Sunday, September 17, 2017

Book Review: An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

It is so sad that the Hawthorne House series is over! I love this aristocratic family--Griffith, Miranda, Trent, Georgina...and Amelia. Times like these make me grateful a friend got me into reviewing books. I would never have discovered Kristi Ann Hunter's books otherwise. Here's the link to my review of her book about Trent, which I really had a hard time reviewing because I enjoyed it so much but I knew it had some mature elements. Actually, that's a lot like Roseanne M. White's Jewel of Persia that I just finished before starting the book below (Roseanne M. White is another author I was introduced to through Bethany House's review program).

An Inconvenient Beauty is the last installment of the Hawthorne House series, a delightful collection of regency romances revolving around the family of a duke. What a treat to get to know each character, and at last, here is Griffith's story, the imperturbable, authority-oozing, silent giant that we heard about in passing in all the other stories.

Now that all of those under his care have married, Griffith finally agrees it is time for him to do so as well. Although he will not break the family tradition of marrying for love, he doesn't see why he cannot go about this business of choosing a wife logically and without all the messiness his loved ones endured. Unfortunately, his choice seems to keep fainting or disappearing when he's around, leaving her beautiful cousin who is in town for her debut season a recurrent distraction from his goal. What happens when God seems to shut his plan down, and when messy emotions start confusing all his carefully planned logic?

Kristi Ann Hunter's romances are distinctly Christian romances, meaning the characters are usually forced to seek God's guidance. Her characters read God's word, pray (and listen!), and search for wisdom from trusted counselors. Her characters learn and grow.

Yesterday I had a sore throat, felt weak, and feared having to go into work tomorrow sick. Lying around most of the day (and night) entranced in the storyline of An Inconvenient Beauty was a definite treat in between the 3rd and 4th week of the school year. The only bummer is that today I finished it and now have to find another story to get lost in.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I honestly thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Friday, September 1, 2017

203: Lisa Anderson and at the end of life

I'm listening through Boundless' 500th episode today, and I listened to Lisa Anderson on a Focus on the Family broadcast the other day (the one with Gary Chapman talking about the 5 love languages and caring for ailing parents). Oh man, when Lisa Anderson cries...yeah, I cry too.

She was talking (on the Focus on the Family episode) about her fears that when she is older, she will have no one to take care of her. *raised hand, me too!* But she knows a lady who all through her life took family members in when they would have bad health and care for them, and now she is old and has health problems. A young family in the church has built on an additional room to their house and has taken her in to care for her. *goose bumps, tears*

This is our God. This is our God living through the lives of His people.

I do not know what will happen to me in the future. I AM concerned. I DO have a certain level of responsibility to plan for the future. I do believe in the parable in the gospels about building relationships now for when you have nothing.

But besides fear and besides responsibility, I have faith in the God who does take care of His own.

And now I have to go get some stuff done so I can hang out with my family's 60+ year old always-single friend who wants to do dinner tonight. :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

202: when I'm tempted to spiral into singleness blues

I returned back to a Bible college program tonight after 6 years away. Same location. Not much has changed (even one of the same guys is attending!). I'm not there to single mingle, but I do notice a cute guy when I enter. I avoid his eye, not paying direct attention yet without further info. Apparently my hesitance was accurate--he's there with his wife. I notice another guy come in late but in time to introduce himself to the class. He's 20 years old (12 years younger than me). People my age  mention their kids. I'm sitting next to girls right out of highschool. Isn't that how it sometimes is?

Although I am generally happy with My Single Life, the reason why I am happy is because I have fought hard by God's grace to get there. The desires for companionship and physical intimacy and a family of my own have not gone away. I am constantly meeting opportunities to spiral. So by God's grace and the last fruit of the Spirit, I fight off right-now temptation this way:

1) I emotionally entrust myself to God's sovereignty (I can work out with Him later if there are more proactive steps I should be taking. But now is not the time.)

2) I remind myself by faith of the supremacy of God's goodness over every and any circumstance.

This is why singleness is not separate from God's hand over your life. We gain, via experience, tools for ALL seasons of life.

This is the history of our "religion." Our belief system has a history of faithful trust-ers in God. Like George Mueller and Corrie Ten Boom. We too are part of that.

"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19).

Saturday, August 12, 2017

201: the question of how to not lower standards but still be like a peasant

Today I re-read this article (hidden link) which I printed and pasted in my journal several months ago. It is such a good article, you should read it for yourself, but basically it is saying that we often go about looking for a mate like royalty and aristocrats did back in the day.

