Favorite Books of 2013


Here is a list of my favorite books I read in 2013. Enjoy!


Practical Theology for Women. A short, quick read, but chock full of wisdom. Don’t let the word “theology” throw you off. This book is intensely practical!







Women Living Well. Practical, Biblical, and fun to read, this book is for every woman who wants encouragement to pursue a life well lived in all areas of life!








Crazy Busy. A short and insightful look at how life around us has gotten so busy, what we can do about it, and how to make sure we are busy with the right things.







Half Broke Horses. I really enjoyed Jeanette Walls’ first book, The Glass Castle, and this book was no different. It is a true to life novel about her grandmother, and she was quite a woman!

*There are things in this book that I would not deem “clean” and so I offer a reader’s warning.







The Prodigal God. Profound, life-changing, thought-provoking. I am a fan of Tim Keller’s books because they are simple, meaty, and Gospel-centered.







Hands down my favorite fiction read this year. The Secret Keeper was a beautiful tale of intrigue, mystery, beauty and family. Set in England, it was just the thing for this Anglo-phile. *Again, this one has a few things in it that were not clean, so read at your own risk.*





This book is the reason that I didn’t get much other fiction reading done this year. The Count of Monte Cristo was a fascinating story {nothing like the movie} and I loved every moment of reading it. It took a long time, but it was worth it!








Glimpses of Grace. A must read for every mom looking to treasure Christ in the midst of the mundane!







Galatians for You is a commentary that reads like a devotional. I really enjoyed this meaty, yet simple, book.











Quick read, but oh so good. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is a convicting look at self-centeredness and how the Cross can set us free.







I actually don’t understand the title of this book at all, but that doesn’t stop me from loving Fit to Burst. I like the simplicity and no-nonsense style that Rachel uses in this book. She writes from the motherhood trenches, and it is good stuff.





If you want more book talk,

check out the book thread on the Facebook page

read my favorite books from last year

and here is a complete list of what I read this year.

What were your favorite books this year? Tell me in the comments!

For the Weekend

Feast on the Gospel

{This quote is from the previous post, A Pinterest Perfect House}

Here are this week’s list of beautiful and inspiring bookmarks from around the web:

-Light a Fire This Winter? -A touching and beautiful post on the beauty and heartache of Advent from Sara.

-My friend Mandy has some exciting news! Head over to read about her sweet story, Forever. She and I will be switching places soon…she is coming back to the States and I am heading to Uganda.

-Looking for a good book? I asked readers to share their favorite book from this year on the Facebook page, and there were a lot of responses! Here is the discussion. 

Courtney Joseph guest posts at Time Warp Wife, with a timely message for all of us, Who are You Behind Closed Doors?

Looking for a great Advent study for yourself? Good Morning Girls has a wonderful resource for you! It’s not too late to join in!

My husband continues to serve in the Philippines. I think he is wonderful and amazing, but I might be a little biased. He wrote a sweet post, Thanksgiving in the Philippines. I hope you will take a moment to read it and then pray for the all the hurting Filipino people. Aren’t these children beautiful?

What has inspired or touched you around the web this week? Tell me in the comments!

A Pinterest Perfect House

At times, I wish I had a Pinterest perfect house. (There is nothing wrong if your pictures ARE Pinterest worthy. Don’t go feeling all guilty on me if you are a great decorator!) As I think and pray through my selfish pride and desires to look “put together” it leads me to question: What exactly do I want to build? 

I had these friends growing up. Their house was always full of fun, laughter, and silliness. We skated around the cement basement listening to Uncle Charlie on the radio on Saturday mornings. We made a slip and slide from black plastic, built forts behind the goat shed, and ate spaghetti straight off the table. When I came home from a weekend at their home, my little eight year old self exclaimed to my mom, “They have the most beautiful home in the world!” And I meant it. What I didn’t realize at the time is their house wasn’t really beautiful by appearances. Simple, a bit run down from the wear and tear of six kids, and never really all that clean.

What was it about their home that made it so, well, homey?

I met Jesus everywhere in that home. Quite literally, it was where I gave my life to the Lord, but I encountered Him in so many other ways. I found Jesus at the breakfast table as the mom scooped baked oatmeal and talked about heaven as though she had been there. I saw Jesus as the parents passed out homemade Valentine cards. I heard Jesus as the mom sat us kids down and lovingly got to the bottom of a childhood squabble. I played with Jesus when the parents jumped on the zip line and laughed long and loud. Laughter. Space and time to be together.  A home where Christ lives and breathes and plays and rests.  A Pinterest Perfect House The truth is, though, I am far from that ideal. Tension often takes over my body and stress leaks sin out of my mouth. How do we transform our houses into homes? Homes where Christ is met at every turn? Here are some thoughts:

-Get our gaze set on the gospel. 

