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How to Read 100 books in a Year

Posted on January 22, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 2 Comments

Reading is one of my favorite things. If I can get out of the house for a little bit of mommy time, my first choice of activities is always a hot chai latte and a good book.

I hear people say all the time that they just don’t have time to read. And, I know there are times in everyone’s life when reading can be difficult and harder to do. But, if you want to be a reader, part of the battle is just making it a priority. 

Here are some ways I am able to read over 100 books in a year:

1. Always have a book with you. I never go anywhere without a book, so if there is ever downtime in the carpool line or before a meeting, I always have a book handy.

2. Read a chapter a day. I try to read a chapter a day out of a Christian book and a business book. Most Christian and business books have only about 10-12 total chapters, so reading one chapter a day gets you through a book within 2 weeks.

3. Get rid of cable. We don’t have cable, so every night, once we put our son down, I get in bed and read for 1 - 2 hours before going to bed. 

4. Put your phone somewhere else. Don’t set your phone next to you while you read - it will greatly diminish you’re reading goals. Maybe try this iPhone background for your phone?

5. Resist the temptation to “get things done.” When my preschooler is happily occupied for 10 minutes, it is easy to try to clean dishes, unload the dishwasher, etc. I try to resist the temptation and just enjoy reading. It means our house is more of a mess, but I’m a happier person.

6. Try out audiobooks. If you haven’t tried audiobooks, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. Looking for a good audio book to try out?  I really enjoyed Yes Please, Wonder, and Sycamore Row.

7. Read multiple books at one time. Some people won’t agree with this, but I usually have 3 books going at a time - a Christian book, a business/non-fiction book, and a fiction book. It makes me want to read more.

8. Stay on top of library requesting. I get an e-mail notice from my library about 3 days before our books are due. When I get it, I go online and request new books to be put on hold for me. This is great, as the books are usually ready when I make it to the library 3 days later, always giving me something new to read.

9. Consider a book club (or start your own). I had never done a book club until this year (I had heard some funny horror stories from friends about them!), but gave it a go. It is fun and makes reading fun.

How do you make reading a priority?  Any tips you’d add to this list?

Posted in Books, Goals, Start Fresh

Getting Stuck - Adult Style

Posted on January 15, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 1 Comment

Books are a big deal around here. I read all the time. My son “reads” all the time. (This is where I should say that my husband reads all the time…well, that would be a stretch. He says there is no reason to read as I tell him everything from the books I read, so he “reads” the same books I read each year. Yeah…doesn’t cut it.) 

We love Oliver Jeffers books around here, picking many up from the library, and now owning many as well. Our new favorite is the book Stuck, one my son received for Christmas.

A kid gets his kite stuck in a tree, and then proceeds to throw all kinds of things at the tree to get his kite down…a shoe, a can of paint, a cat, a whale, some firemen…you get the picture. At one point, the kid finds a ladder and a saw, but instead of using them properly, he chunks them up in the tree as well…where they get stuck.

And boy, is my life quite a lot like this. Especially in the new year.

I decide I am going to get quite a bit “unstuck” right now and I make a pretty large list of ways I am going to do it.

Not feeling connection with the Lord? I’ll throw an extra Bible Study, a new Scripture memorization scheme, some cute Scripture flash cards into the fray…soon things should fall in place.

Can’t quite tackle this sin problem that keeps nagging me? How about a good shot of book reading, looking up specific verses, even “punishing” myself when I fall short…yes, that should have this sin down in no time.

But, my life isn’t quite like an Oliver Jeffers book, and no amount of throwing Christian activities at it is going to get my heart right.

Hannah Anderson in her book Made for More tells a story about a friend of hers who confessed that she had been married 4 times. Hannah was a tad shocked, until her friend confessed that it had been to the same man. She went on to explain that their marriage was an act of choosing each other over and over again.

And isn’t that what God really wants from me? To choose Him over and over again. To not just choose Christian books or cool Bible Studies or neat Scripture memorization plans…but to choose Him. And much like Hannah’s friend, that might mean starting over each day. “Each day, we choose Him again,” she says. 

Today, I can sit at the feet of Jesus.  Looking to Him. Looking at Him. I can stop throwing a lot of “stuff” at the things that feel stuck in my life, and instead just turn back and gaze at the One who has released me from all the things binding me today.

The “stuff” I throw is just stuff until I can see and know Jesus more. The Lord wants me, not my long list of Christian activities. Will I choose Him today?

What makes you feel stuck? What types of things do you throw at your life that might get in the way of seeing Jesus?

