What We Read: 2018 First Quarter

Themes in my Reading
the power of story (You are What You Love, my class)
I am not God (Adrenaline and Stress, and Humble Roots and None Like Him from last year)
Changing life by changing desires, importance of spiritual disciplines (books on preaching, You are What you Love, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You)
Thru preaching and parenting, teaching kids and listeners to love God with all heart, soul, mind, strength, emotion... actively and passively (You are What you Love, books on preaching)
slowing down, savoring, ruminating (Adrenaline and Stress, and being forced to do so by class and what I’m reading having direct application to my life more than it has in the past)

January
The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth – Genevieve Howland
I paged through this at the library, since I had heard about it and was interested in it but didn’t want to buy it as I’m not pregnant. Mostly I wanted to see how it compared to her free internet version.
There are more topics covered in smaller bites in the book, since online she can link to other articles. The to-do’s for each week are also slightly different. Overall, though, it’s mostly the same content and things to think about.
The negative: it feels rather temporal, lots of talk on things like babymoons, maternity style, etc. – space that would have been better spent talking about PPD signs (there was only a small blurb on it). I also didn’t love the anecdotal/chatty style. There were a lot of birth affirmations, some of which I did’t agree with.
The positive: lots of recipes, info on tests during pregnancy, exercise, diet, breastfeeding, things to think about for green/clean registries, and answers to random questions like breastfeeding toddlers during pregnancy.

I think it’s a great resource for first time crunchy-minded moms, but a little long for natural birth veterans.

Preparing for Easter – C.S. Lewis excerpts
This wasn’t a bad compilation or sampling of Lewis’s writing, but stuff is taken out of context so is disorienting, and isn’t much flow and except for holy week didn’t feel Easter-related. I wasn’t reading it during Lent (obviously, in January!). I didn’t finish it because of how disorienting the lack of context was, and sometimes the editing was chopped at a place where it seemed like Lewis was saying something he wasn’t in context.

Loneliness – Elisabeth Elliot
I wrote more about this book here. Highly, highly recommended for anyone undergoing any suffering!
Some gems:
“The power of the cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.”
“Even suffering, through the transforming power of the cross, is a gift, for in this broken world, in our sorrow, He gives us Himself, in our loneliness He comes to meet us.”
This whole chapter, “Death is a New Beginning.”
Acceptance, “ a glad and voluntary YES to the conditions we meet on our journey with Him, because these are the conditions He wants us to share with Him.”

Evidence Not Seen – Darlene Deibler
Missionary Darlene Deibler’s account of her early missions work in Papua New Guinea and her time in a Japanese prison camp.
I sometimes thought that her experience wasn’t as bad as some, but then realized that in large part that was due to her great faith and trust in God, and how clearly He was with her every step of the way. Her circumstances were horrific, but she had such a clear sense of God’s presence that it didn’t come across that way, which is amazing.
I was challenged to pray immediately about little things, continued on with thoughts on suffering from Loneliness.
And a moment the next day that was application of that –
S’s requests and questions seemed endless and I finally prayed about it (long after I had been irritated) and let God know that I was exhausted and it felt like their demands were endless and I Just couldn’t deal with it. Then 2 things:
1, the reminder (from having read it in this book only the day before) that when I can’t is when His grace is shown sufficient and His power demonstrated in my weakness.
2, the rest of our pre-nap time was sweet and fun!
Why do I wait so long to pray?!?

February
You Are What You Love – James K.A. Smith
Smith writes about changing our lives and habits by changing our loves, how “Discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing,” and how in order to change we need to create new habits. The biggest way this happens is through the spiritual disciplines (he focuses mostly on corporate worship). That’s a very uneloquent description that doesn’t really do it justice.
I had already been thinking along these lines (see my post on discipline), but Smith’s book helped me grapple with it more, and think through the implications of shaping the habits of the heart in the home, as well as helping me think of spiritual disciplines and church in the light of an opportunity to re-orient my heart towards God and develop habits of worshiping God. He had some very good thoughts on youth ministry and family integration in church.
That said, I do have a few cautions, mostly with how ecumenical he sometimes is. Also, I don’t think he meant this, but the Holy Spirit was generally left out of the picture, giving the impression that “faith is inevitable as long as you implant right liturgy.”
Lots of gems, a few cautions. It has been very influential in the months since I finished it, and I frequently find myself reviewing parts of it, but I can’t recommend it to just anyone.

