Archive for Book Reviews

Books That Challenged and Changed Me This Year {2015}

 

In case you need some ideas for Santa, here are a few of my favorite books from 2015. These aren’t necessarily new releases, but just books that encouraged and challenged me this year. I’m including the Amazon links below:

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We Would See Jesus. A short, life changing read. Every Christian woman should read this classic.

Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. Got hurt issues? This is a great resource.

Women of the Word. Excellent resource for learning how to study the Bible for yourself, without relying on commentaries.

The Church Planting Wife. Great read for any ministry wife.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. Wonderful read.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Excellent resource for women who are living for titles or are confused about what Christian womanhood looks like. I adapted this book and taught through some of the topics in our teen girls youth group and I plan to cover the rest of them this winter.

Look and Live. One of the best books on worship I’ve read in a long time. I can’t recommend it cart blanche, as I had a few qualms with it (stylistic), but it’s wonderful for those who feel they are dry spiritually and know they are missing something in their worship of God…aka…they’re worshiping lesser things.

Safe People: How to Find Relationships that Are Good for You. I bristled at the title of this, because I tend to believe that you should get along with the people God sends into your life, but I was glad I read this book. It helped me to prioritize my relationships and find peace with letting go of a few relationships that I knew were no longer healthy because let’s face it–life’s too short to spend energy on people who are toxic.

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris. A fun read.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Peter read this aloud to me and it was fascinating. It’s based on the life work of Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychologist who, after working with the poor and incarcerated for years, noted a common dysfunctional set of values that seemed to keep these people trapped in a victim’s mindset, hence, trapped in their current circumstances with no hope of change. Excellent read.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom:My Escape from North Korea. Peter read this aloud to us as a family and we couldn’t wait to hear the conclusion of this modern day escape!

What books would you recommend? What books challenged you this year?

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days!

Fear and Faith

Senseless violence and killing. Islamic Terrorists. Scenes I never imagined I’d see in my lifetime playing out on the lovely streets of Paris.

I spent my Friday night watching my Twitter feed, nervously awaiting news of the hostages in the theatre. I heard that they were killing them one by one. My heart sank and my legs felt weak.

Peter and I were out shopping with the kids, trying to go about our night like it was a normal one, walking the mall, eating Thai food with chop sticks, oohing and ahhing over toddler clothes for Brayden, trying to shield my youngest from the fact that the situation was deadly serious because she’s so very afraid of ISIS and already has nightmares about it.

Friday night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 am, half watching the news, half praying, trying to make sense of the absolutely senseless.

God, in His perfect timing, reminded me of a book I’d read but never reviewed on the blog, by the lovely Trillia Newbell, the author of the book Fear and Faith.

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She asked me to share a little bit about my experiences with fear and that post will be published on her on  her blog on Tuesday. Tuesday, here, I’ll also share some of my favorite quotes from her book, because as I’ve told you before, I am the world’s worst book reviewer. I just love sharing the quotes that especially spoke to me.

I think fear comes naturally for me. I come from a long line of worriers, all the way back to my Italian great grandmother. I can hear her words in her broken English now:

“ma-Sarah, put on your coat. You’re going to catch a cold!” or “Get down! You’re going to break your leg.” or “ma-Eat! You’re going to get sick if you don’t eat the broth.”

Fear is something I had to deal with when my kids were young, and mercifully, God has opened my eyes to my own specific “brand” of fear which was control, especially when it came to my kids. I tell more about that in my article for Trillia’s blog, and after you read it you’ll think I’m a certified crazy woman but suffice it to say, I was living my life as though I was solely responsible for the safety of my children and it was a heavy burden to bear, because I am not God.  It wasn’t until I embraced the idea of God’s sovereignty and goodness in all areas that I was able to relinquish the reins (and my children!) to Him.

Fear manifests itself in so many ways: anxiety, anger, restlessness, indecisiveness, irrationality, stubbornness, etc…

(Side note: the terms fear and worry are such “acceptable” words in Christian circles. We should call it what it is: unbelief, lack of trust, doubting God. It’s that serious and ugly.)

