I have a deep love for October. The beauty, the crispness, the warmth, yet the knowledge that it is all temporary, seems to deepen my affection for this month. This October felt especially bittersweet for me. If I could pick one word for it, it would be messy.
Messy in the physical sense, with the flax seed incident and the start of potty training.
But also messy in the emotional sense, as this, our first full month in our new home, gave space for deep feelings and processing, as well as grief for the brokenness of this world.
But messy is often where I find the Lord, where I see him next to me, telling me that I am loved. I have wept over hearing these words, when I feel I least deserve them, yet get to receive them anyway.
On one particular hot mess day this month, I had reached the afternoon feeling completely spent. The past hours had been filled with tears and good, hard conversations and I felt I had nothing left. Just down the road, at a local church, there was a clothing swap. I had planned to attend, but honestly, didn’t know if I had it in me anymore. Yet, I felt a small nudge in that direction, and showed up.
I saw a few friends there, who gave me heartfelt hugs and knew some of my messiness. I got to get rid of unwanted clothes and add some “new” things to my own wardrobe. But in the midst of these things, the Lord was near to show me how loved I am. If those friends and those clothes were not already abundance, Jesus reminded me of a prayer of a few weeks past.
I had prayed for a Halloween costume for my daughter. I told him I didn’t want to spend money, so it was okay if he chose not to give her something. At two, she probably wouldn’t know the difference. But if he wouldn’t mind, I asked for a costume.
That day, he gave me two.
Two sweet costumes that reflect two characters she currently loves dearly: Tigger and Belle.
I’m overwhelmed at this kind, tender gesture towards me, as he answered my prayers with tremendous love and abundance. It is as if Jesus was making sure I couldn’t miss it.
And as I came away from that day, I couldn’t help but see the LOVE Jesus has for me. This month was messy and as we enter into November, my heart feels messy still.
Yet, I can’t deny the abundance of love that Jesus has for me.
He is with me. He sees me.
And he tells me he loves me, with hugs, new clothes and costumes.
He also tells me he loves me through these mundane, simple things.
The food I ate. The books I read. The stories I heard. The daily graces. Here are a few more of October’s:
Butternut Squash Risotto. This is creamy and earthy, everything I want fall to taste like. I doubled it and substituted fresh rosemary for the sage. And I discovered that this is the simplest way to cook a squash. I’m so glad to know the secret of cooking it whole in a crock pot.
Finding out our sweet baby is a BOY. I thought I wanted a girl, until the technician said we were having a boy. I felt a wave of warmth and happiness wash over me, as I heard we were being given a son. Jesus gives the best gifts, going beyond what we think we want to give us what we need. I’m so grateful for this dear boy.
Eggs in Purgatory. This tomato and egg dish is EASY to throw together and equally delightful to sop up with fresh bread. YUM. A new favorite for our repertoire, and as a small bonus, I get an added pleasure from the name of this dish.
Slow cooker applesauce. Simple and I love it when my crock pot does the work for me. I left out the cinnamon, to be added when eaten.
Broadchurch, Season 1. I loved the pace and characters of this small English town as they work through the murder of a boy in their town. I was hooked and held in suspense until the eighth (and final) episode ended.
What Alice Forgot
I loved this book that reminded me of 13 going on 30, but due to amnesia instead of a magical birthday wish. The contrast between the current Alice and the Alice of 10 years ago seamlessly fluctuated between being sobering and terribly funny. This story was hard to put down and incredibly redemptive as Alice has a second chance at her life. Thankfully, we don’t NEED a head injury to gain the perspective that Alice has of what truly matters. I loved this well-written story that brought the chance for redemption to so many areas of this woman’s life; her family relationships, her children, her definition of success, her time, and especially her marriage. Beautiful and fun. A for me.
I wanted to love this book, but I didn’t as much as I hoped. I think part of it is the format. One of my favorite parts of the Harry Potter books (1-7) is the rich descriptions and details that simply can’t be included in a play. And honestly, I love all the food parts in the books, and this one just didn’t have enough for me. But on a more serious level, the story itself felt a little lacking to me. A major plot point is the use of a Time Turner (this is revealed early on, so it doesn’t feel like much of a spoiler). To me, I think time travel is one of the hardest elements to do well (my two exceptions are Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and About Time) as it typically feel like time travel is used to make up for an under-developed story/characters. This unfortunately, felt like more of a typical use of time travel instead of the exception to the rule. Lastly, I felt disappointed to find that Harry Potter didn’t feel much more mature in middle age than he did as a teenager. His parenting and friendships feel about as emotionally reactionary as they did when he was a teenager, which felt disappointing to me. I was hoping for a more mature Harry Potter interacting with more immature characters. To be fair, his worst moments are in parenting, which I think can be said for so many of us, but still felt disappointing to me. I did enjoy revisiting this magical world, but I wouldn’t re-read this play (as I am prone to do with the seven novels) and found it lacking the depth and richness I love with the originals. C- for me.
I savored my way through Madeline L’Engle’s reflections on what it means to be a Christian and an artist. She has a beautiful way of uncovering truth. I loved her thoughts on words and story, the importance of both being tremendous in shaping who we are. I delighted in her acceptance of where Christ can be found, not limiting him to one certain kind of experience or group of people. I found her perspective on integration of art and creativity into life to be refreshing and one desperately needed to be heard. I came away with permission to explore and enjoy what the Lord has given us, as we are invited to be part of his redemptive work. This book was lovely. A for me.
