Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

This was the kind of book that pulled me into it from the moment I saw it as I walked down the book aisle at target. The cover attracted me to the point that I immediately ignored all the other books around it. I love books and seeing a cover with books was just so intriguing to the eyes. Ironic enough that this book would pull ME in the way it did because the same happens to the main character in his journey throughout the story. He is fascinated by its old binding and worn out cover that has survived centuries. The author, Erika Swyler, does a fantastic job in keeping up with a book lovers dream of appreciate books throughout the story. So imagine this: you, a person that loves books, reading about another person so loves books just as much as you. Totally relatable! Another thing I found interesting was how there are basically two stories in one. It is a constant shift of past vs present in every other chapter. While this could be confusing for some people to keep up, I do believe that the author did a splendid job in making it simple. After the first two chapters, the shift almost comes naturally and it keeps you wanting to find out more.

Present:

At the start of the story, the main character is introduced, Simon. I didn’t really know what to make of Simon and even after finishing the book, I still don’t know what to make of him. Is he obsessive? A bit crazy? A concerned brother? He was the character that I had the hardest time decoding. Just know that the present part of the book takes place around him. Later, we are introduced to his younger sister Enola and her boyfriend, Doyle. These two are modern day circus performers. Enola being a tarot card reader and Doyle being classified as an “Electric Boy”. Then there is Frank and his daughter Alice, their neighbors. Both families have seen each other grow up and have experienced joy and sorrow especially after Simon and Enola’s parents died at such a young age. The last character of interest here is none other than an elderly man by the name of Martin Churchwarry, who not only has his very own bookshop but is the person that first discovered the old book that is later sent to Simon. All these characters are tied together in a way that they didn’t even consider possible till the very end of the story when all the connections are made. To keep this summary simple, Simon begins to uncover this curse that his family has been facing for the past two centuries. A curse that takes a lineage of women on July 24 by drowning without fail. Not only taking them but their loved ones eventually die from extreme sorrow, leaving behind children to grow up without parents. Now the interesting thing about this is that all these women have been known to be professional swimmers that can hold their breath under water for an insane amount of time (10 minutes if not more). All these women have performed in circuses for years and out of the blue they drown…odd. So here is Simon trying to figure out a way to stop the curse before it takes his sister. He receives an extremely old, worn out book from a man he has never met in his life. The reason for this is because Simon’s grandmothers name is in the book, therefore tracing the family tree back to him. Enola randomly shows up out of the blue after being MIA for years, living her life far away from the place that took both her parents. Her return doesn’t come without its strange occurrences. She is deeply invested in her deck of tarot cards. It is to the point that she is even shuffling them with her fingers inside her skirt pockets. Both Enola and Simon are worried about what could happen to either of them. With an old book, lots of research, and a deck of tarot cards that could potentially date back to the late 1700s, they are both on edge trying to stop history from repeating itself.

Past:

This part of the story is set to take place in the late 1700s and it is meant to introduce the origin of the drowning women. It is where the reader must come to an understanding that there is a potential curse in the making. Here we see the original performers and the author of the book that Simon grows to obsess over.

Amos- the mute wild boy/ apprentice fortune teller

Evangeline- the mermaid/ later made into apprentice seer

Peabody- the man in charge of the circus and the writer of the famous old book

Madame Ryzhkova- the original tarot card reader/original fortune teller

A lot of misfortune falls upon these group of people. They are hit with natural disasters, fall outs between each other, and death. The creepy thing is that it was all foreseen by Ryzkova and her cards. Yet no one wanted to believe her that this “mermaid” that they welcomed into the group would bring them their doom. Obviously I don’t want to spoil much of the story and the tragedies they go through, so I won’t say more than I already have. It is fascinating to me that not only was I able to read the present but the past as well. Every-time I read the past, this sort of eerie feeling came over me. It was almost as if I was reading something I wasn’t suppose too and how wicked cool is it when an author is able to make you feel that way by just reading words from paper?

