We’re Going to be Okay, Okay?

Good Evening!

Or morning, or afternoon, whatever time of the day it happens to be, I guess. This blog has been a long time coming. That’s what happens when you’re unsure of what is actually happening in your life: you avoid telling anyone specific details about what is going on because you’re not sure if you would even say the right things.

I have been in Phoenix, without my husband, for six months now. I have no plans to return to the Chicago area, and he is aware of that.

Sorting all of this out doesn’t come easily to me, as I always thought I’d be married forever. I felt like God gave me my marriage, and that meant that it was going to be hard, but good; tough, but enduring. I thought my husband and I would be one of those old couples who are still capable of making each other laugh with a stupid inside joke 20 or 30 years later. I wanted that with everything in my soul when I got married. God, or the universe, or life, or luck, or other people, or a terrible combination of the aforementioned had another idea in mind. I’m coming to accept the previously un-thinkable idea that my journey is elsewhere, no matter how much that hurts and feels like an impossible nightmare at moments. This is my life, and time marches forward, unrelenting and uncaring that I’d like it to stop and back up just a bit so I can breathe and evaluate what brought me here.

I won’t get into specifics because I feel like having a blog or a social media account doesn’t mean that you need to spill everything out into the world all the time, especially at the potential expense of others. As a writer, I’m tempted to bare my soul for you all, as I often do, but in this case, I simply can’t bare too much. And that’s okay. You don’t need to know everything in order to know this: marriage is complicated, sometimes loving someone looks differently than you thought it would, nothing actually lasts forever (though we love it when it lasts ‘til death because it’s grand, sweeping, dramatic, and beautiful), and that I’m going to be okay.

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Unfortunately, it’s really easy, even within (or especially within) Christian culture to start pointing fingers at people whose marriages fall apart. Maybe you’ve heard people say that divorce is un-biblical, or that it’s different for us (people who are saved) because we’re supposed to know better; as if having a hard marriage is to be expected for non-Christians, but not for people who love God. Maybe you’ve said those things yourself, even if just to reinforce your own ideas about what you think your marriage should look like. Please, don’t point fingers when I tell you that my marriage fell apart, or speculate about who didn’t love God enough. Please don’t tell me stupid things like, “This is going to be terrible for the kids” as if I need your guilt on top of my own to crush me while I try to sleep at night and fail. As if I don’t know how terrible it is for all of us. Divorce is terrible. I think anyone who has been here or even seen the view from right over the ridge could tell you that none of us want to be in this situation. If God is bigger than all the other problems in the world, than He’s bigger than this, too. We’re all going to be okay, okay?

Life gets in the way of the things we think we are going to have, doesn’t it?

As for me, I am finishing up my final semester at ASU for my bachelor’s degree in English, and I plan on graduating this Spring. When I wrote about homeschooling and going to college at the same time, I had no idea that I would soon be dealing with an even more frenetic pace juggling a job, public school, college, a home, and a toddler. Whew! I haven’t been here because I’ve been thinking, writing for myself, and journaling in private, but I also haven’t been here because I’ve been slammed to the wall with work every single day to the point where sometimes I feel like my head may explode.

That can happen, right? Spontaneous combustion from being overworked? I think that’s a thing.

With that in mind, I don’t plan on blogging for another three to four months, and then I will re-evaluate what I want to do. So many people come to visit my blog to read homeschooling reviews (which I no longer write), or to see craft/gardening posts (two hobbies that are not on my radar right now as I try to flip my life back right-side-up again), so I don’t know if the interest is even there for me to continue posting my current journey in this blog.

Thank you to everyone who comes here to check in on me and see how my family and I are doing, and please feel free to check out all of my past blogs. There’s still awesome content in the archives that I worked hard on for years, so check it out! If you have any opinion on whether you’d still like to follow my blog, even if I go outside of the realm of homeschooling and urban homesteading, please comment and let me know. You all are awesome, and I have missed my blog immensely. I hope to pick up the pieces of it at some point. Until then, take care of one another.

