Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts

Evangelism Is Scary



Confession: I've been a Christian for over 20 years, but I struggle with evangelism.  A lot.  I know I'm not alone in this, because I've recently heard a statistic that only 2% of the church shares their faith on a regular basis.  Yikes!  That's embarrassing.

I like to think that sharing the gospel in written form on this blog counts for something, but let's be honest, if I really are about those around me who are headed for Hell, I should be willing to speak up in person too.  But I get scared, and I don't know what to say.  It's a problem.  I've been feeling convicted about this for a couple years, but it's so hard to know where to start.

After praying about this for a while, I feel like the Lord brought a couple resources into my life in the last few months that are making me feel a lot less terrified of evangelizing.  I was going to share about all this in one of my life update posts, but then I thought, hey, evangelism is an important enough topic that it certainly deserves it's own post.  And I know some of you out there have the same struggles as me.  Speak up in the comments!


Resource #1 - Wretched Radio

In December we started listening to a podcast called Wretched Radio.  Derek and I are officially hooked now.  Todd Friel, the host, has a sarcastic sense of humor that is entertaining, but the meat of his ministry is all tied back to the importance of the gospel and evangelism.  We don't always agree with his style or word choice, but he's very grounded on God's word.  Each week he does a "Witness Wednesday" episode, where he gets random people on the radio and witnesses to them right there.  Just hearing how someone else witnesses to people, in real conversations, has made me feel so much more prepared for the moment when I might get a chance to witness to someone myself.  And feeling prepared is half the battle, right?

Resource #2 - Living Waters

On a related note, Friel started this part of the podcast with Ray Comfort, who has a whole Youtube channel where he witnesses to strangers.  His boldness in sharing the gospel is so inspiring, and makes the whole thing seem less scary and more doable.  Derek and I could sit for hours and watch his witnessing videos.  You can see all those here, but be prepared to get sucked in for a ridiculous amount of time.

Resource #3 - Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur

I've mentioned Successful Christian Parenting before, but this is my go-to book for refocusing on evangelizing my children - who are the people I want to point to the Lord the most, for obvious reasons!  That's really the whole point of Christian parenting.  I think this book would be great in particular for anyone who has children in their life that they want to lead to Jesus, even if you aren't a parent yet, and the approach he explains in this book would be helpful in witnessing to someone of any age.  I'm reading it again this year.

---

Evangelism is one of those things that I think a lot of us put off because we don't think we have the "gift" of evangelism.  But the thing about spiritual gifts is that they are often things that we are supposed to do whether we have a "gift" for it or not.  We're all supposed to be practicing discernment, hospitality, mercy, etc.  And we're all supposed to be evangelizing.  Plus, this is purely a guess, but I imagine that since we know God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He probably has gifted more than 2% of the church with the gift of evangelism...and maybe a lot of us just don't realize it because we're too scared or lazy to give it a try.

That would be me. But I'm working on it, and I wanted to encourage my fellow sisters in Christ to work on it too.  Checking out these resources is an easy place to start.

Do you have a hard time with evangelism too?  Are you trying to work on it?  What resources have helped you?






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.


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?







Finding Christmas Joy As A Grown-Up




The kids have been asking me every day how many days are left until Christmas.  I have to say, it brings back memories of my childhood, when it felt like Christmas would take so long to arrive.  The anticipation was almost too much!  Ah, childhood.  We made paper chains the other day for the countdown, so I haven't had to answer the questions as often.

I've mentioned before how Christmas is usually filled with more stress than joy for me as an adult, but this year feels different.  After six years of Christmas as a mom, nine years of Christmas as a married lady, this year I finally feel like I'm figuring it out.

Being due with our fifth baby so close to the Christmas season definitely has had something to do with it I think.  Not only did I get started on Christmas to-do's earlier, but I have overall put less pressure one myself to do everything this year, and I feel the difference.   So, I have to write down what is working for me, so hopefully repeating it next year will bring about the same results of less stress, more joy!  

Buy presents early.  

