Monday, April 30, 2018

Surviving (The Legacy Series: Legacy, Prodigy, Champion by Marie Lu)

The first book in this series, Legacy, is not shown here because it was my daughter's book. She thought I stole borrowed it from her when I reviewed it last week. (See that review here.) However, I did not take the book home with me; thus, I only have these last two in the series which I checked out from the library. Notice the books are from the Teen section, and know also that the books have nothing to do with London -- that's just my morning coffee cup. The series takes place in the United States (and I realized this morning that I do not have a US coffee cup -- hint to family and friends).

Why did Lu (or her publishers) title this series the Legacy series? Really, the first book mainly involves the prodigy character(s). But, can you imagine a series titled the Prodigy series? It sounds a bit elitist, which the prodigy character, June, is. We can consider Day as the anti-prodigy character who is a prodigy that didn't make the cut but survives anyway (not a plot spoiler).

This series ranks ahead of the average teen series because of what Lu brings to the table of literature. Sure, it's typical teen fare: parents dead, lots of violence and fighting to survive, love interests (will she go with _______ or with ________ when you know all along that she's meant to be with ____).

However, though it irks me to have dead good adults in teen fiction, I do think the legacy that June and Day have involves parents and siblings who strive for good, in fact, gave their lives up fighting evil. Lu also employs symbolism and allusion, trademarks of good literature. Take the names of the main characters: June and Day -- season and time of the most light, at least in the northern hemisphere where this story takes place. Then, the kiss in Prodigy is so strong of an allusion, if you don't see it, you have some missing pieces in your literary background. I would rate Prodigy  as the strongest of the three books with a 4 star rating.

As for Champion, the last in the series, one can not just stop at Prodigy! I surmise my issue with Champion is that it moves beyond my originally agreeing with a Commonsense review stating that Legacy was for readers 12 and up. I will say, though, that when Lu brings in the theme of who we become, what shapes us, then she leads us into a story much more than the average teen fiction.

"How had he slowly twisted into the Elector who created such a dark nation? What path had he chosen to follow?" (Champion 263).

We know the legacy of three characters and the choices they make along the way which lead them into the people they become. We also see the choices of a few other characters and what led to their rise or fall. In this respect, I like the story. I'm still giving it 3 stars, but who doesn't finish a series?! Three stars won't stop someone from finishing to see what the end holds. And, to Lu's credit, she does go for a more complex ending. I do intend to read more of her novels.


Writing stories. The deeper aspects of the Legacy series are what elevates this series: the choices that characters make, who they are and who they become. Too often, I saw students from first grade to high school think their normal everyday lives were not as exciting as the latest action movie they happened to watch. I made it my goal to encourage them to see that their daily lives had value in story form. A couple of weeks ago I gave my granddaughters a file of their dad's art work and written work. One of their favorite pieces was a story that he wrote about his dad, their grandpa. The story was loved by Grandpa as well. It's unusual for someone not to want to be a hero (or perhaps "heroic" would be a better word), but heroes don't happen overnight. Small daily actions grow heroes. Daily life, daily choices matter. June and Day, the characters in these books, have flaws, make mistakes. Sometimes our mistakes provide comic relief in our stories and sometimes they provide transparency and reality, but our mistakes need not hold us back from becoming people who in the midst of surviving also grow and thrive in goodness.

I'm into these practices on listening since a friend sent me nine "DO NOTs of an Active Listener" from a 2014 blog of Janice Taylor's. I wish I could figure out how to turn them into DOs except, basically, the DO part of each one is "Just listen." 😌

4. DO NOT interrupt; do not cut the speaker [your child, your student, your friend, your ___?] off mid-sentence. Allow him/her to finish the thought. Just listen.
5. DO NOT plan your responses as the speaker is speaking. Just listen.
6. DO NOT give advice unless specifically asked for it. Just listen. 

