Soul Winter and a dash of Summer


Friends, if you know me, it is no secret that winter and I are not friends.  Winter came hard this year, and it had a death grip.  It refused to let go.  I’ve been teaching for a decade, and while there was the odd freak ice storm April 1st here and there that gave us a snow day because the roads were just too slippery, I’ve never had one April 16th.  Two weeks ago, that’s all it was.  Two weeks ago winter got its final battle cry in before it finally started to let go, and even then, it didn’t immediately release its grip.  We hung on in the very low single digits for almost another week.

But today, all of a sudden, it was 26 degrees, and the sun shone brilliantly.  The birds are chirping, the trees are finally thinking it might be safe to try to grow some leaves.  Barbecues are firing up, lawns are growing, I’ve had my bike out twice, I read in the hammock until I get cold, and I drove all the way home from work this afternoon with my arm out the driver’s side window.  Spring is here.  Arguably we may have jumped it and gone right to summer, but in my corner of the earth it isn’t really summer without 90% humidity, so we aren’t there yet.

There are many things I love about summer — the barbecues, the fires, the fireworks, the hammocks, the HEAT, the seasonal fruit (I could live off of peaches, concord grapes, strawberries, pears, and watermelon — and I nearly do for the whole summer, because for ten months at a time these things are imported from either America or Mexico because it’s too frigid to grow them here, and they’re just. not. the. same.)…. the BEACH.  This girl’s feet were made to dig into sand, and while it’s not the nicest water, you’ll find me on the shores of Lake Erie at any given opportunity.  I am itching for it.  This winter felt so long in so many ways, and I am longing for beaches, long days, parties and barbecues and fires… all of it.  My bare feet won’t be in a real pair of shoes again until October at least, you have my word (except to play volleyball or ride my bike).

But I’ve been in a season that has perpetually felt like winter for a long time — it’s been gloomy and dark and grey.  I’ve heard it referred to as “Soul Winter,” and at this point I don’t think I have any other words for it.  This may have less intrinsic meaning for those who love snow and crisp, cold mornings.  For those who thrive on the chill of Arctic air coming into your lungs and who live to hit the slopes and play in powder.  I am not one of those people.

What I personally experience after a long winter, I feel like my soul has been experiencing for a little over a year now, and it’s been very hard to put words to it because I don’t like to be still.  I don’t like to reflect on my feelings, sit with my thoughts, or face my fears.  I don’t enjoy being alone, and seeing as I live alone, you can imagine the frenetic pace that this would create for my life.  Last Easter I came to a place where I think my soul had finally had enough.  I tell myself that the ordeal was precipitated by too much caffeine, and I’m sure that that didn’t help, but what I know that I learned about myself in the aftermath is that I can’t manage the pace I’ve been living at…. but I haven’t done anything about it.

Because to sit with my feelings and face them is scary.  And to be alone, and still, and silent…. it means I have to.  And I don’t like that.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I really sat in silence.  Sure, I tell myself there are times when I’m silent — if I clean the house with no music on, that’s pretty silent.  When I lay in the hammock reading, that’s pretty silent.  But I was out there about half an hour ago, and that’s what prompted me to come in here and write.  It was silent for about two minutes.  There was peace and stillness and calm, and I laid in the hammock and didn’t even open the book.  I just basked in the silence.  The people around me might be right — I might need it more than I know.  But it didn’t take long before a motorcycle ripped down the street, my dog barked at the neighbour’s cat for being in her line of vision, and my neighbours came out to their porch to grill their dinner, turning on their radio and cranking some cheesy 90s pop music.  There went my silence.  And then I remembered that the beach, though I love it so deeply, isn’t much better, unless you go when it isn’t busy at all (aka on a weekday morning before school has let out) — because kids run around and screech while they love every second, and teenagers show up with their music pumping, and people fill in all around my sanctuary of space.  None of this is inherently bad, but if it’s silence I’m looking for, a public beach at a Provincial Park is not likely going to be where I find it.  If I’m being honest, I think the last time I let myself be alone, and silent, and just sit — somewhere I didn’t have my phone and I couldn’t hear other people or commotion — it had to have been last summer.  My parents live at a retreat centre at the beginning of the Rocky Mountains.  I just can’t even.  So last July sometime, I parked myself in the gazebo and sat alone and thought….. and I honestly can’t remember letting myself do it since.

