Book Reivew(s): Distorted Glass & Quest for a Beast

Got the last two short story reviews for y'all today!

Distorted Glass, I felt, was a well-crafted story that dealt honestly with some heavier subject matter. I was very impressed with the way Sarah crafted Jared's character (his personality and character development as a whole). He was written as a young man who genuinely wanted to please God and help his sister-- but he wasn't perfect-- the way he diligently sought God's will was done so fervently, but realistically, with it's hiccups along the way. Never once did I feel his character was too perfect-- that a sixteen year old guy wouldn't behave that way. I did, however, finding myself wishing there was a way I could get my younger brother (more that age range) to read this story. 
As for the subject matter!! <3 I thought Sarah did a great job with Jared's sister who has an eating disorder. it was treated/discussed honestly yet wholesomely. I also loved the way  the subject of modesty was discussed in this book!! (claps hands enthusiastically) This was another reason I wanted my brother to read this! The feelings expressed by Amber about the church's focus when teaching modesty is something I have heard from young ladies close to me, and while it is not an excuse to sin, SHE IS NOT WRONG, and I LOVED that Sarah addressed that!!! 
I was very impressed with this story as a whole, and enjoyed it very much! 

Quest for a Beast, while cute, I felt didn't reach it's full potential. Parts of the plot felt a little contrived, stretched, to me; I also felt that the main characters displayed behaviors/did things that were not quite consistent with their ages (ie, a college-aged girl allowing herself to be swept up in fairy tales; bounty hunting of sorts). 
What I did find awesome were (again!) the lessons Sarah incorperates into her writing. a few lines in particular really stood out to me as I finished up this story today:

“What keeps it from being that simple for you? Following Christ is not easy, but it is a very simple message.”

“…we have both come face to face with an ugly part of ourselves. We both have to have the courage to allow Christ to transform us. If not, we will remain in our prisons.”
Still a good story, but I felt it could have been better. 

Thus conclude my 10 week reading challenge with Sarah Holman! Again, if you haven't yet, you should really check her books out-- especially Emmaline and the Tales of Taelis series!!! (oh! And Kate's Innocence is pretty fantastic, too!!)

That WE Can See

So last year in November, God blessed me with an amazing small group— it was a total God thing how it came about. The group of young people in it have been the most incredible blessing to me and God has used it greatly in my life these past few months to show me more about Himself and to strengthen my walk with Him!

Right now, we are studying through the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (and if you have never read it, DO IT! Go out right now and grab this book! I’ve grown up in a Christian home and good solid Bible churches that preach heavy doctrine and STILL, with every sentence my MIND. IS. BLOWN!). I am having a hard time getting caught up to where I should be in my readings because everything is so deep I get too excited about it lol.

As I was reading it yesterday, it got me thinking a few things, and I just wanted to share a little bit with you all today!

I am (finally rofl) in ‘book 2, part 2, The Invasion’, and Lewis writes,

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is NOT NEAT, NOT OBVIOUS, NOT WHAT YOU EXPECT…” (all-caps clearly mine ;) ). 
He is speaking in relation to Christianity more complex than we might expect it to be, but I had just had a conversation the other night with a dear friend along these same lines, just in a “life” context.
I first read these words, my mental Katie-response was, “yeah NO JOKE!” L. But Lewis wasn’t finished. He goes on to say, “…for instance, when you have grasped what the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planest were made to match—all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go further from the sun.” And then, THEN he lays the big one on us. “In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (THAT WE CAN SEE)…”

*stops * whooooaaaa

So let’s take this out of a theological discussion mindset, and apply these statements to every day life. My friend and I were just discussing last night how our lives have turned out to be nothing like we always expected they would be like when we were little; how life has taken Michigan lefts on us; we are not doing what we thought we would be doing at our age, not who we thought we would be, not possessing or doing what we have dreamt of for oh-so-long. In a way (and even though we know better), we feel jaded. And I feel like a lot of us feel this way. What Lewis says is so so true.