Jenna

Book Review: Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl

I have the great privilege of bringing you a book review today: Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl. This gorgeous paperback landed on my doorstep a little over a month ago, a Christian Fiction book about a woman U.S. Marshall who becomes the target of a local gang, unbeknownst to her. The book strongly advocates for respect for our police force, faith in God, and healing. It’s labeled Defenders of Justice 01, so I’m assuming this is the first of a series that is in the works.

First off, the good stuff: I love a strong female protagonist, and Mercy Brennan fits the bill. She’s tough (but can be squishy on the inside when you’re privy to her thoughts), she’s made her own life after coming out of a tough past, and she doesn’t fall apart at the seams when things get tough. The back cover blurb sounds promising and action-packed, “It isn’t until a freak ice storm strands them [Mercy and her fellow officers] at a remote location… that the full severity of the situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy to put them in great danger…” Also, I liked that there were hints of Christian themes without the pushiness and preachiness that sometimes come with this genre of writing. The cover is gorgeous with blue tones, snowflakes, and a bold yellow spine.

Now moving into what I didn’t like so well: the writing is not as strong as I would have liked. There were many places in the book where I stopped reading and said aloud, “What?!” If it were out of shock at the plot twist, this would be acceptable, but as a reaction to character development or the general style of the prose, not so much.

There are places where I felt like either Mehl was explaining facts to herself as a writer, so she would remember them, or she was talking down to her audience instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt that they some general truths about police, criminals, and human relationships. On that note, the criminals are overly criminal –terrible people who are one-dimensional thugs –and the police are a little too saintly. For me, this doesn’t mirror real life (not every cop is a saint, and not every criminal is evil), and that extreme dynamic tends to pull me out of a story.

Some of the dialogue feels natural, but other parts are stilted and were a struggle for me to get through. There are places where the author relied on a conversation to reveal a lot of backstory, even though the conversation didn’t seem like one that those characters would necessarily have with one another. There are also bits of prose that don’t seem to fit with the overall tone of the surrounding text. For example, “One false move… and the cartel would order hits as easily as Mark ordered fries at McDonalds” (Mehl, 60). This sounds like the punchline of a joke, but it’s in the middle of a serious section of text dealing with the main character, Mercy, potentially being on the cartel’s hit list, or possibly being a dirty cop. In the context, it seems like an odd choice.

Lastly, I assumed that there would be a strong environmental theme to the book due to the title, Fatal Frost, but the big ice storm doesn’t hit until right before page 100 –awfully far into the book for something that ties into the title. One of the reasons I picked this book was for the wintery atmosphere that I assumed would seep through the pages and wrap me in an icy world where I could hold my breath in suspense as I waited for the plot twists. Sadly, that’s not quite what I got out of it.

Honestly, if I bought this book on my own, I wouldn’t have made it past the first 50 pages (which is the space I give every book in which to hook me as a reader), but because I received it for a review, I felt like I had to finish it. I tried hard to be interested, and I kept at it for a full month, putting it down whenever I felt disappointed in it. Finally, I made it to the one-month mark, but I was only on page 100. I wanted to want to finish it, nevertheless, this is as far as I’m ever going to get. I couldn’t force myself to finish it in order to review the whole thing, and for the sake of both you, dear reader, and the author who wanted a review written for her book, I am greatly sorry. This book isn’t for me. That’s not to say that it’s not for someone; I personally didn’t like it.

This is the last book review I will be writing for a while. While I have been blessed by being able to review both “regular” books and homeschooling curriculum on my blog, I’m not going to be able to continue either for some time. I hate to leave on a negative note, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same. I’m not sure what route my blog will take after this, but I’ll have another post up next week about life as it is now, my particular challenges as a mother/student/wife/child of God, and where I think I might be headed (you never know when God has something up His sleeve, eh?). Thank you for reading, as always, and we’ll talk soon.

