On my bookshelf

20131121-112437.jpgAlthough I haven’t posted about books in awhile, I have still been reading a lot … no surprise to those of you who know what a bookworm I am. This “on my bookshelf” is actually from a couple weeks ago – but without further ado, here we go with my review of the above. It’s a good sampling of what I usually am reading – fiction, a faith book, a cultural/counseling study, and some sort of devotional.

Fiction:  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a riveting glimpse into a period of history I don’t usually consider – that of pre-WWII China before the Japanese invasion and Mao’s Communism, following the story of two Chinese sisters who escaped to the US through Angel Island, only then to be under the harsh accusation of being Communist decades later. See’s books are well written, both in terms of literary form and story. Two previous ones I’ve read by her are Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Dreams of Joy (this last one is actually a sequel to Shanghai Girls – I read them out of order!).

Faith: Gospel In Life small group study by Tim Keller is an excellent resource for any community of faith small group to study. The format is great – with a thought-provoking individual study to prepare for weekly group meetings; then discussion questions based around a DVD lecture by Keller; and good suggestions for applications to put into practice what we study. I’ve been challenged to examine how well our small group community actually reflects the biblical shape of a faith community (caring for one another; bearing each other’s burdens; encouraging/exhorting one another; etc.). Another theme that challenges and moves me to action is how living out the gospel leads us to engage our cities in real ways. That we need to be involved in our cities and neighborhoods for the sake of our faith as much as for the sake of the city.

Cultural/counseling: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is one you’ve heard me talk about here before. I just can’t read her enough – after The Gifts of Imperfection, this is a longer more comprehensive look at how the principles she discovered through her shame research are worked out in what she terms as “Wholehearted living.”

Devotional: Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott is a book recommended to me by a favorite older friend at church. It’s as unconventional as she is (love you, Ann), and also refreshingly thought-provoking. Lamott always does this for me – puts spiritual truths in words that I can hear in a new way (too often I am calloused by familiarity with church-y words and Christian culture). And so Lamott has condensed prayer life into three cries of the heart: “help,” which is obvious; “thanks,” which is also self-explanatory; and “wow,” which was the newest piece to me. I close with a few words on “wow” –

When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is ‘Wow,’ that’s a prayer. … What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath.

what keeps me from creativity

In reading through Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, her chapter on creativity was particularly thought-provoking and inspiring. [The mark of a great author is to do both, and Brown does this so well!] I began last week with my thoughts on “why a non-crafty mom needs creativity” and wrote it as “part 1” of my creativity thoughts. Here is part two.

First, my experiments with creativity over the past week:

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I ventured into the mess; bought craft paint for my girls to paint a pumpkin with; and let them go to it. We all had fun, and the mess was less than I thought it would be.

I also bought glue sticks for them. (yes, small step – but really a big leap forward for me) They are the look purple-dry clear type. Which meant my girls used them as paint. And while I sipped my morning coffee on Sunday, I looked up to find purple glue everywhere. On the tile floor, on the refrigerator … you get the picture. I was reminded why I often don’t venture into the arts and crafts realm with twin three-year-olds. The good thing is that they’re old enough now to consider it fun to clean up their mess. Which they did.

And then perhaps a less conventional expression of creativity happened when I stuffed the dirty pots and pans into the kitchen cabinets because I had 12 dinner guests from my neighborhood bunco group arriving in 2 minutes. When I texted my mom this picture, she said – “See, look! You are creative, Heather!”20131030-142809.jpg

But back to my original question – of what keeps me from creativity? Fear of mess is an obvious one, but that really isn’t the main obstacle. Brown speaks about creativity’s opposite as depression. And quite frankly, I think that depression can cause lack of creativity just as much as lack of creativity can cause depression. One is a symptom of the other. The motherhood season between 18-month-old and two-and-a-half year old twin girls was not my favorite. Along with living what felt like a depressed version of myself, there was an accompanying lack of creativity. Survival seemed to be all I could do day-in and day-out, trying to muster up enough energy to make it till naptime was my daily goal. Creativity? Forget it! I couldn’t even “creatively” choose anything besides the same exact lunch every day.

Yet slowly, surely, quietly, step-by-step, God brought me out of that hard season. And as depression dissipated, I noticed the resurgence of creativity. In small ways, like being spontaneous instead of needing to plan every minute of every day, and in returning to life-giving creative pursuits. For me, highest on that list is writing. And so I began to blog regularly, starting with my personal June challenge of daily blogging inspired by Grethen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. As I wrote more, I began to notice and savor life and those I love more. And then I had more to write about, and on and on it goes …

The one thing that still can threaten my creativity is what Brown identifies as the trap of comparison. When we begin comparing to others, we cease creating. I feel either false pride in being “better than” or (way more often) paralyzed by my perception of another’s creativity as much more inspired/better/talented than mine. Take this small example of doing a group craft project at a friend’s house a few weeks ago. We were painting wooden spoons, using painting tape to make stripes/etc. Overall, I had a great time. Making art is fun; getting to chat with other friends while doing so – even better. But then the insidious lie of comparison crept into my head. I looked at the other spoons and concluded that theirs were better – more creative – more beautiful. Mine just seemed so … plain. 

How ironic that is was the day after, in my “post-comparison hangover,” that I first read these words that Brown wrote in reflecting on how creativity slowly dissipated in her home as her parents shifted focus from living to acquiring:

My parents were launched on the accomplishments and acquisitions track, and creativity gave way to that stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison.

I’ll close here for today, as a poignant reminder to us that begs the question: am I focused more on fitting in with others or creating as an outflow of who I am, where I am?

on my August bookshelf

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Three books, all very different from each other. I’ll start with the devotional I’ve been reading for the past several months, Grace through the Ages. Not only is this written by my former counseling supervisor and colleague, Bill Smith, whom I respect and have learned from immensely, but in his typical way, he seamlessly connects Scripture (all of it, Old and New Testament) to my day-to-day heart struggles, doubts, fears, and hopes. Every day that I pick this book up to read a one page devotional thought, I am met with a glimpse into God’s heart for me: his desire to be in relationship with his people and the great lengths to which he goes to bridge the gap of my sin and folly. Here are a few nuggets for you to savor.

On suffering: 

Suffering burns away self-deception by making us aware of what we turn to apart from Jesus to make our lives work.

On communication:

He [God] made you in his image and when you properly fill your role, you will talk to others about how to live in his world, in the same way he’s spoken about it to you.

On community: 

The same grace that embraces me also calls me to share my life with people who are dramatically different from me and to live with them in small groups of people that look remarkably like that first one 2000 years ago.

Second is Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. I’ve mentioned it on here previously, and it’s a dense book that will take some time to peruse. I was drawn to read it because I find myself both longing for quiet in a way I haven’t before (probably something to do with the constant noise involved in staying at home with twin toddlers), and I also find myself drawn to introversion as a way of re-energizing rather than big groups of people. I’m a mix of both, to be sure, but I am increasingly embracing my “inner nerd” whose ideal day would be spent in a quiet coffee shop reading a few really good books, and then writing about it. Thanks for providing me with an audience. 

The final book in my stack is along the lines of funny-parenting-real-memoir, Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. She is telling her story, and telling it in a brave, vulnerable way that invites me to do the same. And in a way that all of us can relate to. She begins by talking about what began this journey for her: opening up about her less-than-ideal past (that included addictions and jail) to a fellow mom while at a playdate on a playground. Now how’s that for inspiration to have different sorts of conversations the next time you gather with a friend? From her intro – an invitation to all of us –

The more I opened my heart to the folks in my circles, the more convinced I became that life is equal parts brutal and beautiful. And/Both. Life is brutiful. Like stars in a dark sky. Sharing life’s brutiful is what makes us feel less alone and afraid. The truth can’t be stuffed down with food or booze or exercise or work or cutting or shopping for long. Hiding from the truth causes its own unique pain, and it’s lonely pain. Life is hard — not because we’re doing it wrong, just because it’s hard. It’s okay to talk, write, paint, or cry about that. It helps.

ordinary happiness, Saint Therese, and faith

In continuing to read through The Happiness Project, I’ve come to the chapter about happiness and faith. I was particularly curious to read Gretchen Rubin’s thoughts on this since she writes from a perspective that’s not necessarily Christian. Imagine my surprise when she begins talking about “imitating a spiritual master,” and then chooses Saint Therese. A lesser known saint who lived a relatively quiet life, dying at age 24 from tuberculosis. How did such a woman become a saint? And then capture Gretchen Rubin’s attention?

It was her ordinary happiness. Meaning that Rubin was impressed that her achievement of sainthood happened “through the perfection of small, ordinary acts.” She quotes Therese’s famous spiritual memoir Story of a Soul as follows:

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by … every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

Rubin says, “Therese’s example shows that ordinary life, too, is full of opportunities for worthy, if inconspicuous virtue.” And the theme of Therese’s life is a happiness motto Rubin’s sought to adopt for herself: 

I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.

If Rubin, who by all accounts is a wonderful woman and writer and person but seems to be without a saving faith in Jesus Christ, can make her life happier by imitating this quiet saint, how much more can we who have THE source of happiness that Therese herself knew? One particularly striking story Rubin shares is of a nun whom Therese disliked and was annoyed by, yet made an especially strong effort to appear happy around. It worked to the point that this nun thought that she was closest to Therese of all the nuns! Little did she know …

I’m not advocating being fake. A “pick yourself up by the bootstraps and paste a happy face on” kind of happiness. But perhaps there is something for us to consider – that we should ask God for the grace to choose happiness, and kindness, and love, even when we don’t feel any of those things. That we could choose to be happy, dwell on what’s positive about our situation, instead of always focusing on the negative. I am so guilty of this as a “natural pessimist” and one who as a counselor by profession has witnessed some very hard realities of life in a fallen world.

Another point Rubin makes is that when “the call” comes – meaning the one that will change our lives forever, because it’s the cancer diagnosis or the bad news or the fill-in-the-blank – we then appreciate what we had. She quotes William Edward Hartpole Lecky:

There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.

And so we are to live as though we’re dying. Because, well, we are. And this doesn’t bring pessimism but a greater appreciation for each day and what’s precious about now. We will not always have today, nor what we take for granted today. 

A moment happened today to bring this all into focus. One of my daughters unexpectedly tumbled out of the back of our SUV onto hard pavement. A friend “happened” to break her fall a bit, but she still got a pretty large bump on her head. It could have been so much worse. And in that instant I forgot about my petty complaints about how whiny she can be or how hard it is to get her to stay in bed. I was simply thankful to wrap my arms around her and give her the comfort she longed for as she repeated over and over again, “Mommy, I love you so much!” in between sobs. That’s a moment that makes me happy, though mixed in with a minor catastrophe. Have you had a moment like this recently? How did it change your perspective – and even your happiness?

The work of having fun

As I have been working my way through The Happiness Project, one chapter (or portion of a chapter) at a time, I’ve arrived at chapter 5: “Be Serious About Play.” What a delicious oxymoron! I was immediately hooked. Gretchen Rubin begins her discussion about the work of having fun with the following definition of play, as supported through research:

an activity that’s very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition.

She adds to this her own caveat for how to personally determine what is fun and what isn’t by saying, “just because something was fun for someone else didn’t mean it was fun for me.” How liberating is that! When was the last time you tried to talk yourself into what sounded like a fun activity and then discovered that it was anything but? I think about the day I spent in the Natural History Museum with my husband and younger brother when he came up to visit us several years ago when we were living in Philly. I thought that on our day trip to New York City that heading to this museum should be very fun. The same way that a few years later on a trip to D.C. with my husband, we planned to visit several Smithsonian museums. Museums are supposed to be enjoyable activities with an educational twist. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy museums. At. All. Just ask my husband and my younger brother who had to endure my obvious boredom about one hour into the Natural History Museum. I eventually found a comfortable bench and waited for them to finish perusing the place. I wasn’t having fun (and forgot about this when planning for the aforementioned D.C. getaway with my husband).

So much of my life has been spent trying to force myself to enjoy activities that I don’t like because I feel like I should. Included in this category for me are:

  • Roller coasters/adventure parks
  • Museums (see above)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Sewing (yep, tried that when I was younger and still am a bit envious of all of you who can do this and then Pinterest your beautiful projects)
  • Knitting (attempted and failed miserably)
  • Crafts with my kids

I’m not saying that there’s not a place for doing an activity you don’t enjoy out of love for the person who invites you to join them in their fun activity. But you should go into it expecting that you’re not doing this for pure enjoyment but rather for pure love. How I could have saved myself some major frustration and disappointment along the way had I known this!

So how do I discover fun that works for me? Gretchen has another suggestion – ask yourself the question, “What did you like to do when you were a child?” And when I think about this, it’s quite similar to the activities I enjoy the most now:

  • Reading fiction
  • Playing with friends
  • Legos (well, truth be told I don’t do this much, except for assembling IKEA furniture which my husband and I affectionately refer to as “adult Legos”)
  • Scrapbooks (my modernized digital equivalent is designing  Shutterfly photo books)
  • Enjoying the outdoors – while sitting down or walking (not hiking – see list above*)
  • Going to the beach

Let me put that all together what should be my best afternoon of enjoyment: Head to the beach with a few friends who will all read books together, and then come home to assemble a desk from IKEA at which I will sit and design a photo book of our fun day. Ha! What would your fun day include?

On my bookshelf

20130610-062659.jpgI am an avid reader. I always have been, and in fact as a child I would often stay up way past bedtime reading by the light of my nightlight or a flashlight under my covers. I was such a rebellious bookworm. (Yes, I agree that’s a bit of an oxymoron.)

Since I’m seeking to write more regular posts, I thought a weekly or monthly “On my bookshelf” would give me something to work with (and something for you to look forward to). You’ll notice that I always have one fiction book, which I usually read just before bedtime and/or at the beach or stolen precious minutes of naptime. Right now I’m reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. It’s a murder mystery, a favorite genre of mine ever since Nancy Drew, and so far so good. A little hard to get into the story, but I love the writing.

Next in the stack is a nonfiction cultural read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve written a little bit about this book already, and you will be hearing more from me on this topic in the future. One quote that resonated with me from Chapter 4 – “Parenthood”:

In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all — yet somehow they do. … the experience of having children gives me tremendous fog happiness. It surrounds me, I see it everywhere, despite the fact that when I zoom in on any particular moment, it can be hard to identify.

And then I like to be reading some sort of Christian book which will help to strengthen my faith and understanding of the Christian life. I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage for, well, several months now. Not because it’s not good but precisely because it is so good that I can only digest small portions at a time. I’ll leave you today with this quote from Chapter 3, “The Essence of Marriage”:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life throws at us.

Lenten fast and reading “7”

cropped-img_0363.jpgThere is a beauty to winter’s barren branches rising against the crisp blue sky. A beauty quite different from that of the branches clothed in spring’s fresh buds and blooms of life or when radiant in fall’s glorious colors. It is not unlike what’s gained from a fast. It is in what’s not there that we can see and appreciate what is, and even anticipate what will be again. Reading the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker has been good to remind me of the beauty of what is not. The beauty of less rather than more, of giving away things rather than gaining more possessions, of turning off media instead of plugging in, of growing in appreciation instead of discontentment, and of making God’s Kingdom priorities bigger than that of my own “American kingdom” of self. I don’t want to make  a new Christian law to follow, which I could so easily try to do – something that focuses on me trying harder and doing more. Yet I see its value in the way that what she does is so counter-cultural that I can’t help but begin thinking more about the eternal treasures we are to be storing up instead of earthly goods to acquire. Now if only that thinking would translate into doing … 

Enter the Lenten fast. The introduction from our church’s Lent devotional guide sets the scene:

Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate Good Friday and Easter,
inviting us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ passion and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

It is traditional to choose something to fast from for 40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday (with Sundays as “feast days”). In combination with some of what I was challenged by in the fasts, I decided to choose a few things nearest and dearest to my heart: (1) Target, naturally (2) non-essential phone apps (3) sweets/desserts and (4) tv for Seth and me

And I am here to tell you that I have kept this fast perfectly and will never be turning back again. Ahem. Not quite. I’ve been surprised by how difficult it has felt at moments, at how naturally I want to distract myself with Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, email; at how much I have longed to just escape into a good tv show at night; at the way I crave something sweet in a hard mom moment; and at how I’ve longed to run to Target with my daughters in tow just to buy something shiny. I think that without even thinking, I was using apps, reaching for sweets, and making a Target list in the first few days of Lent. Yikes! Am I really that addicted? Apparently so.

But there has also been something sweet that has crept in amidst the new “barrenness” of my life in these areas. Less budget drain and more time spent playing with my kids because of no Target; more focus on the present because of no phone apps; more rest and conversation with my husband because of no tv; more reminders to turn to Jesus in prayer instead of reaching for the nearest sweet escape (not to mention, more energy!). Every day has not been like this. I have fought these self-imposed restrictions and wiggled my way out of them occasionally. I have been angry more quickly some days because my false refuges have been taken away. What’s come to the surface of my heart is not always beautiful. But then again, with more to repent of, I am brought back to Jesus more often.

One of the Lenten passages this week was Matthew 6:1-21. I was struck by the phrase, “your Father who sees in secret.” In the context of this passage, it’s talking about doing these things in secret: giving to the needy, fasting, and praying. What do I do in secret, that only my Father sees? And how does what I do in secret reveal where my heart’s true treasure is located? Too often what’s revealed is that I am unloving towards my family, resentful of what I give, that I’m self-indulgent and prayerless. When performance for others is stripped away, what is left? Here is a place of repentance, as I seek the identity of being clothed in the righteousness of the One who perfectly obeyed – even in secret – and where I am reminded that Christ’s life in me – in the very core of who I am when all else is stripped away – is my only hope of glory. But what a very sure and certain hope it is! So fasting leads to repentance which then leads to celebration. And this is the Easter worship of a Life crucified then resurrected and now waiting for me in heaven.

Gift from the sea

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While enjoying a week at the beach of vacation with the Nelsons, I am loving this book that the beach house owners kept on their shelves. An actually decent book alongside the rest of the typical beach paperbacks (brain candy?!), it stood out from the rest. “Gift From The Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I share a favorite quote here:

The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. … Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. … The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. … Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith.

So let me be a good learner these last few days! That I might leave with gifts from the sea, given from the hand of its Maker and mine.

Am I blind to grace?

As I read “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning, I was struck by these quotes today – and how they illustrate the theme of my blog and what I want my life to be about: rediscovering the glory hidden around me, the glory unveiled to those with eyes to see. Like my children! I have much to learn from them already.

We get so preoccupied with ourselves, the words we speak, the plans and projects we conceive, that we become immune to the glory of creation. … Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter…

So join me in looking for glimpses of this glory today. And share your findings in a comment if you can.

Parenting book reviews

As promised awhile ago, here is my review of parenting and pregnancy books I’ve read so far:

PREGNANCY BOOKS

Product Details

“Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide”by Dr. Laura Riley – As she takes you into your pregnancy week-by-week, she has a clear format with interesting and applicable facts for each week. I actually haven’t read any other pregnancy book in detail besides this one. I’ve enjoyed being able to read each week’s information about baby’s growth, my body’s changes, emotional changes, with questions & answers. She includes helpful info for husbands throughout the book as well. 

I did browse a friend’s copy of “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” which looked pretty hilarious – a nice balance to the intensity of some of the “what to expect” books on the market.

INFANT SLEEP/FEEDING BOOKS

With twins, we know that we’ll be diving into the deep end of trying to figure out how to care for TWO infants from day one and so I spent most of my self-educational reading in this category.

“Dr. Turtle’s Babies” by Dr. William John Turtle is an “oldie, but goodie.” My grandmother gave this book to my mom to read when she was pregnant with me – and then she gave it to my brother & sister-in-law, who then passed it along to us. One day when I was reading it while waiting for my OB, she told me that she also read it when she was pregnant. If you can get past the fact that he calls mothers “girls” and refers to the baby as “it,” there is some good basic info about infant care, sleeping, and feeding that still holds true. With a few caveats – review it with your doctor! My doctor said, for instance, to disregard what he said about feeding babies sugar water in between feedings.

“On Becoming Baby-Wise: Giving your Infant the Gift of Night-time Sleep” by Ezzo/Buckman is one that I was admittedly wary of beginning because I had heard it was rather harsh. I was pleasantly surprised. I especially liked that he began by saying that what’s crucial to your baby’s well-being is your healthy marriage – that even babies can pick up on the affection and love between their parents and this is what makes them feel secure. He goes on from there to talk about how to put your baby on a schedule that works for your family. With twins, we really have no other option than to schedule them – and that suits our “type-A” personalities anyway!

Healthy sleep habits, happy child [Book]“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Dr. Marc Weissbluth also talks about the importance of sleep and setting a routine for your baby. I found it helpful the way he discussed how to look for signs of sleepiness and seek to put your child to sleep before she becomes overly tired. Another motto that sums up his philosophy is “sleep begets more sleep” as he discussed the importance of day-time napping for a baby to be able to go to sleep at night. It generally makes sense, and I especially love that he has an edition specifically for twins that came out last year – this was perfect for us.

TWIN BOOKS

Ok – if you’re like me, you probably had no idea that there were so many books on twins out there. All of these were extremely helpful, and I’ll try to categorize these as “best for …” in order to differentiate between them.

When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets or QuadsBest for twin pregnancy, labor & delivery (includes sections on bed rest, a recipe collection at the back of the book, specific weight gain goals, what to expect if your babies spend time in the NICU):“When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads” by Dr. Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein

Best for practical tips and advice for pregnancy through year one of twins “Twinspiration: Real Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year” by Cheryl Lage – by a mother of twins with lots of humor thrown in to make you laugh as you think about how in the world you’ll make it through … !

Juggling Twins Best for practical tips and advice from newborn to toddler phase of twins by a mother of twins who is also quite humorous. My mother-in-law read this book and she said she found it very helpful – that it covers everything and gives specific ideas. “Juggling Twins” by Meghan Regan-Loomis

Product DetailsBest balance of medical advice and practical wisdom for the first 5 years of twins by a mother who’s also a pediatrician. She is straight-forward with helpful advice and not a lot of “fluff,” but her style is readable and practical – like she goes into specifics about how to actually transport twins from your house to the car when they’re still infants. “Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool” by Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais

Product Details

Best for very specific sleeping schedule and feeding advice for the first year of twins with some British English “translation” required – such as deciphering that “dummy” refers to pacifier/etc. It’s a combination book, written primarily by a British nanny who’s an expert on child-rearing with introductions to each chapter by a twin mom: “A Contented House With Twins” by Gina Ford and Alice Beer

Not worth buying or reading: There’s just one in this category that I just didn’t find very helpful – “Twins! Pregnancy, Birth, and the First Year of Life” by Agnew, Klein, and Ganon

PARENTING BOOKS

“A Mother’s Heart: A Look at Values, Vision, and Character for the Christian Mother” by Jean Fleming reminded me of the beautiful and high calling that it is to be a mom. I loved her mix of practical and pastoral teaching on being a mother. She is balanced, biblical, and grace-infused in her approach. I found it very easy to read, and I think it will be a book to return to in years to come. She gives specific ideas and focuses of how to pray for your children, including praying for creativity in connecting with them.

“Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child” by John Rosemond offers some practical wisdom and exposes our culture’s current tendency toward “child-centered” parenting and homes. He gives a good initial corrective to this, but I did not find that he talked enough (or at all) about grace and reaching a child’s heart instead of merely producing good behavior. I did like the section where he discusses seasons of parenting, and this is a good starting point, but for a book claiming to be founded on Biblical wisdom, I didn’t find his approach very Christ-centered.

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three: A Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline” by Ginger Plowman is a book I read during a “Counseling Children” course at Westminster/CCEF. I am sure that I will return to this book as my girls approach their toddler years for her gospel-centered approach in how to highlight the heart of the matter in your child’s misbehavior. She takes the approach and philosophy of Tedd Tripp’s book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and makes it very practical.

“How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family” by Dan Allender is the one I am currently reading. I have enjoyed it immensely, as he turns the focus to what purpose children serve in a parent’s life — that having children is part of God’s journey and story for me as a parent and it will be a large way that God sanctifies me in the midst of the parenting process. His central idea is that we as parents are to reflect God’s mercy and strength to our children by answering the two questions they are asking: “Am I loved?” [YES!!!!] and “Can I get my own way?” [No]

 Here’s a quote as he talks about our dreams for our children – and a fitting end to this blog post:

It is our privilege to dream far bigger dreams than that good things happen and bad things don’t happen to our children. We are to dream and pray and desire and speak to the possibilities that pain and tragedy and pleasure and glory will weave our children into beings who hunger to touch the face of God. … To dream for our children is to lean into the quiet cries of the Holy Spirit that call out the true, God-given name of our child.