Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Invisible Girls

"The Invisible Girls" by Sarah Thebarge

This was such a good book.  Sarah, the author, had her life planned until she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of twenty seven.  All her plans came to a screeching halt.  She came very near death and decided to start new across the country.  She was going to take a year to get her life together and then move back and pick up where she left off.  God had other plans and one day she ran into a a Somali refugee woman and her five girls.  Sarah's heart was broken for them and she decided to help.  This memoir is about Sarah's journey through her cancer and how God put her back together when she gave to another broken person.  Sarah felt invisible in a world of breast cancer and hospitals and the Somali family was also invisible to the people around them.  She knew what it felt like to be lost and she was determined to help this family.  Through her giving spirit she found new meaning for her life and wholeness again.  It is a powerful story of how when we reach out to others, even in our darkest moments, God redeems.  We find God when we are willing to open our hearts to others.  "I began to see God as both my Father and the Great Physician.  He was the infinitely loving, infinitely wise parent standing against the Procedure Room wall of life, watching me suffer as tears wellled up in His eyes.  He was waiting for the moment when the trial had finished its work in my life, ready to pick me up the second it was done and carry me home."  That last sentence is so powerful to me.  It helps put trials and pain on this earth into perspective.  God hasn't left us when we go through hard times, not at all.  He is there right beside us, hurting with us.  Just like a parent watches their child struggle, wanting to step in but knowing we can't because a lesson is being learned.  God wants us to grow and we can't do that without a trail or two.  "God, I always thought I was going to be the beautiful, fragrant rose that bloomed for You in the middle of a prominent centerpiece.  But now I see that I may only ever be a crocus in the corner of Your garden.  And I just want to tell You if that's what You have planned for me, if I am meant to be an obscure flower in the corner of the expansive garden, I will live there and I will love You and I will bloom just for You-only, always, ever."  Our lives rarely pan out the way we thought, they often take turns we never saw coming.  But God has us right where He wants us, all we have to do is bask in that and bloom, bloom right where He planted us because it is right where we need to be.  I highly recommend this book.

The Duet

"The Duet" by Robert Elmer

If you know Dutch people then this is the book for you.  I grew up with many Dutch kids at my school, two of whom are still my bestest friends.  I didn't know when I got the book that it was going to be about a Dutch town but when I was reading I had to laugh at all the Dutch talk.  The book took a while to get into and wasn't the best but it was a fun read with a good ending.  It is about a widowed dairy farmer and a widowed city piano instructor who find a very unlikely attraction. The story is told from their perspectives and the Dutch dairy farmer is quite funny.  This is a fun book with a story of love in unlikely places and second chances.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Love Lifted Me

"Love Lifted Me" by Sara Evans with Rachel Hauck

Sara Evans is a favorite country singer of mine so this book caught my eye.  I'm not sure how much she contributed to this book but I liked it.  Max and Jade have a marraige that has been tested by infidelity, drugs and a blended family.  They decide to take a risk and have a fresh start in a new town.  Believing that the trouble is behind them and they are stronger for it.  They didn't know that there was one more test coming.  Will they be able to sustian their love and faith in God through yet another trial?  
I really did enjoy this book.  It is real with the trials of this life but has a happy ending.  Don't we all want a happy ending?  I love a book that shows God's faithfulness through trials.  We all have them and we all need to be reminded that He is with us and will see us through, exchanging beauty for ashes.  

