Tag Archives: captivating

Book Review:: You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

15 Mar

Since Holley Gerth writes for DaySpring cards (and co-founded (in)courage) it seems cliché to say that her book, You’re Already Amazing, is like receiving an unexpected greeting card saturated with wisdom and thoughtfulness only a dear friend could write. But that’s exactly what reading You’re Already Amazing is like!  Gerth engaged me with her girlfriend language, stunning insights into the heart of God, and helpful exercises that encouraged me to learn more about who I am and what I mean to my Creator.

What I appreciated most about You’re Already Amazing were the exercises that Gerth, also a trained counselor, included at the end of each chapter.  Instead of just telling me how great I am because I was created by God and proving her point with Scripture, Gerth’s tools helped me discover my strengths (and weaknesses) and how I can best use them for the glory of God!  Not only am I already amazing, I am also already uniquely gifted!  It’s nice to get a pep talk, but even better to take that encouraging energy to the next level—to actually live it out.

In some ways this book is similar to Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, but Holley Gerth’s work is more reader-friendly, and her charm is enticing, page-turning, and life-changing.  This is a book for the weak and the strong, the lost and the found, the hopeless and the hopeful.  Really, You’re Already Amazing is a book for every woman in every walk, on every journey to discover who she is, what she was created to be, and how she is desperately loved by her Father.  Stop striving to be “enough” and discover how amazing you really are to the One who loves you more than you can fathom.

*Thanks to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for providing me a review copy of this book.*

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Book Review(s):: Mother-Daughter Duet and Dancing with My Father

5 Mar

In the spirit of Mother-Daughter Duet, my mother and I each reviewed a book for Waterbrook Multnomah’s latest blog tour.

Mother-Daughter Duet by Cheri Fuller & Ali Plum

By Donna Savaki For this child I prayed–so what went wrong? The mother-daughter bond is precious and wonderful when the communication is good. But, oh, when there is a disagreement or misunderstanding, it is depressing, distressing, and heart wrenching. My very talented, intelligent, and beautiful (she does take after her mother!) adult daughter and I have been to the mountaintop and into the deepest valleys as we travel the road of communication and understanding.

In Mother-Daughter Duet: Getting to the Relationship You Want with Your Adult Daughter,  mother and daughter Cheri Fuller and Ali Plum have traveled that same rocky path in their relationship. I could see my comments (always meant to be helpful, of course) to my daughter echoed in the stories of various mother and daughters presented in the book. “Perhaps you should wear a bit more make-up. Your hair looks thin. What kind of hair products are you using? That outfit does not really flatter you,” I offer helpfully. I now understand how my suggestions are interpreted as controlling and demeaning by my daughter. Cheri and Ali walk us through years of misunderstanding, forgiveness, and healing.

Mother-Daughter Duet has many very helpful suggestions to promote a healthy adult mother-adult daughter relationship. However, this book seems to be written more to mothers to help them understand their daughters’ journey. While daughter Ali pens a portion of each chapter, the bulk of the chapters are written by mother Cheri and seem focused upon helping mothers understand their daughters. Another book needs to be written to enable daughters to understand their mothers better).

Mothers, read Mother-Daughter Duet so you can start understanding how you drive your daughters crazy.  Daughters, give this book to your mothers to read so they stop driving you crazy.  Personally, I’m glad my daughter gave this copy to me to review.

Donna Savaki is a retired teacher (over 30 years of teaching kindergarteners was enough).  She has one daughter, Amy, who is the head honcho of Backseat Writer.  She lives in Pennsylvania and owns a cute dog named Katie.

Dancing with My Father by Sally Clarkson

By Amy Sondova My favorite thing about Dancing with My Father by Sally Clarkson was the cover, which features an adorable little girl in a billowing skirt dancing.  The picture has a light sepia tone, which makes it look like a book I would enjoy.  And I would have—if it hasn’t been written 20 times before by more interesting authors.

Try as I might, I could not get into Dancing with My Father.  While trudging through the book, I thought of all the better books written on the subject of feminine beauty (Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge) and living freely like a child (Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli).  I was bored from the first page.

