night before I write the date and to-do list for the next day (with little dots next to each task).  I always have an idea of what I want to accomplish the next day, but in the past this list has just resided in my head or on random scraps of paper around my house.  I frequently forgot things.  It's been great to have all my to-do's in a central location - they don't get lost this way!

In the evening I cross out the things on my list that I finished (with an "x"), migrate things forward (with the > symbol) to the next day if I didn't get them done, or cancel them (with a slash mark).  

After that I write little dashes underneath with my notes about the day.  This is the "diary" part of my bullet journal.  I just write down whatever I did that day, and I can (briefly) include my feelings about it or not.  It's just a record of my day.  There have been a couple times so far when something was bothering me and I spent more time writing about it in this section too, but usually this note-taking only takes me a few minutes at night.  

Not everyone necessarily uses their journals this way, but I really like the idea of being able to look back on my daily entries years down the road.  I've often said the same thing about my blog - it's nice to look back on old blog posts, and this to me is like a mini version of that, filled with the things that no one will find interesting but me, or things that I might not find time to blog about (not everything can make it onto the blog).  

Now, I don't do a daily entry every single day.  Some days I'm just too tired, some days I forget, but once again, the beauty of a bullet journal is that whenever you miss a day, there is no blank paper staring at you, making you feel guilty (or is that just me?).  One entry just goes right after another, even if a week has passed.

Quote Pages

I wanted a place to write quotes that I like, but the problem is that I don't know how many quotes I will find before my journal fills up.  I didn't know how many pages to assign quotes, so I decided to put these pages in the back of my journal.  I've been reading books with a stack of index cards handy, I write down the quotes that I like.  I either transfer the quotes to these back pages or tape the index cards directly onto the pages, starting with the very last page and working backward.  When my daily entries and the quote pages meet, I'll be ready for a new journal.

Other Pages

Scattered in the midst of my daily entries are random pages that I just make whenever the thought strikes me.  Examples are:

1. Sermon Notes pages.  I take my journal to church each Sunday and make a page for my sermon notes.  This way they aren't on a paper that I'll just end up throwing away!
2. Random lists.  For example, I made a page with a list of all the gifts we got for Georgie in the hospital.
3. Grocery lists.  Yep, just sandwiched right in between my daily pages.
4. Budget pages.  I just started including budget pages, so I'm hoping to refine these a bit more, but so far I have stuck a monthly budget page in whenever the monthly bills have get paid off (sometime during the first week of each month).




This is where I can see how a bullet journal wouldn't be useful for some people.  Those with more of a type A, it-has-to-be-perfectly-organized personalities would probably go crazy sticking a random page in their journal like this.  But those type of people also probably do just fine with traditional planners.  For people like me, this is the beauty of bullet journaling!  I can write down whatever I want, anywhere in the journal, enter it in the index so I can find it later, and there are no blank pages!  I also cannot overstate the benefit of the amount of paper clutter this has eliminated from my kitchen counter.

Doesn't It Have To Be Pretty?

No.  Also, stop looking at bullet journals on Pinterest.

My journal is not very pretty.  My handwriting isn't very attractive, and I still have not developed any lettering skills. I have a bunch of mistakes crossed out.  I don't have any doodles.  I try to jazz up some pages with washi tape, but that's about it.  My bullet journal is very functional, and I like it that way, and I don't feel the need to make my pages Pinterest-worthy.  If you want to make your journal all pretty with your artistic skills, definitely do!  But don't let a lack of artistic skills stop you from giving it a try.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

First I'd recommend trying to get Dot Journaling from the library, because she has so many ideas for ways to use your journal.  My ideas here are just a small sampling, and it's quite possible you'd find a bunch of useful things that will work better for you than what I listed here.  You get to make your journal whatever you want it to be!

After you read that book, if bullet journaling is for you, you'll probably be itching to get started (and if not, that's okay).  Technically after that you only need a notebook and a pen to get started, but this is what I actually use:

1. A dot-grid journal.  I like having a dot-grid because it allows me to more easily make calendar pages, and it helps keep my handwriting straight.  I also think the pages look cleaner without lines cluttering it up (at least when you have my handwriting, which looks a little slapdash as it is).
2. My favorite pens.  I like .5 mm pens.
3. A ruler (for making calendar pages).
4. A couple colored markers or highlighters (optional: just to make it prettier).
5. Washi tape (also totally optional, makes the pages prettier since I don't have a level of artistic ability that would be acceptable to me).

