Books Read in 2022: Christian Thinking and Life Management (and one Just for Fun)


, , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog.

Here’s another installment of my micro book reviews for 2022. In my last post, I shared the books I read for our homeschool. This time around, I’ve collected my 2022 reads on Christian Thought as well as Life Management (and a bonus category Just For Fun).

Christian books theology life management book reviews

Christian Books on Theology, Practice, Philosophy, or Education

On Christian Teaching by Augustine This was probably the oldest work I read last year, aside from Plutarch and the Bible. Writing in the fourth century, Augustine lays out some important guidelines and considerations for teaching–with applications for education in general and for the study and teaching of the Scriptures. Augustine’s ordering of loves (ordo amoris) is incredibly edifying, explaining how all earthly loves can and ought to be turned into the stream of love that we have for God most of all. He also addresses some classical education practices and suggests how Christians ought to approach them. I found reading Augustine to be more approachable and edifying than I had anticipated. I can see why his writing has stood the test of time.

Let Me be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot This was a re-read of a beloved book. Elisabeth Elliot is one of my all-time favorite authors. Given the crazy confusion of our time, it was good to be immersed in a book that celebrates being a woman—and being a godly woman at that. Let Me be a Woman is a collection of short chapters written to Elliot’s daughter, making her prose both warm and candid. Here’s a particularly poignant quote about worldly attitudes toward women:

Women’s work, particularly the task assigned by Creation exclusively to women, that of bearing and nurturing children, is regarded not only as of lesser value but even degrading and “animal-like.” This is a hideous distortion of the truth, and an attempt to judge women by the criteria of men, to force them into an alien mold, to rob them of the very gifts that make them what they were meant to be. To subject femininity to the criteria of masculinity is as foolish as it would be to judge meat by the standards of potatoes. Meat would fail every test. For women to assume an esatz [or artificial] masculinity means that they will always lose.

Let Me Be a Woman, P. 151

Turns out women also lose when men assume an “esatz” femininity. But I digress…

Christian Reflections (essays) by C. S. Lewis I have to say, Lewis is right up there with Elisabeth Elliot as one of my favorite authors. I bought this book initially for Lewis’ essay on “Historicism,” which I very much enjoyed. I’ve read many of his books: The Chronicles of Narnia (series), The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man, and That Hideous Strength. But this is my first read through a collection of his essays. Lewis has an incredible ability to evaluate the past and see where things are headed in days to come. I don’t always agree with his take on everything (his essay on “Church Music” being a good example), but he sure does make me think. Here are some of my favorite essays from this collection: “The Poison of Subjectivism,” “Historicism,” “The Psalms,” “The Language of Religion,” and “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.” So many of the problems we see today are the fall-out of ideas that Lewis confronted in his day. I think this makes his writing essential reading. Start with Narnia (at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) and Mere Christianity, especially if you need to strengthen your reading muscles. But do work your way “further up and further in.” You will be rewarded for doing so.

First Principles: Becoming a Disciple by Geoff Reed My husband and I hosted an outreach Bible study last year using this first book in the First Principles series. We covered the gospel, baptism, and the call to renew our minds in God’s truth, which stands in stark contrast to the ideas and values of the world. It was a great study, digging into one Bible passage for each lesson, as well as offering discussion questions and commentary. One thing that sets this book apart from other Bible studies is the heavy emphasis on both discussion and follow-through. The questions make you think and examine the Scriptures without feeling like an exercise out of an academic textbook. There is ample room for taking your own notes and recording your own questions to bring to discussion. And the sixth and final lesson in the book asks you to look back over the first five lessons to restate what you’ve learned, ground it in the Scriptures, pick a verse or passage to memorize, and set some goal or intention for your life going forward. A lot of studies have little assignments with each lesson and then just plow ahead. This one makes you sit with what you’ve covered a bit more–and challenges you to really apply it before moving on. Because simply gaining academic knowledge of God’s word isn’t what we’re after–we want to respond to it properly, applying it to our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with other believers who can hold us accountable.

The Essential Means of Grace by Paul Washer I have appreciated the teaching of Paul Washer since my college days, but this is the first book I’ve read by him. It was a short but meaty and refreshing read, covering our relationship to God through the Scriptures, prayer, repentance and confession, and the local church. Highly recommended. Only 71 pages.

Messiah: Prophecies Fulfilled by D. James Kennedy My husband read this to us in December as our Advent devotional. It was a good overview of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. My boys are in 7th and 5th grade, and it was a good fit for our family, though there was a reference to infant baptism, which we do not practice, so we simply and briefly discussed that with our kids. (Links are to a newer version of the book than we own.)

Life Skills/Management

Do More Better by Tim Challies I started 2022 off listening to this audiobook. Challies has some good principles for productivity that were helpful to me, and for a season I tried his process for managing tasks in ToDoist. I fell off of that specific application, but together with the books listed below, I think this has been a help to my focus and life management this past year.

Essentialism by Gregg McKeown This was recommended by a friend last spring and I snagged it on Audible. I wish I had a hard copy, because I think there are some diagrams that would be helpful, especially to review. At any rate, I loved this book. It urges you to really ask the important questions—what matters most? What is most essential? And then it challenges you to live by that. It’s not a Christian book, but it is Christian-friendly.

