Category Archives: Minnesota

All Summer Long by Melody Carlson

all summer longThe weather is gorgeous, the calendar is full, and time to relax is much appreciated. For me, this summer means surviving lots of extrovert activities—grad parties, family get-togethers, camping trips with friends—and that means my
“introvert days” are extra important. If I don’t have a chance to be quiet, to recharge by myself, to feed my mind without the noise, I get super grouchy. Just ask my husband. I am not a pleasant person to be around.

I’m battling the grouchiness with some extra reading time. I decided to give up Netflix unless I’m at the gym or with my husband in favor of more time to read my Bible, journal, and get sucked into some good books.

I’ve read some fun ones so far, but All Summer Long by Melody Carlson has been my favorite. It’s a chick-flick in book form. The main character is as lovable and ambitious and hopeful as your favorite rom-com heroine, and her love interest is every bit as dreamy as Tom Hanks. (Okay, maybe not quite Tom-Hanks level, but you get the picture.)

I’m a long-time fan of Melody Carlson. When I was a teenager, I discovered her Diary of a Teenage Girl series, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it probably changed my life. Carlson’s characters became my role models, my example of what a Christian teenager and healthy relationships should (and should not) look like.

I loved this love story. And if you like happy, fluffy romance with a leading lady who follows her dreams thrown in, you’ll love it too.

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Literary Gift Ideas

Looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life? Or perhaps you love books and don’t have any ideas for the friends and family begging you for Christmas lists? Here’s my bookish wishlist—things I’ve asked for in the past or would love to find under the tree this year. And I promise, they don’t all cost $100 (though there are a few big-ticket ideas). I know what a budget is ;)

  1. A gift card for an independent bookstore (If you’re in the Twin Cities, Magers & Quinn and Common Good Books are my personal favorites.)
  2. A gift card for a coffee shop or cafe where they can read (Starbucks, anyone? Or, if you’re in the Twin Cities, check out Tin Bins in Stillwater.)
  3. Books (Are they on Goodreads? Look there for ideas!)
  4. Audiobooks
  5. An e-reader (I love my Kindle!)Kindle_Reading
  6. A new e-reader case
  7. A new journal and a nice pen
  8. Literary T-shirts, totes (yes, that is an entire novel printed on a bag!) mugs (this is a British site, but if someone got me this one, I’d love them forever), socks (yes, you read that right), jewelry, etc.
  9. Literary art for home or officeart
  10. A subscription to Audible
  11. A booklight
  12. A collectible or vintage edition of a book they love
  13. A book about books
  14. Books from local authors, or books about the area they live in or would love to visit (bookstores usually have a local/regional section)20150815_135117_HDR
  15. Literary action figures
  16. Literary board games or puzzles (Pride and Prejudice, for example)
    Agree to read their favorite book and then go out for coffee to talk to them about it
  17. Tickets to a play or musical based on a book they’ve read (This one is on my list this year)
  18. A trip to an author’s hometown or other significant place (I want to go here with my sister someday)

There you have it. If this list doesn’t give you any ideas, you might be out of luck . . .

P.S. None of the pages I linked to are reimbursing me for this post :)

He is Risen Indeed

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Good Friday is a solemn celebration, a reminder of how bad things were—how bad things are. It’s a reminder of what life is like without Jesus. Most years it rains, or at least clouds over with darkness.

But Easter is bright and hopeful. A celebration of grace and love and life and mercy, a reminder that we’re loved by an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who became flesh and died so we could spend eternity with Him.

Spring (at least in the Midwest) is the perfect time to celebrate the juxtaposition of life and death that holy week brings—bleakness and bright hope.

The seasons mirror the work God does in our lives, in our world. It’s a cycle of life and death. A reminder that good things come to an end, but for a reason. It’s not senseless. It’s not the last word. Death is required for new life to break forth. The leaves must turn crisp and fall, the peaceful white snow must cover the land, hiding that death and ushering in the new life that comes with spring. The birds start to sing again. The flowers send shoots up out of the soil. The air embraces you with a warm breeze. Summer is coming. Sunday is coming.