“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivation, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world.” -Tim Keller, The Prodigal God

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

-Feast on the Freedom of the Gospel!

“Jesus’s salvation is a feast, and therefore when we believe in and rest in His work for us, through the Holy Spirit, He becomes real to our hearts. His love is like honey, or like wine. Rather than only believing that He is loving, we can come to sense the reality, the beauty, and the power of His love. His love can become more real to you than the love of anyone else.” Tim Keller

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 Hallelujah!

-Deny the Desires of the Flesh.

Pursuing holiness as we go about our day requires denying our sinful flesh. “What then is holiness? Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and living out of the gospel on our souls.” John Owen “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Galatians 5:13

-Rest in the Reality of His Ongoing Work.

When failure happens, and it will, have the humility to ask for forgiveness. Then rest in the knowledge that we are being conformed to the image of His Son. And press on!

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

I want to offer my family a home, not just a house.

When my family comes to the table, I want to feed them well, but more than that I want to give them the feast of the Gospel and let them be filled forever.

I don’t want a house that is Pinterest perfect, I want a home that is Christ perfected.

Simple Advent

Simple Advent

My ideas for Advent may not be the most stellar, cute, or original, but they are Advent traditions that work well for our family. I have found that simple is what gets done around here, so that is what we stick with!

 I really like the simplicity and Christ-centeredness of our current traditions. And that is my goal….to make Christmas all about Christ!

The Advent Book. I love this book. Each day has a beautiful door for kids to open, revealing more of the story of Christ’s birth (word for word from the Bible). Since every day you begin at the beginning and continue until you open the new door, by Christmas Day the kids have all of Luke 2 memorized!

A Simple Advent Book and Candleholder

We are using this book from Elyse Fitzpatrick this year. I love it because it is simple, Gospel-centered, and has readings for adults and kids, along with some super easy activity ideas. You can find it here. In this book, they recommended this Irish Advent Candleholder, so we will be using it as well.41h7ZLRHN1L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

Advent Calendar. A sweet friend made one of these for us.  A simple felt calendar with beautiful clay ornaments representing the daily Scripture, one for each day leading up to Christmas. Simple and special. We brought it in our suitcase from Indonesia to ensure we would have it this year.


Shepherd’s Pouches. An idea I found in the book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper. Each child gets a pouch in which to collect money to give to Jesus on Christmas Day. We are going to use our money to buy relief packets for those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan. It will be interesting to see how my kids come up with ways to make money.

Birthday Party. On Christmas Day, we will celebrate Jesus’ birth by having cake, giving Him our Shepherd’s Pouches, and singing carols to Him!

I am looking forward to a Christmas season spent with my wonderful family and focusing on Him!

Yes, that is our tree in the picture above. It is from last year, when we lived in Indonesia. And, yes, it’s fake.{grin}

What are your favorite traditions? I would love to hear!

Battle Discontent with Thankfulness

{A follow up post to yesterday’s post, this one is also from the archives, but I felt it was timely for this season.}

I wish I had an easy-peasy answer.  But the truth is that I haven’t arrived.  It is still a struggle for me to choose to be content, to choose to “bloom” where I am planted.

The one thing that I have learned is that it is extremely difficult to be discontent when I am actively thankful.

“Today, when stress mounts, I pray to dismount it with gratitude.  I can only feel one feeling at a time, and I choose to give thanks at all times. Fight feeling with feeling!”- Ann Voskamp

Let’s take my couches for example (the couch is outside for this picture, but it’s normally in my living room…so just imagine it inside of a living room, m-kay?!):

Yes, I think that the couches are ugly. They are getting eaten by termites and I have to clean up mounds of termite shavings every day. They are outside couches. They don’t belong in a living room. I could go on….

BUT, when I look at this picture of my beautiful family, I am struck by just HOW much I have to be thankful for and suddenly the couches seem so insignificant. (By the way, that is Abi. She lives with us and helps me with the household tasks. She is a part of our family and we love her dearly.)

How can I dare to be discontent with something so trite, when I have been given SO much?

