I don’t really keep thankfulness lists, at Thanksgiving or any other time, but last weekend I realized something I’m thankful for that’s off the beaten path. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to appreciate and participate in the arts all my life.
Like many little girls, I started ballet at the age of three. I loved it and continued taking classes until my family moved to Memphis after fourth grade. That was the end of my real training, so I never got to go en pointe, but I’d often do barre exercises by myself. In college I took ballet for my phys ed requirement. I’ve taken adult ballet a few times (one of the classes was taught by a former Bolshoi dancer who revolutionized the fundamentals for me). When I was in college, my friends and I went swing dancing every week at one of the campus ministry houses. I took a few ballroom lessons when I was engaged. Most recently, I was part of a line-dancing group for five years. By the standards of the dance world, I’m over the hill at 35, but I feel more at home in my body and more interested in dance now than ever. It kills me not to have room in my schedule right now for a class (maybe modern or even hip-hop?), because I miss it to a physical degree.
My grandmother is an artist. When I was a kid, we often went to art museums and talked about the pieces, or did projects she’d come up with. She encouraged me to think outside the box and color people’s faces purple if I wanted to. I’ve never been a great visual artist (though my high school notebooks were full of cartoonish fashion designs), but I’ve always loved messing around with color and different mediums for my own enjoyment. I’m happy to have that creative outlet.
In my school system growing up, band started in sixth grade. My mom made a rule that my siblings and I had to learn an instrument for a year. If we didn’t like it, we could quit when the year was up. I ended up with the flute, because my cousin gave us hers, and 24 years later I’m still playing it. Music and band culture are part of me down to my bones. My marching band years in high school were some of the best and most formative of my life (as everyone hears about if they meet me more than once). Again, I’ve never been a spectacular musician, but hopefully my heart makes up the difference. After I joined a community band last year, I tried to explain to my dad why it felt so positive and important to me, and he said “You don’t have to have a reason.” The best I can do is, no matter where I am or what’s going on in my life, I can sit down in a band rehearsal and I’m home. Playing with a group centers me in a way almost nothing else does. It’s my second language. I will always be thankful to my mom for this gift. (PS: I want to learn the oboe, but switching instruments at my age is pretty daunting. Not to mention buying an oboe.)
And of course, there’s writing. I seriously cannot remember a time when reading and writing weren’t constants in my life. I think my mom has “stories” I wrote in preschool (probably about The Flintstones, one of my early obsessions). When I can’t write out my thoughts and feelings (if only privately), I feel crippled and incomplete, like Harriet the Spy without her notebook. Words are my air and my lifeblood.
I know creativity is common to most people and I’m not a special snowflake or anything. But the arts connect me to God, other people, the universe, and even myself on a daily basis. My life is so much richer because of them, and I’m so thankful that I’m part of them and they’re part of me.
My life has a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot. – Ashleigh Brilliant
Every fall, my pop-culture Bible Entertainment Weekly devotes an issue to the new TV season. As I read the 2014 edition a few months ago, packed with interviews with writers and showrunners, I was struck in a new way by their authority over their stories. As is tradition, many of them had thrown crazy things at their characters at the end of last season or divided their protagonist couples, but they already had plans in place to resolve those conflicts. Sometimes in the first couple of episodes. Because nothing can prevent storytellers (at least the good ones) from remaining faithful to their arc. Neither fire, nor flood, nor misunderstanding, nor stunt-cast love interest can prevent everything from working out as it should (usually happily) – or at least making sense – in the end.
I thought about how safe I would feel knowing my fate is locked in, there’s nothing I can do to mess up my own eventual happiness, and the setbacks I face are temporary. That I’m in the hands of people who know what they’re doing and will not be thwarted. For a long moment, I seriously envied fictional characters. And then I went, Oh.
I am in the hands of the Ultimate Storyteller, and I trust Him less than I trust Hollywood writers.
