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.

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.

Complaints about being shy

I am easily terrified while in social situations. Someone I don’t know approaches and I panic. I begin frantically looking for my social butterfly husband who can talk to anyone–literally, anyone–with ease. His ability to ask questions of strangers and his outgoing personality make him a perfect BBQ-goer, party date, awkward situation fixer, new friend, and (thankfully, for me) husband.

So, with our recent life change, moving, lots of moments with strangers have been thrust upon me. Going to a new church always feels painful, but it seems to be especially so when your husband is known by practically everyone. After you’re introduced as wife, the wonderful person you’re meeting says, “Oh my gosh, I have known Eric since (insert moment at least two decades ago)”. And you awkwardly laugh and smile while wracking your brain for something to say.

And then it gets worse.

They smile at you then begin talking to social superstar husband while you’re left to stand there with a dorky smile on your face.

They finally remember that you’re there and ask how you like Washington. You smile and say you’ve really enjoyed your time there so far and that it’s been a great summer. But then your mind goes blank while you desperately try to think up a question to ask said kind person who saw your husband wear diapers.  And it’s not their fault.  They are kind and wonderful, but it can be hard to talk to a blank wall.  (And, yes, I realize that is really self-disparaging, but I don’t really mean for it to be.  I completely understand that I am shy and my awkwardness can make it seem like I’ve got nothing going on behind that face of mine.  I’m really thankful for the people who keep trying and help me hobble past my fears.)

It’s not that I don’t want to be there. I really do. I can’t even begin to describe how three weeks in, we’ve made some friends and have been welcomed so graciously. I just wish my brain would process faster when I was in a social situation. It would make meeting new people so much easier!

Also, exciting news in a blog post to come in the near future…I overcame my fears and made a friend! We even hung out outside of church! Woo hoo!

If nothing else, being shy has helped me to keep my social calendar empty to read books! I’m fully embracing my introvertedness…

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 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.

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?

Interesting historical fiction (Journey to Riverbend – Henry McLaughlin)

>

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about Henry McLaughlin’s Journey to Riverbend. My skepticism mostly came from the cheesy cover. I even got made fun of by my sweet cousin while on the plane to Hawaii.
“You are reading that book? From the cover, I thought that was a book that Grandma brought with her.”
I agreed with her that it was a dumb cover, and that I was a little hesitant to read it. The description on the back cover and the pictures on the front cover made me feel like I was being set up to read a cheesy Christian romance.
Oh, was I wrong! This book had everything I was (secretly) hoping for: adventure, intrigue, (some) romance, growth, mystery, suspense. Michael and Rachel are both portrayed as beautiful examples of redemption, and their story carries all of the subplots throughout this lengthy novel. I was sad when it ended.
While some of the bad guys seemed all bad, with no redeemable qualities, McLaughlin carefully wove humanity through all of his characters. It was an engaging and captivating read and I appreciated the redemption emphasized.
A great debut novel; I look forward to reading more of McLaughlin’s work as he continues his writing career.
I was given this book (thank you!) by Tyndale and have expressed my honest opinions in this review.

Quick read (Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes – Robin Jones Gunn)

>I have a soft place in my heart for Robin Jones Gunn. Through her Christy Miller series, I got to know God and grew in my faith every single time I reread any of her books. That still happens when I read the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, Katie Weldon, or Glenbrooke series.


I recently received a review copy of Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn that I read in a span of three hours. Big type, somewhat surface, and overall a very quick read. It was interesting to read, as I enjoyed the Dutch history and culture woven throughout the two Sisterchicks’ adventures.

Throughout the story, Gunn weaves a theme of overcoming fears, of both the past and the future. Summer has an abnormal test result…definitely scary. Noelle has a past that she hasn’t addressed and an estranged relationship with her father. Both address their issues and their fears as they are loose in Holland and ridiculous adventures follow. I felt like this book was very surface…there were only a few parts of the story that went beyond surface level in terms of the characters and their lives and their growth.

Overall, a good, quick read. Enjoyable. I received this book for review from WaterBrook Multnomah (thank you!) and have expressed my opinion in this review.