And, what’s more, how can I be discontent when people living right around me would be more than thankful for things like running water, a roof that doesn’t leak, and 3 meals in their day?  That really puts it into perspective for me. Ouch.

In the book, Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow, she speaks of a missionary woman she knew.  This lady lived in Africa, in a mud hut.  And Linda said she was one of the most content people she had ever met.  She asked the missionary woman for her secret to contentment and this was her response:

1. Never allow yourself to complain about anything, not even the weather.

2. Never picture yourself in a different circumstance or someplace else.

3. Never compare your lot with the lot of another.

4. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.

5. Never dwell on tomorrow.  Remember it is God’s, and not ours.

And, to this I would add,

6. Choose to be thankful for exactly where you are and exactly what you have.

Thankfulness. Let’s do it!

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Photo credit: Tripp Flythe

Contentment Makes a Home Beautiful

{This is a slightly edited version of a post written in 2011 featured at Women Living Well. Enjoy!}

As a child, I dreamed of a little farmhouse with a cute picket fence beckoning you to come to the porch and sit a while.

Fast forward to the life of a missionary in a tropical city.  My dream house never included gecko poop on the walls or pythons in the backyard. I never dreamed of the mold in the corner of every cabinet, ants marching in at every stray crumb left on the counter, or my couches that are meant to be “outside” couches but, alas, are in my living room.

And I struggled (still do at times). And, I would sigh, and dream of a walk down Target aisles.  A trip to the craft store.  And wish that my life looked different.

Over several months God began teaching me contentment.  He brought this verse to me, the words of Paul,

 “… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11

Contentment Makes a Home Beautiful | Grace Full Mama

He showed me I can to be thankful for the gifts that I already have, showed me that the beauty of my home comes from who fills it, not what things fill it.  Thankfulness grows when I shift my focus to all the gifts right around me.  Embracing the beauty that has been given to me, the beauty all around me, and using what I have to create more beauty in my home.

And what comes of choosing contentment? Peace.  Love.  Joy.

And it frees me up to be more creative.  It has forced me to think outside the box, look for different ways to create.  No, I am no decorator, but it is a space that is beautiful for my precious family and for those who visit, and that is what is important, isn’t it?!

 A while ago, a friend paid me a huge compliment.  She said I have a talent for decorating with the senses…. peaceful music, good smelling candles, and soft lighting.  I was thrilled, because that is exactly what I want for my home.  And they are 3 three things that are simple AND cheap!

 Do I still struggle with contentment?  Sure I do, every time I look at my couches!  But, as I choose to embrace the things that the Lord has given me, I cannot help but be grateful; and that translates into a welcoming, peaceful home for all that enter.

 Now, go and make your home beautiful by choosing contentment and watch the peace, love, and joy grow in your home! It’s the best way to decorate for the holidays!

Weekend Wanderings

Leaf Close Up

Weekends are for a bit of wandering, for quiet encouragement, and for reflection. Here are some things I am reflecting on this week:

Frantic: Rachel Jankovic shares her heart and wisdom regarding those years where moms feel frantic.

So continue to rely on Him. Live in joy. Believe His mercy. Know that your trials, lived in obedience, are yielding more profit and fruit in your life than anything else could, at least in part because investments from you are being taken against your will, and probably against your better judgment.”

GraceLaced: One of my favorite people, Ruth, re-launched her blog this week along with a beautiful art shop. Head over, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Lately, I have been loving Jen Thorn’s blog. She offers such wisdom, simplicity, and encouragement. A recent post, How to Start the Day, was a great encouragement to me.

This sweet video is sure to make you smile and cry.

My husband Dave left this week to go and serve in the Philippines. He will be there from between 3-8 weeks. We are missing him, but words cannot fully express how proud I am on him, a man who chooses servanthood over comfort. I hope to have some updates and photos to share in the near future, but in the meantime, here is his short post right before he left. Please pray for him and the hurting in the Philippines.

 Typhoon Haiyan Philippines

And lastly, if you haven’t had a chance, I invite you to head over and become a part of the Facebook community. I would love to connect with you there.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Calm in the Chaos

Calm in the Chaos

As a mama to 5, 4 of them rambunctious boys, calm in the chaos always seemed like a funny joke. I assumed a calm home meant we listened to instrumental music all the time, everyone spoke in soothing, quiet voices, and nary an unkind word was spoken. How disappointed I was to realize my reality would never match up with my ideal.  I was wishing for the equivalent of an English tea room, when reality was more along the lines of a county fair. My aha moment came when I realized that calm has more to do with where my focus lies than what my circumstances look like.