Clarkson spends at least half the book talking about herself, which would have been OK if this was a memoir, not a Christian living book.  She talks about universal struggles, her time as a missionary, and raising a family, but I got so lost in the stories, Clarkson’s main points were also lost.  Although the discussion questions at the end of each chapter were good, they could not save this book.

Perhaps if I had memories of dancing around in a fluffy dress with my father or if I was married with children or a middle-aged woman, I would have gotten more out of this book.  However, Dancing with My Father failed to draw me in, captivate me, or offer any fresh insight into living a bold life for God.

*Both of these books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.*

Book Review:: Love and War by John & Stasi Eldredge

10 Feb

“And they lived happily ever after. The End”

By Donna Savaki Isn’t that the way the lovely new bride and her bridegroom prince begin and end their wonderful life together?  Just where was John and Stasi Eldredge’s new book, Love and War, when I was a blushing new bride in 1977?  No one was there to tell me, “Marriage is fabulously hard.” And it really is hard.  Very hard.  Somehow marriage meshes two wounded, imperfect people into one. Maybe that is why my first marriage ended in divorce. We did not understand the spiritual battle that was being played out in our lives and our marriage.

In Love and War John and Stasi Eldredge share  the difficulties and joys of their own  marriage of 25 years.  As I read about their God-ordained partnership, I felt as if I were sitting with the Eldredges in their cozy living room as they spoke of the great mystery unfolding in God’s plan for marriage  John and Stasi vulnerably reveal hurts, mistakes, romantic moments and loving caring so that others will benefit.

Love and War begins with material covered in previous Eldredge books (Wild At Heart, Captivating, Waking the Dead). If your heart and mind were challenged by these books, then your concept of the marriage union is now about to be enlarged and challenged.

Reading this Love and War helped me understand God’s true intentions for marriage. After being remarried over five years ago, I discovered needed perspectives on the epic battle being played out on my new marriage. I highlighted passages, read pages aloud to my husband, and called my daughter to proclaim how much I was learning from John and Stasi. If you are planning to marry, are married, or have been married, if your marriage is in a happy place or if you feel like divorce is the only answer, if you care about the marriages of your friends, if you want a God-view of marriage, then you must read Love and War. It will speak to your heart and change your perspective on marriage–this “Great Affair” into which God tells the love story of His own heart.

Donna Savaki is a retired teacher (over 30 years of teaching kindergarteners was enough).  She has one daughter, Amy, who is the head honcho of Backseat Writer.  She lives with her husband and two dogs, Katie and Clifford, in Pennsylvania.

*This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.*



Inside Out With Cadia

8 May

By Amy Sondova Cadia’s Tori Smith and Courtney Myers are on a mission encouraging middle through college-aged girls to establish an identity firmly planted in God. The female pop/rock duo released their self-titled debut (Fervent) in Feburary. Before the album dropped, “Inside Out” was selected as the official theme song (and music video) for Women of Faith’s “Revolve Tour.”

The longtime friends formed the band’s name from the ancient Greek word “Arcadia” which means “place of peace”. Both under the age of 21, Tori and Courtney sing about issues close to the heart of women of all ages, even doing a cover of Martina McBride’s “This One’s For the Girls.” Bouncing from pop to rock to folk, Cadia’s debut is fun, relevant, and full of great melodies reminiscent of BarlowGirl and indie band, Alathea.

Honest and open, Courtney (who has a special affinity for cake) and Tori were kind enough to talk about their album via an e-mail Q&A with Backseat Writer.

Courtney and Tori, you’re best friends and best friends always have dreams. You know, one day we’re going to get married and have a double wedding or be famous models or start a band. When you think back, how did you two consider “the dream” together?

Courtney: When the idea of Cadia was first presented to us, we were thrilled. I remember just hugging her in the middle of a church parking lot and screaming when the reality set in. I could not feel more blessed than I do right now in my life. Experiencing it with Tori is icing on the cake!

Vocally, you sing in different ranges—so which one of you is the soprano and who is the alto? Did you learn any new vocal techniques to record this album?

Courtney: I am the alto, and Tori is the soprano. It’s cool; sometimes you may think you’re hearing Tori’s high harmonies and it’s me, and vice versa. We felt incredibly blessed when we were working on our album because our voices were a perfect match. We love singing together!