LIFE is complicated. Life is odd. It is not neat, not obvious, and for so many of us, it is definitely not what we always expected it would be. We can find no rhyme or reason. There is no rhyme or reason for why we have not gotten what we have prayed for for so long. There is no rhyme or reason for us not being where we thought we would, for not accomplishing what we thought we would be; no reason.

That we can see.

When I read that little parenthetical statement, so close after my salty inner response to the earlier quote, it hit me hard.

There is no rhyme or reason that we can see (now); but God DOES SEE, and He knows exactly what He is doing.

And I know we know this. And I know it annoys us. Because the way we see it, Him knowing the big picture doesn’t help us here and now :P

But it should.
Let us let it encourage us today, sweet sisters
(brothers too, if any are reading !!)

We don’t see any rhyme or reason for what we are walking through (or what we’re not) but God does. And it is a beautiful harmony to Him, a complex satisfying plot, and it is far more amazing and meaningful that anything we could ever hope for or imagine (Eph 3:20). Just imagine for a moment the people God is using you to reach, the lives He is touching and impacting through you right now because you are not where you thought you’d be, but because you are where He has you. Imagine the glory, the intricate, half-step-details, He is working out for us in the background right now as we serve Him in this messy, muddy, unexpected place.

God knows why you are here and why you are waiting.
And He is doing something amazing with it!!!

So trust the process sweet sister! He is already there, at the end of this time, with the solution, waiting for you to arrive but simply relying on and obeying Him. 

I will leave you with this thought: He walked this earth, as yes, wholly God, but also wholly man; the Bible tells there is nothing we experience that He did not as He walked this earth. So these feelings of heartache, anger, frustration, of being cheated? He is not just ‘oh whatever, deal with it’. He intimately understands those feelingsYou’re struggle is not lost on or insignificant to Him (Heb 4:15). It is important to your story, and He is infinitely proud of you for sticking with it. Rest in Him today, sweet sis (or bro!)

Life is not neat, not obvious, not what you expected it to be. There is no rhyme or reason to what you are experiencing or have not experienced yet—that you can see.
Today rest in and thank God that HE can see and that He is working out an even bigger and more beautiful rhyme and reason than we could ever imagine.

Love you all!

Book Review &Tour: Dreams and Devotion

Hey everyone! I have been looking forward to this blogpost for a couple weeks! I really enjoyed this book and I hope I can accurately convey my excitement as to why for all of you today!!! 

Some dreams will be dashed, and their devotion will be tested.
Dara's life is full of farm work and worries, especially now that her older brother is a priest in a far off city. Yet she still has time to dream of the life she hopes will someday be. She dreams of marrying her dear friend and the worries of her family ending. Now, the selfishness of one person threatens her very way of life.
Dresden's initial excitement about living a life devoted to the service of God quickly is dashed on the rocks of reality. The life of a priest is nothing like what he imagined. To make matters worse, he finds out his family back in his home village is on the brink of disaster. Torn between his vows and his love for his family, what will he choose?
Buy the book for the special preorder price, here.

Dreams & Devotions was actually my intro into Taelis-- I read it before I read books 1,2, & 3; so as I went back and read them in order (along with the short stories) little details included in this work made total sense. They can each totally be read alone; however, when you read it in correct sequence, you 'get' and appreciate the cameos and 'history' references so much more lol ;) 

What I Liked:
This book was just ..... super realistic. It is as though Sarah took realistic struggles we deal with today, crafted them, and plopped them into the middle ages. 
One character makes a selfish decision that leaves the rest of his family to wonder, stress, and pick up the pieces. REAL. Another character begins the book with an incredibly real and passionate walk with God-- and then experiences incredible discouragement while trying to serve Jesus and make a difference. SO, SO REAL!! Yet another suffers romantic disappointment-- and doesn't get her stereotypical 'happy ending'. STANDING OVATION, HAND-CLAPPING REAL REAL REAL!!!!!!! I am passionate about this story for these reasons! I could identify with each character and their characters (some to small degrees, and others 110% because I am literally walking through them!!!) and I can think of friends and family members who are also going through similar circumstances. I found myself saying "YES!" and being able to empathize and then being convicted and encouraged and inspired. 

