On My Book Shelf (Summer 2016)

7/29/16


After getting this all sorted and typed out, I realized how um... light this list is.  And then I realized that's pretty much how they usually are.  And THEN I realized that "light" is pretty much just my preferred reading style, with the occasional heavies thrown in here and there. You know, just enough to retain the feeling of actually having been to college without feeling like I'm still in it.  For better or worse, there you have me.  Which is why this book has been sitting in my living room for months untouched while I've gone through two Mindy Kalings in the meantime.  Look for it on the fall list! (She says with cautious optimism.)

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Just Finished Reading


Ina May's Guide to Childbirth changed the way I looked at giving birth.  Even though I had Moses in a birthing center, with education from great midwives, there was something about this book that resonated deep enough to actually stick in my bones when labor came on with Taavi.  And my control and presence of mind was vastly different this time around. I can't recommend it enough.  (there are a few parts that are so hippie they're uncomfortable, but mostly it's awesome)



Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting
 is a beautiful look into how the mundane of family life actually mirrors the grace we find in the sacraments. It's a great way to press a reset button for weary moms.  I had the privilege of meeting Laura a month ago and if you aren't reading her blog, remedy your craziness right now.  She's one of the most lovely writers on the web.


Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) was everything I wanted it to be.  And by that I mean a worthy counterpart to Tina Fey's Bossypants.  Which was a relief, because I had thought that maybe every other comedienne's book attempts would be a laugh-free disappointment.  (Looking at you, Amy Poehler.)  All I really want in a comedy book is to be spurred to read excerpts out loud to my husband.  Is that too much to ask?  Mindy thinks not.  Also Mindy wants to hear about how fun marriage is and is sick of hearing about how hard it is all the time.  Challenge accepted, Ms. Kaling. Challenge accepted.  Coming soon.


Why Not Me?  Why not you, this book? Because you were lame.  Sure you had your funny moments, and okay the parts about meeting President Obama were super cool, but I never read you aloud to my husband so basically you failed. It's possible that I mostly feel this way because the section on how everyone secretly likes filming sex scenes was basically the worst thing ever.  I want 2011 Mindy back.

Currently Reading


Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses I'm enjoying slowly making my way through this one.  It's meant to be chewed off bit by bit, spurring on a lifestyle of mindfulness and meditation.  The days that I try to tear through several chapters are the ones I enjoy it least.  When it works best it is ingested a little at a time and intentionally applied to your daily life.  Ginny is another Catholic blogger whom I admire.

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is, in so many ways, my story.  Starting out thinking you would change the world and save all the souls, being broken along the way, and finally understanding that communion is the greatest goal, not conversion.  It's a story about trusting in the wide mercy of God and offering yourself as a mere player in His hand.  I've only just begun this book but it resonates so deeply that I've already contacted D.L. Mayfield and asked to do an interview.  So be on the lookout for that post in the next few weeks!  I think it will deeply encourage us all.


Will Be Reading


Who Does He Say You Are?: Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels I love Colleen Mitchell.  She is feisty and endearing and hilarious and has an enviable sense of style.  But what I love most about her is her heart for mercy and compassion.  She is the real deal and I can't wait to read this babe of her heart. (Also on her website she's made a quiz, "which Gospel woman are you?" It's fluffy and quick and just lots of fun.  I got Mary Magdalene so I can die happy now.)


Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted is my most anticipated read of the year.  I preordered this baby in February you guys, and it comes out in September.  That's commitment. I've been following Shannan's blog for three years, ever since a friend of mine sent me a link to this post when we were in the throes of hard things with Alyosha and I cried buckets and read it over and over for weeks.  Shannan's story of letting Jesus reconstruct her understanding of what it means to follow Him is both challenging and inspiring, and since she is a master wordsmith I know this book will be phenomenal.



What Alice Forgot
 A member of my local book club proposed all reading different books by this author and then getting together to discuss them.  That sounded like a fun proposition to me, and this is the one the library had available therefore it is my pick! ;)  Has anyone read it, or anything by Moriarty? What should I be expecting?