The album has a lot of impressive co-writers including Ian Eskelin, Rob Hawkins, Cindy Morgan, Joy Williams, Britt Nicole, and Nicole Nordeman? What was it like to have so many talented people working with you? And how did you ladies contribute to the process?

Courtney: We were so thrilled to learn that we had such amazing co-writers on our album. The writers are some of my favorite musicians. Tori and I were very involved in the song selection. The fact that there were such amazing writers made the choices a piece of cake.

Cadia does an excellent cover of Martina McBride’s “The One’s For the Girls”. I love that you included it in your song choices! How did you come to pick this classic?

Courtney: We knew that it was a great song for women of all ages. We absolutely love performing this song. We get the crowd to get up and dance, and always tell the men in the audience not to be ashamed to stand up and celebrate the women in their lives. It gets everybody laughing.

I was surprised to learn that “Safe Place to Fall” almost didn’t make the album—why did you feel that its inclusion in the album was so important?

Courtney: The message in this song is so important for our listeners to hear. I have battled with self-esteem issues, and feeling like I was never going to be good enough and I wanted to share that message.

Courtney, not only are you a singer, but you’re a professional dancer—are you thinking about trying out for a part in “High School Musical 3” (or HSM 4, which will have a whole new cast)?

Courtney: No, I’m content right where I am!

My favorite song on the album is “Trust in Me Now”, which reminds us that God is still in control. What emotions are evoked within you when you perform this song?

Tori: I feel a sense of comfort and I have an “Ah-ha!” moment every time I hear the song. When you hear the first verse and it says, “I know your past, the point of breaking into pieces,” it makes me realize every time that God knows exactly what I am going through. He is the only one that completely understands, because He has been through everything. I also love the chorus, because it is written like God speaking to us. Like He’s saying, “I know it’s hard and I know you’re in pain, but just trust in me!” I just feel a sense of release, like “OK, Lord, I will rest in you.”

You both said that reaching out to girls in their formative years (middle school through college) is important. Why is this demographic so close to your heart?

Tori: Middle school through college is such an important time in everyone’s life. I think those are the times when a lot of important choices are made. And it’s a time that can be really hard, especially middle school. I know that middle school was a really hard time for me, and even high school, in dealing with friends and family issues. We want our music to be an encouragement for those girls and help them when they are going through those hard times.

Tori, I saw that one of your favorite books is Captivating by John and Stasi Elderedge—how has that influenced your idea of female identity in God?

Tori: It helped me remember how beautiful we are in God’s eyes, and that’s all that matters. So whenever I am being down on myself, and feel that I don’t look pretty, I just try to remember how pretty and important I am to God.

What do you think that adults just don’t get about women your age, you know, in that pivotal place between high school and forming an adult identity?

Tori: I think that adults understand most of what women go through during that time, because they were once that age also. But every generation is different. I think that each generation has different issues that they are facing.

Anything else you want to say in closing?

Tori: Our website is www.cadiaonline.com and our myspace is www.myspace.com/cadiaonline. We are very involved with both of those and we love hearing from everyone.

I Wish I Was Beautiful

28 Jan

I wish I was beautiful. Breathtaking, traffic stopping, can-I-buy-you-a-drink beautiful. Not that I really go to bars and get drinks, but sending over a Diet Coke in a friendly dining establishment would work, too.

I’m not hideous or anything. I’m just, you know, me–freckles, flaws and all. The last time I stopped traffic, it was because I was crossing the street when the “Do Not Walk” sign was flashing (almost got run over, too) and the last time anyone honked at me was because I didn’t make a right turn on red due to the “Do Not Turn On Red” sign plastered to the traffic pole.

I may have felt beautiful once or twice. I definitely felt gorgeous when I want to the Winter Semi-Formal Dance my junior year in college. I had a great date, who bought me a beautiful wrist corsage, drove me in his BMW, and treated me like a lady. I asked him to go with me as a friend since I went to an all-women’s college. I mean, I could have waited for one of my classmates to ask me, but I don’t swing that way, though many of them did. It definitely freaked out my date to see girls dancing with girls cheek-to-cheek.

