Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full; Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms – Book Review

Gloria Furman does it again. In this little book Furman goes through the truth of the Gospel: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then she takes that truth and applies it to the everyday mess and busyness that is motherhood.

The subtitle for this book says “… for Busy Moms” but to be real, what mom isn’t busy. This is for all moms. That being said, I cannot recommend it enough. It is a short 160 pages, which includes all of the notes and back matter. Yes, it’s a quick little book, but man does it pack a punch.

If you’ve ever read Furman before, you know what I’m talking about. Her writing style seems, to my eyes, to be heavily influenced by her life as a wife to a disabled husband, a mother to multiple children, a woman in ministry struggling through all the demands that work entails, and lives in a challenging international city in the Middle East. She does not have time for the fluffy, round about way of saying things. “Get to the good part! Tell me the good news, now! I need it!” Her words seem to say. That’s exactly what she does in this book.

Yet, there is not a sense of urgency or chaos, as sometime is the case when this attitude of immediate need is applied to writing. She presents the message, or the “Treasures” as the title puts it, of this book gently. With the tenderness of a woman, and a parent. It is a breath of fresh air after a long slog type of feel she gives in her writing.

I think this is mainly due to the content of this book. It is difficult to come across as harsh, chaotic, prideful, or condescending when you are presenting a message that is not essentially your own. Gloria Furman in this short, sweet book presents Christ, the Message himself, to tired, busy women, with children in tow. Her books is life giving, because Christ is. Her words are comforting, confronting, and refreshing, because Christ is.

She does this through, not her own words, but through the scriptures. I type this with a smile, for it is difficult to read farther than a sentence or two without some scripture reference or quotation. Further proving that this treasure, this good news, this hope, is not her message, but God’s message, is Christ himself presented to the world, and through Furman, funneled at mothers.

Moms, pick up this book! Read it. Re-read it. It is that kind of book that you can read a few paragraphs, filled with scripture quotations, as your quiet time and dwell on truth all day long.

I read this in the carline while I waited to pick up my children from school, with my toddler in the backseat. Grab a paragraph or two while you nurse (actually you may be able to get a whole chapter while nursing). Read a little while your kiddos do their homework next to you. It’s small enough to fit in most purses! Take it to work and sneak a chapter in on your lunch break. It’s not dense, so even a few sentences before you collapse into bed is possible.

If you’re not a mom, read it! It’s the gospel. It applies to you too. Better yet, read it, and pass it on to a mom. Then, you can have discussions about what’s in the book! What a blessing! And you will get much more out of it talking about it, as usually when you talk about something, your mind and heart dig into it a little deeper.

Whatever you do, where ever you are in life. Read on, friends!

Soli Deo Gloria!

To Read, To Write, To Learn

I’ve been doing a lot recently. All of it has caused me to do one thing: think deeply.

I’ve been writing in a more creative way. Finished a manuscript for a novel, now working on my second novel, and have several short stories finished and some short stories in the works.

I’ve been reading a lot, and been keeping a reading list. As of today, I have read 14 books since January 1st, and am currently reading about 12 others. Audiobooks have helped me bulk up these numbers, and they totally count. If it counts as reading for my children when they are read aloud to, then it counts when I am read aloud to.

I keep this by my bed, with my favorite color pen at the ready.
This is where I keep all my quotes, book lists, and whatever else.
Also, The Literary Life Podcast is wonderful, I love it. (Not sponsored or anything, I’m just a fan!)

All this word consuming and creating has made me extremely thoughtful. I’ve read things I didn’t agree with, and things I didn’t think I agreed with until it was explained. I’ve read some horrific accounts, and some tellings of delightful tales.

The main thought that keeps running in and out and around my mind is this: Why?

Why did the author write this?
Why is this considered “good” or “bad”?
Why did I not enjoy this before?
Why don’t more people read this?
Why would someone do that (in the case of some non-fiction books)?
Why don’t I like this?
Why is this so hard to read?
Why do others think this is so hard to read (because it’s really not)?

Why, why, why?

I don’t have answers for many of these, but that hasn’t stopped me from asking the questions, postulating answers, and then badgering my husband with his opinions (he was a philosophy major, and still is a philosopher at heart, so he doesn’t mind).

Why do you read what you read?
What makes that genre or that author or that kind of story your favorite?
What stops you from reading?

Looking over my booklist two types of books stick out to me as favorites: old books, and detective novels.

Old books (my definition): anything written by someone who has been dead for at least 50 years.

Detective novels: crime solving novels, usually involving a detective, private or official.

