Sunday, September 11, 2011

Current Reads

It's a gloomy kind of day, isn't it?

There's something equal parts heart-swelling and deflating about seeing flags at half-mast on the drive to church. We're all thinking of where we were when we got "that call" and, quite honestly, those are memories I'd rather do without.

I'd like to wield a giant Magic Eraser and sweep over the whole thing until there was nothing left in my hand and the sadness and the darkness of that day was less than a memory - gone.

On the other hand - ten years. Ten. How much life have we lived since then? How much crap have we left behind in those ten short years? How much joy and wisdom have we gained?

And so it is, redemption. A million different ways.


A very short story:
I used to read one book at a time. The end.

Right now, I have maybe ten or twelve books scattered about my side of the bedroom. I'd rather not mention the many stacks of magazines.

I wish I had more time to read. I read at least a little every day, but what I really want is a five-hour reading marathon.

Since that won't be happening anytime soon, I just keep adding to my stack. I pick something up at the end of the day based on the mood I'm in and my energy level.

I've got some great stuff happening up on my nightstand right now.

Bible - New Living Translation
The Bible was inscribed over a period of two thousand years, in times of war and in days of peace, by kings, physicians, tax collectors, farmers, fishermen, singers, and shepherds. The marvel is that a library so perfectly cohesive could have been produced by such a diverse crowd over a period of time which staggers the imagination. Jesus is its grand subject, our good is its design, and the glory of God is its end.
-Casting Crowns, The Word is Alive

Shortly after my agent meeting at She Speaks, I wandered down to the little book store table and picked this up. It opened up a whole new world, people. An exciting world. A daunting world. I underlined like it was my job in life, because one day, I'd like to think that it will be. I didn't write for weeks, because it took me forever to process all that I learned from this one little book. And I probably still don't "get" it. So, for now, I read those underlines over and over and over just like I used to do in college, ever-hopeful that the truths will leap up into my eyes and take root somewhere in the "easily accessed" area of my noggin.


Our cake potluck was a reminder that the fullness of life is often experienced in simple everyday things. Like homemade cakes and a new baby girl. The cakes we created not only celebrated baby Miro but also drew us close to God. Not so much because of the sugar or the butter or the flour, but because we closely reflect our Maker's heart when we create...Since we were created in his image, our attempts at creating are a natural expression, a lovely privilege that can seize us from soulful poverty, from ho-hum living, or the apathy of life without wonder or beauty.

My friend Jess told me about this book several years ago and I immediately bought five copies. I passed them out and kept one for myself. I even mailed one to a famous blogger who didn't know me from Adam, only to find out later that she doesn't enjoy reading. It happens.

The truth is, food and love are very nearly synonymous, in my book. There are people in my life right now that I love fiercely and protectively and I can't bear to send them away without something - anything. Sometimes it's a plastic container of chicken and noodles, sometimes it's an extra box of granola bars. Once, it was a 12 pack of drive-thru soft tacos. All I know is that to love is to feed. I know for sure that it's easier to connect over the clatter of forks and dishes.

The book is broken up into short stories and each ends with a recipe. Her stories broke my heart clean open and made me realize all over again that this food thing I have isn't pure silliness. It's a gift that I can give away.

It took me over a year to finish this book, only because I doled it out to myself sparingly, like the last few slices of peach pie. I didn't want to finish it because then, well, it would be gone.

One Thousand Gifts
I stood in line for this book to be signed by Ann Voskamp and all I remember is feeling like I might just lose it. I was already losing it, really. I was by myself, in a big crowd of people, and the thing I mostly wanted to do was drop my heavy bag to the floor and bawl my eyes out. I was heart-sick over this world, in which I believe that I should have different shoes to go with different outfits and where 3 good pairs of jeans are embarrassingly not enough; but where a three-year old in Southeast Asia flees imminent danger with nothing on his back - not a single thing - and uses a palm frond to keep the jungle rain out of his eyes. I wanted to zip myself out of my materialistic, self-absorbed skin and never look back. As it turns out, the zipper was stuck. It could never be that simple. So I kept on crying and praying that I would always feel so deeply. I haven't even started the book because I already don't want it to be over. (Do you see a pattern here?) But I sure do like knowing it's on the stack.