Women of the Word – Jen Wilkin
A very good introduction to the inductive Bible study method. I realized through my class that I hadn’t really been doing the inductive method, and wanted to read more on it in a way that was a bit simpler than what I had done for class, and this did that perfectly.

Adrenaline and Stress – Archibald Hart
Part of this was required for my class; I read the whole thing. It fit in well with the theme of rest in the last year, and made me realize how stressful some things are for me, even the things I do to “relax,” as well as why some things make me stressed, and some things I can do to decrease stress and adrenaline, while still channeling adrenaline at times.

Biblical Preaching – Haddon Robinson
Another for class, and probably the most helpful for me in understanding the process of studying the Word and then preparing a message from it. Not only was this important for my class, but also has helped me in how I listen to sermons and talk about them afterward.

Preaching that Speaks to Women – Alice Mathews
Also for class. The overall message was good, but it was VERY psych-heavy. Its emphasis was preaching to women as whole persons before God, with unique giftings (as individuals, not as “woman”), meant to be able to KNOW and LEARN and THINK for self. She focused on helping women love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and how certain stereotypes can be a hindrance to that.
Jen Wilkin’s talk “Raising Daughters Beyond Stereotypes” handled a lot of the same content in a way I felt was more biblical and that I had less disagreement with.

The Broken Road – Patrick Leigh Fermor
I needed an eBook for the airplane and the third part of Fermor’s walking trip from Holland to Constantinople sounded perfect. I think the final installment my least favorite, though. It wasn’t as edited, so his partying was talked about more openly, and it wasn’t quite as literature-heavy as the other ones. That made it an easier read, but less rich. His descriptions were still amazing, though, the fruit of not having a camera!

March
Love to Eat, Hate to Eat – Elyse Fitzpatrick
I’ve talked some before about my relationship with food in the last three years not being very good. In all honesty, I was letting food become an idol. This book was so so so good to help with that and I highly recommend it for anyone who struggles to eat healthily, lose weight, has or is helping someone who has an eating disorder, or just wants to have a biblical perspective on food!
I do wish she had talked more about enjoying food as a good gift from God, though.

Mom Enough – Desiring God
I really enjoyed this little collection of articles on motherhood from Desiring God. It was challenging and encouraging at the same time.

The Savage My Kinsman – Elliot
This was a fascinating read, to learn more about Elisabeth Elliot’s time with the Aucas who had murdered her husband. Some thought-provoking parts on different cultures, especially how we view others as more “primitive” yet they have the systems and intelligence they need for their lives just as we have those for ours.

Enjoy Your Prayer Life -Reeves
A little book prayer by Michael Reeves. I found it very helpful and inspiring, mostly in reminding me that prayer is a way of proving our faith in God.

We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled – Wendy Perlman
Tragic and eye-opening. Perlman recorded, translated and transcribed, then organized people’s stories of their lives in Syria in the last 30 years. We hear of the violence, but their voices really showed how the bigger issue is personhood being undermined.

When Helping Hurts – Corbett and Fikkert
I read this alongside We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled, which was a good move because it helped Perlman’s book be a little less depressing to be reading about ways to help alleviate poverty, and lined up with what I was reading from the oppressed and poor about how the issue isn’t really financial, and hand-outs aren’t what will solve the problem.

The first part of the book is spent putting forth a framework for what our goals in alleviating poverty should be as Christians. The second half is focused on applying that framework to things like short-term missions and the homeless.
“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.
“Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.”

