March 2021 Book Stack

Hey Friends!

How is it possibly April already? This year seems to be flying by (maybe because time seemed to be crawling this time last year? Who know!). In any case, we just finished our Spring Break and the Heath Fam is ready to be DONE with school! Six more weeks… we can do this!

My book stack for March has a lot of variety. Two books came from my local used bookstore, one I have owned for nearly 30 years, and one I couldn’t wait to order from Amazon! They are all different lengths and genres; two are fiction and two are non-fiction. So this should be fun! 

Which leads to our first book…

That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs

If you listen to Annie’s podcast (also titled That Sounds Fun), you will likely hear her voice in your head as you read this! She has the type of personality that makes you feel like you are friends even though you’ve never met, and that comes through in her writing as well. Each chapter felt like I was sitting across the table from her as she told me her stories!

The main thread she weaves through each chapter is the concept of “missing Eden;” of being created for a perfect world in which we have complete joy and constant communion with our Father, yet living in an imperfect, fallen world that includes pain and sadness. The distance between the two worlds creates a tension in us; a longing for what we were made for, a desire for something our souls miss… Eden. Thus, her stories include things that make her sad and things that bring her joy, and in many cases, which do both. But always with a glimpse of Eden thrown in!

This book is much like having a conversation with a friend (especially an enneagram 7, LOL!)— it’s a little unorganized and has a bunch of random comments thrown in to make you laugh— but that’s all part of what makes it so fun! I especially recommend this book to my single friends, as Annie is so vulnerable in sharing her struggles and successes in that part of her journey. I am confident she will be a great encouragement to you!

How To Listen to God by Charles Stanley

This book is a classic. I am always surprised to find so many of my Christian friends have never read it! It was published in 1985, but I first read in the mid 90’s, shortly after I graduated from college. 

Everyone wants to hear from God, right? Yet, so many of us don’t want to take the time to listen, and even if we do, we may not know how to listen. That’s where this book comes in! The chapters are well organized, and the content is easy to understand. Dr. Stanley shares why God speaks to us, how to discern His voice, and how to prepare our hearts and minds to hear Him (among other things).

This is a relatively short, simple to understand book on an extremely important subject. It is especially beneficial for new believers or anyone who is serious about following Jesus. Charles Stanley has remained a voice of Biblical truth throughout the decades, and I am grateful for how his words have shaped my faith over the years!

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

I grabbed this book from the used bookstore mostly based on the cover. The summary declared it a “near-future dystpia” and compared it to The Giver. While I was not nearly as drawn into the storyline or characters as I was with The Giver, I still think it would be enjoyable for middle grade readers!

After the death of his grandfather, Devin makes his way alone into the city looking for someone to help him run their farm. Several days into his journey, while navigating the dangerous chaos of the city streets, he teams up with a homeless girl, Kit, who helps him find food and seek shelter during a torrential rainstorm. From there, he befriends an older boy who offers to take him to a special home for abandoned children where there is everything a child could dream of— food, safety, playgrounds, swimming pools, and more. Devin agrees to go only if Kit can go with him, and their adventure continues.

It turns out there is something very sinister going on at the home. The children are being used somehow to bring joy to “the visitors,” but no one wants to talk about it. Before long, Devin uncovers the secret and hatches a plan to free them all.

The plot was fairly predictable, though a middle grade reader might still find it suspenseful. Also, we learn early on (a little awkwardly, in my opinion) that Devin has a special ability which connects all his senses (for instance, he feels colors). This becomes a contributing factor towards the end of the book, but it felt forced, as though the author was trying to create something unique instead of just having him be really smart. I’m afraid it might be a little confusing to kids who are reading it; they may waste time trying to figure out why those sentences are in there instead of just enjoying the book. By the end, though, it all makes sense. 

Beyond that, it was an enjoyable story with several really kind, likeable characters (and a sideline redemption story). It has the potential for creating some good conversation on ethical dilemmas associated with aging. I don’t think Eli (7th grade) would like this story too much, but I think Noah (5th grade) would probably enjoy it!

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

As I mentioned, my latest trip to our local used book store was very productive; this is the other one I grabbed. It is historical fiction, this time set in Russia in the 1700’s, which is a time period I know almost nothing about. The hook is that it is told from the viewpoint of a spy in the palace, which was so intriguing! I really enjoyed it!

Our narrator, Barbara/Varvara, begins the story as a young teenage girl, brought to the palace upon the death of her parents as a favor to her father. Throughout the pages, she weaves a beautiful yet tragic tale of a queen who stole the throne and lives in constant fear of losing it, her foolish (and a bit crazy) nephew who is heir to the throne, his kind and naïve (or so we think) wife, and others who come in and out of life at the palace. It is a tale of love, hate, passion, betrayal, friendship, deception, and above all, lust for power. It was not a quick read, but it was quite enjoyable, and there were several unexpected twists along the way, which I love.

If you are a fan of historical fiction and are interested in a glimpse of the behind the scenes workings of Russian palace life, this one is worth reading!

********************

I told you there was a lot of variety! And I am already a couple books into my April stack, so get ready for more great suggestions! If you missed them, you should check out my January and February Book Stack posts for more ideas on what to read. 

As always, I love to hear your recommendations. What books are you loving these days? What’s on your nightstand?

Change How You Parent: Fear or Faith?

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Do you ever find yourself wondering what in the world to do with your child? 

After all, you’ve done your best to raise them right. You prayed for them, taught them manners, and helped them memorize Bible verses. You limited their electronic time and said no when they begged to watch non-age-appropriate TV shows (darn you, Hannah Montana!).

But still, their hearts are captivated by the world… 

And nothing you do can change that.

They want to wear the same clothes their friends are wearing and listen to the same music. They want to play the same video games, watch the same You-tubers, and follow the same “influencers.” Like every adolescent since the beginning of time, they want to be liked and accepted by their peers, even if that means doing things they know are wrong.

If you’re fortunate, they at least struggle with the conflict between these desires and their values. That means deep down they at least want to do the right thing… they want to choose Jesus. But sometimes that struggle can lead to anxiety or loneliness or friend drama. 

What’s a parent to do?

It is really hard to watch our kids walking that line between right and wrong, tip-toeing as close as they can to the dark without actually falling in. Jeff and I have encountered these types of struggles on multiple occasions with our children, so I feel your pain.

Jeff is better about seeing the big picture, but if I’m honest with you, I pretty much tend to freak out. I’m afraid they are going to ruin their life. I’m afraid they are going to walk away from Jesus. I’m afraid they are going to become everything I have invested so much time and energy guarding against!

I’m just plain afraid. And I begin to parent out of fear.

PARENTING OUT OF FEAR

Sure, I call it all kinds of things: 

  • parenting with purpose
  • being intentional
  • maybe even being a little “controlling.” 

But the truth is, it’s fear

Yet, the Bible declares, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  I memorized this verse a long time ago, but God whispered it to my heart a few years ago, and it completely changed the way I parent. Here’s what happened.

image from womanofgod.com

Our daughter, Abby, has always been into the latest trends. When she was two, she would go into the indoor playground at Chick-fil-a and come out a few minutes later modeling other children’s shoes. She would stop complete strangers on the street to comment on their cute outfits. (If you know me, you are asking where in the world she inherited that from… definitely not her momma!) In Kindergarten, her free-writing journal was filled with lyrics from Hannah Montana songs, which she wasn’t even allowed to watch or listen to yet!

Yes, our sweet girl’s heart was drawn by the world from a very early age. 

As she entered the middle school years, the pressure to fit in and be accepted by the “cool kids” increased. She hated being one of the few girls without a phone, and though she still obeyed me, she thought my “modesty” rules were old-fashioned and ridiculous. We clashed often during those days; Abby, with her teenage hormones raging, and me, with my authority being challenged and my fear increasing at every turn. 

My prayer journal is filled with desperate pleas for God to protect her and change her and not let her go astray. I constantly cried to Jeff about the path she was on and where it would lead. I was so afraid (and a little bit dramatic).

Now, understand, our girl was hardly a rebel! But after so many years in youth ministry, I was extra sensitive to the beginning stages of a wandering heart, and while she wasn’t even out of the living room, my mind saw her riding off into the sunset. It sounds ridiculous even as I type it, but it’s true. 

Do you do that, too? Imagine the worst-case scenario right out of the gate?

Anyway, one night as I was praying for Abby, crying out to Him again in all my fear, the Lord spoke to me very clearly. No, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but the impression on my heart was so strong, it could only be the Holy Spirit. This is what He said:

“Yes, Abby’s heart is drawn by the world, but whose isn’t? You are focusing on the wrong thing. She has had multiple opportunities to join the cool kids, but when it came down to it, she wasn’t willing to compromise her convictions. She may stumble a little along the way, but she almost always makes the right choice! So quit focusing on what you’re afraid of and focus on ME. The whole world is already fighting against her… she needs YOU to fight for her. Are you going to keep parenting out of FEAR or are you going to start parenting out of FAITH?”

I knew immediately what I had to do. Viewing the situation from God’s perspective completely transformed my mind and changed the way I parent (or at least try to).

So when you find yourself in a situation where you are tempted to parent out of fear, let me encourage you to parent out of faith instead. 

PARENTING OUT OF FAITH

How do we do that? Here are three things that help me:

1. Change how we PRAY for them

Instead of praying out of fear, I pray in faith. I claim God’s promises for her. I remind myself of His plan for her life, of His faithfulness through the generations. I ask Him to give her courage, faith, and boldness. I pray for her to be a Light in a dark generation, that He might use her in mighty ways! I ask Him to surround her with godly adults who love Him and will help shape her into the woman He created her to be—and He has! 

Do I still bring Him my fears when they surface? Absolutely! I need to, for He is the only One who can give me peace. But I’ve learned His power is only released in our lives through prayers of faith, not fear. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Do I still bring Him my fears when they surface? Absolutely! I need to, for He is the only One who can give me peace. But I’ve learned His power is only released in our lives through prayers of faith, not fear.

KELLY CALLEN HEATH

2. Change how we THINK about them

Our thoughts determine our actions. What I’ve learned in parenting, though, is how much my thoughts actually determine my children’s actions! By parenting out of fear, I may actually be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in my child. When we reflect our fears on them, they may internalize them and think that is what we expect of them. Therefore, changing the way we think can actually have a direct effect on how they act!

For me, this meant stopping myself from worrying about where Abby was headed, and instead reminding myself of what God has planned for her life. It meant focusing on the times she got it right more than on the times she didn’t, on her victories more than her failures. I continually thanked God for the times she did the hard thing, reminding myself of His strength and goodness in her life. 

And I began to speak these things out loud to her, which is the next tip.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

3. Change how we SPEAK to them

I cannot emphasize enough the difference it made when I began speaking to Abby in faith instead of out of fear! As I pointed out her courage to hold to her convictions, she began to make those decisions more confidently. I touted character traits I wasn’t yet seeing in her as though she was already displaying them, and before long, she was! 

If you want your daughter to show courage, compassion, and kindness, tell her you love those things about her, and point out ways God can use those traits in her life. If you want your son to have integrity, character, and resourcefulness, make a point of recognizing those qualities in him and mentioning them every chance you get. 

Changing how I spoke to Abby enabled God to transform how she sees herself.  She no longer sees herself through my fear, but as God sees her—as His “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for (her) to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) 

WE GET TO DECIDE…

I am pretty certain that had I continued parenting out of fear, Abby would have continued resisting me and would probably not be the awesome Jesus-girl she is today. That doesn’t mean it would have been my fault—she is still free to make her own choices—but I definitely was not helping the situation. 

And even parenting in faith doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome; there are no magic formulas for producing perfect kids! In fact, even while writing this blog post, the enemy is whispering that just because it helped one kid doesn’t mean it will help the others. 

But I no longer listen to the voice of fear…

Friend, we can parent out of fear of who our children might become, or we can change our perspective and parent in faith of who God desires them to be. 

Both will shape them…

But we get to decide which one!

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, CHECK OUT THESE OTHER BLOG POSTS ON THE RELATED TOPIC OF CHANGE:

Season Change

Make the Change: How to Start a Business from Home

Easy Sleep Routine Changes to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep

So Much Change