Bookworm: Books that change and challenge me

I love books that make me dig deeper into my faith and get closer to Jesus. I could probably stand to read more fiction and biographies, but I am just naturally drawn to books that dig deeper into other people’s stories and how they met Jesus along the way. Here are six books I’ve read in the last 6-9 months, a brief synopsis and why they were important to me…

  1. The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines – We’ve loved Fixer Upper, since we discovered the HGTV show a couple years ago. I like to tease Troy that he’s a bit like Chip. This book is a back-and-forth between Chip and Jo, telling the unlikely story of how they met, how they got into flipping houses, their early years as parents and shop owners, and how they’ve stumbled into fame. I love that they don’t mince words about their faith. It’s inspiring because they didn’t go out looking for ‘fame and glory’. They just pursued what they loved, alongside their growing family, and impact and financial blessing found them. An easy read for sure!
  2. Galatians for You, Timothy Keller – Can I say “I heart Timothy Keller”….? Troy and I read a lot by him, as he’s helped unpack years of gospel teaching that we’ve both had, into language that makes sense. And convicts. And challenges. This one is more of a study guide to the book of Galatians. The church in Galatia were trying to live out their faith in their own works, so Galatians’ six chapter book is letters to the church about what Christ has already accomplished and how to live out your faith leaning into the work of the Holy Spirit. As a new mamma, this book has been a good guide to still get some “Word” into me and have some direction when time is a little unpredictable now! I know Timothy Keller has other study guides on books of the Bible, so I’d love to find more!
  3. Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford – This book is Christa’s journey from abuse as a little girl, to working in Christian music industry, to one day losing their baby girl at birth to anencephaly (no skull). She walks through how her heart found years of healing by facing the pain as she allowed God (LOVE) to take residence. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you look at your own heart, and where there are hurts you haven’t faced. It’ll make you want to just sit and talk to God as a Father, more and more.
  4. Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee – This was a book a friend recommended a couple years ago; an old classic. Originally published in 1957, this book walks through Ephesians and how Paul admonishes the church in the process of Christian maturity: that we cannot walk out our faith or stand against the enemy if we are not first SEATED positionally and know who we are in Christ. Sitting is an attitude of ‘rest’ – a word that God has had on my heart, over and over. Learning to REST in Him and His already finished work. In his words, “And here is the gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.”
  5. Practicing His PresenceBrother Lawrence & Frank Laubach – This is the testimony of two different gentlemen and their journey to experiencing how to be aware of Christ’s presence moment by moment. Brother Lawrence lived in the 1600’s, and Frank Laubach was born in 1884. The back says, “Other than Pilgrim’s Progress, there is probably no other piece of Christian literature that has stood the test of the centuries so well.”
  6. A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller – This was recently given to our mom’s group leadership team, and looked like an easy read, so I read it over the last month (that’s quick for me!). Written by a shepherd, the man talks about the symbolism between humans and sheep, and why Christ is called our Shepherd. It brings light to every line of Psalm 23 from the biblical meaning of wool, to the need for a ‘rod and a staff’. It brought great comfort to me in a way that I feel I can see Jesus’ devotion to me in a deeper way.

Can you see a trend? Heart work. Digging deeper into knowing God’s presence, just for Him. That’s what I want, so that is what I am reading right now! Pick one up today! 🙂

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Little things are big things: what helped me in my first year as a mamma

 

I doubt any new mom would say their first year was a breeze. Would they? If they did, they’re probably lying or in denial in some way. It’s been a greater change to adapt to than getting married, FOR SURE. Between the hormones, time not being your own anymore, trying to understand your baby’s needs when they can’t communicate, and the opinions of everyone … including random coughing Walmart shoppers who decide they can touch your baby – it’s a complete life change. One that I wouldn’t change for anything, Elizabeth is such a gift! But it’s tough work and super rewarding all at the same time. Elizabeth is almost 10 months, and as I reflect on her ‘almost one year’ of life, there have been some definite things that have helped me navigate new waters.

1) Find a tribe – When I was single, I felt like the “mom group” was one I so wanted to be a part of, but had nothing in common with. I wanted to get to know those women better, but what does one talk about? Once I got pregnant, I suddenly understood why.

When mammas get together, all they talk about is their family. What stage your kids are at. What they won’t eat, will eat, how they sleep, won’t sleep. What school to choose. How you and your husband are doing, or not. It literally is what you connect on, and I finally feel like I can relate.

People talk about what matters to them, and for mammas, family matters to us the most. Home matters.

