The Grove – Top Ten

If you’re popping over here from A Life Overseas, a warm welcome to you!  This here is The Grove at Velvet Ashes.  It’s our weekly time to gather, share and link up about our theme for the week.  This week’s theme is “Top 10 Anything!”  We’re all giving ten tips, resources, recommendations, bits of wisdom on anything at all.  Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for this.

If you’re new around here, be sure to join the community by subscribing in the upper right corner.  Whether you’re single, married, or mothering, we’ve got some encouragement for you!

After hemming and hawing, I finally landed on my own “Top 10.” Since I figure we’re all eager to do this life well, to grow beyond surviving to thriving, I’m offering up…

10 Ways to Thrive Overseas


1.  Have people in your home –  Invite the locals over.  Yes, this seems like a no-brainer.  It’s practically written in our job descriptions. But how often to you find yourself ticking off excuses for why it’s “just not a good time to have people over”?  Remember, there’s an undeniable connection and intimacy when you invite someone into where you live.  And THAT will feed your joy for this life.

Stay tuned for our theme of “Hospitality” coming soon.

2.  Go to people’s homes –  I think the greatest understanding and connection to your host culture comes when you are in their homes.  Honor all the invitations you can to be with locals in their world.  When you allow them to serve you, to show you their ways, you live the truth that you have much to learn and receive from them.

3.  Remember the wonder of where you are. – When the newness of your new home wears off, so can the wonder.  The joke around Beijing is that you go to the Great Wall so many times, it’s no longer great.  But really??  It’s the Great Wall of China!  Let’s not forget the privilege it is to be where we are.

Part of this is taking pictures.  I know we all want to avoid being the tacky tourist.  We’re not like them.  We live here.   But keeping our cameras holstered in our pockets or collecting dust on a shelf is part of losing the wonder.  Of course you have to be honoring in the way you do it, but snapping pictures can be a way to capture, claim, and share the wonder of where you live and what you do.

4.  Write it down.  Do you realize the story that you’re living?  Pen it down.  Type it out.  Make it private or public, but write it!  Sometimes you don’t see how the hand of God has moved, how your story has progressed until you look back at your own words.  Beyond that, there is something that makes good things matter, that makes your mind take notice of all the daily gifts when you mark them down.  “What is joy if not recorded?”

5. Get a breakSometimes you need to step away from the daily stresses of your foreign home.  Often you don’t fully realize all that’s pressing in on you until you leave.  I remember the first time I left China it felt like a literal weight was lifted from my shoulders.

So acknowledge when you need to get away.  Recharge, refresh and then get back to it.  It’s a good feeling when you come back to that foreign place and discover it feels like home.

6.  Stay when you don’t want to.  There is a time to get away, and there is a time to stay.  Sometimes you need to stay, even when it’s hard.  Through most of our years overseas, we’ve gone back to the States for a yearly trip.  Except for one year.  One summer, I didn’t go back.  Instead of jet-lag, Mexican food, and longed for family time, I stayed.  I ended up bonding with local friends and with the culture in a deeper way that I ever had before.  Sometimes you need to stay.  Sometimes it’s the most refreshing thing you can do.

7.  Keep eating and exploring local food.  Have you ever said, “I CANNOT eat another bite of local food”?  Likely many of us muttered this at some point in our cultural adjustment.  If this is you right now, don’t give up!  Keep trying things.  You will be amazed at how your tastes and cravings change over time.  What’s your favorite I-never-thought-I-would-LOVE-this food?  Mine – mouth numbing green beans. Cannot get enough!

8.  Learn the language.  I know, I know. This is the ultimate no-brainer, and spoken from someone who is not as far along in her language skills as she should be.  But I do know to press on.  Because the more I learn, the more I enjoy my life here.  If you’re longing to move beyond survival mode and into the land of thriving, language learning will be your gateway.  Yes, it feels like a gauntlet, but keep your eyes on the life that lies on the other side.

9.  Get help when you need it.  This is for those who feel they’ve lost their joy, or maybe never found it.  You don’t know how you are going to soldier on in this life any longer.  For you, it’s time to admit that you need help.  Seek out your leaders and let them know the state of your soul.  Find counseling.  Dig deep into the Word.  Don’t stay in isolation.  There is no shame is admitting that you are not okay, that you need help. Don’t stay stuck.  Believe in the Hope that redeems and restores.        

