Pregnancy and Childbirth Books on My Bookshelf

I’m pregnant with baby #7. And I am working on teaching free childbirth classes in my community. So I had every single childbirth book I own scattered across my dining room table. I often have people ask for recommendations, so I figured I’d share that particular “bookshelf” and tell you my thoughts on each, in case you were interested. 


*In no particular order. Post contains affiliate links.*

1. Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman’s Soul

By Aubrey Smith

A really encouraging and insightful look into the theology that goes along with pregnancy and childbirth. Very eye opening and brings even more meaning into this part of your life as you better understand how pregnancy and birth reflect our God.  I very, very highly recommend this book. 

2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin

Full of birth stories and real practical advice for natural childbirth. Helps you more fully see the role women play in bringing forth life as well as gives you the practical tips and tricks of the birthing trade. Kind of a substitute for that passed down from woman to woman information that we have lost in our modern culture. Most of the birth stories are very “hippie”. And some of it definitely has a new age vibe to it.  
3. The Birth Book

By William Sears, M.D. And Martha Sears, R.N.

Very informative book on birth. A little dated. No frills. No fear mongering. Just information.

4. The Lord of Birth

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

A devotion for pregnant women. Now, this one goes a little far out there. It definitely isn’t for everyone. I think Holy Labor is much better. But this book does have some good reminders, if you can take what helps you and leave the rest. If this statement bothers you: planning to have an epidural in a normal labor is lack of faith on your part because you aren’t trusting God to get you through. You should skip this book. The book is really short, only 70 pages, with a lot of breaks in there for questions and such.

5. Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

By Tina Cassidy

If you are really hormonal and sensitive, this may not be best to read while you are pregnant as some of the information is really disturbing. (Human history is always tainted with the disturbing.) It really isn’t just a book for moms, but anyone interested in the history of how we give birth. It definitely makes you view birth choices in a different, more cultural, less “right and wrong” sort of way. Understanding where we have been and why some things still are the way they are. Very interesting, and slightly disturbing, read.

6. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

By Henci Goer

As an information junkie, this book is one of my favorites. I have read and reread and rereread this book. I’m surprised my copy is still holding up. It is the science behind childbirth choices. Laid out in a pros and cons sort of way with all sources cited so you make your own birth decisions. Yes, the author does give her opinions at times, but the evidence backs those up. Extremely informative. Extremely helpful.

7. The Natural Pregnancy Book

By Avila Jill Romm

This is a really helpful introductory guide to having a natural pregnancy. What things should I really be avoiding? What nutrition should I really be focusing on? Is red clover safe during pregnancy? What can I naturally do for heartburn? Those are the sorts of questions this book answers. I even have mine all tabbed for quick and easy reference.

8. Your Best Birth

By Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein

You’ve seen The Business of Being Born movies, so you decide to grab the book. Good call. This is like a dumbed down version of Henci Goer’s book. It is much more for the average person who doesn’t want all the studies cited and statistics quoted. It gives you your options, pros and cons, and you make your choices. I mean, let’s be honest, you’ve seen the movie, clearly there is going to be a slant toward the natural side of things. But I do think they tried to be as informative and non-biased as possible on the subject. Some things in American Obstetrics are just wrong and it is hard to find any words to justify them. I do recommend this book. I actually recommend it in person more often than The Thinking Woman’s Guide, simply because of accessibility. This one seems more for the masses and not just science nerds.

9. Gentle Birth Choices

By Barbara Harper, R.N.

First, the picture on the cover is just adorable. Tell me that little face doesn’t make you look forward to giving birth. Gentle Birth gives you some of the history of modern obstetrics along with more natural alternatives to common practices. Very pro-midwifery. Very challenge the system. It has good information, even if you are planning a hospital birth. Although, if you know you are delivering in a hospital, you may want to try other books, since this one might increase your anxiety about it.

10. Birthing From Within

By Pam England and Rob Horowitz

When I first got this book, I thought, “What on earth have I just purchased?” However, it has been extremely helpful over the years. I have read and worked through it multiple times and recommended it to people. This book helps you recognize your preconceived ideas about childbirth and address your fears and traumas through art therapy. It sounds very woo, but it is incredibly helpful. It does have a slight new age vibe, as I find so many natural childbirth books do. But if you find yourself anxious about childbirth or needing to process your birth experiences, this book can help you do that.

11. The Christian Childbirth Handbook

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

Basically, if it has the words “Christian” and “Childbirth” in the title, I’m going to buy it. I am always looking for really good Christian alternative for the new age stuff that seems to be so prevalent when discussing natural childbirth. I have found I can glean wisdom from those other sources, but not deep understanding and deeper meaning. This is much better than her Lord of Birth devotional. There is the informative stuff, and the author is very pro- natural birth. But there are also Bible verses throughout, which I found to be helpful. I do like this book. And this book is much bigger. It is 400+ pages of actual information, not a devotional, though it does have devotional thoughts.

12. Christ Centered Childbirth

By Kelly J Townsend

Again, in my search for good Christian childbirth books, I came across this one. Some of this one is a little hokey and just not for me. It does have good information, it just isn’t laid out in the most user friendly way. I do like that it includes Scripture to read. However, it isn’t really the best Christian childbirth book I have read. It is good, just not awesomely great.  