I have never had a shred of doubt that God can do anything He wants. He is sovereign and limitless. (If He wanted to, He could pull a Dawn from Buffy and make a soul mate for me right now out of dust and plant memories in all of our heads that he had always been there. But, you know, that’s not really how He rolls.) My skepticism has never been whether God can. It’s whether He will. And my belief that He will gets weaker all the time, because for His own reasons, He so often chooses not to. I’ve seen parents and spouses lost way too soon and friends struggling through miscarriage, infertility, unemployment, underemployment, financial struggles, loneliness, difficult marriages, and unwanted singleness that goes on and on. I’ve seen people cry out to God for years while nothing really changed. In a lot of these stories, deliverance and/or resolution eventually came. But when many “seasons” have passed, you start to wonder if you have your own story arc at all… or if you’re just a background player walking in sad circles, a plotline dropped in favor of the more interesting things happening to other people.
Not long after this EW revelation, I was discussing similar things over dinner with a new friend. When she brought up Jeremiah 29:11 – that favorite ruler-wrist-slap of Christians everywhere – I braced myself. But she wanted to talk about the context. In Jeremiah 29, God is talking to the Jews exiled to Babylon, who are crying out for deliverance to go back to Israel. He tells them He will eventually bring that to pass – but not for seventy years. So they need to settle in and get comfortable with Plan B, because their own personal dreams of going home are never going to come true. Then He says, For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. I wish I could talk to the Israelites about how they found comfort in that, then and at the end of their lives. (At least they had confidence that things would be better for their descendants.)
The problem, I guess, is that we all want to be on The Mindy Project, but some of us are on Game of Thrones. And most of us are somewhere in the middle, somewhere between comedy and tragedy, and our plots could go either way. We don’t know what kind of show we’re living in. We don’t know if we’ll get personal triumphs or if we’re more of a device to move the big-picture story forward. I know that the overall story of the world ends happily. But I’d love a little reassurance that my smaller story is going somewhere good, or even anywhere at all… at some point before the end of time.
Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Johnnyswim in concert. Introducing what they refer to as their “YOLO song,” Amanda pointed out that “you only live once” is used almost exclusively as justification for doing risky and usually ill-advised things. No one says, “Buckle your seatbelt. Take a nap. Take time out for the people you love. You only live once!”
I thought that was so wise.
My Year of Alive has motivated me to take chances before I had time to overthink them, make changes I’ve needed to make, and open my heart without regard to how it might end. I’m living more in the present instead of in constant preparation for a future that probably won’t look like anything I’ve imagined anyway. I want to stay on this road and am happy about my progress.
But the roller coaster of YOLO has worn me out. I was having a blast at first. Then the ride accelerated past its posted speed, momentum carrying it forward and ever faster. Embracing Alive started to mean doing constantly bigger and better things to make my life worth something and myself worth knowing. I pursued the loud, bold, and exciting a little too hard, and lost my original intent, which was to be more Alive from my soul. I forgot that there’s life in stillness too, that you need both and too much of either one can be unhealthy. I started to want off the ride, but I still don’t quite know how to eject.
There’s still more excitement to come in these last weeks of my Year of Alive – and of course, the frenzied holiday season is almost here. But I want to be more mindful about it, remembering what my priorities should be and what I really stand for, instead of charging ahead on autopilot. To the roots of my being, I feel simultaneously exhausted and jittery, like I’m surviving on Red Bull. Chasing a high will do that. It’s gotten too loud in here to hear my own heart. Before I (metaphorically) jump out of any more planes, I need to make sure it’s something positive I really want, not just a feat of derring-do for its own sake. That’s fun and empowering in small doses, but I’ve had plenty. Being fully Alive isn’t just about the moment. It’s also about where you’re headed. Because you only live once.
This post was written for the monthly One Word 365 linkup at The Messy Middle, but it looks like we’re not having it this month. You can also check out my Alive Pinterest board.
In September 2012, my friend Alanna texted me that she was thinking of signing up for Christian Mingle. Despite the freshness of a terrible experience with eHarmony and my disdain for Christian Mingle specifically, I encouraged her to go for it if she felt good about it. Within 48 hours, she started talking to a guy named Jonathan. They went on their first date the following weekend. He proposed this past Fourth of July at Turner Field in Atlanta, and last Saturday, they got married.