Must-read for all who oversee benevolence in churches, or as a tool to assess who to donate to in missions or local poverty. I found it very well-balanced between addressing physical and spiritual needs. It was eye-opening to read as someone who has always had more than enough, to see how poverty affects more than just what you have physically.
I was hoping for more application on a personal level (what do I as a mom in the car do for the homeless man on the side of the road?), but I suppose they did give that just not in an easy way. It seems the thing to do is find people who are locally helping without hurting and try to connect those homeless with those people – and if those people don’t exists, be a catalyst to get something going.

If I Perish – Kim
I find myself drifting towards more and more biographies recently. I enjoy them and they are challenging to my daily life and faith while not being too heavy for evening or leisure reading. Esther Ahn Kim’s was no exception. It was interesting to read it so soon after Darlene Deibler’s biography, since they were happening at the same time.

skimmed
Word-Centered Women’s Ministry – Furman, Neilsen
I skimmed this since it came up as an eBook available to borrow when I was putting Women of the Word on hold and it looked interesting and pertinent to my class. Definitely one I would refer back to if heavily involved in women’s ministry.

The Lifegiving Home – Sally and Sarah Clarkson
I had planned to go through this a chapter/month as it’s designed to be, but after the first two months decided it probably wasn’t really what I needed right now and so paged through the rest just to make sure.
I still love the Clarksons’ ministry, but am taking a break for a little bit. There is a lot of repetition in Sally’s writings and podcast. Their stuff is also very encouragement-based, which is exactly what I need at times, but I do need to keep it in proportion and make sure I am getting the “meat” of more deep, expositional teaching in my diet as well right now – but Desperate and The Mission of Motherhood were exactly what I needed a year ago, and I HIGHLY recommend them both.

Kids’ Books
Guji Guji
CHristmas Tapestry (Polacco)
Song of the Stars (Lloyd-Jones)
Jungle Book (an illustrated toddler version)
Frog and Toad All Year
Aesop’s Fables
Cecily Mary Barker’s Complete Flower Fairies
The Circus Ship
Winter Trees – Gerber
The Airport Book
Thy Friend, Obadiah – Turkle
Owl Moon (Yolen)
Horton
When the Doorbell Rang
Over and Under the Pond – Messner
Stone Soup – Marcia Brown
Bustle in the Bushes – Andreae
Psalm 23 – Barry Moser
Before and After – Ramstein
On Market Street
Poetry for Young People – Tennyson, Kipling
Miss Maple’s Seeds
Meilo So (illustrator)
Flossie and the Fox (McKissack)
Sven Nordquist

Movies/TV
we have loved watching The Great British Baking Show
Dunkirk
Calvinist
Goodbye Christopher Robin*
Murder on the Orient Express
Ferdinand
Wonder*
Same Kind of Different As Me
*our favorites of this batch

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PPD is a Gift

Some time ago I put Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Loneliness” (more recently published as “The Path of Loneliness”) on my book list. I can’t remember why, or how I heard about it, but there it was. I asked my pastor’s wife if she had a different book by Elisabeth Elliot, and she said that while she didn’t have that one, she did have some others, Loneliness included. I almost didn’t ask to borrow it because it really didn’t seem applicable right now. It turns out the title may not have seemed applicable (in many ways it should be called “Suffering”), but the content was timely: it changed how I think about the possibility of future PPD.
It wasn’t really anything new, but Elisabeth Elliot has such a way of putting things that is so succinct, practical, and biblical.

I began to think of future PPD (or any suffering, really) as my marching orders, where He has me in that place and time. Beyond that, to even see it as a GIFT. I was also reading in Elyse Fitzpatrick’s “Because He Loves Me” and in chapter 5 she explains how God’s discipline is not punitive (all His wrath has been poured out on Christ!) but redemptive – a tool to free me from my sin. To quote Mrs. Elliot, “His object [like a surgeon] is not harm, but wholeness.”

My job in that situation is acceptance, offering up my suffering as a sacrifice to Him, the unfulfilled desire (in the context of the book, loneliness, in my case, perhaps postpartum without PPD) as a means to know Him.
What does acceptance mean or look like?
“A glad and voluntary YES to the conditions we meet on our journey with Him, because these are the conditions He wants us to share with Him.”
“A Laying one’s will alongside God’s, a putting of oneself at one with His kingdom and His will.”
Amy Carmichael penned a beautiful poem on acceptance, In Acceptance Lieth Peace.

