Monday, March 1, 2021

Sisters' March Reading Challenge

I've been enjoying the Brighter Winter Reading Program the last two months. It has helped me stay offline, read books that have been lingering on my shelf, and connect with other readers. The Brighter Winter Reading Program is organized by Daughters of Promise magazine for two months in the winter. Each month has twenty challenges.

In January I had lots of extra time to read, partly because my little girls had the chicken pox and I stayed home more than usual. But in February I had far less time than usual, partly because of being in North Carolina for a week. I really had to push to finish the challenges.

I couldn't (and probably shouldn't) keep reading at the rate that I did this winter. The pace is a little exhausting. But I do love the  way a reading challenge helps me to read deliberately. And I love how it helps me to connect with other friends who are also doing the reading challenge.

Since we didn't want the fun to end, my sister Charity and I decided to come up with our own reading challenges for the month of March. We set five challenges, three with specific book topics and two with activity-related challenges. 

This post containes affiliate links.

Sisters' March Reading Challenge

1. Read a book set in Ireland (in honor of St Patrick's Day).
Let Me Die in Ireland or Patrick of Ireland by David Bercot (historical fiction about St. Patrick)
Nory Ryan's Song (middle-grade fiction on the Irish potato famine)
In the Company of Others by Jan Karon (from the Mitford series)

2. Read a book written by a female missionary.
Example of authors:
Elisabeth Elliot
Amy Carmichael
Isobel Kuhn
Darlene Diebler Rose
Kate McCord
Katie Davis

3. Read a book about food
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reihl (a food memoir)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
A nonfiction book about gardening, nutrition, or even chemistry
A biography about a chef

4. Write out a quote from a book and tape it to your mirror.
This could be something inspirational, humorous, or convicting from something you read--even a Bible verse.

5. Mail a book to a child, invalid, or friend.
Share the love of books with a surprise package. You can mail a book from your personal collection or purchase book from Abebooks or Amazon and have it directly mailed to your friend.

These challenges are just for fun. No pressure and no prizes--just a way to encourage each other to read more books and spend less time on our phones. (I know, you are probably reading this on your phone.)

 At the end of the month, I'll share what I did for these challenges and invite you to do the same.

Share in the comments if you want to join us and what suggestions you have for these challenges. I need an idea for an Irish book.

Friday, February 26, 2021

A Need for Growth

We will remember Febrary 2021 as the snowy month. Unlike last year when we only had a few flakes, we've enjoyed week after week of a white landscape. The first two Sundays of the month, our church services were canceled. But both times we were able to meet with friends in homes which made a special Sunday anyway. (And I know, some of you are still under Covid restrictions and meeting at  home is no longer fun. I'm sorry.)

After the first week or two, the children wearied of playing in the snow, but the remenant of their huge snowballs still survive.

Trapping season ended for my boys. They had put a lot of effort into it this year without too much to show for it. Maybe next year...

Last week we left snowy Pennsylvania for soggy North Carolina. We joined Christian Disaster Services who are still helping families get back in their homes after Hurrican Florence in 2018. 

Maybe the best part of the week was learning to know people from other parts of the US. We met Sunday as strangers and left Saturday as friends. 

A week like this reminded me of the blessing of Christian fellowship. The past year has showed me how much I need others and yet how easily I can build walls.  Connection takes effort and sometimes it feels too hard to give the time, energy, and humility needed for honest friendships. 

I'm grateful for conversations with friends this past month on topics such as hospitality, identity, and expectations. Growth happens when we learn from each other, when we prod each other to be more like Jesus. Growth happens when we are honest with each other, when we aren't afraid to share what is really bothering us.

I have a lot of growing to do.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Living of These Days - review

 Last spring, I did a lot of reading about the Spanish flu of 1918 and wished that I knew how my great-grandparents and the Mennonites in my area lived through the fears and restrictions of that era. I wished I would have had letters or a diary from that time period to get a glimpse of their lives. 

My friend Erica Sauder was asking similiar questions. She knew that we were making history and future generations would ask what life in 2020 was like. Erica began compiling first-person stories and personal essays that included the challenges of finding toilet paper, traveling across national borders, and preaching to an empty church.

I had encouraged Erica to publish her collected stories, but the longer the pandemic and restrictions dragged on, I wondered if anyone would want to read these stories. Maybe we were just all sick and tired of hearing about the affects on the coronovirus. 

The Living of These Days: 46 Stories from the Covid-19 Pandemic arrived at my house a few weeks ago. When we arrived home at bedtime, we found the package, and I could hardly pull my children out of the books to shoo them into bed. Then I opened the book myself and kept saying "just one more story" until I read far after my bedtime.

I found the book strangely encouraging. Here are account of Anabaptists in many parts of the world, trying to live through uncertain times with faith and courage. An Amish wedding in Lancaster, an ordination in Ontario, a baptism in South America, a trip through Mexico that ended in an immigration prison--these and many more stories showed the faithfulness of God. These are stories of ordinary men and women, teachers, ministers, missionaries, and moms, who attempted to comfort the grieving, care for elderly, homeschool unexpectantly, and shop for household needs.

Depending on where you live, Covid restrictions may feel all too real, but already the memories of last March are fading. As the years go by, we may need the reminder that God carried us through 2020. The Living of These Days records history in a way that holds up our God.

To order your own copy of The Living of These Days, email to contact Erica. Books are $16.00 each with $4.00 shipping. Additional books are $1.00 shipping.

