Seasons of Waiting: An Interview and Giveaway

You know I love to read. And you know that I love to share what I'm reading with others. But do you know what's even better than that? Sharing a book written by a friend!

Betsy Childs Howard and I studied together at Beeson Divinity School several years ago. These days, she's an editor at The Gospel Coalition, and she's written the most thoughtful book on practicing faithfulness when dreams are delayed. Her book, Seasons of Waiting, was inspired by her own wait for a spouse. In it, she offers a theological perspective and purpose for various seasons of waiting, whether it be for a spouse, a child, healing, or a home. I found Betsy's words to be both comforting and encouraging, and I think you will too. 

I reconnected with Betsy at TGC's women's conference this summer, and she graciously agreed to a little Q&A for you. Because everyone loves a giveaway, and also because I found it so helpful, I'm giving away a free copy of Seasons of Waiting to one lucky reader. Details follow the Q&A with Betsy, at the bottom of this post. But before we get to all of that, here's a little video to give you a taste of what you'll find in the book.

Q & A WITH BETSY CHILDS HOWARD, AUTHOR OF SEASONS OF WAITING

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What does life look like now?

I’m from Birmingham, AL. I went to Wheaton College. I also earned a Masters of Theology at Beeson Divinity School during the time that I worked there. I now live in New York City where my husband and I are planting a new Anglican church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Q: Share a bit about your writing journey. When did you first feel the Lord prompting you to the writing life? How did Seasons of Waiting come to be?

I am not someone who writes all the time. I really enjoy writing, but I went many years without writing anything. Several factors converged through personal connections to give me some online writing opportunities, which I took advantage of. This led to a publisher approaching me about writing a book. I was excited and flattered, but I didn’t want to write a book if I didn’t have something that needed to be said. It took me about four months to think and pray about it and decide that all that God had been teaching me about waiting might be something that others could benefit from.

Q:  What are the top three things you would share with women who are stuck in a season of waiting?

  1. Don’t worry about whether you can make it for the rest of your life. Just ask God for what you need to make it through today.
     
  2. Remember that, even if your season of waiting ends, you will always be waiting on something. Seek now to draw near to God and learn more about his character. This will benefit you in the future no matter what you are waiting on.
     
  3. Keep an eternal perspective. If you are a believer, this life is not your only shot at happiness. That realization helps waiting not feel quite so desperate.

Q: One of your key points is that each of our stories are parables that point to a larger truth. How did this realization affect you in the midst of your waiting?

It made my waiting seem personal rather than wasted time. It helped me feel like God was using my waiting to point me and others to his salvation story. Seeing my wait for a spouse as a parable of the Church waiting for her Bridegroom increased my longing for his return.

Q: How have other women helped and encouraged you in your waiting seasons?

Sometimes it is hard to talk with others about the areas where we feel most vulnerable. We need to do it anyway. Those friends with whom who I’ve shared my deepest desires, who have prayed for me, are those that I’m closest to. And they’ve been able to rejoice with me when God has answered my prayers!

Q: What is the key to finding purpose and joy where you are rather than where you wish to be?

I think that we should seek to find contentment and joy in our relationship with God and seek his purpose for our lives rather than our own. That’s different than being completely content with your circumstances. You might have a terrible job situation—I don’t know that God is calling you to be content with that. But as long as you are in that terrible job situation, you can seek joy in the Lord, seek to be used by him where you are, and believe that he has a good purpose for you there. It doesn’t necessarily show a lack of godly contentment to be honest about the difficulties of whatever season you are in. But we must always seek to draw our deepest strength and joy from our all-sufficient Father. There is no lack in him, so there is no reason for us to lack contentment in him.

Q: How has the gift of hindsight changed the way you view the years you spent waiting for a spouse?

I’m grateful for all the relationships I had during my single years. I’m introverted and a homebody, but loneliness forced me to be more social and throw myself into church life. I’m glad that God used years of singleness to deepen my friendships. I also think that getting married at 34 rather than 24 has helped me view marriage as a gift rather than a reward for going about dating the right way.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? Please speak freely here.

Singleness ended my wait for marriage, but it began other waits. I’ve been waiting on a baby for what is starting to feel like a long time. We’ve had a lot of waiting to do with the church plant that we are working on. I’m now far from my family and living in a small, rented apartment, so I am experiencing the wait for a home in a way that I didn’t when I lived in my hometown. All of the truth God taught in my in my wait for marriage are applicable now. No wait is wasted if you press into God’s goodness.

