Many people dream of big ministries in places they feel at home in, surrounded by people like them. Shannan Martin found that that sort of ministry wasn’t her destiny at all. Instead, she ended up in a working-class neighborhood in Goshen, Indiana—okay, a neighborhood where sometimes finding a job to work at is hard—an ordinary place, surrounded by ordinary people who might be wildly different on the surface, but who are alike at heart: struggling and in need of love.
Truly paying attention to both the big things and the small can open your eyes to the truth in the world around you, and Shannan built a home amidst people who were willing to do life together—no matter how hard that is at times. Sometimes, when God calls people to ministry, it’s not a Billy Graham-style of ministry. Instead, it’s smaller, quieter, and has a profound effect on the people around us, the people who make up our lives.
This book. This book. Usually when I read nonfiction, I can only read a few pages at a time, but I wanted to read large chunks of this at a time. Shannan’s writing is so powerful and evocative, full of truth that touches the heart and opens the mind to broader ideas of home—and what that can look like.
Shannan Martin is a writer and speaker. The Ministry of Ordinary Places is her newest book.
(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
Ben Jones hauls freight on the lonely highway of Route 117, through the desert of Utah. The few people he meets are reclusive at best, possibly dangerous at worst. And winter is coming to 117, covering everything in a blanket of snow and ice.
When Ben finds a small, mute Hispanic girl abandoned at a gas station with a note pinned to her shirt that reads “Please Ben. Watch my son. His name is Juan. Bad Trouble. Tell no one,” he is unprepared. He has no idea what’s going on, but he knows it’s bad, so he takes the girl. And finds himself in the midst of dark circumstances he’s not sure if he can find his way out of. But he’s determined to keep the girl safe, even when she’s set on disappearing into the snowy wilderness without a trace.
Lullaby Road, like the first book, The Never-Open Desert Diner, is set in a startling and memorable place and filled with characters that are…quirky and frequently scary and sad at the same time. Ben is both an awesome character and a hateful one, with his temper and his lack of impulse-control. The land is as much a character as any of the people, and this compelled me from the very first page. But I don’t think I’ll be visiting Utah anytime soon.
James Anderson was born in Seattle and raised in the Pacific Northwest.Lullaby Road is the follow-up to The Never-Open Desert Diner.
(Galley provided by Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)
Matt Wainright has lived in the same cul-de-sac as long as he can remember. His best friend, Tabby, has always lived just across the street. They’re inseparable, and Matt can’t imagine anything ever changing. Except his feelings for Tabby. Matt never saw that coming, and he has no idea how to tell her, but he will. Probably. Until a senior basketball star falls for Tabby, and suddenly everything changes.
Now his best friend is always too busy, and instead of shining on the JV basketball court, Matt finds himself fumbling. Even his younger brother is driving him crazy. Only his favorite class, creative writing, seems to make any sense. Then a tragedy occurs, and Matt can’t make sense of anything, as his life spins out of control and he teeters on the edge of self-destruction.
I was not prepared for this book. At all. I loved Matt’s voice from the very beginning. (With that movie-director voice in his head, of course he’s going to be a writer.) He has grand visions of himself, but his follow-through doesn’t always live up to his hype. This book captures the hope and the confusion of high school, as well as the gobsmacked feeling of first love. I laughed, I hoped, and I cried, right along with Matt. You MUST read this! I’m looking forward to seeing what Jared Reck writes next.
The truth is, there is no writing happening lately, unless it’s for school or a work email. I just don’t have the brainpower. I have been feeling COMPLETELY overwhelmed with work/school/life and everything I want to accomplish…
Until I realized that wanting to do too much actually results in me doing nothing. Not with any degree of proficiency, anyway.
So…for now, I’m limiting myself to blogging/book reviews, work, school, and Holly Lisle’sFind Your Writing Voice and How to Find Your Writing Discipline workshops. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony.)
I just need to let some things go for a bit before I lose my grip on everything.
Well-known comic Paula Poundstone set out on a seven-year search for happiness, determined to try all the “in” ways to find happiness…like losing weight, getting organized, medication, dance lessons, and renting a Lamborghini. She also raised her three kids, her too-many-to-count cats, her dogs, and juggled her travel and work in comedy.
What she found was there isn’t any one answer to the search for happiness. She found no happiness in some of her efforts, and unexpected amounts of happiness in others, but she eventually learned how to be happy in her life.
I didn’t find this book laugh-out-loud funny, although there was lots of things to laugh about. Instead, I found Ms. Poundstone’s brutal honesty and her unflinching way of looking at life to be refreshing and enlightening. This is an enjoyable and though-provoking read.
Gabe’s family runs a funeral home, so she knows about death and the truth about life: everything ends. Gabe has embraced her reputation and her Wednesday Addams-vibe, complete with vintage clothes and an I-don’t-care attitude. Her best friend, Bree, is all she needs, someone who understands the weirdness of her life and loves her anyway.