I bought all of the presents early this year because I wanted to finish all my shopping before Georgiana was born.  I don't think I realized how much stress present shopping causes me when I save it for December.  It has been so nice to not be out and about so much so far this year, and I feel less stressed about finances since most of the purchases are already made.

Do all the Christmasy things as soon as I feel like it.  

I used to feel like I had to save all the Christmas activities until December, and that they had to be made into a big production.  This year I am spacing things out a little more and doing all the Christmas things as the mood strikes.  Example: Christmas cookies.  If I feel like baking Christmas cookies with the kids early in December, we'll just bake whenever the mood strikes and freeze them for later.  If we feel like wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music in November, why not?  It's more fun to do Christmasy things when we feel like it, instead of "saving" the Christmas fun to the point of procrastination and then getting stressed out when we have to squeeze it all in.

Take the family picture early.  

I'm continuing my strategy of taking a family Christmas picture before our actual Christmas gatherings.  If I get everyone dressed up in their Christmas clothes and get some good pictures on a low-stress day, then I don't feel like I have to try to wrangle everyone together for a family picture on days when we are actually going somewhere.  I can just enjoy being present and not worry about it, since I know we already got a good picture of the family at Christmas.

Cut out the non-essentials.  

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I don't have to do all the Christmas things.  I'm learning to be a little more particular about what we choose to participate in at Christmas time, because it's a lot easier for me to enjoy the Christmas season if we have more days when we aren't doing anything specific.  When we all have more room to breathe, the Christmas fun happens more naturally, and it's a lot less stressful on me.  

I also think one of the reasons I have had a hard time enjoying Christmas is because I rush around so much, trying to make everything perfect, and I don't allow myself to have time to just relax and reflect on why we are celebrating in the first place.  Having a newborn this year has given me the perfect excuse not to do things. I am enjoying Christmas so much more since deciding to say no and allowing myself enough mental rest to reflect on our Savior.  Which brings me to my last point.

Prioritize Advent.  

It's tragic really, how often I let this get overlooked in previous years in favor of all the more commercial aspects of Christmas.  I think having the shopping done before the season started has really given me the space I needed to focus less on things and more on our Savior.  He is the reason our family celebrates Christmas in the first place, after all.  

I am doing this advent devotional, and listening to my favorite Christ-focused Christmas songs, and I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why He came (to seek and save sinners) and my part in that (the great commission).  Of course I did advent stuff in years past, but I think the fact that so much of my other Christmas prep is already done this year has left me more space to keep advent in the "because I want to category", instead of the "I have to do this or my kids won't remember that Christmas is about Jesus" category.  I am convicted that I even let the Lord get relegated to the "have to" category during Christmas.  If other things have to take a backseat for our family to have the time and space it takes to focus on Jesus, well, that's what we'll do!  It's as it should be, even especially at Christmas time.  

As I've guarded my time a little more this year, and given more of it to the Lord, I feel the joy that I've been missing in years past coming back a little.  It makes sense.  He is the only true source of Christmas joy, after all.  Everything else ends up being a disappointment eventually, but in the gift of Jesus's birth and sacrifice for us - that's where the joy is.  

And it only took me nine Christmases as an adult to figure that out.


















Do you do anything to guard your time at Christmas?  How do you make sure the focus stays on Jesus during Christmas season?

Marinating In Gratitude



Yesterday was one for the books, in the best possible way.

I feel like I should preface this post by saying that many of my days alone with the five kids so far have ended with Derek coming home right as I'm about to pull my hair out, and me escaping to wash my hair - even if it doesn't need washed - just to have a break.

But yesterday, it wasn't like that.  We had the most peaceful day that we've had, not just since adding our sweet Georgie, but in months.  I'm trying to go back over it in my head to figure out the "secret", so I can repeat it, if that were possible.

The morning went pretty normally, with the kids waking up before me.  Clarice climbed under the covers with me at some point, and I feel like I remember her reading a book in my sleepy haze.  After drifting in and out for a half hour, I finally got out of bed and got ready for the day.  The kids woke up Georgie because they went into her nursery to take care of her (which wasn't as tragic as it sounds, because I heard her stirring anyway).  I fed the kids oatmeal, I fed Georgie, and wrapped her into our Solly wrap.




