The world is a vampire

I spent this morning on my knees in my grief over the chants of “send her home” at the president’s rally last night. No sentiment could be further from the ideals of this country. I have no idea how we got here and I’m compelled to examine the ways I may have contributed to the current atmosphere.

Today a Christian author who had some significant impact for his views on dating announced that he and his wife are separating and headed toward divorce. Certain circles in the Twitter world greeted this news with some glee because they believe this author’s work caused some harm. The reaction to this news by those who profess Christ could not be further from what I believe as a Christian. My heart is broken over this rift, not only the rift in this couple’s relationship but also the apparent rift between Christ and his church.

As I was processing these things this morning, my sister sent me a text: “Just Incase you hear anything...I'm fine. There is an active shooter at the building next door and my office building is on lockdown.” She said there was nothing to worry about but, be honest, how do you not worry when there is an active shooter in the building that shares a parking lot with your sister’s office? My sister is fine. The shooter situation was resolved and she is safe.

Do you remember that Smashing Pumpkins song, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”? I’ve had the first line “the world is a vampire, sent to drain” in my head all day. I think I’ve never felt more deeply that this world is not my permanent home, I’m looking forward to a home yet to come.

Lacking optimism

I have been in my head all day today. I struggle to know if I’m making good parenting decisions. I have one child who would move out today if I let them and one child who would never leave my side. So constantly my instincts are to hold on to the one who wants to go and push out the one who wants to stay. It’s a strange existence.

The truth is, time speeds by so much faster than I am comfortable with. My body is telling me that I am aging but I still have a hard time believing it. I am a cliche.

A thing that happens when you live with a young woman is that you watch her become more luminous and lovely every day while simultaneously watching your own descent into decrepitude. Life is fleeting.

Some of this is born out of my deepening feelings of disconnect with this world. Our country is perpetrating terrible crimes against humanity at our southern border. At the same time my state is trying to push through legislation that could potentially bankrupt my family in the name of protecting the environment. I want to protest both things but I don’t know where I fit.

I don’t fit anywhere. It’s clear to me every time I talk to someone who disagrees with what I’m doing at work. It’s clear to me every time I go to church. It’s clear to me every time I open Twitter.

Sometimes I just want to yell. Everything I do is born out of my desire to make things better in this broken, broken world. Today I do not feel very optimistic.

When nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Last night I was reminded that you just can’t revisit your childhood. Everything looks different with the eyes of adulthood.

NKOTB Mixtape Tour

NKOTB Mixtape Tour

When my sisters and I were young we had a brief but fierce obsession with New Kids on the Block. I was obsessed with Joey McIntyre and my sisters fought over which one of them was allowed to like Jordan. We thought they were cute and their music was just so excellent. Our love for New Kids fizzled out, like most pre-teen crushes. I didn’t find another musical obsession until Freshman year when my friend Ida sold me a tape that she’d gotten for her birthday that she didn’t really like. That was my discovery of Pearl Jam and my love for grunge music never faded. But that’s another story.

On a lark, and because we’d never been able to attend a New Kids concert as kids, I got my sister tickets for the Mixtape Tour as a Christmas present. We were excited to revisit this part of our childhood and spend some time together. Last night was the big night.

The concert featured many musical acts of our youth. Tiffany was there. I’m pretty sure Tiffany’s 1987 album was the first tape I ever owned and listening to her sing instantly brought me back to times singing “I Think We’re Alone Now” in the back of the church van on youth group trips. Debbie Gibson was there, as were Salt n’ Pepa and Naughty by Nature. It was a real late 80s flashback.

Of course, we were there primarily for the New Kids. The problem is, they aren’t that new anymore. It was disconcerting to me to watch puffy faced 50 year olds gyrate and thrust while singing teeny-bopper songs. The crowd was almost all 40 something women who were trying to recapture some piece of their youth. I’m not excluding myself from that observation. It didn’t feel nostalgic to me.

When we got back to our hotel last night several other concert goers were there also. We sat for a few minutes in the hotel bar and watched sloppy middle aged men try to pick up drunk middle aged women. It was not something I’d like to witness again.

I’m currently listening to an audiobook about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos and I was listening to it on my drive home. The book is excellent, all about hubris and lack of accountability and just plain malfeasance. Somehow my experiences of last night and this audiobook have combined to make me feel sad and disgusted.

I never have anything but the most fun with my sister and I would go nearly anywhere with her. I’m glad we took our adventure to see New Kids on the Block. But next time I think we’ll try to remain in the present. Honestly, our relationship as adults is much better than our relationship was at the time of our New Kids phase. I’d rather celebrate that.

Memorials, mid-life and resolutions

I can remember a time not too long ago when I greeted the turning of a new year only with anticipation and expectancy. A new year only meant new experiences and new opportunities. New years have always seemed exciting and full of promise to me.

I do still have some of that expectancy but I also feel more melancholy at the turn of a year than any other time on the calendar. I think it is partly a mid-life crisis. I know the idea of a mid-life crisis is a cliche in our culture but, like many cliches, there is an element of truth there. If the average woman in the United States lives 81.1 years (as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics), then I am more than halfway through my life. Life seems so endless when you are young, so fleeting as you get older. Anyway, this melancholy time of year causes me to pause and consider how I want to be remembered.

We just past the 8th anniversary of my sister’s death and I am flooded with images and memories of her. She is harder for me to remember every year. I don’t remember the sound of her voice. I don’t remember the feeling of the last time we hugged. But every time I see the hands of her daughters I feel like they are her hands. It’s a sense memory…I couldn’t really say what about their hands reminds me of her, just that they do. They both have her hair, or at least the hair she had before she’d spent 15 years dying it blonde. The older they get the more they remind me of her and the less they probably remember her. I remember her quick wit, her tender heart, how infuriating she could be. I remember how much I loved her and I hope she knew it. I’ll never get over how unfinished I feel in regard to my relationship with her, that’s the most terrible part of an unexpected and early death, we weren’t done. We were supposed to have a lot more time.

Anyway, all of this remembering makes me think about how I’ll be remembered. Will my children remember how short I was with them in the mornings? Will the people I love remember my ability to completely pick apart anything that wasn’t done exactly the way I would have done it? Will the ugliness of my cynicism be what I’m most remembered for? These questions make me want to be a better me.

I’ve been falling deeper and deeper into cynicism over the last couple of years. The problem with cynicism is that it is the opposite of hope and it begins to infect everything. I feel like I’ve lost my ability to see the potential for positive, I’m suspicious of everything and everyone and I don’t believe anything can be different. The problem is, when you close your heart to people, you close your heart to God. It’s hard to pray when you don’t think anything will change anyway. I think this is why cynicism is so damaging. I think this is why my cynicism has been so damaging.

The Bible says the hope we have in Christ is an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6) but sometimes in the everyday grind of life it’s easy to lose hold of the anchor. I think that’s where my cynicism starts to take over. But if cynicism is believing that nothing will ever change and hope is confidently expecting God to fulfill His promises, then I should be doing all I can to cultivate hope in my life.

So, here are a few resolutions centering on the idea of cultivating hope.

