The House in the Cerulean Sea (A Book Review)

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

This fantastic fiction treasure is more than I hoped for. More hilarious. More poignant. More robust and colorful. Just more in every way.

It begins with Linus Baker, a regular forty year old man content in his job and routine, who is given an unusual assignment. This assignment (by extremely upper management) brings him to a new and fantastical place filled with magnificent and magical children that change his perspective on the world, his job, himself, and everyone and everything he’s ever known to be true.

I cannot even begin to express how in love with these characters I am – every single one of them. Most books – especially fantasy – have a ton of throw-away characters who are only put into the story to move it along in some way. This book has none of that. Every character – even the ones who show up for a page or two – are fully realized by the author. The description and style of writing throughout this phenomenal novel is such that I could picture every person and place in my mind. Every time I picked the book back up to continue reading, I was immediately transported back to the place and time of the story.

I absolutely LOVED this book – it truly is the best fantasy book I’ve read since The Hobbit in the 6th grade. T.J. Klune has written another book that’s coming out this year and you can bet your best hat that I’ve already pre-ordered it (and you should too!)

It’s called Under the Whispering Door and I cannot wait to read it! Here’s a glimpse of it’s gorgeous and fantastical cover:

If you’ve read The House in the Cerulean Sea, what did you think? If you’ve not read it yet, what are you waiting for?

If you’d like to know what else I’m reading, you can connect with me on Goodreads or Instagram.

Happy Reading!

Favorite Books of 2020

I read 40 books in 2020. It would have been more, but I read almost nothing until May because of the anxiety of the beginning of the year and the start of the pandemic. January is always a super busy month for me at work and just in general, and then by February my super spider anxiety senses were tingling about all that was happening in the world. By April, I was managing a whole new world (as were we all) of working from home with four online schooling kiddos. By May I had started to find a bit more of a routine and was able to start adding books back into my schedule. I also discovered how very much I love listening to books (thank you, Audible!) and that changed the reading game entirely for me this year. As you can imagine, four kids schooling from home can often get noisy, and being able to pop in my earbuds and listen to Michelle Obama’s beautiful voice was just the sort of escapism I needed during this dumpster fire of a year. Now, on to the books.

As I said, I read 40 books this year. Before May, I read four books. After May 1, I read 36 books. Here’s the breakdown of what I read:

16 fiction (sidenote: this is the most fiction I’ve ever read in a single year. In fact, this is more fiction than I typically read over a 5-10 year period. I’ve always preferred nonfiction / memoir, but perhaps that’s changing – oh, I do hope so.

9 memoir (I generally try to read at least one memoir a month, so this is a tad low for me)

15 Nonfiction (Again, a low number for me – even for half a year)

Here are my favorites in each category (in no particular order) 


The Book of Longings – Sue Monk Kidd

 I can’t tell you how much I LOVED this book. Now, you should know that I grew up in the church and have been in ministry for about twenty years, so I know the Bible intimately and had quite a bit of knowledge of the historical time period before going into this book (which I think helped me to connect with the setting and the characters). I’ve been a Sue Monk Kidd fan for many years and when I saw that she was writing a book about the fictional wife of Jesus, I pre-ordered that baby immediately. I was nervous about how she would handle the enormity of writing a book with Jesus as a significant character, but she obviously did a ton of research and handled every biblical element with thoughtfulness and intentionality. The main character in this book, Ana, felt real and flawed and almost holy to me – I connected immediately to her thoughts, feelings and dreams as a woman in ministry whose calling has been challenged, questioned and mocked many, many times over the years. While Jesus is present in the book, he is more of a peripheral character. Another peripheral character that I can’t stop thinking about is Ana’s brother, Judas. There were moments in this book (which I listened to on Audible) where I had to pause, rewind, and listen to again. The writing, as I expected from Sue Monk Kidd, is superb; the characters are supremely real, and the setting is vivid and whole and entirely immersive. 

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

I had no frame of reference going into this book, as it is my first George Saunders. This is his first novel, though he has written many collections of short stories (which I now must devour with gusto). I have told just about everyone about this book. It’s a work of art, truly. Part historical fiction, part hilarious, part biography, part gut-wrenching tale of a father’s love for his son – I cannot recommend Lincoln in the Bardo highly enough. I made my husband read it, because everyone SHOULD read it, and he has been telling everyone about it now, too! I listened to it on Audible, which I very much recommend, and because of the vast number of actors who offered their talents in the telling I can’t think of this book without smiling, or laughing or just feeling really happy. I’m hoping beyond hope that George Saunders will write another novel soon – his wit and quirk are everything I love in a good story.  And this, my friends, is a VERY good story. 

Longbourn – Jo Baker

 I’m a sucker for all things Jane Austen. I re-read her novels regularly – at least one or two a year. I was worried I wouldn’t like this one – especially with all the hype surrounding it. But I did! Like other reviewers have said, you kind of forget that Pride and Prejudice is the backdrop of this little novel because the characters are so vivid all on their own. The setting feels authentically Austen, while the story is a lovely little twisty, turny love story akin to any of Jane’s novels – but especially Pride and Prejudice, of course. If you’re looking for a feel good, well-written, love story set in Regency England (without all the uncomfortable sex scenes) – this might just be the perfect book for you. I’m longing for more books like Longbourn – if you have any recommendations, definitely send them my way!

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue – V.E. Schwab

 After all the hype surround this one, I felt compelled to give it a go. And I’m super glad I did. This isn’t my normal style of fiction – I prefer literary fiction and this is definitely more fantasy/contemporary, but it’s a fabulous story! I felt, at times, that the writing skill didn’t quite match the story (several common writing phrases repeated over and over), but the plot was so compelling and the characters were so thorough that I almost didn’t care. The main character, Addie Larue (obviously), was very well fleshed out – I really felt as though I could picture her and understand what was happening in her head and heart. The other main character felt supremely real to me also. This is a suspenseful, yet pensive story of a girl turned woman trying to understand her own mind and emotions. Really excellent read.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

 Matt Haig is a magnificent storyteller. This story felt so unique and surprising that I read it in just a few days. While the characters and setting are magnificent, the social commentary masterfully threaded throughout the pages of this book is what makes it so current and meaningful. I wanted to write questions and my own thoughts in the margins the whole time I was reading. The story, on its own, is lovely and I can’t think of a reason why everyone wouldn’t just love it. This is the first time I’ve read anything by Matt Haig, but I feel like I need to find everything he’s ever written and read it anon. There are a ton of mental health themes throughout this short novel, all handled with immense care and thoughtfulness. If you’ve ever struggled with depression, this book will bring you hope and fill your soul with little nuggets of joy and love. 


Educated – Tara Westover

 I’ve been hearing about this book for years. Everyone seems to love it. I was told it would be difficult, and it was, but it is also fascinating and gut-wrenching and enormously important. Tara Westover is a skilled writer and this book truly reads like fiction. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a real story, about real people, that actually happened – because it’s almost difficult to believe it could have been true. The abuse in this story is enormous, but the resilience and triumph is also pretty enormous as well. If you’re not inspired after reading this memoir, you might not have been paying attention. Educated is one of the best-written memoirs I’ve ever read – and I’ve read a ton of memoirs.

Becoming – Michelle Obama

 Reading Becoming by Michelle Obama felt like sunshine, like warm coffee on a cold morning, like cozy blankets by the fire – like desperately needed comfort from America’s favorite mom. I listened to this book on Audible – read by the author – and there is just something so lovely about falling asleep to the sound of Michelle Obama’s voice telling you everything is going to be okay. Now, I know that wasn’t necessarily the purpose of her memoir, but it was a definite theme throughout. Expertly written, this memoir is an instant favorite of mine. Covering her early years as much as her time as First Lady, I got more than a glimpse of her motivations, inspirations and intentions as she wrote about growing up on the Southside of Chicago, struggling with fertility, juggling motherhood and her career, being married to the president, and trying to make a difference in the world without forgetting who she is and where she comes from. It’s a remarkable read – and one I hope you’ll read and love for yourself.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

 I’m a little upset with myself that I never read this before. I’m also a little upset that this book isn’t required reading for high school students. I actually thought this was a fiction book, until I got about halfway through and looked it up. It’s exquisitely written, and will stay with you for a very long time – perhaps (and hopefully) forever. I, again, listened to this book on Audible and Maya Angelou reads it herself. There are a few parts in the book where she’s describing songs in the church service, and as she reads the book she SINGS THE SONGS – which was the most lovely treasure! Her voice (not just her singing voice, but that too) is commanding yet tender, strong yet vulnerable – it’s everything I expected and hoped it to be. Absolutely required reading – the beginning of a very important journey into the heart and soul of Maya Angelou.


Factfulness – Hans Rosling

 Facts, charts, statistics – woo hoo! I love statistics, and charts, and color coding and this book is chock full of them! I raced through this little book – on Audible – in less than a week and then asked for the physical copy so I could read it again while enjoying the lovely charts.  There was a load of surprising information throughout this book that will most likely change your perspective on the world and your outlook on it. Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, is full of truth and hope – which, in my opinion, is a fabulous combination. I learned more in these 352 pages than I have in the majority of everything else I read all year. If you’re into truth and fact (and statistics!), you should give this book a go – I promise it will give you some things to think about.


Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 I’m pretty sure that I highlighted over 60% of this book. It’s so very short (80 pages), but so very full and meaty. Every single woman should read this book – in fact, we should read it to our daughters. In fact, men should read it too. In fact, we should also read it to our sons. So basically everyone, everywhere should read this fantastic little book. Here’s a tiny snippet from her 8th suggestion:

“Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.” (p36)

“We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likable.” (p37)

You see? Full, and lovely and meaty words from a master writer and magnificent human.

The Color of Compromise – Jemar Tisby

 I’m not going to lie – this book messed me up a bit. I didn’t know how very much I didn’t know and it made me cry and reckon and stew and feel entirely undone. I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination and, for the most part, thought I had a pretty ok experience. I’m realizing now how much of what I was taught was a lie based on prejudice. We (the collective evangelical church) have spent years ignoring the abhorrent racism in our past and pretending that it doesn’t inform our ministries today and into the future. Without a significant shift, or at least an intentional re-learning of our history, the church will become even more detached from the reality of the moment in which we are living – a moment filled with racial divisions, significant systemically racist issues, and a lack of understanding of the black experience in America. So many things in this book were new to me and I’m appalled by that truth. I’m also inspired by it. Inspired to learn as much as I possibly can in the future – I want to have eyes wide open to the truth of all that America has been, all that it currently is and all that it could be. After reading The Color of Compromise I added about two dozen other books to my TBR about the history of racism, social and racial justice,  and important writers/influencers on these important subjects. I hope to grow and learn more every day – and am enormously thankful for Jemar Tisby’s words and wisdom along the way.

Untamed – Glennon Doyle

 I’ve loved Glennon Doyle for nearly a decade. Her first book, Carry On, Warrior, is one of the most important books I’ve read in many years. Glennon turned me on to other writers, too, like Gregory Boyle, Bryan Stevenson and Brené Brown (all favorites of mine now). Her essay-style of writing is my very favorite and her voice is steady, warm and full of vulnerability. She’s equally hilarious and wise, with an authority and authenticity that is unmatched. Some of her stories will stay with you forever, spurring you on towards a more wholehearted way of living and loving – she truly is such a rare gift to the reading world. If you’ve never read a single word she’s written before, Untamed is a wonderful place to start. It’s her most full and strong book – inspiring and a little uprooting in the most glorious of ways. This book will make you take a long, hard look at your life and ask questions you’ve always been too scared to ask before. If you, like me, are prone to philosophical wondering, you will absolutely love this book.


That’s it. All my favorites. I hope you’ll find one (or two, or five) that you might want to read for yourself. There were a ton of good books I read in 2020, these just happened to be my favorites of the year. If you’d like to know what else I read in 2020 and am planning to read in the future, you can connect with me on Goodreads or Instagram.