She fell asleep, so I pulled out the play dough (which I've been meaning to do for the last two weeks), and read to the kids while they created things.  We read about Christopher Columbus.  We read two chapters of Dr. Doolittle.  We were on a roll, so I pulled out the next catechism question, and we worked on a memory verse, and we read the Christmas story from Luke (I figure if we read it every day for the next month, maybe they'll inadvertently memorize it).  And nobody cried (at least not until we were done with all our read-alouds).

I made lunch and got the kids down for a nap in the nick of time before Georgie got hungry.  I fed her and then practiced some reading with Wyatt while she slept on my lap.  I snuck her onto the couch and she stayed asleep, so I edited some of the pictures we had taken of her first two weeks.

Kids got up.  Pulled out the play dough again, and they entertained themselves for another hour while I chopped up potatoes for dinner.  I made dinner!  On my own!  Potato soup was bubbling on the stove by the time Derek walked through the door.

I still can't figure out what made it go right. But it's nice that it happened on Thanksgiving week, because I suspect it had more to do with my attitude than with the logistics of the day.  I watched this video, and while I'm mulling over some of it, what I do think is true is that gratitude makes all the difference in the level of happiness we feel.  When things start to feel overwhelming or frustrating, it is usually about the same time that I forget to feel grateful.  And when things go relatively smoothly it seems that it is usually because I decide to make the most of the day with my sweet children, from a heart of gratitude, instead of letting things just happen to us.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 118:1

I had this verse on my chalkboard all last year, but it is sad that I didn't let it sink into my heart a little more.  There is a reason Scripture tells us to "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   

There is so much for which to give thanks - each day I have to spend with these sweet children, each day my wonderful husband comes home to me - it's such a blessing.  Somehow, having Georgie come at this time of year seems really appropriate, because having her here has reminded me that God didn't have to give me any of this.  But He did, and I am so grateful.  I think the Lord let today go so well to remind me what it looks like to slow down and give thanks, to marinate in that gratitude a little bit more. (Marinate - ha!  Because it's Thanksgiving week?  Turkey?  Oh, never mind.)

My hope is that I'll remember to be grateful on the rough days too, long after this Thanksgiving week is past.  

On Thursday I'll join the rest of the country in "giving thanks" - giving thanks to God for all the blessings He's given our family, and the way He has guided our nation so that we even celebrate this holiday in the first place, and for the greatest gift He gave by giving us His Son to save us.  But I want to carry that gratitude on into the craziness of December and through the New Year too.  And I wish the same for you, friends!  Because there is so much to be grateful for when we remember to slow down and look, and giving thanks "in everything" can change a lot.


Happy Thanksgiving Week!


The Balance Between Memory-Keeping And Memory-Making



We got another skiff of snow this morning, and Derek is home today, though he ran out to the grocery store a little while ago for milk and diapers.  The house is relatively quiet right now.  He left while I was still in bed, so the kids are upstairs watching some cartoon or another on TV.  Aside from some footsteps running across the floorboards above my head occasionally, it is peaceful and quiet.

I have no big plans for the day, aside from homeschool and working on my Christmas card list (Christmas time and this baby's arrival are looming).  I will probably do something a bit more elaborate for dinner, and by that I mean I'll spend the 45 minutes it takes to cut up potatoes for potato soup.  It's a potato soup kind of day.

But for now, it's quiet, and I'm hunkering down in my room, trying to figure out what to write today.  I was going to write about more frivolous things, but there are a few deeper thoughts left in the month after all.  Snow always puts me in a reflective mood, and this morning I'm reflecting on keeping a good balance between memory-keeping and memory-making.

Much has been said about how obsessed we all are with getting the perfect picture to share on social media, and viewing our lives through the lens of our phone instead of the lenses of our eyes.  I'm not sure I'm going to go that route with this post, because I've written this month already about how it's hard for me to even remember certain events without some documentation.  I am not gifted with an impeccable memory for times and places and events, so writing something down or snapping a picture keeps these things from being lost to me forever.  I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to document the past, and indeed I think it's important.  It's most important I think so we don't forget what God has done.  How far He has brought us, and how He has worked in our lives and  grown our character up to the present moment.