  1. Cut back on social media and phone use in general. I’m not sure I’ll ever totally get rid of social media because I do still find some small value in some of it but I know that it can feed my cynicism. So, I’m deleting twitter from my phone. I’m going to use some of the new screen time features on my iPhone and set it for downtime from 6pm to 6am every day. I’m going to find my old alarm clock and set it up beside my bed so I can go back to keeping my phone in the kitchen overnight. I know without a doubt that my phone impacts me negatively. I also know I’m addicted to it. I want to change that this year.

  2. Read my actual physical, paper Bible. As I said, I’m addicted to my phone. So, for the last couple of years I’ve done a big part of my personal Bible study using my phone Bible. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this and, honestly, one of the things I really like about it is the ease with which I can toggle between translations. Still, I genuinely think my brain interacts with digital information in a different way than with a physical book (there is actually research to back this feeling up, scientists are still studying it but it definitely seems like our brains process digital information differently). I want to be clear, I believe it’s the Word of God that is life changing, not the medium. Nevertheless, I know my relationship with the Bible is different when I’m using the actual physical book and I want to get back to that.

  3. Move. I love to run, especially long distances. I think it’s because it feeds my inner introvert, all that time by myself. The good thing about a long run is that it completely takes you away from your responsibilities and forces you to confront yourself. I have been very inconsistent about my running over the last year. Some of that is because of life changes that have impacted my schedule. Some of that is because of a minor injury that I babied and then turned in to an excuse. Some of that is because when I am most cynical (see also: depressed) it is easiest for me to lock myself in my house and think about how horrible the world is. That does not leave a lot of time for running. Anyway, I want to get back to a firm routine of running and movement, partly as a way of cultivating hope.

  4. Invest in relationships. I think one of the things that makes me feel cynical and like nothing will ever change is that I focus on the things I think are going wrong nationally or in the world instead of all the things that are right and good right in front of me. So, this year I want to be intentional about building relationships right here, in my home and in my community. That will start with my husband and kids. Every day I am more aware of how few days are left with my kids in my home. It makes me want to savor each moment with them and be diligent about knowing who they are now and who they want to become. I also really don’t want to neglect my relationship with Chris. I want to still know who he is when we’re alone in this house again and, honestly, sometimes I can’t remember what we talked about before we had these kids! In addition to focusing on the people in my home, I want to be more deliberate about relationships with the people in my community. There are people in this town who I love very much who have never been in my house! That’s crazy! I want to be purposeful about inviting people in to our home and deepening our connections here.

I’m not sure how I got from thinking about how I want to be remembered to thinking about how I want to move forward in 2019. My brain is a strange place. I guess that’s what resolutions always are: thinking about who we want to be/how we want to be remembered and making plans to be that person. The main thing I know is that I don’t want to feel so cynical/defeated/depressed in 2019. I hope these small steps help move me in the direction of hope.

Reflections on ten years

We moved to Athena on November 26, 2008. Everything about the move was difficult and uncertain for me. We’re coming up on 10 years here and I’ve been reflecting about God’s provision and my gratitude.

We had been living in Rosalia, Washington for just about 3 years when Chris told me he wanted to leave the company he’d been working at for the last 6 years, accept a new job, and move to his hometown. I’ll not say that I greeted this news with great joy.

Our years in Rosalia were incredibly difficult. The first year we lived there we struggled, mostly alone, through difficulty staying pregnant and fears that we would never be able to have children. Then I got pregnant with Helen. Her birth was a miracle and obviously a huge blessing but it also began probably the most difficult year of my life. I was alone, 9 hours away from my family, with a husband who worked atrociously long hours and a baby who would not be put down, at all, ever. We had no friends and no connections and I was just so alone with the best and most difficult thing constantly in my arms. (I’m sure that the extremely difficult first year of her life guarantees us easy teenage years, right?)

We never really felt very connected there but by the time we decided to leave, we had finally found a church in Colfax that felt like home and about 6 months before we left my sister and her husband had moved into a place just a couple of blocks from our house. I still really didn’t have any friends except for my sister but she was really all I needed. Living down the road from her and her family for that brief period will always be one of the great joys of my life.

On top of the feelings of disconnection, our time in Rosalia was incredibly financially difficult. Chris and I had a conversation about my going back to work not long after Helen was born. I can remember rocking my very small daughter, just begging God to provide and telling Chris (in what I am sure was a very helpful tone) that I didn’t want to go to work, I wanted to stay home with my baby. We muddled through but when we moved here we were very, very broke. I maxed out a credit card filling the car with gas and spent the last $30 in our checking account buying a few groceries the morning after we moved here. Then on the trip here the engine in Chris’s pickup blew and we had to borrow $3000 from my parents to have a new engine put in.

So, we arrived here and things were tense. I was sad about moving away from my sister. I was 5 months pregnant with Patrick and worried about money. I was sore and grouchy from moving and from not enough sleep on the floor of our new house. It was a rough morning. In fact, Chris and I joke now about the fight we had in front of his sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law. It’s a miracle that they still decided to get married after witnessing my stress-filled reaction to disappointment and fear.

Things didn’t get easier right away. The first winter we were here we lived 7 miles out of town and that winter there was enough snow that the road drifted closed for almost a week. I think it might have been January when that happened and I remember wondering what we would do if something happened and I went into labor early, how we would get to medical care. There were things about our place out of town that I loved and that I grew to love even more during the years that we lived there but that first winter was very isolating. I’m not quick to make friends and living so far out of town sometimes made that even more difficult. One day, probably 2 or 3 weeks before Patrick was born I sat on our living room floor and cried because I couldn’t imagine how I could survive a year like the first year of Helen’s life living out in the middle of nowhere. At least in Rosalia I could walk to the library when I needed a sanity break.

But then Patrick was born and his first year was a piece of cake compare to Helen. He let me put him in his crib! It was like a miracle. And I started making friends in town. Amanda Calvert was legitimately a life saver to me. She came over to my house and invited me to hers! We had lunch together, we canned applesauce with our 5 children running around under foot, we talked about things not related to children! Then Angela Schmidtgall invited me to be a substitute in her bunco group and suddenly I was invited to become a regular! Shawna Calvert loved me even before we spoke, I think. She became Auntie Shawna to my kids and practically a second mother to Helen. There are so many other names I could say of people who have been part of the blessings of life in Athena.

Moving here was not what I wanted to do. But now Chris and I both have employment that brings purpose and meaning to our lives. We both have jobs we love and are good at. That happened because we moved here. Our financial situation no longer causes heart ache. We have deep connections in our church and in the community as a whole. Our lucky kids attend excellent schools and they will graduate with the kids that they went to kindergarten with. They have connections both with peers and with adults who love them and are invested in their future success. These are things that have happened because we moved here.

I have been thinking about God’s provision and how to make sense of hard times. I don’t think that times were difficult in Rosalia because we were outside of God’s will when we lived there. In fact, I think God uses the hard times to teach us to trust Him more fully. In a lot of ways, I think that’s what God was teaching us during our years in Rosalia. I’m sorry to say this but Rosalia has become a byword to us for pain and suffering, both because of our hard times there and because Becky died there. But in all of those things God was teaching us to love Him and trust him.