* Blogging for Books have provided me with a complimentary copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
I loved this Canadian murder mystery set in a small town. I haven’t felt deep admiration for a main character like this in a long time. Chief Inspector Gamache was intelligent, kind, wise, humble and reminded me a little of Atticus Finch. The characters were developed and I truly enjoyed getting to know the good, bad and quirky people of this small town. The mystery was slowly and deliciously unfolded. It was believable and yet surprising. A for me.
This is the second book in the Inspector Gamache series, and I loved it even more than the first one. The depth of character development, the perfect timing in the unveiling of each layer of the mystery, and how it built upon the first book made this book wonderful. It feels like Jan Karon’s Mitford meets a murder mystery, in the best of ways. I placed holds at the library on the next few in the series and eagerly await their arrival. A+ for me.
What a treat to read a new book from one of my favorite authors. I think that Lynn Austin offers a great deal in her writing; showing the complexity and depth that following Jesus involves (without making it cheesy or merely inserted some faith element into the story so it is “Christian”), demonstrating the full range of human emotion, bridging the gap that often exists between history and the present, all the while telling an engaging story. This one was no exception. While my all time favorite of hers remains Eve’s Daughters, this beautiful book drew me in at once with the stories of two different women, fifty years apart. A for me.
* Bethany House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
I love reading books about the Civil War. The contrast between the heroic fight for justice and the horrific injustice of this time is hard to ignore for me. This fictional tale seemed to capture the essence of how much risk and cost was involved for those living in the South who believed slavery to be wrong. Although I knew who would win the war and when, I could not escape the knowledge that those living in those days did not, yet acted according to their conscience regardless. The ending chapters introduced a dramatic sister bent on revenge and causing trouble, which felt distracting and unnecessary to me; however, the whole of the book was a good read and a call to courage and convictions. B for me.
*Moody Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
I was looking forward to reading another of Liane Moriarty’s books after enjoying What Alice Forgot so thoroughly. This one didn’t quite live up to the delights of the first. A stand alone story, this tale follows the story of two women. The first (the hypnotist of the title) is dating Patrick, while the other previously was and now stalks him. It was a truly interesting read, getting behind the scenes with hypnosis AND a stalker’s justification, but was somewhat unsettling for me. The casual attitude towards sex bothered me in this book, leaving a subtle bad taste in my mouth as I read. I finished the book because I was curious about what would happen, but honestly considered not finishing at one point. C- for me.
This memoir was one of the most beautiful and brave books I’ve read in a long time. Edie shares her own story of growing up in severe poverty, longing for her father’s love, learning to care for him in his alcoholism in ways far beyond her years. She is a masterful storyteller, sharing what is true and heartbreaking, while also weaving in glimpses of hope and redemption. This is a deeply personal, profoundly vulnerable story. I’m so grateful for Edie’s courage to delve into the pain and healing that can only come from sharing the things that we would rather keep hidden. A+ for me.
*Tyndale House Publishers have provided me with a complimentary copy. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
I was excited to discover Beth Moore as a fiction author in her first book of this type. I wasn’t disappointed. This book held elements of Jan Karon’s Mitford, introducing a myriad of quirky characters while trying to solve the murder of an estranged father. This was a warm, funny, believable story, that kept me engaged. Themes of redemption and grace are woven throughout, speaking louder to Christianity than a preachy dialogue might in another setting. B for me.
This book was a quick read, as it is a middle school reader, but that didn’t change the fact that it was an exceptional story. A tasteful yet painful look at two children’s journey not only out of London during the World War 2 to live in the countryside, but their journey away from a deeply abusive relationship with their mother. This is a story of courge and learning to believe what is true, and how healing is possible even in the darkest of places. I loved this book. A+ for me.
This book follows the stories of two women, over 70 years apart, one about to age out of the foster care system and the other, put on one of the many orphan trains to place children in families in the years surrounding the Depression. This book was heartbreaking and beautiful. I loved learning about this period in our country’s history that is rarely mentioned. Thousands upon thousands of orphaned children were sent on trains into the midwest to be placed with families, with mixed results. I found the pain and heartache of abuse and being unwanted to be worth wading into. I want my heart to be broken for these things. But it isn’t all grief to be found in this book. I loved the bittersweet, redemptive ending. A for me.
(I want to mention that there is an attempted rape scene in this book. It was hard for me to read, but a turning point in the story. It is disturbing, as feels appropriate.)
This is my favorite baby name book, which already feels like a nerdy thing to say. Who has a FAVORITE baby name book? I do. This one is clever and informative and gives you information about things like when the name was popular (if ever), what names goes together, etc. A helpful tool if you’re in the market for a baby name, like we are!
This is my second time reading this one but my first time using it. As I’ve thumbed through other books about the subject (something I never imagined picking up!), this one is a gem above the rest. This method avoids things like candy or stickers as rewards, but sets an expectation for something that we all do; going to the bathroom. I’m grateful for Jesus giving this book in the right time, as a method to match our own values for how we raise our girl.
*I joined up with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as she shares her favorites and invites others to do the same. What a gift to reflect and learn together!
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