On Disappointment, and other emotions…

Many times I’ve heard it said that anger hides a multitude of other emotions. If someone is really angry with you, then maybe underneath there’s an underlying feeling that’s prompting them to act angrily. Are they scared? Sad? Disappointed?

Normally I am a person who prefers to see life through the lens of the silver lining. Every cloud has one, or so they say, and I can usually find it. Optimism is great! It’s a lot more fun than being bummed out over things you can’t fix.

But today I ran into something that I haven’t been able to shake off, and I haven’t been able to find a silver lining for yet. Well, that’s not true; I found one, but it’s lame, haha.

Without going into too much detail, because it’s work related and I shouldn’t share the whole story for all the internet to read…. Earlier this week I was offered a really cool opportunity. It carried with it this sense of accomplishment and a feeling that the things I have to say in my field are valuable and important, and that what I’m doing on a daily basis has meaning. It might have puffed me up a bit, made me feel pretty great, all that jazz. I was invited to come sit at the table with a discussion group across several different regions who would be able to have conversations about how best to support the particular groups of kids we all work with.

But, rather sadly, today I found out that due to there being a number of people going from my work already, my voice wasn’t needed, and it’s been decided for me that I cannot attend.

The situation itself is not what I’m here to talk about though — because, as I mentioned, I can’t really do that without spilling all kinds of details that I shouldn’t. I’m here because all day, what’s been spinning around in the processing centre in my brain, is the range of emotions that that’s evoked in me, and what that means.

I’ve been waffling all day between angry — at the people who get to make decisions, at the situation itself, sometimes at myself — and sad and disappointed. I think that the biggest place I’ve camped though has been disappointment.

It’s a funny thing… Intellectually, I can reason my way through this. I can understand the reasoning I was given. I can logically work my way into accepting it, and be ok with the outcome. I can tell myself that I know my voice has value in my workplace because most of the time I feel like that’s true. I’ve been told that that’s true. But it doesn’t seem to matter how often you intellectually reason your way through something — sometimes you just have to ride out your disappointment.

The reality is that I’ll probably be fine tomorrow. The opportunity will pass on Tuesday, and I’ll live to tell the tale. I’ll probably even be fine in a couple hours. I have band practice tonight, and that always cheers me up. I won’t end up bitter, and it’s not something I’m going to end up holding against anyone. It’s just that… normally I can shake my way into a “no, it’s fine because ______” but today it feels appropriate to sit with my disappointment, acknowledge its presence, and tell myself it’s completely reasonable to feel this way. One doesn’t always need to be chipper and excited about ALL THE THINGS (this is a hard lesson for the Enneagram 7, 🙂 )

I’ve been learning that when something nags at me, and it feels like I need to write about it, often that means someone else needs to read it. So I’m trying not to ignore that and push away the “I should blog this” impulse. So here I am.

My takeaway from this experience is this: Big emotions can be hard. And the bigger they are, the deeper they…. I can’t think of a word I want to use for this…. the deeper they burn? sting? echo? resonate? I don’t know. I’ll think of it at 3:15 am. But when they’re big, and they’re hard, and in this case… when they tempt you to feel like you don’t bring a valuable skill set to the table and aren’t really needed, it’s best to acknowledge them rather than run for something fun to do to distract yourself from them. If I were to run off and find a distraction right now, Tuesday will still come. The difference will be that I won’t have processed my disappointment. I won’t have reassured myself that what I do IS valuable. I won’t have taken the time to recognize that this feeling is important and meaningful. And then I’ll just have to do it on Tuesday, lest it follow me into Wednesday and beyond.

So, silly meme to lighten the mood aside, tonight I will process. I’ll probably journal where I can actually talk about the details, and I might even cry it out. But I will live to tell the tale. Because I can take the time to process the hurt and the sadness, I’ll be able to be chipper when I’m done. And that’s pretty cool 🙂


Once We Were Strangers

Oh, this book. Be still my heart. Shawn Smucker has created a work of beauty with this book, while setting out to tell the story of one Syrian family and their journey to America (Lancaster, Pennsylvania).

This memoir was written in such a way that it will draw you into the lives of Mohammad and Moradi and their children as Smucker tells the story he’s been told of what it took to get them safely to the United States. But it will also challenge you to think about how you do life with the people around you as well. The tagline of the book is What friendship with a Syrian Refugee taught me about loving my neighbor.

Several times throughout the book, Smucker encourages, sometimes overtly and sometimes just by nature of the story he’s telling, that we think about the way we live our very private Western lives. There were a number of times throughout the book that either Mohammad or Shawn would remark that there are all of these people living around us and we don’t even know them. Mohammad’s story highlighted in a few places that this was not his experience in Syria, that they would spend hours drinking coffee with their neighbours.

