Weary and Waiting to Rejoice


Sometimes I can feel his fingers stretching against my insides, down by my left hip. At least I like to imagine them to be little fingers; It’s hard to be exactly sure what’s what and details have never been my strong suit. Knees and elbows jut out once in awhile like little drawer knobs. Push them and they’re gone. Poof.

But I always know where his back is.  Long and hard, its position doesn’t change much this late in the game. Head down, spine strong: almost ready. Any day now he will break me open. He will be red and wailing; I will be white from exhaustion. Any day now the world will change in a way most ordinary and yet most catastrophic. Any day now we will both know new life.

Everything groans within me: my back, my esophagus, my uterus, my bladder. I feel small contractions and resist the urge to time them; I know instinctively it’s not the real thing. They don’t hurt badly enough yet. For now, I wait. It is Advent, after all. 

Said Mary.


It wouldn't be right to have no wait during Advent. Part of me is relieved that this baby boy hasn't entered the world, even as part of me bemoans it. There have been years in the past when I have felt Advent. When I was pregnant with Moses those four weeks before Christmas I have blissful memories of lit fireplaces and quiet, meditative living room nights after Alyosha went to bed. It was dark and still, the air thick with meaning. We would fumble our way through mass, the rhythm of the ritual still not quite familiar to our bodies, and I would marvel at the good fortune of being in a position to meditate on the scandal that the son of God had a mother.

Theotokos. Mother of God. The abrasiveness of it is almost meant to alarm you, but I delighted in the shock of it. No naysayer can call the name inaccurate without calling into question Christian teaching. He was fully God. He was fully human. She was the mother of God. It was delightfully terrifying, and I lapped it up.

But this year, this Advent, this pregnancy, is different. I have three other children at home to tend to now. The post-bedtime nights are too short and not often contemplative. I don't glory in the wait the way I did four years ago. I just want the season to pass; I just want the baby to come. I just want Christmas without having to watch how slowly the purple and pink wax drips down the living room wreath. I just want to sing of how the weary world rejoices.

Instead, I must feel the weariness just a moment more.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

(excerpt from the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)



My white parents were raised in Mississippi in the fifties and sixties. My siblings and I grew up hearing about how the Civil Rights Movement affected the young lives of our mom and dad; how Brenda Travis, a girl in my dad’s hometown not much older than he, had dared to participate in segregation protests and was subsequently taken from her family and banned from the state; how the Ku Klux Klan had threatened my parents in their early years of ministry; how my maternal grandfather was a champion for his black constituents as a local politician, even as a product of a deeply segregated system himself.

However, I grew up in central Texas in the nineties, when Americans were too sophisticated for that kind of drama. I grew up in a nation that hailed itself colorblind and would hear of nothing else. I grew up certain that racial injustice was a horrific part of history that no longer held any systematic or economic weight.

The first time I was confronted with the truth was when I drove through a sea of small towns with my college roommate, who was black. Her family lived further away than mine so her coming home for occasional weekends with me became part of our norm. But the first time we took the route, lazily rolling to a stop at an empty red light in a nondescript town, she shrank low in her passenger seat, eyes darting furtively around.


Read the rest at Sick Pilgrim!

A Miracle All the Same


A miracle is that we could do the will of God, the priest said.

He was quoting a story by Father Anthony De Mello that addresses the heart of where our spirituality goes wrong. "In your land, it is regarded as a miracle if God does someone’s will," the native tells the inquiring traveler. "In our country, it is regarded as a miracle if someone does the will of God."


I couldn't see her face during the funeral mass to say whether she cried. I was in the very back pew wrangling the embarrassing circus that is my three wolfish boys. Although I suspect my most wiggly one would do better if seated closer, my anxious one feels safer in the back. The toddler will be loud either way, but no one minds about toddlers.

So I saw her back only; her starched dress and careful hairstyle. When I hugged her before the ceremony, she'd had no tears in her eyes, and it struck me that maybe her ducts had run out. Four and a half months, seven surgeries, never once taking her firstborn child home. Maybe there wasn't a single tear left in her. Her eyes were bare, almost vacant. I don't think I'd understood until that moment how the death of a child takes part of a mother's soul; but there it was, missing when I looked in her eyes.

