Emi Dawn’s Bookworm Corner

Linda Dillow, “Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment” (Audiobook: Oasis Audio, 2007)


How do you try to get rid of anxiety? Do you think of solutions to the problem you’re facing? Do you cover up the anxiety by being busy? Or slide down the slippery slope of endless worrying? Today’s book is one that will speak to such an anxious heart. I listened to this as an audiobook, but there are Kindle and paperback versions available from NavPress.


Because the contents of this book was filled with nuggets, I had to re-listen to the book over 3 times to let the contents sink in. Being one who is prone to worry from an early age, I was recommended this book at a time when I found myself finding it difficult to secure another job, all the free time and nowhere to go…and finding no reason to get up in the mornings; with my anxious heart growing by the day.

Although the Bible repeatedly tells us “do not fear” and “do not worry”, how is it practically done? It is “to have a heart of contentment”. It sounded obvious, but then, upon further inspection, I found out that my heart was very far from being content.


Dillow writes that one is able to grow a heart of contentment in these areas of life: circumstances, self (personality and body), circumstances and relationships. Today, I would like to zoom in on the area of “self”. What does it mean to be “content to be me”? Personally, I was the type of person who was never satisfied with my personality. If only I were more like this…if only this part of me would change…if only I were like that person…those thoughts would parade my mind under the banner of “self improvement”. However, Dillow rains on my parade. She tells me that the God who created me specifically gave me certain strengths, weaknesses and personality traits. To deny that would be to deny the work of the Lord, as well as a waste of time. Things that I can and cannot do were intentionally placed so that I can fulfill certain purposes that the Lord has placed in my life. I learned the importance of living with intention, as well as using my personality for His glory.


I loved Dillow’s proactivity throughout the book. She talks about how she realized that she was a control freak, and decided to let the Lord be the “blessed controller” of her life. This is not to raise both arms up and give up; it is about knowing what areas of life are under our control, and leave the rest in His hands (needless to say, it is not an easy task to discern between the two). How then, are we to control the areas which are entrusted to us? It is to “choose”.


There are many choices in our lives, but one of the biggest choices is the choice to be grateful. It is remembering what the Lord has done in the past, and believing that He will continue to lead us. Dillow specifically wrote these things down when she was anxious. This, I think, is such wonderfully practical advice to battle anxiety. It’s not just making a mental list, but writing them down. And to see that list, and prayerfully declare with gratitude all that He has done. This is not the same as making a simple “gratitude list” as the world is hyped up about. It isn’t about having a “Hakuna Matata – problem free philosophy”. It is declaring, with faith, that Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will continue to lead us as He has led us until now (Hebrews 13:8). 


This book is full of Dillow’s experiences as a missionary to countries that were under Communist regime, as well as stories of the strong faith of the women she met there. Also including quotes from famous Christians throughout history, this entire book does not feel old (even though it was first written in 1989). It is quite relevant to those living in the 2020’s, because the solid foundation is on the living and active Word of God. Dillow’s honest confession of her heart as she went through different trials was also very encouraging to hear.


Throughout history, there has never been a shortage of things to be anxious about. And we are not told that we are to wipe away our anxiety in our own strength (although the world loves to dish out books on how to do that…in just 3 simple steps!). At the same time, however, it isn’t just about praying that God will take away our anxiety. It is about discerning between the extent to which we leave it up to the Lord, and the extent where it is our responsibility to take action (and oh how we need to pray for wisdom to receive even that!). There are times when all we can do is to pray for the strength to even take that one simple step forward. And that is okay. For it is from there, we can start growing a heart of contentment.


Emi Dawn’s Bookworm Corner

This post was made possible by the gentle prodding of Shiori Kisangala, a JCFN staff member, asking if I would be willing to do a little “book introduction” post on the blog. Although I would not be able to do justice to the book in a book review or even a detailed introduction, this will be more like a musing of sorts on what I specifically thought was fascinating. 

