Category: Teens (page 2 of 3)

Draw Near

One of the habits I took up during the pandemic was bullet journaling. This was a weird choice, given the fact that I had so little to put on my schedule at the time that my bullet journal was more of an art project than a planner, but the habit took root and grew. So I was delighted to come across Sophie Killingley’s Draw Near, which is sort of a pre-formatted bullet journal meant to help the reader form and deepen those daily habits of grace: Scripture-reading and prayer.

These habits can be hard to teach to kids. I admit: I’ve held back a little, because I’ve been afraid to make “time with God” another box to check in the morning. My natural bent is toward legalism, so I’ve worried that I’d inadvertently make these disciplines into burdens for my daughters. But when I look back at my own life, I see a clear trend: putting myself in a chair at the table with an open Bible morning after morning? Doing this when times are easy has made it possible for me to keep doing it when times are hard. After years of building this habit, a day that doesn’t begin with the Lord feels off to me, like I rushed out the door without socks.

Draw Near, by Sophie Killingley | Little Book, Big Story

So lately I’ve been looking for resources that will help my daughters build this habit, and I’m trusting the Lord to reach their hearts, whatever my missteps. Now, my daughters are all very different, and what works for one won’t work for all of them. But for my twelve-year-old, this book has been gold: “it makes this fun,” she said, meaning Bible study. She even uses Draw Near to take notes during sermons and to write down brief prayers for each day. (At least, that’s what I assume she’s doing over there with her colored pencils.)

Draw Near, by Sophie Killingley | Little Book, Big Story
Draw Near, by Sophie Killingley | Little Book, Big Story

I’m so grateful for resources like Draw Near that invite us to grow in these habits of grace, that help us cultivate the discipline of regular time with the Lord even as they remind us to wonder at what a gift it is, meeting with him day after day.


Draw Near: Your Creative Spiritual Journal
Sophie Killingley (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.

My Tech-Wise Life

We jokingly called this past summer The Summer of Life-Skills. It was a make-up summer, one in which I determined to teach my kids a bazillion things they might need to know as adults—practical lessons, like How to Ride the City Bus, or How to Order Your Own Italian Soda. For much of the pandemic, my daughters were able to attend their small school in person, and I’m grateful for that. But even so, we continue to find little residual burdens the pandemic has laid upon our daughters. So many things were closed for so long that our girls hardly remembered how to navigate them, and with my husband working from home, it just wasn’t necessary for me to bring them along with me on errands like grocery shopping or each other’s dental appointments. We were all a little rusty when it came to interacting with the world.

Thus, Our Summer of Life Skills. We invented tasks that would send the older girls to the grocery store alone because we, I don’t know, urgently needed a half-dozen doughnuts. We rode the bus downtown throughout the summer, much to the amusement of our route’s regular driver. Imagine: me and four girls, from fourteen to six, filing on board and filling the back seats. The older girls took summer jobs babysitting and cracking eggs at our favorite bakery.

It was a crash course in Being Out in the World and Talking to Adults Who Are Not Your Parents or Teachers. In June, the girls were nervous about it. By August, they were talking to the librarian like it was no big deal and ordering their own ice cream cones. Success!

But now, our next phase of Life Skills is upon us. Our oldest daughter wants to know: when can she have her own phone? And our answer has always been, “Way after you think you should.” But good gravy, now she’s in high school and her best friend has moved across the country and we’ve discovered internet-free phones, so we’ve been thinking about it. Slowly, but we’re thinking about it.

My Tech-Wise Life, by Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch | Little Book, Big Story

And in the spirit of that, I picked up Amy Crouch’s My Tech-Wise Life, which, like her father’s book The Tech-Wise Family, is brilliant. Full of helpful research and thoughtful insights, My Tech-Wise Life is written by a young adult for young adults. After all, her generation’s experience with technology is profoundly different than that of their parents: we old-timers remember a time before the internet, but many of our children have been on the internet since back when they were the adorable, dimply stars of their parents’ Facebook accounts.

And so Amy Crouch brings a valuable voice to the conversation about technology. She brings the perspective of her family, and the way they approached technology, as well as her own experience growing up with it. Each chapter ends with a letter from her dad, Andy Crouch, written to her. These letters are insightful, moving, and full of grace. Between the two of them, they provide a comprehensive, practical way of viewing and using technology—which is, I think, one of the toughest life skills to learn these days.

So, will we get our daughter a phone soon? That’s still under discussion. But when we do, we plan to give her a copy of this book along with it.


Worth noting: This book includes a chapter on pornography, as it should. While not graphic, it does discuss the subject at length and in depth, so I’d encourage you to pre-read at least that chapter before handing this book to your teen. But really, the whole book is a great read for parents as well as teens.


My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices
Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch (2020)

Sheltering Mercy

The Book of Psalms, perhaps more than any other biblical book, has a way of striking us right at our center. All of Scripture has this effect, to some degree. But for all their curious imagery, the psalms are written in language we understand: the emotion in them is raw, sometimes unexpected, and always deeply true. Reading them we are struck by verses that makes us think, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is.”

