Bailey Flanigan: Leaving by Karen Kingsbury

Recently, I finished an incredible book that I mentioned in a previous entry, called Leaving, by the popular Christian fiction author, Karen Kingsbury. Thus, as I promised, I’m going to write a review of the book, doing my best to avoid spoiler alerting it for you.

The book Leaving follows the lives of four different characters, and contains a host of interesting side characters as well. The cast of characters includes

1. Bailey- An optimistic twenty-one year old girl, who’s skilled in singing, dancing, and acting, and dreams of being on Broadway.

2. Cody-Bailey’s ex-boyfriend. He has fought in the Iraq War and has been suffering from PTSD as a result. Currently, he is working as a football coach at a school in another town, whose team is currently failing.

3. Brandon Paul- A famous young actor who has recently become a Christian and who starred with Bailey in the blockbuster hit Unlocked. He has been friends with Bailey since they filmed that movie together and is beginning to have feelings for her.

4. Tara-Cody’s deceased friend Art’s Mom. She’s a very nice older lady, and very intent on setting up Cody with Cheyenne, Art’s fiancee before he died.

5. Cheyenne-A girl trying to move past the loss of her fiancee Art, and who has been spending much of her time visiting a young cancer patient. She becomes good friends with Cody throughout the course of this book.

6. Ashly-A wife and mom of three children. She is married to Landon, who has begun having lung problems.

7. Landon-Ashly’s husband. He is a firefighter whose lungs were injured on the scene of the 9/11 plane crash, as smoke engulfed the area.

There are more characters whom I could go into detail about, such as DeMetri and Ashly’s father, but that would make this post way too lengthy, as there are a lot of minor characters mentioned throughout the book.

The book opens with the Flanigan family sitting in church, as the pastor preaches about how things change, and how nothing stays the same except for Jesus, foreshadowing the changes that take place in this book. Throughout the book, Bailey reflects on some of these changes. Auditioning for a broadway show. How Cody left without an explanation. Her growing feelings for her old friend Brandon Paul. As Bailey reflects on these changes, Cody does his best to recover from things that have changed and wrecked havoc on his life. The way he still remembers the fear that he felt in Iraq. How he was forced away from Bailey by his mom’s psychopathic drug dealer, who threatened to kill any girl that he fell in love with. Meanwhile, the Baxter family members are dealing with changes and complications of their own, as Landon’s lungs seem to be getting weaker and weaker.

This book is a very enticing read. Kingsbury pulls you in with her story lines, making you care about the characters as if they were real people. She often cuts you off at the climax of the chapter, which keeps you reading to find out what happens next. There were points in this book where I was mentally shouting at the characters, hoping they’d make the choice that I was rooting for (Namely with the character ships).

This book is a Christian, realistic fiction novel with elements of drama, suspense, and romance. It follows multiple characters lives and it’s written in third person omniscient (A format that I particularly enjoy). If this sounds like your type of book, than I would highly recommend reading it. All in all, I give Leaving by Karen Kingsbury five stars. 🙂

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When Institution Eclipses Salvation

A couple of days ago, our American government made a decision that has been talked about nonstop since it happened. The U.S. legalized gay marriage nationwide, and as we would expect, there was huge response from both ends of the political spectrum. Supporters of this decision posted comments on Twitter about their excitement towards this decision. Meanwhile, people who opposed this decision became just as vocal. It seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind, and that likely won’t change. Every day, more and more news articles pop up relating to homosexuality, and more recently, with the news story following Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the ABC reality show Becoming Us, transgenderism. Nonetheless, that’s a topic for different day and blog post.

I’ll be honest, I had no intention of addressing this topic again so soon, but under the circumstances, I feel convicted to share my thoughts on this nationwide debate. As stated in past blog posts, I have a lot of compassion for the LGBT community while maintaining a more traditional perspective on the topic. I can understand why people feel the way they do on both sides of the debate. Nonetheless, gay oriented people have been reduced to just that, a debate. Now I’m not going to belittle the complicated decisions that many politicians and churches have to make regarding this issue, but I feel that a little too much emphasis has been placed on gay marriage over the past couple of years. Many Christians, particularly churches, have become completely consumed by the topic of marriage. While I agree that marriage is an important institution, it shouldn’t be our main focus as Christians. Matthew 22:30 says “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (NIV).

