Luci Kinsinger just came out with a new book, Turtle Heart. I agreed to read and review a copy because based on her first book, Anything but Simple, I knew she was a good writer. But I was unprepared for just how much I’d love and relate to the stories and ideas inside it.
Turtle Heart is the story of Luci’s deep and life-changing friendship with Charlene, an elderly Ojibwe woman. It’s a heartfelt and wild story from beginning to end, taking twists and turns that I did not expect.
When I first heard the synopsis, before I read the book, the concept felt familiar. I’ve read several popular books about a kindhearted person befriending a societal “outsider,” believing they can help them and then ultimately being changed because of them. It’s not new.
And yet, this book felt new to me. And I think what was remarkable about it was the way it wasn’t about a “normal person” finding an “outsider,” it was two outsiders finding each other. The book begins with the line, “I heard the F word for the first time when I was twenty-four,” underscoring the way Luci feels like a sheltered outsider from greater US American society. Although she begins her friendship with Charlene having some benevolent ideas of saving her soul and helping a frail old lady, from the beginning we understand that their friendship is something different: two lonely outsider souls who found each other.
There was much to love in this book. Foremost, of course, was the beautiful friendship at the center of it. Then there’s the story itself which, together with the story of Charlene’s past, is slowly revealed to the reader in surprising ways.
But what I loved the most was the commentary on outreach.
Here’s a question for you: What is the best way to reach people in your community for Jesus?
You may be full of ideas, then go out into the real world and discover that your ideas don’t quite “work” the way you expected them to. Thus it is for Luci and Charlene. Luci begins the book trying to teach Charlene the plan of salvation while also trying to win her heart by being a “sweet Mennonite girl,” singing while she weeds the garden and such.
These tactics never go as planned. It’s not that Charlene doesn’t want Jesus. It’s that Charlene already has a relationship with the Creator. Being much older and full of life experience than Luci, she doesn’t exactly appreciate Luci acting like she has all the answers.
And the thing is, Luci doesn’t have all the answers. Ultimately, the story becomes something much larger than the story of someone being “led to the Lord.” While Luci answers many of Charlene’s spiritual questions and gets her to start reading the Bible, Charlene gives Luci many insights into the nature of the Creator, helping Luci to realize that He is much greater than she ever realized.
That was my favorite message from the book.
I also have to add that Luci has a masterful way of writing about what it feels like to be the odd one out, knowing that how you’re perceived isn’t how you feel inside. For instance, describing attending a funeral with Charlene, Luci writes,
I sit in a corner, just behind Charlene, and watch the family move around the room in short-cut or long-swinging hair, in short black skirts or jeans, in earrings and bracelets and tattoos, and feel conspicuous with my unmarked skin, my long dress, and my little white cap. Like a saint or a nun…and who wants that when you are just turned twenty-five? I want to be young and free-spirited, not righteous. But I’ve grown used to this conspicuousness of dress and wear it like a security blanket. It’s my identity, chosen for me before I was born.
Chills. I relate so much. Thank you, Luci, for writing this. Your work is a gift.
Now, here’s the best news: Luci has agreed to give away a copy of her book!
*Update: This giveaway is now closed*
To enter, just leave a comment saying you’d like to be entered. Or leave a comment telling me the best book you’ve read recently, or your favorite thing about Fall. In fact, unless your comment specifically says that you DO NOT want to be entered, any comment will count as an entry.
Unfortunately, this giveaway only applies to US addresses. International shipping costs are brutal, guys! Even Canada. If you live overseas and want to enter, consider asking a friend in the USA if you can get it sent to his or her address for you to pick up on your next trip to the States.
Also: This is your friendly reminder that I’m doing a mini book tour next week! Wednesday the 29’th I’ll be in Lancaster PA, and Thursday the 30th I’ll be in Harrisonburg VA. For more details, click here.
Last Thursday I did three giveaways: One here on my blog, one on Facebook, and one on Instagram. Today, I randomly selected the winners!
First up we have our Blog giveaway where I asked for your favorite Christmas tradition. Our winner, Laura, wrote, “My birthday is near Christmas and I think it’s neat how everyone feels so celebratory around my birthday! 🙂” Congrats, Laura!
