Monday, August 27, 2012

Call of a Coward - A Book Review

From the Back:  Moses never wanted to be a leader.  Jonah ran away from his missions call.  And when Marcia Moston's husband came home with a call to foreign missions, she was sure God had the wrong number.  His call conflicted with her own dreams, demanded credentials she didn't have, and required courage she couldn't seem to find. She promised to follow where God led, but she never thought the road would lead to a Mayan village on a Guatemalan mountainside.  From the treacherous road trip to their new village home, to learn to navigate a new culture, to a stateside mission field in Vermont, Moston's journey reveals that God leads just as clearly today as he did in biblical times.  Her candid account tells a story of learning to trust and obey when faithfulness seems foolish.

Synopsis:  The book opens with Marcia, her husband Bob and daughter Lily waking up in a motel in Mexico waiting to cross the border into Guatemala.  Marcia and Bob Moston had become convinced God called them to serve in Guatemala.  The book chronicles the ups and downs of their time in Guatemala.  Moston intersperses stories from their time with questions she asked God.  The couple gave up a comfortable life in the states to move into another context that was filled with unique challenges.  From corrupt governments, villager distrust, to primitive living conditions, Moston details it all. 

My Review:  This was an odd little book to me.  I didn't expect that it would chronicle only one year.  I admit I was a bit perplexed at the beginning - there wasn't a lot of overt talk about ministry or the gospel.  But, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  About midway through, the book almost "morphed' and became a beautiful story of God working in Moston's life as much or more so than He was working in the village.  I really began to feel Moston's love for the community she was serving.  This isn't your typical missionary book - the Mostons didn't move to Guatemala never to return.  They were only there a short time but it was a powerful time in their lives.  What this book does show is that God uses the obedient - often in ways that are unexpected.  The Mostons gave themselves over to God's call and never looked back.  I loved the storytelling style of the book.  In parts, I felt like I was having coffee with the author.  I just wish I'd had more back story (pre-Guatemala) and more details about their life in Vermont after returning from Guatemala.

Score:  4 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Thomas Nelson Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week Thirty-Four in Review

This is going to be a short week in review because I'm tired and don't have that much to share.  I started the week in Washington, DC for a meeting with my old job.  I had two bumpy flights but was proud of myself for flying without medication.  For those of you who know me, that's a BIG step for me.  I haven't flown without some sort of prescription relaxant in years.  I decided to just make the jump and I'm thankful I did - I had a really, really bumpy flight home on Tuesday but prevailed and came out stronger.  Yay me! :-)

I did find an amazing tapas place in DC and supposedly the chef/owner shares his recipes online.  I certainly hope so because the carrot dish I had was simply amazing.  And that's an understatement.  I'm not a huge cooked carrot fan (love, love, love raw) but these were simply a divine take on carrots.  If there was a carrot version of manna in the wilderness in OT times, this was it. Hope to find his recipe online soon and will try to replicate it.

Other than the quick trip to DC, the week was fairly boring.  I went to work, came home, went to bed, repeated the process.  I do have to say, I like the boring aspects.  There is a lot of work to do so I'm not "bored" at work - there's just no drama and for that I am immensely thankful.  I enjoy what I do and I'm beginning to feel like I know what I'm doing and can speak with some authority as to situations that come up during the course of a day.  It is hard to know the ins and outs of what my clinic treats on a daily basis but there is a need for our services and I'm glad God has put me there.

I guess that's really all for the week - I don't have much insight into what God showed me this week - I finished Jeremiah but don't have any thoughts I haven't already expounded on.  Maybe next week will be more profound. :-)

Until next week...

Love in Disguise - A Book Review

From the Back:  Jobless and down to her last dime, Ellie Moore hears about a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and believes it's the perfect chance to put her acting skills and costumes to use.  Reluctantly, the agency agrees to give her one assignment, one chance to prove herself.  Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation.  When the need arises, she also transforms into the dazzling Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.  Mine owner Steven Pierce is going to lose his business if he can't figure out who's stealing his silver shipments.  In his wildest dreams, he never expected to receive help from a gray-haired widow...or to fall in love with her beautiful niece.  Then the thieves come after Lavinia and Jessie.  Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays!  Should she give up and reveal her true identity?  What will Steven do when he realizes the woman he's falling in love with doesn't really exist?

