When I was in elementary school, my mother could always tell who I was friends with because I acted just like them at home. One phrase! One facial expression! would reveal my companions – for better or worse. Like most children, I was part-chameleon. Someone funny helped me be funnier. Someone brilliant helped me be more brilliant. Someone athletic pushed me to new heights. Someone social brought out the party in me. I suppose we all have enjoyed each other’s strengths as inspiration for our own.  At some point, as we decide what works and what doesn’t work; who has a healthy influence and who doesn’t, we grow out of this to some extent. But we never lose our inner-chameleon completely.

Books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, stir up my old chameleon tendencies, and I love every moment because I get to sound just like them when I write my own little mementos in my personal journal. The voice(s) of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are personal, endearing, and real: worth every moment of my time. I’m a better thinker, friend, and historian because of them. Oh, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, but I will echo Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the apropos endorsement: “Treat yourself to this book, please – I can’t recommend it highly enough.” Your heart will be filled with compassion and vigor — just what it’s been waiting for.



Posted in Book Reports | Comments Off on Book Report: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

(Although I posted this last week, all of the links were broken. I finally fixed them, and decided that the effort was worth a re-post. Now you can really dig in and enjoy, my faithful readers!)

Putting this list together felt like a spa treatment. I love day-dreaming about books. I also love actually reading them. SO, here’s my ambitious list of books-to-read this year. (Thanks for the book-list inspiration, Crystal and Joy!) I’ve heard it said that the biggest difference between the “me” this year and the “me” next year lies in the books I’ll read and the people I’ll meet. This is serious business!


Working on throughout the year with other people…

The Resolution for Women – Shirer (our local Bible Study book)

The Book of Ephesians (most of my teaching for the Bible Study will come from Ephesians, so I’ll be spending lots of time here!)

A Praying Life – Miller (A book Ryan and I are reading together)

The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller (the book for a marriage group we’re in)

What is a Family? – Schaeffer (the book we’re reading in a monthly mom’s group at church)


For my personal growth…

Reverberation – Leeman

The Money Saving Mom’s Budget – Paine

Be a Circle Maker: the Solution to 10,000 Problems  – Batterson

Kisses from Katie: A story of Relentless Love and Redemption – Davis

Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best – Jeffress

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Shaffer

Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas the Need it Most (eBook)- McGlothlin

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship and the Things That Really Matter – Deresiewicz

Writing Life Stories – Roorbach

The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God – Fields

9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life: A Psychologist Learns from His Patients What Really Works and What Doesn’t – Cloud

You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life – Eleanor Roosevelt

A Biblical Home Education: Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God’s Word – Beechick

How to Be a Best Friend Forever: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships – Townsend

Montessori at Home! (eBook) – Bowman

The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning – Siegel-Maier

Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products – Uliano

(photo credit: Sciencetrio)

What are you going to read this year??


Posted in All Posts, Book Reports | 9 Comments

Best Books from 2011

I usually read a lot. This past year, though, I didn’t read as much because my life became increasingly more physical – being pregnant, having a third child, moving into a large farm house, reaping the fruits of a garden that was waaaaay too large for even one million Ball jars, etc. etc.

However, I did sneak a good read here and there. Here are my favorites:

For the spirit:

Savoring Living Water: How to Have an Effective Quiet Time – Katie Orr and Lara Williams are such enthusiasts for reading God’s Word, it’s contagious. You can’t help but fall more deeply in love with the Word of God and the discipline of studying it when you read this meaty manual. Best of all, their single-minded motivation of “quiet time” is intimacy with Jesus Christ.


For the Christian:

Church Planter: the Man, the Message, the Mission – Don’t be mislead by the title or the cover-design (kinda creepy, I know), this book should be all-but-mandatory reading for each of us. Patrick nails the description of Christianity and helps me understand who I am in Christ as well as in the Church. I will read this again (and again).

For the Momma:


Loving the Little Years – Wonderful, bravo, perfect, YES. This book is one of my favorite parenting books of all times. I read the brief, poignant chapters while nursing a newborn and still remember exactly what Jankovic said. She is a very gifted communicator; she makes sense out of those areas of motherhood that are otherwise baffling.


For the graduate, the husband, the teenager, the retiree, and the woman at my keyboard:


Just Do Something – Yes, you’ve seen this here before. Read my rave review. Then read the book.

And for the French Girl (moi):

Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl Delicious. Read more here.


So, maybe one or more of those titles will round out your 2012 booklist this year. Speaking of 2012 booklists, I actually compiled one this year and can’t wait to post it here in a day or two.