In a funny way, I think He uses the good times that way too. We are in a sweet season right now. It might be about to end (I mean, we are going to have a teenager next year) but I think He’s showing us things in these good times that are meant to help us trust Him more fully and follow Him more faithfully. God’s also teaching me to be grateful. This might sound strange, but I’m so grateful for the hard years in Rosalia. I would not want to go back but I am grateful for the way those years taught me to love God more fully. I’m also grateful for the way those years taught me to love and rely on my husband more fully. Those hard years were full of lessons and love.

Ten years go by in a flash. I couldn’t have imagined anything about our current life situation 10 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined it would be so good and rooted here. Reflecting on these 10 years makes me think about the next 10 years too. I don’t know what to expect but I’m excited to see what’s next.

When your family is in crisis

Last night allegations of sexual misconduct against a well known church leader were made public.  I don't know the man personally and I've never attended his church, but the news hit me like a gut punch.  I've been in tears, or close to it, since hearing the news.  I'm just so heartbroken.  I think I've figured out why I'm taking it so hard and, really, this latest news is only one small part of a much larger problem.  My family is in crisis. 

If you know me you probably know that I grew up in the church.  Church people loved and nurtured me.  Church people are my literal, biological family and also my metaphorical family.  I have more brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents than I can count.  Like any family, my church family has crazy uncles, rebellious sisters and proper great aunts.  Like any family, we have squabbles and disagreements.  The church is my family and I love it.  Every time you read a news article that says something about "Evangelicals" I want you to read that as "Kristin's Family."  Do you see what I mean when I say my family is in crisis?

There's a story from the ministry of Jesus that is sometimes hard to reconcile the popular conception of Jesus as gentle and loving.  This story is often called the "Cleansing of the Temple."  In the gospel of John it's described this way:

"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:13-17

Can you picture Jesus doing this?  This isn't the sweet Jesus with the lamb over his shoulder that you remember from Sunday School.  Jesus is angry and grieved because these things that are making it more difficult for people to come to the Father.  The money changers are sellers of animals are supposedly doing work that makes it easier for people to come and worship God but, in practice, they are cheating and swindling those people.  They are making it more difficult for people to worship.

I wonder if Jesus is overturning some tables and scattering some money changers in the church right now?  Is that part of what all this family crisis is?  And then more personally, I wonder what tables need to be overturned in my own life?  I would much rather take the tables down myself than wait for Jesus to come in with angry whips.

I will never stop loving the church.  But I do pray for a day when we are not so broken and dysfunctional.  My family is in crisis.

New Year's Rulin's

Have you ever checked out Lists of Note?  I really like it and you never really know what you're going to get.  Today I noticed New Year's Rulin's in the most read list.  I don't know why I haven't noticed it before but today was a good day to read it.   This is Woody Guthrie's list of New Year's resolutions for 1942.  I'm including a picture here and you can click on the picture to check out my source.

I really appreciate this list of Rulin's.  I like how it encompasses both the big - "27. Help win war - beat fascism"  and the small - "5. Take bath."  I think sometimes we forget to concentrate on the small things that we do every day that make our lives better.  My life is better when the kitchen is tidy at night. My life is better when I make a menu plan.  My life is better when I go for a walk.

At the same time, I think we can get so caught up in those every day tasks that we forget to look beyond ourselves.  Not every thing I do should be solely predicated on what makes my life better.  So I resolve to keep my eyes focused on things outside of myself.  I love that Woody Guthrie resolved to love more and that he was specific about the people he wanted to love.  There is power in naming things. 

I also love Guthrie's resolutions number 15 and 19.  I, too, resolve to learn people better and to keep my hoping machine running.

Joyful Confidence

In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg recounts a conversation he had with Dallas Willard.  Ortberg was facing a time of difficulty and called Willard for counsel and, he hoped, an answer that would help smooth the way.  Dallas Willard said to him, "This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God."   Willard's gentle challenge to him was to remain confident in God, joyfully confident.  This short, simple sentence has been clanging in my head for a little more than a week.

The day after the election I deactivated my Facebook account.  There is nothing about the 24 hours leading up to that decision that wasn't heartbreaking to me.  On election day morning I shared a post of excitement about what I thought would happen that day, a post about what I thought was going to be the realization of a lifelong dream.  And even before my dreams were dashed by the actual results of the election, some my Facebook friends stomped on my heart.

I get it.  The election this year was difficult and it is too easy to quickly write something on someone's Facebook post without considering the actual person behind the post.  I know I've done it.  I might have hurt you with a flippant, unthinking remark.  I am sorry.  If I do something to hurt you, would you please tell me?  I don't want to be a cause of pain in your life.  There's enough hurt in this world. I don't want to add to it.

I do not hate anyone because of who they voted for.  I may think you are wrong but I deeply believe in your right to vote for anyone you choose to vote for.  I am very concerned by what I am seeing in these days of transition into President Trump's term of office.  I am very concerned by some of the things being said, some of the people being tapped for positions in the administration, some of the actions being taken as a result of the election. And I am worried about the future of our country and the path we may be headed down.

This election has goaded me into action in new ways.  I spent more time than I like to admit researching local offices I might want to run for.  I've added to the list of organizations that I believe in and want to support, both with my time and with my finances.  This is not about politics.  This is about working for good.

I reactivated my Facebook account today.  I had to because of some pages I manage but also I don't want to remove myself from things.  Truth is, Facebook does make a difference (even if Mark Zuckerberg wants to deny it).  I feel so, so different from many of my Facebook friends.  But differences are good and I'm not going to go away just because those people aren't like me. 

Thoughts on Maundy Thursday

These thoughts born out of today's Lectionary reading: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35


Exodus 12:2 "This month shall mark the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you."

God rescued his people, Israel, at the beginning of the year and from that rescue forward Jews have opened the year remembering God's provision.  (Listen, this is a little confusing because the Bible clearly says that the spring month of Nisan is the new year but we think of fall's Rosh Hashanah as the Jewish New Year.  I thought this site had a good explanation.)  As I read the reading in Exodus I thought of how I usually mark a New Year.  I might spend a few moments remembering the events of the previous year but most of my thinking is centered on the new year, on what I want to do and how I want to improve in the months ahead.  

But God gives the Israelites a "lasting ordinance" at the beginning of the year in the form of the Passover remembrance.  God tells them to remember their salvation and deliverance at His hand.  God preserved the story of that deliverance for me too.  So I read about the spotless lamb who was sacrificed for their salvation, of the way the lamb's blood was spread on the doorposts.  And I remember the spotless Lamb who was sacrificed for my salvation, of the way the Lamb's blood is spread on the doorposts of my heart.

Exodus 12:13 says, "The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. "  I've always thought of the lamb's blood as a sign for God, that God would see the blood and pass over, relenting from bringing judgment on that house. That was God's promise, for sure, that He would see the blood and no plague would destroy them.  But this time I notice something else, it says, "The blood shall be a sign for you...."  God asked them to put the blood on their doors in a visible way.  God didn't need that.  He sees all and knows all.  He could have told them to put the blood in a secret spot in their closets and He would have known about it.  Instead He asks them to be very public about it.  This is them declaring out loud that they believe that God will provide for them.  This is a sign for each other and for themselves.  It is an open profession of obedience and dependence.  The same open declaration is required of us.  The reading from Psalm 116 makes the same declaration in verse 14, "I will pay my dues to the Lord in the presence of all His people."