Synopsis:  Ellie Moore is an actress wannabe and a personal assistant until her boss fires her and heads to Europe.  Frustrated, Ellie happens to overhear a need for a female detective to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  Using her unique skill set, Ellie convinces the agency to give her the job in Arizona.  Initially, Ellie is partnered with another female agent but that falls through before Ellie even boards the train.  By the time she arrives in Arizona, Ellie is playing two roles, the older Lavinia Stewart and the young, beautiful Jessie Monroe.  Her task is to blend in around town and discover who is responsible for stealing silver from the town silver mines.  Ellie introduces herself to the town (and the mine owners) as Lavinia and introduces Jessie a few weeks later.  She easily begins to build a relationship with various people from the town as both Lavinia and Jessie.  She also begins to collect information about the silver thefts.  It's enough information to lead the thieves to threaten Lavinia.  What Ellie doesn't expect is to fall in love with one of the owners.  Can the relationship survive Ellie's multiple personalities?

My Review:  I'm not overly familiar with Carol Cox's work but this was a good introduction.  I liked the spunk in Ellie's character - she saw a potential solution to her problems and acted on it.  She wasn't willing to take no for an answer.  The story itself moved along at a nice pace.  There is mystery, suspense and romance all wrapped into a nice, neat little story.  I will say that the story is a bit far-fetched but doesn't go so far as to be annoying.  This is a quick, fun read that has enjoyable characters (both good characters and "bad guys") and a good plot.  I'll definitely be checking out more of Cox's work.

Score:  3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

Bethany House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week Thirty-Three in Review

Another week down and I can't believe it.  I think this year is flying by.  Of course, since I love fall and winter, I'm happy about that!  I can't wait until the weather is cool - I just love the cool temperatures and of course, having college football doesn't hurt either.

This has been a relatively calm week - just work and then home.  I am settling in to the new job, I've been there now five full weeks, three on my own.  I have handled a few issues that have popped up and feel pretty knowledgeable about my position.  It's neat to be a manager, I've quickly grown to have a "mama bear" mentality about the two women who I supervise.  They are both younger than I am so that plays a role but I really want to see them succeed both at work and in their personal lives.  I'm so thankful God has placed me where He has.

I've spent the week reading in Jeremiah and I'm just so amazed at God's love for His people.  He repeatedly tried to protect them from destruction and they repeatedly ignored Him.  BUT, even though they had turned their backs on Him, He hadn't turned His back.  He set up ways to protect the remnant of His people.  It lead to me to think about how blessed I am that He calls me His child.  Regardless of how I behave or fail, He won't turn His back on me.  I think that is one of the most important parts of the gospel we can share with people.  Once we have experienced salvation, we are His.  There's nothing we do to deserve it and nothing we can do to lose it.  That is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions on earth.  And that's what we should be sharing with other people.  My prayer continues to be that God will provide me opportunities to share with people.

This week is slated to be a bit crazy.  I leave tomorrow for my second favorite city in the US, Washington, DC.  I'm there for the last meeting of the project I used to coordinate.  It's a fast trip, I'll be back on Tuesday so there's no time for site-seeing. :-(  I do realize though that I am happy to be in a job where there isn't a lot of travel.  This is my only planned trip out of town other than to visit my parents. After that, I've got three days in the office to cram in five days of work.  But, it's a job I love for an organization I am growing to love.

Of to write some reviews on post two reviews on here sometime this week.  I've got at least one more to come soon - I'm about halfway through the book now.  More next week...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Week Thirty-Two in Review

This has been a wonderful week.  I have finished my fourth week at CHOA and my first week on my own as the supervisor.  And, so far, so good.  I've had a few issues come up and I've been able to address them either on my own or by going to the appropriate person for help.  Since my boss is now out on maternity leave until November, it was great to meet her boss this week.  I don't think I've ever been on a job where I've been so warmly welcomed by people.  It was also reaffirmed this week that CHOA is a wonderful place to work and it is the place for me.  I learned about the work/life benefits CHOA offers and they are significant.  While I have to pay for part of my health insurance, the discounts I can get on other services (cell phone, tickets to events, movie tickets, etc.) makes up for it.  It's just nice to be in a place where the employer wants healthy, happy employees and puts their money where their sentiment is.

I ate mostly healthy this week.  I've been planning out my meals and that has helped me know up front what was for dinner.  Haven't make 100% healthy choices this week but I'm working on it.  I scoured Pintrest today for some additional recipe ideas and made one with some fresh chicken.  I have a beef dish I'm doing tomorrow that will make a nice change of pace.  It's actually fairly healthy too so that's a bonus.  Mix that with plenty of veggies and fruit and I'm good to go.