Happy reading!

Dream With Me – A Book Review

John M. Perkins was born to sharecroppers in Mississippi in 1930.  His mother died when he was a baby and his father abandoned the family, so he was raised by his grandmother and other extended family members. At the age of 17, after his older brother was murdered by a town marshall, John ran away to California. About thirty years later his son, Spencer, led him to Christ and a short time later he returned to Mississippi with his wife, Vera Mae and their children in order to minister to the people there. They started a foundation called The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation which they still lead today.

Dream With Me: Race, Love and the Struggle We Must Win is a memoir of struggle, hope and determination. It is a truly beautiful book by a remarkable man who made a significant impact on our nation’s history. Mr. Perkins interweaves his own personal story and struggle with wisdom he’s learned in his almost 60 years of ministry. In this book, his voice is firm yet tender and comes across as both authentic and impassioned. His insights into America’s racial divide are deep and powerful. Mr. Perkins paints a picture of a better future for those among the margins – not only racially, but financially. This book isn’t necessarily a roadmap about how to get to the reconciliation that desperately needs to happen, but it does make you believe that it is possible. In sharing story after story from his own life about enlightenment, change and reconciliation, Mr. Perkins gives us a wisdom that can only be gathered from years of mistakes and heartbreak. He pours out his own pain on the pages and allows the reader to learn from his journey in a way that is raw, real and truly beautiful.

I take from this book a desire to know more about John M. Perkins, a longing to see his dream become reality and a greater understanding of where we’ve come from as a country and where we might be able to go. This book is an inspiration for all who yearn for both justice and grace. There are so many lessons to be taken from this book and I highly recommend it!

My Favorite Quotables from Dream With Me By John M. Perkins:

“God’s love and justice come together in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and we can’t be about one and not the other. They’re inextricably connected.” p 29

“Love is the first, middle and final fight.” p 30

“Once you know their hurts and feel their pain, your neighbors’ issues become yours too.” p 75

“The oppressed already have a voice; the problem is that no one is listening.” p 75

“Our unity – our reconciliation – bears witness to the world of the surpassing love of God in Jesus Christ.” p 84

“Both sides are yelling too loudly to listen to one another. We have accommodated the racism and the segregation in society for so long that we have lost our ability to hear or understand one another.” p 105

“I believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings. The Bible states clearly that God created men and women in His image from the very beginning. No matter how damaged people become, they still bear that image. No matter how much people have been oppressed or how much they have oppressed others, the part of them made in His image is worth rescuing and restoring. Since we all inherently bear this image, we also inherently have dignity. We do not give people dignity; God gives it to them, but we must work to affirm it in others and ourselves.” p 129

“Dignity has always been part of the justice equation.” p 135

“Love is most powerful when it is unexpected – and when it does not come cheaply.” p 148

“A free society cannot exist for long if too many people in that society put their own image above that of their community.” p 167

“During my lifetime, I fear that more people have seen the church as a messy contradiction defined by division and hot-button issues than have seen it as a prophetic voice living out the gospel. Most people outside the church see it as estranged regarding issues of race, economics, sexuality, and so many other things. They see the church as a place that condemns, rather than loves. They hear the voice of the church speaking a language of hate, rather than a language of redemption and reconciliation. We have lost the fullness of the gospel.” p 188

“The fullness and adequacy of the gospel is a message of togetherness and love across ethnic barriers.” p 197

“In the midst of seeking and telling truth, we find God’s presence.” p 197




Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

The Gatekeepers – A Book Review

As a political junkie, I absolutely loved The Gatekeepers. Chris Whipple takes you inside the white house of the last 50 or so years, giving you a rare look into how our executive branch functions.  With superior writing and incredible insight, The Gatekeepers is truly a must read for anyone with any interest in politics, government or even the occasional white house gossip. There are so many interesting insights into the exclusive group of men that served as White House Chief.

