Katharina & Martin Luther: A Book Giveaway

**This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to our winner, Michele!**

When Michelle told me she was writing a book about the marriage of Katharina and Martin Luther, I imagined her sitting among stacks and stacks of dry historical documents in a library carrel, possibly stress eating chocolate. I saw her sitting in the center of a swirl of words written by men for men about the historical significance of men. I couldn’t fathom how she would find enough material to write about one woman’s experience during the Protestant Reformation–even if that woman was a runaway nun married to the Protestant reformer Martin Luther.

Very few of Katharina’s own words and letters remain, but out of the copious amount of Martin Luther’s writings and those of his followers, Michelle weaves the strands of Katherina’s  life together to create a fascinating story. Michelle manages to capture the essence of  their marriage as seen through the eyes of observers in their home and through Luther’s private letters. It is thoroughly researched, thoroughly educational, and thoroughly entertaining.

Katharina lived in a time and place when women, however smart or strong-willed or educated, were treated as second class citizens. Marriage and motherhood were their highest (and some would argue, their only) calling. And yet, Katharina influenced her husband and their household in innumerable ways. She was a revolutionary ahead of her time who would not be silenced. When confronted with circumstances beyond her control, she looked for ways to circumvent them. When she encountered error or false speech, she spoke truth. Where she saw opportunity, she reached out and grabbed it.

She is exactly the kind of woman I want my girls to become. Women of valor, of truth, of resistance. Women who work tirelessly, who rise early in prayer, who serve and love and speak light into dark places. Women who are not bound by the words with which men label them, but who rise above those words and recognize themselves as Beloved, Chosen, Accepted, Free.

We live in a time where the messages my girls receive about who they are and their value as women is conflicted and confusing. A time when misogynistic speech rings out from the highest offices, and boys in the classroom repeat what they hear our leaders say. They sit in the middle of a swirl of words spoken by men for men about the significance of men which informs their view of the world and their place in it. They need women like Katharina, who lived in far more challenging circumstances, to speak to them today.

I’m so grateful Michelle sat surrounded by stacks and sifted through the mountains of words. I’m encouraged by Katharina and Martin’s story, and I think you will be too. In honor of strong women everywhere doing hard things, I’d like to gift one reader with a copy of Katharina & Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. It’s the story of two imperfect people resisting the establishment together for God’s glory. I can’t think of a better time to read it.

……..

I’m giving away one copy of Michelle’s book, and I would love for you to have it. To enter the drawing either leave a comment here on the blog, or on my Facebook page. In an entirely unscientific method, I will choose one name out of a hat and notify a winner by next Monday, Feb 6th. Happy commenting!

My Favorite Books of 2016

Photo from instagram

I spent a good portion of this year dog-earing and underlining required reading books for graduate school. Some of them were fantastic, others made me want to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks in order to finish. I read fewer books than I hoped, and fewer books related to my personal interests, however, I read more widely than I have in years. I consider that a personal win. I give you my top ten books of 2016. Would you share your favorite reads with me too? One can never have too many books piled around the house, waiting to be read.

Best Fiction:

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

“…an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart.”

This is a book to read slowly and savor the craft of Robinson’s words. The themes resonated with me deeply as the daughter of a minister, and brought me to tears at times. Brilliant and beautiful. Well worth the time it took to read it.

Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

“…a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.”

A story worth telling wrapped up within excellent storytelling. I think about some of the scenes and themes in this book often. It opened my eyes to the varied experiences of black women in America, and the nuances of being born a black American vs an African immigrant vs a black immigrant from the islands. I have so much to learn, and Adichie’s voice is both powerful and touching at once.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“…sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.”

I typically shy away from fluffier, chick-lit type books, but it’s hard to write fluff about WWII. I loved the strength of the female characters and the arc of the story. I read a fair number of books set in this time period, and this was a less emotionally intense story than my last WWII read–All The Light We Cannot See–which was a favorite in 2015.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“…a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world.”

 Kingsolver’s writing is a notch above almost everything else I read. She writes with a depth of understanding for what motivates us as human beings, what causes despair, what creates change. I found this to be extremely timely given the political divide we’re facing as a nation and this shed some much needed light on rural life in America.

Best Non-Fiction:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives.”

There’s not much I can say apart from the fact that this book was life-changing for me. Coates’ experience and concern for his black son brought me to tears and led me to repentance. This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding race relations and what it means to live in the body of a black man in America today.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

“Through stories of planting and preserving, of opening the gates wide to neighbors, and of learning to speak the language of a place, Christie invites readers into the joy of small beginnings and the knowledge that the kingdom of God is with us here and now.”

Christie’s book was a jewel in the dark heart of winter. She is one of my favorite writers–lyrical, insightful, gentle in every way. Read my full review of Roots and Sky here. Then buy yourself a copy.

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

“Rebecca Solnit explores the ways we make our lives out of stories, and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imagination.”

Fascinating, imaginative, and a new way of writing memoir. Solnit weaves in far more than her own life story, which makes this book rich in its telling.