I use words like embarrassing to describe my own children, and I don't move the cursor to delete them when I think maybe I should. My stretched abdomen tells of a date on the calendar that I simultaneously long for and fear. But my fears are silly ones: being overwhelmed and impatient, not getting enough sleep, not having time to work on my own projects. The post-childbirth fears I entertain do not involve poorly developed internal organs or months in the NICU. I have that luxury. My friend never will. Any subsequent pregnancy from now on will wreck her with anxiety, and no well-meaning platitudes could ever lighten her burden.


We had all prayed for a miracle. We prayed she would live. Why would God let a baby die? I will never have an answer.

But a miracle is not that God could do our will, but that we could do the will of God. Hundreds of people crossed the Catholic-Protestant divide and became "of one mind as Christ our Lord" in financial provision, prayer, food delivery, and emotional support. Hundreds of people crossed culture and nationality to believe with one another for the life of a little girl and the well-being of her parents. The Church acted like the Church. We did the will of God, and it was a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.

Mass is always a trial for one of my sons. When I explained that being calm and quiet during the funeral mass was a way to show our love and care for our friends' deep sadness, he looked me in the eye and said: "I want to do that." This, too, is a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.


We got home from the reception and the toddler came down with a stomach virus. Twelve hours of throwing up and forty-eight hours of laundry ahead of me. But every time I held him tight as the regurgitated liquid ran down my t-shirt, all I could think was how she would give anything, anything, to be cleaning up vomit. How they went home together to an empty apartment.

The night before, I had sat at my own dining room table and wiped tears from my eyes as I explained to listening ears how heavy a weight motherhood has felt to me lately. I know it doesn't diminish someone else's enormous cross to confess that I have a small one of my own and that it's damned hard to carry sometimes, but I can't help but be assaulted by the perspective nonetheless. At least I have tears left to cry. I have never known that kind of drying.

How do I honor the life of this little saint in heaven and her empty-handed parents left behind? I clean up vomit. I diffuse sensory meltdowns. I endure Legos thrown at my head. And I do it with gratitude. Because to do the will of God is a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.

I Interrupt This Very Serious Blog to Bring You... a Decorating Post


Didn't see that one coming, did you? Me neither, really, but a little light breathing never hurt anyone- and sometimes I miss that old school blogging where we just showed each other what the insides of our unprofessionally designed houses look like. Anyone else?

When we decided to move back to Iowa this summer after our Texas upheaval, I came alone into town and had about 24 hours to find us a new house. By a stroke of good luck (and the help of a lovely realtor from our church) I managed to find one situated both in the zoning of our oldest son's former elementary school and within walking distance to downtown, our two biggest priorities. It's 100 years old (just how we like them), unremarkable from the outside, but charming and cozy when you step foot indoors. It's historic feel captures our family vibe, but the big updated kitchen has me waving my 21st century praise hands, and the kitchen/dining/living space is really great for hosting.

Favorite part of new house: a kitchen door that opens straight to the backyard for optimal kicking-kids-out proximity

Least favorite part of house: having only one bathroom for six people; imagining said bathroom with four pubescent boys

We hemmed and hawwed over which of the upstairs bedrooms to make the master (and I use that word so loosely it's hysterical), since they are all pretty much the size of the box that my preschooler's last pair of shoes came in. The one that somehow ended up making the most sense happened to be... wait for it... bubble gum pink.

I would show you pictures of the rest, but actually that's basically the entire room. We bought the king-sized bed years ago when we were in a house that had a normal amount of bedroom space and have questioned whether we've regretted it ever since. But man, when you have at least one extra human sleeping with you (no matter how small- you know the tinier the human, the more horizontal he sleeps) every night for years, it's pretty hard to beat. So I have to shimmy against the wall to get out my side in the morning, but I can more or less sleep through the night no matter who joins me so #winning.

Anyway, back to the pink. I personally kind of liked it, but I'll leave you to guess how Eric felt.

(if you guessed "ambivalent", go back to the drawing board)

But hey, hey remember who's preggers and can't spend hours painting poorly ventilated bedrooms? So we waited until my mom came into town - which always guarantees somethin's about to get DONE - and let her do it.

E and I agreed on sage green but when I got to Lowe's I accidentally didn't at all get sage.

It just looked so... dark! And serious.

So I got Melancholy Mint. Perfect, I thought, Melancholy for him, Mint for me.

Unsurprisingly, his assessment was too much mint, not enough melancholy, but agreed it was a heck of a lot better than sleeping in Pepto Bismal. So we left it, I like it, and I think he doesn't mind it.

The room still felt rather sterile, so we thought a rug might warm things up. Eric surprised me by bringing one home spontaneously one day but I returned it because I am a monster.

