Becoming Mrs. Lewis

One of the statements I kept on my Mama Duck About Me page for a long time was that I’m a non-fiction reader. Every now and then, I pick up a fiction novel but in the past, it was usually to preview a story before my kids read it.

After church service one morning about six months ago, my friend handed me the book, Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Before I realized what I was taking from her hands she said, “You have to read it.”

I immediately handed it back to her, laughing that if I want fiction, I’ll watch TV. I had no time to read with my new job, etc. etc. I politely held it in front of her.

She insisted I would love it and would not accept it back.

I sighed, brought it home and placed it on my living room side table where it sat for two months.

One evening, I eyed it next to me, wondering if I could bear reading “fiction” about C. S. Lewis’ beloved wife. I knew their love story and like many, I’m a big fan of Lewis’ writings.

I read the first chapter sitting on the couch next to my family who were immersed in some mindless TV program. They started laughing at their show. I grunted, wishing them quiet as I turned to chapter two.

By chapter three, I marked my page, closed the book and carried it into my bedroom where I read until I fell asleep.

I finished the book in record time, and stuck multiple post-its on countless pages, as if I were indeed reading a non-fiction book.

I ordered my own copy off Amazon, marked the same pages with my post-its and began reading it again with a highlighter and pen close by.Outside of the Bible and countless re-reads of books I read to my kids every night while they were growing up, I rarely read anything a second time.

Likely, I was particularly taken with not just Joy Davidman’s compelling life story but what I believe is outstanding writing by Callahan. I read limited fiction so I’m far from an experienced literary critic, but Callahan’s writing captivated me.

The writing was extraordinarily descriptive but not flowery. She didn’t waste time with irrelevant details that many fiction authors do. Callahan ensures you feel Joy Davidman’s bad marriage to Bill Gresham. The reader is burdened by Davidman’s ever-present need for more money…the lack of funds hovering in her mind every day. Callahan conveys Joy’s desperate desire to write but remains confined by the exclusive female duties at the time of cleaning, cooking and child rearing that left little time to pursue her craft.

Of course the book is centered around Davidman’s love story with Clive Staples Lewis which begins with the famous exchanged letters between them across an ocean…the common thread initially being their desire to know the God they deemed non-existent much of their adult lives.

I’ve read the great works of Jane Austin and a host of other outstanding fiction authors. I appreciate the classic fiction writers – it’s more the contemporary fiction writings that disinterest me. Or so I thought. In my limited experience with present-day fiction, I found Becoming Mrs. Lewis to be a worthwhile read. Her spiritual struggles, the endless waiting for Lewis to finally commit to love her completely, the physical limitations as her disease progressed…each of Davidman’s internal conflicts were well-explained by Callahan.

In summary, as I read through the acknowledgements at the end, Callahan thanks Douglas Gresham, Joy’s son, who contributed greatly to Callahan’s research for the book. Being the stepson of C.S. Lewis, Gresham is also the person who brought the Narnia book series to the movies.

Reading Callahan’s thanks to Douglas Gresham, I paused, realizing that much of this “fiction” was no doubt grounded in very real truths about Davidman’s life.

NIV Teen Bible: A Review

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a book review! I had the opportunity to read through this NIV Teen Study Bible, thanks to BookLook Bloggers who sent me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Overall, this is a good general reading teen bible that I personally believe is best suited for an older teen audience or for those children who are exposed to (or curious about) more mature themes.

The bible contains several useful and practical sections including:

Panorama” – reminds teens of the main theme of each book.

To the Point” – explains a passage with a contemporary example to illustrate the point.

Dear Jordan” – an advice column for teen issues.

Instant Access” – offers what God might say when a teen asks, “What do I do?”.

Bible Promises” – highlights select verses in a circle.Q&A” – tests the teens’ knowledge of the bible.

This bible opens with the Apostles’ Creed and offers nice introductions to all books. In summary, it’s a non-gender specific bible that both teen boys and teen girls would appreciate. That said, my 15-year old daughter who had been searching for a new bible decided that the NIV Teen Bible wasn’t for her. She opted to get a young women’s bible that was brighter, more “girly”, and contained less mature content. My 17 1/2 year old son on the other hand wouldn’t have had a problem with the content contained in The NIV Teen Bible.

Will Increased Thanks = More Joy?

That is the question I look forward to researching myself over the next several months. I have recently returned from a 12-day spring break vacation/college touring experience with my family, and during that time, I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know I’m late getting to the party, as this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for a crazy long 60-weeks, and it just hit one million copies sold. This was not a book I received from Booksneeze, but one of two I picked up independently to read while away.

If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m a true non-fiction reader. If I’m needing “escape”, I’ll turn on the television. Therefore, after I had finished the book, I was surprised to read that the criticisms of One Thousand Gifts have centered upon Voskamp’s ‘poetic voice’, ‘too many metaphors’ and ‘long descriptions’. Usually, you’ll find this type of writing in novels and I’m the first to close the book. I’m impatient with all the flowery-stuff and just want information. So, I wondered how I could have fallen so head over heels for this treasure that I’m presently re-reading.

