Category: Christian womanhood

The 5 Best Books I Read in 2017

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here.

best christian books

Reading is a form of self-care for me. When my first son was a baby, I found that I was physically busy with endless nursing, but I wasn’t mentally busy. A certain level of mental stimulation was required to keep me from feeling like nothing more than a milk machine.

My list is in the order that I read the books. I’d say all of them are equal in the quality of the content.

I do most of my reading on my Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve had it for a year and a half now and I love it! With the exception of Everyday Hope, all of the books on this list are available in both print and ebook format.

  1. A Retrospect: The Story Behind my Zeal for Missions – J. Hudson Taylor

 When I was young, my mom read the Hero Tales books to us as part of our homeschooling. They are collections of short stories about missionaries. Hudson Taylor was one of my favorites. The founder of the China Inland Mission, he placed an emphasis on evangelism. He chose not to be distracted by cultural differences if they weren’t based in immorality. To this end, he chose to dress like Chinese men did. Even as a little girl, his priorities impressed me.

Hudson Taylor

2. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full  by Gloria Furman

I’ve read a lot of books on my Kindle. This is the only one that I’ve loved enough to purchase a print edition as well. If you only read one book about motherhood, it should be this one.

Gloria Furman never strays from her laser focus on the Gospel and how it shapes everything we do. Particularly when you have all little children, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater picture and of how what you’re doing matters.

Even moms who haven’t thrown a tantrum in a while can relate to feeling that they’ve had enough as they limp to the end of the day, emotionally drained and exasperated. For many of us, the frustration stems from the unreasonable expectations we have for ourselves. Instead of the sweet relief and satisfaction that come from a long day of good, hard work, we stew over the mistakes, missed opportunities, and foibles. ‘There are no perfect moms,’ we quip, but we’ll die trying to prove we might be the exception. – Gloria Furman

Can you relate to that? I know I do. In the age of Pinterest, it’s easy to feel like everyone is doing all the things. But they’re not.

And a lot of those things don’t even matter anyway. Your child isn’t going to remember how he was born or what he was fed as a baby. He’s going to remember that you loved him.

3. Everyday Hope by Kayse Pratt

I stumbled upon this book by accident. It was a part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle this year. While the 2017 edition of the bundle is no longer available, Everyday Hope can still be purchased by itself by clicking on the image below.

While our circumstances were different, I could relate to a lot of Kayse’s thoughts on when having babies doesn’t go as planned. It’s easy to get discouraged when something that we think should be “easy” turns into a medical crisis. Her words were a balm to my weary soul at a time when I was struggling.

God has given your child to you, and given you to your child. Your place as his momma is a divine appointment, and you can trust that He didn’t make a mistake! – Kayse Pratt

 

4. Compared to Who by Heather Creekmore

Compared to Who was my first book launch team ever. It far exceeded my expectations, going far beyond the typical Christian cliche answers to comparison issues. Heather Creekmore doesn’t just say “Jesus made you perfectly” and move on. This is a book with depth and with sections that will make you stop and think.

I actually re-read it recently. As I write this, I’m in my third trimester with a boy who is on track to be as large as his nine pound brother was. When you’re built the way I am, there’s no getting around the fact that the disproportionate bump looks ridiculous. And I hear comments on the ridiculousness. Frequently. It’s like people think I don’t already know.

The comparison starts to creep back in…how come she gets to have normal sized kids? Why can’t my placenta go where it’s supposed to be? Why is my tummy the size of a mountain?

Comparison is poison. It’s a trap. It’s a joy-killer. It’s not okay.

I’ll probably be re-reading this book every so often for a long time. I’m glad His mercies are new every morning!

Friend, if you claim Christ as your Savior, if you say you are saved, I want you to ask yourself, honestly, if you’ve really allowed Him to rescue all of you. Do you believe He can help you with your body image issues? Do you believe He can replace your affections with a greater affection for Him? Do you believe that you can find true and transcendent joy and peace in Him alone, or do you still think that maybe one of your idols will deliver? – Heather Creekmore

5. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus was a recommendation from my brother-in-law. Nabeel Qureshi died earlier this year from stomach cancer, but his legacy lives on in his book about his conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Nabeel’s story is compelling. I learned a lot about Muslim beliefs and religious practices. His family took their faith very seriously. When the author converted, he wasn’t just changing religions. It required sacrificing the approval of his parents. He wrote the following passage about the emotional fall out from his conversion:

While I was wallowing in self-pity, focused on myself, there was a whole world with literally billions of people who had no idea who God is, how amazing He is, and the wonders He has done for us. They are the ones who are really suffering. They don’t know His hope, His peace, and His love that transcends all understanding. – Nabeel Qureshi

All of these books challenged me in one way or another. While no book is more important of a read than the Bible itself, other books can also encourage us in our faith. I hope these are a blessing to you as well!