Eventually we found this one together at Target and it's not artisan made or ethically sourced or even super original, but gosh I like it. The piece of art on the wall was given to us by our friend and uber talented artist Mick Burson, and I adore the colors.

(The armchair is so great, but children have written alllllll over that mug. Don't look too closely.)

So the room came together fine I'd say- but it fell short of the kind of special, pulled-together vibe we were hoping for. Enter Pixers wallpaper. They offered to send me some samples and their watercolor designs didn't give me a chance to say no. I've never applied wallpaper before but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as hard as I thought. I actually didn't bother to match up the patterns on the individual sheets, but as the placement is behind the bed I don't think you can tell unless you're looking for it.

Pixers has some beautiful wall murals, and if you're looking to jazz up a space with an accent wall, poster, or decal, I would definitely recommend checking them out. I'll be honest, the prices are not cheap- BUT 'TIS THE SEASON FOR WISHLISTS, am I right?! Let grandma give you the gift of a beautiful space.

Last but not least, I need your help. What on earth could I possibly hang on this huge blank wall over our bed? I'm stumped. Of course I know that a gorgeous canvas painting would be the best option but let's be realistic about that bank account, shall we? Does anyone have ideas on something really large but also inexpensive, and not so heavy that I'm terrified of it falling down and killing us in our sleep? Por favor.

We're still dreaming of one day making this a guest room and finishing the attic to be a real, live master. But in the meantime, I'm totally feeling this sweet little B-and-B style hideaway.

Do you have an old-school home decor post in the dusty archives of your blog? Link to it in the comments so I can see! I'm feeling nostalgic these days.

(I did not receive monetary compensation from Pixers for this post. I did receive free product to review, but all thoughts are my own.)

Shadows and Shape-Shifting Dreams


I rocked him in the darkening room, the sun just flirting with the idea of settling in for the night. Twenty-five pounds of him lay limp against me, one chubby hand grasping listlessly at the breast it remembered once finding comfort in, though not seeming to recall when or how. The fever burned through his body and I pushed the chair back and forth with my toes while I sang.

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae

There is comfort in remembering that she rocked Him like this once too, hundreds of thousands of sunsets ago. I wonder what she sang? The Word who became flesh, sick and tired and letting his eyelids fall when His fever raged; allowing Himself to be comforted by a mortal, patting the breast whereat He had first learned tenderness. He knows what it is to be weaker than you want to be. He knows what it is to be dependent, to be frail. He knows the poverty of skin and sinew.


As college students immersed in charismatic evangelicalism, my generation was told we would change the world. (I suppose they're likely still telling college students that today.) We would "go to the nations", we would "see revival", we might just be the generation that fulfills the Great Commission and ushers in the second coming of Christ. None of this is wrong necessarily, except in the sense that it's largely inaccurate. Most of us didn't go on any grand Christian missions adventure, and those who did are either already back or have stuck it out for the long haul but realized it won't look anything like what we imagined. It's safe to say that wherever we've landed, the vast majority of us lead lives that more or less look and feel incredibly ordinary.

Like rocking sick babies. Like skin and sinew. Like the older and wiser voices we had written off as jaded.


It's been over a decade since I was a young twentysomething, but I'm just now beginning to realize that the joke's on me. The Kingdom of God is not somewhere "out there" to be attained or earned, and it's certainly not something that is designed to bolster my ego or make me look good in front of other Christians. Jesus told us exactly where to find Him- in the neighbor we clothe, the lonely we visit, the cup of cold water we give to another- but we want to make it so much harder. Some of us want to make it unattainable so that we have the excuse of not being "called". Others of us want to make it unattainable so that onlookers will admire our hefty sacrifice.

But now I think the way of Christ is small. I think it's accessible to everyone. I think it's less of a one-time, life-altering call and more of a habitual going low and elevating the other, whether that be a difficult child or a homeless refugee. I think all of that is true, and yet I ping-pong between the surety of the conviction and my own idea of radicalism.

Saint Therese writes of "the little way"- the faithful acts of love in our ordinary lives that unite us to Christ- and it makes me want to scream. What about victims of sex trafficking, Therese?! What about all of the nuclear weapons, what about unjust treatment of immigrants, what about women who need support in order to not choose abortion?! If we all just sat around singing to Jesus while we washed dishes, how would the Kingdom ever come?!

Then I feel His thick hands weighty on my shoulders. My peace I give to you, He says. Follow me.