I’ve had that very experience myself with a Syrian family who had newly arrived to Canada. Once we’d gotten acquainted, it became very clear to me that my busy, packed to the brim life was not what they were used to. They are hospitable, loving, and welcoming people who want to be friends with those around them. Real friends. Not a quickly passing “hey how are you?” “good, thanks” kind of friends.

What I loved most about this memoir is how real it felt. It helps, I suppose, that I have experience discovering how beautiful my Syrian friends are, but that was truly brought to light in this book. I learned things I didn’t know, as well. I’m not sure who’s to blame, whether it’s our own fear, the media, or a combination of both — but I’ve always thought of the Middle East as this place that is perpetually torn apart by war. It sure feels like they’re always at war with someone over there, and our media outlets don’t lend us anything to make us believe otherwise. But Mohammad describes a time of peace. He says “I was born in 1971. In 1973, there was a war between Syria and Israel, but I do not remember it, and I never saw it. No one in my village ever saw that war. This is the first I have ever seen, the first war my village has ever seen. And now it is a war not against my enemy but against my friend. Fellow Syrians. Why is this happening? I don’t know.” (p. 140)

I can’t imagine what I would do if all of a sudden one part of Canada was at war with another, and you couldn’t trust the government anymore. I can’t imagine the fear, the terror — especially if you have a family to take care of. Mohammad tells of coming home one day to find a chunk missing out of his house that was taken out by a mortar blast. Shortly after, he knew he and his family had to leave, and this book was borne out of their story.

I’m glad I got to read this book. It made me thankful for the peace that I do have, and it opened my eyes once again to the idea that if I were in a place where I was running for my literal life, I would hope that some country somewhere would take me in and treat me kindly. That was not this family’s experience everywhere they went, but I’m sure glad they were able to find friends in Shawn Smucker and his family.

If you’re looking for a way to humanize the Syrian Refugee Crisis, this book will do that for you. It will give you fresh perspective and clearer eyes. Especially as the crisis fades into the background and becomes “old news” despite the fact that it continues to be a problem, books like this will become so fundamental in helping us remember the human side of the crisis.

One part really stuck out to me. There’s a part near the end where Smucker starts to address the feelings of fear he could see evident in those around his new friends. I’ll leave you with this quote, so that the power of it can hang around long after my writing does. He says:

“A few of my relatives and friends have no problem with a refugee ban. They believe danger lurks in the hearts of these landless, homeless people. I realize, perhaps for the first time, that they might be correct. It is possible that in the midst of 60,000 refugees entering the United States, there could be one bad apple. There could be someone who has been so bent by the pain in their life that they want to seek some kind of revenge.

It is possible.

But should our fear of that one keep us from providing refuge to thousands like Mohammad and his family? Are there enough restrictions or safeguards in the world for us to put in place that will guarantee, 100 percent, that nothing bad will happen to us? Even then, evil already lurks among us, as we have seen so many times before. In the face of real evil, should we not provide refuge for families like Mohammad’s?

Should our fear overpower our love?”

p. 174

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

Made for the Journey: One Missionary’s First Year in the Jungles of Ecuador

This book holds some kind of funky timing for me. I’m a firm believer that sometimes books find you exactly when they need to, even if you’ve been in possession of them for a while. Sometimes you pick them up right at the right moment. I think this was one of them.

I was sent this book to review it, which always makes me happy. Further, it’s non-fiction, which tends to be what I gravitate toward most of the time. Even when I find myself on a fiction run, I always go back to my deep, thought-provoking non-fiction.

Anyway, I received this book at the end of December 2018. I have until February 28, 2019 to finish and review it. I didn’t take it out West with me on vacation over Christmas, and I’ve taken my sweet time getting it and my other two reviews finished. I realize it’s only February 2nd so I still have time, but I digress.

I read half of Made for the Journey while I was off work a couple weeks ago recovering from surgery, and it was a little heavy for that particular time in my life so I put it aside.

I picked it back up yesterday though, and it’s remarkable to me how perfectly the end of this book applies to what I’ve been learning about in church this week. I wish I’d read it before home church on Thursday. Whoops!

Anyway, it’s a memoir written by Elisabeth Elliot, author of a number of books. She was an American missionary to Ecuador in the 1950s as well as a speaker and author. She writes about her first year as a missionary to the Quichua people near Quito and San Salvador (in the book she refers to them as the Colorados, but I’ve learned through a bit of my own research that that’s the name this group of people was given by the Spanish and it means “coloured red….” so I think I’ll opt for the more traditional one I found. I hope it’s right!)