Give Them Grace
This was recommended by one of my homegirls, so I knew I would love it. And I did love it. And then I didn't really love it. And then I loved it again. And now? I mostly love it.

Here's what the book did for me: It gave me a fuller understanding of God's astounding love for me and my children. (And you.) It showed me that I have the opportunity every single day to lead my kids toward God's grace. It reminded me that nothing I do to or for my kids will make them "better". That job is way too big for me. What a stinking relief.

Here's what I didn't love: Throughout the book there are real-life examples of various parenting situations. The point is to teach the reader (me) that in every single situation, we have an opportunity to point our children to the truth of God's grace. This was eye-opening to me and I love the simple, grand truth of it all. It has changed the way I view parenting. However, the way in which the authors explain how to do this did not feel realistic to me. I think my qualms were far more related to style than substance. Still, overall, I recommend it.

The Gutter
I don't even know where to start with this. It should be its own post. This book rocked my world sideways. Even crazier? It has lived under a monstrous dust bunny behind Cory's dresser for nearly a year and I didn't even know it. Crazier still? Cory read the dang book and never told me about it! (The nerve.) I unearthed it a few weeks ago in a cleaning frenzy and promptly dropped my rag to start reading. Then I couldn't stop. I finished it the next day on the train ride to Chicago. It blew my mind.

If you haven't gone to the gutter, you haven't gone fully to Christ. After all, those in the gutter are the ones He called family, and the gutter is where He called home.
- The Gutter
The whole point of this book is that the gutter - wherever it might be - is a place where people need Jesus. They need him. But Christians are so afraid of these places, so afraid of temptation or darkness, that we refuse to ever go there. The author, Craig Gross, believes that every one of us has a gutter that we feel called to or in some way identify with, but we allow fear or sinful self-righteousness to keep us from going. And through our pointed ignorance, those in the gutter never come to know the God who would have shared a Value Meal with them or invited them over to play euchre.

I can't say for sure that I know exactly where my gutter is, but this book inspired me to start figuring it out.

Edie Girl raves about this book. She promised me that I would love it. She stalked the author and scored a personal visit from her to her book club. Sister was serious about Bloodroot.

So, here's the thing. The things.

1. I'm only half-way through.
2. The writing is descriptive and gorgeous.
3. It's kind of a downer.
4. And I don't typically hold that against a book. Not at all.
5. But I need this one to start showing me some redemption, and soon.
6. It's true that the setting of this novel is really the heroine. And since it takes place in Edie's neck of the woods, I think she was infinitely more predisposed to love it than I.
7. A decent bulk of this book is narrative/backstory. I LOVE narrative and backstory, but I was very recently told that my book could have almost none. The thought of removing all of my narrative/backstory made me want to put on my dad's John Deere ear-protectors and a pair of dark glasses and climb under the covers where I could sing nursery school songs and pretend that I hadn't heard what I had heard.
8. So maybe I'm a tiny bit bitter that Amy Greene successfully pulled it off.
9. Just a little.
10. I promise, I will finish this book. And I'll follow with a conclusive, final grade.
11. For now, I'm giving it a B-.
12. Can we still be friends, Edie? Edie....?????

Half the Sky
I've barely started this book, but it's soul-changing. It's meaty and gritty and smart in a way that makes my brain hurt a little bit, but mostly, it's important.

When India feels that the West cares as much about slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop trafficking.
-Half the Sky

Friends, this was the longest, nerdiest, bookishest post I ever have written. Your reward is one free hour to read any of the books on this list.

Which one would you pick first?


  1. i got all choked up thinking about you being all choked up in the sign my book line for ann.
    loved that one.
    must read again.
    bloodroot was a toughy. downer for sure.
    the ending was somewhat redemptive in a way. but it took a reader to point that out to me.
    think i read harry potter again after to that to get all right with my world again.
    don't tell me your anti-harry?
    loved that my little descrip is right below yours in emily's book. ;)
    unbroken? have you read this? whoa....

  2. I'd read hooked. And I'd WANT to read hooked because typically I don't want to read anything that reminds me of college. It's bad. I could gain so much knowledge if only I'd crack open the spine of a good How-to.

