Save the Date: A Fun, Funny Summer Read

Image result for save the date morgan matson

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

My Rating: 4 stars

Age Suggestion: 16+

About the Book

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My Thoughts

I had never read a Morgan Matson book before this one, although she’d been on my radar for a while. Since this one was recently released and seemed like a good summer read, I picked it up from the library and started reading…and couldn’t put it down!

I forgot that I really liked contemporaries. I love all of the little details about the everyday life of characters and families, and Matson really does the details well, creating a realistic environment that is easy to picture and sets the atmosphere for an entertaining story.

The story is a pretty typical, if slightly over-the-top, comedy of errors, which is enjoyable in and of itself, especially when set around a wedding. What makes it even better is the characters. A comedy of errors – carried out by a family of six siblings? So much fun to read about. Each sibling was well-developed and their banter was honestly one of the best things about this book. Coming from a big family, I always love seeing family dynamics and the way in which siblings relate to each other.

I do want to mention that this book centers around a definitely secular family full of twenty-something children. So there are some mentions or instances of them doing things that I definitely didn’t approve of…partying, hooking up, etc. And one of the main subplots of the book focuses on a romantic encounter the main character has, and the aftermath of that; I did appreciate that the guy was eventually shown to be not-so-great, and a much better love interest won the day (seriously he – not saying who – might well have been my favorite character…and the scene in the grocery store…so cute!). But because of some of these elements I’d definitely recommend the book for ages 16 and up.

Overall, this book could have been cliche, but there were enough unique elements to make it the fun kind of cliche. The mom’s comic strip, the large family dynamics, setting it all around a wedding weekend…it was the best kind of cliche, the kind that is fun and relaxing.

I legitimately could not put this book down. I looked forward to reading it in a way that I haven’t looked forward to a book for a long time, and read it in every spare moment. It was just so much fun. I have a significant book hangover from it, and I’ll definitely be checking out more Morgan Matson in the future!

Have you read any books by Morgan Matson, and if so, what is your favorite of hers? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Advertisements

Confession Reflections: Why Do We Believe Scripture?

believe, bible, black-and-white

Today’s reflection comes from The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Section V. 

If you’ve grown up in a Christian home, it’s very easy to believe that the Bible is true. Usually, that’s been ingrained in you from the day you were born, your parents training you to see it as the Word of God.

But to those outside looking in, it might seem ridiculous. Aren’t we just attributing a random collection of writings to God? How can we possibly know? Outside of tradition, where is the proof that the Bible is, in fact, authentically from God?

There are lots of great facts that prove the Bible’s truth. The whole thing, if you interpret it correctly, presents one cohesive narrative that all fits together, with one purpose and one theme. That’s amazing if you consider the fast scope of time periods and cultural backgrounds the authors came from.

The Bible’s historical narratives fit flawlessly into the secular history that we know. Again and again, archaeology and scholarly research have confirmed things that the Bible describes.

And tradition isn’t a totally invalid argument, either. Those who were around in the time of Jesus were the first ones who began to pass down the Christian Scriptures in the form we know today. They have continued to be passed down, virtually unchanged, ever since, and the fact that so many great church fathers and theologians have accepted them as truth is a fact that can have some weight with us.

But while these facts can certainly have a strengthening and encouraging effect on our faith, the facts alone will never be enough to convince anyone of the authenticity of the Bible. Our ultimate assurance of that comes from the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts to convince us that the Bible is the Word of God.

That’s why, if you are a Christian, you don’t need convincing – you’ve seen the way the Bible works in your life and the lives of those around you. You understand it to be God’s Word, even if that doesn’t make any sense to the unbelievers in your life. You enjoy learning about the facts that support what you already know, but you don’t depend on them for faith.

Faith comes from the Spirit, and that’s the fundamental reason we believe what we believe. That applies to the authority of the Bible as much as any other aspect of Christianity.

What have you seen God’s Word do in your life or the lives of others? 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: June/July ’18

A roundup of some of my favorite things in the last few months…

Favorite Books

Image result for love walked in This is a new-to-me author and also a new-to-me style of literary fiction. It’s a beautiful book and I’ll definitely check out more by her. (Content recommended for ages 16+.)

Image result for wires and nerve Got this for my birthday and…read the whole thing on my birthday. Marissa Meyer never disappoints.

