three books


Moments & Days: How our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith by Michelle Van Loon

There seem to be an abundance of books published lately about time, our use of our time, what we say yes and no to, how overcommitted we are as a culture, about sabbath and white space and rest.  Van Loon’s book strikes an entirely different chord.  After reading her book, I am most challenged by her rendering of time, how it is not something that is ours to measure, but rather something that measures us.

“I’d like to suggest that our watches and Day-Timers and Google calendars are not the measure of our worth.  We who belong to Jesus understand (at least in our heads) that we are not our own.  Our eternal God has given us this slice of eternity, right here and now, in which to live for and with him.

Following a calendar that tells us our lives are not all about us is a powerful place to learn to inhabit the sacred gift of time.  When Paul acknowledged not all followers of Jesus see specific days as holy, he wasn’t suggesting that everyone in the church needed to hit the ‘delete’ button on the discussion (Rom. 14:5-10).  He was instead encouraging them to give one another lots of grace as they sought how to honor God together in community.  He never discounted the value of the weekly/yearly rhythm of holy days.  He simply wanted the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus to understand that the finished work of Jesus the Messiah fills full the meaning of these festival days.” (Van Loon, p.xvii

I was not raised in a church that practiced liturgy or observed the Christian calendar.  I am so thankful for my father’s strong insistence in teaching us that we are not bound to the law in this way, no longer bound to keeping holy days and feasts.  As such, I really had no familiarity with this way of faith.  My legalistic/perfectionist bent is better off for it, I’m sure.  I keenly remember my first exposure to someone who prayed through the Common Book of Prayer, a simple mailman who went to church with us, who carried a prayer rug with him in his mail car, who wrote and sang the most haunting music with his wife.  They sang at our wedding.  I found his habits strange, uncomfortable, curious–and yet he was a kind old soul and there was something drawing about his love of liturgy.  Over the years since then, it seems to have become more common to hear of Christians observing Advent and Lent and to hear chatter about the Christian calendar.  I have often been curious to do more research in hopes of understanding, and I have found myself hungry to observe the calendar with the wider community of saints.

Van Loon’s book is perfect in this regard.  Jewish by heritage, she came to faith in Christ in her teens and she tells a bit of her story of coming to faith, understanding her entire Jewish background and all of the feasts finding their fulfillment in Jesus.  She speaks about her intellectual understanding of the Christian calendar versus the experience of worshipping through it with her community.

The first half of the book unpacks the major Jewish feasts, explaining their history and how Christ is on display in each one.  For the Jewish people, “time was defined by seeing themselves as part of God’s eternal story.  As they participated in specific appointed times to meet with God throughout each year, they immersed themselves afresh in his story of creation, redemption, and re-creation” (Van Loon, p.17).

The second half of the book travels through the Christian calendar.  “Each day and season in the Christian year moves us through the main events in Jesus’ life and ministry.  But the Christian year is not merely an annual memorial tour.  It is meant to be a way to help us remember we are living eternity every day” (Van Loon, p.108).

She also includes a glossary of Jewish terms, side-by-side calendar comparisons, recipes commonly associated with the feasts, and a thick list of resources for further study.

I found her book to be incredibly insightful, whetting my appetite for further study and for further experience.  Well-written, engaging, historical, Christ-exalting, revealing the ties that bind us together in the body of Christ, her book is one I highly recommend.  It will be one I refer back to frequently!  I just picked it up again to refer back to her notes on the Advent season, as that is now upon us.

Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas by Leslie Leyland Fields

I read Surviving the Island of Grace by Fields earlier this year and so enjoyed her memoir of her early days meeting her husband and finding her way into a life as a commercial salmon fisherwoman in the wilds of Alaska.  When I saw that she was publishing a new book, I squealed with glee.  Her writing is quite engaging, often rooted in landscape, honest, raw, and resonating with the human experience.  This one particularly caught my attention because I have recently finished a slow two-year personal study through the four Gospel accounts, a searching for a fresh encounter with Jesus.  It also caught my attention because this past year, 2016, has been a year themed with “water.”  In early January the Lord specifically gave me Psalm 93 as an anthem over the year, and I have referred back to it countless times.  It has been a good year in many respects, but also incredibly difficult in others.  It has been a great comfort to remember that the Lord told me ahead of time it would feel as though the waters were going to overtake me.  Yet, He sits above the waters and is mightier than them.

