losing home and finding it

Twelve years ago today, on the 2nd of July 2002, I left home.

Not in the rebellious, “I’m-never-coming-back” way, but in the “I’m spending a semester overseas” way.

With the ten-hour layover spent dragging my bags up and down the Frankfurt airport terminal and the seven-hour time difference, it would be two days later before I reached Cape Town, South Africa.

There would be no 4th of July fireworks in that country, except those felt in my chest as I exploded with giddy college-girl excitement and fell in love at first sight with the aerial view of the city that, unbeknownst to me, would become my home for the next ten years.

And somewhere between being sprawled out across multiple airport chairs in Germany, subconsciously drooling on my bag, and then consciously drooling over the breathtaking beauty of The Mother City several flight hours later, He did it.

The Lord took my neatly packaged definition of home, crumpled it up, and tossed it into the southeaster, never to be seen again.

Through ten moves in those next ten years, the Lord would peel back my layered notions, and would slowly and persistently teach me about home.  I would long for it, grieve the loss of it, grasp at it, cry over it, watch it slip between my fingers … all to realize that, as Augustine so wisely declared, “our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

And that’s the secret.  We might grieve over home as though it can be lost, but we just haven’t found it yet.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:1

 

Check out Emily Wierenga’s new travel memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look.

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atlas girl

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This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, click here.

***

Years of anorexia.  Disillusionment with the church.  A grandmother’s suicide.  A two-year break-up.  A mother with brain cancer.  A heartbreaking miscarriage.

Emily Wierenga‘s story is not an easy one.

It’s not easy, and yet she tells it with such grace and gratitude in her new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, published by Baker Books.

271487_Wierenga_WB2Emily is an artist, and her gifts shine through as she paints pictures with words in this travel memoir that spans countries and continents.

Frustrated by the rigidity of religion, the lack of attention by her pastor father, a tense relationship with her mother, Emily turned to one thing she thought she could control — her own food consumption.  She decided to starve herself, and for four years, she succeeded.

Little did she know the ramifications her decisions would have on her early adulthood, her marriage, her relationships.

Then her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and life was turned upside down.  Nothing was the same.  Emily writes of how she moved home to care for her mother, whose right frontal lobe had to be removed in order to combat the cancer.

And she makes me remember.

She makes me remember what it was like for the roles to be reversed, when mother can no longer care for child, but daughter lifts the woman who birthed her onto the toilet, tucks her into bed, lifts the mug to dry, thirsty lips.

And through it all, Emily sees God.  She sees her God in each crease of her mother’s broken smile, each brush of the cheek, each muted sunrise, even on “the fuzzy days.”  And she writes,

“I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know how this story will end. All I know is that there is a very real God whom my mother adores, and if she, in all her pain and suffering, can still radiate worship, how much more should I?  He sees the little sparrow fall.  He sees my mum dancing to the rhythms of his grace, and he sees me in all my anger trying to love him in spite of it all.  So I will continue to trust, even if it means letting her go” (p. 228).

I remember the pain and the strain of that tug-of-war, and then the surrender.  The surrender and the acknowledgement that the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Emily, too, comes to this realization and depicts it so strikingly as she writes of her own pregnancy, a time when the Lord chose to give life:

“I am starting to understand the concept of second birth — the one God desires of us.

 

To be born again; to become like infants in God’s womb, entirely dependent, utterly quiet, never alone.  Wordless communication, unspeakable love, cushioned against the world’s blows.

 

Grace within the belly of our Maker” (pp. 240-241).

 

It’s words like these that leave me coming back for more.  I came to respect and admire Emily‘s gentle spirit and soft heart that radiates in her writing even before I read her first novel, A Promise in Pieces.  Hers is a voice that inspires me to greater writing, and her words linger in my mind long after my eyes have left the page.

The generosity of Emily’s heart is evident in her efforts to start The Lulu Tree, an organization dedicated to “preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers” in Uganda.

All proceeds from Atlas Girl go toward The Lulu Tree.

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I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Baker Books, in exchange for my honest review.

books to read this season

Deidra Riggs aptly dubbed this year, “The Year of the Books.”

After being inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee’s list of Summer Reading recommendations, I decided to post a list of my own.  (Granted, there is a significant amount of overlap, I admit.  Apparently we have a very similar taste in books.)

