Sunday, November 4, 2012

Journeys of Faithfulness {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

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One of the homeschool publishers I have come to appreciate a great deal is Apologia, and this is especially true as I have become more familiar with the many types of resources they provide.  They are definitely more than science textbooks!  Recently I had a chance to read and review a brand new Bible study and devotional book called Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson.
The author's name may sound familiar to homeschoolers because she is the daughter of authors Clay and Sally Clarkson (Educating the WholeHearted Child and other titles).  Sarah Clarkson has also written Read for the Heart.  Having read that first book of Sarah's, I was very excited about checking out her devotional book.

This book is recommended especially for mothers and daughters to work through together, but would be an excellent study for individuals or for any small group of women.  It is presented in four parts which focus on the lives of some well-known women from the Bible - Mary and Martha, Mary the mother of Jesus, Esther, and Ruth.  Clarkson tells a 'novelized' version of each woman's story in two or three chapters, adding detail and insight to what Scripture tells us about them, and imagining possible backgrounds, character traits, and thoughts that might have been a part of their lives.  These chapters are followed by a devotional story from the author's own experience.  These stories don't really mirror the circumstances of the Bible characters, but build on the devotional theme being drawn from the Bible story.  For instance, in the story of Esther, one of the themes is accepting that while our circumstances might be difficult or not of our choosing, it may be that God has placed us there "for such a time as this" (as Mordecai reminds Esther).

After each chapter and devotional, there is a Bible study and discussion section, which offers Scripture passages to read and ponder, and asks thought-provoking questions.  I appreciated that these questions encouraged deeper thinking and more than just quick cliched answers.  One such study asks us to wonder how King David cultivated a still heart before God, after reading Psalm 131; think about what God's voice sounds like in our own lives and if we hear Him when he speaks, after reading the story of Elijah hearing God's voice in a whisper; and ponder why a gentle and quiet spirit is precious to God, and how we can cultivate this in ourselves, after reading Peter's admonitions in I Peter 3:3-4.  There are also a few blank pages meant for your own Journey Journal following each study.


I had hoped to work through the devotional together with my daughter, but I thought she was still a bit young for it.  She is 11 and the book is recommended for 12 and up.  I think that with a mother's or adult mentor's guidance, girls as young as 12 could certainly learn a lot from this book, but my opinion is that perhaps 14 and up would be a better recommendation.

So... I read it myself, and I loved it! I truly enjoyed the sensitive and imaginative retelling of the Bible characters' stories.  Have you ever watched a movie retelling of a book you know well, and been surprised that a character didn't look at all like you'd pictured them in your mind?  That happened to me a couple of times while reading this book, because Clarkson's ideas about the personalities and thoughts of these Bible women and their interactions with others differed from how I'd pictured them.  The Bible doesn't tell us much about the background of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, or all of the conversations between Mary and Joseph, but we can try to imagine based on what we do know.  Clarkson's insights and her storytelling are poignant and beautifully written. I love and read a lot of historical fiction, and this is top-notch.  Her devotional thoughts from her own experiences brought back memories from when I was a young adult struggling with some of those same stresses and decisions, and I think would be especially meaningful to teen girls and young women who are living through those daily struggles.  The Bible studies could spark deep discussions between a mother and daughter or in a small group, or be used as a starting point for deeply personal reflection and study.

What I liked best:

  • beautifully written stories by an excellent storyteller, in a wonderful historical fiction style
  • insightful and encouraging, especially for young women who want to grow in their faith
  • thought-provoking and challenging Bible study questions
  • visually appealing, which is often so important to young ladies! I love books that look lovely, and this one does.
What I need to mention:
  • I was dismayed to realize that the Scripture references for the featured Bible stories are not given anywhere! It seems obvious that the stories of Ruth and Esther can be found in the Bible books that bear their names, but not everyone (especially young readers or new Christians) will know where to find what the Bible does say about any of these women.  This seems to me a very unfortunate omission, because it may blur the line between what parts of the retellings of the stories are directly drawn from Scripture and which are the author's own ideas.  
  • There are no instructions or suggestions included for discussing the book and the Bible study sections in a group, or even between mother and daughter, so be aware that there are no "answers in the back of the book" and no group leader's guide, which we sometimes expect.  
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and doing an abbreviated version of the Bible studies.  I fully intend to re-read the book with Kennady when she is a little older, and I plan on suggesting it for girls' Bible study groups both at our church and in our homeschool group.  

Would this resource be helpful in your own journey of faithfulness? Here's what you need to know:
Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson may be purchased directly from Apologia's website for $13. (paperback)  You may view a sample chapter and the table of contents at the website as well.

Visit Apologia's website at to find out more about the many wonderful resources they offer.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews.


Disclaimer: As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the paperback version of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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