Are you a control freak? Do you get angry when things don’t go your way? Do you have a hard time trusting men or women? Do you find yourself doing and saying things for the approval of others? Do you assume the worst about everyone’s motives? Do you fear the future?

Bottom line: fear issues are trust issues. We don’t think God’s big enough. We don’t think He cares enough about us. We believe He’s shortchanged us and we doubt His love.

We live like orphans when we are the most beloved children of a good God. We live like beggars when we have all the resources we need in Christ. We live like outsiders when God’s invited us into His inner circle to dine and live with Him forever.

Trillia covers so many common fears in this book: fear of man, the future, tragedy, not measuring up, and, hello, other women! 

She then brilliantly unfolds how God’s sovereignty, wisdom, love, and goodness all play out in His plans for our good. She then instructs us to turn all of this truth that we know about God into action as we worship and fear Him.

If you’re struggling to break the grip of fear in your life so that you can walk a life of faith and freedom, I highly recommend this book.

*Post contains affiliate links. I received this book at no cost to review. All opinions are my own.

Favorite Things Fridays

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Favorite Things post, so today’s post is newsy.

Yesterday we enjoyed a grower reception at Ocean Spray and got to meet the OS “commercial guys.”

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I am busy getting ready for Christmas. I have a good chunk of my shopping done.

I want to be done early because my kids are coming home for Thanksgiving for a week! Woot! Plus we have three birthdays to celebrate that week as well, so I need to be organized in order to get it all done. :)

And once Thanksgiving weekend is over, life seems to get busier than I like. If we’re not careful, we can spend our time reacting to life rather than planning it out and living it well. I wrote extensively about keeping holiday sanity (and not breaking the bank!) in my ebook “Merry Christmas, Meager Budget” available here.  (<—also, grab 2 free chapters here as well.) Plus, we have an Instagram Giveawayhttps://instagram.com/p/9eF9D4lcMo/ of 4 copies of our eBook going on right now so head on over there to enter for you and a friend.

Here are some of my favorite things around the web. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy.

CRAFTY:: 1 Million free vintage images from the British Library.

Learn how artist/illustrator Renee Graef illustrates a book. She’s definitely one of my favorite illustrators.

MOTHERHOOD:: Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience to your kids.Sally Clarkson on teaching obedience.

Also, we’re newbies to the world of foster care but this was a great article about the need entitled “Wanted: Parents Willing to Get too Attached. Someday, when I can, I’ll write a little bit about the roller coaster of emotions that is foster care, but for now, we’re praying our way through this journey and loving on our little guy.

EDUCATIONAL:: This video: Watch 1000 Years of European Borders Change in 3 Minutes.

This 3D animation of how the heart works is fascinating.

CHRISTIAN GROWTH:: This super insightful post by Piper entitled The Major Obstacle in Forgiving Others might make you think twice about why you like to hold a grudge.

“… if we do this —if we really return good for evil, not the kind of manipulative way that hopes to really draw attention to the other person’s guilt…then very few people, if anybody, will know that we have been hurt.”

Holly Stratton’s article about relational struggles sheds light on our struggles with pride when faced with the pride of others and how God graciously uses other’s sin to show us our own.

KITCHEN:: This is by far my most pinned recipe: Copycat Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Chai Tea Mix. Great for fall and Christmas gift giving.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff via Allrecipes is one of my favorite recipes to make for a crowd. Serve with green beans, cranberry sauce and rolls. Yum.

BOOKS:: I am currently enjoying Relying on the Power of the Holy Spirit by Elizabeth George, and Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, which I find myself coming back to again and again. Peterson is extremely insightful and calming, if you know what I mean. Her section on community and identifying with family after a loved one passes away was worth the cost of the book. Also, Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Because you can’t be godly and discontent, now can you? 😉 I wrote about that choosing contentment  even when life gets hard and what to remember when it does. 

