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Life Is Too Short to Clean My House . . . Or Is It?

Life Is Too Short to Clean My House . . . Or Is It?

Some men don’t care if their home is clean or messy. Not my hubby. He grew up with a mom who could challenge anyone to the Heavyweight Cleaning Champion of the World title. Trevor is used to a spotless home (and I really do mean spotless). Mess stresses him out. But his high expectations for a clean house stress me out. Sounds like a killer combination, huh? Yes, I’ve shot lots of heated words his way over this volatile subject. 

The Clean Freak I Married

You know from my first book how for thirty plus years I ached for a pair of strong arms to hold me close. In God’s extravagant kindness, He granted that gift. However, in all those years of pining, I never gave a thought to what might accompany such a gift. 

Turns out, marriage involves more than being adored by a man. With a husband come kids, and that husband and those kids must live in a house, and that house must be cleaned, and those hubby and those kids must be fed and clothed with freshly laundered clothes . . . again and again and again. 

I was not prepared for that kind of service. In one childish-sounding journal entry I spewed, 

“Cleaning is stupid. As soon as you finish, it’s messy again. It’s futile . . . It’s not creative . . . I hate it.”

Truth be told, I thought myself above such dull tasks as dusting and mopping and window washing. After serving in women’s ministry for well over a decade, these sorts of tasks felt like the demotion of the century. 

My Cleaning Conundrum

Now, lest you think him a chauvinist pig, let me clear the record. Trevor does pitch in and help me clean. If it weren’t for him, our fridge, oven, and floors would never get a deep cleaning. But we’ve worked out a deal of sorts. 

See, he’s handy, and I’m not. We have been—and still are—in the middle of a home renovation. So anytime there is something I can do, I try to do it myself rather than asking him for help, in order to free him up for the tasks that only he can accomplish. 

In Search of Answers on Why a Clean Home Matters

There was simply no way around it. I needed to clean, and I didn’t want to hate every minute of it for the rest of my life. I desperately needed some big questions answered. Is there any redeeming value to cleaning? In light of eternity, why does cleaning matter?

By the grace of God, I finally stumbled across the answer in Courtney Reissig’s book, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God.  

First, she showed me how housework is connected to the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving neighbor. My closest neighbors are my husband and kids, and work in the house is for them. This was an “a-ha!” for me:  

“Laundry is for people to wear. Food is for people to be nourished. Clean floors are for people to crawl around on. Dishes are for people to eat off. The people and the physical work of the home are not in competition. They are two sides of the same coin. . . . The physical work of the home exists for the physical people in the home.” 

I was wrecked (in the best kind of way). 

Another paradigm shift I experienced from reading her book is that work is not about my personal fulfillment; it is for the good of my neighbor. How have I missed that for all these years?! I wondered. Courtney quoted Martin Luther more than once in this regard: 

“If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work.” 

Ouch. 

Keep the Whole Law with a Clean Home

Ever since I read these truths, things have been changing in my house and my heart. As long as I keep the big picture in view, I don’t resent the poop stains I have to magically remove from my son’s shorts. I don’t mutter about the smooshed grapes I have to clean off the floor. I don’t cry over the onions I have to chop for supper (well, actually I do, but for a different reason!). 

Life is too short not to love my closest neighbors with a clean house, clean clothes, and food on the table. Do I do it perfectly? Not even close. But I keep working hard at it, because in this small, ordinary way, I can actually fulfill the whole law (Galatians 5:14). 

Thanks to Crossway’s generosity, I’m giving away five copies of Courtney’s book, Glory in the Ordinary. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from reading it, enter here.

Potty Training Or Bust

Potty Training Or Bust

You guys, we survived potty training! The first day was exhilarating. (And no, I never imagined using those two words in the same sentence!)

Potty Training, Day One

Around lunch time, Iren sat down on his potty chair and laughed with delight as he saw pee coming out. “Do some more!” “Do some more!” he squealed. And he did. He’d sit back down, let a few drops out, laugh, and go dump it in the big toilet. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat. 

That first day felt like my first major “mom win.” I needed that. In one sense, I had nothing to do with the day’s success. But in another sense, I did. I researched, prepared, and coached Iren along. At the end of the day, I wrote in my journal, 

“God has equipped me to do my job as a mom well. I long to embrace it and one day soon say without hesitation, ‘Yes, I love being a Mom. Yes, I am content with the lot God has given me.’”

Potty Training, Day Two

The second day was exhausting, just as author Jamie Glowacki warned it would be. 

Iren resisted potty training, and I found myself resorting to bribing him with a pretzel or a piece of Trader Joe’s Pickle Popcorn, because that seemed the only way Iren would agree to go. 