It is written as though you were sitting and listening to Elliot give a presentation of her time. Part of me wishes there were pictures, but she described everything in such efficient detail that even as someone who has a hard time picturing what’s happening in books, I often felt as though I could see what she’d seen.

What she’d seen was dramatically different from the life she’d left in Pennsylvania, and I can’t say that I think I’d be tough enough to handle it. I like to think that I am, but deep down I fear I’m probably not as tough as Elisabeth Elliot was. She’s a woman to be respected and admired, that is for sure! The lengths to which she and several other friends/fellow missionaries went to to bring the Bible to a people group with no written language of their own was both inspiring but also heartbreaking. The trials of every day life living in the jungle were taxing and arduous, but it seems as though they managed.

I am not doing this justice, at all, I’m afraid. But I do highly recommend this book. Where it really hit home for me was the connection I feel I can now make between how Elliot wraps up the book, talking about some of the things that just fell apart for her. It felt like a lament to me. At my church, we’ve been studying a few Psalms in a series called Honest to God about praying from the Psalms. Last week’s message was based in Psalm 89, where Ethan, the author of this Psalm, basically calls God out for seeming broken promises that he sees all over the place. We talked about how we can’t see the end of what God is doing, but if you look through the rest of the Bible, you see that every promise Ethan was upset about, God had later fulfilled. It just hadn’t happened yet. Some of the language that Elliot uses to talk about some of the things that went very terribly near the end of the book sounds like she understood that lament is not equal to rebellion, and that she could be confused and angry and hurt and upset, but still trust that God is in control and knows what He’s doing.

This book was previously published as “These Strange Ashes” and there is a reference in this version that talks about that.

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

2018 ~ A Journey in Books

I was on a mission this past year to read as many books as I possibly could. I set a goal of 25 books, knowing that since I’d hit 25 books the two previous years with little effort, I’d surely be able to accomplish this. I finished at 59. Am I disappointed that I didn’t make it to 60? Sure. Is there always another shot? Yup. I’ve set a goal of 75 for 2019.

I’ve never summarized the books I read in a year all in one post before…. or at least, if I have I don’t remember doing it. So this feels new to me! If it’s not new, meh, at least all the books I read are :p

So here you go, a list, split into genres, of all the books I read in 2018. I’ll tell you my favourites from each genre/subcategory underneath the section. I haven’t written reviews for all of them, because I typically only review books I’m given specifically TO review — but I’m sort of tempted to review everything I read all year this year, just for fun. If I’ve reviewed the book, I linked the review to the title.