What links did you enjoy this week? Feel free to share in the comments. Or if you blog, feel free to share one of your own links. Have a great weekend!

*Post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Contentment is a choice.

Contentment is a topic that kept resurfacing over and over again this past week, and whenever that happens, I know the Lord is trying to teach me something.

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Discontentment can creep into our hearts in the subtlest ways, like the other night when I just wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet. It had been a busy day, and I had met the needs of everyone in the house, and had a busy “ministry” day.

Peter made a nice fire in my fireplace so I could read, but I couldn’t seem to get to my bedroom to enjoy it. As I ran around, tidying up the house, I could feel the frustration building and discontentment growing each time I passed my bedroom and saw the warm glow flickering and heard the wood crackling. The internal complaining began:

What am I, the maid? Can’t I have five minutes to myself? Am I the only one with two arms and two legs in this house? Why am I doing everything?

God graciously convicted me after a few minutes that my complaining thoughts were not okay. Wanting a fire and solitude are wonderful things, good gifts, but

not the ultimate thing. When I desire good things too much, and it morphs into demands, you can be sure discontentment and covetousness are at the root.

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Nobody wants to be discontent. I strive to be joyful, but without contentment,  joy is completely impossible and elusive.

I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve sat and listened to many women who find joy elusive. It’s always just out of reach because everything is not the way they’d dreamed. Happiness would come:

  • If I were thinner/prettier
  • If my kids weren’t so disobedient
  • If finances weren’t so tight
  • If I had an attentive husband
  • If I had a better childhood
  • If people respected me more
  • If that person would just leave
  • When this thing ____________{fill in the blank} changes

But do other people make us unhappy or is this just a way of blame shifting?

Jerry Bridges, in Respectable Sins says this:

“Your circumstances may be much more difficult than any I’ve ever experienced, but the truth is, it is our response to our circumstances rather than the degree of difficulty that determines whether or not we are discontent.

My contentment is not based on my situations or circumstances, but on my responses and the focus of my heart.  Contentment is a choice.

Lydia Brownback, in her lovely book “Contentment” says this of Rachel:

Jacob’s wife Rachel was never a very happy person. She wasn’t a very productive woman either. She spent the majority of her life seeking the things she wanted at any cost and at the expense of other people. God never satisfied Rachel, which is precisely why nothing else satisfied her either.

Discontentment is an equal opportunity tormentor and we see it in every walk of life:

  • the single girl who wants to get married and the married lady who wishes she wasn’t,
  • the woman who struggles with infertility and the woman who has so many children she can’t hear herself think,
  • the woman who lives in a teeny-tiny apartment and the woman who can’t stand to clean her enormous house,
  • the mom of toddlers who just wants a break and the empty-nester who thinks her life is over now that her kids are gone
  • the woman struggling to put food on the table and the richest woman in Hollywood.

When God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, He prefaced all ten of them with this statement:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

So when we’re breaking the 10th commandment by coveting (which is idolatry, because of discontentment) we’re forgetting the Lord our God.

I am the Lord thy God. Period. I am everything you need. You are no longer in bondage. I am in control. I am doing what’s right for you. If you follow my ways, you’ll be blessed.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Be content. Why? Because I am the Lord your God. I will never leave you or forsake you. You have everything you need.

Everything. If we have Christ, we have it all. Anything else is just an extra blessing.

Sow thankfulness, reap contentment.

How are you pursuing contentment?

*post contains Amazon Affiliate links to books I recommend at no cost to you.

Things You’ll Love

This week Hope and I have been sick with colds. We’re both on antibiotics now and are on the mend. Yay for modern medicine!

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We watched Paddington as a family and it was really sweet and funny.  We also got a pre-screening link to view Beyond The Mask and loved it.

SOO, {ducking and bracing} I rarely LOVE Christian films for whatever reason (acting is weak, humor is corny, low budget, all of the above, I don’t know. Don’t hate!) but I will watch them because the messages are usually wholesome. This was NOT the case with Beyond The Mask. The filming was right up there with the best movies I’ve seen and the acting was wonderful! It was full of action and romance that wasn’t trashy, and there was no foul language. Highly recommend!

