Best book I’ve read recently (Surprised by Oxford – Carolyn Weber)

As a literature lover (and major), I could not help but fall in love with Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  My grandmother-in-law teased me as I read because every few pages I would giggle, or I would sigh, or I would “mmmhmm” in agreement.  Weber’s memoir is well-written (as one would expect from a lit professor), but there’s much more to it than simply its words.

I have always been fascinated with conversion stories of people who grew up completely outside of the (particularly evangelical) church culture (and, yes, I most definitely think that it’s a culture; growing up Catholic, I missed out on a lot of the nuances to which I’ve since grown accustomed).  What does Christianity sound like to someone who has not heard Bible stories at bedtime or on Sunday mornings?  Does it sound just as crazy to that person as it sometimes does to me?  With that said, I loved reading Weber’s memoir.  Her tenacity and her faithfulness to truth (absolute or relative :)) not only intrigued me, but helped me as I encountered doubts and questions within my own faith.

I’ve recently been questioning my job, my career.  Why do we labor the way we do?  I nearly jumped with joy as I felt freedom and heard truth being spoken to my heart as Weber recounted a conversation and her subsequent musing.

“Was any way of trading my time for money, or for that matter, any expenditure of time, for nothing of any true value in the end?

But just as suddenly the darkness receded, the pool of light seemed to take me in, as I thought how anything we do–any job, act, gesture–becomes meaningful if done with a heart for God” (124).

I found myself many moments throughout her memoir gasping with understanding, and feeling my heart alight as she referred to poems and words with whom I’d spent my college years.  Thank you, Ms. Weber, for the delightful retelling of God’s heart in your life.  Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for a review copy of this fabulous text.  My opinions are wholly my own.

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Heartbreaking novel (Waiting for Morning – Karen Kingsbury)

When confronted with the idea of forgiving someone for killing my family, I faltered.  Could I really do that?  I can imagine my anger (along with the pain) would be crippling and would limit me to living in the prison of unforgiveness.  As much as I would hope that I could forgive, I know it would be a difficult journey, only possible with God’s help.  With all of that said, I loved reading Karen Kingsbury’s novel Waiting for Morning.  It was hard to read–heartbreaking and painful–but it was well worth it.

Hannah Ryan waits for her husband and two daughters to arrive home after their annual camping trip.  Instead, police officers arrive at her door with bad news.  As she fights to understand what happened, she loses her faith, living in bitterness.  Her heart changes as she pursues justice for her loved ones.  And in the midst of it all, God continues to work.

I really enjoyed reading Waiting for Morning.  It was, as with all Karen Kingsbury novels, well-written and interesting.  But it was more than just that.  It confronted hard questions about forgiveness, moving on, and pain.  And at the heart of it, trusting in God when it feels like he has abandoned you.  As I read, I cried, I rejoiced, and I cried some more.  I felt the freedom in forgiveness, and I felt the pain in the bitterness.

As Hannah grapples with hard questions (Why does God “let” bad things happen to good people, people who love him?  And more importantly, how do those “good people” respond to God when their understanding of the world collapses?), I found myself living in Hannah’s pain.  More than Hannah’s pain though, SPOILER ALERT!, I found myself profoundly feeling Jenny’s pain.  Every slight from her mom, every terse word between the two, and I found myself crying.  Maybe it’s the middle school teacher in me that feels middle school pain so well.

This was a heartbreaking novel, yes, but it was also life-giving as God redeems as only he can do.  Thanks to WaterbookMultnomah for the review copy of Waiting for Morning.  These ramblings are my honest opinions.

Sweet, simple story (Sweet Sanctuary – Sheila Walsh & Cindy Martinusen Coloma)

I recently finished reading Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen-Coloma.  Wren is a single mom raising a sweet 10 year old son, Charlie.  She is happy in her small town and glad to be in a safe place to hide from her past.  But when her grandmother shows up unexpectedly and asks her to plan a party (that includes her siblings with whom she has tenuous relationships), Wren’s world is thrown for a loop.  She finds herself growing and changing as she finally accepts truth within her relationships…with her siblings, her son, and her new man friend.

I was expecting the book to be slightly cheesy (it is a Women of Faith novel, after all), and it was, but I appreciated that it wasn’t overly cheesy.  Wren’s faith journey and her growth were believable, and her freedom from guilt really resonated with me.  I appreciated that this novel had a well-rounded feel to it.  It wasn’t simply a Christian romance fiction story, it had an air of mystery (family drama) and some action (just wait until the end), and because of that, the story had more depth.  And really, who doesn’t want to be a small town librarian?!

Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of Sweet Sanctuary.  My opinions are my own, honest ramblings.