Best Devotional:

At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time compiled by Sarah Arthur

“With a title inspired by T. S. Eliot, this “literary” prayer book is for every Christian who has ever felt led to pray while reading a novel or a poem. These great writers know the things of God but speak in metaphor.”

I can’t speak highly enough about Sarah Arthur’s literary guides to prayer (there are three). She has exquisite taste in literature and poetry, and is finely tuned to the work of the Holy Spirit through the use of such works, accompanied by scripture. Her books have revolutionized my devotional time.

Best Collection of Poetry:

Words for Empty and Words for Full by Bob Hicok

“As always with a Bob Hicok book, fascinating and a book you sort of can’t help but pick up and suddenly, two hours later, find yourself having read straight through. I can think of just about no contemporary poets who publish such consistently great work.” —Corduroy Books

I did read this straight through, and there isn’t much higher praise I can give for a book of poetry. It also happened to be a reading assignment for school, but what a wonderful discovery. Accessible, witty, and profound.

Best Series: 

The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series by Louise Penny

“Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away.”

Still Life is the first in the series of eleven, and I’m well into reading the fourth book. I enjoy a good murder mystery, and these are some of the best I’ve read. The writing is rich with imagery (nothing squeamish) and deep character development. I’m addicted, and I hope Penny writes more.

….

Care to share your favorites of the year? Leave a comment or hit reply from your in-box if you’re a subscriber.

*All photos and blurbs taken from goodreads

**Most of these books contain adult language and adult situations, which I’m down with because–I’m an adult;) If you’re sensitive to either, you might want to research further before purchasing.

Falling Free: A Book Giveaway

dsc_1100

“Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all. Heartbreak, loneliness, isolation, and lack aren’t organized by zip code, and he’s begging all of us not to detour around the pain.” ~Shannan Martin in Falling Free

***This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for reading!

I live in an affluent area, surrounded by affluent people, doing whatever it is the affluent do. If the rumors are true, the teens do heroin and shots of vodka on weekends. The fathers do long hours at work, and potentially one of the women they meet there. The mothers do pills or wine or retail therapy.

This is an overgeneralization, of course. There are healthy people living full, meaningful lives in our community. Generous. Kind. Purposeful people. But, in my experience, the rumors often hold a kernel of truth. I know cheaters. I know mothers who pop or sip or over-shop. I know kids who go wild. I know parents who support their wilding.

There is a pervasive poverty of spirit metastasizing and killing families in communities like mine. It is silent, but it is epidemic. It is deadly. I recognize something of myself in the mothers and fathers and kids here. I may not be acting out these dysfunctions in my everyday life (although I have been known to shop my feelings), but I know my heart, and it’s often filled with anxiety and fear. It is prone to wander. It is selfish and consumeristic and fickle.

I recently read Shannan Martin‘s challenging new book, Falling Free, where she chronicles her family’s move from their comfortable, middle class life in a beautiful, old farmhouse to an urban center riddled with crime, drugs, and failing schools. In short order, her husband resigned from his job to become a chaplain at the county jail, they adopted a young man with an arrest record, and they flung open the doors of their home, and became a haven for toddlers, wayward teens, and former criminals.

In her book, Shannan shares her story of how deciding to follow God into his upside down kingdom turned her family’s life inside out and upside down. She writes of the good and the hard, the gut-wrenching and the holy. It’s a strong book, a call to live with the ferocious love of Jesus, a vivid reminder of what it means to truly live with a kingdom mindset today.

Falling Free left me wondering how I can obey Jesus’ call to love the disenfranchised, the poor, the outsider, when my real life is filled with the “Haves” rather than the “Have Nots”. I know for this season of life, we are living exactly where God has placed us. I’m certain that God has brought us here to grow roots, to learn what it means to belong, and perhaps, he has rooted us here to offer others a place of belonging.

I don’t know the answer to my wonderings yet. I don’t know how to meet the needs of the people around me, much less the needs of the people in communities I’ll never meet. Shannan writes, “Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all.” and I bathe in this grace. While I don’t know my exact mission for living like Jesus in my community, I do know that it begins by asking myself hard questions. It begins by examining my own heart, and looking for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth in both my community and communities outside of it. There is room for all of us to use our gifts, our abundance, and our rootedness to show others the love of Christ. Pain isn’t restricted to a zip code, and neither is generosity.

…….

I’m giving away one copy of Shannan’s book, Falling Free, and I would love for you to have it. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions, because you’re going to feel ’em! To enter the drawing either leave a comment here on the blog, or on my Facebook page. In an entirely unscientific method of drawing a name out of a hat, I will choose and notify a winner by next Wednesday, Oct 5th. Happy commenting!

Coming Back to Our Center

DSC_0432

In the early stages of my journey into writing, I signed up for an online class on writing memoir. The class was filled with writers all along the spectrum of mastery, from novice to English professor with a PhD. To say that I fell into the novice camp is an epic understatement. At the request of our mentor, we dove into critiquing each other’s work immediately. And I, with little background on the other students and their skill set, offered the English Professor my best advice, which fell somewhere along the lines of a grammar lesson and a suggestion that he use less “passive voice”. I’m fairly certain I had to google the term prior to using it.