Overall:

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews online about this book. Mostly what I noticed was that people were complaining that there were no actual mermaids in the book. So if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m so sorry to disappoint. This book highlights the extraordinary gifts of performers, the significance of books in the past as well as the present, and the unbreakable pull we all have toward certain people. This is a book that features mystery, historical fiction, along with magic and curses.I definitely would recommend this book for all it’s worth. 5/5

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how thirsty are you for God?

How often do you read the Bible? How often do you pray? How often do you worship? Three questions that are all equally as important as the next but I’ll ask you an even more important question: How thirsty are you do to all three of those things on a daily basis?

It’s okay…take your time to think about it, and REALLY think about it!

Can I tell you that amazing things happen when you take time out of your day to focus on all three of those things. Truly amazing things happen. You begin to feel better, you begin to feel lighter, and you begin to see all your circumstances in a whole new light. Even the toughest of things, no longer seem so tough. That’s the power of the ‘Powerful 15’. 15 minutes, that’s all it takes.

5 minutes to read the Word of God.

5 minutes to Worship the name of Jesus.

5 minutes to Pray.

In total just 15 minutes out of your day but how willing and how thirsty are you to make time for Jesus?

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I would rather be doing something else with those 15 minutes. At times I would rather just be playing a video game, watching tv, or maybe reading a novel. At other times I just get so distracted by whatever is happening around me that I lose track of time and before I know it, it’s the end of the day and time to go to bed. Then a day becomes two days, and two days becomes a whole week where I didn’t make time for that Powerful 15. How easy it is to get into the habit of forgetting but how hard it is to get into the habit of making time. I typically try to read a chapter a day from the Bible everyday. I do pray every morning and every night. But I can say that I do struggle sometimes with worshipping. It wasn’t until last night that I finally understood what it was like to truly worship. Before going to bed, I was feeling anxious and down about myself. So I decided to do what any other normal person does nowadays and went on Instagram. Luckily for me, my church had posted something on their story about worship. The person talking said how wonderful things happen when we worship. That it isn’t just about singing along with a song absent minded but to experience it. I had no idea what he was talking about but I tried to do it anyways. I put a song on that I’m use to hearing at church, I closed my eyes, lifted my hands, and pictured the same atmosphere I feel at church while worshiping. I sang word by word, and truly had myself understand each and every single one of them. I can tell you that after the song was done, I felt completely different. I felt lighter and those feelings of sadness and anxiety were gone. Now I can’t wait to repeat the process again later tonight.

Sometimes that’s what it takes. It takes a change in ourselves to get thirsty. And yes, I know, a lot of people say that we should activity seek Jesus without expecting something amazing to happen. That we shouldn’t need these “miracles” to happen, in order to feel that hunger for Him because we should naturally feel it already. While I agree with that statement, I also agree that we are creatures that are driven by incentives. It’s okay if you needed to feel better in order to begin to experience that hunger. It’s okay if you didn’t feel that hunger before that breakthrough. Maybe a certain circumstance will drive you to ask God for a hunger, a desire, and some discipline to have regular time with Him. And that my friends, is the starting point. Make time for Him, tell Him how you’re feeling, and listen to what He has to say to you. The more time you spend with Him, the more you love Him every day.

“Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving”.

Colossians 4:2

Here is the song I listen to last night and I highly recommend it if you haven’t already heard it 🙂

Good Grace (live) by Hillsong United

– Brigette

Refocus your focus in your relationships!

My boyfriend is my safe haven. Anything I may need, I go to talk to him, whether it’s for comfort or support and vice versa. Truthfully he is my best friend and we come together as advocates about 90% of the time. It’s amazing that we can do just about anything together but then that 10% kicks in, a certain topic triggers some sort of irritation and all compassion, patiences, and understanding flies out the window. From advocates to adversaries in the blink of an eye. It amazes me the kind of topics that triggers these behaviors. About 98% of the time, it is over something so insignificant but somehow one of us (mainly me) always finds a way to make it extremely significant. We lose focus of being advocates in the situations we face and after the storm passes, we are left with feelings of regret, shame, and resentment. Three feelings that could very easily destroy even the best of relationships.

So what do we do now?

Over the past few months, I have learned how important it is for a relationship to have a Godly foundation and any kind of relationship for that matter. It is so easy to forget on how we are meant to treat others when we are so focused on always being right and making it all about us. We go straight into victimizing and feeling sorry for ourselves. So what do we do? We pray to God that he might help us refocus our perspective during these conflicts. That instead of focusing on being adversaries, we refocus on being advocates.

”And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds”

Hebrews 10:24

Another thing that we face is the lackof energy we put into fixing the conflicts. Sometimes we may be so angry that it just seems easier to keep on fighting or to simply withdraw. Can I say, right now in a logical state of thinking, fighting and withdrawing probably consumes more energy. But how do we tell our aggravated/irritated versions that? Like Hello brain! Don’t you understand this simple concept?! I can’t count the number of times I have decided to withdraw because I felt like I didn’t have the energy to talk it out. Or the number of times I decided to fight because I just had to be right. Taking the time to work through our conflicts or to stop the competition takes so much energy from us that we decide to take the easy way out. It is so much effort that our selfish selves don’t want to put in. We need to refocus our focus.

Refocus your focus with these tips!

Here are 6 tips that you’ve probably heard over and over again so enjoy reading them once more 🙂

1). Agree to stop fighting. Agree to take some time to calm down and pray about it. Whether it’s with a friend or your significant other, a breather may be in order.

2). Listen to each other and make sure you are REALLY listening to what the other person is saying. (I’ll admit I’m not the best at this one but I will try my hardest to get better at it)

3). Make sure you understand the other persons perspective. (Also not the best at this one but I’ll continue to try)

4). Explore solutions together. This one is so simple and yet I feel like it might get overlooked a lot. But it works! In the process of trying to find a solution, you begin to calm down and now you focus on solutions instead of your anger.

5). Pick one solution and follow through with it.

6). The most important tip of all! PRAY to God that he will help both of you deal with any conflict with grace, patience, and compassion.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice”

Romans 15:5-6

-Brigette

Competition in our relationships

I wanted to start a series for the next few days, based off a devotional I began to read. We all know as well as the next person that arguing with each other is inevitable. It happens often, more often than we would like to admit. These arguments have a way of sneaking up on us in the smallest of ways. Maybe you didn’t like the way your boyfriend sneezed…or maybe you didn’t like the way your girlfriend laughed. For whatever reason you get irritated and there begins the arguing. These arguments typically don’t end until one or the other wins. Win/lose situations. One of us always has to come up on top.

First step: Awareness

I always say the first step to fixing a problem, is to be aware of it. To consciously understand it is going on and admit it is a problem. I’ve come to understand that conflict is a part of life. Every single couple and every single friendship has conflict. So why the win/lose situations? Why not have a win/win situation? When you think about it, it is always a competition. “I have to be right! I am right and you are wrong” and oh boy how it hurts for us to admit we can potentially be wrong. Since we were little youngsters that where in sports or dance, we have been taught to be competitive. Compete to get first place. Compete to get to the finals. As we grow up, the competitive nature doesn’t die down, in fact it might even increase. Compete to get the job over hundreds of other applicants. Compete to get employee of the month. Now don’t get me wrong, none of those things are bad. That kind of competition has taught us to be consistent and and not give up. This kind of nature becomes a problem when we bring it into our relationships. Instead of fighting together against the problem, we fight each other because of the problem. And there is where you have the win/lose situations. The funny thing is, the jokes on us because we both end up losing.

Put your awareness into practice!

I don’t know about you, but I become extremely frustrated when these arguments come about in my life. They end up overwhelming me and my boyfriend in the process. They diminish the joy we could have. I know I am here talking about this subject with some knowledge that I picked up from a devotional, but the truth is that I’m far and very, very far from fully understanding this concept. I write it down here in hopes that as I shed some light for anyone, I also shed some light for myself. So here are two things that I plan to put into practice:

1). Understand this verse:

“Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love”

Ephesians 4:2

How difficult it is to be humble, gentle, and patient in the midst of a conflict. We need so much practice but one victory at a time right? At least you’ve become aware of how you should act.

2). Pray!

Seriously tho…pray. Whenever you are faced with conflict, arguments, or disagreements…pray to God that He may help you to see another persons perspective instead of just your own. I know this is easier said than done but the more we put this into practice, it will eventually become a habit. Be aware that we have to be humble, gentle, and patient. Whenever you catch yourself in the midst of an argument not acting in that manner, pray to God that he pulls you back in the right track.

-Brigette

Where do you get your self-worth from?

I struggle with feeling like I’m not good enough. Plain and simple like that; straight to the point. On a normal everyday bases, I struggle with this when I get on instagram, or while walking down the street. I might see someone that is doing better than me, someone with better hair, or someone with a prettier smile. We come across people that just seem to be doing 10 times better than us and ultimately we may believe they matter more. We all struggle with this and even if you say you don’t, at some point in your life, you have compared yourself to someone else. We tend to view our personal value as the things we have done, the things we don’t have, and the things others say about us. All those things can led to feelings of shame, guilt, and regret. Those are three factors that can easily destroy your minds perception of yourself. If we do this day to day with other people like us, then imagine what happens when we think of God and then think of ourselves. God is holy and He is perfect in every way. We could absolutely never measure up to Him. We aren’t suppose too and I believe here is where the problem lies when people say “Me go to church? Oh no girlfriend, I would burst into flames the moment I step through the door. Do you know all the things I’ve done? God would never allow me into church!” Those are real words, spoken by a real person that I once invited to go to church with me. Sad that they had this perception of themselves and God. If they only knew how loving and forgiving our Father really is.

What determines our personal value?

Imagine living your life, feeling insignificant because you are 25 and have yet to start your career. Or imagine feeling insignificant because you are 30 and have yet to get married and start a family. Oh boy! Imagine the stuff your friends and family are going to say about you…Lordy, Lord. Performance and self-esteem. That is what both of those things weight heavily on. But can I tell you that YOUR personal value doesn’t come from the things you’ve accomplished or the things you have yet to accomplish. It actually comes from a place much deeper than that; it comes from within. It comes from understanding who you belong to. We base our self worth on the things we can see, instead of on the love from the One we can’t see. I can’t count the number of times I’ve compared myself to a instagram model, asking myself why I didn’t look like her. I truly believed that if I looked like those girls, my worth would go up. It’s sad. I spent years with this kind of mentality and it only made me more miserable. I still felt that I needed to do more to make myself matter. What was the next trend I had to follow, or when did I need to post my next selfie to get a bunch of likes…that would determine if my value was high right? Want to know when I truly discovered my personal value? It happened when I picked up a book called the Bible. When I decided to follow this ‘Jesus’ fellow that everyone was raving about. So, remember when I said that our true value comes from within? 

“God is within her, she will not fall”

Psalm 46:5

This applies to you to boys. But my point here is, our true value, the one that should mean the most to us, is living inside of us. It is literally stated in the Bible and if that verse isn’t convincing enough then lets try this one:

“You are utterly beautiful, my dearest; there’s not a single flaw in you”

Song of Songs 4:7

Again, that applies to you as well boys. It is stated in the Bible, that we will not fall because He is with us. And while we might see many flaws, He sees none. So forget comparing yourself to that Instagram model, or that person you saw walking down the street. Your value doesn’t come from trying to look or be like them, it comes from someone that sees perfection despite every single one of your flaws. If you matter in His eyes, then shouldn’t that be enough?

