The #24in48 Readathon

This weekend I did something truly and fantastically nerdy. I participated in the #24in48 Readathon and read (in some format) for 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday. I loved it! My eyes were very, very tired by the end. Here are some mini reviews of the books that I read/listened to.

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

(audiobook narrated by Steve West and Alex McKenna)

This young adult adventure novel was tons of fun and packed with action! Set on another planet, this story centers on two teens—one a promising student/self-appointed archaeologist and one a scavenger sent to the planet to steal the treasures of past civilizations (in other words, alien tech). When both of their original plans fall through and they end up on the same side of a sticky situation, they team up to go after a special temple that is lesser known but—according to the amateur archaeologist—more important in value. Many complications ensue, including lots of alien booby traps and “testing” of the worthy to receive their inheritance. VERDICT: This book is a fun ride, but I wasn’t quite as impressed with this series as I was with the authors’ BROKEN STARS trilogy, which I absolutely LOVED. There were some pacing issues and the romance was a little too instantaneous, but I still enjoyed the book a lot. I give it four out of five stars for a clever plot, solid characters, and that special Indiana Jones spark. The narration by Steve West and Alex McKenna is excellent.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson, Illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt

Volume 1 of the new Ms. Marvel, “No Normal,” collects issues 1-5. This is not the first superhero comic to feature a Muslim character, but I think it’s the first headliner. I was curious to see what it was about and how the author would handle religion within a superhero world as I haven’t seen that done before. This comic features Kamala Khan, an ordinary girl from Jersey City, who is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts after emerging from a strange fog on her way home one night. At first, she chooses to hide her identity and change her appearance to what she thinks superheroes should look like: blonde and leggy. But when a friend is in peril, she jumps in without her disguise and must make a choice: Will she continue to fight evil with another’s face or be brave enough to be herself? VERDICT: I enjoyed this collection, but I probably won’t pick up the rest of the issues. I was curious as to how she would feel as a Muslim with superpowers, and this volume didn’t really explore that at all. Still, the art and, particularly, the illustrator’s use of color really brings this story to life.

 Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

This is a very complicated book to explain but I’ll do my best! This is set in a world similar to our own, but for the fact that other creatures, in addition to humans, inhabit it. There are subspecies of humans and there are creatures that are not human at all taking on the physical attributes of humans and walking among us. This story follows Aphra, a person of the deep. In 1928, her town (all people of the deep) was rounded up and put in internment camps. Interestingly, once most of her kin and community  died, the Japanese join her and her brother in the camp. She are her brother, the only survivors of their kind, are finally released at the same time as the Japanese (1946). This is the tale of the friendships and family she builds, the magical community she forges, and her pursuit of her people’s books and legacy. VERDICT: With a library at its center, strong weather magic, and a self-declared “ugly” heroine who is a member of a subspecies of humanity, this unique book will appeal to fans of well-written genre fiction that’s a little dense but ultimately rewarding. I found it highly original and would not hesitate to recommend. *Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an early copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is available now.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

(narrated by Rachel McAdams)

This is one of my favorite classics of children’s literature, and I couldn’t resist the chance to listen to this audible version read by actress Rachel McAdams. I last read the book in sixth grade, and I was just as delighted this time as I was then. I had forgotten how much dialogue is in this book, and McAdams’ girlish voice really shines in those sections. I also enjoyed discovering how faithful my favorite movie version (with Megan Follows as Anne) is to the book. Now I may have to rewatch it in the near future! Fellow Anne “with an E,” you will always hold a place in my heart and on my shelf. (I own a physical copy as well. How could I not?)

 

The Young Queens: A Three Dark Crowns Novella by Kendare Blake

The first thing to be said about this novella is not to read it before you read Three Dark Crowns (click here to read my review). It spoils one of the major twists that is best discovered organically. This novella offers backstory that is referenced in Three Dark Crowns, but is more valuable for the insights into the lives of the secondary characters, in my opinion. Queen Mirabella was the most interesting as a child, and I enjoyed seeing how her “growing up” played out. This is a must-read for completists and big fans, but could probably have been skipped by the casual fan like me.

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

This is one of the best works of modern children’s literature I have read in the last twenty years. It is simply brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I cannot possibly do it justice in a mini review. Look for a full post featuring this title coming later this week!

 

 

That’s all for now! And my, that’s quite enough.

