Audio Books for your SUMMER ROAD TRIP {Update!}

As we head into summer vacation season, I regularly get asked for audiobook recommendations, entertaining books to listen to on long drives.

Last summer I shared audio books the whole family will love (click here to see a very long list of books people of all ages will enjoy.)   I somehow failed to mention the Wrinkle in Time series, maybe I thought I’d talked about it enough online since I yelled at people all year to read the book before seeing the movie? (Really good advice, the book and the movie are two totally different things…) I read Madeleine L’Engle’s first three Time books (one, two, and three) dozens of times as a child, and listened to them with my kids a few years ago – the narrator is wonderful, and the stories stand the test of time (I can only vouch for the first three, I didn’t learn that there were more in the series until I was an adult. I’ve never read the 5th, and thought the 4th was really weird.)

This summer I’m sharing Audiobooks for Grown Ups: I’ve listened to and loved all of these, and think they’ll make your road trip fly. I organized them by topic/interest area, so you can skim through and find the categories that look like the most fun for you.

Love Drives Fear Away {Wrapping up the No Fear Study}

So far 2018 has had more than enough change for me: I’ve graduated a kid from high school, registered another for middle school, quit one job and started another. Every time my youngest son sits on my lap, I know it could be the last. I updated my resume and interviewed for a job for the first time since the 1990s. I let go of work and ministry that have been a part of my life for longer than my husband or children, and am learning something new.It is exhilarating and terrifying and overwhelming and great and in 2 months I’ll be 3 years from 50 (FIFTY.)I’ve needed every lesson I’ve learned about the Biblical command, “Do not fear.”

Ree Reads: May Book Reviews

I’m reading 9-10 books a month these days, well on my way to reaching 100 books in 2018 (want to read more? Try these tips!) With so many books to cover, I decided to make these reviews shorter, or only review the real winners each month. I’ll have to start next month, because May was ALL WINNERS. Non-fiction wise, I have a refreshingly different Christian book, a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biography, and an inspiring feminist memoir that read like a novel. Fiction-wise, I started a new audio-mystery series, continued another, listened to a delightfully soapy book I wanted to read before the movie comes out, and FINISHED the last of the books-I-previously-abandoned from my failed April reading challenge. I fully recommend all of these books (with one exception), how can I not tell you about them??

May Books

When Fear is Good {No Fear Devotional}

Over the last 5 months of Tuesdays we’ve looked at the various places where God commands His people, “Do not fear”, and seen reason after reason why we as people of God have no need to be afraid. Precious promises:

God is a shield to us. He sees us. The Lord will fight for us while we stay silent. He is with us,  at our side. The Lord is our shepherd. God has called us by name, we are His. We’ve been given the spirit of adoption, not the spirit of fear. He is our Helper.

With those reasons and promises not to fear, God also gives us a call and command to fear.

Endings and Beginnings and a Mama’s Heart at Graduation

This weekend found me in the basement digging through old pictures with tears in my eyes, gathering snapshots of Luke’s life to display at his graduation open house. I’m not sad that he’s graduating (he is SO ready to be done with high school), I’m not even sad that he’ll be moving out in a couple of months (ask me how I feel about this in August and maybe you’ll get a different answer?)

I’m sad that time passes.

I’m sad for the moments we won’t ever get back.

I’m sad that I’ll never again kiss that little stubble-less face, or feel the fierce love of his 5 year old body jumping into my arms. I can still see the mischievous gleam of his younger self in his adult eyes, that kid will never outgrow his love of shenanigans. But he has outgrown  hearing laughter in any room of our house and running to be in the middle of whatever is going on.

He’s also outgrown my mommy-super powers. I can’t kiss his owies and make them better any more. I used to be able to cure hurt feelings, overcome any insults his day held, by saying, “Are you kidding me? You’re AWESOME dude!” My words were weighty, but they haven’t worked that way in 5 years.

We’ve already seen how the hurts and hardships of adolescence shaped and made him stronger, so I know I  shouldn’t shield him. But boy, do I wish I could. I want to fold him into my arms and protect him from his own mistakes and others’ opinions and the heartbreak of living in the world. But I can’t, and I won’t.

So we’ll release him out into the world, taking the next big step in the journey of trust that is parenthood. We’ll trust our kid, and we’ll trust the seeds that we planted all these many years, and we’ll trust that his roots are deep enough to hold him strong through every season. But most of all, we’ll trust our Father God to work all things for good, to take even the saddest things in his life (and ours) and make something beautiful.

