Last fall got a little crazy. I was writing a Mentor's Guide to be published along with my book, Brand New. I was promoting Brand New. I had many speaking opportunities and was able to teach classes. My days were crammed with pouring out in teaching and writing. The instant my kids were home I was pouring into them as we navigated homework, sports, and all the details of raising four kids, often while Sean was traveling for work. It was intense but all things I was made for.
Even though I loved all of it, I've been in ministry and parenting long enough to know output with minimal input is not sustainable. When I was able to get my feet under me again, I determined to focus on input before I burnt out or exhausted myself . One of my fun resolutions was to read a variety of books. They had to be interesting but they couldn't all be the same genre. 2018 isn't over, but here are some of the books that have been on my shelf:
Historical fiction is my favorite genre. Mad respect to authors who spend years researching and imagining to put together believable, compelling stories that suck me in. I'm even more impressed when I learn history and geography without even realizing it until the end. I was mesmerized by Doerr's story telling. Incredible. It crawled into my dreams at night and I found myself rethinking pieces throughout the day.
Hemingway's life fascinates me. Starving writer to world traveler to international spy–he couldn't write anything quite as interesting as he lived it. This memoir confirms his self indulgence. Hotchner doesn't skate around Hemingway's sins; he tells of Hemingway in an honest way that made me identify with a man who I have only a few things in common with. This specific story is a personal one of sweet first love and lifelong regrets. Even though I was frustrated at his self involvement, I cried in the last chapters.
I couldn't very well cry for Hemingway and not follow it with reading one of his novels. Farewell to Arms is one of his most notable works but I'm telling you–his life was more interesting to me than this story. His rhythm of writing (particularly dialogue) was a lot to take in and hard for me to identify with. That being said, historical fiction in time of war draws me so it wasn't a loss.
Humes has instant credibility in teaching about speeches and leadership with this title. What are epic speeches without Gettysburg or Churchill? I tried to read this one in small doses so I could implement some of the points before moving on. It was still too much to absorb–I'll be revisiting it.
"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." -W.Churchill
I've studied quite a bit about the effects of trauma on young brains. Most of my studying has focused on the emotional and cognitive effects. Out of that, I've learned a lot about helping young brains heal through attachment, therapies, early interventions. When I saw Dr. Burke Harris' Ted Talk on the medical perspective she developed on the effects of childhood diversity, I couldn't stop sharing it. Watch the Ted Talk. If you're interested in more background and where the research and experience is headed now, get the book.
One of my favorite quotes that Moore included in his book was, "The advice I like to give young artists or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." –Chuck Close. Moore writes about how ego and desires inevitably lead to writer's block and self loathing. Oh man, I needed to hear that. The word "mindful" in the title could have tipped me off that the author was Buddhist, but it didn't. Many of his points still applied to me–I just have a God higher than mindfulness and guidance more sure than my own.
Another historical fiction book; this one opened my eyes to the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, made real by dynamic (fictional) characters. My 13 year old saw it on the counter, picked it up, and was sucked in, too. I advised against it–the imagery was disturbing to me and I imagined it would be for her, too. She went ahead and we couldn't stop talking about it. We ended up doing more reading on the pandemic after we finished the book.
The cover looks like every book my parents had in our home library from 1988-1998. I didn't completely agree with a few of the Scripture interpretations, but the principles and heart behind finances was helpful. Financial decisions tend to cause me stress and I've been working (praying) through a lot of my attitudes about money. Not my pleasure reading, but important in challenging and surrendering things that aren't easy for me.
This is kind of fun reading...for my nerdy teacher side. It's the second book I've read by Dr. Bauer. I'm drawn to her work because she is passionate about education but doesn't love our current educational system. She thinks outside of the box and challenges me to be intentional in my kids' education, regardless of what form it takes. I quote her a lot.
It feels like cheating but I listened to this book! Audio books are a joke because my life has constant interruptions, but Sean had a brilliant idea to listen to this on our road trip home from Montana this summer. A couple kids slept and a couple listened with us. "Love God, love people" is not a new idea but Bob Goff does a magnificent job through story telling and practical application, bringing the greatest commandments home. I'd still like to skim a hard copy, being a visual learner I think I might retain more than just the stories that way.
There you have it; random readings of my year. If you have recommendations for what I should add to my "what to read next" list...have at it!
I appreciate this movement I’ve seen, mainly in social media, of no mom shaming. No judging; no looking down our noses at the moms we see out in the world doing their best. Yes! As the mom who has dripped sweat dragging screaming toddlers out of the store, as the mom who has lost a child in the pig barn at the county fair, the mom who has chaperoned a field trip and cringed when realizing, “My child is the loudest child in this class. Eesh.”, as the mom who once went to the ER twice in one week (each time with a different son), I say, “Yes! Don’t judge me! Celebrate my efforts! Understand that I’m doing the best I know to do with the tools I have and the kids I’ve been given!”
Simultaneously, I want to guard against another attitude that occasionally comes on the heels of, “I accept where you’re at!” That attitude is, “You deserve to slack. The fact that you are a mom is enough. Putting forth minimal effort is enough.” Pretty soon I give myself permission to say, “Eh. I tried. I survived and my kids survived. Pour me a drink!” The bar lowers. "I’m not the only mom surfing instagram instead of engaging my family. It's not like this parenting thing is a paying gig." The attitude grows until I find it funny to make fun of high achieving moms who get their kids to school on time with shoes tied. “If you’re succeeding, you aren’t my people!” I have my own snarky pride in being marginally "good enough”. I'm not alone if I've given up and let video games take over by the end of summer break. In fact, other moms commiserate and I'm validated! My efforts slow. No big deal.
I’ve put a lot of thought and prayer into my attitude as a mom. Can I have tremendous grace with myself? I’m raising souls, not churning out a product. It’s messy. It’s dependent on God’s forgiveness and His direction. It reveals my own sin and weaknesses. It’s hard. I want the freedom to be honest that this is difficult, often dirty, exhausting work!
The Mentor's Guide to my devotional, Brand New; a 40 Day Guide to Life in Christ, is ready for purchase!
The job of this book is to enhance the first. The Mentor's Guide is what I wish I would’ve had in my hand when I started youth ministry more than 15 years ago. It’s what I wish I had in hand during college when my roommate and I were having conversations about new faith. It’s what I wish I had in hand every fall when we trained leaders how to effectively lead small groups.
My first book, Brand New; a 40-Day Guide to Life in Christ is a 40 day devotional. It’s practical and walks through the basics of Christian faith; the story of the Bible, the character of God, and the practices of Christian life. Each day has Scripture to read, questions to answer, and a prayer. The book is a great tool for small groups or mentoring relationships because it provides opportunity for discussion and reflection.
I wrote the Mentor’s Guide, because I know it can be intimidating to lead someone (or a group) through a Bible study when you don’t have all the answers, are unsure how to structure it, and feel like a little back up would be nice. If you think, "I'm a leader and I'm ready!" this book is for you. If you think, "I'm not a leader and I'm terrified to lead another person!" this book is for you.
Jesus is clear that we are called to make disciples. He isn’t just talking to pastors and leaders–He’s talking to all of us! The Mentor’s Guide will help you walk through the basics of faith with anyone. In the section of tips for leaders you can glean tips for awkward silence, distractions and how to make the most of your time. For each day of the study, the Mentor’s Guide has additional Scripture, possible answers and tips for the questions the book asks, and the big picture for the day you’re studying.
To purchase Brand New and/or the Mentor’s Guide, you can check out amazon (click any links on the blog home page or the "Brand New" page on the top of the blog) or at lexhampress.com you can buy both books as a bundle (lexhampress.com often has the best deal). If you’re considering using Brand New for a large group, contact Lexham Press for bulk purchases.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt 28:19–20)
My sister was born 19 months after me, yet somehow managed to snag a few firstborn tendencies. She took the punctual, straight A’s, high achieving perfectionism. I’m not sad. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to carry all of that anyway. For years I thought that being more laid back meant I had dodged the traditional firstborn traits.
Now I realize even if I didn’t get straight A’s, I can’t escape my own firstborn tendencies. I often feel overly responsible for the people I love (they may call it controlling?). I’m reliable, typically play it safe, and I lean toward being a bit of a moralist; I care a lot about doing the right thing.
The desire to make the right decisions can lead to mustering up effort. Historically, I’ve exhausted myself trying to do what is right; “I should want to save money and make wise financial decisions.” “I should go to college.” “I should get to bed at a decent time. I should eat more vegetables.”
Just throwing myself out there a bit...