1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."

What does it mean to proclaim the Lord's death?  Matthew Henry says it is:

"to show forth Christ's death, to declare and publish it. It is not barely in remembrance of Christ, of what he has done and suffered, that this ordinance was instituted; but to commemorate, to celebrate, his glorious condescension and grace in our redemption. We declare his death to be our life, the spring of all our comforts and hopes. And we glory in such a declaration; we show forth his death, and spread it before God, as our accepted sacrifice and ransom. We set it in view of our own faith, for our own comfort and quickening; and we own before the world, by this very service, that we are the disciples of Christ, who trust in him alone for salvation and acceptance with God." 

And now the Lectionary moves into a passage that opens with my favorite verse in all of scripture. 

John 13:1b "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."

The first part of verse 1 tells us that Jesus knew his time had come to depart from this world.  Sounds pretty mild when you put it like that, right?  But I think Jesus knew what was coming and just how difficult it was going to be.  Even with this knowledge, though, Jesus kept on loving and loving to the utmost.  This describes his love for the disciples sitting at the table with him that night but I think it also describes his love for his own who are in the world right now.  I'm going to quote Matthew Henry again, because I love his way with words.  "Those whom Christ loves he loves to the end; he is constant in his love to his people; he rests in his love. He loves with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), from everlasting in the counsels of it to everlasting in the consequences of it. Nothing can separate a believer from the love of Christ; he loves his own, eis telos-unto perfection, for he will perfect what concerns them, will bring them to that world where love is perfect."


John 13:34 "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."

Today is Maundy Thursday.  The word maundy is derived from the word for commandment.  John 13:34, then, is the focus of this day of remembrance.  Tomorrow we will meditate on the crucifixion.  Sunday we will celebrate the glory of the resurrection.  Today we focus on the new commandment that Jesus gave us in his final hours on earth.  He says we should love one another just as he loved us.  How did he love us?  To the end, to the utmost, eternally.  His love for us cost him dearly.  His love for us is defined by action.  Jesus loves us because we are his, yes, but he also loved us before we were his.  That's the kind of costly, unconditional love he was commanding us to love with. 

Are you fulfilling the new commandment Jesus gave?



Some of the things that made me think today

This morning I took my kids to school and then went for a run. It was just sprinkling when I started out but the rain was coming down pretty hard when I was a couple of miles in to the run.  Rainy spring runs are the best.  I love the sound of my breath swooshing in and out of my lungs, the delicious ache in my legs as I push up the cemetery hill.  I love the calculus involved in a run: if I turn here I can add another mile, how far if I turn there?  When I got back to the house I was drenched and exhilarated, ready for the rest of the day.  

I spent most of my day elbow deep in tomato sauce and cheese and noodles.  I'm preparing dinner for around 70 people tomorrow night and I did a bunch of prep work today.  At first, when I agreed to do this I just thought it would be a good way to support an event that I care about.  Today in the kitchen I was enjoying myself so much that I think it was really a gift for me to get to do it.  I layered sauce and noodles and cheese.  I dipped pounds of strawberries in chocolate.  I talked to myself and listened to a great book.  I chatted with a good friend.   It was pleasure and purpose combined.

I was working alongside a friend for a bit today and she nearly burst to show me a picture of her brand new grandson.  He's fresh on the scene, just born this morning and he is glorious.  Then she showed pictures of the new grandson alongside pictures of her son when he was a baby.  And all I could think was, I bet she still sees that baby when she looks at him.  When I look at my kids I see their baby faces and their toddler faces and their preschool faces and all their faces just smooshed into who they are now.   All those faces, just like they were yesterday before they grew into the giants they are now. 

My Aunt posted a picture on Facebook today because it's her wedding anniversary.  I haven't seen the picture before and it is just so beautiful.  She is dancing with her husband and she is absolutely luminous in the picture.  She's a beautiful woman, don't get me wrong, but the beauty in that picture is a result of the love and the grace and the gift of that day.  The best part of that picture is that my Aunt still looks just that luminous, even these 15 years later.  I was an adult when my Aunt got married and for a long time I thought I wouldn't be able to give someone new the name Uncle.  I was wrong.  Even if he weren't a great guy, which he is, I would love him for how well he loves my Aunt.

My precious friend's grandma died today, on her 85th birthday.  I'm sad for my friend and for her family but I can't help but feel happy for her grandma.  If someone had told me on my day of birth that I'd die on that same day 85 years later, I wouldn't be sad about it.  She had a great life, full of people who loved her and cared for her.  And on her 85th birthday she died in her home without a great deal of pain.  A trip to heaven doesn't seem like a bad birthday present.

Sometimes I'm just so overwhelmed by how beautiful it all is.  Life, I mean.

What I read this week: February 21-28

A big part of my reading this last week was a complete re-read of Evicted by Matthew Desmond.  I didn't mean to re-read the whole book.  I was really just planning on going over a few bits to help me finish a review.  But the book is incredible and deserved another go.  I really can't recommend that book enough.  If you are at all interested in public policy, social justice, poverty, race issues, etc you should read it.  If you are a human person, you should read it.  On the surface it doesn't seem like it would be super applicable to my life in a very rural community, since it has to do with housing issues in urban areas, but I think there are a lot of things that apply to life in the sticks.  I wrote about it for Englewood Review of Books and I'll share a link to that when it goes up.    

I did read a few other things.  So, here goes.

  • Dietland by Sarai Walker.  This book is just weird.  I can't say that I liked it and I can't say that I didn't like it.  Dietland features a fat protagonist named Plum Kettle.  Plum spends her whole life waiting to be skinny so that her real life can begin.  Because she lives in shame about who she is, she wears clothes that she doesn't like, she does a job that she hates, she eats food that is tasteless.  But she believes this will all change when she is finally skinny and becomes a real person.  Through a series of strange events, she is connected with a group of women who live on their own terms and she learns to accept herself  as she is. 

The premise of the book is great.  I liked the idea that we've all been brainwashed into believing certain unattainable body types are attractive and anything outside of that ideal is to be hated.  I also thought some of the lines the author drew between pornography/disordered sexuality and advertising/disordered body image were interesting.  The problem is, I really did not like the main character.  It's hard to get on board with these revolutionary ideas when the main character is someone you don't want to be and wouldn't want to hang out with.  Anyway, the idea of the book was interesting, I just didn't love the execution.

  • Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos.  I picked this up because I really enjoyed the author's previous novels, Broken for You and Sing Them Home.  This novel was lacking, for me.  I tend to be a very linear person.  If an author can keep control of a narrative that doesn't follow a standard timeline or that jumps between perspectives, it can be really great.  I didn't feel like Kallos did that.  Not my favorite book of the year.  You can probably skip it.