Effortless by Gregg McKeown This is the follow-up book to Essentialism. I’m not sure “effortless” is really what you get out of it, but the author does help you think through applying the principles of essentialism more thoroughly to your life. It was a good listen (again, audiobook). I will probably revisit both of these books sometime soon—maybe even this year. I think they’ve helped me a lot.

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith I found this delightful book at an “extras” bookstore on our long drive home from a trip to Florida. Why have I never read a book on decorating before? I’ve been a homemaker for fifteen years, for crying out loud! Anyway, I’m glad I read this and glad to have some principles and guidelines for making décor decisions for my home. Cozy + minimalist is really a great combination, putting people above stuff, but also not putting bare minimalism over people. The author is apparently a Christian, so the decorating advice is well-ordered and not at all about putting on a show or keeping up with the Joneses.

Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel This was a fairly helpful book. As I listened to the audiobook, I kept finding myself wishing that the author would have dealt with the spiritual side of worry/overthinking. Instead all she did was give positive tips and tricks. All of which are helpful, but it’s just not the complete picture, and I had hoped for better from an author who is a professing Christian. Tips and tricks don’t fix my trust-in-God issues. All that to say, this was a profitable listen, but not nearly so much as it could have been. This is a your-best-life-now kind of book, and needs to be balanced by biblical truth.

Ploductivity by Doug Wilson Speaking of biblical truth, there’s a lot of it in this little book (again, for me, audiobook). I was surprised to find a lot of discussion on technology—even a theology of technology. This book was far less about tips and tricks and processes and far more about our assumptions and beliefs about technology, work, etc. A very good read, especially after having finished Don’t Overthink It and finding it wanting in the theological department. That said, I don’t share Doug Wilson’s Presbyterian eschatology, which does come out in the book; but that is a small part of the whole, and it was interesting and edifying to listen to nonetheless.

Just for Fun

The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse This was my second-ever Wodehouse read. I liked The Code of the Woosters better, but this book was fun, too. I read it at the beginning of 2022 and can hardly remember what happened in the story…Bertie gets himself in trouble and Jeeves has to help him out of it, but some of that trouble is caused this time by his even-more-pathetic friend, Bingo. This one is more serial while all of Code of the Woosters unfolds from Bertie’s accidental pinching of a cow creamer. It’s hard to beat a cow creamer for ridiculous and memorable comedy. So if you want to enjoy some good laughs and British humor, you know which one I’d recommend.

That’s a wrap for today! What are your favorite Christian theology or Christian living books?
What books have helped you to manage life well?
I don’t seem to make much space for fun, comedic reading, but I find it refreshing when I do–what about you?

For more Books Read in 2022:
For Homeschooling
On Marxism and Black Christian Perspective (coming soon!)

Books Read in 2022: For Homeschool


, , , , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog.

I read 35 books last year! So I’m releasing my micro book reviews in manageable chunks. Here are the books I read while homeschooling or in support of my role as a home educator in 2022.

Book review homeschool Charlotte Mason 2022

Books Read for Homeschool

Grimm’s Fairy Tales These were sometimes delightful, sometimes familiar, and sometimes utterly absurd. I pre-read this collection of 55 tales in order to select the best for my son to read for school this year. Here are the ones I chose for their cultural importance and/or entertainment value: The Cat and Mouse in Partnership, The Frog Prince, Briar Rose, The Fisherman and His Wife, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Water of Life, The Golden Goose, The Table, the Ass, and the Stick, Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, Frederick and Catherine, Snow White and Red Rose, The Four Accomplished Brothers, The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs, Hansel and Gretel

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (My copy translated by Marie Borroff) This is probably the first epic poem I’ve ever read all the way through. What does that say about the education I received from Kindergarten through college?!?!? I pre-read this before having my 13-year-old read it this year. It’s a little bazar but also fun. The alliterative style of poetry was new to me, but I enjoyed it. Here’s a passage that highlightss the story’s themes of Providence, courage, and integrity, as Sir Gawain tells how he cannot turn back from meeting the enemy:

Fair fortune befall you for your friendly words!
And conceal this day’s deed I doubt not you would,
But though you never told the tale, if I turned back now,
Forsook this place for fear, and fled, as you say,
I were a caitiff coward; I could not be excused.
But I must to the Chapel to chance my luck
And say to that same man such words as I please,
Befall what may befall through Fortune’s will
or whim.
Though he be a quarrelsome knave
With a cudgel great and grim,
The Lord is strong to save:
His servants trust in Him.

Lines 2118-2139

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (read aloud) This is a years-long read-aloud project that we finally finished this past summer, reading it alongside our history book (see next). I highly recommend Trial and Triumph as a good survey of individuals whose stories inspire our faith and play an important role in church history. I dare you to read it aloud to your kids without crying.

The Story of the World, Volume 4: Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer (read aloud) This has been an incredibly enjoyable journey through all four volumes of The Story of the World. This one on Modern Times was a really great read at ages 12 and 10. My boys were old enough to handle the challenging level of violence that makes up modern history. Bauer traces patterns and events well, helping the reader to see how events connect chronologically, geographically, and in parallel.