Between the World and Me has been teasing me all year.  I've heard so many good things!  Anyone been through it yet?

For the Kids


The Horse and His Boy We just finished this classic with Alyosha, the third Narnia book we've read with him.  He's enjoyed them but still doesn't seem to be able to completely follow the storyline or understand the details, so I think we're going to take a break from Narnia for awhile.
Magic Tree House  is a more age-appropriate series for Aly, and he's been loving them.  He can even read it independently, though I'm not sure how great his comprehension is that way.  But I like this series because it is a simple introduction to historical periods and cultures.

                        

Heckedy Peg might be my favorite picture book ever, and not just because the mother is a complete badass.  There's a big family, magic, wicked witch, disobedient children, and a mother who fights and redeems.  It's just the best.  It might be a little scary for very small children, so steer clear if you have a very sensitive child.  But I think most kids will love it.                    


Alright, your turn! What have you finished? What are you starting? What are you loving and hating?  Hit us up in the comments or on FB!                  

Never Alone

7/27/16


I carry you against me and you are content pressing into my heartbeat.  We breathe in, we breathe out.  You mold into me, limbs seemingly discombobulated and I wonder that you could ever find comfort there.  I switch you from bare arms to sling to harness- it matters not to you, only to me.  As long as you can smell my human sweat, you relax.  You are not alone.

You sleep beside me and they say you shouldn't, but they don't know how my breath rises and falls by you, how my body is stilled by your presence and doesn't move until your whimpers gently rouse me.  They underestimate the depths that are maternal attunement.  You wake in the night that finds you hungry, and always I am there. You are nourished, you are kissed, and you sleep again. Overnight guests marvel that they never hear you cry, but why would you?  You want for nothing in the night.  You know that you are not alone.

The sun rises and your brothers need me for oatmeal and for snuggles and to watch them ride their bikes.  I nurse you at my breast, then I lay you down to stretch my arms for awhile.  You wake after mere minutes, you don't want to be alone.  So you won't be.  I sigh tiredly or chuckle good-naturedly, depending on the day, and I wrap you back on around my flesh.  You are not alone, dear one.


Your daddy holds you in one arm grown strong with love.  Someone walks by and clucks their tongue and calls your spoiled.  But we shrug our shoulders and it rolls off our backs because we aren't scared of spoiled.  You are 8 weeks old and you know you are not alone.

It's been too long, you've woke and been left waiting.  Just 5 more minutes, I think, as I chop vegetables and scrape them in the pot.  You wail, red-faced, with your bottom lip out.  You are alone, and you hate it.  Ssshhh, I whisper, hands coming under your back to scoop you up.  Ssshhh, my darling. You're not alone.  I'm here.

You sit in your carseat and you wail.  My heart churns and it burns.  I talk to you, fake cheerful and loud, hoping that to hear my voice matters somehow.  Hoping that it reminds you you aren't alone.  But you won't be comforted until I stop the car and press you to my chest.  You hear my heartbeat and you are stilled.


I know what it's like, my little one.  I've spent most of my adult life feeling lonely for one reason or another.  It plagues us, us homosapiens.  We reach out, we reach near, but it is so rarely enough; not until we cry, not until we confess our need in all our helplessness do those around us understand.  For I am just like you, my baby.  I long to be known and heard.  I long to be pressed tight and squeezed and to be looked at adoringly, even in my filth.

I know the Holy Spirit stays with me.  I know it but sometimes I need a God with skin on.  I need Him to take on hands to feed me, arms to comfort me, lips to teach me.  And He knows.  Not condescendingly, but experientially.  He too was a human dependent, a human in need of others.  He knows I wasn't made to be alone, for I've been made in His very image.

So let us raise our voices, let us cry out, let us be as babes and not fear dependence on the other.  Let us lay our vulnerabilities low and fight for connectedness.  For our God made Himself man, and we were not meant to be alone.





