Pierced and Embraced: Book Review

Sometimes I listen to the radio when I am in the car. At other times I prefer silence. One day I was listening to WMBI and heard an interview with Kelli Worrall. The topic of discussion was her book, Pierced and Embraced.

The discussion piqued my interest and I jotted down the title when I reached my destination. I ordered the book.

Kelli Worral included stories from her own family as she wrote about seven encounters that Jesus had with women. In a detailed account she has shown the compassion and respect that Jesus had for women (and still has), as recorded in the gospels. 

The seven/eight women included in the book are: Mary, mother of Jesus; the woman at the well; the woman with the hemorrhage; the woman caught in adultery; Mary and Martha; the woman with the alabaster jar; Mary Magdalene. 

Although the book is organized in seven chapters with discussion questions at the end of each chapter and could be studied over a period of weeks, I read it in one week. 

Each chapter had insights for me. In the chapter about the woman with the issue of blood, Worrall discusses wounds—or gaps in the way we were mothered. This history of our childhood and transition to adulthood can affect our adult life, where we try to exert control over our fears and desires.

This resonated with me, because I have attempted to control areas of my life. More on this tomorrow.

NOTE: The bull on the cover refers to a story by Flannery O’Connor, a story symbolizing grace. Kelli Worral explains the shocking symbolism in the beginning of the book.

This post is part of #Write28Days. I am linking with Literary Musing Mondays.

Memorable Books that I read in 2018

The local libraries are a wonderful resource. Many of the books I have read this year were from the library. Others I purchased or received as gifts. Here are some that were enlightening, thought provoking or an engaging read.

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia

Dr. Dunlop explains the progression of the disease along with suggestions for relating with the person with dementia. When the disease is well progressed an individual may not remember the past and have little interest in the future. But they can still enjoy moments in the present. This book gave me insights into important aspects for my mother’s care.

Redeeming the Feminine Soul

Julie Roys discusses terms that come up in the church: patriarchy, complementarianism and egalitarianism. She discusses her own struggle to acknowledge her feminity. She writes: Gender, marriage, sexuality—it was all designed to help us understand God and how he relates to us.

A Place to Land

Kate Motaung’s memoir is a story of God’s grace throughout the events of her life. As she tells her story she takes the reader along with her from Michigan to South Africa. This author shares her moments of struggle and doubt. A thread of brokenness runs through the book—we live in a broken world. We all experience some brokenness in our families. But there is hope.

Until We Reach Home

Lynn Austin’s historical novel captured my interest. Three Swedish sisters immigrate to Chicago. Each sister had a unique story, and a spiritual development. After reading this book I looked for other books by Lynn Austin. Waves of Mercyis another historical novel—this one set in Holland, Michigan.

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon

Ray Rhodes wrote a detailed biography of the wife of Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher in England during the Victorian era. Although I have heard of Charles  Spurgeon, I did not realize the extent of his popularity. I did not know that Susannah was vital to his ministry. Despite physical frailty she was a constant support for him and had a significant role in the preservation of his sermons. 

Killer Smile

Lisa Scottoline has written a series of books about an all women law practice. They are novels and plot driven. I am careful to pick up a book when I have a space of time to read. Often I end up staying up too late because I can’t put the book down. In this book, lawyer Mary DiNunzio is researching an internment camp for Italian immigrants during WWII.

The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies

Dawn Raffel has patched together the story of a man who saved the lives of premature infants in the early 1900s. She gathered research from immigration records, from doctors that had done their own research on Mr. Couney, from interviews with senior adults that had benefited from his incubator care as infants.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis 

Patti Callahan has written a historical novel about Joy Davidman, the woman who married C.S. Lewis. The book is heavily researched and details Joy’s accomplishment as a writer in her own right. It also gives an account of her first marriage to Bill Gresham. Some years ago I read C.S. Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed, and I have always wondered about this woman that Lewis grew to love so deeply.

A Forgotten Place

Charles Todd (the pen name for a mother & son writing team) has written a series of books about a nurse during WWI. This is the latest book about Bess Crawford. I especially enjoyed how well the setting in Wales was conveyed.

For more book recommendations visit Kate Motaung’s link-up. Click here.

This post is also linked with Booknificent Thursday 

Every Baby is Valuable

My daughter gave me the book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved thousands of American Babies. The cover of the book suited the title.

Saving Premature Babies

The book is an attempt to follow the life and work of a man credited with saving the life of premature babies in the beginning of the  20th   century. At the time, infants weighing less than three pounds seldom survived. Dr. Couney was saving them.