So, the fact that this book was about journeying through the Gospels specifically with an eye to the theme of “waters,” had me.  I was not disappointed!  Fields’ writing was as interesting as ever, weaving together seamlessly her own rich understanding of a life on the water, her personal journey through the Promised Land, and her retelling of the biblical account of Jesus’ life in that same landscape.  She unpacks and brings life to biblical stories that have become, perhaps, common and stale to the seasoned student of scripture through her unique lens as a fisherwoman.  She makes you feel the weight of the nets in your own hands, the sharpness of the salt air, the whip of wind and lurch of skiff.  I found myself in her questions and doubts as well as in her discoveries and worship.

As soon as I finished it I wanted to start it all over again.   Highly, highly recommend.

Has Anyone Ever Seen God? 101 Questions and Answers about God, the World, and the Bible by Carolyn Larsen

This quaint little book is of a devotional nature, yet organized as Q + A.  With attractive design and beautiful illustrations, it asks 101 questions such as:

  • What (or who) is the Holy Spirit?
  • Is there anything God can’t do?
  • Does God speak to people today?
  • Why did God make spiders, snakes, and other creepy things?
  • Why were the Israelites God’s chosen people?
  • Why does God sometimes seem to hide?

The author then answers these questions simply and biblically, with a scripture reference at the bottom of each page.  As you can see, the questions range from theological to practical in nature.  I think it is a great little gift book for anyone coming of age in their faith, a new believer, someone curious about the Christian faith.  Though not terribly depthy, it may whet the appetite and open avenues of conversation or further study.  It is part of a trilogy of similar books, the others being Can I Really Know Jesus, and What Does God Really Promise.

It would be a great book to tuck at your child’s bedside, or give a copy to a curious neighbor along with some fresh baked goods.


With warm thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for their complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are mine.

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yarn along


Ha!  I haven’t posted since last week’s yarn along.  It was a super busy week, followed by a weekend away visiting Brandon’s parents in South Carolina, and then back to busy with school and catching up on house things.  The weekend away afforded me some extra knitting time, so I cast on a new project, a Leksak tunic for Philippa.  I’m using up some old yarn in my stash that is something probably cheapy that I bought before I knew how to knit (used it for a weaving), but it feels like wool/dk weight.  It’s knitting up quickly.

Also, I’m eager to dive into Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields.  I read her book Surviving the Island of Grace about her early life as a salmon fisherwoman on Kodiak Island in Alaska and thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in Alaska life.  This book looks promising!  She lends her knowledge and life experience as a fisherwoman as she looks at the biblical accounts of the disciples and their many experiences with Jesus on the water.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along today, a little wednesday community that shares what we’re currently reading and knitting.  

Affiliate links included in this post.

yarn along


Finished sock number one, working on sock two.  I think I will finish them just in time for the first fall chill.  Can’t wait to wear them!

Still reading Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus.  Thumbs up.

Linking up today with Ginny’s weekly yarn along.

yarn along


I finished the little boy sweater for my nephew.  It’s blocking now, and I’m really happy with it!  I’ll share pics of it soon.  So now I’m working on a pair of socks for me, my first pair for myself.  I love them so far, though I think they have more “positive ease” than I realized, or whatever that means.  They are simple and cozy and so soft.

I’m still in the last few chapters of Moments and Days but this book, Slow Church, arrived at the library so I put other books on hold so I can maybe read it before its due back.  I can’t remember where I first heard about it but I was interested in it because of the way the authors address our current church culture, examining the way the wider cultural value on speed and efficiency has trickled into the way we approach and do church.  Borrowing from the “slow food” movement, the authors relate the McDonalization of our food to the “McDonalization” of our churches, viewing them as “spiritual filling stations, dispensaries of religious goods and services.”  Also, they had me at the byline: cultivating community in the patient way of Jesus.  Something in me stirred at those words–always, this hungering in us for community and something about the “patient” way of Jesus (such a good turn of phrase) that is always so counter to how we tend to do things.  We get away from His narrow way so quickly and easily, don’t we?  I’m enjoying the book so far and it makes me want to do a massive study on church.  Gah.

Linking up with Ginny of Small Things today to share current reads + knits along with her little community.  

Affiliate links included in this post.

yarn along


On last sleeve of this sweater.  Almost done!

