Hello Again! And a “REMNANTS” Book Review :)

Hello again, my friends! It’s been too long. I’ve tried to write several times, but my laptop is currently out of commission and has decided to freeze every. time. I turn it on. I’ve gotten halfway through a post several times before it deletes the whole thing and acts like it never happened. Thanks a lot, laptop. My mom is currently loaning us her laptop because she’s a doll and knows how difficult it is to job-hunt without a computer!

ANYWAY, lots has happened since we’ve last spoke. But the biggest thing right now is that I won a contest. I never win contests, people! This is a huge deal! I won a contest on Lisa T. Bergren’s author site, and two days ago this beautiful package was on my doorstep.

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What’s in the package, you ask?

IMG_0901Be still my beating heart. 20. Autographed. Books.

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*hyperventilates*

What beauties. And I haven’t read a single one of them before.

As I said, I didn’t get these until 2 days ago, and I was obviously faced with an instant dilemma: WHICH ONE FIRST.

I decided on REMNANTS: Season of Wonder, which you see in the top left of the picture here. This was one of the two books in the box by Lisa T. Bergren, and since she was the one who hosted the contest, I thought it only fitting! Now I had never read Lisa T. Bergren’s work, and this book isn’t necessarily the kind of book I usually read. But it’s the kind of book that Tyler loves, and I’ve gotten more and more interested in them recently, since we now have a shared bookshelf. So here’s a little bit of info for you, and my opinion on the book (by the way, I just finished it tonight. 2 days, 400+ pages, and a satisfied book lover.)

First, I noticed that this book was classified as Young Adult fiction, (teens and their moms), but I didn’t necessarily take that as a negative thing, even though I no longer fall into the teen category. I’m still a young adult, after all. So I read. And can I tell you? I. LOVED. IT. Every minute of it.

This book is action-packed and left me hanging from one chapter to the next, hungry for more. One of my biggest annoyances in books, tv shows, or movies, are when the creator caters too much to the audience–when they explain every little detail, and leave nothing to the reader’s (or watcher’s, in the case of tv & movies) imagination. I feel like this belittles the reader, downplays his or her intelligence. I like to read between the lines a little, understand things that aren’t completely spelled out, find things out in time along with the characters. This book was really good at that–I didn’t feel talked down to in any way.

Funny moments: I had a few LOTR flashbacks, especially when a character comments something along the lines of “You can’t simply walk into Pacifica”. Also, Vidar brought much-needed humor into intense moments, with a dry sense of humor and sarcastic remarks that made me giggle out loud. I get really “in” to my books. 😉

Intense moments: There was quite a bit of swordfighting and battle scenes, plus the spiritual realm was extremely prevalent. I got really swept up into it, but without getting grossed out by gore or too scared to be alone. This has happened in the past, haha.

Romantic moments: This book could not be classified as a romance, but there was some laced throughout. Not overpowering, though. I don’t like it when a book feels like it’s pulling back and forth between the main plot and a side romance. This didn’t feel that way. It was perfectly woven in and felt natural, like it would in real life, instead of feeling forced.

Favorite part: I simply love a book that I can’t put down. I felt swept up into this world and connected with most of the characters. There was only one or two of the main characters that I didn’t get connected to, but for the most part I was all in. This is common for me anyway, but it’s less common that I get extremely connected to both the characters and the plot.

Least-Favorite part: The next book in the series… hasn’t been released yet. Ahhhh! Seriously, this is my biggest issue with the book. The fact that I loved it so much and now I have to hit “pause” until the next one comes out. I’m so impatient!

Final words: In the front of my book, Bergren wrote, “For Alexandra–a Remnant, with her own gifting to share with the world!” Now, I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I have to share this because this is what made the book most meaningful to me. Several of the main characters in this book, the Remnants, all have a “high gift”, from the Maker, who is representative of God. The main character’s high gift? Empathy. Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that as soon as I read that, I knew I was going to love this book. When I took the StrengthFinder quiz, my top strength was empathy. I know the burden and the joy of this gift oh so well. The author’s note meant a lot more when I realized that Andriana (the empathetic main character) and I were a lot alike. Throughout the book, some of the ways that Andriana would think or speak sounded so much like me. It was weird. I loved it.

To put it bluntly: I can’t wait for the next installment in this series. And I’ve already passed this book onto Tyler, so that he can read it and I’ll have someone to talk about it with. 😉 You won’t regret this read!