Certainly this book series is an opportunity to think about social justice as well. How one goes about social justice is a good topic of discussion or of listening: to God, to others, before judging, jumping to conclusions and finding oneself more of a hindrance than a help.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Altared by Claire and Eli

The Handmaid's Tale -- Let's just get the caveat out of the way. There's sex in this book. Not just sex but distorted, destructive sex. So, why did I read this book? Well, I didn't know this about the book when I started. However, I had seen this title around for many years. It came out in 1986, and I, for some odd reason, thought it had to do with geishas. Yet, this April I was on vacation, and my daughter had the book on her bookshelves. She said that it was a dystopian novel (and she knows I read dystopian novels). Specifically, it's a dystopian satire. The quote by Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal gives us one clue that this is the case. An interview with Margaret Atwood led me to read the book. In the interview, Atwood said that none of the horrors in this book have been dreamed up. While they have not happened in one place at one time, they have happened or are happening somewhere in the world. Here from an article in 2012, Atwood comments:

"I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behaviour. The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights: all had precedents, and many were to be found not in other cultures and religions, but within western society, and within the "Christian" tradition, itself. (I enclose "Christian" in quotation marks, since I believe that much of the church's behaviour and doctrine during its two-millennia-long existence as a social and political organisation would have been abhorrent to the person after whom it is named.)
"The Handmaid's Tale has often been called a 'feminist dystopia', but that term is not strictly accurate. In a feminist dystopia pure and simple, all of the men would have greater rights than all of the women. It would be two-layered in structure: top layer men, bottom layer women. But Gilead is the usual kind of dictatorship: shaped like a pyramid, with the powerful of both sexes at the apex, the men generally outranking the women at the same level; then descending levels of power and status with men and women in each, all the way down to the bottom, where the unmarried men must serve in the ranks before being awarded an Econowife." For the full article go here. 
Please note: The situations in this book are happening or have happened! Secondly, Atwood places the word "Christian" in quotation marks because she thinks what has been done in Christ's name would have been abhorrent to Christ. There are Christ-followers in this book who die for trying to prevent the activities in this society. Thirdly, while feminists have embraced this book, for readers to miss the satire against repressive regimes is to limit the impact of the story. 
Here I get to whether satire has the same value visually in a televised show. I say no. Atwood's introduction in the book includes a quote from A Modest Proposal, and I include here the start of Swift's proposal: 
"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."
Swift continues on with how to the poor Irish. Can you imagine (or maybe you can; I think it would be horrible) watching a show of someone eating a one-year-old child? 
For me, turning The Handmaid's Tale into a commercial, entertaining commodity strips the book of all of its power, all that the satire was fighting against. This is even more true given that the series is continuing to stray from the original story. 
As I turn to the other book, a book written by two Christ-followers, Altared, the question must arise in some minds: why would I couple this non-fiction book with Atwood's? I do so because Claire and Eli (no last names on purpose) offer, in the words of one reviewer: "A much needed wake-up call -- a plea for a paradigm shift in the way we think of love, marriage, and ourselves as followers of Jesus." 
Also, this comment "real love has little do with looking for Mr. or Ms. Right" hits at the core theme of this book. The body of Christ, as seen in our church institutions, has bought into the culture's view of love, or I might say, Dean Martin's view: "You got to get yourself somebody because you're nobody until somebody loves you" and Dean is definitely talking about lower case 's' here. Yes, this includes the church who makes singles feel less than they are because they are not one half of a couple. Instead of a top priority of getting to the altar (hence the title Altared), Claire and Eli invite the reader to make love for God and love for one's neighbor the greatest priority. 

Books, banned books: what do you let your children read? A large number of books that I have taught in my classes were banned at one time or another: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, Brave New World...I propose (not a modest proposal and not a satirical one) that if you son or daughter wants to read a book that you let them and also do the following: 
1) Read the book at the same time as your child is reading it. For some offspring, nothing says "uncool" like mom or dad reading a book he or she wants to read. 
2) Read the book and discuss, as in let your son or daughter do the talking and be a listener. What kind of questions could you ask? "What did you appreciate about the book?" "Why do you think people want to read this book?" "What do you wish I would understand or get about this story?" 
Finally, in this section, as a former literature teacher, I would like to add that not all books you've been told are "bad" are actually bad. Two brief illustrations. A colleague and I were pulled into the principal's office for teaching A Tale of Two Cities because "it was about rape". For the life of us, we could not figure out what we were being called on the carpet for. Finally, we reminded each other that the peasant woman probably was raped, but this was Dickens, for heaven's sake, no graphic details at all. Then, come to find out, a commentary at the back of the particular book we were reading said the entire book was about the "rape of women through all ages". I think the commentator missed the point of the book; however, that being said, the story itself did not include any rape scenes. Then, one of my all time favorite books was brought into question. Brave New World. A story way ahead of its time when Huxley wrote it. A highly moral story. A story were readers are told that everyone is encouraged to have sex with everyone but the only "graphic" illustration of this is when Lenina drops her zippicamiknicks on the floor, and my students were as disgusted by this as John was horrified. Interestingly, many of the same parents complaining about the book had high schoolers who had already seen (and perhaps had laughed with them) when Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds run into each other in the nude in The Proposal. A critique of this movie is not my point; the fact that my students had seen much more nudity on the screen than is in Brave New World is my point. 
With no apologies for making this blog post even longer, I include a paragraph from an article"Brave New World (is Here!) From a New York Post 2012 article:
If Orwell’s “1984” is a cautionary tale about what we in the capitalist West largely avoided, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is largely about what we got — a consumerist, post-God happyland in which people readily stave off aging, jet away on exotic vacations and procreate via test tubes. They have access to “Feelies” similar to IMAX 3-D movies, no-strings-attached sex, anti-anxiety pills and abortion on demand. They also venerate a dead high-tech genius, saying “Ford help him” in honor of Henry Ford just as today we practically murmur “In Jobs We Trust.”
Spiritual practice -- listening -- 3 ideas from a blog by Janice Taylor, 2014, quoted in a Salem Alliance Church 2018 Conference flyer: 
1. DO NOT allow your brain to race ahead of your lips! We speak at about 100 to 150 words per minute, but we think at 250 to 500. Just listen. 
2. DO NOT anticipate what will be said. Just listen. 
3. DO NOT be distracted by the people or things around you. Keep your eyes focused on the speaker. Just listen. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Watching (The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn)