Why do I like these so much? I’m not sure, but I know that I do. I love history, so I suppose that is part of liking old books. I love learning about people and places. There is nothing more mysterious and full of things we don’t understand than the past. Old books, even fiction, open up a world that is, for the most part, foreign to us. I find this delightful.
I think I like detective novels for the same reason. And, I like to feel smart, and solve clever puzzles, and feel a part of righting a wrong and doing justice, even if it’s fiction. There is something deeply human in detective novels. We see wrong and right very clearly on display. The fight for rightness, justice, meeting the tension of inadequacies, grey areas, and fallible good guys. Detective novels, and math, prove, in a way, the existence of objective truth. There is a reason why Agatha Christie is the best selling author of all time behind only the Bible and Shakespeare. We humans are drawn to truth, objective truth, goodness, and beauty. Books highlight this reality.

“The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.”

(possibly said by Mark Twain, but true regardless)

I wax poetic and digress into theology, philosophy, and pondering the gracious purpose of life. We have a title!

What are you reading? Has it got you thinking?

Soli Deo Gloria

What I’m filling up with

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit drained these days.
Turns out, even introverts need people!

My husband is home, and thankfully is still working. It’s a tricky situation in our little house, but we have found a sort of groove with it, and the kids have adapted.
What has been the hardest is being home, inside, and away from family. It’s especially hard on my kids, which breaks my heart.

This new isn’t normal. This will change, but we don’t know when, and man can these days feel long.
So, what do we do?

Fill up! and fill up with truth.

Here’s what I’m doing to help fill me up, and maybe it will inspire you to fill up too: (the first one daily, but the others are scattered throughout the week pretty much)

  1. Bible – There is no way I, or you, or anyone on the planet who can make it through life, much less through stress, suffering, change, hurt, brokenness, without God’s Word. (I’m currently reading through Exodus, and seeing how God provided for his people is amazing, even through the law!)
  2. Sufficient Hope: Meditations and Prayers for Moms by Christina Fox – Having a solid, bible central devotion has helped me immensely. This book is perfect because it’s relatively short, full of scripture, has questions at the end, and has a prayer written out at the end of each little chapter. The prayers are my favorite, because they are so solid, often praying the words of scripture, and give me words to pray when I’m out.
  3. Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusion by Kelly Needham – Maybe an odd choice for being secluded away from friends, but man has this time also revealed some of the idols that have crept up in my heart, especially in the area of friendship. This has been a very convicting, and comforting book always pointing to the truth.
  4. Risen Motherhood Podcast – Hands down, my favorite podcast. No matter what, these ladies are always pointing to the truth of the gospel, from make up, to marriage, to parenting, and everything in between that falls into the realm of motherhood. Go listen. So good. The resources page on their website is also fantastic.
  5. Journey Women Podcast – In the same idea and purpose as Risen Motherhood, but aimed at young(er) women. Topic and interviews to encourage and point women to God in our journey through life.
  6. Foundations Podcast with Ruth and Troy Simons – This is centered on biblical parenting, and I have just started listening to this with my family (husband and kids).
  7. Biblicaltraining.org – I’ve listened to a few good classes and seminars for free on this site. I love learning and this free resource is great for that. They also have some certificates you can earn (these are not free).
  8. “Marks of a Healthy Church”, teaching series by Ligonier Ministries – This has been a balm to my soul, though I’m missing my church soooooo much right now, I’m enjoying this series about church. Ligonier Ministries also has a ton of other free teaching series, and other resources too.
  9. Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones – This is what I have been reading to my children everyday at lunch time, and they remind me when I miss! They are into this routine of ours. Their little hearts are anxious and scared in this time too, recounting promises, hope, and truth of Jesus is just what they need now, and all the time! It helps Mommy’s heart too 🙂
  10. Any/all music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and/or City Alight – definitely favorites right now for our whole family.

There you have it!
I’m also reading some fiction for book club, an audio book for fun, and have at least three more books I’ve started, and set down for now. Trying to be better about finishing what I begin. 🙂
What are you filling up with?

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Complicated Heart – Book Review

Let me start off by saying I am in no way gaining anything financially, nor required to say anything positive or negative about this book.
This review is completely honest, as reviews should be!

The title and cover artwork gives a great preview into what this story, this testimony rather, is about. It’s complicated. Just as life is, relationships are, because of one thing: Sin. The main theme Sarah Mae presents is the concept that we, even as Christians, do not always do what we want to do, what we “ought” to do. We sin, and sin complicates everything.

Sarah Mae presents in this book a very raw, painful, retelling of her relationship with her mother, and particularly the decisions she made because of the dysfunction between herself and her mother. At pride of place, the climax of the story, is glory of God’s grace, redeeming her life, her mother’s life, and miraculously, their broken relationship. The restoration of their relationship is just beautiful, and truly a work of God.

