Category Archives: The Book Cellar

When you juggle glass balls and rubber balls

Life is a juggling act.  The trick is figuring out which balls are glass and which ones are rubber.  

Identifying our top priorities is critical to life success.

To use a parallel metaphor, the classic illustration of putting the big rocks in first has to do with a jar. If you fill your jar with pebbles and sand first, you won’t be able to fit the big rocks in. If you put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles and sand and water will fill in all the cracks and you accomplish more with your life than when you’re just chasing all the little things and ignoring the most important priorities.

Putting in the big rocks means choosing to prioritize the glass balls. Making everything else fit into the smaller cracks.

So, if you’re going to avoid overwhelm, you’re going to have to assign your priorities and make peace with them. That means if you slip up on something else, you extend grace to yourself. You keep your focus where it needs to be. On the most important things.

Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Amy Lynn Andrews in Tell Your Time talk about organizing your life around roles.

This is one way to identify which of your balls are glass and which are rubber. In general, your relationships, especially family, are going to be glass. Work is generally rubber, meaning if you drop a ball at work, or something slips through the cracks, it will bounce back. You can make apologies, clean up the messes and keep going.

Prioritizing your important tasks helps you fight the urge to always be a tyrant to the urgent. Even prioritizing your relationships isn’t enough, though. As well as quality time, you also have to be doing the right things with your important relationships.

So many people get stuck in life. They keep going in circles making the same mistakes over and over again.

It takes some down time to identify priorities.  It takes some quiet reflection and some hard mental work.  Who can do that when you’re overwhelmed?  But, it still needs to happen.  Fight for it.  It’s totally worth it.

 

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Love stories you can feel good recommending

Sometimes you just need a good love story.  Sometimes you need to give or pick a good love story for someone else.  Here’s ten that you can feel good about recommending.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

  Buy now from Amazon

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freeman

“A moving love story set in the Canadian wilderness, Mrs. Mike is a classic tale that has enchanted millions of readers worldwide. It brings the fierce, stunning landscape of the Great North to life—and tenderly evokes the love that blossoms between Sergeant Mike Flannigan and beautiful young Katherine Mary O’Fallon.”  — Goodreads

One of my all time favorites. All the feels.

  Buy now from Amazon

Christy by Catherine Marshall

“The train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.”  –Goodreads

Catherine Marshall takes her mother’s own incredible story and tells it superbly.

 

  Buy now from Amazon

Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen

“‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Thus memorably begins Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice–Austen’s own ‘darling child’–tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.”–Goodreads

Rightly hailed as one of the greatest love stories of all time.

  Buy now from Amazon

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

“Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.”  — Goodreads

I enjoyed the Austen references in this book that enhanced the story.

  Buy now from Amazon

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

“When Jerusha Abbott, an eighteen-year-old girl living in an orphan asylum, was told that a mysterious millionaire had agreed to pay for her education, it was like a dream come true. For the first time in her life, she had someone she could pretend was “family.” But everything was not perfect, for he chose to remain anonymous and asked that she only write him concerning her progress in school. Who was this mysterious gentleman and would Jerusha ever meet him?”  –Goodreads

A long time favorite of mine that stands up to re-reading.

 Buy now from Amazon

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

“A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon–from child to determined young adult to loving mother–she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.”–Goodreads

Unpredictable.  Well-written.

   Buy now from Amazon

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

“Hannah Coulter is Wendell Berry’s seventh novel and his first to employ the voice of a woman character in its telling. Hannah, the now-elderly narrator, recounts the love she has for the land and for her community. She remembers each of her two husbands, and all places and community connections threatened by twentieth-century technologies. At risk is the whole culture of family farming, hope redeemed when her wayward and once lost grandson, Virgil, returns to his rural home place to work the farm.”–Amazon

Less of a love story, more of a life story the narrative spans decades to get a panoramic view of Hannah’s life.

   Buy now from Amazon

Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn

“This novel follows the lives of a conservative, Swedish minister, Pontus Franzon, and his pretty young wife, Maria, through their years in a parsonage in Lapland, their eight children, and their journey to a new life in America.”– Goodreads

You can’t help but love the Franzon family. This is one I like to re-read.  I enjoy it every time.  Maybe because it’s based on the author’s own history, you are drawn in and feel like one of the family.