I spent some time reading At Home with Madame Chic and am really enjoying it. I love the detail that Jennifer Scott puts into life. I also love that she lives her life with high standards regardless of what anyone else is doing around her. We only get one life to live. We might as well live it well!

Some days I was so sick that all I could do was listen to an audio book. By the way, if you’ve never tried Audible you can get two free audio books right now by signing up for their free trial. You’re welcome.

Some favorite reads around the web this week:

Why venting your emotions is the worst choice. Just so much common sense here.

The Small, Happy Life “We don’t all have to shine.”

How are you doing today? Insightful article by Anne about the questions we ask when people are grieving. I agree with Anne that the question should be, “How are you doing right now.”

In Defense of Doing Nothing. A Stanford dean tells us why we should let our kids just live during the summers.

Things have been slow around the blog lately. We all know that life happens and blogs go cold. We’ve been in the midst of carefree hospitality and setting priorities so that we aren’t so busy “serving” that we actually forget about God.

DID I MENTION THAT MY SISTER IS COMING HOME IN FIVE DAYS? We were just together in May, but we love having all the kids together for a few weeks each summer. YAY!!

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What have you been reading and loving this week? Let me know in the comments section here or on FB. I hope you are all bronchitis-free and enjoying this lovely summer.

*post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Interview with Christine Hoover and a From Good to Grace Giveaway

Really excited to share this interview with Christine Hoover with you today and offer a giveaway of her new book, From Good to Grace for you and a friend!  If you aren’t familiar with her book, I semi-reviewed it here after I disagreed with the Gospel Coalition’s review which basically said that this dependence on grace and the Holy Spirit was not enough to lead to holiness and change. Many of you wrote that this was your faulty understanding as well, years ago, and that God had brought you through trials to bring you to the end of yourself and show you that dependence on the law for salvation or sanctification was futile. The law was meant to be a schoolmaster, holding our hand, leading us to the Savior.

I had a few questions for Christine after reading her book and wanted to share them with you.

Sarah: What causes us to get the “gospel” so wrong?  Especially those of us who have been brought up in solid gospel preaching churches?

Christine: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel–spiritual growth through self-effort–is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free”.

So there’s this fight to live in the grace Christ has won for us, but I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.

Sarah: On a practical level, what does preaching the “grace gospel” look like on a daily basis? You talked in the book about what you dubbed “Autism Days” and how those emotionally hard days were when you needed to remember God’s love. Can you talk us through your thought process. What verses do you cling to? How do you prepare yourself for the highs and lows of emotion that we women experience throughout life?

Christine: My emotionally difficult days usually circle around discouragement regarding my children, self-doubt regarding writing, and struggles with being a pastor’s wife. My thoughts tell me that I’m not good enough or that I’m not doing enough. When I’m thinking along those lines, I typically go back to two anchors.

One is, “What has God asked of me in this?” Almost 100% of the time, I am condemning myself rather than experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. God has asked me to be faithful in my roles, but I am putting additional standards on myself, such as having perfectly behaved children and people at church who are perpetually pleased with me. I know God’s conviction when it is biblical, specific, and hopeful, not condemning. There is no condemnation ever for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The second anchor is adding “But God” to my thoughts. Am I good enough? No, but God has made me righteous in His eyes through Christ. Am I going to disappoint people? Yes, but God has given me His unchangeable approval in Christ.

I’m not saying that my emotions immediately change, but going to these anchors leads me to ask the Lord for help in believing what is true and help in being faithful to Him in my roles.

Sarah: Parenting is one place where I think we can unknowingly train our kids to a behavioral gospel. We praise good behavior and scold negative behavior. We use phrases like “Good girl” and get excited when our kids act and behave in appropriate ways that make us look like the “good mom.” Do you think we are ingraining the goodness gospel in our kids?