Anyway, without further ado,

  1. Historical Fiction
    1. The Christmas Heirloom Collection (audio) by Kristi Ann Hunter, Karen Witemeyer, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade
    2. Short Straw Bride (audio) by Karen Witemeyer
    3. Head In The Clouds (audio) by Karen Witemeyer
    4. To Win Her Heart (audio) by Karen Witemeyer
    5. The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy
    6. The Reluctant Warrior (audio) by Mary Connealy
    7. The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond (time slip. Audio) by Jamie Jo Wright
    8. The Best of Intentions by Susan Anne Mason
    9. River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart
    10. The Lady of Tarpon Springs by Judith Miller
    11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (audio) by Mary Ann Shaffer
    12. All My Tomorrows (Novella Collection) by Karen Witemeyer, Elizabeth Camden, and Jody Hedlund,
    13. With You Always (audio) by Jody Hedlund
    14. Emma (audio) by Jane Austen
    15. Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt
    16. The Illusionist’s Apprentice (audio) by Kristy Cambron
    17. Double Minds (audio) by Terri Blackstock
    18. Secrets of a Charmed Life (Time Slip. Audio.) by Susan Meissner
    19. Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer
    20. A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
  2. Christian non-fiction
    1. Remember God (audio) by Annie F. Downs
    2. It’s Okay Not to be Okay (audio) by Sheila Walsh
    3. Battle Ready (audio) by Kellie Balarie
    4. Fake or Follower by Andi Andrew
    5. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
    6. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
    7. Inspired (audio) by Rachel Held Evans
    8. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
    9. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
    10. Love Does (audio) by Bob Goff
    11. Everybody Always (audio) by Bob Goff
    12. 100 Days to Brave (devotional) by Annie F. Downs
    13. So Long, Insecurity (audio) by Beth Moore
    14. God Has A Name (audio) by John Mark Comer
    15. Fierce Faith (audio) by Alli Worthington
    16. Unstuffed (audio) by Ruth Soukup
    17. The Road Back to You (audio) by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
    18. Loveology (audio) by John Mark Comer
    19. Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller
    20. Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
    21. Made To Crave (devotional) by Lysa TerKeurst
    22. Without Rival (audio) by Lisa Bevere (DNF — couldn’t do it. Did not enjoy this book.)
  3. Non-fiction/Memoir
    1. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
    2. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
    3. Girl, Wash Your Face (audio) by Rachel Hollis**
    4. I Will Not Fear by Melba Patillo Beals
  4. Educational
    1. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
    2. The Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
    3. Co-Teaching for English Learners by Maria G. Dove and Andrea Honingsfeld
    4. You Need A Budget (audio) by Jesse Meecham
  5. Contemporary Romance (Christian)
    1. Storm Front (audio) by Susan May Warren
  6. Romantic Suspense (Christian)
    1. The Cost of Betrayal (Novella Collection. Audio) by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason
    2. A Secret To Die For (audio) by Lisa Harris
    3. Dark Deception (audio) by Nancy Mehl
    4. Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
    5. Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason
  1. Historical Fiction….. Obviously my love for Karen Witemeyer runs deep. That woman can do NO wrong. I’ll read anything she puts out, and I think I’ve read most of it now. I have a few on my list still, but not many. It’s not fair I think to hold my favourites against her, so suffice it to say if Karen Witemeyer wrote it, I loved it. Apart from that, in this category I LOVED The Accidental Guardian and The Reluctant Warrior by Mary Connealy. Book 3 in the series comes out, I believe in March, of 2019. Both were awesome. I also really liked A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden. Favourite though? I think it would have to be The Reckoning At Gossamer Pond by Jamie Jo Wright. It was SO well written. I’d arrive at my destinations (I was commuting and listening to it on audio) and be sad that I had arrived, because there was never a good place to stop. Also worth checking out — Jody Hedlund’s Orphan Train series. I’m working on book 2 now, in 2019, but read 0.5 and 1 in 2018 and enjoyed them both.
  2. Christian Non-Fiction. Annie F. Downs’ Remember God slayed me multiple times. Like tears driving down the road. So if you’re looking to find God in the struggle, pick that one up. And it’s always a treat to let Annie read her own books to you, so audio is a great recommendation for this one. It’s Okay Not to be Okay was epic, but also, Sheila Walsh has a killer Scottish accent and letting her read that to me was like a warm hug. I kid you not. I needed that book at exactly the moment it came to me. I actually listened to that one, then would come home and highlight all over my book as I reread what I’d listened to. And if I had to tell you to read one book this year, I think it might have to be Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect. I laughed, I cried, I triple checked to make sure I hadn’t written the book myself. My book is highlighted, underlined, flagged with sticky notes… it’s better annotated than any of my uni textbooks ever were. It was very meaningful to me.
  3. Non-Fiction/Memoir. This isn’t a category I delve into all that often. I was really challenged by my reads in The Inconvenient Indian, I’m Still Here, and I Will Not Fear. I highly recommend all of them. Girl, Wash Your Face? I’m not sure. Jury is out on whether or not I recommend it. I think if I’d just read it as a feel-good book to give myself a pep talk? Sure. But since it’s published as Christian living and marketed in that way, but I don’t remember very often if at all being told to rely on God rather than myself? I couldn’t in good conscience put it in the Christian non-fiction category and it didn’t totally sit right with me. I didn’t love it.
  4. Educational: The Coaching Habit was a great book. Short, easy to read, and packed with great tips for being a more effective leader/coach, which I think will apply themselves nicely both at work and in my church leadership roles.
  5. Contemporary Romance: I don’t usually actually like Contemporary Romance novels. I prefer my historical romance. I dunno, something about settling on the frontier makes the stories more believable. They’re still suuuuper predictable. Like Hallmark Christmas movies. But I prefer them. I didn’t love Storm Front, but I don’t think I gave it a fair shake. I didn’t like the narrator who read the audio book, and, it’s book 5 in a series and I hadn’t read 1-4. I grabbed it because it was about tornadoes, so I thought I’d love it. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I’d read myself, and even more so if I’d been tracking with the series. I guess I’ll never know!
  6. Romantic Suspense: The number of books I read in this category this year don’t suggest how much I like this genre. I do really like it. I found A Secret To Die For was a wild ride right from start to finish. Lisa Harris doesn’t waste time getting into plot and action. Oath of Honor was also great, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve read that before you check out Lynette Eason‘s contribution to the Cost of Betrayal collection.

How many books do YOU want to read in 2019??

“You Are Here” ~ 2018 in Review

January 1. This day is so reflective. So pensive. It’s a day when people tend to look back at the year before and think of the things they wish they could do differently, and make a bunch of pledges to themselves to really affect that change in their lives.

I’ve seen a bunch of posts circulating Facebook lately where people who normally go to the gym are preparing themselves for a busy month, where those who start running or going to the gym will show up for the first month and then never be seen again. I used to be that person.