Results not typical, indeed, but it couldn’t have happened to better people. I didn’t even need to have the semi-joking “If you ever hurt her, I will hunt you down” conversation with Jonathan, and that means a lot to me. I’m continually thankful that the married women closest to me are with good men who see their value and love them deeply. Even the best marriages go through rough times, of course, but it’s a gift not to feel anxious about my friends’ (or my sister’s) marriages or whether they’re being treated well.
Alanna worked with a seamstress to alter her mom’s wedding dress, and I can’t get over how gorgeous, classy, and perfect for her it was. Duchess Kate would have approved. Early in the process, Alanna texted me and Allie (one of the other bridesmaids) a picture of herself smiling in the dress in its original 1970s state with no commentary. Ever-tactful Allie finally replied, “How elegant!” Then she assured us this was the Before picture and we collapsed in relief. Hilarious.
The bridal party got to choose our own navy dresses. I loved that they all expressed our personalities but still looked great together and didn’t cost a fortune. My dress was from The Limited. I had my eye on it last spring, but it sold out online before going on sale. So after the engagement, I ordered a dress from eShakti instead. In person, it was less flattering than I’d hoped, but I was still going to wear it in the wedding. Then, I popped into The Limited on my birthday and found My Dress on the clearance rack. Only one, my size, 70% off. I thought the lace and chevron might be too distracting for the wedding, but Alanna insisted. I love it and am excited that I can wear it regularly now!
It even looked good with a puffer coat. From the altar to the slopes!
We all received orange wraps to wear with our dresses. Guess where the groom went to college?? As he cut his Auburn cake at the reception, he shouted “War Eagle” and everyone responded like it was a liturgy in church. Oh, SEC.
Besides the actual marriage, the most exciting thing about the wedding was most of the SIPsters being together. In 2009, a bunch of us who knew each other on LiveJournal met up for a weekend in Knoxville. We went thrift shopping together, and I can’t remember if we actually found a pair of jeans that fit several of us, but Bethany’s husband started calling us the Sisterhood of the Traveling Secondhand Pants. Since several of us had had eyebrows raised at us about hanging out with people from the internet, we also called ourselves the Scary Internet People. Eventually that was abbreviated to SIP and merged to create SIPsters. I know it’s cutesy (and efficient), and cliquey (our borders are flexible). Even though most of us live far apart, these women have become some of my favorite people in the world. We try to hang out as a group at least once a year, and get together in smaller groups whenever we can. It’s never enough time, though. I was thrilled that Caroline, one of my local best friends, got to meet them at the wedding. She texted her husband that she’d just met the SIPsters, and he replied, “WTF is a SIPster?” So, there you go. Alanna’s sister Katharine is another SIPster and the person who suggested Alanna and I should hang out. She was the matron of honor, and getting to share this experience with her was a happy bonus. I’m thankful to have her in my life, and I will always be thankful to her for bringing her sister into my life too.
I didn’t make any speeches this weekend because I couldn’t have gotten two words out without crying, but I don’t know what I would have done these last few years without Alanna. She has been my defender, my rock, and my safe harbor. She’s prayed for me, encouraged me, continued to hope for me when I can’t anymore, internet-stalked guys on my behalf, and helped me decide which shoes more times than I can count. I can tell her anything at any time of day or night and never worry that I’m bothering her (even when I am) or sound crazy (even when I do). In short, she is everything a best friend should be. I wish her all the happiness in the world.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been unabashedly obsessed with Taylor Swift’s 1989. Sometimes I stop and take a mental picture* the first time I hear a song, because I have a feeling the song is going to mean something to me for years to come. I had that experience with track 4, “Out of the Woods.”
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet? Good.