I was given a copy of Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl in exchange for an honest review. All opinions contained within this blog post are my own, and I’m in no way required to give a positive review. If you are interested in becoming a book blogger for Bethany House, you can visit their book blogger page here.

Take Care,

Jenna

Book Review: The 100 Most Encouraging Verses of the Bible

Today I get the privilege of bringing you a book review on a fantastic topic: encouragement. I received the book, The 100 Most Encouraging Verses of the Bible by Troy Schmidt, last month. It came to me in the middle of a season of tough stuff that I’m still navigating (sometimes, very poorly). It’s been a blessing to remember that there is goodness, there is light, and that there is hope in the face of trials. Let’s face it: sometimes, you just need a little encouragement. Sometimes, I need a lot.

This book is similar to a devotional, and though it doesn’t loudly proclaim to be one, the back cover blurb says it’s “perfect for daily devotions.” For each Bible verse, there is the verse printed at the top of the page, then below is a short reading about how the verse applies to your life and why it is encouraging. This book would work great as a short morning or evening devotional, where you could spend 10-15 minutes with one verse a day, reading and then meditating on how the reading applies to you specifically. I didn’t get to read it this way, as I don’t have 100 days to read a book before I get the review posted on my site, but you could use it that way. In fact, I will probably pick it up again in the future and go through it one day at a time, one verse at a time.

Overall, I like the idea of the book. The formatting is easy-to-read, and it’s a small enough book that you can take it with you anywhere. It easily fit into my purse, where I could pull it out while waiting to pick up the kids from school or while waiting in line somewhere while running errands.

Some negatives (in my opinion) are:

The verses Shmidt uses are from many different translations – ESV, NIV, NASB, and NKJV. I’m not sure why the author chose to do this, and I won’t get into a debate on translations, but I found it to be an odd choice. I didn’t read it alongside a copy of the Bible I usually read for study (ESV, if you care), but I’m curious how (if at all) the book would be different if the author chose one translation and stuck with it, or how I would interpret each daily reading alongside my Bible.

In addition, some of the verses weren’t particularly encouraging to me. They are great food for thought, but they aren’t all verses that I would give to someone who is hurting and who needs encouragement. For example, “So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life’ ” (Job 2:6, p. 26). The reading after that verse talks about how we can share our tough times with others who are going through them and they can see God’s goodness within them, and that through this verse we can tell that Satan is not all-powerful. To me, this is not very encouraging. It’s like being sick and having someone say, “Well, at least you’re still alive!” (Job’s friends, anyone?) True, but also not super helpful. I personally find the book of Job to be an interesting read (albeit a downer, admittedly), but I’m not going to try to encourage others with the book of Job. Ever. That’s just me.

In conclusion, I like this book as a short devotional to use daily for 100 days. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but there are many good reminders about what the Bible says about God’s character and how He loves us. That’s where this book shines.

If you are interested in buying a copy of The 100 Most Encouraging Verses in the Bible, you can click here. If you’re interested in blogging for Bethany House, click here to visit their book blogger’s page. See you next time!

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. Opinions contained within my blog are my own, and I’m in no way required to write a positive review ever. Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World

Today I am bringing you another book review, finally! Shelly Miller’s book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, came to me at the most opportune time in my life. Major things are unsettled in my life, I just had my busiest semester in college to date, and my whole family is going through a period of adjustment as we try to discover what our new normal looks like.

In short, this is not a period of time in which rest has been a major focus for me. When I think of rest, I think of being rested, of getting a solid 8 hours of sleep (something that hasn’t been a reality for at least the last 3 months, if not the last 6), not having to rely on coffee to function, and being in a place where there is time for family, friends, and downtime. What if rest is more than that? And what purpose does rest serve? What happens if you don’t get any rest? Why bother when there is so much to do that only I can do? I never stopped to ask myself these questions, but the answers are important. I’ve been going hard for so long, praying that I don’t get sick or force myself into exhaustion because life is so overwhelming right now. I knew I couldn’t go on forever, but I also didn’t see an end in sight. I needed a book about rest and the spirit of Sabbath. God knew.

