Category Archives: Resources

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War, Celia Garth is a historical fiction novel about a young seamstress learning to make her own way in the new world. Through love and loss, grief and joy, and even a little intrigue, follow Celia through the streets and coasts of the low country. Even though this book is a little over 400 pages, it’s masterfully written and hard to put down!

Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I could see the steeples and cobblestones, hear the bells and horse hoofs, and smell the salt air as I read this novel. Definitely worth the read! And, please, someone make a movie out of this amazing classic!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

2017 Reading Challenge: Overview

This year, a couple of friends and I are attempting to read one book per week on average. Some weeks may be just a few chapters of two or three different books, and other weeks may be finishing multiple books, but by the end of the year, the goal is to have read 52 books! I was inspired by Tim Challies’ 2017 Christian Reading Challenge (pictured below), so I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m going to attempt to do at least a mini review of the books as I go. I tend to have at least one theology book, one fiction book, and one either self-help or other genre going at any given time anyway, so this just motivates me to finish the books I start (unless they’re really not worth reading by chapter 3), branch out into new topics and authors, and watch TV less. 😉 Who’s with me?!reading-challenge-2017copy

Book Review: Humble Roots – How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson

Anderson, Hannah. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Chicago: Moody P, 2016. 513mja5ds-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_

I was privileged to be a part of the Humble Roots Launch Team this year, which means I got a free copy (and some other goodies to share) in exchange for writing a review. I finally got a chance to read this on a trip I took this fall…and I couldn’t put it down! I read nearly half on the flight to my destination, read every free second I had on the trip, and finished it on the flight home. It was the perfect length!

Maybe it’s the fact that God moved our family to the country this year, or that I had just planted my first garden at the new house, or that He’s been working on my own humility and being grounded in the Word this past year already, but this book was probably the best book I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few).

Hannah uses horticulture analogies, Scripture, and relevant quotes from historic and current authors to weave together a beautiful manuscript of God’s grace in bringing her to a walk of humility as a wife of a pastor in rural Virginia and a young mom. I loved it! Every chapter is filled with beautifully descriptive analogies of food and wine, farming and horticulture–wonderful gifts of our good, good Father!

I found myself relating to Hannah, and feeling like she was sitting next to me, telling me her story (instead of me just reading it). And the message resonated with me–the message that it’s not about me, but it’s All about Him who called me to His marvelous light and is laying the groundwork, preparing the way, and tilling the soil of my soul.

I underlined quote after quote and copied the quotes out onto pages and pages in my journal, and it’s hard to narrow down my favorite parts, because there are so many! But I’ll try to share a few:

“Failure at small things…reminds us of how helpless we are in this great, wide world. When little things spiral out of control, they remind us that even they were never within our control in the first place. … Jesus understood this…when He called the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to do the same–He does so in context of mundane, very ordinary concerns” (26).

“Left to itself, a field will quickly become overgrown with weeds, the soil will settle and harden, and changes in weather will make it rocky. Hardly a hospitable environment for tender roots and sprouts” (33). “Jesus isn’t calling us to shoulder an extra burden; He is calling us to exchange a heavy burden for a lighter one” (35).

“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. Instead of submitting to His yoke, we break it and run wild, trampling the very ground we are meant to cultivate” (42).

“When we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamoured by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamoured with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God’s glory, we’ll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His” (76).

“Ultimately, by silencing the cacophony of emotion,  humility frees you to hear God’s call and leads you to a place of both rest and flourishing” (110).

“Because ‘God is greater than your heart’ [qtd. I John 3.20], you can trust Him to care for you when your heart breaks through disappointment or suffering. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to rejoice with you in times of joy and success. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to correct and lead you through doubt and fear. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ He can handle  the depth of your emotions. He is not afraid of them, and as you bring them back to Him, you shouldn’t be afraid of them either. In this sense, humility does not shut down your inner life; humility redeems it” (114).

“But the world is a complicated, nuanced, unpredictable place, and easy answers aren’t sustainable. In fact, the world is so mixed-up and broken, so complicated, that the only one who can lead us through it is God Himself. Instead of seeking certainty, we must teach them [our children] to follow Jesus in the mist of uncertainty” (131).

“It is precisely the fact that our resources do not belong to us–that they have been given to us by our good, kind Master–that frees us to take risks. When everything is gift and when we learn to trust the Giver of those gifts, we learn a kind of humility that makes us fearless and productive” (148).

“Pride, on the other hand, demands to know God’s will before it will act. It balks and haults and refuses to move until success is guaranteed” (159).

“God only reveals the course of our lives one step at a time. God only makes our paths straight before us with each step of faith. God does not offer us a map so much as a promise to guide us on the journey” (160).

I hope you will pick up a copy of Humble Roots and not just read it, but savor every morsel and be refreshed by the truths it contains, as you continue on your own journey of humility and grace, knowing that you are not alone on this journey.

Galatians Bible Study: 3 Week Plan

I have so enjoyed our “Women Digging In” class with Katie Gerdt at Heritage Bible Church these past two months. We’ve dug into II Corinthians, and it’s been awesome–both refreshing and rebuking!

We have 3 weeks off before the next Life Application Electives begin, so I’m planning on using her 4 questions to go thru the book of Galatians between now and then…2 chapters per week. Who’s with me?

Here are the 4 questions:
1. Where is my heart?
Take time to set your cares and concerns before your loving Father,
and then put them aside and prepare your heart to listen to Him.
2. What’s going on?
Read through the passage (either whole chapter, or few verses at a time) and try to summarize the facts of what is happening.
3. What do I see about God?
What is the Holy Spirit telling you about God or revealing about Christ? How can you obey what you are reading? Who can you tell this week about what you have learned?
4. Do I have any further questions about the passage?

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Meditation Passage: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

Schedule:
August 1-7: Galatians 1-2
August 8-14: Galatians 3-4
August 15-21: Galatians 5-6

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

Top 10 New Mom Resources

There is SO much information out there for new parents. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. I was fortunate to come across some really great resources. Here’s my list–which is mostly about eating and sleeping:

  1. Recipes for Babies and Toddlers: 365 Quick and Healthy Dishes by Bridget Wardley and Judy More. (I have the 2004 edition that I found at TJ Maxx. Below is 2006, but the inside is nearly identical from what I can tell. The biggest differences is that the newer edition includes recipes for children beyond the toddler stage. My favorite part is the meal plan by age at the back.)

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2. “Feeding Guide for the First Year” by John Hopkins Medicine Health Library. (This one has charts for each month and was hugely helpful! Just remember that every child is different.Also note that the “ounces” recommendation is for bottle-fed babies; number of nursings is for breast-fed babies. Don’t let yourself stress about how many ounces if you’re breastfeeding. If they’re happy, eating, soiling diapers, and sleeping, they’re probably pretty healthy, even if they’re not at the exact month on the timeline.)

3. “Lists and Schedules” under “Baby Basics” on Cloudmom.com. (I especially found the Baby Feeding and Sleeping Schedule for Breastfeeding a 4 to 6-month old helpful. But she has videos on everything from basics on breastfeeding to bottle feeding to first baby foods, baby care, baby books and gear, traveling with baby, baby sleep basics, breastfeeding tips, etc. Truly a wealth of information from a very knowledgeable, completely judgment-free mama.)

4. “What to Eat and What to Avoid While Breastfeeding” from Healthfulmama.com. (Great chart for us visual learners! See below.)

healthful-mama_what-to-eat-when-breastfeeding

As far as the “Fennel tea” and “Honey (raw)” goes, a friend gave me “Mother’s Milk Tea” by Traditional Medicinals, and it really grew on me–someone who is NOT a huge fennel or licorice fan–and it worked! I found a 6-box pack on Amazon for a really great price and added it to my Amazon registry to get an extra 10% off.