I used to do something called Power Sheets. For the past two years, during my Christmas break and the month of December leading up to New Year’s, I’d sit down and do some intentional goal setting, decide on who I wanted to be by the time I was closing up the coming year, and what I needed to do to get there. I picked one word to define my upcoming year, picked some Bible verses to go alongside it, updated my vision board in my kitchen, and wrote down all my rationales for all my goals. I laboured over them in a very real way.

I tracked alongside those goals all through 2017, into 2018, and then quit in March. The process almost felt ingrained by that point and I felt like I was in a head space where I could keep track of my own goals without having to tick off boxes to prove it to myself.

I decided that this year will continue along the “I don’t need a book to help me set my goals” theme, but as 2018 was coming to a close I did decide there were a few things I’d like to work on. The one word thing always feels kind of cheesy to me, but it really allows you to narrow your focus down into one broad stroke where other goals can naturally thrive, rather than become overwhelming and too much.

One of the biggest things I learned in my year and a bit of intentional life planning was that there’s nothing magic about any given date. There’s nothing that says January 1st has to be the day you start making changes. If you’ve stumbled upon this post in June, on a rainy day on the 17th (for example), then let June 17th be the day you think about where you’d like to be when 2019 wraps up. One concept that really stuck with me through all of that was the idea that if I have an idea of what I’d like to have accomplished by the time I’m 80, I can’t get there if I don’t make smaller goals and work away at them. I did an about-face with the way I’d been eating and treating my body on July 3rd of 2018. If I had waited until January 1st to set some “New Year, New Me” goals, I wouldn’t be down 65 pounds and considering investing in hiking shoes because it turns out I like hiking….. if there are waterfalls at the end of the hike…..

So….. I guess I’m still goal setting in a way, even though too much of it feels oppressive, but I don’t want to be left in the same place I was coming into 2019 when I get to the end of it, so it’s good to set a FEW goals.

I have picked one word for 2019. I was torn. I waffled back and forth for a bit between “Present” and “Listen”. But I think that Present encompasses what Listen tries to communicate, but goes a layer deeper, which is what you’re going for when you’re only picking one word.

As an Enneagram 7, I find that my tendency is to lean into the future so hard, usually in anticipation of what’s to come (but sometimes to escape what’s right in front of me), that I miss the moments I’m in. I can get so caught up in what I’m looking forward to, what’s coming, what’s ahead… that I miss what I already have. It can make it hard to enjoy what comes, because the pattern doesn’t stop just because what’s in front of me is phenomenal. There’s still a “well what comes next?” feeling that persists. It’s what prompts me to plan vacations before the one I’m on is even finished. It’s likely what prompted me as a kid to run countdowns of days between where I was on the calendar and something I thought was going to be really awesome. (lol. as a kid. I still do this. who am I kidding?)

So, to sum up, 2018 has been a pretty great year. My word for 2018 was Strength. I definitely think I’ve gotten stronger this year. Physically, emotionally, spiritually — I think all around I’ve taken steps in the right direction. Ten years ago, if you’d told me this is where I’d be though, I think I’d have been disappointed. If at 24 you’d have shown me the life I was going to have, I would have looked ahead to it with dread rather than with glee and excitement. I certainly haven’t accomplished all the things I thought I would. But I’ve accomplished some things miles beyond what I ever thought I was capable of doing, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I not ended up here.

So, as I wander into 2019, I plan to be Present. I plan to be grateful, and to appreciate the little things that are right in front of me. That probably means fewer countdowns and less screen time. It probably means saying no more often and setting healthier boundaries — both on myself and on others. It surely needs to mean letting go of some of the anxiety I hold onto because I want to control things. And it definitely means that when I feel a nudge that I’m pretty sure is Holy Spirit trying to convince me to do something, I should listen… But all of those things feed into the goal of being Present. So in 2019, wherever I am, that’s where you’ll find me. I promise it’s less nomadic than that makes it sound.

What’s your word for 2019? Do you set goals? Do you make resolutions? Do you stick to them…..

Deep Thoughts…. (this is not a book review)

As tends to be the case, I get a wee bit introspective right before I get on an airplane. I jet off tomorrow to rejoin my family in the great land of the Canadian West, and I’m thrilled.

School ended today. And by ended, I definitely mean took a hiatus until January 7th. So there’s that. And that never really feels real until about 3:30 pm the day it happens. So we’re four hours out and it feels real now.

