Book Review: The Biggest Story

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Once upon a time my husband pre-ordered a book from Crossway. We waited and waited; then – in a brown package – it appeared at our doorstep. Our order had arrived and we couldn’t be more pleased. The End.

Not a very exciting story, is it? Well, the story inside the book from my personal story is a very exciting story. It’s about Jesus Christ — the most important character. Author Kevin DeYoung does a great job telling the greatest story ever told in his new children’s book: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

DeYoung takes adults and children on a sweeping aerial tour of the Bible; he weaves together key stories and thematic elements from the beginning to the end of God’s Word and presents us with a beautifully concise and simple masterpiece. Adults and children alike will have a firm grasp of the broad purpose and scope of the Bible after reading this book. In all ten short chapters DeYoung provides a God and Christ centered approach to the Biblical text — he consistently points everything back to God and the person of Jesus Christ.

Not only has DeYoung done well constructing the broad Biblical story, but the illustrator — Don Clark — has brought truth alive through his art. As I’ve been reading this book to my three year old for the second time, he asks questions about the images; he is captivated by the stories contained in each illustration. Because that is what Clark has done —  he not only has drawn images depicting the reality of the stories, but has also drawn abstract images conveying abstract Biblical themes.

Reading this book to my preschooler has stirred up questions from him and discussion between us, but it’s also reminded me about the promises of God in Christ: his faithfulness to a faithless people, and the greatness of God’s redemptive plan from the beginning. I recommend it as a bedtime story for kids, but also a book for adults to remember how they are apart of this big story. And if you rip out any of the pages to frame as art around your house, I won’t blame you.

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God’s Math for Good Mothering

Math is not my forte. As an English major in college I tried to get out of as many math credits as possible. It wasn’t always the concepts that frustrated me; it was the process. All the long complicated steps it took to solve one problem overwhelmed me.

I have one big math problem taking over my life right now, namely, potty training my two-year-old. I just want the problem solved, and don’t want to deal with the process. It’s hard to navigate all the failures, setbacks, and change. Yet, potty training is just a taste of the larger process of the Christian life. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says,

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I believe parenthood is one of the good works God has prepared for me to walk in. And yet, not all of my days feel all that good.

I get angry at my oldest son when he disobeys. I’m annoyed when the baby interrupts my morning cup of coffee. I fight to not view my children as inconveniences in my life. In summary, I am not the perfect parent. But I know one who is.

Read the rest of this post at DesiringGod.org >> 

Christ & Culture Series: Education

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This is part 2 in a series exploring areas of culture through a Biblical lens. The first post introduces the series, and in it I’m talking with my husband about juggling artistry, business, and theology. In this post I keep it in the family and talk with my older sister (Charity Bianchi) about her specialty: education. She hails from Syracuse, NY, where she lives with her husband of 19 years and her 6 children, who range in age from 15 to 3. She homeschool’s 4 of her children, while the oldest 2 attend Christian school.

She graduated from Oswego State University in New York state with a bachelors degree in Elementary Education in 1997, and in 2000 she received her Masters degree in Special Education. She was a full time 5th grade teacher at a Christian school for 2 years, but quit to stay home with her children. She began homeschooling in 2005.


What are some ways the culture views education?

The culture elevates education to a higher function than necessary.  Many people, even in Christian circles, can view education as the answer to a “successful life”  leaving out the true core of what makes success. Because academia is so important in our world to acquire a job and good standing, many can run to it as the answer to the problems we face. The mentality being that, “our society would be better if only we had a better education system.”  Our culture also can rely heavily upon our government as the answer to education.

What makes an education distinctly Christian? 

I believe when you place Christ and the gospel at the center of all you teach it becomes distinctly Christian. Because God is our creator every discipline of education intertwines (such as various subjects: reading, math, science, history, as well as the building of the child’s biblical worldview) and is interrelated to God’s plan for mankind.  When you use Gods word as the foundation of education, truth and insight will be transposed.

What’s your goal in educating your children?

I have two goals. The most important is from two verses. One is from the Old Testament book Deutronomy 6:4-9 and from Proverbs 22:6,

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old they will not depart from it.” 

If my children are the most educated, well read, and well spoken people, but do not love their God and know his word I feel I have not truly educated them.  I have to constantly remind myself of this and keep this on the forefront as I teach them daily, even though I am not consistent and as faithful as I would like to be in this area.

The second goal is to give them a good education, while instilling a godly work ethic, with the basis of gaining a Biblical worldview.  My children’s academic capabilities vary greatly, and I don’t know what God has for their lives in the future, but I know I want them to be set apart (be a light in the darkness) by their knowledge, work ethic, and godly character.  It is wise and important for us to raise a generation of Christians that can be intelligently articulate on many issues and most importantly to be able to express an accurate Biblical worldview about them. (A great resource for homeschoolers on this topic is When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr.)

