Tag Archives: Reading

2015

kids playing in the snow

One of my grandparents took this picture. I found it when I was sorting through some of their old slides.

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in 2014 because God was teaching me about grace, and that meant not getting caught up in my own brand of legalism. But that grace got twisted and turned into laziness.

I’ve been convicted over and over again about how undisciplined my lifestyle has become. So 2015 is going to be a year of goals rather than rules:

  1. Run an entire 5k. I’m considering a race that takes place Memorial Day weekend.
  2. Write and publish 52 blog posts. One a week feels pretty doable. (One post down!)
  3. Read through the Bible in a year. I’m going to try this plan from YouVersion.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions or set goals each year?

The Giver Gets to Pick the Gift

girl_staring_at_mountains

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One who paid my debt
and raised this life up from the dead

As I sang those words on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I thought about my almost-four-years of work at the church and the possibility of leaving them behind to take my dream job, the job I had just interviewed for and really wanted. The job I just knew I was going to get.

Your job at the church is a gift, I heard. And this new job, if you get it, that will be a gift, too. You don’t deserve either of them. You haven’t earned them. You’re not entitled to them like you think you are. They are gifts from Me. And as the Giver, I get to pick the gift. I know what you want. I know what you like. I’ll pick the right gift. And even if it’s not what you asked for, you’ll understand why I picked it. Maybe not right away, but you will.

Those words echoed in my head as I went home, as I went on with life, as I waited for the call I had been waiting for for nearly two months—the call that would mean I would finally be getting paid to sit around and read books all day. I’d finally be an editor. A real editor. Not the fake kind that just re-words awkward class descriptions for the church website and has to make sure the date is right on the bulletin. (Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. I know book editors are not the only real editors. And I know what I do at the church is important. I’ve just always wanted to edit books.)

Two months is a really long time to wait for something you’re sure is inevitable. I knew I might not get the job, but everything seemed just right. I interned there. I knew people there. I was encouraged to apply by someone who worked there. I know what they publish because I’ve read little else in the last three years. And the opportunity just dropped in my lap. I didn’t go looking for it. God was going to give me this new job. But in case He didn’t, I told Him, secretly afraid he was using this opportunity as some kind of sinister test, it must be because I’m not supposed to have it. It just made too much sense.

They’d assured me that I’d have an answer by Friday. After weeks and weeks of checking my email every five seconds and jumping every time my phone made some kind of noise and bugging my references to find out if they’d been contacted, the day had arrived. The same Friday our apartment lease expired and we’d have to sign another twelve month lease THAT DAY or pay an extra $80 in rent to go month-to-month so we could move as soon as possible. Since the new job would be a bit of a hike.

The hours crept by with no word. By this point, I’d convinced myself they’d picked someone else. Surely I would have heard by now if I was their choice. Around noon, I called and talked to an assistant. “No, they haven’t made a decision yet,” she told me, “They’ve had a sales conference all week. They’ll probably decide next week.”

So many emotions. I was so done with the waiting. I wanted to move on with my life. So many things were up in the air because of this job. We might have to move. I might have to stop reviewing books on my blog. I might have to give up the extra week of vacation I’ll have earned by the end of this year. I might have to start paying exorbitant rates for my health insurance. I might have to leave the coworkers I love.

Then finally, last Wednesday, my answer came.

No.

Seriously, God? If You knew You were going to tell me no, why couldn’t You do it after the first interview? The sample edit? Or even the Friday when I was supposed to have an answer? Why did You do this to me?

I still don’t know.

They told me I had the skills, but another candidate had more experience, and they encouraged me to try for an entry-level position next time one opens up. If those types of jobs still pay what they paid when I was in college, there’s no way we can afford that kind of pay cut. Not if I want to pay off my student loans and start a family some day.

It feels a little like the time my parents went to Disney World without me. When they asked what I wanted them to bring back for me, I asked for a dress just like Snow White—blue and yellow and red with puffy sleeves. But that’s not what I got. Instead, I got a white dress with neon paint splatters all over it. And flip flops with a rainbow of curly ribbons tied to the top. I’m sure my mom was so excited to give them to me. But I was disappointed. They didn’t match the picture in my head.

Now I know that the Snow White dress was too expensive. And the dress I did get was darling. But back then, I was too little to understand why that mattered, to understand that my parents had more information than I did. All I knew was they didn’t give me what I wanted.

