Archives for January 2015

Books on my nightstand: It’s been a long winter Edition

winter reads via

I set a (rough) reading goal for myself this year, and so far it seems like this is the only goal that’s going to stick. Probably because I’m as loosey-goosey about goals as I am about everything else. Except clutter. I’m super uptight about clutter. My family finds this charming, or so I like to believe.

Books are my biggest exception to the exception. That is, I have stacks of books everywhere, but I don’t consider them clutter, I consider them old friends. My family finds this less charming, in fact, they consider it downright weird.

Because I have so many “old friends” hanging around whispering to me from the corners, and I suspect you do too,  let’s talk books on this blustery, snow-capped day.

Recently Read:

Station Eleven– Post-Apocalyptic fiction isn’t my usual fare. But. This book. Beautifully written from a place of hope rather than a place of despair. It reminded me of the fragility of our lives on this spinning planet, but also of the strength of the human spirit, and how faith, hope, love, beauty, and art will remain even after everything else is stripped away. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two days. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Breathing Room– I heard Leeanna Tankersley speak at a conference in October, and she peaked my interest in her book after hearing a bit of her story. I’ll be honest, I don’t love a lot of the non-fiction out there right now, so I’m selective about what I read or recommend. This book is one I’d like to hand to every woman who feels like she hangs on to her days by her fingertips and her nights by sheer will. Leanna writes about creating space in our lives to breathe, to recover, to grow, to be still. I love her authenticity and her refusal to give easy answers to difficult questions. Read this if you find yourself in need of a friend who’s been there, who’s seen the hard side of motherhood and womanhood and personhood, and come out the other side with a work of art to prove it.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry– Absolutely delightful. Sweet, charming, and surprising. I can’t think of any other superlatives to describe this book. Any book set in a bookstore is a win for me, and the literary references added to the fun of reading this one. Perfect for a sick day, a snow day, or any day in between.

Currently Reading:

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller- I’m reading this for my small group. I generally find this kind of book tedious, can I admit that  and still call myself a Christian? It’s true. This book comes highly recommended, so I’m going to push through. I’ll keep you posted.


What’s on your nightstand?


philharmonic via

His hair made me laugh. It took on a life of its own when he conducted. It flopped and flailed about his head like a drama queen, and I wondered if he let it grow long especially for this effect. I’ve never seen a bald orchestra conductor, maybe dramatic hair is part of the job description. When I wasn’t staring at the violinists playing their instruments with their entire bodies, I watched his hands. Ok, I watched his hair, but I also watched the timed movement of his hands.

Sweep, lift, swoop, point. None of it made a bit of sense to me. His hands moved to the private machinations of his internal music maker. I tried to watch the movements and see where they corresponded to the music, but every musician on stage seemed engaged in this private conversation between the conductor, their instrument, and the music.

I wanted to enter into the music the way they do, to feel it thrumming away in my temples, to feel it pulsing down into my bones. Having zero musical ability myself, I have to settle for what the music does to my soul. I feel like I’ve grown wings and I’m flying. This almost feels like enough, but I still want to know the secrets behind the hand motions and the instrument’s whispers.

Do you ever feel this way about life? As if private conversations take place all around you, and you desperately want to understand what the world is saying? I want to know what the rainbow speaks to the clouds, what the conductor speaks to the musician, what the owl says to the moon. I feel as if there’s an entire universe to explore just outside the reach of my understanding, right on the edge of my fingertips.

This great big beautiful world is so full of wonder. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–wonder heals the wanderer’s heart, whether we’re wandering from our ho-hum everyday or from faith or from the unknown. These days, I’m trading wanderlust for wonderlust, and it makes all the difference.

The sweet taste of belonging

welcome via

My church small group disbanded last spring after something like five years together. I choose to believe it had nothing to do with the addition of myself and my husband to the group when we moved back to NJ that year. It was a funny group, an odd mix of such disparate characters you’d be hard pressed to find any commonalities between them, but it worked. And although I came late to the group, I miss engaging in adult conversation every other week. I miss someone wondering if I’m going to show up.

After our move back home 18 months ago, I discovered most of my friends went back to work while I was perfecting my “sprechen Sie Englisch?” in Switzerland. My neighbors work. The moms of my kids’ friends work. I, on the other hand, sit at home and drink copious amounts of tea and eat Hershey kisses while staring at a computer screen. Same difference. Only not. Days will pass in which I won’t see or speak to another human being unless I’m related to them. I’m told talking to the dog doesn’t really count.

If past experience is any indicator (feigning sick, suddenly dropping out, “forgetting” to go), I’m a small-group-aphob. I hate small talk. I dislike pat answers and trite Bible studies. And frankly, I don’t really want to leave my home. It’s cozy and quiet here, plus there’s chocolate. Much to my surprise, I found myself looking forward to my last group. I found a safe place where I belonged, and this is a rare thing for a small-group-aphob and inveterate non-joiner. It’s a rare thing for anybody these days.

When the group moved on, I did what I always do, I tried to make it on my own throughout the following autumn. I pretended it didn’t matter, my personality isn’t built for community anyway. I wanted to believe my old excuses, only now the taste of belonging lingered in my mouth. I remembered the sweetness of walking each other home, and the soul nourishment of fellowship between like-hearted believers.

