“The Ingredients We Have on Hand” | Story Warren

My friend April and I used to joke that the moment you blog about something it dies. Routines, recipes, updates on what you’re up to now—as soon as you share them, the routines shift or your schedule or circumstance changes. It seems inevitable, and we’ve seen it happen often enough that we’ve joked, after publishing a post, “Well! That was nice while it lasted.”

Today, Story Warren published an article I started writing over a year ago (in much the same way I describe in the post). When I began it, I was a homeschooling mom, and when I revised it, I was a homeschooling mom, but by the time I submitted it, I had an intimation that all that was about to change. I’ll tell you the full story soon, I promise—it deserves its own post.

What I didn’t know until after I heard the happy news that my piece had been accepted was that my writing life was destined to change as well.

Last spring, I stepped down from my editing responsibilities at Deeply Rooted. I prayed over the decision for months, tossing it back and forth and back and forth. I have been with Deeply Rooted since the magazine’s first issue—five years ago!—and I have loved my work there, every part of it. The nit-picky part of editing, the broad-sweeping-changes part of editing, the finding the perfect verb part of editing, the encouraging a writer as she revises part of editing—this was a hard role to lay down. But I realized that, no, I did not have time to both homeschool my kids and give editing as much energy as I’d like to. And so I stepped down in order (I thought) to focus on homeschooling.

But a few weeks later, homeschooling changed course too.

So, I spent the summer finishing my last editing assignment for Deeply Rooted (the fabulous four-part series by Leslie Bustard running right now!) and then, quietly and without ceremony, removed “Contributing Editor” from my email signature. But, Mitch and I wondered: What was that about? What is God up to?

We pondered and prayed and discussed the subject of “What will Thea do with the time she spent editing or planning homeschool lessons?” I considered returning to Deeply Rooted, but neither of us thought that seemed in the direction God was leading us.

And so we waited.

And the very same week—two days later, in fact—that Mitch started looking into what it might take for me to find work as a freelance editor, work found me: I received an offer from a small publishing house (run by people I adore), asking if I’d consider working with one of their authors on a project.

So, Mitch and I celebrated and I took that assignment and already other options have opened up for potential assignments. And now, on account of our schedule changes (again, story forthcoming), I not only write in the early mornings, as described in the Story Warren article (I knew we’d get back here eventually), but also for hours in a coffee shop, one day a week, where the pastries are flaky and the iced coffee gets tossed about in a cocktail shaker. (I love hipster coffee.)

I am embarking, in seems, upon the seas of freelance editing.

Was it the fact that I tried to write about it that killed the current routine? I joke about it, but no, of course not. I see God’s faithfulness through the whole process, in his asking me to (yet again) surrender something I love, and in his generosity in making something new of that gift—before giving it back to me. May I use this gift and any others for his glory, always.


Seriously, though, here is the link to “The Ingredients We Have on Hand,” my new post for Story Warren. I loved writing this one!


Postscript

I am still a regular contributor for Deeply Rooted, so I will continue to write for both the print magazine and the blog!

My Book House | Olive Beaupre Miller

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in November of 2016.


Our shelves are full of books I believe in. We own adventure stories, where after a few battles and close calls, good triumphs over evil. We own fairy tales, picture books, poetry collections, and a whole lot of Sandra Boynton board books. And books are everywhere in our home: in fact, the only room in our home that doesn’t have a single book in it is our laundry room. Everywhere else has a cache of books tucked into some corner or other.

I tell you this not because I’m in a mood to state the obvious, but because I want to paint a picture of a family who loves books, who reads them often, and who trades favorites on a regular basis. We read a lot—but we’re not very structured about it. I trust that by filling our shelves with great titles, our kids will get a well-rounded literary education.

But, of course, I am the weak link there: they will get a well-rounded education in books that I am familiar with. Books that like.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

So when I heard about My Book House, I was intrigued: In 1920, Olive Beaupre Miller, the series editor, chose character-building stories from classic literature, mythology, fairy tales and more, and arranged them in multiple volumes, each one progressively more challenging than the last. The idea was that a family could read straight through the series and provide their children with a rich literary foundation, from nursery rhymes to great historical speeches.