However, I think there is a certain danger in getting too caught up in the past.  How we've "always" done things.  How things "used to be".  

Because the more years behind you the more you realize that things never stay exactly the same.

And that statement sounds wistful and sad somehow, but I don't really think it has to be.  Because would we really even want things to stay the same forever?  Would we want to never move to the next stage of life, to never watch our babies get bigger and develop their personalities, to never develop new traditions, try something new, grow?

There is room for a bit of sentimentality about the past I think, as long as we don't get stuck in our reminiscing about "the good ole days".  Because these days that we're in right now, these very present moments, are good too.  They drift on by, and tomorrow will be a memory before we even realize it.  And I think it's good to embrace the way things change, to hold on to our memories while making fresh, different ones in the present moment, and not to resent the fact that things aren't always "the same".  Because really, how boring would things get if they always were?

My goal I think, in all this memory-keeping, is to remember all that God has done for me this far, but not so I can wish for the way things used to be.  I want to remember His faithfulness and gifts in the past so my eyes are wide open for His faithfulness and gifts that are still in the future.  And when I keep that balance between the memory-keeping and the memory-making yet to be done, I think it's easier to live fully in the blessings of right now, and to be grateful for them.



12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You Review (Highly Recommend)



I picked up the 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You audiobook, because like many of you, I feel like I often check my phone too much.  I thought this book would give me a good little kick to break some bad habits, but I got so much more than I was expecting!

This book goes over different ways smartphones, and technology in general, has changed us not only individually but as a culture.  The author incorporates different statistics and studies, and then takes a deeper look at the spiritual impact of our phone choices.  He doesn't tell you what you need to do with your own smartphone habits, he just neutrally gets you thinking.

There were two specific things in this book that really stuck with me.  First, the author wrote that checking your phone or texting while driving (disclaimer: which I obviously try NOT to do unless changing my music - which maybe I should be careful about too) is a disregard for your neighbor - the neighbor who is in the car whizzing past you.  You are not caring for your neighbor as you should, and as Scripture calls us to do, when you flippantly put them at risk like that.  I had honestly never even thought about the whole don't-text-while-driving thing like that and thought he made some really good points.

The other item that I remembered with this book, and that will honestly change some of how I handle social media is that we so often trade eternal reward for a few temporal "likes" on social media.  The example he used was those posts on Instagram with a picture of your Bible as you finish up your devotional time.  Any heavenly reward we may have received from spending time with our Savior is instantly traded for pats on the back by other people on Instagram.  This is supported by Matthew 6:1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

How sad is that?  And once again, I never thought about it before, but I have been guilty too of trading eternal rewards for "likes" - guilty of caring more about men's applause than pleasing God.  Now whenever I see those Bible posts, or those "humble brag" posts, I cringe a little more than I used to.  Since listening to that chapter of this book, I've been trying to refrain from trading eternal rewards like that myself.  It's a bad trade.

There were so many other excellent points in this book, I'll honestly probably listen to it again.  I even thought about buying the print version so I could highlight some of the pieces that I like.  

If you are like me and feel that little itch for an eternal perspective on your smartphone use, definitely check this book out!   It's given me a lot to think about and has already motivated me to change some of my habits, and I highly recommend it.

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

Purpose, In Five Minutes



I've decided to try something different on the blog today.  Apparently there is this linkup called Five Minute Friday.  I'm not a huge fan of linkups in general, to read or to write, because I feel like they tend to be too formulaic for me.  But for this one, you receive a one-word prompt and write about it for five minutes only, and then share without editing.  

I think this linkup is a bit of an exception to my general linkup dislike because you really can use the word prompt however you want, and the five minute timeline encourages honesty in a good way.