Contest closes October 9 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the contest closing. Good luck! Until next time, grace and peace.

Review: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

We've long been fans of Sally Lloyd-Jones' The Jesus Storybook Bible, so when I saw Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, a children's devotional book by the same author, at TGC's Women's Conference, I snagged a copy for our oldest daughter.

Since she recently became a Christian, I wanted to give her something to help foster her growing relationship with the Lord. In the week and a half since her baptism, we've read an entry in this book every single day, and it has sparked lots of conversations about what God is like, who we are in relationship to him, how to pray, and what it means to be His person.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is a beautifully written and illustrated book, and I love that it's simple enough for my almost-first-grader to understand without watering down profound spiritual truths. Lloyd-Jones is a master wordsmith. In a recent interview for Christianity Today, she said that she writes with her niece and nephew in mind, seeking the best way to describe spiritual truths honestly yet simply.

Here are just a few examples of her beautiful prose in action:

Describing Sin: "God made his children's hearts to join together in the wonderful Dance of Joy—orbiting and circling around him. But we put ourselves in the center instead of God. We put ourselves in God's place—which is what sin is."

On Praise: "God didn't create us so he could get joy—he already had it. He created us so he could share it. He knows it's the thing your heart most needs to be happy. When God says, 'Glorify me!', he's really saying, 'Be filled with Joy!' He's inviting us into his Forever Happiness."

God's Timing: "Does it seem like God has forgotten about you? If God is delaying, it's not to make things worse. It is always only so he can make things better."

I may or may not be finishing off my own quiet times with a page or two from the book. It's a keeper. I mean, just look at some of these pages.

Gorgeous, right? It's been a great tool for us to help teach our daughter some spiritual disciplines in this early stage of her walk with Christ. If you're looking for a child's devotional book, I can't recommend Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing highly enough. You won't be disappointed.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Look Away to Thee

O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. Tozer
"O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen."

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Raising Grateful Kids: A Review and Giveaway

 

When I first stumbled across Kristen Welch's blog, We Are That Family, a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a keeper. She had just released her first book, Rhinestone Jesus, and I was immediately drawn to her story. On a Compassion International blogger's trip to Kenya in 2010, she saw things she couldn't un-see, and when she returned home to Texas she knew she had to do something about it. So she, along with her husband Terrell, founded Mercy House to give women in the most unimaginable circumstances a hand up and a way out. Kristen's blog offers a behind the scenes look at her work as well as inspiration and encouragement for parents.

Even though I don't know Kristen personally, I feel like I know her through her writing, and she's so open and honest that I keep coming back for more. She's recently (like just this week) released her second book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy. She's quick to point out that she's not a parenting expert, but she is a parent to three kids, and the book is a direct reflection of her family's experiences, struggles, and little victories along the way to a lifestyle of gratitude.

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it for a few reasons:

Reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World feels like sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend. The advice comes straight from the parenting trenches, and as someone who is trying really hard to raise two little girls to be grateful young ladies, I appreciate words of wisdom from another mom who has traveled the same road. 

Kristen offers practical tips and age-specific strategies for instilling gratitude. She covers everything from the pressures that teens face in our selfie-obsessed society to giving little ones responsibility with chores. And that's just in the book itself. There are also helpful appendices like a cell phone contract for older children and the Christian Parent Manifesto, as well as a list of recommended resources. 

It reminded me that we're not alone in this. Sometimes I look at the world around me and wonder if everyone else is crazy or if it's just me. Even when I know we've made the right choice, I feel guilty for telling my children no when it seems like all the other parents around us are saying yes. I loved these words from Kristen:

We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will end up being just like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands we fit in.
— Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids

I don't know about you, but I don't want to fall into that trap. I want my children to grow up with eyes wide open. I want them to recognize how tremendously they have been blessed. I want that knowledge to foster gratitude within their hearts. And I want that gratitude to move them to serve others. I want it for our whole family.

If that sounds like something you want too, then reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is a good place to start, and lucky for you, I'm giving away a copy to one lucky reader.

The nitty gritty details: Earn up to three entries by  (1) Leaving a comment on this blog post, (2) Following @leslieannjones on twitter, and (3) Subscribing to the LAJ newsletter. Contest closes January 31 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the contest closing. 

Good luck! Until next time, grace and peace.

More Chances to Win!

I'm not the only one sponsoring a giveaway of Raising Grateful Kids this week. Here are a few other places you can enter for a chance to win!