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

What is a Homemaker, Anyway?

what is a homemaker

I stumbled into homemaking.

You may have imagined me as a teenager who looked forward to domestic life. I actually dropped home economics in favor of taking AP Psychology in 12th grade. I didn’t cook at all until after I graduated from college.

Before I got married, I was rather intense. I went to nationals in debate, wrote for a debate sourcebook, interned in DC, and graduated summa cum laude from college.

While I intended to work until my husband and I had children, we quickly discovered that we would be having children a bit sooner than expected. Additionally, we moved frequently for my husband’s job.

So my type-A self became not only a stay at home mom, but a stay at home wife for several months before my son was born.

Major life change.

That first pregnancy was rough, and I was only functional about half of the time. During the other half, I was too sick to do much of anything.

When I was functioning, I would work on learning how to manage my home. I learned how to cook from scratch, how to coupon, and how to have a cleaning routine. I knitted items for my baby on the way. I volunteered with Awana.

It was radically different from the fast-paced lifestyle I’d lived in college. Once I no longer had the external validation of grades and a paycheck, I realized that I had found my worth in those things to a degree that was unhealthy.

As I settled into my new life as a mom, I started writing. My blog is called Homemaking for His Glory…

…but homemaking isn’t really the point. Serving Jesus wherever you are is the point.

Your value is not in what you do, but in Whose you are. God can be glorified as you clean a double wide just as much as He can be glorified during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 KJV

I don’t believe that it’s wrong for women to work or go to college. I worked before I was married, I still make small amounts of money from this blog, and I am generally pro-college.

Perhaps you are home full time with young children, like I am. Maybe you’re in school, or working, or even both. You might be single. Ladies from all of those categories are homemakers.

Even if you don’t stay home full time or have children, you most likely do some homemaking tasks.

Laundry. Cooking. Vacuuming. Helping kids with homework. Organizing. Hosting friends for dinner.

Nearly all adult women do some of these things, whether they’re married or not. Sometimes we look at these things as lesser or boring, but they need to be done. We all have to eat, and we all have to wear clean clothes. (Okay, maybe that last one is just a strong suggestion. 😉

Dream of doing great things for God, but don’t neglect serving Him in the small things either.

Because that’s really what the Christian life is all about: doing ALL things to the best of our ability…for His glory.

When You Aren’t June Cleaver

The following post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

When girls become women and begin managing their own homes, they often have an ideal in mind. This ideal looks something like June Cleaver from the television program Leave it to Beaver. Ever calm, ever organized, and cooking in pearls and high heels. We picture a home that stays clean, nutritious meals that don’t leave the kitchen looking like a tornado passed through, and appliances that don’t break down.

Reality often looks a bit different.

We think that managing a home should be easy. We think we should automatically know what we’re doing.

However, like anything else in life, homemaking is a learned skill. 

I’ve been married for a little over two years now, and in that time I’ve come a long way. Even so, there are areas in which I could improve. (A bathroom cleaning schedule, anyone??)

That’s why this year, I’m investing in myself and my home by participating in the 2017 Homemaking Ministries Online Conference.

The theme is “Find Purpose in Your Home.” That speaks to me. At times, I have struggled with feeling as if my work did not matter. I wrote an entire series on what I’ve learned about why motherhood matters. Shining my sink tends to pale in comparison, unless I remember the people I’m serving. I’m looking forward to being rejuvenated and motivated by this year’s conference!

Sessions I’m Pumped to Attend!

Finding Purpose Through Creating a Haven – Hilary Bernstein – It might just be me, but when I feel like my home is out of control, it doesn’t feel like a peaceful haven any more. I’m interested in hearing how Hilary makes her home feel like a haven!