13. Spiritual Midwifery

By Ina May Gaskin

This book is very new age. It has a lot of very hippie birth stories, which can help dispel the fear of the birthing process. I found the birth stories prepared me better for birth than anything else. This book also has a lot of really great information. The second half of the book is basically a midwifery textbook. And while I really enjoy that sort of thing, not everyone needs that level of information. The birth stories are probably the more popular reason for buying this book. The stories were similar to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but I still thought they were worth the read.

14. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth

By Sheila Kitzinger

This book has a very basic week by week pregnancy guide in the front of the book. Then gets into the standard pregnancy book stuff. Like a better version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It has good information, full color pictures (some are graphic, because… birth), and helpful tips from pregnancy all the way through birth. A very good book to cover all the basics. Like a childbirth class in a book.

15. Easing Labor Pain

By Adrienne B. Lieberman

This book is specifically natural labor techniques. If you are planning an unmedicated labor, this book would be a good one to read. I found it more helpful than the Bradley method or Lamaze breathing techniques. This one has actual helpful things to prepare for labor and then for handling labor once you’re there.

16. Waiting In Wonder

By Catherine Claire Larson

This book is a week by week guide to pregnancy and a pregnancy devotion book all in one. Each week has information about your growing baby, a prayer list for that week, a memory verse, and then several individual devotions to do throughout the week. There are 4 devotions per week, so it isn’t a daily thing. But it has room for thought and reflection. This would make a really lovely gift for the expecting couple, or buy it for yourself as you walk through each week of pregnancy with your focus on God. It can be used as a journal, as there are places to write in answers to questions, thoughts, feelings, etc. on the pages.  

17. Our Bodies, Ourselves

By The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

There are specific versions for pregnancy, but I have the big women’s health reference book. Honestly, I just don’t like it enough to bother with the Pregnancy version. Extremely liberal. Not my cup of tea at all. With information from everything from addiction and relationships to anatomy and menopause. I just found there was way more political and opinion writing that actual scientific information. It isn’t a book about health, but rather, feminism with some anatomy and health related issues thrown in.

18. A Good Birth, A Safe Birth

By Diana Korte and Roberta M. Scaer

This book goes through birth options and birth issues. Even a chapter called, “How to Have A Normal Vaginal Birth”. (How sad is it that we have gotten to the point where to norm is now something we have to seek after and really try for?) It has really good information, I just think The Thinking Woman’s Guide to A Better Birth and Your Best Birth lay it out a little better. A good book, but not necessarily my highest recommended one on these specific topics.

19. Great With Child

By Debra Rienstra

This is more of a memoir. The ramblings of a mother through her pregnancy. It is very poetic and thoughtful. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is of any “help” in pregnancy and childbirth or even a book to only be read through pregnancy and childbirth. It is more of the internal musings of becoming a mother and carrying another person inside you.

20. Baby Name Wizard

By Laura Wattenberg

They now have a hugely popular website, which kind of makes the book obsolete, unless, like me, you prefer an actual book to information on a screen. The website is way more in depth than the book could ever be. The books also focuses more on the trends of the names than the meanings or where they came from. So, it isn’t a typical approach to naming, that is for sure. But check out the Baby Name Wizard website if you’re wanting to search naming trends. A lot more information. And its free. (The book isn’t free.)

21. The Mama Natural Week-By-Week guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

By Genevieve Howland

This one is really, really new. I have been following her YouTube channel, so when the book was coming out, I pre-ordered it. It came out April 2017. (So, super new as I am writing this.)

This is a week by week guide, which I love. Something about weekly pregnancy guides. It must not just be me since there are dozens of week by week pregnancy guides and apps out there. This guide is for us crunchy mamas. Although, I would actually say it is Demi-crunchy. I have definitely seen more hippie types. This si much more balanced. Very similar to The Natural Pregnancy Book, only laid out in a weekly style. My favorite thing about the book is the recipes included for each week. The specific nutrition focus is based on how the baby is developing that week, so big brain weeks, the recipes are fish. Plus, the recipes are ones I will actually use. Like, stuff I can actually find and make and will willingly eat. I am absolutely loving this book!

22. Cool Names for Babies

By Pamela Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz

Again, another silly baby name book. This one is primarily lists. What did celebrities name their kids? What about rappers? Ooh, what are names of models? How about their kids? Those are the sorts of things in this book. You’ll find normal name along with Danger Mouse and Moxie Crimefighter. It is totally amusing. You may find THE NAME in here. Or maybe you’ll just find a name to tell your Mom to get her to stop asking you what the baby’s name will be.

23. From Conception to Birth

By Alexander Tsiaras

This is a coffee table picture book. It has the little close up pictures of sperm meeting egg. Then you have the pictures as the cells duplicate. Then pictures of the baby as he develops. My kids love looking through this book. I’m not standoffish at all about how babies are made or how they are born. These are the facts of life, so I don’t hide these from my kids. They mostly focus on the development pictures and like finding pictures that correlate to their new sibling’s current stage. Look! She has a tail! We have gotten a lot of use out of this book.

24. Your Pregnancy Week By Week

By Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

This was my old favorite week by week guide. Now, I have a new one. But this one is so much better than What To Expect When You’re Expecting. (Can you tell I hate that book?) Still more on the mainstream medical side, but not too much horrible freak you out information. I think Mama Natural is prettier and has better information, but if the word “Natural” freaks you out, this might be the way to go. (Though I still recommend Mama Natural, hands down.)

