october + november = books + thoughts

There’s a wood wick candle crackling on the other side of the room. It should probably be a Christmasy scent like balsam fir or gingerbread, but, instead, we’ve still got pumpkin butter burning over here. There is not a single Christmas decoration up in our house, and every morning when the kids and I walk to the van for school drop-offs, Lily asks me why our pumpkins are in the pile of snow to the side of the porch.

(I’m actually not sure how they ended up there.)

We’ll get to the Christmas tree here soon enough, but for now, I’m thinking about everything November threw at me. (And October, for that matter, because I skipped last month’s review. Halloween and four kids was a busy way to end the month. )

What I Read

I read three nonfiction books over the past two months which, content-wise, had very little in common. Each one made me think in very different ways, but they all pointed to one similar theme: An encouragement to draw a wider circle around the people I interact with. It’s reminiscent, really, of something I’ve been thinking about since I read Braving the Wilderness back in April.

Shannan Martin summed up this idea well in her book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places:

Simply put, we cannot love what we do not know.
We cannot know what we do not see.
We cannot see anything, really until we devote ourselves to the lost art of paying attention. (pg. 19)

I might not have liked all the books I read this month, but I did appreciate that each author reminded me to lean in to the people around me every chance I can.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

The short answer to how I felt about this book is this: I did not like it. The long answer is probably better explained in person over a cup of coffee or through a wordier email exchange because my feelings feel very nuanced. (Plus, I had different types of problems with it, and I don’t think you’re here for a complete literary analysis.)

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera

I recently quit Twitter (one of my better personal decisions, really—that place is stressful), but before I did, I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda make mention of a book of essays he had contributed to, and, after reading the summary, I ordered it on the spot.

Inside this book are thoughtful reflections from 31 different actors, comedians, politicians, artists, writers, and athletes (12-year-old Molly was especially thrilled that this included Michelle Kwan). They all come to the table with very different experiences and perspectives but are united in the fact that they all grew up closely connected to more than one culture.

In today’s political climate, I’m noticing how easy it can be to speak for other groups of people with only the knowledge a distance can provide. This book certainly doesn’t replace the necessity of face-to-face interaction with those of varying cultures or beliefs, but it did provide me with a lot of powerful perspectives which I’m thankful for.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin

The premise of this book is simple: Pay attention to the hidden corners of your communities. The unnoticed places. The overlooked neighborhoods. The ignored people. Then, invest there. This book is filled with stories of the power that comes from sharing your life with other people.

There are two sections I keep circling back to in my brain:

…as we practice proximity with those we think of as lacking, we will begin to see ourselves aligned, the chasm between us narrowed to the width of the street where we live. Rather than clinging to this easy vernacular of “them” and “us,” let’s keep being broken together, slow to assume that certain people automatically need Jesus. Maybe they already have him. Maybe they just need a true friend. Maybe if we find ourselves compelled toward them it’s because we need to be discipled by them. (from “Let’s Stop Loving on the Least of These” pg. 118)

Mother Teresa famously said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” We gobble up her words, plastering them on signs and hand-lettering them onto notecards. We love them because they are beautiful. And profoundly true. But let’s not forget, this is the same Mother Teresa who reminded us to ‘draw a wider circle’ around who we consider family. Seen under the light of that truth, new meaning emerges. If we want our world to be better, we have to go out and love the people around us. We need to invite them in, as family. (from “We All Are Mothers” pg. 142)

What I Wrote

I’m getting back in the swing of writing now that my self-defined maternity leave has ended. Jake has been working a lot of nights this past month, which gives me a lot of quiet evenings to sit in front of my laptop.

In my own space, I wrote about the time we thought our kids had head lice and how it actually served as a means to point me back to the Gospel. Over at Mighty Moms, I wrote an article about how to involve kids in Thanksgiving (a little after the fact now) and a round-up of toy ideas for little kids who love cars (specially dedicated to Sawyer).

I’ve also been writing some micro-essays on my public Instagram page. So often, very small moments throughout my days reveal deeper concepts to me, and Instagram has served as a nice outlet for those thoughts because it forces me to use fewer words (and also gives me a reason to play around with photography).

A few days ago, I wrote this quick reflection after Norah’s lunchtime prayer happened to reroute my entire day:

IMG_9977

Onward Christmas Candles!

Every year, when I flip the giant $3 calendar I get from the Target dollar section to December, I think, “Didn’t I just buy this?” Jake asked me the other day if I think time will ever feel slower to which I said simply, “No.”

I’ve got two more books on my “to read list” for this year, but, honestly, I’m mostly just looking forward to looking back at 2018 as a whole. But, in addition to a lot of big things happening in our family, I also can’t ignore the small threads that repeated themselves throughout each month.

But, there I go getting ahead of myself and it’s not even officially December yet.

Tune in next month?

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