Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bailey Flanigan Series: Book Review

So remember that book series I mentioned a while back? And how I promised to do a post on it?

Well, this is it.

I have to say that I refused to read Karen Kingsbury for the longest time because my grandmothers read Karen Kingsbury and that just seemed a bit weird.

However, my mom got me one of her books last summer before I left for Uganda. She bought it because of the title- Leaving, The Bailey Flanigan Series 

The main character's name is Bailey, so she bought it for me. I didn't have time to read it while we were there and since then I hadn't tried it because, you know, teenagers don't read Karen Kingsbury.

A couple weeks ago I was absolutely desperate for something to read. There that book was on my shelf. Staring me in the face with it's pretty hardback cover and lovely crisp, cream pages...

So I read the first couple chapters. Though I wasn't too crazy about her writing(it was in third person...I prefer first), I was hooked with the story and I couldn't wait to see what would happen.

I read almost half of it in one sitting. *Ask my mom, it's true.*

That night before bed, I opened my computer and looked it up only to find out that it was a FOUR BOOK SERIES.

I hadn't paid attention to the bold words on the cover- Bailey Flanigan Series

But now that I had begun...I was gonna have to finish it.

I'm not a super fast reader but within a week and a half I had finished the first book. The day after I finished it I made a trip to the library to pick up books two and three- Learning and Longing. It was a Tuesday...and no, I don't know why I remember that.

By Friday night I had finished the second one and Saturday morning I woke up and started the third.

I do believe by the next Tuesday I had finished Longing and was on my way back to the library.

When I held that final book in my hands, I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment. But I was also really sad because there wasn't another book after this. I already felt myself dying a little bit on the inside.

As I read the first page, I was so sure I knew JUST what was going to happen. Two days later- I felt like my world was being turned upside down. *Again, ask my mom, she'll tell you.*


And it was KILLING me. By Friday night things were okay again and I had less than one hundred pages left...a beautiful conclusion underway.

I made those last one hundred pages last FOUR DAYS...mainly because I couldn't bear parting with those characters and moving on. *I know. I'm a nerd.*

In the end, I absolutely LOVED all four books. {Number 3, Longing, was my favorite.}

These were the kind of books that fill you with every kind of emotion possible.

I laughed. I {almost} cried. I was devastated..I rejoiced. After the last page, I was filled with happiness.

This series, no matter how old you are, is one worth reading.

The plot is enthralling. The characters beyond lovable. Each page seems like a new adventure and it's magical. It begins with a girl named Bailey seeking God's plan for her life. (Sounds a lot like me!) She pursues her dream. She glorifies God. She finds love in the most unexpected place.

But through the whole thing she pursues God and His plan...and it just so happens to end with an amazing happily ever after.

Over and over and over again, Mrs. Kingsbury reminds us that our story is God's story in the first place. We are His children. Girls: we are His precious daughters! We are a treasure to Him.

So, this summer if you're in need of something to read- run to the library and pick up this series. You'll be glad you did.


Oh. And Mrs. Kingsbury, I owe you an apology. I judged your books by their cover and I'm sorry! I love the way you tell stories. They were beautiful and I loved them. Thank you for following God's calling and writing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

So we might love.


These last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind- absolutely crazy.

But this week it is Easter and I felt like the topic the Lord laid on my heart to write about was very fitting.

So here we go.

1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us."

Romans 5:8, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

His love for us is unimaginable, incomprehensible...beautiful.

I find myself often in awe of how much He loves me. Even while I'm sinning He loves me.

Isn't that amazing?

Last night at church we did a walk through of the death of Christ.

The next to last step was to sit at the foot of the cross and write a prayer thanking God for His sacrifice.

{Let me tell you something about myself: I LOVE to write out my prayers, it feels much more personal that way. The end.}

So, I kneeled at the Cross and began writing. The heaviness of what happened 2,000 years ago to my Savior weighed on my heart. And I poured my heart out to Him.

Because I did not deserve- I don't deserve- that kind of love. Yet He loved me. 

My prayer these past few weeks amidst the business of life is that God would give me opportunities to show His love to those around me.

He died so that I might show His love to others- show His love and glorify His name.

One of these times came last Saturday while I was babysitting my Sunday School teacher's three young children. Sonia had come along to play as they are good friends.

At one point little man pushed his big sister off of the hammock and it left the eight year old little girl in tears. She wasn't hurt- she was just offended.

(After putting little man in timeout for pushing his sister) I did the only thing I could think of to do: I snuggled up beside her and asked her if she wanted to talk about it.

She shook her head and a tear fell down her cheek but I stayed. I laid beside her and asked the Lord to give me the words to speak to her.

She had mulch on her back from where she had rolled off of the hammock(which was only a foot from the ground-no worries people, I'm not a terrible babysitter!). I began to pick the pieces of mulch off of her shirt and her tears stopped.

"Now you wanna talk about it?" I asked again.

She nodded but still didn't say much. I stayed close to her and we laid in the hammock looking at the blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.

Minutes later Sonia and the other little sister came and laid with us on the hammock. I wrapped my arms around the three of them and closed my eyes.

This is what love feels like. And I thanked God for that moment with the three of them. That moment He had gifted me with to love them.

Let me tell you, making the choice to love is the most rewarding thing I think I've done in a long time. It's the tiniest moments that mean the most to me.