25. The Pregnancy Book

By William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.

I still have the old version of this book, not the new updated version. So my take is that the old version is old. It is more of a month by month guide, but I don’t think in terms of months when I am pregnant. I think in weeks. When someone asks me how many months pregnant I am, I honestly have no idea. Purple? My brain just doesn’t process pregnancy in months. Maybe that is an age thing, I don’t know. I think the book has good information in it. It just never was my “reach for” book. I read through it once or twice, and then it has been a bookshelf sitter.

26. The Babycenter Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

By Babycenter (a bunch of people who work for Babycenter)

I can feel some people rolling their eyes so hard right now. But seriously, you gotta keep it balanced, people. I need info from all sides. And then I can roll my eyes at them. This is a week by week guide with actual mom concerns. It is very mainstream. And it has some bad information in it. It isn’t bad, but you can honestly get this information on Babycenter for free, along with the asinine comments from random people along with it. Plus on Babycenter, you’ll get the added bonus of someone’s drama that is better than watching soap operas. Really, I don’t know why Babycenter is considered “expert” advice. It should just be considered “advice”. And like all free advice, take it for what you paid for it. Now, the book, sure, buy it if you want. But Mama Natural is a much better week by week guide and other books have much better “experts” giving advice.

27. Pushed

By Jennifer Block

 Warning: do not read this book while pregnant. Don’t. It isn’t going to be healthy for you mental state. However, once you have birthed and processed said birth, read this book. For so many of us it is extremely validating. It is the book that tells us we aren’t crazy and the system is flawed. A lot of history. A lot of technical information. But all information is cited, which I appreciate. I know the book cover says you need to read this when pregnant, but for many women, it would just cause too much anxiety. You know if that applies to you. It is really good information about the inner workings of our system and the problems in how hospitals and insurance companies work. I wouldn’t say it is conspiracy theory. I think we are all awake to the problems in our medical system and the bed that is made between medicine and politics. This just looks at that from an obstetric side. As someone who was cut because of my provider’s malpractice insurance, I found it very validating. (And slightly maddening.)

She Reads Truth Review


If you follow the Notes From The Parsonage Facebook page, you may have already heard about She Reads Truth. I had signed up for their Auto-Ship program for their Devotion books. They release a new one each month, and most of the book is just Scripture. It makes devotional reading very easy to do on a daily basis because it is all right there. You can also scribble notes and prayers right there on the pages on not feel bad about “messing up” your Bible. (Not that I am at all averse to writing in my Bible.) The books are beautifully done. They contain beautiful art, scripture memorization cards, some have recipes, reflection questions, and charts. It is a very Bible centered devotion.

Now, they also have an app. You can download the memory verses each week to use as a screen saver on your phone or tablet. I have found this particularly helpful in keeping the memory verse in front of me throughout the week. You can also purchase the devotions in digital form for significantly cheaper through the app. (The AutoShip program of the books is $29 a month with shipping. Each book on the app is $1.99 to $2.99 each. They even have some shorter books for free.) The app also has a Bible on it, if you don’t already have a Bible app you like.


I have really enjoyed the books. They have Scripture reading from the Old and New Testament each day, which I really enjoy. They connect the Scriptures very well. I have been very blessed in my personal devotion time with this resource and I absolutely highly recommend it. They also offer a He Reads Truth version for men. I haven’t purchased any of these, personally. (The Pastor uses the Ancient Christian Devotional books for his daily reading.) All Scripture used for She Reads Truth is Holman Christian Standard translation. 


When She Reads Truth announced they were releasing a Bible, I preordered it immediately. I had a hard time choosing my cover and options, because they all looked so beautiful. I settled on the Gray Linen Indexed version. I have never owned an indexed Bible, so I thought I would give that a try. Now that it has come in, I can give you an overview!


It comes in a very sturdy box to match. The linen cover is very nice, like an old book. The indexed tabs have 3 books per tab.


The first thing you come to in the Bible is a “How To Read The Bible” article. It is extremely helpful. I often have people ask me just this question. This lays it our very succinctly. There are also study guides in the front of each book. They have a reading plan for that book that includes references to other places in the Bible for a deeper, fuller understanding.



Next, you come to an article called “This Is The Gospel”. As a Wesley-Armenian, I often have a difficult time finding theologically appropriate study materials. So, I was a little hesitant to read this article. I was sure they would disappoint me theologically and then I might not enjoy it as much. However, that was not the case. She Reads Truth is very based on Scripture, so theologically, they were right on track. It is sad when you are delightfully surprised to not find heresy in your Bible. But I was.


Each book of the Bible has the key verse of the book illustrated beautifully to begin the book. There is an intro page for each book, giving you the background and setting of the book to give you some context for the writing. Each book also contains a timeline, map, or chart that is helpful in reading that book. Genesis has a timeline. Exodus has a map. Leviticus has a diagram of the tabernacle. You get the picture. And as I said before, each book has a reading plan, complete with additional verses from other books. It is broken down into 5 days per week. The number of weeks depends on the book.