But when Bree starts dating a boy who is the epitome of everything Gabe—and Bree—has hated for years, she wonders if the really knows the truth, or if she knows Bree at all. The only one she can turn to is new boy Hartman, who doesn’t know quite what to make of Gabe, but who gets Gabe out of her shell anyway. Driving a hearse to prom will change Gabe’s life more than she ever imagined.
All the Forever Things is an enjoyable read. Gabe is a character I both loved and sympathized with, and her faux pas and missteps made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Her friendship with Bree broke my heart, and made me hope everything would work out for the two of them, and Hartman is a wonderful contrast for Gabe. If you love young adult books, definitely pick this one up.
In May 2012, Kim Dinan and her husband sold all their stuff, quit their jobs, and headed out to travel the world. The Yellow Envelope is their story.
On the surface, Kim Dinan had it all: a good marriage to a husband she loved, a good job that paid well, the home she’d dreamed about filled with friends and activities that she enjoyed. But inside, she wondered: is this all there is? Kim concluded that no matter how great her life looked, she would never be truly happy if she didn’t reach for her dreams.
So, she and her husband, Brian, sold their house, quit their jobs, and set off to travel the world. Before they left, they were given a gift: a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away as they saw fit. Through Central America, Nepal, India, and beyond, Kim and Brian encountered the world in all its splendor and squalor, overcoming obstacles to their dreams, their travels, and their marriage, as they learned the truth behind their quest for happiness—and how to give.
The Yellow Envelope is about a woman reaching for her dreams, and finding happiness along the way. The travel stories are inspiring, but not as inspiring as the way Kim goes after what she knows will make her truly happy, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. The message behind the actual yellow envelope is also life-changing and worth embracing. I recommend reading this if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, want to travel, or simply need a change.
After he graduated from college, Andrew Forsthoefel decided to walk across America, really listening to what the people he met had to say. Walking to Listen is the tale of that journey.
Andrew Forsthoefel went out the door of his home in Pennsylvania with a backpack and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He’d just graduated college and was ready to start his adult life…but he didn’t know how. So, he decided to walk across America, wrestling with the hard questions he asked himself every day. Everyone he met would be his guide.
From winter in Appalachia to Death Valley in August, Andrew experienced the true breadth of American geography, but it was the people he met that truly inspired him. He met kindness and fear, diversity and prejudice as people told him their stories. He faced loneliness and fear, but love and hope carried him through his amazing journey.
Walking to Listen is the story of one man on an incredible journey, but it is more than that. The people he meets, the encounters he has are truly inspiring and bring hope for the future amidst the darkness permeating our culture. This book…sure, it’s narrative nonfiction about a journey, but it is so much more than that. The people Andrew met gave me so much hope, and made me want to reach for more. Not only does this book showcase the true diversity of this nation, but it gives a face to the human experience. I highly recommend reading this.
(Galley provided by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.)
My goal for this month was to finish up the first draft of The Fall. The story is completely outlined–using my favorite, a phase outline–everything is fresh in my mind, I still like the story…but for the past few weeks, forcing myself to sit down and write has been kind of like pulling teeth.
Today, I figured out why: the story that’s outlined, that I’ve been writing, is no longer the story I want to tell.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want to tell this story. But the story is no longer about what I thought it was about. So, I have all these little glimpses and glimmers of the other story in my head, but I don’t have my trail mapped out. I’m close to finishing the current draft, but there’s really no point, since I no longer want to tell the story.
So, I’m going to stop writing this story. Give myself a break for the rest of the month to deal with the huge, looming reports due at work. Continue outlining the Witches rewrite, but stop all of my other writing efforts as I focus on the job and school for a couple of weeks.
And bump The Fall to a bit later on my list of writing projects.
Today, I’m looking for something to get me writing. Inspiration, motivation, some kind of cattle prod wired to my chair that zaps me if I get up…. You know, the usual.
I work best under pressure, or with “too much” to do. Something about knowing there are a ton of things that need to be done keeps me focused and allows me to get things accomplished. (A close friend once told me, “You get more done before 9 a.m. than most people do all day!” This is easier if your days routinely start at 3 a.m. I’m just saying…)
My new class—my first journalism class—starts tomorrow, and I’m moderately terrified (likely to upgrade to “completely”.). My job responsibilities changed last week, with the addition of an entire second location to do administrative tasks for. Then there’s the novel I’m writing, the one I’m actively revising, and the one I’m outlining. Not to mention the copywriting class I’m working my way through. And the book reviews that are due or past due. Blogging. I think you see my point.
While this would normally prove super-motivating and really keep me focused and on-task, sometimes, I have to fight a little bit harder to get inspired. (Hence this post instead of my first 500 words of fiction for the day.)
With that in mind, here are four things that might motivate you (and me) to write: