ESV Study Bible Review

Once again, Crossway sent me a beautiful Bible to review. This time, it is the ESV Study Bible. I was curious how it would compare to the ESV Heirloom Study Bible, since it is significantly cheaper.

The genuine leather of this Bible is slightly more stiff than the goatskin leather of the Heirloom. It is super nice leather, but doesn’t have that soft, floppy feel the goatskin has. It feels much better than bonded leather, but is a bit more firm.

This is really my only complaint about this Bible. It only has one ribbon marker. I’ve been spoiled by having multiple ribbon markers, so one ribbon just seems crazy now. (For the record, four is the ideal number of ribbon markers for a Bible: one for Old Testament, one for the Psalms, one for the Gospels, and one for New Testament.)

You have these pretty standard pages in the beginning of the Bible. Of course, it isn’t enough of any of the headings for a lifetime Bible.

Each book of the Bible has a pretty lengthy introduction, which includes maps, outlines, timelines– basically anything to help you understand the context of the writing. The maps are all full color. It doesn’t have as many pictures as the Heirloom Study Bible has, but it does contain a lot of study materials.

The Bible passages are single column, but the reference materials are double column down below. The font of the Bible passages is pretty large and very clear to read. The reference materials are smaller font, but still readable.

There are quite a few articles tucked into the back of the Bible, much like the Heirloom. These articles are fascinating, but as far as I can tell they are pretty much the same ones in the Heirloom Study Bible. (Not that it is a bad thing, just that you definitely don’t need both.) There are also several full color glossy maps in the back after the concordance.

Overall, this Bible is very well made and an excellent study Bible. For preaching, it is probably much too busy and you’d be flipping pages quite often for shorter texts. It doesn’t have quite as much as the Heirloom Study Bible, but it is considerably cheaper. Crossway really makes some beautiful Bibles. I woud highly recommend this Bible to anyone needing a good study Bible. The ESV is a good translation for personal Bible study and the extra tools and insights in this Bible will help as you read the Scriptures to understand.

** This item was sent to me free for review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. All opinions are my own. **

*** This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are a great way to support your favorite content creators as they do not cost you any extra money to use, but a small portion of the sale goes to the creator. ***

**** I originally said Omega Reference Bible instead of the Heirloom Study Bible. I can’t keep my Bibles straight, apparently. Click HERE for my review of the Heirloom Study Bible. No link to a review of the Omega Reference Bible, because I don’t have that one. (Puts face into palm.) ****

Good Enough Parenting

If you follow me, you’ll know that I have made the foolhardy decision to go back to school. Because, you know, homeschooling seven kids and being in full-time ministry isn’t enough on a person. I clearly lacked the pressure of deadlines and lamenting over formatting issues in the wee hours of the morning in case my toddler isn’t keeping me up enough. Smack dab in the middle of my struggle to be everything to everyone, I get to take a lifespan development class. Now, I was really not looking forward to knowing all the ways I was currently messing up my kids’ lives. I’d really rather just keep my head down and get through this degree program.

And right on schedule, as I dove into lifespan development for the third time (I’ve had lifespan development classes before from other perspectives), I was ready to feel bad about the stress I am putting my family under right now. At first, I got that— the guilt. Infants rely on the steady care of a single caregiver and are upset when that is disrupted. Sorry Daisy. Preschoolers need adequate scaffolding to help them acquire new and deeper skills. Sorry Pippin, can’t scaffold for you, Mama’s got to write a paper about it instead. School aged children need security and patience with close monitoring as they learn new skills and begin to see themselves as others see them. Sorry Topher and Ransom, I don’t have time to monitor your mud pit fun, I’ve got papers to write. You get the idea. Everything is a slap in the face when you feel like you’re messing everything up— especially when you’re a mom of seven in school full time.

Then I came across the work of Donald Winnicott. He was an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst who voiced the idea of the “good enough” parent. I’m going to be grossly simplifying his work and pretty much just talking about a singular aspect. I’m imagining that if you were especially fond of psychoanalytic theory of infant development, you’d likely be taking the class I’m taking or reading a much longer book about the topic. (And just as a point of interest, the class ended up being extremely interesting and insightful. I feel like I only scratched the surface and would need another year to follow all the little rabbit trails my brain made.) For Winnicott, children didn’t need perfect parents. Children needed someone they could count on, but that someone didn’t have to be perfect all the time, they just had to be good enough. They just had to show up, love the kid, and do their best. Winnicott said that was the best kind of parent.