Why I Like It

As I said before, I don't think every personality type is conducive to bullet journaling.  People like me, who want to be more organized but don't care if everything is perfectly organized, probably would do better with this system.  This is why I personally like bullet journaling (if you didn't already gather my reasons from the rest of this post):

1. No blank pages.  One of the reasons planners never worked for me is that I get discouraged by the blank pages when I miss a day, or just don't have anything to put in certain sections.  There is none of that with bullet journaling because I only make the pages I think I will use, and I can drop them if I don't.

2. Less paper clutter.  I used to write all my random lists on random pieces of paper that would eventually end up in the trash or stuffed in my junk drawer.  Now I can either add those random notes to an already-existing list, or make a new one, and my to-do lists are organized in my daily entries.

3.  Everything is in one place.  My calendars, to-do lists, grocery lists, budget notes, quotes - they are all in one handy little volume that I can fit into my purse.  Things don't get lost.  I'm less likely to forget things.

4. I feel more organized and productive.  The daily to-do list setup has worked really well to keep me on task and help me not forget things that need to be done.

5. I have a record of daily life.  I know I'm going to find it interesting to look back on my day-to-day life when a few years have passed.  My daily entries have daily events, but they also have little things the kids did (or other things I want to remember) that never would have been recorded if I didn't have a bullet journal.

Will you like it for the same reasons as me?  Maybe, but it's quite possible that you will like bullet journaling for entirely different reasons, because I doubt you will end up using yours in exactly the same way I do!  Bullet journaling, in the end, is whatever you want to make it, and that's what I find fun about it. 

Do you have a bullet journal?  How do you use yours?






Hello Mornings Book Review - Well, Rats



2.5/5 stars

So, this book did not make a great first impression on me.  Here we go.

Negatives

My main issue with this book is that I felt from the very first chapter the gospel was presented very weakly, or even misrepresented because of ommission of the key points of the gospel.  Kat Lee opens the book with this explanation:

“Friends, I don’t know where you are in your journey with God.  I don’t know how many times you’ve tried to spend time with Him or read the Word or prayed and felt as if you failed.  But I do know that He does not merely stand at the finish line awaiting your triumphant victory.  Our loving God, our faithful Father, is fighting to come alongside you in the journey.  To push past all the discouragements and distractions.  To speak words of love, hope, and courage over you. To wrap His arms around you and finish the race with you.  Because of Jesus, God does not require our perfection; He wants a relationship with us.”

This is all good and fine if she is speaking exclusively to fellow Christians, but I fear that for the many non-Christians that may be reading this book, she leaves out any real explanation of the gospel here.  I kept looking for a fuller explanation, and Lee never got there.  The truth is that God does require our perfection, but we are wholly unable to attain perfection, and that is why Jesus came - to cover our filthy sin with His perfect righteousness when we quit trying to save ourselves and put our trust in Him.  That is why we who trust in Jesus no longer have to worry about perfection and can have a relationship with God.  To me, she really missed the boat on explaining that here.  

It didn’t help when later in the chapter she mentioned that some women reading this book may have had a great life and "wish they felt like they needed Jesus a little more".  If a Christian is feeling that way I’m not sure they really understand the weight of their sin.  Even if we haven’t had a single difficult thing to deal with in our entire lives, we are still in desperate need of Jesus because of our sin!  We can't be righteous enough to be in a right relationship with God on our own.  This is the problem Jesus came to solve!  He didn’t come mainly to help us through the difficult seasons of life or to overcome our feelings of a lack of purpose, and I am afraid the way Lee presented things in this chapter gave the impression that this is all we need Jesus for. 

Positives

Once I got past this frustration in the first couple chapters, I thought Lee had a lot of good things to say about developing a morning routine.  I definitely appreciated her tips about how to develop habits effectively.  She gives a lot of ideas for different habit-forming methods and how you can apply them to developing morning routine.

The Hello Mornings method focuses on three areas for a morning routine - time with the Lord, time to plan the day, and a jumpstart for making physically healthy choices during the day.  I thought this was a thoughtful way to focus a morning routine in a short amount of time.  She encourages developing a three-minute morning routine with these three things.  While that sounds like it wouldn't be enough time, I liked the idea of having an "anchor" habit so that whether I have only those three minutes or a much longer stretch of time, I can start the day off right.

