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

Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday - A Review



Are you all ready for a really long review? (I'm sorry in advance, but I couldn't make it shorter.)

I saw Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday by Valerie Woerner when a blog friend shared a few really good lines from one of the chapters.  I've developed an aversion to books written for Christian women in general, but I thought the points from the book that my friend shared were really interesting, so I decided to give it a go.  And I do have thoughts.  A lot of thoughts.

Before I start, I just want to say up front that I really agonized over this review for one main reason - I'm really hoping the author will read this review.

I'm hoping she will read it because I think she is actually really talented.  It's no small thing to write a book, and her voice is relatable and fun.   I can tell that she really has a heart for the Lord and wants to serve the Lord well, and that goes a long way in my book.  She also mentions a few times in the book the value of having a teachable spirit and being able to listen to a critique.  I do have some critiques to give that I think are really important.  I'm hoping the author reads this because I have no doubt that she will write another book in the future, and I hope she can consider these points when she does.

First, let's talk about what she did well!



Positives

This is such a great topic for a book in today's culture.  I fully agree with the author's assessment of the problems with being a grumpy mom, and how the different aspects of modern mom culture (like wearing "hot mess" like a badge and one-upping each other on how little sleep we got, for example)  are only contributing to our general grumpiness about motherhood.  Her chapter on not being constantly offended is right on the money, while also being really self-aware of her own areas of weakness when it comes to being offended.  She hit on alot of great points throughout this book, and really did a great job in pointing out some of the problems in our collective attitudes about motherhood.

As I said, her voice is also really relatable, and the writing was overall fun to read.  Alot of her personal stories reminded me of the days when my kids were a little younger, and also of some of my own struggles as a mom right now!  This book does an excellent job of letting mothers know they are not alone in their struggles, and that I think is definitely valuable.

Negatives

This is the not-so-fun part for me.  I feel like I need to preface this section with saying that to me, this book actually felt like two separate books.  I felt like the underlying focus of the advice in the first 40% of the book, and the last 3 or 4 chapters was completely different than the middle. The first part and the last few chapters were mostly focused on more secular concepts with a Christian twist (by secular concepts, I mean concepts that would apply to anyone, secular or Christian, or that you could read in many psychology or self-help books), while the middle was packed with many more Bible references and a more biblical approach to the problems.

I don't know that much about the book writing/editing process, but it felt like the first part and the last part were written at the same time, and then the section in the middle was written later during a period when she grew in her faith and biblical knowledge.  If I'm right, it's a great thing that her outlook grew to focus more on Scripture.  For the sake of the book, it was not a great thing that the book couldn't all have been written after she decided which type of advice she wanted to focus on, because like I said, it felt like two completely different books.  All that to say, some of the critiques I give below are more prominent in the first half and last few chapters.


1.The gospel is poorly presented (and even misrepresented) in this book.

I am bringing this up as someone who has made the same mistakes in my writing in the past, so I hope it can be read with that in mind.

It was clear that the author was addressing her book to an audience that are already believers in Christ. The problem is that in the current culture, you can’t assume that everyone who picks up a Christian “self-help” type book will actually be a Christian. Especially with a title like “Grumpy Mom Takes A Holiday” - all kinds of moms who struggle with grumpiness will be picking this up. As a Christian author, you have to keep this in mind.  If any nonbelievers pick this book up, it will do them absolutely no eternal good if they learn how to be less grumpy at their kids, but they still don’t know what it means to be saved.

In the first few paragraphs the author assured the reader that the Holy Spirit will help her on this journey.  She can make no such assurance though, because unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit. 

There are two things that need to happen to explain the gospel - you need to tell WHY we need to be saved, and tell HOW we can be saved. Unfortunately, the book missed the mark on both counts.  

Just to be clear, the gospel is NOT that God will help us to be better, less grumpy people. The gospel is not about doing our best for God.  The gospel is not about God helping us live our lives more abundantly. The gospel is not about self improvement.  Some of those things can RESULT from the gospel, but it’s not how we are saved.

Unfortunately alot of this book gives the impression that this is all there is to being a Christian, because the actual gospel is never explained in full, though in some of the middle chapters it is touched on.

The author makes an attempt to explain the gospel in Chapter 9 after admitting that until fairly recently, she was relying on works to save her, until she realized she could never do enough. But I was disappointed when the only thing she described being freed from was her “guilt” (not her sin and it’s consequences). She prays “Only you can save me from my own requirements for righteousness that I put on myself.” 

The problem is not that we are guilty of not living up to our own standards. We are guilty of not living up to GOD’S standard (Romans 3:23), and His standard is perfection, because He is perfectly holy. We have earned nothing for ourselves but eternal punishment in Hell, because we have sinned against an eternal God and broken His laws (Romans 6:23Matthew 25:46).  Even our supposed good deeds are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).  We cannot pay this sin-debt, we cannot make ourselves righteous.  Which is why we need Jesus, because HE is the only one who meets God’s standard (Corinthians 5:21), and He took our punishment for us. 

God loves us, and because He loves us, He didn’t leave us in our sins, but provided a way for us to be saved. God became a man, Jesus who was fully man and fully God. He lived the sinless life that we couldn’t, and then died in our place, paying the penalty for our sin. Then He rose again, defeating sin and death, proving He was God! And now all we must do to be saved is repent, meaning to be sorry for our sin and turn to Jesus, putting our faith in Him to save us and not in any work of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). When we do that, He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), so we can stand blameless before God. He also gives us the Holy Spirit, who then empowers us to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ.

I’m not saying the author doesn’t understand the gospel, I think she does because of different things she writes. But no one could read this book and put the gospel together unless they already knew the gospel themselves.  Elements of the full gospel are scattered in various phrases throughout the book, but it’s like a super-confusing Easter egg hunt, one that starts with the results of the gospel and works backward. But even the reason Jesus died for us is never explained, His resurrection never mentioned. 

