Tag Archives: book review

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Faith and Composition

Today I’m excited to have my guest book reviewer, Katie Atkins, back with us. Katie has previously shared a review of “Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full”. And today she’s back with us to give her thoughts on the moving book, “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet” by Sara Hagerty. Welcome Katie! 

As I approached my sixteenth birthday, I was confident in my path. I had my plans laid out for the future, plans for success. I was dating a great guy, my family life was rocky but stable, and my dreams were right at my finger tips. Oh how time changes things; within a few months of my sixteenth birthday my parents were in litigation for a divorce, my great guy had broken my heart, and I was fighting to stay on top of my homework, not really giving my grades a second thought. When my world stopped working, it was so easy to be resentful and harbor anger towards my God. It was the simple path to dwell in my bitterness each and every day. As I read Sara’s story in her book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, I was taken back to that place and reminded of God’s imminence.

What does it look like to know God’s nearness when your world stops working?

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Faith and Composition

Sara Hagerty found Him when life stopped working for her. When her faith was challenged by life’s circumstances she looked toward God, called out to Him, and allowed Him to fill her. Through her infertility she sought her Abba Father. Through the adoption process she chose to adore her God. When her husband’s business went under she trusted in the ultimate provider.

Sara writes of the days that were easily sinking her deeper and deeper into the unknown; the days that the chaos of life was overwhelming. “But God is showing me that His aroma can rise up out of and even over the chaos. His word is seeping into my heart as I scrub dishes. Thoughts of His nature quicken my pulse when I am still in sweatpants, while the children chat over breakfast cleanup or lunch preparation. Adoration is working its way into my life, here.”

In this book, I was reminded that “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Proverbs 27:7.

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Faith and Composition

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just be hungry for my God for a season. I want to live in hunger for Him daily, moment by moment. I want the kind of hunger that draws me to Him. That fills every bitter circumstance with the amazing opportunity to know Him more and more. This is what brings me straight to the sweetness of His presence daily.

As a mom, I struggle with allowing my circumstances to dictate my day, allowing my feelings of the unplanned to sink me into a bitterness that drags my mood and emotions down. But Sara reminds us that God sees us.

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Faith and Composition

“He saw me. He knew me. He knew my ‘now’ moments—unexpected meltdowns, my day gone awry, this life bursting, and my feeling I could barely manage. He didn’t stand distant, but He spoke in: I see you.”

Sara’s story was a reflection of mine in so many ways. Her desire to know God in an intimate way, to adore Him with all of herself is a mirrored reflection of my heart cry to the Lord. May I remember that Jesus is big in my small, unseen moments. Glorious monotony. He came for these very days.

Click here to buy “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet”

Katie Atkins is a Christ-follower, work-in-progress. She is a wife to an incredible husband and the mom of two amazing children. While not a professional writer, she enjoys putting pen to paper and sharing her story with others. Katie loves to read (anything and everything), she seeks out ways to be adventurous with her kids, and after 12 years of marriage, she is learning to cook. She works each day to live out the words of Philippians 3:12-14 with all that she is. She blogs at Treasuring Christ Daily.

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Let’s All Be Brave

Let's All Be Brave, a review | Faith and Composition

I almost hesitate to tell you how I met author Annie Downs. In truth, it’s a little bit crazy on my part and a lot of goodness on God’s part. But because the opportunity mirrors the message in her newest book, Let’s All be Brave, I’ll share it with you.

A few months ago, I downloaded and devoured the first few sample chapters of Let’s All be Brave (download your sample chapters here). From the first page, I felt such truth in Annie’s words. She spoke with beauty and conviction about finding the courage to pursue the God-given gifts, the hope-against-hope dreams planted deep within.

When I finished the sample, I felt the strangest tug in my spirit to reach out to her. Because there’s this book project on my heart, and frankly, I’m terrified of pursuing it. Terrified I’ll fail, terrified of the critics, terrified that it will take so much more than I have to give. So I’ve shelved it. Year after year it sits in the back of my mind and collects dust, imprisoned there by fear that enslaves.