Favorite Movies

Image result for the sound of music I went to Salzburg as part of my trip so obviously watching this (for like the 4 billionth time) was a must. It never gets old…and there are so many layers that I didn’t even catch when I was a kid.

Image result for goodbye christopher robin The story of the real-life Christopher Robin…I really enjoyed this movie, especially the first half. I didn’t like the way it jumped ahead in time at the end, but I can forgive it for that.

Favorite Podcast Episode

“What About That Quiet Time”, from the Uniquely Woman podcast, was a thought-provoking dive into where our term “quiet time” comes from and why it’s hurting our spiritual walk. Definitely worth your time to listen to!

Favorite Articles/Blog Posts

Favorite Videos

 

What was your favorite read of June and July? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Confession Reflections: The One Key to the Christian Life

Close-up Photography of Bible

Recently I’ve begun studying the Westminster Confession of Faith during my personal devotions. I’ve grown up in the PCA church, and decided that it was time for me to really understand my denomination’s core beliefs and make sure that I agree with them.  And as I read through, I want to share my thoughts and reflections on various topics with you! 

Today: from Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scripture, section 1. 

This section of the Confession talks about the two ways that God reveals Himself: in the created world, and in His Word.

I love the idea that creation reveals God. His power and creativity are obvious the moment you step outside and see the trees, the sky, and everything He has made.

I’ve especially loved learning about space in my astronomy class this past school year, and I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think that such vast beauty happened by chance. How could the Earth have ended up in exactly the right spot for life to form, the right distance away from the Sun, by chance? How is everything so perfectly suspended in nothingness, moving like clockwork, by chance?

Here’s my favorite: did you know that Jupiter is positioned in exactly the right place to make it Earth’s bodyguard, that it catches asteroids and other debris long before they can hit the Earth and destroy humanity? How can something like that be arranged by chance?

This is why there is no excuse for not believing in God. Every mountain and tree and star proclaims His existence, practically screams it, and no one can say they “didn’t know”.

But of course, creation is not enough, and that is why God gave us His Word. The splendor and wonder and beauty of the natural world is meant to draw us to Scripture, to lead us into reading the Bible, trying to discover everything we can about the God who made us.

And as we read, we learn everything else we need to know: who God is, who we are, how the world works, how to find salvation, and how to live our lives.

The Bible is absolutely critical to the Christian life; reading a devotional every morning isn’t going to cut it. We must get into God’s Word regularly. Only by reading it will we know the truth. Only by reading it will we be able to decide for ourselves what we believe. Only by reading it will we be able to resist temptation, live by the Spirit, and glorify God with our lives. If we really call ourselves Christians, we have to read it, study it, and love it.

Reading the Bible isn’t a legalistic rule, a “have-to” that makes you a good Christian. It’s a privilege, a “get-to”. The God of the universe has given us His Words! Yes, it may take diligence at first to create the habit. But the more you read, the more the Holy Spirit will fill you and cause you to enjoy Scripture, to crave it and thirst for it.

So start now. Pick up your Bible and start reading. A little every day will go a long way.

love, grace

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Entertaining, but Predictable, Action Flick

Image result for ant man and the wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) 

My Rating: 3 stars

Age Suggestion: 13+

About the Movie

Directed by Peyton Reed

PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

This movie, to me, was entertaining and had some good elements, but overall wasn’t anything special. The stream of Marvel movies coming out in the last few years has become increasingly predictable and repetitive, and Ant-Man and the Wasp was no exception.

Paul Rudd, of course, was excellent. Abby Ryder Fortson (who plays his daughter) is also really good, especially for a child actress; her parts never feel overly cheesy and she fits right in with the rest of the cast.

The villains were lacking, however. There are several different “antagonistic” characters throughout the movie, which meant that most of them weren’t given the screen-time or development they needed to go from cookie-cutter to complex. But even the main villain character, despite the way the movie focused on her and gave her a backstory, felt like she had been recycled from every other movie Marvel has made. There was nothing unique about her, or her character arc. Honestly, I think the movie could have been better if her storyline had been taken out completely. There would have been more room for the family dynamics and funny shenanigans that made the first movie so memorable.

Speaking of shenanigans, I will always love Luis and his buddies. Their scenes were almost as funny as the first movie, and I just wish there had been more of them.

I also appreciated that the action sequences were not monotonous or overly drawn-out, which is a hard feat to accomplish.

