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Book Review

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Last year, I received a copy of Amanda Dykes book, “Set the Stars Alight” and I fell in love. (If you haven’t read it, go order a copy here!) So when I heard that Yours is the Night was coming out this year, it quickly became one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Now, the problem with most anticipated reads is that sometimes, you hype them up so much in your head beforehand, that when you actually read the book, it pales in comparison. But let me tell you, this was NOT a problem with Yours is the Night. This book completely met all my expectations for a beautiful story full of hope and light.

Amanda writes in a way that is lyrical and magical. Her words chip away at the darkness and spill light through the cracks and crevices of the characters’ broken stories. I’m not the type of reader to highlight sentences in novels, but if I was, this book would be filled. There were so many times I had to stop and simply soak in the beauty of a phrase or paragraph. (Keep reading for the rest of my review!)

About Yours is the Night:

(From the publisher) The trenches of the Great War are a shadowed place. Though Platoon Sergeant Matthew Petticrew arrived there with a past long marked by shadow, the realities of battle bring new wounds–carving within him a longing for light, and a resolve to fight for it.

One night, Matthew and his comrades are enraptured by a sound so pure, a voice so ethereal, it offers reprieve–even if only for a moment. Soon, rumors sweep the trenches from others who have heard the lullaby too. “The Angel of Argonne,” they call the voice: a mysterious presence who leaves behind wreaths on unmarked graves.

Raised in the wild depths of the Forest of Argonne, Mireilles finds her reclusive world rocked when war crashes into her idyllic home, taking much from her. When Matthew and his two unlikely companions discover Mireilles, they must embark on a journey that will change each of them forever . . . and perhaps, at long last, spark light into the dark.

On the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier comes an emotive tale inspired by the courageous soldiers of World War I.

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It is always an honor to get to share more of our story and help continue the discussion about pregnancy loss. This month, I had the opportunity to chat once again with The 700 Club Canada. The interview was aired on Friday, just before Mother’s Day — which was such special timing. For so many of us, Mother’s Day is full of blended and complex emotions. For those of us who have experienced a pregnancy loss, we feel the weight of what this day could have looked like. But while our babies may not be seen, while we may not get to hold them in our arms or kiss them goodnight, we will always be a mother.

You can watch the interview with The 700 Club below. I had a really lovely time sharing a family update and chatting about my book, Embrace: Clinging to Christ Through the Pain of Pregnancy Loss. To order a copy of Embrace for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to contact me. (Embrace is also available on Amazon, here.)

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Book Review

A Habit Called Faith by Jen Pollock Michel

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Habit Called Faith book cover

When you think about it, there is much irony found in a bookworm who struggles to read the Scriptures. And yet, there have been countless seasons in life where my Bible reading could be described as inconsistent at best. 2020 wasn’t the first time I’d gotten myself into a devotional rut. And it probably won’t be the last.

So, entering into 2021, I knew that I wanted to carve out space for intentional living within the Word. I needed to re-form better habits. Because my desire was to desire more of Him. I’d just fallen into the habit of choosing one more episode first. Of relegating my devotional time to the final few minutes before bed, exhausted and brain-numbed. Of viewing it as a requirement rather than an act of relationship.

I’m the type of person who thrives off routine and structure. I need checklists and plans to hold me accountable. I need the motivation to say, “I’m going to read even when I’m struggling with it. Especially when I’m struggling.” This year I started participating in a one-year reading plan alongside my local church — and it was exactly what I needed. Finding Jen Pollock Michel’s book, “A Habit Called Faith,” only served to reiterate the work which God had been doing in my life these past few months.

Because the thing is, sometimes we need checklists. Sometimes we need that accountability in order to create habits. He invites us to abide in His Word. To cement our faith in His Holy and Living Scriptures. (And what an awe-inspiring invitation that is!) Because we just need to show up. Intentionally. Actively. Pursuing. In the seasons when it feels dry, and in the season when it feels plentiful. And in that day-to-day act of seeking, transformation happens. Growth abounds.

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When the wounds of this world sting like countless paper cuts against my heart, it’s easy for me to lean into “unforgiveness.” It’s easier for me to bring bitterness, rather than grace, to the table. It’s easy for me to forget that I have been forgiven all.

“But they were wrong. They should apologize to me!” I try to justify my anger. Stewing and steaming, I toss and turn in my bed. Their slights against me dig deeper.

“My child, how much have I forgiven you?” The whisper calls me out of darkness and into the light.

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Merry Christmas from the Mannegrens!

The Christmas video is something we look forward to every year. (And honestly, it almost didn’t happen this year.) Fortunately, we managed to scrape a little something together that reflects just how crazy and beautiful life has been for us this year.