Next, our Facebook Winner. On Facebook I asked entrants to name their least favorite Christmas song, and our winner, Nikki, wrote “I really dislike All I Want For Christmas Is You!!”
Finally, on Instagram, Lyn was our winner. Lyn wrote, “I entered because, well, it’s not often my friend’s imaginary and ill-fated romance for me enters into a book.”
Yes, Lyn was in my book, at the end of chapter 7. Congrats Lyn! You may not have won the heart of the architect, but you won a copy of my book!
(By the way, a big thanks to all 3 of you for responding to my email/DMs so promptly! I’ll have your books in the mail tomorrow.)
Now, on to my random thoughts.
I found my Instagram comments so fascinating. I asked people to write one thing they hoped to do in 2021 (although any sort of comment counted as an entry), and I’d say 90% of the responses were “travel.”
Of course, that would be my response too. But it made me think: do most humans have an inborn desire to travel?
If so, how can that be so? Haven’t most humans, for most of human history, not really traveled much?
Why do we travel so much? Because it’s cheap and easy? Because we see so many amazing places on Instagram? Because the ease of travel mean that our loved ones move to far-flung corners of the earth?
Or do we just want to travel because of all the Covid-related travel bans? Do we just want what we can’t have?
I was also fascinated by how many people thanked me for not requiring them to tag friends in order to enter the giveaway. I know that the whole “tag all your friends, follow this whole list of people” strategy probably nets an Instagram page an impressive amount of new followers, especially if they’re giving away really expensive, awesome stuff. But it’s such an annoying system, and it’s strange to me that it’s just the Accepted Way Instagram Giveaways Are Done.
Another random thought: I enjoyed reading people’s least favorite Christmas songs, but compared to the other two questions I asked, I didn’t get nearly as many interesting answers. Here’s my theory: a positive will always be more interesting than a negative. Liking something is inherently more interesting than not liking something.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?
Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I’ve noticed this about people in general. The guy who was obsessed with trees, and could name every species in his home state, was much more interesting than the guy who never watched Star Wars. And yet people often mention things they don’t like, or movies they have never seen, to try to prove that they’re interesting.
(This is not to say that everyone who entered the Facebook giveway was boring, LOL. I mean, I was the one who asked for your least favorite Christmas song. It just made me think about that concept in general.)
The one exception, I think, is coffee. No one cares that you like coffee. (But then again, no one cares if you dislike it either.)
(Although to be fair, no one probably cares that I like tea either, and yet I put it in the title of my book. Haha. I’d better stop now.)
Those are my random thoughts of the day. Thank you all so much for participating! I loved reading through your comments.
Update: Giveaway is now closed! Thank you for participating!
This year I’m doing the 12 Days of Blogmas challenge, where I’ll post something Christmas-related on each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas.
And in the spirit of Christmas, let’s start off with a good old-fashioned giveaway!
I wanted my giveaway to be cozy/winter themed rather than Christmas themed, because by the time you get this, Christmas will be almost over. So I have a few things here that will keep you cozy this winter.
First, books! I carefully selected three books that I think will be universally appealing to readers, regardless of age or gender. They are:
Paris Underground, by Etta Shiber
This book is a true story about two older widows who ended up smuggling people out of France during WWII. Fascinating, informative, and oddly charming despite its serious subject matter.
Leave it to Psmith, by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse is the king of humor writing, and this book is one of his masterpieces. I’ve never met someone who read this book and didn’t love it. As an added bonus, Wodehouse went on to write not one, but two series based on this book…one that focuses on the character Psmith, and one that centers around Blandings Castle, where Leave it to Psmith takes place. So if you enjoy it, you have many more books to explore.
The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking
This book is a little bit nerdy, digging, as it does, into the etymology of one little Danish word. It’s also quite charming, with its pretty illustrations and its instructions on how to use candles, baked treats, and cozy nooks to their best advantage.
But most of all, it is practical and informative for anyone who struggles with the cold, dark days of winter. If the Danish people can figure out a way to be the happiest people on earth in one of the coldest, darkest locations, than you can get through the winter too. This book will help.
Besides the books, this giveaway includes a cozy pottery mug, and a large unscented candle. (The unscented part is important. You’ll understand once you read The Little Book of Hygge.) (Also, it’s a good one. Not one of those cheap candles that burns up before you can blink.)