The Fallacy Detective by The Bluedorns (read aloud) This was an incredibly fun read—my boys would constantly ask for it, or ask for me to read more when it was time to stop. Fallacies may not be the most ideal way to get acquainted with logic for the first time (it’s generally recommended for any discipline that you learn the rules before you learn how they are broken), but this was so accessible and fun (not to mention I won a copy as a door prize at a local homeschool event) that I couldn’t resist. The boys love to identify errors in thinking: in the news, each other…. We have urged them, though, that they don’t actually know logic yet, so take it easy. These are tools to help us evaluate arguments and propaganda, not for us to tear others down.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury I pre-read this book for my 7th grader this year. I don’t remember having any early and gentle introduction to economics before being thrown into it in high school—having to read a large portion of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations over the summer and take a test over that tome on the first day of class. I wish I had learned a little bit along the way and in the context of history. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? supplies this need quite well, covering topics like money, inflation, boom and bust cycles, the role of government, and more in short, well-explained chapters—err, uh, letters, from Uncle Eric to his nephew. This would NOT make for a complete economics course for high schoolers, however. Just like The Fallacy Detective is not a comprehensive study of logic, Penny Candy is not a comprehensive study of economics–but both books can whet the appetite for further study.

Gather by Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully This was less for school and more about it. Gather is about what many homeschool moms refer to as Morning Time–a time in the school day when most everyone in the family is together for shared learning or activities, ranging from worship and singing to reading, making, and exploration. This book is full of inspirational and practical essays and full-color photographs from a handful of homeschool families in various stages and of various sizes. It’s a pretty great day-in-the-life kind of encouragement for homeschool moms. I enjoyed it.

CommonPlace Quarterly (a refreshing magazine on Charlotte Mason homeschooling)

These are the issues of CommonPlace Quarterly that I read cover-to-cover last year: Lonely Places, Way of the Will, Balance, Method, and Ordo Amoris.

commonplace quarterly charlotte mason homeschool

I have read every issue from the first year of publication. It is a little pricey, but the content is very encouraging in the faith, in loving and educating my kids well, and in growing in my own education toward what is true and good and beautiful. About a year ago I was thinking super-frugally and canceled my subscription, and my husband questioned me on it, saying I’d probably regret that. And he was right. 🙂 This makes for excellent bedtime reading when I’m too tired to read a stiff book. If you are into Charlotte Mason homeschooling, this is a resource worth checking out.

That’s it for this post!

Next up: Christian Thinking and Life Management Books I read in 2022.

Coming Soon: Books I read on Marxism and Black Christian Perspective

Book Review: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan


, , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links I may make a commission at no additional cost to you.

I recently started logging my reading on Goodreads. You can follow me there to see what I’m currently reading and to catch new reviews that I write.

This is the second review I’ve written. I had my oldest son read John Bunyan’s autobiography this year for school, alongside Pilgrim’s Progress. I enjoyed (well, mostly enjoyed) listening to the book so that I could be ready to discuss it with my son. Here’s my review, originally posted on Goodreads:

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m giving John Bunyan’s autobiography 4 stars simply because it is a bit difficult to enjoy at times–partly due to the older language but mostly due to the fact that as you hear Bunyan detail his struggles against temptation, doubt, and despair, you keep longing for him to come to a final resolution. But for Bunyan, this resolution takes a long time in coming, with many, many ups and downs. Over half the book seems to stay in this back-and-forth state–Will he ultimately be condemned? Or is the Lord’s saving of him sure? Has he committed the unpardonable sin? Is the love of God in Christ still his?

I’ve heard that CS Lewis called Bunyan’s autobiography something like a trip to an asylum. And for half the book, I can feel why.

Bunyan took his own sin and temptation very seriously. One might like to say he at times took it too seriously, but Bunyan seems to conclude that he took the accusations of the enemy of his soul too seriously and did not readily enough approach the throne of grace for help in time of need. This is quite instructive to modern readers: take sin seriously, but take grace seriously, too.

It is the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ that at last secures Bunyan’s hope. But, in God’s providence, his struggles for assurance up to that point of clarity seem to have given him a humility that prepared him for ministry and a depth of understanding of both theology and the human condition that enabled him to pen the classic Pilgrim’s Progress. What a gift to the church!

In contrast to the shiny, suave image that a lot of celebrity pastors put forth today, Bunyan the tinker invites us to know the deep struggles of his soul for assurance before God, which he could only ultimately find in the righteousness of Christ and in the faithful love of God. Reading his autobiography is an encouragement that God can and does use those tender hearts (perhaps sometimes too tender?) who mourn their sin and love their Savior.

If you want an interesting pairing, try reading this book alongside John Owen’s Indwelling Sin in Believers. Owen was a contemporary of Bunyan and reportedly admired him. The Lord used Bunyan outside of the Church of England (and even while imprisoned by it), and He used Owen within it. Both had a great understanding of the fight against sin (Owen more so theologically and Bunyan more so experientially). Both men’s writings are a gift to believers for which we can thank God.

View all my reviews

Have you read Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners? What did you think?

Processing the Past with Grace: Deconstructing the Faith vs. Disentangling from False Teaching


, , , , , , , , ,

This post contains an affiliate link. If you make a purchase through this link, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

Last night I watched Allie Beth Stuckey interview Jinger Duggar Vuolo about her new book, Becoming Free Indeed, in which she details how she was raised under the legalistic teachings of Bill Gothard and how she has come to be free from them by a more thorough and biblical understanding of the gospel and the nature of God Himself.

