The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!

Psalm 121: Help for Your Journey (and a FREE Printable!)

On Sunday, the pastor at our temporary church home taught from Psalm 121. This psalm has long been one of my favorites, and each time I read it, I am reminded of the Lord’s protection. If you are not familiar with Psalm 121, it starts out like this:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

This psalm is part of a group of psalms known as the Songs of Ascent, meaning that they were sung on the journey up to the mountain city of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. I really love the opening verses so much as they encourage me to look to the Lord for my help and remind me that my Helper is the very One who created the universe! But on Sunday the verse that actually struck me the most was the final verse:

The Lord will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121:8

When I read these verses this week it was as if the Lord were speaking to me directly, saying, “I know you are worried about this whole moving process. But don’t fear or fret, my child. I have this all planned out and will guard your going out of this place and you coming into the next in my perfect time. You are held in my hands. Be at peace.” It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. No matter how many times we have read a passage of Scripture, it can impress us with new insights because God’s Word is living and active.

Because of this truth, it is so valuable for us to spend time meditating on Scripture and letting it sink deep into our hearts and minds. In light of this, I wanted to create a tool to help us meditate on Psalm 121 together, so I came up with this little coloring page with the entire chapter centered on it. This printable is available FREE for my blog subscribers as a little thank you for joining me on this journey! Subscribe below if you have not already, and you will be sent a password for my new Resource Library. Then you can download the PDF and print as you wish. I encourage you to read and meditate on the psalm as you color the floral motifs, then display it somewhere where you will see it on a daily basis and be reminded Who is your Help and Keeper!




Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Open Hands: Releasing Control of What Is Not My Own

We had a house showing today. I am not sure how many we have had now, but every time it stresses me out so much. Today was no different. I cleaned most everything yesterday because I knew we would be out of the house this morning for prior commitments and would only have time and energy for vacuuming and final tidying in the afternoon. Still, the whole day I was on edge. I snapped at the kids for stupid little things. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I complained to God about how long this process is taking and grumbled about all the hard things that have happened to us during our time here. When it was finally time to clean up before leaving the house for the showing, I was super tense, worrying that everything might not be just perfect enough and that the people coming would not be impressed and not want to buy the house. And it would be my fault for not cleaning enough, for not taking good enough care of the house or the yard.

That is when it hit me. I was taking sole responsibility for selling this house upon myself. Forget the fact that God gave my husband his new job without any help from me. Forget the fact that He has provided everything we have needed up to this point, again without my help. Sure, I keep praying for Him to help us sell and move and all. But then when it is time for me trust Him to work, I take it all on myself. And that makes me a very nasty person to be around. And I am pretty sure it doesn’t do a single lick of good for the house, actually! That stung, to realize that I have been so faithless and allowing that worry to control me to the point of even taking it out on my kids.

But even in the midst of conviction, I felt a sense of relief. I do not have to sell this house. I do not have to clean every speck of dust off the floor in order for God to bring us a buyer. I do not have to stress about the house having the perfect lighting and temperature set for a showing. Those things might help, but God does not need me to do them in order to sell this house. It is not ours anyway, not really. He has given us at a resource for a time, and now we are releasing it fully back to Him to use for a different purpose. What if I let go completely and let Him work as only He can? Yes, I do still have to do my job. But I don’t have to hold tightly to control every detail. I do not have to sacrifice my relationship with my children over this. I can hold loosely to all things because my Father is caring for me.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

So from this point forward, I am making an effort to release control of the sale of this house and all the details that go with that. I am going to prioritize spending quality time with my family, making heart connections and memories with my children. I am committing to open my hands to release that which is not mine to control and to accept that which God has already given me. And I am thankful that tomorrow is a fresh new day. . . And nobody is coming to look at the house, so I will not be cleaning. Well, maybe I will at least do the dishes. 😉

This post is part of the Grace & Truth link-up at Arabahjoy.com.

Holding Pattern: Lessons learned in the waiting

My husband has been fascinated with aviation since he was a small boy. He has always wanted to fly some kind of aircraft, and he has plans to eventually get his Sport Pilot license and build his own light sport airplane. Due to this interest, we have watched a lot of videos about flying, including a series of docu-dramas about plane crashes and what caused them. One of the most memorable of these shows, for me, at least, was one about an airplane that got stuck in a holding pattern outside a busy airport and ran out of fuel before it was able to safely land. Talk about scary! Thankfully, that kind of accident is extremely rare, and flying is actually safer than getting in your car and driving down the highway.

Even so, anyone who has ever been near the end of a long flight and heard the pilot announce that your flight was being placed in a holding pattern, knows how frustrating that situation is. You have already been waiting a long time to get to your destination, cramped into a tight space in an uncomfortable position, and you just want to get landed and be there already. And if you have a connecting flight to catch shortly after landing, your mind starts racing trying to figure out how in the world you will ever make it in time!

For our family this time of transition has felt a lot like being in a holding pattern. We know our destination, and we are so ready to land and stretch our legs, but we can’t just yet. Some days it feels really frustrating. Some days we are worried that our fuel level is getting too low. And some days storms threaten to confuse us and steer us off course. But like a pilot who has been well-trained to rely on his instruments and trust the air-traffic controller to guide him in to a safe landing, we are having to trust the Lord’s timing and keep our focus on His Word.