Acceptance isn’t a do-nothing waiting, but a la Psalm 37, trust, dwell, delight in Lord, commit your life to Him, be quiet, wait patiently, and do not worry about others. “Sit still, my daughter.”

But why? Why patiently bear suffering?
“Safety, as the cross shows, does not exclude suffering… trust in those strong arms means that even our suffering is under control… a Loving Purpose is behind it all, a great tenderness even in the fierceness.”
“The power of the cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.”
“Even suffering, through the transforming power of the cross, is a gift, for in this broken world, in our sorrow, He gives us Himself, in our loneliness He comes to meet us.”
“At the cross of Jesus all our crosses are changed into gifts.”

Thus, the questions left at the end, with future PPD or any suffering, are – will I receive it and thank Him for it? Will I see it as “a gift, a call, and a vocation, not merely a condition to be endured?”

“Had I asked above all to know God? He had been answering that prayer all along.”
“I’m sure I’m a better woman because of [insert suffering here] than I would have been otherwise.”

“When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry. We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is. In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve. We ask how much of our fun He intends to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated. If we had the least notion of His lovingkindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for His poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how carefully He is preparing a place for us, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good – if we had any inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of our smashed dandelions or whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?”

It’s one thing to write all of this now and another thing to actually go through suffering with this attitude, but it is my prayer that if there is a next time, it will be so.

Book Review: When Postpartum Packs a Punch

Kristina Cowan’s book, When Postpartum Packs a Punch, was yet another piece in my PPD puzzle. It didn’t give new insights into healing, like I was expecting. Instead, it gave a clearer diagnosis that helped some things fall into place. It gave validity to some of the things I had been feeling (like PTSD after Ellie, more below), and the sense of sorrow and grief I often feel looking back. It also gave hope to me for if it comes again – reminders of PPD being a where you are not a who you are, and that while it may have spiritual manifestations, it is a treatable disease, and that while it was really bad after Ellie, it could have been way worse.

After S was born, I likely had mild OCD for a month followed by mild PPD until she was 6 months (I didn’t realize I still had PPD until I suddenly felt normal again). The OCD was my main symptom, and while my support team was wonderful, treating it as OCD instead of PPD would have made a difference.

After Ellie, I didn’t just have PPD, I also had some PTSD. I didn’t understand how that could happen for a long time because her birth was flawless, yet somehow the memory of it was traumatic. While I do think the trauma aspect may more have to do with a painful membrane sweep and postpartum visit, Cowan’s comments about birth being “violent” by nature helped me understand how even Ellie’s birth could have had that effect. I had flashbacks that that I couldn’t just push aside, starting the night after she was born – but at that point I figured it would just go away, and later I figured it was just a part of PPD, but probably shouldn’t have lumped it in with everything else because it needed different answers. In the end, I think time was one of the biggest factors in healing, but so was admitting how I felt about her birth and exploring why I might feel that way (both things Cowan’s book answered for me).

She is a believer, but while she mentions faith playing a role in her healing, it isn’t a “Christian” book, but still incredibly helpful for diagnosing and exploring treatment options. I felt like Cowan could have fleshed out more on what helps heal/how those things help, but for a book detailing the variety of PMADs (postpartum mood and anxiety disorders) and what those look like, definitely look into When Postpartum Packs a Punch.

(For a blog post specifically geared toward traumatic birth, read this)

Top Reads of 2017

In all this year I read 71 books… which is a lot, likely too much. I’ve been convicted a lot of how often I close the book and move on to the next one without really processing and applying it… so am trying to slow down and think through things. But my books-to-read list keeps growing! I have to remind myself frequently of Ecclesiastes 12’s comments about “of making many books there is no end and much study is weariness to the flesh,” and the challenge of Psalm 1, Psalm 19, and Psalm 119 to delight in and meditate on His Word above all other writing!
These are some of the books that help with that, and/or were ones I kept thinking back to.