One day, by myself, I hiked my way down to the river and I let my feet sit in frigid glacier water while I listened to only birds.  That day, I got time to process my feelings and my thoughts.

But the scary thing is, I haven’t really done it since.  Sure, I’ve had thoughts pop into my head, but I’ve shoved them away.  I read The Best Yes last winter.  I’ve listened to Podcasts and Audio Books.  I heard all the things about learning to say no and carving out space for my soul to breathe.  But I’m learning something I already knew.  There’s a dramatic difference between hearing and listening, between being aware and letting something sink down in deep.

I don’t want to talk about things that aren’t fun, and I don’t want to process them.  At best, I may process them with my therapist, because she has a unique ability to stop me from catastrophizing, but if I process them on my own, there’s no one to stop me, and the what ifs and the but what abouts will all come in a rush.

I was hesitant to even sit down and write this.  It’s daunting.  But I haven’t even really written anything more than book reviews since last winter either, because I process when I write.  I often don’t know what I think about something until I’ve written it down.  So a healthier version of me would be blogging or journaling all. the. time… But I’m not.  I keep the free book train rolling by writing reviews, but otherwise I tend to shove post ideas to the depths of my soul too.

I don’t know what’s different about today.  I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, which, while so beautifully written as to make it a very easy read in theory, is impacting me so deeply that I can only take it in small chunks.  I’d borrowed the book from a friend, and two chapters in I wanted to write all over it SO BADLY because I just know this will be a book I read again.  I don’t have many of those, but I’ll come back to this.  And like it was meant to be, the next day, I found it in beautiful, pristine, hard-cover condition at a used book sale for 2.50.  I gave my friend back her copy and mine is now well loved and irreparably damaged, all at the same time.

I think it might finally be time to lean in.  I’m ready to pray and process, to think and grow.  I’m going to need to find some silence, because my pastor has said it, my therapist has said it, my home church has said it, and my current book choice (which I’ve wanted to read for a LONG time) is saying it…. and my soul is crying from somewhere way deep down saying “please!  yes!  yes to this but not yes to everything that’s thrown your way!”  In Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about how we’re the only ones who get to control what our lives turns out like in this way.  So if it’s frantic and hurried, frenetic and stressed, too stretched to really be enjoyable…. that’s no one’s fault but mine.  My soul is ready for winter to end.  My soul is ready to bloom and thrive and flourish like it’s summer, but I suspect it can only do that if I give it space to.  I think I need to give it some silence.  I think it needs room to breathe.

Advertisements

Judah’s Wife | A Book Review


It’s not often that I find a book I don’t love, but this one fits that category.  I typically know what I like, and I have a pretty good idea that something sounds interesting before I pick it up.  I’m not even completely sure why I didn’t like all of it, if I’m completely honest.  There were definitely parts that I did like, but it’s not something I grieved over finishing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was well written.  I felt many feelings in relation to those characters, and the characters were well developed.  The plot flowed well, and the story line made a lot of sense.

What I did really like, and what drew me into the book in the first place, was the historical setting — set in that vague in-between time between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the “silent years” — scholars say something like 400 years? — I was very interested to learn a little bit more about the way of life, being a pretty big historical fiction nerd.  It was very interesting to read about Jerusalem during the time of Alexander the Great.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find I don’t often connect the Biblical history to the Classical history and what I know about the two of them.  It never seems to occur to me that they would coincide, although obviously they have to.  I loved that part.  The story sets up the story of the Maccabees and the history around Hanukkah, which I did find fascinating.

Again, I can’t say that I loved it, despite it being well-written.  I’ve liked other works by Angela Hunt as well!  I’m just not sure.  I even waited a while after finishing to write the review, hoping it would come to me, but it hasn’t.  It took me a long time to finish the book, too.  Almost a month, actually.  And that’s not like me.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has tried this book, and what you thought of it?

 

Seeking quiet and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she’ll have peace. But the very nation Judah was named for has been conquered by a cruel king, who decrees that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws or risk death for following the laws of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands Judah to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of Israel. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

Judah's Wife

 

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

 

Free of Me


It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.