Christine: This is a good and important question. In parenting my kids according to the gospel of grace, it helps me to think about the role of the Law. According to Galatians 3:19-25, the Law teaches us that we need something beyond ourselves and our own abilities and behaviors in order to be righteous. In other words, I look at the law and I see my inability to be good and it leads me to Christ.

This is so applicable to parenting. I want to teach my children what God says is right and wrong and to obey Him (the Law), but I can’t stop there. I have to help them understand that they are unable in and of themselves to fully obey and “be good”. This leads to the gospel: Jesus was perfect on their behalf and they are given the opportunity to accept it by faith.

After salvation, I want to teach them that faithfulness to God is the most important pursuit. I am leading them to Jesus and teaching them to walk with Him, not just to obey me. I want them to go to Him in Scripture, know Him through Scripture, ask Him for help and leadership, and learn to obey His voice. Of course, I am going to be a primary voice in their life, but the question is who is leading me as I lead my children? Myself and my own desires, understanding, and effort? Or am I trusting that God will speak to my children and help them grow? I must pray toward that end, otherwise I am tempted to be their Law and Holy Spirit.

Sarah: How has writing this book impacted the way you parent? How are you intentionally training your kids to understand the love and grace of God?

Christine: What God has taught me about grace has greatly impacted my parenting. The most helpful thing I’ve learned about grace is that I am not an orphan (John 14:18). I don’t have to take care of myself. I have a Father who loves me, cares for me, and nurtures me. He delights in me and sings over me. Knowing that lights me up with joy, but it also compels me to lay down my life for the One who has sacrificed so much for me.

 

This has everything to do with parenting. I want my kids to see me delight in God and enjoy Him and serve Him, because kids really do love what their parents love. I want them to see me so confident in God’s love for me and that He loves them the same way. Because God’s love toward them will compel them to faithful obedience (2 Cor. 5:14). I know that’s not super practical, but the old adage is true: you can’t give away what you don’t have.

Thanks, so much, Christine, for joining us here today and sharing what the Lord is teaching you.

If you’d like to enter a contest to win a copy of From Good to Grace for you and a friend, you can enter whichever way is easiest for you:

1. Comment on our Instagram pic and tag your friend on IG.

2. Tweet about this giveaway and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays on Twitter.

3. Share this on FB and tag your friend and @joyfilleddays.

Make sure you tag @joyfilleddays and make your post public so I can count your entry on the social media outlet of your choice. You can enter once on each social media platform for a total of 3 entries.

Contest ends midnight, Friday, 3/13/2015, EST.  Physical book mailings for the US only. Outside the US, you’ll win a Kindle version of the book. Giveaway courtesy of Baker Books and Joyfilleddays.com. 

Book Review: From Good to Grace

I was going to wait until next week to review From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel because I have a giveaway and a special interview with Christine to share with you.10943725_1021483634548490_2479008169173859976_n

 

But after I highly recommended the book last week, a reader brought The Gospel Coalition’s review of it to my attention, and wondered at the question made by the reviewer, “Doesn’t grace lead to goodness?” The question asserts that the book failed to point its reader to a pursuit of good works. So, I decided to share my thoughts today and vanquish any fears that this book is a call to heavy handed grace which leads to licentiousness and away from true goodness.

So, let’s look at TGC’s question.

“Doesn’t Grace Lead to Goodness? This was the one question that stuck with me after reading From Good to Grace. When believers are forgiven and liberated from their bondage to sin and death, aren’t we supposed to become slaves to righteousness… It seemed to me that much of the book equated the pursuit of goodness with legalism…Peter tells us we’re called to be holy as God is holy. Paul exhorts us to imitate God (who is the definition of goodness) as beloved children. I’m assuming this means God intends us to strive for goodness in some regard. Unfortunately, Hoover does little to address the ways in which these two realities—grace and the pursuit of holiness—interact. She isn’t the first to step foot into this gray zone. ”

I’m not sure how she missed one of the central messages that walking in the Spirit is the way to goodness (a little ironic given the topic of the book.)

