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?