A sparkling diamond vs. A black backdrop

Imagine this comparison: a sparkling diamond, against a black backdrop. That diamond sure is going to shine huh? That is kinda what happens when we sinners come face-to-face with God’s ultimate purity. God’s holiness just seems so defined compared to everything we lack. I believe that is what happened with the person I invited to church. They compared their sinful ways to God’s ultimate goodness. They saw themselves as the black backdrop and God as the sparkling diamond. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure everyone of us has thought that way as well because at the end of the day we are all sinners. We have all done things that just don’t add up to Godly traits. We have done things that will have us want to walk away from Him because our ways and His ways just don’t go together. Despite how we might view ourselves compared to God, here is one of his many beautiful attributes:

“God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God”

2 Corinthians 5:21

He knew that we would always be sinners. We will never be pure enough, honest enough, or sinless enough. No amount of time spent at church will ever take that away. (Sorry to break it to you) Unfortunately, it is in our nature to sin. So thinking that all these ‘bad’ things you do now or have done, are a reason to not be allowed to get close to Him…….is completely wrong. That is why he sent Jesus. You are loved and you are forgiven and that is all you need to know. That is absolutely all you need to realize how much you truly matter. So again I ask, where do you get your self-worth from? I get mine from this ‘Jesus’ fellow, He is pretty awesome.

-Brigette

Cursing? Oh, that ol’ thing…

How quick are we to curse? Pretty quickly if you ask me. It’s as natural to us as breathing. How quick are we to not notice the words that come out of our mouths? We speak before we think, that’s a given. In today’s society, it has become the norm to speak fouly, to say profanities, and speak negatively. I’m guilty of this myself. I decided to write about this because it came to my attention of how insignificant we might view this. I mean, it’s something so small compared to all the other countless ways we could be doing wrong. But God takes into account all the BIG and SMALL things we do throughout our lives. At work, I notice how easily it is for kids to curse at each other. I hear the young girls referring to each other as “bi*****”. It’s normal for them to say “Hey bi***, how was your weekend?”. When did this ever become the norm? The worst part is, that if you don’t play along to words like that, you’re considered to be boring and a goodie-to-shoes. How sad that the norm to God is the un-norm to society. I wonder if we realize that through our words, we will be judged. I wonder if we realize that through our words, we are creating or destroying our harvest. I say ‘we’ because I’m including myself. As I write here, I am also learning. I am not preaching as if I know everything but instead just simply sharing what was placed in my path. Last night as I read Matthew 12, I came across these verses

“I tell you that people will have to answer on judgement day for every useless word they speak. By your words you will be either judged innocent or condemned as guilty”

Matthew 12:36-37

While I am referring more to cursing, I still believe that spreading rumors or negatively speaking about someone or ourselves could be considered “useless words”. We reap what we sow. The more we curse, the more we create a foul character. The more we speak negatively about others or ourselves, the more we destroy our good nature. I realize how simple of a subject this is and that there are more important things out there to focus on but something as simple as this has the power to create or destroy. It has the power to create our character or destroy our character. Will we have dignity in how we talk? Will we have dignity in how we refer to each other and acknowledge each other? Our words are a gateway to our characters. I know these behaviors have become normal to us so stopping them all together almost seems impossible. At some point throughout the day, our old habits will come out without our approval. We are quick to act and quick to speak. But I believe that if we become aware of this subject, then we will be able to stop ourselves one action and one word at a time.

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God in the day of visitation”

 1 Peter 2:12

Have a lovely day everyone, may you honor the one that loves you with your words!

-Brigette

It’s hard being a newbie Christian… part two!

I realized how popular of a topic “being a newbie Christian” is. I appreciate all the positive feedback everyone gave me on my first post about it. With that being said, I felt that I should add a part two to this topic. So here we are on “It’s hard being a newbie Christian part 2”.

You messed up? No way….me too!!!