In essence, she’s asking, “Don’t we need to strive for holiness?” And the answer is beautifully answered, a resounding “YES” we do, absolutely,  but in the strength of the Holy Spirit. (excerpts below) You see, why we do what we do is the point of the book. We can do all the right things for the wrong reasons.

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In this book, Christine contrasts the beliefs of a woman who believes the goodness gospel and how those core beliefs play out in her daily life vs. the freedom and reality of the true gospel  which is freedom to good works via the Spirit led life.

Many Christian women are joyless and in bondage to another gospel, and although this is a partial list, here are some of the reasons we live this way:

  • it’s easier to walk in the flesh, than in the Spirit, so having begun in the Spirit, they’re now being perfected in the “flesh” (Gal. 3:3)
  • when we walk in the flesh, we feel more in control. Walking in the Spirit is foreign to many Christians, unfortunately, and it shows in our lack of fruit (love, joy, peace)
  • we care more about self-image and how we are perceived by others
  • we fail to understand the love and goodness of God

The goodness gospel preaches that we must do more, be more, attain more, and never drop any of the roles we juggle. It’s all about our performance. On the days when we are performing well by our own standards, and everyone is applauding us, we feel validated and good. On the days when we fail, and people criticize us, we feel condemnation. This is not the good news. The good news is that we are not enough, and we don’t have to be enough, because Jesus is enough on our behalf.

For those worried that From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospelis a call to licentiousness, or as TGC article infers, a call to abandon good works, I’ll leave you with a few quotes from the book and let Christine speak for herself:

“As we receive his love, our responses will include daily dying
so that we might awaken to righteousness. We will make no provision for the
flesh because we desire to live according to the Spirit. That’s the heart’s
desire of the redeemed.” Pg. 85

“The Spirit enables us to pursue righteousness and do all that
God asks of His followers. “I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not
fulfill the lust of the flesh….” Pg 94

“We can trust that it is the Holy Spirit who is leading us when
he aligns our hearts with Scripture and convicts us of truth. This conviction ….leads
to godly sorrow and repentance. “ pg. 101

“As he convinces us of both our need and our reception of
imputed righteousness, we recognize a growing love and desire for obedience in
our lives. He leads us away from the lusts of the flesh.” Pg 101

“ but we have another responsibility, and that is to obey when
he leads. It’s not enough to receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction, direction,
counsel, and leadership; we must then fall in step with him by following and obeying.” Pg. 106

Christine’s heart is to want to do right so badly and be good in all her roles, that it eventually brought her into bondage. If you can relate with this struggle, you’ll be blessed by her gracious, clear, gospel solid writing.

A watercolor printable for you, and a new, must-read book

So teach us

My site has been quiet this past week, partly due to technical reasons which I ended up ignoring, because honestly, life is busy in a good way.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, we’ve got snow here, people. Six feet. And with it—rain in my kitchen. Insurance adjusters are coming our way soon and we’re thinking that we’ll need to replace ceilings in two rooms.

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The storm has afforded me extra time to read, paint, and have friends over.

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I told you I’d post the watercolor I designed on my way home from A.I. DuPont after Addy’s first surgery. I’m posting it here so you can print it out and enjoy it. Please consider it a thank you for praying for my niece.

I’ve entitled it “Teach us to number our days.” It’s a picture of a primitive style cabinet in my kitchen.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

This is the cabinet this past Christmas.

I filled it with all of the things of a woman’s life: quilts to represent security, rest, and hospitality; dishes to represent the important task of feeding bodies and carrying on family traditions; books for the imparting of wisdom. There are other “life”” things tucked in the cabinet, including baby shoes, flowers, tea cups, photos, needle and thread, etc. Yellow beeswax tapers hang on the side to represent light. Now we see darkly, as by candle light, but some days we’ll behold our Savior and see Him as he is. Amazing thought.

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These things are all crude and necessary, but imagine heaven some day. No need of blankets for warmth or security, because we’ll be in the presence of the holy, triune God.