Today has been a wonderful day.  I was able to sleep in and had nowhere to go.  This is the first Saturday without some sort of plans since the end of June.  I have completely enjoyed not having anywhere to go.  I also utilized Pintrest to find a great bathroom cleaner (Dawn dish soap and warm vinegar), a great stain remover (water and vinegar) and a yummy egg-less chocolate chip cookie dough recipe.  I feel so domestic! :-)  I have also spent time writing a book review (to be posted soon) and rearranging my Pintrest boards.  I feel so rested and other than church, plan to do much of the same tomorrow.  Such a great way to revitalize before a busy week.  Thankful for periods of rest.

I moved into Jeremiah this week in my Bible reading and have been struck by Jeremiah's emotion over the disobedience of the nation of Israel.  God had routinely laid out what His children were to do and they were incredibly disobedient.  Jeremiah tried to warn but was routinely ignored.  What I've been thinking about is Jeremiah's reaction and whether or not mine mirrors his.  Sadly, it often doesn't.  I don't weep over the non-Christians in my life.  I don't intercede with God on their behalf.  I don't worry about their eternal destiny.  And that's sinful on my part.  I should be more like Jeremiah - praying for them, building on my relationships with them and when possible, sharing the gospel.  My prayer as I move into the last third of the year is that God will continue to prompt me to pray for those around me (coworkers, friends, former coworkers) and will provide me with opportunities to share and the boldness to share when those opportunities arise.

Now I'm off to organize Pintrest and chill until time for bed.  More next week...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Travelers Rest - A Book Review

From the Back:  Jane Morrow has a dilemma and love alone may not solve it.  Her faith has never been been strong yet somehow she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do.  The answer she finds may not be at all what she expected...

Synopsis:  Jane Morrow and Seth Ballentine are engaged when Seth is paralyzed by a sniper while serving in Iraq.  The novel opens with Jane visiting Seth for the first time in the North Carolina VA rehab hospital where he is recuperating.  Seth is understandably depressed and works to convince Jane to break off the engagement.  While at the hospital, Jane meets Dr. Truman Rockaway, a retired doctor who still serves his country by visiting recovering soldiers.  Truman and Jane get to know each other and Jane gets glimpses into Truman's painful past.  Jane also meets Jon-Paul Pearcy, a blind disability lawyer who offers his services to the soldiers.  As the story develops, Jane's relationship with Seth continues to deteriorate.  To avoid spoiling this great story, I'm stopping here. :-)

My Review: This is the second of Tatlock's books I have read and reviewed and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely love her story-telling style.  Like her other book, reviewed here, her characters are interesting and enjoyable and Tatlock expertly weaves their stories together.  In Travelers Rest, the plot isn't pretty - Seth is struggling and his pain is real.  Jane isn't sure how to help and that uncertainty comes through eloquently.  You can feel the emotions the two are struggling with.  The subplot with Truman just adds to that emotional complexity.  I love that although the book ends happily, the story takes twists and turns that kept me guessing.  I finished this book in less than a day.  While I was at the beach and not distracted by work and life, this still should be fair warning that you will be sucked in by this story.  I'm definitely going on a hunt for more of Tatlock's books.

Score: 4.5 bookmarks out of 5

Note:  Bethany House Publishers gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Week Thirty-One in Review

I can't believe we are finished with another week.  This week seemed to fly past.  I had my last two days with the woman I've replaced at CHOA.  We had two packed days and then I was on my own.  Even though it's only been three days, I've already had a couple things come up that I had to handle and I knew what to do and felt confident doing it.  There's still a pretty big learning curve but it's a great position to be in.  I have a great team, great support in my supervisors and the job is challenging.  I'm still getting used to working on children's issues and what we discuss every day is difficult but I'm getting there.  I know I'm right where God wants me so that's an added bonus.

Spiritually, this has been an interesting week.  I've had lots of thoughts running bouncing around in my head.  Some of it has centered on the Chick-Fil-A "controversy" and some of them are convictions for me on what I've been reading this week.  I'm not rehashing the controversy here - that's been done to death.  What I will say is that the Cathy family is standing on biblical principles and as a private company are free to give their money to whatever groups they wish.  While I don't agree with the tactics of all the organizations they support, as long as Chick isn't discriminating against people in their restaurants, I'm satisfied.  What I've been thinking about is how leaders (both Christian and governmental) have responded.  For the most part, Christian leaders urged support for Cathy and his company but I wonder if we as Christians went far enough.  We support Dan Cathy but did our response last week advance the gospel?  Did we pray for the leaders of Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago as much as we vilified them?  If you're like me, the answer to that is no.  Funny - Jesus commands us to pray for our leaders.  Just pray - not pray if you agree with them, just pray for them.  They responded the way a non-Christian would...and why would we expect differently?  Their hearts haven't been changed by the grace of the gospel.  And here's how this ties into what I read this 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, the writers outline how Manasseh and Josiah repented and followed after the heart of God.  God responded to their repentance and spared them destruction in their lifetimes.  What if we prayed consistently for our leaders to repent of their support of what God calls evil (homosexuality, abortion, etc.)?  What could happen if powerful leaders in this country repented and turned from their "wicked ways?"  What if we as Christians modeled this behavior?  What changes could we possibly see?  I don't claim to know all the answers but I'm going to continue to pray for my leaders - and pray for God to move.

