80+ Books to Inspire and Challenge Your Family

We love books and we try to spend a little time everyday reading together as a family (and by ourselves).  We have books on shelves, next to beds, piled on counters and tucked away throughout our home. We are working our way through a big list of books to inspire and challenge our family. I’ve been adding to this list for a long time and I thought I’d share the books that inspire and challenge our family:

Disclaimer: I love reading on my Kindle app on my phone, but in an effort to be unplugged more when I’m with my kids, I only read fiction on my phone (usually while I’m waiting somewhere). I purchase almost all our books from Amazon (prime member), so these affiliate links are from there.

*Books we have read (or are reading):

Board Books:

  1. *Because I Love You
  2. *Just in Case You Ever Wonder
  3. If You’re Happy and You Know It 
  4. *I Love You Just the Way You Are 
  5. *Counting Kisses
  6. *Jesus Loves Me!
  7. *Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers
  8. I Love You So Much
  9. If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart
  10. Recordable Storybook-My Rainy Day Imagining Book

Picture Books:

  1. *Love You Forever
  2. *You Are Mine (Max Lucado’s Wemmicks)
  3. *Punchinello: One of a Kind (Max Lucado’s Wemmicks)
  4. *The Boy Who Changed the World
  5. You Can Do It!
  6. *Parable Series: An Audio-Book for All Seasons [Audiobook on Cassette] (Parable Series, All 4 Seasons (Together))
  7. The Tallest of Smalls
  8. *Just in Case You Ever Wonder
  9. *The Giving Tree
  10. The Oak Inside the Acorn

Read Together Books:

  1. *The Chronicles of Narnia Scholastic Box Set (Book One Through Book Six) (all ages)
  2. *The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (all ages)
  3. *The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set(all ages)
  4. The Story: Teen Edition (Chronological Bible)
  5. *Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids (all ages)
  6. Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself (8 and up)
  7. My Life, His Mission: A Six Week Challenge to Change the World (inspiring stories)
  8. Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (8 and up)
  9. *Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor (family devotions w/missions focus, edited while reading)
  10. *Window On The World (missions focus)
  11. kisses from katie
  12. Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games

Tween/Teen Books:

    1. *Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
    2. Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are
    3. *You Were Made to Make a Difference
    4. *It’s Not About Me Teen Edition
    5. *Make Every Day Count – Teen Edition
    6. *Jesus Freaks: Martyrs: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus
    7. The Hiding Place
    8. I Kissed Dating Goodbye
    9. Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World
    10. *Truth and Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls (ages 9-12)
    11. *Triple Dog Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Boys (ages 9-12)
    12. Wild grace
    13. End of the Spear

Parenting Books:

  1. *For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid
  2. *Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle
  3. *Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle
  4. Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood (boys)
  5. Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son
  6. Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter
  7. *Have a New Kid by Friday (Strong-Willed Kids)
  8. Shepherding a Child’s Heart
  9. *Grace-Based Parenting
  10. *Your Girl: Raising a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World
  11. *Your Boy: Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World
  12. *Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right
  13. *You Can Raise Courageous and Confident Kids
  14. *Raising Kids for True Greatness
  15. Bonus for Moms: Don’t Make Me Come Up There!: Quiet Moments for Busy Moms

Books for Husband and Wives

  1. *For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men
  2. *Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs
  3. *The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun)(her)
  4. *NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible
  5. *Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences
  6. *You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be(her)
  7. *For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women
  8. *Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (him)
  9. *Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series) (him)
  10. Don’t Waste Your Life

What I Want My Son to Know

I don’t know if every mother who bears a son feels the way I do about mine: But when I look at him, I’m physically drawn to touch his face, ruffle his hair, pull him close. I also have a strong urge  to clean his glasses, wipe the chocolate smudge, check for deodorant, smother this lanky son.

Maybe it’s because he’s affectionate like his father or because some days he’s the only who asks how my day was and really wants to know.  Maybe it’s because he’s a lover, not a fighter. I just know my heart is connected to his in a special way. He grows taller with every sunset and I feel my grip loosening. He seeks independence. I give him bits and pieces. He comes back to reassure me. Oh, this boy.

He is smart and sensitive. He is compassionate and is shaped by mercy. He is quick-witted and a tad sarcastic. I have no idea where he gets that from.

The world is a boiling pot with mounting pressure.  I long to shield him from it. But he feels the heat anyway. This is the life we are called to. But I’m the first to admit that– living in the world, but not being a part of it– is tricky, hard business.

Son, ten years ago today, I was stuffing my face full of chicken chop chop -a dinner break- on the way to the hospital. You entered this world easily, quietly and I didn’t even mess up my makeup. Your gentle nature has been nothing but a blessing to this momma’s heart. Little did I know that ten years would pass in a blur and that every time you hear the word balls, you’d have a hilarious-albeit irreverent-comment. (We need to work on that).

