Review: A Place to Land


Gentle Reader,

Pass go, collect two hundred dollars and get this book.

Seriously. This is not one you want to miss.

I had the joy of “meeting” Kate Motaung several years ago when she took over as the Fearless Leader of the Five Minute Friday community. (She did not give herself this title. I did. I don’t remember why, but it’s stuck in my brain). We have chatted via Twitter, Voxer and blog comments. As I’m sure others can attest, Kate has the unique gift of making one feel at home; I don’t doubt that, were I to show up in her driveway today, that I would be welcomed inside for tea and good conversation.

This is part of what made this book so fascinating for me. Kate writes of being torn between houses following her parents’ divorce and between continents after moving to South Africa in her early twenties. Her story is one of longing for home, of never quite knowing where or what that place is. Out of that longing, I believe she strives to give others a sense of comfort and security. Even those of us who have only connected with her through electronic means pick up on this and celebrate her gift of welcoming embrace.

Ultimately, and encouragingly, Kate reminds both herself and the reader that our true Home, the place our souls ache for, is not to be found in this life. We get teases, little glimpses, that give us hope and keep us going when things get hard, but we never get the full picture. We have to wait. So we sit in the discomfort, knowing that all is not as it should be, asking Jesus to daily give us the grit and the grace to navigate yet another bump in the road.

The pages of A Place to Land are full of honesty and humor. Kate looks unflinchingly at herself and allows us to do so as well. In that, we are given permission to be that honest. To acknowledge that we don’t always know the answers or do the right things. Her choice to tell her story in such a raw way is deeply refreshing. There are no neat and tidy bows, no pristine images of perfect kids and conflict-free living. There is, instead, a woman who consistently, constantly, preaches Jesus. His presence, His love, His guidance, His help. Over and over again, Kate finds Him in the middle of the mess. She shows the reader how to reach out for His hand.

God took the tug-of-war that waged in my soul, the thick rope that spanned across the ocean, and yanked from both sides. He cut it clean through the middle, somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic. And He made me look up. To see that the greatest and strongest pull is neither east nor west, neither here nor there. It’s the heavenward pull.

It’s the pull toward home.

I now know how to respond the next time someone asks me the simple question, ‘Are you heading home?'” Regardless of my earthly destination, and purely because of the grace of Christ’s sacrifice, I’ll be able to answer with confidence, ‘Yes. Yes I am.'”

– p. 266-267

To that I can only say, “Amen.”

Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story with us. Thank you for the hours you spend leading the ragtag FMF troop. Thank you for being who you are. Usikelelke.



Review: Surprised by Oxford

Along the Way @ (3)

Who am I? What is my purpose? Why did ___________ happen?

Surprised by Oxford, written by Carolyn Weber, documents one woman’s honest grappling with those questions. Weber’s tale is full of surprises indeed.

Arriving at the old English university to pursue a Masters degree in literature, Weber encounters TDH (Tall, Dark and Handsome). Discovering that he is a Christian after viewing an unfortunately-worded email (one of many humorous scenes), she, an avowed agnostic, sets out to poke holes in his faith. Bitter – understandably so – after a rough home life, Weber finds it difficult to understand how anyone could possibly believe in a good and loving Father.

That first late-night conversation with TDH, recounted in Chapter 7, generates the momentum for the rest of this fascinating and refreshingly real journey of faith. Weber doesn’t pretend to be perfect, nor does she present her cast in rose-colored lighting. Reading her story made me feel as if she were someone I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with; she is an “ordinary” woman with issues and struggles.

As an Anglophile, I ate up every glorious detail about Oxford. (The scene where she and TDH stand atop a church spire… Amazing!) Weber’s style is wonderfully descriptive, though occasionally disjointed. A Ph.D-holding professor of literature, some of her words and phrases were a bit too academic for a book that appears to have been aimed at a general audience. I don’t think that these minor flaws hold the work back in any way, however.

I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are skeptical of Christianity. There are no sugar-coated answers, no cliches allowed to stand unchallenged. This is a tale for anyone brave enough to truly examine the faith.


I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.