I am so excited to read the rest of the books I won in this contest. I’m sure this is just the start of the treasures I have to uncover!

31 Days of Finding Joy: All Good Things….

Well friends, we did it! Made it through all 31 days… and only skipped once! Not bad, not bad. (Side note: while writing this post I keep thinking about Lina Lamont’s speech in the end scene of Singin’ in the Rain: “If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’.” HAhaha. Okay, carry on.) I decided that instead of trying to make this a novel post (and by that I mean novel as in a striking idea, not novel as in a book. Although some of my posts could probably almost qualify for book-length.), I would just reflect on these 31 days. This was my first time really blogging! I’d had a blog in the past, but it really was more of a personal diary, hidden in plain site. (HA. Get it. Site.) I accepted The Nester’s 31 day challenge because I know myself—give me a commitment and I can’t back out. The StrengthQuest test calls this responsibility—and it was my 2nd highest ranking strength, right after empathy. So as someone with a strength in responsibility, I feel emotionally bound to my commitments. So let me tell you…

It was hard. Blogging 31 days in a row (almost. Let’s not talk about my skip day.) is hard enough as it is, let alone when you’re continually blogging on the same topic. Part way through, when I was feeling like I didn’t want to do it anymore but too guilty to admit it, I relieved some guilt by reading this by Myquillyn, this by Emily, and this by Paula. Okay, so even the seasoned bloggers feel this way sometimes. 31 Days of one topic is hard, people. BUT, what better of a topic to choose than joy? If you’re going to be continually talking about one thing all month long, you might as well choose something that pretty much forces you to be focused on the positive aspect of life. Also, shout out to my husband and family for encouraging me and making me feel a little less insecure about this whole thing. So to sum it all up…

Here are the 5 most popular posts from the month as of 10/31/14, not counting the first post which people went to simply to find the list of the rest:

  1. Dinner is Served
  2. No More Waiting for Perfection
  3. Traffic Jams and Groceries
  4. Loss.
  5. …In a Negative Atmosphere
  6. (Because it was tied with #5) Pumpkins!

Also, here are the posts that took the most, emotionally, for me to write. Some things are easier to talk about than others, folks. In no particular order:

  1. Overdependence (I couldn’t even write an intro to this when I posted it on Facebook. I felt like I was bearing a lot of soul here.)
  2. This Isn’t What I Signed Up For (I made Tyler read this pre-posting. I didn’t know if I should really share that much. This one was hard because it’s right now.)
  3. Loss. (Because I felt inadequate to talk about it.)

I say all of that because, goodness have I grown during this series! Plus I’ve found out how much I love stalking other people’s blogs and digging up gems. So don’t worry, you’re not getting rid of me anytime soon. I have a lot of other things I want to talk about that I couldn’t figure out how to work into a series about joy. BUT. Now that I am no longer emotionally bound, you can bet this is not going to be a daily occurrence anymore.

Now go and find joy. Find it in Jesus, and see how He brings it into your everyday circumstances. And then take that knowledge, that overwhelming, bubbling joy that you simply cannot contain, and share it. Be the light of Christ’s joy to those around you.

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This post is the last installment in a series called 31 Days of Finding Joy. Interested? Click here for a full list of posts!

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31 Days of Finding Joy: Martha, Martha, Martha

Remember three days ago when I posted about how I have uncommitment issues and couldn’t not post, even though I felt miserable? And then remember two days ago how I… hehe… didn’t post? Apparently I’m breaking that habit. Two days ago was a wonderful evening spent with Tyler, and by the time we had cleaned up the kitchen and the living room and went to walmart and worked on the budget, I was just climbing into bed when that thought hit…. Ugh. I forgot to blog. And you know what? I climbed into bed anyway. And I didn’t even feel unbearingly guilty about it. I must be growing. 😉

I’ve been thinking, over the last few days, about a blog post I read on Chatting at the Sky regarding obligation. It’s an older post, from about 2 ½ years ago, but hey, I’m late to the party, okay? You really should go read it. (I know, I know, you’re not a link-clicker. Not everyone can be a nerd like me and jump from one blog to the next through links. Understood.) Anyway, Emily’s post spoke to me because one of her sentences at the beginning stated, “How many harsh words have you spoken, not against injustice, but because you were frustrated over not living up to an expectation?” Ugh, what a punch in the gut. The day before I read this I had done just that. I’ll spare you all the gory details (And by that I mean, I wrote it all out and it looked far too ungrateful and whiny. So I deleted it.), but pretty much you can know that eventually, the “Should” in my life wears me down.