As I’m preparing my heart for Easter, I’m remembering just how bad it was before He came—how bad my life could have been without Jesus—and I’m praising God for the new life He brings.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

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Finding God at the End of the Path

trailIt’s no secret that I don’t like where we live. Our apartment is great, but the area leaves a lot be desired. At least for me. When Jonathan took his new job a few years ago, we had to leave St. Louis Park, a lovely suburb where we had a great apartment just blocks from the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. We could walk to Trader Joe’s, Target, the gym—even Lake Calhoun was just a mile away if we took the Greenway. Then we moved here. It’s not walkable. And I don’t feel safe when I’m outside by myself. I never go anywhere.

But then I started reading a book (Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubiettathat contrasted worry with delight. The author asked the question, “Where have you encountered God’s delight through creation?” The answer was easy. I love walks that give me the chance to think and observe details—everything from picker bushes to perfect leaves to the eight-point bucks that like to hang out in our neighborhood.

I decided to get out and go for one of those walks, to put aside my fears—because really, they’re unfounded—and venture out by myself. Well, I only kinda put aside my fear. I told my husband where I was going and walked with my hand around my phone in my pocket. My bluetooth headset was in my ear, and I was ready to click it twice to call Jonathan if I got in trouble. I even debated whether to wear the hood of my puffy winter jacket up or down because, what if someone snuck up behind me and I couldn’t see them because of it? How far around the lake should I go? Should I stay away from the wooded parts of the trail where I was less visible from the road (but still able to be seen because the trees are bare and my coat is a bright color)?

trail2Then I came across a non-paved path that wound down a gradual hill and disappeared into the weeds along the lake. A path I had never noticed before. Spurred on by the idea of delight, my curiosity got the best of my anxiety. You only live once, right? What if I could meet God at the end of that trail, wherever it led? But should I text Jonathan to tell him exactly where I was? What if I unknowingly ventured out on to the ice? What if I fell through? I’m not a yeller. No one would hear me. Should I just turn around and go home?

I didn’t, because I was determined to do something scary, to take a risk, to ask God to use the experience to chip away at the wall of fear I’d put up between us.

You know what? I didn’t get attacked from behind. I didn’t get kidnapped or raped. I didn’t fall through the ice. (I did get the poop scared out of me by a fairly large bird that flew right in front of me, however. Not actual poop, since I know some of you are wondering. Geez.) You know what else? I told God I was afraid, and He told me it was okay. I didn’t have any grand epiphanies or see any awe-inspiring views, but I started to see my fear melt away as I took a risk and took God at His word. He’s always with me and I don’t have to be afraid.

lakePerhaps it seems silly to you that I was so afraid to go for a walk by myself. I wasn’t terrified, I wasn’t shaking, I wasn’t convinced I was going to die. But I did ask a whole lot of “what-ifs” as I jumped to the worst possible conclusions and imagined the scariest scenarios. This is just a small glimpse of what it’s like to live with anxiety. This wasn’t even the crippling kind. But I’m hoping I can keep having experiences like this that expose my fears and allow God to chip away at them with His love and kindness and care for me. I don’t want to spend my whole life surrounded by “protective” walls of fear that don’t let me see or experience the world around me. What kind of life would that be?

Actually, I know what kind of life that would be because I’ve been living there. It’s a pretty lonely, boring one. I want more than that for myself.

(Check back in a few days for a full review of Jane Rubietta’s book, Worry Less So You Can Live More.)

Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep

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Click on the image to see Brentwood’s Ward on Amazon.

Nicholas Brentwood’s sister’s health is failing and he’s desperate for funds to move her out of the city. His opportunity arrives when he’s asked to serve as guardian for Emily Payne, a fiery, independent woman who doesn’t like to follow instructions. He figures it’ll be easy money, but before long, two people are dead and he has to figure out why—while also caring for his ailing sister and sorting out his feelings about Miss Payne.