If you look at my copy of this book, it’s no longer crisp, white, with a solid, flat backbone. It looks a little like me at the end of a long haul: crinkly-clothed, bent over with weariness, marked in all the places that are well-used. I dog-eared every few pages throughout the whole book until I decided that I’ll probably just re-read the whole book instead of revisiting all the places that touched my soul and stood out to me as important. If I’d armed myself with a highlighter (and there were many times that I lamented not carrying one), much of Rhythms of Rest would be a sea of yellow. Do I need to remember that rest is important? Yes. Do you? Yes. But what does that look like for each of us? This book sifts through some ideas of what rest looks like for each of us and reminds the reader why we need to stop and rest.

I’d like to share a few of my favorite passages; I couldn’t possibly share them all for fear being accused of copying the whole book. Seriously, if you feel like you struggle with what rest looks like, if you’re weary and worn around the edges from a season of business or uncertainty, or you just need to remember that God gave us rest and that it’s okay to say no to business and take time for yourself, this book is a good one to pick up. Miller says, “When others point out your overtired state, is your response ‘I’ll rest when the work is done’… are you easily irritated by the needs of others… do you fear stopping because everything might crumble in your absence?” (84). Sound familiar at all?

Near the beginning of the book, Miller talks about how busyness can overcome us: “We embrace intentions for work, academics, relationships, finances, recreation, and faith, but what about intentions for rest… we don’t dare to dream about rest outside of paid vacation time because a whole day of rest seems unrealistic… as a result, we block out the possibility of rest altogether” (44). Have you ever thought about intentionally resting as being a vital part of your life? “ ‘Wasting time’ is actually the most productive time action you may take this week” (Miller, 44).

Even though I know deep inside that I feel more productive after spending time hiking, sitting in the grass at the park while my kids play, resting in the good conversation of a trusted friend, or after ‘wasting time’ reading or writing, I still needed someone to tell me that it’s okay to rest. Is that crazy? I know that resting is good, and yet I can be very resistant to it. This comes from trusting myself to handle everything instead of knowing that God can handle some of it. That’s what I walked away with. Trust God. Rest. Enjoy the Sabbath (even if your rest isn’t on Sunday, or isn’t even a whole day!) as God intended for his beloved. There are no rules on Sabbath, but there is a heart attitude. Oh, how I love that idea so much!

I’ll leave you with one more quote that sums up what I felt was the most important message in the book, “Body, mind, and soul more easily enter rest when we understand and then accept our worthiness based on who we are, not on what we do” (Miller, 129). If we know who we are because God loves us, we can rest without feeling guilty about it. Beautiful, wonderful grace, what a gift!

Whether you pick up a copy of this book or not, my hope for you, dear reader, is that you would enter into a season where rest is valuable to you, where you feel no condemnation for taking time for yourself when you need it (which can be hard, but doable, during the holidays), and where you know that your worth comes from who you are, not just what you do.

I was given a free copy of this book for review purposes. This review is still my own opinion, my own thoughts on what I read, and I was not required to leave a positive review.

If you are interested in blogging opportunities through Bethany House Publishers, please visit this link.

Changes, God, and Finding Joy in the Small Things

Change is upon us. I should have seen it coming, since change is one of life’s great certainties, but a change of this magnitude comes along only a few times in a person’s life. At least that’s what my best friend assures me of. I’d like to think that my life doesn’t hold too many more of these giant uprootings within it.

I’m in Arizona again, for an uncertain amount of time, maybe until the day my Father calls me home. My husband is still back in Indiana. While I can’t (and won’t) get into details online, I can say that life got pretty ugly for a while. Change was necessary. My husband and I are in agreement about that. My kids have always been homeschooled, and they started at a charter school this last week. I have pick-ups, drop-offs, violin rental, tutoring, breaks, early release days, and homework to manage for the first time ever. I’m in the process of looking for a place to live and a job that I can do around my full-time college schedule and my kids’ school schedule.