Training Children to Help at Home – Amy Roberts – Amy Roberts is just the sweetest person! I did an interview for her blog about homeschooling a few months ago. She has nine living children.so I’m sure she has plenty of experience with teaching children how to do things around the house. My 17 month old is at an age where he wants to help, but just isn’t quite able to pull off most tasks. He is quite cute when he takes clothes out of the dryer and hands them to me to fold though. This session should be helpful as I look towards teaching him how to do more things in the future.

Two Baby Steps (But Crucial Ones) Toward Healthier Living – Stacy Myers – I am a firm believer in incremental change, simply because it is more sustainable for most people. Making drastic changes overnight just results in burn out. Stacy is also hilarious! I’m sure her presentation will be engaging as well as informative.

A Heavenly Minded Home – Katie Bennett – Katie is a good example of the meek and quiet spirit that the Bible talks about in 1 Peter 3:1-4. I like how she always ties things back to what ultimately matters in life: serving Jesus wherever we are. I can’t wait to see how she applies this to homemaking!

How Writing the Word Can Strengthen Your Faith – Victoria Osborn – I have a Write the Word journal and honestly have not done much with it yet. I’m hoping this session will get me inspired! I can see how the physical act of writing out verses would help me to keep Scripture in my heart and mind.

Finding Purpose in Your Home – Keynote – Jami Balmet – The conference is over a span of five days. Each day, Jami is going to do a keynote session centered around the theme of Finding Purpose in Your Home.

Details on the Conference

The conference will be live from September 25-29, 2017. However, all of the sessions are recorded and will be available to watch later if you can’t attend live. Buying a conference ticket gives you lifetime access to all 27 sessions. I plan to watch as much as I can live, but realistically, I’ll need to go back and watch some sessions later. I have a toddler. 😉

The conference features 23 different speakers. You may recognize some of these names if you’ve been reading blogs for a while.

If you’re reading this after September 29, it’s not too late to buy a ticket! Since the entire conference is recorded, you can buy tickets even after it’s over and work through the sessions at your own pace.

Tickets can be purchased from the official conference website. 

She Isn’t Doing it All…And Neither Am I!

comparison

Pinterest is a blessing. I taught myself how to cook mostly using recipes and tips from Pinterest. Cooking is a useful skill, and it’s far easier to learn in the digital age. Millions of bits of information are available for free. Even if we already know how to cook, we never have to get tired of eating the same old thing. A new recipe is just a click away.

For all its benefits though, Pinterest can also feel more like a curse. Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed at the sheer number of things “everyone” is doing?

Eating all organic. Running marathons. Making busy bags. Going screen free. Going processed foods free. Making an income from home. Cooking everything from scratch. Having a lot of children. Homeschooling. Curating the perfect home decor. Spending $10 a week on groceries for a family of 67. Okay, maybe that last one is an exaggeration!

Comparison is the thief of joy. – President Theodore Roosevelt

You would think I would have this down by now, but I still find myself falling into the comparison trap. I helped to launch a book on this very subject earlier this summer. And…I still fail.

As the old hymn goes, Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…

I follow a very large blogger who seems like a really sweet person. I really do believe that she is and admire many of her qualities. But she does NOT do everything. Her blog is her family’s sole source of income, which means her husband does not work outside of the home and he does a lot of cooking and child care. They do not have any babies or toddlers. They have a house cleaner who comes in periodically.

Once I realized that, it was freeing. How often have we compared ourselves to something that isn’t even reality?

With that in mind, I want to share with you what I do…and what I DON’T. My goal is for this blog to never be a source of guilt. I want you to feel encouraged and equipped, and never torn down.

Things I Do:

Things I Do NOT Do!

  • I do not have a large family. I have one toddler.
  • My one child is not involved in any extra-curricular activities. People with older children often spend time driving them to their various activities. We are not in that season of life yet.
  • I do not homeschool. I have a 1 year old and I do not believe that formal school is necessary at that age. I just parent.
  • We do not eat all organic.
  • I make a very small amount of income from my blog, but it is not the primary income source in my home. Not even close. I’m perfectly okay with that, because I need to put a lot of time and energy into parenting right now.
  • I don’t do much of anything with home decor. The decorations in my home are all either repurposed from my wedding, or they were gifts.
  • I do not get up at 5 AM every morning. I struggle with being anemic and sleep is important if I’m going to be able to chase my toddler all day.
  • I do not blog after my son goes to bed at night. That’s my husband time and I’m not willing to give that up.

