Tuesday, June 28, 2011

For the Love of Books


I remember the first time a book really spoke to me. The main character was about my age, going through a lot of the same things I was going through at the time, and yet, she was something I was not but something I aspired to be--popular, cute, and put together. Plus she went on some amazing adventures and very nearly got herself killed a time or two.

Oh, volumes were written about this character. I wanted to be her.

Her name was Nancy Drew.

Today, books speak to me all the time, but I don't choose my books so much for the main characters anymore. I mainly choose my books based on the setting. (Is that weird?) I'll think to myself, "Gee, I'd like to go to England today" so I'll head to the library and check out a good book that's set in England.

England and the South are my favorite settings.

In nearly every book I read, something pops out at me that makes me think, "Oh yeah, I do that" or "I think that, too." I turn down the page and come back to that little moment later, when I can write it down.

Last week I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" for the second time. I wanted to be transported back to England, and I remember loving that book the first time around, so I picked it up again. I'm so glad I did. I loved every moment that I spent with that eclectic group of characters.

And I loved the insight of the authors. Insight into what was happening during World War II. Insight into relationships. Insight into the slower pace of life on the island of Guernsey. (I think I'd like to move there.)

One section of the book really caught my attention because the authors picked up on my own motherly instinct/quirky thing I do. First, a little background. The main character in the book is Juliet (don't you love that name?), a single journalist who's trying to figure out if she wants to be married or not. She learns about what the people of Guernsey have to go through when the Germans invade their small island, and she wants to find out more about their lives during the war so that she can write about it. In the process, she becomes attached to a motherless little girl named Kit.

As she's getting to know what happened during the war, she learns that, just as the Germans are about to descend on the island, which is situated not far from France in the English Channel, all of the children are rounded up and sent to the main part of England to live with relatives or friends.

Juliet is processing this information in light of the little girl she's fallen in love with named Kit.
"I see myself becoming bearlike around Kit. Even when I'm not actually watching her, I'm watching her. If she's in any sort of danger (which she often is, given her taste in climbing), my hackles rise--I didn't even know I had hackles before--and I run to rescue her. When her enemy, the parson's nephew, threw plums at her, I roared at him. And through some queer sort of intuition, I always know where she is, just as I know where my hands are--and if I didn't, I should be sick with worry. . . . How did the mothers of Guernsey live, not knowing where there children were? I can't imagine."
That's the part that got me. That's the moment in the book, this time around, that made me say, "Yes! I get that!" Not that I'm bearlike about my kids, but I do have hackles. Definitely hackles. But the part I totally understood was where she says that through some sort of intuition, she always knows where Kit is.

I do that too. I always know, in some general way, where my girls are. I know that right now Caroline is at camp (a general sort of knowing, yes, but still, I know), Kate is riding to work with her dad, and Julia is upstairs in bed sleeping. Later in the day I will do another mental assessment of where each child is: camp, work, pool (maybe?). And at night I'll do another assessment: camp (probably by a campfire or hiking back from the dining hall), out with friends, at youth group. My mind is constantly thinking about my girls and where each one is at any given moment of the day.

I've always done this. I do it so much that it's become a habit with me. And I wonder, will I still do this when they are older and have families of their own? Will I still think so much about my children that I will mentally place them wherever I think they might be at any given moment?

I'm grateful to the authors of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" because they helped me see the world in a new way--through the eyes of some brave survivors--but they also helped me see that the world, at least in terms of mothering, hasn't changed that much at all.

Oh, I do love books.

I need to know: if you're a mom, do you do this? Am I completely out of my mind? And if you're not a mom, how do you choose your books--setting, character, or plot? What's your favorite setting to read about?

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Shelly

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gratitude Journal

Hello, Monday!

It's been a while since I've linked up with Ann or even kept up with my list of 1,000 gratitudes, but it's never too late to continue. It's weird, I think about this all the time, but I forget to write things down (Ann's suggestion of a notebook is probably a good one, huh?). This week I remembered to write a few things down, so I'll list them here.