So the dream I had for so long and then gave up and then thought might happen anyway has been taken from me again. This time I wasn’t quite so willing to give it up. This time it hurts like heck. This time it feels a little hopeless. And I feel a little angry.

But the Giver gets to pick the gift.

Settled

map

Waiting for Settled

Until last week, I believed someday I would reach a point in my life when I felt settled, like I had arrived, like I could get comfortable where I was and coast on through the rest of my life.

What was I thinking?

I thought if I could just get married, finish college, get a full-time job, buy a forever house, have kids…everything would feel more long-term, more permanent, more settled.

But it doesn’t work like that. It wasn’t a lighting-strike epiphany, more like a foggy mist of realization that settled over me quietly as I drove to work, when I was wondering if what I have now is all there is. And if it is, wouldn’t that mean I’m settled now? And wouldn’t that be terrible because, really, I don’t want to be stuck like this forever?

What Being Settled ISN’T

Being settled isn’t a result of the circumstances in my life or what I do or don’t do. It’s not about who I married or how I’ll parent or whether or not my student loans are ever going to be paid off. If being settled is about those things, I’ll never get there. None of those things are constant. None of them will last. None of them are eternal.

What Being Settled IS

As I read Psalm 37 last week, I remembered memorizing verse 4 in high school:

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

Even back then, I knew that meant if I delighted myself in God, my desires would begin to line up with His. That was so much easier to do when I wasn’t responsible for my own life, when I didn’t have to make decisions about where I would live or work or when I would have kids or even whether I should put that pretty bottle of nail polish back on the shelf because, really, I already have like 20 bottles and that $8 could go straight toward my student loans. And when those are paid off we can finally think about a down payment on a house . . . Anyway . . .

At this point in my life—age 27—I’m clinging to verse 23:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in His way;
Psalm 37:23 (ESV)

It’s the same idea as verse 4, but it seems a little easier to understand now that I’m grown up and worrying about things like feeling settled.

The entire Psalm is about that settled feeling I’d been searching for. It says, “fret not yourself” and “He will act.”

So I’m learning that being settled is about trusting God, about delighting myself in Him, about waiting for Him to act, to direct my steps, to fight my battles, to count my days, to bring forth my righteousness, just like Psalm 37 says.

Looking for Some Good Historical Fiction?

book on the beachIt’s that time of year when everyone starts panicking because summer is quickly coming to a close (I know, I shouldn’t even say it!). This week, that meant we spent our Saturday afternoon/evening reading on the beach, with a few quick dips in the lake to stay cool. I have no shortage of books to keep me occupied right now (I have at least four from Half Price books and six or seven from the library sitting on the shelf), but in case you don’t, here are some of my favorite historical fiction reads from the last few years.

historicalfiction

1. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

2. Heiress by Susan May Warren

3. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

4. A Heart Deceived by Michelle Griep

5. Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig

Got any historical fiction recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you’re reading!

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Miracle in a Dry SeasonHave you ever finished a book completely shocked that so much story was packed inside?

That’s how I felt when I finished Miracle in a Dry Season, Sarah Loudin Thomas’ debut novel, last week. The story is about Perla Long, a single mother with a gift for making food that never runs out, and Casewell Phillips, a bachelor carpenter and church elder, and their town of Wise, West Virginia, as they all band together in the midst of a draught.

The only problem I had with the book was getting stuck on the historical setting. The story takes place in 1954, but because of the rural setting in small town West Virginia, I kept having to remind myself it wasn’t the late 1800s.

Beyond that, though, the story was rich with relational conflict and spiritual struggles I didn’t see coming. Thomas managed to address church corruption, forgiveness, terminal illness, faith in miracles, and judgment all in just 296 pages. And it’s not even one of those stories that spans decades!

When I put the book down, I found myself reflecting on those issues in my own life and sphere of influence. How do I respond when someone with well-known past sin becomes an integral part of my church community? What would I do if there was moral corruption and spiritual abuse taking place in my church on Sunday mornings, or during the week? Have I truly forgiven my parents for the ways they’ve unintentionally hurt me?

I wrestled with some of these things like I wrested with the idea of God’s grace after I finished Redeeming Love. I wouldn’t put Thomas on the same playing field as Francine Rivers (just yet), but based on this first novel, she could be on her way.