2020 was a lot. But it also gave us a lot — a new baby, a new home, extra time together as a family. And we have so much to be thankful for. So as we reflect on and celebrate that tiny baby born in a stable, we want to wish a very “Merry Christmas” from our family to yours. May you feel the comfort of Christ holding you close this holiday season, and may we rest in the confident assurance of the glorious hope found in Him.

Want the full, Mannegren family, Christmas video experience? You can find our past productions here:

Twas The Night Before Christmas – 2014
The Toddler Who Stole Christmas – 2015
In Sweden Christmas is Jul – 2016
Mannegren Family Christmas 2017
A New Tradition – 2018
My Letter To Santa — 2019

On the days I’m feeling most empty and broken, I remember the woman who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

The one whose touch He felt amidst the jostling crowd.

The one He stopped to not just look at, but to truly see.

The one He called “daughter.”

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This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

One of my favourites things is listening to stories.

We each have them. The story of how we came to be — of what shaped us and transformed us. The words that describe us. The gritty and grace-led moments that spread their way across the pages of our lives. It’s uniquely ours.

And the stories that I love most are the ones that feel authentic and messy. The ones that grapple with real-life questions and face them head on, rather than hiding beneath filters or Instagram-perfect poses. The ones that point to an over-arching story that reaches far beyond our day-to-day lives. The story that points us to Christ. To a greater story.

This is the premise that immediately drew me to Sam Collier’s book.

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“Thy will be done.”

The words are familiar to us. Memorized and held close against our hearts, this prayer was given to us by Jesus himself in Matthew 6. It is a simple but weighty instruction manual to prayer.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

Matthew 6:9-10

But those words, “Thy will be done.” My sinful self finds them much harder to say.

It’s difficult to say, “Thy will be done” when faced with tremendous pain or suffering. How can I pray “Thy will be done” knowing that I may not be comfortable with the answer? Or when faced with the realities of this world — with sickness and job loss and injustice and brokenness? Can I trust His will even then?

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A year ago, this little book on pregnancy loss was released.

It’s a book that I poured everything into. A book that I have wept over and prayed on. Edited and loved and gently nudged out into the world. This messy collection of broken stories and longing hearts, peels back the layers of grief to reveal something raw and tender. Hope.

Because hope after a pregnancy loss isn’t a myth.

And yet, we know that the road isn’t an easy one. The pain of losing a child is sharp and messy; a fire hotter than anything we’ve had to endure before. Standing in the furnace, the flames press in around us — blistering and suffocating. Blindly, we call out to be rescued. For God to remove this pain. It’s too much too handle.

But He draws us closer still.

And over the roar of the inferno, we hear the still small voice. The voice of a shepherd, steady and true. The voice of One calling us to press in and dig deep. To lift these hands seared by fire lifted high in surrender.

Not to run. But to embrace.

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When it comes to the church, we all have stories. Some stories are of ones where we feel welcomed and included, comfortable and free to worship; while others are stories of pain and confusion, uncertainty or discomfort.

I remember my first few months away at college, hopping from church to church in a small prairie town, trying to find the one that felt most like home. One Sunday evening, while out for a walk with a friend, we encountered two elderly ladies on their way to an evening service in the school gym. I’ll never forget how excited they were when we agreed to join them, how overjoyed they were to show us off to the other attendees during after-gathering cookies and coffee. The love of Christ radiated off our new, white-haired friends. That church wasn’t the one for me, but I’ll never forget that feeling of being welcomed so warmly. That was what I was looking for in a church family: community, a warm and open invitation, and most of all, Jesus.

In Traci Rhoades new book, “Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost,” readers are invited to look past the denominational differences that separate us and instead find Jesus amidst the differing worship styles. As she says, “We don’t all practice our faith the exact same way, but our God is big enough to embrace all the ways we encounter Jesus. And Jesus sits at the head of the table. Always.”

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It doesn’t matter who they are. As soon as she sees them walking towards her, the little hand pops up over the edge of the stroller, waving hello.

She sees them.

The neighbours. The dog walkers. The ones busily shouting into their phones. The ones walking alone. Old. Young. The ones I’d chose to avoid eye-contact with.

She sees all of them.

And I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I stopped to truly see them too.

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A year ago today, we said good-bye.

In an ugly hospital room, surrounded by friends and family, my mom gave up her failing, earthly body for the arms of Jesus. And if I’m honest, it felt too soon. This wasn’t the script I’d written. There were more grandbabies for her to hold. More laughter and smiles for her to wrap us in. More life.

It seems fitting that this one year anniversary falls on Good Friday: a day marked by death and sorrow. A day for tears and mourning. A day when the clothes are black, the mood somber. But what man meant for evil, God meant for Good — even death upon a cross.

Because Good Friday holds such GOOD news.  Read more