Love, Jan by Jan Bonn {Book Review}


Eighteen-year-old Hilary Bonn was just starting out in life, preparing for college and adventures beyond her small-town beginnings, when leukemia interrupted all of her plans. To help her body fight the ugly disease, Hilary required a stem cell transplant. While she endured PICC lines, pills, and endless precautions against germs, her family encouraged her and one another with Christmas lights, thoughtful words, warm hugs, soft music, action movies, entertaining books, and their abundant love.

During this time, Jan Bonn kept family and friends updated of her daughter’s treatment and progress through frequent e-mail messages. Love, Jan is a compilation of these messages. Jan’s accounts of medical consultations and procedures, the uncertainties of life-changing decisions, and times of expectant waiting are infused with humor, insight, and hope told from the heart of a loving mother and faithful child of God.

Love, Jan, Hilary’s story of faith, hope, and joy, will inspire and encourage stem cell transplant patients and those who love them.

From Love, Jan

My Thoughts:

“Death is not an ending; it is just a temporary separation. Yet, thinking about that temporary separation makes me cry.” (page 66)

Painful words from a loving mom facing months of treatment with her daughter who at eighteen discovered she had leukemia.

Email can be such a blessing for loved ones who want to be kept informed. That is exactly what Jan Bonn’s intention was as she reported regular happenings in and out of the hospital, daily events, and incidentals like buying a computer from a crazy man (which was amusing). She also encourages people to help the National Marrow Donor Program  and become more informed.

Love, Jan is a compilation of real, heartfelt emails. As Jan was being encouraged by emails people poured back and by those stepping up to help with fundraisers and needs, she was also encouraging her recipients and now the readers with what God was doing and how Hillary bravely faced her hardship.

If I am being honest, the beginning of the book was a little slow for me as I did not have personal ties to the family or situation. However, as the story unfolds it’s hard not to engage and root for Hillary. What I liked most was the insights and spiritual encouragement Jan both receives and shares as well as the joy which is apparent within the hard times.

I would recommend Love, Jan to families dealing with leukemia or any difficult path, moms, counselors, pastors, and people interested in medical stories.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. {The author is a friend of a friend, but I do not know her nor had I heard her story previously.}


7 by Jen Hatmaker {Book Review}

American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.

Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.

My Thoughts:
Simplifying is a thing these days. There are loads of books and magazine articles showing ways to cut down and live with less. Jen Hatmaker decides to take it one step further and live with SEVEN. Each month she and her family pick a theme {food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress} which all revolve around the number “7“. 
Gathering some friends and her family, she embarks on a journey of fasts. “Seven will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for God’s kingdom to break through.” (from Intro of ebook) After introducing her project and friends “the council”, you get a month to month diary account of her experiment. Her goal is to be changed and transformed to follow Jesus more authentically. It seems to work.
I liked Jen’s writing. She is funny, open, engaging, and you feel like you could be sitting at a coffee shop chatting with her when you read. You meander through her months learning about the topic but also about her upcoming adoption (which I certainly enjoyed), her daily life, and some of the pop culture things she enjoys. Her failures and reality are also present, she lets you know where she falls short and what she is doing to work on these issues. I don’t know about you but that inspires me. It feels like a conversation too in that I wondered if a few sentences of what she relates would have been better left unsaid.
I was reading the chapter on giving away stuff right before we had to go through all of our stateside storage and get rid of about half. Perfect timing as I felt prepared to be less sentimental and more brutal. 
The idea of 7 is catchy. It caused me to at least ponder the possibility of following in her footsteps and it has spurred on others like this blog which my friend, Janine, (who had not read 7 and did not know I was) shared with me. I think Jen Hatmaker may have caused a little revolution here. 
I enjoyed reading 7 and would recommend it.  Do keep in mind this is her, her life, and her revelations and not a “how to” guide to living with less. Your take away may be different then mine, but you will be challenged.
This book was given to me by NetGalley and B & H Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife by Sara Horn {Book Review}


My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife:

A One-Year Experiment…and Its Surprising Results

By Sara Horn

Author Sara Horn always admired the Proverbs 31 wife, but when she became a busy writer and mother, she deemed this model to be dated and impossible. Or is it? Join Sara as she heads into a one-year domestic experiment and offers full access to see if this biblical model can be embraced by a modern woman—even one who can’t sew.

With humility and humor, Sara sets out to pursue the Proverbs 31 characteristics through immersing herself in all things domestic, but when her family’s situation changes and she must return to a full-time job, she’s forced to look at the Proverbs 31 woman with a whole new viewpoint. Through it all, she and readers discover:

  • what it means to be a godly woman and a wife
  • how investing in family and faith refines priorities as a spouse and a parent
  • how mistakes are opportunities for growth

This thought-provoking, surprising, and entertaining personal account will inspire women to try their own experiments in living out God’s purpose for their lives.

*from Harvest House

My Thoughts:

The title told me that I would enjoy this book. Everything about the cover and the idea of a one-year experiment trying to follow in Martha 31’s (as Sara calls her) shadow seemed ideal for an interesting read and it was.

Sara Horn could have taken a number of angles here. One might expect a “look-how–perfectly-I- kept-my-house,-family,-and life-now-try-to-be-perfect-like-me” approach that would garner readers who would then fall short and feel like failures. She could have decided to deal with topics like baking bread and not wearing spaghetti strap tanks making this book about rules which quite frankly is easy to do. Instead, Sara gave us the “here-is-my-very-real-life” look at how a modern woman attempts to make Proverbs 31 come alive in her life! She tells stories and slowly unveils how she fails, changes, and grows and she ends the book remembering what is most important.

Quotes like, “The Proverbs 31 wife and I don’t get along very well. I don’t appreciate how bad she makes me look.” (pg. 11) and “…I was feeling all domestic in a rebellious sort of way.” kept me laughing as I turned the pages. I enjoyed this quick book finishing in a few days. This is not a study on Proverbs, but a simple journal of sorts presenting one women’s journey through life events that might cause you to open to those verses and see how you might start to challenge yourself.

Have you read any books about being a Proverbs 31 Woman?

I was given this book by Harvest House in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Global Soccer Mom by Shayne Moore {Review}

0310325587I sighed setting down Global Soccer Mom by Shayne Moore. I knew what she meant when she wrote, “..and pretend to care about potty training, what sports team the kids did or did not make, and manicures.” (pg.46) Finishing the third chapter reminded me of being in my tiny Florida living room with some women chatting about thread count of sheets. They were talking and I was listening because I could not have cared less. 

As I read about Shayne’s heart breaking for the extreme poverty and AIDS in Africa and her coming to terms with the fact that not everyone around her felt the same way. I could relate. It gave words and a story to what I remember feeling and wondering about. My life was not the same as the moms and women around me. I was not collecting things (except books) nor decorating a home because our goal was to sell everything and move to South America. I felt like an outsider at times. Perhaps you understand that feeling too.

As I moved through Shayne’s stories, I was in awe at the ways God compelled her towards and into some really big situations. I will admit that her quest toward helping in global social justice at times looked pretty glamorous; I was not feeling sorry for her sacrifice much of the book. At the same time, it shows what one woman can do when her heart is stirred and sometimes that ends up looking very different then we imagine. She weaves beautiful memories that make moms want to do more and watch for opportunities to get involved themselves.

Maybe God is moving your heart to join the ranks of moms doing missional acts big and small. If you are interested specifically in social justice issues, this book is full of statistics and ideas to help you get started. It was an inspiring read.

What is one thing you can do this week to live missionally and start following your passion?  {Read Danielle’s journey to following her passion posted last week.}

This book was given to me by Zondervan in exchange for my honest review. I do not endorse all the resources mentioned in her book.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron Book Review

The insanity of living with an addict rolls into your life like fog as you stand on the shore of your hopes about the future. Then the tide begins, imperceptibly at first, to rise. Over the years, the water gets higher and higher, the fog continues to thicken, and one day you realize you’re lost, over your head, and even the calling of gulls has stopped.” page 224

This year I have realized anew how much I like memoirs. Unlike most of my readings, I can sail through a good life story in a few days which was what confused me about Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. I was expecting to be placed in the story and swept along which just did not happen. What did occur, for me, was meandering slowly through the first half of the book which was full of stories about his horrible father, how the CIA played a part of his life unknowingly, and a boyhood that just seemed hard and sad.

When I arrived at the second half of the book, it picked up for me and I finished quickly. Cron’s story that centered more on God was what I enjoyed. His friend Tyler who caused me to hope for this boy and his turning into a very different type of Dad is what drew me.