(This is pretty mild for a Marvel movie. There’s some mild swearing and a brief imagined scene of intense kissing, but the action sequences are relatively tame unless you’re bothered by the quantum-physics elements.)

Overall, I felt that the biggest problem was that the movie lacked theme, making it cookie-cutter entertainment with no point. Dr. Pym is not a heroic figure; he is selfish and absorbed in his own goals, no matter what that means for the people around him. But this is never commented on, and we’re expected to continue rooting for him as the “good guy” even when we can almost sympathize with the villains more.

There was so much room in the movie for an exploration of when it’s okay to break the law for the greater good, and when it isn’t; the value of a single life; the purpose of a hero; and much more. Yet that was barely touched. I got action, humor, and emotion…all of the ingredients that should make for a good movie. Yet it ended up feeling shallow.

I crave movies that make me think, that are deep and purposeful, or that tug on my emotions in a meaningful way. This one, while fun, just didn’t deliver.

What do you think? Have you seen Ant-Man and the Wasp? If so, do you agree with my opinion? What are some of your favorite movies that are entertaining while offering deep themes? 

love, grace

Going on Hiatus…

Hi everyone!

This is just a brief note to say that it’s time for my annual summer hiatus. This afternoon, I’ll be hopping on a plane and flying to Berlin, and I’ll be gone for more than two weeks, singing and sightseeing in one last hurrah with my high school choir. So I won’t be posting here or on Facebook, or updating Goodreads, for that time. You can still reach me through email with the “Contact” form, although I may not get back to you very quickly.

The hiatus could last only for the trip (which would mean I’d be back the week of the 14th), or it might end up extending longer. July tends to get really busy for me, so it’s possible I won’t be back until August. But I definitely hope to return sooner, especially because I might need to take another break in late August as I move in at college and adjust to my new routines.

For now, here are some old-but-good posts to enjoy:

6 Ways to Use Your Summer Well

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

8 Books Every Christian Teen Should Read

Why Christians Shouldn’t Have Faith in Humanity

Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

7 Childhood Books I Still Love

Enjoy your summer, and I’ll see you back soon!

love, grace

Transitions: Thoughts After Graduating

Graduation Cap, Graduation, Cap, Achievement, Education

I graduated from high school on Wednesday.

As I sat down to write the first draft of this post, I had no idea what I wanted to say about that. It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet, and I’ve barely had an emotional reaction. I keep telling myself that I never have to go back to another day of high school, and yet my heart hasn’t absorbed the news.

Basically, I feel exactly the same.

I guess we all expect these milestones to feel incredible, to cause an immediate, major change in our lives. My sister told me I needed to start dressing more like a college student, and I was like…what does that even mean? I’m still the same person, and how I dress isn’t going to change overnight because I’m handed a diploma. I still struggle with the same things, like and dislike the same things, wake up and do the same things every day.

Yes, graduation is a huge milestone. And once we get to the fall, everything in my daily life will look different. But this week, I still had to wake up on Thursday and continue living my life.

That’s certainly not to say that high school hasn’t changed me. This week has provided an opportunity to look back and marvel at how far God has brought me. While I might not have changed from Wednesday to Thursday, I’ve definitely grown from freshman year to senior year, becoming more confident in myself, watching relationships develop and grow into friendships that I hope will last my whole life, pursuing my goals and seeing God richly bless that pursuit.

I haven’t changed into a different person. I’ve grown into myself.

And of course, there are many ways I still need to grow, and so this week has also been a time to look forward and think about how best to serve God in my future. Thinking about all of the experiences I’ve had and things I’ve accomplished in the last four years, it’s mind-boggling to realize how much more is probably ahead in the next four, as yet unknown.

Graduation isn’t just an ending, certainly. But I wouldn’t really call it a beginning, either – it’s just part of the middle, another stepping stone on the journey of life.

Because a few days later, I’m still just living my life, one day at a time, seeking God’s will at every new turn.

What do you think? Have you been through a graduation yet, and if so, was your experience similar to mine? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Should We Accept Ourselves For Who We Are?

black-and-white, facing away, female

I googled the words “accept yourself” when I was getting ready to write this blog post, and it came up with page after page of results. “Accept Yourself for Who You Are”. “How to Accept Yourself, Your Life, and Your Reality.” “How to Accept Yourself Unconditionally.” “Why Acceptance is the Answer to Most of Your Life Problems.”