He reserved  space  for  his  sideshow,  Infant Incubators with Living Infants, at expositions and amusement parks. It sounds distasteful to have infants in sideshows. The shows brought in money to cover the cost of infant care with profit.

Medical professionals criticized Dr. Couney for putting infants on display, even though hospitals were not equipped to provide care for little preemies. The author of this book noted that there wasn’t a choice between a sideshow and an ideal situation.  The choice in many cases, was  between a sideshow and letting children die*.

I was impressed by the practical approach that Dr. Couney had. The goal was to insure that the infants received breast milk for nourishment. Sometimes the mother would make daily trips to the show to breast feed her infant. Otherwise a wet nurse provided the breast milk. The infants were fed on schedule around the clock. If the baby couldn’t suck, breast milk was given with a tiny spoon.

Dr. Counney understood the need for absolutely sanitary conditions in the incubators that provided warmth. Babies were bathed and linens were changed. While caring for the infants, the nurses held and cuddled them.

Dr. Couney’s practice was successful in saving the life of many babies born prematurely. He recognized the value of feeding breast milk, maintaining excellent sanitary conditions and human touch.

There are a number of questions that the author pursues in her research. Was Dr. Couney really a doctor? Did he go to a medical school?

Update: Towards the end of the book one more observation about the health and survival of Dr. Couney’s premature babies is given. The author quotes a woman who was saved through Dr. Couney’s incubator care and was examined at New York Hospital when she was nine years old. “They said to my father, ‘There is something we don’t understand. All the babies that were in our incubators are going blind–but your baby’s eyes are good.’ “

Not until years later would the medical profession see the connection between the oxygen concentration that infants received in hospital nurseries and the development of blindness. A high oxygen concentration given to save the premature infant caused retrolental fibroplasia.

This post in linked to Five Minute Friday. Our prompt is: VALUE

*Dawn Raffel, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, New York: Blue Rider Press, 2018, p. 126.

Praising God During Troublesome Times

This past week I read Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin. It’s a story about three Swedish sisters that immigrate to Chicago. I enjoyed the character development, especially the youngest sister, Sofia.

Sofia is tried and tested by circumstances but her faith in God gradually grows. The Bible verses that guide Sofia’s faith are woven into the text. The story holds a  message of hope. In troubled times, when we don’t see an answer to problems, we can to turn to God in faith and with praise.

One of the verses that Sofia returned to a couple times is Psalm 66:1

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!

The Psalms are a wonderful resource that demonstrates both lament and praise. There are times when I have doubts, when my faith is faltering. I don’t think of praising God. At that time I should turn to the Psalms for inspiration and words of praise to God.

What helps you offer praise to God?

I am joining the Five Minute Friday writing community. The prompt for today is: PRAISE  Also linking with Booknificent Thursday and  Literary Musing Monday.

Book Review: Born for Life

When I am planning to travel  I  usually  find  a  couple  of  books  for my kindle.  I prefer hard copy books most of the time,  but when traveling   e-books are a great option.

I saw the title online, Born for Life: A Midwifes’s Story, and was immediately drawn to it. It is a gem of a book.

Julie Watson writes a memoir about childbirth, her own and the many women she provided care for in New Zealand. She began her career in maternity care as a nurse aid in a small rural hospital. Some of the scenes reminded me of my early jobs as a nursing assistant.

She includes practices that are now outdated and no longer recommended—sugar water for infants, high forceps deliveries and more.

When she was 37 years old she studied to become first a registered nurse and then a midwife. As she approached her training she wrote this about the Nurses Amendment Act that was passed in New Zealand in 1990 and made the independent practice of midwifery legal.

The emphasis was on the midwife and the woman being in partnership, making decisions together about the care given. It was a model of equal power, rather than of a health professional telling the woman what to do and what would happen to her. Power was now given to women, which was so different from my own [childbirth] experience.

Ms. Watson began her practice in a hospital setting and then moved on to become an independent midwife with her own practice. She attended women in the home and in the hospital. Like so many other places in the world her practice as an independent midwife was seen as a threat to the business of birth.

For women interested in midwifery, it is a fascinating read.

Childbirth

Sharing this post with Booknificent Thursday and   Tuesdays with a Twist

Book Review: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon

During the reign of Queen Victoria in England (1819 – 1901) women had less freedom, less rights than women today. Susannah Spurgeon lived during this time period (1832 -1903). Yet, she was well educated, developed her literary gifts and was an active partner with her famous husband.