On the surface, this repetitive chorus might seem like lazy songwriting. But the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate its brilliance. If we’re quiet enough to hear it, who among us doesn’t have a little voice inside asking those questions ad nauseam? I’ve asked them during all kinds of difficult situations and in every romantic relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve spent years, collectively, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve waited for resolution, to be able to tie a bow on things and declare them finished. I’m still waiting.
The truth is, we are never out of the woods (and when I read that in Taylor’s liner notes, I did a little fist pump of recognition). As soon as we make it into the open in one sense, we find ourselves in a whole new forest. If we experience meadow times when everything is clear, sunny, and sure, we need to soak them up because they’re temporary. We spend so much energy pursuing the meadows (and beating ourselves up if we can’t find our way there), but that’s not where we were made to live. We were made for the woods. We were made to be a little lost, a little uncertain, with our only surety that God made the woods and is in them with us.
Sometimes that’s really hard to swallow. But I want to see the woods as a place of adventure more than I see them as a threat. I want to make my peace with the shadows and the crunching leaves. I want to hug a tree.
* = I don’t think the flash went off.
For most of my life, I couldn’t run without feeling like I was suffocating. National fitness tests, field days, and laps at practices were a nightmare for me. Even during my marching years, I walked most of our daily required running, envying those who could run easily, even joyfully. I figured it was an ability that you either had or you didn’t, and I didn’t.
Sometime after I moved to my current house, I started trying to run when I went for walks. At first I sprinted maybe fifty yards at a time. Slowly – like over a period of years – I increased to jogging a few minutes at a time. It seemed like such a laughable accomplishment, but I was thrilled. Running was just as difficult for me as before – I still struggled, cramped, and gasped for air. I wasn’t sure why I even wanted to, because I honestly didn’t expect it would ever get easier or better. There was no runner’s high. It was pure work. But I could do it anyway, and somehow the satisfaction of that was enough motivation to put myself through regular torment.
The switch finally flipped about a year ago. I was on the treadmill in the weeks before the True Blue 5K, trying to increase my speed and maybe my running intervals – I figured I’d still be walking most of it. At the point when I normally stopped, I realized I could keep going. So I did. I ran for about fifteen minutes, and I didn’t die. I did it again the next day, and the next week, and ended up running about 75% of the race. I marveled that in my mid-thirties, my body could suddenly and inexplicably do something it had never done before. My dad said it was simple: I was finally conditioned. All that time I’d pushed myself, with no hope that it would amount to anything, had made it possible for me to run the way I’d always wished I could.
This summer I trained to run a whole 5K, and I did it, on my birthday. I knew people who blew through that race in half my time as part of their marathon training. But to me, just running the entire 5K in any time was as good as a marathon. Just a couple of years before, it had seemed about as unlikely. And still, the best part of doing a hard thing was knowing that I could – having that precedent for the future.
I knew I would do the True Blue again this year because it’s my favorite. It’s a night race that winds through the University of Memphis campus. I didn’t stress about it and only did a couple of prep runs. I was hoping for a better time than my birthday race, but I never doubted that I could run the whole thing, which would be a first at the True Blue and therefore still an accomplishment. When I crossed the line last Friday night, I knew right away that it was going to be a good race. I could feel in every step how much stronger I was than the last time I ran that course. I never felt like I was struggling. The further I went, the more joyful and thankful I felt. Thankful to be under a full moon, running confidently on familiar paths I walked during some of the best years of my life with some of my best friends. Thankful to have a strong, healthy body. Thankful in ways I can’t explain. I think I was smiling most of the way.
When I ran through the tiger head at the end (the True Blue is worth doing for this alone), I saw that I’d finished five minutes faster than my birthday race. Later I confirmed I’d beaten my previous record 5K time by .02 seconds. .02 seconds is hardly worth mentioning. But to me, it was everything.
I don’t cook beef very often, but I got this roast beef recipe from my friend Melanie about ten years ago, and it’s still my favorite! Now that fall is here and Winter is Coming, take five minutes to throw this into a Crock-Pot and you’ll be very happy at the end of the day.
