Friday, February 12, 2016

Reading...For the Love

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsMany moons ago,  friend introduced me to Jen Hatmaker's blog, and I came to adore her funny, witty, thoughtful, sarcastic, irreverent, Jesus-filled posts. I've been intending to pick up one of her books for a while now, but finally dove in with her latest: For the Love. For the Love is a book of essays, loosely related to the theme of grace. In my mind, it could easily be subtitled: "love Jesus, be good to others, be good to yourself." There are serious and insightful essays about subjects like love, friendship, living on mission, the Church, and parenthood. There are funny essays about fashion, friendship, family, and just random stuff. And it's all written in the tone of someone who feels like your smart best friend. Two of my favorite essays are  I bought this book, and I'm glad I did. I can see myself revisiting certain essays. A couple of my favorites are the one on turning 40 (and the confidence that comes with it that I'm striving for a few years early), and the one about setting good boundaries for yourself -- not trying to balance everything (which is impossible anyway), but being choosy about what you keep "on the beam" (as in balance beam).

I think I liked this book so much because aside from the fact that Jen's sense of humor hits my sweet spot, the book made me want to be a better person -- and more than that made me feel like I CAN be a better person. And really, what more could I want from a book?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Wednesday List

1. A newish acquaintance/friend learned that I am a writer (if I can still say that having not gotten my post-baby mojo back yet), and asked me on Sunday how the writing was going. It really touched me, and being asked always inspires me. Yes, novel, I see you sitting lonely and dusty over there. This week, we'll make a date, I promise.

2. I've done something to my shoulder, and I suspect it's related to wearing my baby ring sling. My shoulder hasn't been quite right for months, and it's the shoulder that the sling rests on. I wore Matrim in it yesterday to storytime at the library and I am HURTING today. Cooincidence? Sadly, I doubt it. I love the sling. I don't want to give it up. But I also love not being in excruciating pain whenever I lift my arm so...

3. I have been woefully slow in finishing library books on my Kindle, and previously, as long as I didn't navigate away from the book I could still read it even after my loan had ended. But yesterday when I went to turn my Kindle on and read, I was greeted with the home screen and the sad news that my loan had expired. Oh well! Motivation, right?

4. Speaking of motivation...I've started a crochet project and I'm pretty excited about it. Although I suspect I may have to consume a few nighttime cups of coffee to finish it by the deadline. It's a baby gift and I don't think the baby is going to wait for me to finish before making his appearance.

5. What am I reading...well, since my library book was returned, I'll go back to Queen of the Tearling, which is fine so far, but isn't really lighting my fire. I just finished For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker (which I will write more words about another day) and it was really great. My first non-fiction of the year, and an absolute success!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

This journey

I'm not sure if it's universally true (few things are, after all), but I've noticed something staying at home with the munchkins. Because I spend a lot of my day doing repetitive and menial tasks with and for children who are either non or only barely verbal, my brain either a) goes into hibernation or b) just churns out random thoughts. Obviously, I sometimes share those random thoughts here. Sometimes they are fleeting and about as in depth as a bullet point on a list, but sometimes I ponder things a little more...philosophical. Or at least, philosophical-adjacent.

Lately, I find myself thinking about people. About relationships long, short, permanent, and transient. I lived in the same city from the time I was three years old, in the same house from the time I was five until I went to college. I have a friend whom I have been friends with since we were both in preschool, and every time I make a trip to the homestead, we still make a point to at least have a cup of coffee and touch base. While Sandy is perhaps my closest of my old home-friends, there are still a lot of friends I am happy to see when I visit my family in Missouri. But, like a lot of people, I went to college in another state, to a university where more people were from "away" than not. And I made friends. Some friendships lasted only one semester before sliding into acquaintance, and some lasted through my four years in Arkansas. Some are Facebook friends, or Christmas card friends, and a few are still really-good-phone-call-I'm-coming-to-visit-kindred-spirit friends. (there's also that guy I friend!) Fast forward to Houston, then Wilmington, NC, then Austin, then back to Houston. And I know that many people move a lot more and more often than I have, but even moving that much results in a lot of paths crossing. A lot of relationships. A lot of life intersecting with other life. A lot of community, and deep bonds, and family-building. A lot of joy, and a lot of loss. And that doesn't even count the extremely short-term interactions with people met traveling, or on a temporary job, or the friend of a friend who is only visiting, or friendships built online around common interests. There have been times where I've wondered -- is it worth it? Is it worth investing in a relationship when I've invested in so many before? When one of us may move? Why did I spend the time building friendships, only to leave the city a year later? Maybe it's not worth it.

But the thing is, those interactions matter. Even a smile and helping hand in the grocery store from a fellow shopper who realizes the difficulty of unloading a grocery cart with a baby strapped to your chest -- every interaction matters. I am better for having met you. For having spent time with you, for being privileged to have my road intersect with your road. 

Recent moves have brought these thoughts to mind more than once in the past couple of years and I know I've written about this before, but lately the people at Shevet Achim have been on my heart and mind, and that's why I'm putting words to these thoughts again. Shevet Achim is a beautiful part of God's Kingdom, and people who are really and truly doing Kingdom work. This organization brings children with congenital heart defects into Israel to have life-saving surgery at world class medical centers. These children are Kurdish, Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi. They are being cared for and loved on by Christians and Jews. What is more beautiful than that? The volunteers and staff at Shevet Achim live in close community, and when you are with them for even a short time they embrace you. The people we met were examples of keeping your eyes on Jesus, and on trying to live a life of love, peace, and truth. I wish everyone could spend a couple of weeks at Shevet Achim, but even if you can't, spend a few minutes reading their web site and praying for people who are being Jesus in a unique and special way.

So, to whoever you are. You know who you are. Maybe we studied, ate, laughed, cried, prayed, traveled, played, worked, argued, worshiped, ran, or even lived together. Maybe we just shared a meal, or a cup of coffee. Maybe we shared life. Maybe we are still sharing life. No matter how our roads crossed, or how long they followed the same path -- and even if they are still right there, side by side  -- thank you for leaving your mark, for filling my cup.