I love the formatting. Single column with a slight margin. This margin might be wide enough to do Bible journaling in, but I will reserve it for notes. There are also very clear footnotes at the bottom of each page. They aren’t tiny and hard to read. The paper is really thin. Thinner than most Bible paper. I’m sure you can tell from the photos that the paper is thin, since you can see through the page to what is printed on the other side. I found that gel highlighters work best for this paper, since they don’t show through at all. However, for margin notes, you’re going to have to deal with being able to see through it. You could use a pencil, but I am not a pencil person. 


There are also various devotions found throughout the Bible. They are a single page, two columns, and easy to find.


In the back of the Bible, there is a list of the key verses for each book. There is also a genre guide, telling you how the Scripture is broken up. Each genre is color coded and you’ll find that those colors are also on the title page for each book. Then you’ll find the apostle’s creed. (It includes that Jesus descended into hell, but excludes the word Catholic.) Next there is a Bible in a year reading plan check list. It also lists a memory verse for each month. A topical index is next, followed by some maps they didn’t put in earlier, and a chart with weights and measures. (Ever wonder how much is a shekel or a cubit? Chart!)


Another awesome feature is that this Bible has TWO satin bookmarks! So you can hold your place in two places at once! 


All in all, I am loving this Bible! I cannot wait to dive into it and use it on a daily basis. I think it is a wonderful resource and could be very helpful if you’re looking for something to help you get into God’s Word more regularly and with passion. They clearly put a lot of thought and attention to detail in their devotional plans and their new Bible. 


**This post contains affiliate links. I am not endorsed or sponsored by She Reads Truth, just a customer. **

Bible Journaling 

 Bible Journaling can be a great way to get in God’s Word on a more regular basis and change the way you interact with it. Artistic skills or not, you can Bible Journal and you can get a lot out of it.
If you have a hard time remembering to read your Bible daily or if you are just in a rut with Bible reading, you may way to seriously consider using Bible Journaling to rekindle your love of The Word. 


 There are many different journaling Bibles on the market. I have found that CBD.com offers the biggest selection for the cheapest price. There are single column versions, double column versions. Some with space to write or doodle at the bottom of the page. Some have doodle space to the side margin. Some have every other page blank. You’ll find many different versions available. Which one is best for you depends on you. Do you have to have a Journaling Bible to Bible Journal? Well, no. Not at all. You can journal the Word in other ways. But a Journaling Bible is nice to have.


 You’ll find many examples of Bible Journaling pages on Instagram looking under the hashtags #illustratedfaith #biblejournaling #icolorinmybible. You will also find plenty of inspiration on Pinterest, searching for Bible Journaling. Some people draw, some letter, some do more of a scrapbook thing, some buy or download prints to trace or to paste into their Bible. Some people like to play around with multiple methods. You’ll find that some people are okay covering the Bible text, while others like to keep all the text readable. What you decide is really up to you. But make sure that whatever you choose, it is about you saturating yourself with the Word and not just about trying to make something cool.


 Not every journal entry I make turns out awesome. Sometimes my ink smudges. Sometimes I just don’t like the result all that much. But that is okay. The end results are what it is all about for me. The process is where it is at for me. Reading Scripture, finding a verse that speaks to me, taking that verse and carefully lettering it so it sinks in good and deep. That is what I am working toward. Interacting with God’s Word. The results are just pretty proof and a good reminder when I flip through my Bible.


 My journaling Bible is quite hefty. I chose the Crossway ESV Interleaved version. So every other page of my Bible is blank. That makes for a very thick book. For that reason, it pretty much stays at home. I have another Bible that I keep in my bag for church and reading while I am out. It sounds very first world to have multiple Bibles. And it took me a long time to allow myself permission for this little luxury. But I have now given myself permission, and I am glad that I did.


 I don’t necessarily journal every day. Right now, I am, because I am working through a #letteringhislove challenge on Instagram. These types of challenges help me shake things up. I do read the Bible daily, but I don’t always have the time to devote to making a journaling page. It is never quite when I do my Bible Journaling or my devotions, for that matter. Quite is not something I get in my house. I do get time to sit and work on it. I might be interrupted a few dozen times. Some people like to put on music. I grab a cup of coffee or a glass of tea and sit and enjoy God’s Word. Sometimes a kid will join me at the breakfast table and work on their own art. My tween likes to make pages to tape into her Bible. Music isn’t always possible because someone may be watching Teen Titans or Paw Patrol in the next room. That is okay for me.


 My favorite tool in Bible Journaling is my Tombow Calligraphy Pen. I find it does lettering so beautiful and deep black. I usually do a quick mock up on a piece of notebook paper, then use a pencil to lightly draw my basic lettering onto the page. I then go over the pencil with my Tombow Calligraphy pen. To keep my words straight, I put a sheet of lined notebook paper under my Bible page. It gives faint lines I can follow without me having to mark the page with lines that then have to be erased. It is also helpful when I am using things that might bleed through.



 I have tried the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I thought I would love them. Turns out, I don’t. Maybe I would like some of the colors, but the black and gray that I have are just not all that impressive.


 Pigma Micron pens are also great for Bible Journaling. I find the thicker ones (05 and 08) are best for me. But the smaller ones are great for tiny details.