Marriage isn’t eternal, but people’s souls are. People won’t walk into eternity married, but they will, someday, walk into eternity. In the words of the popular evangelist Mark Cahill, ten out of ten people die. I feel that it would do a world of good to take the focus off gay marriage for a little while, and focus on the people involved. If we put the same energy into reaching out and witnessing to this community that we do into trying to prevent gay marriage, imagine the impact that we’d have. What if we pointed people to the love of God and the sacrifice that He made on the cross, rather than preaching about how marriage is “One man and one women”? If the image of God that we present as Christians is some guy in the sky with a big rule book, people aren’t going to want to follow Him, and they sure aren’t going to listen to anything that we have to say regarding morality. Nonetheless, if we make people realize God’s amazing love and how He came to earth for them, and would do it all over again, we might actually reach people with the gospel. Marriage is a good thing, but it can become an idol if we, as Christians, focus more on the gay marriage debate than on pointing people to God. C.S. Lewis wrote a book years ago called Screwtape Letters, and Lewis makes the point in this book that Satan will often try to distract us from things like eternity by focusing on the temporary. Perhaps, as well intentioned as we may be, this is what’s happening in society today. Thus, I urge you to take some time away from the gay marriage debate and focus on what’s really important in the big scheme of things: Helping a broken world find a loving God.

To quote my favorite singer, Britt Nicole…

Talking About My Generation

“Be the change you want to see in this world.”-Gandi

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up in a different generation? Maybe you’ve even had moments where you wished that you lived in a different time era. I know for me personally, the eighties and nineties look like a really great time era to live through. Perhaps it’s because throughout my childhood I watched shows like Full House and Growing Pains, or maybe our parents’ generation always looks somewhat appealing. I know that my Mom has said that she always thought it would be cool to grow up in the fifties (My grandparents’ generation). That might be a nice era too…but I don’t know how I’d feel about wearing those poodle skirts. I’m more of a tee-shirt and jeans type gal.

Though they’re likely over idealized on TV, the eighties and nineties both look like more simple places in time than our current era. You had technology, but it hadn’t reached the insane overkill of an iPhone a month and disconnect from the living, breathing, world. My Mom says that crime was definitely less than it is now, particularly crimes like murder and kidnappings. Furthermore, while there were a few notable stains, it seemed that it was a more wholesome time era. Families sat around the dinner table together. People actually knew there neighbors. People could go to school without worrying about things like school shootings and bomb threats. Yup, a simpler place in time.

Nonetheless, I’m not growing up in the 80s and 90s. I’m growing up in the 21st Century, the New Millennia, Generation Y, whatever you want to call it. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing though. Obviously this is the era that I was meant to live through. There are definitely perks, such as modern computers (which make it far easier to write novels) and more ways of accessing music and music videos through iTunes and YouTube.

Most importantly, each new era leaves opportunities for people to make a difference and leave their staple on their generation. To all of you millennials out there, you have tons of unique opportunities to make a difference in this generation through opportunities and resources that weren’t there before. I believe that God wants to use you to make a difference, that He’s put you in the era that you’re living through for a reason. To all of you generation Y and generation Xs out there, you also have the opportunity to make a difference. However old or young you are, you have opportunities. You’re here on this earth for a reason. Rather than living in nostalgia or wishing for a simpler place in time, I urge all of you to take advantage of the opportunities that you have right now, in this crazy, plugged in, opportunity-ridden era.

This is a song by child actor-turned-country singer Jennette McCurdy. Though it’s not a well known song, it has a very powerful message about being a generation that’s remembered in a positive light. I think it’s very fitting with the message of this blog post.

Must Reads For The Summer

1. The Left Behind Young Trib Force Series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (I loved this series so much in Jr. High School. I really want to read the adult version, but have never gotten the chance to. Hopefully I’ll get to read it sometime in the future)-This series takes place in a dystopian, semi-futuristic setting. It’s based on the book Revelations and follows the lives of teenagers trying to survive during the tribulation.

2. There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones (Hmm, weird. She has the same initials as Jerry B. Jenkins. I’ve never noticed that before)-This book is about a girl named Finley Sinclair who goes to Ireland to study abroad and compose a song that she wrote for a music conservatory. She hopes to find the God that her recently deceased brother wrote about in his travel diaries.

3. SouledOut Sisters: One and Two by Neta Jackson (I really hope Neta Jackson will continue this series, as I really love this series and the characters in it)-This book follows the life of Kat Davies, along with her friends Olivia, Nick, and Bree, as they go to New York City for the summer. The all end up sharing an apartment above an older couple whom they wind up attending church with. In this book, there is a heavy focus on different generations finding common ground and understanding each other, as well as reaching out to the less fortunate.

4. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom– A powerful book about how intrinsically people’s lives are intertwined. I reviewed this book in a previous post, if you want to know more about this novel.

5. The Bailey Flanigan Series: Leaving by Karen Kingsbury– Ok, I’ve got to be honest here. I’m still reading this book. Nonetheless, I love it so much, that I had to add it to the list. This book follows the lives of four different characters.

a. Bailey, a young college graduate who is transitioning from a small town in Indiana called Bloomington, to New York City; to be in a broadway musical.

b. Cody, a guy about the same age as Bailey who recently got a job as a coach and who’s suffering PTSD from fighting in the war following 9/11.

c. Ashley and Landon-A couple coming to terms with Landon’s recently diagnosed illness.

