Category: Grown-Ups (page 1 of 6)

A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible

Just as I don’t know what I think until I write it down or say it out loud, I often don’t truly grasp an idea until I see it spread out in front of me. And so I love resources, like Tim Challies’s A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible, that deepen our family’s understanding of Scripture by allowing us to explore the themes and structure of Scripture in a visual way.

This book is meant as an introduction to the big picture of the Bible—how all 66 books fit together, for example, or how the Old Testament relates with the new, and so much more. The book isn’t all graphics, but it does contain a lot of graphics, and each one explores some aspect of Scripture in a way that helps readers envision key elements of our faith. Some, like the intricate image interweaving Old Testament prophecies with the stories of Jesus fulfilling each one, are so beautiful they elicit a sense of awe. Others are clean and simple, and illustrate the truths of the faith with the foam skimmed off so we can see into its depths more clearly.

Though this book isn’t specifically intended for families, my teen daughters read and enjoyed it, and I could see it serving as a great devotional resource for families with older children (or homeschooling families! This would be a great spine for a Bible curriculum). Or read A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible for yourself and allow it to deepen your own understanding of the Bible’s beauty, complexity, and simplicity.


A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible: Seeing and Knowing God’s Word
Tim Challies; Josh Byers (2019)

Homecoming

In one of her talks, Elisabeth Elliot once quoted a woman she admired—an active and helpful woman, one who was quick to serve without ever seeming over-stretched. Elliot noticed that this woman said yes to the things she could do but didn’t let the sense that she should do things bully her into committing to everything. When Elliot asked her how she could tell which things were which, the woman said, “I ask myself, can somebody else do this?”1

That is, can somebody else be my husband’s wife? No. Or my children’s mother? Of course not. Can somebody else bring a meal to this family or make that child’s costume for Roman Day at school? Well, that depends. In this particular season, when my inbox is full of four daughters’-worth of SignUp Geniuses and the opportunities to serve in our church abound and every potential writing or editing project looks like good, important work that I can’t bear to pass up, I’ve found this filter invaluable.

Can somebody else do it?

Almost always, the answer is yes. I want to think I’m an indispensable part of every project I take on, but honestly, most of the time, yes, somebody else could do it. (And if we’re being truly honest, somebody else could probably do it better.) The fact that somebody else could do a particular job doesn’t always mean I’m off the hook, of course: anybody in our home can scoop the litter box, but sometimes it just needs to be me.

But the point is, I am sometimes so eager to say yes—and not always for the right reasons—that this question gives me a moment to pause and to ponder if the thing before me is something the Lord is actually calling me to, or if my desire to do it (or keep doing it) is crowding someone else out of a space where they could serve. So that is what I’ve been doing for the last six months: I’ve been prayerfully pondering the question Could somebody else do what I’m trying to do here through this blog?

Of course, the answer is yes: in fact, a lot of people are doing this. When I started Little Book, Big Story, I was stepping into a path roughly bushwhacked by the amazing ladies of Aslan’s Library. I loved what they were doing, and I didn’t see anybody else doing it, so I thought I’d pick up my basket of beloved children’s books and start passing them out on the internet.

Now, ten years later, there’s a sea of incredible resources out there, many of which are linked in the footer of this blog. Social media is filled with excellent accounts dedicated to sharing good books for families. And the delightful books about books! So, yes, somebody else can (and is) doing this.

About three months into my six-month sabbatical, I thought that was the answer I needed.

But then, through a series of small somethings, I felt one of those holy nudges back toward this thing that, yes, other writers and mothers and lovers of good books could do, but that I in particular have been given to do. It is good work, this reading and sharing of children’s books, and I love it.

And so I’m grateful that I get to say: I’m back!

And now?

I’m effectively branching Little Book, Big Story into two publications, which I realize sounds like more work. But once it’s all up and running, it’ll be streamlined and easy to use—for both of us! So, here is the difference between the two:

Little Book, Big Story

Little Book, Big Story will continue on here as it has for so long—all book reviews, all the time! So you can continue to browse the library of reviews here and read new reviews every other week.

The Setting

The Setting will be over on Substack, and it will replace my current email newsletter. When you subscribe, you will receive the every-other-weekly book reviews, as well as two other posts each month. I have fun plans for these, and I think you’ll like them! Short essays, book lists, creative nonfiction pieces—I’m looking forward to sharing some other works with you through The Setting. You can subscribe to that right here. (There’s not much up over there yet, but there will be. Oh yes, there will be.)

