Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Freefall to Fly

Here is a bit about the book from Rebekah's blog: "In a Western culture driven by performance and Pinterest fantasies, her story echoes the rise of loneliness, depression, and anxiety that women are facing at all time highs. Why are expectations and lifestyles breaking us down in unprecedented ways? In this beautifully moving memoir of vulnerability, courage, and ultimately transformation, Rebekah shares her journey into the unknown—a thrilling, terrifying freefall that eventually led to flight. Searching for meaning, she stumbled on surrender, discovering that meaning follows surrender. Rebekah found freedom when she faced her greatest fear, and she invites other women to do the same. For it is only when we freefall that we can truly fly."

There are two main themes that I saw. First was Rebekah's journey through depression and anxiety, along with a big move and culture shock (Atlanta to NYC).  She suffered debilitating panic attacks, and was often so depressed she didn't want to get out of bed. At her lowest point, she writes:

"I must give in.
I"ll do what I swore I would never do.
I'll numb out.
We woke up the next morning after yet another restless night, and I told Gabe (her husband) my resolution: I would take antidepressants to get me through. I was no longer able to cope and ready to do whatever I needed to do."

So, apparently anti-depressants cause you to "numb out." No, no, and NO!  Anti-depressants to NOT cause most people to "numb out." They strip away the anxiety and depression, so you can peel away those terrible layers and get back to who you really are.

Two pages later, she writes about her break through. One night, in the midst of an awful panic attack, Rebekah cries out to God in desperation. She prays bold prayers. She is cured that night. So, apparently, if you pray hard enough God will take away your depression and anxiety too.

These are the two things that really bother me. There is a huge stigma surrounding depression in general. And, depression in Christian culture? Forget about it. Like we need more perpetuation of the lie that "if you pray hard enough, God will cure you." I feel like Rebekah has done a bit of a disservice to Christian women out there. Not once does she mention seeing a psychiatrist or a counselor. Not once does she talk about suicide statistics. Ugh.

I did see a webcast interview with Rebekah and her husband. She seems like a absolutely lovely woman, and sort of back-tracked on the meds stance, saying that everyone is different, and yes some people do need meds. But, that did not come across in the book.

The other theme is Rebekah's passion for women finding and using their God-given gifts. She is so passionate about this and it really resonates with me. Rebekah is so encouraging, to young mother's especially.

She writes: "... the displacement of a mother's purpose (beyond child rearing) becomes a huge loss to our communities. If women aren't empowered to cultivate their uniqueness, we all suffer the loss of beauty, creativity, and resourcefulness they were meant to inject into the world."

Another quote: "But if God has buried in each of us good gifts, doesn't it follow that He desires for us to find and use them? To ignore these gifts or fail to develop them, it seems, would be to bury our treasure..."

Would I recommend it? Yes, with reservations. I love the parts where she encourages women to grab hold of their gifts and use them to to further the Kingdom. There are parts of her recovery story that bother me, and I would hesitate to recommend this book to a Christian who is really struggling.

Disclosure: I received this advanced reading copy free from Zondervan via Handlebar Publishing as part of their Board of Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: Bread & Wine

Bread & Wine is Shauna Niequist's third book, following her first two, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. I only recently started reading Shauna's blog, and this is her first book I've read. Bread & Wine is a collection of short essays about anything and everything--life, love, family, heartache, friends, and above all food. The subtitle on the cover is, "a love letter to life around the table with recipes." And, that's exactly what it is: a love letter.

Niequiest's writing is beautiful and poetic. She sounds like she is everyone's best friend, and if you were to meet her, I bet you'd feel an instant kinship. And, ask to join her cooking club.

I haven't read too many foodie books, only one really and I didn't even finish it--Julia Child's "My Life in France." The one thing I loved about Julia Child's book is how she wrote about food. Oh my word. The way  she described things, you just wanted to jump through the pages and eat your way through all of the amazing delicacies she wrote about. This is how I feel about Bread & Wine. Here is a short passage from the introduction:

"For the record, my last-supper meal looks a bit like this: first, of course, ice-cold champagne, gallons of it, flutes catching the candlelight and dancing. There would be bacon-wrapped dates oozing with goat cheese, and risotto with thick curls of Parmesan and flecks of black pepper. There would be paper-thin pizza with tomatoes and mozzarella and slim ribbons of basil, garlicky pasta and crusty bread and lots of cheeses, a plummy pinot noir and maybe a really dirty martini, because you might as well go big on your last night on earth. There would be dark chocolate sea salted toffee and a bowl of fat blackberries, and we'd stay at the table for hours and hours, laughing and telling stories and reaching for one more bite, one more bite, one more bite."

At some point in the book, you may (like me) become overly jealous or annoyed with this woman. I mean, really. Her life looks pretty awesome on paper. Tons of friends, full life, great husband and kids, close family, lake vacations, running a marathon for pete's sake. But, she shares her other sides too. The dark period of miscarriages, insecurities, fears, loss. She's just a woman, like you and me. No need for me to put her on a pedestal. And just from reading her book and blog, I know she wouldn't want me to.

The recipes, oh the recipes. I love the fact that many are fancy/not really fancy recipes that are easy to prepare and impress your guests: Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce, Mini Mac & Cheese, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin. Simple ingredients, big flavor. There are also every day recipes like Annette's Enchiladas, Brannon's Caesar Salad, and Magical White Bean Soup.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I can't wait to make some of the recipes... starting with the Bacon-Wrapped Dates!

Disclosure: I received this advanced reading copy free from Zondervan via Handlebar Publishing as part of their Board of Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.