And finally…

10.  Love when it hurts.  Anyone who’s been at this life for a while knows that there are more goodbyes in this line of work than you ever imagined.  And June seems to be the month for them, eh?

I went through a season when I withdrew from a group of people because I knew they would be temporarily in my life.  I did not want to love them, to open myself up to them because I could not bear one more painful goodbye.  To this day, I regret what I missed out on because of my withdrawal.

You will be tempted to withdraw.  Whether you are the one leaving or the one being left, you may find your heart distancing itself.   Or maybe the pain of past goodbyes has stung so fiercely that you now hold others at arms length in an act of self preservation.  Your heart just can’t go through that again.

But if you live like this, you’ll wonder why you’re not thriving.  The joy of love is the more you pour out, the more you experience.  So love with abandon.  Love when it’s hard and when it hurts.  Love when the hurt stings fiercely, because that sting is a sign of healthy heart.  The only way to thrive is to keep on loving…


So, which one of these stands out to you?  What helps YOU thrive overseas?

Then give us your “Top 10 Anything”!  I am excited to see where you all go with this.  Selfishly, I’d really like to see “Top 10 Book Recommendations” “Top 10 Recent Movies” “Top 10 Go-To Dinner Recipes.” And how about “Top 10 Kids Apps that Won’t Rot Their Brain if They Play Them for 12 Hours Straight on a Plane.”  Anyone??

Whatever your Top 10 is, do share!  Here’s how:

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Photo Credit Feature Image: Daniel Kulinski via Compfight cc

Photo Credit in Post: Jason A. Samfield via Compfight cc


  1. Beth June 5, 2014

    Such a great list – couldn’t agree more!  I’m having some local moms and kids over this morning for a playgroup – always bring such joy to my life!  And #6 – yup, it’s a long hot summer ahead of us just southeast of you.  I made a top 10 ten list of goals the children and I want to accomplish this summer … linking to share (doing this for the first time – hope I can figure it out :))

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 5, 2014

      You did it!  Bravo. So glad you came to share.  Heading over to read your list now!

  2. Anisha June 5, 2014

    Another great and completely relatable post. Thanks Danielle! My local friends and writing are my greatest joys and tools to live well here in Papua.

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 5, 2014

      So glad you shared, Anisha.  I loved the way you described your relationship with locals!

    2. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

      And, your post had a hilarious title. CRACKED me up. Losing my mind — yes, that’s what it feels like!

  3. Karen Huber June 5, 2014

    When I was originally going to write my article for this week, I was going to write Top 10 Episodes of Alias. But then I thought, “That’s impossible! How can I narrow down 100 brilliant episodes of Alias into a Top 10 list? Silly Mountaineer!” But truly, numbers 5, 6 and 7 resonate with me! Thanks, Danielle! This has been a fun week to follow!

  4. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

    Top 10 Secrets I Keep (because here is safer than my blog, thank you Velvet Ashes)

    1) Loving this place is different from loving my life in this place. I wholeheartedly love my life here. I do NOT unreservedly love this place. But who says I need to? Is there any anyone, even in their home culture, who unreservedly loves the place they live, down to the very last detail?

    2) I get jealous and depressed during the births and weddings of dear friends (and grown up youth group members — we led youth groups for 10 years before moving overseas). FB does NOT make this aspect of life overseas easier.

    3) I worry about my friends and family back home. A LOT. I also worry about my home church. A LOT.

    4) I keep all my kids’ secrets, and I don’t blog or FB about them. It’s not because I have nothing to say, but because I’m protecting their privacy. (My kids are older.) I also keep all my husband’s secrets.

    5) Overseas workers don’t have it all together. Not me, and not my friends. Case in point: I am currently seeing a counselor, and I regularly recommend that course of action to others. {I am blessed to have Christian counseling available in my city.}

    6) As a followup to #5, I’m still afraid people don’t like me. (What am I, still in the 7th grade??)

