That Sounds Fun


When Annie F. Downs releases a new book, I can hardly contain myself because I know I’m going to love it, and I know I’m going to have a hard time waiting for it to work its way into my hands.

This time was no different.

Subtitled “The joys of being an amateur, the power of falling in love, and why you need a hobby,” this book tackled some big things that I know from following Annie around on Social Media (yes, we’re on a first name basis even though we’ve never met) have been key development points in her life right now.

The thing I love about a well-written piece of non-fiction is how the author can be going about their daily lives, just doing their best to learn the lessons God is setting out for them, and the lessons they learn can be informative, instructive, and helpful for us too as the reader. This was both a uniquely Annie journey, but also relevant and helpful for anyone who feels they’ve been a bit battered by this past year (2020 especially, but 2021 isn’t looking miles better).

Throughout the entire book Annie talks about the concept of Eden. How the things she’s tackling help us find glimpses of Eden here on Earth, even though this is not perfection like God intended us to live in. And I think that’s beautiful. I think it’s revolutionary to look at the things we love, the places we play, and the people we invest in as pieces of Eden. Pieces of perfection. How much more would we cherish them? How much less time would we waste if we could really grab onto that idea?

The three subtitle topics made me curious before I’d read the book. The joys of being an amateur. The power of falling in love. Why you need a hobby.

In the joys of being an amateur, Annie — in her signature “I’m having coffee with a friend” style — talks about all the things we could do, all the things she could do, that we could feel like we need to be 100% professionals at, but that would likely wreck it if we were. She talks about playing soccer for the love of playing soccer. While I can’t relate to playing soccer in that way because I hate it, I can relate because I played volleyball nearly weekly for a few years until Covid happened (except for a six-month stint where my Achilles tendon preferred me benched). I was completely amateur, but it didn’t matter, because Annie is right — when you’re playing because you love it, it doesn’t matter one bit. Examples that popped into my head of things where I’m a total amateur (and that’s ok), are cooking, baking, and writing. I love all of these things, and if I started trying to do them professionally or for any reason other than just for my own pleasure, I’d probably hate them. I invite you to read Annie’s book and think of all the areas of your life where your amateur status is such a gift that allows you to enjoy whatever comes of it without the pressure of professionalism.

The Power of Falling in Love — this held so much more for me than I expected this section of the book to. From following Annie for years, I’m aware of parts of her journey with wanting to be married and have a family, and that’s what I expected this part of the book to be about. But while she does talk about that, she also talks about falling in love deeply and constantly, and you know what? I love that. I, too, am one of those people who say “I love that!” often, about things you wouldn’t think we should love… like the sound of mourning doves or the smell of wet pavement just after it starts to rain, or chocolate covered almonds, or cinnamon buns…. but I do, I love that. All of it. Those are all valuable things to love, but Annie also talks about loving yourself and how valuable that is. And I think Annie is right — I think there’s great power in falling in love, and I invite you to read through the examples she’s thrown out in the chapters she’s written because I could never do this justice, and I’d spoil it if I tried.

Why You Need a Hobby actually made me weep at the end of the book. A lot of the book hit me pretty hard, actually, but why you need a hobby got me. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do with my life, and I’ve spent so much time scrolling through social media or just generally wasting time instead. I cried when she talked about loving playing the French Horn but deciding to quit in middle school because it “wasn’t cool.” I cried because I could have played a couple more instruments, but somewhere along the way, just before high school started, I convinced myself that “band geeks” were uncool, so I didn’t want to be one… and somehow I believed that drama kids were cooler so I should be one of those instead. To this day, I regret that I don’t play more instruments, or that I don’t play the ones I do play any better, and there’s only one thing to do about that — get a hobby. I cried when she talked about hobbies not being rushed. How you can’t force a cake to bake faster than the clock moves, and rock climbing takes slow and thoughtful decision making (p. 193).

