Review: Shopping for Time by the girltalk bloggers

tsskare.jpgBook Review
Shopping for Time by the girltalk bloggers
Reviewed by Karalee Reinke

[Girltalk’s new book is tried, tested and now wears the TSS stamp of approval. I mean, how else would my wife – on her due date, caring for two young kids, under heavy online demands and married to Mr. Messy – send along a book review for Shopping for Time? Somehow she made the time to write this review and I can assume the girltalk bloggers had something to do with it. Here now is the inaugural appearance of my precious wife on The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. -Tony]

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With a baby due any day, I am acutely aware of the need to get everything done. From to-do lists, to shopping lists, to cleaning lists, there is an endless supply of tasks that threaten to create anxiety and steal my joy.

So I have been anticipating the girltalk bloggers’ newest book, Shopping for Time: How to do it all and not be overwhelmed (Crossway: 2007). It could not have arrived at a more opportune time. In the evenings after I pull my nesting instincts away from the washing and sewing machines, and after reading chapters from the “Holy God book” to my daughter (that is The Big Picture Story Bible) and a chapter from that “dangerous” book to my son, I have been greatly helped by the Mahaney women’s wisdom and practical advice.

At first glance, I had mixed feelings about the small size of the book (under 100 pages). My first thought was, ‘Awesome. I can whip through this thing in a night or two and cross it off my to-do list.’

(Strike one for pride and self-sufficiency.)

My next thought was, ‘Should I stuff it inside a large volume of John Owen, so Tony will be impressed as we sit up and read at night?’

(Strike two for pride and fear of man.)

After examining my heart and expectations for the book, and after praying for God’s help to “open my eyes” to the truth of His word (Ps 119:18), I opened the cover, ready to receive all that He would teach me. And not surprisingly, my initial impressions were quickly changed.

While short, easy-to-read, and entertaining, this book is not intended to be rushed. With God’s help, I found it most helpful to read one chapter at a time, allowing time to reflect and meditate on the content.

The tone is chatty and conversational, what we have come to expect from the girltalk blog. The introduction opens around the table during Friday lunches together at the Mahaney home. Although the idea of meeting together each week with a mom and sisters who are wise Christians (and wives of pastors!) is incredible; and although the picture of their Greek takeout meal is enticing, one phrase jumped out at me as nearly impossible:

“But we have also learned from God’s Word that it is possible to deal with life’s demands without becoming overwhelmed, miserable, and exhausted. We can surmount the numerous responsibilities that threaten to wear us down. More than that, we can actually do all that God has called us to do” (p. 13).

Sitting in front of my notebook-full of to-do lists, I was more than skeptical. I laughed out loud.

(Strike three for pride and lack of trust in God.)

After repenting of my Sarah-like doubt, and remembering that God alone has abundant grace, and He alone can do the impossible, I jumped back into the book with fresh zeal. Through each chapter’s “Shopping for Time” tip, God revealed His wisdom and care for busy women through the girltalkers’ example. Here is a brief outline, with a sampling from each chapter.

Chapter 1. Shopping for Time

The Mahaneys introduce the “Shopping for Time” theme by comparing our careful shopping habits with the lackluster planning we give to the time God has granted us here on earth. Seeing these priorities compared side-by-side is convicting, especially in light of the Scripture they use to motivate change: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Chapter 2. The First Tip: Rise Early

Regular readers of the girltalk blog are familiar with the 5 AM club. Through a series of posts motivating women to rise early to seek God, they introduced a practice that frames the rest of this book: In order to effectively pursue the rest of the tips (and especially the second), the godly, effective woman will rise early to make the best use of her time. My favorite example is from a group of college women who describe their early-morning habit as causing them to be “more dependent on the Word of God, with hearts fixed on the Cross” (33). Now that’s a reason to set the alarm!

Chapter 3. The Second Tip: Sit Still

If a woman wants to make the best use of her time, she must do “the one thing necessary” – sit at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:42). Yes, we heard from that other group of sisters, Mary and Martha, in this chapter, and were reminded of the great privilege we have to “sit at the feet of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace and to listen to Him (Isa. 9:6)” (41). This is sound advice from four women who exhort in a godly way, steering clear of legalism and condemnation. Their Cross-centered advice is particularly helpful:

“… If you are discouraged or condemned by your failure to sit and listen, if you are ‘troubled by many things,’ revel in this truth: we have a Savior who died for our sins and it is His ‘blood and righteousness’ alone that makes us acceptable to God” (49).

Also helpful is their specific advice on “where to start,” and their kind encouragement for mothers with young children.

Chapter 4. The Third Tip: Sit and Plan

I have to admit, I am one who has always been a bit skeptical of personal retreats. Who has “time” for one? So it was particularly helpful for me to read the book’s quote from author Jean Fleming, who addressed my criticism directly:

“Some people tell me they feel uncomfortable with the idea of a personal retreat. After all, the needs around us are so great, the opportunities for service so compelling. How do we reconcile taking time away from the heat of battle when so much needs to be done? It is precisely because the needs are so great and life is so short that I take personal retreats. Retreat is the way to advance. I know this is true because of the way Jesus lived” (p. 64, italics mine).

Through the biblical references to our Savior’s example, my attitude on personal retreats was changed. With a helpful “sample retreat” included by the girltalkers, I’m ready to schedule one for myself. Perhaps I’ll have some quiet time in the hospital after the baby is born?

Chapter 5. The Fourth Tip: Consider People

With their grace-motivated love for others and joy-filled perspective on life, who wouldn’t want to be a friend of the Mahaneys? So you know their advice comes from personal experience when they share, “It’s important to choose friends carefully because friendships take time, and we want to make sure our time is wisely spent.” In looking at several types of friends and family, including friends who sharpen, friends who mentor, friends who need friends, friends who need salvation, and (ungodly) “friends” to leave, the girltalkers give advice and biblical counsel for each. They remind us that the Christian life is not only about how we walk, but with whom we walk; and that we need to spend time with the right people, for the right amount of time.

Chapter 6. The Fifth Tip: Plan to Depend

Before I read the final chapter and conclusion, I thought I was cruising along through the book just fine, checking the other tips off my list with a cursory review.

Then came a particularly challenging day.

From one “interruption” to the other, my carefully-planned to-do list remained virtually untouched at the end of the day. The laundry was sitting wet in the washer, the kids were cranky, and it looked doubtful that an edible dinner would come out of my cluttered kitchen any time soon.

That’s when the anxious thoughts and lies crept in to steal my joy:

“What if I go into labor tonight? My house is a mess!”

“If it’s so hard to get ‘everything’ done now, what in the world am I going to do when a new baby arrives?”

“How can I serve others when I can’t even serve my family?”

Later that night, after the kids were tucked away, my heart was still not right with God. The sun was long down, but I was still harboring anger over my incomplete tasks. Thinking I would “finish something, at least” I picked up the last chapter in Shopping for Time, and I was reminded afresh of God’s amazing grace to a sinner like me.

The last paragraph of the book cut to my heart, and I was able to repent of my anxious thoughts and turn in dependence to the Giver of all grace:

“…our biggest problem isn’t that we’re overwhelmed, miserable and exhausted. It’s that we are sinners, utterly incapable of pleasing a holy God and justly deserving of His wrath – no matter how well we spend our time…

This holy God, whom we have offended, does not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead, he sent his Son, Jesus, to earth to die a horrific death on a shameful cross for the likes of us. There our Savior solved our biggest problem: He died to save us from our sins. He absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved. And now, by His substitutionary sacrifice, we have been forgiven for our transgressions, reconciled to God, and clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Isn’t it mind-boggling…to consider that we who were once condemned sinners can now, by the grace of God, live a life worthy of the gospel?” (p. 93).

In light of this glorious truth, there is a phrase from the book that has been appearing as a gentle reminder at the top of my to-do list each day:

“In the end, our highest goal each day is not flawless execution of our plans or increased productivity. It’s our relationship with God, walking in dependence upon Him throughout the day. We should not be more consumed with the completion of our to-do list than pleasing and glorifying the Savior” (90, italics mine).

As I begin another day as a “waddling time bomb,” not knowing if the end of the day will bring a completed task list or a new baby, I can walk with confidence in the God that supplies abundant grace. And I can thank the girltalk writers for their newest book, which has greatly encouraged me in that walk.

Title: Shopping for Time: How to do it all and not be overwhelmed
Authors: Carolyn Mahaney and her three married daughters: Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore and Janelle Bradshaw
Reading level: 1.0/5.0 > conversational
Boards: paperback
Pages: 96
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Crossway
Year: 2007
Price USD: $12.99 from Crossway
ISBNs: 9781581349139, 1581349130

5 thoughts on “Review: Shopping for Time by the girltalk bloggers

  1. stuff it inside a large volume of Owen to impress your husband! priceless!

    every theologian should read ANYTHING written by the Mahaney’s. they have become the First Family of vibrant Christianity in my mind. their writing is as I assume they are as people; simple, unassuming, accurate, warm, personable, practical.

    thanks for the excellent review and the chuckles.

  2. Excellent review! Thanks so much! I am doing Girl Talk with my oldest girls now and I loved Feminine Appeal…this one is on my list now!

    Kim

  3. thanks for writing that great, in-depth review. this book is definitely on my reading list! i really enjoyed the quote you posted at the end about how our productivity pales in comparison to our relationship with God. it’s so easy to forget this, because we’re sinners- constantly putting something in front of God. yet He pours out grace . . .

    i’m due in just 2 short weeks, so it was neat to hear you processing through your pregnancy too, in light of what you read.

    :) thanks again for taking the time to write this!

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