Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Fixer Upper: Book Reviews March 2017

A favorite pastime this past month was reading books aloud in the evenings with my husband.  We started off reading a fantasy book and ended with a memoir.  This month, we are planning on reading the Kitchen Counter Cooking School which is a book of cooking lessons.  I am looking forward to trying out some of the techniques in the book.

Each month I team up with other bloggers at Modern Ms. Darcy by writing short reviews on what we have read.  Here are my short reviews.

1.  Fantasy: King's Blood by Jill Williamson  

Noel and I were able to read an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair review.  King's Blood, the second book in Jill's Kinsman Chronicles series, picks up where King's Folly left off. The survivors of the Five Woes are sailing in unknown waters in search of land for their new home. The book is filled with intrigue, mystery, and determination as the characters decide who they will follow both in terms of the gods they will follow but also the human leader that they trust. It is a book about having faith when the odds are against you. I loved the plot twists and turns. Nothing was predictable. The characters are well developed where I loved some and hated others. I cheered for some and yelled at others.  I am looking forward to the third book in this series already.   I would suggest reading King's Folly first as each book does not stand alone.

2. Fairy Tales: Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck

In the first book, Once Upon a Prince,  Susanna is having a bad day.  Her boyfriend breaks up with her then she has an accident and hits a tree.  Lucky for her, she is rescued by a charming guy, and a friendship starts.  Little does she know her new friend is a prince.  Even though the book is similar to the movie, Prince and Me, it is a fun read with some unique characters and twists. The second book, Princess Ever After, continues the fairy tale with Regina restoring old cars only to find out she is actually a princess and a kingdom depends on her.  Okay, yeah, it sounds a lot like Princess Diaries but it was different enough to be a light, enjoyable read after a long day of teaching.   These are great if you need a fluffy read.

3. Fixer Upper: The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

My husband and I read this story together.  It was a great book to read as a couple as we discovered how Chip and Joanna met and eventually married as well as learning about  their life leading up to their show Fixer Upper.  We found ourselves laughing over Chip's antics over the years as well as being inspired by their courage to do what was right even in the hard times.  Even you have never watched their show, I think you would still enjoy the book.

4. The Heart of Hollyhill by Ann Gabhart

These three books are set in the south during the late 60's.  The main character is a teen girl named Jocie who lives with her dad who is an editor/preacher and her Aunt Love who has never been married. Each book gives a different season of Jocie's life as she figures out who she is, who God is, and who her family is.  The books are full of tears and laughter and ups and downs.  The message is timely yet timeless as a family tries to do what is right even when it is not easy.  In Scent of Lilacs, Jocie learns the power of prayer and that family is more than just sharing the same last name.  Orchard of Hope continues the story of Jocie and her family as racial integration takes place in their town and her dad is close to proposing to his girlfriend.  In the last book, Summer of Joy, Jocie goes to high school and prepares for her family to get even bigger.  These books are probably my favorite series so far this year. 

What have you read this month?  Any good recommendations?  I could especially use some recommendations for my husband to read as this librarian (me) is having trouble keeping up with his reading habit.  Don't forget to check out Anne's site for more book reviews
(Affiliate links included.  That just means if you click on the link and end up buying the book I get a few cents towards my book habit.)


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Falling Free: A Book Review

I read Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted  by Shannan Martin on a recommendation from a friend.  After telling her that I had actually read the book, she asked me what I thought of the book.  At the time, I hadn't taken the time to process the book since I read the last few chapters hurriedly before it expired from the library.  I also am notorious for reading a book and loving it but not applying or really thinking about the contents.  After some contemplation, here is what I would say to my friend about the book.

Dear C,
Thank you for recommending Falling Free on your Facebook as a good read.  I enjoyed reading Shannan's story and hearing her thoughts.  Since her situation is so different from mine, I thought at first analysis that I didn't really have any take aways, but looking at my notes, I realized that I was wrong.  

In her book, Shannan says, 
"This is what faith requires, to not close our eyes to an open door." (p 30)
What a great reminder that no matter what season I am in, I need to be looking for what God has for me.  I like how she talks about not closing our eyes to the door.  It doesn't mean that we walk through the door but at least take the time to pray about the open door before us.  I think the key here is availability.  Am I available for what God has for me?  Friend, I see this in you.  How God has given you open doors in this last year that you have stepped forward in faith and walked through.  I pray that God will continue to bless you in those endeavors.  As I look around for the open doors God has for me, I see a few possibilities but for right now they will have to stay possibilities. 

Then she says, 
"There's a difference between being too scared to do hard things and doing hard things scared." p.82
This is so true.  I feel like this year in my new job, I have been doing hard things scared.  Mostly I am scared of failing these kids.  Or I am not quite sure how to navigate a relationship issues between them.  What do I know about web programming?  Am I too tough or not tough enough as I grade their papers.  How can I be the authority when I often just want to crawl under my desk?  Thankfully, God has been with me each step of the way reminding me that "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." Phil 3:14  C, I hope you have had the courage these past few months to keep doing those hard things even though you are scared.  I know this health issue in your family is frightening.  I pray God gives you strength  as you walk through this hard season together. 