166. Safety from the storms we had last week.

167. God's power revealed through the storm.

168. Our generator (something I truly am grateful for).

169. Firefly disco ball at an empty lot nearby.

170. Sharing this finding with my daughter.

171. Good neighbors.

172. Courage to press "send."

173. An encouraging response.

174. Date nights.

175. Time spent on a lake.

176. A perfect Sunday.

177. Kate's attitude about her summer.

178. Two (two!) phone calls from Caroline this weekend.

179. God's answered prayers on behalf of our girls.

180. Anticipation

I have so much to look forward to this summer. I'll write more about it soon, but for now, just know that I feel so spoiled.

And thankful. So very thankful.

Linking up with Ann Voskamp today. Be grateful.

Shelly

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Good Reads

Happy Saturday!

Looks like we'll finally see the sun for the first time in about a week, so I'm going to go soak it up today. But first I thought I'd share some of my favorite posts of the past couple of weeks.

I could SO relate to this post, "Motherhood as a Mission Field" on the "Desiring God" website. If you have young children, you MUST read this. And even if your kids are grown up, go read it too.

Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent who writes a fantastic blog for writers. In this post, "Write Your Truth" she gives fantastic advice about being real.

Oh my goodness, I love rhubarb. Rhubarb reminds me of my Grandpa Earl's huge garden that was full of rhubarb, among other things. Tasty Kitchen did an entire post of rhubarb recipes last week, so go check it out . . . if you have any rhubarb left, that is.

Donald Miller encouraged us to be "Secretly Incredible" this week. I've been thinking about that post a lot. Rather than talk about being great, just be great by doing something. Hmmmmm.

Glenda asked a great question this week: are you "Honest to Blog"?

That's it for me. Have a great weekend. I'm just hoping the power stays on!

Shelly



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Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Kitchen Favorites

Do you have a favorite place in your kitchen? Or maybe a favorite feature of your kitchen?

Or do you dream of designing the perfect kitchen . . . someday?

I used to dream of the kitchen I'd have if I could. Funny thing is, I could be happy in a lot of kitchens. In fact, MOST of the kitchens that are being featured at Sarah's "Kitchen Favourites Linky Party" (she's British--I didn't spell it wrong) could easily fit the bill for me.

Six years ago, we remodeled our house and practically doubled the size of my kitchen. I got to choose everything in it, and I still love it today.

Here's my kitchen just after the remodel was completed.

See how shiny my fridge was back then?



It's hard for me to choose just one thing in my kitchen that I love. Maybe it's the soapstone countertops (a little hard to see in these photos).



Or the beautiful tile backsplash I had installed last summer.



(Ah, there are those countertops!)



Or maybe it's the valence that I made out of antique linen tea towels that I bought in Paris a few years ago.



All those things are nice, but what I really like . . .



. . . what really makes me the happiest in my kitchen . . .



. . . is when it's filled with the people I love.



I'm a little late to Sarah's party at Modern Country Style, but that's O.K. You can find more beautiful kitchens over there.

Shelly

Sweet Summertime

In our neighborhood, summer means going on high alert.

We watch for flooding, especially, because in this older neighborhood the sewer lines just aren't capable of handling all the . . . you know.

We watch for coyotes, because they eat little dogs (not that mine would be in danger).

We watch for various insects and vermin and natural disasters because that's just where we live. On the edge. Right here in suburbia.

So I wondered aloud on Facebook last night if Jack Bauer could have handled the 24 hours that we suffered through this week. Twenty four hours that actually turned into about 29 hours. Twenty nine terrible hours without power.

On Tuesday night we had a thunderstorm that produced very little activity other than a few raindrops, some pretty ginormous flashes of lightning, and a power outage to beat all power outages. Oh, and the tornado sirens that got to exercise their lungs for the first time in recent memory---three times.

Just this morning our power came back on.