 

What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

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

free of me

2018 — An obligatory New Year’s Day post


It is 2018.  It is January 1st.  Actually, in the time zone I inhabit, by the time I’ve hit publish on this post, it’ll likely be January 2nd.  Thankfully, I’m currently chilling in the Rockies and Mountain Standard Time has gifted me with two whole extra hours — something I’m thankful for tonight, but was annoyed by at this time last night as I set myself a reminder alarm to remember to text my Ontario peeps at 10 pm to wish THEM a Happy New Year!

Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Yes; it’s 2018.  Nothing really feels like it’s changed from yesterday.  But yet, so much has, hasn’t it?  We do this yearly.  We wait til January 1st to start things.  We spend the last week of December eating all the junk food in our houses in hopes to start fresh January 1st.  I was a day late with this silly plan and made my last bag of chips my personal mission for today.

happy-new-year-meme-2018

Source

But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Futility doesn’t have to be our best friend as we launch into every single new year.  New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a to-do list that extends no further than the first week of January.

In the fall of 2016, my dear friend Rachel sent me a link to this thing she’d heard of called Power Sheets.  Lara Casey and her team make them over at Cultivate What Matters.  It’s designed for intentional life planning.  Intentional goal setting.  Progress.  Not perfection.  Rachel and I dove right in.  We each ordered a set and split the shipping (since it has to come from the States and the shipping is steep), and we dug in.  (This year 6 of us ordered and split shipping — highly recommend this if you’re Canadian and want your hands on a set!)  We did the prep work while discussing all of our goals together, and we were ready over the course of about a month of intentional thinking, planning, and praying to meet 2017 head on.  For me, it felt like 2017 was going to be the year I finally got my act together and stopped making resolutions I couldn’t keep.  Resolutions I knew even as I made them I wouldn’t keep.  But it’s what we do, right?

PowerSheets_Goal_Planner

Source

I can’t say that my Power Sheets were overwhelmingly life-changing in 2017.  Though maybe I can — it’s hard to achieve perspective since I don’t have a 2017 without Power Sheets to compare it to.  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t the productive year I’d hoped it to be.  The entire point to Power Sheets is to set goals, track your tending lists, make progress, and cover yourself in grace when you fall short of your own expectations.  After all, we don’t keep pushing into what we want to change when we feel defeated and like it’s hopeless, do we?  Progress.  Not perfection.  But I know they made some difference.  I was able to measure growth in some areas.  Some were more stubborn than others, and I’ve had to re-evaluate what I really wanted to see change in this year to make sure that I was choosing the right goals.  But more importantly, I’ve had to evaluate the why for my goals.  Why am I choosing this?  Am I choosing “be healthier” because I think people will like me more?  Or am I choosing it because I actually want health and I want to be able to do things I’ve only ever dreamed of — like learn to surf.  The prep work at the beginning of the planner for each year asks big questions and makes you look deep into the whys, and I know I got to the root of some of my wishes for 2018.

I don’t have my 2017 book with me.  I don’t have the list of goals I chose for 2017 with me because they’re in my book, and they’re in Ontario, and I am not.  But I do have the goals I’ve chosen for 2018, and I’d like to share them with you.  I’d like to be a little bit vulnerable and put them out into the air for the blogosphere to read.  This year, I’ve chosen bigger, over-arching goals.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to Power Sheets users where a couple people have referred to them as “umbrella goals.”  They’re more like a topic where I want to do some work in my life this year, and then the more specific goals (which I have a lot of for 2018) will work their way into my monthly, weekly, and daily check-lists for each month.

Without further ado, here are my umbrella goals for 2018:

