What is this book about?
Grace-based Parenting is a way to parent children that is gospel-centered instead of morality-centered. Tim Kimmel wisely and gently guides parents to a better way of parenting through personal stories of compassion, grace, love, and perspective. While some may wonder if a parenting based in grace would be too lenient, Kimmel shows that that is absolutely not the case. However, he does challenge some of the parenting frameworks that have been passed down to modern day parents, particularly the ones that lean towards the extremes, but also that rely on behavior modification and fear of others’ opinions or imagined dangers all around. He makes a case that the three gifts that children must receive from us are love, purpose, and hope, and those only come through an environment of grace that is set by parents.
Why did I choose to review this?
I very much desire my parenting to reflect the love and grace of God to my kids. But I don’t know how to do that. It’s not my automatic response to give grace. What does that look like when raising kids? How do you give grace and keep standards? I go back and forth between wondering if I’m too strict and being convinced I’m not strict enough. I’ve read many parenting books on making kids obey, but not about creating environments of grace.
Jake and I are rereading this book together this summer because it’s that good. Despite this book being about grace, I felt convicted through reading this book of some changes that need to happen in our parenting. One key quote that sums up it all:
God has given parents the responsibility to be the gatekeepers of His grace.
Questions I’m now asking:
1. What does it look like to offer grace to my kids? And my husband too, while I’m at it?
2. Why am I so afraid to offer grace to my kids, but find grace to be as important as oxygen for myself?
Where you can go to find more:
You can find out more about Tim Kimmel at his website, Family Matters: Building Grace-Based Relationships. It looks like he has a blog that his staff blogs at on a daily basis as well. The organization is on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.
I first stumbled across Tsh Oxenreider’s famous blog, then Simple Mom, when we moved back from Kenya to the States. I remember that at about the same time, she was moving back to the States from somewhere overseas, and how it was a transition of mixed emotions. I felt a connection with her that resulted in me subscribing to her blog. Since then, I’ve enjoyed her posts on living intentionally, living simply,and living as a global citizen. She is a voracious reader, and I’m often getting my “next book” ideas from her. So when I heard that this book, Blue Bike, was being released, I was really eager to read it. I entered in every giveaway I could to try and win the book (I rarely actually buy books because I don’t typically reread them). No dice. Thankfully, it came up on Booklook Blogger site, and I quickly requested it. Yes!
What is this book about?
Tsh reflects on her and her family’s journey from post-college life through current life with three kids and an at-home business. Nomadic at heart, Tsh and her family have been to Kosovo, Turkey, Austin, Tx and now Bend, Oregon. Lots of moving, lots of hard work building internet-based businesses, but they have managed to keep a very intentional lifestyle. She shares her family’s journey of living out their values in the basic categories of life- food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.
Why did I choose to review this?
Jake and I’s deepest desire is to live intentional lives. Why we do what we do is just as important to us as what we actually do. Over the last couple years, we’ve been struggling to keep up with our reflective, intentional life. Between many cross-country moves, lots of schooling, and many kids, we’re really tired and have stopped trying as hard as we once did. I thought that this book may be what we need to reenergize ourselves to align our daily practices to our values.
My positive takeaway is to spend some time with Jake and re-dream about the life we’re living. This summer is going to be a slower one for us, and we’re looking forward to regrouping. As we prepare, we’re trying to be more intentional about nurturing our souls so that we can hear God’s voice more clearly. Also, Tsh is a fantastic writer. I love her style of writing- easy to read, good word choice, etc.
Overall, however, I was disappointed in the book. Perhaps it was because i had ridiculously high expectations, or maybe because I feel excluded from the life Tsh describes. Her life seems to be really fun- working from home with her husband, jumping on planes to Paris and Turkey and Australia (sometimes the whole family, sometimes not), and having the resources to buy organic and farm-fresh everything.
More importantly, while one of the goals of the book was to help the readers live a less hurried life, I feel like what she was describing would only cause more hurriedness and stress. Cooking for an hour plus everyday for dinner with 4 cranky kids under foot waiting for my husband to come home does not sound wonderful, relaxed and simple. Grocery shopping at 4 different places each week sounds exhausting (farmer’s markets, picking up from co-ops, going to the butcher shop, etc.). And while I would absolutely love to pick up my kids and travel around the world with them, it’s not an option. The cost of one international trip would cost the amount of money Jake makes in a year as a TA. I know that we’re at a unique life stage (husband in full-time school, momma staying at home with littles, etc.), but I’m guessing that most of America with young children does not have the resources to travel the world, learning about different cultures.