In today’s “perfect parenting” world, where parents feel judged every time they turn around, a world where parents spend so much time comparing their own parenting (and life) to what they see on Instagram, it is a breath of fresh air to read an expert tell us we only need to be “good enough”. The idea that everything bad that happens to our kid will be our fault is never flipped. If I’m responsible for all wrong roads my child may take, I’m also responsible for the right ones. And really, according to Winnicott, if I show up and do my best, my kids will turn out fine. Winnicott realized something our society won’t mention. Moms are people. They come with their own burdens, insecurities, and issues. Learning to be there for a child while still being a real person isn’t the easiest task for some people. And if you’re showing up, trying your best, and meeting the kid’s needs most of the time— you’re doing a good enough job of it. Not all of us can be Instagram perfect. We can’t have the perfect house with everything in various shades of white and grey. (How do you people keep white couches clean with kids?!) We can’t all be stay at home moms with endless budgets for all the kids enrichment activities and the “right” toys, clothes, and baby gear. We can’t all have all organic everything from the local farmer’s market. Life is messy. Life isn’t always ideal. The good news, according to Winnicott, is that we don’t need all those things. We need to pay attention most of the time. We need to provide security most of the time. We need need to learn to sacrifice, but it is okay for life to not be all sacrifice. We won’t get the mothering thing right every single time. The good enough mom knows this and can give herself some grace, learn from her mistakes, and move on. 

So if I have to delegate some schooling tasks to Dad for the next year, that is okay. If afternoon reading time has to be audible books, that is okay. If my cooking slips to eating PB&J a little too often, they will survive. If I’m not sewing them cute clothes and instead slipping them into hand-me-downs, I doubt they’ll notice. I’m here. I’m doing my best. The kids will be alright, I’m good enough. 

Not About “Me-Time”

There is this myth in our culture that we have to look out for number one in order to get anywhere successfully. “Put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.” It sounds like such wise advise. It sounds like wisdom. 

People hop from church to church because they aren’t “fed”. Even worse are those that use multiple churches to meet all their own “spiritual” needs. Sunday morning here, Bible study there, women’s group over here— using what they consider to be the “best” of each “option” to build their perfect spiritual atmosphere. 

There is a very big book industry based on this concept. You’ll find options to fit every person, every religious affiliation, every type of person. Moms need “me-time”. Christians need “me-time”. Women need “me-time”. It sounds like wisdom. 

Sometimes, what sounds like wisdom, isn’t wisdom at all. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (CSB) says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.” This message of “me-time”— looking out for yourself first— that isn’t the Christian message at all. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. As Philippians 2:4 says, we are to look out not for our own interests, but the interests of others. (If you want to argue the “not only” portion, do yourself a favor and look up the MOUNCE Greek translation on Bible Gateway and see that the “not only” has no Greek underneath, because it isn’t in the Greek. See Dr. Kinlaw’s The Mind of Christ for more on that subject.) 

Christ says, to find your life, you have to lose it. He doesn’t say that, to find your life, you need to set aside an appropriate amount of me time in order to better “center yourself” for that life. Nope. Following Jesus is dying to self. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Jesus is full of paradox. Things that sound like wisdom are foolish. The last will be made first— not because it is fair, but because that is His way. Those who lead will serve. Those who seem wise will be fools. If you really want to live, you lay down your life and let Him live through you. 

I’m not saying to neglect your health. I’m not saying that anything you do “for yourself” is sinful. I am saying that perhaps we need to look a little closer at the wisdom of the world and not accept it just because it sounds like wisdom. Check it against what God says in His book. Check it against your cultural assumptions. (Gym time is a luxury not afforded to many in this world. If you equate your gym time with personal righteousness, you are saying something about who can and cannot be righteous according to your gospel.) 

If I find myself looking for the religious experience that best suits me, I doubt I will find it. If I’m not being “fed”, perhaps the issue is that I’m not out in the field sowing. (“He who does not work will not eat” could apply to spiritual feeding, as well.) Perhaps I need to stop treating church like a spiritual gym and more like the meeting together of the people of God. 

