Amish Cooking Class: The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter ~ Review

Amish Cooking Class book 2: The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish Cooking Class The Blessing

The Blessing is the second book in the Amish Cooking Class series. I read this book without knowing about the first one, and didn’t have any feeling of missing something vital. So I would say this book can stand alone on its own. But I am intrigued now that I have read this one; I want to go back and read the first book. That is how well written this book is.

The story’s premise is about an Amish couple, Heidi and Lyle Troyer, living in Walnut Creek, Ohio. They have been married about 9 years and do not have children. Lyle is an auctioneer while Heidi teaches cooking classes in her kitchen. At the opening of the story, Heidi is anticipating the birth of her friend’s baby, which she and Lyle were going to adopt. Kendra had been living with them for several months now. Kendra really wanted to keep her baby, but she was a single young person and it wouldn’t be the best thing for the little one if she couldn’t support it.

Just as Heidi had decided not to teach another class, in preparation of the babe’s arrival, Kendra’s parents reversed their decision not to help her rear the child, and suddenly Heidi finds herself bereft of the baby she wanted to adopt. She decided to go ahead and teach another cooking class to help her stay mentally occupied while she grieved her loss.

Amish Cooking Class The Blessing quote 1

We eventually become acquainted with the six members of this new cooking class, and they are as diversified as they come! There’s an overburdened high school student, a custodian, a food critic, a mother in a shaky marriage, a widower, and a caterer. It’s the clashing and meshing of these lives that makes this an intriguing read.

What I appreciate most about this book is that regardless of Heidi’s background, she is centered on honoring God with her life. She is genuine and caring, someone that her class of students need in their lives. Without being preachy or overly Amish in her behavior with her students, she quietly relayed to them what each person needed at this point in their life journey, even for the one who cared nothing for God. I loved how all these individual stories wrapped up neatly at the conclusion of the book. If at first you feel the story moves along slowly while we become acquainted with all the characters, be patient. The character development is worth the wait.

God heals broken hearts

The second thing I enjoyed about the book are the cooking tips and recipes included in the back. I am always open to learning something new, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you enjoy cozy character-driven stories that warm your heart, then this is the book for you. I enthusiastically recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Child of Mine by David and Beverly Lewis ~Review~

Child of Mine by David and Beverly Lewis

Child of Mine

It’s not very often that I tell other readers that a book is awesome, because when I do, I don’t take the term lightly. For me to rank a book this way, I need to have my interest held all throughout the story; there needs to be several subplots expertly woven together with a few surprise twists that I don’t anticipate. The characters need to be portrayed in such a way that I’m invested in their lives, while I come to care for them. When the book is finished, I still feel their presence and circumstances linger, so that I continue to think about them. Their lives and thoughts should influence my own. They should have something to say or experience that touches me right down to my soul. For me, Child of Mine delivers all the above criteria. I even went through a hefty pile of tissues in testimony of how stirred I was.

When I begin reading a story, there is usually a predominant question in my mind regarding the theme of the story. The cover of this book and its title suggested a few questions for me to ponder: Whose child? Which child? Who was claiming the child? When I opened the pages of the opening chapter, I was introduced to Kelly Maines. By the end of the chapter, I learned that Kelly has been seeking a specific child for the past eight years, but she was using methods that were not completely ethical. In the next chapter, the readers are introduced to Jack Livingston and his niece Natalie who likes to be called Nattie. Nattie was a precocious eight-year-old, lovingly cared for by her uncle and an Amish nanny, Laura Mast. At this point, I felt I knew where this story was heading.

From that point on, more than half the book is dedicated to revealing more about the main characters Jack, Laura, Nattie and Kelly. We grow to care for all of them while we are introduced to supporting characters like Sandra, Jack’s younger sister with enough of their back history to learn about issues they are living with; Melody who used to be Kelly’s best friend growing up until Kelly pushed her away once Melody married and had children of her own; Ernie, the Private Investigator who has been helping Kelly search for her missing daughter for the past eight years; and Chet and Eloise, a well-to-do Texas couple in their sixties who have nearly adopted Kelly and attempt to assist in her search by financing Ernie’s efforts. All these supporting friends and family play important roles in Kelly and Jack’s spiritual development; for Kelly, her metamorphosis from devastated victim to mature, growing Christian learning to find closure and move on without bitterness or her daughter.

With God All Things Are Possible

In the final quarter of the book, circumstances take an abrupt turn, and for me instituted a series of new questions after the initial shock. Several times the expected became the unexpected, and I’m sure I said to myself, “Say…what?!” more than twice. The pace picked up dramatically, with frequent re- assessments of my original question of who’s claiming whose child. The authors, after lulling readers into expecting one thing to happen and one history to have occurred turn our expectations on their ears and switch directions entirely. I even flipped back pages a few times to see where I might have missed a clue or to verify what a person said. I love when an author does that, especially when it is written as smoothly as it was in this book.

