An invitation to be who you are: Review of Brave Enough by Nicole Unice

“Brave” is not a word I use to describe myself. I’m more of the timid and anxious variety. “Brave” makes me think of warriors and pioneers and go-getters who tackle every challenge that comes their way.

brave enoughSo, I was interested in this book by Nicole Unice, Brave Enough, because of the implication that I might have this bravery thing all wrong. I trust Nicole as a writer. She gently guided me through all my issues a few years ago in her first book, She’s Got Issues, and she speaks as someone who knows what she’s talking about because she’s just like the rest of us. No high horse, here. Nicole shares stories of imperfection and weakness, and for this, I am grateful. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

Brave Enough calls us to “get over our fears, flaws and failures to live BOLD and FREE.” Who wouldn’t want that? And from page one, she inspires us to imagine what that kind of life would look like.

What if, starting today, starting right now, you weren’t scared anymore? What if that worried energy were gone? …. What would you do? Who would you be? How would you live bigger? (p. xiii)

When I started reading this book, I was in the midst of a situation that had me very worried. And I was weeks away from a 10-day mission trip to Kenya. The words of this book were as applicable on that adventure as I’ve found them in my daily life since then. I need the challenge to live courageously in my day-to-day activities.

Nicole breaks the book down into characteristics or actions of brave-enough women. And each chapter ends with questions for reflection and a prayer related to the chapter’s theme. Most are the kind of questions I need to take more time with. (And definitely grab a notebook before you start this book. Lots of opportunity to journal and reflect.)

There’s also a section at the end for further contemplation about the Scriptures she used throughout the book and a space to think about what section might be the most applicable in this season. (A DVD curriculum is also available if you’re looking for a group study.)

Bottom line: Nicole understands the issues and challenges women face because she faces them too! And her heart for leading women beyond those issues and challenges is evident in her writing. I highly recommend both of her books for spiritual growth.

Why my vocabulary is changing (and so is my life): Review of For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

I may be slightly obsessed with all things Jen Hatmaker. The lady is funny and real and challenging in an inspiring sort of way. Her books 7 and Interrupted have changed my life in ways I can hardly describe.

ftl coverAnd now she has a new book out–there is much rejoicing, yay!–called For the Love and it is all of those things I described above and more. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my review.) All you really need to know is that I dog-eared every other page, read it in one day and will be going back through the book to re-read and underline.

What Jen has written–I feel like I can call her Jen, even though we’ve never met–is a permission slip to not have it all together and to quit trying to meet whatever standards we women think we need to meet.

She says in the introduction:

I hope to lift every noose from your neck, both the ones you put there and the ones someone else did. We are going to let ourselves and each other off the hook, and in the end, we will be free to run our races well; to live wide, generous days; and to practice the wholehearted living we were created for.

It’s a fun journey, this book. Jen writes with conviction and humor. I laughed as much as I was challenged, and I could feel the freedom descending with each page. The book’s title is one of Jen’s catch-phrases, and I find myself using it more after reading the book. Don’t let that be a deterrent. Just be prepared to give yourself and others grace at the end of the day (and in the midst of it).

I could give you more quotes, but then I’d basically be plagiarizing the entire book. (Okay, here’s one more.)

be kind be you love jesus

I could tell you my favorite parts, but that’s the whole entire thing. I can’t think of a good reason for a person not to read this book. (Our little launch team of 500 even had 4 guys in it, so not necessarily for ladies only.) And if you’re a little iffy about God and faith, you’ll find Jen’s writing accessible and un-preachy.

Graphic by Carlee Ann Easton

Graphic by Carlee Ann Easton

Seriously, just get a copy of this book and let the chains of expectation fall off.

Here’s the website for the book, for more information.

A free spirit and finding what satisfies: Review of Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines

I only know of Amber Haines through other writers. She and her husband, Seth, both have redemptive stories and gifted writing voices, and reading her book Wild in the Hollow was a literary treat. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through Icon Media Group in exchange for my review.)

wild in the hollowIn the book, Amber writes of her longings and desires, her attempts to be the person that would make people happy, the person that would make her happy. Her journey is littered with broken pieces and yet her story is one of hope and healing, of finding satisfaction in the only place that’s real and true. She writes in the introduction:

The way I remember home is the same way the prodigal son remembered his when he found himself eating scraps. It’s the place we know we can go, where we’ll be received and fed. It’s where we know we have a name. … At the basest level, we suspect that home is the place where we’ll find our fit, where we’ll finally be free. (p. 12-13)

Wild in the Hollow is the story of her journey home, not to a place but a people and a Person.

Her writing is like poetry and her stories come alive to the imagination. She inspires and convicts and challenges in the gentlest way. Reading Wild in the Hollow is like a hike through the mountains, full of uphills and downhills, a lot of hard work but the journey is worth it for the beautiful views.

If you want to read more of Amber’s writing, visit her blog.

How to live with unfulfilled dreams: Review of Longing For Paris by Sarah Mae

Ah, Paris. The word itself makes me sigh, just hearing it. And if I hadn’t had the unforgettable opportunity to visit Paris in college while I studied for a semester in England, the longing might be unbearable.

Okay, so there’s still a part of me that dreams of going back, this time with my love by my side. Isn’t it tragic that my husband and I have been to Paris separately, in our youth, but never together? Tragic, I tell you.

There’s something about Paris that hits on my longing for adventure and beauty and meaning. And it’s not just Paris. It’s Italy. It’s travel to anywhere I’ve never been. It’s my dream of writing a book. Of finding purpose in my work and life.

It’s the kinds of things that get pushed down or set aside in motherhood, things I’ve been wondering about: Are they recoverable? Do they fit in my life anymore as a mom?

Not long ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and I wanted to escape my day-to-day life–for real–to have those kinds of adventures and “find myself.”

LFPThank God–I really do!–for the next book to come along: Sarah Mae’s Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty and Adventure Right Where She Is. Pause for a moment and take all of that title in.

In this book, Sarah Mae recognizes our longings and affirms them as gifts from a God who cares about our dreams because He cares about us.

lfp-dreams

This book could not have come at a more perfect time. (Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my review.) I’m in the middle of a year focusing on the word “whole” and my kids will both be in school all day starting in the fall. I have this amazing opportunity to rediscover who I am after feeling like motherhood swallowed me these last 7 or so years.

Longing For Paris encourages moms at any stage of parenting (or any woman with unfulfilled longings) that we can have that beauty, adventure and meaning we’re looking for, right in our own homes and towns. But it’s not just empty platitudes Sarah Mae offers; it’s practical ways to do this.

A few of my favorite take-aways from the book:

  • Adventure can be anything out of the ordinary: dessert before dinner, a French pastry from a local cafe, savoring your food. It’s a call to seek out the “Paris” wherever you are.
  • Beauty is what you make of it. In the ordinary, everyday, we can begin to think that we’re not beautiful or our lives are not beautiful. Taking a cue from the confidence of French women, who seldom worry about what other people think, Sarah encourages us to choose to see beauty. And one way to do this is to get rid of our frumpy clothes or anything we wear that doesn’t make us feel beautiful. I love this suggestion because I know there are clothes in my closet that negatively affect my attitude about myself.
  • Simplicity adds to our contentment with what we have. It’s weird how having more stuff doesn’t make us any happier, just more burdened. She told a story about having her kids choose 20 things to keep out of all their things. That sounded like a lot, but she realized how much more they actually had. Purging and simplifying our things helps us enjoy what we do have.

I took a lot of notes with this book, and I want to plaster some of the quotes from the book in front of me always so I can remember these words.

LFPquote

It’s a beautiful call to live a full and rewarding life, even if it’s not everything you hoped it would be.

If you love your life–most days–but wonder if there’s still room in it for your dreams, then this is the book that will help you live with that tension, not just in a settling for less kind of way, but in a deeply satisfying way.

You can find out more about the book here.

There’s a book for that (TV edition): The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

If you’re following along, this is the fifth installment of book-turned-TV reviews. You can find all the posts in this series, and my previous series about books-turned-movies, here.

Oh, Alice Hoffman, how little I know you. Years ago I watched the movie “Practical Magic” but had no clue it was attached to a book, but when I read the description for CBS’ mini-series “The Dovekeepers” earlier this year, I wondered why on earth I’d never read anything by Hoffman.

Spoiler alert: I am hooked. dovekeepers

Hoffman’s storytelling is riveting, haunting and as magical as the spells her characters create. This story of four Jewish women in the desert stronghold Masada after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. is historically informative and narratively imaginative. My favorite kind of historical fiction weaves these two things together in a beautiful pattern, and The Dovekeepers is now counted among this class of story.

Their struggles and choices, made in the moment for the sake of survival, are painful and heartbreaking and raw at times, but I left this book with a greater appreciation of first-century Jewish women. Though Hoffman writes with a spiritual, but not necessarily Judeo-Christian, emphasis, there is beauty in the ancient practices she describes.

After reading the book, which was not an easy or light read, I was eager to watch the mini-series.

Unfortunately, it fell way short for me in comparison to the book. This is not a new feeling for books-to-movies or books-to-TV. Books, in general, are usually richer and have more depth than their on-screen counterparts. Writing a story for the screen requires different elements, I know, and a two-episode mini-series can’t capture everything in the book.