I'm not normally a mystery reader (but I think my picture for this book is rather good considering I set up and took the photo). I read this while on vacation because my daughter had it on her bookshelves. All the hype about it is true: Hitchcock feel to it, well-written, keeps you wondering. You can chalk up my three stars as a matter of me not being a mystery reader. The book is entertaining. Some of my friends would not touch it with a ten foot pole (creepiness abounds); others would love the book.

I was impressed with myself that I caught on to a key clue at the beginning. I didn't guess who did it but I was also proud of myself for not cheating and reading the ending first. Easy read -- I took 2-3 days to read it. Short review today.


My having children and grandchildren section -- what could I come up with to match this book?! Well, since in my last post I regretted buying into the whole "spare the rod and spoil the child" belief, maybe this would be a good time to say that doesn't mean "let the children run amuck and do what they want." There are some obnoxious kids in this book. Raising children and coming alongside grandchildren takes time, lots of it, and consistent love and care. Time that seems difficult to give day in and day out (and let's not forget nighttime as well!) I'm impressed with parents these days. So much good research has come out and parents are learning from it. I'd say that falling into same patterns when we'd rather leave those old patterns behind is a challenge for every generation. A newer challenge for all of us is the lure of technology (a sentence I write using technology 😬). Technology is neither good nor evil, but it definitely can tempt us to skip out on living in the present. Technology is also a part of this book.

A great spiritual formation practice would be to try and go without technology (or social media if technology is part of your job or too broad a sweep) for 24 hours. There's also a couple of good books I could recommend: The Power of Off (which has even more ideas for learning to avoid the siren call of technology) and The Winter of Our Disconnect. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Becoming -- a Three Book Review

I grew up thinking I was not creative. My parents didn't put this idea in my head. I simply felt I never came up with any new thoughts. This belief came to full fruition in my junior year of college. Our first activity in my Foundations of Education class was to think of as many ideas as possible using a pair of eyeglasses. Um, look through them; start a fire... When the class as a whole listed the ideas possible, I realized where I had missed the possibilities. The one idea that remains, of the many my classmates had, is to use them for an ant corral*. How effective of an ant corral that would be doesn't matter. What matters is I suddenly saw that I could learn how to be creative! I just needed to see connections beyond my normal parameters for a given object or subject. This is a long introduction to say that I am exercising my creativity by combining these three books for review: Legend by Marie Lu, The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, and Becoming Dallas Willard by Gary Moon. They happen to be the first three books I read during my school break.

I give Legend by Marie Lu three stars. I like it. It's a good beach read, library read, vacation read. I liked it enough to seek out the other two books in the series once I returned home. I read somewhere (and, of course, now I can't find it) that Lu was intrigued with the idea of the poor criminal meeting up with the good person such as in Les MisΓ©rables. In this story, the criminal has the better morals of the two; however, I think not only Les MisΓ©rables but other stories have influenced Lu, all to the good. (Without being too much of a plot spoiler the ending matches the ending of The Tale of Two Cities with a bit of a twist...or maybe not such a twist...since I could also say that it matches a bible story.) Lu comes to the table of the past and updates the stories, freshens them up. Legend is a well-written, easy to read story of a dystopian future. It annoys me that the good adults in YA fiction are always dead or will die (an exception to this standard practice might be The 100; however, since I've only seen the television series and have not read the books, I'll have to check with the granddaughter to confirm that adults do live in that series). A Commonsense review noted that this book could be read at 12+. I agree with that. If you are in the + range as I am but you have enjoyed reading The Hunger Games series or the Divergent series, then you will probably enjoy this series as well.