Here is my list of what I want. Do you fulfill my criteria? I am worthy of more than what you can offer.

Instead, the author and her citations argue, we should search for love like a peasant. A probably inaccurate summary of that position (which I am not very familiar with because I'm definitely more aristocratic) might be,

I want to share my life with someone, and you do too. Let's share life together.

My arranged marriage side is full-on peasant. Gimme a God-fearing guy and we will make it work and fall in love while doing so! <3 <3

My reality side is full-on aristocrat. *pulls out royal checklist* Similar theology? Wants to homeschool? Don't find him repulsive? Similar preferences? Enjoy being around him? Doesn't say something that totally shocks me and makes me want to run the other direction?

My arranged marriage side cries, "But there is no one! No one is interested!"

My reality side gerhumphs, "Yeah, they're interested. You're just not interested back in those that are interested."

I look at all the divisions we have as believers. I mean, not only does my future guy have to be actually saved and following the Lord truly (basic, basic bottom line there), but he also needs to not be Calvinist, not be Arminian, and he must agree on a myriad of other things that aren't doctrinal as much as having the right perspective.

And then there's personality. Because if we marry, we're going to have to live together. And there there's that intangible chemistry that makes you think being married would be better than being single (or, perhaps, being single is better than this relationship). And the time period of dating in which we wait with bated breath for the (seemingly inevitable) red flag (or accumulation of yellow flags) to wave and end it all.

I'm not cynical at all.

If two people can survive all that and end up married, then statistically, it seems a result of a divine miracle.

Praise the Lord such miracles do happen (and the couples stay together).

Or maybe those couples were just less picky.

What would I give up, relinquish, compromise on to be a peasant? I do not know. Because ideally, I do want someone that sees the world the same as me. I don't want to have to defend myself to my spouse. I don't want to fight rolling my eyes. (pride much?) I want to enjoy being with him as a person, both alone and in groups. I want to be completely attracted to him.

I want it all. I do.

I don't even know what it means to not have it all and still have a somewhat-compatible relationship. At one point do differences divide rather than naturally occur? I don't know. I don't.

How do we not lower our standards, but begin to adopt a peasant mindset that allows marriage to be more like God seems to have intended it--a complimentary meeting of needs via cherish and respect--and less like the 2D, flat characterization of two humans having everything they ever wanted satisfied in the other without any annoying aspects portrayed? I do not know.

I'll need to go pray about that...

Any wisdom out there from people who are doing it?

Sweet potato characterizations

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Review: A Name Unknown

Pretty book covers and seeing an author's name over and over actually is effective marketing it turns out.

When I had a chance to read a novel by Roseanne M. White, I knew I wanted to finally try this author that kept popping up on Facebook. So I got a Kindle copy of A Name Unknown.

Wow, oh, wow!

Characters you fall in love with (and learn from!), an interesting plot, romance, complications--it was all there. A female street thief from London gets hired to prove a certain wealthy man is a traitor to England. She infiltrates his estate posing as a librarian and begins discovering the true character of this man and, perhaps, questioning her own. But what will her Artful-Dodger-type family and powerful and mysterious boss think if she doesn't deliver? She must deliver.

Unlike most novels I review, the romance in this one comes much later in the storyline. So while it is not strictly a romance, it is still satisfying. The gospel plays an important, and necessary, and exciting, role in character development. My only complaint is the characters begin to pursue a modicum of romantic interest before both are saved. I can't stand it when stories do that! (Like the Christy TV series and Hallmark's Signed, Sealed, and Delivered movies) But because the romance happens at the end, the spark and the conversion happen almost concurrently.

Since sadly finishing this book, I've read a really good arranged-marriage novella and a sweet juvenile fiction story (that I plan to read to my class), but I still feel like A Name Unknown was a story I was able to cozy into like an oversized leather chair and enter into a world worth entering into. It's a good feeling.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And apparently, this is the first in a series! I also heard from a friend that the author's other series is really good too.

Monday, July 24, 2017

200: adquiere sabiduria

Quick thought: God highly values wisdom.

Oddly enough, it took reading Proverbs 4 in Spanish to get this through my head.