This is just one of the many cliched phrases that our culture has taken as its mantras. They say that if we can only accept ourselves for who we are, where we are today, somehow that’s the magical key to happiness.

We might have heard this so many times that we barely give it a second thought. But as Christians, we can’t believe these things without first thinking about them and considering whether they are really in line with the Bible.

So how does this narrative of unconditional acceptance fit with Biblical truth?

The answer is, it treads a fine line. There is a partial truth in it, as well as a way it can go dangerously wrong. Here’s why: we are called to accept our circumstances without accepting our sin. 

As Christians, we are called to be content with our lives. We know that wherever God has put us at a given point, it is for His glory and our good, and as such we can have joy, even if the circumstances themselves are painful.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

-Philippians 4:11-12

So, when the world tells us to “accept where we are today”, “accept our life”, “accept our reality”…for the most part, that’s advice that Christians can take. In fact, we know the secret the world doesn’t know: when you believe in a good God, it’s a lot easier to be content with where you are.

And now, the problematic part…”accept yourself the way you are.” The “accepting your body” narrative is a little more complex, a separate issue that I definitely want to talk about some other time. But in terms of your personality, strengths and weaknesses, etc., this can so easily move into dangerous territory for Christians.

When we truly understand who we are according to the Bible, it’s really hard to accept ourselves. We know that, on our own, we are depraved sinners with no hope.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

-Ephesians 2:1-3

But that verse is in the past tense!

The fact is, we are being gloriously transformed. We don’t have to accept ourselves the way we are, because we know we aren’t going to stay this way forever. We don’t have to accept ourselves the way we are, because that isn’t what our life or our happiness depends on. We know who God is, and we know who Christ is, and we know that Christ’s righteousness now extends to us.

That is what we accept in order to live joyful, purpose-filled lives. We don’t love ourselves for ourselves, but we don’t hate ourselves either. Instead, we don’t think about ourselves at all, spending our lives in worship and totally focused on God.

So accept the things you can’t control: the chronic illness, the hard life circumstance, the fact that you’re better at music than sports. But don’t ever use this as an excuse to accept some “personality trait” that is actually a sin, whether that’s perfectionism, arrogance, laziness…if something is a sin, it needs to be fought, no matter how much you feel it’s engrained in your personality.

The good news? God is on your side, sanctifying you a little more every day. One day, you will be able to accept yourself completely, as a perfect, glorified person.

Until then, don’t settle, and don’t let “unconditional acceptance” become a guise for letting sin slide by.

What do you think? Have you believed the lie that you have to “accept yourself the way you are” to be happy? Do you agree with me about its problems? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

So I Got Deferred from Princeton This Week.

4 Reasons to Read the Bible

Why Growing Up is a Good Thing

Favorites Roundup: May ’18

How was your May? Mine involved some senior milestones: college decision day, my final high-school dance production, prom…as well as boring, everyday things like school and volunteering and choir rehearsals. I’ve been fighting off serious senioritis to finish strong…now I only have four days left!

In the meantime, here are some things that have been brightening my days lately…

First of all, this amazing song:

changes everything

 

 

A highly practical guide to the Christian life for young people; just as good, if not better, the second time. (Read my original Goodreads review.)

 

 

A Million Dreams (My Lady Bibliophile) – a thoughtful, uplifting review of a movie that I had mixed feelings about

penderwicks last

 

 

An amazing conclusion to an amazing series. (Read my Goodreads review, although I warn you, it’s a bit fangirly.)

 

 

 

Image result for jane and the dragon

A childhood show that I rediscovered this month, and fell in love with all over again. It has complex characters, interesting storylines, amazing acting, and hilarious dialogue. Highly recommend for all ages!

Image result for pippin

 

My sister was in this show back in the fall, so I knew I liked the music. But I’d forgotten how much, and recently became obsessed with it again. The show isn’t entirely clean, but the music is, and it’s well worth listening to!

 

 

17 Secrets of Audiobook Narrators – this sounds like it would be such an interesting career path!

And I really want every writer to take Abbiee’s advice, please…?

How was your May? Did you discover any awesome new music? What was your favorite book you read? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

Favorites Roundup: Feb-April ’18

The Book Life Tag

Interview with Victoria Lynn – London in the Dark Anniversary Tour!

The Coronation: Uplifting, Family Fun (The Rebellion Blog Tour!)