Since we moved shortly before we got pregnant, I’ve been adopted into ‘already set-up’ tribes of mammas, and because of a mom’s group at my church, I am learning to make friends with other moms. Not to say if someone is single or not married I won’t be friends with them, but there is something necessary in being a mother, that you need to have other mom friends. You just do. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted a friend asking for advice, or felt hormones off (especially in the beginning!), wondering if it was normal. You can’t mother alone, you just can’t. It’s something I crave and am having to learn to be vulnerable with, and let the Lord guide our relationships – both for Troy and I as a couple, and for me as a new mom.

2) Healthy lifestyle – I love good food. When I got pregnant, eating healthy took on a whole new meaning! That value has continued and has actually changed my taste buds. For real. I don’t eat half a bag of chips every night (not even kidding, I could before!). I prefer a bowl of yogurt with berries over a bowl of ice cream for dessert. When I grocery shop, I try as best I can to have lots of healthy options on hand. I now prefer making soup over the canned stuff. But I do believe that has served me well as a new mom, as I needed the fuel and the habit was there to help. Don’t get me wrong – I still love my black licorice and cookies. It’s about balance 😉

I TRY to exercise about 3x a week. Now that the weather is cold, that looks like a pilates or yoga video, or jumping on the elliptical while Elizabeth bounces in her jolly jumper. Sometimes it’s simple stretches, and other days it’s a bit longer. Once the weather warms up, we will get out for walks, but for now, this works!

3) Getting out to see people – For me, I like to get out for a coffee/play date once a week, and out of the house daily, if weather will allow. In our recent -25 weather, many days have become PJ days, so I really feel the cabin fever! I count down the minutes to when Troy comes home! On the days when we can’t get out, I try to Skype my parents or talk to someone, as mothering can get very lonely. Every week I try to connect with a friend or have some ‘social outing’ for Elizabeth and I. This kind of goes with #1. Some people may need to see and socialize daily, but for me, as long as I get some friendship/connection time in weekly, I am good. Getting out in general is good for me, but I’m not one that needs fun connection time every single day. I am looking forward to spring, when E and I can take the dog out for walks/runs, have picnics with friends, and explore our community (as she’ll be walking sometime this year, yay!).

4) Quiet time/connecting with Jesus – This really should be #1. It’s staggering to me how we as Christians can think that we can live victoriously, joyfully, peacefully – whatever – without pursuing to know the One who made us and saved us.

Becoming a wife was refining, and so has becoming a mother. You realize the sin in your heart more, and your desperate need for a Savior. I’ve always valued my time with the Word and just soaking up my Father, and now it’s even more precious. Once Elizabeth was on a bit more of a routine, and I could somewhat predict her wake-up time, I started to set my alarm about an hour earlier. I know, WHAT?! Wake up BEFORE the baby even wakes up? Yep. I get my coffee and do my devo or reading, meditate on God’s goodness – whatever I am soaking up at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend an hour, but sometimes it’s 20 minutes or 45 of resting my heart in God’s hands before the day begins.

I think you can have your devo’s any time of day that works for you, but there is something about the mornings. Proverbs 8:17 says “…those who seek me diligently find me…” (ESV) Some versions use the word “early” (NKJV) instead of diligently. You can also find this in Psalm 63:1 – early/earnestly David seeks the Lord. Sometimes this time doesn’t happen until nap time, and weekends I find harder, but God shows up for us mothers in a sweet way. In our long hours at home, I believe that we can set the tone and welcome His presence in our seemingly menial and routine tasks. Sometimes I’ll start worshiping and Elizabeth will belt out “ahhahahahaha”, and my heart melts. I want to teach her to love God’s Word and worship Him in every season, so my heart is surrendering to God daily for help with that as the Holy Spirit shows me how.

Currently, I am using Timothy Keller’s study of the book of Galatians as a guide for my devo time. I find I need some sort of anchor to steer me in this season when time is unpredictable.

5) Time with hubby – I am ever grateful that my mother-in-law lives close, as she has enabled us go get out on date nights almost every month. Funny thing, when you do finally get away from baby, all you want to talk about is her 😉 Sometimes time with hubby is us playing a game (we recently bought Trivial Pursuit 2000’s!), snuggling up with a movie and snacks, or going to bed early because that’s what we need. Our favourite is getting out on the weekend, us three, and grabbing a Starbucks for our outing. We have the best conversations when driving, so it feels like quality time for me! Troy and I joke that my love language is all five – quality time, words, touch, service, AND gifts. Seriously, love me in any way and I will soak it up!!

6) Soak it up – People tell you it goes by quickly, and it does. So I’ve been capturing pictures, video, sitting on the floor lots with my girl, and writing down memories and cute things she does. I know that being home with my girl is a gift, heck being a mom is a gift in itself, so I don’t take it for granted. Quieting the world of to-do’s definitely helps me still my heart to what matters – loving my family well in this season with the grace God gives me.