That’s pretty awesome. The series includes things I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward—fables, folk tales, and nursery rhymes, to name a few, as well as things familiar and well-loved. It’s delightful to be drawn outside our box.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

But while I was immediately smitten with the idea behind My Book House, it wasn’t until I saw pictures of the books themselves that I decided to take the plunge and order a set. The books are beautiful, and there’s something satisfying about seeing that many good stories huddled together in matching jackets on our shelves.

To clarify: Yes. I bought the books because they’re pretty.

Buying these books is a hefty investment, and I hesitated about whether or not to post them here because I hate to talk you into adding $100 worth of books (however beautiful) to your wishlists unless I’m positive you’ll like them. But the thought that you might see a set at a garage sale and pass it by because you’d never heard of them finally convinced me that I have a duty to share these books with you. So, check thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay (that’s where I found mine)—perhaps you’ll get lucky!

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
How We Use Our Set

These books have become a part of our home school routine. I read them aloud to the girls, but I also encourage my newly fluent first grader to practice her reading on some of the early volumes.

We have been studying geography this year, so it’s been fun to read some of the stories from other countries. (I will warn you, though, that these books are a little dated in places. Some of the perspectives on race and culture might bring up some interesting discussions with your kids.)

I love digging into them around holidays: my set has a giant index at the end of the last volume, so when a holiday rolls around, it’s fun to rummage through that index and find the stories and poems that relate to each holiday and incorporate those into our reading for the week.

Plus, my girls love them so much that they often pull a volume down and curl up on the couch with it. That’s a hearty endorsement from the intended audience right there.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
A Note on Editions

I understand that there are different editions out there and that some of the older ones are a bit better than my 1971 set (read more about that at the link below), but I didn’t know that until after I purchased mine. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because the 1971 set is so darn pretty.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
One Last Thing

If you would like to know more about either the history of My Book House or how you might use it in your home, Pam Barnhill has an excellent article all about the series on her blog, Ed Snapshots. Read it here.


My Book House
Olive Beaupre Miller (1920)

Wildflowers in General; The Summer Issue in specific

We recently took a vacationa proper vacation, with moving sidewalks and deep-fried Oreos and fireflies and speed boatsand when we came home, the spiders had moved in. The afternoons still felt sticky-hot, but the mornings now feel dewy and chill. We find ourselves reaching for sweaters and slow-cooking stock and we knew, that first morning, that the end was near: summer is packing her things, taking with her the zinnias and the cabbage whites, and fall is settling in for a stay.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story

I am not sorry about thisI love fall. But this “foot in both seasons” moment is a sweet onesummer isn’t fully gone and fall isn’t fully hereand I am savoring it by drinking tea in the morning and eating popsicles in the afternoon. And by re-reading the summer issue of Wildflowers. But not just re-reading it: I got to review the whole magazine for Story Warren, so rather than go on at length about it here, I’ll send you there for the full review.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story

I will add, however, that this summer issue came with a fun, new side project. A group of us (adults and adorable little girls) partnered with Gateway Hymns to record three of Fanny Crosby’s hymns to accompany Jennifer Harris’s biography of Fanny in this summer issue. You can listen to the hymns here and purchase the issue (biography and all) here. With its help you can hold on, just a little bit, to summer before fall settles in for good.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story
My Adventures in Illustration continues! I painted the pictures on the left page to accompany Kendra O’Blenis’s lovely story “The Great Escape.”

10 Living Books About Church History

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in October 2016.


We sit at the table so long that my tea grows cold. With my left hand I sprinkle Josie’s tray with smashed popcorn, one salty shard at a time; with my right hand I hold a book open, one of the stack piled in front of me. The older girls shell pistachios or poke each other or stare dreamily into middle distance as I read.

We call this time “elevensies”—we eat like hobbits while it happens—and it is a part of our home school routine. By the time we sit down, everyone who is of age has practiced piano; everyone has bumped fists with math and Latin. That stack of books at my seat holds everything from a biography of Tchaikovsky to a picture book about constellations to a systematic theology for kids.