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Change feels like a four letter word right now, but I know God is using this time in my life to remind me of what’s important. What I do next matters. It would be easy to fall into despair or give up my convictions, but the easy thing is seldom the right thing to do. Instead, I’m taking my life one day at a time and trusting God to provide for me, guide me, and keep me safe. I know that He’s bigger than my (very big) problems.

I’m doing my best to be content in the dead heat of summer. We spent a good month with no air conditioning in the car, which meant cooling off with Icees every time we drove and avoiding the car during the hottest part of the day whenever we could. Every time I got in the car, I looked up at the blue sky and the billowing, fluffy white clouds and counted them as joy. Maybe my insides were cooking, but I could see the Superstition mountains welcoming me home and the sky stretching upwards into infinity instead of hanging over me like a grey shroud. There’s joy in feeling safe, feeling like you’re home, feeling like you’re welcome.

I’m counting my blessings daily. We have air conditioning in the car as of this week. We are safe. My kids are excited to be here. I get to meet a professor that I really respect this week; she’s been awesome to me, and I never got to meet her face-to-face before because I was Indiana over the last year. We were blessed with some school uniforms for the kids and a few outfits for me. I wrote a story through the pain of leaving Indiana, and my creative writing teacher said, “People need to read this.” One of my students from my internship said that I encouraged them to keep writing, and that they were looking forward to sending me more of their work. My kids have the best smiles and giggles. I can wear flip-flops again without feeling weird about it. I’m living in my favorite sunglasses again. I’ve got a rockin’ foot tan going on. Phoenix is home to some of my favorite women who love Jesus and who support me in amazing ways.

There are more things that I’m grateful for, but I think the point is that even on the darkest days, there are bright spots. There are kind words, hugs, shafts of sunlight peeking through the darkness after a monsoon, hot cups of coffee, and beauty everywhere if you look for it. I hope that you find joy today, even if you have to look really hard for it. It’s there.

 

 

Published Work! My Story is Up!

I don’t often talk about my writing life here on this blog, because it really just doesn’t seem to tie into the rest of it. My existence is a hodgepodge of crazy things, let’s just be real about that. So, today I’m changing it up, and I’m talking about writing. Welcome to one more brick in the very colorful wall that is my life.

It’s hard to be super excited about something and not share it on my blog, so my bubbling enthusiasm is now vomiting its way toward you. You’re welcome. This month, a short story of mine, Sweets to Ashes, is available  free to read online at Quantum Fairy Tales. This online speculative fiction magazine publishes new issues quarterly, and they were the perfect fit for my modern day fairy tale that features a terrible, no-good, shape-shifting dragon and some sweet kids.

Go, click the link, read the story, and tell me what you think! Every time I get a new story published and it’s out there in the world, it just brings me joy. I wanted to share my joy with you today.

Until next time, take care!

5 Things to Focus on When Life Gets Hard

Every time my college classes start up again, I have a hard time keeping up on my blog. I’m just being real here. This summer semester happens to be more frantic than usual, as I’ve spent most of it in Phoenix, Arizona with family. On top of being away from my own bed, desk, kitchen, food, and all the normal comforts of home, the summer semester classes are a week shorter (which actually makes a huge difference!), and I’m going through some things emotionally that are making it very hard to study.

So, my blog has fallen to the very last priority on my list, and since the list keeps getting longer, my blog has been neglected. It’d be cool if I could develop robot-like abilities during stressful, busy times, and get it all done. Unfortunately, I’m human just like everyone else. Maybe your family is struggling with illness, relationship issues, too-busy schedules, or something else. Whatever it is, remember that we’re all human and that you can’t do everything all the time. Oh, and that’s OK. It really is.