Technically, our power was out, but we were still living our lives pretty much like normal because the best money we ever spent was on a generator. It hummed along quite happily, providing us with all the protection we needed this week because that's what we paid for it to do.

I'm sure our neighbors were ready to throttle that thing (or us!) as it buzzed along.

For 29 hours.

Loudly.

But I learned this week that one thing you cannot do when the power goes out is blog because, even if you have a generator to keep all the important components of your house operational (think T.V., air conditioning, refrigerator . . . let alone the sump pumps!), you still don't have the most important component of all . . . the wi-fi.

Sorry I haven't been around this week. My wi-fi went out with the power. And my generator could not solve all of the world's problems.

Just most of them.

Shelly

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Random Summer Post

I don't know why I have such a hard time getting going early in the week. I have all sorts of blog ideas running through my head all the time, but then the weekend comes and I get into relaxation mode and then Monday comes and I'm into the pick-up-the-house-and-do-the-laundry mode and blogging just doesn't seem to want to come.

Maybe it's summer.

Which is officially TODAY. Yippee!! Let's party. Let's celebrate. Let's enjoy every moment of the season that is much too short.



Anyway, I have a whole lot of nothing rumbling around in my brain, and I figure I'd better just get it out on paper the screen so I can toss it away and forget about it.

So hold on to your hats, here comes the randomness.

* * * * *


I'm missing one certain member of our family who has chosen to take her summer where it's colder and rainier and crazier because of all the kids. Caroline is counseling at the camp she's gone to forever, and she left last week. One down, seven to go.

I miss her. The house feels different without her.

And yet, at the same time, I know for sure that she's where she should be. Because that girl? That girl is a servant. And that girl comes alive when she's up there. And for some reason I just know it's where she needs to be.

But it doesn't stop the missing.

* * * * *


I spoke to a small group of college girls last night. That was fun, but I spent a week and a half preparing and all day yesterday practicing. Still, I came home and told B, "I could think of at least three different ways I could have done it better."

What is that? All the self-doubt and criticism?

Funny thing was, I was talking about finding our identity in Christ. Did I not listen to my own talk?!

I drive myself crazy sometimes.

* * * * *


Here's my random day today: Write something. Anything. Buy some food . . . of any kind . . . because my family is starving. Have lunch with a friend who has moved away--high point!! Take the car to the shop for a very minor repair but that will probably take two hours. Make dinner.

Sounds like fun, no?

* * * * *


I have to send an email today that makes my stomach flip and my heart all a-flutter. I won't tell you what it is, probably ever, but I'm torn between not wanting to do it and really wanting to do it. And I'm already a day late because, you see, I challenge myself to send those difficult/exciting emails by a certain date. And I didn't get around to it yesterday, so today MUST BE the day.

Will you just shoot up a prayer that I'll actually press "send" today? Many thanks.

* * * * *


Have I mentioned that B gets a sabbatical this summer? And that it's four weeks all-in-a-row? And that we are getting giddy with excitement because we're leaving in less than three weeks? And that I will be gone from my house, physically, for four weeks? (I've never done that!)

Julia and I bought inner tubes and floaties the other day and for some reason that made me so excited. I'm hoping for lots of sunny days and very little rain and fish that bite.

Oh, have I mentioned that they really don't have internet access where we're heading? I'm in a little bit of a panic about that one, but here's the solution. I'm thinking about just taking a blogging break for that month.

What do you think?

* * * * *

Speaking of being gone for a month . . . got any good book suggestions?




Shelly

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food: Lemon Cake

I just realized that I promised you a FFF post . . . yesterday.

But yesterday I had the afternoon to myself, so I ran a ton of errands that I had been putting off. Important things like buying hair spray and getting my mug shot taken for my new I.D. card for my new job. *gulp* But they were errands that Julia would not have enjoyed, so I sent her off to the pool with a friend and I got down to business.

Except that I forgot to put up my FFF post. Sorry about that. I may be late, but I'm not a liar, so here we go.