  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.  I actually listened to this one and laughed way more than you might expect when you pick up a work of social science research.   I guess that's the first thing you should know about this book.  Aziz Ansari (comedian) wrote this book with Eric Klinenberg (NYU sociologist).  The book uses loads of data on relationships and dating to completely convince me that I'm glad I got married when I did.  Okay, I'm sure that wasn't the point of this book but it definitely was one of the results!  They outline the way things have changed: it used to be that people regularly married someone who lived in the same building/neighborhood/few blocks as they did.  It was often someone they were introduced to through family connections and usually the marriages happened in the early 20s.  Today, people are marrying much later and rarely marry people that grew up in the same place they did.  Aziz Ansari claims this means people are more romantically fulfilled than they were in the past but I wonder what to make of rising rates of divorce, etc.  It would be interesting to take another look at the data and see what could be made of that.  Anyway, good book.  I'm guessing you'd like it.


  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  My sister loaned me this book because she likes to make me cry.  Unless you live under a rock, you've heard of this book and it's not a spoiler if I tell you that Paul Kalanithi died last March.  This book is a meditation on life and death and love and marriage.  It is gorgeous and should be read by everyone.  I also particularly enjoyed the last bit, which was written by his wife after he died.  I liked her thoughts on marriage at the end of life.  It is a really excellent book.


That's it for next week.  Right now I'm reading The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, Night Driving by Addie Zierman and Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy.  I'll tell you all about them next week!


What I read this week (for two weeks!): February 8-21

I got busy last week and forgot to write about what I read.  So this will be for the last two weeks.  I'm sure you've just been anxious to see this.

  • Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward.  I talked a bunch about this book in this post.  I loved it.  You should read it.  


  • Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa.  This novel is a fictionalized account of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.  I really enjoyed the author's use of multiple points of view and the way the points of view alternated.  The novel asks questions about the kind of world we want and the kinds of things we are willing to do to get that kind of world.  It also explores hope, optimism and a sincere desire to affect change but doesn't really delve in to what happens when those things get out of control.  I really liked it as a novel but I think it left a bunch of unanswered questions.


  • The Expatriates by Janice YK Lee.  I really wanted to like this because of how much I enjoyed Lee's debut novel, The Piano Teacher.  The Expatriates, though, felt a little flat.  I didn't really buy what Lee seemed to be saying, which is that motherhood itself requires a woman to become a kind of expatriate.  I still enjoyed her writing and the way she expresses herself, I just didn't really connect with the characters or the situations the book explores.  I definitely suggest you read The Piano Teacher, if you want to experience this author's best work.


  • The Run of His Life: The People Versus OJ Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin.  Like many people, I have been captivated by The People vs. OJ Simpson on Fx.  It's kind of a moth to the flame effect, I can't look away.  I was in high school when the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman took place and in college when the verdict was finally reached.  I remember the day of the verdict vividly but, honestly, I don't remember much about the details of the trial and such.  I think I was busy doing other things.  So, because I've found the TV show so interesting, I wanted to go back and read the book it is based (loosely) on.  

First, I think it should be said that any book Jeffrey Toobin writes is an education.  I especially recommend The Nine, which is about the Supreme Court and Too Close to Call, which is about the 2000 election. (Also, this piece in the New Yorker about Scalia is amazing, if you are looking for a current event think piece from him.)  But, really, anything he writes is worth reading.  The Run of His Life is really eye opening.  I always had a kind of vague belief that OJ was likely guilty of the murders but Toobin's very thoughtful, step by step look at the investigation, evidence and trial strategies (both of the prosecution and the defense) laid it out in such an incontrovertible way that I genuinely can't see how the not guilty verdict was reached.  Except, at the same time, I can see it.  You have to give OJ's defense team credit because their work in getting a vicious killer off Scot-free was really remarkable.  In the end, I really just felt sorry for the majority of people who were involved, especially for the jurors who were really faced with an impossible task and for the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.  I could not put the book down and highly recommend it to anyone interested at all in pop culture/ the law/ true crime/ politics/ good writing.


That's all for the last couple of weeks.  I'm currently reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, and Dietland by Sarai Walker.  I'm sure there will be others by the time next week rolls around.  Stay tuned.

When Beyonce and Jessmyn Ward made me feel all the things

Usually I am not cool enough to know about big pop culture things as they are happening.  I usually find out about things just when they are starting to become uncool.  I wear mom jeans and drive this generation's equivalent of a minivan.  Actually, I don't even think I was cool back when I thought I was cool.  Anyway, that's not the point.

This weekend, I happened to be scrolling through Twitter when Beyonce dropped her new video, Formation.  So I watched it.  And I watched it again.  And again.  I don't think I can count how many times I've watched the video now.  It is mesmerizing.  It is gorgeous.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I've since read a billion think pieces about the video and what it all means.  And I think I'm supposed to be uncomfortable.  I think it's good that it makes me uncomfortable.

I've been made most uncomfortable by the varied reactions I've seen to the video.  Almost to a person, every negative reaction to either the video or the Super Bowl performance I've seen on my Twitter and Facebook feeds has been from a white person.  And almost every African American reaction I've seen has been positive.  This isn't the first time I've noticed this kind of divide.  Many, if not most, of the people (nearly all white) who live in my area have been unsympathetic (putting it kindly) to the deaths of young, unarmed black men in confrontations with police.  I've seen many comments about how they should just "do what the police tell them" and if they don't, "that's what they get."  (These same voices, by the way, are up in arms over the death of Lavoy Finicum, a man who is shown in videos to be reaching for his weapon.  But that's another story.)  What is becoming more and more obvious to me is that our country is terribly divided.

Last week I started reading Jessmyn Ward's memoir Men We Reaped.  The book is at once very personal and terribly universal.  I had heard it described as a memoir of loss.  This is a memoir genre that I've become a student of in the last 5 years and so I picked it up.  And it is a memoir of loss in many ways.  Jessmyn Ward weaves the stories of the loss of her brother and four other close friends into a discussion of family and relationships but also of race and economic disadvantage.  These five seemingly unrelated deaths become a microcosm of the ways that we have not cared for our neighbors.  Actually, let's go further.  It's not just that we haven't cared for our neighbors, that's too passive, it's that we have actively hurt our neighbors. 

The deaths Jessmyn Ward tells about in Men We Reaped have many causes.  From one point of view it could be argued that the young men caused their own deaths, in one obvious instance of suicide the man did die by his own hand.  Yes, there are aspects of personal responsibility in all the deaths Ward remembers, with the possible exception of her brother's death by drunk driver.  At the same time, Ward rightly points out the ways in which we are all complicit in these deaths: few job prospects, lacking educational systems, high rates of incarceration, the world is a very precarious place for young African American men. 

Christians like to trot out Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  It's true, we are all one in Christ but our practice of that oneness is far from perfect. When Christians, white Christians in particular, ignore the systems of injustice that oppress our brothers and sisters, we are not only a part of the problem, we are caught up in generational sin that is far from what God intended for His people.  

I get it.  Acknowledging systemic racism is hard and it will require real work and real change that may be painful.  It is so much easier to pretend it doesn't exist.  Let me be the first to admit that I don't have any answers about this and even less real knowledge.  None.  But I think awareness is the first step.  And I think a big part of moving toward reconciliation is being willing to listen to other voices.  I have enjoyed (and been made uncomfortable by) Christena Cleveland (her blog and her book, Disunity in Christ), Osheta Moore, Eugene Cho, Austin Channing and others. 