Now is the part of the review that I talk about what I didn’t like.

  • The timeline.
    It was often all over the place, very confusing to follow what happened when. I’m a sequence and timeline person, I love being able to follow the dates of one event to the next, to the next, to the next. In this book, the drama and events were emphasized over the timing. I understand why, but order is important too, and this was lacking.
  • Persons and Setting.
    Some people’s names were changed, which is fine, but there was no consistency with what their changed names were, whose names were changed. It was very challenging to keep track of who all these people were, which is important in a testimony-type story. Some people were given descriptive names (like Mr. Baldman), which made them feel insignificant, when actually they were more significant than those given names.
  • Lack of Scripture.
    While Sarah Mae spent time to explain psychological terms, there was little mention of the Bible. She says God was central to the change, but so much is based on feeling and psychology, it was hard to find grounds for God having anything to do with it. Perhaps this is why she included so many prayers? There is a problem here too, however, because the prayers mention personal feelings and struggle (which is good), but still no follow up with what the Bible says in answer to these struggles.

Here was my biggest issue with the book.
Sin does happen, and God can use and redeem people, situations, and relationships despite our failings.

Sarah Mae did a great job pointing this out, but there is a deep lack of truth to replace the lies and sin that fill so much of the book. The message of the Gospel is not clearly stated until the last fourth of the book.
Perhaps when she was going through these experiences she did not think of scriptures that spoke to the heart of these struggles, but if this book is to grow and encourage the reader, then appropriate corresponding scriptures should be there, in my opinion.

The very few places where she quoted scripture were so rich and refreshing! I simply wish she had done that as much as she had dug up all the details of past sin.

So, to sum this all up…

I enjoyed the book, the redemption story of Sarah and her mother is truly beautiful. It did lack in many ways however, and I don’t think I will read it again, nor recommend it to a friend.

If you have a challenging familial relationship, you may be pulled to this book because of the similar struggles. I would warn against that for this reason:

The result of the relationship she presents is completely situation based, because of the lack of scripture references to tie in Sarah Mae’s experience to biblical truth it makes this a nice story, but hard to apply to or encourage one’s own heart.

Read with discernment, friends!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Library review – an unpopular anti-bullying message

New month, more books! This trip the kids did a lot of picking on their own, and so we had a very surprising variety of books–as you would expect with a 2 and 3 year old pick out books whose titles they cannot read. Luckily, we had just enough space in our bag for mama to pick out a couple books too just to balance it out and stretch us a little bit.

My son is turning into quite the reader (or rather, listener), and is liking more and more books. He is getting to the point where he likes most of the books we get!

Here were his top favorites this time:

About three “chicken” chickens, very comical
About a turkey trying to run away from the farmer on the day before Thanksgiving.
About a big turnip, a family effort, and good homemade food.
Classic tales of foolishness and wisdom, old language, friendly characters and format for little hands.

Like I said, we had a pretty eclectic bunch!

My daughter appreciated some of these, but her attention span is pretty short these days.
Oh, to be two!

My son also liked this book, because I could “read” it on his own:

It’s a wordless book, and it tells the story of going out of your way to be kind to someone else. The illustrations tell the story beautifully. It’s a strong message about bullying and looking out for others.

I will say that my kids felt that the story was left unfinished, which I thought was very telling. At the end of the story, the entire school (or so it appears) rallies behind the girl who was picked on. A very “happily ever after” feel, but my son asked me,

“What about the mean boy? Why is everyone leaving him?”

That’s so striking to me! My son was so concerned for the bully, the apparent “bad guy” of the story. Why is that? Because my son saw the bully for what he is, a person, an image bearer. Even though the “mean boy”, as my son dubbed him, was indeed mean to Vanessa it didn’t make the whole school ignoring him right, and my son felt that. He didn’t know it, but he hit upon a biblical truth here.

Here is Jesus’ Anti-Bullying Message:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:38–48 (ESV – emphasis added)

That is a really unpopular message. Do not resist the bully, give in to him, love him, pray good things for him. Be perfectly loving to the unlovely, gentle to the violent, merciful to the unjust, giving to the greedy, good to the evil.

Be like Jesus. Be holy, perfect. We can only do this through Christ. We can only love our enemies through Jesus, through his Holy Spirit changing and growing us to be more like Jesus, who did it perfectly, who loved his enemies enough to die for them, take their punishment, and redeem them. We need a love that powerful to help us love others.

Do all things for his glory, even reading wordless books!

Soli Deo Gloria