What We’re Reading (November 2015)

November was a good month for us in finding book for the kids that they LOVE. Anaya has been getting to the age where she knows which books she loves, which books she doesn’t, and there is nothing we can do to influence her opinions. I love this growth in her reading skills, even if I don’t always love reading her strange books :).

Here are the books we’re reading this month!


Who is my neighbor?

I get the fear.

It’s scary to think that someone could destroy a hundred or a thousand peoples’ lives in one second. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. I would do anything in my power to save people from that.

And that is what is happening in Syria. Hundreds and thousands of peoples’ lives are being destroyed, so they are fleeing.


Courageous men are taking their sweet wives and children and fleeing.

Single men who have hope and visions for a future are fleeing.

Mourning women whose husbands have already died are fleeing.

Scared children who have no parents are fleeing.

These vulnerable people are at the mercy of their global neighbors. They are fleeing and asking for help.

Who will say yes? Who will love their neighbor?


“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””


Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27


In college, my friends and I travelled to Oklahoma a couple times for a college missions conference. It was here that we prayed for the nations, where we heard courageous stories from missionaries who were serving and loving Muslims in closed countries. We heard about dreams and miracles and people coming to Christ. Lives changed. Our prayer was that more people would be able to go and share the good news. Here we are! Send us! 


Many of those we have been praying for are now asking to come into our country. They’re asking to settle into our neighborhoods- they’re asking to be our local neighbors. They’re asking for food and shelter and an opportunity to flee from danger. The ones we’ve been praying for- they’re here. But we’re afraid. So we tell them to go away. Go somewhere else. We’re not willing to help you. We have a life here that’s good and we don’t want that messed up. But be blessed- we hope you will be well-fed and clothed.


 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17


It’s time, Church. It’s time to step up and to do the right thing even if we’re afraid. It’s time to say yes even while we’re still nervous and wondering. The fear is going to be there for awhile, trust me, but it’s only going to go away by continuing to say yes, by continuing to read these passages of Scripture, by turning off the fear-mongering media channels, by praying, by reaching to the refugees IN YOUR CITY and getting to know someone who has had to flee.


Note: the picture above was NOT taken in Syria, but in Turkey. While in Turkey, we met many people from all over- Iraq, Iran, and Syria. This is as close as I’ve been, so I choose to use this picture to share my affinity for the people groups that the Syrian refugees represent.

2015: The Year of My Great Big Audacious Holiday Shopping Goal


A few weeks ago REI announced it would not be open on Thanksgiving.

Just today, I came across a list of 28 major retailers who will also not be participating in the Thanksgiving consumer craziness.

I’ll be the first to admit that while I adhere to a philosophy of simple living and minimalism, deep down I love stuff. I enjoy buying myself the kids new sets of Legos and the newest, hottest education toys. If I would have it my way, I would buy new clothes all. the. time. and I’d probably have a huge scarf collection. Target is my kryptonite (seriously, have you seen the new red patterned kitchen items they have on display right now? SO CUTE).

The tension is real. Needless to say, the holidays are a tricky time of the year for me. I love thinking about what to get the kids and how to best spend our small budget on items that are worthy of being in my home. I love Amazon Lightening and Cartwheel Hot Toy deals. But I also love Advent and the time of reflecting and waiting and hoping that comes with it. In years past I’ve tried to marry these two holiday mindsets (both are about giving, right?!), but I’ve emerged every time feeling like I had a case of multiple personalities.

For the life of me I can’t focus on Jesus and waiting and hoping and quieting my soul while I’m frantically searching for the best deals and (to be honest) dealing with a mild case of both the gimmies and the frustration of “the gifts I buy will never show the love I have for the person I’m giving them to.” Other people might be able to. Not me.

So, this year I’m trying something totally different.

This year I will be done holiday shopping before Advent even begins. Yes, I will miss many deals. I will probably pay more for things I buy and our holiday budget won’t go as far. But my goal is to be able to focus my heart on the season of Advent. To slow. To celebrate. To pray. To spend time away from the ads and messages that tell me my life would be just a bit easier/happier/simpler/spiritual if I had one. more. thing.


