29 Apr 2014

Two women who have changed my life

After reading all your responses to yesterday’s post. How hard we have to fight the fear of being left out; the myth of scarcity that screams I must be noticed, invited, included, appreciated or I. will. vanish.

May I offer an antidote?

Because I have found the best way to treat the disease of comparison is to encourage someone else. You have to raise your eyes up and away from yourself to focus on someone else. It’s good medicine.

And today, two of the women I admire most in the world have stories I want to share with you. Women who are wildly generous with their online platforms, their voices, their homes and their encouragement.

Women who are helping me grow up into the woman and believer I want to be.

We have never owned a home.

I will be 40 this year and this is our ninth rental house.

For years that embarrassed me. It was like a dirty little secret I awkwardly kicked under the carpet when people stopped by.

Until I discovered The Nester.


She’s been a renter, like me, for years.

She has three loud, rowdy boys. The most beautiful drapes I’ve ever seen and that are held together with hot glue and curtain clips and hockey matches her boys narrate over a loudspeaker system they’ve Jerry-rigged out the window of the guest bedroom. She’s taught me that I don’t want a perfectly clean home with no room for messes and risk and trial and error. It’s wise to be purposeful about making a mess.

Because of her I make space for my boys to make mess. And don’t make them clean it all up immediately; we leave room for their creativity to be a member of the family too.

Nester's mess

She was the first person who got me to admit out loud and on the Internet all my complicated, squirmy feelings about being a grown up renter.

I have learned through and through and down past my hips and all the way into my bones that big hospitality has nothing to do with the size of your house.

And that there will always be a choice:

Panic or delight.

Fear of appearances or fully opening your arms to your friends.

Picking up the backyard or inviting the boys to join the well-loved chaos.

Stressing the stains or surrounding yourself with toys, kids, and enough time to catch up.

Frantically planning something to cook or ordering pizza and slicing a watermelon.


That a fellow renter wrote a book about finding your way home makes my eyes well up as I stand here on the stairs of our ninth rental and counting.

Her name is Myquillyn Smith and her book – The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful – comes out today.

It’s weird to admit, but I cried my way through this decorating book. Cried because it’s not a book about having pretty lamps or a lovely fireplace (although it will teach you that) it’s a book about remembering that home is always more than four walls and a roof.

Home is the sticky fingerprints your kids left on the window pane. Home is the friend who stops by while you’re folding laundry and sits down to help, while sharing stories about your hard-to-parent-kids. Home is that dining room table with the streaks of blue paint and black marker that you can’t get off no matter how hard you’ve tried. And that you’ve finally stopped wanting to get off.

Home is the pair of socks he has kicked off at the foot of the bed every single night for the last 15 years.

Home is opening your heart along with your front door and inviting people into your every day life, not just your prettied up Sunday version.

Home is learning that if you see your house as big and welcoming as you feel about the people you’re having over, so will everyone who walks through its doors.

And Myquillyn taught me that.

So today, pick up a copy of her radically, heart-altering book – The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful – and fall in love with your home and the mismatched sofa and the people who live there all over again. Promise.


And then there’s Jen from Conversion Diary.


The thing is I’ve been a believer all my life. I can’t remember a time I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.

Jen’s story could not be more opposite.

She grew up a lifelong atheist. She’s now a Roman Catholic mom of six.

I know right!

And the thing is, that reading her book reminded me all over again about all the reasons I believe.

Because, faith can get heavy. It can feel sluggish for me. It can feel weird, this thing we believe – this wild story of a God who gave up the universe to reach down for us. A God who let go of His own Son in order to catch us as we were falling.

But Jen’s book – it chronicles that radical grip of grace.


From the perspective of a skeptic. A deliberate doubter.

Jen writes down the almost mathematical proof of every step in the equation of Jesus’ pursuit of her.

It’s unnerving. And beautiful. And wild.

Like all the best love stories.

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It shocked me all over again at the deliberate story of a God who is interested in us. All of us. All our weird and quirky, mean, shocking, gorgeous parts. Our bodies and our babies, our love stories, our doubts, our callings.

How He is not shocked by us. Instead, he is so enamored with us that He pursues faithfully, tirelessly, patiently.

Jen writes the story that reminds us that the perspective of time and space we’re tied up in isn’t the only one. Jen’s book reminds us that Heaven listens in; Heaven is interested in what happens here on our small and wildly beautiful planet.