Anna

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

Oh, how I love Deanna Raybourn’s mystery-solving pair Veronica and Stoker! I am a fan of historical mysteries, and this series is one of my absolute favorites. Books one and two, A Curious Beginning and A Perilous Undertaking, are absolutely delightful! There are so many things to admire in this series. Raybourn’s tone is playful, irreverent, and deliciously English in the old-fashioned sense. Still, she incorporates modern ideals and themes into the Victorian-set VERONICA SPEEDWELL series. Here’s a summary of the third book, A Treacherous Curse, from Goodreads:

London, 1888

As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

As the summary indicates, Veronica Speedwell is a counter-cultural character—an adventurous lepidopterist with an unconventional perspective on love and romance. Her partnership and close friendship with Stoker, a sort of pirate-esque taxidermist in the extreme sense (read: elephants not cats), defies cultural mores and is as down-to-earth as it gets. Their developing relationship is one of the best parts of these books. There’s the inevitable “will they” question, but Raybourn really focuses on the friendship and how they come to understand each other. I appreciate a slow burn, myself, so I love the way she handles the relationship.

This book had the added benefit of an Egyptology connection, which is a subject that has always fascinated me. I took a community education class on Egyptology as a kid, and it made a huge impact on me. My ears immediately perk up at the word. I find the whole culture and subject fascinating!

I’m not going to say too much about the plot apart from the description above, because it would spoil the first two books. So, without further ado, my VERDICT: I loved this book! It is exactly what I want in a good historical mystery. With hints of humor, impropriety, and scandal, this is a great page-turner that I read in just two sittings.

READALIKE: I recommend this series to those who enjoyed Lauren Willig’s PINK CARNATION series, because of the powerhouse female heroine, light tone, intrigue, and bits of espionage.

willig

***My thanks to Netgalley and to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.***

Bullet Journaling: What It Is and Why I’m Trying It

 What is it?

A bullet journal is basically a calendar/planner/to-do list/shopping list/personal journal/trapper keeper in one notebook that incorporates artistry and organization in equal parts. It includes things like yearly book lists, monthly spreads (monthlies), weekly spreads (weeklies), and even dailies (if you’re that ambitious, which I’m not). It uses a system or key that can be catered to your specific needs, but essentially has one symbol for a to-do list item, one for events, one for appointments, etc. I also color code my journal.

Why do it?

For me, it’s because I can never find a planner that fits all my needs. With a bullet journal, you design the pages yourself. You can also switch up the layout at any time.

Isn’t it just a lot of work?

Yes, it’s work, but it’s also an art form. (Well, mine isn’t quite there yet.) It’s fun to see how ornate some people get with their illustrations (check out #bujo or #bulletjournaling on Instagram). I hope to get to a point where my journal incorporates more art someday, but for now I’m focusing on my hand lettering. I’m learning to letter with brush pens, and it’s a challenge but very rewarding! I’ve never been happy with my handwriting, and this is broadening my skills.

Bullet Journal

To see my personal efforts with bullet journaling, follow me on Instagram @annachenke.

Credit to the following Instagrammers for the use of their photos:

@artofthebujo

@emtudier

@peachstudii

@joannesjournal

@theellieyoo

@abulletandsomelines

@juian.k

If you want a great introductory book on this hobby, I recommend Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.

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The 8 Commandments of a Less Stressed Life

I recently wrote about my struggles over the past few months with stress-related seizures (click here for more on this). During my recovery, I had to take a hard look at my life and my habits to try and pinpoint what was going on. Why did I seem to have so much more trouble processing stress than other people? What was the inciting incident? What and how did I need to change to manage to live a “normal” life?

While the answers to these questions are somewhat personal, I have gained some general wisdom that I feel compelled to share. In my opinion, there are eight commandments that make for a less stressed life.

  1. Sleep is sacred.

This is non-negotiable. No matter how much you protest that you can function perfectly well on four hours of sleep, I’m calling you out. You are lying—maybe even to yourself. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night to maintain energy and optimum body function. You are not the exception to this rule. And if you sacrifice this aspect of your life for other things—with the idea of getting more done or being more productive—you will find the opposite to be true, because the quality of your entire waking time will be compromised. Sleep is sacred. Respect it.