When I am tired as a mother, the Bible does not tell me that luxury (through gym time, manicures, shopping, hair appointments, massages, etc.) is the way to find rest for my soul and strength for my task; the Bible tells me that in my weakness, He will be strong. It tells me that I can rest in Him and His promises. The Bible tells me that I will not work alone and that my work in making disciples of my children is His great commission. I could write an entire book on the blessing of being a mother and the amount of grace I’ve received from letting God work in those tired, busy times— but for today I’ll save you all of that. What I will say to the fellow mother who is struggling, feeling weighed down— the answer isn’t “me-time”. The answer is Jesus. Throw your full weight of burden on Him and watch Him transform it into something beautiful, meaningful, and redemptive.

Be careful, dear friends, in listening to what seems like wisdom. There is nothing wrong with going to the gym, getting your nails done, getting a massage, etc. There is something wrong if you equate those things with what it means to be a godly person. There is something wrong if you see those things as your “right”. There is something wrong if you are so focused and intent on those things that your are putting them first. This isn’t a call to martyrdom— to smear yourself in ashes and sackcloth to prove your righteousness. This is a call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about how you can serve others like Jesus.

Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

Happy Advent Giveaway!

I’ve got a special Advent gift for one lucky winner! A Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly eyeshadow palette. I love this palette. The colors are so warm. You’ve got a little pop of color with the jelly color. This is a true all in one eyeshadow palette, meaning you can use just this palette to make a full eye look. No additional products needed. I liked it so much, I bought it’s sister palette Peanut Butter and Honey. And don’t worry, the Too Faced Peanut Butter palettes contain no actual peanut products. They say they smell like peanut butter, but I think they just smell like sweet vanilla cookies.

So, how can you win? Easy!

Comment here and get one entry.

Comment on Facebook and get one entry.

Share on Facebook and get one entry.

Subscribe to the blog and get one entry.

On St. Nicholas Day (December 6), I’ll draw a name to win this palette!

What Does A Pastor Do?

Last month was Pastor Appreciation Month. During that month, you’ll have a handful of people share on social media a little peek into the difficult life of being a pastor. But for the most part, most people sit around and wonder what a pastor actually does. You hear a statistic that pastor’s routinely work 60-70 hours a week, and most people wonder, “Doing what?” More than one person has responded to hearing my husband is a pastor with something along the lines of, “Must be nice to only work two hours a week.” They mean it as a joke, but the fact is, most people don’t have any idea what a pastor does all week. So, I figured I’d shed a little light on that. Not all pastors do all these things. Some pastors are bivocational, meaning they work more than one job, and cannot do all these things. Some churches have more staff than just the pastor to help with some of these things. But any given week, this is what pastors across your community are doing.

You see them preaching on Sunday morning. That sermon usually takes around 10 hours to write and get ready to deliver. That doesn’t include all the other prep for Sunday morning, like typing up and printing bulletins, getting ready to teach a Sunday School class, choosing music or approving music for the service, picking up the coffee and tea, and making sure all volunteers will actually be showing up on Sunday. Then after church, they are putting things away, cleaning up, and getting the list of thing they need to remember for the next week going. (Remember to go pick up more pens. Get more giving envelopes printed. The nursery is out of wet wipes, pick some up. Etc.) Sunday morning takes a team of people to pull off, but the pastor has the bulk of the work, usually spending 18 hours or more each week just making Sunday morning happen at all.

The pastor is also responsible for making small groups, midweek meetings, and/or Sunday School happen. Even when there are other people to help lead these group meetings, the responsibility to choose curriculum or books still falls on the pastor. Every study done in a small group is usually read by the pastor first, to make sure it fits with their congregation and isn’t heresy. (Pastors, if you don’t already do this, you should.) They are also responsible for teaching those that are teaching how to teach and lead. They are checking in with them, seeing how things are going, and keeping up to date on the group’s progress. Just because they may not be at every small group meeting does not mean they aren’t actively involved in every small group.

The Pastor is on call all the time. Not just for church members, but for anyone in the community. He is called in for counseling on a regular basis. Some of those, he’ll refer to a counseling professional after an initial meeting. Some, he’ll continue to meet with on a regular basis. He is always there when people need to talk, not just people who give or contribute to the church. It may simply be a phone call. Or he may have to leave before dinner and head out to pick someone up that needs a friend right now. Sometimes it is people just needed a place to vent. Life is stressful. Sometimes he may need to mediate a family conflict. Sometimes he may need to pick someone’s teenager up and try to be a voice of reason when they aren’t listening to much of anyone lately. Whatever it may be, it can take hours of his day or week, even in a small congregation. And he can’t just turn off his phone, ever. Because people need him.