   Buy now from Amazon

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?”–Amazon

The heart-warming story of Little Women is a classic for a reason.  The March sisters will find a place in your heart.

 Buy now from Amazon

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown

“Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.” –Goodreads

I found these characters to be well-rounded and relatable.  I also liked an inside look at spiritual disciplines outside of my experience.

   Buy now from Amazon

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Laura is teaching school, and it’s terrifying! Most of the students are taller than she is, and she must sleep away from home for the first time. Laura is miserable, but the money is needed to keep Mary in a college for the blind.

And every Friday—no matter what the weather—Almanzo Wilder arrives to take Laura home to her family for the weekend. Laura and Almanzo are courting, and even though she’s not yet sixteen, she knows that this is a time for new beginnings.”– Amazon

One the lesser known books in the Little House series, Almanzo and Laura’s love story is heart-warming.

Have you seen Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love ?  Check it out here.

 

 

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Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been drawn to middle grade novels recently.

I believe there are multiple reasons, but the primary one boils down to one word: stress.

Middle grade novels offers an easy read.  The plot and characters are not complex.

Nevertheless, they take on some of the weightier issues of life.  Some do it incredibly well.

The middle grades are a great age for shaping opinions, values, attitudes and beliefs.

With my new interest in this genre, I read my first Harry Potter book.  I didn’t include it in this list because a) why would Harry Potter books need more press?  and b) although I can understand the cult following, I’ve read better middle grade.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

On to the books!

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

  Buy now from Amazon

The War That Saved My Life  by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?” — from GoodReads

Great story.

  Buy now from Amazon

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

“In this companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.”– from Amazon

Excellent book. LOVED it. 

Deals with so many important themes.

Abusive parent. War veterans. Learning disabilities. Young love. Poverty. Predjudice.

There’s just so much there. And the story is so satisfying.

You know how it is? When a story is satisfying? When all the right people win in the end and the rest get what they deserve?

  Buy now from Amazon

Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

“Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.” — from GoodReads

Good story. The characters were believable and endearing. It was a good, inside look at autism. You couldn’t help but root for the heroine.
If that story doesn’t create empathy, I don’t know what will.

  Buy now from Amazon

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

It deals with the joy and pain and challenges of fostering parenting.

A childless couple wake up one day to find a strange boy on their porch. Although there’s no way to contact his parents, they learn that he’s been left there on purpose.

This novel explores what it’s like to love a child that’s not yours, the heartache it brings and why you should do it anyway.

  Buy now from Amazon

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

5 Stars!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this whimsical story. (That’s a lotta love.)  I’m thinking about reading it to the teens in my carpool, since I don’t have any little kids to read it too.  I’ll be giving it to my nieces and nephews, too, when I get the chance.

Four motherless girls on vacation with their father.  Their romps with pets, neighbors and each other:  a simple, but satisfying plot.

I loved the uplifting, engaging characters.  Real heroes.  Great values.   Whimsical.

  Buy now from Amazon

The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

What if you lived in a small kingdom where the prince chooses his bride from the graduates of the Princess Academy?

What if you had the chance for an education that would never be possible otherwise?

I loved this middle grade novel for telling a tale of what could be, the power of knowledge, friendships and courage.

One of my favorite parts of Princess Academy was how they snuck in principles of Commerce and Negotiation. It was fun how that played out.

There were a few weird and whimsical twists, but every fairy tale needs a little magic.

 Buy now from Amazon
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kirsten Levine

“The last thing Harry ‘Dit’ Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Proper -talking, brainy Emma doesn’t play baseball or fish too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white. But soon Dit is thinking about a whole lot more when the town barber, who is black, is put on trial for a terrible crime. Together Dit and Emma come up with a daring plan to save him from the unthinkable. Set in 1917 and inspired by the author’s true family history, this is the poignant story of a remarkable friendship and the perils of small-town justice.”– from GoodReads

Alabama in 1917.  A friendship between a white boy and a black girl.  What could go wrong?

I loved the details of this time period.  Add that to a good plot and likable characters and we have a winner.