I’m packed, my bags are by the door. I’ve unpacked and repacked my carry-on approximately 6 times, in 2 different bags, trying to make it fit the best and avoid having to leave the camera behind. One does not travel to the Rocky Mountains without a camera (or if they do I just don’t understand). My suitcase is done with the exception of the toothbrush and toothpaste that I will still need tonight, and by some Christmas miracle managed to come in not only under the 50 pound limit, but under FOURTY pounds…. on the first try…. I didn’t have to repack it one single time! I don’t believe this has ever happened before.

The dog is at her home away from home and my house feels empty, but I know she’s well taken care of.

And lastly, I’ve convinced myself that the dream I had earlier this week about having to land the airplane on the Saskatchewan River was utter nonsense, and I’ve shoved my passport in my purse and I’m ready to get up at 3:45 am (that’s not true. I’m never ready for that. I’m theoretically ready, but not emotionally haha).

But I’ve been having some deep thoughts these past couple of weeks. I’ve just been amazed at how powerful our brains are. At all of the processes that run seemingly without thought in the background and we don’t have to “think” about it.

If you’re reading this without breaking down the chunks of each word and having to use what you know about letters and sounds, blends, diphthongs, digraphs, and ridiculous English vowel rules (yes, I teach English for a living, you caught me haha), then your brain is running so many automatic processes. I got the chance earlier in the week to do a read-aloud to a couple of classes. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that because I’m in more of a support role and I just don’t get the opportunity that often. So when the classroom teacher I was working with asked if I wanted to read The Grinch for the activity she was running so that she could watch and assess her kids, I was thrilled to. Now, I know the story of the Grinch. But that didn’t change the fact that my brain knows what to do with the letters, the punctuation, the stresses, and the tone with which the story needed to be presented. How cool is reading!? Writing is much the same way. I don’t have to think about many words anymore, and the structures that form good sentences come pretty naturally. Our brains are incredible! I just wish I knew how to bottle this skill up and find an easy way to deliver it to the kids I support and teach. Anyway, I’m rambling.

But we’re all so different. Where I am amazed by my brain’s ability to read quickly; play the piano using only guitar chords, which to many people look like random letters on a page; play the violin without looking at music; and type without looking at the keyboard while carrying on a conversation (this blows 5th graders’ minds, you should try it sometime!), other people may not have these automatic processes nailed down but can mentally solve math problems or have incredible spatial reasoning skills. They can picture something in their minds and draw it (well — that’s where this skill loses me :p ). They can look at something and innately understand how it works.

Our brains are so cool!

I’m so thankful that our brains are so incredible, and that God has given each of us something that we’re great at and that runs seemingly effortlessly in the background.

I listened to a talk once, I can’t remember where. But it was called something along the lines of Everyone is Incredible at Something. It’s so true. You and I may not have the same skill sets, but we each have something wonderful to offer. It reminds me of the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 that talks about the body having many parts, and that each part is important because what would our bodies be like if we were all hands? I love how diverse humanity is.

Does your brain ever blow its own mind? (haha that sentence sounds ridiculous….) Are you ever amazed at the things you’re able to do without thinking about them first? If you’ve never thought about it, I encourage you to give it some thought. What are you incredible at that not everyone is? What do you bring to the table that the world needs? And if you follow Jesus, how are you using those things to give Him all the Glory?

Merry Christmas! I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Deep Thoughts with Laura.

The Cost of Betrayal

This book was a collection of three novellas, all by authors I love, so of course I was thrilled to get a chance to review it.  Dee Henderson is a veteran mystery/suspense writer, and she does it very well, with excellent character development.  I think that mostly comes from how much conversation she allows her characters to have.  I almost feel like I’m watching a movie rather than reading a book at times, as I imagine the characters dialoguing back and forth. 

In Dee Henderson’s novella “Betrayal,” Janelle Roberts is freed–thanks to people she doesn’t know–after serving six years of a twenty-year sentence for a murder she did not commit. But a murderer is still at large, and Janelle needs to be somewhere safe with someone she can trust. She may not survive another betrayal.

If you’re familiar with the works of Dee Henderson, you’ll be glad to continue to get to know characters Ann and Paul Falcon a bit better, but also get to know new characters like Janelle.  I’ve read several of Henderson’s books, and though the characters show up multiple times in different capacities throughout other books, I don’t think you’ll be lost if this is your first exposure to her writing.  I hope it won’t be your last, though!  I loved this story, and can’t imagine what it would be like to be Janelle Roberts, in prison for six years for a murder you didn’t commit, then being pardoned by people you’ve never met through bizarre happenstance circumstances.  It would be so overwhelming, and Henderson wrote that piece into Janelle’s character very well.  I hope to see this set of characters pop back in and out of future books!

In Dani Pettrey’s “Deadly Isle,” Tennyson Kent is trapped on the isolated island of her childhood by a storm surge, and she is shocked when the typically idyllic community turns into the hunting grounds of a murderer. Cut off from any help from the mainland, will she and first love Callen Frost be able to identify and stop a killer bent on betrayal before they become the next victims?