  1. Finances ~ Saving and not spending needlessly.  Obviously each month will have specific targets for this.  I’d been working on it throughout 2017 as well, and with some careful planning and some good timing, I managed to pay off a pile of debt in May, and have been relishing in the freedom of that ever since.  Can I recommend You Need A Budget (YNAB) to you?  Seriously, it changed my life in March of 2016.  Jesse Mecham, the creator, has written a book and it just released last week.  It’s on my list of things to do in January.
  2. Spiritual Growth ~ Depth.  I want a relationship with Jesus that is marked by reliance, listening, and trust.  That doesn’t come from just thinking about it and hoping it comes.
  3. Fun ~ Responsible Fun; Not running to fun to escape uncomfortable emotions.  This felt like a funny goal, but through a lot of introspection this year I’ve discovered something I don’t really love about myself.  Where I’d perpetually thought I just liked to have fun, it dawned on me that I’m prone to running to fun as soon as I don’t want to deal with something that doesn’t seem fun.  Awkward relationship situation?  I run away.  Work sucks?  I want to switch jobs — it isn’t fun!  Pain?  No fun.  Let’s go on vacation instead.  Where I want to goal-set around fun this year is to make sure it’s not my escape, as much as it is something that is just necessary to live.
  4. Mental Health — This is something I began to take very seriously in 2017, as I battled some anxiety that it turned out had been simmering just beneath my surface for a long time, and I’d never dealt with it.  I’ve started seeing a counselor, and I honestly can’t recommend a professional therapist enough — seriously.  You get to talk about yourself for an hour, and you don’t have to do anyone the social courtesy of listening back to them.  My goals here revolve around leaning into stress and anxiety and the situations that cause them so that I continue to get better at managing and reducing both of these things.
  5. Leadership — I am a leader.  For better or for worse, I’m in leadership positions in my church and at work.  I’m not sure how this happened.  I’m honestly not sure how I got here.  But people see potential in me, and I’d like to harness it for good!
  6. Health — this one is so common.  How many of us set healthy lifestyle New Year’s resolutions?  This one could be a whole post for me, but it’s a very raw spot at the moment, so… nope!  That doesn’t sound fun!
  7. Creativity — Brene Brown once said in a podcast interview I was listening to her on (For the Love with Jen Hatmaker) that “Unused creativity is not benign.”  It hit me to my core.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write but have been too afraid people wouldn’t buy it.  I’ve wanted to paint but have been self-conscious because I’m not as good as someone else.  I’ve wanted to be a better musician but again, compare myself to others and always fall short.  But if unused creativity is harmful to me, then this needs intentional work as well.
  8. Bravery.  It has occurred to me that I am not that brave.  I’m a pretty big chicken, actually.  So 2018 needs to hone in on some of those areas where I could use some bravery the most.  I read Annie F. Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave” (buy it on Amazon here) in November, and I cried through parts of it.  I’m so ready to be brave.  So ready.  I highly recommend the book, but if you’re determined to stay seated in. your comfort zone, it may not be for you.  I’m doing her 100 Days to Brave devotional starting as soon as I get home (as it’s arrived in Ontario before I have).
  9. Adventure — I thrive on this.  It’s linked to my fun, and it’s linked to my finances.  I found a lot of my goals are linked to each other — I actually created a very messy flow chart that reflects that!  But I will have adventure based goals.  Where will I travel next?  Europe is calling — Scandinavia?  The South of France?  Switzerland (the land of my ancestral people)?  Who knows?
  10. Relationships — This is not just the romantic kind — though that’s pretty intrinsically linked to bravery.  I want to be intentional.  I want to be present.  I want to be brave.  In all of my relationships.

 

And there you have it.  My over-arching umbrella goals.

Do you set goals?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  If you’ve been a successful Power Sheets user, I’d love to hear from you!  I really want them to help me make big changes this year!

Even if you don’t use Power Sheets, I highly recommend both of Lara Casey’s books.  They’re less intensive than using Power Sheets, but still give you lots of great tips and encouragement for living a more intentional life.  Get Make It Happen on Amazon here, and get Cultivate on Amazon here.

Heart on the Line


Two years ago today, actually, I wrote a review on my first Karen Witemeyer book.  It was SO good!  Well, my second Karen Witemeyer book was no different.  I’m not usually a “devour a book in 30 hours” kind of reader.  Granted, it IS summer, and I AM on vacation, but I digress — it usually takes me at least a week to knock one off.

I loved this book.  So very much.

Witemeyer has a knack, as far as I can tell, for crafting beautifully spunky, independent, resourceful, and clever young female characters who don’t actually need the men they come across, but are sure glad to have found someone who complements their lives nicely.  Given that she’s writing books set in the late 1800s in Texas, it’s refreshing and I love it.  The characters are easy to relate to, and they draw you in almost instantly.

There’s enough suspense and “oh no!  Now what’s gonna happen!?” in this book that I honestly could not stop reading.  I read while walking with it a couple times if I had to switch rooms for something (I don’t recommend that, folks…. it’s a trip hazard), and on the second last night of my vacation, I told my mom “I’ll get up when I get up — I’m gonna finish this book!” with about 130 pages left.  I didn’t actually finish that night, as I didn’t want to sleep away my whole last beach day, but I was sad that I had to stop.