Crock-Pot Italian Roast Beef
1 five-pound rump roast
1 .7-ounce package dry Italian dressing mix
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of each of the following: basil, garlic powder, onion salt, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper
1. Combine bay leaf, spices, and three cups of water in a saucepan. Stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Place the roast in the slow cooker and pour the dry Italian dressing over the meat. You can also add the spices directly to the meat if you don’t have time for the boiling step. If your slow cooker is like either of the ones I’ve had, and you’re going to be out of the house, you’ll probably need to add more water to keep the meat from burning.
3. Cover and cook for the desired time. When done, remove the bay leaf and shred the meat with a fork.
Melanie’s serving suggestion was to do French-dip roast beef sandwiches (with melted Swiss cheese). For second-night leftovers, thicken the au jus into a gravy and serve the roast beef with mashed potatoes. It also goes well with Balsamic Roasted Carrots, which is how I ate it last night!
October was a month of brides and babies. I got a new niece, E, and a new “nephew” via Caroline, one of my best friends! My friend Esther got married (and our old adult ballet class had a little reunion at the wedding). I also helped throw a bridal shower and a lingerie shower for my best friend Alanna, who’s getting married in two weeks.
After almost a year of anxiety about it, my house got a new roof, covered by my insurance and put on in one day. I’m still amazed by how the whole thing unfolded and God’s provision. NOT having to spend $10K on a roof will change your life!
The monthly book list posted yesterday – all my flight time this month meant a lot of reading! My three favorites were Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline; 5th Wave sequel The Infinite Sea; and Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir Leaving Church.
Thanks to my sister, I finally started watching Gilmore Girls this month. Friends have told me for years that I would love it, and they were right.
It just came out on Monday, but I’m obsessed with Taylor Swift’s 1989. No shame. Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 5, and 13. You can listen to my ever-expanding 2014 playlist on Spotify.
I found out at the last minute that Johnnyswim was coming to town, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in years. If you ever have a chance to see them live, GO. They’re incredibly talented and seem like incredible people. I don’t make proclamations like this often, but I knew they must be believers because the Holy Spirit was just radiating from them. Crazy-sounding but true… and something to aspire to.
I hadn’t seen Sia’s “Chandelier” video, but when my sister, BIL, and I started watching an SNL skit spoofing it, we stopped and watched the original first. I suggest you do the same – it’s awesome in its own right!
At the beginning of the month, my mom and I went to Evansville for the premiere of a documentary my brother made for Uncharted International. It’s called Ang (the Burmese word for home), and he filmed it in Myanmar last summer. I’m so proud of him!
Then I went to Orlando for work, but I was just in meetings all day for two days and then came home. No shenanigans! The following week, I flew to Dothan to meet my new niece.
I saw Once at the Orpheum this week with my friend Ashley. I didn’t know much about it going in, but it was magical and the music was fantastic!
In my continuing spree through the restaurants of Cooper-Young and Overton Square, I tried out Greencork (awesome) and Schweinehaus this month. Good times.
I’ve missed Memphis Madness the last two years, so I was excited to go. It’s basically a citywide pep rally for Tiger basketball. Sadly, it was a little meh this year – featured performer Rick Ross brought all the excitement. The Forum charging for tickets and not letting people move down to better empty seats didn’t help the situation. Neither did the fact that we only have three or four returning players. I’m trying not to let this cast a shadow over the season for me!
I needed good white and gray cardigans, so I snatched these up at a Banana Republic outlet for 70% off. There’s nothing revolutionary about them, but I cannot stop wearing them. I’ve already asked my brother to go back and pick up whatever other colors they have.
One of my brother’s best friends just got silkscreening equipment, and one of his first projects was this family lobstering logo Kevin designed. We all LOVE these shirts, and word is my uncles are practically wearing them daily.