Posted in Book Reports | 3 Comments

Recently, Ryan’s friend lent me a bag of books to read and review. He said he didn’t have time to read through them himself, but wanted to know which were worth keeping on his bookshelf, which ones were worth recommending to others. The night that Ryan showed me the bag full of books was like Christmas morning! Since I’ll be jotting down some notes about each book, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you, too.

My first selection from the stack was Alex & Brett Harris’ Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. I’ve had my eye on this book for three years and was excited to finally have the chance to read the title that I’ve seen in the hands of teenagers at church, in all of the Christian catalogs, and on the end-caps in bookstores.

My short review for our friend: Yes, keep it on your shelf! Yes, recommend it to everyone!

Here’s the note I’ll pass along when I return this book to its owner:

When I was a teenager, I loved something about Dar Williams singing, “Teenagers, kick our butts, tell us what the future holds. Teenagers, look at us, we have not solved everything.” I guess I felt happy that she acknowledged our value to society. I appreciated her personal desire to learn from a group of people that were otherwise, apparently, devoid of social worth. I couldn’t anticipate that her plea would make more and more sense as I zoomed out of my teens and into my thirties. I didn’t realize that it would make more and more sense as I grew into the church and understood God’s intention for each generation to cheer on the next.

By reading Do Hard Things, you’ll have a better glimpse into the work that the Holy Spirit is doing amongst teenagers right now. You’ll know what to look for in the teens around you; you’ll know what they struggle with, and how you can encourage them. Instead of over-looking or minimizing their brave efforts to step out in obedience and sacrifice, you’ll be at-the-ready to notice and encourage them. You’ll have a much better understanding of what they’re up against, and you’ll want to help them out and spur them on however you may.

By keeping Do Hard Things on your bookshelf, you’ll have a primary source of an important movement in history. I’m not just saying that! I really believe it! I agree with Randy Alcorn’s cover quote that this book “will prove to be one of the most life-changing and culture-changing books of this generation.” I truly believe that Christian teenagers are being awakened by the Holy Spirit and are being given the courage and obedience to listen. The interesting thing about this movement is that it extends beyond the covers of the book into an energetic online community of Christian teenagers who are encouraging each other. It reaches into the conferences that Alex & Brett have shared around the world, and their newest book, Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are. You’ll love checking out their online community; you’ll be personally inspired by the thousands of teenage voices that are rocking the world.

By recommending Do Hard Things to your sons and daughters and their friends, you’ll be passing along a refreshing vision that life is more than selfish pursuits and fleeting pleasures. Teenagers want more than themselves; they just have to look long and hard to find it in our culture. Alex and Brett Harris are intelligent, relevant, honest, and down-to-earth writers who have been created by God to point teenagers in a hopeful direction: towards God himself and towards His work. This will be like a oasis for the Christian teenager.

Not to mention, by savoring Do Hard Things for yourself, you will be inspired to see more clearly through our social selfishness and aimlessness that can fog up all of our lives, regardless of our age. As for me, I was deeply encouraged to pour my heart into my husband, children, and local church with deliberate fearlessness. I wonder how it will encourage you?


Posted in Book Reports | 2 Comments

There are so many benefits to reading aloud as a family, not the least of which is mommy learning parenting tips and tricks.

These books have given me fantastic parenting advice:



How about you? ‘Have any recommended read-alouds that have improved your parenting??

Posted in Book Reports, Motherhood | 8 Comments

Each week, Ryan would return from his men’s group with rave reviews of Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make S decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.

‘Seems as if the topics in this slim volume were really hitting home for all of the men. Without reading it myself, I noticed that Ryan suddenly put his foot down, limited his research-time, and just decided stuff. He ordered our now-gorgeous orchard. He ordered our now-laying chickens. He tilled the garden and planted the thing. In the past, I would never – never – have even come close to identifying Ryan as needing inspiration to work hard or make hard choices, but I did notice a stark difference in his confidence and courage. We all want to make “the right decisions” and to do well by Consumer Reports and Amazon reviews (not to mention, we want to walk in God’s good and perfect will!), but really, all of the limitless options and resources can stall a person out and can steal precious time.  Wow, I thought, if this book is impacting my very hard-working husband in a positive way, it’s gotta have some gems in there for me!

So, when I finally sat down with the book, I devoured the thing.

And I should probably devour it again.