Today's recipe comes from my BFF Amy. Every year at Christmas, Amy hosts the most beautiful Christmas party at her home. She invites all of our neighbors, and she makes a fabulous Raspberry Champagne Punch. (Note to self: steal borrow Amy's recipe and post Raspberry Champagne Punch recipe around Christmastime.)

Anyway, Amy always serves beautiful appetizers and desserts, and every year, without fail, Amy makes this lemon cake. Oh boy, is it delicious.

And have I mentioned that lemon cake is B's favorite? It is. (I think.)

Personally, I think lemon cake is a perfect summertime dessert because it's light and fruity and delicious. (Could I write commercials, or what?) And this cake is especially so.

I made this cake earlier in the week for a meeting we held at our house, and without naming names Don can I just say that certain people ate more than two pieces? And certain others might have had more than one?

That's O.K. It makes me happy when people really enjoy something I've made.

When one of my friends (who reads my blog) was leaving our house that night she said, "I'll look for the recipe on your blog!" But, alas, I had forgotten to take pictures!

Being the faithful blogger that I am, I decided to bake another cake for all of you, but especially for Kate who wanted the recipe. I now have another lemon cake in my fridge, and frankly, my family is getting a little tired of it, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop by. I'll share.

You'll probably just want to make your own, though, because this recipe is so easy. Forget "Five Ingredient Fix," this is a Four Ingredient Fantasy.

All you need is a lemon cake (baked and cooled), lemonade concentrate, sweetened condensed milk, and Cool Whip. That's it! (Don't tell Amy I said this, but no wonder she serves it at her party! There's nothing easier!)


You need a 6 oz. container of lemonade concentrate. Remember when they used to make the small ones? Guess what. They don't seem to make those anymore. At least my grocery store doesn't carry them. So just buy a big container and measure out six ounces.


In a mixing bowl, pour the can of sweetened condensed milk.



Then add the lemonade.



And stir the two together.



Easy, right? Now hold on, things are about to get harder.

Add one 8 ounce container of Cool Whip, thawed . . . (I guess the thawing must be the hard part.)



. . . and a few drops of yellow food coloring . . .



. . . and mix it all together. There's your frosting!



Now, take the cake you've baked--I've used a 9 x 13 inch pan, but you can use round layers too (that's what Amy does)--and carefully remove it from the pan. (By the way, my cake really wasn't moldy--it just looks like it in these pictures.)



Set the cake on a sheet of waxed paper.



Take some toothpicks and poke them into where the center of the cake would be--all the way around.





Then take a knife and cut just above the toothpicks. Now you know how all the pros cut the cake layers to make their fancy cakes. Cool, huh?



Now you have two layers.



Remove the toothpicks and return the bottom layer to the pan . . .



. . . and cover it with half of the frosting.



Top with the second half . . .



. . . and cover with the remaining frosting.



Once you've kind of dolloped around the top of the cake, you're done! Easy peasy lemon cake, right?



You could probably garnish with a thin slice of lemon if you want. I obviously didn't.

One more thing . . . make sure you keep this one in the refrigerator. I know Cool Whip seems like it could withstand a nuclear disaster of epic proportions and still come out just fine, but it's probably best to be safe.

If you really can't remember how to do this and you'd like to print out the recipe, you can click on the link below.

Amy's Lemon Cake

Now tell me, what are you cooking this weekend? Any Father's Day plans?


Friday, June 17, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Home



Oh boy. Today's FMF is going to be a challenge. How can you write on a topic like Home for only five minutes?

Let's give it a try and see what happens. Here goes.

START

"Home is where the heart is."

"There's no place like home."

"Welcome to my home."

All cliches about home. But what is home really?

Is it a place? Physical, snuggly, warm?

Is it a memory? All wrapped up in happy thoughts and a slightly abstract picture of reality?

Is it a longing? A feeling of not yet, but also not now?

I'm reading the book of Exodus right now, and I can see that Home is none of these things. Those poor Israelites, wandering, wandering, wandering toward home. Grumbling, complaining, questioning toward home. Wanting more. Looking back in abstract. Wishing for something else.