I can’t stop time, or hold onto the past. So I’ll remind myself that – like all the best things in life – this is both an end and a beginning. All I can do is be present, and give thanks.

I’ll keep seeing the little boy in this amazing, strong, Jesus-loving man we raised, and I’ll thank God. For Luke, for our family, and for time, even when it seems like there’s never enough.


We've already seen how the hurts and hardships of adolescence shaped and made him stronger, so I know I  shouldn't shield him. But boy, do I wish I could. I want to fold him into my arms and protect him from his own mistakes and others' opinions and the heartbreak of living in the world. But I can't, and I won't. So we'll release him out into the world, taking the next big step in the journey of trust that is parenthood.

(Because I know I’ll get asked… The hand-lettered sign in this pic was my Mother’s Day gift, done by Lovewell Lettering, in partnership with The Hope Venture and Mercy for Mamas. I LOVE it almost as much as I love the organizations its purchase supported, I assume they’re still available if you want one!)

What is Fear Costing Us?

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

I have known the Lord as my helper for years, but I am still afraid.

What will man do to me? Well, for starters, man doesn’t always approve of me. Sometimes man rejects me. When I succeed or fail, man watches and judges my worth or value.

Or so I think. I’m beginning to suspect that others think far less often of me than I might guess, everyone’s thoughts being as centered around themselves as mine are around me.

And the more I study fear – in the Bible and in real life – the more I see that fear is a trap, particularly for those who say they trust God.

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. (Proverbs 29:25)

There is no telling how much hurt and heartache the Christian Church has caused because we have feared man more than God. I don’t want to be a part of that mess. The writer of Hebrews calls across the centuries,

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The same fear that has driven God’s people in history and right now, drives me.

Let love of the brethren continue…

I feel called to love as Jesus loves, but some within my Christian community and even family think I’m taking it too far. Accepting people and things that are unacceptable. I’m too touchy feely, I’m not safeguarding the Gospel, I’m not defending God’s Word.

Will I love anyway?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers… Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 

I read about immigration and the racial biases implanted in our justice system, and my heart breaks. If I speak publicly about this, it’s seen as political, not befitting my position, I’ve “gone liberal.” Will I show hospitality and remember prisoners (and work to right these wrongs) anyway?

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…

Ouch. This one hits close to home. Is my character free from the love of money? What role does fear play in my spending habits, in my debts, in my lifestyle choices, in the difference between what I spend on myself and what I give in generosity to others? What role does fear play in my willing participation in the over consumption embedded in our culture, to the harm of the earth and my fellow humans? How much does the love of money affect my politics, the issues I care most about? Is contentment or comfort my driving goal?

I want to love the brethren, welcome outsiders, stand with those who are mistreated and imprisoned. I want to continue to honor my marriage, and I badly want to be free from the love of money, to find real contentment. HOW?

… for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”  so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The voice of fear is loud. But Jesus Himself says He is with me. Do I believe Him?


This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. Check back every Tuesday for the latest, and you can read the previous posts in the series here.

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Photo in image by Apostolhs Gkoutzidhs on Unsplash

Ree Reads: April Book Reviews

The reading challenge I set for myself in April was a TOTAL FAIL. Sigh. I did read a lot of great books, but my plan to go back and finish books I’d tried to read and quit was….maybe not that great a plan?

Two readerly goodies that I’m excited about and that may be relevant to your interests because FREE BOOKS. (Disclaimer: I tend towards being a book collector more than a book reader, and both of these free book opportunities are probably not helping with that… I am supposed to be reading the books I own before buying or borrowing this year, maybe that self-given challenge is going to fail too? #sorrynotsorry #freebooks!)

#1 Do you know about Amazon First Reads? If you’re a prime member, you get a free new release kindle book each month. I have an Amazon account, but we shop and buy and have Prime on Matt’s account, so I don’t get any Amazon emails, and missed out on quite a few free books when we first signed up for Prime. I’m finally in the habit of checking the Amazon First Reads page at the beginning of every month and choosing my free book. They have 6 to choose from, and there’s almost always one (or more!) that sound really good to me. There are several great choices this month, I chose this one, which sounds delightful.

