Thursday, March 31, 2022

Book Review: Shaped by the Waves, by Christina Suzann Nelson

Is anyone else a sucker for books set by the sea?

As a girl who grew up by the ocean,
I was captured by the title of Shaped by the Waves,
and hooked from the first chapter.

Cassie is a young single mom, struggling to complete her doctorate, raise her energetic little girl, Lark, and, quite frankly, find a way to leave her broken past. She left her small seaside town in Oregon for a fresh start in California, but a single phone changes everything. Shasta, the aunt who raised her, is facing a desperate health crisis, and Cassie realizes it's time to go home and face her past.

Cassie arrives home and begins to care for Shasta, but before long, a mysterious package arrives. It's filled with anonymously written pages telling the story of a woman's life, marriage, and child. But who sent it? And what does this have to do with Cassie?

When I first started Shaped by the Waves, I assumed it would be a straightforward telling of "There's no place like home", but the anonymously written confession really takes this story in a whole new direction. I found myself completely sucked in by the woman's story, the mystery of who sent it, and how it all tied into the main storyline.

There's so much to love about this book! The characters and setting are all beautifully fleshed out, with relationships that are both realistic and inspirational. The issue of faith is treated with a delicate hand - present, but never preachy. 

Oh, it's so clear that Christina Suzann Nelson looooves coffee! One of the central settings is the family cafe. The descriptions of making, smelling, and tasting cappuccinos and lattes sent me downstairs to my own machine more than once! And let me tell you, if I ever discover Christina actually hates coffee, I'll be even more impressed with her writing skills! 

With summer coming up, Shaped by the Waves 
will be a great addition to your seaside reading list!

You can learn more about Christina's books, blog, and social media at 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Book Review: Sheltering Mercy, by Ryan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt

It's rare for me to review a book before I've finished reading it,
but this is not a book to be rushed.

Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired By The Psalms
is something special, something unique.

I met Dan Wilt many years ago when he taught worship leading workshops at Break Forth in Edmonton. I was impressed by his leadership skills, but also by his true heart for ministry.

Sheltering Mercy is a collection of "prayerful responses" to the psalms. 

They're prayers that read like poetry.
Poetry that feel like psalms.

It's a bit hard to describe the experience of this book. It starts with the physical presentation - a solid hardcover book with a classic, tactile cover. Open the pages to discover gracefully laid out text, interspersed with woodcut-style images. 

Each of the 75 prayers was inspired by one of the first 75 psalms. They're numbered, and also have Scripture references, but don't expect new translations of each psalm. These are like improvisations, starting from a key verse, and branching out into new words, new cries, new praises. The writing is lyrical, with gorgeous turns of phrase and poetic images.

I've taken to reading a prayer a day, before I begin my own writing practice. I know some readers who are using it as their Lenten devotional. Others are reading the psalm from the Bible, followed by the prayer from the book. One reader said that, inspired by the artwork, she's using her pencil crayons to doodle, colour, and journal as she reads. 

However you enjoy Sheltering Mercy, it will be a blessing to your devotional life!

This beautiful video gives you the prayer inspired by Psalm 1, 
read by Dan Wilt, with music by Michael W. Smith. 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Guest Post: Getting UltraReal by Martha Tartanic

Welcome to a very special Goal Setting Fridays!!!

Today, I'm excited to introduce you to 
my dear friend

Be sure to read her fabulous bio at the end of this post,
and I also invite you to check out the
Book Review I wrote of her first book
- The Living Diet -

Please welcome Martha,
and enjoy her inspiring post!


By Martha Tatarnic

I am not naturally athletic.  I’m the kid who was picked last for every sports team in gym class growing up.  One of the happiest days of my high school career was when I graduated Grade 9 gym and never had to struggle through another class being graded on various forms of hand-eye coordination, running, jumping and throwing.

Nobody has been more surprised than I to find myself as a runner in my adult life.  Running has now been a consistent part of my life for the better part of two decades, and I have embraced long distance running in the last ten years.  In 2021, I trained for and ran my first marathon.  I enjoyed it so much that I’m training for another one now.  