5. “Five Things to Avoid When Sleep Training Your Baby” on Parents.com. (Sleep traps and cheat sheet for how much sleep is needed per age.)

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6. “Pumping Essentials” and “Pumping to 1 Year: Tips & a Cost Analysis from a Working Mom Who Did It” from ThePhotographersWife.com. (I was so nervous about the whole pumping thing with going back to work at 8 weeks, but this site really helped walk through the details. And at 4 months, Kyle switched himself to only eating 4x per day–breakfast, lunch, supper, and bedtime–so I only have to pump during lunch at work.)

7. IdealistMom.com was a huge help with going back to work after maternity leave! My favorite posts were “7 Tips for Postpartum Fashion,” “9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work after Maternity Leave,” and “How to Keep Breastfeeding after Going Back at Work.”

8. “6 Natural Ways to Treat Infant Gas” from TheStir.CafeMom.com. (The biggest tips for us were the feeding positions and massage.)

9. “Pumping Schedule from NB – 12 MO” from NaptimeTales.com. (Very practical advice and low stress methods.)

10. “6 Tips for the First Month of Breastfeeding That You May Never Have Heard” by BreastfeedingPlace.com. (I also still vividly remember bawling my eyes out that first week home out of exhaustion and frustration, not being able to reach a nurse or lactation consultant because of a random snowstorm, and my husband having to call my sister-in-law to ask my questions then put her on speakerphone to calm me down and tell me I was doing a great job and to try leaning back or lying down so the baby had to slow down and not eat quite so fast. Blessings on her!!)

I am so thankful that I got to become a new mom at the same time as some of my best friends. And I’m thankful for my friends who were experienced parents when I became a new mom. It’s nice to be able to text a friend and say, “Please pray for me today. I’m really struggling with this mommy-hood thing” and know that they are already praying…and that you’re not alone (they either are or have struggled with similar things).

I didn’t have a ton of time to research like I wanted to, and I honestly believe God brought these blogs and books across my path on purpose. I skimmed through On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ecko and Robert Bucknam. I found it largely repetitive and a little too rigid for me, but the one thing that I did take away from it was the pattern: Eat, Play, Sleep, Repeat. And that worked really well for us (slept 6 hours by 6 weeks, 9 hours by 11 weeks, 10-12 hours by 14 weeks).

One caution: resist the urge to over-analyze or over-research things that moms have been doing by instinct for centuries. Do the best you can, ask your doctor and friends for advice, and know that God loves your baby more than even you do! And He loves you too, mama!

What were your top resources for those first 12 months of being a parent?

Book Review: “Glimpses of Grace” by Gloria Furman

I love to read. Always have. Over the years, I’ve had a handful of books that have risen to the top of my list to “Must Read” status. Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman is definitely one of those books! It is probably one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years!

Gloria has a personal style that lets you know she’s been there–in the trenches with kids and cross-cultural ministry, serving her husband who pastors while struggling with a debilitating condition, keeping a home and keeping up with writing books and blogging.

Glimpses is full of encouragement from real-life illustrations and Gospel-centered, soul-refreshing, rich, theological concepts. Glimpses is full of Scripture and quotes that reflect Truth and Hope. Gloria doesn’t see herself as a super-mom, but rather a woman with a powerful Savior! She talks about glorifying God in the mundane–where, if we’re honest, the majority of our lives fall. God uses these simple, everyday things to communicate Truth to our hearts. From doing dishes to sweeping up sand again and again, God showed her to see her own dirt and sin that needs repeated repentance and to rejoice in His faithful forgiveness and unrelenting grace.

Here’s a glimpse into Glimpses from the author herself:

And some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory, our faith and hope are in God (1 Pet. 1:21), not in our ever-changing circumstances or in the comforts of our homes and meticulously planned routines” (21).