I think the main issue, though, is what is "falling free" mean for me?  For Shannan, it meant adopting children from different countries and moving to the city as well as many other things.  For me, it meant moving to Africa to a job that in some ways I was qualified for and in other ways totally unqualified.  I still don't know where I fit in here but I do know God has given me six sweet students that need me to give them love, grace, and direction each day.  I still don't do a good job of engaging the culture here but I can offer a smile and kind word to all who cross my path.  It is seeing others as people of worth-thankful for what they have to offer.   What does it mean for you in this season?

Lastly, I'll end with my favorite quote...
"Living small is not about having less, but being less-less respected in the eyes of the world, less successful, less wealthy, less esteemed, less you.  Less me.  And more Jesus.  Here, in abundance of less, where more of us is stripped away, we'll uncover the person we were made to be, the one created in the image of God who sank holy feet into our human mess." p.92
Praying today that we will both have less of us and more of Jesus.  Wish we lived closer to talk about this over coffee.  Maybe in our next season.   Thank you for challenging me not only to read the book but to process it.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What I Learned This Winter (Feb 2017 Edition)

I find it slightly ironic that I am writing a post about what I learned this winter as I sit in a room grateful that even though my air conditioner quit today, I am not swimming in sweat.  Being an Iowa girl, I am sad to say I did not even miss the snow and cold one bit.  Maybe it was because last winter in Central Asia and then Spring in the states were colder than normal.  (Pic from last year)

As the calendar Winter comes to an end, I am reflecting on what I have learned, both the serious and fun.  I am not in this alone as other bloggers and I are linking up with Emily Freeman in her own post of what she has learned this winter.  

Here is what I have learned:

1. Spring is here.

Winter is known for a season where things lie dormant.  It is often characterized by cold and bleakness.  A few years ago, I went to a conference for moms that was led by Sally Clarkson.  At the conference, she talked about the different seasons we go through as a mother and woman.   She said, 
"Winter prepares you to be humble because you are not in control.  If you try to provide for yourself, you will miss the blessing of God. " 
Winter can be a time of darkness where we need to wait on God to come in and help us make our roots grow deeper.   It is important to remember that after winter comes spring, and we need to hold onto the promise of spring.  I love how in the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, it has been winter for a long time, but as the snow starts to melt, the people come alive with excitement.  They recognized that Spring is here.

I am in a season of spring just not a physical one.  It is like I had been in a fog dealing with little things here and there.  I would never have characterized it as winter until I wasn't in it anymore. The change is small, but I suddenly have more "spring" in my step.  I feel healthier.  But most of all, I am wanting to try new things.  Cooking new recipes is more the norm.  I have even begun doing some decorating in our house.  What do you think of this sign that a friend helped me paint on a piece of driftwood I found? 

I have also had more brain power to read non fiction and actually process some of the issues that I am reading about.  It is nice when my go to read isn't always a novel or fluff.  

Spring is known as a season of fruit so I pray that this season is just that for me. We will see....

2. About Prayer from my African Friend.

I have a lady that comes in twice a week to help me around the house.  What a blessing it is to me but it is also a blessing for her as it provides her income to help care for her family.  On those days, we eat lunch together.  She is always a good sport about eating my food as long as I have some rice and hot sauce available.  

In this time together, I have come to treasure our talks but also the prayer to bless our food.  One day I pray and the next she prays.   She always begins her prayer...
Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning.
Living in Liberia, she does not take life for granted.  She realizes that life is a gift from God.  She covers her children and my children in prayer.  Often she asks that God will drive the car as two of her children navigate back and forth in taxis to school.   Her prayers are other centered and bold.  She challenges me to pray for everything.  

My friend takes literally that prayer is important work.  She may not be able to read and write, but she can come boldly before the throne of grace.  What a privilege for me to get to pray with her and for her each week. 

3. How to ripen papayas and pineapples

Right before we were going to be gone a few days, my produce guy came around selling fruit and veggies.  When you don't buy anything, you get put at the bottom of his list and might not see him again for awhile.  So I bought a few things hoping the items would still be good when we made it back home.  Luckily for me, my papaya and pineapple were not ripe.  Our guest from Guatemala told me I should wrap them in newspaper and put them in my oven.  Since I didn't have newspaper, I wrapped them in dish towels and put them in my oven.  I wasn't worried about cooking them by accident since I have to light my oven with the door open.  Just in case, I wrote a big note reminding myself to look in the oven when I came home.  I came home to a pineapple and papaya perfectly ripened and deliciously sweet.

4. How My Bible Atlas Helps My Understanding

I have this Bible atlas that I have dragged from the states to Central Asia back to the states and now to Africa.  I hate to admit that I haven't used it much until the last month or so.  In the First5 app, they are going through the book of Joshua and Judges.  It makes so much more sense when I look the actual cities up on a map.  My atlas even has a map that shows what land each tribe inherited and another showing where each judge is from.  For me, it is adding a deeper understanding of these books of the Bible.

What have you learned this winter?