I found it fascinating to read about her, the wife of Charles Spurgeon, in the setting of  Victorian  England.   Although I have heard  of  Charles  Spurgeon, I did not realize the extent of his popularity. I did not know that Susannah was vital to his ministry. Despite physical frailty she was a constant support for him.

The book, Susie: the Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes, shines a light on the marriage relationship of a gospel centered couple, living out their faith.

Susie helped her husband with his sermons and assisted in getting them written down so they could be shared with others. She read theological books with him.

She was also a writer. The inclusion of quotes from her diary and devotional books showed that she was a wordsmith.

Both Charles and Susannah valued books. Susannah wanted to make books with sound doctrine available to poor pastors. She developed the Book Fund a program that reached out to hundreds of pastors. In her day Susie was a beloved woman of God, using her gifts for God’s glory. Ray Rhodes has done thorough research for this book. It is an inspiring read.

For information on purchasing this book click here.  #susiebook #moodypublishers

In full disclosure I received an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sharing this post with Literary Musing Mondays,  Booknificent Thursday  and Grace & Truth link-up

Reading About Women: Fictional and Real Women

The local library is a great institution. When I was a child my parents brought us to the public library regularly. I have always enjoyed reading stories.

Now I read widely to be informed, to learn and for enjoyment. I read to become a better writer. Today I picked up a book on canning and preserving in small quantities. I enjoy making jams and jellies from the berries in my yard.

I also picked up the latest book in Laurie King’s series about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. The title is Island of the Mad. I have read all the previous books in the series and appreciate Mary’s influence on the character, Sherlock Holmes.

Another series of books that I have thoroughly enjoyed follows the life of a character, Maisie Dobbs, from WWI through WWII. Maisie participates in WWI as a nurse.   Following the war she becomes a  private  investigator. The development of her character kept me reading.   Jacqueline  Winspear is the author of this series.

Recently I finished reading a fascinating story of a young woman fleeing from grief and loss in the aftermath of WWI. Emeline leaves northern France and finds a small town on the Mediterranean, a town on the border between Spain and France. The rich description of place and culture kept me interested. Laura Madeleine wrote Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

The Wonder Years, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields, is a collection of essays written by 40 women over 40. (This is a book that I picked up at a literary conference.) I recognized the names of some of the 40 women: Luci Shaw,  Lauren Winner,  Joni Eareckson Tada,  Madeleine L’Engle.   Other names are new to me. The writing is excellent.

Do you visit your public library? It has much to offer!

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Memories of Another Festival and A Book About Sex

My sister-in-law invited me to the Festival of Faith and Writing many years ago, and it has become a regular event where we meet for a few days. I have kept the programs from every Festival that I attended. In 2004 Lauren Winner was a presenter—just 26 years old by my calculation. A couple years older than my daughter. She had written Girl Meets God and was speaking about memoir.

This year I saw her book, real SEX: the naked truth of chastity with books offered for sale. My thoughts turned back to the memory of the bright, sophisticated young women I had heard speak many years ago. This book was published in 2005, but the title is relevant today. I bought a copy.

Lauren became a Christian as a young adult. In this book she reveals her promiscuity and premarital sex. As a new Christian she began to study scripture and realized that it was sin.

She laments that the Church has not had a strong voice in the culture.

Turn back time to the sexual revolution; some key events took place.//

The birth control pill became available in the 1960s.

In 1972 The Joy of Sex was published.    It was a popular book  and  my husband I both read it.

In 1973 abortion was legalized.

The pleasure of sex was increasingly being extolled, separated from procreation. Sex is pleasurable but it has a deeper meaning. It is a sacred bond between a couple. It unites them and provides  the  potential  for  establishing a family.

Married couples in our generation were encouraged to limit family size to avoid over population in the world. My husband thought we should have just two children. God had other ideas when my second pregnancy was twins . . . lol.

Even though we had both grown up in Christian homes we were influenced by messages in the culture.    And the messages  have  become  louder and more confusing since the 1970s.

It is so important to study God’s word and understand the full text, New Testament illuminated by the Old Testament.

The Bible does not contradict itself.

Lauren Winner writes that it is important to start with Genesis. God made us with bodies; that is how we begin to know that He cares how we order our sexual lives.   There is—and  we  will  walk  through it here—evidence aplenty from both scripture and tradition about how God intends sex, about where sex belongs and where it is disordered, about when sex is righteous and when it is sinful.*

The pain and confusion about sexuality nibbled at the edges of the Festival. Jen Hatmaker was interviewed about  the  stand  she  has taken on homosexuality and the criticism she has received.