I'm going to join in, but you should know that I wrote for seven minutes, and I did add a few words here and there for clarity.  Not exactly following the rules, but this is my blog, so I can do what I want!  I might join in when the word is interesting, but if it's a stinker of a word, I will have no problems skipping it.  Stay tuned, but for now, here is my first installment.

6:55 PM

It’s funny how one little word can take your mind on a whole new track.  Purpose.  A word that isn’t just a word, but seems to prompt a question.  

"What is my purpose?"

That word and that question seems to come at an interesting time for me, because I have struggled with it.  For the last couple years, I have lost sight not of my overall purpose, but my day-to-day purpose to a certain extent.  I always have my overall purpose in mind because of the catechism our pastor’s wife taught us when I was a young teenager.  

What is the purpose of man?  To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  

That is always my ultimate purpose, and the purpose of every human being if they are willing to look and find it through what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross.  He enables us to live out our purpose, the one that the human race lost in Eden.  He got it back for us.

But still, my day-to-day, personal purpose has been wanting.  For a while I tried to find it in this blog.  Writers all around me seemed to be striving and reaching much bigger things - writing books, earning money, building a ministry.  

I tried for a bit too, but it all just came up empty.  Like chasing the wind.

This year I’ve been slowing down and realizing that my personal purpose won’t come from “making something of myself”.  I think my greatest purpose comes into my room at an ungodly hour every morning, and asks if it’s time for breakfast yet.  And I’m learning to stop striving and reaching for something bigger than the four brown-haired-heads slurping Fruit Loops and spilling milk.

I was looking too hard for something different that wasn’t there.  

My purpose is sitting right there, at my kitchen table.

7:02 PM

Unlocking The Bible (A Review)


(Affiliate link below.)

Finally, a great book I can recommend!  I requested Unlocking The Bible by Jeff Lasseigne a couple months ago. The name "Unlocking The Bible" is a little misleading, because it almost presents the Bible as inaccessible without "unlocking" - but on the contrary, this book is a wonderful resource to help readers realize that anyone can read and understand God's Word.

The first couple chapters talk about the way the Bible was put together, and what qualified different books to be included in the Bible.  I thought this was really interesting.  I think there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about how we came to have the Bible we can hold today, and these chapters explained why we can have confidence in the Bible as the inspired word of God.

The next two chapters give a timeline of the Bible, from Genesis to the writing of Revelation.  I've read through the Bible several times, but I really liked this condensed version of the story to give a bigger picture.  The part I liked best was the historical details that the author included, placing biblical event sin historical context.

Finally Lasseigne gives tips on how to study the Bible, and how to teach the Bible, along with an entire section with a summary and quotes about each book of the Bible.  I thought these sections were a great encouragement and resource!

This book is sound, and the author holds the Bible in high esteem - and I think this is something we need more of, even within the church today.  I highly recommend this book!  It was readable, but full of information and encouragement to dig into God's Word!

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

2016 Was A Weird Reading Year



Another year, another bunch of books!  Let's talk about the favorites from 2016, shall we?  Unlike publishers or crazy book blogs, I am not constrained to what was published this year.  No, this is a list of the favorite books that I've personally read this year.

My reading was kind of all over the place in 2016, partially because I unofficially decided somewhere along the way to try reading some books that I normally would not pick up, especially in fiction.  I'm not sure it was a success.  While I enjoyed exploring a little, it left me with less books that I am actually comfortable recommending, and definitely less on the favorites list.

A Quick Side Tangent On Books And Politics

(You may skip this section if we are not of the same political persuasion, and it won't hurt my feelings! *wink*)

Let me just go on a little side-tangent real quick, because if there is one thing I've learned this year through all my book exploring, it's that if you are going to be a responsible reader, you have to go into each book looking for the worldview that is being communicated through that book.  I was shocked at how many of the more current general fiction books that I picked up insisted upon including subtle political or moral statements - and if I wasn't looking for them, I would have totally missed them, or been influenced by them without realizing it.