"When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."  I've seen this Louis CK quote making the rounds on Facebook lately and I think it applies to this situation perfectly.  Our brothers and sisters are telling us that we've hurt them.  It's up to us to help change the things that are causing the hurt.

What I read this week: February 1-7

I hardly read anything this week.  Wait, that's not true.  I read just as much as usual, I just didn't finish very much.  In fact, I only finished one book this week. 

  • Running: a Love Story by Jen A Miller.  I received this as an ARC and it is scheduled to be released March 22, 2016.  I think this might be a book that only a runner could love.  I really liked her descriptions of running and of races.  I didn't so much care for the series of crappy relationships she described. 


That's all I finished this week.  I'm deeply caught up in several other books:  Out of the House of Bread by Preston Yancey (which requires some work and introspection, I might not finish that one for a while), re-reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond (because I'm going to review it for another publication), and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward.    Listen, Men We Reaped combined with Evicted and Beyonce's "Formation" is giving me some feelings.  I'm not sure how or if I'll write about it because I'm not sure I'm equipped to write about it.  But those feelings are a lot of why I read so little last week.  Stay tuned for more.


What forever is

In the months after my sister died I had this feeling that her death was something I had to live with for a while but then, eventually, things would get back to normal.  Like, maybe, she was just on vacation for a time.  I think this is an example of Joan Didion's version of  magical thinking.  In her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion recounts her experiences in the year after her husband died unexpectedly.  One of the episodes I remember most vividly from the book was when she talked about being unable to give away her husband's shoes because she knew he'd need them when he returned.  I know that kind of thinking, that if these things are still true, this other thing must also be true.  It's easy to rely on magical thinking, in the beginning, at least.

Life doesn't return to normal.  Or, maybe, there is no normal.  This is what forever is.

In the years before our daughter was born, when it was incorrectly assumed that we were struggling with infertility, well-meaning, kind-hearted people would say things like, "don't worry, it will all be worth in in the end."  Or, "you'll get pregnant just as soon as you stop trying."  And, my favorite, "this will all make sense in retrospect."  These are the kinds of things people say to each other when they don't really know what to say.

The truth is, we never struggled with infertility, at least not in the traditional sense.  I never had a problem getting pregnant, I just couldn't stay pregnant.   We lost untold babies for unknown reasons.  (I say untold, not uncounted.  Every one of those precious lost ones were counted and known by us, we just haven't told everyone about all of them.  But that's another discussion.)  The reasons for the losses we experienced remain unknown to our doctors and to us.  Some things we just don't get to know, this side of heaven.  This is what forever is. 

But I think about those well-meaning comments.  How can I make sense of it?  Or how much retrospection is needed to make sense of it?  How do we reconcile our deep feelings of grief over the lost ones with our deeper feelings of joy over the precious children we did birth into this world?  If the lost ones had survived the precious ones we have wouldn't have been born.    So, what does it mean that it will be worth it, as those kind-hearted folks promised?

I think these are the questions I'll be asking for the rest of my life.  This is what forever is.

In the immediate aftermath of a loss, people who care about you ask you how you are doing.  They check in on you a lot.  How are you holding up?  How are you coping with your sister's death?  How are you getting through?  I suppose that's the proper response in the beginning. The start is a traumatic wound, a gaping hole.  We treat wounded people with care.  That's right. 

Then, as time progresses, the wound becomes a scar.  But it seems like people still want to talk about the scar.  Now, when people ask me how I feel about my sister's death, I feel like they are trying to pick at the scar.  If I saw an amputee in the grocery store, I wouldn't ask her how she lost her leg.  That's what it feels like to me when people want to talk about my sister's death, like they are asking me how I lost my leg.

When people ask me about how I'm coping with my sister's death, they are making her all about me.  I don't always want to talk about me.  When I am 85 I don't want to just remember that I had a sister named Becky who died when she was 32.  I want to remember my sister Becky who had an impish grin and was a world class sarcasm dealer.  I want to remember that she was compassionate in the extreme and absolutely broken at the idea of someone she loved not knowing Jesus.  I want to remember that she was smart and thoughtful and goofy and stubborn.  I will always want to talk about Becky but I don't want my talk about Becky to always be about her death.

When I think about what forever is I am constantly drawn to the only thing I know to be true beyond the shadow of a doubt: 

For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.
— Psalm 100:5

Just waiting and wondering

If you've been reading this blog since the beginning you might remember that I'm hoping and looking to get back into the workforce after being a stay at home mom for 9 years. You may even remember that back in November I applied for a dream job.

I've been waiting and wondering about that position since then.  The dream job was with a University and Universities are incredibly slow with their hiring process (at least in my experience) so I've been trying to practice patience.  This is not easy for me. 

While I've been waiting and wondering I've kind of been holding on to and polishing that dream.  I built it up in my head, how great I would be at the job (I would be, that's not a joke), how great the job would be for my family (that is total conjecture, of course), how much I would love going to work every day, all the excellent things we would do with the piles of new-found money this job would provide (okay, so piles might be an exaggeration but extra money for extra things, including paying off my student loans with greater speed, would be nice, no denying) .  I've been building that dream job up into something it couldn't possibly be.

This week I learned that I am not among the candidates that were selected for an interview.  And my dream came crashing down.  The thing about dreams is that they aren't reality (aren't you glad you read this blog for all the stunning bits of wisdom I share, like that special bit).  I know that when I go back to work it will create some difficulty for my family.  I know that there will be things about my working that will be a challenge, for me and for everyone else.  It won't be all sunshine and flowers.  But it will be purposeful and challenging and good.  I look forward to going back to work.  

I never intended to be unemployed for this long.  Honestly, I've been quietly watching for a good position since we moved here.  Okay, that's probably a lie.  Let's say I've been watching for the last 6 years, since my baby was a year old.  There haven't been a lot of available positions in my field in those 6 years.  But the last 6 months have been a kind of explosion in my profession, at least in this area.  So I've been applying.  And it's hard.  It's hard for me to get certain positions in my field because I am too qualified.  It's hard for me to get other positions in my field because I have too little experience.  It's hard to know, in general, if I'll even remember how to be a librarian.  

So, the dream job is gone, at least for now.  The thing about dreams is that they are always in the background.  Maybe a dream job will reappear again someday.  For the time being I am waiting to hear on 3 other positions for which I've applied.  Until then, I'll be here, just waiting and wondering.

What I read this week: January 25-31

This was a strange week for reading.  My daughter was sick so I read a bit less than usual.  I'm also including a couple of cookbooks that I read this week.  I won't include every cookbook I ever look at on this list of what I'm reading but I will include cookbooks that I read through cover to cover or specifically sought out because of some focus they have that interests me.  I actually flip through a lot of cookbooks but I promise not to overwhelm you with all of that.  

  • Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour.   I received this as an ARC through Netgalley. It it scheduled to be released February 9, 2016. I chose to read this book because I will be parenting a teenage daughter in a few years and because I am interested in parenting books and psychology.  Overall I thought this was a good book.  I can already see my 9 year old flirting with some of the seven transitions that the author talks about.  There were moments when some of the things the author describes about raising teenagers felt like such a loss of relationship but the message wasn't all grim.  In many ways I felt like the theme ways: be the adult while your kid is figuring out what that means.


  • Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach.  I received this as an ARC through Netgalley.  It is scheduled to be released July 26, 2016.   I'm sorry to say this, especially because it was an advance copy and I feel like that deserves every effort, but I had to give this one up.  The book opens with a hotel rendezvous between a 14 year old girl and her 29 year old "boyfriend."  He is a jerk and she keeps justifying his behavior to herself and the reader.  I read the synopsis and I gather that later she realizes that he is a nasty predator and she confronts him, possibly in a court of law, but, still, I just couldn't read it.  If you are 14 years old, a 29 year old man is not your boyfriend, he is a rapist.  That is all.


  • This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.  This novel has been mentioned several times on the All the Books podcast so I finally requested it from my library.  I'm glad I did!  The entirety of this young adult novel takes place in 54 minutes.  It opens with the end of a start of semester assembly and students attempted to exit the auditorium.  It soon becomes clear that all exits are blockaded.  Then the gunman enters.  What follows is a nearly minute by minute account of a school shooting told from the point of view of 4 people in different locations and with different connections to each other and to the shooter himself.  I thought this was a well told story.  It does rely on some of the same old conventions about school shootings so don't expect anything that will suddenly clarify why they happen.   This is Marieke Nijkamp's first novel and I will be interested to see what she writes next.  I also think it is interesting to note that Nijkamp is an executive director of We Need Diverse Books, a grassroots organization of children's book lovers that exists to advocate, produce and promote diverse literature for young people.  This is a cause that I appreciate and I noticed that the author did include diverse characters in non-stereotypical, non-forced ways in this novels.  Good for her!


  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan.  On the first and most intense day of my daughter's illness, I needed something to read that did not require a lot of brain power (that means something I could read while caring for her and also while sitting with her when she watched a ton of House Hunters).  I found this novel in the Kindle Lending Library and it fit the bill.  It was quick and it was basically entertaining.  The main character is married to newspaper restaurant critic (hence the title) and I did enjoy the food descriptions and such.  I thought the challenges of moving to a new city where you know no one were aptly described.  I also thought some of the main characters feelings about new motherhood were realistic.  However, I hated the husband.  He was self involved and selfish.  He was unreasonable and, honestly, delusional.  And all of that behavior could have been dealt with but the main character basically ignored it and allowed her husband to treat her in highly unreasonable ways.  By the end of the book she basically decided that her husband was right in his unreasonableness and changed herself to accommodate his selfishness.  I could not stand it.


  • Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone.  You may have heard of Curtis Stone.  I've seen him on the Food Network and on morning shows from time to time.  He is the one with the cute Australian accent.  This is, I think, his 6th cookbook.  I like his recipes fairly well.  In general his recipes are veggie-heavy and don't use a lot of obscure ingredients.  That is helpful to me: I live in the middle of nowhere so some less common ingredients are more difficult for me to source.    This book had nice pictures and commentary on the recipes but for some reason, none of them really grabbed me.  I didn't make any of the recipes, which is unusual for me, I can usually find at least one appealing recipe in any cookbook.  I don't think this cookbook is unappealing, I just think the recipes seem more like warm weather food.  I may revisit this one in the summer.


  • Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan.  I love to can.  There is something so wonderful about filling jars with summer-y goodness and then opening them in the dead of winter.  There is something so gratifying about opening the cupboard to row upon row of provisions.  This canning cookbook is glorious.  I checked it out from the library but I will be purchasing my own copy because nearly every recipe is one I want to try.  I read through this book and made lists of the things I should plant so that I can put it up later.  I love that they are mostly small batch recipes.  This is especially nice for jams, chutneys and relishes.  I mean, gingery pickled beets sound heavenly but I doubt we need more than a few pints (especially since that's one thing I'll be eating by myself).  If there are any other canning aficionados  reading this, Food in Jars is definitely a book to add to your collection.


  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.  I received this as and ARC from Netgalley.  It is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2016.  You are probably going to want to read this, especially if you have any interest in sociology/ causes and effects of poverty/ etc.  This book tells the stories of 8 families in and around Milwaukee but, honestly, place doesn't matter.  The stories would be similar in any American city.  Matthew Desmond tells that eviction used to be incredibly rare and met by neighborhood protests.  Today, most lower income families are spending more than half their income on rent and face eviction with alarming regularity.  In one instance described in this book, a family couldn't pay both the rent and the electric bill so they would stay current on the rent during the winter months (when it is illegal to issue shut off notices in Milwaukee) and then during the summer months they would pay the electric bill so that the next winter they could take advantage of the no-shut off rule again.  The book surprisingly, is beautiful.  I expected to hate the landlords but, honestly, they are depicted, for the most part, as caring but clear-eyed.  And the tenants, basically, as people caught in a cycle that they can't seem to escape.  I really enjoyed this book.


That's it for this week.  Up next is Running: A Love Story by Jen A Miller, Night Driving by Addie Zierman, Out of the House of Bread by Preston Yancey, and surely something fiction!




When I ask you to do something hard with me.

Lent starts on February 10 this year.  I usually try to do something to observe Lent in some way.  I don't always or even usually give something up but I usually try to devote myself to some kind of reading plan as a way of anticipating Easter. 

This year I'm going to spend the 40 days before Easter reading through the Bible.  The whole Bible.  So, that's approximately 30 chapters per day.  It takes about 45 minutes in an audio Bible to get through that many chapters so I'm guessing that the average reader could do it in about 1 hour.

1 hour.  That's not too bad, right?  You could find an hour in your day by cutting back on your Facebook time or skipping a couple of Friends reruns.  And I think you gain a lot in reading the Bible straight through like this.  You gain an understanding of the whole arc of God's story.  You gain some perspective: did you know that if you read the Bible straight through in 40 days, you'll be reading Old Testament for all but 9 days of that time!  What does that tell you about the Old Testament?  I also think reading through the Bible like this can give you a new understanding of who God is. 

So, here's what reading through the Bible in 40 days is not about.  It's not about deep study.  This will give a broad understanding.  You are going to run across things that you want to go deeper on, that's part of what this is about.  I recommend that you do this with a journal right beside you.  Make notes, write down questions that you have and passages you want to return to.  Hopefully this broad exercise will inform your deeper study for the rest of the year!  You may want to attempt this reading in a different version than your usual study version...maybe try the NLT or The Message for some different perspective.

I'm including my Lenten reading plan here.  Notice that it doesn't include any readings on Sundays.  You can use those days to rest or, if you need to,  catch up.  I hope some of you will join me.  I'm praying that God reveals Himself to you in a fresh way through this reading.  (Also, if you want a printable version of this reading plan, send me an email.  I'm not awesome enough to figure out how to include that on this post, sorry.)