This wasn’t my first Dani Pettrey book either.  As I mentioned, I love all three authors.  This one, however, is more of a stand-alone than the other two.  These are characters I didn’t know, but still grew to love quickly.  Tenny and Callen are resilient and they’re fighters, and they had a LOT to fight for and through throughout this novella that kept me coming back for more and needing to know what happened next.  Pettrey is a master suspense writer — don’t start this book or this story at night if you need to get up early!  You won’t want to stop once you’ve started. 

I love the background details that Pettrey provides, even for secondary characters.  You really feel like you’re watching the story unfold this way, and especially when the story has as little time to develop as a novella usually does, this is a valuable skill in a writer’s toolbox.

In Lynette Eason’s “Code of Ethics,” trauma surgeon Ruthie St. John saves the life of Detective Isaac Martinez. After a betrayal leads to him getting shot and then attacked while in recovery, Isaac is now a key witness determined to testify. But someone is intent on silencing him–and those around him–forever. Together, Ruthie and Isaac go on the run, desperate to escape the killers hunting him.

(book blurbs copied from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38502342-the-cost-of-betrayal)

On this one, having read other books with the St. John characters in them, I would recommend reading after reading some of Lynette Eason’s other books.  It likely could stand alone just fine, as Eason does an excellent job of filling in pertinent information as it’s relevant to the story line of her current book.  But you’ll know so much more about the secondary characters, who’ve all had bigger roles and even story lines of their own in other books. Other books in this series (Blue Justice) include Oath of Honor, Called to Protect, and Code of Valor (which releases January 2019).

I really enjoyed this look into the life of Ruthie St. John, as well as the reappearance of several other St. John characters.  Not that I was surprised, but this was yet another story in a collection that kept me thirsting to know how everything was going to wrap itself together.  Was everything going to work out?  Would there be tragedy?  Heart break?  Was everyone going to make it?  Eason’s tagline on her own website (https://lynetteeason.com/) is “Infinite Suspense” and I’ve yet to read a book of hers that didn’t deliver on that promise.  For other great Lynette Eason finds, check out the Elite Guardians series.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection very much.  It’s a quick read, especially since you can’t possibly get bored of plots or characters when the stories move so quickly and only last for a third of the book.  My only negative, and it’s barely even one at that, is that novellas, by very nature of what they are (short novels), wrap up too quickly.  You just start to feel like the story is in full swing, and you’re at the height of conflict and suspense, and it all comes crashing to an end and wraps things up.  It sure leaves you thirsting for more in that series and from that author though, so I’d call it a sound marketing strategy 😉

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

A Secret to Die For

Sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference between truth and paranoia.

Psychologist Grace Callahan has no idea that she has a secret–one worth killing for. But when she finds out one of her clients has been murdered, she quickly realizes that the computer security specialist wasn’t simply suffering from paranoia.

Detective Nate Quinn has just been cleared for active duty after a bombing killed eighteen people, including his partner, and left him dealing with PTSD. His first case back on the job involves the murder of Stephen Shaw, and his only lead turns out to be an old friend, Grace Callahan–and her life is in grave danger. Someone believes Shaw gave his psychologist information before he died. Information they are willing to kill for.

With her signature pulse-pounding suspense, Lisa Harris takes readers deep into the heart of fear in this race against the clock.


Please allow me to start this review by confessing that I am not a paranoid person.  Anxious?  Fairly.  Paranoid?  Nope.  But this book is so well written that it spun me into the “what ifs” and the “could that really happens” that I’m sure were precisely the author’s intent.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Lisa Harris.  She’s a brilliant writer, and I’ll keep coming back for more, without a doubt, but I feel like I should warn you that this may not be a book you want to read laying in bed.  It will keep you up.  Both because you’ll need to know what happens next, but also because you’ll be afraid of what life could look like if the things in Lisa’s book really did come true.  It all felt a little too possible and a little too real.  It swallowed me right in.

As usual, Harris’s books move at a rapid-fire pace, with the opening scene full of suspense and not really letting up until the end.  That said, if I had to find a fault with this book, the only thing I think I would offer is that it does wrap up quickly.  One moment, you’ll find yourself wondering how this can ever be resolved, and then a few pages later it will be.  It’ll be done, finished, and concluded, and your head will shake a bit and you’ll go “oh!” and then have a book hangover. 

All this to say, I highly recommend “A Secret to Die For,” and if you’ve read it, I invite you to recommend it in the comments as well.  A big thanks goes out to Lisa Harris for continuing to write edge of your seat scenes with characters you can both relate to and care deeply about, right from the onset of a story.