In a discussion group, a woman pastor talked about the distress and anger she experienced when her church did not support her lesbian daughter.

The Church is divided and struggling with the confusion in our culture over sexuality. How do we show compassion and yet uphold the truth of scripture? I think about Jesus. He received the sinner but also said, “Go and sin no more.”

As believers we all need to do some soul searching. We need time in the Bible. We need to pray and look for guidance from the Holy Spirit. May our words be gentle but true.

This post is shared with Five Minute Friday. Our prompt is: TURN

Also linked with Faith on Fire.

*Lauren Winner, real SEX: the naked truth about chastity, Brazos press; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, p. 32-33

Books at the Festival of Faith and Writing

In the year 2000 I began attending the Festival of Faith and Writing, a biannual event at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over the years I have met authors and been introduced to many good books.

Lauren Winner was a speaker one year, telling about her path to faith. I have read Mudhouse Sabbath and Girl Meets God. This year I picked up her book, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity.

Marilyn McEntyre, a former professor of English at Westmont College, presented another year. I was intrigued by her focus on language and read her book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. This year I picked up her book Word by Word: a daily spiritual practice.

This year, in addition to the keynote speakers, the Festival had a number of panel discussions and workshops for writers. It was a wonderful experience to spend a weekend with people that share a love of reading and writing.

A few years ago I became acquainted with Deidra Riggs through her blog. This year I attended a panel discussion that she participated in titled Platforms and Privilege. The presentation was thought provoking and explored white privilege in the publishing industry. I picked up Deidra’s book, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.

Kate Motaung had a reception for the launch of her book, A Place to Land. You can read my review of her book here.

An anthology, The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over Forty, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields, made its debut at the conference. I went to a reception and heard some of the women read the essay they had contributed. Women over forty have much experience and wisdom to share! I purchased book and look forward to reading it.

Stay tuned for my review of these books. I hope you will follow my facebook page—click here to check it out.

Book Review: A Place to Land

Kate Motaung’s memoir is a story of God’s grace throughout the events of her life.

A Place to Land

She has a relationship with God that grows through her college years and motivates her to pursue missions. But she couldn’t know the great challenges she would face in the ensuing years. As she tells her story she takes the reader along with her from Michigan to South Africa.

This author shares her moments of struggle and doubt.     A thread of brokenness runs through the book—we live in a broken world. We all experience some brokenness in our families. But there is hope.

Throughout the book Kate writes about painful life experiences but notes the provisions of  God’s  grace. God provided for her during the difficult months of her mother’s battle with cancer. God provided for her mother’s needs. The book has a wonderful tone of Christian community—people helping and  supporting  each other.

I enjoyed reading about South Africa and the friendships that developed. Kate shares vignettes from her marriage, childbirth, beginning motherhood and adoption.

Within the memoir I was impacted by the legacy of faith that Kate’s mother gave to her daughters. A beautiful portrait of a mother’s love.

The major themes of this memoir are faith, community and hope. It is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and points to the future Jesus promised. This memoir is a good read–it will  broaden  your  perspectives.

In an interview Kate gives insight into her purpose in writing.

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading A Place to Land?

My hope and prayer for my readers is threefold:

1) I pray that A Place to Land would increase their longing to spend eternity with God.

I don’t presume to have any idea as to what heaven will be like, except for what Scripture has revealed to us. But I do think that the vast majority of us have a diluted, lukewarm view of eternity. We lack a depth of eager anticipation, and I believe that negatively affects our choices and attitudes in this life.

A Heavenly Home

I’ve learned through writing this book that     intentionally keeping an eternal perspective at the forefront of my mind does wonders for my countenance, attitude, and actions. It has changed me in ways I never expected.

2) I pray that they would find hope in Christ in the midst of their suffering and grief.

He is the only one who can relieve our pain. I pray that the readers of this book will find their anchor in Him amidst the turbulent trials of this life, holding fast to the truth that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

3) I pray that they would be reminded that this world is not our home.

For some, that is a comfort, knowing that one day those who trust in Christ will lay asideall their pain and suffering in exchange for a sin free existence forever in the presence of their Redeemer. For others, this realization could be a bit disconcerting. Many of us make a great effort to find comfort, fulfillment, and satisfaction here in this life, and we don’t like the idea of giving it up.

Before writing this book, I struggled with that a lot. I would get incredibly sentimental over certain material things. Now, the Lord is teaching me that those are all part of what Jesus calls “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves breakin and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Instead, He calls us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). Writing A Place to Land challenged me to consider where I’m storing my treasure.

Kate Motaung