I’m sharing the interview here (at the end of article) because I think that this conversation is important for a few reasons:

One. Deconstruction and ex-vangelicalism is a fad these days. It’s “cool” to talk about all the bad things you experienced or were taught and then to throw under the bus anyone or any belief system that still holds to anything remotely resembling those things.

Were you pressured to conform to extra-biblical man-made standards of modesty? You can now be suspect of anyone that promotes modesty at all.

Were you taught a perverted version of male headship that left you with no strength of will and perhaps subjected you to mistreatment? You can now be sure that the bible has absolutely nothing different to say to men and women ever. Consider it your mission to rescue women from any and all discussions of biblical manhood and womanhood–those categories, whether defined biblically or not, just aren’t ok anymore.

Were you hurt by judgmental people in the church? You can now vent your bitterness, expose the hypocrisy, and throw church away altogether because of it. They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway.

Was Jesus and His word used to manipulate you for someone else’s advantage? You can now be free by abandoning the biblical Jesus altogether, either by becoming agnostic or following your favorite liberal/progressive Christian influencer who will tell you that Jesus agrees with everything that is currently politically correct.

Oh, and don’t forget that any appeal to the Scriptures now qualifies as “spiritual manipulation.” The bible is only allowed to make you feel good about yourself, not to convict you of sin–anything but that.

If you listen to the voices promoting this kind of deconstruction, you’ll be following a pendulum swing from legalism and spiritual abuse on the one end to license and its spiritual abuses on the other. Be warned: Self-righteousness can puff you up whether you’re proud of what you condemn or proud of what you accept.

Legalism and spiritual manipulation are real problems (just listen to Jinger). But they’re wrong and wind up hurting people precisely because they violate what God has said in His word; they’re not a reason to explain away “politically incorrect” passages or abandon the Bible altogether.

Misusing a tool doesn’t make the tool bad. It just means you need to learn to use it properly.

Two. I’ve seen first hand the fall-out from the teachings of Bill Gothard and other groups or leaders who elevate personality, tribalism, and fads of supposed holiness over wise, humble faithfulness to God’s word and teaching that refuses to take the Scriptures out of context.

Jinger explains toward the end of the interview the difference between deconstruction (like I illustrated above) and the kind of careful work it takes to disentangle your faith from false teaching. She used a helpful illustration of having “putty” in your hair.

Do you just chop it all off or do you carefully take it out bit by bit so that you can preserve what is good–in this case, your hair?

There is something worth holding onto, worth preserving. Disentangling seeks to keep the good, to keep the faith, while detaching it from the bad, that is, the false teaching or misguided ideas. Deconstructing, on the other hand, pulls it all down together, without necessarily having a view to building anything back up again.

I have a lot of homeschooled friends now in their 30s and 40s. I’ve watched as some of them have had to process these things. Some do it well, like Jinger has apparently done. But some have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are now given over to worldliness (having completely or nearly completely deconstructed). It’s my prayer that this interview might help those who are still sorting things out. And that it might call out to those who have sorted things out poorly: come back to Christ.

Three. Jinger doesn’t exhibit any of the negative attitudes you’ll see from some of the other whistle-blowers out there. Praise be to God, she speaks graciously of her parents even while exposing the teaching that they had unfortunately latched onto and promoted to their children. With the help of her husband and solid teaching, Jinger has been able to evaluate what she was taught by reading the Scriptures in context. From what I can tell, she’s not pendulum swinging nor holding onto or promoting bitterness. This makes her an example of how to sort things out in the fruit of the Spirit–something painfully missing from a lot of critiques today.

Four. It’s good to be reminded that cult-like following of one man’s teaching isn’t healthy. I don’t care if it’s Bill Gothard (problematic), Joel Osteen (problematic), or even John MacArthur (a faithful teacher). No one-man show is going to have the corner on all biblical truth. The body of Christ is full of believers with different gifts and different experiences in order that we might edify one another. This is true at the local level and it is also true when it comes to public teachers and writers, both contemporary and from church history.

We benefit from wide reading within Christian orthodoxy.

Sometimes in our efforts to be “safe” we fall prey to the sins that we weren’t watching out for. Falling in lock-step with one teacher and his tribe will likely keep you from seeing a host of blind spots.

Finally, this brings me to a couple important points I’d like to make (and then I’ll share that interview, I promise!).

If no one-man show has the corner on all biblical truth (no matter how well credentialed), I think it’s safe to say that no parents are going to get it all just right in raising their kids. Not the Duggars, not your parents, not mine.

We can choose to give the benefit of the doubt to those who loved us enough to take our raising seriously, being thankful for the good and being wary of the bad or misleading. If we have good parents, this is what they desire for their children anyway–to learn not just from what they taught us but also from their mistakes. To do better than they did but without thinking too highly of ourselves and spurning them in the process.

While Jinger and many others are picking up the pieces after having had some actual bad teaching in their growing up years, some people are abandoning ship because of their own misunderstandings and misapplications–perhaps because the teaching they received was a mix of good and bad or because it was good but it wasn’t complete.

The mind of a child or young adult may not put the pieces together just right. This does, of course, raise the bar for us as parents to do the best we can to help them, but it also should humble the child who thinks all of their problems came only from their parents or teachers.

Shocker: we can’t blame everyone else for all of our problems.