Tsh does add a chapter at the end saying that what her family does is not the right way for every family, but perhaps that would have been better at the beginning of the book, as well as sprinkled throughout the middle 200 pages. Instead, I felt judged by a tone of writing that lacked humility, understanding for others’ circumstances, and most of all, awareness of her place of privilege. While it’s true that she has lived in war-torn places before marriage (not sure exactly what she was doing, she’s a little vague on that), I think that perhaps she isn’t aware of the real struggles many people here in the states have.
Perhaps the book rubbed me the wrong way because of our life stage, but I hope that when we are eventually done with school, and are settled in one place (after 10+ years of moving all over the country and world), that I will remember each chapter of life, and live and give in such a way that reflects our family’s values of faith, radical generosity, equality, creativity and compassion.
BUT, if you are a upper middle class family, you might love this book!
Questions I’m now asking:
1. How can we better align our marriage with our 5 family values?
2. How can we parent in such a way that reflects our 5 family values?
3. What experiences can we create for the kids (and some of their friends!) that will help them to be a better global citizen?
Where can you go to learn more?
You can learn more about Tsh at her personal website, and also at her network of sites, The Art of Simple.
Thank you BookLook Bloggers, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For all my married amigos, I have a so serious question–
Who wakes up with the kids in the morning?
And how do you decide?
We’ve used rock, paper, scissors. But perhaps we shouldn’t leave such big decisions to chance.
We’ve said that whoever goes to bed first has to get up with the kids. **laugh** I have a hard enough time making myself go to bed how it is. This idea was not in the best interest of anyone in our family.
We’ve resorted to both of us laying there as kids crawl all over us after their cute alarm clock turns green at 6:30 and they come bounding into our room (which is actually 6:40 in real life, shhhhh, don’t tell them). Whoever gets tired of getting elbowed in the stomach and head sat on first, wins (or loses?).
Okay, well, actually that’s not exactly true. Jake has been getting up with the kids a lot lately. But since we’ve been sharing a lot of “jokes” about me not getting up, I’ve decided to come up with a better way of deciding. So share all of your best decision-making strategies for this incredibly important question!
When I took this tiny little book out of the package, I was a little surprised.
“It’s just so….tiny.” I wondered if it would even be big enough to say anything of value.
Yes, it does. And I’m reading it again.
Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity
Kate Harris and Andy Crouch
What it is about:
This tiny book is one of many in the new Frames series, a collection of books put out by the Barna group, a trusted research group interested in the intersection of religion and culture. You may recognize a couple of books that the president of Barna, David Kinnaman, has written- unChristian, You Lost Me, and The Next Christians. In this series, each book takes one of today’s trends and provides current research on that topic, and then provides a thoughtful analysis as well as a way to reframe the conversation in a helpful way.
In Wonder Women, the author Kate Harris does a good job of analyzing the research that was done in 2013 on women’s identity as it relates to motherhood and work. One of the most surprising (and troubling) statistics that I discovered in this book is that while many women feel overcommitted at home and at work, hardly any women feel that way with their church and friend commitments. In fact, when asked which areas they would like to improve in, the highest percentages were first at church and next with friends. The research seems to indicate, from what I’ve read, that perhaps women don’t have as many close friendships as we seem to have. It is common to hear that women are highly relational and have an easy time making friends, while most men in our country do not have close relationships with other men. Could it be that many of us women actually don’t have close friends, but are afraid to admit that, feeling like we’re “the only one”?
Kate does an even better job at explaining the tensions that modern women feel in relation to juggling all of her responsibilities and opportunities. To have kids or not have kids? To stay at home or work part-time or work full-time, or perhaps a combination of these? If a woman chooses to work, what area to pursue? What does “career” look like for a mom? So many questions, but most of the “answers” surround managing logistics. Kate shares about her own tensions:
On the one hand, I find deep joy and satisfaction in my role and responsibilities as wife and mother. I aspire to fully and imaginatively stewards the gifts of my family and home. At the same time, I feel drawn to launch new projects, meet new people, and engage in all manner of interests and responsibilities that take me away from home. (p. 31)
Kate wants to turn that conversation altogether. Instead of managing “tensions”, what if we just admitted and embraced that we are whole people for whom life does not fit into compartmentalized boxes? She uses the idea of vocation, creation, constraint, incarnation, covenant/community, coherence, and consent to spin the conversation around, challenging women to recognize themselves as whole beings who are doing Kingdom-work, wherever they are. She encourages women not to just choose something because you feel like you have to be one thing, but to pursue God and feel free to walk in the spaces He creates for you, all the while realizing that we have constraints on each one of us (men and women alike).
I loved that this short book gives a thoughtful alternative to the “you can do it all” message that our culture gives women without the churchy “woman’s place is in a home” response.
ONE of my takeaways (man, there are so many) is to not despise the constraints of life (which for me right now is having many young children, the need to sleep, and a lack of financial resources). Kate opened my eyes to the fact that simply by being human, we have constraints, as seen as the incarnation.
These particular confines draw our attention to the fact that God himself, who has all the universe at his disposal, was not atwitter about maximizing potential, ‘having it all’, or chasing down effectiveness. Of course, his power was not constrained, as we see in his miracles and resurrection. But he chose to take on human constraints. with all his wisdom, he did not choose to transcend time or space or decades or even the rote mechanics of gestation, labor and delivery. Rather he chose to work through the same ordinary human constraints we all face- he did not see these as impediments but rather as purpose. (p. 58)
Questions I’m now asking:
What are the constraints in my life that are staying put, and how can I learn to embrace them?
If I apply the idea of vocation (rather than career) to my life, what are the words and ideas that I could use to describe my vocation? (this one is a question adapted from the book)
How can the church do a better job of furthering this conversation- talking about vocation, limitations, disappointments, community, and brokenness?
Where can you go to learn more?:
Here’s a bit more about the Barna group, and specifically about the Frames series.
You can learn more about Kate Harris by visiting the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation, and Culture.
Thank you to Booklook Blogger for providing a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
**Please note: some of the above links are affiliate links**
One of the first Bible study reviews I ever did was one called Stuck by Jennie Allen. It was then that I was first introduced to Jennie’s Bible studies, and remember thinking- this is really good. I wonder if she will write more.
Well, she has– and I’m so excited to share about her most recent curriculum- Restless.
What the study is about:
If any of you were at the If:Gathering, you already know a bit about the study (even if you don’t know you do!). It’s loosely based on Hebrews 12.1-3, just as the conference was:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Jennie walks us through a series of topics surrounding purpose and calling. She speaks to how our purpose or calling fits into the bigger story of life and how God desires to use our gifts, our passions, the places we hurt, the places we are in, and the people who are close to us to share God’s love with others. I love that at one point in the leader’s guide, Jennie said that her hope for this study is that God would help us discover ourselves and get over ourselves.
A little bit about the Bible study set specifically. It comes with a leader’s guide, a participant’s guide, a DVD with 8 messages (about 20 minutes each), and a box of conversation cards to be used with each small group session (I absolutely positively love these so much. I’ve used these in group discussions and they are so helpful in getting women talking).
Why did I choose to review this?
I have wanted to be a lot of things “when I grow up”. An author, a teacher, a marine biologist, a dietician, a secretary, a politician, a lawyer, a Walmart cashier, and a kitchen cabinet saleswoman.
Recent ambitions haven’t been much more focused- a college minister, a lifelong student, a blogger, an author, an activist, a children’s librarian, a literary specialist, a curriculum writer, a bookseller, a pastor of spiritual formation, or maybe working in higher education.
One would think that as I have matured over the years, my focus would have narrowed and I would now be able to recognize and understand what God has gifted me in, and how He wants me to partner with Him from now until my time on earth is over. But, as the list above indicates, I still feel restless. I feel uncertain of my gifts. Wavering in my passions. No “place” to ground me and my “community” is stretched over thousands of miles. Perhaps a study on restlessness would be perfect for a gal like me.
