Hard to read, but captivating novel (Dry as Rain – Gina Holmes)

I really struggled while reading Gina Holmes’ latest novel, Dry as Rain.  It’s well-written and interesting, but the content is hard to stomach.  Don’t get me wrong though; that’s what I think made this such a good book.

 

Eric and Kyra have been married for many years, and with their son, Benji, had many happy years.  But the happiness slowly got lost in daily life and before Eric knew it, he was making choices he couldn’t ever take back.  Before he knew it, their marriage was ending and there was nothing he could do to stop it.  But, when Kyra loses pieces of her recent memory in an accident, a window of a second chance seems to loom ahead of Eric.  Their lives are enhanced by their son, Benji, and his world that has also come crashing down.  I appreciated that Eric’s character was revealed more deeply in his interactions with his son.

 

Even though it was a difficult read (reading about infidelity is always difficult, I think, even if it’s not something you’ve personally experienced), I was thankful for the truthful reminder that flowed throughout the book.  The truth that God can redeem all things hit me over and over again as I read about Eric  and Benji, Eric and Kyra, and their lifelong dreams.

Thanks, Tyndale, for the review copy of Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes.  I really appreciate being pointed to God and his truths as I read, and this novel did exactly that.

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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.

Dogs, faithfulness, and other thoughts

This morning was no different than any other morning.  I woke up, stretched my poor broken foot, got out of bed, opened the bedroom door, and saw this:

Every single morning.  This beautiful face is waiting outside my door.  His tail is wagging, his mouth is smiling (talk about projection), and he is overjoyed.  He can barely contain himself.  And all because I opened the door to see him.

 

Eric and I talk a lot about the similarities between the relationship between people and God, and between people and dogs.

A quick example: when we first arrived to live with our in-laws for this season of our lives, the sweet face above was a terror.  He had absolutely no boundaries, meaning he had absolutely no manners.  As Eric and I took on the task of “training” him, we realized that the more self-discipline he had in his life, the more freedoms he gained–something I consider true of our relationships with God.  The more self-discipline we have, the more freedom we have to explore our relationship with God.

 

This morning I was struck with the image of Moses (ironically, often called Lucifer) waiting outside our door.  Just to see us.  How amazing would it be for us to have the excitement to abandon all other pursuits–in Moses’ case: barking at the UPS guy, standing at the front window to see if any neighbor passed by at whom he could bark, trying to steal shoes without anyone noticing; in my case: reading, writing, kayaking, looking for a job, looking for a home–to simply wait outside God’s door just to catch a glimpse of him?  Why don’t we do that?

At the same time, I felt that Moses could also be God in this picture.  I thought of Psalm 9:10 that says: “those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  How easy is it to open the door and, in the rush of the day starting with things to do and people to see and life to live, just walk past the excited and expectant God/dog?  To simply pass by because there are distractions that need our attention.

 

I’ve found myself recently feeling busier than ever before.  Strange though, that I don’t have a job, I don’t have a masters program to finish, I don’t have anything to do.  But days pass by in a blur or busyness.  And during these “busy” times, I find myself forgetting to take time to seek the faithful God who is bigger than all of my fears/distractions/problems/busyness.

 

 

What do you think?  What would it look like for you to just wait outside the door?  And God/dogs?  The same, right?

Thankful

Tonight was a good night. We recently moved 12 hours north of all my family and most of our friends. I hadn’t realized the toll it had taken on me until tonight.

We went to our friends’ house for dinner. But it wasn’t just for dinner, it was for friendship. For laughter. For playfulness. For God to remind me how much he loves me.

I’ve always thought I was an introvert. Still think I am. But tonight I was reminded that I also need to have (and crave) time with people. People other than my wonderful in-laws and grandparents-in-law. Even people other than my husband. As much as I’ve loved this past five weeks with just the six of us (plus one crazy dog), my soul was craving time with friends.

I’m thankful, for friends, for delicious dinner, for not so delicious dessert, for love, for an opportunity to be reminded of the importance of community.

Sometimes I find myself in a funk. In a cyclical, weird, lonely state of mind that causes me to further isolate myself from people. I hate that about myself, but it’s such a hard habit to break. When I do break it though, when I allow myself to be freed from the insecurities and fears that bind me to home, I see opportunities to grow and change and love. I find new friendships. I am amazed by how God uses other people to show me love.

How do you find yourself hiding from others? When you break free, what do you find? Am I just crazy?

