What I Read: June 2017

Apparently I read for all kinds of reasons, and one of them is to avoid doing things I don’t want to do…like finish typing my school administration internship log so I can finish my program.  It’s due at the end of July and is tedious work (that’s what happens when you don’t write the “reflection” piece as you go…WHY!). Of course part of the reason it’s taking so long is that I chose to read 15 books this month and little else.

What this means is July may not have a high reading total.  I’ve grounded myself from reading until I submit this document.  It could get ugly around here.  I’m also heading to the beach for a week mid-month, so I hope to finish before then.  If I don’t, well, this may be the last What I Read post for a long time.

Here’s what I read in June.

June Reads.jpg

Before I give you my thoughts, I thought I’d add a little bit to my monthly summaries.  Some have asked how I find/get these books and in what format I read them.  From now on I will be adding this information. I’m also going to write another post sometime soon (probably while avoiding my internship journal) about how I decide what to read, how I track my reading, etc.

Alright, here we go.

  • Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson (kindle book, borrowed from Overdrive) – I’ve never read a Dee Henderson book I haven’t liked.  Just good suspense and always ends with hope.  This one and Threads of Suspicion are the first two in a cold case series.  I enjoyed them both.
  • Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson (library book) – see above.
  • Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (library book) – this is a historical fiction novel that takes place aboard the Hindenburg during its ill-fated last flight.  It moved a little too slowly for me, but I did appreciate the author’s imagination.
  • And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (kindle book, borrowed from Overdrive) – it’s only about 95 pages but you’ll need to keep your tissues close.  The story of an old man and his grandson as they navigate his progressing dementia.
  • She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 8th) – I am so glad I was able to read this book and will definitely buy a paper copy in August. Chrystal is able to navigate a difficult subject and balance the tension between knowing yourself and finding your identity in Christ. I must admit was I concerned because sometimes the Evans family get a little too close to the prosperity gospel train, but I didn’t get that from this book.
  • The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen (library book) – a great beach read – the air of mystery and a healthy dose of romance.  It also helps that it takes place at the beach!
  • Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth A. Tucker (kindle from NetGalley) – drawing from personal experience and her interpretation of theology, Tucker addresses what she sees as a serious problem in the church.  I agreed with most, but definitely not all, that she had to say.  I think her personal experiences (understandably) influence her interpretation of Scripture and she ascribes malice to some church leaders where I don’t think it’s appropriate.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys (kindle, I bought it) – This is another YA historical fiction novel that highlights a little-known event in history.  This is inspired by the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, which apparently was the single greatest tragedy in maritime history and I never heard of it.  Why?
  • Unseen: the Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed by Sara Hagerty (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 29th) – I love Sara Hagerty’s writing and couldn’t wait to read this book. It did not disappoint. Sara points out the beauty and significance of every day life. In Colossians, Paul writes “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” While many of us struggle with being unseen, through these pages we learn that hidden with Christ is a precious space. I smiled, I wept, and my heart was filled with joy. There is healing in these words.  It is definitely a contender for best book of the year for me. I will be buying this one.
  • The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (kindle ARC from NetGalley – released June 1st) – The perfect summer thriller!  I could not put this book down!! In the days since Gone Girl, the thriller/suspense genre has gotten a bit overloaded and I’ve been underwhelmed by many of them. This one, however, did not disappoint. Fast-paced and character driven – the best of both worlds.
  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman (library book) – someone described this book as Missoula meets You Will Know Me and after reading both, I get what they mean.  However, I mostly just see this as a fictionalized account of Missoula.  It was a hard read with some major trigger warnings but it is worth it for the ending.  I sobbed when it was over (not because of the ending necessarily, but out of exhaustion from the whole emotional journey).
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 29th) – this is the latest release in Penny’s Inspector Gamache series.  I’ve read of few of them in the last couple years but they haven’t resonated with me.  That being said, when I was offered the ARC I decided to try one more time.  And this series is just not for me.  It’s a good story, well told and beautifully written, but I want my mysteries to be told at a faster clip.  This was too poetic for my taste.
  • You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (library book) – another suspense story – this one in the world of competitive gymnastics.  Nothing is as it seems…
  • A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert (kindle from NetGalley) – apparently there is a difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling.  I did not know this until I read this book.  This gave me some ideas to consider.
  • Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker (kindle ARC from NetGalley – releases August 8th) – I was anxious to read this book just because of all the controversy Hatmaker’s found herself in recently.  Honestly, I think this book will be highly praised and successful in the monetary sense, but I found it unremarkable.  Hatmaker is a good storyteller.  She’s funny.  But I didn’t see any real depth here (sorry!) and I don’t really understand the point of the book.  I think I would like being her friend but if I’m going to have to choose a spiritual mentor, I’d certainly go with Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, or Sara Hagerty.