But the core of our reading has two main threads: Scripture and history. I want my daughters to understand their context, to know that the world was an interesting place before they were born and that they have a particular role to play in this part of it. I want them to be able to trace the thread of God’s redemption through Scripture and to recognize where he is still working in the world. Sitting down at the table each morning is an act of trust in the Lord who knows what my daughters will question, what will touch their memories and dissolve, and what they will retain.

10 Living Books About Church History | Little Book, Big Story

The aspect of history I find most fascinating is the history of the church. I have compiled for you a list of my favorite church history books here. They’re written for children, but if you find that they just whet your appetite, never fear! I’ve also included some recommendations for you.

The Church History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols

The Church History ABCs | Little Book, Big Story

What better way to learn the alphabet than by using key figures of church history to illustrate each letter? No, I’m kidding. This isn’t an alphabet primer, but a biography sampler: A is for Augustine, Z for Ulrich Zwingli. This is, and probably always will be, my favorite picture book about church history. (Read the full review.)

The History Lives Series, by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

History Lives Series, by Brandon and Mindy Withrow | Little Book, Big Story

This series offers a great introduction to church history for kids or adults (confession: my husband and I both read these. For ourselves, not for the kids). Spread over five volumes, History Lives tells the story of the church from the first century to today, by introducing a new key figure each chapter and telling a slightly fictionalized story about some moment in their life. I use these in conjunction with our history curriculum and my daughter loves them. They’re a bit like Story of the World, but about church history rather than world history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Church History in Plain Languageby Bruce Shelley

Lily, The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley

Lily: The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story

This simple, lovely biography of missionary Lilias Trotter is a keeper: a great fly-over view of a woman who loved and served God, no matter what the cost. And while many missionaries are wonderful to read about but hard to relate to, Lilias’s story resonates with me. Not many of us here are called to be martyrs, but we’re all called to lay down our lives and desires to serve the Lord whole-heartedly. Lilias Trotter, who set aside an opportunity to become “the greatest artist of her generation” in order to place her gifts in the service of the Lord,  is a beautiful example for child and parent alike. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham

Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham | Little Book, Big Story

This collection introduces readers to a handful of saints from the early days of the church. Joyce Denhem’s beautiful language pairs nicely with the illustrations, which suggest stained glass windows, but the most beautiful part of the stories is the way they glorify not the saints themselves but the God they served. (Read the full review.)

The Tinker’s Daughter, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Lawton’s exploration of the life of Mary Bunyan, John’s daughter, is lovely. This is historical fiction at its best, and it’s one of a series of books about young Christian girls throughout history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Pilgrim’s Progressby John Bunyan

MOSESby Carole Boston Weatherford

Moses, by Carole Weatherford | Little Book, Big Story

Through an imagined conversation between Harriet Tubman and the Lord, Carole Boston Weatherford paints a portrait of a woman who relied upon the Lord for every step of that first journey from slavery to freedom. The illustrations are moving, depicting Tubman’s travel in a way that captures both the beauty and the hardship of that first flight. Knowing how difficult that first trip was makes the knowledge that she went back (many times) to rescue others from bondage even more amazing.

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

This series is like a sampler platter of Christian biographies. There’s a set of biographies about men, and a set about women, with five volumes apiece. I’d be willing to bet that your favorite historical figure is in here somewhere. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, by Noel Piper

MARTIN LUTHERby Paul L. Maier

Martin Luther, by Paul L. Maier | Little Book, Big Story

This is a powerful, detailed biography of Martin Luther. It is a picture book (and a beautifully illustrated one), but the text is weighty and rich: more suited for independent reading than for reading aloud.  Maier writes about not just who Luther was, but about why his work still matters today.

For Grown-Ups

Luther on the Christian Life, by Carl R. Trueman

What is the Church?, by Mandy Groce and Bill Bell

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

Through a sweet rhyme and simple illustrations, the authors explain not just what the church is, but who. This book is great for young readers, but it’s also a nice, succinct look at the church itself for older kids and even adults. (Read the full review.)