    Narrative and backstory...sigh. I am struggling with this too. I know I told you about my "darlings" because I had to kill them all. It was depressing. But I do think the book is better for it. Hard though when someone else breaks the rules and gets away with it.

    I want to read more.

  3. I'm in the middle of One Thousand Gifts. I have to read a little and process a lot before I pick it up again. But it makes me say wonderfuln things like, "thank you, Jesus, for things like shredded cheese and the cool breeze through my window."

  4. Oh wow. I feel so un-nerdish. Is that a word?

    I have my Bible on my nightstand on top of Crazy Love and Sun Stand Still. I have Grace for the Good Girl ordered up and am giddy for it's arrival.

    Rachel Ray is camping out in my magazine basket.

    That's all I've got. Can we still be friends?


  5. I love a nerdy book post. I post them time to time, too. I have books on pretty much every flat surface in my house most of the time - though I moved some of them tonight.
    If I had an hour to read something new, I'd love to give the Potluck book a try.

  6. Potluck.....I am in the midst of canning more jams and butters than my little family could possibly eat in years because it gives me immense joy to think I have something homemade to give to the people I love :)

  7. Definitely _Hooked_. I think I'll go buy a copy.

    I'm enjoying _One Thousand Gifts_. I'm on page 152. I've been reading it for months. I have to give my self long breaks to process.

    I enjoyed this post. Hey, I signed up for Goodreads today. Will you be my friend?

  8. Ann Voskamp is at the top of my list and with the cooler weather on the way I hope to have some extra time to read. I read the first chapter of A Thousand Gifts on Ann's blog and I'm hooked. I also watched the video on her site and love, love, love it.

  9. I'm smiling as I read this because I think that I have the same literary disease that you have and seeing your photo brought on this ah-ha moment. I currently have 8 books on my nightstand (with my NRSV) on top, and a list longer than my life of the books that I want to read. I have twenty books of various genres signed out of the library (that I keep renewing), and I have been telling myself that one at a time would be a better strategy, but where is the fun in that, right? Sounds as though, "Potluck," should be pushed up from my "want to read" list. And actually finishing, Half the Sky," is now going to happen as I've been trying, but then get distracted with other things like my two year old. Ah, but reality and balance are good things.

    It's such a joy to have discovered your blog this summer. I don't get a chance to read it as often as I would like to, but today's post echoed so much of what was coursing through my heart driving to church, seeing flags, listening to NPR, and reflecting on how the whole world has changed in ten years. Thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt posts.

  10. I've been meaning to post. Your blog has been such an encouragement to me on our journey through adoption from Korea. A book post is the perfect one to finally comment on since I'm such a reader. I've read two of the books in the picture. Half the Sky was good and played a role in me ending up teaching at a conference in Tanzania this past spring, a place I previously had no interest in. And I started One Thousand Gifts on that trip and finished it pretty quickly. I encourage you to just never consider that you've finished it. When you get to the last page, just begin again - you will want to. Promise.

  11. Potluck. Many thanks for the thoughtful suggestions.

  12. Gutter.
    Final answer. I think that excerpt just summed up something I've been suspecting for a while now, but didn't have the words for. LOVE.

  13. I think I started bloodroot before Edie ever talked about it and I gave up on it and returned it to the library. I think we have a great fondness for a narrative that resonates with our own, but otherwise we prefer authors to get on with the story.

    who was the famous blogger who doesn't read you can tell me.

  14. i am reading grace for the good girl right now which is just nearly too much real for this good girl. it is raking my heart over the coals in a super good way.

    i would pick the gutter. oh, and i think i will just do that. go pick it up.


  15. i have just started 'give them grace'! wow!
    the nlt and esv are my fave versions.
    they are both used for my devotions.

    i am the same, reading a few at once these days:
    give them grace
    too late the phalarope-alan paton
    pilgrim's progress-john bunyan
    the christian's high calling-maurice roberts

    all but give the grace are re-reads. there are some books i just must read, again and again, you know?

    ps i will always remember this day, ten years ago. those events propelled me into sharing my faith. i had been a christian two years, and practically kept jesus to myself. the reminder of no promised tomorrows, that awful day, just spoke to me. i want as many people as possible to join me with jesus in the end. the whole thing, i think it was part of what god used to give me an extra helping of compassion.