We bring to the teaching we receive our own personality quirks, experiences, and fallible attempts to make sense of the world, not to mention our own amount of faith or lack thereof. Not only are our teachers fallible in their teaching, we are fallible in our understanding. This should bring us to a place where we rely so much more on the grace of God in Christ for all of our shortcomings and sins, and on the Holy Spirit to guide us in Truth as we interact with God’s word and His people–with humility and grace.

Growing up and keeping the faith takes processing the past (because we all have one) with careful consideration, prayer, study of the Scriptures, and fellowship with godly believers who are willing to discuss all of these things with humble care for one another and humble reverence for Christ. No matter how you were raised, commit yourself to these things, connect yourself with these kinds of people in a local church.

And may you hold fast to Christ and to what is good.

Here’s the interview:

Remember and Rejoice: Thanksgiving Meditations from the Book of Deuteronomy


, , , , , ,

This post was originally published four years ago on November 19, 2018. That was the first Thanksgiving after my PopPop passed away. This year, Thanksgiving 2022 will be the first Thanksgiving after losing my Grandma. I had forgotten the context of this article when reviewing it this year, so when I read it today the concluding thoughts really hit home. Maybe it will (again?) be a blessing to some of you, as well. 

I’ve had the pleasure recently of reading through Deuteronomy as I follow my Bible reading plan.

Deuteronomy? Pleasure? you may ask. Well, yes.

While it’s sometimes hard to slog through the books of the Old Testament, there are gems to be found, and I discovered that Deuteronomy had some relevant passages for this season of Thanksgiving.

In fact, the many references to “rejoicing” in the book surprised me! Sprinkled throughout much of the book are commands regarding the feasts that Israel was to celebrate–and celebrate with gusto!

remember rejoice thanksgiving celebrate

It’s not my intention to give a detailed overview of the feasts mentioned here, but rather I hope to express the elements of God-centered celebration that I have found helpful as we head into the holiday season.

In America, we have only one feast-day that harkens back to agricultural times: Thanksgiving. And while “giving thanks” isn’t really mentioned in Deuteronomy concerning the Jewish feasts, the purpose of these celebrations is clear: to remember and bless the Lord for His provision.

So whether it’s First Fruits (celebrated in late spring) or the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (celebrated in the fall), the heart of each is expressed in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”

When you enter the land for the first time, bless the Lord. When you reap its goodness each year, bless the Lord.

We moderns find ourselves a bit far-removed from this kind of dependence upon the land. Not that we don’t eat its produce, but we rarely experience an actual harvest without going out of our way to do so.

I found myself reading about the Offering of First Fruits within a few days of harvesting our first ever (and completely volunteer) pumpkin patch. Nevermind the different time of year and different crops they would have had in Israel (olives, figs, etc), this passage resonated with me.

Here’s what Deuteronomy 26 says about First Fruits:

The Israelites were to bring their offering before the Lord and announce, after recounting the history of God’s provision for their people, “Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.” And then they were instructed to “set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD you God; and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.

Now, when I read about the Israelites giving the first of their produce to the Lord, I can’t help but think of that one, solitary, beautiful, orange pumpkin we picked. Sure, we picked 14 green ones. But that first, ripe orb was our delight! And that pumpkin, and no other, would, in another time and place, be offered to the Lord. It would be His, not ours.

This vivid picture of the pride of our harvest belonging to the Lord began to expand in my mind. Not just fruits of the land. Fruit of the womb, also. The first born son would be the Lord’s (Exodus 34:19-20).

Just like that first pumpkin is the Lord’s and is intended to remind me that all of our pumpkins are His, so too my first child is the Lord’s–and by extension any further children are.

“The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains.”

I’m beginning to get it.

Deuteronomy 26:16 continues: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances [immediate context is the feast of first fruits]. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and all your soul.”

What did the statutes and ordinances in this passage involve?

Remembering God’s goodness and covenant
Bringing the first of your produce
Worshiping before God
Rejoicing (with the Levite and alien!) in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household–there is a community giving thanks!
Sharing with the Levite, stranger, orphan, and widow–there is a community being cared for!
“I have not eaten it while mourning”–just in case you missed it, rejoicing is emphasized here by negatively stating its opposite.
Praying for God’s future blessing on His people “Look down and bless”

The Israelites were to do all of these things with all of their heart and all of their soul! “Soul” in the bible usually denotes your whole being, including your body. So, everything within us (heart) and all that we are (soul) ought to go into this remembering, rejoicing, worshiping, sharing, blessing…

Is this not the essence of thanksgiving?!?

The Feast of Ingathering (Deuteronomy 16:13-15) has similar instructions:

You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

So much rejoicing! Again, this is a feast not only remembering past blessings (the things gathered in) but also awaiting with expectant joy the future provision of the Lord.

I can’t help but think of the Passover, which also looked back at past deliverance and forward to the Messiah. And of the Lord’s Supper, by which we remember and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” It seems the pattern of biblical celebration looks both backward and forward. It’s a pattern of remembering and rejoicing!

celebrate thanksgiving remember rejoice

All of this imagery and idealism is wonderful, but what if I’m heading into Thanksgiving with a nasty cold and way too many servings of responsibility and stress on my plate? And what if this is the first major holiday without a dearly loved family member?

This is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? There are things to begrudge and mourn. A lack of health, a lack of peace, and an empty chair at the table.

For an Israelite to swear, “I did not eat it while mourning” they would have had to push pause on, well, life. Because life is hard and we experience loss and disappointment often. Even in times of abundance.