I’ve been reading Indian Captive to Phoebe for our read aloud.  It is based on the true story of Mary Jemison who was captured and raised by the Seneca Indians from early childhood.  It has been admittedly a bit intense and emotional at a couple of points, in my opinion, and I’ve asked Phoebe throughout if she still wants to read it or if it’s too sad.  She has pled with me to keep going and doesn’t seem bothered by the hardship Mary faced.  We are about two chapters to finishing and both can’t wait to see what is going to happen.  It is a book I will probably make a mental note to revisit when we talk about this period in history, as it is a true story and deals with so many of the emotions and difficulties and prejudices of the Native American/White people conflict.  It has been powerful to gently talk with Phoebe about Mary’s response to difficulty and to adoption by the Native Americans.

I’m linking up with Ginny Sheller today and her weekly yarn along where we share what we are currently knitting and reading.


yarn along


I started this sweater for my nephew a bit ago, then had to rip it out after I split for sleeves and realized my stitch count was way off.  Second time around I have the sizing right, and am busy on the body of the it now.  I’ve been trying to devote all of my attention to it, but my free time for knitting/reading has been a bit less since starting school with Phoebe last week.  It will be late, but hopefully it will be worthwhile!

I’m still reading Moments & Days by Michelle Van Loon and have almost finished the first portion of the book on the Jewish calendar.  It is such a treasure to me to have a Jewish perspective on the feasts of the Lord, and even better that she shows how each feast/celebration finds their fulfillment in Jesus.  The design of God is brilliant.  I’m learning a lot!

I’m linking up with Ginny today and her weekly yarn along, where we share what we’re currently knitting + reading.



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So it’s Friday and our week has been b u s y, tumultuous, happy, and emotional.  We look forward to our Friday ritual tonight of homemade (gluten-free) pizzas and a movie of the kid’s choosing.  We look forward to a weekend, to rest and worship.  We give thanks.

Phoebe began her homeschool co-op on Monday, and so we began our own schooling this week as well.  It has been really good and really awkward at times, too, just trying to establish some new rhythms and figure out how navigate these new waters.  There have already been moans and groans, there have been a multitude of interruptions from two little ones underfoot.  There have been potty accidents as Philippa slowly attempts potty training.  Phoebe and I are both loving it, though, and my heart is filled with thanks!  We have had time to cover a lot of material this week, but also play soccer, ride bikes, play outside, go to the pool, run our usual errands, snuggle together and read, begin a nature journal, press flowers, bake and cook.  Schoolwork is sprinkled throughout, and informal learning is emphasized as much as more formal schooling.  The younger two kids usually join us for the beginning of our morning work, doing their own little puzzles or coloring worksheets, before scattering off to play.  What a privilege and a blessing that we get to do it this way!  I don’t want to take it for granted for a second.  This is high and holy work!

Phoebe had a bad bike accident on Wednesday around lunch time, all of us cruising back home on our bikes after playing “soccer” at a nearby field.  She lost control of her bike and I watched in horror as her bike went down and she slammed her face into the pavement.  I grabbed her and saw her front teeth all bent back toward her throat, her mouth bleeding profusely, and we jumped immediately in the van and headed to urgent care.  After a thorough check and a visit to her dentist, we breathed great thanks to a faithful God who protected her from serious injury!  She will loose her front three teeth soon as a result, and she is bruised and scraped, but for the most part is already carrying on in her usual activities.

This morning she had her year check-up after receiving her diagnosis of Celiac disease last July.  She has gained three pounds in the last three months, which is HUGE for our little tiny girl.  She has gained almost 10 pounds in the past year!  Her BMI has increased, and she is in the 20th percentile for weight, which is a first!  We are full of praise once again to our God who has helped us all the way, and who continues to lead us as we seek Phoebe’s health and full recovery.

In all the muddled ordinary of life, it is easy for me to adopt a complaining or entitled heart.  It is easy, natural even, for me to miss the moments of extravagant grace hidden in these everyday moments, even the ugly ones.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

I don’t want to give in to what is natural, I want a supernatural life, something that can’t be explained apart from the grace of God.  I desire for Him to do this kind of work in me.  I want my children to see their mother pursuing deep roots in Jesus, to see their mother turning her heart back to praise, to see their mother making time for creativity, reflection, truth, and beauty.