#2 Have you heard about the free audiobook summer program at This is for you if you enjoy YA or have a teen in your life whom you’d like to encourage to read more. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens (aimed at getting teens to read, but open to everyone). Beginning April 26 2018, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. You have to download the overdrive app (that’s where the books are stored once you download them), but it’s easy and FREE and they have a great variety of interests represented over the course of the summer.

(This isn’t a sponsored post  – not that I’m against sponsored posts, a blogger has to make a living, and the links below are all my affiliate links as always… Both of these programs are free, I’m not receiving compensation for sharing them – I just thought you’d be interested and I love to share!) Now on to my…

Book Nerd Failure Confession: I’m not afraid to quit a book I’m not enjoying, but I have a stack of books that I thought I’d quit because my attention span was spoiled by the internet, or because I tried them on audio and they weren’t a good listening fit for me. So I checked out a giant stack from the library, all books reader friends have loved and encouraged me to go back to, and gave myself the challenge of finishing them.

Guess what? I read ONE of them. ONE. It took me FOREVER to finish it, and then April was nearly over. I picked up 2 or 3 more (and drove around town with one in the car for a week), but… I’m thinking maybe I quit because I didn’t like them? It’s like I thought we were just on a break, but now it seems I  need to break up with them forever. Sorry books. Maybe I’ll put a list at the end of this post and let y’all tell me if there are some I’ll be sorry I missed?

In spite of my fail, I managed to read 13 books this month (thanks, audiobooks!). Read on for quick reviews of the books I did manage to finish this month (and to chime in on the books I’m breaking up with!), including a mystery series I’m loving on audio, a Christian book from a new-to-me (and super helpful) perspective on Jesus, two heart-breaking non-fiction books, a fun read-aloud and the one book I managed to go back and make myself finish.

This month: Readerly goodies (#freebooks!) My reading FAIL Challenging books from diverse perspectives A fun new-to-me mystery series/palate cleanser


The Opposite of Fear is…

A few years ago we made the decision to move from homeschooling our younger two sons and sent them to school, 3rd grade and kindergarten. This was a rough transition for both of them, but particularly (and understandably) for our 3rd grader. Like his mama, he was afraid of failing, of standing out, of doing something wrong. He mourned for the safety of home, even when what he really needed was the risk and reward of the big wide world.

We talked to him nonstop about bravery, “Be brave!”, “You’re so brave!”, “You can be brave!” I’m embarrassed to think about how frustrated we got with him when he refused to be brave, especially considering my own wealth of personal experience in this area.

When has telling myself to be brave EVER helped me be less afraid??

Answer: Never. It has never helped me.

I should have known that courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.

So what is the opposite of fear?

As I’ve studied verses from the Bible about fear, I think I’ve found if not THE answer, then at least AN answer.

Desperate for God

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 

You’re probably familiar with the opening of Psalm 42: It covers the walls of Christian bookstores, often printed on a peaceful picture of a sweet fawn tenderly approaching a quiet stream. Lovely.

But that’s not the picture the psalm is painting. Psalm 42 opens with desperation. Joel 1:20 uses the same word, “pant” describing animals when the brooks are dried up and the pastures devoured by fire.

Perhaps a better translation: “As a hunted deer, dying of thirst, pants for water, so my soul longs for You, O God.” But no one wants a picture of a dying deer hanging on their wall.

What is the deer dying for? What does the Psalmist want?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

I am convinced that the Psalmist is not thirsting to know about God. The word for “living” is a nature word, living or alive in the sense that vegetation is green, water is fresh and flowing, humans are lively and active, springtime is reviving.

The psalmist is thirsty for life. He’s running to God, naming God as the source of life and liveliness.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (Psalm 42:1-4)

Do you relate? Are you thirsty for God, perhaps even remembering a time when you praised Him and were more sure of His help?

Click here to read the rest of this post over at the EquipHer Blog, where I am  honored to write this week.

10 Commandments for a Happy Home

Hello from our last months as a family of five living under one roof, our last days with a high school senior.

I could mourn (And I have cried. Friends, you know I have CRIED.) But I’m choosing to celebrate. To count gifts, to name the things that have made our home happy. So many things bless our days and hours together in this season, blessings that add up to a happy home.

Here’s my top 10 list, 10 things I love about our family, 10 ways to live together well, 10 commandments for a happy home.