But Annie’s words were like a breath of fresh air blowing into those dark recesses, brushing away the dust. Those first few chapters of Let’s All be Brave lit embers of courageous faith in my spirit. I was at a point in my dreams and with this blog that it felt like her words were written directly for me.

Let's All Be Brave, a review | Faith and Composition

So I took a deep breath and reached out to Annie. And through coincidence, God’s providential timing or a combination of both, she and I sat down together just one night later to discuss writing, publishing and the importance of being authentic. After the stage lights had dimmed on a Girls of Grace conference, and the crew began loading the bus to take the team to the next city in their tour, we sat on a bench and chatted like old friends. Because that’s what you get with Annie; she’s a real-deal, full-of-life, vivacious personality who blends the right amount of humor with a heaping dose of honest authenticity and a whole lotta truth.

Crack the spine of Let’s All be Brave, and you’ll see what I mean. Annie uses scripture and real-life anecdotes to share the powerful truth that God made you on purpose, He made you to be brave, and He will equip you to do that which you’re called to do. She then cheers you on as you discover those truths in your own life. Each page is written to inspire God-given courage. Just listen:

My prayer for you today is that you will open the eyes of your heart to the map and the next brave thing and the step you need to start. Tell someone your dream. Maybe even at the bottom of this page, or in the margin, you can write that first step. Make that first move to research or learn or pray about the thing that is like a God-struck match lit on your insides.

Maybe for you, it’s writing a note. Singing a song. Making a phone call. Having a conversation. Composing a story. Writing a check. Booking that trip, Sending an e mail. Going on a date. Reading a book. Signing up.

I’m trying to list as many options as possible, but you know the thing God is doing in your life better than I do. It’s time to get quiet before the Lord and ask him what it looks like for you to live a life of courage today. To start.

Just start.  (excerpt page 30)

And that’s just the beginning. Throughout the book Annie will encourage you to step out in bravery as she shares stories of her own journey and gives you the courage to do the same. This book will light a fire within. I promise.

But don’t just take my words for it, hear it straight from Annie. And after you’ve listened to Annie’s heart, click here to purchase Let’s All Be Brave now!

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A Quiche Recipe and a Book Review {French Kids Eat Everything}

A Review of French Kids Eat Everything and a Quiche Recipe | Faith and Composition
Open the first chapter of Karen LeBillon’s French Kids Eat Everything, and these words from the first paragraph jump off the page: “Ask my children what their favorite foods are, and the answer might surprise you. Seven-year-old Sophie loves beets and broccoli, leeks and lettuce, mussels and mackerel—in addition to the usual suspects, like hot dogs, pizza and ice cream. Claire, her three-year-old sister, loves olives and red peppers, although her all-time favorite is creamed spinach.”

I’d barely cracked the spine (err, fired up the Kindle) of French Kids Eat Everything before I was hooked. The book is a heartwarming manifesto-of-sorts that tells how Karen and her family moved to France and cured her children’s picky eating habits. For one, the book is honest, witty and a few times chuckle-out-loud funny. But it also provides some fantastic take-aways, ideas that can readily be implemented in any home with young, picky eaters.

The food culture in France is radically different from that of the food culture in the U.S. (obesity rates attest to this; whereas France’s rate of childhood obesity is one of the lowest in the developed world, the U.S. boasts some of the highest.), and there’s a lot to be learned from the French methods. Lucky for us, Karen gives some honest, you-can-do-this-too advice for busy moms and dads who want to get their kids to not only try their beets but to enjoy them as well.

During her year in France, Karen perceived a set of unstated, commonly understood rules that set the groundwork necessary to guide young French kids into a healthy relationship with food. These rules form the framework for the habit of eating in France, and Karen suggests that these rules can be applied to help establish healthy eating patterns in North American kids too. From the very first rule—“Parents, YOU are in charge of food education”—the book empowers parents with the confidence and the methods they need to help instill healthy eating habits in their little ones.

And perhaps the best thing about the rules? They’re not ironclad. In fact, rule number 10 (the Golden Rule, as Karen dubs it) states that “Eating is joyful, not stressful. Treat the food rules as habits or routines, rather than strict regulations; it’s fine to relax them once in a while.”