I don’t have a remote with a quick-and-easy-fix button to literally pause pain so that rejoicing is effortless. But I can remember the Lord’s goodness and provision–past and present, in times of abundance and in times of need.

And I can rejoice. Because I know the One who will “guide the future as He has the past.”

As I went for a walk today (for the first time in what seems like forever) I had to deal with my grumbling attitude that had become my more-often-than-not companion in the past few days. The sunshine and fresh air helped to remind me that the world is still a beautiful place and God is still on His throne–even if I don’t get everything done, even if I’m carrying around my own personal storm cloud.

And as it turned out, being sick forced me to push pause today. I took a nap. In the quiet of a walk, in the quiet of my couch, in the midst of a busy, noisy, frenetic season, the Lord calmed my heart and reminded me of His care and provision.

Perhaps I can leave that storm cloud behind. Remember the Lord. Rejoice in His provision. And share that with those around me this Thanksgiving.

How about you?

Here are a few hymns that refreshed my soul on my walk today as the Lord brought them to mind. Looking to the Lord as a good, sovereign Provider is necessary if we’re to give Him thanks, isn’t it? I hope these songs will bless you as they have blessed me.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way (with added chorus in the video):

Be Still My Soul:

And, finally, one that actually gives thanks, rejoicing: For the Beauty of the Earth

Looking for more posts on Thanksgiving? Here you go:

The Poverty of Pragmatic Gratitude and the Riches of True Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A Holiday Made for Unsettling Times

Homeschool Morning Time Plans 2022/2023


, , , , , , , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a commission at no additional charge to you.

I have done some form of Morning Time with my boys for something like ten years. It looks a little different now that they are 13 and 11 this year instead of 3 and 1, when I likely started with a song, a scripture, and a calendar at the kitchen table. For one thing, my youngest is no longer restrained in a high chair (though there were a few years where he would be upside down on the couch or literally climbing onto my shoulders as I read aloud that I might have wished for that high chair again!).

This Morning Time Box has seen a lot of action over the years!


This year we are continuing our study of Latin with Visual Latin 1. We did the first 20 lessons last year and the plan is to finish Level 1 by Christmas so that we can start Visual Latin 2 next semester. I made it through the first 20 lessons last year without doing the worksheets myself (thanks to many hours of college-level Spanish), but this year I have printed off lessons 21-30 so that I can get in the same translation practice that my boys are doing. The grammar is a bit more complicated now, so it’s easier for me to keep track of it if I’m doing the work, too. And as an added bonus, I can very easily check the boys’ work without having to pull up the answer key pdf every time.

On lighter days in Visual Latin, we’ll sprinkle in some reading from Lingua Latina and perhaps also from Familia Mala (“Bad Family”…this book doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Roman myths are a hot mess).

Read Alouds

Just finished at the start of the year:

Cue drum roll… We have finally finished reading The Story of the World Volume 4: Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s crazy to think we’re done with the whole series. I think we’ve actually read Volumes One and Two twice. This series goes down as one of our family all-time favorites. My kids would ask me even on the weekend: “Read Story of the World while we play Legos?” This has been a great adventure through chronological world history.

We also recently finished The Fallacy Detective. This was a big hit with my boys–a fun read with often-entertaining examples and exercises. I’ve tried to make a point to my sons that being able to identify logical fallacies is fun and useful, but 1) it isn’t to be used to tear others down, and 2) fallacies make up a small, small fraction of the study of logic–we have yet to begin to cover all of what logic actually is. We’ll take a break this year before heading into formal logic when my oldest is in 8th grade. The Fallacy Detective has certainly whet their appetite for it.

New reads this year:

I pre-read The Ology a few years ago but it’s finally making it into our rotation this year. I think it would have been great to read sooner, but I think it will still be a good, simple treatment of theology for us to enjoy and discuss this year.

In our home, we love books by H. E. (Henrietta Elizabeth) Marshall, having enjoyed Our Island Story (British history), This Country of Ours (US history), and Scotland’s Story in the boys’ independent elementary studies. This year I decided we could start reading her book English Literature for Boys and Girls together. I’m eager to read it myself, and sometimes the best way to make that fit in my schedule is to read it aloud. 🙂 The boys are excited to hear again from a beloved author, and I’m excited for us to venture into the world of British Lit–more deeply than I ever did in school!

Other Riches

I’m in the process of starting a co-op with some local families, so we’ll be covering hymns, Scripture memory, folk songs, poems, artist study, composer study, and nature study in community this year!

There’s also a book club time and my boys (who are both in the “older kids” group) will be studying Shakespeare, one play each semester. This fall, it’ll be The Tempest.

I’ll try to work our co-op selections into our daily Morning Time. But as the kids are getting older and our Latin studies require a daily commitment, this will be more sporadic than regular (has our Morning Time ever been more than sporadic? Hmmm…). One of the reasons for the co-op, after all, is because it is hard to make space for all of these beautiful things!

Want some inspiration for Morning Time in your home? Over the summer, I enjoyed reading Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully’s new book Gather. It’s a beautiful compilation of thoughts, practices, and examples from their own homeschools, and it’s chock full of lovely photos of other homeschool families (of all sizes!) who enjoy learning together. It’s like one of those “day in the life” blog posts, only there’s a book’s worth of it and you can actually hold it in your hands. Tangible book lovers, rejoice!