7) Grace, lots of grace – As previously mentioned, I think one of the biggest things I’ve needed to receive and learn this year is how to receive grace from God, when I don’t know what I’m doing. Give myself grace, when I feel guilty about something or think I could or should be doing something better. And give grace to Elizabeth, when she naps 25 minutes instead of the coveted 1.5 hours. You just can’t predict every moment, and for someone who is a planner, I’ve had to learn to “let go and let God” so to speak. Well, still learning that one. 😉 Remembering that becoming a mom is likely one of the biggest life changes you’ll ever experience, will hopefully enable you to cut yourself some slack and give grace on the days you need it!

So there’s my top 7 things that have helped me as a new mamma. Hopefully some of that will ring true for you too!

Monday Minute: Prayer: It’s not about you. But it will change you.

I recently listened to a message on prayer by Timothy Keller, in which he talked about praying the Psalms. How the book of Psalms shows us all the different ways we can pray and how we can understand God’s heart even more through. Keller questions, has the Spirit of God really come to live and reside within us and transform us, if we aren’t drawn to pray? Troy and I are both reading his latest book, Prayer, and it’s now absolutely on the list of must reads!

I don’t know about you, but I can sit down to do a block of writing or prayer and suddenly that thing I had forgotten earlier now comes to mind. I get an idea for something that I am certain can be found on Pinterest. Or our budget and grocery list suddenly floods my mind. Yep. Distractions are everywhere, and they’re one of those pesky little things you can find without even looking for them.

quote-to-be-a-christian-without-prayer-is-no-more-possible-than-to-be-alive-without-breathing-martin-luther-king-jr-102531It seems like it should be a given. Simple. A no-brainer. As believers, we should be praying. Prayer is the gateway to which we really come to know God, and come to understand the identity we have in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

For many years, prayer for me was more something I checked off a list. I felt good if I did 20 minutes. An hour made me feel really good. Because prayer was about making me feel like a good Christian, and that because of my time invested, God would give me what I asked for. I’m saddened to say that at times, seasons of increased time in prayer was more out of desperation than desire to KNOW Him better. But the last 2-3 years, God has been refining me, my motivations. Ah, convicted!

I feel drawn. Thirsty. I want to know my Father’s heart deeper, and now I feel surrounded by good teaching on prayer to guide me. So, I just want to share with you!

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian neuroscientist, says that it has been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an 8-week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measured on a brain scan. Time in God’s presence actually changes us.

Two things I have drawn from recent listening and reading on prayer that might help you in your quest to drawer closer to God and understand His heart more clearly:

  • Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated, formal, or long to be heard. Matthew 6:7-9 shows that it isn’t about performance, length, or comparison. Which shows the motivation behind our praying is actually more important than what we say or how we say it. Jesus gives us a guideline in that chapter through the Lord’s prayer, that I think is amaaaaazing! Timothy Keller also preaches on this and it’s helped me understand where my prayer life was so lacking. (some parentheses are my own interpretation of each line, as well as what he teaches)

Our Father in heaven (starts with knowing our relationship/adoption with God as our Father)

Hallowed be thy name (adoration, worship)

Thy Kingdom come (God’s rule sovereignty)

Your will be done (God’s purpose)

On earth as it is in heaven (pray big!)

Give us this day our daily bread (provision, needs)

And forgive us our debts (repentance)

As we have forgiven our debtors (mercy)

And lead us not into temptation (deliverance, strength)

But deliver us from evil (victory!)

Notice the way Jesus taught us to pray begins with knowing our Father and His nature, and through that we have the ability to worship, ask, repent, and walk in victory!

  • I need to know my Father’s heart, as that affects every other area of my life. And a good place to start, is the Psalms. I’ve been reading in Psalms, so now I have started a part of my journal where I write down characteristics of God as they jump out at me from chapter to chapter. For example, “He guides us with counsel” (Ps 73:24), “He is a sun and a shield” (Ps 84:11), or “He is good and his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps 100:5).

For me, and likely for you too, when I write things down, and then think and meditate on them, they go from my head to my heart. Timothy Keller says, “Prayer is not merely a way to get things from God, but a way to get more of God himself. God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.” Because He is a good, good, Father. 🙂

So take these two examples of things I am learning:

*Use the model of the Lord’s prayer as a guide. Prayer is not about reciting a laundry list to meet my needs and get what I want. But it’s ultimately about learning HIM. Yes, we are to ask (Matthew 7:7). But ultimately, when we know God’s heart better, those needs are more freely given into His hands when we do pray.

*Try your own way of writing down and meditating on God’s character. Write it in your phone or journal, or Bible even. Think on it. And let the understanding of the grace and greatness of God really go from your head to your heart. He wants us to KNOW Him!

 

Have a great week! We leave for holidays tomorrow for two weeks…VERY excited!