books


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Can I just say, right off the start, I love my book club. I really, really love my book club, in fact, and I honour each woman who makes that circle so incredibly beautiful. I wish I was more like each of you in so many ways.

So when I say I was shocked (I might be exaggerating my emotional response a tiny bit, but not much) to find out my book club sisters disliked my book recommendation, well, I had to rethink my place in the universe, or something. <smileyface>

And because I wasn’t able to attend the book club meeting where said book was being discussed, I have unresolved and lingering feelings which must be expressed or I will die, or something. <smileyface>

I adored the book Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, by Rhoda Janzen. I laughed out loud, in a public place, while reading it. A woman stopped and asked me what I was reading and wrote down the title so she could read it, too. Another stranger sat right down for a little chat when she saw the book that was making me smile.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a memoir, the story of a forty-ish woman who, after the breakup of her marriage and a disabling accident, returns home to recover. It’s a story of healing, in every sense of the word, as she spends time with family and memories and the conservative religious community of her childhood.

Some have said Janzen’s story is disrespectful and crude. I didn’t find it so. Besides being hilarious, I found Janzen’s memoir touching and beautiful. Honestly, it was the honesty that made this book shine. I appreciated her truthful retelling of remembered childhood, while taking responsibility for all her adult decisions, and I thought her literary treatment of the characters in her story was generally hilariously respectful.

The thing is, truthful truth is always a little dirty.

Thankfully, my place in the universe was restored when my sister Kathy, also reading the book on my recommendation, texted me.

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Ah. Sisters. We get each other.

If you don’t mind a little swearing and some truthful talk, I think you’ll love this book. On my Annie scale, it’s much more Anne Lamott than Ann Voskamp, but I’m good with that. Sometimes, I need to laugh instead of cry.

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I send them out to clean the veranda. To wipe away the trailing threads of last years busy arachnids. To clean for spring. So out they go, cloths and brooms in hand but with their minds on other things. Just doing what their mother asks. And it takes them all of about five minutes.

I call them back and from the kitchen window I point out the mess still there. The mess that can only be seen by looking up. The mess that is hiding in the crevices of the ceiling. Oh, they say. We didn’t notice.

Out they go again, with brooms high above their heads this time. Looking up and cleaning the rest.

And it makes me think of the messes in my life, the hidden garbage that dangles out of sight above my head. And of the time I spend just doing what I’m told, my mind on other things. Doing my job, cleaning what is in front of me, but ignoring what is less obvious.

It can fill a day, a life … doing the least that I can get away with. If I don’t look up, that is.

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So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

from tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

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This post was first published two years ago. Time flies. The boys and I have been spring cleaning again this past week. I’m reminded that these are things that happen, over and over. And the spiders return with their webs and the mess, and I still need to remember to look up.

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A book club made up of introverts. Imagine.

Although there are extroverts who read and who join book clubs, I’m sure. Just not ours.

Sunday night was my re-entry, so to speak. I’d been on book club sabbatical for several months, trying to do all the things that had become pressing, suffocatingly so, in my life. I’d missed it. I’d missed the gathering of these women, the conversations about thoughts and words.

The book was Quiet, by Susan Cain. Interesting to discuss this quiet book in this group of quiet women.

Most of us liked parts, agreed with parts, and skipped parts of this book. It’s dense, and it’s study-based, and honestly, it took some work to get through it. It didn’t grab me, not really. Even though I’m introverted by nature, it wasn’t a book with which I related. I’m not sure why?

Maybe we aren’t such a tribe, we introverts. Maybe we don’t need to make ourselves one. Maybe the fact that we are introverts makes the whole idea of there being a group of us a bit ridiculous. Maybe there are as many differences among introverted people as there are among, well, people.

Honestly, the tag line threw me a little. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Why power? Why does everyone need to be powerful. Why not The Place of Introverts, or The Peace of Introverts, or The Purpose of Introverts?

I know why, actually. The word power is a marketing word. It tests better. It sells books better. But, whatever.

I was struck, though, by the re-realization of how noisy the world is. Introverted or not, there’s just a whole lot going on out there. Earplugs are required. Filtering out the noise, the distractions… this is the skill I need. This is the challenge I face. The challenge we all face.

Today I’m baking. The children are studying. For the moment, the house is quiet. Soon, it won’t be. Something will come up. A phone call, a kid with a need, a husband coming home.

But the quiet minutes, they are a gift. I’m thankful for them.

Whether you work, whether you parent babies or teens, whether you are single, whether your career is inside or outside of your home… wherever you are at in the wide wide spectrum of personhood, I pray you find ways to make space for yourself in your day. And treasure that.

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All the people I’ve known in my life who have come to the place of living openly as same-sex attracted people, have left their faiths.

There might be some, I’m suspecting, who are living closeted lives and who go to church, but I had never shared a hymnal with anyone who was open until I met Sally.

We were at a Christian Women’s Renewal, about sixty of us, and at our worship time on the first evening, I sat beside her. I stuck out a hand and introduced myself, and we shook, and we started to talk.

She shared her passion for her ministry, Center Peace, which she described as an organization that provides support for men and women who experience same-sex attraction, and which does workshops for churches to help them both better understand and provide healthier environments for same-sex attracted people within their congregations.

And then we were singing and worshipping and that was that.

We ended up in the same prayer group, though, and spent a few moments in conversation here and there, and I came to admire and respect Sally Gary, for her story, for her life, for her honesty, and for her courage to be someone who loves God and likes girls.

A few weeks later, at a big Christian gathering at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Sally launched her new book.

