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Books I’ve Been Reading (and one for you)

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately. And it looks to be a particularly book-filled year. So I’ve decided to not only share some of my favorite reads with you . . . but actually send some of my favorite reads to you!

Every morning, I start my day with devotions and reading time. This habit, which I’ve practiced since I was a young girl, helps my mind and soul wake up while my body attempts to catch up. By keeping this date with myself — and reading extra on sick days and weekends — I can power through a few books a month.

Spoiler alert — I’m heavy into nonfiction. I know that fiction is good for me, but I just gravitate toward answers to burning questions. If you have a good fiction recommendation, please leave the title in the comments!

And as for how you can have one of these books for your own collection, just keep reading to the end.

Some Books that Made Me Think

. . . and highlight and copy in my journal and pray . . .

Treasures in Dark Places: One Woman, a Supernatural God and a Mission to the Toughest Part of India by Leanna Cinquanta

51btna2o3pl-_sx322_bo1204203200_This book came as a surprise “thank you” gift from the publisher after I was granted the particular honor of interviewing the author for Ministry Today Magazine. Dr. Cinquanta is a modern-day “missionary hero” in India (the kind we used to listen to flip-a-card stories about in vacation Bible school) who is leading a native revival that just might end child trafficking in that country. Her autobiography is fascinating and challenging.

“This is the definition of poverty, I thought.

Then I knew I was wrong. This was not the definition of poverty. Poverty is a middle-class family that has no joy. Poverty is a wealthy family enslaved to fear and strife. According to the economy of the world, Saroy and Rita were poor. They lacked education. They lacked financial opportunity. They lacked what the developed world considers necessities of life.

But absence of material possessions hadn’t dampened Saroj and Rita’s joy. They were no longer slaves. They had escaped the chains under which their kinsmen labored. They had found Jesus, and with Him they had found peace and purpose. Now they walked with the authority of the King of whose kingdom they had become citizens. They were wealthy with a wealth no money could buy. The strangest notion swept over me. I stood in the presence of true royalty.”

— Treasures in Dark Placesp. 24

Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World by Shelly Miller

41imttlfsal-_sx322_bo1204203200_This is the book I’ve needed my entire adult life. And I would have killed — killed — for it a decade ago when my family was literally falling apart under the pressure of ministry.  If you have ever groaned “There is no such thing as a day of rest!” or “Dog-gone it, I hate Sundays!” or even “I’ll rest when I die,” then this is the book for you.

Shelly gets it as only a pastor’s wife, author, and busy mom can.  She takes off the burden of Sabbath-keeping and replaces it with the blessing of resting.

“If we are created with intention by God for a specific purpose, and the way of discovering that purpose is through relationship with him, then the way of discovering what we are missing in life is through abiding with him on sabbath. A lack of intentionality when it comes to how we rest leads to a depleted life defined by what the world dictates. When we are overtied and dreading the alarm clock, we miss out on the hints toward happiness God is leaving for us. “Wasting time” is actually the most productive action you may take this week.”

— Rhythms of Rest, p 44

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

41h3k7jitxl-_sx332_bo1204203200_There are two kinds of Christian readers: those who like Ann’s writing and those who don’t. I do, particularly on paper (I find her harder to read on a blog post). And with this book, Ann touches — no, hammers — on an aspect of Christianity that I am personally wrestling with right now: How do you reconcile your faith with a life shattered beyond repair?

Like I do with most Christian living best-sellers, I grabbed this from the library intending to skim it and return it. But after copying huge chunks of it into my journal, I purchased the hardcover to read again, highlight, and annotate.

“You are whatever you love. You are, at your very essence, not wwhat you think, but what you love. Open up God’s love letter to us — He say we’re all lovers compelled by our loves. We are all compelled not by what we believe is right, but by what we love the most. You are not driven by duties, you are not driven by doctrines; you are driven by what you ultimately desire — and maybe you don’t actually really love whatever you think you love?”

The Broken Way, p 117

Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Thomas Moore

5108sqfd6il-_sx373_bo1204203200_This is an unusual recommendation from slightly outside my theological norm. Thomas Moore is Catholic and nearly New Age in his philosophy, but he tackles a fascinating question in this heavy read. What if the worst valleys of our lives, our times of deepest pain and turmoil, were not something to “get through as fast as possible” but instead a treasured teaching moment? What if we stopped praying for the trial to end and instead embraced it as a treasured part of life?