Saint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda

Saint Valentine | Little Book, Big Story

This beautifully illustrated, moving story about Saint Valentine is my favorite Valentine’s Day read. Yes, we eat chocolate hearts while we read it, but Valentine’s story reminds us why we give each other notes and gifts on the holiday while painting a picture of sacrificial love given at a great cost. (Read the full review.)


Which books about church history would you add to the list?

The Anne of Green Gables Series | L.M. Montgomery

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared way back in February 2014, in the early days of this blog. But it is about one of my favorite series in all of literature, so it’s worth sharing again. (Also, these books are perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree. Just in case you were looking for books perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree . . . )


L.M. Montgomery’s books make me want to befriend some patch of land and explore it thoroughly until I know and have named every tree, every brook, every starry-eyed flower in its thickets. I want to wear clothes made from fabric with names that sound edible—chiffon, taffeta, voile—in colors like “dove gray,” “dusky rose” and “pale green.”

Oh, to eat preserves from quilted jelly jars and don hats festooned with silk flowers and curling ostrich feathers! (I also want to clean, because I harbor a strong suspicion that Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel Lynde would not approve of my standards of housekeeping.)

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Montgomery’s writing transports me so completely to the Prince Edward Island of yesteryear that it is with a jolt that I come to at the close of the chapter to find myself camped out on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest and a mean crick in my neck (a scene no less lovely, by the way—just slightly less romantic).

You have read Anne of Green Gables, of course. I had—twice—and had also acted in the play (some of you may recall that I married Gilbert Blythe), so I was more than familiar with Anne’s story. But in these early days of new motherhood, I decided to read on in the series and, in doing so, discovered a story of rare beauty.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Sometimes, when it is windy, I need a small assistant

Anne is an endlessly endearing, perfectly imperfect heroine, settled into a story of lush scenery and unforgettable characters. To walk with a character through childhood and into adulthood, to watch her friendships and marriage grow and change, is a delight. Montgomery’s ability to present Anne in the various stages of life without slackening the pace or vibrancy of the story, allowing the reader to watch Anne grow in wisdom as she becomes a mother, confronts loss and watches her own children mature without slackening, shows just how masterful an author she is.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

There is something singular about seeing a life spun out in story like that. I can’t help but hope that, in heaven, we’ll see our own lives in a similar way: we’ll step back from it a bit so we can see God’s delicate foreshadowing in our own stories and, knowing the end of things, we’ll see, in those moments when life seemed “a vale of tears,” the first glint of the glorious light up ahead.


Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery (1908)

John Brown | John Hendrix

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in 2016. But it’s an excellent book, worth sharing twice. I hope you enjoy it!


I knew two things about this book when I grabbed it off the library shelf:

  1. John Brown was a controversial guy whose legacy had something to do with a militia, maybe.
  2. No such controversy surrounds John Hendrix, whose book Miracle Man is one of my favorites, and whose hand-lettered “Hendrix” on this book’s spine compelled me to tuck it in my book bag.

I learned a lot more about both Johns when I got home. John Brown was controversial—I was right about that. As a white abolitionist living when the tide was turning, yet hadn’t fully turned, against slavery, John Brown took up arms and fought to bring slavery to an end. He loved the Lord and saw violence as a way to bring a great grief to an end. His raid on a federal armory in the town of Harper’s Ferry was distastrous and led to his capture and execution.

He is not an obvious hero.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

But John Hendrix treats his story well, neither glorifying Brown’s call to violence, nor underplaying Brown’s passion and love for those enslaved. Here was a man who saw injustice and said not, “Somebody should do something about that,” but “Something must be done”—and then did something about it.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

I try to keep my daughters’ shelves stocked with stories of heroes—people who trusted the Lord through difficult circumstances, yes, but also figures from history whose stories are worth telling and retelling. John Brown fits almost into both of those categories, but his story is not a clear success and that is, I think, one of its merits. We have to think about this story: Was he right to wage an actual war against slavery? Did he, in the end, accomplish what he set out to do? How was he changed by the events at Harper’s Ferry?