I give The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna four stars. I have bought my own copy so that I can write in it. The "shoulds" have driven much of my life. Oldest child, what can I say more? Yet, pairing up "should" and "must" as opposites stretches my thinking about these two words. They are both modals. I used to describe modals as words your mom uses: "You should clean up your room." "You must clean up your room." "Would you please clean up your room!" Modals also express "ability or possibility" but somehow I never caught on to that. I focused on the "permission and obligation" part of the modal definition. Basically, "should" is born out of duty, someone's idea of correctness, our own or someone else's criticism. "Must" as used in this book involves what we love, what drives us, what wakes us up in the morning eager to get on with the day -- with the caveat that what drives us needs to help us thrive, not kill us. Alcoholics must have a drink, but that's not what is going to help them thrive and grow. I did tell my daughter, "Hmmm, I must read, but I don't think I can get paid doing that." She had some ideas of how readers get paid. Previewing books, a reader's dream job, yes? Yet, I get to choose what I read at the moment. I'm not sure how much I would enjoy being forced to read something. The Crossroads of Should and Must is a gift book, an inspirational book, an artsy book. The price is right for me and I want to play around with the questions and thoughts in the book. 

Finally, I arrive at the book I pre-ordered so that it arrived on the first day out in the public and arrived in time for me to read it while flying out of my home state. I easily give Becoming Dallas Willard by Gary Moon five stars, and not just because I've sat under Dallas's teaching (and Gary's, too, come to think of it) or know some of the people that helped Gary make this book be the best it could be. I read the book every page from title page to endnotes in four days, and I will read this book again and again. It won't be sitting on a shelf looking pretty. Why would I re-read a biography? I first "met" Dallas in 2003 when he was a keynote speaker at a teacher's convention. About the same time, one of my sisters gave me his Divine Conspiracy  to read (I had a tough time getting past page 80 that first time of reading). Ten years later in 2013, I sat close enough to hear and see his interactions with people as he gave some of the last lectures of his life. In other words, I met him at a time when who he was seemed unachievable to me: incredibly kind and gentle at the same time that he was incredibly brilliant and humorous. This story Becoming Dallas Willard illustrates so well how the Dallas who closed out this life in 2013 was not the same Dallas who entered it in 1935.

He grew up in more challenging circumstances than many American readers; however, like many of us, he was a normal teen capable of activities that indicated his brain was not fully developed (read, foolish, dumb, stupid, thoughtless). There's nothing wrong with being a super good, moral, kind teenager, but I was not, and it's helpful to see that someone I respect and admire became that better person. He also sat under some of the same church teaching that I did and came to realize how it fell short of the fuller trusting real relationship one could have with Jesus, who "will walk right up to you", and that the kingdom of God and invisible things are real (131-132). Dallas failed in some of the same ways I have failed as a parent. To learn from someone who has struggled with my same struggles encourages my soul. Because spiritual practices were so much a part of Dallas's life, the book is a veritable source of spiritual practices in life narratives. Even the section of Dallas's years as a philosophy professor, which some reviewers have not enjoyed, I appreciated. How does the transformed life look during the hours of employment?

What does the transformed life look like when one comes out from under all the "shoulds" we or our culture places upon us? What does the transformed life look like when light and goodness shine forth? That's the connecting thread between these three books. Dallas Willard became who he was/is because his "must" was a vibrant relationship with Jesus, knowing that the kingdom of God is real and living in light of that eternal truth. He practiced in indirect ways actions that enabled the love of Jesus, the goodness, the kindness, the intelligence, the beauty and art of a life with Jesus to naturally flow out when it was directly needed.  Fictional characters June and Day become better characters as the light overcomes the darkness, good overcomes evil. (Granted there's a bit more violence in the Legend series than might be desired, but without characters who practice goodness, there would be no story. Violence would not overcome violence.)

Who are we becoming? People who live stunted lives because the "shoulds" keep us boxed up in fear? Or, people, who because of fear or anger live violent, ruined lives (this will come more into play in the second and third books of the Legend series)? Or people, as today's Sacred Space describes and a person that I saw in Dallas Willard -- a person who "reach(es) the fresh and challenging possibilities that God wish me (us) to realise"?


This is my section of the blog for "been there, wish I had not done that" or "been there, I'm so glad I did". As mentioned above, I failed in the same way that Dallas did in certain areas of parenting. Believing church instruction of "spare the rod, spoil the child" has to count as one of my failures. Along with believing some teaching about a child being willful when he or she cries. More than likely, it is an overtired, over-stimulated child, a hungry child, a wet or hurting child. I'm thankful there is so much more research out now than there was when I was raising a child. Sure, there are ways to spoil a child, but I have a feeling that it has more to do with giving a child an overabundance of material goods rather than giving a child an abundance of hugs, presence, partnership in doing chores, direction and guidance in learning to live in an overactive world.


"What most often stops me achieving freedom is my tendency to be caught up in fears and exceptions about what I 'ought' or 'should' be. My usual automatic responses tie me down and inhibit me from exploring new areas of growth. I ask and pray for a greater sense of inner freedom and that I might reach the fresh and challenging possibilities that God wishes me to realise" (Sacred Space, Monday, April 23, 2018).

* This morning as I sat on my back porch, I noticed that a lead line had corralled an ant. Actually one ant was corralled inside the loop and another ant was corralled outside the loop. I thought ants could crawl up surfaces so I was surprised that neither one tried to crawl over." 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Braving (Braving the Wilderness by BrenΓ© Brown)

I checked this book out of my local library and read it at the end of March. If I can find a book at the library, I like to read them first to see if I actually want to spend my money to buy it and keep it on my shelves forever. Since this book received a high rating from a friend who does not give books high marks, I thought this latest book of Brown's might be a keeper. As I read it, I was sure that I was going to order my own copy. However, it is now the middle of April and as I prepared to write this review, at first I could not think of what was in the book!

I sat with this thought (or lack thereof) and then some of the contents came back to me. Stand up for what you believe AND be kind (my paraphrase). As some reviewers stated, the book doesn't contain earth-shaking new information, but reminders are good. In the social media that I participate in, I see people standing up for what they believe, and they are definitely not kind. Plus, the stories in Brown's book resonated with my life. Christians castigate Brown for cussing and non-Christian cussers castigate her for her faith. I can just imagine what some of my friends and acquaintances think of my social media posts ("How could she post that and still be ....?") or of my reviews ("She read that book?"). Brown favors no one in this book (in spite of what some reviewers wrote). No matter what side of an argument one falls on, there will be someone on that side who is downright mean in their anger.

As for the comments that it is a highly American book, the examples are definitely from American life; however, disagreements and injustice are universals. The greatest world leaders that I know of have stood against injustice and have exhibited love.

If you're looking for research data, this is not the book for you. Brown refers to her research but does not include the data (even qualitative research includes data). This is more of a summary in narrative form of what she has learned. It would make a great book discussion group read. Also, see the comments below for how I think this book is formational.


So often in raising young children, we strive to teach them to be kind. I wonder if we teach them to be kind at the cost of teaching them how to courageously stand against injustice? Then, as they grow older and they're naturally prone to want to argue, in classrooms, they are similarly quite often taught how to debate.

How can we, instead, teach them from a young age and beyond how to "reason together." Dallas Willard is one of my favorite authors and teachers. As a superior philosopher, he would have been able to demolish many an argument in a debate; however, I heard him say not only in person at a conference, but also in recorded teaching sessions, that he would not debate someone. If someone wanted to have a discussion and seek out the truth together, he was all for that.

Think about: have you ever known a debate to win someone over? I'm sure that someone somewhere has, but numbers-wise, more people have been won over to a different opinion by being seen and being listened to.
I think I've put this spiritual formation practice in this section before, but it bears repeating. Try going an entire day listening to others without critiquing them, contradicting them, debating them. Reflect on what you learn from such a day. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Journeying, Persevering, Surrendering, Embracing (The Sensible Shoes Series by Sharon Garlough Brown)

With -ing words such as those in the title, it's no wonder that I have not had the time to write. I'm actually way ahead of my goal in Read 52 books in 52 weeks ; however, I'm just now sitting down to write. Yesterday I finished this series, so I'm reviewing the books together (although I did already review the first book here Sensible Shoes).

As mentioned in my review of the first book of this series, Sensible Shoes, it helps going into the reading of these books treating them as a new type of genre: one that is a cross between non-fiction spiritual formation practices and literature. This new genre works if you realize that at the beginning. Brown writes skillfully, even eloquently at times, but I didn't observe this during my first time reading because I kept tripping over the spiritual formation practices. The spiritual formation practices were good, but I was not accustomed to seeing them embedded within fiction. My second time around, I enjoyed both (and discovered beauty in Brown's writing).

By the time I read the second book in this series, Two Steps Forward, I had an invested interest in the characters. In this book, Brown begins developing the main male characters as well. Some of the shiny good characters in the first book lose their luster in the second book. Charissa's husband needed to lose some of his because he seemed too good to be true in the first book. He seems real in the second although it took a few chapters for me to accept the new side of John.

As for one of the four original women in the Sensible Shoes group, Meg, some readers won't be disappointed in her at all. Not that I was disappointed in her, as much as I wanted her to be light shining to her daughter's creepy older "boyfriend." I suspect I expect more of my novel characters than I do of myself.

The third book in the series, Barefoot, is at times too real. It's not an escape book, a beach read. If you have much drama going on in your own life at the moment, you might want to save this book for another time. On the other hand, if you have a lot of trials and tribulations, maybe you will want to feel like you're not alone and to know how the situations could be handled. I did find that to be true. I embraced a couple of the practices, and since this is the "surrendering" book, I can say that I learned to surrender situations that I could not control or change. God brought peace into those situations without me micromanaging everything (which tended to make situations worse just as it did in the book). Mini-spoiler alert: tears involved in this book.

I can't say that the last book, An Extra Mile, is any less real. There were times when I would think I wanted to ask the characters, who I thought were least like me, what were they thinking. Then, there were the characters that I felt sorry for because, of course, I resonated with their feelings and actions. I had been there, done that. The parents of the main women continue to be a rather disappointing lot which I did not like. I take that back. Abby's mom is likable (Abby's mom doesn't figure much into the story, however). Also, persevere through the reading if you find yourself like I did thinking, "Wow, their treatment of the bad character is as bad as the character him or herself." Eventually, good comes into the story.

Since my own siblings are my sensible shoes group, I do want to share this series with them. I'll need to buy my own set to keep because I'll want to keep coming back to the spiritual formation practices within the book (easily accessed both as separate pages and at the end of the book).

Because so much of these books are about being real and telling God exactly how we feel (angry, disappointed, heartbroken, and, yes, glad, too) and knowing we are God's beloved, here is the non-social media worthy picture of this set of books. 😏


This is my section of my blog where I usually list either my regrets in parenting or my kudos in parenting. I could regret not having the type of teaching in these books, but I had no control over that. I grew up in the culture I grew up in, just as the parents did in this series. For parents now, this series would be a great help in parenting...and grandparents in grandparenting...


This section I use for a spiritual formation practice. I wasn't going to include any because there are so many to choose from in this series, but then I was flipping through the last book in the series An Extra Mile, and I came across the one meditating on John 11:17-44 where Lazarus has died. Brown brings insight into the story that I had never thought of before. Mary is always the good sister, right? Funny how we categorize people as good or bad, not that their actions are good or bad. Mary does everything right. However, Brown has her character Hannah see Martha as the confronter and Mary as the avoider. From Hannah's journal:

"I look at the text again, and I'm reminded of how differently the two sisters grieved. Martha, the confronter. Mary, the avoider. I've been both sisters. I've had my moments of angrily accusing you of not caring, and I've had my moments of keeping my pain to myself and privately nursing my disappointment.

"I watch Mary sitting there in the house, surrounded by people who are probably wondering aloud about Jesus' power -- couldn't the One who had healed the blind man, they ask later, have kept this from happening? -- and none of their words comfort or soothe. They just compound the pain. Then Martha reappears in the doorway, and her countenance is softened, and she speaks gently and says, 'The Teacher is here, and he's calling for you.'

"That's what breaks the stewing. The ruminating. The rehearsing of the confusion and the wound. 'Jesus is here, and he wants to see you. He's calling for you.' Those summoning words shift everything and gently move Mary forward in her grieving. Those are the words I need to keep hearing, Lord, as I move forward with all of the losses and all of the gains. So many joyful gains to celebrate even as there are so many deaths to mourn. You summon me. I summon you. Come and see the things I have buried. Come and see the places where I'm disappointed and the places where I have hope. Meet me here with resurrection life. Not just me. All of us. Please" (29-30).