Tag Archives: Nonfiction

While on Vacation

This spring, I spent a good chunk of time line editing, copy editing, and proofing While on Vacation, a devotional for people who are, well, on vacation. The author, Joe Graves, develops a “theology of play” and explores what the Bible has to say about rest, celebrations, and how God fits into our “breaks.” It even includes a few Sudoku puzzles! It’s up there on my list of favorite projects. If you’re taking a vacation this summer (or even taking some time off to stay home), it would be a great companion. Check it out!

Available June 15 | colorcanvasmedia.com

I’m not receiving compensation for this post. I’m sharing it because it was a fun project that I believe will add value to your life if you take the time to read it :)

My Favorite Reads in 2015

Want to kick off the new year with a good book? Here are my favorite reads from 2015:

  1. Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep
    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.
  2. Vendetta by Lisa Harris
    When a teenage girl goes missing, the case becomes personal for detective Nikki Boyd, whose own sister disappeared ten years ago. Nikki jumps into action, asking all the right questions and following all the leads, and just when she thinks she’s solved the case, everything goes wrong.
  3. Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta
    A book that needs to be read by any woman who worries about anything, whether it’s panic-attack-inducing worry or the kind that hides in your check book and jumps out when it’s time to pay the bills.
  4. Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer
    This book goes beyond quick tips for checking more items off your list. It’s actually a book about procrastination—what it is, why we do it, and how to stop.

The Chase by Kyle & Kelsey Kupecky

the_chaseI stepped out of my box a bit to review this book. I’ve been married for over six years now, so I don’t usually pick up books written for single girls. But since that’s all I used to read, I thought it couldn’t hurt to give this one a try and see if it might be useful for someone else.

The Chase encourages teenage girls to chase after God rather than guys. The authors, Kyle and Kelsey Kupecky, have been married since 2012. They take turns sharing bits of their own love story as they present some important truths about dating.

I really wanted to like it, but I just didn’t. The writing was mediocre and voice-less, the stories weren’t that interesting, and I could tell they hadn’t been married for very long when they wrote it. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the depth that comes with years of marriage just wasn’t there. To be fair, I’m a 28-year-old married woman, not the single teenage girl the book is written for, so maybe that doesn’t matter.) Just a few chapters in, I felt like their platform—Kelsey is the daughter of well-known author Karen Kingsbury and Kyle is a Christian recording artist—is what got the book published, not their skills or experience.

A few worldview things parents may want to know . . . 1) The Kupeckys seem to believe that if God calls you to be married, He has one person chosen for you, as opposed to believing there’s no such thing as a soulmate—that there are multiple people you could build a happy and successful life with. 2) The Kupeckys tell several stories of people they dated before they met. So if you’re opposed to dating, this book may not be a good choice for your kids.

Bottom line: it wasn’t terrible, but there are better books out there for single teenage girls who need a godly perspective on relationships. My favorite is Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.

2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
(Read more about my rating 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.

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively

Four Stars
(Learn about my star system here.)

It was a Sunday morning and my mom, aunt, and I were headed to the store. We loved Jesus, but we weren’t regular church-goers at the time. Halfway there, we got a flat tire.

Now, we were capable of taking care of it ourselves. My mom and aunt had probably changed over a dozen flat tires over the years. But when a young family in a minivan pulled over to help us, we were relieved. The husband got out to change our tire while the wife stayed close to the vehicle to keep an eye on the kids. As we handed over our jack, he said, “We were on our way to church, but we figured God would forgive us for being late if it meant helping you.”

That has always stuck with me. I want to be that person who’s willing to put aside my “religious duties” in order to love people the way Jesus wants me to. I want to love my neighbor the same way that family loved us–sacrificially and honestly, with a willingness to talk about Jesus and an ability to behave like a normal human being.

how to love your neighborThat’s what Amy Lively’s book, How to Love Your Neighborhood Without Being Weird, is all about. I’m not sure why I chose this book for a review, especially since Amy says “I should warn you that you’re on the hook now that you’ve read this book. You have no excuse for not loving your neighbor” (pg. 191).

Amy takes Jesus’ command to love your neighbors quite literally. As someone who’s started and sustained a successful neighborhood ministry, she’s excited to share her tips and reasons for reaching out to the people who live next door and across the street.

Not only am I an introvert who treasures my quiet time and space, I just get really uncomfortable around people I don’t know. Meeting someone new is a draining experience, one that I tend to avoid. When you live in an apartment building, sometimes it seems easier to NOT know your neighbors. Sometimes you’d rather not have them know that you know what types of noises they’re making that keep you up all night. Sometimes you just want to pound on the ceiling at three in the morning because they just won’t shut up. It’s a lot harder to do that when you have a personal relationship. And if you have that personal relationship, you probably won’t feel comfortable complaining about that noise at all. At least not if you live in Minnesota, where “Minnesota nice” replaces the Golden Rule.

