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.

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!)

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.

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).

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.

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)

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

What We Read: 3rd Quarter 2017

Third quarter! That means only one quarter left to finish my book list for the year – although I’m happy and surprised by how much I have read already this year. It’s amazing how much you can read in only a few minutes a day if you really stick to it.

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (Furman)
My favorite of Gloria Furman’s books that I’ve read. Full of good reminders and encouragement for mothering. A lot of it was in Missional Motherhood, but in a format that was more devotional/encouragement than theology.

Son of Hamas
Picked from WORLD Mag’s “beach reads” recommendations, but read at the cabin. 😉 It was gripping, but I often felt with the way it was written that the goal was thrill more than really educating on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Unhurried Homeschooler
A quick read, good overview of a lot of Charlotte Mason ideas… all very familiar though as it’s become a bit of the “thing” now to have the unhurried style. But lots of good reminders on the heart being the most important thing, not the textbook, on implementing character – especially at S’s age! I did not really like her section on why to homeschool; it felt like the main goal was sheltering and discipleship was secondary.
I am interested in comparing it to Teaching From Rest, hopefully in the next quarter.

Why the Universe is the Way it is (Ross)
WORLD had recommended this so I was surprised to find that Ross is old-earth, though WORLD doesn’t take a clear stance on that anyway. But it was the first time I had read anything from an old earth perspective, and that helped me engage with it more and solidify my young-earth perspective.
My main critique is that I was expecting it to bring me to worship in awe of God’s power and design, and for hte most part that was dampened by his old earth perspective, as well as the way he assumed arguments and assumed the reader was familiar with common old earth arguments, and did not cite or explain very much.
That said, there were some very good parts, like the discussion of how an imperfect world can be “good,” and the ways that natural disasters can actually help keep the earth in balance, and how time and space restrain evil. My favorite thought: the way the moon’s darkness allows us greater view into space! All that was to show how God isn’t weak and uncaring for world/design/plan to be how it is – but maybe not convincing for a skeptic.

skimmed Home Education (Charlotte Mason)
Most of this content I had read in other places, understandably so, but some of it was more fleshed out. Still, I would recommend For the Children’s Sake and A Charlotte Mason Companion more.

Roaring Lambs (Briner)
A book calling for excellence in Christian art. Some good thoughts, but overall a little confusing as he seems to imply the need for just excellence without speaking but then also says to milk your platform. It was also very rant-y and his opinion and experience.I was expecting the whole book to be more of the last chapter, not just telling us what’s wrong but what to do about it.
However, the study questions at the back were good, and it was written a number of years ago – so it seems a little unnecessary in the Csehy circles, which means the book may have had some impact!

Pride & Prejudice (Austen)
One of two books I chose to read after reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I enjoyed it more than I expected I would!

The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare)
The other book I chose to read, guided also by A Time of Gifts, since Fermor frequently referenced it. My appreciation for Shakespeare has grown since highschool, and it was helpful to read alongside notes to apply more of How to Read Literature Like a Professor… but I could have done without the soap opera. So I think my next Shakespeare will be Henry V!

Surprised by Joy (Lewis)
I had read a quote from this and then had this book recommended to me, so decided I should finally read it. It solidified Lewis as my favorite author, and made me think a lot about how the things I do and the environment in which they are raised will impact my children. My biggest takeaway was related to the quote I read,
“You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning around to look at the hope itself. . . . Introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look inside ourselves and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. Unfortunately this does not mean that introspection finds nothing. On the contrary, it finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images and physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or byproduct for the activities themselves. (Lewis, Surprised by Joy, pp. 218–219.)”
It has been timely as I have been looking back on PPD, trying to understand it to some degree, as well as in daily life when I start analyzing why I was impatient (which generally just leads to stewing about something or someone rather than removing a stressor), instead of repenting and setting my gaze on Christ.
Some really good thoughts on Lewis from John Piper here.

Lit! (Tony Reinke)
Subtitle: A Christian guide to reading books – and it meets that subtitle very well! If you love reading or hate reading, he has some really good tips for deciding what to read, how to read what you read, and a few comments on digesting what you read – all from a perspective of reading with a Christian worldview and with purpose (even fiction for fun!).

in the middle of: Parenting (Tripp) // The Hidden Smile of God (Piper) // 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Reinke) // Because He Loves Me (Fitzpatrick)

Movies We Enjoyed
A United Kingdom (there was one scene I skipped)
Luther (documentary)
Mr. Bernstein
The Pianist

Kids’ Books:
Creature Numbers (Zuckerman)
Up! (Hughes)
Adele & Simon (McClintock)
Frog & Toad
Dodsworth (Eagan)
Rookie Toddler board books
Katie Meets the Impressionists
Green Eggs & Ham
Perro Grande, Perro Pequeno
Are You My Mother
Mama Panya’s Pancakes
My Big Girl Potty (Cole)
The Journey (Sanna) – we’ve read a number about refugees and this one is our favorite.
Charlie Needs a Cloak (DePaola)
A New Coat for Anna
Chicken Sunday
George & Martha
The Quiltmaker’s Gift
Bible Basics by Catechis Books
Biggest Story ABC

Also, I now have a sub-page under “good reads” to have a running list of our favorite children’s books.