    7) As another follow up to #5, when I get encouraging notes about how wonderful my service is and how inspiring my life is, I have no clue how to respond. And if you spring those kinds of comments on me in person, I will give you a sort of confused, dim-witted look, and not know how to answer that, either. (Sorry, it’s not that I don’t like you, I just don’t know what to say. But also, even though I’m awkward here, I’m still glad you like me. See #6.)

    8) As mentioned in #1, I am doing fine here, and I talk to a lot of people who aren’t. But I have to be honest and say, besides that whole extensive-pre-field-training thing we did that helped SO much, it’s most likely because my kids are older. People with young kids, that is just hard, no matter where you live. It’s not your host culture. It’s your young kids. (And maybe? Your young marriage. Young kids and young marriage often go hand in hand, and young marriage is also hard. I was married 10 years before moving overseas, so we had smoothed out some of the wrinkles by then.) It is my dearest hope that we can check back in 3-5 years and see you feeling MUCH better.

    9) I have very few needs but at the end of every day I need a) a clean shower at the temperature of my choosing and b) a clean, comfortable bed to sleep in, also at the temperature of my choosing, preferably with my husband next to me, and hopefully with no child wakings. I know I can do anything during the day if I get those things at night. (This stems from my many years as a summer youth camp counselor.) So if something happens to interrupt that, like, say, a clogged shower drain, I become irrationally irrational. Give me my stress-free shower! Now!

    10) Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I using positive coping mechanisms: music, exercise, reading, hanging out with friends, etc. Sometimes, though, I seclude myself in my bedroom and watch medical dramas on TV and play Freecell on the computer. At the same time. Let’s refer back to #7 and ask ourselves how people could still possibly think that??

    1. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

      And #11, “I’m really bad at the language because home schooling takes most of my time,” should have made it on here, but somehow didn’t, when I transferred from my post it notes to the comment box. Must have expanded some other point into two, b/c that’s a huge source of M wife shame. (And I know so many other moms who say the same, so we’re all sharing the same secret. Ouch.)

      1. Karen Huber June 6, 2014

        This is a really great list, Elizabeth! Especially 3, 5, 7 and 9! 🙂

      2. Danielle Wheeler June 6, 2014

        We hold your secrets tenderly, Elizabeth.  Glad you could share them in this safe place.  Thanks especially for your word to moms with young kids.  Resonated with that one for sure!  And your last comment about shame… We need to do a whole week on shame here at VA, don’t we?

        1. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

          Yes, maybe so . . . Velvet Ashes is always a tender place for secrets, so what better place to talk about shame?? I love what you do here. So glad you followed through on that dream of yours!

        2. Polly June 6, 2014

          I second that thought on doing a week about shame. A much needed discussion in the church today.

      3. Cecily Willard June 7, 2014

        Wish I had homeschooling as my excuse for not learning the language very well.  No, don’t even have kids to blame 🙂  Learning a new language on the other side of 40 is hard.  And the language I have chosen to learn is a tough one!  That’s as good as my excuses get.

        1. Elizabeth June 10, 2014

          Language learning is HARD, whether you homeschool or not, or have kids or not!!

    2. Morielle June 6, 2014

      Elizabeth, I love your sense of humor and your honesty so much. Two close friends are getting  married this summer and I can’t be there. It hurts! Also, good to hear about the difficulties of young marriage and young kids. I’m not there, but I’m going to store  your words of encouragement up in case I ever am.

      1. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

        I’m so sorry about the upcoming weddings. I hate missing those important things.

    3. Sarah H June 6, 2014


      Your honesty was quite refreshing to me! Thanks for being vulnerable and putting these things out there. I have had it in my head for the last year that I should be that overseas worker that has it all together, from learning language super fast to being brave and talking with everyone all the time (exhausting for this introvert), to keeping my hair looking beautiful all the time in the extreme humidity. Yeah, not working out so well. I am thankful for women who model (both overseas AND in my passport country) what it means to live well and be real at the same time. Thanks for sharing!


