The Adventures of Anastasiya Didok

Life and faith in a nutshell.

Category: 52 Books Series

52 Book Series. Week 12. “The Power of a Praying Wife.” Stormie Omartian.

I got to this book way faster than I expected in this post. Hubbs, out of nowhere, told me that he would like me to continue reading this book despite my self-inflicted reading ban this year. As a result, it’s three months later, and I’m just about done with it!

The book is basically a collection of short chapters outlining different areas of a husbands’ life that a wife can be praying for. It ends with a written out prayer. I have been reading through a chapter a day and saying the prayers at the end out loud.

What surprised me most about this book is how many of the chapters were applicable to me. For instance, in the one about “His Talk,” Stormie Omartian writes out the importance of clean speech and encouraging, inspiring words in day-to-day interactions. I was convicted while reading this chapter, because to be completely honest, encouragement does not come naturally to me, and I am more prone to criticism and sarcasm. I am also not immune to an occasional hearty swear. I felt God speaking to me through “The Power of a Praying Wife” to pay more attention to what comes out of my mouth.

The best part is to see how my praying is affecting my husband.  Seeing his face light up when I say “I prayed for this particular thing for you today,” is priceless. The plan right now is to incorporate this book into my annual reading. I will probably also get “The Power of a Praying Parent.”

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52 Books Series. Week 11. “Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

How is it Thursday again? And how is it that I owe my readers not one, not two, but THREE posts in my series? Oops. I fell off the writing wagon, but I am not going to let that stop me from catching up.

This book stays. Mine is this fat red hardcover, and I postponed reading it for a long time because 1. It looked long and boring. 2. I knew the storyline and it seemed dramatic and scary. 3. I thought the book is going to be heavy. Well, turns out I was wrong about all three. The book read very well, and more like a fairytale (if you can compare the subject matter to that somehow) than a real-life drama. The hardcover turned out to be very light to hold, so once I got started, I read the book within a couple of days.

While the books is typically depicted as a classic about the witch trials of Salem, to me it was more of a “how a single mom raises a child while being cast off from her community” story. As always, I could relate to someone being picked on by a church, while the pastor of it acts like a hypocrite. Since reading the volume I’ve been blessed with finding a church community that was not like that at all, so I am not going to go into a discussion about the negative feelings the book provoked in me.

My biggest attraction to the book is Salem, MA. Before I read anything about the witch trials there, I had an opportunity to visit the Peabody Essex Museum located in that city. It was hands down the most interesting museum I’ve ever been to, because it houses a real, imported antique Chinese house! Right next to the museum is a cemetery where you can find some of the oldest graves in the nation. It is probably one of the most peaceful places on earth that I’ve had a chance to visit. It’s a tiny plot of land straight in the middle of the city, but standing there envelopes you in silence, history, eeriness, and peace all at the same time. That cemetery also houses Hawthorne’s grave. I’ve gone back to the city four or five times just to wander the narrow streets and absorb the deepness of history set in its stones.

When I finally read The Scarlett Letter, I kept going back to the Salem I know in my mind and trying to place the events in the book into locations that I knew fairly well. By then I have already relocated to the west coast, so going back to Salem was not an available option. I am keeping the book in hopes that one of my kids reads it one day, at which point I would love to take them to Salem and show them the cemetery and the Chinese House as well!

52 Books series. Week 10. “Eat, Pray, Love.” Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is also not mine, so I will be soon mailing it back to my friend, who kindly let me borrow it about… 5 years ago or so?

To be honest I was disappointed after finishing this book because it turned out to be so much less than what it was hyped up to be. All the buzz around it made the book sound very promising, but I ended up only liking one part of it. The Eat.

The book is about a woman who discovers that her husband is cheating on her by someone submitting a book about it for review to her (she is a book reviewer). After a nasty divorce, she pretty much starts over with nothing. I feel like lately getting divorced and starting from nothing has been over romanticized. I didn’t particularly enjoy the part where she is basically taken for a fool. Probably because I’m afraid of that happening to me deep down inside. What woman isn’t? Dealing with the truth is easy. It’s realizing that something that you thought was the truth was a web of lies that is so heartbreaking.

The part of the book that I did like was her taking the time to eat in Italy. I love food. I coined a saying “love cannot replace food,” and I will always stand by it. When I read the book I was somewhat surprised that it was that part that I liked the most. But the other two parts were disappointing. They were sort of similar to each other and I didn’t feel like there was a point to them. In addition, there is more disappointment that she faces in those parts. Basically I didn’t relate or wasn’t in the right mood.

It’s 10pm here in Seattle right now and I’m barely getting this post in on still my Thursday. It’s been a long day, but I still managed to get this post in, no matter how brief and not upbeat it may be. Feeling accomplished 🙂

52 Books Series. Week 9. “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin

This book is part of five others that I borrowed from a friend. It’s the only one that I actually read, but I’m going to make it a goal today to mail them all back to her and free up some space on my bookshelf. I doubt that I will get to others anytime soon, although they are good books. Once it’s time to read them, I will opt either for a library or for owning them myself. The fact that I have other people’s books just sitting there is weighing me down, although my wonderful friend has never mentioned a word to me about keeping them for over a year.

“Three Cups of Tea” was very educational for me. It is about a man who goes climbing a mountain in Pakistan and stumbles on a village where he figures out that there isn’t a school. He promises to return to build one, and actually does so. The book is about his struggle to raise finances for the project, as well as to actually get it accomplished in a country he knows nothing about.

I found the cultural depiction of Pakistan fascinating. I’ve never researched that country in-depth, but have another friend who is dying to go there. After reading “Three Cups of Tea,” I got a clearer picture of why her heart is in that country. The book also inspired me to reconsider my priorities in life, and explore what is stopping me from accomplishing my calling.

“Three Cups of Tea” was interesting and easy to read, but didn’t quite have an ending, since it’s a depiction of an actual person’s life. I believe there is now a sequel. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about the book was its political undertone. While the plot is meant to depict a real man’s journey and struggle, it still works to establish a certain outlook on the world events. Perhaps because I don’t agree with that specific outlook, I didn’t enjoy the slight push towards it. Or maybe it made me feel like someone is trying to manipulate me into seeing things their way, instead of boldly stepping out and saying what they believe in. In any case, I didn’t like the influence, although I understand that most books are written in order to communicate a certain stance and to influence people to agree with it, even if the authors are not aware of it consciously. I believe that this one was planned though, since the second author is an investigative journalist.

I would recommend this book any day.

52 Book series. Week 8. “The Power of a Praying Woman.” Stormie Omartian

Today I am really glad I made a commitment to write the 52 book series. For the past few weeks there have been quite a few changes in my professional life, which have left no room in me for creative writing inspiration. However, because I’ve made a commitment to my readers to write every Thursday about a book, I have stuck to it, and this has been keeping my blog “afloat.” I would hate for it to die down like my other five have.

Today I am going to deviate from my typical read and talk about a spiritual book. “The Power of a Praying Woman,” by Stormie Omartian, was a powerful read for me. I read it on my train commute from Tacoma to Seattle, and enjoyed the book as much as I enjoyed riding that train every morning. It was a unique experience in my life, and although I got tired of the commute after a year, I still remember fondly looking out the window and noticing the outside getting gradually lighter and lighter with the sun greeting me when I came out of the train station downtown.

The book is an easy read, and for that time being was an excellent jump-start to my prayer life. Separated into short and sweet chapters, it helps to itemize exactly what every woman should be praying for. Some things were not what I thought of on my own, but after I started including them in my prayer, my life started to piece together in those aspects. I don’t own this book anymore, so I am not going to give it away. What I do own is “The Power of a Praying Wife,” and I am planning to keep this book for reference throughout my life. It’s the last book I was holding in my hands when I embarked on my resolution not to read anything for a year, and it is going to be the first one I pick up in 2015 once my ban is up.

52 Books Series. Week 7. “Women in Love.” D.H. Lawrence

This book stays along Hemingway on my “If I don’t finish it in 6 months, it goes” shelf. Then it goes.

I thought this book is strange. When I read it, I didn’t really understand what is going on. But that may be because I started it back in High School. I am curious to finish it because not finishing the book has been bugging me ever since I stopped reading it. I believe that now I may have a greater understanding of the history of events the book is set in, as well as love.

The book is set in a small town, where two sisters move to become teachers. Then they fall in love, and the book becomes painstakingly long in describing the emotions of everyone involved with everyone else. The torment of waiting for what happens next in the book (nothing to the point that I’ve read) can certainly be compared to being in love before finding out if the other person feels the same way about you. Lawrence is great at depicting the boredom of life that the characters of his novel experience.