  1. Curate your contact with social and other media.

Are you mindful of the media you consume? Are you loading up on depressing news first thing in the morning or in bed at night? This is a terrible way to start the day and an even worse way to finish it, especially right now. I suggest checking the news/Twitter/Facebook in the early evening rather than making it the last thing you do before you sleep. During my recovery, I found that I needed to avoid watching heavy or serious drama TV late at night for the same reason. While I may like Shonda Rhimes’ shows, I had to take a break from them. Her shows are dark, and it gets in your head—to the point that your brain is anything but a peaceful place by the time you are supposed to be going to sleep. I don’t recommend reading thrillers at bedtime either.

How many hours a day do you spend on social media or on Candy Crush? (I suggest you download the free “Moments” app to track your phone usage and find out.) If there is an app that’s sucking up your time and putting too much strain on your eyes, it’s not worth it. It’s time to hover and delete.

  1. Take a scissors to your schedule.

If your schedule is so packed that you don’t have at least two free nights a week, you’re in trouble. You can’t do everything. Seriously. You need to be honest with yourself about what the time commitments are for the events you sign up for and, if necessary, do some trimming.

  1. Planning makes perfect.

I know that’s not how the saying goes, but it’s how I think it should. I am a natural organizer and have always loved scheduling things. However, that may not be you. I still hope you’ll give planning a try at some level. Whether that means planning hour-by-hour allotments in your daily schedule or just weekly goals, it is a worthy endeavor. When I am most stressed, I find that intentional use of time and distraction are the things that can keep me centered. I may be reading, but it’s on the schedule. And as long as I stick to the schedule (a REASONABLE schedule, mind you), I somehow am convinced everything will be okay.

  1. Prioritize the present.

When I was in college and overwhelmed by papers, I would sometimes be paralyzed by just looking at my task list. I have the same reaction to my to-do list some days. But what’s truly important is doing one task at a time. Prioritize your list and then focus completely on what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. Freaking out about all the stuff you have to do won’t do you any good. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

  1. Progress comes with practice.

If you put these steps into practice, your stress load will decrease. But like anything, it takes practice. Don’t sweat it if you slip up and screw up once in a while. A lot of focus is put on the “new year and new you,” but as Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables, “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it—yet.”

  1. Relationships are what make life real.

In the midst of all this positive development and stress reduction, don’t lose sight of what’s most important. Relationships should be the main focus of your life. Your relationship with God, family, and friends are more important than any to-do list or career ambition. Make time for people in your life. Connection is the key to happiness.

  1. Get creative.

This final commandment was a surprise discovery for me. I took up knitting while on leave from work, and found that the quiet of that peaceful activity gave my brain time to center itself and process. It allowed me to just be. Oh, it’s fun to make a scarf, but I’m not sure I’ll enjoy wearing it as much as I did making it. Knitting created a space for my mind to wander again—to imagine. Whether it’s knitting or drawing or bullet journaling, I challenge you to dedicate a little time in that busy schedule of yours to yourself—for simple enjoyment. Pick up a hobby. Try that craft you saw on Pinterest. You might be surprised how much satisfaction this can bring to your life. You’ll be glad you did it.

 

In my next lifestyle post on Wednesday, January 10, I’ll be sharing about my new obsession—bullet journaling! Stay tuned.

 

My Top 7 Books of 2017

Overall, this year of reading was a mixed bag. I read 84 books. Some of them were great. Some of them were good. Some of them were truly terrible. In the end, it was actually pretty easy to select these top seven reads from 2017. Here are my picks—click on the title for a link to buy the book!


Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Following an independent storyline in an alternate universe from the movie, this is an excellent origin story featuring a teenaged Diana. The Amazonian princess risks exile by rescuing a mortal—only to discover that the mortal is a warbringer, a descendant of Helen Troy with the supernatural power to destroy the world. This is a marvelous tale of adventure, female friendship, girl power, mythology, and just the teeniest bit of romance. I listened to the audiobook, and it’s fantastic.