      1. Elizabeth June 6, 2014

        My husband and I are both introverts too! Not impossible for overseas workers, but especially after difficult weeks, sometimes one or both us will say, “My introversion is acting up.” Code for: we need alone time to recharge, stat! (And thank you so much for your sweet comment on the honesty  🙂   )

  5. Laura June 6, 2014

    Danielle, your list was such a great reminder to me as I transition back to life here in Ireland after a month of holiday in the States. I especially appreciate the reminders to keep trying new things and remembering the wonder of where I live. These are two things I struggle to do because it’s easy to let everyday life take over, but I was able to enjoy a day of exploring with Irish friends yesterday, and I feel much better prepared to tackle all of the work I need to do today.

    1. Karen Huber June 6, 2014

      Is it weird to ask an internet stranger if you wanna hang out sometime? Just returned from 3 weeks in the US myself!

      1. Laura June 6, 2014

        I don’t think so, especially since we’re in the same country. 🙂

          1. karen June 6, 2014

            🙂 Haha! Laura, I’ll be in touch!

          2. Laura June 6, 2014

            Karen, sounds great. 🙂

  6. Ashley Felder June 6, 2014

    I linked up to a blog I wrote earlier this week, not realizing it was “Top 10” week. I only have a 8…close enough, right? I really want to write a Top 10 list of things I can’t wait to eat in America in 2.5 weeks, but I’ll refrain. Except #1. Is it bad that #1 is an all-beef hot dog? I guess 2 years is just too long… 🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 6, 2014

      8 is absolutely close enough.  Especially for your awesome post.  You know how much I love it.  And the beef I understand, but hot dogs??  🙂


  7. Jennifer June 6, 2014

    Ten Ways to be Stronger in Challenging Times.

    1. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are in a challenging time. Step 1 to being stronger in it, is to admit that it is happening and that it is challenging.

    2. Admit at least to yourself that you can’t do it on your own. That is not a sign of weakness. It is simply admitting what is real. Looking at things clearly and honestly is an important step.

    3. Be honest with God about where you are at and what you are feeling. Yes, he does already know where you are at and what you are feeling but somehow being honest with him about it often makes you more open to accepting what he wants to give to do, do in you.

    4. If you can find a friend you can trust and be honest with. If you can find a friend you can be honest with and accept the support they can give you. Maybe it will take trying and failing to find the right person, but don’t be afraid to keep trying. If like me you just can’t find that where you are, do not give up hope that you will fin someone who will listen to you and accept you as you are. This is not an impossible dream even if it seems like that at times.

    5. Find something that engages your mind and do it.  God made us with minds, with the ability to think, reflect and learn. Do not stop learning, stretching your mind even in challenging times. For me going back to study, this time Biblical Studies has both engaged my mind and made me stronger, challenging as it is at times.

    6. Take time for yourself. Don’t neglect to simply take time for yourself, especially if like me you are an introvert. I simply do get stronger and cope with challenging times much better when my time includes some time, some space for myself.

    7. Don’t become too isolated. While recognizing the healing that can come through space and time, at the same time try not to isolate yourself from others too much. Easier said that done I know at times. But simply going out and doing something can help more than you realize.

    8. Take one day and one small step at a time. In the middle of challenging times it is easy to feel overwhelmed and to know that doing everything is too much. Simply stop trying to do it all, and take one small step at a time. Go through as small a period of time as you need to, and after you get through it then take another small step.  The only way through a challenge is often one small step at a time.

    9. Know that you are not alone. As alone as you might feel in challenging times, and real as that may seem, do not ever forget that you are not alone. God is still with you, in the most challenging of times, in the darkest of times, and will never leave you. Even if you cannot feel that it is true, know in your thinking it is true and choose to hold on to it even when you do not feel it.

    10. Know that it will end. The challenge is not forever. One day it will end. Do not lose hope even in the most challenging of times. God is working.



    1. Jennifer June 6, 2014

      These are simply the things I remind myself everyday. This is the first time I have actually written them down, but in all the challenges of the last year, I have learnt each of them slowly and applied them imperfectly, and yet as I have walked one step at a time each day, I have become stronger and better able to trust, if not to understand. I know I am not there yet, but I am also a long way ahead of where I was a year ago.

      1. Danielle Wheeler June 6, 2014

        Such a good list, Jennifer.  I love the progression of the order.  Virtual hug to you!