What about you? Do you do Morning Time? Or something like it at another time of day? What are your plans for this school year?

“Goodbye, Instagram” … Two Years Later


, , ,

I wanted to hop on here to commemorate the day that I ditched Instagram. And to reflect, once again, on what life is like without it–this time two years later instead of just two months.

I had my reasons for saying goodbye to the ‘gram:

  1. The instant/constant nature of the beast
  2. The time-sink
  3. Low return on investment for blog traffic
  4. Seeing a friend’s reasons for leaving gave me permission to hop off, too

You can read explanations of each of those points in my original post here.

[Aside: I’ve realized in further reflection that the politicization of everything is another reason I got off. But the explanation of that point would require an entire blog post in itself. I’ll save that for another day. Maybe.]

Lately I’ve felt a little twinge of nostalgia for those square pictures. I remember the reasons I was on there for about two years before I quit…

  1. I wanted to drive some traffic to my blog
  2. It was fun to see beautiful pictures of books, kids, planners, educational quotes, etc
  3. It was fun to share those sometimes random, precious, and/or entertaining moments with others
  4. It was easier to write an encouraging or thoughtful caption than to write and edit a blog post–so I was at least getting some ideas and inspiration out there more often
quit instagram two years later social media

So, does the potential for good outweigh the bad? Will I be giving it another go?


Definitely not.

Those feelings of nostalgia aren’t necessarily bad, but they are misplaced. I want my emotional energy to be primarily directed to the people in my family, my church, my broader local community. I don’t need to build up more nostalgia for a social media platform. I need to invest in building up emotional ties where they really matter.

“Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Jesus is talking about the love of money vs. the love of God, but I think the principle applies just as well to how we spend our time and attention. What we care about we invest in, and what we invest in we care about.

The nostalgia isn’t a reason for getting back on. It’s yet another reason for staying away.

All of my original reasons for quitting Instagram are still valid. And in the two years I’ve been off, I am finding that I’m growing in several areas:

  1. Contentment–It’s easier to enjoy the sometimes random, precious, and entertaining moments for what they are if I’m not wrestling with an urge to make them public. Not to mention, it’s a lot harder to compare yourself to air-brushed standards of parenting, beauty, organization, you-name-it if you aren’t looking at them. With that surface-level of discontentment stripped away, I’ve found deeper layers of it that needed to be dealt with. And I’m growing.
  2. Focus–There are plenty of things vying for my attention. Having one less of them does, in fact, make a difference.
  3. Detaching from social media in general–I’m still on Facebook, but not very often. I’m still on Scholé Sistership, but it has a limited Christian homeschool mom focus, few pictures, and is a uniquely edifying community.
  4. Growing in self-control–I mentioned last time using the Freedom app to help limit time on social platforms. I don’t use the app any more. Practicing self-control (by the grace of God) and growing in renewed affections for doing what needs to be done have me in a place where I don’t need the training wheels anymore.
  5. Growing in strength of will–Making decisions is easier when I’ve eliminated an entire category of potential decisions to make. I strengthen my will every time I exercise it in choosing to do the next right thing rather than scrolling a platform where “the next thing” is up to an algorithm. We train ourselves into habits, but our habits can also train us.

Even with some nostalgia, even though I still appreciate seeing new baby pics and other updates from friends on Facebook, I’m just less and less interested in social media in general. I’ve considered ditching it altogether. Maybe someday I will. I sure won’t be signing up for the Metaverse when it drops. No, thank you.

Please don’t mistake this for an anti-technology post. Here’s the deal. Technology is a blessing but it comes with risks, too. We each have to run our own cost-benefit analysis. Your particular situation may cause you to answer the social media question differently than I do. And that’s fine. Coming up with one rule for everyone isn’t the point.

The point is to wisely evaluate how we spend our time and attention, especially when it comes to apps that are designed to suck as much of both of them out of us as possible.

If you’ve been itching to get off of a social media platform and wonder if it’ll be alright, wonder if you can manage, wonder if it’s possible to live in the 21st century without it, let this post be a bit of encouragement to do what you need to do.

Yes, it will be ok.

There is life after Instagram. Real life. And it’s good. Don’t let peer pressure (or those “your friends will miss you” pre-programmed scripts) keep you from making a decision you know is right for you.

Two years later I’m still glad I ditched the ‘gram. No regrets, my friends. No regrets.

For more, see my original post [Real] Life After Instagram.

Resting on God


, , , ,

I’m in the midst of a rather busy season. We still have three weeks left in our homeschool year, but summer, with its mowing, gardening, and adventuring, is already in full swing.

As the work picks up outside, mess and clutter build up inside, too. New projects create new piles, and sometimes it’s hard to walk through the house without tripping over something.

I might like to have my plans accomplished and tied up with a bow, but that doesn’t happen very often. I might like to have my whole house cleaned and organized at one time–even just the first floor all at one time!–but that feels like a distant dream and not a soon-to-be-had reality.

So when I sat at my desk to pray this morning after sleepily popping a couple pans of baked oatmeal into the oven, I gave thanks for all I could. And then I pulled out the Valley of Vision and read a prayer, one that happened to speak to me ever so sweetly even as it prompted me to speak to God. I would reproduce it here for you, but I want to respect copyrights, so I’ll link to it instead. The prayer is titled Resting on God. I hope you’ll find it an encouragement like I did.