What I Read: May 2017

I can’t believe it’s already June! The year is flying by.  May was a busy month for me with state testing/the end of the school year and homework for my classes.  I also moved 6 days ago! Despite the stress of it all and a serious case of decision fatigue, everything went well and I’ve enjoyed my first week of summer.   I get to pick the days I work in the summer so I only worked two days this week.  In all honesty, I probably should have taken the whole week off.  The move has been very stressful for my dog and I think I was away from him a little too long.  For that reason I am staying in this weekend and hoping he gets more comfortable with the new routine.

Once again my 30 minutes a day rule really served me well and I exceeded my book goal for the month.  I only failed to read two of the days!

may books

Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon) – I Loved this book! This is a YA novel (and the movie just released a couple weeks ago).  This would be perfect to take with you to the beach, the pool, or anywhere you know you’ll be mildly distracted. I read it in a day. My rating: 5 stars!

7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness (Eric Metaxas) – It me longer than it should have for me to read this book.  It is rather dry from a storytelling perspective but it is well-researched and informative.  Metaxas shares a brief faith biography of seven women and I appreciated learning about their important accomplishments. I’d never heard of some of them and discovered how little I actually knew about the others.  My rating: 3.5 stars.

Water into Wine: Hope for the Miraculous in the Struggle of the Mundane (Kelly Minter) – this was Kelly Minter’s first book, but the last of hers that I read.  Having read her other works, I could see that this is not her best, but it does have great insights about Jesus’s first miracle.  If you were going to pick just one of her books, though, I’d skip this one (not because it’s bad but because the others are so much better). My rating: 3 stars.

Church of the Small Things: the Million Little Pieces that make up a Life (Melanie Shankle) – this book actually releases in October, but I received an advance copy from netgalley.com in exchange for my feedback.  I love Shankle’s voice and way of spinning a tale.  This was an enjoyable read, but not my favorite of her books.  I knew it would be difficult to follow Nobody’s Cuter Than You. My rating: 3.5 stars.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World (Tsh Oxenreider) – If you love Tsh’s blog and podcast I’m sure you’ll love her books.  I was not familiar with her stuff and bought this because it was a Kindle deal of the day.  I don’t want to criticize her writing or ideas – this just wasn’t at all for me. My rating: 2 stars.

The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World (Lisa Harper) – I was so excited to be chosen to be on the launch team for this book, which released YESTERDAY.  Lisa addresses a rather difficult topic with humor and depth and draws attention to a side of the Father that can be difficult to understand.  She borrows many of her ideas from Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness, so I’ve added that to my TBR list.  My rating: 4 stars.

The Book of Unknown Americans (Christina Henriquez) – I picked this one up because of my goal to read one #diversevoices book every month.  This novel is set in Delaware and shares the experiences of several Latin American immigrant families.  It was moving and challenging.  My rating: 4 stars.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Timothy Keller) – I will never be qualified to critique Tim Keller’s work so I won’t even put a rating on this one.  Comforting and convicting, I will be keeping this one close and reading it again.

Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) – I don’t normally read sci-fi….in fact, I think I’ve maybe read 4 total since I started tracking my reads 300ish books ago.  This one held my attention and I felt like I was reading a movie, but the premise (of parallel universes) is one that doesn’t usually pique my imagination.  That being said, if you like that kind of thing, you’ll probably love this.  My rating: 3 stars (but a 5 could be justified).