I’m not going to say anymore about this one, as I want to write a individual review once I finish it. It will be hard to refrain from spoiler alerts, but I’m going to try, as I don’t want to ruin this book for you if you decide to read it.

That’s all for right now, but I’m looking forward to giving Leaving its own separate review. I’d also like to read the book Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom. Nonetheless, whether I’ll actually get to that book is up in the air, as I still have a book to read for school over the summer, called The House of Seven Gables. I hope to write some more tomorrow. As for right now, I hope that all of you readers out there have a good night. 🙂

Very sadly, this isn’t a movie trailer, nonetheless, it is a cool trailer for the book itself. Karen Kingsbury even uses a Britt Nicole song (My favorite singer!), thus she gets double points for this book trailer!

My review and thoughts on Grace For The Good Girl

Hello to all of you out there reading this. Sorry about my two day hiatus from blogging. I’ve been working insanely hard on composing a song that I wrote. I’m going to be in an upcoming talent show and I want to sing a song that I wrote two years ago called On The Line. I’ve been working on this song for a while, but I think I’m finally getting it to a place where it sounds good (Yay!).

Anyways, my blog post today is going to be on the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman. I read this book towards the end of last school year and it was amazing. It’s a non-fiction book that I found to be very relatable and thought-provoking. Basically, the target audience for this book is all of the Christian perfectionists and “good girls” of the world. In this book, she refers to herself as a “recovering good girl”. Now this might sound weird, after all, isn’t it good to be good, and to try hard in life?

Absolutely, but sometimes, we can cross a line from trying to do the right things and doing our best at things to becoming paranoid of failure. Sometimes, perfection can even become an idol. I can think of countless examples of perfectionism throughout my own life. A good example of this is my younger, elementary school self. There were times that I’d take a spelling test and get the all of the words correct except for one or two. I should have felt proud of myself for getting an A, but instead, I was disappointed in myself. In the back of my mind, I felt that it could have been a 100% instead of a 95%.

If only I had tried a little harder.

That mentality didn’t just plague elementary school self. It’s a mindset that I carried with me for years (And still struggle with at times). I’d get paranoid when playing a sports game, wanting so badly to win. I’d obsess over grades, trying to get an A in everything. I avoided asking difficult questions about the Bible that I felt I was supposed to know. I started to view devotional books as sort of a checklist. Do this, and don’t do this. It even got to a point where life seemed like a checklist.

Emily Freeman describes this mentality as a mask, trying so hard to conceal weakness, and vulnerability. Though I never thought of it that way, I did realize a couple of years ago that while I still want to strive for my best in everything that I do, I need to let go of some of this stress, and embrace authenticity. I wanted to stop defining myself by things that I strived for and just be myself. Little by little, I’ve gotten better about that, but admittedly, still sometimes fall back into old patterns. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten up the courage to ask hard questions that don’t have simple answers. I’ve gotten better about not defining myself by academic achievement. And while I’m still competitive, I don’t define myself my how many basketball or checker games I win.

If any of this resonates with you, then I encourage you to open up about your questions and your weaknesses. To take off the mask, realize that you’re a work in progress, and realize that only Jesus is perfect. To stop defining yourself by achievement but instead realize that your worth was embedded in you at birth by God. While you should always strive for your best and work hard, don’t let your weaknesses define you. Sometimes, as the apostle Paul says

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)

Sometimes, it’s in the areas that we’re the weakest in that we need to rely on God the most. This isn’t always taken well by the good girl (Or guy). We want to be strong, independent, and in control. But sometimes, we can’t control life. It’s in the areas that we’re weak that we’re often the most humbled. This is still a lesson that I’m learning myself. Nonetheless, I urge you to not feel discouraged by this. We’re all strong in some ways, and we’re all weak in others. You’re not any less because of those weakness, you’re just human. Sometimes, when we trust God and we’re honest with others, we end up doing a lot of growing. When you look at it this way, life becomes a journey. A storyline. Not a checklist. Not one giant report card, grading you in how well you’re doing at this thing called life.

Life becomes real, and we begin living it. We come out of our places of hiding and our masks of perfection and achievement and become authentic. In the end, I’d rather be honest about my life as it really is than just have awards of achievement handed to me, because the growth is achievement in itself.

If you want to read more on this topic, than I highly recommend reading the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life for yourself.

A song at the end seems to be the usual way that I end blog posts, so I’m going to conclude this one with the song Perfect People by Natalie Grant. I think that many of you out there who have struggled with the self imposed pressure to be perfect will relate to the lyrics of this song.

Note: Many of the points made in this blog post were from the book Grace For The Good Girl: Letting Go of The Try Hard Life, so I owe credit to the author Emily P. Freeman.