“Even in my darkest doubts, when I do the same thing again the next day, my hope is still built on the righteousness of Christ. The gospel keeps me relating to God on the basis of Jesus’s perfections, not on the illusions of my religious achievements. God strengthens me and protects me according to his faithfulness, not mine (2 Thess. 3:3). So I can scrub dried blueberry bits as unto the Lord as my heart is satisfied in God because his kindness to me in Christ leads me to repentance again and again” (33).

“Christianity is not a how-to manual for having a nice life. … Jesus’s work on the cross means more for you than an example for good living. The Bible is God’s story of how he redeems a people he has chosen to worship him for all eternity. …In the end, the good-life formula will not bring you to God and save you from your sins. Only Jesus does this through the gospel. In its worst work, the good-life formula can help create a delusion that because you are living in a Christian-like manner, you must be pleasing to God. In reality, your righteousness may be like that of the Pharisees, whom Jesus described as whitewashed tombs with dead men’s bones inside. In this way, the good-life formula is an offspring of self-justification” (45).

“The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God himself and not our stuff or our circumstances” (59).

“…the point in forgiving one another is not just about the act of forgiving–it is the aim or goal that forgiveness seeks, which is reconciliation with God. … The forgiveness of our sins is a gift of grace, but it’s not ‘the’ gift. ‘The’ gift God offers us through Jesus’s work on the cross is everlasting fellowship with a holy God” (60).

“Whatever the ‘this’ that you desperately feel you can’t do anymore, it’s ultimately not about your circumstances. It’s about peace with God. And God has provided a way for you to have that peace that dominates any and all circumstances, regardless of how difficult they are” (78).

“Self-righteousness comes from within us and leads us to worship ourselves. Grace comes from God and leads us to worship him” (80).

“The gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” -Milton Vincent (qtd., 84).

“When we minimize the offensiveness of our sin, we are attempting to diminish the holiness of God” (101).

“Our hearts cannot be the end-all authorities on truth. Only God can claim that right. Sometimes we really need to wrestle our hearts into submission to God’s truth” (124).

“We see glimpses of God’s grace in our homes when we cherish God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The solution to our problems in the home and the impetus for our enjoyment of life in the home is fellowship with God through Christ Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the cross” (180).

Coming Soon: “Dispatches from the Front” Book!

On May 31st, a new book will be hitting the shelves. Executive Director of Frontline Missions International, Tim Keesee, brings us Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult PlacesThis book is a must-read for all believers interested in missions. But beware, if you pick up this book: not only will you not want to put it down, you may also be encouraged to pick up the cross and follow Christ on a whole new level of Kingdom work.

If you’ve seen any of the Dispatches from the Front DVD series, you’ll recognize Tim’s journalistic style and hear his voice as you read his encounters of God’s Kingdom Advance, growing and expanding all over the globe, especially in the difficult places–places considered “closed” to most people, but not closed to our great God.

I was honored and thrilled to be part of the early proofreaders, and am so excited to share this book with you. I am privileged to not only know Tim as my boss, but also as my friend. He’s a gifted writer and a faithful, humble servant of our heavenly Father, who counts the costs and takes risks in order to share the Good News, wherever he goes.

You’ll feel like you’re riding on the train with Tim, as he journeys across Siberia and China, India and Egypt; you’ll drink coffee and tea with him in South Asia, Turkey and Ethiopia; then you’ll grab your boots and head with him through Cambodia, the Balkans, Pakistan, and to the “uttermost parts of the earth” (and, yes, there are maps included). You’ll cry with tears of grief, as cross-bearers give up their very lives for the sake of His name; and you’ll cry with joy, as former haters of the Gospel embrace Jesus as their personal Savior!

The stories take place over twenty years and multiple trips to a myriad of countries and regions and people groups. Tim’s writing is not just story-telling, but an act of worship, as he recounts not what he has done or where he has gone, but what God has done and revealed of His great glory all over the world.

But don’t take my word for it. Grab a cup of coffee (and maybe some tissues), and download a PDF excerpt of Dispatches from the Front. Then on May 31st, download the full e-book or pick up a copy at Crossway.org, and continue reading of our great God and His glorious Gospel!