Anyway, I’d rather just not know my neighbors. But last time I went to the grocery store down the street, I realized something: nearly every time I go there, the family in line in front of me is using some type of government food voucher. That says something about the area we live in–there are a lot of needs, and a lot of ways my husband and I could can bless our neighbors and bring Jesus to our city.

Easier said than done, though, right?

Lively offers some great reasons to reach out to your neighbors and backs them up with spot-on scripture passages that challenged my thinking. She also provided a TON of practical tips for meeting, getting to now, and blessing the people who live near you. And if you check out her website (Ioveyourneighbor.com), you can get great resources including adorable invitations, tips, and planning sheets–all available as free downloads.

While I didn’t like how much this book made me squirm (this stuff is SO outside my comfort zone. Like, I’m Minnesota and this stuff is China), I don’t have many complaints about the book. I did struggle with the organization a bit–the content seemed to jump back and forth, but it didn’t keep me from getting some great ideas.

I’d recommend How to Love Your Neighbor to anyone who needs a little push to get to know the people around them. It’d be a great read for a women’s small group. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter would spur on some great conversations.

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

Summer TBR Pile

I love to read year-round, but summer is really my reading season. Call me lazy, or just un-athletic, but since I hate physical activity and can’t tolerate much heat, I enjoy the warmer weather by finding a shady spot and diving into a good book. Here are some of the books I’m hoping to read this spring/summer. If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts (but no spoilers, please!).

Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta

worrylessI thought I would hate this book. That’s actually why I picked it. I thought it would be easy to disagree with, to pick apart, because so many books that claim to be about worry and anxiety offer pat answers that don’t really help—and often disregard completely—the struggle of someone who deals with anxiety at the level of mental illness.

I should know better than to make my judgments based on a generic title—Worry Less So You Can Live More—and vague back cover copy written by the marketing department.

Right away the author (Jane Rubietta) addressed my biggest fear about this book: “If you feel you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, suffer from panic attacks, or deal with other serious problems, then please seek professional hep, and take this book with you (pg. 13).” It felt like reconciliation to see a Christian author recognize that mental illness is a real thing and not brush it off with an “It’s all in your head,” or a quick, “You just need to trust God.” Because, sadly, so many Christians respond that way.

This entire book felt like a giant hug from someone who gets it—one of those hugs that comes right when you need it. I don’t know if Jane has struggled with the level of anxiety that I have, but she certainly writes like she has. She’s specific enough to give concrete ideas for dealing with worry, but vague enough to let you fill in the blanks and apply her insights to your own situation. She shares her thoughts, but she doesn’t preach. I didn’t feel belittled or brushed off.

Every time I picked up this book, I knew I would feel lighter when I put it down again.

Jane wrote about how delight, physical activity, recalling God’s faithfulness, shedding healing tears, understanding your identity in Christ, and anticipating Jesus can slow worry to a crawl and sometimes halt it completely. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers or be able to solve all your problems, but she offers understanding and empathy that brought me more comfort than I could have imagined.

Combine the content with Jane’s lovely, artistic, Annie-Dillard-ish prose (I LOVE Annie Dillard), and you’re left with a book that needs to be read by any woman who worries about anything, whether it’s panic-attack-inducing worry or the kind that hides in your check book and jumps out when it’s time to pay the bills. Even if you aren’t a worrier, Jane will help you recapture the delight of your childhood and harness it to make adulthood a little easier.

Please read Worry Less So You Can Live More. It’s wonderful. You can buy it here.

To read about one way this book has affected me, check out my last post.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. My opinion is my own and was not influenced by the author or publisher.

Writer Off the Leash by Michelle Griep

writer-off-the-leash-bookOkay, writer friends, I’ve got a great book for you to read—Writer Off the Leash by Michelle Griep.

(Does that name sound familiar? I just reviewed her new novel, Brentwood’s Ward.)

Michelle has been writing for a long time. As a writing teacher, an avid reader and book reviewer, a member of ACFW and MCWG, and the author of four other books (all novels), she knows a few things about writing.

In her endearing and snarky voice, she shares her best advice and favorite tips for writers, alongside a few one-liners that’ll make you giggle.

Writer Off the Leash is geared toward fiction writers, but it’s a quick read for anyone who enjoys (or wants to enjoy) writing. She covers motivation, the creative process, publishing, rejection, perseverence, the basics of putting a good story together, and the responsibilities of a writer.

Now, I have to admit that I edited this book for Michelle. But that doesn’t mean I can’t love it, does it? Because I do. If you’re looking for some writing inspiration, give this book a try. You can buy it here.

And if you want to know more about Michelle or see what else she has to say about writing, head over to her blog (also called Writer Off the Leash). While you’re at it, check out her novels. They’re pretty good, too :)

Living a Portfolio Life

Calling GoinsI’ve spent the last four years (at least) trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I’ve been working at the church, but that didn’t seem like enough, even though I knew I was supposed to be there. And I made it to the last round of interviews for my dream job and then didn’t get it. I just couldn’t figure out what I was missing.