First of all, it needs to be known that Jennie is a momma of 4 kids, and it is so refreshing to see her living a life that extends beyond the 4 walls of her home. I need examples like that to challenge and encourage me, because sometimes having a lot of kids can give me a good (often times, very valid!) excuse to stay inside my comfort zone. So that’s a big takeaway/challenge/encouragement.
In different parts of the video and participant’s guide, Jennie touched on motives. Because I’m hyper-reflective (maybe some of you are too), I’m constantly trying to figure out why I’m doing something. If I detect even the smallest amount of selfishness or ego, I want to completely stop. Do I continue to do something that I’m gifted in or passionate about if I’m doing it out of mixed motives? I learned that this is a more common fear than I realized, and one that can immobilize women. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not alone, and that just because I detect it, doesn’t mean I have to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing altogether.
Questions I’m now asking:
- What has God gifted me in?
- When do I feel God’s pleasure?
- What fears are holding me back from running the race that God has set for me?
Where can you go to learn more?
Jennie Allen has a website, and you can follow her of FB and Twitter. She has other books and studies: Anything, Stuck, and Chase. This week only, her Restless ebook is only 2.99. So even if you don’t end up doing this as a study, definitely get yourself the book!
And guess what… I have a copy of the Restless DVD to giveaway to one of YOU! Just enter your info and do what it says on Rafflecopter to be entered to win. The giveaway ends on Sunday night!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Shelton Interactive for providing me with these resources in exchange for an honest review!
**This post contains affiliate links**
I’m trying out a new book review format… let me know what you think!
Title: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies
Author: Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
What’s this book about?
This is a story about a woman (Brenda) who finds herself too close for comfort to landing in a prison cell, and how God used this to open her eyes to a totally forgotten group of people. What does it look like to serve them, love them, know them, help them? Brenda is a woman of courage, determination, and love– she used her resources, passion, and time to establish the Lovelady Center, which is today the largest nonprofit transitional center for women. This book tells of Brenda’s crazy adventures, mistakes, fears, and successes as God used Brenda and many others to build this incredible center. The story takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, and is hence rich with southern culture. I laughed. I cried. I got angry. I read it in less than a week.
Why did I choose to read this book?
Love the widow. Yes.
Love the orphaned. Yep.
Care for the poor. Mmhmm.
To be honest, my heart doesn’t race when I heard about prison ministries. It’s not really of interest to me, so I decided that perhaps it is because I haven’t been exposed to the realities of being in prison and I don’t know people who are trying to figure out how to successfully enter the “real world” upon release. I wanted my heart to soften for this group of people.
God deeply loves those whom have been imprisoned. Unfortunately, America hasn’t aced the rehabilitation process, so many ex-convicts find themselves back in the place where their crimes were initially committed…and then quickly find themselves back in prison. These women (and men) need the hope of the gospel. Their children children and family members who are hurting need the hope of the gospel. Many of the crimes are drug-related, and often times the drugs were initially used to try to make them feel better- to forget about the past filled with abuse, neglect, and dysfunctional families. Not only do this group of people need to experience God’s love, but they also need access to practical tools that will help them as they learn to be a part of society again.
Questions I’m now asking:
What is our responsibility to the prisoner? The post-prisoner? How can we creatively serve this group of people?
Where can you go to learn more?
The Lovelady Center website
Miss Brenda and the Love Ladies on Facebook
Prison Fellowship Ministry
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are mine.
Remember how I posted about the really great board books put out by Graham Blanchard publishing– here and here? Well, I’m just as excited about an opportunity that has come my way. They’ve invited a few of us bloggers to participate as Mentor Moms, where we will share some of our thoughts on various questions each month. This month’s question was:
How did your relationship with God change after having your first child?
Hop on over to their blog to see our responses as well as read more about the other Mentor Moms. We’re all ages and from all stages. I’m excited to learn more through these other women each month!
As a tiny side note, I came across this small but powerful Parent’s Guide to spiritual formation that Graham Blanchard has on their website. God uses us to help shape and guide our child’s understanding of God and this .pdf helps us to see what specific roles we play.