I’m inspired to write a list of all the things I’d like to do for fun, at an amateur level, that I’d like to be better at and just love doing — just because they’re good for me and it’ll be great. And I have this book to thank for that inspiration.

Throughout the book, Annie also talks about grief, and particularly Covid grief and the grief of isolation. Those things also hit me hard. I’m sure many can relate.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book. It’s beautifully written. It’s an easy read that packs a punch in terms of the takeaway but won’t hurt your brain to get there. It’s my favourite of Annie’s so far, and I thought it was going to be hard to unseat Looking for Lovely. But here we are.

I am certainly biased — Annie F. Downs has been my favourite author for a long time, and even if I’m not entirely convinced I’m an Enneagram 7 after all, just like Annie, I still love the things we have in common and I will still happily read anything she writes. Please go pick up this book, and check out Annie F. Downs on social media if you’re not familiar with her — find out what the hype is about!

Here are a few quotes from the book that really grabbed me:

“And the more days I live on this planet, the more I am learning that I don’t have to control my feelings. They are allowed to ride along with me anywhere I go; they just aren’t the best drivers. I need to feel them and hear them and pay attention to them but not let them lead the way. Love can lead though.” p. 93 (emphasis mine)

“But there isn’t anything happenstance or things simply falling into place in the kingdom of God. It’s all handled. It’s all aligned. It’s all a gift. And God does that a lot, it seems. When I look for His hand in the stories that I’m living, I always seem to find Him.” p. 139

“… searching for Eden can matter, even when it hurts.” p. 157

“Hobbies make space. They remind us of something beautiful, and that good can come from nothing…… And when the whole world is broken, it’s just nice to know we have the tiniest ability to put pieces together.” p. 175

“When you stop picking your hobbies or making decisions based on what others tell you is worth your time and effort, and you start listening to your own heart and your own wants, life gets so much richer.” p. 198

“I sat with a friend a few days ago and she said ‘You show what matters most by what you say yes and no to, by who gets your time and your money.’ It really made me think — about hobbies, about friendship, and about the speed at which I’m living my life.” p. 208

Me again: I certainly, truly hope that you’ll get a copy of this book and savour every moment of it (and then chuckle at how important it is to savour because you’ll get it when you’ve read the book). I hope if you weren’t already letting Annie’s wisdom and way with words coax your soul into needed change, you’ll make space for her to do so.

Please let me know if you’ve read this book and loved it as much as I did. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and I highly encourage you to read it.

That Sounds Fun: Downs, Annie F.: 9780800738747: Books - Amazon.ca

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

A Castaway in Cornwall


A Castaway in Cornwall is set in early 1800s England (Cornwall) during the Napoleonic Wars with France, right along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in a particularly rough spot where many ships end up wrecked in stormy waters. In one such wreck, a man named Alexander Lucas washes ashore, and Laura Callaway finds him and nurses him back to health with the help of a lovely neighbour. Laura finds more adventure than she bargained for. She normally looks for trinkets and treasures that she can either return to rightful owners or sell, but this time she’s found a person with a story she can’t quite get out of him.

The research that must have gone into this book is astounding. Klassen mentions in the Author’s Note at the back of the book that she had planned a trip to Cornwall for research for this novel, but Covid got in her way, so she had to rely on virtual tours and talking via the Internet to a variety of people for help. As a historical fiction novel (which is what kept me reading), this is spectacularly well done and Julie Klassen has created a wonderful work of historical fiction. However, I would argue that it likely should have been labeled as historical romance instead. But, had it been labeled as such I may never have picked it up. It’s hard to know.

I was able to picture the rugged coastline of Cornwall as described by Klassen, even though I am not usually able to picture details well just by someone’s writing. It may help that I’ve been to Ireland and I imagine parts of it are similar (the Cliffs of Moher in particular), and it helped that there were parts of the book that talked about Jersey and Guernsey (Channel Islands between England and France) and I’ve seen movies about Guernsey. I feel sad for Klassen that she didn’t get to go as I imagine it to be quite beautiful.