From Nixon and the Watergate scandal to the Obama years and everything in between, Chris Whipple gives us a glimpse into the minds and lives of the most powerful men in Washington’s more recent history.  Each chapter’s title is a quirky little nod to the chief (or chiefs) of staff represented in the chapter – nicknames, jokes, mistakes made – all memorable, all unique and special.

More than a simple history review, The Gatekeepers is filled with lessons of leadership, ego, humility, preparedness and so much more. The wisdom represented in these pages serve as a roadmap for future leaders – especially anyone who finds themselves leading from the second chair. There is an interesting perspective represented in this book that sheds light on what was, or was not, able to be accomplished throughout each president’s terms in office based on who held the office of chief of staff. It truly is remarkable the impact each of these men have had on American history.

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to due to the tremendous quality of writing and the humor strewn throughout. It will whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. It is both informative and fascinating, an easy read and incredibly thorough – a political page turner that I enjoyed immensely and highly recommend.




Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own

Tranquility – A Book Review

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal is filled with scripture, journaling prompts, inspirational thoughts and prayers and beautiful artwork.  There are over 100 pages that guide the reader in thoughtful reflection and provide an opportunity to journal prayers and thoughts. The majority of this journal is focused on finding peace, comfort and assurance – there are several verses focusing on fear, contentment, and many verses centering on peace.  There are also quite a few pages focusing on music or worship as a way to calm an anxious heart – which I particularly love.


Tyndall’s Living Expressions Collection ( also has another coloring journal, and several other lovely books and journals that are equally beautiful – including journaling Bibles with beautiful illustrations throughout.

I have reviewed two other coloring journals from this line.  You can check out those reviews below.

All is Bright – A Book Review

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal – A Book Review


Tyndale Blog Network

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

The Way of Letting Go – A Book Review

Refreshingly authentic and vulnerable, The Way of Letting Go, by Wilma Derksen is a moving story of a woman, a mother, in the midst of unimaginable pain. The writing is superb. So superb that it often reads more like a chilling novel than a memoir. The wisdom and humility in the author’s words are both surprising and inspiring. To read the details of her daughter’s gruesome murder is difficult at times, but I found myself wanting to know what happened – not from some deprived curiosity, but because I found myself connecting to the heart of the mother so intensely that I wanted to hear her heart more fully – and to do that required a better understanding of her intense pain. As a mother, this book was difficult to read at times, but it was also surprisingly encouraging.

This book is about so much more than one woman’s story of grief. It’s about healing and forgiveness. It’s about self-discovery and faith. It’s about learning to live again after the unimaginable happens. I cannot tell you how deeply moved I was by this book – it created an intense emotional response that I was not expecting.  Anyone who has ever experienced grief can find some beautiful healing in these pages.  This is a book that speaks not only to the heart, but also to the soul.

Some of my favorite Quotables from The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen:

“Finding our own words for what happened is our way of healing and becoming integrated again.” (p57)

“I had to let go of the need to find a happy ending to my story. I had to let go of my perfect story – and write the story that was happening to me.” (p60)

“Privileged are they who deliberately discard that panic of self-preservation and fear and dare to live life on the edge for others. Our souls will ultimately be saved if we risk it all for love.” (p67)

“The experience of violence or any kind of injustice reorders the sense of self. It devastate our identity. Our values, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and habits can be so drastically altered that we almost become unrecognizable. … But for the most part, when something drastically changes our identity, whenever we find ourselves wondering “Who am I?” or “What are people thinking of me now?” we can lose confidence to move forward.  We become traumatized in a different way. It’s not easy to find ourselves again.” (p98)

“In the end, we are only responsible for our end of this victim-offender trauma bond. We can only control the end we are holding.” (p135)

“forgiveness doesn’t need to be defined to be lived and felt.” (p155)

“Gratitude is the last powerful light that drives away the darkness.” (p163)

“Letting go isn’t easy. It isn’t a one-time decision. It is a long process, and even though it is integral to forgiveness, it doesn’t end there. The process itself is the most important part of the pain of being wounded in the first place. It is the learning, growing, accepting of reality, of loss, of pain.” (p173)