But the "something else" can not be attained here, now. The "not yet" hasn't arrived.

And so I grumble and complain my way through my days sometimes, with a feeling of uncertain longing for a Home I cannot see. Not yet. Not now.

Until Someone comes to guide me there.

STOP

Well now, that's certainly not how I thought this would go. And that's the fun of Five Minute Friday.

Thanks for joining me in my journey today. (And be sure to come back later because I have a new recipe to share with you. Woot!)

One more thing . . . head on over to Lisa-Jo's to read more Five Minute Friday posts. You'll find a lot of great takes on this topic!

Shelly

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just a Greeting Card

I got a card from a dear friend last week with a quote I had never seen before. I love it so much I just had to share it with you.

"What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?"
George Eliot

Have an awesome day!

Shelly

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Too Busy?



I’ve heard it so often that I fear it’s become part of our national vernacular.

Every time I hear it I cringe just a little because the same words have come out of my mouth a time or twenty.

“I’m too busy.”

Have you said it? Have you thought it? Have you suffered from it?

Most recently, those words have crushed me. A friend told me she was just too busy to read my blog. She didn’t know about something that had happened in my life, and I jokingly said, “If you read my blog you’d know.”

*wink, wink*

My friend shrugged her shoulders and said, “I’m on the computer all day, and I’m just too busy to read blogs.”

Ooooo.K.

But I hear it other places too.

Too busy to play with my kids. Too busy to help out at church. Too busy to serve a worthy ministry. Too busy to just hang out.

Too busy.

We’re raising an entire generation that is just too busy. All the time. And I worry about what that is doing to our kids. I wonder if they are growing up with this sense of being busied about, run here and there for the sake of being busy. I wonder if that’s what kids today think is normal, and that if they weren’t very busy one day will they feel like less of a human being?

And I wonder if someday our kids will be so programmed to think their lives are so overwhelmingly busy (or “important” because isn’t that a word that could be substituted for “busy” sometimes?) that they won’t have time for us, their parents.

But I also wonder if this “busyness” is something else.

A way to justify our existence? If we weren’t busy, would we not be necessary?

A way to get out of something we don’t want to do? Think about it, if we’re too busy, we don’t have to get our hands dirty doing this thing that’s just too hard.

A convenient excuse? Does our busyness justify our mistakes? Our shortcomings? Our overlooking good friends?

Whatever it is, I think it has to stop. Even though we may be busy (and, face it, we all are), I think we need to stop complaining about it.

I think my husband is the best example of this. He has a job that is pretty demanding. He has responsibility over a lot of people. His days are full. In fact, one day last week he had seven meetings back-to-back. Seven! I can’t even imagine that.

And yet, I have never heard my husband complain about being too busy.

He comes home, he turns off his cell phone, and he rests as much as he can. He also digs in and gets his hands dirty, volunteering in many ways. Last week, the same week in which he had seven back-to-back meetings, he also was out four evenings in a row—three meeting-ish things and one was a date with me. *smile*

If that were me, I’d be raising all kinds of heck about how tired I was and how I’d been pushed to my limit by all the demands on my time, but not my husband. He never said a word.

I’m challenging myself to stop using the words, “I’m too busy” because the fact of the matter is that I am not. There is always more time, more room in my schedule, more of me to go around. I can make time to help someone else or to hang out with a friend.

And if I have a day in which I’m not too busy, I will say a prayer of thanks and enjoy the blessing, but I will not think I am of lesser value because of it.

Because I know tomorrow will be full . . . but not too busy.

Linking this post to Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Reading party at Serenity Now.

Shelly



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Monday, June 13, 2011

Cozi Calendar



Does your calendar look like this one? So much stuff to write on it that you run out of space every day?