On your 10th birthday, I want you to know:

You are enough: The world will demand more from you, constantly trying to convince you to change and give more, be more. But you are good enough just the way you are. You are created in His image and there is only One you must please in this life. It’s just beginning, this pressure to fit in to a certain mold. Resist it. You don’t have to be like everyone else, be like Him and everything else will lose it’s significance.

You can do it: You can be and do whatever you want in this life. Never give up or listen to the voice of doubt that says you can’t. Work hard and always try. We live in a world that offers more doubt than encouragement: don’t listen to those voices. Our greatest successes are built on the steps of our failures. If your dreams aren’t bigger than you, then they aren’t God-sized dreams.

You are not alone: As you get older, you want more freedom from your Dad and I. This is natural and the way God created us–one day you will lead your own family. We will journey along side you, but in our imperfection, we will disappoint you along the way. But God will never let you down and he will never leave you alone. If you’ve got Him, you have all you need in this life.

You are loved: I hope you feel the love seep deep in your bones, this crushing love we have for you. But it pales in comparison to the One who gave His life just for you. No matter what comes your way, the ups and downs, the joy and sorrows this life might bring, believe this one thing: you are deeply loved.

Happy birthday, Son.

WFMW: Stickers to the Rescue

There’s a seven year age gap between my youngest and oldest. As my older kids get more involved in school,  music lessons, orthodontic appointments, etc, my youngest trails behind them and waits. It’s just part of being a little sister.

We’ve been going to the same Pediatrician since my oldest kids were 1 and 3 years old. (They are now 10 and 12). I love our amazing doctor! Her office is always bustling, but the staff makes the wait more bearable with sticker scene sheets. I like to borrow good idea.

They have been keeping my kids occupied for years (my big kids still like them when they have to wait). When we travel or have get stuck in an office, these stickers come in handy!

They are perfect for the car, a restaurant, even church. I have a variety tucked away for our 24 hours of flying in a few weeks.

They usually come in a pack of a dozen and you can create a new scene every time.

Here are some of our favorites from *Amazon: Safari Sticker Scenes, Make-A-Race Car Sticker ScenesHe Lives! Make-A-Sticker ScenesMake-A-Farm Stickers and you can get a Mega Pack Assortment from Oriental Trading.

Stickers work for us! *affiliate

Art to Inspire {Giveaway}

UPDATE: The winner is comment #2-Wendy.  Congratulations, Wendy!

My home has become a gallery of inspiration.

The walls are peppered with more than decor: Inspirational art makes a statement and issues a challenge.

I made a decision a long time ago that I would only hang what inspires me. From my kids handmade art in the laundry room to the canvas cross in the kitchen to the tree of life in the bathroom, I can’t tell you how many times in a day I’m encouraged by inspirational art.

I want you to be too.

I love Show Off Arts newest pieces:


Show Off Arts is one of my absolute favorites! Not only is their story (behind the art) beautiful, their products are fun and warm and truly inspirational!

Today, Show Off Arts is offering one reader a $50 gift certificate for anything in their store, plus free shipping. Plus, all my readers can receive an extra 20% off with code watf20

Take a look around and leave a comment with what art inspires you.

This giveaway ends on Thursday.

For When the Crazy Takes Over

We rescued our cat fours years ago from a shelter after a devastating hurricane hit our area.

We are not cat people.

But apparently we have bleeding hearts and so we responded to a desperate email from the shelter that was going to destroy hundreds of animals abandoned or found during the storm.

It’s been four years and our dog still hates our cat. I mean there is some serious animal hatred here, people. They randomly knock over furniture, spit and claw and cause havoc.  The last two years with our trips to Africa and running a non-profit from our dining room-turned-home office and the Mercy Shop in our garage, our life has gotten busy and hectic and fuller and well, crazy.

Crazy is our normal.

It’s still hard for this Type A mom to write those words. But it’s true, there is constant crisis and God uses our circumstances and His dream to stretch me every day. Plus, throw in three growing kids, jobs, etc, our pets are low on the totem pole.

So, back to the cat. This might be going somewhere, I haven’t decided yet.

Lately, we have been traveling a lot, speaking on behalf of Mercy House among other things and to put it lightly, our cat upped the ante.

He has defiled my favorite chair three times.

In desperation, I actually Googled why is my cat pooping on my chair?

It took me to an article called If Your Cat is Pooping On Your Chair, It’s a Serious Sign of Distress.

I couldn’t make that up even if I wanted to. It went on to say that loneliness and stress were factors.

Now, look away animal lovers: I cannot afford new furniture every time we travel because our cat has anger and loneliness issues. So, after a lot of talking and Googling, we made the tough decision that it was time for our cat to find a new home. One without a dog or a maternity home.