Did DeYoung know that his insights would be so personally helpful to an expectant homeschooling mother who simply desires to do her best building her home, her church, and her community? Whether he knew it or not, he helped to demystify God’s will regarding curriculum choices; he helped me to sort through the static of “good, better, best” when it comes to our daily schedule and activities; he also encouraged me to take steps towards starting a local women’s Bible study, which is something I’ve wanted to do – but have hesitated to do – for some time now.

Just Do Something is our #1 graduation gift, our #1 recommendations for summer reading, and my #1 recommendation to you.


Posted in Book Reports | 3 Comments

A reader asked what I intend to do with Lia, my three year old, which made me realize that I haven’t used blog space to rave about another favorite resource in a long, long time:

Ann Ward’s Learning at Home: A Christian Parent’s Guide with Day-by-Day Lesson Plans Using the Library as a Resource.

This is an old, out-of-print GEM that you can still purchase from private sellers through Amazon (Click on the link above to find $10+shipping options; otherwise, you might only find booksellers asking $60 or more.)

I began using Learning at Home when Viv was (gulp) two years old and worked through it in spurts for the next two years. I hope to use it for all of our children (though now I’ve gotten *more* of a grip and won’t begin until Lia is a ripe old 3 1/2 years old).

Why do I love it so?

* Because it covers all of the beautiful basics that I want my children to know and experience!

* Because it does not require that I purchase many (if any) other resources.

* Because each day’s work requires 45 minutes – 1 hour, which can be broken up by topic throughout the day. For example, we will cover the Bible lessons together during our breakfast devotions, enjoy the art and story time all together in the afternoons, and use the Physical Education suggestions during play time. Ward gives specific plans for each 5-day week in a typical school year, with the fifth day assuming a suggested field trip or project. It’s not a huge time commitment. (Some critics complain that Ward requires too much prep work, which I didn’t find to be the case if I just used my creativity. Way back in her day – 1995 – she chose to make all of her learning resources out of old magazines and construction paper. These days, we can print out similar exercises online, pull-together little toys, or select puzzles from our shelves that enforce the same skills. When worse comes to worst, though, Ward’s homemade ideas are simple enough to prepare while watching a movie or listening to an online sermon. Just think of the wealth you are preparing for your child! If you were sending your child to school, you better believe a young teacher would be up at night, cutting, pasting, printing, and organizing effective lessons for your little one. You can do it, too!)

* Because the content is such that Lia will gain immense riches from it, but it will also apply and enrich Vivienne at the same time. (Not to mention myself.)


During the week, we will enjoy the Bible lessons, which cover Bible stories as well as biblical truths like the roles of family members and noble character qualities. I plan on teaching the Bible lessons to both Vivienne and Lia since they are so enriching – exactly the good and true things that I want our daughters to know and believe. We’ll also memorize the suggested verses together. I will also overlap the Science topics (called “God’s World”), since Ward’s curriculum stays pretty basic (plants, the human body, animals, etc.) and Vivienne and I can expand these topics into units with experiments, lap-books, and supplementary reading. (The Well-Trained Mind suggests that first-graders study several units covering animals, the human body, and plant life. Perfect!)

The Reading lessons typically involve simple memorization work, poetry-reading, and step-by-step development in reading preparation (i.e. exercising left-to-right eye movement).

Art lessons are simply projects that correspond with holidays, seasons, and themes of study.

Arithmetic lessons are simply step-by-step developments in math-readiness (i.e. counting, making number books, spatial recognition, etc.)

Health and Manners lessons prepare the young student for chores, personal hygiene, and hospitality.

Physical Education lessons suggest basic developmental skills that I otherwise would forget to encourage in my children like jumping forward and backward over a line, running on tiptoes, skipping while music plays and stopping when the music stops, etc. Simple and fun ideas that most youngsters think is worth a million bucks.

Many of the Music suggestions and Story suggestions are dated (do you know the song “One More River?”, so I just google the week’s topic and steel great ideas from Jolanthe, Carisa, or Confessions of a Homeschooler. I also come up with my own snappy ideas now and then. (Wink.) The point is that we sing with and read to our eager little learners every week!

Keep in mind that many of Ward’s library book suggestions might not be available at your library. I had a hum-dinger of a time finding most of her suggested resources when I first started out, so I just developed our own book list, which is quite easy to do with today’s online library search options. Studying horses? Type in the general topic “horse”, specify “children’s books”, and gather a selection of fiction and non-fiction (the non-fiction books are usually organized by topic, so once I find one non-fiction juvenile book on horses, I’ve found the jack-pot. I keep a running list of “keepers” and look for them time and time again.)