I consider Erica a personal friend and she included my short essay in her book and gave me a free copy, but the opinions of this review are my own.

Friday, February 5, 2021

January Reading Challenge

Last year I so loved the Brighter Winter Reading Challenge. Not only was it ia fun way to add more reading to my life in mid-winter, but it encouraged me to spend less time on a screen. 

I like that the Brighter Winter program doesn't not choose specific books, but has a wide variety of challenges that can fit the books I wanted to read. Here is a list of the books I read for the challenges in January. One book could be used for two challenges.

Disclaimers: This post contains affiliate links. And please don't compare your amount of reading to mine. I'm a fast reader, and I probably don't do something that you do so I have more time to read. My reading has increased since I don't have Ed to talk to.

Read a book based on its cover: I never choose a book by the cover; almost all the books I read were receomended to me by friends. But I went to a used bookstore and picked up Between You and Me: Coffesions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris, a book I knew nothing about. Since the cover said it was a memior by a long-time editor, I thought it might be interested to a grammar nerd like me. It was. Except for a chapter on profanity and a few pages about her transgender brother, I throughly enjoyed this glimpse into a magazine editor's world.

Read a book with nonhuman characters/ Read a book set in winter: I chose to listen to the audio of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. The reader did such an excellent job that though I've read this book more than once, he made me want to listen to the entire series.

Read a poetry book for at least 20 minutes: I chose a book of poetry by Annie Johnson Flint. I struggle to enjoy poetry but knowing about the suffering in Flint's life made these poems meaningful.

Read a book with a three-word title: In A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake, she tells about her daughter's severe skin condition. Her example of surrender and acceptance in the face of grief was inspiring.

Read a book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit/ Read by a fire: Elizabeth Goudge's novels so beautifully describe England and the old homes of the Elliot family that I always long to walk into her stories. I read The Heart of the Family which was the third in the Elliot series. I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two books, but it is always fun to revisit characters that you have fallen in love with.

Read a book published in 2020/Read a memoir: The Boy in the Window by Bobby D. Eaton is a sobering yet ultimately victorious story of a young boy growing up in a sharecropping home amidst poverty, abuse, and neglect. The love of neighbors changed the entire family and the forgiveness and healing that the author found in Christ is soul-strengthening.

Read a book inspired by a true story/Read whilte waiting for an appointment: Some of the ladies at our church are getting together to discuss The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield so I knew I needed to read this book this month. Rosaria is a former lesbian who found Christ because a pastor invited her to dinner, and she is now passionant about opening her home up to others. This book stepped all over my toes.

Read a classic: Authors like Tolkein and Lewis gave George MacDonald the credit for showing them how fantasy can describe truth. I read The Wise Woman which is a collection of short stories. The long sentences and fluffy descriptions are examples of the Victorian writing style, but some of his word pictures will stay with me.

Read a collection of short stories: I inhaled The Living of These Day over a weekend. I'll share more about this book in a future post.

Read a book with a blue cover/ Read a new-to-you middle grade book: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose is a verse novel about the Lost Colony in Roanoke, North Carolina. It didn't feel realistic to me for the events playing out as the author imagined them, but it was a fun way to learn some history.

Read a book outside your genre comfort zone: Since I don't like to give negative reviews, I won't mention the title of the book I read for this challenge as it wasn't worth reading in my opinion.

If you did the Brighter Winter Challenge in January, I'd love to hear what your favorite book was.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 31


Congratulations! You finished the 30-Day Phone Challenge. I hope you found this series helpful.

There are many more areas that could have been addressed in our use of technology. If you want further resources, here are a few I recommend. (Affiliate links included.)

Surviving the Tech Tsunami by Gary Miller

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

How To Break Up With YourPhone by Catherine Price

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’d love to hear from you on what you have found helpful in controlling your phone. And if you are my friend in real life, I welcome you to ask how I'm doing in controlling my phone.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 30



Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

After thirty days of talking about technology and phones, you might feel discouraged, as I was when I researched this subject. But note the verbs in these verses: Create, Restore, Renew, Uphold. These are positive action words. 

Whatever the regrets you have about your phone use, God desires to reshape your life into His image. He can take what is ugly, worn-out, and corrupted--and transform it.

Today’s Challenge: Meditate on Psalm 51: 10-12. Ask God for His restoration in every area of life.

31-Day Phone Challenge - Day 29


We’ve talked about a lot of things this month. You might have decided that you don’t have a problem with your phone use. But if you are like most women I talk to, you see room for improvement.

So what's next?

You might want to streamline your time online. Maybe unsubscribe from email newletters or unfollow people on social media to help manage the digital clutter. It might be a good goal to take a few minutes on the first day of every month decluttering your phone from apps that are draining your time.

Or maybe you need something more radical. I admire those who have chosen to get rid of their smart phone and go back to a dumb phone. Or who have their social media apps blocked for all but a few hours on Saturday. Or disabled their phone from ever getting onto Youtube.

Only you can know where your problem area lies and what might be a good solution. Do you need more accountability? A regular fast from your phone? Or just a bit more moderation?

But one thing I do know is that we all need more of the Word of God. I haven’t talked to anyone who wishes they spent less time in their Bible.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

Today’s Challenge: Review the challenges from the last few weeks and brush up the ones you missed. Remind yourself that this isn’t just to make your life miserable. Our goal in controlling our phones is to get more of the riches of God’s Word and less of the world’s rot.


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