These characters experience and deal with major disappointments in a very satisfying way . The story lines are so realistic, but so were the outcomes; and THAT is why I love this book. The problems the characters face that cause their character development were 'resolved' in realistic, 'this actually is what happens' ways-- not the way you 'know' or expect it to happen in a fictional story. You empathize with these characters SO much because you relate to their pain. You want them to experience their happy ending; however, they experience their "God-grace" endings. God meeting them where they are, providing the daily strength they need to survive and be a blessing to others.
This story was an incredible blessing in that way because wow. You can tell Sarah prayed over and really put heart and love into this story. It shows. You do not walk away from a neatly package bow ending thinking "yeah well that was just a story, but this is real life". You walk away thinking, "wow, that was legit!"

What I Didn't Like: 
The only thing in this story that I had a hang up about was Dresden's struggle. He goes from very spiritually mature, to having what I felt was a very immature faith problem. However! I may have struggled with this plot-line because.... well... Have I mentioned this book was real? I can't quite hate on it too much because I have done the SAME THING in my walk with God, so...... 
It was a sharp contrast that happens very fast- and I think that is what I struggled with. I know in my life it was a slower dissent into where he then finds opportunity for character development. But this may just be my reaction to it and don't think everyone will have this reaction. ;) As so many of my 'dislikes' are, it may just be because the author is talented in her craft and I was feeling the desired emotion!! :)
I loved each of these books in the Taelis series for different reasons; this story's characters and the way God meets with each of them, met me where I am at. It was a very timely read and was a great encouragement to me, and I believe it will be to others also!!! Sarah worked hard on this and it shines through in her writing! 

 Time for another GIVEAWAY!! 
(This is an AWESOME opportunity, btw!!! I have been living in Taelis for the past six weeks, and to be able to get the entire series free is AMAZING!) 

About the Sarah

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of many published books and short stories. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Book Review(s) : Waltz into the Waves & Father Forgive Them

Hey all! I am back today with two more reviews, but these are for short stories that author Sarah Holman has written! They were short and sweet, so their reviews will be as well ;) 

Up first, we have Waltz into the Waves. This is a sweet re-rendering of the classic Cinderella story <3 It follows the basic storyline we all love and are familiar with, but Sarah sprinkled the right amount of new twists and details in there that help keep it fresh. As it is a short story, you can easily blow through it in one sitting, and it was a precious, angst-filled story with just the right amount of laughter and pure, low-key, romance! If you are a fairy tale-retell junkie, this is a super cute read!! (link in the title ;) )

Next we have Father Forgive Them: A Resurrection Story. Guys. I just finished this story, and I finished it with happy tears. It is extremely short (only three chapters) but WHOA was it BEAUTIFUL!!! I wish I had read it around Good Friday/Easter, when she published it. Father Forgive Them gives us a heartfelt look at what the crucifixion might have been like from a Jew's perspective, who at first was eager to see "justice" served but then undergoes a personal struggle as he realizes, "wait.... what if that Man was who He claimed to be!?" 
The description of Jonathan's internal struggle was phenomenal! Small excerpt: "It was the feeling of darkness without starlight, the feeling of a lighting storm without rain, the feeling of hopelessness and fear...But even after the earth stopped shaking, his heart still felt heavy with fear, the fear of something he could not identify. He had been afraid before, but never had it penetrated this deep. His very soul was deeply disturbed....longer. He turned and ran toward the city, running from that feeling and fear, but he couldn’t get away from it..."
(As someone who struggles with depression/anxiety, I found this to be a beautiful and accurate word picture <3)
This was just completely beautiful and moving<3

I hope you all are having a great and Godly day! Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a first look at Sarah's new book Dreams and Devotion, coming out July 15th!!! (Also! I am still open to any blog-post ideas you all have!!! <3 )