Can our culture’s view of education and a Christian education coexist?

It really depends on what the parents or school convey to the children and how.  It’s interesting, because the school systems want “moral” acting students, but they want to teach immoral and ungodly information.  Worldly humanism is pervasive in our schools and homes.  Humanisim can be taught both socially and educationally. We can all fall prey to it if we are not vigilant and active thinkers.  A Biblical worldview is the answer to this and training children in discernment at a young age (seeing Gods evidence in creation) and as they get older asking the right questions (based on their previous knowledge of scripture) will help them sift through the worldliness and into the truth.  Our culture wants us to behave in a moralistic fashion by teaching children not to lie, steal, and cheat, but they do not understand where morality is rooted. I don’t think morality and humanisim can coexist and produce authentic Christian children.

How can Christian parents who don’t homeschool give their kids a distinctly Christian education, and one in which they are involved?

There are many wonderful Christian schools that will partner with parents to provide their children with a distinctly Christian education.  If that’s not an option and your children are in public school, it’s going to look different and may require more intentionality, but parents can work with their children and discuss with them how topics are being taught at the school and any social issues with peers. Parents can use God’s word and other Christian literature to supplement and teach them how to refute opposing secular views.

Being in a non-Christian educational environment can be helpful for the child to learn how to put a Biblical worldview into practice.  Depending on the child’s age the school can also be a good outreach for the child to pursue others who need to hear the truth. Parents can actively get involved at the schools by volunteering or being a part of a school board. I know many families that have done a tremendous job guiding their children spirtually through their education process at public school.

What are some ways we can glorify God through education?

Education is a good thing and God wants us to acquire knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to ultimately glorify him. One way we can glorify God through education is by aiding our children through the education process and training them toward godliness in their school work ethic. School is a child’s “job” and we need to teach them to “work as unto the Lord” at a young age. Another way we can glorify God through education is to have children grow to embrace the Biblical worldview and be able to stand firm in their faith despite contrary beliefs.

Book Review of Mom Enough

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Are you mom enough? The title from a Time magazine cover above an image of a woman breastfeeding her 4 year old son. This was more fuel added to the already flaming mommy wars. The book, Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope, poses a different question: is God God enough?

This compilation of Desiring God blog posts written by eight different women answers these questions by saying moms are not enough, but God is enough. Tony Reinke says in the Editor’s Preface,

The aim of Mom Enough is not to boost a mother’s self-sufficiency, but to build her fearlessness as she finds her sufficiency outside of herself.”

Topics that are covered include biblical perspectives on the mommy wars, femininity, treasuring Christ, dependent parenting, anxiety, and the calling and mission of motherhood.

Each post is 2-4 pages of the nitty gritty issues from mothers desiring to live out what they are writing. It’s real, relatable, and refreshing. In the mundane and chaos of the everyday it’s great to pick up this slim book and be greatly encouraged. It definitely revived me throughout the day, challenged my outlook on certain areas in motherhood, and gave me fresh hope and vision to live for Jesus in my home.

Some of my favorite posts are Rachel Jankovic’s, “Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank),” “Mommy Wars are Spiritual Wars,” by Carolyn McCulley, and “The Amazing Calling of Motherhood,” by Trillia Newbell. I’ll close with some of my favorite quotes from each post:

The modern mom doesn’t always like to be identified as a mother…First and foremost, we are united to Christ…But this doesn’t mean we must deny the significance of being a mother…We don’t need to shed our titles as moms, we leverage our titles for what they mean for the glory of Christ.” — Trillia Newbell

Your daily life may consist of dozens of repetitive tasks that feel mundane and irrelevant. This is absolutely not true! You are engaged in spiritual warfare. By bearing and nurturing life, you are reflecting the life-giving characteristics of our holy God. Made in his image, you are reflecting him when you care for the lives he has created.” — Carolyn McCulley

You represent everything that out culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another — and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.”  — Rachel Jankovic

3 Things I Can Learn From a 2 Year Old

I can be a child sometimes. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good when I have the childlike faith Jesus talks about in the gospels, but bad when I’m throwing an adult temper tantrum. Our children are a tool God uses to show us who we are and who he is. We are meant to instruct our children, but often times our children are teaching us. What on earth could I learn from a little person whose life experience equals two years? Here are just a few:

1.) I Am Finite

My son’s world is very small right now. His favorite people are mama, daddy, baby, and his grandparents. His knowledge of the world consists of home, church, the library, and the park. So far, the only pain life has inflicted on him has been scraped knees and a busted lip.

