Thirteen Reasons Why: My First Book Review

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated and was not retained by the author, publisher, or any other person or persons to review this book.  I just read a lot, liked it, and want to write about it.  The opinions expressed below are my own.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” is a best-selling Young Adult novel by Jay Asher.  It’s a haunting story told by high schooler Clay Jensen, an all-around nice guy and friend to troubled (and recently deceased) classmate, Hannah Baker.

Hannah’s death comes as a shock to many, but unbeknownst to them, she has set a plan in motion to explain it.  Not to everyone – just to the people who were, whether directly or indirectly, involved in her passing.

It’s an easy, exciting read and (hallelujah!) a new concept.  While aimed at a teenage demographic, the writer does not condescend or ‘dumb it down’, and still manages to capture accurately the sometimes horrific sub-culture that is High School, USA.  The dialogue is smart and relate-able, and most importantly, believable.

Asher has found a new way to discuss an old, much talked-about subject: Bullying.  It happened when I was in school, and it happens now.  We hear about it more now thanks to social media, and that also contributes to more drastic actions by teens and unfortunately, frequently dismal outcomes.  This is what we see (or hear) happening to Hannah Baker.  A new student at a new school whose world is slowly destroyed by others, some never realizing the damage they’ve done.  He also conquers a the difficult topic of suicide, and reminds the reader that oftentimes a person’s screams for help are just whispers.  But if you listen, you can hear them.  Unfortunately for Hannah, they didn’t listen.  Now she’ll make sure they do…

Anyone who is in high school, has a child or relative in high school, or who simply wants to be more aware, should read this book.   Not only does it shed light on the real struggles (and perceived “life altering” effect of those struggles) that teenagers face, it also reminds us that what we do and say to others has meaning.  Sometimes a flippant remark can remain lodged in someone’s psyche indefinitely.  We should all be more careful with how we treat each other.   The Bible says the power of life and death are in the tongue [Prov. 18:21] and sadly, sometimes it’s more true than we want to know.

To learn more or purchase this book: http://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Jay-Asher/dp/159514188X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

To find mental health counseling in your area: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

And finally, if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.IMG_3345

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Book Excerpt – 2

count your blessings.
Literally. Count them. Use your fingers, use your toes. Chances are, whatever you are going through right now, your blessings still outweigh your troubles. That was Bonpapa’s attitude. He lived with an attitude of gratitude that began with the Lord. If you know the Lord, if you know who he is, what his word says, and that he loves you, what else do you need? The way Bonpapa saw it, if nothing else in his life was going right, but he still had God, he was doing alright – better than many, in fact.
My husband and I went through a situation recently where I was called to put this into practice. After a long and faithful run, my husband’s car had finally gone ‘kaput’ on the side of the highway one night as he was driving home from work. Financially, we were unprepared. Practically speaking, we were down a vehicle that we needed desperately to function in our everyday lives. Spiritually, we knew what to do. We began to say ‘thank you’ to God in prayer.
We thanked him for my husband’s safety and that the ‘blow up’ happened close to our home. My husband works out of town, so the situation could have been much worse had it happened further away. We thanked God for the other blessings in our lives: Our home, our children, our friends, our health, our full bellies. There was much to be grateful for, even in this circumstance. We thanked God for the times he had brought us through challenges, reminding him and ourselves of all the times we have been rescued. Lastly, the hardest thanks to muster was appreciation for the lesson. It went something like this: “ Lord, whatever you are teaching us or whatever you will accomplish through this event, we thank you in advance for it. We praise your mighty name for allowing us to be a part of your plan, and for molding and shaping our hearts through challenges such as these.”
Thirty minutes later, a brand new car was delivered to our front door and all was right in our world once again. Ha! Not exactly. Not even close. Thankfully, though, daily scripture reading had prepared us for what we faced. In the next few days, two Bible verses played over and over again in my thoughts: Hebrews 6:19, which says we have this hope (relationship with Christ) as an anchor for our soul. Christ in our hearts keeps us steady, even as we go through life’s storms. The second verse, 2 Corinthians 4:7, says we have this treasure (relationship with God) in jars of clay, to show that power belongs to God and not to us. We humans are fragile, like delicate clay jars, and God within us is where our true strength lies. It is no coincidence that these verses both begin with “we have”. Bonpapa was right. If you know the Lord, if you know who he is, what his word says, and that he loves you, what else do you need?
One final verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9, says that the Lord’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Only when we admit we are broken, do we allow God to take over, take control, and take care of us. If we can be grateful without needing explanation, we experience spiritual growth.
Being grateful doesn’t always fix the trouble, but it does prevent us from being overcome by our troubles. Recognizing that God’s ways and purposes are higher than our own gives us something and someone to lean on when times are tough. God never guarantees the ride will be easy, but he does assure us that we are never alone – never without hope – even as we walk the highway on a dark night. For that, I will say ‘thank you’.
We have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah  Psalm 46:1-3
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Movie Dates and Southern States

This weekend my husband had a *rare* day off work, so we decided to take our littlest guy to see a movie called “Strange Magic”.  It was playing at our local “cheap” theater (tickets are $2.25) and we had a gift card, so after concessions we only paid $5.00 for everything.  Totes winning.  (Thanks, Carmike Cinemas for having a more affordable option in our town!)

Usually I have to really pump myself up to see animated films.  I know the theater will be packed with kids talking and/or crying, and I would really just rather take a nap.  However, Strange Magic is the second movie I have seen this year that surprised me with its greatness.  This movie is delightful.  Delightful, I say!  It’s a musical, which I did not expect.  The Bog King (voiced by Alan Cumming)is totally my favorite character.  The plot is not extremely predictable, the animation is good, and the songs are so enjoyable.  At certain points I was singing, my husband was singing, our son was dancing… it was a wonderful time!  I’m telling you, there’s nothing so sweet as catching glimpses of a little one’s face while they are completely entranced in a story like this one.  Half the time I was watching the screen, and half the time I was studying my boy, sitting on the edge of his seat, smiling, fascinated.  Why can’t all movies be this good?!

The rest of our weekend was filled with house cleaning, workouts, and car shopping.  Two things we always do on Sunday (or I do alone, if my husband is working): Church and Fried Chicken.  Almost every week.  On both sides of my family Sunday is a day of eating.  My mom’s mother is French, and makes bread by hand every Sunday morning, then we all feast on it after church.  My dad’s mother makes country-style meals with fixins.  In my house, we do fried chicken.

As we were sitting at the table looking over our Sunday lunch, I felt overwhelming gratitude.  The South, particularly the states I have lived in most of my life – Georgia and Alabama – takes a lot of crap from the rest of the nation.  It is the butt of many jokes, and is criticized on the regular for not conforming to what is normal everywhere else.  But I am SO grateful we live here.  Grateful to have been raised here, with front porches and rocking chairs and sweet tea.  With tire swings and creeks and Sunday Service.  We worship Jesus and we say ‘yes ma’am’.  We say grace and we walk around barefoot and we make our biscuits from scratch.  I cannot imagine life any other way.  I cannot imagine raising our kids any other way.  If you don’t live down here, well, y’all just don’t know what you’re missing.

Christmas and Traditions

I have noticed a trend this year among Facebook friends and some of the Mommy Bloggers I follow.  There has been lots of discussion this year about Christmas traditions – Elf on the Shelf being the most horrendous, in my humble opinion.  It got me thinking, because traditions aren’t something we value too highly in our little family.  We like trying new things, whether they be foods or experiences or weird do-it-yourself egg and mayonnaise hair treatments.  We get rid of clothing and furniture pretty regularly, we don’t have attachment to material things.

This Christmas is significant for us, because 1) We are in a new home (movin’ on up, as they say) 2) My daughter is away at school and this is the first Christmas that she won’t be home with us, and 3) my son is 5 and able to enjoy the stories, help wrap presents, and grasp the idea of Christmas and the holiday more than he did in years past.  For these reasons I have been thinking about Christmas traditions – do we need them? Do we want them?  Are they silly?  Are they a sweet way to stay close as a family?

We don’t have traditions.  We do things differently every year.  The tree, the decorations, the food, the music, the routine of whose house we go to first or last or not at all.  Maybe that’s our tradition.  Some years we didn’t have a tree (due to finances and, well, cats).  Other years we had only construction paper snowflake ornaments.  We don’t watch the same movies or eat the same foods every year, and while I do have fond memories of my grandmothers “broke-neck” gingerbread men and the laughter they inspired among my cousins and me,  I guess don’t see traditions as necessary.  I realize, though, that for my son there is comfort in the familiar, and my husband and I want to begin to put him on a road towards a relationship with Christ – one that begins with reverence and respect for Christmas, Jesus’ birth.

So, this year we decided to start our first Christmas tradition.  It may be the only thing we do EVERY year consistently, but it’s a good one.  We found an advent calendar – the kind with the little numbered doors and chocolates behind each one – and a website that explains the Christmas story in a way kids can understand.  Every morning in the month of December, we read and talk a little about Jesus – who he is, why he is important, what he did, and his Earthly family.  Then, my son gets a chocolate.

The chocolate may be his favorite part of our talks, but I know that some of the things he learns are sticking.  For instance, he knows “advent” means “coming”. He knows “Immanuel” means “God with us”. If I say “Jesus is the ____” he responds with “Light of the World” (and a big smile).  He knows Jesus’ mommy’s name was Mary and he knows Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.  I feel like, for one so small, that is a lot of information.

The cookies won’t last and one day the presents will be forgotten, and maybe my son won’t grow up watching a parade on tv eating the same treats I make every holiday season, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Setting up a place for him in our son’s heart and life is one tradition I feel worthy, and one I know I can keep.

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Hebrews 12:1

“12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

My analysis and how to apply this…

Starting at the beginning: yes, we are surrounded by a huge crowd, aren’t we, followers? Everywhere we turn people are observing, watching us to see if we are like Jesus. SO that is motivation to really be like him, to really lead them to church and ultimately, to the Lord. I don’t want to be the one who convinces someone they DON’T need what Jesus offers!

Many Christians struggle with extra weight, anger is mine which I have told you girls a thousand times already, but there are others, and we all have them. I think this verse is saying to lay that all down because otherwise we can’t run this race. I think about soldiers who run with big 50 lb packs on their backs. I would fall down and die! And my anger is like those packs, weighing me down, slowing me down, and usually making it impossible for me to continue the way God wants. UNTIL, I put it down.

I must say, I love the analogy of running. I feel like it’s so accurate to what this life is like, what my walk with God feels like. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, feeling awesome, wind in my face, I’m totally confident I’m going to make it to the finish. Other days it’s lots of hills, slow going, having to coach myself out loud to take another step.

One last thing to mention. The NIV version says to run the race that is “marked out for us”. I wanted to include that because, it’s so important not to compare our race with others. Keep your eyes on your own lane on the track! Your race might be shorter or slower, faster, bumpier, smoother, whatever… than someone else’s race. But it has been marked out FOR YOU. You’re not running their race, you’re running the one that was given especially to you. The other way I read that is that the course has been MARKED. Which, if you’ve ever run a trail race you know the markers that tell you where to turn are crucial to success. Without them you get lost in the wilderness. Same goes for our faith. The race has been marked out, if we follow Jesus we won’t get lost.

Prayer for today: Father, thank you for this word today! Thank you for how happy I feel writing about it. Help me to keep this light and share it with others and always feel this passion for witnessing. Thank you for my race. Thank you for marking the way for me and encouraging me to keep going. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Run!
Run!

August and Anger

Reading this (link below) explanation by Christ August about his song “7×70” was really powerful for me.  I also grew up in what you might call a ‘broken’ home. But that’s not why I needed to read this today. The song and the article are relevant to some situations that are lingering over our heads like storm clouds.  Here’s what I know: It’s important not to hold on to anger.  It is easier to hold on to it than to let it go, but I have got to learn to let go.  It’s better for my heart, my health, and my quality of life.

The part of the article that struck me between the eyes is “Satan USES the bitterness we build up in our hearts.” I have experienced this and know it to be true. Once you are angry, then you’re open to saying unkind things, retaliation, ruining relationships sometimes. So don’t let the bitterness fester. {Ephesians 4:26 and James 1:19 immediately come to mind.} Again, this is easy in theory but difficult in practice.  When I am wounded, it’s usually deep and something I require apologies and validation in order to overcome.

This morning I was feeling mad and hurt, after an incident with a friend last night.  So I looked at the “Bible Emergency Numbers” paper I have taped on my vision board.  Sure enough, there’s one for “when people seem unkind”. It’s John 15.  I turned to that verse, and read about Jesus saying he is the vine, we are the branches. Apart from him we can bear no fruit. At first I was like, “what does this have to do with people who are mean or hurtful?” I like these verses just fine, I’ve heard them before, but what does this mean?

Then, when I had some quiet time, I thought about it.  Well, the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So if I am to be in him and him in me in order to bear fruit, what I heard him telling me was that THIS (being hurt) is happening so that you will REACT THIS WAY (see fruits of the spirit).  It’s like Jesus was giving me instruction. “Bear fruit. Be in me. Be a Christian, for crying out loud!”

I think that God can and does use all parts of our lives, all areas, all joys, sorrows, struggles, and successes for our good and for his glory.  He molds us, to teaches us, and makes us better than we were yesterday.   It’s also worth mentioning that the second half of John 15 is the part where Jesus says “the world will hate you because it hated me first” (I’m paraphrasing). This is actually a comfort.  In my mind, the harder some situations are, it’s just reassurance that I’m doing the right thing.

Right now, starting this moment, I’m going to hold on for dear life to my Lord and forgive, let go, and bear fruit.  I am always honored when God speaks to me, little ol’ me, you know what I mean?  I am humbled that the God of all the universe stops to help me and love on me when I need it.

Check out what Chris August wrote about his (beautiful, touching, emotional) song “7×70”:

http://www.chrisaugustmusic.com/songs/7×70

When it Rains…

… it pours.

And I am learning to dance in it, to praise my God in the middle of it. I do not enjoy being taught these lessons, to be perfectly honest, but I do enjoy what comes after. – Strength, hope, trust, faith, a stronger relationship with my husband, a broader perspective, compassion for others who struggle.

Today I was going to post about some “no bake” goodies, but I’m going to hold off on that. From time to time I’m going to blog about my life and trials, because it’s much easier to speak to the internet [for me] and not fear judgment than to speak openly to my friends who maybe aren’t struggling right now.

We can’t pay our bills. Things are getting shut off. That’s the long and short of it. I never thought I’d be in this place at my age. No, not even close. It is sobering. It is humbling.

I’ve been praying a lot, spending time in conversation with God, and reading my Bible and devotionals on all sorts of things related to this. – Hope, Fear, Faith, Trust, Tithing, Blessings, Trials, God’s Timing, etc. They have lifted my spirit in a time when most would say I should be wallowing. Crying. Stressing. Freaking out. But the reality is this: my problems are tiny, miniscule even, compared to my God. God has promised to look out for me, to provide for me and my family, and God does not lie. So there, stress. Take that, anxiety.

Some verses that have helped me today:

Isaiah 41:10 “”10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Not to harm me. No, never to harm us but only to prosper us. To grow us, to give us HOPE and a FUTURE. God is loving in a way that I cannot even understand. Having a son of my own does give me slivers of insight, though. I find God so relate-able now that I am a parent. I want only the best for my kids. I would give them anything. I want them to be happy and healthy and prosperous. The other side of that is that I must teach them, discipline them, sometimes even allow them to face the consequences of their choices. God is a much better parent than I am, and he loves me so much better than I can love.

So today… even though I’m rambling… even though I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even in the next 20 minutes… I have joy. I have peace. I have hope. I can dance even though the rain is coming down hard on my head, because I know the one who made the rain will also make the sun shine on us again.