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng) – this book was on my TBR list for a long time. I was hooked from the first line – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”  This is a powerful story of a Chinese-American family in the 1970s, a moving portrait of families in general.  I loved this book.  My rating: 5 stars.

Love Story (Karen Kingsbury) – This is another netgalley.com find and the book will release next week.  The more I read the less I like Kingsbury’s books because I think she (or her publisher) far prefer getting out new books quickly at the expense of quality writing.   Her stories are beginning to feel like Christian melodrama and I find it disappointing.  That being said, this is another in the Baxter family series and I do love those characters so I will always read these books.  If you’ve read and enjoyed others in the series, you will enjoy this one as well.

The Girl You Left Behind (JoJo Moyes) – I’m a Moyes fan, but this one started out slow for me.  I almost abandoned it, but I am glad I persisted.  The story did not take the path I expected, and I appreciated the twists. I wouldn’t call it suspense, but there is an air of mystery.  My rating: 3 stars.

 

Total Books Read in 2017: 50.

What have you been reading lately?

Friday Finds 5/5/17

This Friday Finds post is brought to you by my “Flood Day.”  That’s right.  School was cancelled today due to the creeks rising over the bridges.

I was already at work at 6:45 and so I’ve been trying to redo my entire testing schedule…that’s been fun.

Today’s find is a little bit different: I’ve got a fun story for.  Last night at small group, a couple people shared that they are daily reminded of God’s love for them in small ways.  For example, one woman said she always prays for a good parking spot and she always gets one.  Just something God does for her.

I’ve got to admit that it kind of made me mad.  I didn’t say anything, but I was frustrated…and spent a lot of time last night thinking about why it mad me so mad.  I guess the root of it is that I don’t feel like that’s the way God deals with me.  I don’t get those “and then I won the lottery” or “and they lived happily ever after” stories.  My friend needed a new car….then passed out at the doctor’s office, broke her nose, and got a settlement that paid for the new car.  I’m not jealous, exactly.  It’s just that I’ve begun to understand that the easy way isn’t going to be His path for me, and that’s ok.  His love for me is revealed in other ways…like the way He strips away my pride and forces circumstances that require I give up trying to do things on my own and trust Him.  And that means hard things.

All that to say, last night I was feeling sad and definitely asked God, “Why can’t You just love me that way instead?”

This morning while getting ready for my nonexistent workday, I discovered the cream for my coffee wasn’t smelling right and didn’t think it would be wise to risk it.  I’m not a fan of black coffee so I headed to Sheetz on the way in.  I got my coffee and when I pulled out money to pay, the cashier asked, “Would you like your coffee to be free this morning?”

“Ummm, yes. I most certainly would,” I stammered back.  (Turns out they changed their rewards structure and I hadn’t realized….)

It’s not an earth shattering miracle to have a free coffee that typically costs $1.50 but I don’t want to ignore that it was a gift.  God sent His love in a clear way…the easy way…and I am thankful I didn’t miss it.

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And another little find for you, courtesy of my sister, Amy.  Some friends of hers are the models in this adorable “This is Us” Themed Photo Shoot.  So fun!

Happy Weekend!

What I Read: April 2017

This month I approached my reading a bit differently than I usually do.  I made a goal to read 30 minutes daily and did so on 29 out of 30 days!  I will say, however, that I read far more than the 14.5 hours…as you will likely assume when you see the total number of books I read this month.  I had a week of spring break and I read several hours each day — I’m also a fast reader.  I am going to once again set the 30 minutes goal for May, though I doubt I will get through even close to as many books due to a much busier calendar.  I noticed reading puts my mind at ease in a way television can’t.  I explained it to a friend this way – when I am reading, all I can do is read.  It takes every part of my mind and emotions.  I can truly escape from my worries or thoughts of the day.  When I watch TV, I am often trying to multitask – cleaning or catching up on work email or scrolling through my phone.  For me, books are so much better.

Here are the 13 (!!!) books I read in April:

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The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life (Ann Voskamp): A good read for the end of Lent. I have a love/hate relationship with Ann Voskamp’s style and therefore had mixed feelings about this one.  My rating: 3 stars.