{topically unrelated, but since I broached the subject I feel responsible for linking to safe co-sleeping guidelines}

Dear Black Mother

7/9/16

Dear black mother,

When I first stepped foot onto the high wire of motherhood, sweeping my arms around a chubby baby with almond eyes and chocolate skin, I knew I would need you.  I knew you would have to teach me the best way to moisturize his skin and style his hair.  I knew you would instruct me in forming his racial identity.  I knew I would need to hear you tell me about what it feels like to be black in America.

But this?  I didn't know this.  Most of us white folks didn't, not before the age of social media and video cameras on smartphones.

Now, nearly 6 years into motherhood, I know it all too well.  But once I didn't.

I didn't know that from the moment the doctor said "it's a boy!" your euphoric cries of joy were laced ever so faintly with fear of the future.

I didn't know that when your preschooler threw his flailing body on the tile of the grocery store, tantruming in the way that every child has since the beginning of time, passerbys would be more likely to see him as a troublemaker and you as an unfit parent.

I didn't know that when his limbs grew long and his back grew high, the way my son's are doing today, that you began to think about having The Talk.  I didn't know your cognitive dissonance: how you wanted to preserve his innocence, wanted to support the many fair and level-headed police in your community, but knowing the consequences of not preparing him for the worst could be fatal.

I didn't know that was around the time he was forbidden to play with toy guns outside.

I didn't know that you had to sit him down and look at his innocent cheeks, still with a hint of baby fat on them, and tell him exactly what to do anytime he spoke with a police officer.  Hands out, stand still, don't move a single muscle, say yes sir.  I didn't know that you had to tell him he wouldn't get the benefit of the doubt.

I didn't know that when he was 13 you wouldn't let him leave the house with his hood pulled up, even if it was because he was shy, even if it made him feel safer.

I didn't know that when he got his license he would be more likely to be pulled over and more than twice as likely to have his car searched as his white peers.

I didn't know that when he experimented with marijuana the way so many teens do, he was up to 30% more likely to be arrested for possession than his peers of other ethnicities.

I didn't know that when he was shot people would use that arrest record to prove that he deserved to die.

Six years ago I didn't know that this was your reality, the background hum against which you lived out your motherhood, so steady and so constant that most days you didn't think twice about it.  It was just always there. Just as it had been for your mother. And your grandmother? Well she couldn't even use the same bathroom as mine.  It was not so long ago and roots, they go deep but we want to lop the top off the weeds and declare the soil new.

I didn't know, but now I do.

And now a few more people will know too.

//

*if you are interested in understanding this topic, I highly recommend you read this: Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk

*if you need proof that racial bias still exists in our society, I would urge you to read the empirical evidence compiled at the end of this post (the links are sadly defunct but you can copy and paste them into your search bar and it does the trick)


Alyosha's Adoption Story

7/5/16

After I hacked out Taavi's birth story and linked to Moses' birth story that I wrote in December, I realized that this blog would simply not be complete without some homage to Alyosha's adoption story too. So buckle up my peeps because here it is, the tale of my first baby coming into my little world.


//


The story begins long before our son is born.  In 2006, after a few short months of marriage, Eric was devouring The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dosteovsky. The main character, as you may know, is named Alyosha.  Pure of heart, a friend of children, sinners, and atheists, a "defender of mankind", Alyosha is the Christ figure of the novel.  His is a beautiful character, one that you can't help but fall in love with.  One night Eric has the most intense dream of his life and wakes up shaking and drenched in sweat.  In the dream he hears the voice of God speaking to him: "you are my little Alyosha".

The next day, Eric tells me about the dream.  He pauses, glancing at me sideways, shyly.  "If we have a son one day, what would you think of naming him Alyosha?  I think I'd like to.  If God as a Father speaks that over me, I would like to speak it over my son."

I move my pancake around the plate with my fork.  "We'll see."

//

On our 3 year anniversary, coming home to the island of Java after a celebratory vacation in Bali, we decide to adopt.  We put off having children throughout our missionary training school, wanting to wait until we had put down roots in Indonesia to bring a baby into the family.  And finally, after 4 months in country, we have begun the conversation.

I've always wanted to adopt and Eric is open to it too, so we spend a month praying about whether to have our first child biologically or through adoption, the idea of children languishing without a loving family sitting heavy on our hearts.  With no lightning from heaven to direct us, we eventually settle on adoption because, well, because we want to.  After looking at dozens of countries and their requirements (adoption from the U.S. foster system is not a possibility when you live on the other side of the world), we finally commit to Uganda after finding it was one of the few countries whose stipulations we actually met.  (Age, length of marriage, no need for documented infertility or residence in country, etc.)


Eric installing something necessary for gas safety before the American social worker came from Germany to do our home study.  (Ex pat adoption is no walk in the park.) That's our Indonesian house helper looking on and yes, that's our entire kitchen (the sink's behind her).

Ceremoniously installing a smoke detector- a requirement for a U.S. home study and an anomaly in Indonesian homes.  Beside me is our drinking water that we replaced every few days. Behind me is our washing machine (we line dried everything) and the door to the bathroom (i.e. squatty potty and bucket bath area).

A copy of our finalized home study, though I can't remember why our names are covered in this photo.

In less than a year we have our home study and immigration paperwork complete.  We mail it in to our adoption agency while on a short visit home to Dallas, so excited for the next step: being matched with a child, a darling little girl aged 0-2 whom we would name Evangeline.

Instead, I sit in the kitchen of my in-laws house and read a very different email to Eric out loud.  The agency says they have received our paperwork but there are currently no girls in the orphanage who have not already been matched with a family.  Our options are to wait for a girl, for them to look at orphanages outside of the one they work closely with, or to consider a boy.  We discuss it and I write back immediately, telling our case worker that we'll need a day or two to think about it.

It was supposed to be a girl.  All year we've been talking about a girl.  People have even begun giving us pink gifts! But I don't want to wait. Is it wrong to ask them to look at other orphanages? They said they could. But is it wrong when there's a boy right there, waiting?

In the meantime we take the train with Eric's family to a used bookstore.

We walk through the double doors and I thank God one more time for air conditioning.  I make a beeline for the parenting section, eager to feast on the stacks and stacks of resources usually denied to me in my native tongue.  To my delight, there is one tiny shelf specifically devoted to adoption.  Hungrily, I scan the spines until I see one that makes my heartbeat stop.



With eyes the size of saucers, I carry the book like our priest carries the Bible during Mass: gingerly, reverently.  I find my husband, the love of my life, and wordlessly, I hold the precious manuscript up before his face.

His eyes grow just like mine have.  He laughs.  I laugh.  We hug each other tight.

It's a boy!

//

Four months later our plane touches down on Ugandan soil.  We've come from Indonesia and we roll suitcases with most of our worldly possessions inside.  We won't go back after this.  We, a new family of three, will move back to the States to begin life together.  Eric is going back to finish his undergraduate degree and then get a Master's.  A new chapter of life is unfolding for all of us and we feel the weight of it hanging heavy.

Goodbye to our best friends and beloved teammates. Goodbye to the dream we thought we had.  Hello to our son. Hello to a future that is still a blur.

The car is stuffy but the views are splendid.  Our driver points out sights now and then and bears with our ignorant questions.  I comment on how it reminds me of Kenya and he is clearly miffed.  They are very different, he maintains.  Eric squeezes my hand and we share nervous smiles.  45 minutes until we meet our baby.  30 minutes.  15 minutes.  We're here.


As if in a dream, we enter the modest house.  Sounds of life pulse everywhere: toddlers eating porridge, nannies conversing in beautiful tongue, an infant protesting a diaper change.  They begin to lead us into the baby room, the room that holds our future, and I pull back Eric's t-shirt to stop him.  Give someone your phone to record it, I whisper-beg. He complies, she presses record, and we pass the threshold of the door.  We pass into new life and a Something that we could never have envisioned.  I become Mother and he becomes Father and this orphan baby sucking formula in a bouncer, he becomes Son.

We bend down low before him.  Hello Alyosha, I whisper.  I'm Mama.


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS