dreaming big dreams

Have you ever read the right book at precisely the right time? One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler is about a religious mom of 6 kids (under age 8) navigating the season of having babies while also pursuing her dream to write. So we have a little in common! And so often I have felt like my dreams conflict–my husband and I want a large family so obviously I have to set writing down, to quit. I’ve tried to quit so many times, but I find myself there again, writing a poem, a book of poems, sending them to publishers. Here’s the question Jennifer poses:

“What if all our desires to create–both with children and with work–are, in fact, all pointed in the same direction? What if both are different but complementary ways of getting in touch with the ultimate Source of creativity? What if following your God-given passion is not just okay to do during the baby years, but actually something that has potential to enhance your whole family’s life?” – Jennifer Fulwiler, One Beautiful Dream

So often I just see the immediate conflict–the baby interrupting writing time, writing distracting me from the toddler throwing tupperware all over the floor, the tugging on my time–but maybe a “literary mama” is what is best for them because God gave these kids to me. Maybe they need a mom that is writing poems, and, as much as I naturally crave time alone, I need to be surrounded by babies, babies everywhere.

Jennifer talks about the resistance to making art– the lies that creep in to discourage. The ones she lists here could have come out of my own mind–

You can’t follow that call to have more children–you’r already failing so miserably
Why bother writing this book when so many other people are so much better at this than you are?

I desperately wish I were a better writer. I desperately wish I were a better mother. But the answer to being better at both isn’t necessarily for me to give up on either one. God gave me a unique calling that is made up of some different moving parts but it is all going in the same direction. Something about writing is important and I need to keep doing it. Welcoming all these little baby-strangers into my life, one at a time, is also part of that calling, and I don’t fully understand how it is all going to work out together in the end.

This book helped me though. It made me feel like although my big family dream and my poetry dream are both crazy dreams to so many (most!) people, God made me for this, so even if I fail, I  don’t really fail. I feel inspired to keep going. And I don’t think that right now that is going to look like starting a new book or a novel, but it might, if that inspiration comes, and I’m not too afraid to follow it.


Vintage Baby Names from Rosemary Wells books

I’m a poet and my husband is a songwriter, so when I am pregnant, baby name discussions get intense. Meter, rhyme, syllable count, meaning, history, assonance/consonance with sibling names, we analyze baby names like we are reading James Joyce. It is one of my favorite things about being pregnant.

So lately I’ve been reading the girls Rosemary Wells books and noticed she has a lot of good names for her characters–some already in use pretty frequently in the USA, but others still not heard very often. Here are a few of my favorite, in case you are looking for a baby name recommendation from a real-live Poet:





And the author’s name is also pretty great–Rosemary for a girl, Wells for a boy?  Any favorites from this list? We have our fifth baby named and it is none of these, but I’d be happy to name your baby for you.

Challies 2018 Update

This year my husband and I decided to tackle the Challies challenge together; little did we know that we would move (twice)(once to another state), my husband would start a new job and get laid off from said job six months later, and I’d get pregnant with our fifth baby. So we are not doing well on this challenge.

Here’s an update on where we are. Most of the challenge has been accomplished through what I read to the children:


Tier 1 (light)

  • a biography: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas (Bryan)
  • a book about Christian living: The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer (Renee)
  • a book published in 2018: Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Thames Willard (Renee)
  • a book by an author who is no longer alive: Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (Bryan)
  • a novel: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Bryan)
  • a book for teens or young adults: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (Bryan)
  • a book more than 100 years old: The Autobiography of George Muller 
  • a book targeted at the opposite gender: The Indian and the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (Renee)
  • a book your best friend recommends: The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson (Renee)
  • a book with at least 400 pages: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (Bryan) 
  • a book of your choice: The BFG by Roald Dahl (Renee)
  • a book about theology: Kiss the Wave by Dave Furman (Bryan)
  • a book about current events: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (Renee)

Tier 2 (Avid)