  Today I’d like to introduce “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” by Edith Schaeffer. Published first in 1971, I initially was skeptical about whether the contents will be applicable to a 2022 lifestyle, but as I dived in I was surprisingly pleased to discover that when the foundations are built on the Bible which never changes, it is possible to live a life that is truly timeless, and there were many nuggets of wisdom that has been lost in this modern way of life.


Now, a little background into why I decided to read this book.


At the beginning of this year, when it seemed like anything and everything was possible, I had high hopes and dreams to change my home into something cozy, and to live a life of creativity. Alas, hopes and dreams seemed to wane in a couple of months without much action, and my lack of organization skills loomed its ugly head in the house. The dining room table never seemed to be clear of my clutter (where were those magical elves that seem to come in the middle of the night to clean up the mess in other people’s homes? Maybe they just don’t have our address.) However biblically I try to frame the situation by telling myself, “It’s basically following the mandate of Genesis 1:28 of ‘fill(with paper clutter) the earth(the table surface)’!” it didn’t seem to bring any comfort…although having an extremely patient husband does help. I would look at the state of my house, sigh deeply, mumble something about God forgetting to add in that “skill to turn a home cozy” bit when He was creating me in my mother’s womb, still undeterred from that dream I made oh so long ago. Now before I get taken into questioning by the hermeneutics police (yes, I see you), let me just clarify that I just didn’t want to be organized like the next Marie Kondo. I want to have my entire lifestyle be permeated with the scent of Christ. But what does homemaking look like as a Christ follower? This book gave me a place to start.


As the subtitle “Creative ideas for enriching everyday life” suggests, this book is broken down into chapters, with each chapter depicting a certain area of everyday life – from music, arts, interior, gardening, food etc. But the book starts off by clarifying the foundation of it all; who God is, and how, as image-bearers of God. we are to express those characteristics. From Genesis 1 we are told of the immense creativity of our God. As made in His image, we are put to the test when we are having to express that creativity. And this creativity is not limited to the musicians and artists, but those who cannot play an instrument, and who can only draw stick-men (okay, even those who can draw those stick-men like Picasso). 


For example, for music, Edith (I’ll call her Edith instead of Schaeffer because her husband is also a famous writer) says you don’t have to play an instrument; you can sing. If you have a musical degree and you’re just waiting for the season in your life when you’ll finally be free from child-rearing to get back on stage, you can use those wonderful musical skills for your home and family. This is not just concerning music; if you love art, use your talents for your family first. If you love to cook but don’t have the opportunity to be a host for an extravagant party, start by cooking a meal that your family loves. It’s so easy in this day and age of social media, where we tend to think it’s not worth taking action if it’s not Instagrammable or tweetable. Although I hate posting on social media, I realized I had this exact mindset, and I learned from this book on the vital importance of doing things in hidden places (hence the title “Hidden Art”). 


What made this book so delightful was the fact that you don’t have to be an artist to start. But at the same time, there are numerous suggestions on how to use your given talents if you are an artist. I was also comforted to read the breadth of the suggestions, ranging from big families to singles. Even if you live alone, Edith suggests decorating your table with flowers because you matter. Although this concept has been somewhat of a hype these days with “self-care”,  I didn’t realize that this wasn’t something new. The advice to decorate the table with a centerpiece that showcased the season was very interesting; as Edith suggested collecting seashells from the beach in the summer, or even a bit of driftwood (although I guess you can only get driftwood these days on Amazon? I’m kidding…), making the whole endeavor possible without having to wait for the next IKEA drive. The hints and advice sprinkled across the pages make it plausible enough to start now, but at the same time includes some for the more seasoned homemaker. 


The most encouraging line came early on in the book, where Edith mentions how for those who haven’t used their creative muscles in a while, it is like being in a cast; and when the cast is taken off it is initially stiff. But as you begin to move those muscles, they regain their original movement. This gave me great hope. And what if we all began to live a life full of the creative talent that our God has given us? What wonderfully vibrant homes we will begin to live in!


This is a call to take off our casts. Let’s dive in.


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