 *Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and Sarah Loudin Thomas, who provided me with a free copy of the book to blog about.

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.

Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

Packing Light

Packing Light is the account of writer Allison Vesterfelt’s decision to quit her job, sell her stuff, and drive through all 50 states in a beat-up Subaru with her friend Sharaya. But it’s not just a we-did-this, we-saw-that kind of book.

Vesterfelt dives beneath the surface of her trip and shares her heart and the lessons she learned on the road— lessons about packing more than you need, letting go of baggage, leaving rules behind, trusting God, and not being afraid to use the gifts He’s given you.

Since reading Packing Light, I’ve become a little obsessed with Allison Vesterfelt. I followed her on every form of social media I could, got really excited when I thought she lived in Minneapolis (I was totally going to ask her if I could take her out for coffee), and nearly cried out when I found out she moved to Nashville less than a year ago. Anyway . . .

Her book changed and challenged me in too many ways to sum up in a neat little blog post, so I’m going to share some of my favorite quotes and let you decide what to do with them.

 

On Rules

“Rules give us a false sense of control. They make us feel like if we just follow a list of instructions, we’re sure to get the outcome we want . . . Rules never buy us the safety we think they will” (pg. 122).

“I hope we never stop asking ourselves what the intent is behind the rules we’re following, and if they’re accomplishing the objective” (pg. 123).

“We need a generation of people who aren’t rule-followers—who aren’t rule-breakers, either, but rather live lives that aren’t dictated by the rules at all . . . How much more in tune would we be with the twists and turns of our journey and prepared to handle them with conviction and grace, if we didn’t think the ‘rules’ were protecting us?” (pgs. 123–124).

“The reason rules don’t protect us is that the rules presume that every circumstance, and every person, is identical” (pg. 151).

 

On Pride & Insecurity

“The more I think about it the more I think that my insecurity is really pride. My insecurity makes everything all about me” (pg. 210).

 

On Fear & Regret

“You don’t have to go. You can stay home. It’s up to you. But if you let fear stop you from doing what you really want to do, you’ll regret that forever” (pg. 246).

 

On God’s Direction

“God wasn’t telling me what to do. He was just helping me to see what I actually wanted. He was saying, ‘Here’s permission to want what you want, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Here’s permission to be the woman I created you to be. You think you don’t have the resources, but you do. I will provide them. You think you aren’t strong enough to face the obstacles, but you are. I’ll be with you the whole time. Here’s permission to live your life, not dictated by fear of what might happen. Go ahead . . .’” (pg. 247).

“When we stop seeing God as a controlling God who tells us what we have to do and what we can’t do, we stop feeling so much anger toward Him” (pg. 247).

“Our life is not ruined. We’re not being punished. We’re not doing it wrong. God isn’t mad at us; He’s just waiting for us to wake up, to take responsibility, and to start living life with Him. He’s waiting for us to do something beautiful, something courageous, something totally out of the ordinary” (pg. 247).

“There comes a point where we don’t need anyone to tell us who we are anymore, we just need to take the information we have and run with it” (pg. 210).

 