I couldn’t finish the book because it was not pulling me in with the story line, while being a bit too sensual for my taste. I picked it up because it is considered a “classic,” and most of the times I am not disappointed with classics, but this time around I really was. I am going to give the book another chance after my year of not reading is over, but if I cannot finish it again, it goes. The emotion I feel when I think about it is guilt for not finishing something that I started, and it’s time to let that go.

52 Book Series. Week 6. “The Glass Castle.” Jeannette Walls

This book stays. I couldn’t put it down until I was done. It’s a different type of story entirely.

I got The Glass Castle in Value Village (a favorite when it comes to price. You can’t beat $0.99 for a best seller.) My “filter” at Value Village is that the book has to be some sort of best seller. The New York Times knows their stuff. This is one of those books. And to be honest, I got it because of its cover.

The book is a memoir which will blow your mind. Not with anything extraordinary, but rather with how the situation we are in can seem totally normal to us if we’ve never seen anything else. The author grew up in a dysfunctional family, with a father who dreamed all his life of building a glass castle, in the meantime failing to provide for his family. The author talks about things like petting a leopard at the zoo, burning herself while cooking a hot dog at the age of 3 and then running off from the hospital, and living in a house with no utilities connected.

While the depiction of life is shocking, what is even more shocking is the strong family connection that exists through it all. It takes a while for the kids to realize that they need to get out. The parents, on the other hand, are happy with the lifestyle that they chose, and although rocky and violent, stay in their marriage and in love up until the day the father dies, even though their last days are spent as bums on the streets of New York by choice.

The book is psychological, emotional, and vivid. To me it was fascinating to see how the childhood of a person can have such an impact on when they are an adult. I connected to the book not because my childhood was similar, but because it painted a scenario of how life would have been have I married not my husband, but someone else. And boy was I glad that was not the case! Of course the other part of me connected to the author moving to New York with nothing but money for the bus, and thinking that the city was great because it had an abundance of jobs where she could get a regular paycheck and keep all of the money that she earned because the father now couldn’t take it. The job she was excited about was in a fast-food restaurant, which reminded me once again that the circumstances we are in are all about perspective, and while someone may feel sorry for themselves for wiping tables, other think it’s a blessing beyond belief.

The book gave me a newfound appreciation for my own life, including my family, my job, my friends, and my apartment.

52 Book Series. Week 5. “The Sun Also Rises.” Ernest Hemingway.

I don’t own this book, so I don’t have to decide whether to keep or toss The Sun Also Rises. However, it is a volume that made a lasting impression on me, and definitely deserves a post.

In Hemingway’s typical style, the book dragged on and on and on. I had to force myself to read it to the end, but some invisible drive inside pushed me to keep going. It was my freshman year in high school, and the book was an extra credit assignment. I believe something along the lines of “you don’t have to take the final exam if you read this book and write a paragraph on it.” Of course, that’s what I chose, because I was an avid reader. It may not have even involved a free pass from an exam actually. But I was an overachiever back then, so extra credit seemed like a wonderful idea! Turns out it was one of the best decisions of my life.

As a senior I took AP English. That meant that if I took the AP test at the end of the year, I would get college credit and wouldn’t have to take an English class in college. I hated English because I dreaded writing essays (funny how things turn out… ). The final essay question on that AP test gave a selection of books to write on. “The Sun Also Rises” was on there, and it was the ONLY book on the list which I remembered vividly enough to write on. The others I either haven’t read or didn’t recall the plot line and character names. I wrote the essay, passed the test, and never ever had to take any English classes again!

I still remember the story well, even though I haven’t read the book since high school. It took place in the 1920’s Europe, right after World War I. The characters were Americans traveling from Paris to Spain to see the festival of the bulls. It was reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, but overseas. A time where the characters wandered aimlessly, attempting to find their purpose. There was also an injury of the type that prevented a love story from unfolding, although Hemingway never mentioned directly what was going on. It was a “read between the lines” type of deal, and all you had to go on were the people’s actions which somehow clearly depicted their emotions.

What I related to in the novel was the freedom that the characters had to aimlessly wander. I longed for that. As a 14 year-old I couldn’t wait to grow up and have the ability to go where I pleased! The closest I got to the freedom was when I paid off my college loans and moved out of my parents at 22. Although I realized that doing whatever they wanted didn’t give the characters peace or happiness, I still wanted what they had. I wanted that experience of searching for myself, because for a 14-year-old I had things surprisingly too well figured out. But they were figured out in a very narrow frame placed on me by family and church, which was just a tad too narrow and weighed on me heavily until I had the guts to throw it off and test my limits. I got to experience the search for self in real life during the few years between parents and marriage, so in essence I got what I longed for while reading “The Sun Also Rises.” I am very thankful for that time in my life, as it gave me a chance to develop a broader personality and outlook on the world, and truly figure out who I am, what I stand for, and what my goals are in life.