Posted in Books, KidLit, Start Fresh, Stuck

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Posted on January 12, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 2 Comments

In the 5th grade, when I was packing for summer camp, I threw in some Sunday dresses I didn’t care about getting dirty. They were old, some I hadn’t worn in a while, but in my head, I figured it was camp, so why did it matter.

When our first Sunday arrived, and I pulled out a dress with hand stitching and a huge collar, I remember being mortified. The other girls had cute acid-wash jean skirts and matching scrunchies. It was the first time I remember feeling WAY out. I wanted clothes that made me feel cool and popular, as my appearance was not cutting it.

I’ve been telling myself lies every since.

You need to be perfect.
You’ll never be as good as her.
You can’t ever get your act together.
You’ll never be able to overcome that sin.
You have to be funny for people to like you.

I am constantly talking to myself in my head. Constantly telling myself things, evaluating situations, and weighing myself against the odds. My mind is a constant story, being written each day by the words I tell myself and the words I believe.

But so much of the story I am writing is just not true.

These lies are like thin ice, ready to sink me at a moment’s notice. Ready to give way when I lean on them too hard. 

A few years ago, I noticed I was listening to these lies more and more, so I grabbed a small blank journal and decided I needed a different story. I was sick of the words going through my head, and I needed some truth to combat these lies.

On each page of this new journal, I wrote a different lie I believed, and then underneath it, I wrote a real Truth from God’s word.  

On my page that said, “you can’t get it all together,” I wrote, “And he is before all things and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17). On the page that said, “I can never overcome this sin,” I instead wrote, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3).

Over the years the pages filled and the lies changed, depending on what I was going through. There are many days when the lies still win out. Instagram and Pinterest help speak the lies loud and clear. But, there are also the days when I find myself speaking a new story into my days, Truth over the lies, hope over the vast monologue of not-good-enough.

I highly recommend taking the time to write down the lies you tell yourself, and then finding Scripture to speak truth into your life. If you don’t know if something is a lie, ask a good friend (I have done this countless times!) Here is a list you can print to get started…I have this list stuck in my Bible for easy access (click on it to print PDF).

How can you speak Truth to yourself today? What lies do you believe?

*Many different authors I have had the privilege of reading have talked about this great idea…Annie Downs in Perfectly Unique, Kate Conner in Enough, and most recently Lara Casey in Make it Happen. Great books to further read about finding your worth and truth in God.

Posted in Lies and Truth, Praying Scripture, Resources, Start Fresh

Daily Rituals: The One Thing I Can Count On

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

I recently (and reluctantly) read Rachel Macy Stafford’s book Hands Free Mama. I loved so much about the book (it made my top books of the year) and have found that it has changed my perspective on how I can live FOR the things that are important to me (instead of living BECAUSE of what’s in front of me.)

In the book, Rachel encourages you to set up Daily Rituals with your children, so that “no matter how chaotic the day is, your child can always count on that one period of meaningful connection.” She gives examples such as morning snuggles, or after-school snack time, or walking the dog together. A time to connect daily in a meaningful way. What a great idea to implement with your kids.

And what a great idea to implement in your time with the Lord

The New Year is always an exciting time of renewal and hope, with feelings of starting fresh and really accomplishing something great. But, it always kind of fizzles for me…my resolutions feel like another to-do list that just can’t compete with my real to-do list. One has to give, so my idealized view of how I’d like things to go gets pushed aside for the reality of my situation.

I usually come up with this great list of spiritual “things” I want to do each year. For example: 

• Read through the whole Bible
• Memorize __ number of verses
• Pray every day
• Find a new way to get involved in ___ ministry
• Read the Bible with my son every day
• Use Scripture in parenting
• And more...

    My spiritual resolutions become this HUGE list that sounds awesome, but let’s be honest, it ain’t gonna happen.

    So, this year, I’ve decided instead to try out a Daily Ritual…I want to do one thing that no matter how chaotic my day is, I can count on this one meaningful connection with the Lord. It is something I can come to expect daily, to count on, despite what else is going on.

    For this year, I’ve decided my Daily Ritual is going to be to read and think about a Scripture verse before starting my work time each day (planning to use this list as a guide). I work fervently and intensely during my son’s afternoon naps, to get everything done in that short, glorious amount of time. But, I’ve found myself charging so hard and fast into the work that I forget WHO I am really working for. 

    So, this year, I want to add that one Daily Ritual. To have one thing in my life that no matter how chaotic my to-list can feel, or how much work I need to accomplish, I know that before it all, I am going to stop, pause, and pray over a Scripture. I want this to the be thing I can count on. The thing I can expect. The one thing I can add to my routine that will make me pause.

    What do you think about starting a Daily Ritual? What would you add this year?

    Posted in Books, Daily Ritual, Prayer, Praying Scripture, Start Fresh

    Remembering to Pray

    Posted on January 06, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 1 Comment

    My memory is very good in some areas, and very bad in others.  For example, I always remember who took the trash out last and whose turn it is to pay for our coffee drinks. I always remember to gently remind (read: practically yell at) my husband to remove all saws and tools from the kitchen table before dinner. I have no trouble remembering these things.

    When it comes to prayer? Big ‘ole lost space in the brain.

    Many of you (myself included) have probably started the year with some great goals for praying this year (with lots of you starting your Praying for your Husband journal this week!) It’s so easy to start the year strong, but if you’re like me…so easy to let it all fall to the land of forgetfulness very quickly.

    So, how can you remember to pray throughout the day?  Here are some ways that help me:

    1. Use some sort of prayer journal during your quiet time. I use Val Marie Paper’s prayer journal and the Praying for you Husband journal. I know a lot of people who also just use a blank journal for prayers. By writing down specific prayers and having specific verses to pray over, I remember to pray more often, just by the fact that I have everything already written down.

    2. Put your prayer journal out on your kitchen table or another central place in your house. Just physically seeing my prayer journal for my husband reminds me to pray for him. I rarely even open it, but when I glance at it, I remember to pray and just start doing it.

    3. Set an alarm on your phone. My deep, dark prayer abyss usually comes from about 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., and then from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. I have good intentions of praying throughout the day, but by 9:30, I am caught up in full-on work or full-on child time, so prayer gets forgotten. I set random alarms on my phone (not the same time every day) so that I will remember to pray when the alarm goes off.

    4. Change your phone or computer screen backgrounds. I will find a cool background online of a Bible verse or beautiful nature scene, and switch my phone or computer background often. I get startled by seeing a new picture, which makes me pay attention…which pushes me to pray.

    5. Take a picture of Bible verses you are praying on your phone. Each week, I take a picture of the scriptures I am praying for my husband in the Husband journal. When I am waiting at a traffic light, or in a doctor’s office, I flip to the picture and have the verses with me already. Big help with praying, no matter where I am.

    6. Set up some accountability with a friend. Find a good friend (or Bible Study group) to go at it with you. My great Bible Study group set up a texting accountability thing to encourage each other during our hard times of the day…it was great.

    7. Add Prayer to your to-do list. Now, don’t take this one the wrong way - I don’t think prayer is something you do to “check off” or “accomplish” and then move on. But, when I already have a big to-do list I look at constantly, seeing the word Prayer on it reminds me to stop and pray (before doing anything on the list!)  I will even write out specific prayer to-dos for each day, just so I remember to pray for different people and things. It helps me remember to pray, without feeling like I am just being a good, checkable Christian. And, I never actually "check it off" - just leave it as something to always do!

    8. Put a prayer list near your shower. I don’t get a ton of alone time during the day, so to me, shower time is glorious. I’ll post a Bible verse or prayer list near my towel or bathrobe, so I see it before I get in, so I think to pray for a situation or person in the shower. It’s like free, uninterrupted prayer time. Sweet!

    What ways do you remember to pray throughout the day? Have any tips or pointers for people trying to pray more often in the New Year?

    Make sure to check out the How to Pray Scripture post as well!

    Posted in Prayer, Praying for Your Husband Journal, Praying Scripture, Start Fresh

    Are You Ready to Pray for Your Husband in the New Year?

    Posted on December 22, 2014 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

    As 2015 is fast approaching, it is a great time to start thinking about your goals for the New Year. One of the best ways you can glow love into your husband this year is through prayer. 

    Prayer is so very powerful. Prayer is so very necessary.

    Brooke McGlothlin, in her excellent book Praying for Boys, says, “I pray because I don’t know what else to do.” 

    And, isn’t that so very true?! We (most certainly) cannot change our husbands - but God can work amazing things in their lives. 

    Choose to start this year off by diligently praying for your husband. Getting on your knees and waging war for his spiritual growth, his workplace, his friendships, his character. 

    Order your Praying for Your Husband journal today so that you can kick off January with a commitment to 6 months of prayer.  I am sending a newsletter tomorrow with a discount code for the Praying for Your Husband journal that can be used through December 31. If you aren’t signed up for the newsletter yet, sign up today!

    Let this be the year that you commit to pray in BIG ways for your husband. Join us in prayer in 2015!

    Posted in Praying for Your Husband Journal, Start Fresh