I love this precious resource because it encourages me to intentionally build into my little ones day by day, preparing them for a lifetime of learning, praying, singing, and playing together.

Do you have a preschool resource that you love?


Posted in Book Reports, Early Elementary Education, Learning at Home, Preschool | Tagged | 2 Comments

It’s times like this when I wish I had Oprah’s platform. Then I could announce brilliant resources and the whole world would know! THEN, I could tell you to look under your seat and you’d have a copy of your very own to enjoy immediately! I really do day-dream about that sometimes…

Until then, I’ll do my best to RAVE about Starr Meade’s Bible Story Book, The Mighty Acts of God until my little world knows. We have just finished the book and I have learned so much. From Genesis to Revelation, Meade explains God’s purposes for all things under Christ. It is theologically sound, God-centered, and spiritually challenging. Each morning, I read one chapter to the girls during breakfast. Both Vivienne and Lia (ages 5 and 2) looked forward to the reading every day, and yet I’m sure I was the one who had the most to learn. Of course, all three of us processed the chapters at different levels, but we all came away with a knowledge of many Bible stories, and – more importantly – an awe of God’s mighty power and love. After reading this book, I feel better equipped to explain the congruency of all Scripture, the preeminence of Christ, and the purpose of our lives as Christians. What a treasure!

Since there isn’t a free copy under your chair (such a bummer to me), you’ll have to buy a copy for your family library. But I assure you, it will become a treasure!

Posted in Book Reports, Motherhood | 2 Comments

Book Report: A Must Read

I thought I was done crying.

Although we miss Juliette and certain things will catch my heart in my throat, I thought I had endured the depths of mourning and wouldn’t have to cry again, at least not for a while. Then, I read Chapter 1 of Ann’s One Thousand Gifts. When I lay my head on my pillow that night, my prayers circled around what I had read. I knew what I needed to say to Him.

While my words took their time coming out, His words kept rolling through my spirit, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Though I had blessed His name, thanked Him for sustaining us, and praised Him for providing for us, I had not yet thanked Him.

So, in a very practical and obedient way, my mouth spoke the words: Thank you for taking Juliette when you did.

I wasn’t prepared for the way in which this small, quiet sentence was waiting to shake and burst open an entirely different well of emotions. From somewhere deep inside, I sobbed. Like King David’s, my pillow was wet with tears. I don’t even really know what I meant by that “thank you”, but my spirit somehow knew that it helped me to let go of fear, and to rest my weary maternal soul in our Father’s hands.

I hesitate to pull a quotation from Ann’s book, because the whole piece – word by word – works together to establish a relationship with the reader, but the first chapter passage that spoke directly to my heart was:

“Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency.”

When I read her description, I knew that loss has injured my vision. My heart has felt so very low, so very guarded since May, when we said good-bye to Juliette. Even with our new gift of pregnancy, I’ve been squinting and straining to see with my former wide-eyed, hope-filled mommy eyes, but they’ve been infected with doubt, wariness, and cynicism. Through Ann’s words and her gentle application of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is healing my soul’s eyes; and the prescription is gratitude.

That is what Ann Voskamp celebrates and teaches in One Thousand Gifts: gratitude to God.

If you already read her blog, A Holy Experience, you know that her writing and her heart are exquisite, daily gifts.

Not surprisingly, her first book is brilliant

I won’t be able to wait long enough to read along with the Bloom book club, but I will certainly be tuning in for the weekly updates with Angie, Jess, and Ann herself. Consider joining us?

Posted in All Posts, Book Reports | 4 Comments

As a chronicle of God’s expectations for atoning sacrifices and offerings, the book of Leviticus stirs my heart with awe towards God.

These chapters show us that He knows what He wants.

Down to the very detail.

He knows what pleases His heart. And what does not.

It reminds me of a sermon series our pastor shared last year: we looked through Scripture for what God wants in our worship, so that we not give Him what we want Him to want. He is God; and we are His people.

All of the details – the fat cut here and there, the pots, the location. the ashes – are important to God. Only when each of those details was respected and met, was God pleased with the aroma. What obedience this required! What conscientious care! Who had time to do anything else, but seek to please God?

Likewise, our atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ, pleased every specific desire of God’s heart. Every little detail. So that, Jesus became the sweetest aroma of obedience and conscientious care about God’s desires. Hallelujah.

Posted in Blogging, Book Reports | Comments Off on Blogging Through the Bible: Leviticus