I think in 2016 there was a lot of backlash related to how biased the media generally is toward a certain political viewpoint.  For me personally, I realized how biased a lot of the general fiction that so many people in this country are reading is too - but the trick about fiction is that you usually don't notice it without looking for it.  Most people read fiction to relax and their guard is down.  It was all actually a little scary and discouraging to me.

A really good example is the way abortion is addressed in books these days.  You know I am strongly pro-life and have started volunteering at a pregnancy center, so I especially noticed this in my 2016 reading.  I was surprised at how it some of these more liberal authors can't seem to help themselves when it comes to supporting abortion.  The plot demands that the character keep their baby, and yet the author insists on making the character reference abortion as if that is what they should have done, but you know, "it was too late".  Why can't they just leave that out altogether?  Why do these authors have to try to subtly foist their own political viewpoint on us, as if a character choosing not to have an abortion is a moral choice the author doesn't agree with, so some sort of disclaimer is needed? I abandoned several books this year for this reason.

And book podcasts!  I tried listening to several different book podcasts this year, but I've abandoned almost all of them because I can't stand how they impose their own political viewpoints upon their listeners (some more obviously than others).  I basically can't even trust their recommendations anymore.  Some of these hosts even describe books that should be mostly neutral in political terms but they impose their own controversial viewpoints onto the book when they talk about them, and I'm just sick of it.  They do realize that there is another half of the country that doesn't necessarily share their political persuasion, right?  I'm looking at you, Book Riot.

On To The Books

So yes, 2016 was kind of a black hole of reading for me, I abandoned almost as many books as I finished, and I don't have a lot of great ones to recommend from my little reading experiment.  I've got eight that stood out to me, and as for 2017...I think I'm going to stick closer to authors I already like or classics.  You can't really go wrong that way.

So here we go, in no particular order.  If you do end up picking one of these up, please read my full reviews on Goodreads (the titles link to my reviews) for a more detailed breakdown of some of the content that may have required more commentary.




I'm Happy For You (Sort Of...Not Really) By Kay Wills Wyma - This was probably my #1 favorite of the books I read this year.  I read it at just the right time and got so much out of this book, and it really made me rethink ways that I am still comparing too much on social media.  I thought I was getting better at not comparing so much (and I have improved), but this book opened my eyes even more to the kind of person I want to be.  I've been telling a lot of my friends and family about it because it was so good.  I highly recommend it.



The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - The disclaimer is that this book does have some profanity and taking Jesus's name in vain, which I hate.  But other than that, I really liked this one.  The whole premise of the book is that the Earth has started a "slowing" of it's rotation...which lengthens the days and wreaks all kinds of havoc.  Obviously not biblically-based since we know this is not how the world will end - this book is purely secular.  But the underlying theme is one of a coming-of-age story, and I've just kind of realized that I am a sucker for a coming-of-age story.  Something about it resonated with me, and the overall plot of the earth slowing was just so interesting.  I think that's the science nerd in me coming out.



Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - Did any of you ever watch Diagnosis: Mystery when it was on TLC?  I LOVED that show, and this is basically that show in book form.  A lady starts to go crazy and they are trying to figure out why.  It's a true story that's written more like a novel, and I listened to it on audio.  It was really fascinating.  Some language in this one too.



What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Some language and the Lord's name in vain in this one too, and I hated how it included the "clump of tissue" myth when it comes to unborn children.  So I hesitate to say I "recommend" this one.  I include it here because I have never gotten so much out of a fictional story and it really made me think about where I spend my time and energy.  If you have ever felt like you can't relate to people in other stages of life or wondered what your ten-years-younger self would think about the you of today, you might get something out of this book too (but please read my disclaimers first).



Adam And Eve After The Pill: Paradoxes Of The Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt - I picked this book up because ever since I quit the pill all those years ago, I have been interested in the effects birth control (and the sexual revolution) has had on society.  This book was fascinating.  It's published by a Catholic publisher, but the book itself isn't geared toward Catholics but toward anyone who is interested in this topic.  I had heard a lot of the data before, but the author had so many insights into our current culture.  I generally think we need to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing to ourselves in this department, and I highly recommend this one.



Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell - I just really like Mitchell's historical fiction - I feel like it's usually really well researched, and I generally like her characters.  This wasn't my favorite of hers because I felt like it took about a quarter of the book to get into it, but I still enjoyed it.  And the short story you can get if you sign up for her newsletter relates to this story and was so fun!



Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall - I wrote a full review on this book a couple months ago, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I really liked this one.  It's a middle-grade novel, but I enjoyed it as an adult.  It's a quick read, and the characters have stuck with me.


So what did you read in 2016 that stood out?  Do you keep an eye out for the different worldviews in your fiction?

I hope you had a more joyous reading year than me.  Here's to 2017!

Four Ways To Recognize Advent As A Mom



I mentioned recently how last year I felt like I just barely survived the Christmas season - thriving was out of the question.  I think part of the problem was that all the Christmas details got so overwhelming that I couldn't even focus on the reason we celebrate in the first place!  Amidst the stress of the season, I missed the meaning and beauty of Christmas - which is that God became a baby in Jesus, and lived a sinless life on earth so that He could die to save me.  Obviously I knew this in my head, but I didn't take any time to reflect and let that beautiful truth settle in my heart last Christmas.

Advent is traditionally a tool for focusing our attention back on what Christmas is truly about - our Savior! As moms we tend to make Advent about driving home the meaning of Christmas to our kids, but this year I want to create some sort of personal Advent tradition.  I think sometimes we can get so focused on making sure the kids "get it", that we forget that we need that time of refreshment that comes when we refocus on the Lord in the middle of the bustle!  When we are taking the time to fill ourselves up with God's truth and joy in this season, it is that much easier to do the same for our kids.

I have a few ideas for how to recognize Advent this year for myself, as a mom.

1. An Advent Bible reading plan.  

I've done a couple Advent reading plans in the past, but it's been a while.  I want to find a plan for reading Bible verses that relate to Advent as part of my devotions this December. She Reads Truth often comes out with an Advent plan, so I might check that out.  Any other recommendations for an Advent Bible reading plan?

2. Memorize Bible verses.

I have been majority slacking on Bible memorization this year, even after writing last year about why moms should memorize Bible verses -  and I feel it.  I would love to choose a passage to work on through the Advent season.  I am thinking John 1:1-18 or Mary's prayer of praise in Luke 1:46-55 .

3. Christmas Music.

What better than music to get you in the Christmas Spirit, right?  And Christ-focused music is also something that really touches my soul at Christmas time and helps me to remember the greatest gift from God - our salvation.  I'll share some of my Christmas favorites soon, but you can see some of my favorite Christmas albums in this oldie-but-goodie post!

4. Christmas Adult Coloring Book.

I was so thrilled to receive a Christmas coloring book to review!  But this book has truly exceeded my expectations.

(Note: Affiliate links below.)

All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas is not just a coloring book, it is also an Advent devotional.  I have already read through most of the devotions, and they are excellent!  Each devotion focuses on different aspects of Christ's birth, and is biblically based.  I am going to go through it again in December this year and use the coordinated coloring pages to have a little quiet time to focus on Jesus birth!




I really love each of the illustrations in this book.  As far as coloring goes, they are just unique and detailed enough to be challenging, but not so detailed that I lose a little bit of my sanity.  I don't know that I'll get through one of these gorgeous pages each day (I'm a slow colorer), but I will read through the devotions and enjoy a little coloring time while focusing on God's gift to us in sending Jesus to save us.  This is the personal Advent tradition that I am really looking forward to this year!



And another plus to this book - in the back is a section with Christmas coloring pages for kids, Bible verses, and family discussion questions!  I love that while this book is a great tool for moms to personally focus on Advent, it also has sections to encourage us to include our kids as well.  I can't wait to get some printed up for the kids!

Do you have a personal Advent tradition as a mom?  Tell me more!







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

3 Ways I'm Preparing For Christmas Before Thanksgiving



Last year in December I literally broke down crying, wishing Christmas would just be over already.