Sometimes I look back at pictures where I think I should have felt beautiful, and I just didn’t. A couple of times, I look at a picture of myself, usually one that’s not posed and unexpected and I think, just maybe, I’m beautiful. Or at least I can flicker within moments of beauty if the light hits me just right.

I’m trying to get over myself. I mean, does it really matter? I’ve listened to “Piece of Glass” by Caedmon’s Call (“Who are you that lies when you stare at my face, Telling me that I’m just a trace, Of the person I once was, Are you telling the truth or a lie, On you I just can’t rely, After all you’re just a piece of glass”) and “Beautiful You” (Beautiful you, all of the time, Jesus in you makes you shine, Beautiful You, Beautiful You) by Considering Lily so much, I could do a mean karaoke version of those tunes should the occasion ever arise. I’ve read Captivating, Falling In Love with Jesus, and a slew of other books that talk about biblical femininity and beauty, and yet I sigh when I look at the pictures of the authors on their bio page. They’re all beautiful.

Someone once told me that a woman at peace with herself is truly beautiful. My friend, Shannon, is like that. In her 50’s, she has piercing blue eyes, long flowing hair that’s brown highlighted in natural grays, and she’s tall and slender. Shannon is also one of the wisest, godliest women I have ever met. Whenever she talks, I want to soak up her words and etch them into my memory.

I spent time with her on her boat (Pacific Catalyst II) in October along with her husband and some friends and had many chances to seize upon her sagely wisdom. Shannon told me that she isn’t flirty and doesn’t use her feminine mystique to manipulate men. That’s how she’s earned respect in church circles, which largely remain a man’s world. The thing about Shannon is that she has no idea how dazzlingly beautiful she is.

I’ve noticed that a lot of truly beautiful people, ones who enchant me, don’t realize their true beauty. They just bounce through life like me, looking in the mirror, and singing the chorus to “Reflection” from Mulan. “Who is that girl I see, Staring straight back at me, When will my reflection show, Who I am inside” (see Mulan clip below).

I believe that all girls long to be beautiful. But even more they long to be beautiful on the inside and valued for their thoughts, gifts and talents. Yet a beautiful girl with amazing gifts and talents seems to get a leg up in the world of love and dating. Ordinary or even less-than-ideal girls only have personality to gauge the attention of the wandering male eye.

I wonder if I was really, really beautiful would I be married by now? Sometimes I think that what I perceive as my lack of physical beauty has held me back. Or that guys are just so repulsed by me they wouldn’t dare think of pursuing anything more than a friendship with me. I also ponder if I was a guy, then would I be married? Guys can be pretty unattractive and still hook up with a nice girl, who is usually easy on the eyes.

I’ve come to falsely believe the problem of my existence is that I’m not beautiful. True, beauty comes with its own problems. Beauty invites, and anything less than beautiful isn’t quite as inviting.

I know I should see myself as gorgeous because I was created in the image of God, but at the same time, it’s hard to think that way. It’s unnatural to women, I believe, because of the Fall. We lost the idea that we are beautiful and captivating. We don’t see that we are the image of God’s beauty, and in fact, we are often treated as being less than human by men throughout history and in some countries in the world today.

Besides, it’s not like Christian guys are any different. They all say they want a Proverbs 31 woman, yet many can’t even describe what a Proverbs 31 woman is in today’s culture. Yet Christian guys, committed Bible-reading Christian guys, still get goggly eyed over chicks in skimpy clothes. Not only do nice guys finish last, nice girls do, too. Maybe they could date each other.

I know that beauty is only skin deep and that character counts. I just need to let my inside shine out for all the world to see. I need to be a confident woman, a go-getter, full of enthusiasm, and content in my self-worth. That’s what guys want, I’m told, a chick who doesn’t care whether or not she’s a hottie, but one that is at peace with herself. That sounds really hard.

Still, I wish I could stop a guy dead in his tracks with one look. I wish I could get a guy across the room to buy me a Diet Coke. I wish I was what society generally accepts as “beautiful”, at least for one day.

Read follow-up post, “A Confident Woman”.

Here’s a clip of Mulan singing “Reflection” (vocals by Lea Salonga)

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