As I roll up my sleeves and get busy with the day’s work, I’m going to try to keep these truths at the forefront of my mind. Join me?

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 33:11

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. 

Psalm 62:5-8

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29

Encouraging Resources for Christian Moms


, , , ,

Amazon links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no additional charge to you.

This spring has been full of life: with garden work, schooling, spring cleaning, taxes, and adventures. I just wanted to hop on here today to share some of the wonderful things that I’ve been enjoying (mostly in my earbuds) lately. I’m on a bit of biblical womanhood kick, and whatever the world may bemoan about that subject, I’m incredibly refreshed by reminders of what God has both called me to and given me grace for in this life as a woman made in His image.

The Simplified Organization Podcast by Mystie Winckler (also available as YouTube videos). Mystie interviews Christian moms to get their best tips for parenting and home management to the glory of God. There’s a great variety of topics and tips. The practical and the spiritual don’t have to be kept in separate categories. 🙂 That’s what I love so much about this podcast (and other resources from Mystie)–not just life hacks, but real help toward godly faithfulness in both our homes and our hearts.

Fruitful Homemaker Podcast This is hosted by Emily Drew, a young mom (and fellow Arkansan!) who interviews older women in the faith. I love that she’s seeking to bring the Titus 2 wisdom of truly older women forward for today’s younger women to hear! Some notable guests include Martha Peace, Nancy Wilson, and Abigail Dodds.

Women Encouraged Podcast, Good Theology: As Mothers – with Nana Dolce This particular episode came recommended by a sweet new mom at my church. It’s a great encouragement to think carefully about what we believe and how that affects the relationships in our home–especially our lives lived out before our kids.

Dwell Podcast: Pouring from a Full Pitcher and The Difference between Peace and Self-Care These two episodes were a breath of fresh air from moms who (two out of three of them) have raised all their children and can now share a great deal of perspective on the long, hard seasons of motherhood and homeschooling.

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. This is an old classic–one I read in my early twenties and then lent to a friend…never to be seen again. I finally repurchased the book last year, and reading it the last month or so has been such a breath of fresh air in the midst the smoggy mess made by our culture’s current state of confusion.

Speaking of the current state of things, since finishing Let Me Be a Woman, I’ve begun listening to That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. This third book of Lewis’ Space Trilogy confronts totalitarian scientism and many of the themes addressed in The Abolition of Man. It may seem like a strange addition to a list of “encouragement for moms,” but I’ve found it to be great food for thought. Elisabeth Elliot tells about being a woman. Lewis shows it. His character Jane wrestles through it, and Lewis, as the author, lets her be a woman. I’m not done with the book, but I’m finding it quite instructive and freeing, as I tend to have some of the same modern-woman hang-ups as Jane.

What encouragement have you found lately, mama? Not just to get through the long days of noise and messes, but what has been encouraging you to thrive in you role as a wife and mother? What resources help you lift up your eyes (Psalm 121)?

Dear Grandma

My grandma, my last living grandparent and the last living great-grandparent to my children, passed away in mid January. I wrote this letter for her, much like I wrote a letter for my PopPop when he passed a few years ago. My parents printed the letter out and set it on a table during a reception in memory of my grandma last month. Her friends said I described her quite well.

January 17, 2022

Dear Grandma,

You gave me my first spanking, and I’m sure I deserved it.

You gave me your auburn red hair. And maybe some of your stubbornness, too.

When I was probably four, you gave me a t-shirt that proclaimed to the world “I’ve got the meanest Grandma in town!”

You excelled at tough love in the best way possible. You took good care of me and didn’t hesitate to correct me. You have been a constant in my life, always rooting for me, always making things fun. And always (perhaps hopelessly) trying to teach me some old-school “classy” manners.

I’m pretty amazed at all your years of living. You lived them fully! You coached basketball, you were one of the first women to graduate from Florida State University, you cracked codes with high-level clearance in the US Navy, you sold real estate, you raised two boys in Rhode Island, France, Hawaii, Virginia, and Texas (I’m sure I’m missing some stops along the way). You survived cancer and replaced how many knees? And celebrated 67 years of marriage before PopPop went on ahead of you.

There was a visit to my parents house a few years ago that I’ll never forget. You and I sat next to each other at the dinner table, as we often did. Everyone else had gotten up, but you and I sat there and swapped boy mom stories. You raised two boys, and I’m raising my two boys. We understood each other. And from that time on, I realized I didn’t just have a Grandma, I had a friend.

I don’t know how many people get to see both their grandparents live to the age of 95. It was a surprise to lose PopPop. He left so suddenly. And yet I had cried when we drove away from your house the Christmas before he died. I knew somehow it would be the last of its kind. And it was perfect.

PopPop’s passing was sudden. This is different. You know your time is up. You knew it at Christmas, and we all seemed to know it, too. It was a perfect last Christmas with you. We were all together as a family, and we visited PopPop at the National Cemetery with you. And again I had that tearful, sinking feeling as we drove home.

What a gift to have had you in my life for so long. I have been truly blessed to know you as my Grandma and as my friend.

You’ve always been tough when you needed to be tough, but you’ve also always been a devoted, faithful source of love. And probably one of the greatest examples of fun and grit mixed into one person.

I love you, Grandma. And I will miss you.

December 2021