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

There is no setting this book down and thinking, Well, that was nice. John Hendrix’s words as well as his illustrations push the reader into deeper study, and his author’s note at the end of the book gives an interesting glimpse into what drew him to write about John Brown:

John was a devout believer in Christianity. He used the Bible’s words—that men are loved and valuable to God—as a holy plumb line. When he held this truth up against the crooked world, he knew things should be different. I was astonished to read about John’s belief that black people should not just be free but equal, which was an idea far outside mainstream abolitionism in the antebellum United States. His passion for freedom was undisputed. Frederick Douglass said of John Brown: ‘His zeal in the cause of my race was greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.’

Those are powerful words about a man who, in the end, did just that: he loved and laid down his life for his neighbors.


John Brown: His Fight For Freedom
John Hendrix (2009)

“To My Church on the Day It Dissolves” | Deeply Rooted

Last fall, our church of thirteen years dissolved. I wrote briefly (very briefly) about it here, but that acknowledgement only hints at how acutely I felt that dissolution.

About a month passed between the first twinge and our final service, and that month came during our remodel, when we were already displaced and presuming upon the hospitality of friends and family. We thought that move would be the year’s Big Event, but it was only the backdrop against which this much bigger displacement occurred—the breaking of our church fellowship.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

In her book Keeping Place, Jen Pollock Michel writes, “Surely one evidence of the world’s fallenness from grace is its failure to provide stability. To lose our places is to lose our place.”

We lost our place. And that loss was a lot to process.

So one night, in the thick of things, I started writing. I had no intention of writing an article but wanted both to tidy my own mind and to make a gift for our weary church body—something that might help us lift our eyes above the horizon line of our church’s closure and to see God’s glory written in the heavens overhead.

This is a big thing, I wanted to say. But it isn’t an ultimate thing. God’s faithfulness doesn’t end here.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

That thought eventually became a song that I wrote and sang at our closing party. But those ideas continued to simmer, and I kept lifting the lid and adding words to the pot. The soup gradually took on flavor, enough so that when I learned that the next issue of Deeply Rooted centered on the topic of the Church, I understood that I was, in fact, working on both an open letter to our church and a publishable essay.

That is one of the reasons I’m telling you this now. That article—”To My Church on the Day it Dissolves”—appeared both in Deeply Rooted’s newest issue (you can purchase a copy here) and on the Deeply Rooted blog (you can read the full article here).

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

But I also want to write about it because I have a little distance from the dissolution and I want to share that, too. We thought we had lost our place; we felt a wrenching, a breaking, an undoing, and we are still, in some ways, recovering from that.

Yet God’s kindness to us began long before this fall—or the Fall. He ordained for our good not that one church, now deceased, but The Church, a living body with members who carry the gospel to the world’s cities, villages, and camps; who translate the Bible so that others may know God’s Word in their own language; and who welcomed us in during those tender first months at our new church.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

We have heard people express a desire to rest from church, but what we needed in the months after the final service was to rest in the church. To lose our old church one Sunday and the next Sunday step into the foyer of a new one and feel a continuity between the services, a familiarity in the love and generosity of the people there—the Church has never seemed so radiant to me as it does now, and I have never felt so privileged to be a part of it.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

The New City Catechism answers its first question—”What is our only hope in life and death?”—with what has become a refrain for me in the past six months: “That we are not our own but belong body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

We are not our own but belong to Him. The Church is His; our church was His. We did not lose our place at all, for we are His, and there is no greater comfort in this world than to belong to Him. We are still learning the habits of our new church, but at the heart of it is the same command we strove to follow at our old one: love the Lord and love one another. He has given us new people to love, but our God remains wonderfully unchanged.


Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

“Weaknesses,” The Valley of Vision

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 14: The Church | Little Book, Big Story

If you’ve read this far—thank you. If you want to read further, consider this Part II of the story. The Deeply Rooted article is Part I, and you can read it here.

If you want to read further still (and I highly recommend that you do), you can read Deeply Rooted’s full issue on the Church. Of all the issues we’ve published in the last five years, this one is my favorite, because it looks at the Church from several perspectives and elicits a wonder and awe that I find thrilling. God’s plan for His people! It’s so stunning!