But when it actually came time to give him away, our kids begged and pleaded to give him another chance. Here’s this innocent animal in a pet carrier inside my hubby’s car and my kids are hysterical in the driveway. They promised to show him attention, to guard my chair with their life, to make our pets a priority (basically give them food and water). Suddenly, I even found myself advocating for this dumb animal.

We turned him loose in the house.

They spent the next two hours creating a cat habitat, making pom pom toys and brushing him. It was hilarious and heartbreaking. They went from “we have a cat?” to “our life is about that cat.”

It was sweet.

And really, really crazy.

Just a regular day around here…and probably just the beginning of our cat problems.

That night when all the chaos calmed, I hugged my husband tight and said, “I’m glad the kids talked us out of it. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, um cat.”

Oh, and I ordered this infomercial chair alarm for $19.99 from Amazon. Because y’all, I love that chair (which has remained odor and poop free since we gave the cat a second chance).

So, really this post has nothing to do with a cat (who is now purring in my lap as I type this), but it’s really about second chances, refocusing, and not letting the crazy completely take over.

The end.

And if you made it to the bottom of this ridiculous post, you have been rewarded with this hilarious quote by a woman I know would look at my crazy and be all “Pshaw…that’s nothing!”

8×10 Printable Mom Quote

The Other Side of Mother’s Day

I sat in the back row of the church where my husband and I worked.  It wasn’t our normal spot. But this wasn’t a normal day. It was one I dreaded:  I was grieving. I kept my head down and silent tears splashed.  The choir sang, everyone dressed in their best. There was light-hearted joy in the room. I could sense it, but I couldn’t feel it. I tried to be invisible in my dark place, willing people to look away.

I couldn’t stand the pity. And yet I longed not to be forgotten.

It was Mother’s Day. And after three long years of infertility, I still wasn’t a mother.

That was 12 years ago and while my dream of becoming a mommy came true, I don’t ever want to forget that this day filled with flowers and homemade cards is painful for so many women.

I know many others who skip the day all-together–some because the relationship with their mothers is a raw wound others because their mom is gone and she left a space too large to fill.

Last year after my kids served me breakfast in bed, I received a phone call from our dear Maureen in Kenya. Just three weeks after losing her 7 year old nephew, her only sister died. Sucker punch. When I remember that day, and the overwhelming helplessness and grief, I am reminded again of the bittersweet.

If I’ve learned anything in the past two years working in a third world country, I’ve learned that woman are strong.

And that we are all the same.

We use spit to wipe a smudge, our hands to protect, our hearts to lead. We question, wonder, doubt and regret.  But above all, we dream. We long for a world without war, heartache, poverty, loneliness.

We may be from a different culture, speak a different language, but no matter our circumstances, hope is always enough.

To all the women and mothers everywhere, Happy Mother’s Day.

I could feel her staring across the church, walking towards me. She inched closer and grabbed my hand. She squeezed tight. I held on and looked into her eyes. She never said a word, but the tears in her eyes said it all.

Whatever place you find yourself, think of the woman on the other side.

What to say When Words Aren’t Enough:

  • Give a warm, meaningful hug
  • Send a card, reminding her you remember
  • Ask her how she’s really doing. Wait for her to answer.
  • Use your past pain to help her thru her present
  • Don’t pretend she’s not hurting
  • Don’t tell her everything will be ok
  • Pray for the women in our world

I’m Glad I’m a Mom {Giveaway}

UPDATE–The winners are: comment numbers 1, 41, 75, 108 & 112. Congratulations to Haley, D Hopkins, Jimmie Lee, Carolyn and Victoria. An email has been sent your way!

She called my name. I put down my book and looked up from the patio chair. “Hmmm?” I sounded.

“Mom, please help me,” she said and pointed to the swings.

I got up and walked toward her. “Will you please help me swing on all of them?” I didn’t understand and so she explained.

I frowned. “I don’t think it’s possible, honey.”

“Will you just try to help me? You’re the only mother I have,” she whined.

I bit back a laugh.

And then we did this together:

I pushed her awkwardly and she looked triumphant.

Later I showed her the picture as she snuggled up next to me in bed. “We did it!” I said and tickled her.

“Mommy? I love you.

But…” she paused.

I waited.

“You’ve got to do something about your spikey legs.”


Ah, motherhood. Some days are smooth, others are, well, spikey.

But I wouldn’t trade them for anything.


In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m giving away 5 copies of my book, Don’t Make Me Come Up There!: Quiet Moments for Busy Moms!

Fill in the blank as your entry “I’m glad I’m a Mom because_______” OR if that doesn’t apply “I’m glad for my Mom because______”