Anyway, this blog post was about obligation. About the fact that we fill our days with responsibilities we hate and say “This is what being a grown-up is.” But the Bible says that our lives are supposed to be about Jesus. And living an abundant life. The story of Mary and Martha comes to mind:

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42 NIV

The thing about this passage is that Martha was doing what she should. She was making her home nice for Jesus. She’s making dinner for her Lord. Everything must be perfect. But while she was caught up in what she should do, she missed out on the most important thing of all—sitting at Jesus’s feet. I think one of the most powerful things about this story is that Martha wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was doing what every Good Housekeeping article would tell her to do, and Emily Post gives her an A+. But she had made all of the things she should do greater than the most important thing to do.

Enter us, particularly women (not that it doesn’t apply to men, too, but I’m about to use an example that applies to me. So… deal with it. 😉 ), in the Pinterest era. See, when our grandparents (or our parents, or our great grandparents, depending on your generation) DIY’d it was out of necessity. It was because the budget only went so far and there was a whole lot more ground to cover. It wasn’t cool or trendy, it was life. For example, you better believe that if they made your sweater into mittens it was because there were too many holes in the sweater for it to be passed on and your hands had grown too much that year to fit into last winter’s gloves. But now… now things are different. We DIY because we enjoy it, but also because it’s what’s in. I dare you to hang something creative-looking in your home and see how long it takes for someone to ask “did you make that?!” And then we have the mindset that we need to be embarrassed to admit that, “No… it’s from Hobby Lobby.” We are currently living in a culture that demands a lot of things we should do. For example, spend any amount of time on social media and you will hear that you should do the following things:

  1. Eat organic food
  2. Eat locally grown or sourced produce and meat
  3. Grow your own vegetables
  4. Follow this diet
  5. Follow this lifestyle, not diets
  6. Avoid sugar
  7. Avoid sugar substitutes
  8. Avoid dye
  9. Lose weight
  10. Work out
  11. Be comfortable with your body just the way it is
  12. Not get so comfortable with your body that other people feel uncomfortable with their bodies
  13. Breastfeed
  14. Formula feed
  15. Let your child cry it out
  16. Never let your child cry it out
  17. Exercise grace instead of discipline with your child
  18. Use discipline with your child so they grow up to be respectable adults
  19. Public school your child because you’re not a trained teacher
  20. Homeschool your child so that they don’t give in to peer pressure
  21. Be a stay-at-home mom
  22. Be a working mom
  23. Have kids
  24. Don’t have too many kids
  25. Let your child be his own person
  26. Don’t let your child be too weird
  27. Get vaccinated
  28. Don’t get vaccinated
  29. Home-cook all of your meals
  30. Make sure your house looks perfect
  31. Hand-make your gifts
  32. Hand-sew your clothes
  33. Don’t waste your talents, find a career that will make the most of the gifts you have
  34. Don’t be so focused on your career you miss out on the rest of your life

…..are you tired yet? I am. And I could think of more, those are just the things that popped into my head first. DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying that ANY of those things are wrong. In fact, they can be good. They all have valid points. But, spoiler alert, they’re not the most important. Really. They’re not. And you really cannot do all of the things on that list. First of all, because they haven’t yet figured out a way to add more hours to a day. Second of all, because half of the things contradict each other! I’m not trying to start an argument about which of these things is “most right” or “most important”. Because, when it comes down to it, “few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

I was blessed with the kind of attitude (umm, we’re gonna call it a blessing) where these kind of ‘should’ things don’t bother me. I can see this stuff on Pinterest and Facebook all day and it’s not gonna have an effect on me. I may look into it more, I may become interested, but I’m not going to be guilt-laden or discouraged. But some people who are very dear to me struggle with this on a daily basis and even have had to go through social media fasts simply because it makes them too depressed.

Should is a huge joy-blocker. It gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Don’t spend all of your time fretting over what you should do. Do the most important thing—sit at Jesus’s feet. Go where He leads you to go, say what He leads you to say, do what He leads you to do. And then, if you want to do the extras, then do them! Sometimes some of the things on the above list are part of having an abundant life. But the secret is realizing what the source of an abundant life is. Jesus!

What should do you need to let go of today so that you can sit at Jesus’s feet?

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This post is part of the series 31 Days of Finding Joy. Interested? Click here!

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