Ten Things to Do in Copper Harbor, MI

DSCN9964WEB

  1. Hike Estivant Pines. It’s a virgin white pine forest with two loops you can hike. I think it was less than 4 miles to hike the whole thing. It was a little  tricky in a few places, but if I could do it, you’ll be just fine. You may not know this about me, but I really, really love trees. I was in heaven.
  2. Eat at Harbor Haus. Yummy yummy fish and au gratin potatoes. And potato pancakes. A little on the pricier side, but it
    was some of the best food we had while we were there.
  3. Read on the beach. (And if you need a good book, Grandpa’s Barn.) I wish we had done more of this.
    DSCN9821WEB
  4. Visit the Thimbleberry Fudge Shoppe. It’s inside the Country Village Shoppes. We bought half a pound the second day we were there and went back on our way out of town for another pound to take home with us. The Maple Bacon and Mocha are the best, but I there wasn’t anything I tried that I didn’t like. It was so good that I suggest you call them up and have some shipped to you, even if you don’t make it to Copper Harbor :)
    DSCN9815WEB
  5. Eat a Pastee. It’s basically a requirement when you visit the UP. It’s basically meat and potatoes wrapped in a pie crust calzone-style. Most people eat them with gravy or ketchup. The ones we had weren’t fantastic, but they were nice warm comfort food on a rainy day.
    DSCN9898WEB
  6. Take Brockway Mountain Drive. If you only do one thing on my list, do this one. It’s a four-mile drive from “downtown” Copper Harbor with some pretty steep grades, but there are gorgeous views the whole way. Once you get up there, you can see the whole town, two or three other harbors, Lake Superior, and gorgeous tree-covered rolling hills. If I were you, I’d head up early enough to see it in daylight, watch the sunset, and then hang around until it gets dark to see the stars. And bring some blankets—it gets cold up there. We were lucky enough to be up there to see a meteor shower. Amazing.
    DSCN0049WEB
  7. Tour the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. Not only do you learn all sorts of history about the area, you get a boat ride across the harbor. If you’re luckier than we were, it won’t be raining the whole time. At least we had ponchos.
  8. Kayak Lake Fannie Hooe. I learned kayaking is a lot harder on a lake than a river. But it’s a gorgeous lake. We took about 4 hours to kayak the whole lake. Thank you, Keeweenaw Adventure Company, for a great deal on the sit-on-top kayaks we rented!
  9. Visit Brickside Brewery. I don’t like beer, but Jonathan likes a good craft beer, and he enjoyed our trip to the brewery. I did too, actually—they also brew yummy root beer.
    DSCN0023WEB
  10. Hike Hunter’s Point. So so pretty. Two trails, lots of beach and trees, and great views of Lake Superior and Copper Harbor.

Click here for more about our trip to Copper Harbor.

Unplugged (And Some Upcoming Book Reviews)

I’m not sure how we’re going to fit all our crap in my car, but once we figure it out, we’ll be off for a week of somewhat posh camping near Lake Superior. We’re borrowing a huge tent (Jonathan can stand up in it) and we bought a super comfy, memory foam-topped air mattress.

However, as ridiculous as it is that the campground has wifi, we’re unplugging for the whole trip—no computer, no phone (except GPS and trip-related research and maybe the long drive there and back), no work. That also means no blog posts because I’ve been so busy I didn’t plan ahead enough to have some extras scheduled while I’m gone. Sorry. I’ll repay you with beautiful pictures and some book reviews when I get back :)

One of my favorite parts of camping is reading by a campfire, and I fully intend to do that A LOT in the next week. To start with, I’m going to work on a few books I’m really excited about . . .

Camping Trip Reviews

I’ve already listened to an audio version of Packing Light, but I loved it so much I bought a copy to read. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.I haven’t read the others yet, but the first few pages seem pretty promising!

If you’re interested, you can get a 20% discount on Interrupted if you order through Tyndale by next Thursday, July 31. They’re currently out of stock online, but I spoke with a customer service representative who said they should be getting more in early next week. He also said you can call and reserve a copy over the phone to get the discount.

Face to Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib and Bodie Thoene

Face to Face with JesusI’m not going to lie—this book was a challenge to read. The author, Samaa Habib, has experienced hardship and persecution unlike anything I’ve ever even heard, and her experiences are hard for this skeptic to believe. She grew up Muslim in a middle eastern country torn by civil war, converted to Christianity, and shared her faith in all circumstances—with her family, with strangers, with people who planned to harm her. Her family endured no food, no electricity, and no safety as the Sunnis and the Shiites fought in the streets around them. She put up with physical and emotional abuse from her father and brother for leaving Islam and escaped death many times until she was killed in a church bombing.

But her story doesn’t end there. Though she died and saw Jesus, and He sent her back to reach others for Him. And though He healed her body beyond what anyone would have believed possible, He didn’t do it instantaneously. She had a long recovery.

The persecution Samaa and her family experienced as a result of following Christ surprised me, as did the number of people who were receptive to Gospel presentations. In my reading, I discovered I had a lot of preconceived notions of Islam and Muslim countries that I didn’t realize I had. How refreshing to have those upended!

Face to Face with Jesus challenged my cynicism regarding people who die and come back to life. It’s so much easier to believe stories Samaa’s when you know the circumstances and can discern the heart of the person who experienced it. Her story allowed me to do just that. The writing was decent, but it was the way the story of the bombing was intertwined with the stories of the war and how each of Samaa’s family members came to Christ that pulled me in.

If you want to have your faith (and your comfort) challenged, Face to Face with Jesus is a good place to start.

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