  Buy now from Amazon

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

“Fantastic creatures, heroic deeds, epic battles in the war between good and evil, and unforgettable adventures come together in this world where magic meets reality, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. The Chronicles of Narnia has transcended the fantasy genre to become a part of the canon of classic literature.”– from GoodReads

In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for middle grade.

Not only middle grade, but Narnia appeals to every age.

Lewis tells compelling stories with an amazing economy of words.  He weaves timeless truths into  tales that highlight the classic conflict between good and evil.

I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Have you read any middle grade novels that you loved?  Let me know in comments. 

 

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5 Gifts to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually

The day before my youngest turned 18 I found out I was going to be a grandma.

It seemed fitting.

The end of an era. The beginning of an era.

My son and daughter-in-law are having a girl.

My grand-daughter is going to need some presents from her grandparents. Every Christmas and birthday for the next 18 years. That’s thirty-six special occasions. What if end up with 4 grandkids or ten?

That’s 360 gift giving opportunities.

What can I give her that’s meaningful? That will encourage her spiritual life? There’s a lot of negative influences on kids today.

A customer at the bookstore today told me her mother passed away. Her mother was a regular customer at the store. She bought a Seaside Bible with a zipper for each grandchild when they turned 7. Now that she was gone, her daughter was carrying on the tradition for the grandchildren who were turning 7.

I like that.

I like that it has meaning, that everyone knows and that the tradition continues after Grandma’s gone.

I like that she had an age picked out.

I like that they all got the same thing.

There’s something comforting about traditions.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

I want my grandkids to know God and love Him.

I will be giving books. That’s what I do.

Which ones will I give?

I don’t know for sure, but right now here’s my top picks for each age group:

Ages 0-4

Buy now from Amazon

The Beginner’s Bible

The Beginner’s Bible has become a classic. It’s simple. It’s great for reading aloud, which of course, is the only option at this age.  It stays faithful to the biblical text.

Ages 4-8

Buy now from Amazon

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible with one caveat. Okay, maybe two.

First of all, I don’t care for the illustrations, but that’s a personal preference.

Secondly, and more importantly, I feel the author has taken some artistic liberties that have resulted in some minor inaccuracies in the stories compared to the Bible.

In spite of that, I feel this book accomplishes something I’ve never seen before in a Bible storybook. Instead of recounting disjointed, individual stories from the Bible, it weaves the big themes of the Bible into the individual accounts.

The plan of salvation and the incarnation of Jesus is highlighted and put into simple language for children.

Tying together a unifying theme of the Bible is huge.

If children can grasp these critical concepts, it’s a gigantic leap forward in their spiritual growth and understanding. Effective communication of these truths is priceless.

Ages 6-9

NIRV Adventure Bible

The New International Readers Version is written at a third grade reading level. It uses an easier vocabulary.

I tell customers that if they are planning to memorize verses from it or follow along in church with the pastor, they should be aware that it won’t line up exactly with the NIV.

But, for beginning or struggling readers, this version could be helpful.  Alongside the entire text of the Bible are explanations and commentary to help kids understand the Bible.

Ages 9-12

Buy now from Amazon

Buy now from Amazon

The NIV Adventure Bible

This Bible contains the entire text of the New International Version Bible.  It includes explanations and commentary geared toward 9 to 12 year olds.

The snap closure protects pages and comes in a boys edition and a girl’s edition.

Ages 13 and up

Buy now from Amazon

Buy now from Amazon

Jesus Calling  by Sarah Young

Jesus Calling is a daily devotional written from the perspective of Jesus talking to you.

There is a teen edition of Jesus Calling, but I give teens the original version which they can go through year after year.

I wrote about the secret of the success of Jesus Calling here.

So, those are my top picks for helping kids grow spiritually.

Which resources would you recommend?

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7 Books to Help You Win at Self-Management

Life management is complicated these days. There’s so much to juggle. There are so many demands on our time, efforts and energy.   There’s a lot of advice out there.

These are my favorites.

Practical. Actionable.

It helps to have a plan. It helps to have a guide. Someone who’s been there before and is winning the game.

At school you have a teacher to tell you what to do. At work you have a boss.