Still. I think I expected more. If you read last week’s post about “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” you’ll know that I was impressed with that Roma Downey/Mark Burnett production. “The Dovekeepers” is also one of theirs, but it is more violent and contains more sensuality–which are both in the book–than the Bible series. Let that be a warning.

Some aspects of the plot were changed for the sake of time, I think, but even the ending was different. That kind of annoys me. The book follows four women on their Masada journey; the mini-series focused on three. The most surprising characteristic of the mini-series was Sam Neill as Flavius Josephus, Jewish historian for the Romans, who in this story recorded the events of Masada through interviews with two of the women. Sam Neill is a cowboy or lawman in my mind. To see him in this role was interesting.

If you’ve seen the mini-series, I’d recommend you read the book to get the real story. If you haven’t seen the mini-series but have read the book, don’t bother. It didn’t add much to the book for me.

If you’ve got books-to-TV or books-to-movie recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them! Let me know what you think of this series and whether you’ve tried any of the books/TV shows mentioned this month.

 

There’s a book for that (TV edition): The Bible

This is the fourth post in this series about books-turned-TV-shows. You can find the current series, as well as a series of posts I wrote a few years ago about books-turned-movies, here.

Okay, technically this isn’t a review of the ENTIRE Bible because that would be a massive undertaking. The Bible is a collection of more than 60 “books” and because of a TV series that aired recently, this is a look at part of one of those books: the book of Acts. wpid-20150710_085847.jpg

A.D.: The Bible Continues aired on network TV this spring, and I was skeptical at the start. A lot of movies or TV shows I’ve seen that attempt to dramatize the stories in the Bible turn out cheesy or present themselves as unprofessional.

I can say exactly the opposite about this series, produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. The episodes were so well done that I wanted to read my Bible along with them just to watch the events come alive. The series encapsulated the first 10 chapters of the book of Acts, the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, when the new church was growing and being persecuted. I loved the emotions and personalities from the characters who are usually just names: Peter, Mary, Joanna, Caiaphas, Pilate, Paul. Seeing them portrayed as flesh-and-blood people–because they were–with human reactions and behaviors renewed my interest in stories I sometimes skim over because I’ve read them before. (I’m not proud of that attitude about the Bible, but it’s true.)

There were no spoilers, per se, in the series, but the drama was still intense. Throughout the series, we see hints of the internal journey of the Roman centurion Cornelius. We see Saul bent on destroying the Christians followed by his miraculous encounter with Christ and the complete 180 turn his life takes as he becomes the apostle Paul. When I read these passages in the Bible now, or when I read Paul’s letters, I visualize these actors and their voices, which make the words more than ink on a page. They feel more like a letter or a story when I can picture the person who penned the words.

I can enthusiastically recommend this series for watching. Even if you care nothing for the Bible, this series is a good historical drama set in first-century Judea. When an artistic interpretation of a historical event or time period makes me want to know more about that event or time period, I consider it a success.

Sadly, NBC canceled this show after its 12-episode run, but I’ve read that some of the next planned episodes are already being written. I hope there are more series like this in the works from Burnett and Downey.

Next week, the final post in this series, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman.

A book about 3 of my favorite things: Review of Jesus, Bread and Chocolate by John J. Thompson

I have my husband to thank for this book. He heard John J. Thompson speak on a podcast he listens to and the topic of  his book intrigued both of us. (Thanks to the publisher and the BookLook Blogger Program, we got a free copy in exchange for a review.)

jesus bread & chocolateJesus, Bread and Chocolate: Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World is like taking a deep breath. We live in a world that “values” cheap, quick, substandard and replaceable. Thompson’s book discusses various artisanal movements–small-batch coffee roasters, homemade bread, craft breweries, gardening, Americana music–and applies its principles to our faith, which in a lot of ways has become industrialized for a consumer mindset.

Thompson offers a lot of observations from these various areas of handmade, small batch goods and how they could apply to faith.

It’s a book that has come at the perfect time for our family. We started our first garden this year, and we are increasingly in search of products that oppose the cheaply made, convenient label. After I read the coffee chapter, my morning coffee tasted different, almost bitter. The observations he makes about cultivating a taste for the “real” stuff are life-changing beyond coffee, chocolate, bread and beer.

“I wonder what would happen to the value of our faith if we could rescue it from the process of commodification. If a life spent in pursuit of Christ could be recognized as a radical and selfless, counterintuitive adventure instead of a carefully packaged and lifeless script, would seekers find something worth following?” (p. 131)

See what I mean? There’s a lot to chew on here. (Figuratively and literally.)

If you crave something more meaningful in your faith, in your food, in your life, then get a copy of this book and let it stir something in your soul.