Caroline

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

This book felt like warm comfort food or getting comfy under a blanket with a mug of hot tea. I still remember my second grade teacher, Mrs. Knutson, recommending the LITTLE HOUSE books to me on the stairwell of Washington Elementary School, because reading these novels was one of my most formative reading experiences. I shared a room with my younger sister while growing up, and my mom read the entire series aloud to us. As a family of four girls, we went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder play; we stayed in a sod house; we visited the Minnesota landmarks. I am a huge fan girl. So when I heard that a new and authorized LITTLE HOUSE book was coming out in 2017, I was ecstatic—and I was not disappointed! As it is written from Ma’s (aka Caroline’s) perspective, this book offers a more realistic picture of life on the frontier than the children’s books. It is heartwarming but also deeply human. How would it feel to have a husband you love dearly who is always wanting to move on to the next place when you might be just as happy to stay? What can you find for your little girls to do that won’t drive you crazy while you try and get something done? There are some truly touching scenes between Caroline and Charles as well as some beautiful snapshots of motherhood.


84 Charing Cross

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

What a delight! Originally published in 1970, this slim volume of real letters exchanged between Helen Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York, and a London used book dealer are an homage to the world of books and letters. Funny, irreverent, and showing humanity at its most generous, this book is more wonderful than words can express. At only 95 pages, I read this book in a single sitting and it was undoubtedly my most pleasant reading experience of the year. 


Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

And . . . another tiny book about books. I can’t help myself. In this novella, Queen Elizabeth II discovers a voracious appetite for the written word in the later years of her life. On a stroll with one of her hounds, which escapes its tether, she learns that a traveling library visits Buckingham Palace every week. It’s only polite, she feels, to borrow a book once she comes face-to-face with the librarian and a young kitchen boy perusing the shelves. Soon enough, the queen can’t stop reading for pleasure—something she’s never done before. She’s always read books, of course. But reading for enjoyment is a new concept. This begins a passionate affair with literature that leads to a surprising revelation at the end. I won’t tell!


kitchen house

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

An intense but ultimately rewarding read. “When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family” (from Goodreads). Excellently written, this a tale that will grab you and not let go. Set in the American South and exposing the harsh cruelties of slavery, this novel is not for the faint of heart but is so worth the effort. I think part of the reason I found it to be such a difficult (in the best sense) read is that I listened to it on audio. There was no escaping or skimming over the reality of injustice, and perhaps that’s a good thing. I was very satisfied with the ending, although there is a sequel that I haven’t read yet called Glory Over Everything.


lie-tree

The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge

This is a beautifully written, tangled-twisty mess of a feminism, deception, and shame. WOW. The Lie Tree is starkly true at particular moments, and there are many wonderful quotes within. I was riveted by the way this YA novel portrayed the way a lie takes on a life of its own and the power that even the smallest fib can wield over our lives and the lives of those around us. Read more about the book and what I thought here.


end of your life book club

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

You and everyone you know should read this book, especially if they happen to love books. This is a beautiful journey of two people growing closer, of a mother and her son, of a lifelong love of literature, of what a well-lived life looks like, and of what a good death truly means. It is emotional and incredibly inspiring. I savored every carefully crafted word.

Blessings Amid Trials

 

I have been absent from the blog—and from many areas of my life—for the past few months due to a health situation. At times it felt like it would never end. But on the other side of the tunnel, there is light. There is life. And I’m returning to it at last.

For the second time in my twenty-eight years of life, I found myself in a debilitating health situation that was solely caused by that silent thief of time and joy: stress. I randomly started having what was later diagnosed (after many seizures, several ER trips, and a hospital stay) as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. I was having up to five seizures a day at one point. I had no warning when they were coming on, and it was very frightening. I had no recollection of what happened during a seizure. I would just wake up wherever I either slumped or fell with no idea how long I had been out.

It was a terrifying period that lasted from the beginning of October to early December. I am still receiving treatment for the seizures and another issue that sprang up with the nerves in my left leg after my hospital stay. I should be off crutches soon!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

This has been a very tough time for me for obvious reasons. But, more than anything, I have been reminded how blessed I am and how faithful God is through everything that’s happened. When I came home from the hospital and needed 24-hour supervision, I was able to stay with a friend for a week so that I wouldn’t be alone. After that, my other friends created a Google schedule and took shifts so that I wouldn’t have to be alone and in danger of falling and injuring myself. God has provided in ways I would never have expected. I have received gift cards from my coworkers and from anonymous sources in the mail to pay for groceries. I have received kind words and cheering visits. I have received so much love.

I have also been blessed with wonderful doctors, who have taken excellent care of me. I am so grateful to the friends who have gotten me to every appointment, as I am not able to drive until March because of the seizures. This will prove challenging once I start work again in January, but I know that something will work out.