The moments that you let Him use you to show His love are incredible. Could you ask for a greater gift- especially at this time of year?

So let me challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to show the immense love Christ has shown us. Pray for opportunities to love- He will give them to you so be on the look out for them.

Christ loved us so He died. But Sunday is coming.

Because death could not hold my Savior down.

He will find victory.

Praise Him for that. And find love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (emphasis added.)

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends."


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

For YOU I prayed.

Yesterday you turned SIX years old!

My goodness, I don't know where the time has gone.

It seems like yesterday we saw your picture for the very first time.

From that moment on I loved you. God picked you just for us.

Our Sonia Grace was perfect.

We were giddy and showed everyone your sweet picture.

Oh, what a journey we were in for!

What a beautiful journey.

Last fall you started kindergarten and, though we're homeschooled, I don't think it's been quite the fun time you thought it would be. 

You love to go to the "Candy Bank" (Old fashioned candy store) and get treats. You have quite the sweet tooth and are always sneaking mom's gum from her purse. 

You love whatever sissy(me!) loves. You hang out with me and my friends when they come hang out and Emmy is your "best friend." 

Most of all, you are so very joyful. And you talk about God and Jesus often.

Your prayers at dinner are the sweetest.

And as I write this post, I'm holding back tears. 

Because I don't know that I'll ever love anyone like I love you. I can't bear the thought of having to leave one day- leave and live somewhere without you.

My prayers began for you- yes, you, Sonia Grace- when I was just four years old. That's twelve years ago. 

At age twelve, I met you. 

The little girl I had prayed for.

You are the best little sister.

1 Samuel 1:27, "For this child I prayed..."

For you I prayed.

For you I will always pray.

I will pray you follow in the Lord's will for your life and trust him with every detail.

I will pray you love Him more than anything.

I will pray for your future husband.

I will pray for your friendships and your struggles.

I will fight for you.

I will love you. 

Because God gave me you.

And I couldn't be more grateful that you're my little sister.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Write my story.

I sat reading Little Women on the front porch swing of my grandmother's house. It's a white, wooden swing with red pillows. The weather was just perfect, the sun was setting. We were enjoying the first watermelon of the season and my fingers were sticky- but not enough to keep me from turning pages.

I've read this book twice already, but isn't that what defines a classic? Being able to read it over and over again- still learning something new every time.

J-man sat beside me and I closed my eyes and smile.

The image that fills my mind is this:

Being married and having (at least!) two or three daughters. We'll sit in the living room in our cozy home, whether it's in the U.S. or Africa, and I'll be reading Little Women out loud to them. When Beth dies we will cry together and my husband will have to read for me. When Jo rejects Laurie's marriage proposal we'll be angry together. When Daisy and Demi are born we'll be so happy tears may fall again. And in the end when Marmee tells her girls that she wishes them "every happiness" they'll ask me to read it again.

I live in that moment and I dream, writing a part of my story.


As I sat finishing my book series(the one I promise I'll blog about) and as they finally got engaged I had another image filling my mind.

Something every girl dreams of quite often...

This picture played out something like this:

Meeting the man God has picked out for me- the man who will protect me, lead me and love me through Christ's love. The man who won't mind having half a dozen kids, half of which are chocolate babies from Africa. Anyway...he'll have bought a ring and after asking my father's permission, ask me to be his wife- to love each other everyday ahead of us and walk in His will. Somehow, he will have picked out the perfect time and place- the one that fulfills the dreams I'm typing out right now.

I live in another moment and I dream, writing a part of my story.


We find out that (as of now) we don't have a tutor for my class next year- my senior year.

A part of my story crumbles.

There are other options but Classical has always been IT. It's been the thing I've dreamed of finishing and in the end being able to say, "I went all the way through Challenge IV." (If you're in Challenge you know how big of a deal this is.)

My disappointment is strong, but my Jesus is stronger. 

MY plans aren't working out. I'm a planner- it was all supposed to work out the way I wanted it to.

But it's not. And it's killing me.

Those dreams of being married and having daughters seem so far off.

They might be far off, but my Jesus is always near. 

I'm making progress with my book- slowly but surely. My plans of becoming a teacher and moving to Rwanda/Uganda are still there, still a calling...but what about this writing thing? What am I supposed to do with this?

Things may not be super clear, but my Jesus has a plan. 

And that is what I whisper to myself over and over...and over and over again: My Jesus has a plan! 

College is in the future. Decisions are being made, something I'm quite terrible at.

All I want is to know what's in store. To know what He has planned.

But, my friends, that takes away the adventure. It would take away all the fun!

He wants to surprise me.

1 Corinthians 2:9, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him...”

It's hard for me especially because I write stories. I construct plots and I get to figure out what happens in the end. I get to see if he'll get the girl or if everything will turn out alright before anyone else. And I love it.

But in my story nothing is up to me.

As I told a friend tonight, "There are all these options and part of me is so thankful that it's not all up to me! Thank the Lord that He knows what He's doing."

I had never meant anything more in my life.

Right now I don't even know what next semester will look like, much less the next five, ten years!

But the Lord knows exactly what he's doing.

He knows that each day that goes by is preparing me for something that I can't begin to imagine.

So while I write stories, I've decided to let God write mine.

He's done an amazing job so far.

And to think that some of the best days of our lives haven't even happened yet!