Today, I thought I’d talk about five things you can focus on when life feels unmanageable, because I think we all feel that way at some point. Keep on chugging, exhausted one. This, too, shall pass. I’m reminding myself, also; we’re in this together.

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 1. God – Sometimes, when we focus on our relationship with God, other things become less important. Other times, we gain clarity and understanding through prayer and studying the Word. Really, you can’t go wrong with having some quiet time with God every day and seeking His solace.

Bonus: I believe that God gives us certain people in our lives that can help us when we struggle, if we allow them to. Use the resources God has provided for you.

2. Your health/self-care – Eat well. Choose healthy snacks when you can, stay hydrated, and try to sleep when you can. If your body feels like garbage, your whole life suffers. Get some sunshine every day and go for a quick walk, even if you don’t feel like spending more time outdoors. The vitamin D and exercise will boost your mood, which helps when you’re going through a particularly stressful time. When you’re stressed, your immune system actually suffers. Try to treat your body well during this time.

3. The people directly in your care – You might be tempted to take on extra projects even though you’re already stretched thin. Pick and choose wisely. Say no if you need to. Make a list of priorities and be sure to include the basics, because they are important. If you have a spouse and kids, those things go at the top of the list, right underneath caring for yourself. Beyond that, you need to decide how much you can tackle right now. Be kind to yourself, and carefully choose what you can reasonably handle.

4. Things you enjoy doing – It’s alright to enjoy something that seems frivolous. As long as it doesn’t become your whole life while you ignore your responsibilities, scheduling time to do things you enjoy is crucial to your mental well-being. When  you are in the right frame of mind, you can handle the stress of life so much better. Don’t feel selfish. Our spouses, kids, friends, and family should know that we enjoy doing things for ourselves also. We’re human after all, right? Have fun. Laugh. Smile again. Enjoy your life; this is it.

5. Finding joy in the small things – There’s something beautiful in remembering that sunshine on flower petals is special, that a child’s smile can touch your heart if you let it, that drinking a cup of coffee is a sweet spot in the day, and that a kind word is better than gold.

Find your joy in the small things, and the big things seem a little smaller. It won’t make them go away, but it will help you remember that not everything is terrible. It will remind you that God has a plan for you… that tough times now don’t mean tough times forever… that life is good, even when it sucks.

Do you have anything else you try to focus on when life is trying? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and I hope that you find joy and light in your day.

 

From This Moment: a Historical Romance Book Review

Today, I’m bringing you a new book review. From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden is completely different for my blog, as I’m usually posting curriculum reviews or books for kids. I chose this book for myself, and as a homeschooling mom, I think it’s so important to do things that only you enjoy sometimes. Take care of yourself, mama; you’re important!
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Elizabeth Camden writes historical romance, and this particular story is set in Boston in 1897 when the first subway is being built. The premise is intriguing: the main character, Stella, a lithographer, is in Boston investigating her sister’s murder, and she meets Romulus, who runs Scientific World, a magazine dedicated to bringing science to the masses. Romulus wants Stella to create illustrations for his magazine, but she is determined to not create art again until her sister’s killer is found and brought to justice.

I like that the two main characters are drawn to one another because of their personal interests, and not just because they are so attracted to one another physically. I also personally enjoy science and art, so these two characters are a perfect match for me as a reader.

Both Stella and Romulus are very fashion-conscious, and the book dedicates quite a bit of time talking about what they’re wearing. While it does add to the historical feel of the story for the most part, it’s also not really my cup of tea. Though, plenty of people like that sort of thing, so it’s not necessarily a negative.

While the death of Stella’s sister’s is a mystery, that plot line is definitely secondary to the romantic attraction between Romulus and Stella in the book. There’s also a subplot involving Romulus’ business partner, his sister, and her estranged husband. They have a rocky past behind them, and the reader is left hanging wondering if they will ever live happily ever after or if they will continue to live with the drama of the past hanging between them.