“There are so many ways to tell our story, and the more ways we do it, the more we learn.” (p176)

“That’s forgiveness: when our hearts are more full than they are empty.” (p180)

“Forgiveness was something we did in the privacy of our hearts – letting go and choosing love.” (p186)

“Compassion is the essence of community.  Without it, we cannot heal ourselves or our relationships.” (p189)

“put love first, justice second.” (p193)

“When we move against the norm and reach for the counterintuitive lifestyle of forgiveness, we gain a powerful guide who is capable of doing miracles.” (p204)

“Forgiveness is an autonomous decision.  It is not dependent on the response of the other.  It is a lifestyle.” (p207)


I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Nothing to Fear – A Book Review

If I had read Nothing to Fear by Barry C Black about fifteen or twenty years ago I would have liked it quite a bit more than I did.  I simply have read too many amazing books since then, and this one just couldn’t compete.  It’s a simple book about a hundred different topics.  While there is nothing particularly remarkable about this book, it is well-written and easy to read and understand.  I did not, however, enjoy this book at this time.  I couldn’t figure out what the purpose of the book was.  The title is “Nothing to Fear”, but this didn’t feel like a book about fear.  It felt like a huge brain dump of everything Mr. Black feels or thinks about God, faith and prayer.  It’s very wide in scope, which can sometimes be a good thing.  In this case, however, it felt confusing and it was difficult for me to get engaged.

Structurally the book is laid out like a series of sermons including chapter headings such as “Prepare to Be Sent” or “Thrive in a Predatory World”.  Each chapter includes several of what Mr. Black calls “fearless principles” and each chapter ends with a “purposeful prayer”.  At the end of the book there is a discussion guide.

There’s nothing wrong with this book from my perspective.  I didn’t read anything that I didn’t agree with.  I simply didn’t read anything that made me want to say “YES!” or that made me want to share the information with anyone else.  I like to read books that make me think, help me with something I struggle with, grow my faith, help me to understand someone else’s perspective, or grow my understanding of a particular topic.  This book didn’t do any of that for me.

I can see how this book could be a great resource for new pastors looking for sermon material.  It could also be a great resource for newer Christians who want to know some of the basic ideas or beliefs of the Christian faith (although I would also say that this has a very significant Baptist slant in terms of theology).

Overall, it’s well-written but very basic.  I wish Mr. Black had chosen one main theme to write about rather than trying to cover everything all in one book.  This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read, but definitely wasn’t the worst either – kind of middle of the road for me.


Tyndale Blog Network

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Walking on Water – A Book Review

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle was such a thought-provoking and encouraging read for me.  Not only is it beautifully written, it’s also very philosophical.  This book made me think about things I have never contemplated before.  The intersectionality between faith and art is the main theme of Walking on Water, and that concept contains so much more than I expected it to.  Thoughts on vulnerability, love, creativity, prayer, writing, holiness, truth, worthiness, faithfulness, and much more fill the pages of this book.  It raises as many questions as it answers and leaves the reader in a state of wonder, which I absolutely loved.

Madeleine L’Engle has a very mature and thoughtful writing style that is quite refreshing.  Nothing about this book is light hearted, it’s thick with deep thoughts and beautiful insights.  Because the subject matter is more philosophical and heavy, it took me quite a while to finish it.  I had to chew on much of it before I could move on to the next page or chapter.  Often I rush through books like this one so that I can move on to the next book, but this one was so good I just couldn’t.  I wanted to give it the time and attention it deserved.

I very highly recommend this book.  If you are an artist of any sort, you’ll especially appreciate it.