I don't know if I'll ever do anything that feels big and important in the moment; maybe no one does. Maybe they do. Right now the most true thing I do know is that the smallness He's given me is a gift, one I'd never have asked for but has changed me nonetheless.

I wear this human flesh just like God Himself once did. The Incarnation necessarily demolishes walls between the weak and the strong, the worthy and the unworthy, the pitied and the impressive. No such labels can stand in the presence of the Divine enfleshed in bones and blood: nothing about the appearance of my life or my impact matters, nothing elevates me above anyone else, nothing earns me more approval from the only Eye who matters. I am simply one of us, in whom the power is in the poverty.

If His humanity isn't unto that, it is unto nothing.


My life got smaller a few months ago, and though it was a hard turning I'm settling into the idea of it. As it turns out, the narrowing has made room for something new: a book. I'm working with publisher OSV to write a nonfiction book on what happens when we confront the weakness within us and offer it back to a God who cloaked Himself in human experience. Examining the Incarnation changes both the way we see ourselves and the way we encounter a hurting world, and our own poverty is the gift we never saw coming.

I'm so thankful to get the chance to write this for you, for us. Others will have said it better (Vanier, Metz, Nouwen), but I still have to say it like me. I hope you stick around until Spring 2019 when the words come to life. I'll be praying for us as I write: little, flattened, broken-up us, just desperately hoping He meant it when He said ours is the kingdom of God, and seeing it here and there in glimpses- usually where we never thought to look.

I will be here still, smaller than I once imagined myself to be; rocking babies, writing words, loving my neighbor. And on the good days, when the sun sets just right for painting shadows on the far corner of the nursery wall, I can believe it is enough.

All the Babies Who Weren't Moses


Hush baby hush,
sleep baby sleep,
God will take care of you

My preschooler turns the pages of his Bible storybook, convinced he's reading what he actually just has memorized. Isn't the story of David and Goliath every little boy's favorite- promising him that children can be braver than grownups, and more powerful than they feel? Mine is no exception. But in a close second place is this one: The story of Moses, his namesake.

Another page turn, and back to the refrain.

Hush baby hush,
sleep baby sleep,
God will take care of you

His little mouth (so much like his daddy's) forms the words into the most innocent of sounds, rhythmic and lispy. A baby. A basket. A mother who dares to take a risk. A close call. An act of compassion. A proof of not only the goodness of God, but of humanity as well. It's touching and it's lovely and it's all the right things.

Except complete.

My own little Moshe doesn't read about the Hebrew baby boys who didn't share our hero's fate; he doesn't need to know, let him stay little a few years more. But it beats through my head like a drum as I look at the smiling cartoon pictures: I hear all the mothers wailing the cries of which Jochebed was spared, see all the tiny carnage of a deranged king's fear. I can barely think of it long before it becomes too much and I have to look away.

The Bible is nothing if not honest about evil, both the force outside of us and that sometimes found within our very own hearts. But we dine on Scripture like the choosiest of patrons, moving our forks right over the unpalatable parts and letting the savory go down smooth. Chase it with a Cabernet, for good measure. We exalt voices who assure us that God wants to "bless us" with financial security, easy relationships, and a comfortable life. We read verses like Jeremiah 29:11 to mean if we do it all right, we are guaranteed those things- or worse yet, that we deserve them.

In college, I had a runner friend who was convinced that God had promised him an Olympic medal. Now, in my mid-thirties, it sounds laughably ridiculous but at the time we drank it down seriously- maybe with a bit of awe on the side. It wasn't that I felt no skepticism, but that I had never met anyone so confident in God's favor. It was admittedly attractive.

Most of us aren't walking around making claims such as my old friend's (to my knowledge he never went to the Olympics), but the same spirit can usually be found given one quick sweep of our hearts. Our version of Christianity so often becomes an expectation of replaying the narrative of Jochebed and Miriam, and we forget about all the babies who weren't Moses.

I don't know what it's like to lose a baby, but I listen to the inconsolable grief of friends who do. I don't know what it's like to be a child who sleeps in a bed a grown man slithers into every night, but I know there are a disproportionate number of little girls who do. I've never witnessed the devastation when hurricanes strike, the earth quakes, or wildfires burn, but I know people all over the globe today are numbly trying to survive the hand they've been dealt.

But I know a little bit about praying for healing and seeing none over and over again, and the paradigm shift in your brain as you are forced to confront what you thought you were sure about God. I know a little about circumstances you're convinced are more than you can bear, and of crying out to the Great Silence from the confines of your closet where no one else can hear.