I also really appreciated how Lee focuses on the "why" of developing a morning routine, which is to serve the Lord better through focusing on Him first thing, making a plan to be effective for Him that day, and developing healthy habits so we have enough energy to serve the Lord well.  The section at the back of the book where Lee includes different ideas for Bible study time was also a great thing to include, and I thought these suggestions were really solid.  

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that I'm a little bummed about this book.  This would have been a higher-star-rating for me if it wasn't for my frustrations about the way she didn't explain the gospel.  

While I can understand that she was mainly writing this book for Christian women, I don't think any Christian author should assume their readers already know the gospel, especially when it's a book about a subject that would be of interest to non-believers as well.  I thought that because she didn't explain the gospel it gave the impression that she was saying that if you just "spend time with God" each day, you're good to go.  That's just not the case.  We need to trust in Jesus's sacrifice for us on the cross and His righteousness to save us from our sins and an eternity in Hell.  Only when we understand that, and stop relying on our own works to save us, can we have a relationship with Him and look forward to eternal life.  That piece was missing from this book, so I wouldn't recommend it to someone who I didn't feel was a solid believer already.  So that was a bummer.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Dimples - Georgie At Two Months



We officially have a smiling baby!

Georgie smiled a little bit at me before she turned a month old, but this month she has become a lot more generous with her smiles! Have I mentioned she has the best little dimples?  (See the smiling pictures on my Instagram!)

Growth

Georgie is supposed to go in for a two month old visit, but I haven't got it scheduled yet so I'm not sure how much she weighs.  However, she has definitely started to grow out of some of her pajamas already.  I feel like she barely got a chance to wear some of her clothes!  She's in 0-3 month clothes, but some of them are still a little too big.  My girl has long arms and legs, but she's a not chunky at all, so things are usually loose on her.

One thing that is really growing is her eyelashes!  I could see her little eyelashes when she was born, but they were blond and pretty short.  They have darkened up a lot over the last month and are probably a good quarter inch long at least!  

Her feet are still pretty tiny, so we're not in shoes yet.  She wears a size one diaper, but it's honestly still a smidge big.

Eating

She eats every three hours or so during the day, and seems to be doing really well with nursing.  I have figured out though that spicy food does not agree with her.  Whenever I eat something spicy she is so uncomfortable the next day.  It's sad!

Sleeping

Georgie is a little dream baby when it comes to sleeping.  I usually put her down between 7-8 PM, and she sleeps until anywhere from 8-10 AM.  That's right, she sometimes sleeps for 14 HOURS straight!  The blessing of this is not lost on me.  We've got to be some of the most well-rested parents of a newborn around (and when we're not, it's not because Georgie isn't sleeping). Don't worry, I know it's all going to change in another couple months.  I'm enjoying it while I can.

Firsts

Derek is sure he heard Georgie laugh at Gwendolyn the other day when she was talking to her.  I did not hear it, but it's quite possible this happened!  Georgie loves all her siblings, and I'm constantly catching her grinning and crinkling her cheeks and nose at her brothers and sisters.

Georgie also rolled from back to front twice.  How did she manage that?  Back to front is the hard one!  I don't think it was intentional, but yes, technically she rolled over this month.

We obviously also celebrated Georgie's first Christmas, which was sweet!


Personality

Since she started smiling more this month, I feel like we are starting to get a little glimpse of her personality.  She smiles easiest when you just sit there and talk to her. She loves to be talked to, and sometimes she'll coo in response!   

She usually likes to be held, but if she has her wubbanub pacifier she will lay on the couch by herself too.  She wraps her little arm around the stuffed animal part and just looks around at everything while she works on her pacifier.  If she doesn't have her wubbanub, she usually ends up sucking on her finger, or even sometimes on the corner of her own lip!  (It's pretty darn cute.)

She likes her carseat pretty well and takes nice naps whenever we have to drive somewhere in the car.  If I wear her in our wrap carrier she almost immediately falls asleep.  She likes to be snuggled close, and she likes to be warm (even though her normal body temperature runs on the high end of normal anyway). 

If she is unhappy, it's usually only when I waited too long (according to her) to get her up in the mornings.  I'll go in and apologize while I unwrap her from her swaddle, and she just looks at me and juts out her lower lip in the most pathetically cute frown you've ever seen.  She forgives me pretty quickly though!