But when it comes to managing your life, you have to boss yourself.

We can use help from those who are further along on this journey than we are. We can glean wisdom from the masters.

(Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a small portion of your purchase goes to support this site.)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Buy now from Amazon

7 Habits is a classic for a reason.

The seven habits are highly actionable.  They permeate everything you do, giving you a framework for your life.

Covey fully explains the seven habits as well as fleshing out practical implementations with some of the best stories in all of self-help literature.

The seven habits are:

  • Be Proactive.
  • Begin with the End in Mind.
  • Put First Things First.
  • Think Win/Win.
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
  • Synergize.
  • Sharpen the Saw.

Margin by Richard Swenson

Buy now from Amazon

“Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by. This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose.”– from Amazon

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews

Buy now from Amazon

Amy calls it her unique selling proposition to offer a short book on time management. At only 52 pages, it fulfills that requirement.  It’s also economical at  $2.99.

She incorporates and implements a lot of the principles found in the books Margin and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but distills them into a shorter format.

I learned from her blog why she turned down a traditional book publisher.  The book publisher wanted it 7 times longer, to justify the cost of printing and selling the book.

Of course, that defeated her purpose.  Which goes to prove a lot of books are “stuffed with fluff” (to quote Winnie the Pooh) in order to make them long enough to print as a traditional book.

Tell Your Time is concise and practical.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

“In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”– from Amazon

Not many books fit in the category of life-changing.

This one does.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg changed my life.

 

PowerofHabit

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Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

Buy now from Amazon

Eat That Frog! is a quick read.  It is a compilation of wisdom from many gurus of time management, self-management and motivation.  The subtitle is “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”

If I have one beef with the book, it’s that he doesn’t attribute his ideas to the original authors.  But, the content is gold.

Simple and profound.  So why isn’t everyone doing it?  Because it’s hard.  At least, it’s hard to start.He does tackle the psychological side of motivating yourself to do difficult things.

It is a book full of action points, laced with a few stories to illustrate the effectiveness of the principles he advocates.

The whole “eat the frog” analogy comes from Mark Twain who said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Talking ourselves into doing difficult things instead of avoiding them gets us ahead.

Frogbook

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Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy

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“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.

   

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Buy now from Amazon

Newport first builds the case for the importance of deep work, then he expounds on practical steps to accomplish it.  Simply put, what is needed is focus and discipline.

I agree with Newport’s main premise:  we are doing worse work because we’re distracted.  I see it all the time in the low quality of books that are published and the huge vacuums that exist in many genres for high quality work.

Newport is a college professor.  Publishing in scholarly journals is the deep work he needs to accomplish.  I think the principles apply to all writers, and probably all knowledge workers in general.

I think the most profound books are ones that are simple common sense:  ones that people agree with and see the wisdom of, but didn’t take the time to articulate themselves.  It seems so simple.  So obvious.  And, yet, it wasn’t done before.

It is the path of least resistance to fritter away our time.  When we are careful about every working minute and rest well away from work, we accomplish so much more.

I was intrigued by the end of the day ritual.  For sure, it is the lingering worries of work that sap your peace and relaxation when you’re away from work.  Learning to wrap things up at the end of the day and be at peace with where you’re leaving them is critical for resting well.

His chapter, “Quit Social Media” is a little misleading, because he doesn’t really advocate that you quit social media.  Some would argue that if you want to write, you have to leverage social media.  But, the irony is that social media is keeping you from doing your best work, because you become a consumer instead of a producer.

The instant gratification is a problem, as well.  The instant distraction, the problem of never being bored.  If you’re never bored, then you never think.  You don’t create to fill the hole of that boredom.  You don’t wonder, daydream, imagine.  That vacuum is filled.

**********

Looking for courses that will help you with self-management?

I highly recommend Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings.

These are not set routines that you implement into your life.  Instead, Crystal teaches you the why and the how to create the routines you want and need.

(Note: these are affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

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What is the secret of the success of Jesus Calling?

 

What is the secret behind the runaway publishing success of Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling?

Could it be the power of prayer?