Loves God, Likes Girls is a memoir. It is a beautifully written account of an only girl-child born to older parents and raised in a bible-belt Christian home often marked by anger, secrecy, and emotional abuse. It’s Sally’s journey, her story of growing up in an often confusing environment, and her eventual realization that she was attracted to women.

It’s a sad, poignant, but ultimately hopeful story of one woman’s experience.

What it’s not, is a book that takes either polarizing side of this emotionally charged issue. You won’t find arguments supporting homosexuality, nor will you find arguments against it. Paul isn’t quoted, and neither is Leviticus.

This is a book that is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s Sally’s story, told honestly and bravely, and it’s beautiful.

Love you, Sally Gary. God bless!

Sally ministers at Center Peace, and blogs at Peace of my Mind…

 

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I met Willow a couple of years ago, online. I don’t remember who commented on who’s blog first, but I do remember reading her words and thinking, this girl can write.

And, as an added bonus, she’s funny!

Maybe it was because she wrote about things that made sense to me. Family. Kids. Relationships. Messing up.

And she wrote about it all with humour and style, and always from the point of view of a (as she describes herself) recovering pharisee.

If you aren’t religious at all you might not know what that means. But if you’ve ever come across a religious person (like me), then you have met one.

Pharisees lived in Jesus’ day, and he was forever calling them out. Saying things like, Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, and calling them hypocrites. For what had happened was that in an attempt to keep the Jewish law, they’d become extremists, keeping the letter of the law but totally missing the intent. One of those, can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of things.

It’s easy to slip into pharisee-ism. It’s easy to focus on the do’s and the don’ts, and to lose sight of the who’s and the why’s and especially, the One. It’s easy to become judgemental. To strain gnats. Yep, been there done that, and will probably do it again.Thank you, grace.

So… Willow’s book.

I was so excited to find out she had written her first novel, and even more excited when she said she would send me a copy of it. I received it in the mail, opened and read her note, and then put it on the shelf with the other beauties waiting for my attention once summer arrived.

And then it did. And I sat down one day last week and read Willow’s funny, funny book in one, gigantic gulp.

From the book’s back cover:

Facing a cataclysmic identity crisis, pregnant Haley is battling for her very life – her life as an eco-chic, vegan Christian, that is. She hadn’t counted on being thrust into a war zone when she agreed to leave her East Coast life and go with her husband, Rick, to the Montana outback for the summer. And she certainly hadn’t counted on attending a ladies Bible study in a smoky, rancid saloon. Rather than run from it, though, Haley decides it is her God-given mission to subdue and educate the redneck forces that discount her superior vocabulary and sophisticated hairdo. With no help from Rick or his freaky Aunt Win, Haley dives headfirst into her mission only to find herself sucked irretrievably into a maelstrom of humiliating mishaps.

With tensions mushrooming as fast as her belly, will Haley see that she is actually living out the reality of the scripture, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”? And just how many car explosions and massive wardrobe malfunctions will it take for her to realize that it is her own judgments of others that are boomeranging back on her?

This is a sweet and funny story. It’s the best kind of Christian fiction, well-written and self-deprecating.

So…

I’m giving away a copy.

I’d love to share Willow’s book with you! Because it’s a great book, and also because I appreciate all of you so much. Thank you for reading this little blog of mine. Really.

I’m ordering another copy of The Epic Undoing of Haley Ann Ewing today, to give away. Leave a comment on this post, if you’d like a chance to win this, and at the end of the day I will make a draw.

UPDATE:

THE WINNER OF THE BOOK DRAW WAS KIM. PLEASE EMAIL YOUR ADDRESS TO ME AT janellerosss @ yahoo.ca, AND I WILL SEND YOU THE BOOK AS SOON AS IT ARRIVES. CONGRATULATIONS! AND THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO PARTICIPATED. WE’LL DO THIS AGAIN SOON.

some of the books I'm feasting on this summer

some of the books I’m feasting on this summer

Today I’m blogging at How to Homeschool High School, and I’d love it if you’d take a minute to pop over and have a read. I’m writing about being tired, and summer, and taking a break. Because yesterday, my tired self and I curled up and read a book. How I needed that!

Dad’s post from last week made me think about the books in my life. Some have been life-long friends. Some hung out with me for a while but over time we’ve lost touch. Some are new acquaintances, and the relationship has yet to be proven.

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Of course there are old friends like Anne, way over there in Eastern Canada, and Tom and Huck and the Mississippi that was their playground. But there were others, less popular maybe, who loved me well. I could never relate to Nancy Drew, but tomboy Trixie Beldon drew me right into her mystery-driven world. My first romance was found in the pages of Daddy Long Legs. The Dragon Riders of Pern series gave me a taste of fantasy, and every bite was delightful.

As a girl, I read and read and read. As I grew, my interests and maturity led me to works historical and theological and psychological and classical. Words upon words upon words. Book after book. How blessed I’ve been. How richly blessed by this life-long feast that has nourished, informed, and entertained me all these years.

When I was pregnant with my first son, and was so sick for so long, I read the entire series of ¬†Anne of Green Gables books again. All the way through her growing up and marriage and children and the awful war. I’ve read Anne and many other favourites with my children. We’ve pioneered our way through the Little House books. We’ve laughed over The Borrowers and we’ve cried over Where the Red Fern Grows. We’ve been Around the World in Eighty Days, and we’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island with the Swiss Family Robinson. We’ve sat at the round table with Arthur and his knights, and we’ve travelled all over the world with stories far and wide.

Stories. They raised me and they’ve raised my kids. And a good one, found among all the many, many words out there today, is still a great gift.

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