How do you stay sane during the holidays? What practices help you manage the tension of the season?



Blessed are those with the comfort of answers


I used to think my spiritual maturity was directly related to the amount of answers I had.

It was junior high when I walked down a green-carpeted center aisle to say “I do” to Jesus. I had invited a lot of my friends that night to the youth night revival at my church, knowing they really needed Jesus. I got ‘im instead.

I’m a learner by nature, and so the Bible quickly became my primary textbook for life. I learned that it was the ultimate handbook, and by golly, I never knew a handbook or textbook that I couldn’t master. (more…)

My Personal Spiritual Formation Reading List

It’s here. The last day of #write31days. Whew. I have 11 months to recover :).

For real though, this process has been HARD, but I’m so thankful for a supportive husband who has let me sleep in late nearly everyday because I’ve been up until midnight nearly every night this month working and writing. I’ll be sure to return the sleeping-in favor to him as he soon begins his 2 week prelims. Whew.

For the last day of 31 Days of Soul Searching, I just wanted to take it easy and share a list of soul-forming books that are on my “If I ever get 2 weeks of uninterrupted reading time, these books are what I’d read” list.

In no particular order:

  1. Two Steps Forward
  2. The Gift of Being Yourself
  3. The Sacramental LIfe
  4. Simplicity
  5. Just Spirituality
  6. Life Together in Christ
  7. Margin
  8. Praying Upside Down
  9. Faithful: A Theology of Sex
  10. Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith
  11. Eternal Living
  12. The Inner Voice of Love 
  13. Sacred Parenting
  14. Spirit Led Parenting
  15. Undone
  16. Spirituality in the Mother Zone

What books about any area of spiritual formation are you looking forward to reading??

Winning, Losing, and Why My Mom Stopped Playing Games With Me

Today I’m over at Play Eat Grow, sharing some thoughts on Lysa Terkeurst’s new children’s book, Win or Lose I Love You as well as answering some questions on what it means to teach and shape our kids’ hearts as it relates to the Scriptures.



“I Win!!!”

These two words can create chaos out of calm in 5 seconds flat.

I must admit- I’m a recovering sore-loser. I still remember playing Hi Ho Cherrio as a kid with my mom, and totally losing it when I lost. SO MANY TEARS. My mom eventually told me that she wouldn’t play any more games with me.

And she didn’t for several years.


Read more: Winning, Losing, and Why My Mom Stopped Playing Games With Me

Work: How We Spend Our Days Matters

Day28 Work How we Spend Our Days Matters

I can’t remember a TON about my childhood, but one thing I do remember is spending a lot of my time “playing” work. I would beg my grandma to slip me a few extra deposit and withdrawal slips at the bank so I could use them in my “bank” at home. I would copy my picture books, word for word, because I wanted to be a writer. I’d go around my kitchen, explaining all of the advantages of such-and-such cabinet or color of wood or appliance choice, because, yes, I was wanted to be a kitchen salesperson. (I can’t make this stuff up).

Work has always been tightly intertwined with my identity.

Even before the Fall, there was work. Because of this, I believe that work at its finest is meant to be something wonderful, and not something mundane and life-zapping. (more…)

October 2015 Loves

Okay, so perhaps this isn’t doesn’t exactly fit into my #write31days Soul Shaping writing challenge, but what we love shapes our souls, yes??

October Loves

This month I’ve spent nearly every evening writing. I thought taking the #write31days challenge would invigorate me and blossom me into a better writer. I was wrong :). I feel in need of a writing break and I have found that the increase in writing has meant less time for reading and other things that give me inspiration. Plus, who has time to edit and craft sentences when you’re just trying to crank them out?

So, whatever, it is what it is.

Onto my favorite things this month.  (more…)



I feel like any good soul shaping series would include something about money, right?

Money is a subject that no one really likes to talk about. We don’t talk about how much money we make or how much we spend. We don’t talk about our debt or our generosity. I think I understand why. Maybe we feel like we will be judged for making too much money or too little. We feel embarrassed or ashamed by the amount of debt we have.

So, our money troubles stay inside; it remains a secret. We worry about it alone or perhaps with our partner.

Secrets often make our souls sick. (more…)

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