I think my favourite part of this book was the telegraph courtship — it’s like online dating before online dating was a thing!

Apparently this is the second “Ladies of Harper’s Station” novel, so I’ll have to check out number 1 and add it to my “wish list” on Amazon — which is where I go to grab one book at a time whenever I’m not quite there for free shipping.

Here’s the synopsis for this book:

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

I highly, highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Westerns or historical fiction, but absolutely if you’re a fan of spunky, witty writing that’ll draw you in and won’t let go.

cv-heart-on-the-line

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

 

High as the Heavens


Oh my stars.  I know I start a lot of book reviews with the words “oh my stars” because I just don’t think a book can be topped, and then, sure enough, it is — but this one.  Oh my stars.

I confess, because I read a fair bit, and my books come at me for free, sometimes I forget who wrote what, and the lines between authors and book names blur.  That happened with this one.  I saw this book in a list of choices, and I saw Kate Breslin’s name, and, knowing that I’d read a book of hers before, but thinking it was a different book, and I got very excited.  Her other book I’ve read, “Not by Sight,” I found I didn’t fall in love with right away.  It definitely grew on me and I LOVED it by the end, but because of how long it had taken me to get into it, I was disappointed when I opened up High as the Heavens and saw that Kate Breslin and Sarah Sundin are not the same person.

But.  This book.  Like I said.  Oh my stars.  I couldn’t stop.  I read the first 2/3 of it in one sitting.  I was so hooked.  I don’t know if it was the time period, or if it was the World War 1 setting (World War historical fictional romance always gets me), but this book had me from page 1.  The drama and the story all built in with the intrigue and suspense and the secrets and the danger …. I don’t want to spoil any little tiny bit, but I want to tell you so much, all at the very same time!  I laid on a couch at my parents’ while on vacation and read this book for the majority of a chilly, rainy Alberta afternoon.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t stop, and I highly recommend that you pick it up for yourself and see why.

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

Source

9781441231222

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

To the Farthest Shores


I took this book everywhere with me while I was reading it.  I even got a kick out of taking some ironic pictures with the book in the basket of my bicycle with the river that’s nearly right behind my house in the background…. not exactly the farthest shore, but the book was always with me so that if I found a quiet bench in a park, I could read there, too.

18446649_10101183487893470_5629170895065231681_n

I hadn’t read an Elizabeth Camden book before, though when I mentioned it to a friend, I was informed that Camden is an excellent author, and if you like historical fiction (which I do), I’d love all of her books.

I can’t say that To The Farthest Shores played out how I was expecting — in fact, it truly didn’t, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.  I never once knew what was coming, and right up until the end I couldn’t figure out how it was going to wrap up.  I have high levels of respect for an author who can not only create likeable characters, but also deliver an engaging plot line AND make it clear that she knows her historical stuff.  I’d hope that Camden does, given her credentials as a Research Librarian with Masters degrees in both History and Library Science.

It turns out to be a beautiful love story about reconciling past to present, forgiveness, and perseverance.  Camden weaves all of the elements together fluidly, and once I got into this book, I didn’t want to stop.

Naval officer Ryan Gallagher broke Jenny’s heart six years ago when he abruptly disappeared. Now he’s returned but refuses to discuss what happened. Furious, Jenny has no notion of the impossible situation Ryan is in. With lives still at risk, he can’t tell Jenny the truth about his overseas mission-but he can’t bear to lose her again either.

I highly recommend this book, and now I’m off to add some Elizabeth Camden to my Amazon “saved for later” cart 🙂

30259049

 

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

(re)union ~ by Bruxy Cavey


Because I am a book fiend, and because I have a source that hooks me up with books already, I was overjoyed to discover that I had the chance to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Bruxy Cavey’s latest book, (re)union — The good news of Jesus for seekers, saints, and sinners.  I’ve read Bruxy’s other book, The End of Religion, and I loved it, but this takes everything to a whole new level.

I go to the church that Bruxy is the teaching pastor at, The Meeting House, so I can assure you that this book reads very authentically like he’s just speaking to you.  He’s so passionate about spreading the Gospel, and about making sure it’s clearly understood, and that certainly comes across in this book.  Bruxy succeeds at epic levels in making the Gospel clear.  I’ve grown up in the church.  I’ve grown up in this denomination.  But it’s never been laid out more clearly to me than in this book, and it’ll be one I read again (which doesn’t happen often).