I don't think I've ever been such a "scrooge" in my life, but I was behind on all things Christmas, and all of our weekends and evenings were booked solid so I had no time to catch up.  On top of that I had a new baby and a touch of postpartum depression, and I just wanted life to feel normal for one day (which is pretty much impossible in December, at least around here).  The whole thing left me trudging through the holiday festivities with little to no Christmas spirit.

Most years aren't quite that bad, but over the last few years I have realized that Christmas can be downright stressful and un-fun for adults - in particular for moms.  At least in our family, almost all Christmas prep falls to me, and if I don't get on top of it the whole holiday feels like a chore to cross off my list instead of the sweet celebration of Christ's birth that it's meant to be.  

That's just sad.

So this year, I have been determined to get ahead of the Christmas to-do's well in advance so that when December rolls around I can hopefully just sit back and enjoy it all - and maybe have enough room to breath and reflect on the why of the celebration in the first place, which is the gift of our Savior!

Some things, like baking, obviously have to wait until December, but I have three things I would like to have accomplished before Thanksgiving this year.

1. Buy and wrap all Christmas gifts.  

There is a part of me that wants to save some wrapping for the actual Christmas season, but I am reminding myself that there are a lot of other Christmas activities that I never seem to have time for.  Things like making a gingerbread house with the kids, making hand-made ornaments to give to grandparents, or sitting down for a bunch of read-aloud Christmas books.  Do I really need to save shopping and wrapping for December to get into the Christmas spirit?  I think not.

2. Get Christmas cards ready to mail.  

I already have our Christmas card picture, and I am just waiting for VistaPrint's 50% Christmas card sale to pull the trigger on printing.  The goal is to get the cards ordered and addressed and stamped before Thanksgiving so I can just drop them in the mailbox on Black Friday and (hopefully) wait for the obligatory reciprocal Christmas card mail to roll in. (Hint: PLEASE SEND ME CHRISTMAS CARDS! They really make my day.)

3. Iron out any kinks in our Christmas budget.  

One of the major stress factors for me at Christmas time is the fear of going over budget, and I am determined not to let that happen this year.  I came up with a preliminary Christmas budget already, and since I have already started shopping I know there are a few little budget kinks to iron out.  As I get the rest of my shopping done I want to adjust the budget as necessary, think through our obligations, and set aside the money I will need for extra Christmas expenses.  My hope is that at the end of all this planning, December will feel like any other month financially.

A perk of all this early Christmas planning is that it is actually giving me a little early dose of the Christmas merriment that I was so desperately missing last year.  It's hard to feel the joy of the season when you are stressed with a load of obligations, and taking some of those away by getting a good head start has made me start to look forward to Christmas earlier than I usually do.  When the season gets here I'll have less stress and really be able to enjoy the goodwill and peace of the Christmas season, celebrating Christ's birth!  

My only question now is why did I not start planning Christmas in October years ago?

Do you start Christmas early, or are you a procrastinator?  What is your Christmas strategy?

\

---

Time for With Grit & Grace!  Link up with YOUR goals for November below!



Welcome to With Grit & Grace  – a monthly goal link-up focused on supporting each other as we work towards our goals! Please join us on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 a.m. EST to share your goals and progress for the week, month, or year. We are all about building a positive community; please remember to read, comment, and share the posts of others – and let them know you found them at With Grit & Grace!
Just a reminder…

  • All forms of goal posts are welcome. They can be for a specific area in your life, or your general goals for the day, week, month, or year. We love to hear updates on your progress, too.
  • Make sure to use the URL specific to your post and not your blog’s home page.
  • Link back to With Grit & Grace with our button or link in your post or party page.
  • Comment on the post prior to yours in the link-up. Support others through comments and shares – don’t forget to tell them you found them at With Grit & Grace.
  • By linking up, you give us permission to feature an image on our blog and social media. Proper credit and links will be given.
  • Join in on social media with: #withgritandgrace.
  • We want to support you! Please follow your hosts in some way.
    -Keri at Living In This Season
    -Emily at Morning Motivated Mom
    -Christina at Waltzing In Beauty
    -Callie (me!) at Through Clouded Glass
© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.