  16. Sounds familair...ten books,in various stages of being read.I would read Half the Sky.It reminds me of this quote - Most people want to live within the sound of church and chapel bell..I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.~c.t.studd

  17. i'm glad to hear your review of give them grace.
    i'm reading it now and have put it down a few times.
    i love the concept of this book, but have had some problems relating to the writing. i'm glad to hear that in the end you like it. that's enough to get me to keep going.

  18. I really, really love this about you.
    I mean, there are so many GREAT things about you : )
    The way you can make 2 outfits last for 14 days,
    the way you love all things old and antique-y,
    the way you love your babies....
    but this, this is my favorite : )
    You read books like a champ.
    I am so glad to know you champ.
    I haven't read anything since the Help. I want to read all of these though. Tomorrow, on my way home from work, I will stop at the bookstore that is going out of business and see if I can unearth a treasure or two.
    You rock my world : ) with your aprons, your smile and your beautiful, beautiful heart.

  19. Half the sky. Purely because it sounds like I would have to concentrate and you just gave me an hour. I'm assuming this hour is to be uninterrupted and therefore I could concentrate, rather than grab a moment here or there to read like I do presently :)

  20. we closely reflect our Maker's heart when we create...Since we were created in his image, our attempts at creating are a natural expression, a lovely privilege that can seize us from soulful poverty, from ho-hum living, or the apathy of life without wonder or beauty.

    That is just beautiful. So that's why I love to create:))) Thanks for the list. I need to read again. It's been a long time.

  21. My pick is going to have to be One Thousand Gifts. I keep seeing this book pop up in blog land over and over and over. It's next on the list.

    Just finished up Half the Sky a couple of months ago. It is the easiest most difficult read all at the same time. You'll know what I mean when you finish.

    Love this post.

  22. It seems your nightstand resembles mine...however, you seem to be getting through your books. I just can't seem to find the time! Ugh.

    The book I would pick? Give Them Grace because sister friend can use all the help she can get.

    Happy Monday!


  23. Well, I've been wanting to read "half the sky" for forever. But I'm intrigued by "hooked".
    I'm the same way with books. A stack of books always going. A little fiction, but mostly the kind that keep me up with my tiresome brain. Thanks for the nerd list- I'm always up for a new one for the stack!

  24. Wait! I'm not intrigued by "Hooked". It was the "gutter" one! Sheesh!

  25. They all sound great. Maybe Potluck because I live in the country and food is so important here.

  26. Thanks for posting the book reviews. I love hearing about what other people think about the books they've read. I just finished One Thousand Gifts and the listing of gifts has helped me to see how much God loves me.

  27. The Gutter - I want a changed heart. No, Potluck - "To love is to feed" sums me up, too. Wait, maybe Half the Sky? Or Hooked. Guess I know where my monthly spending $$ is going. Thanks for all of the suggestions!

  28. Hmm, I'd probably dive into Potluck first. Sounds right up my alley! And then The Gutter. It's been on my list of "to read". Going outside the pew, connecting and sharing Truth with those who need Him, putting aside my fear - that's where I want Him to lead me. Even if it's scary and hard, because those things are.

  29. I must confess, my night stand has several books sitting on it with one or two chapters read of each. Several of them are the same books that sit in your pile.

  30. I'm going to have to say Potluck, too, after that quote on creating. Fab. And so are you. ;)

  31. I thinkg I will read The Gutter. Sounds good. I am currenty rading The Shack.

  32. Hard decision! You've plead a pretty good case for each!
    Currently, my bible the NLT a Christmas Gift from the hubs (def. in the top 2 along with my cobalt blue kitchen aid mixer) the first year we were at the farm, sits on The Power of A Praying Wife, that sits on a stack of magazines, that sits on the floor next to my bed! Thank you for reminding me that I need a nightstand! :)

  33. Can I tell you something? I walked passed you as you stood in line to have Ann sign your book. Your arms were folded tight clutching your book close. I thought it rude of me to not stop at that moment and say hey. But I couldn't. I was barely keeping my own tears from flowing and you looked deep in thought. Like maybe you were having the same kinds of thoughts I was having. And it turns out you were.