Long story short, we as Christians can't totally insulate ourselves from the world and we shouldn't try to.  Sure, we should stand up when someone is attacked BUT, we should also stand up when someone is taken advantage of, discriminated against because of their skin color or ethnicity, abused, neglected or abandoned. If we want to make a difference, we have to be known as much (or more) for what we are FOR (justice, freedom from oppression, advancement of the gospel) than what we are against.  Sadly, we aren't there yet.

Officially off my soapbox. :-) Highlight of the week, I got a new (well, new to me) couch this week.  Yay for me!  My old one was from 1995 and had been lovingly used for 10 years before I got it and I've had it and loved it HARD for six.  It was way past its prime. The woman I replaced at CHOA was looking to sell hers so she didn't have to move it to Chicago.  So, I got a two-year old couch for REALLY cheap.  It's so comfy and easily adds space for someone to sleep on since it's almost the width of a twin bed when the back cushions are removed.  I love it because I can sit on it and work on my laptop much more comfortably than before. Again, yay for me!   

Don't have too much on the agenda for this week.  That's a good thing - the last two weekends have been a bit crazy so I can use a slow workweek to recover.  I do have at least one more book review to post and one to write and post.  Hopefully that will also happen this week.  More next time.

The Harvest of Grace - A Book Review

From the Back:  Although Sylvia Fisher recognizes that most Old Order Amish women her age spend their hours managing a household and raising babies, she has just one focus - tending and nurturing the herd on her family's dairy farm.  But when a dangerous connections with an old beau forces her to move far from home, she must concentrate on a new start and pour her energy into reviving a debt-ridden farm.  After months in rehab, Aaron Black returns home to sell his Daed's failing farm and move his parents into an easier lifestyle.  Two things stand in his way: the father who stubbornly refuses to recognize that Aaron has changed and the determined new farmhand his parents love like a daughter.  Her influences on Aaron's parents could ruin his plans to escape the burdens of farming and build a new life.  Can Aaron and Sylvia find common ground?  Or will their unflinching efforts toward opposite goals blur the bigger picture - one revealing the path to forgiveness, glimpses of grace, and the promise of love?

Synopsis: Sylvia Fisher is an Amish woman who wants nothing more than to be respected by her father as a dairy farmer.  She is betrothed to Elam but wants to wait to get married.  Elam isn't interested in waiting and marries her sister instead.  An unethical situation arises and Sylvia flees to a new town to escape the temptation.  She is warmly welcomed as a farmhand by the Black family.  In quite a humorous scene, she meets Aaron Black, the recovering alcoholic son of the family who employs her.  It quickly becomes obvious that Sylvia and Aaron have different goals.  It is also quite apparent that both have feelings for each other.  Sylvia helps Aaron repair his relationship with his family.  Aaron works behind the scenes to help Sylvia repair her relationship with her family.  Both discover the power of love and forgiveness.

My Review:  I wish going in I had known this was the third in a series.  I hate coming in not knowing the full  back story.  There are two other stories in the Ada House series before this one and those stories are intermingled here.  This is a sweet story and I enjoyed reading how Woodsmall developed her characters.  Sylvia had plenty of doubts and struggles and seemed like someone you could relate to.  You could also feel Aaron's struggles to rebuild after nearly losing everything to alcoholism.  Woodsmall wove Christian principles into the novel without being overly "preachy."  This was my first "modern" Amish story so that element was an added interesting layer.  I was a bit put-off by the two other storylines that were woven in.  I felt confused several times - wondering what those particular storylines were discussing.  I wouldn't have selected it to review had I known - it's too distracting to the reader.  It's a good story but too many distractions to score really high.  Even if you've read the other two, if you are a big reader like I am, you will confuse storylines.

Score:  3.0 bookmarks out of 5.

Note:  Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.