The whole gospel is awfully hard to find in this book amidst all these disjointed and missing puzzle pieces, and perhaps an opportunity to reach unbelieving moms who pick up this book is missed. Worse, I’m afraid that because our sin problem isn’t addressed and the gospel isn’t fully explained, some may leave with a confusion about what it really even means to be a Christian. This is so important to get right in any Christian nonfiction book, in my opinion, and the lack of a clear explanation of how to be saved was my biggest problem with the book.



2. There was more of a focus on self-help than biblical advice.

A lot of the advice in this book is repackaged self-help, with a few Bible passages sprinkled in to support her points. I thought this was a shame. The Bible actually has a ton to say about complaining, selfishness, worry, grumbling, unthankfulness...all the things that make us act like grumpy moms. This book could have been so Biblically rooted if the author had started with the Bible and worked out from there, but she often starts with her own thoughts (many of which are not that different from other self-help books) and her own experiences with Christian living, and then the biblical references felt tacked on in order to support her points.

In all fairness, this critique applies more toward the beginning and last few chapters of the book. She hit a better note in the middle. 


3. She seemed afraid to address the actual root cause of being a grumpy mom. 

The truth is, we are not grumpy just because we aren’t flexible enough. We’re not grumpy because we don’t take enough time for self-care, or because we rely too much on chocolate. At the root, being grumpy at our kids is really a lingering sin struggle.

We don’t like our kids interrupting whatever we’re doing because we’ve put our interests ahead of theirs (Phil. 2:4).  We complain about all the work kids involve and how we never have time to brush our hair because we are viewing a gift from God as a burden, harboring ungratefulness.  

These are just examples from the book, but hopefully you can see my point.  These things won’t be fixed by bandaids like more flexibility and self-care. Selfishness, complaining, and ingratitude are all sins, and ones the Bible has plenty to say about, but she didn’t include any of the really relevant verses, or address them as sins at all. She didn’t explain how Jesus has freed those of us who believe in Him from the power of these sins in our lives BECAUSE He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. This book would have been so much more powerful and useful if she had spent more time on these things. Christians still need to be reminded of the true gospel too.  I think that’s the most effective way to overcome these struggles -when we are focused on what Christ did to save us from sins like these, they automatically lose some appeal.

I got the feeling through some of the book that the author just wanted to be positive and not address the hard truths. She seemed mostly hesitant to use the word “sin” through most of the book, mainly using euphemisms like “mess” and “brokenness”.  

There is such a thing as being too nice - and it’s when it causes us to avoid speaking the truth in love because we are worried speaking the truth clearly might cause hurt feelings. Avoiding saying hard things might be “nice”, but it’s not kind.

4. Questionable use of Bible translations.

Warning: This is just a pet peeve of mine.

I almost hate to bring this up, because a lot of you may just tune me out here, but can we all just be a little more careful with our use of the Message? This is not an actual Bible translation, and it’s not God’s Word. It’s a paraphrase. If I paraphrase something you say, I’m not spreading your words, I’m taking what you said and putting it in my own words. A paraphrase of the Bible is man’s word, not God’s Word.  There is nothing wrong with referencing it occasionally, but please, let’s not quote the Message as if it’s God’s Word. Because it’s not. 

The author did okay with qualifying that it was a paraphrase at the beginning, but she used the Message heavily throughout this book and then eventually dropped the qualification. 

Whether you like the Message or not (can you tell what I think about it? ha!), the Message should not be referenced or read as your main “Bible translation”. Because it’s not an actual translation. 

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now.

---

To sum it up, who would I recommend this book to?

Because of the problems with presenting the gospel clearly and the confusion that might result, I would absolutely not recommend this to anyone that I was not already sure was a strong Christian who really understands the gospel.  

Because of the weak beginning and end, I am hesitant to recommend the book to my Christian friends too.  There are some gems in this book, but they are buried beneath too much soft or confusing language, and a hesitancy to address these issues as sin.  I just think there are alot of other books that are more rooted in the Bible and the gospel (Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges is one).

Again, I'm sharing all this not just for people who want to know what to expect, but also because I hope the author sees this.  Valerie, if you are reading, please know that I tried my best to approach this review in love, as a sister in Christ.  I've been praying over this review, and hope you can see my heart and give some thought to these issues.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley for free, in exchange for an honest review.

The One Thing Your Church Needs To Get Right




(The steeple from my childhood church, in case you were wondering.  It was the best church photo I had.)

Let's do a little evaluating exercise, shall we?

I've mentioned a couple of times briefly that Derek and I have had some church upheaval to deal with over the last six months or so.  I won't get into details here, but we decided in light of everything that we needed to take a step back and evaluate our church situation a little bit, and seek where the Lord may have us go.  So we've been trying some of the churches in our area.

This is the second time we have gone through this process in the last few years, so between Derek and me, we have checked out over a hundred churches, either online or in person.  I wish I could say it's been an encouraging process, but on the contrary, it's been incredibly discouraging to me.  The most discouraging part hasn't involved service styles or anything to do with the people in these churches.  So many have been friendly and welcoming.  I've been more discouraged than anything by the content of some of the sermons.

One illustration we heard at a church-that-shall-not-be-named particularly bothered me, maybe because it is an example of everything that I've been discouraged about in our church hunt.  I'm tipping my hand here, but see if you can understand my point after you read the sermon illustration below.  I understand that every illustration is imperfect and falls apart when you try to take it too far, but I was particularly concerned with this one.

This is roughly what was said in one of the sermons we heard.

---

"Let's imagine that a man gets called into his boss's office one day.  His boss tells him that he needs to sell a million dollars worth of product.  He needs to do it in six months, or he'll lose his job.

The man works to sell the company's product.  Six months later, he gets called into the boss's office again.  He sits down, and his boss looks at him.  The man sweats a little bit in nervousness.  He doesn't think he did well enough.   He is fearful that he'll have to go home tonight and tell his wife that he's out of work.

His boss announces that he only sold $7 worth of product in the last six months.