Most of all, I am thankful for how much my faith and trust in God has been tested and grown throughout this experience. It has been hard, but it seems I needed a wake up call—and the message has been received. I need to stop being ruled by fear and rely on God more. I need to practice taking things one day at a time. I need to find joy in the little things. I need to focus on relationships rather than my circumstances.

I’ve read a lot about dealing with and eliminating stress and anxiety in the last few months. I’ve acquired some new methods of coping, as it seems my body just doesn’t process stress in the way that other people’s bodies do. But I’m ready now to start living normally again. I can’t wait!

Here are two recommendations from the books that I’ve read to help me through this time:

Becoming ResilientStress Cure

Becoming Resilient: How to Move Through Suffering and Come Back Stronger by Donna Gibbs

The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace by Linda Evans Shepherd

May you find peace and stress-relief in your own life. I hope that my next lifestyle post on stress reduction, full of practical tips, can help with that. Look for it next Wednesday, January 3. Cheers to a better 2018!

Anna

P. S. To read about the first time my health was rocked by stress, read my previous post, “Walking in Step With the Lord.”

 

 

 

Dear Readers

My dear readers,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. You have my apologies. I have been away from the blog for health reasons and have been focusing on recovering. However, I’m happy to announce that I’m well enough to start writing again! I have some exciting posts in the works, including my best books of 2017, resolutions for 2018, book reviews, and a more personal post about the past few months.

Stay tuned for new posts in the upcoming weeks!

Merry Christmas!

Anna

Book Review: A Secret History of Witches

Hello, readers!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a traditional book review, but I’m back and ready to report on what I’m reading and what you should be reading, too! You can expect to see a more balanced output of posts on lifestyle, literature, and faith coming from me this fall. I’m starting mid-month, but September is the other January – so here we go!

And now . . . the review. I would like to thank the publisher, Orbit Books, for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited to be approved as this book is SO in my wheelhouse. A historical family saga about witches? Yes, please. Give me all the access.

Here’s the copy from Goodreads:

After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.

From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.

Sounds great, right? I have been hesitant to write this review because, honestly, A Secret History of Witches theoretically rang all my bells but failed to live up to my expectations. This was a so-so read for me. I’m not sorry I read it. However, it’s not going to be a book that I recommend. The writing is solid. It’s the story and character development that is problematic.

Although I typically love family sagas, this one is composed of stories that are too similar. The five women all have the same struggles and basic journey, so it felt like I was reading the same story again and again. Also, their stories felt incomplete. Each character’s journey was cut off just when it was getting interesting to make way for the next character. In order to fulfill my expectations, this book would have had to have been significantly longer.

Another issue I had is that the women are so unlikable! The majority are selfish, vain, ungrateful things. I just couldn’t handle it. I appreciate that this book featured a cast of independent women. I like to see that in my fiction. But in this case, it wasn’t a positive representation, which is unfortunate.

I would have loved to have seen the author delve deeper into the historical time periods, and explore how this factored in to change things for each individual character more, as the blurb implies. I thought this plot aspect was underdeveloped in the actual book.

Another reader might really enjoy this book. It’s well-written in a technical sense and has a beautiful cover to draw the reader in. It just wasn’t for me.

Anna

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Finding Hope in the Wake of Charlottesville

I’ve been thinking about what to write in the aftermath of this weekend’s horrifying display of humanity at its ugliest. I can’t fail to address something like this on my blog. It’s too important in the life of every American. But what can I, a privileged white woman, say in light of the criminal, racially motivated hatred that was displayed by white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and the KKK? After three tragic deaths and 19 injured victims?

What do I know of prejudice? The answer is nothing. I have never—and never will—suffer anything like the prejudice that a person of color experiences on a regular basis. However, after days of watching Twitter and reading the news, I do have something to say about how we can respond to these events.

Reflections on How White People (Like Me) Can Respond

The first thing we can—and SHOULD—do is to educate ourselves. Go beyond social media. Read the news reports. Watch the Vice documentary “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” but be prepared to be disturbed. It’s vital to learn the truth about what’s going on in America and why we need to take a stand against it.