Overall, if you like a good historical fiction novel with light romance and a lot of adventure, pick this one up! I think you’ll love it. The story, characters, and setting are all well-done and well tied together, and I absolutely loved how it ended. I put the book down feeling very satisfied with how the story wrapped up.

This is a good read!

I almost put this book down a few chapters in and didn’t pick it back up, but I’m glad I kept reading, and let me tell you why.

I’m not super into romance novels. I don’t love it when a story is peppered with references to a man’s broad shoulders or his tight, muscular forearms. I mentioned a few of the cheesy lines in this book to my husband, (e.g. the reference to Alexander’s noticeably broad shoulders and his trim waist), and we made fun of the book for days.

That said, if you like that sort of thing this book will be one you thoroughly enjoy. Even if you’re like me, however, and you could take it or leave it, I still think you’ll like this book if you enjoy a good historical fiction.

Book is provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

51270862

Things We Didn’t Say


This book was beautiful. In every single way. I loved every last second of it. It’s written in a style I’ve only read one other time. It reminded me of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society both because of its being written as letters back and forth between characters — epistolary, or so I’ve learned is the name of this style — and because it is set in WWII.

Amy Lynn Green has created something stunning and remarkable here. We don’t get a lot of character description, because the book isn’t written with a narrator who tells you what the character looks like. We do, however, get ample character development as we read the heart and intent of every interaction between each character. It strikes me that this would be a very hard way to write, given that the author would have to change voices and tones depending on the person writing the letter and depending on the person that the letter is being written to. For example, there’s a difference between Johanna (the main character) writing to her good friend Peter or to her roommate Olive than there is to Johanna writing to a member of the military she’s being asked to serve.

Tasked with censoring and translating letters at a German POW camp in Minnesota during WWII, Johanna Berglund is asked to put her linguistic university degree on hold to serve her country. She declines at first, but ends up being compelled to do so and reluctantly agrees, only to later be unjustly accused of treason.

What follows is a beautiful series of letters back and forth between characters that really give you a glimpse into what life might have been like on the “home front” during WWII in the mid-Western US — where the fighting wasn’t actually occurring but there were still regular people doing great things to help.

This book is witty, funny, clever, endearing, charming, and illustrative of the time and the character without needing to actually describe any of it. This is a book I have kept because I will read it again, even though I now know how it ends. It’s beautiful, and it sank right into my soul. One of the things I loved about it, too, which I couldn’t place until I read another historical fiction novel right after it, is that while there were threads of romance throughout, it wasn’t overbearing and didn’t take away from the historicity of the story.

To sum this review up… this book is funny and charming, historically pretty accurate as far as I can tell, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good historical fiction. 10 stars. If it weren’t for the fact that I expect another Amanda Dykes novel in August of 2021, I’d hazard to say that this could be the best book I’ll read all year…. but…. Amanda Dykes will be hard to dethrone as my favourite author πŸ™‚ That’s a review for another day, though.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Nine by Rachelle Dekker


I’m not quite sure how to review this book. I guess it can be one of those times where I start writing and what I think will follow.

Overall, I did enjoy it. There are giant themes throughout the book of light, darkness, goodness, evil, trying to figure out who you are and where you belong. Are we destined to stay the way we started? Or can we carve our own paths despite our circumstances?

That said, there were a couple times I almost put the book down and declared it a DNF (did not finish). My motto is that life is too short for bad books, and while this is not by any stretch a bad book, there were times it was way too intense for me. I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t say this while writing a review.

Granted, apparently had I read a book of Dekker’s father, Ted Dekker, I’d have been able to surmise that the apple might not fall far from the tree and it might be a gripping ride from start to finish, especially since it’s labeled ‘suspense.’ That, it very much is. But as it was a book about a bedraggled teenage girl with government agents after her, I believe I want to warn readers that there might be a couple of scenes where, if you’re not used to some violence in your reading, you may not enjoy it.