Behold Your God

I had heard about John Snyder’s study, “Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically,” off and on over the last few years, and it sounded like something that would be good to do someday. As I struggled through PPD, I kept thinking about the study – I knew that like Elijah, what I needed in the midst of depression was to behold God. But most days I felt powerless to get there myself (theological clarification: coming to God ourselves is impossible without Christ’s atonement and the work of the Holy Spirit. What I mean here is that even as a redeemed child of God the depression created a barrier that I often could not get around to pray or read scripture).

I started the course in February and finished it in June, sometimes pausing to spend longer on a section or do something else for a week or two as various things came up that I had to work through. I really do think having a daily study where someone walked me through passages of scripture and asked questions for me was an important factor in healing PPD, even as I used more physical helps as well. There were truths about God I had doubted and having His character put before me day after day was crucial to rebuilding that trust.

Behold Your God helped me get around that barrier depression had put up, and not only that, by the end of it I was in a healthier place spiritually than I had been for over a year – there was a lot I hadn’t realized before doing the study, and also a lot I hadn’t realized before we slowed down as we got settled into our home here. There was a lot that I had been ignoring in Japan, much of it without knowing I was doing so. That was the short-term effect.

Longer-term, it changed the way I come to scripture. To first ask, “What does this passage tell me of God?” and not even asking how it should apply to me (even in what it says about Him applying to me) until I have seen and worshiped Him. I realized in the midst of postpartum depression how much my love for Him was based on what I felt He was doing for me in that moment instead of in His unchanging character, and thus learning to worship God for who He is outside of what He does in my life was important (not that worshiping Him for what He does for us is wrong! That is all over scripture. But He is so much more than that!).

I waited to write this until I had had some time to see what the longer-term effects of the study would be, and though only time will tell how long-term those will be, that’s some of how the study was beneficial for me. I will probably refer back to it often, and we would love to do it with a group sometime, too.
You can buy the whole DVD set here or do the course online here.

Have you done the Behold Your God study? What were some of the ways it impacted you?

Book Review: Holy Labor

Last summer I wrote a lot about HypnoBirthing and other birth methods and books (you can read that here, here, and here), and while in the end there were useful things gleaned from all the books I’ve read on birth, overall I was left with a sense of having to piece together my own “method” to practice and prepare for a natural, God-centered birth.

But I knew this book, “Holy Labor,” by Aubry G. Smith, was coming out and was so sad it wouldn’t be out until after Ellie was born. My parents gave it to me this year for Mothers’ Day and I devoured it pretty quickly and wanted to review it on my blog because of the way I ended my posts on HypnoBirthing so dissatisfied with birth books.

Holy Labor is a theology of childbirth: what scripture says about it (is there really a curse on women? Does Genesis 3 mean labor has to be painful?), how we should approach it because of who God is, and how it changes who we are.
She talks about relaxation in labor and some about the fear/pain connection.
Each chapter ends with spiritual disciplines and exercises to help apply what was talked about and prepare for labor and facilitate further, deeper worship of God, in and out of childbirth.
There is a lot of focus on natural childbirth, but I felt that she handled it well so that someone who didn’t have or didn’t want a natural birth wouldn’t feel judged (but I don’t have that experience so may not be the best person to speak on that).

While not designed to be a week-by-week labor preparation guide, I do plan on using it in the first part of the third trimester if we have another baby.

What I didn’t like
I didn’t fully agree with all her theology, but overall there wasn’t anything major I disagreed with, only the way she phrased some things or a rare paragraph. The biggest place this was an issue was in her chapter on justice and birth, but in reading the exercises part after the chapter I think it was more of an issue of wording than actual theology.

I wish it had included thoughts on more of pregnancy (morning sickness, for example) and postpartum (PPD), but it is about LABOR. I also wish it had been more, shorter chapters to make it easier to use across a trimester of pregnancy.
Those are the only ways I felt it was lacking anything talked about in Redeeming Childbirth (further comparison in the next section), along with that I really liked the emphasis in Redeeming Childbirth about building a God-centered birth culture and mentoring others in that (implied in Holy Labor, but not explicitly discussed).

What I liked
I feel like overall it contained a lot of the same thoughts as Redeeming Childbirth but in a way that was more concise and theologically grounded, drawing from scripture more than personal experience and encouraging further study and worship, again, from scripture more than personal experience.
Holy Labor grew my understanding of both the physical and spiritual side of childbirth, and I know that if I were pregnant the exercises would have been so helpful to me in dealing with fears, body image, changing seasons, etc. by bringing me to God in prayer and worship, meeting those struggles with His character.

Highly, highly recommended!