What do you do? What do you skip? Let me know in the comments! 

The One Thing You Need for This Summer

 

get a bikini body

This post contains affiliate links. I also received a copy of this book for free for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own. See full disclosure here. 

I remember the first time my body image took a hit. It was nearly 15 years ago, but I still remember it vividly. I was at Awana one Wednesday night in 4th grade. As the other girls chattered, I quietly washed my hands. One girl had gotten her ears pierced recently, so everyone was pulling their hair back and showing off their earrings.

I did not have pierced ears, but I subconsciously pushed my hair behind my ears so it would be out of my face.

Laura, you have such little ears! Look at her ears, they’re TINY!

I pulled my hair back over my now red ears and tried to maintain a sense of dignity as I walked out of the church bathroom.

Now, this was a really stupid incident that probably shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. And you know what? I didn’t get my ears pierced because I was so self-conscious about them and I thought earrings would draw more attention to their weird size.

Would you like to know how long it took me to get over that? EIGHT YEARS. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

I attended a Christian university. Among the freshmen, perhaps the most infamous course was “women’s evangelism.” I personally did not take this course, but one of my friends did. And it drove her insane.

“I am a BEAUTIFUL creation of GOD!” she told me in a sing-song tone. “We have to say that at the beginning of every class. Just ugh.”

After a while, my friend started saying “I am a depraved wretch saved only by the grace of God.” (She’s a rebel like that).

While I dodged the bullet of taking that particular class, the ideas presented are fairly common in Christian culture.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Everyone is beautiful in their own way.

Every woman who regularly attends church has heard those two things approximately 872439 times. And if they’re like me, they tuned out on the subject around age 14.

Compared to Who? by Heather Creekmore takes a different approach to these issues. Instead of telling the reader that she just needs more self-esteem, she deals with the root cause of body image issues: idolatry.

“I didn’t realize how my body image issues kept me bound and, truthfully, dead. I couldn’t experience the freedom of new life in Christ because I was held captive to the belief my answer was in fixing my appearance. I tried to justify myself by making my ouside pretty enough to earn acceptance. It’s been my experience that a lot of self-named “good girls” like me never ventured into obvious rebellion, yet still engage in a desperate search or worth, value, and joy in ways contrary to God’s plan.” – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 75

Buckle your seatbealts, friends. It’s a convicting ride.

My favorite part of the book was when Heather contrasted the modern concept of self-esteem with what the Bible actually says about loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. While I have grown up in the church and have heard countless discussions about self-esteem, Compared to Who gave me some ideas that I had never heard.

When we battle body image, there is a root issue at work. When we say things like “Oh my goodness, you’re so skinny! I hate you,” we’re committing the sin of envy. When we covet what another has, we are sinning. When we think that being thin would be that ONE THING that would make us happy, we’re making that one thing an idol: something that we serve instead of God.

Friend, if you claim Christ as your Savior, if you say you are saved, I want you to ask yourself, honestly, if you’ve really allowed Him to rescue all of you. Do you believe He can help you with your body image issues? Do you believe He can replace your affections with a greater affection for Him? Do you believe that you can find true and transcendent joy and peace in Him alone, or do you still think that maybe one of your idols will deliver? – Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who, p. 119

Until we’re honest with ourselves about our sin, we will never be free from the shackles of the comparison trap.

The key distinctive of Compared to Who is a focus on the root issues paired with an emphasis on Scriptural truths that point the reader towards the Lord and how He would want us to live. At the same time, it’s not confusing or technical. I would recommend this book for Christian women of all ages. Moms of teens may want to preview, since there is a mention of sex towards the end of the book.

Compared to Who is being released TODAY, June 13th, 2017. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, and wherever Christian books are sold. To learn more about the author, Heather Creekmore, check out her blog at comparedtowho.me.

                   

Married By His Grace

Why You Need Community (And How to Find It)

you need community

Every woman needs community.

Allow me to preface this post with a confession: I’m not good at this. I’m awkward. I’m the wrong age. I can be a little unconventional. I move all the time.

With all that said, I think finding community is worth the effort. I hear over and over again from readers that they feel lonely, and that’s a pretty natural feeling when you’re alone with little children most of the time. Little children are lovely, but they can’t carry on adult conversations.