The man hangs his head.  He knows he's going to lose his job.  He didn't do enough.

But his boss looks at him, and tells him that no, he didn't sell enough.  But because he cares about him so much, he's going to give him another six months to sell the million dollars."

"That," this pastor announced proudly, "is grace."


---

Okay.

The only problem is, that is not the Gospel.

I'm going to give that pastor the benefit of a doubt and assume he was merely trying to explain the general concept of grace rather than a Gospel illustration, but I'm using it as an example because the illustration was representative of alot of the teaching we've heard lately.  Let's just be clear:

The Gospel is not that God gives us grace to do better.

The Gospel is not that Jesus is our example.  He is, but He's so much more than just that.

The Gospel is not even about God changing lives.  That is the result of the Gospel, but it's not the Gospel.

The Gospel starts with understanding that we have a sin problem.  Not "messiness", not "mistakes", not "brokenness".  A pervasive, indwelling sin problem that we can never make up for because we are always piling on more sins.

No, nobody is perfect. And that's the problem, because we are talking about a perfect, holy God, full of goodness and light.  And we have sinned against Him (Psalm 51:4).  We have broken His laws.  God must punish sin, or He would not be perfectly just nor good.  We have earned for ourselves death and eternal punishment in Hell (Romans 6:23).  With every disobedience.  With every grumbling or unclean thought. With every "white lie".

That is not a message that some pastors want to focus on these days.  That is not a feel-good message.  That is bad, bad news.  It might even be offensive, because we all have a tendency to think we aren't "that bad" (guilty here).  But even that attitude is the sin of pride!  Even our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  We're in trouble.

You have to understand the bad news to understand the good news.

God, out of the richness of His loving-kindness, didn't leave us in our sin and death.  He sent His Son, Jesus, who was fully man and fully God, and He was perfect.  He did everything we couldn't, lived a life without sinning even once.  Then because He was perfectly righteous, He took the punishment we had earned upon Himself.  He died in our place.  Then He rose from the dead, conquering our sin and death itself.  He took our sin upon Himself, suffered the wrath against sin that we deserved, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When we recognize who we are, and who Christ is and what He has done, the only thing we need to do is to repent.  We need to turn from our sin and turn to Christ with faith that He will save us.  With faith that He has done everything required for our salvation if we will just turn and trust in Him.

We don't have to be a "better person" to earn His favor.  We don't have to "clean up our lives" to earn forgiveness. We don't have to strive to do things "God's way" in hopes that we've done enough to make up for our wrongs.  We can do nothing to deserve His mercy, we can't make up for our wrongs. But Christ did.  

 "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior," 

Titus 3:4-6

And when we understand that and turn to Christ, God takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh.  We will respond in loving obedience, because when we understand Jesus died to save us from the punishment of our sin, we will start to hate our sin.  We want to turn our back on it and turn to Jesus because He already saved us from that.  And He enables us to now live for Him (2 Cor. 5:15) through the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us.



---

So if we were going to take that illustration at the top of this post and make it represent the Gospel more truly, it would be something like this.

Your boss comes to you one day and says you have to sell a million dollars in six months or you will lose your job. Worse, you have been embezzling from the company for years, so you have to pay that money back before you can start earning the million dollars.  The total is astronomical.  You will never be able to earn it back.  You are in trouble.

In six months your boss sits down to look at your accounts.  He looks at the papers, and then looks up at you.  You are sweating.  You've done nothing that has decreased what you owe.  You know you deserve to lose your job and be thrown in prison for what you've done.

But he looks at you with eyes filled with compassion.  And he smiles.

He leans forward and tells you he knows what you've done.  He knows what you owe, and that you can never do enough to repay it, no matter how many years he might give you.  But he cares for you like his own child.  You have fallen incredibly short, but His son sold enough to cover everything you owe.  He has credited what his son has earned to your account, and he won't be pressing charges against you for the embezzlement because his son has paid your fine.

You don't have to do anything.  Your debt is payed, your way has been earned.  You can keep your job forever. 

That is mercy.  That is grace.

That is the Gospel.


---

If you have not trusted in Jesus for your eternal salvation, I urge you, please be reconciled to God.  Trust in the One who has done everything necessary to give you eternal life.  Turn away from your sin and turn to Him.

And if you are a believer already, please get this right. And get yourself in a church that gets this right. 

It does little good for church pews to be filled each week, it does little good to hear superficially inspiring sermons, if the message doesn't point us back to Christ and what He has done to save us.  The pure, beautiful truth of what Christ has done for us that we couldn't do for ourselves. Understanding and believing this truth is what brings about actual life change, through God's grace.

I have seen the "gospel" taught wrongly so many times in the past few months, and I don't think I even realized how much of a burden that discouragement was putting on me until a few weeks ago, when we finally sat again in a church that preached everything I just tried to explain above.

I sat there in the pew with tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was such a relief to me, even as someone who is already a believer, after months of "do better" sermons, to hear again from the pulpit the beautiful truth of the Gospel preached clearly.  To marvel again at what Jesus did for me.

We believers still need to hear the Gospel too.






When Wiping Faces Doesn't Feel Satisfying



Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil.  Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children.  And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us.  Yes, establish the work of our hands.

  Psalm 90:14-17


There are days, as a Christian woman and as a stay at home mom, when it’s hard to keep perspective.  No one is very excited to hear what you are doing day in and day out, and to be honest, it’s not exciting to tell it.  I wipe little faces.  I make meals to fill little bellies. I listen to long stories, agonize through sounding out words, correct attitudes that have gone askew.  I try to mold little hearts, but often feel as if I’m making a mess of it, more like a child forming mudpies than a sculptor forming a work of art.

We all love instant gratification, immediate results, the fruits of our social media-saturated culture. We like to look at our work each day and point. “See what I’ve done! See what I’ve grown!” 

Motherhood is not like that. There is no instant progress, and the dopamine hits are few and far between. 