In high school and early college I suffered from an eating disorder. Food and exercise had become my god. At one point, I would dream about food that I had categorized as “forbidden”, only to wake up feeling anxious and afraid– did I really eat that? Oh good, it was just a dream. Sometimes my body reflected this disordered eating. Sometimes it didn’t. I hit a low weight that was scary, but sometimes I was within my “normal range”, but the food continued to be what I thought about all day.
I was subject to a lot of comments from family, friends and strangers: “Just eat something.” “You look gross you are so skinny.” At the time, I prized those comments because it meant I was accomplishing what I wanted to. But, looking back on it, it is strange that so many felt like they had the right and responsibility to comment on my outer appearance. After a while, I got a bit smarter– gaining just enough weight for people to stop talking to me about it, but still struggling with awful and all-consuming thoughts, emotions, and actions surrounding food.
This being my history, I do feel empathy for Rachel Frederickson. This is a woman who worked very hard to lose a lot of weight. Before coming on the biggest loser, I’m sure she was gawked at and made fun of. And now she is again, after losing all of that weight. Why do we as a culture think that it is not kind to talk about how BIG someone else, but yet we’re fine saying how SMALL they are.
Interestingly enough, my current BMI is very similar to Rachel’s current BMI. While I have left my anorexic ways far behind, I happen to be a nursing momma, meaning I burn 500 extra calories a day. And hence, I have gotten some comments from both family and strangers- You’re getting too skinny. Eat something. Wow, it must be hard to be a size __. While some of them were not intending to be rude or mean, it began to make me nervous to be in certain situations because I didn’t want people to comment on my body. It made me feel self-conscious– like my body is doing something wrong. In some ways I’m eager to stop nursing so that I will gain a bit of weight back and feel less nervous in those situations. I can only imagine how Rachel feels now- thousands of people who don’t even know her, commenting about her body.
If Rachel has developed a pattern of disordered eating or thinking about food, then let those who know her and care with her deal with it. Biggest Loser is not stupid; they will take appropriate action if necessary. Her family and friends who see her day in and day out know her eating habits, her exercise habits, etc. They will say something to her.
Let us not be a culture that holds up a woman’s body and shames her– no matter how fat or thin she is.
Tonight I was putting one of my littles to bed, and we talked about how she has had some rough days lately. I asked why she was having a hard time controlling her emotional outbursts. She sadly said that she didn’t know; that it was really hard for her. Instead of a lecture or more ideas on what she could do instead of yelling/freaking out (because believe me, we have lots of those conversations), I snuggled in closer to her, and asked her if we could pray about it. She said yes, and asked if I would pray. About halfway into the prayer, she stops me.
“Mommy, we don’t have to pray anymore. God has already said no to all of those things that you are saying.”
“Aly, why do you think that?!”
“Because, I have been asking and asking and it’s not any easier to control myself. I don’t know how to do it. His answer is no. Mommy, why did He say no?”
I said something about waiting and patience and using our methods of controlling our emotions. She wasn’t listening really. To her, God had already said no and she wasn’t going to be convinced of anything different. I laid there a little longer, my heart a little heavy.
God, you have to show up for this little girl. She is trying so hard to control these big, scary emotions that you gave her. Her strength and will isn’t enough. She’s needs your grace. She needs You to say yes.
These are the moments that create faith in a little one’s heart. While I can try and give her the simple answers of why her prayers aren’t “working” (and isn’t that a super loaded conversation all by itself), I can’t solve this for her. This one is between her and God. All I can do is wait, pray, and watch carefully for the Holy Spirit to show up. This may be one of the hardest things I’ve faced in parenting so far.
This post could also be titled: “That One Time When My Husband Read Me a Kid’s Book As I Was Sitting on the Stairs, My Head Buried in My Hands”
In “Elephants Can’t Dance”, Piggie is trying to teach Elephant how to dance. Elephant tries and tries, but just cannot seem to get it. There is frustration. And anger. And despair.
But then some little squirrels come along… and they want to learn to dance too!
But not from Piggie.
But from Elephant.
Moral of the story: there are lots of ways to dance. And lots of ways to parent. Sometimes we get frustrated when we can’t parent the way we think we should parent– a way that we read about, a way that we were parented, or a way that someone says that we should parent. And while sometimes we maybe do just need to try harder, most of the time we need to realize that there isn’t just one way. No more tears. All we can do is give it our best and keep loving our kids like crazy!