What I love most about this book, apart from it being so abundantly clear, is how warm and inviting the call to follow Jesus is from start to finish.  But even while laying out theology, at times fairly heavy theology, Bruxy makes it feel like he’s having a casual conversation that is very easy to understand.  It’s light, it’s funny — It felt like having coffee with Bruxy.  I’ve never done that, so I can’t 100% compare it, but it was a very easy read despite how much it made me think.  My walk with Jesus, even though it’s been a 28ish year walk already, has deepened after reading this book.

I found an almost eerie personal connection while I was reading.  There’s a part in the book that talks about Jesus understanding whatever we’ll go through on this earth, because He came to earth to be human, to be one of us, even though he was also God.  There’s empathy there that I don’t see being possible to claim in any other worldview or religion.  As I was reading, you know how sometimes your eyes dart across to the next page and you’re disappointed because your eyes have skipped chunks?  Well, this book came into my life at a time when I desperately needed it.  If you know me, you get it.  If you don’t, well, you’ll have to trust me, cuz that’s a post for another time.  But I digress.  When Bruxy’s explaining that Jesus empathizes with us, He gets us, and He knows what we’re going through, because He’s experienced it here on earth, he starts to illustrate his point with a story about a woman named Laura.  He says as he’s explaining the story, “You know, Laura, I get you.”  Now, I know that Bruxy was writing, and that he was writing about a different woman named Laura, but I wept.  That Jesus gets me was one of those theological things that I knew, but I didn’t know it.  It hadn’t sunk in past head knowledge and made it to heart knowledge.  (I regret that the English language doesn’t have two different words for knowing, like French does — I wrote a post on that earlier, check it out here — When English Fails ( … or why I got baptized twice)).

In short, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Whether you’re seeking and wonder if Jesus might be the answer, whether you think He’s the answer but you’re not sure you’re good enough, or whether you’ve been walking the road with Jesus for years… or any scenario in between — this book will find you where you’re at and show you the Good News of Jesus in a way that is both concise and informative, and easy to understand, but also innately relational and personal, even though it was written for an audience of many.

Pick up your copy on Amazon, at Chapters, at other bookstores (I’m sure), or, come find us at a Meeting House site, where since it’s just been released, we’ll likely have copies.  We’d love to have you check us out.

41UbJk1Y59L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Book has been provided courtesy of Menno Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

If I Could… (this book lover’s dream book conference)


If I could choose a panel of my favourite authors, and I got to invite them to speak at a conference that I designed, oh the fun that I could have…

 

I had to mull this one over, because there are a few ways I could spin this, but I think I’ve nailed it down….

My ideal book conference would be two days long, and there would be vendors and publishers everywhere at the conference centre for the two days.  We’d be at some big, fancy hotel in Toronto, or even somewhere nicer (which wouldn’t be hard).  During each day of the conference, there would be workshops that you could sign up for in advance, on many, many topics.

Some such topics might include:  Publishing your first novel; How to create meaningful character arcs; Narrative nonfiction; How to Write an Engaging Travel Essay; Blogging; Creative Writing; The Autobiography; The Biography; Editing; Self Publishing; Networking and Making Good Contacts; What To Do When Someone Says No; Poetry… and the opportunities here are endless.

It would likely have to be marketed as a women’s conference, as you’ll find when I get to the end of this day-dreamy post that all the authors are women, and gear their writing toward women, but if men wanted to join, they’d be more than welcome.

Mixed in with the vendors, there would also be publishers kicking around who are looking for fresh talent.  They’d be at booths, accepting manuscripts for review.  There would be contests to enter manuscripts into, in all sorts of genres.  Book lovers would be in their glory.

Scattered around the Conference Grounds would be “Reading Nooks” where you could take one of the many books you’d bought at the conference, and curl up in a big, comfy chair that enveloped your entire body, and read for an hour or two.  Meals would even have a brown bag option, so that you could take it to go, and go curl up with a book while you ate.

Keynote conference panels would happen on Friday night, and on Saturday night.  And the vendors and publishers’ booths, which were open Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, and until noon on Sunday, would all close down to encourage people to go listen.