Something that came to mind the past couple of days is how easy it is for us to fall off the deep end. It’s like we took 1 step forward in the right direction and then a 100 steps back in the wrong direction. No matter what it may be that tempts you to go back into your old ways, you know as well as I do, how discouraging it could be to get back up and continue down the right path. Personally I feel like a hypocrite, trying so hard to be good and act gracefully but here I am getting angry because the person driving in front of me is going too slow and I’m going to be late to work. I pray and sing songs about being patient but when the time comes to act on what I practice, I’m tempted to do the total opposite. Just the other day I experienced anger and lack of patiences, two things that I have been praying for God to help me overcome. Needless to say that I didn’t act in a Godly manner and instead of asking Him for forgiveness, I laid in bed that night and said “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I even bother trying so hard when in the end, I always mess up. I’m ashamed and I know the right thing to do is to get up from this situation and to continue praying to you but I just don’t want too. I’m a hypocrite. I messed up. Let me just continue down this path because that’s all I’m good at”. Overly dramatic and harsh right? Yeah…I know. See here is the thing, instead of trying to overcome those thoughts, emotions, and overall ungraceful manner, I believed that in that moment I didn’t have what it took to continue my relationship with Jesus that I had been working so hard for. I felt that it was just easier to give in to temptation and to continue to behave with anger and lack of patiences. Why would I bother trying anyways? Clearly all my hard work was for nothing because I thought I kept regressing. I say ‘I thought’ because I’m almost certain that was not what God thought. He wants me to continue working as hard as I have for our relationship. For all I know, He is proud of my small steps of victory but I doubted myself. How often do we lose control of situations? Our own emotions? We lack self-control because we are human. And I want to point out…don’t be fooled by all those people that look like they have self-control over temptation in their lives. Chances are it took them a lot of trial and error to learn to have self-control in certain aspects of theirs lives and I’m almost certain there is still something they haven’t learned to overcome. Speaking from the perspective of a 24 year old that is just beginning to live life, I know that while I might have self-control over saying ‘no’ to drugs, I lack the self-control to not be so quick to get angry. Everyday we are tempted in some way, and at times we might even give in to that temptation. Like I said before, we are human. But when that does happen, it is important to repent, get back up on your feet with you’re head held up high and continue to follow the one that believes in you despite all you’re defects.

“but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name”

1 Peter 4:16

We messed up….so what now?

There isn’t a single human being that can say that they have never fallen into temptation. You, me, the person next to us, are going to come across sin. Does that make it okay to sin? Heck no! We are to overcome sin one step at a time. If you push yourself to run before you can walk, you are going to fall. It is okay, to do the right thing, one day at a time. Next time you are driving and someone cuts you off, try breathing in and saying “I will have self-control to remain calm. Maybe that person is having a bad day and they need Jesus. So let me show them a bit of Jesus’s light through my patiences”. I know, easier said than done. But remember…..ONE step at a time. All those little steps will begin to add up over the days, months, years, etc. Just because you messed up, doesn’t mean that God now hates you. He loves you and always will. If He seeks those that want nothing to do with Him, then imagine how He will continue to seek you. YOU that does want something to do with Him. No mess up will ever be too big compared to the massive amount of love and forgiveness He has for you through Jesus. Do not throw away a life-long relationship over mistakes that you believe are too shameful to ever allow Him to love you. You messed up? Well keep on trying! Tomorrow will be a brand new day full of His mercy. A brand new opportunity to continue to grow with Him. Do not give up.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 

2 Chronicles 15:7

Remember this next time you think you messed up badly…

Little by little, step by step, one day at a time. For all of us that are starting off or believe that we don’t have what it takes, just relax. Just because you began your walk with Jesus, or maybe have very little time walking with Him, it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome your temptations. This is how it all begins. Failure. Trial and error.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”

1 Corinthians 10:13

Remain faithful to Him. Set small goals daily that you can achieve against temptation. And no matter where you stand in your relationship with Jesus, newbie or not, remember He loves and forgives you.

-Brigette