The Pastor is often just the guy people call when they need someone. Emergency childcare, emergency transportation, house work, yard work, moving- he’s just the guy you call because he is dependable. When a single mother of four is evicted from her apartment, he’s the guy people call to help her figure out temporary and permanent housing. When she needs a sitter for a job interview, he’s the guy called to babysit. When someone locks their keys in their car, he’s the guy to call to drive them across town and back with the spare key. He’s just the reliable guy that will drop anything he can to help anyone he can.

The Pastor is visiting people often. This is something people in the church should be doing as well, but the pastor is making it a point to see the elderly, sick, and shut-ins in his care often. Taking them flowers to brighten their room. Delivering cards from the kids’ Sunday School class, so they know they are missed and still feel like part of the church. Taking them communion when they can’t make it to church because no one should have to miss the sacraments. He’s visiting strangers in the hospital, because someone called and said there is someone in a local hospital that needs someone to talk to. He’s also visiting with those in the church outside of a church setting. Getting together for coffee to catch up on life. Grabbing a quick lunch on someone’s lunch break with them just to be able to chat. He is staying connected constantly, which takes face to face time.

The Pastor is out there in the community doing the work of Jesus. Yes, he is coordinating volunteers to do this work as well. Yes, he is harassing and dragging those in the church along with him at times. But he knows from the example of Jesus to be a servant leader, to get out there and do the work himself, hoping you’ll follow his example. Often, he’s going at this alone, unable to convince anyone to join him. But he’s out there getting his hands dirty for Jesus, caring for the least of these.

The Pastor is constantly reading and trying to stay “in the know” on both or culture and the Christian culture. He’s reading through the top books at the Christian book store so he can know what you’re hearing. He’s staying up to date on current events so he can know where people are. He’s challenging himself by reading theology, counseling, and leadership books so he can be the best he can be for you. He’s also doing his own daily Bible study, and studying the Bible with his family. He’ll also, likely, be heading to conferences and meetings to stay “up on his trade”, like continuing education. And he’s likely listening to the sermons of other pastors throughout the week.

The Pastor also has to do work that just needs to be done. Keeping up the church website, making sure it stays current and relevant. He has to send out the same information in a half dozen different ways to make sure everyone is informed. He can’t just send an email about an upcoming event because half the church will say they don’t check their emails. He’ll have to put it on the website, knowing only 3 or 4 people even check that on a regular basis; make a Facebook event and personally invite every person in the church and share it on the church’s group page; share it on Twitter; send half the church a text about it, because that is the only mode of communication they use; and then call people every few days to make sure everyone knows what is going on. This is all in addition to the ad on Sunday morning and the reminder in the bulletin. He has to upload the sermon each Sunday and make sure he shares it on every available social media platform. It may look like he is always promoting himself, but really, he has to share things that many times to make sure everyone in the church even knows the thing exists. He’ll also have to type up and send prayer request emails through the week as people call or send those to him.

The Pastor may also have other ministries that he is involved in. Our pastor is on the board for our association, so any given week, he has several hours of work to help them out as a volunteer. They are also contacted by all manner of non-profit ministries and organizations to try to solicit the congregation on their behalf. They have to wade through each request and determine if the non-profit is in line with the values and mission of their church and what their involvement should be, if any.

There are also the services a pastor performs. Weddings and funerals both take considerable time and often, pastors aren’t paid for either. A wedding usually takes about 30 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours of counseling, 5 hours to write the service, 5 hours for the rehearsal, 10 hours the day of the wedding from pre and post wedding duties.) A funeral usually takes about 20 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours meeting with the family and writing the service. 6 hours of visitation. 4 hours for the actual service and after.) Keep in mind, in both scenarios, the Pastor is first there and usually last to leave. And a pastor isn’t guaranteed to make any money from either, even if travel and hotel expenses are involved.

There are also other speaking engagements a pastor may be asked to do. A youth camp, a retreat, a service at a Christian school. Those are often unpaid, as well.