This is not a solid, scripturally strong testimony of a boy who realizes he is a sinner, ask forgiveness for his sins, and becomes a new man. Because of the chapters that Cron chooses to share, you don’t know any details of where he truly stands with all that. When Ian writes things like, “Even God was surprised.” (pg.168), I was sure by his style he was kidding, but I have to admit that within the stories the theology seemed questionable at best. 

He does warn in the first chapter that he is embellishing this memoir. Many of the stories happened so long ago, that the details are not exact. Knowing that, I think the whole point of Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me is Cron’s coming to terms with his father and about forgiveness with a little of how Cron changed as a person.

Would I recommend this book? I’m not sure. I suppose I would share it with people who deal with an addict in their life or had a troubling childhood but maybe not. I did enjoy the writing style for much of the book and perhaps it is there that the real value lies.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze 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

One Thousand Gifts–My Thoughts

I am a little baffled by One Thousand Gifts.  Baffled that everyone seems to love the book, baffled at the reviews, and baffled that I do not seem to be enjoying the book like I expected.

I have seen some major comment craziness over this book which causes me a little apprehension in sharing my thoughts because I don’t particularly want to be stoned or have virtual banana peels throw my way. The truth is; however, I did not love it. I had to force myself to keep reading which having a review copy demanded.

Sure, I was touched by the sadness author Ann VosKamp has had to deal with and I wished it was not so for her. Plus, I think giving thanks to God is important; however, I found myself weighed down by her constant, poetical voice. It was hard to follow and taxing to read. Sometimes, I wanted her to say what she meant straight out and not make me search for the intended meaning nor be forced to reread sentences because of the unconventional wording. I personally feel that her prose works for short blog posts but not an entire book, and I wondered if the entire message of the book could be condensed into one or more blog posts that would have been just as encouraging. 

As I was reading, there were sentences and sections that made me pause and want to line it up with truth. I wondered if in her manner, there were liberties taken. Just three of the parts that made me wonder were as follows:

  • “If clinging to His goodness is the highest form of prayer, then seeing His goodness with a pen, with the shutter, with a word of thanks, these really are the most sacred acts conceivable.” (pg. 61) So, writing down or taking pictures of what you are thankful for is a sacred act and actually “the most sacred act conceivable”?
  • “Here is the only place I can love Him.” (pg. 70) She can only love God when she writes her list?
  • “…discover how to make love to God.” (pg. 201) When you use certain words and phrases, you think certain things (sex, not necessarily intimacy). 

Perhaps these questions I had were because I was not enjoying the poetry in it all. I do understand that a new voice, a break from ordinary is refreshing and her fan base is solid. Based on bloggers I read and Tweets I am following the majority are devouring One Thousand Gifts.

I did not enjoy One Thousand Gifts, but I do like Ann VosKamp. I read her blog, Holy Experience, at times and sometimes, I link up. From my readings, I believe she loves God with all her heart and desires to serve Him; so none of that is in question here. Plus, despite the fact that the reading was laborious to me, I did close the book desiring to keep writing my list of thanks and wanting to see God’s hand in all of my life, which was the purpose and goal of the book to be sure. Thanks to Ann, I have a list going that started long before her book and because of her blog.

Have you read One Thousand Gifts? Ever have a book baffle you?

One Thousand Gifts was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Not God’s Type Book Review

Not Gods Type Cover Image
The titled grabbed me first and then the premise. A strong intellectual atheist makes her way towards knowing Jesus as her Savior. Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith is Holly Ordway’s unlikely story as the cover picture creatively suggests.

Ordway develops her testimony throughout the book centering on how one man’s, Josh, true friendship drew her is a very non-threatening and loving way towards Christ. He appreciated her as a person interacting with thoughtful questions in a manner that left her with time to think and wrestle. I found myself wanting to be more like Josh in the way I share Christ with others.

Struggling with the very idea of believing, Holly states how going from atheism to a belief in a Creator who loves her was a slow process. One that started with the understanding of a first cause and then over time came to mean the God of the Bible.

I enjoyed how her story unfolded with brief interludes folded between chapters that showed glimpses of her new life, new church, and new callings.

Holly Ordway’s testimony is an example that God is calling people to himself. People that we may never expect or imagine and that it is worth it to invest in lives. May I suggest that it is also a challenge to consider how we are sharing Christianity with others.

Reading about Ordway’s brokenness and vulnerability made me wonder as her book makes its way onto shelves, what type of feedback will she get from others about her turn toward faith in God. I hope the book is life changing for those who read it!

I received this book from Pure Publicity in exchange for my honest review.  These are my true observations and opinions.