I read in some book once (maybe Teaching From Rest?) about how in medieval times, when the gothic cathedrals were being built, it took several generations to bring them to completion.  So some may have worked on a cathedral their entire lives, and they were lucky if they saw the end product.

I think often the work that will really last, the stuff that will really matter, is not like building a social media platform. It is like building a cathedral.

This passage in Psalms stopped me in my tracks today, because it is the cry of my heart on those days when it is hard to keep perspective. It is everything I want my life to be, everything I want for my children.

Satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!  I want my children know the kindness of His mercy early, so they may follow Christ all their days. When the days are long and feel fruitless, I want to rest and rejoice and be glad in the salvation He bought for me too.

Let Your work appear to your servants, and Your glory to their children.  I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, to open my eyes to see the work God is doing here, even in the mundane.  I want to teach my children to do the same, so they will know the glory of the One who made them.

Establish the work of our hands for us.  Remember that there are things that will last for a moment, and things that will last forever.  

Money will be spent.  Things will wear out.  Beauty fades.  Fame is fleeting, and social media kingdoms crash to the ground every day.  Some of these things we need to a certain extent, and some things we don't, but all these temporary things are ultimately meaningless by themselves.  If we put our satisfaction in these things, one day we will wake up and realize we wasted our lives.

But there are things that last forever.  There are souls to invest in, from the woman who needs a kind word at the store, to the friend who needs encouragement, to the children giggling down the hall who need to know Jesus.  There is the work we do for Christ.  Even something as simple as wiping chocolate off the little face of an eternal soul, when done to bring more glory to Jesus, is significant.  

Wiping little faces, filling little bellies, showing patience through frustrations, all the while speaking of the mercy and kindness and glory of our King.  Speaking of what He has done to save them if they will just turn to Him in repentance and faith.  So our children (and others) will know it.  So they will know Him. 



That's the work that is worthy of establishing, friends.  That's a cathedral.  And you may not see what this day to day, mundane faithfulness is building, but God does.

Yes, Lord, establish the work of our hands.


He Is Risen!


"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it..." Acts 2:23-24

This verse never fails to make my heart jump.  Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, demonstrating His great love for us by paying the penalty we had earned. He died to pay it, even while we were still defiant and rebelling. But it was not even possible for our Savior to be held by death.  Now He is alive forevermore!  He has paid for our sins and conquered death! 

This is everything! 









Happy Resurrection Day, friends. He is risen!


An Easter Memory



My mom has always been better at sewing than me.  The most impressive thing I have ever stitched is quilts for the cribs of each of my children, but any experienced seamstress would look at the back of those and note how messy they are.  But my mom, she was amazing.  

One year, she made my sister and I matching Easter dresses, navy blue fabric with yellow roses, double-layered with a sheer, silky yellow fabric on top.  It had ties around the back.  I was almost to the age where I didn’t want to match very much anymore, but that year I loved the matching dresses and felt very stylish.  

I don’t know exactly what led our family to try that little church, but I do have an idea.  The winter after I turned nine, we had attended the church at the top of the hill in our little mountain community.  It was a bigger church in the community but still quite small.  I can remember the shape of the pastor’s hair, I remember going to the church one night to watch a testimony movie and feeling inspired by it.  I remember being baptized there and being so excited by the portable CD players my grandparents gave us as a congratulatory gift.  

But what I remember most about that church is the kids.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember them in a good way.

I remember always sitting on the perimeter in Sunday School class, and avoiding speaking as much as possible.  I remember fidgeting in my chair.  I remember dreading the moment the class was over.  Because after the class the other kids, who all knew each other (I didn’t know any of them), would go sit on the couches in the corner of the lobby and talk and laugh.  It always sounded like a mean-spirited laugh to me. I didn’t join them, I stood across the room, right outside the door of my mom’s Sunday School class, waiting for her to come out.  I just didn’t feel comfortable sitting with those kids.

One Sunday I plucked up my courage, and I went and sat on the couch while the kids talked.  None of them really talked to me, and it was nightmarishly awkward the whole time.  One of the ruder boys started pointing at me and teasing another boy about having a crush on me.  I don’t know if that boy did actually have a crush on me or not, I don’t know if I was the target or he was, I just know my nine-year old heart started thumping in my chest.  I finally got up the guts to sit with these kids, and now their attention was focused at me in a way that made me feel as if they were laughing at me.  Maybe they were.  Or there is the possibility that my childish self misunderstood the situation, but I didn’t wait around to find out.  I grabbed my hardcover kids’ devotional Bible and booked it back over to my spot by the adult’s Sunday School class door.

I never sat with those kids after that.  I cried every week while I was getting ready for church, not sure what to wear, terrified that the kids were going to laugh at me again and not wanting to give them any provocation with a silly outfit.  I vividly remember my mom trying to help me get dressed one day, but I was convinced all the kids would make fun of me.  I stood crying in front of the mirror, my eyes red and puffy.  I look back at this as an adult and realize perhaps I was being rather sensitive and a smidge ridiculous that morning.  But my mom looked back at me in the mirror, and I saw her eyes soften.  She turned me to her, gave me a hug, and softly said that I could just stay home with my dad.

My dad and I watched football on the couch that Sunday morning.  And I don’t ever remember going to that church again.

The next time I remember going to church, I was dressed in that pretty yellow Easter dress, matching with my sister.  We drove to a new place, a little white church in a high altitude park, surrounded by fields and mountains.  A boy was in the foyer with a tall white-haired man helping him pull a thick rope that rang the bell in the steeple.  We listened to the sermon while trying not to be distracted by a red-haired girl with the same name as my sister who sat in the row in front of us, grinning over the seat back.  My mom visited with the adults after the service and then walked us kids out back to the merry-go-round, one of the metal kind that spin impossibly fast, the kind they don’t make anymore.  Another girl with dark braids and a bright white smile, dressed in a long fur coat, elegantly watched the other kids as they spun, but she turned to grin at me as we walked up.  

It was a cold, blue day, with a strong wind that carried laughter.  But this time it was the good kind.  Laughter born of joy and friendliness and love for each other and for our Savior on that bright Easter morning.  The kind of laughter that I’m sure Heaven must be filled with.

We never left that church, we stayed there until I was grown and married.  They weren’t perfect, there were a few church dramas, but those people truly functioned as the body of Christ in our lives.  We spent countless Easters there.  We spent many Christmases caroling to the smattering of houses at the foot of the mountains.  The pastors taught us more about our Savior.  The church payed for Christian summer camp for all the kids, in exchange for Bible verses memorized.  They invested in us, and trained us, encouraged us, and taught us truth.  They helped grow me into maturity.  The whole church came to my high school graduation.  The ladies threw a bridal shower for me, they helped plan my wedding.  And the whole church came again the day I married Derek.

Sometimes I’m not sure why children grow up and feel the need to leave something that was good to them as a child.  Because I’ve never found a church that I loved, or that loved me as much, as that one.  It was the love of Christ they showed to us, the love of the One who suffered and died to save us from the wrath we deserved, the love of the One who rose again to free us from our sin.  The love of the One who keeps us still, now and through all eternity as we will worship our King forever in a place with no more tears.


They reflected His perfect love imperfectly.  But it was still dazzlingly bright.


Happy Easter, my friends!  Praying you reflect the love of Jesus our Savior to all who enter your church doors this Good Friday and Resurrection Day.  You never know when the Lord will use you, His hands and feet, in your little church right where you are, to make a lasting impact on someone's life.  Even someone who is already a believer, like I was.

New Orleans And The Resurrection

(Photos taken in April last year, because the trees are weirdly delaying their flowering this spring.)

I'm going to be totally honest guys, it's been a difficult few weeks around here.  Actually, if I'm being totally honest, it's been a difficult year for me so far.

By all measures, this should be a great year.  It's our first year in our new house.  The kids are all getting bigger, and a little easier since we don't have a tiny baby anymore.  Derek is happy in his job, and homeschooling is going fairly well.  It's not an election year (ha!).

But I've been having a hard time.  There is the difficult church situation that is leaving me feeling unanchored.  A couple relationship struggles that are giving me some stress.  Disturbing trends in the culture, and in the "capital-c" Church, that are making me fearful and deeply discouraged.  And my own sinful impulses that make me impatient and irritable with those I love most.

It's not too much, a bunch of (mostly) little things really, but all together it's done a number on my emotional state.

The last couple weeks I hit a breaking point.  One whole week I found myself waking up every hour of each night.  I've never done well on little sleep.  I was completely exhausted, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually as my relationship with the Lord has taken a hit through all this too (no one to blame but myself for that one).

I cried my way through the week, and I just so desperately needed a break.  I could see only endless months of the same ahead, with the only break (vacation) pushed out from May until August this year.  I needed a reset button, and vacation so often is that for me, but I couldn't even look forward to that for a long while.

Derek was due to go on a work trip in a couple weeks to New Orleans, and I could not imagine holding down the fort very well with him gone.  I was so worried about it, I remember shooting up a pathetically short prayer that the Lord would help me to maintain a good and cheerful attitude when Derek was absent.



But then Derek called my mom. And she agreed to watch the kids.  So I get to go with him to New Orleans.

There is something about getting away from my normal surroundings that gives me a clear perspective on life.  It reminds me what I love about home.  It allows me to look with fresh eyes on the things that I need to change.  Vacation almost makes me internally sheepish about how I've been taking my wonderful blessings from God for granted.  It all becomes more clear, somehow.

It's silly, so silly, to write about this during Passion Week.  This is the week that we remember how Christ suffered and died to pay the price for our sins.  For all my sin.  Including my sins of forgetting that Christ is my only anchor and hope, even when the church lets me down.  My sins of selfishness and pride that lead to the relationship struggles I've been dealing with.  My sin of fearing something earthly and temporary when God holds the future in His hands.

I deserved to die and bear the wrath of my own sins, but Christ bore that penalty for me.  He suffered more than I ever will have to suffer, He took my punishment.  And then He rose from the dead, victorious!  He cast my sin away and credited His righteousness to me when I put my trust in Him, and now I'm free of that burden forever.

How silly of me to worry and agonize about the future.  My future is secure for eternity because of what Jesus did for me.  As it is also for everyone who turns to Him in repentance and faith that He alone will save them.

And I'm remembering all this now, as I'm packing a bag for New Orleans.

Maybe it's just a trip to The Big Easy, but planning for that trip at the same time that I'm planning for celebrating His resurrection on Easter has reminded me.  He took care of the biggest thing, the sin that has separated us from Him.  He took care of this relatively small thing of giving me the refreshment of a break that I didn't even dare to pray for.

He's got the rest of it under control too.

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
1 Corinthians 15:57



I may try to write again before Easter, but if I don't, Happy Resurrection Day, friends! I pray you know the peace that comes from knowing our Savior.  He is Risen!

How To Be Opinionated In A Good Way



"I think Callie is smart, and has alot of good things to say, it's just hard to get it out of her!"

A friend told me this last week, referencing another conversation she had with our mutual friend.  I smiled and laughed, and thought it was a sweet thing of her to say, but I've been mulling it over since then.

Why is it hard to get "it" out of me?  And is that a good or bad thing?

---

I am a rather opinionated person.  I don't think it's bad to be an opinionated person - having an opinion means you have thought a topic through.  If someone doesn't have an opinion on something, they may have reached a neutral position, but I think more often they haven't researched the information enough or haven't thought through an issue.  When you do those two things thoroughly, you usually do form some sort of opinion.

But I think there is a difference between being opinionated in a good way, and being opinionated in a bad way.  When someone is opinionated in a bad way, they will give their opinions too much, anytime, anywhere.  When someone is opinionated in a good way, they know when and where is the right time to express their opinion.  The difference between them is a matter of wisdom.

This is something I'm constantly trying to work on, to be discerning about when something must be said, and when to stay quiet.  It's tricky business, but these are some things I usually try to keep in mind.

Also note, I'm mainly talking about conversations between believers in Christ about secondary issues.  Conversations with unbelievers would ideally be ultimately directed on pointing them to Christ, not arguing secondary issues like politics, parenting methods, educational choices, etc.  And it's never a bad time to tell someone the truth of the Gospel of Christ!



When To Speak

When Someone Asks Your Opinion

If someone is asking, they presumably really want to know.  I think it's still important to express any disagreement in a tactful and kind way, but if someone is asking, that's an obvious green light.

When Someone Needs Encouragement

There are times when we all get bogged down in how we think we should be doing things, or how we think things should be.  There are times when we want to do something that might seem crazy.  There are times when we get caught up in our own heads and start to think things are worse than they are.  There are times when we are trapped in a bad pattern, and don't know how to get out of it.  It takes some insight to be able to recognize these things in another person, and wisdom to know when it's the right time to speak.  But when you see that someone needs encouragement - to change something, to act, to be courageous, to be wise, to fight despair, to turn away from some sin - it might be time to speak up, risk stepping on some toes, and give that encouragement.

When Someone Is Saying Something That Is Contrary To Scripture

If you are speaking to a fellow believer in Christ, and something is said that does not line up with Scripture, I think it is a good thing to (gently) point that out.  As believers, we are meant to be discerning and sharpen each other in this way (Proverbs 27:17) - it's part of being the body of Christ. Of course to do this properly you need to know your Bible!

When You Trust The Person To Know Your Intentions And Appreciate A Friendly Discussion

For me, this category most often involves my immediate family and family of origin.  I know they are going to think the best of me, and that our relationship will survive, and even be stronger, after a lively discussion.  I do also give encouragement or my opinion about important matters to others, but my closest family and friends are the ones who get my opinion and input about smaller matters, because I can trust that they won't think the worst of me if we disagree about something small.

When Someone Is Giving Harmful Advice

There are times when someone is saying something that could potentially lead others into some sort of harm, and if that is the case I think it's in order to speak up.

When To Stay Silent

When You Think Someone NEEDS Your Advice

If you are thinking that a friend or family member needs to hear your advice on something, I'd proceed with caution.  The Bible warns us about trying to take a splinter out of our brother's eye when we have a log in our own (Matthew 7:3-5).  We need to make sure we are not acting out of pride or self-righteousness, but truly and lovingly considering the other person as better than ourselves and looking after their best interests (Philippians 2:3-5).

When You Know You Would Be Speaking From A Desire To Show Off

I do this.  Sometimes I insert my opinion when it's not really needed because I want to show that I also have some knowledge on the subject.  I've gotten better at recognizing this pride in my heart and keeping my thoughts to myself when speaking up would mainly be from a desire to show something off.  No one wants to listen to a know-it-all anyway!  It is not glorious to seek one's own glory (Proverbs 25:27).  I struggle with this when it comes to sharing my opinions, but this could apply to conversations about possessions, experiences, your appearance, even your own good deeds - if there is even a little part of you that is saying something just to try to look good, rethink that comment.

When It Is A Difference Of Opinion That Is Not Of Eternal Importance

There are some things that are just not worth dividing over, because in light of eternity, they will mean nothing.  For the record, I do think alot of things that are common discussions DO have some eternal implications, and deserve some careful thought and discussion!  But things like breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, essential oils, eating organic, wearing makeup or not, etc. - not so much.  Those are just my pet examples, but use some discernment before you enter a discussion.  If it's not something God is going to specifically ask you about when you reach Heaven - probably not that important. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 warns us against foolish and ignorant disputes.

When You Would Be Speaking From Anger And Frustration

If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated about a topic, and you aren't sure you can discuss it in a calm, kind way, it's probably best to stay quiet.   Send a well-thought out (and kind) letter later if it's a topic that is really important.

When You See That Someone Is Being Stubbornly Foolish

There are foolish people out there, and when someone is being stubbornly foolish, don't even bother discussing topics with those people.  Proverbs warns us that we might look like a fool when we answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4), which is almost unavoidable with people who are stubbornly being foolish, so I usually just stay away from those discussions.



And of course we should always make sure all these conversations are seasoned with grace and humility,  and realizing that Christians are allowed to have different opinions about issues that are not specifically addressed in Scripture.

I tend to think the wisest position is often to remain quiet (Proverbs 17:28 - probably why my friend thought I was "smart" ha!), so that's where I most often default, but the comment from my friend makes me rethink that a bit.  Because maybe sometimes people want my opinion.  I think I could probably benefit from remembering my own guidelines for situations when it's alright to speak up.  We aren't meant to get into fruitless discussions as fellow believers, but we are meant to sharpen each other on the things that matter and encourage one another.  I can't do that if I remain silent too often.

Of course, it might be hard to get my thoughts out of me in person, but you all are privy to my innermost thoughts and opinions on this blog all the time!  But this is my space, so I assume if you are here, you actually want to know.

What did I miss?  Any other rules of thumb you consider when deciding whether to insert your opinion or not?




Stuff I Like | February 2019


Can you tell my succulents are fake in this picture?  If you remember, I asked you all to help me figure out what to do with the ledge in this post, and I found these succulent planters.  They are still pretty even if they are fake, right?



A few things I enjoyed in February!


Herman Who?

As an average person, I have never taken a class in hermenuetics (the art and science of biblical interpretation), but after watching this DVD I feel like I have!  Todd Friel put out this mini-course on hermenuetics, and it's basically a college-level course condensed and brought to the average Christian in an entertaining way.  I love the different examples he gives of why hermeneutics is important, and I basically wish I could give a copy of Herman Who? out to every single Christian I know.  If everyone understood proper hermeneutics and took it seriously, we'd have so many less Christians caught up in false teaching and silliness.  Highly, highly recommend this course.  Derek and I have been watching it together in the evenings, and we have learned so much.  You can grab a physical or digital copy here.