Life-changing
None Like Him (Jen Wilkin) and Humble Roots (Hannah Anderson)
These are very similar so I put them together here. They both opened my eyes to see how much I try to be God, especially in the area of control.
None Like Him had a discussion questions that were really helpful, and is a look at eleven attributes of God that He does not share with humans (immutability, omniscience, etc.).
Humble Roots didn’t impact me as much as I read it, but afterwards I kept being convicted by it. Its focus was more on how there is rest in humility (which often comes down to not trying to be God!) and is more practical than None Like Him, but I felt like to focused more on the problems than the answer – None Like Him brought me to worship more.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Tony Reinke)
Reviewed here.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows (Zack Eswine)
A biblical, practical look at depression (in a small book!), looking at causes, helps, theology… it gave validity to a lot of my feelings and questions after PPD that had often felt heretical.

Spiritual Depression (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
Another biblical, practical look at depression, but one that focuses more on the spiritual causes of it. It felt less pertinent to PPD, since it was more on spiritual roots of depression than physical ones with spiritual manifestations, but it was still incredibly helpful and one I will refer back to often. It was also really convicting in areas of sin that for me haven’t led to full-on depression but may affect my mood for a short time, things like discontentment, pride, etc. One very helpful thing in the discussion of contentment was the idea that to be content we have to be independent of our circumstances, not relying on anything but God for our joy (a “duh” moment but still much needed!).

Parenting (Tripp)
A big-picture parenting strategy, helping me see what my role as a parent really is. There is lots of repetition, but in a good way if reading it slowly, because there is SO much good it’s overwhelming.
Some key points:
I am more like my children than unlike.
I am His ambassador, showing them what is in their hearts and pointing them to Him for repentance and change. Redirecting their worship!
Clearer than Give them Grace that this does NOT mean suspending the law.
“Parenting is not just about getting your children to do something, but helping them to see so that they would desire to do it.”
“What right now does God want my child to see that he is not now seeing and how can I help him see it?”
“If your eyes ever see and your ears ever hear the sin, weakness, and failure of your children, it is never a hassle, never an interruption, never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith, and he will reveal the need of their hearts to you so that you can be his tool of rescue and transformation.”

“This book has been an elaborate discussion of one thing: God’s call to you to be an essential part of his mission of rescue of the children he has given you. But it has not been just about the mission that he has sent you on, but also about the fact that he has gone with you. He doesn’t ask you to do what you can’t do, and he is eternally willing to do what only he can do. So he blesses you with his presence, power, wisdom, and grace. He faithfully parents you, so that by his faithful grace you can faithfully parent your children. In every moment of parenting, the wise heavenly Father is working on everybody in the room. You are blessed to be chosen to go on the mission of missions,a nd you are blessed with his grace so that every day your parenting would be dyed with the most powerful force of change in the universe: mercy.”

Highly recommend: 
These are either fiction or ones that were very good but weren’t quite as directly applicable to me this year.
Messy Grace (Kaltenbach)
A pastor whose parents are homosexual writes about loving them and the LGBT+ community without compromising conviction.

Symphony for City of the Dead
Not a life-changing book, but it was fascinating and has really stuck with me throughout the year, and caused me to fall in love with Shostakovich’s 7th.

Holy Labor (Aubri Smith)
Reviewed here.

The Hawk and the Dove (Wilcock)

Music Through the Eyes of Faith (Best)
This is not something I am currently wrestling with, but his discussion of what kinds of music may or may not be acceptable for Christians was the most theological, logical, biblical thing I have ever read on the subject.

Runners up:
Preemptive Love
Dispatches from the Front
The Cup and the Glory

Kids’ book authors we went back to again and again:
Ezra Jack Keats
Robert McCloskey
Patricia Polacco
Dianna Aston

What we Read: 4th Quarter 2017

(Look for a top books of 2017 post soon!)