He likens our trials — physical illness, mental anguish, spiritual trials — to a dark night in which no discernable light or relief can be found. Like Jonah, stuck in the belly of a fish, unable to save himself or see any hope for his predicament. Yet that stinking suffering the dark was exactly what the prophet, and what we, need to carry us forward on our journey.

“The dark night saves you from being stuck in your small life. It makes you a hero. It grows you into your fate and into being a responsive member of your community. In your mother’s womb you were becoming a person. In your womb-like dark night you are becoming a soul.”

Dark Nights of the Soul, p 13

Bright Days, Dark Nights: with Charles Spurgeon in Triumph Over Emotional Pain by Elizabeth Ruth Skoglund

51a30hn3p7l-_sx312_bo1204203200_I wish I could remember who recommended this book to me, because it is a treasure! I never knew Spurgeon had so much to say about self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other emotional trials. Spurgeon battled these just as much (if not more) than any of us, and he speaks across the century with compassion and hope. As an experienced counselor, Skoglund brings forward the biblical applications Spurgeon makes to very physical distress we all encounter.

“By all the casting down of his servants God is glorified, for they are led to magnify him when again he sts them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields him prsie. They speak all the more sweetly of his faighfulness, and are the more firmly established in his love . . .  The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble.” “Soul trouble” is a term for depression, downness, spiritual emptiness, discouragement such as experienced by many great epople of the Bible, which often appears in older writings but still well defines universally what we all experience from time to time. Says Spurgeon of such feelings: “Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary . . . experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness . . . Even if the enemys foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints.”

Bright Days, Dark Nights, p 67

Of course, I highly recommend you check out Homeschool Made Easy and Rocking Ordinary if you haven’t already. 🙂

There are a few great reads for you to check out. Granted, this batch was pretty heavy stuff. I’m working on some poetry, a parenting book, and maybe a novel next. Be sure to recommend a good read to me in the comments!

Want me to send you one of these?

I’ll be mailing a copy of one of these books to a reader of my Genuine Homeschool Mom Newsletter next week. If you want to get in on the action, be sure to subscribe.


Read any good books lately?

Rediscovering the Most Important Subjects

When I first started homeschooling, mumble-mumble years ago, I went all-out on all the subjects. I was one of those homeschoolers who purchased the mega-ultimate-deluxe package of curriculum, covering every single subject in depth with extra workbooks and posters and teaching aids. For preschool. After the mega-ultimate-deluxe bill for that order, we had to eat ramen noodles for several weeks, but we had flannelgraphs, so that was all that mattered. Right?

I grew up and gradually learned how to do without and pare down the excess. By the time I was ready to add younger siblings to the homeschool group, I was prioritizing our subjects as well as our expenditures. Our homeschool elementary studies no longer majored on laboratory sciences, extensive book reports, research projects, and flannelgraph presentations. We were honed in on reading, writing, and arithmetic with laser focus.

But something was missing. Cutting the fat out of my homeschool budget and daily schedule helped save (some of) my sanity and reignite my children’s love for learning (or at least of finishing really fast so they could run outside barefoot). We had what to do next down pat, so they could memorize answers and fill in blanks with happy mastery. But soon I realized the foundation was missing: the why behind the lessons.

The goal of the Garfias homeschool was never build a smarter student or even crank out perfect mini me’s. Instead, David and I were convicted that by intentionally teaching our children day in and day out, we could pass along our most important values, the beliefs and worldviews that God had impressed upon us: love God, love others, work hard for His glory. This has become our Homeschool Why: beginning each child’s lifelong journey of loving and learning.

Yes, math and writing and reading are important; you can’t convince me otherwise. But it gradually dawned on me that something vital trumped all of those, that other lessons drove the other academics and shaped every lesson. And then I found the source: God’s record of His dealings with mankind. That’s when Bible and history moved from secondary to primary importance in our daily studies.

We all agree that biblical training is very important for our children. We know they need to understand Bible doctrine, to apply Scripture to their daily lives, even to memorize key passages that will guide their lives. So we purposefully practice family devotions, pray together, even require biblical studies of our students. That is a cornerstone in biblical home education.

Read the rest of my Homeschool Enrichment Magazine article here.