Not every verse strikes us that way, of course. Some strike us like stones. They knock our feet out from beneath us as we jog merrily along. But there’s something about the first-person perspective of the psalms, about their vulnerability and openness, that gives us words to say to God when we find ourselves stumbling.

Sheltering Mercy, by Ryan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt | Little Book, Big Story

Sheltering Mercy is a collection of poetic responses to the first seventy-five psalms: each one borrows language from the psalms and from the rest of Scripture in order to, as the authors write in the introduction, “harmonize” with the original psalm. These are not close paraphrases or neat translations, but responsive poems rooted deeply in the language of Scripture.

And these poems are beautifully written—I love that about them. But I also love how they model for us, and for our families, a particular way of interacting with Scripture. The poems in Sheltering Mercy show us what it looks like to sit with a psalm, to consider its connections to the rest of Scripture, and to respond to God through beautiful language. This book is beautiful both for what it is—a gorgeous collection of Scripture-rich prayers—and for the attention and care for Scripture it displays. It reminds us that the psalms are worth lingering over and invites us to listen closely—to say with the psalmist, and with the authors of Sheltering Mercy, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is.”


Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired By the Psalms
Ryan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt (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.

Forward Me Back to You

After a disturbing encounter with a classmate fractures Katina’s sense of safety and peace, her mother sends Katina across the country to stay with a woman neither of them has never met—the great-aunt of her mother’s best friend—and try to recover.

Robin has been raised by his loving adoptive parents, but as he grows older he feels rootless. Everyone else wants to know where he’ll go for college, what he’ll do after high school. But he wants to know: who left him in the orphanage in India? How is he supposed to face his future when he doesn’t know his past?

Mitali Perkins weaves the stories of these two characters together beautifully, bringing them into fellowship with one another—through the wonderful medium of Viola Jones—where they challenge each other and help each other heal.

Forward Me Back to You, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

I had never read Mitali Perkins before reading this book, and I’m eager to read more—this was easily one of the best books I read last year. Forward Me Back to You deals with difficult content, but Perkins handles subjects like abuse and human trafficking honestly: nothing about this story is formulaic or predictable. Instead, Perkins allows Robin, Katina, and the other characters work through these challenges in ways that feel true and honest: they respond the way actual people might—with complex emotions, motivated by things they don’t understand in the moment and may not understand for years.

But Perkins writes with hope and with an eye on beauty and goodness, as well as truth. She brings her characters to a point of peace, but resists pushing past that to wrap up everything with a tidy bow. She gives them a way forward, and allows us to imagine what the path looks like from there.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author who graced us with a powerful interview for Wild Things.


Forward Me Back to You
Mitali Perkins (2020)

The Sinking City

Liona Caravatti’s family belongs to one of the highest ranks in the city of Venice. Her life is comfortable, filled with little delicacies, affectionate siblings, and splendor. The one note in it that sounds off is her relationship to her father, which, though she doesn’t understand why, is different than his relationship with her siblings. While he dotes on them, his eyes slide past her, leaving her free in some ways to grow up as she pleases, but giving her nonetheless an ache that she cannot place.

Venice is a city of the sea—a city threaded through with canals, where the water is never far from the front doors of its citizens. It is beautiful, but the one note in it that sounds off is that of the Seleni, an ancient race of water-dwellers who retrieve pearls for the wealthy Venetians in exchange for a home in Venice’s waters. But the Seleni’s brine-like smell precedes them whenever they come on land, and the bargains they make with those wealthy citizens always come at a high cost.

When the Seleni intersect with Liona’s family, the city itself begins to crumble.

The Sinking City, by Christine Cohen | Little Book, Big Story

The Sinking City is a beautifully written story that weaves fantastic elements into the solid structures of a real city. Venice seems a plausible place in which to find magicians and wrathful sea monsters, and Liona surprises herself as well as readers as she navigates the city, trying to save it, her own life, and that of her family. The story is enjoyable and unpredictable, and Cohen’s ability to craft complex, believable characters is stunning: even the city of Venice feels like a character in the story—one with desires and personality. Her descriptions of the courtyards, canals, and alleyways of Venice make it feel as though her version of the city extends beyond the story; one gets the sense that just beyond the courtyard she’s describing, there are several more worth exploring.

There are some grim moments in The Sinking City, and for that reason I don’t think I’d recommend it for younger teens. But those moments are purposeful and they’re handled well—they suit the story and serve to show how high the stakes are for the characters. Just as Cohen’s Venice is undergirded with spells, The Sinking City is undergirded with themes of humility and sacrifice that play out in beautiful, nuanced ways. If the book has a fault at all, it might be in the ending, which places too neat a bow on a story that is otherwise rich and multi-layered. But I don’t hold that against it: this is a book I look forward to sharing with my daughters, and one I can’t wait to re-read.


The Sinking City
Christine Cohen (2021)