As I turned the final pages of One Thousand Gifts, I leaned back into the chair I was in at my father-in-law’s place in Florida, and had two immediate thoughts:

1) Do I even know Him? I was overwhelmed by Voskamp’s willingness to pursue God at the depth she does.
2) I too began searching for God in the endless, seemingly small things as I hadn’t before. I was practicing eucharisteo at a baby-level and didn’t begin writing anything down until last week.

I don’t know if my new decision to record 1000 gratitudes on paper will elicit the same joy, adventure and peace as it did for Ann Voskamp. I hope it will, because like her, “I am a woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.” (Page 46).

I wouldn’t classify myself as a gloomy person by any stretch, but I can definitely lean toward the serious, joke that I’m humor-challenged (thank God my kids have a well-developed sense of humor!), and often believe that I should be experiencing more joy. Without a doubt, I have been ungrateful for what I do have, often laser-focusing on what I ‘should have’ but don’t. This is not pressed upon me by anyone. I “self-condemn” all on my own. I usually see a better way of doing many things, and while that “critical eye” is valuable in my professional work, on a personal level, it simply increases the “never-satisfied”. After reading One Thousand Gifts, I’m fairly confident that my discontentment is attached to my ingratitude.

Although my daily life is strikingly dissimilar to Ann Voskamp’s, there are threads of sameness that all of us as parents feel – the routine; the often mundane; the wish for more joy but the inability to capture it while immersed in the time consuming family responsibilities. Throughout this past week, I have (coincidentally?) come across no less than four other affirmations that this relationship is real between thankfulness and contentment.

Beyond the search for thankfulness in everything – even the “hard eucharisteo”, Ann openly shares the journey of her deepening faith over the months numbering gratitudes. She reveals the slow overcoming of a painful childhood, and confusing and self-condemning young adult life. Immediately in Chapter 1 she acknowledges believing the same lies we often do:

“..that God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.”

“…(that we are) discontented with what He’s given…I have desired more.”

“If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold…”

She is also generous to show us that the daily challenges remain, despite the new found joy in thanksgiving. The daily challenges are now viewed in the light of gratitude.

With my newly begun list sitting at a mere 33, I confess that I’m enjoying the “chase” as Ann calls the hunt for gratitudes. I also don’t need much prodding to write in fresh notebooks, like most other writers/bloggers reading this post! If you’ve read One Thousand Gifts, I welcome all of your thoughts about the book.

34. For the small blog I keep; the visitors and commenters; the followers, and the interesting people I communicate with across the globe. 🙂

Ann Voskamp’s daily blog.

Image linked to One Thousand Gifts on amazon:


Ann Voskamp, Author

The Storm Inside

The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are by Sheila Walsh was a pleasant surprise. I made the wrong assumption that this would be another “self-help-sort-of-book” with a Christian base, but it was sincerely so very much more.

The book is written for women, and dives into the depths of their internal and often unspoken struggles. Confidence and insecurity are addressed, but other topics such as the prison of regret, shame, and the feeling of unworthiness make this read highly meaningful and relevant.

Throughout the book, Sheila is careful to explain that no woman has it all together, none are perfect Mom’s, daughters, wives, etc., and she tells readers how to stop believing the lies. Walsh states, “We must replace the lies we have believed for the truth of who God says we are.”

Sheila Walsh’s intention is for women to live free of fear and the feeling of insignificance. She wisely notes that women can often feel things like shame, without even having a reason to be ashamed! She also seriously deals with letting go of past mistakes and not allowing them to define you.

“…believing is a choice. If you wait until you “feel” worthy of the love of God, then you will die waiting. We must receive by faith the truth that Christ has made us worthy.”
Sheila Walsh, The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are

I received a copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.The Storm Inside


The Berenstain Bears Keep the Faith

What’s not to love about The Berenstain Bears series? The book, Keep the Faith, will not disappoint either avid Berenstain followers or those brand new to these books.

Author Mike Berenstain (son of the original Berenstain Bears authors: Stan and Jan Berenstain) does a terrific job of creating an age-appropriate story about faith. Brother and Sister have a friend in bear country named “Ferdy” who openly states that he does not believe that God created the world. This leads to Sister asking her parents, “Why do we believe in God?” It’s a great example of how children will eventually be exposed to unbelievers who question their faith.  Mama bear discusses God’s love and the Bible as the foundation of their belief.

Mama and Papa bear take Brother and Sister to visit the local preacher bear who provides a children’s version explanation of the Christian faith, using the book of Daniel as an example. Ultimately, the bears learn about “trusting in His love”.

In summary, the story opens up conversation for parents to further discuss faith. A continuing dialogue can be helped along by the questions and activities contained on the back cover. (This book was provided by BookSneeze, in exchange for my honest review.)

Keep the Faith is based upon Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”