TheRebellionTourBanner1.jpg

I’m so excited today to be a part of the blog tour for the release of The Rebellion by Livy Jarmusch! This is the second book in her Tales of Tarsurella series. I have not read it yet, but I definitely will soon, since I just finished The Coronation, the first book, and really enjoyed it! Today I’m going to review that for you. And once I’ve read The Rebellion, I’ll be sure to share what I thought of that one too!

TheCoronationPromoInsta

The Coronation by Livy Jarmusch

Three Stars

Age Suggestion: 10+

The Book

Prince Addison is only several weeks away from inheriting the Kingdom of Tarsurella. The entire Palace is ablaze with excitement, as the Royal Family prepares for the event of a lifetime. Despite the exciting event which is near at hand, Addison and his younger siblings (all seven of them!) must carry on with their daily activities.

Addison’s sisters, Princesses Bridget, Chasity, and Hope, have their struggles with being iconic European starlets of a modern day monarchy. The teen heiresses grace magazine covers, smile for photoshoots, and gracefully glide through important interviews–until a certain American popstar arrives on the scene. Kennetic Energy, the wildly popular band from the United States, is chosen to play at Addison’s Coronation. David Carter, the band’s handsome lead singer, fumbles through awkward moments with Princess Hope–in front of the cameras. When an embarrassing rumor sparks that Princess Hope is dating the young fellow, she is determined to get the band fired from their Royal gig.

Meanwhile, Princess Chasity is dealing with her own fragile affairs of the heart. Her new security guard, Hanson Fletcher, is completely captivating, yet entirely frustrating. She attempts to keep the entrance of her heart firmly protected, while following the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23. But can she be successful in guarding her heart, from her security guard?

My Thoughts

This was such a sweet book, and while the writing could have been better in places, that was overshadowed by the enjoyable plot and entertaining, touching character interactions.

The concept is so creative – taking a traditional fairy tale story and setting it in modern times; taking a modern royal family and making it a large, close-knit group of siblings, that almost feels like a typical homeschooled family. I loved the details about the media, the dresses, and the place this family occupies in their society. It’s interesting to imagine what that kind of life in the spotlight must be like.

I thought that Bridget, Chasity, and Hope all had very similar personalities that could have been defined a bit better, but overall I loved the large family and the way the siblings interacted. Addison is a great character, and Millie and Willie were so sweet.

Chasity and Hanson’s story felt like it went a little too quickly from hatred to love, while David and Hope were adorable. I did really like the realistic nature of both of those relationships and the thoughtful way the characters dealt with them. My favorite romance, though, was definitely the budding one between Addison and Vanessa. It was slow, and realistic, and sweet, and I can’t wait to see what happens with it!

I did feel that the book could have used another round of editing, just for some very small things that kept coming up (and these really aren’t a big deal, it’s just that small things like this tend to distract me more than they should). Things like a little bit of head-hopping, punctuation mistakes, etc. and just to smooth out the writing a bit.

(For the record, though, I noticed much less of those things toward the end, which means either they weren’t around anymore or I was so engrossed in the story that they didn’t distract me.)

I think Livy did an excellent job incorporating Biblical themes without sounding preachy. She put her characters in tough situations, first, and left them there for a little while, and then offered the Biblical solution. That strategy meant that it never felt forced, even when she had a paragraph of someone talking about God that could have easily sounded preachy. It didn’t, and that takes some serious skill!

Content-wise, the romance is very clean, and there’s no language. There is a little bit of an intense section in the middle, that gets slightly violent. I would happily hand this book to both of my younger sisters though (and probably will!) and think it would be fine for anyone ages 10 and up.

Overall, it was a good, light, clean read, and I can’t wait to read The Rebellion! There were some plot threads left hanging at the end of the first book that I’d really like to see resolved, and from the blurb, it looks like it will focus a lot on Addison and Vanessa, which I’m obviously very excited about. Livy is an author who I want to continue to watch – she’s using her talents for the glory of God, and I think she has so much potential and room to grow and develop as an author!

I received a free copy of The Coronation in exchange for an honest review. 

Author Bio + Links

AuthorPic1.jpgLivy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she’s not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies.

 

Find The Rebellion on Amazon and Goodreads.

Find Livy on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What do you think? Have you read either of the Tales of Tarsurella? What other fun, clean books have you read lately? Let me know in the comments! 

love, grace