52 Books series. Week 4. “Gone With The Wind.” Margaret Mitchell.

I don’t own Gone With The Wind, so I don’t need to make a decision to keep or toss it.

This is my favorite novel of all times, as well as another rare case of a film production as good as the book (although I hear it’s not that interesting to watch if you haven’t read the book first.) The book is based during the Civil War and the reconstruction afterwards in the southern state of Georgia, and follows the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, Scarlett O’Hara, through it. I have read the book cover-to-cover 4 times in two different languages, and to be honest I think I am due for a re-read as soon as 2014 rolls around the corner.

Gone With The Wind is magnificent in its colorful depiction of life in the South, as well as character development. From filthy rich to dirt poor, it covers the span of all life situations and classes. I love the book for its vibrancy and the vivid emotions that it pertains. The main character, Scarlett O’Hara, transforms from a young seventeen year-old with nothing but driving boys crazy on her mind with daddy’s wealth to back her up, to a scheming survivalist who is stubborn to learn her life lessons, to a mature woman who is evaluating the value of the life she has built for herself and finding it to lack substance. But in all situations, her drive is what keeps the story rolling. She never gives up, and it’s contagious.

I was in love with her when I was young. I wanted to grow up to be just like Scarlett O’Hara, so I could also drive boys crazy and get what I wanted by sheer drive and determination. I read the book again in college, and found that she now annoyed me because of her complete lack of consideration for the people around her, and unappreciation for what she has. It came as a surprise that what I thought was drive and determination, I now recognized as manipulation. I was somewhat disappointed that my favorite character in the world possessed a lot of negative traits. It was like realizing for the first time that your parents have flaws.

I would like to re-read the book again in the near future, because I believe that I can now relate differently to other pieces of the novel. A business that’s failing. Losing a child. A marriage that lacks communication. Displacement and longing for a place to go back to and recharge. Although I haven’t lived through those, I think knowing the value of everything when it’s going well will help me to discover a new dimension to Scarlett O’Hara and Gone With The Wind.

52 Book Series. Week 3: “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” Earnest Hemingway.

This is a pretty chunky book and, of course, a classic. It is going to go into my “If I don’t read it within 6 month, it’s gone” pile that I will begin to work on in the beginning of 2014 once I’m done with my New Year’s Resolution to not read for a year.

The book is about blowing up a bridge by an American who is warring in the international brigade. Of course there is a love story, as well as the vivid depiction of real life. But there isn’t really much action which is in Hemingway’s true character. I have to really force myself to read the book, so why is it going into the “to read” pile?

First of all, I’ve already started it, and I hate leaving books without finishing them. This is something that I will have to learn to do because I have quite a few volumes weighing me down that I started but haven’t finished (mostly because they just don’t pull me in!) Second, Hemingway is one of those authors who is a pain to read through, but whose stories are forever ingrained in one’s mind and actually make an impact. I’ve only read two of his other works: “The Sun Also Rises,” and a short story about a girl who is talking to her boyfriend who is trying to convince her to have an abortion. I remember both plotlines even though it’s been more than ten years since I’ve read the stories. I believe it’s the emotions that the books convey that stick with you through life. I’m not sure what emotions “For Whom the Bell Tolls” has me experiencing yet, but I also remember the plotline even though I’ve picked the volume up and put it down more than once over the past two years. I guess the good thing about it is that you never have to re-read from the beginning after not touching the book for a while, because you don’t ever forget what happened.

By the way, from my last two articles in this series I realized that I do not actually own the books that made the most impact on my life. I don’t own “Gone With The Wind,” even though I’ve read it four times in two languages. I don’t have the aforementioned “The Sun Also Rises” sitting on any shelf (and I don’t believe that either set of our parents does). Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” also somehow missed my personal collection. So I may have to deviate from my decluttering plan and write on those even though I don’t own them, because I probably have a lot to say and feel… This also makes me realize that I probably don’t need to keep books at all! I highly doubt that I will be unable to borrow a volume or find it at Goodwill for $0.99 if I am so inclined to read it.

I’m looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment that finishing this book is going to bring into my life, as well as sorting through the emotions and feelings that it will undoubtedly evoke.