Overall, once I’d skipped the two parts that were too much for me, it was an excellently written book. The realness that Dekker brings into her writing made me feel like the premise of the book was possible, though I sincerely hope it isn’t.

If you enjoy suspenseful writing, please give this book a try! I think you’ll really like it! If you’re more into sweeping historical fiction sagas like me, you may want to approach with caution.

Have you read it? What did you think? Also, my husband tells me that Ted Dekker’s books are kind of freaky. I assume since I’m freaked out by Rachelle’s, I should avoid Ted’s? What say you, book loving community?

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Something Worth Doing


I was hesitant to read another Jane Kirkpatrick novel. I read one once. I did not love it…. at all. But it’s been 5 years and the premise behind this one sounded very interesting. Being a teacher myself, I always find stories of what a one-room school house would have been like make me quite thankful for modern luxuries like Google, Siri, Teachers Pay Teachers, and photocopiers… and heaters and air conditioners.

But this book, Something Worth Doing, ended up making me thankful for so much more than that. The book is based on a true story and followed Abigail (Jenny) Duniway (Scott) on a journey from being a young, single teacher to getting married and realizing that her life’s destiny is much bigger than her, and that she and her family are supposed to fight for women’s suffrage.

The description that Kirkpatrick put into how backbreaking even such seemingly small (now) tasks like laundry would have been made me very thankful that I live in 2020, not the 1850s. I enjoy doing laundry — especially in the summer when I can hang it on the clothesline. I’m thankful for washing machines, dishwashers, ovens, fridges, cars, the ability to vote, a supportive and equal partnership with my husband, the fact that I make just as much as the men in my profession (though I know this is not true for everyone), and a general lack of pressure to just be a mom. I’m glad I didn’t have to give up teaching when I got married last June, but rather just have to train a bunch of kids to use my new name (that I didn’t even have to change had I not wanted to).

I’ll be willing to try another Jane Kirkpatrick book again in the future. This book gave me a lot to think about, and I like how it fictionalizes what would otherwise still be a pretty interesting historical tale. Without this book, I wouldn’t have known as much about the long, arduous fight that women had to put up in order to be recognized as equal citizens. The characters are dynamic and easy to like, except for Harold Bunter…. you’ll see πŸ™‚

I didn’t find it to be an overly adventurous or exciting book, but I don’t think that’s what Kirkpatrick was going for anyway. My biggest complaint with the other book of hers that I read was that there was so much detail that it landed plainly on the side of boring. This was a good balance between the detail that the reader needed to understand the historical significance of the story and the character development or the otherwise real characters who had real lives. The research that must have gone into writing this book is awe-inspiring, and I have to give huge credit for that!

Overall, I’d say if you enjoy based on a true story accounts of Pioneer Days in the West, you’ll likely enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a lot of humour or light-hearted banter, this is not likely the book for you. But I think regardless, it’s worth the read if for nothing other than to see how much we have to be thankful for 150 years removed from the time period in which this book was set.

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Set the Stars Alight


Amanda Dykes has a magical way of writing that will draw you in from the first line. I know this because I read the first line of this book, took in a sharp breath, read it again, then read it out loud to my husband, eliciting a “wow.”

“The smell of cinders permanently etched the abandoned Bessette Match Factory into the minds of all who passed.”

You can smell that, can’t you?

I read her first novel, Whose Waves These Are, last year. It was my favourite novel of 2019. Set the Stars Alight is likely my favourite of 2020, and I say this confidently even though there are still a little over two months remaining.

Split time is a favourite style of writing of mine, and Amanda Dykes is phenomenally good at it. She weaves the two timelines back and forth together, combining story lines that seem unrelated until you can’t imagine not knowing both sides from both timelines.

The book follows Lucy and Dash in the year 2020, and Frederick Hansford and company in the 1800s. Set in London, even though I’ve never been, you can picture the stark differences in both timelines just by reading, and you are transported by Dykes’ writing into the heart of both stories.