"Sabiduria ante todo; adquiere sabiduria;
Y sobre todas tus posesiones adquiere inteligencia." -Proverbs 4:7

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." KJV

Or, my translation of the Spanish: "Wisdom before everything; acquire wisdom; and over and above all your possessions, acquire intelligence." (kind of a shocker)

Then in Proverbs 8, Lady Wisdom of course has her great soliloquy:

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before his works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning,
before there was ever an earth." (vv 22-23, NKJV)

Wisdom is such an intangible quality, I think. And this is a quick thought blog post, not a study, because I haven't recently done a study on wisdom, though I'm sure I did in my homeschooling days with my mom, because, well, wisdom was a big thing back when we were reading a Proverb every day and reading books like Wisdom with the Millers and Pearables.

Sometimes wisdom can seem like a suggestion. I mean, it's not as if it's a command of "do this." Well, okay, maybe it does say to "get wisdom," but that can feel more like a wise saying.

What I'm saying is sometimes having wisdom can feel very much like a general exhortation with little specifics tacked onto it.

So when Ephesians 5:4 says that there should be no foolish talk, I'm left thinking, Really? Is this truly a command? What does foolish talk consist of? Because I'm not sure I regularly check that part of my speech. (I mean, it also says no crude joking, but I come from a loud and proud heritage of, well, *coughs*, flatulence jokes. So is that ok?)

Ok, I've got to wrap this up. My thought is that foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. And God seems to highly value wisdom. And if God highly values wisdom, then so should I.

So if something is "foolish" or "ill-advised," I need to stop seeing that as a not-so-great-choice-but-not-necessarily-sin, and start discerning if it is the opposite of wisdom. If so, it is the opposite of what God values. And if I'm a member of the Kingdom of God, it is not only ill-advised, it is not the kingdom way. Walking wisely is how God's people walk.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:15-16, ESV)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Review: Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

Sometimes you're in the mood for fiction; sometimes you're in the mood for non-fiction. And sometimes a book outside of your mood draws you in and takes you captive for several dozen pages while on a plane heading for Chicago.

Thus was my experience with Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth by Rebecca VanDoodewaard.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested this book from Cross Focused Reviews. I hoped to be edified. I was. I also was pleasantly surprised at the author's scholarship. Most pages cite sources in the footnotes, and the style is straightforward. I was afraid I'd have to wade through conjecture and fluff. But while always interesting and cohesive, the mini-biographies of the ladies in this book seemed to stick to simple fact. In an enjoyable way.

Reformation Women is actually based on a book by James Isaac Good published in 1901. The content of that book has been "revised, expanded, and corrected to make the stories of these remarkable women accessible for today's church" (from the Preface, p. xiv). Each chapter is a mini-biography of a woman who lived during the time of the Reformation, focusing on her life and how she fought for the cause of Protestant theology. I really enjoyed reading about these sisters in the faith. It's been awhile since I studied that era, so I often could not keep up with the background history of what was going on. This book would be a great companion to a world history unit! But even in its own right, it really is so edifying.

Each woman is different--they don't have the same personalities or the same life experiences. Rebecca VanDoodewaard does an excellent job of prefacing the book by noting some characteristics you'll observe in each of these women, like their devotion to supporting their husbands' work if they were married to believers (though these women often carried on the work apart from their husbands). At the end, she does an equally amazing job concluding what we can learn from the biographies. And she was spot on in drawing out some of the things I noticed in their lives as well.

What was perhaps most impactful was how these women did not let circumstances get in the way of always encouraging the church and pushing forward. One woman lost her father and husband in the same massacre, a year after she was married. One woman had her children taken away and raised by Roman Catholics. Younger women often remarried and helped raise their new husband's children. This remarriage quote I thought was noteworthy: "He was content to have her without a dowry. She was happy to have a husband whose abilities and goals she could respect" (p. 73). Such a different world almost, or maybe it just seems so. Where life is more matter of fact. Where you are chased from one city to another, one country to another, corresponding with famous people and taking stands for Protestantism smack dab in the middle of violent Roman Catholic opposition. Where you carry on.

Rebecca VanDoodewaard writes in the conclusion, "Often, if our self-appointed identity evaporates, our feelings of security and usefulness shrivel. When we think about how the women in this book had the versatility to be fruitful in many different situations, it is clear why they did not associate with one identity other than a spiritual one. They were Christians" (p 110).

Married. Single. Living at home. Living on your own. Those are lesser identities. But the one constant thread is glorifying Christ. N'est-ce pas?

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars easily.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.