Some of my favorite Quotables from Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle:

“When I am constantly running there is no time for being.  When there is no time for being there is no time for for listening.” (p3)

“God is always calling on us to do the impossible.  It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too.” (p9)

“We live by revelation, as Christians, as artists, which means that we must be careful never to get set into rigid molds.  The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions,” (p23)

“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (p42)

“We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing.” (p47)

“I have to try, but  do not have to succeed.  Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success.  It has to do with love.” (p52)

“we are meant to be real and to see and recognize the real.  We are all more than we know, and that wondrous reality, that wholeness, holiness, is there for all of us, not the qualified only.” (p56)

“we can be humble only when we know that we are God’s children, of infinite value, and eternally loved.” (p60)

“despite the fear and unfaithfulness of his followers, Jesus’ love never faltered, for it was not dependent on the merit and virtue and the qualifications of those he loved.” (p60-61)

“In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self-control which he normally clings to and is open to riding the wind.” (p66)

“All of life is story, story unravelling and revealing meaning.” (p95)

“to be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love.” (p102)

“It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label.  To identify is to control, to limit.  To love is to call by name and so open the wide gates of creativity.” (p102-103)

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” (p113)

“We need the prayers of words, yes; the words are the path to contemplation; but the deepest communion with God is beyond words, on the other side of silence.” (p119)

“In a day when we are taught to look for easy solutions, it is not always easy to hold on to that most difficult one of all, love.” (p144)


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own



No More Faking Fine – A Book Review

Many of us wonder while in difficult circumstances or trying times what the purpose is – as in, why we are experiencing what we are experiencing.  I can imagine that Esther Fleece wondered that many, many times.  I’m not certain that we ever get a full understanding of the why of our circumstances.  I’m not even certain that there always is a why.

In No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece tells her story.  She is both a skilled writer and an emotional storyteller.  My story has very little similarity to hers, but my feelings throughout my journey echo hers in so many ways.  The desires to be known and loved are universal feelings.  The pain of betrayal, abandonment and abuse are also universal.  This book deals with all of those things in such a tender and wise way.

The title of the book led me to assume that this was a book about authenticity, and it sort of is.  But mostly it’s about lament.  Now, I should admit that before this book I knew very little about lament.  I couldn’t have defined it and I would never have said that lament was a part of my life (or even that it should be).  After reading No More Faking Fine, I am convinced that lament is possibly the most important thing I never knew I needed.

No More Faking Fine is broken into 11 chapters separated into three parts: Faking Fine, A New Way to Pray and To Sing Again.  Each chapter begins with a short scripture verse and ends with a beautiful prayer filled with more scripture references.

This book unearthed things that I had buried deep inside myself and caused me to want to deal with them for the first time in a very long time.  The themes of forgiveness, healing, and repentance are heavily covered in this book.  In fact, if there could be only one thing I take away from this book it will be the idea that forgiveness is not possible without lament.  This one concept may change my life – I pray that it does. Here are my favorite quotes from the section on forgiveness:

“I am convinced we cannot forgive offenses without first lamenting those offenses appropriately.  We need the grace of God, the example of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us look favorably upon a person who has wronged us.  And we first need to lament the wrong that has been done to us.” (p160)

“Unprocessed, unforgiven hurt means we still carry it around with us.  It means it still drags us down.  But forgiveness is our invitation to process the pain so we can be authentically freed from it.  Forgiveness is a process of releasing our laments to God.  It is feeling the weight of what this person did to cause you harm, taking this offense directly to God, and telling Him exactly how it made you feel.  We have to lament it, not forget it, in order to move forward.” (p162)

I cannot say why things happen the way they do, why bad things happen, or why people hurt people, but I can say for certain that God can and will use our circumstances to bring hope to others.  He can use our stories to love people, to teach them about His character, and to lead them towards healing and wholeness.  Esther Fleece is bravely doing  exactly that with this book.  I pray that it travels well – into the hearts and lives of those who need it most and that it brings with it the healing power of Jesus over the wounds of those who are hurting.  There are very few books that I believe carry with them the power to mend broken hearts and lives – this is one of them.

Some of my favorite QUOTABLES from No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece:

  • I should note that it took a full 20 minutes to narrow down this list.  There are so many quotables in this book that many of them could spawn new books (and I sincerely hope that they do)!