Along the Infinite Sea (Beatriz Williams): the first of anything I’ve read by Beatriz Williams.  I think I want to read them all! My rating: 4 stars.

In a Dark,  Dark Wood (Ruth Ware): a good thriller about a bachelorette weekend gone wrong. Kept me in suspense the whole time.  My rating: 3 stars.

Between Shades of Gray (Ruth Sepetys): this is a YA novel about the plight of Lithuanians during World War II.  I knew nothing about the topic and this was a good introduction.  My rating: 4 stars.

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi): all I can say is “wow”! This is a sweeping epic that begins in colonial Africa and reaches to the present day.  For those of you trying to read the words of #ownvoices or #diversebooks authors, this is a great one.  And Gyasi is younger than I am! She and Brit Bennett (last month) amaze me.  My rating: 5 stars!

Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything (Gloria Furman): If I am ever able to write a book, I want it to be one like this.  Furman writes with joy and wisdom.  She presents an in-depth study of Ephesians rich in theology and gospel truth that is told without too many anecdotes and emotional appears.  We need more books like this.  My rating: 5 stars!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress (Ariel Lawhon): a fictional story based on the author’s imagination of a real event.  This story takes place in 1930s New York and follows the three women who were closest to Judge Joseph Crater before his disappearance.  Fascinating debut that I could easily picture as a movie! My rating: 4.5 stars!

The Chemist (Stephenie Meyer): well it certainly wasn’t anything like Twilight.  It took me about 100 pages to get into this book..I almost abandoned it, but then things picked up and I enjoyed the story.  My rating: 3 stars.

The Bruised Reed (Richard Sibbes): It’s hard to put a rating on a book written in the 1600s so I’m not even going to try.  A beautiful and comforting study of the passage of scripture that includes, “A bruised reed he will not break.”

A Piece of the World (Christina Baker Kline): Another great book! This is a character study based on the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting, Christina’s World.  Kline took what little we know about the real Christina and Andrew Wyeth’s biography and imagines the years leading up to the image.  I enjoyed this book. My rating: 4 stars.

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Hannah Anderson): While Furman’s book had my soul saying, “Amen,” this one brought great conviction. Taking wisdom from agriculture and scripture, Anderson shows us that humility is the answer to our restlessness, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy.  I will be reading this one again, and soon.  My rating: 5 stars.

A Hundred Summers (Beatriz Williams) – I plan to read everything this woman writes.  This one would make a great beach read. I just loved it (and it was set in the 1930s…a period I’m beginning to enjoy).  My rating: 4 stars.

Exit West (Mohsin Hamid): this is a very recent release and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love the genre.  Magical realism isn’t something I read often and I had some difficulty with it.  It’s worth the struggle, even if you have to suspend reality, because this book is a great commentary on so many relevant social issues.  My rating: 4 stars.

Friday Finds: 4/21/17

Happy Friday, y’all!

I don’t have any typical finds for you this week.  April finally had her baby and it was amazing to watch! From hooves and a nose out to a baby giraffe on the ground in 12 minutes.  It was awesome!

What I want to share today is a quote from one of the books I’m reading right now, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul, by Hannah Anderson.  The chapter I read this morning was so convicting and encouraging.  Here is an excerpt:

“Because our emotions are powerful, it’s tempting to simply shut them down or deny them like the ancient Stoics would. We know the danger that comes when we are led by them, how easily we lash out in anger or manipulate others. But simply controlling our emotions doesn’t make us humble, or healthy, people. Instead, humility calls us to something better. Humility calls us to feel deeply precisely because we know that ‘God is greater than our hearts.’

“Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to care for you when your heart breaks through disappointment or suffering. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to rejoice with you in times of joy and success. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to correct and lead you through doubt and fear. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ He can handle the depth of your emotions. He is not afraid of them, and as you bring them back to Him,  you shouldn’t be afraid of them either. In this sense, humility does not shut down your inner life; humility redeems it.

“So that, with the psalmist, we can finally and confidently proclaim, ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.'”