        1. Jennifer June 7, 2014

          Thank you! I did not plan to write it , it just happened. I just wrote down the things I was learning and coming to believe to be true in the middle of challenging times. Some I can only do very imperfectly. Finding someone in my city in China I can sit down with in person and talk to is continuing to prove impossible for an apparent combination of reasons outside of my control. Prayer would very much be appreciated at this time.

  8. Polly June 7, 2014

    10 BOOK (and series) RECOMMENDATIONS….since you asked, Danielle

    I decided not to include the word “Top” at the front since there are far more books (and series) than 10 that I would recommend and the ones I have listed here aren’t necessarily my favorite books (though a few are). But I’m sharing these particular titles for 2 reasons; they are all books that have impacted me in some significant way as I read them, and most are books that are less “mainstream” and well-known, and therefore not as likely to be on your reading radar. I tried to pick books from several different genres as well for some good variety. Please bear with the length of this post.  I didn’t think it would be helpful to merely give you the titles and then not tell you anything about them.  There are also links embedded (for Kindle and Nook when available) if you decide to try any of them out.  So, here we go…

    10. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
    Category: Biography/Autobiography
    When she was 9 years old, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer that led to the disfigurement of her face. This memoir tells of the painful years afterwards as she dealt with the taunts and rejection of classmates. She writes openly about her struggles, her desires and her journey towards discovering what is beautiful in the midst of a culture that has such misplaced notions about where true beauty lies. Well-written, brutally honest, insightful and at times, in the word of others, “harrowing.” For Amazon/Kindle click here. For B&N/Nook click here.

    9. A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry
    Category: Poetry
    Wendell Berry is a novelist and a poet. He is also a Gospel-believer, a Sabbath-keeper, an environmental activist, and a farmer, all of which weave their way into his writing. He has quite a collection of what he calls “sabbath poems,” of which this book is one of my favorites and is also a good introduction to Berry’s poetry. I have not yet read any of his novels, but Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter have both been highly recommended to me by friends who have excellent taste in literature. Berry’s poetry is saturated with the beauty of God in the midst of both the ordinariness and extra-ordinariness of creation and everyday life, and I definitely think you should become a fan. The aforementioned title can be found here. There is currently no e-book.

    8. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
    Category: Fiction
    This book was on the reading list in my 9th grade English class, but as a 14 year old I didn’t fully get it. I read it again as an adult, bawled like a baby at the end, and it has since been put on the list of “my favorite books.” Set in Brooklyn in the 1940s, this is a story of two boys from different Jewish sects, the ebb and flow and deepening of their friendship over the years, their (sometimes painful) relationships with their fathers, the influence and conflicts/crises of their faith and religious traditions, and their journey into manhood. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a story, but trust me on this…it’s an excellent one. You can find the book here. No e-book option.  And by the way, the VA book club is going to read another fantastic book of Potok’s later this summer called My Name is Asher Lev.  Join in!!

    7. Encouragement: The Unexpected Power of Building Others Up by Drs. Larry Crabb and Dan Allender [previously titled Encouragement: The Key to Caring]
    Category: Christian Life/Psychology
    As God’s people, we have been exhorted to “encourage one another.”  But what does that mean and what does it look like?  This book first lays out an understanding of what (biblical) encouragement is and then provides a very practical how-to section for becoming a more intentional encourager within your sphere of influence. This is a great book for those who want to really love and care well for others’ souls (which is hopefully all of us!). It hammers home what I have learned through various experiences and relationships – that a life can be significantly impacted and even altered by a timely word of encouragement. Amazon/Kindle users click here. B&N/Nook users click here for a cheaper nook version of the “previously subtitled” edition, or here for the slightly more expensive but more current version (which seems to have mostly only changed some wording, but it’s nothing too significant as far as I can tell).

    6. Contemplating the Cross: A 40 Day Pilgrimage of Prayer by Tricia McCray Rhodes AND Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative by Russ Ramsey
    Category: Christian Meditation/Seasonal Reading
    Yes, I know there are two books here, but I put them both down since they represent two different seasons in the church calendar. The first book is, in my opinion, one of the best lenten meditation and reflection books available. It follows Jesus’ entire passion starting with His prayer in the garden and ending with His resurrection, focusing on a few verses from one of the gospel accounts each day. My teammates in China and I went through this book together (we were physically reading and meditating together each morning) and it was one of the most meaningful experiences that year. Of course working through it alone is certainly an option as well. I will emphasize that this book is intended to be used as a guide for personal meditation and reflection, and Rhodes strongly suggests in her introduction to meditate on your own first before you read through her thoughts on the verses for the day. I found that my time with Jesus was much richer when I followed this suggestion. Amazon/Kindle users click here. B&N/Nook users click here.

    The second book is made up of 25 daily readings for the Advent season that could be spread throughout the 4 weeks or read one per day starting December 1st and finishing on Christmas. Ramsey does a beautiful job of telling the whole “story of God’s redemptive purpose in sending His son,” weaving through Old Testament stories as well as New. Amazon/Kindle click here. B&N/Nook click here.

    **And as an aside, and a shameless plug for my favorite Christian singer/songwriter, if you ever happen to find yourself in the US in December and if Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert tour comes to a city near you, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket and go. You won’t be disappointed, even if you have to drive a few hours to get there. 15 years ago A.P. wrote 10 original songs about the story of Jesus’ advent and he sings that story every year around the US, inviting other singers to join him. The first hour they take turns each singing 2 of their own songs and the second hour they sing together straight through the album. You can find a list of this year’s tour dates and cities here (the B.t.L.o.G tour starts on December 3rd).

    5. The Fiddler’s Gun and The Fiddler’s Green by A.S. Peterson (a two-book series)  [The author is the above-mentioned Andrew Peterson’s brother]
    Category: Historical Fiction (Teen/Adult)
    Set during the American Revolution, this is a tale about a girl named Fin Button who grows up in an orphanage after her parents cast her away and, at the age of 19, becomes a sailor aboard a ship named the Rattlesnake. Armed with only a fiddle and a gun, Fin joins the crew of rowdy men, who are soon on the run from the Royal Navy, and begins to navigate both the deep waters of the ocean and the even deeper, turbulent waters of her heart. Friendships and alliances are formed, daring adventures are undertaken, secrets are discovered, battles are waged, and courage is tested. And throughout it all, music is made (and grown) as Fin, fiddle in hand, keeps remembering the words of a dear friend who told her to take her pain and “turn it beautiful.” After reading this story, I am (sort of) contemplating getting a tattoo if that tells you anything about the way these themes infiltrated my soul. When I came to the end of the second book, I immediately wanted to read them again! I honestly don’t know if Peterson labels these as “Christian” fiction, though he is a believer and they definitely pulse with undertones of redemption and gospel themes.  Some folks might take offense at them being labeled as such though since there is some rough language throughout (not surprising given the setting) and there are some pretty dark and grievous sins that are committed, even by Fin herself as she struggles with her anger. But I think all of these things are important in the telling of Fin Button’s whole story, which is anything but pristine and saint-like, but nonetheless is achingly beautiful in it’s rawness and realness. You can get print copies of the books straight from the Peterson’s publishing group here. [Be aware that the book titled The Fiddler’s Gun: Letters is not one of the books in the series, and is not an essential purchase for the reading of the series]. Kindle users click here for Book 1 and Book 2. Nook users click here for Book 1 and Book 2. The e-books are only $2.99 and $3.99!

    4. The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning [previously titled Lion and Lamb]
    Category: Christian Life/Inspiration
    I pulled this book off of a library shelf at a silent retreat center a few years ago (under the Lion and Lamb title). I had never heard of the book before, but I was familiar with Brennan Manning. At the time, I was in the midst of dealing with A LOT of shame and self-condemnation and this book was the equivalent of God taking a hammer and pick and knocking off a rather large chunk of the wall I had built around my heart. I read through it in about 2 days and had copied so many sentences out of it into my journal that I decided to just purchase my own copy. It challenged my image and belief of who God is and dared me to consider that He might be so much better in every possible way than I had thought. It took me by the shoulders, stared deep into my story and told me to lean hard into a God who is at the same time so very gentle with my heart even in His unrelenting pursuit of it. Amazon/Kindle users click here. B&N/Nook users click here. (As I have read no other books by Manning, I don’t know how it compares to what he says in those).

    3. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
    Category: Fiction
    This is hands-down one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read.  But even as I say that, I know that there are also a plethora of critics of this novel who think it’s terrible.  To each his own, I guess.  Why do I like this book so much?  Because I found that I was eagerly turning pages not only because the story and characters were so enthralling, but also because the writing itself was a thing of beauty.  Enger is a masterful word-wielder and the characters in this novel are easy to fall in love with (especially Swede, the younger sister of the narrator).  From the back of the book: “Enger brings us eleven-year-old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy in the Midwest who has reason to believe in miracles.  Along with his sister and father, Reuben finds himself on a cross-country search for his outlaw older brother who has been controversially charged with murder.  Their journey unfolds like a revelation, and its conclusion shows how family, love, and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, the most tragic of fates.”  And it’s not cheesy/happy-go-lucky as that last sentence kind of makes it sound.  Amazon/Kindle click here.  B&N/Nook click here.

    2. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent
    Category: Gospel truth  🙂
    You should own a copy of this book, so just go ahead and get one.  Or get several and pass them out to others too.  You don’t even need to read these comments first.  This book was a strong recommendation from Elisa (who is a part of this VA community), and she’s one of those who likes to keep extra copies on-hand.  I’m just going to quote a few sentences from the Introduction.  In Vincent’s own words, “This book is offered as a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day.  [Many] view the gospel as something that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believed in Jesus for salvation.  God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted.  Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.  The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day…by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.  I have found nothing more powerful and life-transforming than the gospel truths affirmed on the following pages.  Preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced.”  This book is so simple in its layout and content (because most of what he writes comes straight out of scripture) , but profound in its message (because it’s the gospel’s message).  Vincent includes reasons to rehearse the gospel daily, 2 gospel narratives – prose and poetic versions, lots and lots of footnotes of verses he draws from, and a brief account from his own testimony.  Seriously, get the book.  Amazon/Kindle click here.  Unfortunately there is no Nook version.

    1. “The Wingfeather Saga” by Andrew Peterson [a four-book series]
    Category: Juvie (Juvy?) Christian Fantasy/Adventure
    I really don’t know how to express how much I love this story.  I have laughed and cried my way through the first 3 books several times now, and just finished my first reading of the 4th and final book on Thursday (it was just published last month).  Andrew Peterson is my favorite Christian singer/songwriter.  He is a marvelous storyteller in his music and it came as no surprise to me that that transferred over into these debut novels of his.  And they are saturated with deep soul-shaking truths.  Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby live with their mother and ex-pirate grandfather on a cliff overlooking the Dark Sea of Darkness where sea dragons swim the deeps, on the continent of Skree, in the world of Aerwiar.  9 years before, an evil named Gnag the Nameless waged war on the lands of Aerwiar with an army of lizard-like Fangs from Dang (the other continent across the sea), who have continued to occupy Skree and rule over its citizens.  This is a story of the Igiby children, both who they are and who they become, and what happens to them after one day when they upset those dreaded Fangs of Dang.  There is plenty of adventure, danger, a fantastic assortment of creatures, hidden secrets, songs and poems, ancient stories of the Maker when the world first began, and even a strange character named Peet the Sock Man who wears tattered socks on his hands and arms.  I can’t say much more without giving some of the secrets away.  Peterson has a vivid and hilarious imagination and weaves a tale that is beautiful and profound.  These books make excellent read-alouds whether you’re reading them with your kids or your spouse or, shoot, even just with friends.  And even though they’re written for a younger audience, they are well worth reading as an adult.  And there’s even illustrations!  I know that for some adult readers, the first book starts out a bit slow and the humor starts to seem a little much, but remember that he wrote them for kids and then push through.  I promise it gets better.  Here are the book titles:  On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! or be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King.  My somewhat uninformed (because I don’t have kids of my own) suggestion would be for ages 7 and up.  You can buy the print copies from the Peterson’s publishing group here, and you’ll have to scroll down to the book section.  You can even bundle the first 3 books together and save some money.  Amazon/Kindle users: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3.  B&N/Nook users: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3.  Book 4 is not yet available online as an e-book, but I’m sure it will be soon.

    Whew!  That was a lot of typing.  Happy Reading!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 7, 2014

      Oh, hooray!!  Now I’m off to add to my “To-Read” list.  Thank you!!

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