I was much more uptight than I was Monday, and as the day went on I remembered just how important it is not to prompt him continually, and to give him space to have accidents. I wrote in my journal, 

I hope this isn’t telling of future parenting; I need to be okay with him making mistakes. Only God is perfect. 

Potty Training, Day Three

On day three, new help arrived. (Did I mention that I recruited back-up?) The first two days, an unemployed friend joined me to watch Hudson while I trained Iren. For days three and four, my mother-in-law joined me. I wrote in my journal that morning, 

“I see how every day there’s something new to be anxious about. Rather, to trust God for! Today’s area for trust is that Patti will cooperate with our potty training method. Please help us work well as a team today, Father.” 

The day felt like an emotional roller coaster ride, it was all so fast-paced. The highlight of the day was when Iren pooped in his potty as I was reading him a book. We praised him up and down. 

At the end of the day, I recorded, 

“My fear was unsubstantiated: Patti was calm and cool and played according to my potty training rules. She also brought us breakfast and lunch. Amazing. . . . I could never have done this without help. Thank You for sending Patti, God, who also did my laundry and more. Please help me love and bless my future daughters-in-law, should I have them, half as much as she blesses me and our family.” 

Potty Training, Day Four

By day four, I felt confident enough to leave the house for a small test outing. I brought Iren to the library for the first time ever. He had a blast. He asked me to help him get a “ball” (the library had planets hanging from the ceiling). We colored, he made some new friends in the play area, I checked out some books on going to the potty for him, and he went potty on their big toilet. 

A Potty Training Promise I Couldn’t Pass Up On

I knew the real work of potty training was done in just three days. That was the “carrot” that had me drooling when I first heard about the book, Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right

My friend, Caitlin, told me about this method where you could train your kid in just a couple days. That sounded too good to miss out on. So I got the book. (I only discovered recently that it has 1,166 Amazon reviews, so I’m not the only one who has found this author’s advice to be spot on!) 

Psyched Out by Potty Training

At first, what I read psyched me out:

  1. I was supposed to keep my eyes on my two-year-old non-stop for the entire process?! I’m more of a hands-off mom, plus I have a five-month-old, so that just didn’t sound doable. 
  2. I also read that Iren’s success would depend upon me not being stressed out. Ha! Anxiety has been my middle name for years now. So I put it off for a few more weeks. I think I’d rather have changed two kids’ diapers for years than potty train!

But after Iren got blisters a second time from sitting in poo overnight, I knew it was time. Iren was ready; out of love, I needed to do what was best for my boy. The author also explained that it gets harder–not easier, as many believe–the older kids get. So after blocking off a week on my calendar two times, and bailing twice, I finally “set my face like a flint.” No turning back. July 8-13 we would do this. 

And we did! I never could have done it successfully without Jamie’s book. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. If not for you, then for a young mom. The idea of potty training initially made me want to hide in a corner, but this book gave me the confidence I needed to empower my boy to learn a life-skill that he will use for the rest of his life. Thanks, Jamie! 

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life

I can’t stop talking about it everywhere I go. Tim Challies’ book, Do More Better has revolutionized my life.

It’s a slim little book, which is probably why it’s the first book on productivity I’ve actually read cover to cover. Not only that, it’s such a practical book that I’ve been able to implement most of what I’ve read along the way! And oh, how drastically I needed someone to come alongside me and help me figure out how to change . . .

For years, I left untold emails unanswered. I have also been guilty of failing to return voicemail messages and asking for grace when returning a purchase a few days after the thirty- or sixty- or ninety-day return policy had ended. Piles around the house have remain untouched; great ideas of doing good for others have remained just that . . . ideas.

I have worked frantically, moving from one incomplete project to the next, attempting to keep my world from crashing down around me. As a result, I have not loved people well, I have not enjoyed life, and I have been a slave to work without ever feeling like I was getting anywhere.

This book has and is changing all that, though. When I read the true measure of productivity, I was stunned at its simplicity. I wrote in the margin, Could it really be this simple, God?

What Productivity Really Is

Productivity is not about crossing every task off our to-do list. It is about organizing our lives so that “you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.” Matthew 5:16 summarizes this well:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Tim Challies writes, “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.”

He then pointed out the “productivity thieves”: laziness and busyness. If you’re like me, you’ve come to normalize and even spiritualize busyness. But Challies puts an end to that with this enlightening paragraph:

Busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. Busyness . . . probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering.

Ouch! But it got worse. He went on to diagnose my condition perfectly. I have been “Busylazy”: I put tasks off until I absolutely can’t avoid them any longer, and then I work like crazy to meet the deadline.

Getting Practical

With that foundation, Tim led me through some super practical exercises:

In chapter 3, he showed me how to define my areas of responsibility and then fill in the roles, tasks, or projects that fall under each.

In chapter 4 he encouraged me to define my mission. In his words:

You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.

In chapter 5 he taught me a basic organization tool: “A home for everything, and like goes with like,” and he recommended a task management tool, a scheduling tool, and an information tool. Because . . .

Appointments always need to go where appointments go, information always needs to go where information goes, and tasks always need to go where tasks go.

In chapters 6–8 he honed in on each of these areas:

  • collect your tasks
  • plan your calendar
  • gather your information.

In chapter 9 he encouraged me to “live the system.” He writes:

Your day needs to have two phases: planning and execution. . . . While planning does not need to take much time, it is very important, and when done right, will dramatically increase what you are able to accomplish throughout the rest of the day.

And then in the final chapter he emphasized the importance of maintaining the system consistently. “Nothing in this world coasts toward order,” he writes. “You need to free yourself from thinking that organizing your life is a one-shot deal.”

Ever since, I’ve scheduled a “daily review” first thing each morning (Tim outlines how to do this in chapter 9), and I’m starting up weekly reviews each Friday as he recommends.

He closed the book with two bonus sections that were perfect for me. The first, “tame your email,” taught me to start at the top of my inbox and take action on each email before moving on to the next:

  • trash it
  • archive it
  • reply to it
  • or move it to my reply folder.

And then his final bonus section included twenty tips to increase my productivity. A few I especially appreciated:

  • Stop multitasking. Whenever possible choose a task, take it to completion, and then move on to the next one.
  • Move around. Sometimes a change of scenery is as good as time off.
  • Learn to delegate. What you do poorly someone else may be able to do with excellence.
  • Don’t send unnecessary email. Send sparingly, and you will receive sparingly.

It’s For Us All

With all this talk of email, you may think this book is just for someone with an 8:30–5 desk job, but it’s not. I believe this book will be revolutionary for the student, the housewife, the women’s ministry leader . . . for you.

That’s why I’m so grateful Tim has agreed to give away three copies. If you think you, too, could use some help thinking about productivity biblically and practically, log on to the giveaway widget over at ReviveOurHearts.com for a chance to win one of three copies of Do More Better.

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com

Freebie Friday: Women of the Word

Freebie Friday: Women of the Word

“How do you move a mountain?” the Chinese proverb asks. “One spoonful of dirt at a time.” Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is a book about moving mountains—mountains of biblical ignorance.

You might not think you have a mountain of biblical ignorance to move. When Jen was a teen, she didn’t think she had a mountainous problem either. After all, she was a regular church attender, had a “quiet time,” memorized Bible verses, read devotional books, and attended Bible studies.

But when she was asked to lead a Bible study as a senior in college, Jen suddenly realized she had a problem: a problem of biblical ignorance. She writes,

I carried a secret not uncommon to people with my background: I didn’t know my Bible. Sure, I knew parts of it—I remembered stories from vacation Bible school and I could quote verses from all over the New Testament and Psalms—but I didn’t know how the parts that I knew fit with each other, much less how they fit with the parts I didn’t know yet.

So what did she do? She took the “spoon” someone handed her and began to dig and move that mountain “one spoonful at a time.” Listen to her tenacity:

I intend to go to my grave with dirt beneath my nails and a spoon clutched in my fist. I am determined that no mountain of biblical ignorance will keep me from seeing him [God] as clearly as my seventy or eighty years on this earth will allow.

Did you catch that? Her goal is not to master this Book so she can feel good about all she knows. Her goal is to see God, to know God, to enjoy God. In her words,

Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims.

As her subtitle indicates, this book is about learning how to study the Bible with both our hearts and our minds. Because, as Jen writes,

If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about Him. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.

If you’d like Jen to hand you a spoon so you, too, can start digging, sign in to this giveaway widget, and then leave a comment here. Then we’ll randomly select one of you to win a copy of Women of the Word.

Among other things, you’ll learn some unhelpful habits of spending time in the Word like:

  • The Xanax approach
  • The Pinball approach
  • The Magic 8 Ball Approach
  • The Personal Shopper Approach
  • The Telephone Game Approach

Then you’ll learn how to study the Bible with:

  • Purpose
  • Perspective
  • Patience
  • Process, and
  • Prayer.

Let’s move some mountains, girls!

Freebie Friday: Women of the Word was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Freebie Friday! The Gospel for Muslims

Freebie Friday! The Gospel for Muslims

Yesterday I shared three takeaways from the book The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s a thin book (yay for books that don’t overwhelm!) with two sections. The first section covers the basics of the gospel and how Muslims’ beliefs compare, and the second is filled with practical tips for how to share the gospel with Muslims (chapter titles like “Be Filled with the Spirit,” “Trust the Bible,” “Be Hospitable,” and more).

I didn’t realize until I picked up the book that Thabiti converted to Christianity as a sophomore in college. Get a copy for yourself to learn why he became convinced that Islam couldn’t be true and how God finally drew him to Himself. It’s intriguing!

Thanks to one of Thabiti’s practical suggestions, I’m going to be baking all week. I invited the woman in the hijab from across the street over for tea, and she said yes! Thabiti shares that only women have the opportunity to reach Muslim women for Christ (they can’t interact with men), and he suggests spoiling them like crazy when they come for tea. So I’m planning to do just that.

Log on to the giveaway widget for a chance to win a copy of The Gospel for Muslims.

 

3 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

3 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

I have a bad habit of collecting good books on my shelves, in my attic . . . all around me, really—without ever reading lots of them. I’m always prepared, though, as you never know when one might come in handy.

The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile is one of those books. It has always intrigued me (and not looked too thick and daunting!), but it took a move to a new city for me to find the motivation to pull it from its cardboard box and prioritize it above other books.

When I moved into our new home, I was thrilled to learn a Muslim woman lives directly across from us on one side . . . and another Muslim family lives directly across from us on the other side. (This is pretty exciting for a girl who grew up surrounded by cornfields!)

So I started digging into Thabiti’s book in earnest, especially because I’ve been praying for an opportunity to connect with the woman in the hijab across the street and that God’s light would penetrate her darkness.

You may not be surrounded by Muslim neighbors, but maybe you go to school with a Muslim or work with one—or will one day. So I want to share three takeaways I’ve gotten from this book so far that I think will help you, too:

1. It’s okay to feel afraid to share the gospel with Muslims.

Even Thabiti, who had experience doing so, shares of a time he was scared to death heading into another public debate with a Muslim. Here’s the thing: We don’t have to conjure boldness up from deep within us. Boldness comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. “In the book of Acts,” Thabiti shares, “the activity most frequently associated with the Spirit’s filling is speaking with boldness.” Here are just a couple examples:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Don’t keep silent when you are afraid. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill you and give you the boldness you don’t have in order to be a witness for Him.

2. You have everything you need to share the gospel with Muslims.

You are equipped, even if you don’t feel like you are. The same message that saved you—the gospel—is the message that can profoundly transform your Muslim neighbors and friends. Seriously. Thabiti got me with this zinger on page thirteen: “In my experience, Christians know the gospel. They simply lack confidence in its power.” Ouch.

Share the gospel with Muslims. You don’t have to share it perfectly, without stumbling. You’re not responsible for whether they believe it; it’s simply your job to share with them the good news of Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection on their behalf.

3. Don’t try to minimize truths about God that you know your Muslim neighbor or friend won’t like.

For example, Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. The chief confession of Islam is, “There is only one God, and Muhammad is his messenger,” so they have a problem with one God in three persons. But rather than seeking to downplay this truth, Thabiti encourages us to “go there.” Why?

For one reason, we don’t get to create a God we understand. God says His “name” (singular) is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Also, Thabiti explains, “We must cling to the Trinity because apart from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is no possibility of eternal salvation. . . . The Father chose us (Eph. 1:4–6), the Son offered the only sacrifice without blemish that is able to purify us and satisfy the Father (Eph. 1:7), and the Spirit seals us and produces in us new birth” (Eph. 1:14).

Share who God is without feeling the need to apologize or “cover” for Him. God is not an idea; He is a Person—be true to who He is and what He shares to be true.

I’d love to hear. Do you know any Muslims?

Come back tomorrow to hear a bit more about The Gospel for Muslims and for a chance to win a copy!

3 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Muslims was originally featured on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Christian Grey: Why Women Everywhere Want This Man

Christian Grey: Why Women Everywhere Want This Man

Today, a blockbuster romanticizing BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) will hit the big screens near you. In case you’re not familiar with these terms, a sadist receives sexual gratification by dishing out pain; a masochist receives sexual gratification by receiving pain.

A Strong Woman’s Dilemma

At first glance, it appears downright puzzling that women would consider this to be enjoyable entertainment . . . and flock to it in droves. Dr. Juli Slattery asks,

In a culture that constantly celebrates women’s independence and freedom, do you find it strange that a book about bondage is spreading like wildfire? All of a sudden, words like “submission,” “master,” and “obedience” are not only acceptable but sexy.

In a conversation about Fifty Shades on The View, Barbara Walters suggested that the reason women love this book so much is because, “when you go home, you want the guy to be in charge.”

Really?!

Well, yes. Women want strong, confident men . . . and we want to be in control. But unfortunately, through insisting on control, we’ve contributed to the very thing we despise: a culture of increasingly weak men.

Christian Grey to the Rescue

Enter counterfeit solution Christian Grey and the dark world of BDSM. Dannah Gresh and Dr. Slattery write,

Although Fifty Shades is fiction, we assure you that the world of BDSM is not. Since the book’s release there has been a dramatic increase in the sales of bondage gear. What was once viewed as a strange, aberrant practice is becoming increasingly mainstream for married couples and for those looking for an exciting affair.

But, they warn,

Solving the “weak man” problem with BDSM is about as logical as curing obesity by promoting anorexia. Both are dangerous distortions of appetite. The true answer is for us to grasp what health looks like.

So what is healthy in the bedroom?

Great Sex Is Not Grey

First, a couple of basic reminders about sex. Because, while E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, would have you believe that sex is grey, God is not grey on this topic. He’s black and white, so that you might catch a glimpse of His unrivaled beauty:

  1. Great sex was God’s idea (Gen. 1:18–25)! If that blows your mind, that’s because, as Dr. Slattery says, “Sex has been dragged through the mud so thoroughly that most people can’t even comprehend that it is intended to be something holy.” Oh, and “holy” does not equal “boring!” God designed loving, passionate sex to be enjoyed in the safe context of a covenant commitment between one man and one woman.
  2. Great sex is not ultimately about us; it’s about God. God designed marriage and sex to tell the story of His loving sacrificial leadership toward His Bride, the Church, and of the Church’s joyful submission to Him (Eph. 5). Again, I appreciate Dr. Slattery’s reminder:

    Christ taught and modeled that authoritative leadership is for the purpose of loving sacrifice, not domination, control, abuse, or humiliation.

    Submission is all about power—not weakness. . . . God’s design for women to submit is not to take away her power but to channel it in a way that builds a courageous lover and leader in her husband. God’s plan works!

Christ Jesus to the Rescue

So what if you don’t have a strong man to love and serve and lead you?

Actually, you do.

Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, left His powerful position and riches in Paradise to stoop low to serve you. He became a man so He could receive the righteous blows of God’s justice as the willing Substitute for your sin.

Christ Jesus is the strong man your heart desires. Christian Grey is a cheap substitute for the strong, loving leader you were designed for.

Christ Jesus became a man so He could bleed, so that His blood might wash your dirty heart and body white as snow. He experienced physical and emotional pain unlike any you will ever know—so that you, through His wounds, might be healed.

He did all this to restore your broken relationship with God, so that you might glorify and enjoy Him forever, “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6).

Christ Jesus is the strong man your heart desires. Christian Grey is a cheap substitute for the strong, loving leader you were designed for.

Calling Out the Hibernating Strong Man in Your Husband

Until you are with Him in person, God has given you the means to fulfill your sexual desires, married woman. Not through dark, harmful, twisted sexuality, but in the God-blessed, sanctified context of biblical marriage.

Some of you are experiencing this joyful gift right now. Others of you wonder if your husband even has a sex drive.

I’ll share a secret with you that I learned from reading Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart. Great sex will not begin in the bedroom. Here are a few excerpts that speak to this:

Becoming a great lover requires you to exercise the muscles of temporarily suspending what you want in order to understand and bring joy to your husband. . . .

Sex in marriage will always take on the form of the relationship, even for couples that try to use it to cover up other problems or to think of it as a separate issue. Many couples come to counseling complaining of problems sexually. Almost invariably, their sexual dynamics are a perfect illustration of what is happening throughout their entire relationship. . . .

If God created and defines sex as a “deep knowing” (“yada”), we can reason that the ultimate sexual satisfaction will be found when we are truly known by one another. If you want a satisfying sex life—to truly experience yada—friendship with your husband is the pathway to achieve it. When the deep knowing is given priority in our love lives, the physical aspect of sex just works better. . . .

Regardless of whether your sex life is sizzling or hibernating, my challenge to you is this: How can you begin to call out the strong leader in your husband?

If you have no idea where to start, may I encourage you sign up for the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge? Even if you’ve taken it before, would you consider taking it again?

Christian Grey: Why Women Everywhere Want This Man” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.