The majority of a pastor’s work is secret, unseen, so it is easy to see where the misconception comes from that they don’t do that much. But when you are going through a crisis, you know who you can call. When you are in need of guidance, you know who you can call. We know they do things other than just preach on Sunday morning, but we often don’t think about just how much they are doing.

Erin Condren Life Planner Vs. Plum Paper ME Planner

With six kids, homeschooling, church, volunteering, etc- a planner is a necessity in my life. I have tried a thousand apps, but putting pen to paper is THE BEST way for me to stay organized. In 2016, I had an Erin Condren Life Planner. In 2017, I decided to try the Plum Paper Planner because it was cheaper and more customizable. I had some initial thoughts that I shared on Instagram, but now that I am 75% done with the Plum Paper Planner, I figured it was time for a full review.

I really liked the Erin Condren Life Planner. I was skeptical about how the cover would hold up, but figured I could always buy a new one if the first didn’t make it. I was really surprised that the cover lasted all year. I even took the little ruler out to use in my Plum Paper Planner. Overall, the layout was really nice and usable. My pens and markers didn’t bleed through. Yes, my stickers made it thick and weird by the end of the year, but I’m not going to NOT use stickers, people. The coil, the whole thing really held up to my very hard use.

When it came time to buy a new planner, I strongly considered going back with Erin Condren. However, I had heard good things about Plum Paper and they were more customizable and cheaper. So, I opted to try the Plum Paper Planner out. The cover looked like it would hold up really well, however, it didn’t.

I had to completely remove the plastic from the front cover because a corner broke off and it attacked me in the middle of Hobby Lobby. I seriously had this huge gash down my forearm from a planner injury. I was seriously concerned about getting necrotizing fasciitis being in public with a fresh wound. It ended up healing fine, but the plastic cover on the front had to go. Then the back cover felt left out and decided to break, too. I’ll be removing the back cover as soon as I post this. The decorative covers are still in place, but both plastic covers are history.

They are showing signs of wear, too. But hopefully they can hold out for 3 more months. The coil is holding up well.

My next issue with Plum Paper is the layout. So, in my Erin Condren, I would see the month tab, open to the tab, and the month would be in front of me. In Plum Paper, a pre-planning page is there and then you turn the page to get to the month. It isn’t a huge deal, but a minor annoyance. Like, I’m standing in the doctor’s office scheduling my next appointment and she says, “What about October 3rd?” I quickly open to the October tab and see my goals for October (have a baby) and the birthdays for the month and my notes on what books I need to read that month instead of seeing October 3rd. Then I have to turn the page and see the month to see it is a Tuesday that, yes, is free. Again, minor, but annoying.

My next annoyance is with how the weeks are set up. You know you have those weeks where a few days fall in one month and a few days fall in another. I like those weeks to just go into whatever month the most days fall into. Plum Paper didn’t feel that way and DUPLICATES these weeks. Now, if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll double book yourself. It got me enough times in the beginning that I had to go in and put washi tape over all the duplicate days. Which did result in having partial weeks in this month and then a partial week in the next, but that was the best I could do given their design flaw.

It at least keeps me from double booking, although it doesn’t give me nice, full week at a glance views all the time. Again, it is a minor thing, but an annoyance.

I also found that my customized boxes were not really big enough for everything I needed to put in them. Some days, I would have a bunch of stuff crammed into the top two boxes and the rest empty. Or I would have the Kid’s box and The Pastor’s boxes completely full and then all this blank space. So, while being customizable seemed so nice, it wasn’t really as necessary as I thought it was.

And can I tell you they BOTH annoy me with having the monthly calendar done starting on Sunday (as it should) and the weekly stuff starting on Monday. So, I’m looking at the week of the 8th through the 14th, but in my planner, the weekly view starts the week on the 9th but the monthly view starts it on the 8th. I want the weeks to start on Sunday across the board. But hey, if you’re customizing something, how about have the start day of the week customizable? So people who want (to do it wrong) to start the week on Monday can do so. Or if I was a weirdo and wanted my weeks to start on Thursday, that could happen. Either way, pick a day and have that match across the weekly and monthly view.

So, what am I doing for 2018? Am I going back to Erin Condren? Sticking with Plum Paper again to get more fun planner related injuries? Neither. I’m transitioning to a bullet journal so I don’t have to deal with the inadequate layout issues. I don’t have to settle for either of the annoyances. Although, I’d choose Erin Condren over Plum Paper if I only had those two options.