 Water brush pens and watercolors are also excellent art supplies to try. The water brush pens keep you from using a huge amount of water in your work, so it doesn’t wrinkle the page as much. I have also used regular brushes and watercolor, and have liked the experience despite the page wrinkle issues. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay ink is my all time favorite art supply. Unfortunately, it isn’t really best with Bible Journaling, due to the thin pages. If you want to use something that isn’t great on thin paper, you can always use it on better art paper and then use double sided tape, washi tape, or even a glue stick to glue it in.


 I usually leave my Bible open to dry after I am done, but if I need to close it, I just stick another sheet of ruled paper on the top and close it. With very wet watercolors, this isn’t the best idea. But once everything is close to drying, or you used pens, it is fine.


 I also have a love for washi tape. I use it to decorate my Bible book headers. I also use it to add some accent to pages. I use stickers, as well. Decorative paper can also be fun to work with and add in. I like to tab my artwork pages. I have used a few different kinds of tabs, but the Recollections sticker tabs from Michael’s are my favorite tabs. They are a really good size and they stick well.



 Gel pens, colored pencils, acrylic paints, watercolor colored pencils, stamps, and stencils are all good tools to use for Bible journaling if you like them. You can also add decorative paper clips, bookmarks, really anything you like. I have seen some people Bible Journaling with just a pencil to sketch lovely drawings. Use the supplies you like. You can use the title page or table of contents page as a test page to see what your tools are going to actually do on the Bible style paper.


 If you’re not quite sure about going the Journaling Bible route, you can always just keep a notebook of your art. Bookmarks are another way to begin Bible Journaling without committing to writing or drawing directly in your Bible. Another method would be to use double sided tape to tape pages into your Bible. I did this for a few months before I decided to buy a Journaling Bible.



 If you are not really wanting to create the art yourself, you can buy a Coloring Bible or a Bible Coloring Book. There are also several people on Etsy that sell Bible Journaling templates you can use to trace or glue into your Journaling Bible. You can scrapbook your Bible, if that is more your thing. Really, anything that gets you into the word and interacting with it in new ways is going to be a good thing.


Here are some additional resources you may like:

The Joy of Lettering 

Creative Lettering and Beyond

Complete Guide To Bible Journaling 

 

 So, where do you start? Start with your favorite verse. Start with a Psalm or Proverb. Start with a Bible Story you can illustrate. Start wherever you are currently reading. Start with adding one entry to each book of the Bible. Just get started!


** This post contains affiliate links. ** 

My Experience With Trim Healthy Mama

I’m sure you’ve heard of Trim Healthy Mama. It seems everyone has. I had heard about it from friends for years before I decided to buy the books and give it a try. I researched it for quite a long time before committing. I’m not really one to try diets, despite needing to loose weight. I did the Whole 30 a couple years ago with huge success. But since living that way is almost impossible for an active family, I decided to give Trim Healthy Mama a try. Everyone said it was whole family cooking and it wouldn’t leave me in the kitchen all day long.

The good:

  • The meals were made for large families in mind. I didn’t have to double and triple recipes, which was refreshing. Most family meals feed 6-8. They do have lots of single serve recipes in the cookbook for things like breakfast and lunch, too.
  • I found some ridiculously yummy recipes that my kids love in the cookbook. Swedish Meatballs in Cream Sauce, Slim Sloppy Joes, Blackened Chicken with Mango and Black Beans, Lentil Soup, Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup, Tomato Chicken Bisque, Nacho Stuffed Peppers, Trim Healthy Pancakes. Amazing food. Really.
  • I found most of the sippers to be awesome and I love them! Good Girl Moonshine & Singing Canary are staying. Period.
  • The Pastor lost lots of weight in the first month.

The Eh:

  • I lost minimal weight. Very minimal. Likes, in 3 months maybe 8 lbs.
  • While it was a whole family plan, you have to tweak every single meal for every single person. This meant adding cheese to kid food but not adult food. Adding an extra side for kids. So while I was only cooking one “meal”, I was having to adjust at the table.
  • While they claim you don’t have to use specialty ingredients, I found that they were necessary if you don’t want to be completely frustrated. So, you’re buying special flours and weird stuff that are really hard to find and expensive.
  • They also claim you can do the plan without Stevia. After reading their stuff, I just started using the Stevia, even though I really didn’t want to. Cutting it out is a bigger deal than they make it.
  • You can have brownies! they say. Then you make the brownies exactly like the recipe and they are gross. The online community then tells you that your taste buds are just messed up from years of real sugar. You’ll adjust. But chocolate should never taste like chemicals. I don’t want to get used to that. So these beloved desserts are apparently all acquired tastes that will eventually be okay to you once you forget what real baked goods taste like.
  • Despite saying you can be a food purist to stick to the plan or a “drive through Sue”, I found that I was having to make a lot of concessions to food purity. I was eating things that didn’t seem normal for me to eat. So, I’m sure there was a way for me to not bend on my food standards, but they weren’t easy if they were available.
  • There are a lot of rules. It takes time to understand and properly implement the plan. While there is good support through their Facebook pages and such, you have to be careful what you say so you don’t offend the plan. (Really just never critique the plan. Just watch how much hate mail will come from this post. And not all of the groups will be like this. You’ll also find a lot of encouragement and a lot of help. Just don’t complain- they don’t like it.)

The Bad:

  • My milk supply tanked, despite doing crossovers as described for nursing moms.
  • My immune system plummeted. I had eczema and then Shingles. The nutrition just wasn’t there.
  • It was expensive. The specialty ingredients are very pricey. They say you don’t need them, but over half the recipes call for them. Want to price them yourself? Whey Protein, Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend, Stevia, Super Sweet, Gentle Sweet, MCT Oil, Gelatin, Collagen, Glucomannan, Not Naughty Noodles. Now, some of these things will last quite a while, like the Stevia and the Glucomannan. But some, like the baking blend and the super sweet will be monthly expenses at least.
  • I was eating more meat and less veggies than usual. While they say vegetarian and vegan options are available, I don’t really see how.

My Conclusions:

I have seen lots of people loose weight and have great health on this plan. I will still be using my cookbook, despite my not using the plan because some of the food is really yummy. But this plan is clearly not for me. I had so many health problems that started when I switched to this plan. I did not see results anything like I would have liked to see. And my family was just eating too many things I wasn’t really super comfortable with. So, I am going to take some of the recipes, but leave the plan. It just didn’t work for us. It certainly isn’t for everyone. It worked fine for my husband.

Do I recommend you try it? I don’t know. I don’t recommend you NOT try it. I’m just not a fan because it really wasn’t a fit for me and my family. I had really high hopes and it just did not deliver.

I also think I am somewhat biased in my attempts. I’ve never been a Stevia fan. In fact, I think I might actually be allergic. I’m not a fan of processed foods. I’m not a fan of casseroles or crock pots meals. It isn’t that I am picky. I’m just more of a whole food, clean food person. So telling me no potatoes and limit carrots isn’t ever going to sit well with me.

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Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

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Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.

2014 Books In Review

I’ll admit it, I did not read very much in 2014. I honestly don’t know what happened. I just had a slow reading year. I ended up reviewing a bunch of non-book products (crib sheets, stroller, baby carriers, vacuum, toys, etc.). But I did read, on average more than one book per month. Here they are:

revivalRevival: Faith As Wesley Lived It by Adam Hamilton

5 Stars

Written by a United Methodist Pastor, Revival is divided geographically. Each chapter focuses on a place in Wesley’s life and ministry and ties that back to Wesley’s teachings. You’ll find pictures of the author’s journey to these places. You could even use the book as a guidebook to a Wesley centered trip. He quotes Wesley’s sermons and relates them to modern life. This is a book easily understood by laity, and easily appreciated by clergy. You’ll find snippets of Wesley’s life, snippets of Wesley’s thoughts, and snippets of current Wesleyan perspective- all in one book. While not exhaustive, it is certainly a good peak into the life and mind of Wesley and into the theology of Wesleyans.

hereinisloveHerein Is Love, Volume 3: Leviticus by Nancy E. Ganz

5 Stars

I cannot tell you enough how much I love this book. I got it for homeschooling. We’d been going through the Old Testament and I found myself stumped when it came to Leviticus. This book is amazing. It ties the Old Testament to the New in a way that kids can understand. It is set up with lessons in the beginning and questions in the back. It can easily be used for Sunday School type curriculum, as well. This is understandable by grammar school age kids, but isn’t below middle or even high schoolers. My 5 year old was able to remember all the steps to becoming a priest! This book was a huge help and a huge blessing. I cannot recommend it enough!

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The Soup Club Cookbook by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Lasko, and Julie Peacock

5 Stars

At first, I just wanted this book for the soup recipes. And there are plenty of those! The range of the recipes is pretty wide, but if you’re not a foodie, not many of them are going to appeal to you. There are also some very difficult to find specialty ingredients in a lot of the soups. If you live near a large metro area, it likely won’t be difficult for you to acquire them. If you live in more rural areas, you’ll have a lot more trouble with a lot of the ingredients. (We’re talking about things like Marmite, specialty cheeses, fresh chestnuts, celeriac bulbs, sunchokes, masa harina, kombu, nori, etc.) There are also several non-soup recipes. I was thrilled with the recipes included. And the recipes are huge, which is a plus for this large family momma.
But what really surprised me is how much I actually like the idea of a soup club. I usually shy away from dinner clubs, mostly because they just don’t work for my family. But soup club is something I could really get used to. I look forward to finding a few friends to try soup club with me.
You’ll need a few things to make this cookbook work for you. You’ll need a huge stock pot. The soup recipes are intended to be split among 4 families. That means each recipe makes 8-9 quarts of soup. (And if you’re a large family mom, like myself, that means their might even be leftovers!) You’ll need an immersion blender for several of the soups. You may need a food processor for several soups. And if you’re starting a soup club, you’ll need quart sized jars, small jars for garnishes, and canvas tote bags for delivery.

crochetwithoneCrochet with One Sheepish Girl by Meredith Crawford

5 Stars

I am a very beginning crocheter. This book has the basics in the beginning of the book, though crochet is a little hard to grasp in book form, so you may want to watch some YouTube videos to help with the beginner basics. There are several patterns in this book, all of them pretty unique. (I hate it when I buy a craft book and can find every single pattern for free on the internet. This book isn’t like that.)
Patterns include: Granny Square Infinity Cowl, Color Block Ribbed Turban, Bow Brooch, Striped Bow Clutch, Sweater Makeover (Adding crochet hearts to a sweater, not the pattern for the sweater), Collared Shirt Makeover (Adding a crochet trim to a button up shirt), Scallop Stripe Cowl, Home Cozy Home Pillowcase, Crochet Edge Frames, Yarn Bag Makeover (Adding Crochet touches to a ready made canvas bag), Ombre Basket in Three Sizes, Crochet Hook Organizer, Heart Pocket Apron, Teacup Coasters, “Enjoy” Place Setting Placemat, Cottage Tea Cozy, Diana Camera Purse (looks like a camera, doesn’t hold a camera), Tablet Case, Gift Boxes, Chocolate Latte (crochet to go coffee cup, doesn’t actually hold coffee), Blueberry Muffin (again, a “play” muffin), Party Hat Garland, Snow Cone Garland, and Crochet Edge Cards and Tags (cards are printed in the back of the book so you can make copies of the cards she has or add the trim to your own).

charcuterieThe New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette

4 Stars

This is a well laid out book. There are plenty of pictures, even step by step pictures helping you wade through the unfamiliar territory. You’ll need more than the average American kitchen contains, though. You’ll need a meat grinder. For many recipes, you need a separate meat curing fridge. You’ll need a sausage stuffer. None of these recipes will make your kitchen more efficient or save you money. This is more of a hobby cooking type endeavor. (Telling you his first few hams didn’t turn out, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t won’t fly when you’re counting on that ham for dinner.)

You should also be aware that this book, particularly in the introduction, is quite crude and contains a few profanities. I wouldn’t usually expect that in a cookbook, but think it is pertinent info, particularly for those giving the book as a gift.

Overall, a beautifully laid out, well explained book. Just not something the average American home cook is going to necessarily employ.

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Good Advice from Bad People by Zac Bissonnette
4 Stars
This makes for an interesting coffee table book. Organized with a quote on one page in large print and then the story of why the quote is so humorous coming from that person follows on the next page or two. Some of the quotes and stories are not so amusing, some are. Makes a great conversation starter, for sure.
afterworlds
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
3 Stars
This book is two books in one. You have the book, “Afterworlds”. Then you have the story of a young up-and-coming author writing “Afterworlds”. Chapters alternate between the stories. The timing between the stories is very well done.
“Afterworlds” by Darcy Patel would have gotten a 5 star review. And I would sit anxiously awaiting “Untitled Patel”. It was the second story of Darcy Patel flowing through the pages that brought the rating down. Don’t get me wrong, the book premise was genius, the timing of the stories flowing together was nothing short of epic. The characters in the Darcy Patel story just lost their fizz and definition as the love relationship in that story began. The plot took over and left nothing for the characters themselves to be. Darcy began acting not like Darcy, but by a pawn of the plot. Huge bummer because this book could have been epic. Darcy was just all wrong from the beginning. (She should have been a dude- that would have made so much more sense because she didn’t ever feel like any girl I have ever known. The soul of the character felt like an insecure boy.) Read it, because you have to- this is Scott Westerfeld we’re talking about. Enjoy the genius in the premise and in the Afterworlds story. But know that the Darcy Patel story is just a flat, soulless blah once you get beyond the perfect timing, insightful industry look, and innovative idea.Parental blurb: (This book is YA. Recommended for 14 and up. So I am dutifully including the info parents might want to know.) This book contains the following:
-terrorism
-cult in minor detail
– violence, but nothing excessively graphic
– violence against children
– cursing, not excessive, but a few f-bombs
– underage drinking
– sex in vague passing references, nothing graphic
– homosexual relationship is one of the main stories in the book

breastfeeding
5 Stars

I have breastfed all five of my children, so I am not new to this, nor was any of the information in the book really new or unheard of to me. However, this made me heart just sing reading about the beauty God created in the mother and child dynamic shared in breastfeeding. I will go back and read this again and again. And I highly recommend it!

Note: I am not Catholic, but I found the book amazing nonetheless. I am Protestant/Methodist.

hyperbole
Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh
4 Stars
I don’t read the blog, but I bought the book anyway. I wasn’t exactly aware of how much the author likes the F word. I found the book amusing. I would caution readers that it does contain a lot of profanity, so if that is something that bothers you, skip this book. There is no getting around the profanity.
fallout
The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
4 Stars
I did not think The Compound really needed a sequel. It was a great stand alone story. I wish authors would rebel against this new trend toward making everything a series. With that said, I liked this book. I didn’t want it tagged onto The Compound, but I did enjoy it.
baked
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
5 Stars
If you know me, you know how much I love baking. And I love the premise of these recipes- decrease the sugar where you can, add more chocolate where you can. There are recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, and more. If you’ve never baked a cake before, you might want to start with something simpler, but for those that know their way around a mixer, you’ll love this book!
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Lectures in Old Testament Theology by Dennis Kinlaw with John Oswalt
5 Stars
As I was preparing to teach the kids about the Old Testament this year, I found myself with a lot of questions. So, instead of trudging along blindly, I picked up this book and began to read and help answer some of those questions. This book was undoubtedly a blessing to me. It helped me understand the Old Testament, helped tie it to the New Testament, and gave me more insight into the Bible than I have had before. While this book was written for academia, I find it very easy to understand with no theological or Biblical degree. I would recommend it for clergy and laity, alike.
bibleamongthemyths
The Bible Among Myths by John Oswalt
5 Stars
In addition to the previous book, I picked up this book to help further answer some of my questions. Living in a time where everyone spouts “truth” as it is known to them, it is easy to find yourself a bit confused on what is and isn’t actually true. This book helped frame the world when the Bible was written. It helps you understand the concepts of myth and history and how the Bible fits into that. It is a little more difficult to read than Lectures in Old Testament Theology, but readable nonetheless, for those with an interest in the subject.
Note: Dr. Oswalt was one of The Pastor’s seminary professors.
holdon
Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
5 Stars
I read this book at such an opportune time. My kids have just started playing with other kids around the neighborhood and I was able to see a lot of what the authors were discussing playing out in the early stages. And I was really surprised how quickly the kids’ attachments went from our home to homes around the neighborhood. It has definitely given me more to think about and more of a leg to stand on when certain relationships my children have make me uncomfortable. (And usually, it isn’t a matter of the other kid being a bad kid. It is just how much emphasis and how much of themselves they throw into the relationship, even at relatively young ages.) This is definitely a book to read, particularly for those entering the world of raising kids who have their own friends and relationships outside of the family. It is easier to foster healthier relationships from the beginning than to be scrambling to fix them when things go bad. (Though if you’re in that second camp, this book will help, too.)
angryconvos
Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs
4 Stars
I really couldn’t relate to Susan’s story at all. I don’t know what it is like to be a single adult searching for your mate. I don’t know what it is like to move across the country while single. I don’t know what it is like building a career while searching for Mr. Right. I didn’t do those things. And that life is so foreign to me, I just couldn’t relate. I know nothing about church hopping and trying to find the perfect church. (I’ve always been of the “grow where you are planted” variety and try to make my church better and take the things that I dislike about it to make myself a better person. I’ve never moved to a new city and had to shop for churches. In every move, I had a church home waiting for me, and I made that the best I could.)
This book is funny and snarky. And I enjoyed it, despite the author being nothing like myself. I like peeking into the spiritual journey’s of others. It gives me more insight into choices they make and why they tick. So, I did enjoy the book, though I didn’t necessarily find it personally edifying or touching.
handsfree
You’ve already seen my review of Hands Free Mama and all the ways I dislike it. If you haven’t, go read it. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars, and I think that was being pretty generous.
protecting
Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker
4 Stars
I really liked Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. That book really should be read by all parents. This book, had its great points. If I was in a different situation in life, needing childcare providers on a regular basis or something, this book would have likely gotten 5 stars. There are screening questions for daycares, schools, and babysitters. There are tips on things to look for, things to ask that you may not think about, and just the general word to trust your gut. Parents today need to hear that. Trust your gut. We get so bogged down in the lists and the comparing that we often try not to listen to ourselves, even when we should. This book also helped me navigate some personal parenting issues that had come up in my life, which was invaluable. I just found that I really liked about half the book and then just kind of got through the other half. It isn’t a topic we usually like to dwell on, but Gavin de Becker does such a great job of getting right to the heart of the matter that it immediately deals with our anxieties and then leaves us with nothing but newfound strength.
makingafamilyhome
Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom
2 Stars
The book is full of beautiful pictures… of the author’s perfect home and perfect kids and perfect life. Of course, likely all taken on the same day and likely not quite as perfect as projected. (I think we’ve all seen similar on social media.) It was seriously just room by room of her house and how to make your house like her home. I didn’t find it all that helpful or inspirational, it just felt pretentious. But the pictures were pretty.
lovingthelittleyears
Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
4 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were parts that were very encouraging. Parts that had me tearing up. Parts that I felt convicted to do better for my kids. I think her views on how children change a mother’s body are amazing and could read an entire book just on that subject.
I did conclude that Mrs. Jankovic and I are very different parents. And to me, that is okay. However, I wish she wouldn’t have talked so much about discipline in her book since that is where she and I would majorly disagree. I also didn’t find it helpful to the overall grounding and encouraging tone of the book. I also found it humorous that a mom whose oldest child is 5 is talking about long term discipline approaches. She really should have left that part out, added a few more uplifting and encouraging chapter, and called it a five star book.
mamarazzi
Mamarazzi by Stacey Wasmuth
4 Stars
This book is overall a good help to taking great pictures of your kids. It contains tons of pictures along with the camera settings uses to take each picture. There are tips on how to make handmade photography helps, like diffusers and reflectors. It is a very good resource for the technical aspects of photography, explaining aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. There were tips and tricks for photographing newborns through teens. It also has info on how I choose a professional photographer when you need one.
The downsides of this book are small, but keep it from being a 5 star book. The book was copyrighted in 2011, so many of the website and specific products recommended are gone. Including websites in a book is helpful, but certainly dates a book. All the photo editing is specifically geared to Adobe Photoshop. There are recommended iPhone apps, which only scratch the surface of what is currently available. The advice on choosing a camera is really limited to Canon and Nikon. There are plenty of other options available. It also recommends a dSLR because of previous limitations with digital cameras. I own a dSLR myself, but there are plenty of digitals that are blowing folks away these days.
I think my favorite quote from this book is, “Buying a fancy camera does not make you a photographer.”
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