And today I feel like I can hear Heaven leaning in, cheering, because today a testimony of the never-giving-up, always-chasing love story of Jesus for one of His gorgeously stubborn daughters is going out into the world.


If you’re in a season of doubt. If you’ve never believed. If you’re overwhelmed by your kids and your life and you just can’t fathom how God could be interested in your five million loads of laundry and the bathroom a kid has had an accident in again – this book is for you.

It’s for the doubters and the believers and all of us who live a lot in the in between.

Pick up a copy today – Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.

May it shock you with the face of a God who is so interested in us and so close to us that once we start paying attention we bump into Him everywhere.

OK your turn – won’t you share in the comments about a woman or two or three who have changed your life? Let’s exhale ourselves for a minute and inhale what we’re learning from the women around us – our friends, our teachers, our encouragers. And if you’re reading in an email just click here to join us.




{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    “we leave room for their creativity to be a member of the family too.” oh OH this!

    Lisa-Jo, I love that renting has been one of the things that has brought us together. Your words. I can’t even.

    And how fun that Jen & I have book baby twins today!

  2. 2

    Can I just say, how thrilled I am, that my three favorite bloggers, whom I”ve been reading for years, all have books out?! Together!?! I’m so thrilled for all three of you, and I can’t wait to read all three books! :) Congrats, ladies, and thank you for all the encouragement you have given me, in so many ways, in so many areas of my life, over the years. :D

  3. 3
    Ro elliott says:

    I was married for 25 yrs … With 5 kids before we owned our first house… and this was the first time I ever had a dishwasher … Well … one that was not run by kids but actually on its own…we always had a home … There is a difference in a house and a home…there are plenty of people who own a house but lack having a home…… Kids don’t care if you rent or own… It’s truly not about a house…but a home. and I am quite sure your kids know they have a home!!!!

  4. 4

    What a great post. I can honestly say that I’ve had many woman help shape my life for the better. I’m grateful to God for putting all of them in my life. These books do sound very good and well worth reading. I love how a book can really shape your life. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. 5

    Thank you so much for this post. I have suffered under the delusional-shame-of-the-renter too, and have written about it (http://pepsday.blogspot.com/2013/11/answered-prayer.html) and our short sale (http://pepsday.blogspot.com/2013/10/daily-bread.html) and found it so cleansing to just put it out there that I am not winning at the world’s measuring stick (Thank goodness that there is more hope than that measuring stick can provide!). Lisa Jo, I just read your book and found it to be precious. You are precious. Who cares if you have a house? Really?!! I have a one year old and a three year old and every time it seems like we are going to be financially secure by the world’s standards, I go off and make a decision that limits us again. What can I say? Only that the limits that I rail and scream against when I am over-tired are the same limits that God uses to perfect his purpose in me and show his grace. And his grace is so good. If I were more self-sufficient I would have missed so many opportunities to receive the grace and mercy of God through people who have loved on me. I may have even missed your book — and how awful would that have been? :) Thank you for following God’s beautiful call on your life. It is a special song that you are singing!

    • 6

      Yes and me too. Learning over and over again that home is where our messy beautiful people are and not a street address. Thanks so much for reading my story, Melissa, it’s such a gift to know we don’t have to do this wild ride of motherhood alone.

  6. 7

    Paula, a woman who over 20 something years ago invited this young newly wed into her life. She opened her door to me and in the process opened my heart. I had the privilege of observing her busy chaotic life of raising 3 school aged children, managing their extra curricular activities, running a business, and keeping a home, all with joy and an open door.
    Of late I think of her often as I now find my self in similar situations. I think of her joy, her smile, her on her feet non stop, and I am encouraged to love people well. She simply opened the door and allowed me to be a part of her day to day. That simple act has eternal value.

  7. 8

    Can I say how much I love the pink nail polish on the fingers of your daughter (I assume it’s her) holding your book? I’m placing a long-anticipated book order today (yours, two others and now these?), but I can say as a later-in-life mom to four boys, now all grown, I remain “surprised by motherhood.” I love that we Moms can share our messy lives and homes (rented or otherwise) with other women across the country and around the world. My current female hero is a writer I first met on a blog, then later got to know through her books (and I just met her at a writing conference). Lesley Leyland Fields’ most recent book, “Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers”, has sunk deep into my soul to a dark place I’ve been trying to avoid. Yes, she’s changed my life, and I’m grateful to her. And fto you. Never doubt that we “old crones” are still able to learn from you youngsters.

    • 9

      YES! Those are Zoe’s fingers and it is her own pink nail polish that she painted herself. I have the flecks of pink on our kitchen table to prove it. And they may be one of my favorite parts of the book as well :) Thanks for ordering it, Ingrid, and now I want to go and check out Lesley’s book too.

  8. 10

    Can I say how much I love the pink nail polish on the fingers of your daughter (I assume it’s her) holding your book? I’m placing a long-anticipated book order today (yours, two others and now these?), but I can say as a later-in-life mom to four boys, now all grown, I remain “surprised by motherhood.” I love that we Moms can share our messy lives and homes (rented or otherwise) with other women across the country and around the world. My current female hero is a writer I first met on a blog, then later got to know through her books (and I just met her at a writing conference). Lesley Leyland Fields’ most recent book, “Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers”, has sunk deep into my soul to a dark place I’ve been trying to avoid. Yes, she’s changed my life, and I’m grateful for her. And for you. Never doubt that we “old crones” are still able to learn from you youngsters.

  9. 11

    I have been writing about the comparison trap for several weeks now, so this is perfect timing. I agree that by recognizing others, we help cure our own self-absorption. There are lots of well-known authors I could name that have influenced me profoundly, but I’d rather give a shout out to some women whose writing I appreciate who are not “famous” just yet:
    Christy and her family’s Ten Blue Eyes: http://tenblueeyes.wordpress.com
    Thanks, Elizabeth, for making lovely poetry: http://wynnegraceappears.com

  10. 12

    I also rent & have no desire to own. Home is what I make not what I own. If god is there & I bring beauty & those I love, that’s home.

    Melinda took me in as an au pair when I was in college. I had left an irregular and abusive foster care situation to go to university in NYC at 15. I was angry and didn’t know how to live with other people, didn’t trust them. Melinda taught me to live with people, to begin living with myself. When I thanked her for helping me, she said, “You just needed some nurturing.” She was so right. My healing began with the gift she was in my life.

    Jenna was the first person I came close to trusting. She was broken, like me. She was my friend and we shared our brokenness. She encouraged me to accept goodness even though she was terrible at accepting it herself. (Melinda had that problem too.) Those two women participated in healing me and I thank God for them.

  11. 13

    I can’t wait to get my hands on the nesting book. I struggle all the time with discontentment in my home. 3 bedrooms 1 bath no real basement to speak of – and we live tucked right next to suburbia where 4 bedrooms is a small house and you’re lacking if you have a 2 bathrooms. Sometimes I wish I could just reach through the screen and hug you!

  12. 14

    How I wish I had this perspective a few years back! We rented a small farmhouse before purchasing our current home, and I had all these wild expectations of instant happiness. How disappointed I was to find that underneath it all I was still just the regular old dissatisfied me! In that moment, I finally came to believe that happiness is an inside job and home is a feeling, not a location. As a former non-believer, I am looking forward to reading both of these books! Thank you for the recommendation and for reminding me to seek every opportunity to support the many gifted women in my life!

  13. 15

    My dear friend, Claudia, has made me believe I can do the impossible. I’ve accomplished things I never dared dream.

  14. 16

    Lisa Jo, I received Lysa’s devotion today and there you were. It was wonderful to read your story and realize there are others who understand. At sixteen, I became motherless when our forty-three year old mother had a massive stroke leaving five of us. Seven years later I became fatherless. And six years after that we stood on an empty grave with my sister’s name on it. She was taken by domestic violence. In the past three years we’ve buried two more siblings. Now my brother and I remain. God has been faithful through each and every loss, showing me more of who He is. Through pain I see Him more clearly. Who is a woman who has influenced me? It would be Lois Peterson, the one who led me to the Lord and gave me hours to pour out my bleeding heart. Lois, who we laid in a grave in 2007, knowing she would be finally sitting before her Jesus. Thank you Lisa Jo, for such a wonderful post. Thank you.

  15. 17

    Hi Lisa-Jo
    Thank you for sharing your heart here with us. This is something special – this spark of encouragement or as I like to call it “life” that we can give one another as women and sometimes we dont even know it. My husband and I are in full time ministry, I am the prolific writer and I speak at conference events etc. My hubby does loads and also mentors guys in the scriptures. I am such a deep peoples person! Anyway a month ago one of the young girls who is like a baby sister in our teaching class, came and asked me to be her mentor. I was really nervous about it – but I am enjoying it so much. Then last night one of the other young ladies came up to me and was like – YOU HAVE TO BE MY MENTOR!! I came home last night and just sat and Father spoke so deeply to me, I was so touched by these girls and how their faith and confidence in who I am in Christ has made me feel deeply loved all over again. I am thankful for their willingness to be more for Him and I am humbled to be Fathers choice to help them – I am grateful for the way we encourage and give in to one another! Thank You Yeshua!

  16. 18

    40 years old, and never owned a house. That’s me. And embarrassed about it, so true. Until last summer, when I read Jennie Allen’s book ‘Anything’, and realized I’d been dreaming my own dreams, trying to follow God, hear His voice in the midst of the chaos, but still, of all the things I was holding onto, it was my dream, for a house! holding me back, keeping me from being the free woman God planned for me to be. Not a home, a house. Because of that, I realized also, that as long as I was busy dreaming my dreams, I wasn’t leaving room for His dreams for me, and that while I was at it, I was so focused on “this is only temporary. Once we get a house of our own, I can organize this, or find a place to put that”, that I wasn’t creating a HOME for my family, but this in between place where nothing was really solid.. nothing was really OURS. So, the problems we had with our teen son and daughter not wanting to do their chores or keep their rooms clean?? A result of the “Why bother, it’s only temporary anyways” mentality. Whew. That was hard to accept. And then the harder part, the hardest part? To kill MY dreams, and open myself up for His dreams for me, for my husband and me, for my FAMILY and me. I’m sure one day, I’ll have a house that we’ve bought and have worked very hard for. In the mean time, we’re continuing to work for what may come, and making our apartment of 8 years, a home. Hand-me-down love seat, finish-stripped-off-table-because-my-teen-daughter-didn’t-know-acetone-eats-through-plastic-cups dining room table, 40 gallon turtle tank on my sewing table and all. So, thank you. For giving me someone that identifies with me, and reminding me that I am not alone. Again. :). I will TOTALLY be reading her book, Nesting Place!

  17. 19

    Loved this post! Reminded me of these women in my life: http://hollybarrett.org/2013/10/every-time-your-name-comes-up.html.

    And I’m 52-years old and only owned one house in my life. Currently grateful to not have the pressure of owning!! :-)

  18. 20

    Dear Lisa-Jo,

    I know you would like me to comment on the women who have changed my life. You are one of them. Your words provide comfort, offer friendship and warm my heart.

    Now, I want to let you know about house renting and the shame of it all. Years of part-time employment, single motherhood, struggling, re-marriage and returning to school x 2 prevented our family’s home ownership for many years. I was over 40 when we finally were able to afford our own home.

    Now that we have our own home, I realize that the other homes were ours too. They may not have been our homes financially speaking, but they were the seat of many incredible family memories. They were the ‘borrowed’ homes where each of my children were born, literally, at home – homebirth. Because of these births, the rental homes hold a much more special place in our hearts than the home we now own.

    It’s funny actually, because you would think that our current ‘spectacular’ home would be the source of our pride and joy. Our joy with this home is due to it’s beauty and elegance. It truly is a beauty. However, my heart is with the rental homes we lived in because they were the ones we built the most wonderful and long-lasting memories in. And these are the homes and apartments that my boys speak often of with sentences that begin with, “Do you remember when…”

    We must leave this lovely and spectacular home now. We will move to another not so spectacular. It has been causing me great angst until I read what you wrote today and I realize that a home is really where your heart is. And a home is where your loved ones are. It is not the place where you find the most material beauty, self-seduced into believing that it is.

    If you are not so sure, try living in this thought for a moment. Imagine a life in the most beautiful home without any of your loved ones. Now imagine a less spectacular home where all your loved ones will live with you.

    Which do you prefer?


  1. […] recently receiving this challenge, I have decided to write a series of blogs dedicated to the women who have greatly […]

  2. […] I followed the hype about this book, but didn’t really intend to pick it up until I read Lisa-Jo Baker’s post about it.  I had assumed it was more of an interior design book, and .. well .. that’s not really my […]

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