Ours was getting like that. As our girls got older, it seemed like there just wasn't a good way to keep everyone on the same page. I'd try various methods--keeping a crazy paper calendar was one of them. So was a white board that I kept by the back door. That worked for a while. But people would forget to check it, run out the door, and wouldn't know what time they needed to be home.

This weekend I got to thinking that I can't believe I haven't shared with you the single most helpful organizational tool that our family uses.

Yes, it's a calendar.

But it's not your everyday, run-of-the-mill paper calendar with pictures of tractors or mountains or woodland vistas on it. It's not made of paper at all.

It's called Cozi Calendar, and it's a website that allows each family member to access and update it from different computers whenever they want. Let me tell you, it has saved our family's proverbial booty on many occasions.

Here's why we love using the Cozi Calendar.

1. Every member of the family can access it. We have four computers in our family. (I know. Don't start.) Six if you count the i-Pad and the i-Phone. Seven if you count B's computer at work. Every one of those computers has the ability to access the family calendar. Nobody has an excuse. With iCal, which I do have on my computer, I'm the only one with access, so if I update it, nobody has a clue. It doesn't do anybody any good. But everyone has access to Cozi, so that's what we use.

2. Every member of the family can update it. Yes, there is a password, so not everyone in the world can hack into your family calendar and play Scrabble with it. But as long as the family communicates that password, everyone can update the calendar. I keep my Cozi Calendar up on a tab on my computer all day long, so I can see if anyone (especially B when he's at work) adds anything to the calendar.

3. The updates post immediately. If B puts something on the calendar when he's at work, I can see it here at home right away. If Julia's piano lesson time gets changed, she can see that as soon as she gets home from school.

4. You can change the view from a full month view to a week to a day. Set your preferences however you want. We use the weekly view because we tend to have too many entries each day to make the monthly calendar work.

5. You can have entries repeat. For instance, Julia's piano lessons are on Mondays. When I put the lesson in the calendar, along with the time, I can have it set to repeat every day, once a week, every-other week, or monthly. It's great! I don't have to go in and add it every single time by hand.

6. It's FREEEEEEEE!! We learned about Cozi about four years ago when it was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal. We thought we'd give it a try since it was free, and we have stuck with it all these years. It works well for our family.

You can also use the Cozi website for shopping lists, journaling, and To Do lists, although we haven't used those features that much. It's the calendar that we keep open on all of our family computers all the time that works best for us.

Believe it or not, fall is coming with its insane amount of school events, practices, and games. Why not take some time to play around with Cozi and see if it could work for your family?

P.S. I'm not getting any money for writing this. The people at Cozi have no idea who I am. I just really like this website and I think you will too.

Shelly

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good Reads

I love sharing all the goodness that I come across every week. Here are some recent favorites.

This first post is for the seamstresses out there (anyone? anyone?). I just thought this guest post on Gussy's blog (such a sweetheart, that Gussy) was beautiful.

Lysa shares a whole lotta wishes for the young people of our world on this post. I think it's pretty special.

Lemon Cream Granola Parfaits? Um, yes please. I think I'll be making these soon.

The writing teacher (that is now being resurrected) in me really resonated with Jon's post, "Three Letters That Will Radically Improve Every Blog and Tweet You Ever Write." It reminds me of the most important question I always tell my students to ask: "So what?"

I was reading back on some old posts by Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. He wrote an excellent post back in 2009 titled "How to Identify a Reliable Preacher" that I thought was spot on. What do you think?

Finally, I was going to do a separate post about Kristin Welch, but I think I'll just add it here. Kristen writes "We are THAT Family" and was one of the Compassion bloggers a year or so ago. She was so influenced by what she saw in Africa, that she and her husband have started a home for pregnant women called The Mercy House in Kenya. Kristen is taking her entire family (husband, three kids, and mom) to Africa with her for three weeks to open The Mercy House. Here is a post about how you can pray for her family. Today, Kristen is sick, and they are supposed to be getting on a plane. Please pray for them.

Edited to add: Unbelievable. Kristen posted this today to ask for further prayers. She is in the hospital with kidney failure. I know she would appreciate your prayers.