I discovered I wanted someone to care whether or not I show up. To that end, I decided to join a women’s Bible study for their winter session. There is a book I’m supposed to read. There is small talk. There are women, lots of women. Maybe there will be chocolate. Certainly there will be Jesus, sitting in the midst of us, spreading a table, asking us to come, to fill our plates, to fill our mouths with the sweet taste of belonging.


Have you found your place of belonging? Are you looking, or have you given up hope?

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The Angst Driven Life

ice and thorns via

I read The Purpose Driven Life many moons ago. I read it at a time when my sole purpose, as I saw it, was to keep three little people alive. That’s it. I literally couldn’t see past the kitchen sink and the changing table. My mind couldn’t envision any kind of life apart from just making it through the day without falling into a crumpled heap of exhaustion when my husband came home. My heart new better. It knew one day, my children would go to school and my empty mama arms would no longer fill with babies but with the milk and honey found in the promised land we stay-at-home mom’s call “Free Time”.

It was a hard season of life. A very hard season. My heart strained against the smallness of my life. Enter The Purpose Driven Life and all the promise surrounding it. All those millions of copies sold! All those changed lives! All that purpose!  I read it, and nothing inside me shifted, except a growing sense of anxiety that I would never discover my “true purpose”. I couldn’t see how my day-to-day obedience, how simply doing the next thing with love, served as a life calling. And I’m not sure I wanted it to. Deep down, my heart believed there was more.

The kids grew older, as they’re wont to do, and I finally caught the “free time” dangling like a carrot on the end of a long stick of years. Which is to say, “free time” is a bit of a myth. My hours have shifted, and I suddenly have a chunk of time in which I can think about my lack of purpose and dwell on it for a little while, before spending the next eight hours of my afternoon and evening on mom duty.

Without the craziness and chaos and excitement of living overseas masking the repetitive nature of my days, I feel my heart once again stretched tight against the smallness of my everyday life. This is a hard season. A very hard season. My days run on an endless supply of angst and frustration. My skin splits at the seams from a heart that beats for something more. There is more for me, I can feel this, and yet I don’t know what more looks like. I can tell you it doesn’t look like one more errand or trip to Target or load of laundry.

It is hard to talk about these things because of their complexity. When we start talking about motherhood and fulfillment and purpose and God, it all becomes a bit fuzzy, doesn’t it? What is true for me, will not be true for you, and vice versa. My truth is this: I want more from life than an endless parade of household duties. It is smothering the creativity and vitality right out of me. I want more from life than a mediocre blog and an obsession with social media numbers. I want more from life than the comfortable view from my backyard. I want more purpose, less angst. More meaning, less frustration.

I want to find the place where my presence makes a difference. Where, as Frederick Buechner says, my “…deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I know I meet a very real hunger here at home, I know this is the place I make the most kingdom difference. I know this and I believe this and I live this, but there is more marrow to suck from the bone of this short life. I also know where my deep gladness resides, it’s just a matter of finding the hungry ones to rise up and meet it. 


What is your experience with purpose and fulfillment? Do you find it solely at home? If so, God bless you and what’s your secret? Do you find it in volunteer work, office work, art work? I’d love to know where your deep gladness meets the world’s hunger.

When you have questions and no answers

swirl via

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~Rainer Marie Rilke

My husband is home sick this week, and every few hours I pop in and out of our bedroom where he cocoons himself in white linens, to check on him from a safe distance. He wants me to bring him a hot drink or rub his back or squeeze the ache right out of his legs. I try to do these things while holding my breath, but it’s impossible. Instead, I settle for a germaphobe’s distraction by bringing reading material with me so my mind stays busy, while my hands momentarily soothe the flu away.

When he saw me carrying the spiral bound notebook which serves as my journal, he asked me to read him a little. First of all, no. I retreat to my journal when my husband can no longer stand to listen to my crazy. It’s every frustrating conversation we’ve ever had on an endless cycle of repeat. But, his illness coincided with the few days I set aside to read through it. So, I read him a few sentences here and there. Fragments, really. His eyes glazed over a bit, and it wasn’t from the fever. I gave him fair warning.

I wanted to read through it to ignite my memory, to remind myself of the gifts wrapped up in the last year. I wanted to read it like a novel, following my own character arc through the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is an invitation to adventure and to change. I wanted to read it and say, Look how far I’ve come,  but my interior life didn’t read like a compelling story. It read like the same question asked in a hundred different ways without a final scene to wrap it all up.

I opened the year with a question, and I closed it without a concrete answer. I asked the same question page after page after page, and I waited with increasing frustration and desperation for a hand to appear from the sky and write the answer on the wall. After a year’s distance from my early writings, I realize I didn’t need God’s hand to physically pen the answer. Oh, that’s what I wanted, but God knew better. He knew I needed to wrestle with it.

God knew I’d always be suspicious of an easy answer. I needed to wrap myself around the questions and live into them. Live into the tension. Live into the unknown. Live into everything the year held for me, with my questions serving as a guide and oft-unwanted companion. I had to live the question, day in and day out, before I could ever consider the weight of living into the answer.


Are you looking for answers right now? How do you live into the questions when the answers come slowly?