Please note that I am going to discontinue the current email newsletter, so if you would like to continue receiving posts directly in your inbox, you’ll want to head over to The Setting and subscribe.2


Okay! If you have questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below! Thank you so much for your continued, enduring, long-suffering readership. I am deeply grateful for each one of you. And I’m so glad to be back.


  1. Because I can’t remember which talk, I’m grossly paraphrasing here. What you’re reading is what I took away from a talk I listened to a few years ago on the Elisabeth Elliot podcast—hopefully the spirit of the message is correct, even if the exact wording is spotty. ↩︎
  2. Yes, Substack does allow writers to offer paid subscriptions, but I’m not doing that. My writing is (and will continue to be) available for free! ↩︎

Ten Years! A History of Little Book, Big Story

As of this month, Little Book, Big Story is ten years old. Ten! An entire decade! Fashion trends, musical styles, large swaths of whole childhoods have come and gone in that ten years and yet, here I am—still standing on our back porch, hunched awkwardly over picture books, trying to photograph them before the March sun sets at 5:34 p.m. And because ten years is a lot of time, I thought I’d pause and do two things:

1) Say thank you. I know a handful of you have been reading along from the very beginning, and I’m pretty sure you have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you for your fortitude! Ten years generates a lot of weekly blog posts, and if you’ve opened even a third of those emails, that’s . . . a lot. Thank you. If you’ve been reading since those early years, I want to do something fun for you. Would you let me? Would you email me (thea@littlebookbigstory.com) and let me know? I’d like to send you something heartfelt and nice.

2) I want to tell you a story. Many of you have discovered this blog within the past few years and may not know the story behind it. So I thought you might like to hear why I started this blog in the first place—how it all went down.

So.

How it All Went Down

I had two daughters back then. They were four and two, and though I didn’t know it, I’d be pregnant with the third weeks after launching this blog. As a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for a way to write regularly but, you know, purposefully. I’d kept one blog or another since college, when my dad told me what a blog was and that I should start one, but I wasn’t interested in writing a “mommy blog” (the world didn’t need my personal advice on parenting, gathered after four whole years of experience!). Still, my life was diapers and strollers and shirt-changes and peek-a-boo. I wasn’t sure what else to write about.

And then two things happened: I discovered a handful of excellent Christian picture books, and I had a handful of conversations with friends who lamented the lack of excellent Christian picture books.

And I thought, Aha. I could talk about good books for days—sometimes, I’m afraid, to the point of Being a Bit Much—so the idea of starting a blog about children’s books took root. I already spent a lot of time looking for good books for my family. If I could start a blog that would help my friends also find good books for their families . . .

So, I began designing a blog and drafting early posts. And I immediately broke nearly all the rules of Being a Good Blogger. I did not write short, punchy posts with catchy titles; instead, I wrote long posts with stories in them that I hoped readers would enjoy. I took on the time-consuming and extremely inefficient task of photographing every book I reviewed, because I wanted to give readers a sense of what the physical books look and feel like. I decided not to do ads or sponsored posts—and I still don’t, ten years in. (I do accept review copies from publishers, but only for books I’m already confident will be a good fit for this blog.) And though I tinkered with social media briefly at the beginning—I did love the way it allowed me to interact with readers on a more regular basis—I found myself spending just as much time crafting social media posts as I did writing blog posts. And I didn’t have time for both. So I stopped posting on social media, knowing that my blog would be less visible as a result.

I prayed instead that God would introduce my blog to readers who would be deeply blessed by it, however few they may be.

And has he ever! I do little to actively promote this blog, and yet: readers find it. Authors and illustrators have picked up reviews and shared them. Publishers have found and shared this blog as well. Friends have told other friends, teachers have told families, and within the last few years, Story Warren has begun introducing my posts to their own readers. Wild Things & Castles in the Sky readers have drifted this way, too. And because of this, everyone who lands here feels hand-chosen.

I am profoundly grateful for each one of you.

What it Looks Like Now

Ten years in, Little Book, Big Story is still a small, one-woman show—I do everything from design the blog to letter the headings to photograph the books to, ah yes, write the weekly posts and newsletters. And every few years I take this whole project up in my hands and bring it back to God. I ask him, Should I keep going? Is this still where you want me?

And every time—no exaggeration here—every single time, I receive an email within the next twenty-four hours or so from a reader who just wanted to reach out and let me know how the books she’s found through this blog have blessed her family. Brand new parents; grandparents hoping to connect with their grandchildren; overseas missionaries with limited access to libraries; homeschooling parents; pastors gathering resources for the families in their congregations; even, this last time, the children’s ministry director at my very own church—I am in awe of the stories God is telling in the lives of those I’ve gotten to meet through this blog, and of their faithfulness in telling me, precisely when I need to hear it, to keep going.