Peace in the home begins and ends in my own heart.

As Ann Voskamp says, “Peace is a Person, not a place.” How right she is.  When I am looking to the perfect set of circumstances to bring peace, my peace will quickly be stolen the moment a fight breaks out, the washing machine overflows {again}, or I am interrupted while on the phone.

I have made a checklist of sorts for myself so I can cultivate that calm in my heart, which then translates into calm in my home. For me, it really comes down to these five things:

1. Am I taking time to refresh my soul personally in the Word?

If my day begins with time in the Word and in His Presence, filling up my soul and my mind with Him and His peace, that is the kind of peace that cannot quickly be taken away. Focusing on the peace that he gives in the midst of the mayhem is the only thing that will bring about a true peace in our hearts.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

2. Am I cultivating peace in my heart by carving out some time to rest and refresh myself each day?

Enjoying a cup of tea, a chapter of a delicious book, or a quiet nap may sound frivolous, but it goes a long way to cultivating peace in my heart.

3. Am I choosing to use words that convey and communicate peace to those around me? 

Allowing God’s Word to dwell in my heart so that when I am bumped what comes out is sweet.

The most important single aid to my ability to use my tongue for the glory of Jesus is allowing the Word of God to dwell in me so richly that I cannot speak with any other accent.” –Sinclair Ferguson, The Power of Words and the Glory of God

A cup full of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”- Amy Carmichael

“She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

4. Am I choosing to love those around me and be patient with them, regardless of how I feel?

Sometimes, it is just simply choosing to do the right thing, even though my flesh wants to disrupt the peace.

I will resolve to love others with the sacrificial love with which I have been loved by God.  I will seek to trust Him to show His love through me by practicing being a servant and lover of all those He has placed in my arena of life.” –Sally Clarkson

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7

5. When I fail, am I resting in Christ’s work on the Cross, rejoicing in the grace that He gives, and moving on?

I have been with the Lord Jesus, may the poor soul say. I have left my sins, my burdens with him; and He has given me His righteousness, wherewith I am going with boldness to God.” -John Owen

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Although life may never be quiet, I can choose to have a calm home by having a calm heart.

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introducing johari creations {and a giveaway!}

Allow me to introduce a beautiful business that gives me goosebumps. Johari Creations was created by my friend, Erika, and her friend Lindsy. Erika has always been one of the coolest women I know. She lives her life sold out for the sake of the gospel. This business is no exception.

These women have an eye for the beautiful, a love for the lost, and a desire to come alongside the struggling and at-risk. I love their heart, their mission, and I LOVE their products!

Here is their mission in their own words:

 ”Johari Creations is a marketplace for handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries around the world. We seek to come alongside our artisan partners with sustainable incomes, holistic development and shared work and responsibility. We believe amazing beauty can come from poverty and while the artisans handcraft stunning products, it is the artisans themselves we celebrate as “johari” – the Swahili word for jewel.
When I saw that Erika was launching this new business, I wanted to get involved. Erika and Lindsy gifted me with this beautiful necklace, a stunning piece made in Ethiopia and Uganda. I wanted to wear something from the land that is to become my home, and wearing a piece of Uganda around my neck brings tears to my eyes. {I wasn’t able to post a picture of me with the necklace because my husband’s computer broke…long story.}
This is what it is all about. Supporting and empowering our sisters around the world. Johari represents many countries around the world with many different products, but I have to say, my favorites are the ones from Uganda. Here is just one of the beautiful Ugandan artisans:

And now, I want you to join me in getting the word out about Johari Creations! You can learn more about them by following them at these places: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Also, maybe do some of your Christmas shopping at their website? Here is a coupon code for 20% off  your purchase: gracefullmama20

And now, you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate to Johari Creations! There are so many fun things at their website, so head on over to see what you would choose if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Job, Mama

I watched my kids weave through the pumpkins, enjoying the sun on my face and the brisk autumn air. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a mama, belly ready to burst, buying pumpkins with her little one. He was near 3 years old and a cute little button of energy. I observed as she maneuvered around pumpkins with her pumpkin-sized belly, hand holding her sweet, lively boy.

He asked for something, she told him no, and two seconds later he was on the ground flailing in the dirt, letting her know *exactly* what he thought.

To read the rest of the story, and have your heart encouraged today, join me at Sally Clarkson’s place, I Take Joy.


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