If you crave friendships with other adult women, you are not being selfish. Let me shout this from the rooftops!

I used to feel guilty about wanting to socialize, but it’s really not frivolous. I tend to feel badly about leaving my toddler with my husband for a couple of hours so I can go to a ladies’ event at church. Which is really kind of ridiculous if you think about it. He’s with his dad. He’s going to survive.

Another common stumbling block is exhaustion. We are run ragged to the point that going to one. more. thing. just feels like too much to bear. There are times to say yes and there are times to say no, but most moms need at least one chance to get out of the house per week to stay sane.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s good.

Sunday school Our church has a class for young married couples that we’ve really enjoyed. The class occasionally gets together outside of church time. We try to attend these events when we can.

Small groups – On Sunday nights, we do a large group teaching time, and then a small group discussion time. As an introvert, I’m so bad at small groups. My comfort zone is to sit in a large lecture-style meeting and then leave without chatting with anyone. (Terrible, but true.)

However, when I force myself to overcome the awkwardness and contribute to the discussion, I find that I get to know others on a deeper level. Deep relationships are good for the soul.

Service opportunities – This was hard for me when my son was tiny and not staying in nursery consistently yet. Even now, I feel somewhat limited in what I can do. I hope to get plugged in with Awana next year, but in the mean time I take meals to people. While it seems like a little thing, a warm meal can encourage those who are dealing with loss, a health issue, or some other challenge.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Galatians 6:2 ESV

MOPS – MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to in the future. I’ve heard great things about it!

“But I don’t have a _____.” Maybe none of these ideas work for you. Take a few minutes to brainstorm an alternative.

Perhaps the most important reason to cultivate a community is this: it helps us to remember that we aren’t alone in our struggles. In the age of social media, sometimes we get trapped into thinking that everyone else is living a charmed life and we’re really the only ones with problems. However, Instagram doesn’t tell the entire story of one’s life. Nothing better combats that idea than getting to know and speaking with people on a regular basis.

How have you cultivated community in your life? Is it something that comes easily to you?

Why I Quit Pinterest

why i deleted pinterest

When I was 18, I quit Pinterest.

Pinterest is not inherently good or bad. It’s a tool. However, my Pinterest use was getting out of control and causing me to sin. At the time, I was newly single. Like many 18 year old girls, I had a wedding board on Pinterest. I saved pictures of wedding gowns, reception decorations, and flower arrangements.

When I became single, I didn’t think I would ever get married. I spent a lot of time moping about being “forever alone” before I realized that seeing pretty pictures of wedding ideas on Pinterest was only adding fuel to the fire.

Matthew 5:29-30 says “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (NASB).

Pretty harsh, right? In context, Jesus was talking about lust. Pinterest wasn’t causing lust in that sense of the term. However, both discontentment and lust are rooted in the same cause: wanting something that you cannot have.

I wanted a pretty wedding, a dress with a full skirt, and a handsome man who loved me. Desiring to be married wasn’t wrong, but focusing on it at the expense of other beneficial things wasn’t good.

After some consideration, I ultimately decided that I couldn’t handle Pinterest at that time. I deleted my account and said goodbye. I did not touch the site again for a long time.

I ended up getting a Pinterest account again a couple of years later when I was engaged. At that point, I was searching for things that I could use right then, not for things that were off in the distant future somewhere. Since I was using it that way, it was a healthy thing. After I was married, I found a lot of helpful recipes and meal planning ideas by using Pinterest.

Even now, I sometimes take a step back from Pinterest. Occasionally, I’ll browse through my feed, only to find titles along the lines of “How to Make Your Child a Complete Genius Who Speaks Three Languages and Only Eats Organic Vegetables” or “How to Look Like You Have Never Had a Baby Before.” I made those titles up, but I’m sure you can envision what I mean.There are lots of things on the internet that have the underlying message “you are not enough, and here’s what you need to do more and be more and be better.”  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by an onslaught of that sort of information.

Maybe you don’t struggle with a certain website, but you struggle with discontentment in other ways. I think through these three questions when I evaluate if something needs to stay in my life or not.

Is this causing me to ignore the responsibilities of the present and excessively daydream about the future?

Am I striving for more when I ought to just be still? (Psalm 46:10)

Is this causing me to sin?

Have you ever eliminated a type of social media from your life, either for a season or permanently?