In short, the book is a witty how-to manual that gives advice for curing young, picky eaters with word pictures of the provincial French countryside dotted throughout. It’s a joy to read, and you come away from the pages thinking: I can do that. So if you need a little more help in encouraging your kids to eat and enjoy whole foods, check out French Kids Eat Everything (get the Kindle version here). You’ll be both pleasantly informed and entertained!

A Review of French Kids Eat Everything and a Quiche Recipe | Faith and Composition
The back of the book contains several simple French recipes that parents can whip up in no time. I asked Karen if I could share one with you, and she was happy to oblige. I’m choosing to share this Quick No-Pastry Quiche with you, because quiche is a meal we serve once every couple weeks, if not once a week. I especially love quiche for its versatility; we often throw in an assortment of veggies (broccoli, zucchini, greens) or a handful of herbs. It’s also great with a little ham or bacon. I sometimes double this so we can have a quick breakfast or lunch the next day. In Karen’s quiche recipe, she deliberately leaves out the pastry, which reduces the prep time and allows busy parents to have dinner on the table with less fuss and in no time flat.

Quick No-Pastry Quiche | Faith and Composition

Quick No-Pastry Quiche
Reprinted verbatim with written permission from Karen LeBillon  

Preparation: 5 to 7 minutes
Cooking: 30 to 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 small adult servings

Easy and quick to make, quiche is a classic French recipe that pleases adults and children alike. Quiche is also one of the most versatile recipes in the French household, as it can be eaten hot or cold, for lunch or for dinner, and works well with any combination of vegetables that you can think of. French families often make it in advance, as it lasts well for a couple of days in the fridge (or even a few hours in the cupboard—my mother-in-law tries to avoid refrigerating her quiche, arguing that it changes the texture). In a pinch, I find that quiche freezes fairly well, although most French people don’t do this. The recipe presented here is the children’s version, which uses a higher proportion of milk and a smaller number of eggs than a quiche intended for adults. The resulting dish is fluffier, less dense, and less eggy, and so more likely to please young palates. For older children or adults, reduce the milk by a half cup, and add one more egg (or play with the ratio of eggs and milk until you find the texture that your family prefers).

Most French cooks have their personal twist on this dish. For a while, my favorite was a ratatouille-style quiche, with eggplant and tomatoes. A quick survey of our extended family turned up as many recipes as there were cooks: zucchini, broccoli, carrots—almost any vegetable you can think of. Chopped or grated finely, most vegetables don’t even need to be cooked in advance.

8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (or 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup cream)
Salt and pepper, if desired
1 cup flour

Filling suggestion (These are some of our favorites, but feel free to make up your own.):
Quiche lorraine: 1 cup cubed or sliced ham and 1 cup grated cheese (Gruyère works best, but Cheddar will also do)
Quiche aux légumes: 1 small onion, finely diced, 1/2 cup thinly sliced greens (I use spinach or chard, but not kale, which is too chewy) 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
Quiche provençale: 1 cup ratatouille (this is a great way to use leftovers)
Optional: dried herbs such as parsley or oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat the egg; add the milk (or milk and cream) and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, if desired. Stirring constantly with a fork or a whisk (to avoid lumps), add the flour a little bit at a time. Mix in the cheese followed by the fillings you are using.

2. Pour the mixture into a greased 9- or 12-inch pie plate and bake for 30 minutes, or until the quiche puffs and starts to brown on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving (the quiche will settle, and you’ll be able to cut it more neatly).

Tip: Changing your quiche ingredients is also a great way to introduce new vegetables: the reassuringly familiar look of the fish may entice even the wariest of eaters.

Note: Take care not to overfill your pie plate, as the quiche will puff up as it bakes. I place mine on a baking sheet in the oven, in case of spills. The quiche will deflate after you remove it from the oven: this is normal! Kids like watching this soufflé effect.

Enjoy, and au revoir, friends! I’ll see you in the next few days with a sample week-long whole foods meal plan, and next Monday I have the first F&C guest post featuring a simple, yet effective work-out you can do at home with the little ones underfoot!