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal arrived on my doorstep this week, a beautiful summons to slow down, to return to the simple yet profound act of giving thanks.  It couldn’t have been more timely, after the sort of week we’ve had, brim-full with opportunity to worry, complain, grumble, and give in to exhaustion.  I’m excited to dig into this new-to-me format of coloring, of slowing, of turning my mind and heart to thanks, of lingering over scripture and meditating on the simple and profound healing balm.  This journal is absolutely stunning, sturdy, quality pages, simple yet arresting designs, bringing scripture to life and giving it feet.  I pray that for me it is just one simple tool that helps me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I go through each day’s work.  Maybe it would be a helpful tool to you, too?  If so, this little journal releases in just a few days (Sept. 1).


This post contains affiliate links.  

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this beautiful journal in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

yarn along


I cast on for these “favourite socks” a couple of weeks ago for myself.  I’ve been wanting to knit myself a pair of socks since I knit some for everyone in my family last Christmas and never got around to doing a pair for me.  I have primarily been working on a sweater for my nephew but realized this morning after splitting for sleeves that my stitch count was so far off that I ripped the whole thing out to start over.  These socks are sort of my happy selfish knitting project when other things I am working on hit a stand-still.  Thank goodness for multiple WIPs.

I am still reading Teaching From Rest and loving it, challenged by it already just in regards to parenting.  Moments and Days: How our Holy Celebrations Shape our Faith is absolutely excellent so far.  It came in the mail for review and I didn’t plan to start reading it but I couldn’t put it down, drawn immediately into the noise and smells and fray of modern-day Jerusalem and the story of a Chosen People set apart by their Sabbath rest.  Written by a Jewish woman who became a Christ-follower in her teens, she explains the Jewish calendar and the church calendar from her Jewish perspective.  She writes about the feasts and festivals of the Jewish people and shows how each one finds their fulfillment in Christ.  I’m very interested in her perspective that time is not merely something we are supposed to measure, but that it is a gift to us, that time measures us, in fact.

Linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along where we share what we are currently knitting + reading.

yarn along


I’m working on the second sleeve of this baby gown for my friend’s baby boy due in October.  It has been such an enjoyable and fast knit, and so cozy!  Since the pattern came as a bundle of three different patterns, I plan to cast on the sweater version for my nephew’s birthday coming up later this month.  My first sweater!

Also, I finished Come to the Family Table (I reviewed it in my last post), and have started Teaching from Rest per the recommendation of one of my best friends.  I’m underlining it constantly and thankful to be immersing my heart in these truths before beginning school for the first time in a couple of weeks.  Deep breath.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along to share what we’re reading + knitting.


yarn along

DSC_0015.jpgI finished the sunsuit over the weekend and need to sew on buttons and block, meanwhile I’m knitting the matching bonnet.  I absolutely love this set and want to knit one for philippa too!  So many ideas, so many things to knit, so little time.  I’m hoping to finish this up by this week and send it off to my cousin who requested it as a baby gift for a friend.

I finished The Light between Oceans over the weekend, too, and had a good cry.  I almost gave up reading it a couple of times, admittedly, just because it was painful to read in some ways, but I’m glad I saw it through to the end.  It was a good book, and I’m excited to see the movie now.

I picked up Come to the Family Table, a book I’m reviewing for the publisher, and am a few chapters in.  It’s about resisting the haste of our current day and age, returning to a slower existence around the table as a family, nurturing relationships there, savoring Jesus there. I am already getting some fun ideas to implement in our own home.  Each chapter ends with a simple recipe and an easy game to play as a family around the table as well as a devotional to share.  It would be a great book to read with your husband together, fairly light and easy reading, but my husband isn’t one to read books with me.  I have been bouncing ideas off of him though as I go, and it’s brought some interesting conversation. I asked him the other night if he felt like we have a “refreshing” home, and what is it like for him when he walks in the door from work at the end of the day.  He snorted, which launched us into some good natured teasing and laughter.  Humor goes a long way in these kinds of discussions!  We are looking for the first time to buy our very own home, so it’s neat to be reading this book and thinking about the layout of the kitchen/dining area, and how the layout affects my ability to slow down and enjoy a meal, as well as how it might affect guests.  Little things like that can make a big difference.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along to share what we’re knitting + reading!