No need of books. We’ll be with the Word itself.

Even our best china dishes will pale in comparison to the table the Lord sets before us.

Until then, we’ll rejoice that we are strangers and pilgrims here, and use our time to worship the Lord through our work.

When you see all of life as worship, the job you’ve been given to do no longer matters. Faithfulness matters. Sometimes we get this wrong. We pour our energy into “big” things to the neglect of the everyday things. This is a serious mistake. Our lives are lived in the mundane moments, and most of our opportunities to serve come in micro-events, not mountaintop moments.

We can serve pancakes and tea to our family behind closed doors and God sees it as service to Him. Don’t make your kids fend for themselves, but then kill yourself for a church ministry. That’s backwards, and honestly, not uncommon. We can embrace washing sheets and dishes with as much gratitude as standing on a stage speaking to hundreds for the cause of Christ. If our heart is worshiping God, we’ll happily serve whether on the stage or in the sick room cleaning up after children.

So teach us 8X10
One book that I want to make sure you know about that releases today on Kindle is From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

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This book is not a loosey-goosey feel good book. It’s not a call to let your hair down and live as you want.

It’s the secret to a powerful Christian walk. It’s letting go of the try hard life and forgetting self all together, so that you can depend on the Holy Spirit to get a hold of you and change you.

For those of you who live with self-condemnation which keeps you from really loving and serving others, this book is for you.

For those who feel like no one appreciates all that they do, this one if for you.

For those who feel like a failure as a Christian, you are so close…because you are… and that’s exactly where you need to be to grasp the grace that God provides for you.

For those of you who are doing good things for all the wrong reasons…trying to get God to like you or trying to get others to think you are a good person, this book is for you.

If you’ve spent your entire Christian walk worrying about what other people think of you, pick up  From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

This is one of my favorite reads of 2015 so far. (Disclosure: I received it free from the publisher. I’m purchasing it for several friends–it was that good, and it’s out today in Kindle format. Paperback is available March 3.)

Have a great week, ladies!

Interview with Karen Ehman and a Keep.It.Shut Giveaway

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER AND WE HAVE A WINNER. CONGRATULATIONS, BERNADETTE V! I’LL BE EMAILING YOU SHORTLY! :)

Today, we have an interview with KAREN EHMAN, a writing friend and hospitality kindred spirit about her new book Keep.It.Shut. Woo hoo!

Karen’s book A Life That Says Welcome is one of my all-time favorites and her super easy yeasty crescent roll recipe is now my old standby as well. (pg. 145)

IMG_3580If you’ve never read it, consider adding it to your hospitality library.

But, I digress, because today we’re here to talk about her new book Keep.It.Shut, a book about using our words wisely. And not just WHAT we say, but the WAY in which we say them.

 

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Here are a few great thoughts from the book:

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“God is patient. He doesn’t fly off the handle in anger. His love never runs out. His faithfulness never takes a vacation day. And God’s Son knew how to impart grace when he spoke while here on earth: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” Luke 4:22″

“When we flip-flop these two commands—being slow to listen and quick to speak—it often leads to the third part of that verse: we are quick to become angry.[sic] speaking too soon combined with not listening leads to conflict–and conflict leads to anger.”

“If we want to avoid offending our friends–or committing any number of verbal sins–we need to control our lips. And taking a first step can be simpler than you might imagine. When we sense the Holy Spirit telling us that things are starting to go downhill, we can simply say, “I’m sorry. I’m talking too much.”

There are just too many great quotes in this book to mention, so without further ado…let’s get started. :)

Sarah: When I think of Karen Ehman, I naturally think hospitality, family traditions, etc. What experiences prompted you to write Keep.It.Shut?