My two panels would be these:

  1. Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Ann Voskamp, Lysa TerKeurst, Holley Gerth would all unite to talk about being women in the church.  Each woman has a unique twist and spin to their views, but they all have very valuable things to say, and an audience of Christian women who needs to be encouraged.  Especially by Sarah Bessey.  In fact, I might let her speak on being a woman in the church on Sunday morning, before I sent everyone back to their homes, their lives, and their families.
  2. Irene Hannon, Sarah Sundin, Lisa Harris, Dani Pettrey, Dee Henderson, Lynette Eason, and Sandra Orchard would each explain their path to being successful romantic suspense writers, and they’d talk about the elements necessary in a suspenseful novel that keeps you craving the end of the book, but yet hooked enough on the journey that you would never DARE look to the end of the book to find out what happens.  They would talk about how to research your characters and your storylines well, particularly in the context of historical fiction like Sarah Sundin’s, so that a reader with knowledge on the time period or the topic, even on the setting, wouldn’t be able to find major holes in your story.  Attendees would be able to submit questions online ahead of time, maybe via Twitter, or something a little less instantaneous like a Google Form.  It would be included in the registration process — if you had a question, you could ask it, and it might be answered by one of the panel members.

Finally, and we mustn’t forget this…… the Meet and Greets!  Each author from each of the two panels would have booths, and upon registration you could select your top 4 authors, and be scheduled a meet and greet with two of them at some point during the conference.  To pick the brain of Ann Voskamp and find out what it really means to be living a life full of thankfulness… or of Jen Hatmaker, and talk about what it really means to live out love in your community… or of Sarah Bessey, to find out more about the journey this fellow Canadian took on the road to embracing her Biblical womanhood.  In the sense that it was intended.  You could chat with Dee Henderson, and find out how to weave a character’s story through several novels, without that character being the primary focus of a book.  Or you could have coffee with Irene Hannon, and discover how to switch from straight up romance to romantic suspense, without leaving your readers wishing you’d just stuck to what you were really good at.

OH!  And the conference would be small-ish, because in order to guarantee the meet and greet schedule it would have to be.  It would probably be outlandishly expensive, and not profitable for all those vendors and publishers, but hey…. a girl can dream, right?

 

 

I was approached to write this post by a contact from Eventbrite, “the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world that helps people find and plan events and conferences.”  (Her description).  I was asked who my favourite author was.  If I could choose a few to put on a panel and have them talk to a crowd, who would I choose?  What would we talk about?

I was given free rein over the post, and all ideas are my own.

God’s Not Dead 2 ~ a Review


I was recently given the opportunity to watch and review God’s Not Dead 2.  In preparation for watching it, I decided to watch God’s Not Dead, because I hadn’t seen it yet.  If you haven’t seen the first, and you’re deciding whether you’d like to see God’s Not Dead 2 anyway, I encourage you that there isn’t anything in the first that you couldn’t glean from reading the IMDB synopsis that is necessary to the plot of the second.

God’s Not Dead 2 focuses on the same issue — people being asked to deny the existence of God — only this time it’s a high school history teacher whose answer to a question about Jesus lands her in trouble with her school board, and ultimately the ACLU.

Repeat characters include Martin, Reverend Dave, Reverend Jude, Amy, and The Newsboys have all come back for this sequel, and I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Martin.  I’m so glad the writers worked him back in.  Further, I haven’t seen Melissa Joan Hart (Grace) in anything since Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that when it was running, I’m pleased to say she’s grown up a lot and she was an excellent choice for this role.  Another excellent choice was Jesse Metcalfe as Tom.  He plays a lawyer who, while not a believer, will NOT give up on his fight to make sure Grace keeps her right to believe in Jesus.

The movie rang a little close to home for me, as a public elementary school teacher.  I’m reminded often (in my own thoughts) of the need to be careful and not be proselytizing, but just like in this film, there’s a line.  I’m careful not to cross it, but this film made me wonder if I shouldn’t be as careful?  That’s something I need to think through on my own, for sure.

I recommend the movie.  It will give you food for thought, as it did for me.

Here are some quotes I found pretty powerful — but you’ll have to watch the movie for context and to understand them 😉

“The thing about atheism is it doesn’t take away the pain; it just takes away the hope.”

“If we stand by and do nothing, the pressure that we feel today will be persecution tomorrow.”

“You of all people should realize, when you’re going through something really hard, the teacher is always quiet during the test.”

MV5BMjIxNTExMDk4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODM0MDczNzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_
Image Source