October
The Lifegiving Table (Sally Clarkson)
While this book was good, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. There was lots of repeat from podcasts and other books, and lots of anecdotes. But I say that as someone having grown up with family meals around the table and thus know how important they are – so the content wasn’t anything new to me. I was still encouraged that daily mealtimes MATTER, even now, and what a gift to my kids those mealtimes are. Good reminders about the importance of fun and phatic communication. It also helped me see too how refreshing it is for me to be in someone else’s home for a meal and not to take that for granted.

The Hawk & The Dove (Penelope Wilcock)
One of few books I read purely for enjoyment this year, and I intend to read more of the series. I couldn’t figure out what exactly drew me in but the characters and writing style were both so vibrant and I couldn’t wait to pick it up every evening.

Humble Roots (Hannah Anderson)
The summary: I am not God, and when I try to be it leads to lack of rest & burn-out. When I first read this book I thought it was good, but while there were parts that I noted and thought about more, I didn’t connect with it deeply… but then it kept coming back to me again and again.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Tony Reinke)
reviewed here.

Preemptive Love(Jeremy Courtney)
The story behind how Preemptive Love Coalition got started. I couldn’t put this one down. The story is riveting, and it felt like an answer to what was left unanswered in They Say We Are Infidels – what do we do? How is there change? How can we as outsiders help others love their enemies?

The Cup & The Glory (Greg Harris [not the homeschool Greg Harris])
This book would have been better read slowly, but I made a lot of notes to look back over later. I wish I had had it in the midst of PPD; it might have helped me see more clearly what was going on. It’s basically a biblical perspective on suffering, but in a way that felt much more tangible and less dry.

finished The Hidden Smile of God (Piper) with Ezra
This is one of Piper’s biographical books, looking at Bunyan, Brainerd, and Cowper. We were encouraged by all of their lives.

November
Gilead (Robinson)
I’m still not entirely sure why I finished this book. It wasn’t bad; I was just never really drawn in and it didn’t hold my attention that well. There were a few profound moments but a lot of it dragged.

Sanctification (Powlison)
The back of the book summarizes it well: “Scripture portrays the dynamics of sanctification in a rich variety of ways. No single factor, truth, or protocol can capture why and how a person is changed into the image of Christ… shows personal and particular ways that God meets you where you are to produce change. He highlights a variety of factors that work together, helping us to avoid sweeping generalizations and pat answers in the search for a key to sanctification.”
His comments on giving “unbalanced” specific counsel and really connecting dots for counselees was very helpful to me, both in my own conversations with people, but also in realizing why some counsel I received for PPD was very helpful and other counsel didn’t help at all.

The God I Love (Joni)
Reviewed more here. It’s fascinating reading biography as an adult with kids, wondering what will greatly impact them and what struggles they will have.

P.G. Wodehouse Anthology (excerpts)
This was my light Thanksgiving read, and very enjoyable.

Different (Nathan & Sally Clarkson)
Good encouragement for loving kids even when they’re hard – even when my kids are not truly ‘different’ they are still very different from me (as I was and definitely as I am now!). Helped me have more compassion to understand their limitations and how they see the world differently, and to give love and affirmation even in difficult moments, remembering their worth goes beyond our expectations and societal norms.
That said, if you had a truly different child I don’t know how helpful it would be beyond encouragement to keep loving them. There wasn’t much I thought was practical in how to help them, and it often felt like they were just putting up with his disorders rather than seeking to help him change (loving your kid no matter what is different than affirming their obsessions, which is often what I felt was happening).

December
Teaching From Rest (Sarah Mackenzie)
Good overall message – a philosophy of restful schooling, focusing on what matters and not trying to be God, but knowing what to let go of and Who our standard is. It was good now, but probably need it more in midst of homeschooling, than I do right now. I don’t agree with all her theology, but that plays a minor role in the book.
It tied in well with Humble Roots; in some ways it was Humble Roots applied to homeschooling.