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

It’s Okay Not to be Okay

This book hit me kind of hard.  There were many, many nuggets of wisdom throughout.  Written by Sheila Walsh, this is an author who can drive very important points home in a way that sinks in, but does so without alienating the reader and making you feel judged or condemned.

Taglined “Moving forward one day at a time” this book was full of wisdom and tips to lean into our hard parts in life and really embrace who we are in God.

We’ve all experienced that moment where we wish we could start all over again. Failed marriages, lost friends, addictions, lost jobs. This is not the life we imagined. Yesterday can sometimes leave us stuck, sad, shamed, scared, and searching. Sheila Walsh encourages readers to face the pain head on and then start again, from right where they are. She shares that when she discovered “I’m not good enough and I’m good with that,” everything started to change.

In It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, Walsh helps women overcome the same old rut of struggles and pain by changing the way they think about God, themselves, and their everyday lives. She shares practical, doable, daily strategies that will help women move forward one step at a time knowing God will never let them down.

There are many quotable parts of this book, and I wish I could share them all with you, but that wouldn’t be fair to Sheila Walsh because she’d have written a book that no one who read my review will buy, haha.


But here are a few:

“Think about it for a moment. How many times do you feel like you’re not enough?  It makes me wonder were we got the idea of what “enough” is.” (p. 22)

“It’s okay not to be okay because we’re not home yet.
It’s okay not to be enough because God doesn’t ask us to be.” (p. 24 — whoa…. this is a point that was hammered home throughout the book and it has the potential to be SO freeing!)

“It might feel more ‘Christian’ not to bring our anger, pain, or disappointment to God, but I believe it’s actually the antithesis of a real relationship with Christ.  We become a little less authentic with every experience we bury.” (p. 40)

“We’re not perfect, but we are redeemed, so give yourself a break.” (p. 70)


I won’t quote any more, because most of the profound wisdom I have underlined and have drawn arrows to in the book are more powerful when kept in context of the stories Walsh uses to illustrate her points.

Filled with scriptures, this book will settle into your hurt places, and, if you let it, it might convince you to open yourself up to the idea that it’s ok not to be ok, and we were never meant to be enough.

I encourage you to check this book out.  It wiggled its way right into the core of me and whispered soft, comforting words to a heart that needed to hear them.

(As an aside, I read this book a little differently than I’ve read others.  I have a long commute and a subscription to unlimited audio books, so I listened to it while driving, but then to really sink in the points, every day when I got home I read through the chapters I’d listened to that day and underlined everything that stuck out.  So essentially, I read the book twice.  I actually really enjoyed doing it this way because listening to Sheila read this book was like having a deep conversation with a good friend.  Plus, her Scottish accent is great fun to listen to!)


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

Little Women (2018)

Confession:  I’ve never seen nor read any previous version of Little Women.  Please don’t tar and feather me.  I apologize profusely on behalf of my lack of culture.

That said, I was given a chance to review this current version of Little Women, a modern retelling based on the classic book by Louisa May Alcott.  Apparently this year is the 150th anniversary of the original book, so of course it was time for a modern re-imagining of this story.

I was hesitant, because often modernization ruins a story.  But then I shook my head and realized that I haven’t seen or read the original story, so I’m a blank slate and can objectively review this movie on its own merits and not hold it to a standard set 150 years ago, haha.

At any rate, this movie was beautiful.  I’ve been accused a few times in my life of having a heart of stone and no romantic bones in my body (thanks Sharon, if you’re reading this lol!) because I don’t cry at sappy movies and stories don’t usually work me up.  This one got through the walls, though, and it hooked me all the way in and you’d better believe I cried.  And if you’re familiar with the story (like everyone but me seems to be), you’ll know exactly the couple of spots that got me.  What a beautiful story of family and sisters and dreams, and what you can accomplish when you stay true to yourself and your hopes.

This is a great modern twist on an old classic, and I hope that those of you who are purists and want your classics left well enough alone will be gracious and give it a chance.

Check out the trailer:

I invite you to watch it, and please do reach out and tell me what you thought!  I’ll have to watch an older version (I hear the Winona Ryder one is good?) or read the book to compare, but I did really like this version.  I thought it was well written and well acted, even though sometimes I find Lea Thompson can be overly sweet.  She did a great job with this role.

Unfortunately I seem to have missed it being in theatres 😦 and I’m really sorry my review wasn’t out soon enough for that to happen, but hopefully when it comes out on video you’ll get a chance to sit down with some girlfriends and have a good cry.  Or better yet, watch it with your sisters (if you have them).

Thanks to Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Faith Films for providing me with an advanced screening link.