“Ever since the publication of Jesus Calling, I have prayed daily for people who are reading my books. Over the years, these prayers have become longer, covering a wide range of topics. Even when I’ve been hospitalized, I have not missed a day of praying for readers.”–Sarah Young from the introduction to Jesus Always.

“Before I begin writing, I spend time in prayer — including prayers for protection of my mind from distractions, distortions and deception. I ask God to guide my mind as I focus on Him and His Word. Then I simply pray, “Help me, Holy Spirit,” and I wait. I have been strongly influenced by the Bible verse, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).”  –Sarah Young, from an interview with Gloria Gaither and Phil Newman in HomecomingMagazine.com

Prayer is the heart of Sarah Young’s ministry.

The discipline of praying for her readers.

The discipline of listening prayer.

“GLORIA: Can you define “listening prayer” for those who may not be familiar with the term? What led you to begin the practice? What would you say to others who want to begin the practice?

SARAH: In the introductions to all my books, I state clearly that my writings are not inspired as Scripture is. When I began my practice of listening to Jesus and writing, it was solely for my personal benefit; in fact, it was years before I shared my writings with others. As my husband says, “This method of communicating could be compared to a pastor who prays, reads the passage he is working on, and then explains the text as he learns from the Holy Spirit what the text is saying.” I am not preaching — just sharing what I have gleaned from my times of waiting in God’s Presence.

I want to make it clear that I do not have audible conversation with Jesus. Rather, it’s a quiet and personal time of praying, pondering Scripture, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”–from HomecomingMagazine.com

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Sarah and her husband were missionaries to Japan, then missionaries to the Japanese in Perth, Australia.  Now they live in Tennessee.

Sarah came to faith as an adult.

“When I majored in philosophy at Wellesley College, I was a non-Christian searching for truth. Each time I began studying a new philosophy I’d get excited, thinking this one might end my quest. However, further study always revealed flaws. Eventually, I became disillusioned and concluded there was no absolute truth. A few years later, though, when I read Francis Schaeffer’s Escape From Reason, my background in philosophy helped me understand his reasoning. I found in that book answers to questions I had previously considered unanswerable. This opened the way for me to study at L’Abri, a Christian community in Switzerland begun by the Schaeffers.
At L’Abri I found a wonderful combination of intellectual integrity and a caring Christian community. This was just what I needed. While living and studying at L’Abri, I became a Christian. Finally, I had a solid foundation on which to build my life! ”

As a bookseller,  I can see firsthand the impact her devotional writings have had on people. Time after time I’ve heard that the devotional of the day was just what they needed.

I’ve noticed it in my own life as well.  It doesn’t happen every day, but often a phrase or a thought will hit home with a current struggle.

There’s often no explaining why some books take off and become bestsellers, even though people try to figure it out.

I still have to wonder, though, if the power of prayer is the secret behind the success of Jesus Calling.

Buy now from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What I’m reading, April 2018

Still waiting around here for some consistent warmer temps. The end of the school year is in sight and the end of an era for our family as our youngest graduates from high school.

Lots of great books this month.

My reading life has improved so much, thanks mostly to bloggers and podcasters.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

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“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”—from GoodReads

Enthusiastic five stars from me.

Brilliantly written, wholesome story.

The story spans the decades of Hannah’s life, giving a panoramic look at her life.

Human drama at it’s literary best.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life  by Jeff Goins

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“Wrecked is about the life we are afraid to live. It’s about radical sacrifice and selfless service—how we find purpose in the midst of pain. It’s a look at how we discover fulfillment in the least likely of places. It’s about living like we mean it. It’s a guide to growing up and giving your life away, helping you live in the tension between the next adventure and the daily mundane.

This book is for us—a generation intent on pursuing our life’s work in a way that leaves us without regrets.

Author Jeff Goins shares his own experience of struggling as a missionary and twentysomething who understands the call to live radically while dealing with the everyday responsibilities of life. Wrecked is a manifesto for a generation dissatisfied with the status quo and wanting to make a difference.” — from Amazon

I loved the honest, transparent exposure of what ministry is really like. How there’s not a lot of happy endings. How there’s not a lot of neat bows. How your heart breaks and you try to help people, but mostly they want to stay in the pit that they’re in.