Honestly, I didn’t really enjoy this book. When an idea is presented, it’s often told over and over again by different characters, but I didn’t get more understanding by seeing it from someone else’s perspective; I just got bored. To me, this book suffers from not being cut down in editing. The story is there, and the characters are interesting, but it was so hard for me to slog through the repetitive text. I can finish a good book in a day, and this one took me a full month to get through, just because I would read a bit, get bored or frustrated, and put it down. That being said, I’d probably give Elizabeth Camden another shot; I will probably try one more of her books sometime in the future.

I you’re interested in picking up From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden, click here. For more information on the author, click here.

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this blog are mine.

If you’re interested in receiving review copies of new, exciting books, please visit Bethany House Publishers.

Book Review: Broth and Stock from the Nourished Kitchen

I am insanely excited to have the opportunity to review this new book for you. Today, I’m talking about the book Broth and Stock from the Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther. Jennifer’s website, The Nourished Kitchen, is what got me into traditional foods like homemade stock in the first place. If you’ve never been to her website, and you’re a person who eats food or cooks, ever, you’ve got to go check it out. Do it now, even. I’ll still be here when you’re finished. She has a way of presenting information so that it’s not intimidating; it feels approachable.

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This book is the same way. It’s approachable, and more than that, it’s gorgeous. I’m talking, I’m reading the recipes and my stomach is grumbling. The pictures are rustic with soups set against wood grain; the photographs are clear and clean-looking. I want to try all of the recipes. All of them!

I’ve been making broth and stock for three or four years now, so I’m not exactly this book’s target audience. I loved the idea of having a book to refer other people to, though. Anyone who is new to the whole process can easily feel overwhelmed, because this kind of cooking is a process. Making stock takes a lot of time in comparison to modern day American cooking, and the cooking process was a lot for me to wrap my mind around when I first started. This book is perfect for beginners. It gives a history of broth and stock, how to choose meat or bones, how to store stock once it’s made, and more, then it gets into the recipes. I found all of the beginning material to be useful, concise, interesting, and easy-to-read.

After the beginning chapter, the book gives 15 master broth and stock recipes, followed by 46 dishes (mostly soups, but a few other things as well) to make with those master recipes.

Because I cannot take gorgeous pictures anymore (one day soon, I hope!), I don’t have any photos to go along with my experience using Broth and Stock, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Go on. It’s good for you; you’ll like it. Imagine the heavy-scented chicken stewing on the stove for hours, penetrating every nook of my home with the promise of the meal to come, the onions sautéing in butter, and the final product, chicken soup, topped with glorious Mexican extras: creamy avocado, crispy tortilla strips, and spicy jalapenos sliced thin full of crunch and bite.

That was fun, wasn’t it?

I made the Yucatan-Style Lime Soup (Sopa de Lima) from page 81 in Broth and Stock. The entire time I was making it, I was like, “This is just a chicken and rice soup. Seriously… it’s just chicken and rice.” When it was all said and done, though, it was unlike any other soup I’ve made. All those touches at the end, including slices of lime that you squeeze over your bowl after you’ve served it, they make a basic soup amazing.

We all enjoyed it, and I have a few more soups lined up for next week.

Here’s the book’s picture of the soup we had:

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My photo does the book no justice, but I wanted you to get the idea.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making soups from scratch, or who wants to learn why it’s beneficial to make your own stock and broth. I’m going to be hanging onto my copy for dear life, and recommending it to everyone. It’s a fantastic addition to my cooking shelf at home.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within this review are my own, and I am in no way obligated to give a positive review.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Truth

I watched a video yesterday of a bearded lady. She’d spent her whole life since adolescence trying to make herself look more like what society says she should look like, trying to get hide her hairy body and face. She shaved every day, and she even tried laser hair removal; the doctors told her that there was nothing they could do for her to get her hair to stop growing the way it was, so she spent a good chunk of her life frustrated over the way she looked. Recently, she decided to let it go and grow out her beard because it was something that was a part of who she was born as: a lady with a lot of hair. It’s inspiring and lovely. If you can find the time to watch it, please do. She seems so sweet.