A new favorite (Softly & Tenderly – Sara Evans & Rachel Hauck)

There are few books that keep me up reading until after midnight, and even fewer that keep me up until 2am thinking about the characters!  I loved Softly & Tenderly, the latest novel by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck.  I hadn’t read the first in the series, The Sweet By & By, that shared the first part of Jade’s story, but it didn’t matter.  I was able to quickly get into the story and figure out who everyone was as I began the novel.

Jade is overwhelmed and feels as if her life is just falling apart as some really hard stuff happens.  I felt the pain as Jade’s heart broke and her world shattered.  How does one recover from the pain of an affair?  Especially when that affair has produced a tangible being, and that tangible being is what you’ve been dreaming of and waiting for since you married?

I appreciated the supporting cast of characters and felt connected to Beryl and June as they both hurt and grieved and loved and felt.  I felt righteous anger at Max and Reb and was disappointed as I continued to invest in their lives.  I was torn as Jade was torn between her first love and her commitment.  And mostly, I was affirmed in the importance of our maintaining our integrity in our commitments.

The characters were so real and so, at 2am, when I was finally drifting off, my last thoughts were of Jade, Max, Asa, Beryl, and June.  Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for providing this e-book to review.  I truly enjoyed the story and look forward to (hopefully) another collaboration between Sara Evans and the talented Rachel Hauck!

Not “pau” yet

This morning I really struggled at church. The message was on Psalm 73. The pastor spoke dissected it, nearly line by line, as he gave examples of what that would be like nowadays. The “arrogant” are people with fancy cars and jobs and they have big houses and they’re never sick and nothing bad ever happens to them. He spoke of how we can question God, asking why we should follow him if life is so hard for us and we’re good. Why not just live how we want to and disregard God if, apparently, we’ll be blessed that way?

But, it all gets better because those suckers, those arrogant folks, well, “surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”(Psalm 73:18 NIV)

And while that’s something that I know does happen and I know is just, the pastor’s next words shocked me. He said, multiple times with every example he gave, “well,we know their end now, don’t we?!”

And I was disgusted. I felt sick that he would rejoice over a death or a downfall, even if it was for the wicked or unjust. Don’t they, whoever they are, as God’s people, deserve grace? Don’t they deserve at least the kindness of prayer for their heart?

I had thought all this while listening to him speak of vague examples. Then he said, “well now, how about Tiger Woods? We know his end now, don’t we?”

And I wanted to stand up and shout that it’s not his end! He’s not dead. He still lives and breathes and feels and hurts. Shouldn’t our action be to pray and encourage and love? We should not be rejoicing in his fall and in his brokenness. If we do, where does that leave us?

In a book I read as a teenager I remember the two main characters talking about their friend who had made some bad choices. One character said it was sad that the friend’s life was over now that she was pregnant as a teenager. The other friend corrected her, saying that she was not finished, she was not “pau” (finished in Hawaiian) yet. Her life was far from over. Until she was dead, there was time to love and pray and encourage.

What should our reaction be to an arrogant person’s downfall? Are we arrogant by calling other people arrogant? 🙂

A great read (Jesus, My Father, the CIA, & Me: A Memoir…of Sorts – Ian Morgan Cron)

I am a blog stalker.  I love to read Rachel Held Evans’ blog and when she posted her book lover’s survey I jumped on it fast.  She said she was excited to read Ian Morgan Cron’s Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts and when I saw it later that day on Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze, I was stoked.

This book did not disappoint.  I am a sucker for a good story and I was mesmerized by the story Cron told.  Not only was it a fabulous story, it was well written and engaging.  I appreciated Cron’s writing, but more than that, I appreciated his insight into God, alcoholism, and life.

I laughed aloud, I cried (only once), and I have since thought about Cron, his life, his family, his story.  Thanks, Thomas Nelson, for a great read.  I appreciate that you send me books in exchange for my honest review.

Rude.

Confession: I’m super rude.  I think terrible things about people and I judge them.  I laughed to myself when a kid’s voice cracked a bunch in class today.  Seriously, I’m a jerk.  Ugh.

It’s frustrating and hard, and the worst part (well, maybe not, I’m still figuring this out) was that I was rude to my husband today.  He seems to get the brunt of my ickiness.  Sorry, sweet husband.

I texted my friend and said that I was grouchy (a mild description, as I was really just being bitchy) and she texted back these words:

We’re all rude.  Grace is hard, man.

Ugh, why is grace so hard?  And why are we so terrible to the people who love us most?  I’m torn, because I think it’s awful to be jerks to the people who love us.  But I also think it’s equally as awful to be jerks to the people in the world we don’t know or love.  I definitely don’t show them love.

I watched a video today and I felt like I was going to be physically ill.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had that reaction before.  This man was going off about “God” and I just about barfed on my school-issued laptop (wouldn’t that be fun to explain to the principal?).  I thought terrible things about this man and I wanted to punch him.  I actually felt that, if he were in the room, I would have the desire to physically hurt the guy.  How scary is that?

I was sorely disappointed in myself today for many reasons:

  1. Wanting to punch Mr. Fundamentalist Jerk.
  2. Being frustrated at the bike rack lady from Craigslist that forgot to show up.
  3. Teasing kids in my head as they acted their age.
  4. Getting mad at my husband for something completely out of his control.
  5. Being a judgmental driver.
  6. Praying that God would smack Mr. Fundamentalist Jerk in the face.

What is it with me and OC Supertones’ lyrics?  I still love them dearly.  As I was writing this post, my Pandora station of Five Iron Frenzy began playing the Supertones’ “Jury Duty” and it struck me.

I don’t always thank you for the rough days and
The hard times in my life
Even though I should

What does it look like to thank God for the rough days and the hard times in life?  What does grace look like for daily life?  I wish I were better at that.

Hope was here.

On Wednesday a student in my class was severely embarrassed.  It was a really awkward situation that could only happen in middle school to the shyest girl in the whole class.  It was horrible.

I cried for her that evening and just felt so weighed down by the whole situation.  The worst part, what kept haunting me, was the reaction of her peers.  Giggles, points (really?  I was shocked at this.  I felt like we were being Punk’d.  Who points at an embarrassed student while they’re standing up front, mortified?).

My husband, then the ladies in our small group too, helped me to brainstorm how I would deal with this on Thursday.  I was embarrassed (and let’s be honest here, I’m pretty awkward) and I knew I hadn’t handled it as well as I could have when it happened.  Since they were all laughing and she was in the middle of her presentation, I told the class to be mature and respectful, and I told her to finish sharing.  Not the best way to deal with it, I know.

Anyway, Thursday morning, 3rd period rolled around.  I sat on my stool just watching them and I waited until they were all seated and the bell rang.

I don’t remember what I said, but I know that they were just as uncomfortable as I was.  They watched me with wide eyes, embarrassed that I was talking about internet safety and stranger danger and gossip.  I told them that I was disappointed in their reactions.  That I expected more from them.  They looked guilty and lowered their eyes from my gaze.

I finished.  Told them I hate lecturing.  Sorry.  But did they have any questions or comments?

And then the most beautiful thing happened.

Hands went up.  And 12 year olds redeemed their fellow peer.

“I’m sorry I gossiped about what happened to you.  If it had been me, I would have been so embarrassed.  If I hear anyone talking about it again, I’m going to tell them to stop.”

“I am embarrassed by how I acted.  I’m going to find everyone I told and tell them I take it back and was a jerk.”

The most amazing part, I think, was that when these students were apologizing, they weren’t looking at me at all.  They looked at her, the ashamed student, and they looked at each other.  Their apologies weren’t for me.  They were for her, and for each other.

The words flowed from sincere pre-teen hearts and I saw hope and redemption firsthand.

One voice

In October I got in a big fight with my best friend’s mom.  It was really strange because I’m not a fighter.  I’ve been haunted by our conversation since then.  I was shaken, so shocked by what happened, but more than that, I was horrified by the words she said.  It started out with politics, went to Prop 8, then the ugly words began.

(Please simply know that I’m telling what happened; my goal is not to pass judgement on her.)

I told her that I didn’t really know where I stood on gay marriage, but I thought that too many Christians’ actions have been discriminatory and hateful.  I didn’t think we, as Christians, should police what other people do.  She said that we need to hold people accountable to God’s law.  All I could think about was how sinful I am but that I don’t get crap for it because I’m a woman who is married to a man.  My sin isn’t open for all to see.

Anyway, at the end of it all, I was deemed a “bad Christian” who didn’t “believe in the same God” that she did.  And I was horrified.  Why can’t Christians just all get along and love each other?  More importantly, why can’t Christians just get along with other people and love others who don’t share their same beliefs?

 

I don’t have answers.  I want to throw my hands up in the air in defeat, disgust, fear, sadness.  While pondering this (it seems to be on my mind at least once a week), “One Voice” by The O.C. Supertones came on my iTunes shuffle.  I was struck with their words:

And can we sing with one voice,
if we all love the same God?
Can we agree to disagree?

I think my hope, my prayer, my desperate plea, is for Christians to love each other deeply and to love non-Christians deeper than deeply.  How do other feel Jesus’ love if not from us?