Recovering from Abuse . . . at Home and at Church

My friend Mary DeMuth has taught me 95% of what I know about writing and publishing and surviving writing and publishing. God graciously brought us together on one bad day and turned it into a beautiful friendship. And there were chips and salsa involved.

Mary invited me to join her on the ReStory podcast. And though we couldn’t record it at our favorite chips-and-salsa hangout, we do give you a glimpse of what kind of conversations we share together.

But this was a hard, hard conversation. Because I’m letting you eavesdrop today on painful parts of my past:

  • how I came to realize I was raised abused
  • how I came to redefine my relationship with God after legalism
  • how my husband provided a critical ministry of healing in my life
  • how I grew to love and forgive those who hurt me most

I hope you’ll listen. And then I hope you’ll share some of your story with me. Send me an email or leave me a comment below if I can pray with you as you navigate your own journey of healing.

And if you’d like to read more about how God can use all of our lives — the mundane parts andthe painful parts — check out my book Rocking Ordinary: Holding It Together with Extraordinary Grace. Or even work through it with a group of friends as a small group study.

Being Real . . . with Kristi Clover

Sometimes you meet facebook friends and become . . . fast friends. Like, the kind if you bumped into them in real life, you’d not only recognize them, but you’d just pick up your last conversation naturally.

Kristi Clover is that friend to me.

IMG_6211.jpgSo when she asked me if I’d like to get real on her “Simply Joyful Podcast” show, I jumped at the chance. An hour of fun with a friend? Who doesn’t need that!

We talked about what God is doing in our lives — and in yours — right now. We talked about why our culture is sapping our joy, and how we can reclaim it today!

IMG_6210.jpgAnd we laughed. A LOT.

Please come join our conversation, and just subscribe to her podcast while you’re at it!


Mom Guilt vs Life Manifesto: Which Wins?

How often do you wrestle with Mommy Guilt? A friend of mine asked that on facebook recently, and the question made me gasp. Because for one, she’s a new mom and she has literally dozens of years of Mommy Guilt ahead of her, poor thing. And because for another, I’ve been mired in it myself quite thickly for the past several months. Me who literally wrote the book on Rocking Ordinary.

Do you suffer from Mommy Guilt? I see those hands, those wiped tears, those groans. Of course, you do. We all do regularly (daily?). We brought it home from the hospital, packed in between the formula samples and newborn-sized diapers. One box of ready-to-reproduce-rapidly Mommy Guilt, with a side of stress eating.

God didn’t give us that package. It comes from someone else.

God gave us tremendous influence, untold impact when He ordained we would rear the next generation. There’s seriously no greater power than molding and shaping little people into adulthood. This sacred task is so powerful that it draws us into spiritual warfare on a regular basis.

Hense, the Mommy Guilt burden we lug around with us on a regular basis.

fight Mommy Guilt with your own Life Manifesto

My friend Mary knows that. As a mentor for “re-story’d” women and a trainer of wordsmiths, she’s constantly encouraging others to boldly live their unique mission. During the week-long writer’s intensive I attended, she pushed us to overcome our personal fears and doubts to boldly pursue God’s best in our writing ministries.

To leave the burden of guilt and fear and inadequacy behind and pursue God instead.

So she encouraged us all to take this exercise seriously. We were to set aside time to pray over our personal life manifesto, write it down, and live it out.define YOUR success . . . and defeat Mommy Guilt

A Mommy Manifesto

As I worked through my own, I was struck by how unique and different every woman’s manifesto should be — a reflection of the unique talents and 0pportunities and ministries we each represent. That excites me.

When I finished my manifesto, I was shocked at how it described me as a person more than me as a writer or me as a mom. It encompassed so much of my heart that it includes all the ways the Lord is working in me right now.

And really surprising, it mentions “rest” prominently before I realized that is the focus of my year.

Wanna’ see it? Here’s a picture of mine. I have it hanging over my desk right now. And yours will be much different — truly exciting!


One year ago, I wrote Rocking Ordinary because I believe — I know — that each one of you has extraordinary influence every single day. That’s the opposite of Mommy Guilt. It’s your Mommy Manifesto.

Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes (or like me, a few days) to work through these brainstorming exercises, discuss it with your spouse or friend, and pray over the potential you have right now.

Then write your own Mommy Manifesto. You’ll be amazed at how God is using you every ordinary day.

Be sure to share your manifesto with me! I’d love to see it!