He tries to enter the adult world by eavesdropping on me and my husband’s conversations and then attempting to engage us about it. “What happened, mama?” is a recurring question throughout my day. He just wants to be involved; be in the know. Yet, he is limited in knowledge, experience, and understanding. This limitation is one reason hearing ‘no’ can be frustrating for a child.

As an adult I am finite and limited compared to God. I can’t grasp the “no’s” and the “why’s?” of life. I am still learning and growing in my understanding of God’s creation and God’s Word. My limitations should cause me to cry out, “Abba, Father! Help!” My loving father is infinite in wisdom and understanding and his power is limitless.

2.) I Try to be in Control

My son might be frustrated by the answer ‘no’, but he certainly loves the opportunity to say ‘no’ himself. When it’s time to go upstairs and get dressed, “no.” When it’s time for bed, “no.” When it’s time to eat dinner, “no.” A finite and limited little person trying to excise his will and take over the whole operation is an interesting concept.

My husband and I have better understanding at our disposal and we know what’s best for our son. We know he needs food, rest, and clothes. Our son thinks it’s a good idea to wrest control out of our fingertips, just like we try to do to God. Yet, God has an elevated view of our lives in light of all earthly and eternal history. Isn’t he qualified for the job?

We try to hold him hostage as we make our heist. We think there is freedom outside the boundary lines, but don’t realize freedom is found inside. It’s better to surrender to a traffic ticket than risk jail time, and it’s better to obey a traffic light than risk a deadly car crash. The Lord’s discipline and instruction is meant for our safety and protection; he knows without them we would be in bondage, or worse, dead. The good news is that God is always the one in control, we just deceive ourselves by thinking we control our little world.

3.) I Filter Life Through My Needs and Desires

My son is very big compared to his little world. So, his needs and desires come in high demand. He doesn’t stop and think how his actions and attitudes affect our home, he just surfs the waves of his current mood. His mind hasn’t learned to venture out into the world of others, because he is so preoccupied with his own.

This is a tough one for me, because my main occupation right now consists of round the clock service. I have to constantly place myself outside of my little world to sympathize with and meet the needs and desires of others. It’s hard to serve others in joy when I am consumed with myself. The time I get to fulfill my desires is always easier to enjoy.

I am like a child in many ways and God knows this. He knows I am finite and limited, I feebly try to control my own life, and I have a hard time thinking less about myself. Yet, knowing I am like a child is exactly what leads me to the possession of eternal life. Jesus has told us if we want to have eternal life we must have faith like a small child (Matthew 18:3.)

A child can have faith in a parent who loves them, guides them, and nurtures them. The source and object of our faith is secure and trustworthy. Once I humble myself as a small child I can rest in my savior’s lap, because he too once humbled himself in childish form.

Weak, Needy, and Perfect

Motherhood is the mirror reflecting my neediness. From my firstborn son’s cries after an hour and a half of me pushing in labor to postpartum depression and sleepless nights, and now to juggling an inquisitive non-stop talking 2 year old with his crawling 8 month old little brother, is the most needy for the Lord’s grace I’ve ever felt.

I wasn’t prepared with my first son to experience the constant stripping away of my selfishness and freedoms. My life was wrapped around the little finger of my not so sleepy baby. Dying to myself was like trying to bend wood. Would it break? It did, and it was a glorious thing. Because in the breaking I realized I was weak and needed to draw near to my savior.

In Desperate Need

Now my firstborn son is almost 3 and he is still showing me how weak and needy I am. He craves knowledge, so much so that his questions are on repeat all day and night. Even when my husband gets home I’m still the soundboard my son mainly uses for his questions and talking.

Lately, when I tell my son to wait before I can do something for him his request will be made known over and over again until it’s fulfilled. Of course, when he does this he won’t take into account when mommy is busy, tired, or overheated and exhausted from pushing him in a double stroller 12 blocks after story time at the library. If only my toddler were more sensitive to my needs. But he’s not, and it’s not his fault.

I wish I could say I always respond to my son with a sweet and sunny disposition, but I don’t. Left in my own strength I can raise my voice, get irritated and snap at him, and just plain lose patience. This grieves me, because I love my son. I always thought a mother’s love for her child was the strongest love there is, but it’s not, because it’s tainted with sin. It’s not enough. But Christ’s love is enough for both me and my son. It’s stronger than my natural mother’s love and stronger than my sin. I desperately need Christ’s love to cover my daily sin and I need to ask for help to love like Christ.

The Perfection in My Imperfection

Christ’s love shines brightest when I realize my love is weak. Weakness and neediness in motherhood is absolutely perfect, because his power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9.) God uses me best when I realize I’m imperfect and need his perfection. God also gets the most glory in this situation, because I am left with no reason to boast in anything.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says,

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

I am the one who is foolish, weak, low, and despised. Yet, I am chosen. God, through Christ, has set his affections on me and can give me the strength to daily love my son like Christ loves me.