Between the Woods and the Water (Patrick Leigh Fermor)
The second part of Fermor’s writings about his journey on foot from Holland to Constantinople. This was mostly Eastern Europe, so fascinating to me as I’ve never been there, but also a little overwhelming because I didn’t have any familiarity with the area and its history.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch (Cowan)
This book was yet another piece in the PPD puzzle. It didn’t give new insights into healing, like I was expecting. Instead, it gave a clearer diagnosis that helped some things fall into place. It gave validity to some of the things I had been feeling, and the sense of sorrow and grief I often feel looking back. It also gave hope to me for if it comes again – reminders of PPD being a where you are not a who you are, and that while it may have spiritual manifestations, it is a treatable disease, and that while it was really bad after Ellie, it could have been way worse.
I felt like Cowan could have fleshed out more on what helps heal/how those things help, but for a book detailing the variety of PMADs (postpartum mood and anxiety disorders) and what those look like, definitely look into When Postpartum Packs a Punch
She is a believer, and talks about “faith” a lot but doesn’t flesh that out much.

Three Years in Afghanistan (Matthew Collins)
Recommended by WORLD Mag in their beach reads issue, this is the story of a family’s time in Afghanistan working with an NGO. It was really fascinating, although his writing style wasn’t my favorite.

The Secret Garden
I know I read this as a child, but couldn’t remember it well, and Ezra’s parents have a beautifully illustrated version that I enjoyed very much.

Spiritual Depression (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
His sermons on depression, arranged topically by cause, each chapter focusing on a certain passage of scripture and applying that to the cause.
Some of the causes mentioned: high view of self, low view of self (both misunderstanding gospel), regrets from past sin, fear of future, emotions, lack of faith, looking at the waves (focusing on the trials instead of on Christ), false teaching, bondage to sin or the law, weariness in well-doing, discipline, trials, chastening, exercise/difficulties that help us grow, worry, discontent.
It was very useful as a whole, but also in counseling to give someone ONE chapter to read instead of a whole book! Very down-to-earth, no-nonsense, succinct, biblical.

George MacDonald’s Christmas Stories
Found in a box of Christmas books at Ezra’s family’s house. There wasn’t really anything that really stuck out to me, but I enjoyed reading them.

skimmed Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.
Draws a lot from other books by the Clarksons. Overwhelmingly detailed and comprehensive (down to manners and organization), in some ways more of their notes on how they did things. More of a curriculum than a homeschooling philosophy, so to me it came across as somewhat legalistic, but that may just have been because it wasn’t what I was expecting.

Finally finished (read all year)
God’s Prayer Book (Ben Patterson)
I went through the Psalms this year and enjoyed his commentary and the further reflection and prayer this book brought.

Parenting (Paul Tripp)
This book gets repetitive, so it’s not one to read all at once, but we read about a chapter a month this year and found it really, really helpful. It’s not very practical, but it did help me with connecting behaviors to the heart, and having a proper perspective on what my job as a parent is. We highly recommend it.

In the middle of Neptune’s inferno as our current car-read, and Because He Loves Me (Elyse Fitzpatrick) with my sister.

Kids:
Island Boy (Cooney)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Paddington (Bond)
Meet the Orchestra
Farm Anatomy (Rothman)
The Bee Tree (Polacco)
The Great Gracie Chase (Rylant)
10 Little Fingers, 10 Little Toes
Gingerbread for Liberty
West Coast Wild
The Apple Pie Tree
James Heriot’s Treasury for Children
Fujikawa’s A Child’s Book of Poems
Baby Jesus Prince of Peace Greene
Wee Gillis
Yoko’s Paper Cranes
Dianna Aston “A Seed is Silent”
Eight Animals on the Town (Susan Middleton Elya)
Christmas in the Barn (Margaret Wise Brown)
How My Parents Learned to Eat
Apt 3 (Keats)
There is a Carrot in My Ear
The Thinks You Can Think (Seuss)
Mrs. Katz and Tush (Polacco)
Ginger and Petunia (Polacco)
Pancakes for Findus (Nordqvist)

movies
Loving
Hidden Figures
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

We also watched Silence, which was very difficult to watch, not so much because of the violence but because of the theological questions it brought up.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

“As faithful eyes perceive the unseen glories of God and reborn hearts embrace them, all the visible glories of God in the world seem to thicken in substance. The more eagerly we embrace God, the more gratitude we express for His created gifts for us and the more clearly we begin to discern the sinful distortions and the hollow promises of free sin.”
– Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (page 140).