To enter this giveaway, you must…
Comment on this post, saying you’d like to be entered into the giveaway. Or saying whatever you want to say. If you leave a comment, I’ll assume that means you want to be entered.
That’s the only requirement, but if you share this post on Facebook I’ll give you TWO extra entries. (Just tell me, in your comment on this post, that you shared it.)
This giveaway will close Monday, December 16, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
And meanwhile, come back every day for my 12 Days of Blogmas posts! Lord willing and my computer cord don’t explode, I’ll post every day from now until Christmas Eve. (But with my propensity to post late in the evenings, and my Pacific time zone, it might be more like every morning from tomorrow morning until Christmas morning for you East Coasters.)
Anyway, we’ll have some fun times! I wrote a Christmas-themed fiction story. And lined up a guest poster. And scoured my blog for a couple funny Christmas memories from years past. And hopefully I’ll manage to shoot and edit a fun video.
Finally, I want to mention that this giveaway is the very first thing I’m spending my Patreon money on!
Last April I set up a Patreon page, where I post at least one, but usually two, bonus blog posts a month. I post about opinions, semi-controversial thoughts, and personal reflections that I’m not comfortable showing the whole entire world on my regular blog. Things get much deeper over on my Patreon.
I charge $1 a month for access, although you can give more than that, if you want to further support my blog.
So far I haven’t spent any of that money. Since it came from blog supporters, I wanted to pour it back into my blog in some way. Beginning with this givaway, and then renewing my domain name, and eventually replacing the little pink $190 laptop I’ve been using for five years. After that my goal will be to buy a camera and start doing more video projects for the blog!
Anyway. All this to say a deep “thank you” to everyone who supports my blog. If you’re interested in supporting me on Patreon and getting access to my bonus posts, go to patreon.com/emilysmucker and click the pink “Join $1 Tier” button (on computers), or the red “select” button (on mobile).
End of commercial.
Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to comment below and enter the giveaway!!!
A month or so ago I wrote an article in Vibrant Girl magazine, and today I’m giving away a copy of that issue.
“What is Vibrant Girl magazine?” You might ask.
Well, let me tell you a little story.
When I was a preteen I LOVED American Girl magazine. One time, American Girl ran a story about a Jewish girl who started her own magazine, which was essentially an American Girl for Jewish girls. This story delighted me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to start a magazine for Mennonite girls?
But, like many of my great ideas, I never made it happen.
Another note about my preteen years was this: I hated the way that everyone of youth group age or older completely excluded those younger than them. So when I began to grow up, I always tried to chat with younger girls and take them seriously.
The added bonus of this was that preteen girls were often much more interesting, vivacious, and creative than their older-teenage counterparts. The classic example of this was Monica Miller.
Monica was my neighbor when I lived in Colorado, and she reminded me of a miniature version of myself. She was always coming up with fun creative ideas, like writing stories and then roping her friends into dressing up, acting them out, and filming them. She, too, loved American Girl magazine and dreamed of starting a Mennonite version of it.
And what do you know? She actually did it.
It started as an online magazine called The Girlfriend Gazette. It slowly evolved, as Monica gained more experience and honed her talents. Now it’s called Vibrant Girl, and is a physical magazine that you can subscribe to. And it’s absolutely fantastic.
I should note that while I call it “American Girl for Mennonites,” it’s really for any Christian girls, so long as they can put up with the models wearing skirts and head coverings. I don’t think there’s any Mennonite-specific content besides that.
What I especially appreciate is that it’s really fun, and doesn’t have a super-spiritual deep-and-serious sit-in-the-meadow-all-day-and-prayer-journal vibe. There is some spiritual content, of course, but it is all very relevant to the spiritual experiences of a preteen.
The article I wrote for Vibrant Girl was about when my brother Ben and I got stuck in China.
But the magazine is full of other fun stuff, like an article about what to do when you feel left out, a photo spread about a girl who re-decorated an old camper, crafts, an article about prayer walking, and more.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here or on Facebook saying that you want to enter the giveaway. I’ll randomly pick a winner and mail you the magazine. Also this time I’m limiting it to US applications. International postage is still confusing to me.