40 days through the Bible - a Lenten Reading Plan

  • February 10 - Genesis 1-27

  • February 11 - Genesis 28 - end

  • February 12 - Exodus 1 - 34

  • February 13 - Exodus 35 - Leviticus 15


  • February 15 - Leviticus 16 - Numbers 13

  • February 16 - Numbers 14 -  end

  • February 17 - Deuteronomy

  • February 18 - Joshua 1 - Judges 10

  • February 19 - Judges 11 - end; Ruth; 1 Samuel 1 -13

  • February 20 - 1 Samuel 14 - 2 Samuel 10


  • February 22 - 2 Samuel 11 - 1 Kings 6

  • February 23 - 1 Kings 7 - 2 Kings 5

  • February 24 - 2 Kings 6 - 1 Chronicles 10

  • February 25 - 1 Chronicles 11 - 2 Chronicles 2

  • February 26 - 2 Chronicles 3 - end

  • February 27 - Ezra and Nehemiah


  • February 29 - Esther and Job

  • March 1 - Psalm 1 - 50

  • March 2 - Psalm 51 - 100

  • March 3 - Psalm 101 - 150

  • March 4 - Proverbs

  • March 5 - Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs


  • March 7 - Isaiah 1 - 40

  • March 8 - Isaiah 41 - 60

  • March 9 - Isaiah 61 - Jeremiah 18

  • March 10 - Jeremiah 19 - end

  • March 11 - Lamentations; Ezekiel 1-20

  • March 12 - Ezekiel 21 - end


  • March 14 - Daniel and Hosea

  • March 15 - Joel; Amos; Obadiah; Jonah; Micah; Nahum

  • March 16 - Habakkuk; Zephaniah; Haggai; Zechariah; Malachi

  • March 17 - Matthew

  • March 18 - Mark

  • March 19 - Luke


  • March 21 - John

  • March 22 - Acts

  • March 23 - Romans and 1 Corinthians

  • March 24 - 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1 & 2 Thessalonians

  • March 25 - 1 & 2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon; Hebrews; James

  • March 26 - 1 & 2 Peter; 1, 2 & 3 John; Jude; Revelation

What I read this week: January 18-24

This week I read several works of non-fiction that were thought provoking and informing and a couple of novels that grabbed me and wouldn't let go.  It was a pretty great week for books!

  • To the Table by Lisa Graham McMinn.  I loved this book!  You can read a pretty thorough response here.


  • Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family by Diana Abu-Jaber.  I have read and loved every one of Diana Abu-Jaber's novels.  They are always so rich and full of sights, sounds, tastes.  She is an excellent writer.  This is her first memoir.  I enjoyed it but it really wasn't the same kind of feast for the senses that I've come to expect from her work.


  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.  I was lucky to get an ARC of Curtis Sittenfeld's new book, which is due to be published April 19, 2016.  Eligible is the fourth entry in the Austen Project, a series of re-tellings of Jane Austen novels by modern authors.  Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid came out April 2015, Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope was released November 2014, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith was released April 2015.  I actually haven't read any other other Austen Project novels, and they haven't been very highly reviewed, but I am both a Curtis Sittenfeld fan and a Pride and Prejudice fan so, obviously, Eligible is right up my alley.  

So, I'm sure you just gathered that Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  It accomplishes that goal very well.  The Bennett family, with the exception of Jane and Liz, are just as annoying and unappealing in this version as they are in the original.  This version really emphasized, to me, how spineless and imperfect Mr. Bennett is, maybe I haven't paid him close enough attention to notice in the original version.   Jane is portrayed as a calm and zen yoga instructor, which is how the kind purity of the original Jane is made modern, I guess.   Lizzie, known as Liz in this retelling, is a self-sufficient career woman who doesn't need a husband to be fulfilled.  I think there's a lot about this portrayal of Liz that Sittenfeld got right.

There are things that don't ring quite right about Eligible, to me at least.  For one, it didn't ring quite true to me that a modern mother of 5 daughters would be so set on her daughters making "advantageous marriages."  What, even, does that mean in a modern context?  Also, Jane's eventual husband, Mr. Bingley, is written in a really unflattering way in this novel.  I remember being very happy when Jane and Mr. Bingley finally resolve everything in the original Pride and Prejudice.  In Eligible I feel quite certain that the lovely Jane could do much better!  Liz and Darcy work fairly well but, again, it doesn't seem quite the love story that the original is.  Over all, I enjoyed the book and feel like it was a fairly faithful modernization.  If you can overlook some small faults, I think you'll enjoy it.


  • Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines.  Coming Clean is a memoir of addiction.  It is written as a journal of Seth Haines' first 90 days sober.  Obviously, Seth's addiction is to alcohol but so much of this memoir can be applied to other addiction.  Haines says addiction isn't so much about whatever thing you are addicted to but more about whatever pain you are trying to numb.  For him, addiction was about lack of faith. I feel like there were so many little thought provoking points in the book.  One stopping point for me was  this question: "In what ways am I most alienated from God?"  I think I read that one sentence at least 10 times.  I love a book that forces me to stop and process.  I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.  I will be honest, it took me a little more time than usual to really get in to it.  Like any journal, it is not very linear at all and sometimes I had difficulty following the arc of the story (probably because there really is no arc).  I'm guessing this wouldn't cause everyone difficulty but I just really like linear thinking.  So there you go.


  • The Guest Room by Chris Bojalian.  The Guest Room was the second novel I read this week.  It tells the story Richard Chapman and his family and how they were destroyed by one terrible night of violence.  It starts with Richard making the bad decision to host his brother's bachelor party at his home. Richard believes it will be more "wholesome" to have the party at his home rather than at a strip club.  So Richard allows his brother's best friend to arrange for strippers to come to his home.  This seems like a safe decision to him.  Almost immediately Richard has reason to regret his decision.  Rather than use a reputable stripper service (is there such a thing?), the friend arranges strippers through some Russian mafia thugs.  It turns out, these strippers are actually young women who are sex slaves.  Things really spiral downward when the two women murder the thugs who are posing as bodyguards but are really their captors and then run off into the night. 

Obviously this series of events causes further problems.  Can Richard's marriage survive this terrible event?  Will Richard's brother actually get married when the fiance learns of all the things that led to this evening?  What will happen to the women who escaped from this situation? How did the women become trapped in this slavery in the first place?  This was a very interesting and tense novel and I enjoyed it, as much as a person can enjoy a novel about rape and nasty bachelor parties and slavery.  Chris Bohjalian is a writer I always enjoy and this book was no exception.

  • When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams.  What does it mean when your mother is dying and she leaves you her journals, shelves full of journals, but asks you not to read them until after she is gone?  What does it mean when you finally do open them only to discover that they are all empty?  What is family?  What is womanhood?  What does it mean to have a voice?  When Women Were Birds grapples with these questions in quiet and moving and haunting ways.  I don't have anything to say about this book except that it is beautiful and I loved it and you should read it.


That's it for this week.  I'm currently reading Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour.  I have so many feelings and thoughts about this book, I can't wait to finish and process it more fully.   I'm guessing I'll have a lot to say about it next week.  After that I'll be reading Lit by Mary Karr, Evicted by Matthew Desmond and, hopefully, some kind of lighter fiction to give me a break from these intense books!