This idea of the life of faith being about “comprehending the whole when we can see only a fraction” (pg 141), being satisfied with Christ instead of what is seen and temporary – and that transforming our desires, has come up a number of times for me recently in books I have been reading. That tied in with the realization that in order to change phone and food habits saying “no” wasn’t what was needed – changing those desires was.

In looking to God for ultimate, lasting satisfaction –
…I let go of my kids and trust God with them.
…I enjoy my piece of cake without expecting it to be everything I dreamed it would be
…I say no to another piece of cake because I know it’s not going to satisfy me
…I put down my phone, close out of Facebook, don’t open Instagram because He, not social media, is my refuge. He, not likes and comments, is going to feed my soul.

I am still processing Reinke’s book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I think it will be required reading for our kids in the first months of allowing them to have social media (whatever that looks like in 10+ years!).
Reinke looks at ways our phones (really social media) changes our relationships with others, and most of all, with God. Even chapters that from the title seemed like ones I could skip ended up being really convicting. I read it slowly over a few months, trying to apply at least something after each chapter. Paging through after finishing it and re-reading my highlights was overwhelming, even before I thought “now that I’ve read this I’m going to be held accountable by God for my phone use even more!”
There are so many “little” comments and challenges in the book, but there is an overarching big picture. This book is about seeking satisfaction in God, and not in social media, phones, the approval of others, etc. And while there are so many rules I could set up or questions I could make myself ask before getting online, I think in the end it boils down to two questions for me:
– Why am I getting on my phone right now?
– Have I had soul-feeding solitude before God yet today?

I am also taking Sundays and vacations off of social media.

The first question often sparks many others, like am I master of these appetites? Do my phone habits show how glorious He is? Am I using my phone as a refuge from today’s trials? Is it helping or hindering my spiritual goals? Am I getting on to boast in myself? Is it keeping me from fully enjoying the moment? Am I turning to my phone to be wowed and amazed? Am I dimming or reflecting His glory with my scrolling, comments, and postings? Am I turning myself and my kids into actors on the social media stage?

Reinke asks these and many other probing questions, while always pointing towards ultimate satisfaction in Christ (yes, he works for DesiringGod) and seeing phones and social media as technology that can be a God-honoring tool, a time-sucking idol, or a place to hide sin and propagate evil. His goal is to help Christians assess their phone habits to use them to glorify God and show the world how satisfying He is.

Gems from “Spurgeon’s Sorrows”

Digging through all my “PPD processing” documents (I realized a few months ago that I process by writing, so that means I have a number of Word documents that are compilations of quotes, scripture, journal entries, steps to take for healing, and other notes) I found a lot of quotes from the book, “Spurgeon’s Sorrows,” by Zack Eswine.
I read this book back in April, alongside Michael Card’s “A Sacred Sorrow,” and together they marked a turning point for me, the place where I finally realized I hadn’t been being completely honest with God about how I felt about Him, and that that was likely continuing the cycle of depression. A lot of this was due to the promises of God bringing no comfort, something that felt almost blasphemous to think, and I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone that because His promises were what were being offered to me as hope. But Eswine deals with that feeling in “Spurgeon’s Sorrows,” and that along with these other gems opened up the conversation with God again, allowing me to fully lament the way I was reading about it in Card’s book.
May these quotes encourage you and lead you towards reading the whole (little!) book.

“Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.”

“Depression can so vandalize our joy and sense of God that no promise of His can comfort us in the moment, no matter how true or kindly spoken.”

“The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a savior.”

“No matter how far you fall in your depression, the everlasting arms shall be lower than you are.”

“Hope demolished can become hope rebuilt, if it is realistic and rooted, not just in the cross and empty tomb but also in the garden and the sweat-like blood.”

“I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light, – more stars, most certainly, – more things in heaven if fewer things on earth.”

“The valley of the shadow of death is not our final destination” – Michael Jinkins