Karen: Having my mouth get me in so much trouble over the decades of my life! Seriously. It is the old case of any strength carried to an extreme becoming a weakness. I enjoy talking. But I let it get out of hand often. And when it does, I have often found myself in a heap of trouble.
Sarah: What hope would you give to the woman who has had a lifelong struggle with foolish/sinful speech patterns? What gospel hope could you offer?
Karen: Christ redeems and makes all things new. That even applies to our words! When we are intentional to follow his example and to be quick to ask forgiveness when we do sin with our mouths, we can start to form new habits and patterns over time. Then, instead of constantly using our mouths in a way that is not pleasing, we can begin to see that happen only every once in a while as the habit of our speech becomes more godly.
Sarah: Struggling with words is something we all struggle with to some extent or another. And then there are some women who seem to blurt anything that comes into their mind like a verbal drive by shooting. I have a friend whose mother in law has no “filter” and it can be hurtful. I know we’re not responsible for the behavior of others, but what  do we need to know about these women in order to be more compassionate to them and love them well?
Karen: Believe the best about someone before we assume the worst. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They mean well, their mouth just often misfires. It helps for us to remember that, although we might not regret our words as often as someone else, we too have an area of our life where we tend to trip up in sin. Having grace helps us to wipe the slate clean in our relationships with others so we can continue to relate without negative baggage from the past.
Sarah: How can young moms train their kids to be careful with their speech?
Karen: By modeling it. By asking forgiveness for our mama mouth when we blow it. And we will blow it! We don’t want our children to think we are perfect and that we never send in what we say. We want them to see a mom who is striving to be Christ like in her speech but who also knows where to go when she blows it. She goes to God and she goes to the person she has offended, even if it is one of her children.
Thank you so much, Karen, for such great advice!
Now, you can enter to win a copy of Keep.It.Shut. Giveaway ends Tuesday. I hope you win! :)

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*Post contains affiliate links to Amazon. I received Keep.It.Shut free to review. All opinions are my own.

Thoughts from the Sally Clarkson Own Your Life Webcast

First off, today’s my youngest’s 12th birthday! We’re celebrating by a special lunch and shopping.

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Last night I watched Sally Clarkson’s webcast for her new book Own Your Life. (There are big giveaways on her blog including a trip to one of her Whole Heart Mom Intensives! How fun would that be!?)

I’ve really benefitted from her wisdom over the years in the homeschooling arena of life and I appreciate her zeal and intentional approach to parenting. And although we would not be in complete agreement in several areas, I’ve learned so much from her over the years and thank God that she gets her “hands dirty” and serves others in the deep areas of our soul, instead of staying on the “safe” surface.

I’ve not read Own Your Life yet, so I can’t speak about it intelligently. But there were some great truths in the book endorsement webcast that resonated with me.

Crystal of Money Saving Mom said that women should take time to do what refreshes your soul so you can come back and serve your family well. YES. I couldn’t agree more. The strain becomes obvious to everyone around you. I am a much better person all around when I take time to do things I love: lunch with friends, write, paint, and look at beautiful things, be it teacups, neatly stacked ribbons or freshly laundered antique linens in an antique shop.

Crystal also mentioned that having a circle of “close friends” is imperative. She qualified these friends: they speak truth into your life.

So often, people only want you to hear the good. She appreciates it when people notice and tell her when she’s going the wrong way. These are truly the rarest and best types of friend. “Friends” who can’t/won’t receive criticism or really any negative feedback without feeling persecuted are not friends at all. We are wise to cultivate the true friendships, where mutual respect and truth reins. You can judge a true friend by the way they accept criticism from you and by how happy they are for you when you succeed, and vice versa!

From Angela of Loving God Greatly: First off, does she not have the most contagious smile? She kept bringing it back to “Get into the Word”–such great encouragement.

From Sarah Mae of SarahMae.com: You don’t need permission to step out and do what God calls you to do and is clearly giving you a driving passion to do. God does give us the desires we should have when we are walking in step with His word. I love this about Sarah Mae–this past year she taught by what she didn’t do, and that was to blog. She poured her life into a daughter she felt was struggling a bit, and by her online silence, set an example for many. I love how she left public ministry for her sweet daughter, yes, I do.

Anyway, if you want to enter to win goodies, including this book, head over to Sally Clarkson.com