Without giving you any spoilers, this book is pure magic. Focused on the themes of light and hope and healing, it weaves in adventure and heartbreak and mystery… expertly crafted to the point that you can not stop reading.

I read significant portions of this book in hours-long sittings. You can’t help it. It’s like time stands still — an epic feat with a story with one character being a watchmaker.

So please… do not hesitate on this book. Even if it doesn’t feel like your type. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’ll like it. Even if you’ve never heard of the author. Fall in love with these characters. Fall deeply into the storylines. Wrap yourself up in Amanda Dykes’ poetic and lyrical writing.

And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Whose Waves These Are as well. You won’t regret either read.

It’s amazing when you find an author who can wrap a story up with you wanting more, yet still feeling completely satisfied with how the book ended. Dykes is one such author. I didn’t want the book to end, yet I was ok when it did, because the ending provided a deep sense of closure to the whole story.

The only question I have left unanswered at the end of this beautiful, magical, sweeping tale about light, the sea, and the mysteries within, is… when will Amanda Dykes write another book?

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

source: goodreads.com

Stay – Anjuli Paschall


Anjuli Paschall is a new author to me, but the topic of this book grabbed me. “Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness where you never imagined looking” is the tagline.

I never imagined life would look the way it did in the middle of 2020. This book was an invitation to be an outsider, to make mistakes, to be needy, to be vulnerable (which, as I was about to get married, would be a pretty big chapter for me), to feel pain (which, as I was grieving that a wedding and honeymoon during a pandemic would never be what I imagined and that you can’t redo these moments…. would be poignant), to listen….. and many more. 21 chapters. 21 invitations. Each one will likely find part of you right where you’re at and tug your heart. At least some of them will. I know some of them got me more than others did.

This ended up being one of those books for me where, if I were to try to give you meaningful quotes, I’d violate copyright because I have so much of it underlined or circled. I read probably half the book with silent tears streaming down my face because it felt like such an invitation to freedom, but also to feel things I’ve been stuffing for a long time.

I confess, I probably should just turn around and read it again, because it’s been a month since I finished the book and, thinking back, I can definitely see ways I’ve declined the invitations that Paschall so thoughtfully and carefully lays out before her readers.

If you are like me at all (an Enneagram 7 who hates pain and wants to run from it always), a chapter on pain, or one on sitting in your own weeds (hard things) will be hard blows. Even worse (better? Depends on your angle I guess…), if you’re grieving losses you never could have imagined (the wedding you’d planned, your honeymoon, visiting your family, seeing your friends), an invitation to feel pain and an invitation to sit in the hard things will pummel your heart…. but in a way that you desperately need.

Newly married, grieving, newly parenting (step-kids), and newly trying to figure out life in a pandemic and how that looks for me, this book just slayed me. You know how sometimes it feels like you didn’t find the book, but rather the book found you? This is that book for me. It found me. And it found me when I needed it. Had I found this book two years ago, before I’d met my now husband, before I’d become a parent, before I was living through a pandemic, it couldn’t possibly have been so meaningful. And since this book was published in early 2020, it couldn’t have found me any sooner, but I’m sure glad I read it when I did.

Have a few quotes:

“I learned that pain is a gift. It is a glorious, ugly, and dangerous gift. A gift that if not handled with gentleness and grace can cause more damage. Pain requires a companion, a comforter, a counselor. Pain is the doorway to hope, to redemption, and our redeemer.” (p. 67)

“I can pray with tears, silence, half smiles, and by taking a nap. I can pray with anger, watching the sky change colors, scrolling through Instagram, and while packing lunches. I think God is delighted when I stay with Him as I am. Regular life with Jesus can be just that: regular.” (p. 93)

“Anxiety is always an indicator that I am trying to control the uncontrollable.” (ummmm pandemic motto?) (p. 110)

Last quote, so that you will just go read the book….