Shelly

Five Minute Friday: Backwards



B called a little while ago and said, "I'm still waiting for a blog post."

Doesn't he know it's the first day of summer vacation? What with all the sleeping in and late breakfasting and dog walking, I've been BUSY.

But posting today is definitely something that's hanging over my head I want to do, so I'm starting out with Five Minute Friday. I love this Friday link-up at Lisa-Jo's place. If you haven't been over there, you should. So many interesting takes on one word, written in just five minutes.

Here's mine.

START

Thinking about what's "backward" is pretty much thinking about my life right now. Doors I thought would open have closed. Doors I thought were closed forever have suddenly opened. Maybe that's topsy-turvey, but to me it seems so backward.

And then there's my life that seems to be moving backward in a strange way. We have spent so many years filling up this house with kids, and now they are growing up, leaving, or getting ready to leave. Throughout the year last year there was one less plate to on the table when, for so many years, we had been adding plate after plate after plate. Now the plates are being removed, one by one, and it feels so very backward.

And then I think about my faith, which is also backward. Emptying in order to be filled. Losing in order to gain. Denying in order to claim. Becoming weak to be truly strong. In the world's eyes this is very much backward, but in the only Eyes that matter, this is very much in order.

If that's the case, maybe it's also in order that my table slowly empties. That my laundry load lightens. That my house, so loud at one point, is quieter today.

A backward life is not an easy life, but I'm trusting that God got it right.

STOP

Shelly

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book(s) Review: "The Sword" and "The Gift"



I’m mad at Bryan Litfin.

Here he goes, writing fiction (the guy is a theology professor by day), and getting me all sucked into his stories.

I read his first two forays into fiction (“The Sword” and “The Gift”—the first two books of what he calls the Chiveis trilogy) earlier this spring, and I read them back-to-back, which is something I hardly ever do. I didn’t even wait a few days between books—again, something I never do. And it’s Christian fiction—really something I hardly ever do.

But I know Bryan (we go to church together), and we had talked about writing a few times. I was intrigued by the premise of his books (and also his publisher sent me a review copy of “The Gift”), so I started reading . . . and I couldn’t stop.

Here’s the idea. The world as we know it is destroyed by a virus and a nuclear war. Leap frog 400 years into the future, and very little of the modern world remains. In fact, civilization has reverted back almost to a medieval world of horseback and chain mail and chivalry. The world that our main characters, Teo and Ana, are living in is also a world dominated by pagan religion, devoid of any knowledge of the one true God. In fact, the Bible has been wiped off the face of the earth, or so it seems.

What follows is a story of adventure, intrigue, suspense, and romance all rolled into one. How can one author do that? you might ask. I’m not sure, but Bryan has handled it well.

Most interesting to me was how Bryan explored the question, How does a civilization learn about God without the Bible and without any knowledge of Jesus? Partway through the first book, Teo and Ana do discover the remnants of an old Bible, but the New Testament has been completely ruined, so, while they know there is more than what they have, they don’t know what it says.

These books get at the heart of the Christian faith by asking important questions. Is there one God or many? If there is one God, what is He like? And what is my relationship to Him? In following Teo and Ana’s journey, Bryan invites his readers to explore these questions for themselves.

Oh sure, there were times when I thought, “No way. That would never happen!” or “He would never say that.” But in the end, I was pulled into the story—so much so that I still think about the characters and their adventures, wishing I could be there with them.

And that’s why I’m mad at Bryan Litfin. These books are a part of a trilogy, and the third installment doesn’t come out until next year. I don’t know if I can wait that long to find out what happens to these characters I have grown to love!

I highly recommend “The Sword” and “The Gift”—they would make excellent summer reading. If you want to read more reviews or see an interview with Bryan (how cool is that?!) or to purchase the books, head on over to Amazon (and, no, I don’t get any money for saying that).

And Bryan, hurry up with Book 3, will you?!

Shelly