Did you know that in stormy or cloudy weather, a pilot can completely lose his sense of direction, even confusing which way is up or down? Without his instrument panel to tell him his altitude and attitude, a pilot could steer the aircraft right into a tailspin or lift the nose too high and cause the plane to stall. If he cannot see the land and the sky, he has to rely on those instrument readings fully, even if his body or brain tell him something different. The same is true for us when we get our eyes off of Christ and His Word. Looking at our situation or at the world can blur our spirtuak vision so much that we do not know which way is up. We lose our spirtual sense of direction. So when times are dark and stormy, we must, more than ever, keep our eyes on Jesus and stay in the Scriptures daily. Our very lives depend on it.

And just as the air traffic controller has a view of all the craft in his airspace, when the pilot can only see what is directly ahead a short distance, God has a wide view of our situation. He knows if something is in the way that needs to move before we can reach the nest step on our journey, so He holds us back just a little longer for our safety. We might be tempted to step out on our own because we can’t see far enough ahead, but we must not. If we will wait on His timing, our good, good Father will safely guide us to our destination at just the right time, in just the right way. And it will be so much better than if we had tried to do things our own way.

If you are in the middle of a storm, a time of testing, or a long holding pattern, I encourage you to get in God’s Word, to trust His timing and His ways and not become discouraged. He will bring you safely home!

When you feel like a failure

It has been “one of those days.” I think everybody knows that being a parent is not all sunshine and roses. We all have difficult days when it seems that our best efforts to discipline in love, to stay calm when our kids are tantruming on the floor, simply are not enough. We snap back and punish harshly. We throw a big fat tantrum ourselves. Our children fail on a daily basis, and so do we. And often we get to the end of the day and wonder, does that mean that we are failures, too?

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but I doubt it. Because I am responsible for setting the tone in my home, I blame myself for a lot of the kids’ mistakes. After all, they do learn from what they see me doing. If I don’t always respond to them in love, I cannot really expect them to do so very much of the time, can I?

Yet, I also know that Satan loves to heap guilt and shame on my hurting mama heart, causing me to feel defeated and discouraged. His accusing words that I am a failure, that I will never change, that I am ruining my kids, all pile up with so much weight that I can easily feel as if I might as well throw in the towel and give up before I’ve even begun. My tendency to perfectionism does not help. If I cannot do something without messing up, I am prone not to even attempt it at all. What is the point if I know I am just going to fail?

But in motherhood there is no giving up, no choice but to attempt to do better tomorrow than I did today. So what is a beat-down and discouraged mom to do? That is the question I am asking myself tonight. And here are some of the answers that the Holy Spirit is bringing to my weary heart and mind.

1. PRAY

Seems obvious enough, at least if you are a person of faith, right? But other than a quick, “God, help!” right before freaking out over a child disobeying for the 500th time that day, do we really take the time to stop and pray over the matter? I, for one, know that I have not spent enough time truly praying for wisdom and discernment as to how to deal with specific behaviors; nor have I prayed enough over my children, that they would have tender hearts open to my guidance and teaching and to the Holy Spirit’s own work in their lives. Busted! Yeah, I definitely need to pray more.

2. Find my identity in Christ.

Satan’s lies are just that: LIES! In order to combat the negative, defeating thoughts he has planted in my mind and heart, I must fill myself up with TRUTH from Scripture about who I am in Christ. Jesus says I am victorious. He says I am an overcomer. He says I am more than a conqueror. He tells me I am His. He will be faithful to complete the good work He has started in me. When I was in counselling for post-partum depression after my firstborn, my counsellor gave me a list of Scripture references for just this purpose. It had all the statements made in the Bible about the believer’s identity in Christ. I guess it is time for me to dig that out and start doing some intentional Bible memory in this area.

3. Seek godly counsel.

I have a stack of parenting books on the end table beside me. They all deal with topics related to grace-filled discipline and reaching the heart of my children instead of just correcting the outer behavior. I need these words of wisdom from parents who have walked this road before me. I only wish I would have started reading them long ago before some very bad habits got so ingrained in my parenting. But it is not too late to start the change.

I also am thinking about asking some older homeschooling moms for resources and book ideas for some specific attitude and behavior problems we have been having with my oldest. I think we need to really focus in on some character traits that are weak (in both me and him!), even if that means taking a break from our regularly scheduled school books to do so. And since many moms have been through these stages before me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I just need to seek out that good advice and take it!

4. Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

The good news is that my children are young yet. They are still moldable and not set in their ways. A lot of the problems we are having are just ages and stages issues. We will get through this. And tomorrow is a clean slate. Sure, we have been through some rough patches lately, but that does not mean we have to let that define our family culture. We are in the midst of a move, a financially tight period, and a lot of change and upheaval is yet to come. It is ok if some things slide for a little while, if the school work gets a little behind or if we eat a little less healthy for a short time or if the kids have a bit more screen time than normal because I need to pack and clean. We can relax and breathe and have a little fun instead of always trying to push through and be perfect in the midst of the stressful time. Just take it one day at a time, I tell myself. Breathe. Smile. Look around and count your blessings. Tomorrow is a new day.

I am not a failure. And neither are you, weary mom. Maybe you had a bad day. It’s ok. Give yourself grace. His mercies are new. Go get some sleep. Pray for yourself and your kids. Find your value in Jesus love. Listen to the voices of truth, not lies. And breathe. We can do this! I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? ❤️