Humble Roots, p.114

He said, “Good morning”

Matthew 28:1-9 — Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

This morning, I read this familiar passage in a new translation (Holman CSB if you’re wondering). Instead of “Greetings!” (ESV and NIV), in the CSB Jesus approached the women and said, “Good morning!”

The cheerfulness and familiarity of the term struck me in a way “greetings” never did.  The contrast between this entrance and that of the angel makes it all the more notable. The angel appears in all the glory and power of heaven – everyone trembled at the sight.  Then, Jesus quietly meets the women on the road and without a trace of fanfare says, “Good morning!”

The Greek word used here is chairo and it has multiple meanings. It was used to say “Rejoice!” or “Hail!” or even “Peace to you.”  But it was also a familiar — common — greeting in the day.  They used it to say hello and goodbye, like “Be well” or “Ciao”.  It’s a word you would use when you were reuniting with old friends.

He says to the women, “Good morning!”

The greatest understatement of all time.

I think He was saying, “Good morning” in every sense of the word.  “Rejoice! – your sorrow has turned into joy!”  “The peace that transcends all peace is yours today.”  “All is well and all will be well.”  And finally, “Hey, how’ve you been?”

He says hello like nothing had happened, but really everything, had changed. The fate of humanity, the trajectory of the universe, forever altered.

Matthew Henry writes, “The salutation speaks the good-will of Christ to man.”  When Jesus said those words He spoke reconciliation.  I am alive and your sins are now atoned for.  And now He is not ashamed to call us brothers.  He walks up and simply says, “Good morning.”  We have peace with God and fellowship with Jesus Christ.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:13-17)

He Speaks in the Night

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night

And You tell me that You’re pleased and that I’m never alone…

I don’t normally wake up in the middle of the night.  While it may take me a while to fall asleep, I usually have no problem staying asleep once it happens.  So I was surprised a couple weeks ago when I awoke around 2am and found myself wide awake.

Realizing I wouldn’t be falling asleep anytime soon, I sat up and reached for my book. In that brief moment, I found myself overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness. It came like a mighty wave and I felt like it would drown me.

I looked out the window and uttered a single word, “Why?”  Why did I feel this way?  I haven’t felt this alone in a long time – this year is one of the first where I feel like I truly belong in this town, in my church… Yes, I long for a family, but I am surrounded by a family of faith and children who run to greet me when I get to church or worship practice or small group.  It has been a gift.

But the truth is there is still a piece that feels alone. Unseen. Unknown. It’s a far deeper longing that the ache I feel for a husband and children of my own.  It’s hard to put into words.  And on this night, my heart was overwhelmed within me.

The why was quickly followed by for how long, O Lord?

Almost immediately, my soul heard His answer.  It wasn’t an audible voice, but the words that filled my mind were ones that were both tender and full of authority.

Let me first tell you what He didn’t say.  He did not give me an expiration date on this feeling. He did not give me the name of my husband or even promise that there is one out there.

He said this: You will never feel this way in heaven.

Feelings of peace washed over me.  I am already fully known, seen, understood. I belong.  I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  All of these things are already true.

But for now we see in part.  I have days when I feel like I belong and I am a key part of this fellowship.  There are other days when I think I could disappear and no one would notice.  While I am fully known already, I can only see imperfect glimpses of that reality from time to time.  One day I shall see fully and be able to understand that I am fully known.  There will never be a single moment in eternity when I feel like I don’t fit. That feeling — that fear — will disappear.  It will just be a memory, like suffering, sickness, and death.

I will never feel this way in heaven.

This means for me, this life is as bad as it gets. These feelings have an end date and they will be gone for good.  I rejoice in that hope!

And what a wondrous thing / I can stand to sing / ‘Cause when I fall to my knees You’re the One who pulls me up again / And what a mystery that You notice me / And in a crowd of ten thousand You don’t miss a thing / I am seen and I am known by the King of kings and Lord of lords

 

Songs quoted:
“Good Good Father” (Chris Tomlin)
“You Don’t Miss a Thing” (Bethel Music)