This blog has always been meant to point readers away from its pages—toward the books I’m recommending, and through them, toward the Author of life itself. And so I love these little glimpses into where God sends you when you’re through reading reviews: back to your homes and churches, with your arms full, I hope, of new books to share.

In Gratitude (and Closing)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for the time you’ve given this work over the years, and for the times you’ve sought out one of the books featured here and shared it with your loved ones. Thank you for the emails and the encouragement and for the book recommendations. Your fellowship is a gift to this blog and (though they don’t always know it) to my family and to me.

For ten years, thank you.

And for those of you who have been reading since those early years, please email me (thea@littlebookbigstory.com). I’m serious. Take me up on this! I’d love to send you a little something to say thank you.

Gratefully,
Théa

Heaven & Nature Sing

Each of Hannah Anderson’s books is more beautiful than the last (and I say this as a bit of a fan girl who has read each of her books at least once). She has a gift for seeing clearly and for articulating what she sees in language both beautiful and incisive at once. Many of her books pair this clear sight with illustrations of the natural world, which I love: the illustrations make the books themselves things of beauty—works of art to be savored and lingered over.

Not dry and academic, these books. But not flowery or theologically soft, either.

Heaven and Nature Sing, by Hannah Anderson | Little Book, Big Story

Heaven and Nature is Hannah Anderson’s work at its best. This is a collection of essays intended for Advent reading—for you, perhaps, or for older children or teens. In each essay Anderson weaves personal stories with Scripture, exploration of the natural world with illustrations by her husband, Nathan Anderson. This is a very humble, inviting Advent book: not full of crafts you won’t get to or lengthy readings you won’t finish. These essays feel like a gift in themselves, an invitation to pause and consider and prepare for the celebration of Christmas. Heaven and Nature Sing is beautiful inside and out.


Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World
Hannah Anderson; Nathan Anderson (2022)

The Pursuit

When it comes to talking about tough subjects with my daughters, I find that some of the best resources aren’t the ones that script the conversation for me, but the ones that shape my own thinking and help me approach the conversation as an ongoing one that won’t be neatly resolved in one intentional afternoon. With that in mind, I’m sharing a book today that isn’t meant to be read to or with children, but that can help us, as parents, think through a sticky topic and go into those conversations feeling prepared.

And by “sticky topic,” I mean sex. So we’ll be talking about that today.

The Pursuit, by Josh Livingston & Dan Martin | Little Book, Big Story

How we can or should or must not talk to kids about sex and sexuality is a big, big issue today, within the church as well as outside it. And dang it, if it doesn’t feel overwhelming sometimes! Like there are so many ways to get it wrong, and if you fail, your child will [insert devastating outcome here] and it will be all your fault. The separation between what the culture around us says about our bodies and what Scripture says about them feels pretty vast at times, and all of us enter that conversation with our own experiences and understandings about what sex is and what it isn’t.

I didn’t become a Christian until I was seventeen, so I only caught the tail end of the youth group discussions on sexual purity—up until then, my perspective was largely formed by MTV and those unsettling conversations in the back seat of the bus. So I come to this discussion having lived for a bit in both worlds, and from my vantage point the authors of The Pursuit have found a beautifully balanced way of discussing sexuality. They respond thoughtfully to the things many of us heard from our youth pastors as well as the things we’ve heard from the media, and they ask, “But what does the Bible say about our bodies and our sexuality, really?” By unwinding the language of purity culture, authors Josh Livingstone and Dan Martin help us see the beauty of how God created us and where our sexuality belongs as part of our lives as Christians. They encourage us to view sexual purity not as a race that ends at a “wedding night” finish line, but as a facet of our relationship with Christ—an aspect of our obedience to him that we continue to cultivate in differing forms throughout every season of life.

There are a lot of great resources out there on where babies come from that are meant to be read with children (I’ve reviewed a few of them here, and our family is currently working our way through this series), but The Pursuit is a great foundational read for parents. While so many approaches focus on either “finding our own truth” about sexuality or on prescribing a very narrow picture of sexual purity, complete with extra-biblical rules for living, Livingstone and Martin remind us that our sexuality is a good gift from God that is deeply woven into who we are. As Christians, they remind us, we are called to live it out in a way that glorifies God and creates a picture of his goodness and mercy in this broken world. This is, ultimately, a joyful picture we get to offer our children—one filled with hope and grace.


The Pursuit: Reframing Purity as a Relationship Not an Accomplishment
Josh Livingstone & Dan Martin (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.