It gets discouraging.

And that is real life.

It takes a lot to change people. It takes a miracle, really.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

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“When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.” — from GoodReads

Another brilliantly written story with a commitment to traditional values.

The plot differs at critical points from the movie version.  Skip the movie.  Read the book instead.

Thrifty and Thriving:  More Life for Less Money by Victoria Huizinga

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I’ve followed Victoria’s blog for a couple of years, so I wasn’t sure I was going to learn anything new reading her book.

I was wrong.

First of all, even though she covers a lot of tips and practical suggestions that can be found on the blog, it is organized, compact and easy to find in the book.

Aside from practical ideas on how to save money (which I was expecting)  it unrolls a mindset, a foundational paradigm to the way you think about money and even life.

Money can be hard to manage.  Victoria shows, with a lot of personal stories, that so much is about attitude, strategic living and long-term victories. It starts with changing your thinking.

This book is an investment in your future. Implement just a few of the suggestions, and you will recoup the price of the book.

I’d say that’s a thrifty purchase.

Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

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“The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.”– from Amazon

A sweet story. A cute story.  A nice, fast read.

I agree that fans of the Penderwicks books will like it.

The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

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“The One Thing explains the success habit to overcome the six lies that block our success, beat the seven thieves that steal time, and leverage the laws of purpose, priority, and productivity.” –from Goodreads

I re-read The One Thing. It is such an incredible book. And, yet, it taunts me.

So many great things that I can’t implement into my life right now.

Specifically, the four hour plan.

There’s just no way I can do it right now. I’m working on so many other things, I just have to follow through with what I have going right now.

I will be coming back to it, though.

It’s just too good not to integrate it into my life.

 

Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Key to Success by Benjamin Hardy

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“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

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“What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.”– from GoodReads

How could something like this happen? Why did it happen? What could prevent it from happening again?

There’s some real lessons to be learned here.

One lesson was for the journalists.  A new trend in journalism gives criminals minimum press coverage and focuses on the victims’ stories.  This gives perpetrators less motivation to seek fame through their crimes.

There’s also the importance of follow through with high risk people.  Although, apparently psychopaths are masterfully deceptive.

The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie

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“Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way.

Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family—it has the power to change the world.”–from Amazon

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Mackenzie’s blog, podcast and mission.

Of course she outlines the benefits of reading aloud to your kids.  Of course she includes a age graded book list of books she recommends.  This is what you expect.

She’s also pinpointed the hidden value of reading aloud to your kids: making meaningful and lasting connections.

And, she’s also a good writer. She’s a good thinker and master communicator.  What’s not to love?

Have you read any of these titles?  What did you think?

 

 

 

 

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3 Things I’ve Learned, Winter 2017

This has been a good winter.

I’m grateful  because  they haven’t all been good.

I’m grateful for opportunities to learn things that make life better.

Here’s to winter.

Linking up with Emily Freeman sharing what we’ve learned.

Run your own race.

Credit to Jeff Goins for this nugget.

I needed this reminder.

I’ve had a hard time finding my way on this blogging journey.

I’m having trouble finding my voice, my niche, my tribe and my compensation.

My daily appointment with the keyboard is driven by a need to figure things out for me. To make sense of life and come to peace. Because it doesn’t always make sense. You have to evaluate your experience with your beliefs and make adjustments when they don’t line up.

I’m driven by an inner compulsion to find answers for myself. Maybe the answers will help you as well.

Your journey is not the same as anyone else’s.

You have twists and turns that they don’t have.

You have hills to climb that they didn’t deal with.

Granted, they face different obstacles than you, as well.

But, the point of having this mantra echoing in your head is that you avoid the comparison trap and the discouragement that trips you up or sidelines you.

Run your own race.

 

I wrote 55 book reviews in 2017.

I found this surprising because I never stopped to count before.

Writing book reviews has been good for my reading life.

Reading book reviews has been good for my reading life.

I get it. You’re busy. I’m busy. You don’t want to waste your time on bad books.

That is why I read book reviews. That is why I write book reviews.

Out of the 55, one rose to the top as my favorite for the year.

Read about my favorite book of 2017.