Oh, and I busted out last year’s Starbucks cup costume for my Halloween concert last night with the community band! Tonight there’s a costume contest at Tiger Lane before the Homecoming game, and I had started making a “bikini” from team logo fabric to go as a Tigers Sexy Sheet Ghost. But I would have had to sew it all together when I got home last night at 9:30, and I was just too tired. Maybe next year.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
With lots of traveling, things demanding my attention, and general exhaustion, writing has been difficult this month. But I posted about being an introvert raised as an extrovert, took you on a tour of scenic lookouts and LOST filming locations on Oahu, told the story of my new (and only) tattoo, and participated in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day photo project.
Posts I Loved:
♥ Paul Heggie: Go On and Tear Me Apart (Paul is killing it these days – check out his whole blog.)
♥ Jonalyn Fincher: Consent Is Complicated
♥ Jamie Wright Bagley on the importance of empathy: Stability Central. (I took the Strengths Finder test a while back and Empathy is my primary strength, so I’m learning all I can about how to make the best of it.)
♥ Danielle Carey: “Be more attractive.”
♥ Beautiful poetry from John Blase at A Deeper Story: The Pledge We Make
♥ My friend Lindsey on beginning a prison ministry: A Sobering Moment
♥ Hollywood Housewife: People and Love (I’ve had to relearn this hard lesson many times)
♥ My friend Bethany on the myth of the 50% divorce rate: When A Myth Actually Matters
♥ Sorry I can’t go a month without linking Glennon Melton, but: What If Your Life Is Already The Best Thing?
♥ LOL of the Month: The Life of Bon: The Art of Kissing
Relativity by Cristin Bishara (3.5 stars)
After moving cross-country with her dad and in with a stepfamily she barely knows, Ruby is burdened by all the losses she can’t change. Her mom died in a car accident when she was young, and now she’s lost her best friend and secret love, George. When her scientific curiosity is piqued by a mysterious tree near her new house, she discovers it’s a portal to nine alternate universes. As she finds surprises in each one, she feels more and more driven toward the perfect universe – one where her mom is alive and she and George are together. But she might lose them all in the process. This was a refreshing story, and I liked how unapologetically smart Ruby is. Get it, girl.
God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals by Susan Bulanda (4 stars)
I downloaded this book months ago when it was a Kindle daily deal, and now that I’m dealing with the sudden loss of my cat, I was interested enough to read it. This is a pleasant, well-researched summary of everything the Bible says and implies about animals. Bulanda has a lot of good insights that I hadn’t heard before, and a lot of reassurance about God’s care for and value of His creatures. I found it really comforting and will probably reference it again in the future.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline (4 stars)
I read this for the Red Couch Book Club (but, as usual, too late for the discussion). I knew it would change my perceptions about the fashion industry in ways I might not like. Cline examines our society’s growing addiction to fast fashion and ever-lower prices, and shows us how it’s affecting the whole world. She illustrates the decline of quality clothing over the past hundred years and goes into Chinese sweatshops and Dominican fair-trade factories. Overdressed is a more engaging read than I expected, but it’ll make you uncomfortable. I was already trying to be more mindful about my clothing purchases and this gave me a big push.
Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols (3.5 stars)
At fourteen, Leah decided flying was her ticket out of the trailer park. Now eighteen, she has her first pilot’s license and is still working at the same small airport. The kind man who taught her to fly has died suddenly, leaving behind two grieving sons to keep his aviation business together. Grayson, the more rebellious of the two, has always intrigued Leah – but he threatens to fire her if she won’t date his brother Alec, no questions asked. This novel is a (slightly disturbing) love story, but it’s also an unflinching look at the realities of serious poverty, and how much ambition and luck you need to get out of it. I’m slowly reading all of Jennifer Echols’ books and continue to be impressed by her range.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4 stars)
Two years ago, on her family’s private island, something terrible happened to Cady. Ever since, she’s been crippled by severe migraines and has lost most of her memories of that summer. When she finally returns to the island, her two favorite cousins, and her true love, she’s determined to piece the mystery together. That’s all anyone should know about this going in. I’ve heard so much hype about it that it couldn’t possibly have lived up to my expectations, but I was hooked and duly impressed.