‘Me Time’ Interrupted

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1:30 PM. Both of my boys take a 2 hour nap. Glory glory hallelujah’s echo through my mind as I prepare my pour-over coffee in solitude with a book ready in hand. This is my ‘me time’ as other cyber moms call it. A few hours without poopy diapers, constant questions and demands, playing blocks, and singing the ABC’s for the 100th time. I absolutely love all of those things (sometimes), but loving them doesn’t stop me from basking in my peaceful reverie. Until something changes.

Once I hear the baby cry for the second time or the toddler come out of his room, woken up prematurely, then I really love my ‘me time.’  Gratefulness turns to greediness. “Can’t I ever get a break around here?” is a question I’ve asked myself many times in my head. Sometimes it’s like my own personal mini raincloud appears over me and I grumble and complain to myself. The constant interruptions can get tiring. I only have a small window of time to look at my iPad, read a few pages in my book, or even write this blog post in one sitting. I’m like Gollum and this time is my precious.

Making a Mess with our Sin

We need a little time to ourselves (especially moms.) Those little breaks we get can be the fuel we need to keep going. So, in and of itself ‘me time’ is good, but the problem lies in our evil little hearts. We tend to soil good things, like spilling red pasta sauce on a white shirt. ‘Me time’ can become an idol. It can become a demanding god we must serve and bow down to everyday, thereby taking the place of the one true God. When ‘me time’ expresses itself in greediness, selfishness, and pride then we’ve put time to ourselves on a pedestal.

Doing our Job with Joy

I’m guilty of this. I selfishly don’t want to be interrupted by a crying baby. I pridefully demand my right to have time to myself, and I become greedy over how and when I want to spend my time. Basically, I become an old curmudgeon. I forget being a mom is my number one job, but I really forget that it should also be a joy.

That’s my problem; without Christ’s help I lack joy in the mundanity of motherhood. In the book, Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope (Affiliate Link), two ladies capture this sentiment well:

Christine Hoover says,

“The everyday question asks not just about my duties, but also about my attitude. Will I joyfully pour out my life as a fragrant offering before the Lord for the benefit of my children?”

Gloria Furman says,

“By God’s grace, I can resist the temptation to treat my children as interruptions to my will for my life. Instead, God enables me to treat my children as precious gifts he is using to shape me into his image according to his will for my life.” 

Motherhood should not be a pattern of grin and bear it situations, but motherhood should be marked by joy and delight in God’s little gifts to us. Little gifts who love to interrupt us.

The One Parenting Tip we all Need

My Facebook feed has articles of top ten lists, methods, and practices of parents I’ve never met before. These methods and practices can be helpful, but as a parent I’ve realized there is one bottom line: I’m a sinner in need of grace.

It seems God invented parenthood to show us how much we are sinners in need of grace. All parents have this in common. This is where comparisons stop and the playing field is leveled.

How I’m Like a Two Year Old

Recently, the Lord reminded me of this simple truth as my sin was laid bare in front of a 2 1/2 year old. My husband and I have been attempting to train our toddler son to not throw fits when he doesn’t get what he wants. We have been telling him it is anger. In the midst of dealing with my son’s anger on an almost daily basis the Lord has made this a training tool for me as well.

You see, I’m angry too. I might not show it the same way as my son by hitting, screaming, and throwing, but my heart is angry. I’m angry about dealing with a tantruming toddler. I’m feeling worn down and discontent.

During one of these angry fits my son was throwing around plastic Easter eggs, because I needed to check on something cooking in the kitchen. In turn, I got angry and impatient. In that moment I saw myself as a reflection of my son. We’re in the same boat here; sinners in need of God’s grace. So, I gathered my son into my arms and hugged him.

I told him, “Mommy gets angry too and I’m sorry. You know who can help us not be angry? Jesus.”

My son told me he was sorry. Then I told him I loved him and we needed to love like Jesus loves us.

When I am Weak He is Strong

I’m seeing how weak I really am, but confident that His strength is made perfect in weakness. I can run to my Father and ask for help to love like him. My heavenly Father does not grow weary of me, and when I sin he is not impatient or unloving; because of Christ he loves me and does not deal with me in anger. But I never love as perfectly as he loves me. Yet, He will answer when I call. He knows I need more than the love of a mother. I need the love of Christ.

The love of Christ absorbs sin and returns love. He loves unconditionally. He is the Great Shepard who lays down his life for the flock. He does this regardless of how we behave. His love does not change, because He does not change. When I throw tantrums His love embraces me and says, “I know you’re a sinner in need of grace.”