The Opposite of Loneliness

"The Opposite of Loneliness" by Marina Keegan

This book is essays and stories from a college graduate that was aspiring to be a writer but just days after her graduation was killed in a car accident.  Her last article that she wrote for the school paper went viral after her death.  She was likable and fiercly determined to be a writer.  This book was put together by her parents, friends and teachers.  It is a book to honor the aspiring writer that Marina was to become.  It has some interesting stories.  The fiction stories aren't my favorite, they have a little crudness to them but I did like her nonfiction.  "I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans.  There's less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved."  Why do we pass the homeless man on the street by cry out for the beached whale?  We need to push aside the fear and take the risk to care for the humans around us.  
This isn't necessarily a book that I would recommend.  I was drawn to the tragedy of the authors death but was not overly impressed by her words.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hope Conquers All

"Hope Conquers All" by Sona Mehring

This is a great and inspiring read.  It is written by the founder of CaringBridge.  It is a website that is used for people that have a life threatening illness or have been in an accident.  It is a way to update families and friends about how a person is doing.  I wish that it was around when a close friend of mine was in a car accident.  I was so overwhelmed by phone calls and after spending a whole day in the hospital I was too tired to answer them all.  CaringBridge lets you update when you have the time and reach lots of people at once.  In this book is stories from the people who have used the site.  The stories are touching and sad and hopeful.  The stories are about humans caring for humans in the hardest of times.  It is about bringing joy and hope where there is only darkness.  "You might think that you can't handle something emotionally or physically, but you're a lot stronger than you think you are.  You'll just never know that strength until you need it.  Just because you don't use it or because you don't recognize it doesn't mean that you don't have it."  When something unexpected and hard happens we find the strength we need at just the right moment, strength we didn't even know we had.  We do what has to be done.  We are all stronger than we realize.  "We could have power over the cancer as long as we didn't let it terrify us."  Fear has the power to immobilize us but when we decide to take action and not let fear control us is when we find courage.  "I needed to direct and control myself, because everything I did and said would have a tidal-wave effect on the people who surrounded me and whom I needed the most to help me get back to the new normal."  We all need the people around us and our attitude towards a situation will help to determine the attitudes of those willing to help.  "You grieve what you've lost every day, but you also have to treasure all you have."  It's ok to grieve what's been taken from you but never let that diminish all that you do have.  We have to choose to look at the blessings in the hard times, that is what will bring us out of the darkness.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A House in the Sky

"A House In The Sky" by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett

I saw an interview with the author, Amanda, and was intrigued by her story and had to read her book.  Amanda was in Somalia when she was kidnapped and held captive for over a year.  The book is about her captivity and the efforts to rescue her.  This is an amazing story of survival and determination.  Amanda endured such unimaginable cruelty and yet survived and made it her mission to help the women of Somolia.  It is an incredible story of the human spirit.  "Something happens when you are alone most of the time, when there are no distractions.  You mind grows more powerful-muscular, even.  It takes over and starts to carry you."  Amanda used her mind to take her out of her captivity, it helped her to survive for over a year.  She used the power of imagination to dream of other places, outside the walls and darkness that surrounded her.  "It's only your body that's suffering, and you are not your body.  The rest of you is fine."  When she was being tortured she would say this to herself, helping her to endure.  "By concentrating on what I was grateful for, I managed to stave off despair.  Each time my captors threw me into that hole, I found another way to climb out.  It wasn't easy-not ever, not once-but this way of thinking became my ladder, my doorway." Amanda showed such strength in the midst of her horrible reality.  She chose to be grateful for any and every little thing.  This gratefulness enabled her to keep from falling into complete despair.  Gratefulness is a powerful tool.  "I choose to forgive the people who took my freedom from me and abused me, despite the fact that what they were doing was absolutely wrong.  Forgiving is not an easy thing to do.  Some days it's no more than a distant spot on the horizon.  I look toward it.  I point my feet in its direction.  Some days I get there and other days I don't.  More than anything else though, it's what has helped me move forward with my life."  Often we can't imagine forgiving someone who has deeply wronged us and yet in not doing so we hold oursleves captive with that hurt.  Forgiveness frees us.  Amanda faced some of the harshest cruelty and yet she has chosen to forgive and said that this alone is the greatest thing that has helped her move past what was done to her.  If there is unforgiveness you can not move forward, the past is still shackled to you.  She chose forgiveness and through that has been able to go back to Somolia and help the people there.