I also have to note that pretty much anything Todd Friel puts out is gold around here.  They have one of their resources available to watch for free right now called "What Hath Darwin Wrought?" - just click here and go through the steps (donating is optional).  If you don't know the connections between darwinism, racism, and eugenics, you'll want to check it out.

The Greatest Gift 

This is a kids' book that my dear friend and penpal from childhood, Felicia, sent me  as part of her Christmas present.  I read it to the kids yesterday, and all of us LOVED it!  The illustrations are perfect, and the story is a retelling of the story of the widow with the two copper coins, from Mark 12.  It even has discussion questions in the back, so it was perfect for our Bible time!  I kind of want the next book in the series now.  Felicia's husband illustrated this book too, and wow, I was impressed.  It wouldn't be nearly as cute without the beautiful illustrating work!  You can check it out here.  I'm basically going to share too many pictures now, because I enjoyed the illustrations so much.










Serial Reader

This app is just the thing my reading life never knew it needed.  It serializes classic books.  You pic the ones you want, "subscribe", and it sends you a 10-15 minute reading "issue" each day.  Before you know it, you've read a classic book!  I love this app for so many reasons - it makes the classics feel more attainable, and I think it's so clever since many classic books were actually originally published as serials in magazines (including one of my current picks, North And South).  I am also reading The Secret Garden, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Our Mutual Friend, and The Wind In The Willows through the app right now.  I want to tackle Democracy In America next.  Have I mentioned all this is free?

The Astronaut Wives Club

I was at the library a couple weeks ago and spotted this TV mini-series on the wives of the first astronauts.  I have been watching it and it is so interesting!  The stories of these women sucked me in.  It leans a little feminist here and there (I am not a feminist in the modern sense), but overall I have really enjoyed it!  I also started listening to the audiobook, and it's just as good as the show.

This Article On Homeschooling

I don't know how I ran across this new blog, but Jane's article on 9 Reasons Why Homeschool Is A Blessing To Our Family - well, basically I could have written it myself.  I think often families are running away from something they don't like in the public school environment when they choose to homeschool, which is entirely valid - but I also love to hear from someone who, like me, is not just running away from something but running toward something that we see in homeschooling.

The Minimalist Home 

One more book!  Full disclosure: Once upon a time I was supposed to be on the launch team for this book, and I received my free launch team copy in the mail right after we moved.  I greatly underestimated how much I would NOT want to declutter right after moving and remodeling, so I did not read this book as quickly as I wanted - out of guilt, ha!  I'm slowly getting back into gently minimizing though, and this book is the perfect inspiration!  I am enjoying it so far.  If you need some more minimalist inspiration after your "tidying up" purge (am I the only one who didn't watch that special?), I'd recommend this one!  I'm finding The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker helpful and inspiring while also being realistic.  Full review coming as soon as I finish it (I've been listening to part of it on audio as well and the audiobook is great).



Do you have any new finds from February?

Stuff I Like | January 2019



I'm going to try something new here on the blog and share different things I'm liking or loving each month.  I always enjoy reading these kinds of posts myself, and I'm hoping to put together my own once a month as part of my blog goals this year.  We'll see how it goes!

The Book With No Pictures - My kids are finally old enough to find this book completely hilarious, and what makes them happy makes me happy.  Also check out the book I'm Just No Good At Rhyming.  Derek and I have laughed our way through the title poem, but the kids were cracking up at "The Sweetest Lullaby Ever" and "Hey Kids! Get Your Parents To Read This Poem!"  You have to have a goofy side to your personality to make any of these work!

Wild Thing podcast - You all know I live in the mountains, and supposedly people have sighted Bigfoot in our area.  I think there was even an episode of Finding Bigfoot filmed here.  There is a local Bigfoot club.  I know people who believe Bigfoot is a real thing.  I'm not convinced it's not a real thing.  After visiting Washington last year and seeing how much wilderness is out there, I can see how something might be able to hide in those woods.  Anyway, if you have even a little part of you that is interested in learning more about Bigfoot, Wild Thing is a fun podcast to check out!  It's an investigative podcast about...you guessed it...Bigfoot.

You probably could skip episode 2 since it's all about evolutionary theories (which I don't agree with), and watch out for one inappropriate part in episode 8 that you'll have to skip past - but also, my town is mentioned in that episode, ha!  Told you, Bigfoot is big here (no pun intended, but it's funny right?).

These two articles - Weirdly, in the last month two completely unrelated friends have brought up the same question: "What happens to people who never get an opportunity to hear the gospel?"  I've been frustrated with myself for not being as concise and clear as I wish I could be during these recent discussions, because the Bible is clear on what happens to people who never hear about Jesus.  It's a hard question and perhaps a hard answer, but "there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-13). It is only through Christ that we are saved. These two articles solidly answer this question biblically, and say everything I was trying to say to my friends, only better.  Definitely worth a read if you've ever ran into (or wondered about) this question.  What Happens To Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?  Can A Person Be Saved Through General Revelation?  

Also a quick note: I think if someone in a remote tribe (for example) is truly seeking after God, that is a work He has begun in their heart, and He will get the Gospel to them.  It's important to remember that God is infinitely more compassionate and just than we are, and everything He does is good and right. You have to start with that understanding or this question can never be answered satisfactorily.

Little Letters Linkup - I've been thinking alot about old-fashioned blogging this month, not just what happened to old fashioned blogging, but whether and how it can make a comeback.  As far as I can tell, there are precious few old-school linkups still going, which is a pity - I used to find so many other blogs to read through a good linkup.  They used to be very social things, where you wouldn't just drop your link and run, but you'd take time to look around and make connections with other bloggers.  Well, recently I came across this "Little Letters" linkup.  Guys, I think we should participate!  Sharing mini-letters to random things in your life - old-fashioned blogging used to be all about this sort of post, and I want to support it.  So keep an eye out for my little letters post in the next few days, and write one too if you want!

The Big Words Of The Bible Cards - Still loving these cards, which you can read more about here.

Snow - We had several snow days in January, and I am loving the snow so much!  It's supposed to snow again today, and I couldn't be happier.  It's pretty, and it's moisture.  If we don't get snow, then there is a much higher likelihood of wildfires in the summer.  So bring on the white stuff!




Did you find any new stuff you like in January?

Four Quick Reminders About Teaching Children The Bible



My arms are filled with laundry as I trudged up the stairs, turning the corner to put the clothes away.  Why is it that the laundry is never done? I think to myself.  But my steps slow down as I near the girls' room - one of them is singing in there.  I turn my hear to listen, and recognize one of the lines (amidst some other made-up words).  To God be the Glory, great things He has done!  The words drift out of the bedroom, and I feel a laugh bubbling up in my chest.

One of my greatest joys right now as a mom is to randomly catch one of my children singing a line to hymn.  Or to hear an echo of a catechism question or Bible verse we've been working on as they chatter to other people.  It doesn't happen all the time, but every couple months I catch one of them repeating something that we've been working on, and it makes my heart so happy.

This year one of my focuses with the kids has been developing a morning time routine.  Not only for our homeschooling, but also as a dedicated time each day to pour eternal truths into my kids.  We usually sing a hymn, work on memorizing catechism questions and Bible verses, and read from our Bible, and perhaps one other book.  

I haven't even been as consistent with this as I would like, but somehow things are still soaking through.  It's moments like the one above that remind me why I need to be consistent, why this is important.  I want these truths hidden in their hearts.

This week I have been thinking over a few things that I am trying to remember as I teach my children about Jesus, since we just got a new resource that I am excited to add to our morning Bible time routine (see the end of this post!).  I thought I'd share a few of my little Bible-time "notes to self" here.

Note To Self #1 - Don't refer to the Bible as a "storybook".  To be honest, I'm still working on this one, but I am really trying to not talk about reading a "Bible story" to my kids.  Every other time I tell the kids we are going to read a "story" from a picture book, I'm reading them something that is not true.  I don't want my kids to get the idea that the Bible is just full of nice "stories".  I want them to know it is history!  

So we don't read "Bible stories", we read the "biblical account" of history.  We don't talk about "Bible characters", we talk about "biblical figures".  It's a small shift, but I want my kids to know that this isn't a bunch of fiction - these are accounts of people that really lived, and things God really did!

Note To Self #2 - Memory work matters.  I need this reminder sometimes because when we are having a busy week, our Bible memory work is one of the first things to drop off - but it shouldn't be. I know from firsthand experience that the best way to truly know God's word is to embed it into your mind from a young age.  When I was a kid, we memorized around a hundred verses each year, trying to earn our way to summer camp as part of a program at our church.  Now when I'm facing a tricky situation or doing something wrong or hearing something from a speaker that's just a bit off, the Holy Spirit brings to mind one of the verses I learned as a child.  I may not always remember the reference, but the words are there, hidden in my heart.  I want that for my kids too, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).  And the only way to get God's word hidden in their hearts is consistency (and maybe a healthy dose of bribery motivation).

Note To Self #3 - Kids can understand theology.   And probably a lot more than we typically give them credit for.  One of my current pet peeves is when Bible lessons are dumbed down for little ones.  Instead of giving them the real meat of God's word, I think we too often give them a lick and then take the meal away!  

I think I first started to realize this when one of my children asked me why we still sin if Jesus takes our sins away.  Instead of giving a light answer, I had to really dive into our sin nature and justification and sanctification - how Jesus paid for our sins and gives us His righteousness, so we are justified before God when we trust in Him, but we still struggle with sin as God continues to sanctify us while we are on the earth.  Obviously I had to define these words, but I was shocked at how much my little five year old understood!  We underestimate our kids too often.

Note To Self #4 - It's okay to make religion fun for kids.  Lest you think it's all serious doctrinal discussions around here, I have to point this out (and remind myself of this too)!  

I don't take many points from Dennis Prager on religion, since he is not a believer in Christ, but this last Christmas I watched one of his videos where he talked about why it's good to make religion fun for kids.  What he said made so much sense to me.  It gave me some peace of mind as I give my kids the presents, make the Bible-themed snacks (two [swedish] fish and five loaves [crackers], anyone?), play the games, sing the silly songs along with the great ones!  I want to make Bible time fun, so they look back on it with fondness.  

God willing, someday each of my kids will grow to the point where these things I am trying to teach them become personally meaningful and life-changing, as the Holy Spirit convicts them and they truly realize their need for Christ and turn to Him in repentance and faith. I pray for that and it's the reason why I am teaching them in the first place.  But for these little years, they really still need it to be fun too.  It's serious work, teaching our kids about Jesus, but there is no reason we can't laugh while we do it - it may even help it to stick better!



One of the things I do to keep Bible time fun for all of us is to look for new resources periodically to refresh out routine.  We have the Bible we like to use, and the hymn book we sing from, and I am trying to rotate some other resources in and out.  So I was so excited to be able to be on the launch team for these wonderful "Big Words Of The Bible" cards from Tiny Theologians!










These cards each represent and important Greek or Hebrew word that it would be helpful for kids (or you!) to know.  I knew some of these, but some of them are new to me as well!  I am going to add these to our Bible time rotation - we will discuss one each day until we get through them all, and then work on memorizing them.  I am so excited to have a colorful fun resource that also teaches Greek and Hebrew vocabulary words that will be so helpful for my kids (and me) to learn!

The cards are launching on Friday!  
I'll be reminding you on Instagram if you are interested in snagging a set, or you can hop over and follow Tiny Theologians to stay updated and see all their resources (I'm eyeing the ABC Attributes Of God cards and the Fathers Of The Faith cards too)!

Note: I am on the launch team for the Big Words Of The Bible cards and received a set for free from Tiny Theologians!
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