Rest assured that while this book is not primarily a romance, there are portions of the story where romance is an important element. It just isn’t the main feature. There is also some mystery that contributes to the twists and turns that reveal facts and change the flow of the story line. Happily, most loose ends are satisfactorily resolved. In addition, unlike many of Beverly Lewis’s other books, having an Amish woman play one of the main characters does not mean this is a book about the Amish. It is just an incidental factor among many that makes this book so interesting to read.

Believe God more than feelings

Finally, the spiritual aspect of a book’s plot is important to me. I look to see if life’s tough situations are realistically portrayed, the reactions to them true to life, and the lessons learned over time contribute to a character’s development. This can happen with or without a person acknowledging God’s role in their lives. I admire when an author doesn’t make transitions sound too trivial or too easy. I also realize how realistic it is that some people will not heed God’s nudges toward a closer relationship with Him. I feel the authors in this story hit upon a balance between the many types of responses possible to God’s prompts without sounding overly preachy, idealistic or syrupy. I loved their ability to write soul-stirring fiction that challenges their readers to be introspective. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves complex Christian fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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A Hope Deferred: Adoption and the Fatherhood of God by J. Stephen Yuille ~ Review

A Hope Deferred: Adoption and the Fatherhood of God by J. Stephen Yuille

“God’s love is never self-serving. That means he doesn’t need to love us, nor does he need us to love him. Simply put, he doesn’t gain anything from loving us. That realization shouldn’t disturb us or offend us. On the contrary, it should comfort us, because that’s the kind of love we need [unconditional]. We need someone to love us that actually doesn’t need us [conditional].

God has that kind of love in himself. And here is the wonderful thing: he lavishes it upon his children. We don’t need to earn God’s love. We don’t need to merit God’s love. We don’t need to worry that God’s love for us will change. We don’t need to worry that God’s love for us is contingent upon our performance. Why? God’s love is merciful, and it’s the whole reason why he adopted us.”

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When the author and his wife discovered they may never conceive a child, they decided to adopt one or more children. But the process was not without its twists and turns and what should have taken only a couple of years stretched out for 17 years. These experiences inspired J. Stephen Yuille to explore the parallels and contrasts between human adoption and our adoption by our heavenly Father. So this book has two purposes. One is to celebrate our adoption by God, an act of unconditional love and unchanging goodness on His part. The second is to strengthen and encourage others in their struggles, especially those grappling with infertility and adoption issues.

God has purposely placed us in His “family” with all the rights and privileges of that family. The author explores the six blessings of our adoption into God’s family according to Romans chapter 8. In the even numbered chapters of this 14 chapter book, he and his wife recount their extended adoption story. In the odd numbered chapters, he uses the space for exegetical exploration of each of the blessings. In light of the first blessing he ponders how God could “turn a depraved sinner into a privileged son”, then delves into Romans 8:1-4–how our sins are cleansed. He follows suit with the five other blessings in the remaining chapters.

Mr. Yuille’s writing style is more like a Bible lesson in lecture format than it is prose. His strength is not so much as a storyteller but as an excellent Bible teacher. For such a small book, only 151 pages, the author packs quite a wallop into each of his expositions. Each chapter is only about five pages long on average but is packed full of pithy biblical truth. He uses examples such as C.S. Lewis’ character of Eustace in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an unexpected pregnancy, or a rock making ripples in a pond to illustrate his point or to show us God’s unchanging goodness. He quotes from quite a few sources which he lists at the end of the book in the Notes section.

I get the impression that this author is one of those persons that I have always loved to take notes from. Ever since one of my Junior High teachers taught his classes how to outline a text book (which translated into note taking), I have enjoyed taking notes in outline form. It is a form of mental “visualization” that I discovered helped me to remember important points in the text. I used the method when I was in college along with creating illustrations, and later with church sermons (although not every pastor can teach in a style that makes that conducive). Mr. Yuille includes the use of lists in his book: three points of one thing, four parts of another. For example, in the first chapter he explains adoption, “In [Ephesians 1:3-6] we discover six wonderful truths about the biblical doctrine of adoption, specifically that: adoption is rooted in love; predetermined; through Jesus Christ; according to the purpose of God’s will; to the praise of God’s glorious grace; and fixed (or embedded) in union with Christ.” In that way, the writing is intense, and he is able to fit a lot of material into a small space.

Faith_inHis_timing

Fortunately, our adoption from God is not very much like human attempts to adopt children. While on the surface they may seem similar, the likeness is shallow. Human adoption can be a harrowing experience. And while we may search everywhere else to find fulfillment except the adoption into God’s family, when we finally lean completely on Him, He makes it easy for us to be adopted because He has done all the work. We can trust Him completely. The gratification we receive from our adopted family members is warm and satisfying, but it is only a shadow of the completeness and joy we experience when we are adopted by God. I find that immensely comforting.

Cross Focused Reviews

Cross Focused Reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews and Shepherd Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”