July 28, 2017

Book Review: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

    Recently, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy of the book, Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Obviously, being chosen to review one of my favorite author's books was an honor I happily accepted. I wanted to read this book before i even knew what it was about, but once I did know the plot, I was even more eager to read it. This is Sawyer's first contemporary title that does not follow an Old Order Mennonite character. While I was optimistic that this book would be as good as Sawyer's previous novels, I was blown away by how much I loved this book.

     Focusing on three different generations, a grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter, this book was unlike any other I have read. This book was flashing between the characters points of view, focusing on both the past and present, all the while seamless in presentation, and never confusing. That alone is a feat!

    While I love nothing more than a good mystery, often I have to sacrifice suspense in exchange for a hope-filled story. Such is not the case for "Bringing Maggie Home." Not only was I captivated by the mystery and the search for answers, I was delighted by the relatable characters, the hope-filled pages, and Christ-centered story. I have rarely found a book I love enough to read more than a couple times, but this book is sure to be read many times over.
     In the book, there is tension between Hazel and Diane, the grandmother and her daughter. I was brought face to face with the reality that I had unforgiveness towards my great-grandma for many of the same reasons Diane was frustrated with Hazel. In this way, the book was healing to me, helping me to see hurts and frustrations in my own heart that I hadn't realized were there. After reading this book, I have a new gratitude for my great-grandma, and I am so grateful to have seen through fiction what actually could change my heart. What an incredible book that it can bring healing I didn't even know I needed!
     Overall, I am blown away by Bringing Maggie Home. As much as I have loved Kim's past books, this one is by far her best yet. I would recommend this a thousand times over. The perfect mix of suspense and resolve, and full of poignant realities such as the toll of hidden fear and harbored bitterness, and how Christ is the only one who can fix us. If you like mysteries, love a great story, and can read, buy this book!

Thanks to Kim and the publisher for giving me a copy to read and review!

May 31, 2017

Five Reasons to Marry a Calvinist

Nearly five months ago, I married a Calvinist. GASP. I am most definitely the least confrontational person you’ll meet, and I had pledged my life to someone whose theology was debated openly. I mean, there are entire Facebook pages dedicated to just debating Calvinism. Yet, after five months of attending a Calvinist church, five months of asking a myriad of questions to my dear husband, and after reading Romans 9 more times than necessary, I have come to believe that everyone should marry a Calvinist. Though the reasons are many, here are my top five:

  1. Theology
Calvinists, by nature, are theologians with references. Feel free to question what they believe because they will most likely have a bible-based answer. My husband Kris loves theology more than almost anyone I know. That may be due to the fact that he is a calvinist, or it could just be that he is incredible. Or both.
Now, there is much debate about the correct interpretation of theology, but rest assured that no one loves theology as much as a Calvinist, while I am sure that there are Calvinists who love theology more than they love God, in my limited experience, they genuinely are studying the Bible to see the beauty of Jesus.

  1. Unpretentiousness
My husband is one of the most humble people ever. No really. The knowledge of total depravity, and complete reliance on God should mark every Calvinist with humility. Last summer, as Kris and I were discussing our views on theology I didn’t even know existed (Like did God cause the fall? I have no idea. I never even thought of that question) I was amazed at how gently he answered, and how often he quoted scripture. Like, I know scripture, but he KNOWS scripture. He was never harsh, never acted like a know-it-all, and was always super attractive.
Keep in mind, if you marry someone who loves the Bible, then you better not quote anything out of context. Unless you’re a really funny wife who quotes things out of context when your husband is studying to distract him… What a benefit, to marry someone who really does treasure the Word. Oh, the joy of having someone who is not afraid to question wrong interpretations of scripture, all in the pursuit of living out Psalms 27:4.

  1. Library-enthusiasts
Need a free date night? No one will appreciate a well-stocked library more than a Calvinist. Be forewarned however, if your library doesn’t stock enough books on the desert fathers, or is lacking in selection of books authored by Charles Spurgeon, you will have a very very very short date.

  1. Incredible Focus
Obviously, anyone who reads books by ancient authors is bound to be a very focused person. Calvinists are constantly digging into new learning material, articles, blogs, books, youtube sermons, you name it. Sometimes I’ll read Kris’s theology books over his shoulder, and I recognize maybe half the words. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still, when we go to the library, I go to the fiction section, and Kris goes to the “Obscure authors from the 1200s” section.
Calvinists are really good at concentrating, and as a result, are usually incredibly articulate, especially when explaining to you why the movie “Luther” is not only a valid date-night option, but also a far superior  choice, as opposed to popular rom-com “While You Were Sleeping.” Sigh.
  1. Piper is a Calvinist
John Piper is a like, 15 or 16 point Calvinist I think (Kris said he is actually just a 7 point Calvinist, but I don’t remember it that way). That’s more than enough reason to marry a Calvinist. Don’t believe me? Listen to this sermon jam

Now, I must be fair. I have met many people of God who love the Bible, and are full of humility, and were as far away from John Calvin as Paul was (I’m just making a joke all you who are about to start throwing epistles at me) and they would be great matches too. Really, the utmost desire in our hearts should be to see the beauty of Christ. If we are able to marry someone who also desires to see His glory on the earth, then BOOM. Match made in heaven (or not, if you don’t believe in “the one”) So go my dear friends and marry a sweet Calvinist, although I already got the best one.

May 15, 2017

Book Review: "The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis

Cape May "Diamonds"
    Read in less than 48 hours, I would consider this book a new favorite. To be fair, Beverly Lewis's books nearly always have me neglecting dishes, cooking, and laundry. Most of her books have been read in under a week, a few in less than a day. This book did not disappoint.
    The story is centered around a young Amish woman, 20-year-old Sallie Riehl. Wanting to travel, she puts off her baptismal classes until she can satiate her wanderlust. Perhaps by providence, she accepts a job as a nanny in Cape May for the Summer. It is in Cape May that she wrestles with her Amish heritage. As she finds her heart is torn between the outside world and her family, she knows she must come to a decision about the faith she holds dear.
   I think this book is among my favorites from Beverly Lewis. Although the “Abram’s Daughters” series is my all time favorite, “The Ebb Tide” comes in as a close second. Though this book is not set in the idyllic Lancaster county, it’s location is equally captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Cape May, New Jersey. I so appreciated the vivid detail, and I felt as if I was actually there.
    One of the most interesting parts of this novel is that it is one of the first I’ve read where I saw the beauty of being an “Englischer” as opposed to being Amish. I was gently encouraged in my faith, seeing some of the negatives of being Amish for the first time. Though there are certainly several advantages to being Amish, this book showed me that there are also disadvantages (and not just being unable to use air conditioning!)
Overall, I thought this was an incredibly beautiful book. With an enjoyable storyline, relatable characters, and a God-glorifying storyline, this is one of my top books so far this year.