I need the structure and accountability of the pillars in my week. 

Spontaneous and impulsive is hard for me.  Life tends to throw curve balls.  It helps to have weekly rhythms I can count on.

Writing for Five Minute Friday every week.

Wednesday night Family Night.

Tuesday morning moms’ prayer group.

Sunday morning worship.

It helps immensely to have those planned into my schedule. Without them, it’s easier to get sucked  into the pit of negative emotions.

The daily rhythms help, too.  Pausing for gratitude every day changes my outlook.

Here’s what else is saving my life right now.

What are you learning this winter?

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My favorite book of 2017

I wrote 55 book reviews in 2017.

That translates into quite a few hours reading.

I get it.  Your life is busy.  My life is busy.  We want to spend our time reading good books.

That is why I read book reviews.  That is why I write book reviews.

Out of the 55, one rose to the top.

I want more people to know about this book.

I want more people to read this book.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

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This is the raw, treacherous journey that Nabeel Qureshi took to find faith in Jesus. The sacrifices he made. The intellectual and emotional and relational barriers that kept him from finding faith in Jesus. And the story of overcoming those barriers.

Why do we need to know Nabeel’s story?

Because no man is an island. His pain is our pain. His victory is our victory. His story is our story.

There are millions of devout Muslims on the planet. If we understand Nabeel’s story, we come closer to understanding them.

There exists a great chasm of beliefs between us, but we share the same humanity. Our desires and dreams are common to the human experience.

To understand the Muslim mindset opens the door to greater compassion, to a better chance of building bridges to individuals who are seeking.

Statistics are one thing.

One person’s story is something else altogether. What difference can one person’s story make?

I can be inspired by their story. I can travel the road with them and return to my own life and take the courage with me. This is the power of story.

We are faced with the same choices Nabeel Qureshi faced.  Are we going to accept what we were taught growing up? Or are we going to search for something else?

We have no say about the situation we were born into. But the time comes when we accept or reject the life we were given. Do we perpetuate the values, attitudes and beliefs we were given or turn from it to something else?

These are the questions that individuals from every devout family faces. These are the issues that we wrestle with. These are the answers that we must find. This is the peace that we must come to.

It might be a life long journey. It might takes years to find that peace. Our foundational beliefs might be shaken to the core.

But, we must search. We must know if the values, attitudes and beliefs that we were handed without our knowledge or consent are truly ours. Every person must choose.

And that is why Nabeel’s journey is everyone’s. Coming of age has nothing on coming to faith.

We need to struggle deeply with these critical issues. We need to come to peace.

Irregardless of the belief system we choose, the struggle is universal. It’s the dragon we all must fight.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

Buy now from Amazon

 

 

 

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What I’m Reading, February 2018

Indiana weather is living up to it’s reputation this winter: unpredictable.

The past twenty-four hours have been foggy as snow from last week melts and evaporates.

I’m grateful to be feeling better physically than other winters, but I’ll be happy to see Spring.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site. )

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

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Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.

I liked the way her faith was real and scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

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A doctor running from his past.  An endearing little girl fighting for her life.

Masterfully written.

Traditional values.

Unpredictable.

Just when you thought you had it figured out, you didn’t.

One of the best inspirational fiction I’ve read in years.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

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The orphans on the island follow the rules.  There’s a set way of doing things.  How and when they arrive, what they learn, how they live, how they live. Their survival depends on it.

I understand that this is a parable about childhood rather than a literary novel.

For me, it didn’t really accomplish either.

Maybe I’m missing the implications and parallels, but the story didn’t land for me.

A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family by Glen and Ellen Schunnecht

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It has been a long time since I read a parenting book.  Even longer since I liked one.

I liked the multi-generational approach in this book.  I liked the stories.  Realistic approaches to the challenges of parenting from a Christian perspective.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

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I’ve had trouble getting my hands on a copy of this book.

The first book in a trilogy, The Green Ember tells the story of a kingdom of rabbits.

Heather and Picket, brother and sister rabbit, are the main characters.  Lots of intrigue. Lots of action.

I can see boys really liking this book.

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It’s been a good month for reading and for my first foray into fiction.  Check it out here.

 

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