It wasn’t until I saw the video of this woman that another blog post I’ve been trying to write began to gel in my mind. She talked about being yourself, about how sometimes you think other people will judge you if you show who you really are, but often you’ll find that others value your transparency. People are drawn to others who are honest and who don’t pretend to be something they’re not.

This resonated with me because I value truth over almost everything else. If you ever visit my Facebook page, the banner picture says, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. – Henry David Thoreau” I don’t have time for people who are one thing in public and another thing when you get them alone. Call this a result of my upbringing, or a part of what I was born with, but it’s a deep conviction of mine.

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In truth, being a blogger is very difficult for me. I struggle to find the balance between truth and kindness. I don’t ever want to offer up a fact at the expense of someone close to me, and while I don’t mind spilling my life out onto the screen, not everyone appreciates this sort of thing. One of the biggest challenges for me in this area is the Christian church: these posts sum up a big chunk of my frustration: Do Kids Belong in Church? and Dear Church, I Love You, But…. Every time I blog about my experiences in church, I feel like I’m being a traitor, like I’m exposing the flaws of someone I love. I feel like I’m making following Jesus seem less appealing, and that’s not something I’m trying to do.

However, my truth is this: I did not grow up Christian. In fact, at various points in my life, I’ve lived with people who were practicing witches. I did not grow up in Christian culture, and when I see the difference between what Jesus calls us to in the Bible and what actually goes down in a community of believers, it turns my stomach. I love Jesus. I frequently dislike his followers. I feel like it shouldn’t be that way, but I’ve struggled more in finding a place within a church than I’ve ever struggled finding a place in a secular environment or any other group of people.

I want to be clear: people who go to church are not necessarily saved, and we’re all at various points in our walk with God, so I get that there will be a mix of people there. I like that. My struggles have been with leaders in the churches we’ve gone to, people who are supposed to be in those positions because their faith is strong, and they’re knowledgeable… also, hopefully loving. Those are the people that I get disappointed in the most when they treat me poorly.

Now that I’m ready to publish my first book, I’ve hit a new reality: I am a Christian author, but I cannot be a “Christian author” (read: recognized within the industry as such) because I do not fit the image and false front that a Christian agent or publisher requires. It feels like trying to fit in at a church where I don’t belong all over again. It’s frustrating. The image that you put forward is more important than the actual person you are. This brings me back to the bearded lady. Watching her, I realized that I am what I am. Just like she was born with a condition that makes her hairy, I am a person who was not raised to ignore all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of the church. If she can walk around sporting a beard, why can’t I proudly proclaim myself a Christian and still be who I am without pretense and with all my faults (I’m a work in progress, alright)? Why can’t I write about people who have faults too, real, ugly faults, not contrived “minor flaws” that are basically insignificant?

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I live in the real world, not in a world airbrushed over by the church. I’m not a perfect mother (see me reminding myself how to cope with frustration over parenting here ), I’m not a perfect homeschooler, and I’m not a perfect writer, friend, or person in general. I hope you’ve never expected that of me, and I hope I never expect it of myself, either. I am no longer going to sit here and be sad that I cannot fit into a church where everyone pretends like they all have it together (I’ve attended too many), and I am not going to be depressed that I’ll never score a Christian agent or publishing house. The truth is, I’d rather be myself than try to fit into someone’s idea of me. Rather than the perfect Christian book deal, give me stories that are real; let me show my truth, even if it doesn’t fit into someone else’s idea of perfect.

At the end of the day, I hope that whoever is reading my stories or my blog posts appreciates that I put myself forward as I am, that I refuse to pretend like I’m amazing.  Maybe that person (me in the raw!) will resonate with them in ways that a “perfect Christian” cannot.