“It’s not good for my soul to let fear have the final say. I’m learning a new way…. No single voice dominates, pushes, or murders another voice. Jesus always gets veto power. He sees the whole picture, my entire purpose, and the path I’m being led on. All the other voices have a secret motive or are shortsighted. God’s perspective isn’t bound by time and space, but by eternity. He is the One guiding the conversation; His voice is the only one that feeds me with love.” (p. 121)

This book was beautifully written. Anjuli Paschall has a gift — she turned her own story into something instructive and deep that needled right into my heart. She so vulnerably lets her readers into her own story that I would hazard a guess that most women would find relatable content and ways to soothe their aching hearts within the pages of this book.

I can’t recommend this book more highly. If you need permission to be who you are — with your people, with yourself, and most importantly with God, this book will be a breath of fresh air for you. If you need to STAY where you are, not keep running, not keep hiding, and not keep trying, striving, pressing to be the better version of you that you think you need — this book is for you. If you feel like the world batters you up on all sides and pushes you down every chance it gets…. this book is for you.

Please go read this book.

Anjuli is a writer for DaySpring’s (in)courage, and I think I’ll have to follow her elsewhere to find out when more of her writing is available to me.

This book was provided by Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Standoff


I’ll start this review with a disclaimer. I don’t read a ton of novels anymore. There are a few authors I’ll grab them from when I see them, and Patricia Bradley is one of them, but I gravitate mostly toward non-fiction.

Standoff was a great introduction to Bradley’s new Natchez Trace Park Rangers series. I’ll admit, never having been to Louisiana/Mississippi, I had a bit of a hard time picturing the descriptions, though she was thorough in her setting. But that didn’t distract from the story.

Follow along with the story of Brooke Danvers, an interpretive ranger (I’ll admit I don’t know what that means) who becomes a law enforcement ranger with the Natchez Park Rangers. Full of peril, suspense, and fairly predictable romance, this was a great summer read. It starts with a bang (quite literally) and just keeps rolling from there.

While, as I mentioned, the romance line was pretty predictable, there were twists and turns throughout that I did not see coming. Patricia Bradley is particularly skilled at weaving in surprises. At one point I laid the book down across my chest to take a deep breath before I kept reading.

If you’re look for a quick, easy to read, romantic suspense to throw some variety into your to be read list, this would be a great book for that. I highly recommend it. It was good enough that I’ll likely keep my eye out for book two.

As always, Bradley is great at developing her characters at the same time as the plot. I never particularly enjoy a novel as much when I have to read through a pile of back story on a character at once, only to then read a bunch of description of setting before the plot can continue. Both the character and the plot development weave together nicely in this book, which I think is what makes it a quick read. You just want to keep going!

Thanks Patricia Bradley for writing another gripping book. And thanks to Baker Publishing and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for providing me the opportunity to review this book.

Things I’ve Learned in Quarantine


#StayHome

I now hate that hashtag. I’m over all of it and I don’t want to stay home anymore. I imagine you can relate.

But I’ve learned a few things over the last… what are we at? 9 weeks? And before I get too grumpy again about staying home, while I’m feeling particularly self-reflective, I thought it best I write them down. Maybe someone else needs to read that it’s ok that you didn’t bother to learn to bake bread.

So here, in no particular order, are a variety of things I’ve learned in the last couple of months.

  1. I don’t go through as much toilet paper as I feared that I would. When I first couldn’t find it, I was mildly concerned. I mean, I also had paper towel and surely this shortage wouldn’t last that long, but I’d bought a jumbo pack just before the madness hit, and it actually lasted a really long time. A second note to that is that hoarding is really harmful, and while I didn’t hoard anything, I experienced the frustration of not being able to get Lysol wipes or hand sanitizer while some houses surely have years’ worth stashed in their cupboards.
  2. It is very stressful to sell your house in the midst of a global pandemic, but panicking creates more problems than it solves, and with a lot of hard work and a lot of faith, it can all work out just fine and all will be well. I also learned that I am able to handle much more than I give myself credit for, though I’ve forgotten that fact approximately 19 times a week for the last 9 weeks.
  3. You will learn who your true friends are in the middle of something catastrophic that happens in your life. People who don’t show up for you when the world feels like it’s crashing down around you likely weren’t really ever truly there for you to begin with. Maybe that means your friendship didn’t have the foundation you thought it did, or maybe that means you couldn’t live up to their expectations and they ditched you. Whatever the case, I’ve learned that you’ll discover who your real friends are when the world crashes down around your ears. You’ll also figure this out when you set boundaries and you see who respects them. People who willfully either run roughshod over your boundaries or demand that you adjust them so that their definition of the relationship is kept are not actually your people. They may maintain that they are, but they aren’t. That’s not how good, healthy relationships work. I learned this pre-quarantine, but it was reinforced in the midst.
  4. All those hobbies I keep thinking I might take up if I ever had the time and could ever just stay home long enough to try….. I don’t actually want to do them. If I haven’t bothered to learn to bake bread when I’ve been mostly in my house for 9 weeks straight, I’m probably never going to, and I think I need to accept that and set more realistic life goals.
  5. It’s hard to be alone when you’re an extrovert. I wasn’t totally alone. My wonderful fiance and the kids have been right with me the whole time, but I have typically surrounded myself with a great multitude of people, and it is hard not to have them.
  6. Related to #5, it is very challenging to live across the country from your entire family when the world grinds to a halt. Want to get married out West? Sorry, nope. Want to visit them? Nope, sorry about that too.
  7. Further related to 5 and 6…. the Internet is great and all, but it can not and will not ever replace face to face, actual real life interaction. I now hate Zoom, and I will be ok if I’m done with Zoom calls for life after this. For real. I like real people and their real faces, and porch visits have become such a joy that I never expected.
  8. Related to 7, I was not meant to work from home. This is not what I was cut out to do. I do not have good work/life balance and boundaries, and my couch is not a good work space. Left to my own devices, I will apparently work until 6pm trying to teach the 14 of my students who are bothering to do the work I post to teach the nitty gritty of not writing really long, drawn-out, run-on sentences, only to still have them not understand it. I miss their faces, and I almost miss having to perpetually ask one of them to stop making dolphin noises and taking beyblades away from another….. almost. Sidebar: apparently Enneagram 7s don’t work from home very well. I thought I was alone, but there is comfort knowing that we are all struggling.
  9. I am capable of sustaining a calmer, less frenetic way of life without losing my mind. I can do it. I will live if my calendar is clear. If you’d told me 10 weeks ago that I could do it, I’d have argued wholeheartedly with you. The real learning will have to come when the restrictions lift and I can once again do all the things and see all the people…. and then I will have to balance that with being back at work (without being able to also do laundry and cut the grass in the midst of my work day), spending time with my new family, and being wholly present to what’s right in front of me also. Less is more. Less is more.
  10. I can be pretty creative with the food I have in the house when I’m either afraid to go to the grocery store or can’t be bothered to stand in a line. “What can I make with this?” has replaced near daily trips to the grocery store, and my grocery budget has dropped dramatically. You see, when you live 45 seconds from the nearest grocery store, you’re tempted to never make a meal plan at all and to just decide what to eat on the way home from work. If you don’t have the ingredients, just stop and pick them up. But when grocery shopping requires planning to make sure you’ve kept a list, gotten everything on it while you’re there, and given yourself enough time to have to stand in line for a while before you can even get in, you don’t go every other day. You go every other week. I hope that this habit stays as well, because I was pretty annoyed with finding that random cans of crushed tomatoes were what was making my purse so heavy because that’s all I went into the store for and “no thank you, I don’t need a bag” and then I forgot about it. (There might be a lesson here about having a purse so big you can put a 750mL can of crushed tomatoes in it and lose it in there and not notice for a week, but let’s not take my personal growth too far… I like my purse.)
  11. I learned to be careful how much news I took in. I had to have my Facebook password changed for me. There’s a difference between being informed and knowing too much, and that difference is a line only you can decide on — and you have to, for the sake of your own mental health. There’s a difference between taking a drink from a water fountain and holding a fire hose over your mouth…. one is sustaining and life-giving; one will drown you. It is hard to sift through what is real and what is not if your sole source of information is Facebook. You can convince yourself in a hurry that the sky is indeed falling if you drink from the fire hose.
  12. People will handle this differently from me. I can’t and shouldn’t judge them, because I don’t want to be judged for my responses and feelings about all of this madness. Grace, grace, grace.
  13. Lastly, when you’re hiding from an outside threat and the best way to do that is to stay inside your house, it can be hard to process that this isn’t isolated. It can be hard to recognize that it isn’t just your town, or city, or province, or even country. But it is a global pandemic. People all over the world are hiding from this virus, some better than others because this is a really good time to check our privilege. I’m hiding in my air conditioned house with all the internet, working from home, making my paycheque as per normal, and the biggest decision I need to make to keep myself safe is whether I go into the grocery store myself, or buy my groceries online. But that isn’t true for everyone and it would do the whole world well for us to remember that, think beyond ourselves, and be on the lookout for who we can help when we’re doing relatively just fine.

Fight Your Fears


I received this book in the mail mid-way through my one week March Break. Right before St. Patrick’s Day. And for those of you keeping track, that’s a mere 3 or 4 days after the Province declared that school would not be resuming after March Break, and we would stay closed to try to stave off the growing number of cases of Covid-19.

Timely, I thought, as I opened the package. A book about not being afraid, how not to be afraid, and how to lean on God instead when you are afraid. How to trust God’s character and promises when you are afraid, the book’s tagline reads.

So I read, and I read, hoping to find nuggets that would help. Because I AM afraid. I’m afraid of Covid-19. I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m afraid of people I love getting sick. But even more palpably, I’m just afraid that life will never go back to normal again. So the timing of the book seemed excellent.

There are great nuggets in here. It walked through a number of characteristics of God and used them as proof for why we don’t need to be afraid.

I’ve got a few great quotes to share, but the first thing I need to make clear is that I don’t think I quite line up theologically with Kristen Wetherell in all places. There’s a lot of evidence throughout that she is fairly conservative in her leanings, that she places a high value on the Sovereignty of God (not that I don’t, just maybe not in the same way….), and that she favours Calvinism. I don’t…. so I don’t think the book quite resonated with me the way I wanted it to, but that doesn’t change the fact that there were great sections throughout.

The first thing that hit me was right in the introduction. “The more I have risked drawing close to God, believing he accepts me as fully as he accepts Christ, the more I’ve known security. I’ve learned to tell him my fears without wondering if he’s impatient with me, and more importantly, I’ve learned to tell my fears about God. Like a child facing a bully on the playground, I eyeball them and say, “My dad is bigger and stronger than yours, and is always for me.” p.14

I also liked ‘”God doesn’t give tomorrow’s grace today.” Fear comes when we envision tomorrow’s circumstances apart from tomorrow’s grace.’ (p.81)

Overall, the book was a good reminder that the character of God makes it so I don’t have to cower in fear and wonder whether or not I’m going to survive this pandemic, or for that matter, any other thing that comes my way, as a LOT has in the last 6 weeks… It means I can trust that when God says He’ll take care of me, He will. When He says He loves me, I can trust Him. When He says I don’t need to be afraid, I don’t need to be. Ultimately, that’s the good reminder that I got out of this book.

I didn’t love it. I have to be honest, but I think that’s because it just didn’t land theologically with me the way I hoped it would. There were too many things in there that just didn’t sit quite right. That said, it was a great reminder that God is for me, not against me, and I don’t need to fear Covid-19 or anything else.

Now I just need to put it into practice.