The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2 stars)
It pains me to say so, but with each Moon book, I’m wishing I’d stopped at Life As We Knew It (which is still amazing). This fourth volume is the bleakest yet. Little brother Jon, now seventeen, lives in a safe enclave with his stepmother and half-brother, while the rest of the family lives as slave laborers in a neighboring town. The entire story is a Lord of the Flies-esque downward spiral of class warfare, inhumane treatment, and horrific deaths. I do think we need occasional reminders that we could all turn savage under the right conditions (so we won’t), but this was so awful that I almost gave up on it. There are glimmers of hope, but in their world, they wouldn’t be enough to keep me going. (Apparently Goodreads agrees.)
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (4 stars)
When she was ordained in the Episcopal Church, Barbara Brown Taylor envisioned a long, fulfilling life of ministry. With fatigue setting in after about ten years in an urban congregation, she takes a church in rural Georgia. But even in a peaceful town, her soul becomes increasingly troubled and exhausted. This is the story of how a woman in love with God and His Church ends up with more questions than answers, and has to deconstruct her faith to find it again. I recommend it to anyone in professional ministry or any believer feeling disillusioned. If nothing else, you’ll find reassurance that you are not alone.
Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (4 stars)
I reviewed this here.
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey (4.5 stars)
When we left Cassie at the end of The 5th Wave, her rebel alien boyfriend had blown up the aliens’ military compound, allowing her to escape with her brother, her high school crush, and their platoon of child soldiers. The bulk of The Infinite Sea centers on Ringer, one of the platoon who goes on a scouting mission from their new “base” and ends up in one impossible situation after another. This sequel didn’t grab me quite as much as the original, but it was compelling and ended with a twist I thought about for days. Well played, Yancey.
Books for October: 9
2014 year to date: 63
On October 1, my second niece was born! Since my sister and I are very close, I’m thrilled and emotional about a second generation of hermanas. When Niecy was born, Debra and Lance lived much closer. But now that they’re an eight-hour drive away, it was too complicated for me to be there for this baby’s birth. Instead, I flew down to Dothan last weekend for a good visit with the whole gang.
Since Niecy is no longer alone in niecehood, from here on out her name on this blog will be what she happily calls herself: Fifoo. Fifoo is now maturely calling Debra “Mom” and pushing her baby doll in a swing. She seems excited to be a big sister (unlike her mother, who at almost the same age asked when our parents would be taking our little brother back to the hospital). I realized this trip that I have to start being careful with my influence, because she picks up whatever Mom and Aunt B do! She was quick to notice my new tattoo, prompting a discussion about how it was okay for me to “draw on myself” because I’m a grownup.
I didn’t think any baby could possibly be chiller than Fifoo was, but Baby E has accomplished it in these four weeks of her life. She only cries when she’s hungry, and is totally content to be held and look around for the rest of her conscious time. I spent several happy hours this weekend cuddling her while Debra and I watched Gilmore Girls.
First on the agenda for this visit was the church fall festival. Debra made these amazing Care Bear costumes out of felt and terrycloth jumpsuits! I just put together a felt tummy for myself that morning and put my hair up in “ears.”
We took Fifoo to an event at the mall to get her picture taken with Disney princesses and other characters. In the end, she only consented to one photo with Doc McStuffins, but we had fun and counted 31 Elsas while we waited in line.
We also went to a church chili cook-off at someone’s farm.
On my last day, we went to the Dothan Botanic Gardens to see an exhibit of creative scarecrows. My favorites were the Ice Bucket Challenge scarecrow, an impressive Shrek and Fiona with pumpkin heads, and an unintentionally hilarious “Dreams Do Come True” scene featuring a little girl looking into her future as a headless bride. I mean, I’m assuming it was unintentional… otherwise that’s some dark stuff for a kids’ scarecrow display!!
Spending a few days with these guys was good medicine. I’ve been overextended and a little depressed lately, but at Debra’s I felt happy and relaxed, ate well, and slept better in a house with a newborn than I do alone with one hyper cat. I was sad to leave, but thankfully we’ll see each other again at Christmas!