---

Dear Georgiana Bea,

My darling girl, I love this age with you so much!  You've got the adorable smiles and facial expressions, but you are still my snuggly newborn girl.  Even though our house is always busy (that's what you get when you're the fifth baby), I take any opportunity I can to just sit down and hold you.  Your tiny little body just relaxes into me, and I love it when you'll take a nap in my arms.  Your eyelashes are long enough to brush your cheeks, and I kiss your little eyes while you sleep.  I think you are getting used to the abundance of kisses now - you get them from six people in this house!

One of my favorite things about this month though was when I knew you recognized me.  I had run out somewhere, and when I got back, Daddy was holding you.  You were hungrier than expected and not a happy camper.  I came in and said your name, and your eyes locked onto my face and you jerked toward me and made this little hiccup sound.  Now darling, you love your daddy a whole bunch, but in that moment you leaned toward me! I grabbed you and you melted against my shoulder like you always do, snuggling your soft little cheek against my neck.  I think that was my favorite moment this month.  I wish I could bottle up the way it feels to hold little two-month-old you in my arms.  I love you so much, sweet girl.

Love Always,

Mama


Why I Didn't Rebel Book Review - Meh





It was sheer curiosity that prompted me to pick up Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach. The subtitle states that the book is written by a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager and I was also a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager, so I wanted to see if our experiences were similar.


I thought the author presented some interesting reminders in this book. I could relate to a lot of the points she made because a lot of the things that she experienced in her family were things my parents also did.  I think this book may offer some value in helping parents to start thinking about how they can aid of their children in not rebelling (or how they may inadvertently push them toward rebellion). So many of her points had to do with building a strong family unit through communication, traditions, and a family identity, and I thought she had great things to say on these subjects (though her "evidence" is almost purely anecdotal).

However, there were some areas where I felt that the author's lack of experience on the parenting side started to show. I am a millennial who is a little further down this road because I have children of my own now. Coming at this as a parent of young children, I felt that some topics that she tried to cover can be a bit more complicated than she made them out to be. A good example is the chapter on discipline. Entire books have been written on the topic of discipline from many different perspectives, including different strategies than the ones she presented in this book. I felt that she oversimplified that whole topic and didn't take into account viewpoints that were different than her own.  I was also surprised that she didn't mention any biblical principals in this chapter, because God obviously has something to say in the matter of how to train children. The only mention of Scripture here was an expert's opinion on why he thinks the Bible doesn't advise spanking (which people obviously also have a lot of opinions on, but only one side was presented). A huge opportunity was missed here to make this whole book more biblically grounded, so I found that disappointing.

(It also irked me when she stated her opinion that it was better not to focus on what are right and wrong decisions when talking to teens, but rather what is "smart or dumb". Why can't we include both? I think it is more effective to include both angles, so I disagreed with her here.)

The further I got into this book, the more something started to bug me.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it until the last chapter, and I think it boiled down to two things.  First, I felt that the way she presented her points in this book came off very formulaic, as if doing certain things would almost guarantee that your kids wouldn't "rebel".  And while I thought a lot of her advice was good, I finally figured out why her approach was bugging me - it's because overall, this book felt very weak to me on the Gospel.  The author mentions "authentic" Christianity, and even repentance or forgiveness of "mistakes", but it is never tied together into a full picture - that ALL children are naturally rebellious against God.  That's called sin.  And in order to not rebel against us, they first need to stop rebelling against God, turn from their sin, and believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness to cover the debt of their sins that they cannot pay.  

If our children aren't first truly saved, it doesn't matter one wit if they don't "rebel" in the traditional sense - they are still lost in their sins, and that is the most serious rebellion of all.  I thought the author was perhaps trying to communicate that with her "authentic Christianity" talk, but it sounded like a bunch of buzz words, and to me, she failed to communicate what should be the main point for Christian parents, which is communicating the Gospel effectively to our children in every way we can, in word and deed. 

So overall, I don't know, maybe I'm being a little hard on this book, but something didn't sit right. I won't be recommending this book.  I feel there are more complete resources for Christian parents out there.

(If you are looking for a more biblically grounded book about raising children, including preventing rebellion and teaching them how to trust Jesus as their Savior, I highly recommend John MacArthur's Successful Christian Parenting.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.
© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.