“For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength.  But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it.” (p35)

“God’s grace meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.” (p39)

“It’s okay to not be okay.  God will never ask you to suck it up.” (p41)

“Nothing can prevent our laments from reaching God’s ears.  Even if everyone in the world ignores our cries and minimizes our pain, God hears us.  Neither our offenders nor injustice, nor even death, can silence our lamenting cries to God.” (p71)

“Falsehood does not become truth just because we have believed it for a long time.” (p94)

“My relationship with God isn’t dependent on my performance.” (p101)

“trusting His presence will require faith even in those times when we feel His absence.” (p125)

“Even in the waiting, God is powerfully present, and that can be our source of deep, unshakable joy.” (p141)

“Some of us may be experiencing God’s favor in a palace, while others experience it in a prison.  So let’s practice grace toward each other.  We must be very careful to avoid wrongly attaching someone’s circumstances to the character of their heart or to God’s treatment of them.” (p150)

“When we minimize pain, we also minimize forgiveness.  And when we minimize forgiveness, we minimize healing transformation.” (p165)

“When we fake fine, we run the risk of faking forgiveness – and in doing so, we cut ourselves off from real healing.” (p166)

“Time does not heal all wounds, but time is a gracious gift that allows for wrestling with the pain.  And not one of us made int he image of God is meant to wrestle with our pain alone.” (p171)


I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising


Falling Free – A Book Review

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” – Mother Teresa

I loved this book more than I expected to.  I’m always wary when I pick up a book from an unknown author.  I appreciate excellent writing and, because I read so many books, I have pretty high expectations from writers.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin is absolutely excellent.  Her writing style is polished yet easy to read, funny yet emotional, down to earth yet highly informative; I am truly impressed.  Over and over again, while reading Falling Free, I found myself connecting with a story that is nothing like my own and feeling such a kinship to the author that it truly surprised me.

Falling free is a story about a life turned upside down and inside out.  It’s a story of changed opinions, new understandings and surprising relationships that grew into family.  My story is quite different from Ms. Martin’s, however there were so many of her feelings throughout her journey that echoed my own.  I found myself in her words.  The story is well written and compelling, but the true gold in this book is the lessons she learned along the way and so beautifully shares with her readers – lessons of love, compassion, worship, empathy, grief, fear and so very much more.  Every page of this book contains wisdom that can apply to any life, any journey.

Shannan’s words have stayed with me – they affected me deeply and I sincerely pray that they will continue to stay with me and work on me so that I, like Shannan, will continue to journey towards looking and loving more like Jesus.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Some of my favorite Quotables from Falling Free by Shannan Martin (this was SO hard to narrow down – there are TONS of quotables in this book!):

“We stand in worship services and sing our hearts out about things like faith and trusting God in deep waters.  We say God is all we need, but what we really mean is, ‘All we need is God, our family, the promise of safety, and money.’  … We sing like we meant it while we pray to God we’ll never find out if we really do.” (p 4-5)

“We can mend our broken places into a blanket that covers all of us and call it a family.” (p 39)

“Family was meant to live on a loop, a hazy beginning with no end in sight, the pulsing bass line that God’s kingdom on earth is alive.  Right here.” (p 44)

“There’s a difference between being too scared to do hard things and doing hard things scared.” (p 82)

“Here’s a reality check: we take up precious little square footage in the scope of God’s great kingdom.  Of all the facets of our faith, this might be one of the more difficult to grasp.  It’s also one of the most central.” (p 89)

“Jesus way of humility doesn’t align with our self-made gospel of achievement, and we’re willing to sell our souls at the corner of trying to have both.” (p 89)

“That he came to be with us when he could have kept his post at the right hand of God should send us running breathless into every busted-up city, every barred-up shack, every cave, every cell, every pain-drenched street corner we can find in order to bring the good news.” (p 91)

“God invites us to stare long and hard at our shared ruin, knowing we’ll walk away kindred.” (p 120)

“We can either masquerade as capable earners or fall needy into the arms of a Savior who makes us free.  There is no space within our souls to do both.” (p 183)

“God didn’t structure this world as a badly bent system of Haves and Have Nots.  I was never meant to save a soul, and no one was purposed as a project.  We were meant to be comrades, mutually passing around whatever we have to offer.” (p 199)

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising