Tuesday, April 20, 2021

What's Your Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Our fun-loving almost 17-mo-old toddler has started a new thing. When she doesn’t get her way or has a different idea about something, she sits down or lays down and throws a bit of a fit. It is both cute (she’s got that pouty lip, tilted head, and fake tears)—and not, so we’ve recently begun trying to teach her “that’s not how Brandenburgs act.”

Her reaction is so innate, knee-jerk almost, and yet, I’m amazed at how quickly she can change her attitude with a little correction (or our ignoring the little fit). It’s like she jumps up, realizes this is not the way to be, and moves on, happy to play with another toy.

I’ve been thinking about my own knee-jerk reactions I pick up without thinking. I told you that my word this year is Freedom, and as I have sought the Lord to understand what areas in my life I’m experiencing bondage, he has been faithful to show me place after place in my heart that needs to be free.

When I am in bondage to fear, I am not free to live the full and rich life that Christ intended.

Sometimes fear can have other words to describe it like worry or anxiety, and I’m finding that these are my knee-jerk reactions. I pick up worry before I even know it, and I’m sitting in a fit of anxiety before I’ve thought through why I would be anxious when the King of heaven and earth fights for me, provides for me, loves me.

Through my little toddler, the Lord has been showing me, that’s not how the daughter of the King acts. Not when she knows who she is in Christ. Not when she knows who her Heavenly Father is.

I have been meditating on two verses lately: One is from Proverbs 31—and all of us know this woman as the epitome of women, right? It says in verse 25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

The other verse is Psalm 112:6-7: “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

So I’ve been thinking about both of these—what would it look like to laugh without fear of the future? What does it mean to never be moved? To never be afraid of bad news? That’s a deep, deep level of trust, right?

What I was thinking about specifically for this post today is the fear of lack or insufficiency. This can be about financial provision, but I was thinking about it more practically for my everyday tasks.

I’m at the end of the semester, which means I’ve got final papers and projects and grades pouring in. And my stress level begins to rise higher and higher.

When I feel myself start to get overwhelmed with work, when I start giving in to that anxiety, I have noticed that really that overwhelmed feeling or stressed out feeling is just a fear of lack.

Lack of time. Lack of mental capacity. Lack of patience. Lack of motivation.

And anytime I’m operating out of a mentality of lack, I’m operating out of fear because I’m making an agreement in my mind that God is not sufficient. That he doesn’t own time. That he doesn’t give me grace and strength and mental capacity. That patience and self-control aren’t fruits of His spirit.

But He is sufficient. And He does own time. And He does give me grace and strength and His own mind, even. Through His Holy Spirit, He has given me love and peace and patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and yes, even self-control.

So as we enter the busy months of April and May, if you’re struggling with the overwhelm of it all, like me, I hope we can practice pausing for a second, recognizing fear for what it is, and choosing instead to walk freely in His truth and His power and His life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

An Abbreviated List From My TBR Pile

Do you have a TBR pile? You know, the books 'to-be-read'? These days, my list seems to be growing faster than I'm reading, and it's been a while since I've shared some of the fiction books I'm looking forward to reading when I finish the semester. 

Here are a few at the top of my TBR Pile from books out in the last year(ish) that I want to catch up on soon. I've provided the back-cover copy from the publisher. 


1. The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner. 

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin's silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin's odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn't right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity.

2. Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there's only one match she's committed to now--the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency's requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

3. Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom and A December Bride (now beloved Hallmark Original movies) comes the third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series!

When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.

A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

4. The Restoration of Celia Fairchild by Marie Bostwick 

Evvie Drake Starts Over meets The Friday Night Knitting Club in this wise and witty novel about a fired advice columnist who discovers lost and found family members in Charleston, by the New York Times bestselling author of The Second Sister.

Celia Fairchild, known as advice columnist ‘Dear Calpurnia’, has insight into everybody’s problems – except her own. Still bruised by the end of a marriage she thought was her last chance to create a family, Celia receives an unexpected answer to a “Dear Birthmother” letter. Celia throws herself into proving she’s a perfect adoptive mother material – with a stable home and income – only to lose her job. Her one option: sell the Charleston house left to her by her recently departed, estranged Aunt Calpurnia. 

Arriving in Charleston, Celia learns that Calpurnia had become a hoarder, the house is a wreck, and selling it will require a drastic, rapid makeover. The task of renovation seems overwhelming and risky. But with the help of new neighbors, old friends, and an unlikely sisterhood of strong, creative women who need her as much as she needs them, Celia knits together the truth about her estranged family — and about herself.

The Restoration of Celia Fairchild is an unforgettable novel of secrets revealed, laughter released, creativity rediscovered, and waves of wisdom by a writer Robyn Carr calls "my go-to author for feel-good novels.”

5. Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti 

While her humanitarian husband Liam has been digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs has been struggling. She knows she's supposed to feel a warm glow that her husband is nine time zones away, caring for widows and orphans. But the reality is that she is exhausted, working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage their three detention-prone kids, failing at her to-repair list, and fading like a garment left too long in the sun.

Then Liam's three-year absence turns into something more, changing everything and plunging her into a sunless grief. As Mara struggles to find her footing, she discovers that even when hope is tenuous, faith is fragile, and the future is unknown, we can be sure we are not forgotten . . . or unloved.

With emotionally evocative prose that tackles tough topics with tenderness and hope, award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti invites you on a journey of the heart you won't soon forget.


What about you, friends? What are you reading right now? What's on your TBR pile?