    I'm so glad I got to meet you that week-end! But I'm sure you might have thought me to be a crazy lady if I would have talked to you that evening. My heart had been messed with in a real big way.

  34. I would have to say "The Gutter". I have spent a great deal of time in one of "those places", with recovering addicts, and absolutely, my friends have never understood. I'll be downloading it this evening- thanks for telling me about it!

  35. This year I started somthing new by reading the NLT Bible thru in Chronilogical order with It has been quite a journey:)

    I have the book One Thousand Gifts. I have only read three chapters :)

    Then there is The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter. This book has been marked up, highlighted & recomended to others.

    Simplfy is the theme in my life so, I just finished at the end of summer Living Simply: Choosing Less in a World of More
    By Joanne Heim. I had tears in my eyes for most of it.....


  36. Girl. You make me want to be a writer. You really truly do. Everything you write inspires me. Journey on :)
    xo ellie

  37. You're killing me here! First, the NLT. I have been unashamedly reading it and carrying it to my ESV-loving church for the past two years. I absolutely have fallen in love with the Word again because of the NLT. I'm so glad you like it too.

    Ann's book. You got it for me there too. I've only read half of it because I, for some stupid reason, don't want it to end. I'm so dumb.

    And "Give them Grace." I like the concept--point out kids to the gospel all the time--but I'm with you on the real-life examples. I just could not ever, in any way, see myself actually saying those things to my kids. I'd laugh out loud!

  38. I'm a read one book in two days kind of girl. Maybe three if it's 300 or more pages.

    I've only read Bloodroot, per Edie's recommendation, and Ann's book. Well, Ann's book has two chapters to go even though I've had it for months because I'm savoring it .

  39. My Kindle will be so full lol ! thank you for taking the time to write this :)Its always so great to hear what someone thinks of a book before I commit to buying it.

  40. I am gong to print out this page to put in my children rooms.Very nice stuff.

  41. I'm reading One Thousand Gifts and the Bible right now... definitely want to the Potluck and The Gutter to my Amazon list asap.

    Then I'm going to show my hubs your post and say, "SEE! There are women besides me that have books and magazines all over their bedroom!" (Thank you!!)

  42. The Gutter, and Half the Sky,One Thousand Gifts,and yes, The amazing Word of God!! But mine is the NIV version. I want to see things more like Jesus did and make his priorities more mine. I am still reading Radical,which is a lot to take in. But I too love to read 4-6 books at a time.
    I sure am glad to know someone who has all these books, and loves me enough to loan them to me. Let me know when that will be, I will even clean dust bunnies to pay you off.

  43. "One Thousand Gifts" completely transformed my life. I am on 366 and am off to write more after this.

  44. I think I'd first like to read Potluck because I love how food can nuture the soul, but I'm adding quite a few of these to my "to read" list. I love to read, but it takes me a while since I usually fall asleep not long after the little ones are in bed. Thanks for sharing! Always fun to hear what others are reading.

  45. i love you no matter what but you really should finish bloodroot---it has a crazy twist aaaannnnnd amy greene is all kinds of amazing. i adored her the instant i met her. i'm reading emily's book now and it's so awesome reading the words of someone you know. i'm always in tears. my emotions are so on the surface with that book.
    and that dress from ruche? i need it in every color!
    love you dearie,

  46. I had 242 posts in my reader list tonight. That's what I get for only having internet whenever the stars, moon, and wind line up perfectly.

    Give them Grace: I'm freaked (in the best way ever) that you said the things you said. I told Lynsey (my sister-in-law) the same exact thing. This book changed my heart in so many ways and I've made changes in the way I parent, but the examples....totally weird. I told Lyns if I ever start talking like a freak to my kids, don't give me grace...shake me.

    This post made me love you even more. Who would have thought that could be possible?


  47. Ooh, I will have to check out Potluck. And I have Bloodroot on my reading list, but now I am not so sure...

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