He graciously ignored everything I wrote in the margins, and continued to develop his piece to his own liking. After a few weeks of reading other student’s comments, I realized I had focused on the minutiae of each piece, while ignoring the big ideas exploding with the whizz and bang of a firecracker in my face. I began to catch on, and in my last comment to the Professor, I told him I appreciated the structure of his piece. It presented itself like a series of concentric circles. He responded by uploading a photograph of his notes for the essay–written in the shape of a spiral.

Over the last month, I’ve read a lot about teaching theory which is to say I’ve been flummoxed by books with names like “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” You won’t find that title on your latest beach read list. It’s been a heavy slog through lots of theories I can’t explain, but one specific thought has stuck with me. When editing papers, all the books recommend that a professor focuses on the main ideas of the piece and on the student’s process for arriving there. Leave the grammar and word choice for finish work, and instead help the student keep the main thing, the main thing.

In other words, stop looking at their work as if it’s a straight line to The End. We don’t work in straight lines. We work from the inside out, making our way from the center, round and round, until our thoughts and ideas circle their way into something bigger. I’ve thought about this a lot, not so much as a professor with a student, but as a human who gets so caught up with wanting to fix the minute details on the outer rings, that I forget to begin in the center.

In yoga, we always begin class with a centering exercise, where we center on the moment, and push everything else to the outer rings. We eventually make our way to feel around the circle’s edges, but first, we center. We are fully present in that moment. I rarely take this practice off my yoga mat, but I see how easy it is to drift from my core, my soul center. I’ve come to realize that I need a few daily practices to help me keep the main thing the main thing. To help me focus on what I really want to say with my life, as I move from the inner to the outer rings.

Life is a series of concentric circles. The calendar year, the seasons, the raising of children, learning, laughter, personal growth and especially love. Everything starts at the epicenter and works it’s way out, growing larger and fuller and more complex as it grows. We have the ability to return to the main thing, to edit our way back to our core when the circles grow too far and too unwieldy to manage. This is true in writing. This is true in life.

In my next post, I’ll talk about a few practical ways I return to center when life feels as if it’s spiraling out of control. In the meantime, I’d love to know if you see things in a linear fashion or in a series of circles? How do you keep the main thing the main thing?

 

Brazen: A Book Review

DSC_9910

“Allow yourself to become, to expand. Don’t feed the temptation to replace yourselves. Expand your self. Don’t be afraid of these parts of you.” ~Leeana Tankersley in Brazen

My final project in college was a research paper on health statistics based on nursing care in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I almost fell asleep typing that sentence. If you did too, stick with me, friend. We’re headed somewhere. My professor assigned each of us a partner, and I was paired with a sweet, blue-eyed, twenty-year old who dressed like a forty year old businesswoman. She was serious. She knew statistics and understood nursing care, but her writing left something to be desired. I discovered this after we split the work between us, each writing and researching various portions of the assignment. It wasn’t creative work, but it required a certain something called readability.

When I realized my final grade was dependent on someone else’s (questionable) writing skills, I told her I would compile all of the work, put the entire paper together, and submit the finished product for us. She agreed, and without her knowledge I edited the heck out of that paper. I re-wrote everything my partner submitted, smoothing out the wrinkles, and giving the entire piece a singular voice. When she read the finished product, she expressed her displeasure with my editing skills with a few choice words. I smirked to myself when the professor handed us the graded project with a big fat “A” written across the top of the paper.

No one was going to take the chance to earn an “A” away from me. While I struggled to find my bearings and my identity in every other area of my life, I knew I was a good student. My GPA became the measure by which I defined myself. I edited my way into this singular identity.

I’m a strong editor, and this has its place–blog posts, books, difficult conversations. But I’m also prone to edit my way out of a full, rich, demonstrative, creative, life. I tell myself I am one thing, and when I discover another version of myself lurking in the corners, I reject her. I tell her I am one thing, a single bud on a thorny stem, when really I am an English garden, with hidden paths and life buzzing in overgrown hedges and heavy, lush blooms. I’ve become tired of hiding the deepest, truest parts of myself. God planted them with love in this garden. Occasionally, out of some distant part of me, a climbing vine breaks free. And often it takes someone else’s words to keep me from pulling out the pruning shears, from editing myself into smallness. Right now, Leeanna Tankersley’s new book Brazen is helping me embrace rather than edit the woman God created me to be.

I wish this book had come into my life sooner, but it is here now, and I trust in the serendipity of books reaching us when we need them, not when we wish. It is about becoming. About boldness. About being brazen. And it is written with a keen eye for beauty and wonder, two things that always draw me in.

I’m still in the middle of my journey with this book, just as I am with embracing my identity and my self. I’m journaling my way through, using Leeana’s prompts at the end of each chapter as a guide. It is good, rich soul work. If you find yourself looking for “The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding”, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Brazen. Like me, you might discover yourself in the pages.

…….

Do you ever edit yourself into a silhouette rather than the three dimensional person you’re meant to be? What parts of you are you hiding?