However, since a sizable chunk of my readership resides in the southern hemisphere, I’ve decided not to call it a Summer Reading list, as many of you are heading into winter and will soon be sitting in front of the fire place drinking

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Whether you’re donning sandals or slippers these next few months, do yourself a favor and settle down with one (or all) of these books:

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Team Us: Marriage Together

by Ashleigh Slater

 

Watch this space!  I had the privilege of pre-reading a copy of this soon-to-be released book by Ashleigh Slater, and I’ll be posting a review later this week.

As an appetizer, this is an easy-to-read book, filled with encouragement to think of yourself and your spouse as members of the same team.

In a world where tension and internal competition between couples are rife, this is a much-needed book and is likely to bless and enhance many marriages in the months and years to come.

Stay tuned for more ..

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A Fall of Marigolds

by Susan Meissner

 

I fell in love with Susan Meissner’s writing when I read her novel, A Lady in Waiting.  Her latest book, A Fall of Marigolds, was no exception.

In fact, I received a copy that I had won in a blog giveaway the day before Mother’s Day, got a tummy bug, stayed in bed and read the whole thing within 24 hours.  It was captivating.

With masterful grace, Susan weaves the stories of two women from different generations together in a tale of loss, grief, healing, and hope.

Her story caused the depths of empathy to be stirred within me, and kept me thinking about the characters long after I put it down.

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Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts

by Vivian Mabuni

 

Providentially, I won a copy of this moving story on another blog giveaway, and I’m convinced it was meant to be.  I wrote some of my impressions in a review that can be found here.

If you know anyone who has been affected by breast cancer in any way, this book is for you.

 

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Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom

by Lisa-Jo Baker

 

If you’ve clicked on this blog before, you’ve likely caught me gushing about this book far too many times already.

Like here.

And here.

Oh gosh, and here, too.

And did I mention I got to interview Lisa-Jo, as well?  Post here.

 

A Promise in Pieces cover

A Promise in Pieces

by Emily Wierenga

 

If you’re looking for a gentle, moving work of fiction, look no further.

I’ve written two posts about Emily Wierenga’s A Promise in Pieces — one on my blog, and one for Ungrind Webzine.

The writing is so graceful and fluid, it will carry you from page to page without you even noticing.

Just read it; you can thank me later.  😉

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Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment

by Sophie deWitt

 

Sophie deWitt’s Compared to Her is one of the most searched for posts I get on my blog.  If you’re female and you’ve ever struggled with comparing yourself to other women, you will definitely be able to glean much from this gem.

My interview with my friend Sophie can be found here.

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Seekers of the Lost Boy

by Taryn Hayes

 

This middle grade children’s novel is the perfect holiday read, either as a family or to give to your kids to read on their own.

The story is set in South Africa, and follows a homeschooling family as they seek to find the original writer of a message in a bottle.  This book is not only enjoyable to read, but is also very educational and thought-provoking.  Highly recommended.

Read my full review here.

 

 Books that are on my “Must Read” list:

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Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough

by Kristen Welch

 

Kristen Welch is the author of the We Are THAT Family blog, and founder of The Mercy House in Kenya.  I have the utmost respect for Kristen’s worldview, and particularly her parenting philosophy as she shares it on her blog.

All of the reviews I’ve read of this book so far have been glowing, and everyone says you will not be the same after you’ve read it.

Take the challenge, and say Yes.

Atlas Girl cover

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look

by Emily Wierenga

 

I’m thrilled to be on the launch team for this upcoming memoir, and even more thrilled to be getting a review copy in the mail very soon.

I adore Emily’s writing voice, her gentle spirit, and her masterful, graceful way with word pictures.  I had the pleasure of reading the first two chapters already, and they are dripping with beauty.  I’ve picked up snippets of her compelling story through her blog, but look forward to reading this memoir, particularly as it addresses a topic dear to my heart:

Home.

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The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

by Myquillyn Smith (a.k.a. “The Nester”)

 

I admit, I followed the hype about this book, but didn’t really intend to pick it up until I read Lisa-Jo Baker’s post about it.  I had assumed it was more of an interior design book, and .. well .. that’s not really my thing.

But after reading about the impact this book had on Lisa-Jo, she persuaded me to request it from the library.

 

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Return to Me

by Lynn Austin

 

Speaking of the library, I was walking past the Express Book shelf this evening on my way to the Children’s section, and this book jumped off the shelf into my bag.

It couldn’t help itself.

It just knew that Lynn Austin is in my Top Three Favorite Christian Fiction authors, so it just had to land itself in my bag.