Running is stress relief, it is prayer. 
It is the space I need in order to be able to reflect, rather than just react,
to the circumstances of my life.  
When I make room for running,
I seem to have room for all of the other family, church, work,
community commitments that I also have on my plate.

I know all of these things about running.  I know why I do it and why I love it.  And still, every time that I go out, putting foot to pavement, I can feel my mind rebel against the exercise.  Sometimes, when I am pushing myself to be faster or to run longer, my body starts to rebel too.  But mostly - and this sounds somewhat counter-intuitive - running is a mind game.  

Training for a marathon involves a regimented schedule for slowly building up my weekly mileage, as well as inching my long-run mileage closer and closer to the 42km mark needed to complete a marathon.  Each day that I head out to tackle my planned mileage, I have to fight the monkey on my shoulder nattering in my ear about the cramping I am sure I can feel in my side, the impossibility of the miles stretching out in front of me, the labour of breathing that already threatens to derail my plans, and the sure and certain feeling that I have to pee, even though I went just before leaving the house.  I worry that it’s too hot or too cold or too windy or too slippery; I don’t believe that I can complete the assignment in front of me.

Ultrarealism* is a powerful technique from the realm of endurance sports,
and it has been a game changer for me - as a runner, and also as a person. 

It is the practice of seeing, accepting, and embracing the actual circumstances in which you find yourself.
It is about responding to the moment in front of you rather than the moment you worry might be coming
or which circumstances you wished were different. 

When people talk about positive thinking, I instantly lose interest.
Ultrarealism, however, isn’t about training the mind
to squeeze reality through the frames of any sort of rose coloured glasses.
It’s about getting real. 

It is easy as a runner to expend large amounts of energy and anxiety worrying about what might happen or wishing that things could be different from what they are when you have twenty, thirty or forty kilometers stretch in front of you. If we instead train our minds to focus on what is actually happening and how we really feel, then a new sort of freedom opens up. 

I might get freaked out about how my breathing is uneven. I might feel despair about the spitting rain outside and how slowly the first kilometer seems to have gone when I still have twenty-nine to go. But while these things about breathing and rain and mileage might be true, I can choose to note that my leg muscles feel strong, the rain is refreshing, and I have the great privilege of being able to run. I am not just not dying; I am not just safe and okay. I am running and it feels good. 

“I’m doing it!” my friend Sarah uses as her power statement. It’s an ultrareal power statement. It’s not the power of positive thinking. It’s a statement of fact. For all of the worry or uncertainty or reluctance that we might feel about putting on our shoes and tackling some mileage, here we actually can find ourselves - out running. We are out here. And we are doing this.

The benefits of ultrarealism don’t just apply to running.  

Instant gratification is easy to come by, but a lot of what makes life worth living requires a measure of patience and openness to stick it out past beginnings that aren’t comfortable or fun.  Whether you want to learn a new skill, take on a creative project, meet your professional goals, improve as an athlete, or even just increase your capacity for prayer, the practice of getting ultrareal can provide perspective that can allow you to overcome the challenges of your own mind convincing you that you can’t do a certain thing.

Ultrarealism is like the famous serenity prayer: 

God grant me the courage to change the things that I can,
the serenity to accept the things I can’t,
and the wisdom to know the difference. 

There is much about the circumstances of a run - not to mention the circumstances of my life, and all of the other challenges that I take on - that I can’t change or control, and within all that isn’t shaped and dictated by me is the choice to keep one foot going in front of the other. 

Somewhere in the letting go and the choosing anyway is a wild and surprising joy.

MARTHA TATARNIC - Author. Priest. Runner.

Martha’s second book - Why Gather? The Hope and Promise of the Church - will be published this June. She has also authored The Living Diet:  A Christian Journey to Joyful Eating, an exploration of our relationship with food and our body through a Christian perspective. She is the lead priest of a thriving downtown Anglican church in St. Catharines Ontario, St. George’s. She writes a regular blog for the Anglican Church of Canada, which can be found at  Details on writing, speaking engagements and her author’s journey can be found at

* Matt Fitzgerald coins this term “ultrarealism” in his book, The Comeback Quotient, 2020, as a mental fitness technique which he applies particularly to endurance sports. I (Martha) adapt his definition slightly in applying it to my life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Book Review: The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, by Erin Bartels

I love this book and you should buy it!!!

There you go - that's my whole review in a nutshell.

Erin Bartels is quickly becoming one of my
I've-read-everything-she's-written authors.

To prove my longterm love,
here's my 2019 review for We Hope For Better Things.

And here's my 2021 review for All That We Carried.

Seriously - thank goodness she's so prolific!

Also, I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but come on! That cover?? That title??? I was hooked before page 1...

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water gives us a most intriguing opening. Our narrator, Kendra, isn't speaking to us. She's speaking to "you." Who is this "you" and why is she sharing this story with him or her? Already, lured in ...

Kendra spend her summers growing up around Hidden Lake, an idyllic childhood world of water, forest, and freedom. She had those incredibly close friendships that form from late night campfires and woodland adventures. But something happened on the lake with one of those friends. As an adult, Kendra transformed her trauma into a best-selling novel. But there is one dissenting voice: an anonymous letter from "A Very Disappointed Reader" questions Kendra's version of the truth. Her second novel is due, and she has incurable writers block. Her solution? Return to the lake and confront her past.

I inhaled this book! Erin's writing style is so incredibly beautiful. Her deep love for the lake setting puts us straight into the sensual beauty of sunsets and morning mist.

She has a gift for creating compelling, fully realized characters, and the plot folds and flows in a way that keeps us fully engaged in both the present day story and the perfectly utilized flashbacks.

There were two themes that I thought Erin handled particularly beautifully:

First: Fiction vs Truth. Where is the truth in fiction? How do we discover ourselves, others, and the world through story? I don't want to say to much about this to avoid spoilers, but as a writer and an avid reader, this theme was truly powerful and served the story brilliantly.

Second: trigger warning: abuse and assault. There are difficult themes in this book, not often handled in Christian fiction. Erin has a powerful way of sharing the reality of the story, without ever exploiting or sensationalizing. 

I opened this post with my 2-line review, but honestly,
 I feel I could write a proper essay on how much I love
The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water!
 I truly can't recommend this book enough! 

Erin's site is full of all kinds of wonderful treasures like blogposts, photography, and podcasts.
You can check it all out here:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - The Inefficiency of Worry

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Don’t forget to check out last week’s post:

Resource Round-Up

Being a Planner also, often, naturally leads to another Truth:

I’m a Worrier.

I wish I wasn’t. My husband isn’t, and there are times when I envy him. When stressful times come, he has a faith and peace that I just have trouble harnessing. And let’s be completely honest: not just in “stressful times”. As a Worrier, I also have the unique gift of creating stressful times for not-yet-happened times.

For years, I’ve tried to strategize worry out of my life, with varying and inconsistent results. I’ve read essays and articles from various thought-leaders on how to eradicate worry from my mind. I’ve read all the Bible verses that speak to letting go of worry and trusting in God.

In theory, I get it. I really do. But in reality, WOW, it’s just so hard to simply stop worrying!

After all, my worry shows that the problem is important. My worry gives the situation weight and prominence in my thinking. It helps me prepare for difficult situations.

Doesn’t it? That what it feels like in the moment.

But am I really a better Planner, am I truly more prepared, because I worried?

Or, is there a way I could do the planning without the worrying?

Could less worry actually make me a better Planner?

Last week, my morning devotional contained this verse from Luke 12:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?

I’ve read these words a hundred times, but for whatever reason, last week, this verse hit me in a brand new way.

There have been so many reasons to worry lately:

The war in Ukraine.
The end of Covid support for self-employed artists.
The end of mask mandates and restrictions, while Covid rises again in China.
Trying to find our pathway back to live performances in a whole new world.
The general worries of family and health and life in general.
Did I mention Ukraine?

We’re also in a unique time of transition: after two whole years of pivoting and trying to find creative ways to maintain our ministry, we’re now swamped with work! We’re making a swift transition from struggling-to-create-work into working overtime, and it’s hard!

On the flip side, the lockdowns taught us the value of incorporating Gentle Time in our lives - time for reading, walking, exploring our neighbourhood, and just having quiet time together. Now that the world is returning to “normal”, I steadfastly refuse to jump back into the rat race and abandon our Gentle Time.

The key to avoiding complete burnout will be Efficiency. 

I'll need every hour I can get, and I'll need to use them well.

So when I read this:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?

The lightbulb clicked on:

Worry is a threat to my Efficiency.

Worrying isn’t going to help me do the things I want to do.

Worry won’t give me more hours - it’ll eat up my time.

Worry won’t give me more ideas - it will cloud my mind.

Worry won’t give me more freedom - it’ll make me operate from a place of fear.

Worry is a threat to my Efficiency.

Simply “giving up” worry never made sense to me, but for whatever reason, it all clicked this week.

I’ve now found a hardcore, practical reason to eradicate worry from my life.

Now, I’m not saying I’ve stopped worrying altogether. If anything, my problems and concerns have only grown over the past week.

But when worry comes, I have a solid reason to ask it to leave.

“Not now worry - I just don’t have time for you. 
I have bigger, better things to do, and they need my hours more than you do.”

So far, it’s working. I’ll let you know how it goes from here…

Are you a Worrier?

How do you reduce worry in your life?  

Thursday, March 10, 2022

"Hear Me Roar" - A special post for International Women's Day

It's Birthday Week in our house! 

First Dad, then Gerald - we've had SO. MUCH. CAKE!!!

(not that I'm complaining...)

Because of all the celebrating, I'm taking a break from Goal Setting Fridays today to share a very special link:

In celebration of International Women's Day,
The Anglican Journal (Canada's largest Christian newspaper)
posted a special article by my Dad!

“Hear me roar”: In celebration of the ordination of women
By Rev. Hollis Hiscock

I highly encourage you to read this wonderful and inspiring article!

You can read it HERE.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - Resource Round-Up!


Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Fridays? 
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

Please subscribe to receive all new posts!

Don’t forget to check out last week’s post:

5 Ways to Up Your Goals

Every once in a while here on Goal Setting Fridays,
I’m going to share some of my favourite Goal Setting Resources with you.

Today, I have a list of five people who bring me lots of inspiration!
They come from different backgrounds and industries, each approaching productivity from a very different perspective. Some are high creatives and others are amazing business people. All of them, in their own ways, bridge the gap between those two worlds with imagination and energy.

Here are 5 of my favourite people who write about Goal Setting and Productivity:

Michael Hyatt 

Michael is the go-to guy for learning about Goal Setting. I’ve read his book - Your Best Year Ever - at least 3 times, and I know I’ll read it again. He has lots of resources on his site, including a fantastic podcast.

Steven Pressfield 

The War of Art and Do The Work are in regular rotation on my Kindle. I usually read at least one of them each year. They focus on overcoming Resistance - that impersonal, immovable, limiting force that rears its ugly head any time we set out to do something amazing with our lives.


Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy is an author, artist, entrepreneur, and mentor. Don’t let the fun name, playful drawings, and bright colours fool you. SARK is a sharp business woman who’s turned her signature take on the world into a unique empire. I have no doubt I’ll end up writing a blogpost about the transformative power of her “micro-movements.”

Julia Cameron 

The Artist’s Way has saved more than one creative soul over the years, mine included. Julia is a creativity teacher for all levels and expressions. I can’t recommend her teachings and methods enough!

Seth Godin 

Seth is known for writing short blog posts featuring big ideas. Or maybe, more specifically, bite-sized ideas with big impact. If you’re looking for some fresh perspective on productivity, his blog is a great place to start. Be sure to check out the “Free Content” section, as well. 

Who are some of your favourite Goal Setting experts?

Please share their names and links in the Comments below…