Until I read The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. In it, Jeff talks about the significance of calling and explains that it goes way beyond your day job. Your calling is the sum of many things—your skills, your job, your relationships, your interests—it’s the whole picture of your life, how you choose to spend your time and use your gifts.

I realized that I don’t have to spend my days agonizing over the ominous and evasive calling God has placed on my life because I’m living it right now.

My calling is to work at my church, to be a good wife and friend and sister, to spend my free time writing and reading and editing and blogging (and crocheting and sewing). My calling is to embrace where God has placed me, do what He has asked me to do, and give Him the glory no matter what.

And I think I’m okay with that.

Are you trying to wrap your mind around the idea of your calling? Check out Jeff’s book. It’ll get you asking the questions you need to ask to figure out what you’re meant to do. Visit this link to find out how to get a free copy and a ton of bonuses—you just pay shipping.

artofworkfree
*As a member of Jeff’s launch team for The Art of Work, I received a free copy of the book in exchange for spreading the word. 

Breaking the Chains by Shari Howerton

breaking-the-chains

Click on the picture to view this book on Amazon.

If you’re frustrated over the state of your church and maybe even mad at the leadership, read this book. It’ll either give you the perspective you need to remember that churches are imperfect because they’re made of imperfect people, or it will confirm that your church needs help.

I read Breaking the Chains after the author, Shari Howerton, approached me to ask if I’d review her self-published memoir of spiritual abuse and growing up as part of a Christian cult.

I’ll be honest, my expectations for self-published books are always low. I blame it on my college education and the fact that self publishing wasn’t really considered respectable when I went to school for writing. And sometimes it still isn’t in many circles. But after having worked with several self-published authors who needed an editor and reflecting on just how hard it is to get your work read, I determined that I want to be an advocate for writers who don’t go the traditional route for whatever reason. Unless that reason is that they’re bad writers. (That’s another post entirely.)

After skimming a few pages of the book, I agreed to review it. The writing wasn’t terrible like I was expecting. And the story seemed to have some cohesion. And the subject was fascinating.

It’s hard to know what to mention in a review like this because I know I tend to be pretty picky about the way things are written. Shari’s writing isn’t bad at all. Toward the beginning I found myself distracted by similar sentence structures and the repetition of the words “I” and “however” at the beginning of most sentences, but my preoccupation soon gave way to interest in the story.

Breaking the Chains doesn’t read like a typical memoir. Shari spends more time getting the facts straight than she does on artful prose, but her testimony is gripping. She recounts what it was like to grow up in a Protestant cult that emphasized perfection and keeping up appearances, and she used many stories to talk about how it affected her as an adult. Her account of what it was like to leave revealed a long, drawn out, and painful process rather than a quick escape.

Shari’s book is full of hope. In the midst of legalism and her confusion about grace, she meets Jesus for real. And He changes everything.

If you’re looking for a powerful testimony about freedom from religiosity or you just want to be challenged in your own ministry (believe me, she raises lots of convicting questions), consider giving Breaking the Chains a chance.

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

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

InterruptedI think I’ve told you before that I’m a rule-follower. I wish it wasn’t true, but I often find myself identifying with the Pharisees when I read the Gospels. Jesus, you ate lunch with a prostitute? You forgave the corrupt tax collector? You let that lady pour expensive perfume all over your feet and then wash them with her hair? Gross. 

I came face to face with my judgmental tendencies once again when I read Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker a few weeks ago. Based on the tagline—“When Jesus wrecks your comfortable Christianity”—I was prepared to be inspired, but I wasn’t expecting to be challenged.

I’m not even sure if Jen addressed judgment and stereotypes specifically, but I sure felt convicted while I was reading. I put the book down, confessed my sin, and asked God to help me see and love all people the way He does.

More than once, Jen wrote about how easy it is to get trapped in a cycle of “blessing the blessed.” Because I work at a church and attend that church and met all my friends at that same church, it’s super easy for me to get stuck in my comfortable little bubble. The Bible talks about giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, and loving the sinners, but outside of donating school supplies for a church event and sponsoring a few Compassion kids, I usually live as if those things don’t apply to me because, well, I don’t know any of those people.

Not sure why it didn’t occur to me before, but it’s my own fault that I don’t know any of those people. And not knowing them isn’t a very good excuse. Sure, I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t meet I can live my whole life never meeting anyone new.

Jonathan and I have talked about serving outside our church walls for quite some time now, but we’ve never actually done it. I think it’s time. I don’t know if we’ll work with the homeless in St. Paul, help out at the food shelf near Jonathan’s office, or visit with the elderly in the memory care facility down the street, but it’s time to burst my bubble and serve someone new.

*Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of Interrupted to blog about.