I read the entire Chronicles of the Kings series years ago, and not only did they leave a lasting impression, but they caused my understanding of Old Testament history to be much richer and far more cohesive.

I’ve read more Lynn Austin books than my ten fingers can count, and all have been delightful.  If you don’t read this one, read something of hers.  She’s incredibly gifted.

***

Well, that’s it from me for now ..

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

celebrating the release of a promise in pieces

 

Today I’m celebrating with Emily Wierenga on the release of her new novel, A Promise in Pieces.

 

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I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this book, and it is delightful.  While Emily has written several non-fiction books, this is her first published fiction work, and her voice is perfect for the story.

I enjoyed it so much, I wrote a previous post about the book as soon as I finished reading, because I just couldn’t wait until launch day to tell you about it:

https://reflectiontherapy.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/a-promise-in-pieces-a-book-review/

“With masterful grace, Emily carries her reader along as on a raft drifting down a winding, lazy river.  Her soothing voice flows with a current so gentle, you’ll be disappointed when your boat reaches the shore.”

I also wrote a review for Ungrind Webzine, which can be found here:

http://ungrind.org/2014/promise-pieces-book-review/

In my review, I’ll tell you that

“A Promise in Pieces is not only a beautifully written book — it also challenged me to consider ways in which I am clinging too tightly to those I love, as if I have the power to protect or save. Clara’s story made me realize afresh that not only does God hold the key to every car in the parking lot and on the road, but He alone holds the key to life and death — and despite our valiant efforts, only He can save.”

 

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Also, over at Emily’s, not only can you watch a video about why she wrote the book, but she is also hosting a lovely giveaway this week.

Won’t you join us over there?

http://www.emilywierenga.com/emilys-new-novel-giveaway/

 

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a promise in pieces – a book review

ImageI had the great privilege of receiving a preview copy of Emily Wierenga’s debut novel, A Promise in Pieces, and let me tell you — it was an absolute delight to read.

The pages trace the tale of a woman named Clara, who reflects at the turn of the century on her life-changing experience as a young nurse during World War II.  Clara reveals the details of her memoir in a Caravan of relatives — an audience which includes her grandson, Noah, whose attention is locked on his grandmother’s life story.  The extended family has embarked on a road trip which will culminate in a momentous occasion, one that will publicly evidence the lasting fruit that has resulted from Clara’s life’s work.

Looking back on the decades, Clara re-lives the joy and the pain of her experiences, the regret of hesitation and the reward of stepping forth in faith.  She re-lives the immeasurable ramifications of the brutal war, and yet sees the Lord’s hand, sewing threads of hope into the remnants of worn, faded fabric.

With seamless precision, the author is able to weave back and forth between eras, like stitching two sides of a reversible quilt into one treasured piece of material.

A Promise in Pieces is a story of overcoming fear, of loving even when it’s risky, of forgiving even when it hurts, of remembering even when it’s sore.  It’s a story of God’s faithfulness, of His sovereignty, and of His power to save.

Author of Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Save My Children: The Story of a Father’s Love, Emily’s first published novel comes across as naturally as breathing.  I envy her ability to write with such seemingly effortless fluidity.

With masterful grace, Emily carries her reader along as on a raft drifting down a winding, lazy river.  Her soothing voice flows with a current so gentle, you’ll be disappointed when your boat reaches the shore.

The effects of Emily’s craft could be likened to the feeling of an autumn leaf being lifted on the wings of the wind — yet that imagery would imply a haphazard, directionless course.  No, this story is intentional, and full of purpose.  Besides the beauty of the language, I particularly enjoyed seeing the full circle of sacrifice consummated by fulfillment, as portrayed in Clara’s narrative.

If you appreciate the art of good writing, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Promise in Pieces.  A delightful read indeed.

I heartily commend this book to you, and look forward to more gifts like these pouring forth from Emily’s gentle soul in the future.

From the author’s website

A Promise in Pieces releases April 15th, 2014 and is part of Abingdon Fiction’s Quilts of Love series, and I will be donating a percentage of all of the profits made from pre-orders to World Help’s Rescue Homes project, HERE.

ALSO, if you tweet or FB about your pre-order, using the hash-tag #PromiseInPieces, you will receive another Quilts book free of charge with your order!

To pre-order a copy of A Promise in Pieces, click here.
To find Emily online, visit emilywierenga.com.