Friday, March 20, 2015

You're Loved No Matter What - Inspiration from Holley Gerth

If you are like me you work hard to be perfect in every way. Life can be a challenge and we women are busy trying to please our families, our friends, our coworkers and most everyone we come in contact with. I found a lot of encouragement in Holley's latest book You're Loved No Matter What; encouragement that makes me feel like I can forgive myself for not being perfect. It is just not how we were created to be. We are made to be loved unconditionally by God who forgives us as only He can as our heavenly Father.  
Don't we all need to know this is true? I can't count how many times I have said if only I worked harder, looked thinner or was better than I was last week my life would be perfect. If only my life were perfect I would achieve perfection all of the above wouldn't be a problem. The problem is forgetting that I am loved already for who I am not an unrealistic earthly goal. I have been reminding myself to ease up and remember that I am loved for myself since starting this book and I have to share that it has been an aha experience for me.                                                                                                    Holley's book can be read straight through or in pieces to study. However you choose to read it, know that she is like having your good friend sitting across your table sharing a cup of coffee. Strategies and tips are available within the book that help you let go of perfection in different areas of your life. If you lead a women's study group there are discussion questions in the Go Deeper Guide at the back of the book for your group.                                                                                                                  p.s. If you’ve ever struggled with feeling like you need to be perfect, my friend Holley Gerth’s new book will encourage you. You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reviewing Meek and Mild

I am a fan of Amish Fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport. The story is about the Amish but is rich with complex issues you aren't looking for in the plain lifestyle. Clara Kuhns' is in love with Andrew Raber but is hesitant to wed. Clara's mother passed away in childbirth, leaving her worried and anxious about having children of her own.  Her family is part of an Old Order Amish community. Her mother's family is part of a growing Mennonite group who believe in teaching Sunday School.  The Bishop of Clara's community has made it difficult for her to visit with her aunt and cousins by instituting the age old custom of shunning people with different beliefs.  As the story developed, I felt impatient with the old order because of this practice.

Truth about a change that began by a vote when Clara was very young comes to light and sends the community on the brink of big change.  Reading about what happened was not predictable and the outcome was surprising enough to lead me to appreciate Olivia's writing style. The characters are very well written and I found myself disappointed to put the book down.

I really liked this book because of how it dealt with the heart of the young heroine who has so many questions about life and her faith and feels quite alone.  Her stepmother seems to be pushing her out of the home by making her feel unneeded for even the simplest task around the house.  Andrew has been tempting fate and the Ordnung with his acquisition of a car found by the side of the road bearing a note asking the finder to please take the car. Cars are not part of the simple life and Clara is worried it may get Andrew Shunned. Andrew takes everything in stride which worries Clara more. It is a twist of fate that changes her heart toward love and marriage.

This new glimpse into the Amish people has given me a chance to do a little extra research afterwards. Suffice it to say that not only is this a wonderful love story, it is a nice work of historical fiction on a difficult period for the Amish. They have succeeded in continuing to live good lives of strong faith and adherence to a lifestyle that has survived since it began in 1693.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reviewing Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies, by Janette Oke and her daughter Larel Oke Logan is a wonderful book for those who love following Elizabeth Thatcher of When Calls the Heart. Some of my first experiences with Christian fiction were reading Mrs. Oke's novels. She has a way of hooking us in with her characters who seem to come alive with the pages of her books.

Cover ArtWhere Trust Lies gives us a closer look at the Thatcher family. Fresh off the train from Coal Valley, she is informed of a leisurely cruise she will be taking with her mother and sisters Julie and Margaret. With her heart full of Jarrick (Jack) Thornton, the dashing Mountie from Coal Valley, she would be content to stay home and relax instead of rushing off for more travel.

Once aboard the cruise ship and headed for the St. Lawrence River and beyond to the states, she discovers there is a lot more to her family than she could ever realize being tucked at safely at home.

Julie, her vivacious younger sister is intent in spending time with her new American friends. Their exciting ways entice Julie to want to spend time away from her family and be more like them. Beth is concerned but cautious with her sister and tries to keep a watchful eye.

Elizabeth, with her mind recounting her time spent with Jarrick in Coal Valley discovers his true feelings for her only when he leaves her at the train depot with a box of long stemmed roses. Along her journey, she takes a petal each day and wraps it in her handkerchief to keep him close to her.  She longs to receive the letter asking her to return to Coal Valley and be closer to him.

Chance brings her family heartbreaking events that nearly rocks her faith. Each member of her family is tested while the story reveals a resilience that only faith can restore. As I read the story I was reminded once again how much I like Janette Oke's writing.  It is heartwarming to me that she collaborated on this story with her daughter Laurel.  The bond of mother and daughter is strong in this book and only such a strong bond could have made such a successful collaboration.

Thank you Bethany House for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Anna's Crossing! Worth the Wait!

10372283_867099466646927_3112724279182889122_nI waited for what seems like a long time to read Suzanne Woods Fisher'Anna's Crossing. It started as I finished up Christmas at Rose Hill Farm. Two reasons for this anticipation besides being a fan of Suzanne are learning more about the Charming Nancy, the ship on which Anna crosses the Atlantic and to find out about the real story behind Rose Hill Farm's famous rose.

What I didn't anticipate was learning so much more about the history of the Amish people. Anna Konig symbolizes many of the Amish who came to Penn's  Wood with the promise of a brighter future and plenty of land to start a new life.  It took courage to cross the ocean under the conditions on ships such as the Charming Nancy. This was no passenger ship with staterooms for families. It was dank and dingy and full of bunks stacked high in order to cram more passengers on board.

Anna is a reluctant heroine and Bairn, the ships carpenter the reluctant hero are drawn together by circumstance. He has no use for the Amish, or the "peculiars" as they are often referred to. She cannot befriend a man who is without faith. Yet their destiny is entwined as Anna is the only passenger who can speak English and is called upon to translate for all.  It is through Felix, the young son of her neighbor Dorothea that both Anna and Bairn can cooperate and make the crossing more bearable. 

Long delays, wild storms, an encounter with slave traders, surly crew members and growing disappointment would make any group of people difficult to live with. The under belly of a ship with no accommodations is unthinkable in our modern world of indoor plumbing.

I admire Suzanne's thorough research for her works. If you look for more information on the Charming Nancy you will find that in 1737, Captain Charles Steadman was at the helm of the same said ship carrying 21 Amish families to America.  He and his brother Captain John Steadman were both regarded as the best to sail with. 

I read a lot of American history and this book did not introduce me to the Charming Nancy.  In later years, The Charming Nancy was the ship that carried an exiled Margaret Kemble Gage, wife of General Thomas Gage back to England during the Revolutionary War. Her sympathies with the colonies, it seems gave her husband much displeasure.  The Charming Nancy was a ship rich with history.

Anna carried a rose from her home in Germany on board all the way to her new home in the colonies.  The rose gave me hope for Anna, and for all the people in the story who captured my heart. Suzanne has such a way of weaving her story line through her characters to create a community that for all its faults and misunderstandings come together when it is most important.   The ending had me saying "yes" while wanting for more. I hope there will be more books in this series that will include the same families and that Suzanne will tell us what could have happened next.

Many thanks to Suzanne Woods Fisher for writing this book and to Revell, who advanced me a copy for an honest review.