  • a book about christian living: Family Worship by Paul Beeke (Bryan)
  • a book of 100 pages or less: The Undressing: Poems by Lee Young-Li (Renee)
  • a book about the early church:
  • a book with the picture of the author on the cover: Slim For Life by Jillian Michaels (Renee)
  • a book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers:
  • a book written by a Puritan:
  • a book by or about a Pastor: Uprooting Anger by Robert D. Jones (Renee)
  • a book of your choice: 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha (Renee)
  • a commentary on a book of the Bible:
  • a book about theology: Knowing and Growing in the Assurance of Faith by Paul Beeke (Bryan)
  • a book that won a prize: Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar (Renee)
  • a book you have borrowed: Hints on Child Training by Henry Trumbull (Renee)
  • a book about Christian history: 

Tier 3 (Committed)

  • a novel by an author you have never read: Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (Bryan)
  • a book based on a true story: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Renee)
  • a book by a female author: The Borrowers by Mary Norton (Renee)
  • a play:
  • a humorous book: How to Be the Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee (Renee)
  • self-improvement book: The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron (Renee)
  • a book about prayer:
  • a graphic novel:
  • a book about Christian Living: Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson (Renee)
  • a book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • a book by or about a politician
  • a classic novel: The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum (Renee)
  • a book with a two word title: The Fledgling by Jane Langston (Renee)
  • a book by a male author: All the Way Home by David Giffels (Renee)
  • a book you are pretty sure you won’t like: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon (Renee)
  • a book of your choice: The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton (Renee)
  • a book of theology
  • a memoir or autobiography: The Autobiography of George Muller (Renee)
  • a book about christian living: Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney (Renee)
  • a book published by Christian Focus
  • a book of poetry: Joy: 100 Poems edited by Christian Wiman (Renee) 
  • a book targeted at your gender: Insomnia by Linda Pastan (Renee)
  • a book about christian living
  • a book by R.C. Sproul: What is Reformed Theology (Renee)
  • a book of your choice: The Borrowers Afloat by Mary Norton (Renee)

Teir 4 (obsessed)

  • a book you read in the past three years: Peter Pan by J. M. Berrie (Renee)
  • a book of your choice: The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison (Renee)
  • a book by your favorite author
  • a book about science
  • a book written in the nineteenth century
  • a book about christian living: The Gospel-Centered Mom by Brooke McGlothlin (Renee)
  • a book by or about a martyr
  • a book about history
  • a book by or about a world leader
  • a book on the ECPA bestseller list
  • a book published by P&R publications: Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns by T. David Gordon
  • a book about a book of the bible
  • a book about war
  • a book about heaven
  • a book from the library: The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage (Renee)
  • a book about relationships: How To Be Free From Bitterness: And Other Essays on Christian Relationships by Jim Wilson (Renee)
  • a novel for young adults
  • a book of your choice: Gloved Against Blood by Cindy Veach (Renee)
  • a book about christian living: Let It Go by Karen Ehman (Renee)
  • a book about history
  • a book used as a seminary textbook
  • a book of your choice: The Rim Benders by Lola Haskins (Renee)
  • a book about church history
  • a book by a southern baptist
  • a book by an author who is still alive: Odes by Sharon Olds (Renee)
  • a book for children or teens: The Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton (Renee)
  • a book about the church
  • a book about business
  • a novel longer than 300 pages
  • a book about leadership
  • a book you have read before: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Renee)
  • a book by jerry bridges
  • a book with a great cover: Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson (Renee)
  • a book by a Puritan
  • a book about animals: Abel’s Island by William Steig (Renee)
  • a book about theology
  • a book of comics
  • a book by Albert Mohler
  • a book about the bible
  • a book about theology
  • a biography of a christian
  • a christian novel
  • a photo essay book
  • a book about holiness or sanctification
  • a book about the bible
  • a book of your choice: The Art of Losing: Poems ed. by Kevin Young (Renee)
  • a book about money or finance: Live Your Life for Half the Price by Mary Hunt (Renee)
  • a book you have always wanted to read but haven’t: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Renee)
  • a book recommended by a friend: The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh (Renee)
  • a book of church history
  • a book by a speaker from Together for the Gospel
  • a book your pastor recommends



At this point, I would just like for us to finish Tier 2. To do that we need to read:

  • a book about the early church:
  • a book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers:
  • a book written by a Puritan:
  • a commentary on a book of the Bible:
  • a book about Christian history:

I think we can get that done by the end of the year. I’m disappointed that we aren’t going to finish the entire list, but it did give me some ideas for creating my own personal reading challenge for next year!


Any suggestions on what we should read for those categories so we can finish Tier 2?