During that process, you will find—or, perhaps, have already found—that there is a lot of vitriol being spewed right now—against the president, against the perpetrators of these events. This anger is justified. I stand firmly against racism in all forms and degrees. As thoughtful and justice-conscious human beings, we should be infuriated by what happened this weekend—and by every act of racism that takes place in our world.

As a Christian, one crucial thing I need to point out is that the KKK claims to be a Christian group but THIS IS NOT TRUE. In the words of my friend, Darwin M. Dean II., “People with the ideology of racism and white supremacism could not be further from God’s light. They are not Christians; they are evil.” God created us in His image—black, brown, white, and all variations in between. We all share equally in His inheritance of eternal life, should we choose to accept His Son as our Savior.

But after the initial shock has passed, is rage and hate the way forward? Is it a helpful way to proceed?

I believe that we need to come together as a nation, in spite of everything that’s happened. But we have work to do first. We need to move forward, calling oppressors and aggressors by name and denouncing racism as a nation. We need to stand together against future extremist rallies like this one, as more are being planned even as I write (information taken from the Vice documentary previously cited). Step one is taking down the monuments that glorify slavery. Shout out to Baltimore for taking action on this already! These statues are the supposed excuse for these white supremacist marches, and they should have been taken down long ago.

I also think we should pray for our nation and its leadership, for those who were attacked and for their families, and for all enemies of human rights and dignity.

In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Yes, I think we should pray for the white supremacists, controversial as that might be. God alone can change the hearts and minds of human beings—and this protest showed that a lot of hearts and minds need to be changed. More than any of us would wish to be the case in our country.

I believe we need to resist the temptation to fight hate with hate and respond with hope instead.
And in this case, hope means taking action and showing the world—especially our brothers and sisters of color—what we stand for.

I believe that we should . . .

  • Talk to our African American and Jewish friends about their thoughts on the events and learn from their perspective
  • Stay informed on current events
  • Be an active participant in conversations about race and racism in America and around the world
  • Call out racism when we see it
  • Take part in peaceful protests
  • Contact our state representatives about supporting rights for all, and call for the resignations of those who have spoken in favor of white supremacists in the past
  • Donate to worthy causes that further social justice and civil rights
  • And make a difference every day by doing whatever good we can.

What’s not helpful . . . I don’t believe it’s positive or productive for mobs to pull down monuments. The process of taking these monuments down can and should be mandated by each state’s government.

I don’t believe hate-filled tweets help either. Whether you’re black, brown, or white, there is great value in respect. For those who say some don’t deserve our respect, I have to admit that I agree—but I choose to show it anyway, because I strive to love like Jesus. That means treating people with the respect and kindness He would, whether they deserve it or not.

So, in the wake of Charlottesville, let’s find hope—in each other and in the Lord. Let’s find a way to be one nation under God . . . for real, this time.

Anna

Photo Credit: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/12/state_of_emergency_declared_in_charlottesville_as_violence_erupts_at_white.html

Finding Balance When Life Gets Busy

Oh, the joys of summer. In Minnesota, it’s the time of year when everyone wants to get together, to be outside for these few months of bliss before the cold weather comes. It’s usually a time of relaxation and fun in the sun. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of that this summer. It’s my first year having access to an outdoor pool, and I have been living it up! I LOVE IT. Maybe a little too much. 🙂

This summer, though, I also bit off more than I could chew. I tried to do it all, and it’s been great–up until now. Because today, I really started to feel some of the deadlines I have looming. I’m very excited to be contributing a piece to a devotional coming out this fall, but final edits are due and my creativity seems to have dried up. As I write for a living, this is kind of a problem. That’s also why the blog has been so quiet lately. Did I mention I have eleven books that I’ve committed to reading before September 15? Yes, It’s already August 6. Yikes. Talk about procrastination.

But what makes this summer different from any other? Why am I feeling such a crunch? I mean, aside from the fact that I had a serious case of overcommitment. The truth is that I have been feeling happier than ever before! God has blessed me so much this summer with health and relationships. This makes me want to be out-and-about, doing things with friends and family all the time. There has to be a balance, though, and I’m having trouble finding it.

It’s time for me to recharge, refocus, and reconnect with what’s really most important to me. My faith, the people in my life, and the daily decisions I’m making. It might even be time to make some changes. I’m not sure what those are yet.

Do you have any suggestions for me on how to balance my time? How do you manage in your life? Leave a comment below!

Anna