I really enjoyed Brentwood’s Ward. I love the grittyness of Michelle’s writing style. It’s not as fluffy and flowery as most of the Christian fiction out there. And her characters aren’t immune to unfortunate circumstances and they don’t always make it out of danger’s way. They could easily be real people.

And Brentwood’s Ward is just a great story. There’s a lot at stake—beyond the romance—to keep you turning the pages. If you’re a fan of historical fiction (and even if you’re not) this is a great read. Grab a copy, cozy up by the fire (or a candle), and sip some tea while you get sucked in to the story.

Through January 19, you can get it on sale at Amazon!
$4.99  Kindle edition
$10.83 Paperback

And if you’re in the Twin Cities area, head over to the Burnsville Lifeway next Saturday afternoon to meet Michelle and get your book signed!

Where It’s Snowing All Winter Through

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It’s been a little wintery up here in the “Great White North” (that one’s for you, Anne-Marie). We got our first snow of the year and it was NOT flurries like it usually is. It was a full-blown storm. Think inches of snow (some places got over 16!) and school closings and slushy roads and 90-minute commutes. Yep, that’s how long it took me to get to work yesterday.

But today I was prepared. Rather than sit in traffic for two hours, I worked from Caribou. And when I did head to the office, the roads were traffic-free and it took me 30 minutes. Success.

Here’s a tribute to the lovely snow from one of my favorite movies.

 

Collecting October

October in Minnesota has been beautiful. We’ve had several opportunities to enjoy the fall colors—a quick stop in Stillwater, a family boating trip down the Mississippi, a walk through William O’Brien State Park, and even a few walks around the block.

Stillwater

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Redwing & The Mississippi

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William O’Brien State Park

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Close to Home

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Here’s to hoping November is just as lovely!

Where Your Calling Takes Shape

DSCN0326WEBLast week we took a long weekend to visit Fort Wayne for TUFW’s homecoming weekend. We hadn’t been back to campus since my graduation, a year after it was closed by Taylor University’s board for financial reasons.
“There was something sad and a little frightening about the place, because it all seemed so forsaken and long ago.” – From Prince Caspian
 
It felt like going back to Narnia. I had vague memories of the place, but life had moved on, many memories and faces forgotten. Parts of the campus were being used by local organizations, others were in disrepair. When we peeked through the broken, boarded-up windows of Hausser Hall, we were greeted by sagging, water-damaged ceiling tiles and unused furniture. Rooms that once housed hopeful freshman excited about the future sat barren, deserted, and forgotten.
It was all so familiar. And so different.
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“That’s what the life of this place is. It’s not buildings, it’s not fields, it’s not classrooms. The life of this place is the connections people made here with a sense of purpose and passion and calling for how to make a difference in this world.” – Dr. Randall Dodge, Former TUFW Dean of Students
 
I was overwhelmed by the profound legacy left by our school. Not just TUFW, but also Fort Wayne Bible Institute, Fort Wayne Bible College, and Summit Christian College–all schools that used the campus before it became Taylor. It’s unusual, I think, for a school to have that kind of history. So many different schools and students and professors, but God brought us all to the same place and changed our lives, preparing us for what would come next. The legacy of TUFW lives on in us, not the empty buildings that still sit on West Rudisill.
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“Then in the name of Aslan,” said Queen Susan, “if ye will all have it so, let us go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us.” – From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Back in 2009, a reporter from the Journal Gazette quoted me in her article about the closing: “It was really hard, but I have since realized God has a bigger plan for it, and He’s going to spread us out and use us in bigger ways than we thought He was going to . . . I’m kind of excited now for all the options.” That’s exactly what happened. TUFW-ers have been spread out all over the world–from Fort Wayne to Upland (where Taylor’s main campus is), Michigan, Minnesota (yay!), Zambia, Sudan, the Dominican Republic. And that’s just some of the people I know about. It was hard to see at the time, but God had a grander adventure in store for us.