I have known a God who feels intimately near me and I have known One who won't lift a finger to stir the pot. I have known divine intervention and I have known the perils of free will, and I yo-yo daily about what it all means. Maybe there is no physical throne that He's either on or off; maybe He is simply the love that propels subatomic particles through time and space, the goodness that passes between skin cells when one human shows compassion on another. Maybe the idea of easy Sunday answers fails to hold up against suffering and mystery, and all that is left is to trust in the existence of mercy, pooling black around us, dark as freshly shed blood.

Maybe there is only Emmanuel, God with us. And maybe that could be enough.

Preparing for Advent


Believe it or not, the countdown to Advent is on. (PSA: It always starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas- which this year is December 3rd- not always on December 1st.) I personally seek ways to be more spiritually disciplined during that season and have found that having a guide to work my way through it helps that tremendously, as I am not a disciplined or even particularly self-motivated person. So I am chomping at the bits to get to share this year's Blessed Is She Advent Prayer Journal with you lady friends (sorry gents, better luck next time).

In case you're new or simply didn't know, I am one of a few dozen writers for Blessed Is She, which is a ministry for Catholic women that hopes to foster Scripture-centered prayer and community. (There are also a significant number of non-Catholics represented, who I get the pleasure of hearing from frequently. Hi guys!) BIS is a grassroots ministry founded and organized by visionary women who I am lucky to call friends. I'm naturally skeptical of big, shiny things but guys, BIS is the real deal: No untouchable hierarchy, no icky business practices, just ordinary women serving women with sincere hearts- not perfectly, but following Jesus as best they can. I absolutely love being a part of it.

Okay, sheesh. Dry your eyes, woman, and tell us about Advent.

I didn't lift a finger on the Advent 2017 Prayer Journal but I feel incredibly loyal to it because dear friends of mine did. Laura Fanucci wrote it, and she is one of the most gifted wordsmiths that I know. Erica Tighe of Be A Heart painted the cover and the hand lettering. And a host of other friends did the editing and behind-the-scenes work.

If only it were gorgeous.

Why am I telling you about this in October? Because they always, always sell out. If you think this is something that could benefit your Advent season, it's best to order sooner rather than later.

(And just a reminder, if you have a Blessed Is She membership you will get the journal auto-shipped to your door. No need to order!)

There are a few other special Advent products in the Blessed is She Shop as well, so I'll go ahead and give you a moment to swoon over those too. (Click the photos to view in the shop. All products are handcrafted, printed, and shipped right here in the U.S.A.)

Not Advent-related but a BIS project I actually worked on, our Blessed Conversations small group study guide series, is available on the website now too! There are seven of these babies, and each one explores a different part of the Catechism. I was honored to be asked to write all of the reflections for the series on the Our Father prayer, and I'm really happy with how it came out.

These are super simple: just download, print, and get together with one friend or twelve, one night a week or so and discuss! No prep work required. (And although the goal is to get women wrestling through faith in real-life community, if that doesn't feel possible these guides do still work for an individual.)

I hope you guys have a rich Advent season, and if these resources aren't what you need to get there I hope you find something that is exactly right for you! I just know that so often best-laid plans fall by the wayside without tangible handrails to keep us on track. And bonus points if those handrails are beautiful, am I right?

We just got word that The Catholic Journaling Bible our design team has been working on is available for pre-order! It's being published by Our Sunday Visitor and is scheduled to be shipped out in January. Click the link or photo for more details.

The links in this post are affiliates, meaning I get a percentage of each sale. Thank you for supporting this blog!

Nationalism and the Primacy of the Conscience


I can't remember exactly when it happened, but sometime in the last 15 years, I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

The day and time are unmemorable because how often does a grown woman find herself in the position of being required to actually say the Pledge of Allegiance? It can't have happened often in the past decade and a half, but still, if I'm going to write on this topic I would like to have a handle on when it was. Instead, all I can tell you is that I no longer do, and I won't teach my children to either.

I have gratitude for my country and for the liberties that are afforded to me here (like the freedom to write a blog post saying I don't recite the Pledge of Allegiance without fear of any consequences beyond fits of rage in the combox). I am the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans, and while I am a conscientious objector to almost all war, I respect the fact that most individuals in the military are sincerely trying to do the right thing and make the world a better place. (And for the record, my sentiments toward war have been largely influenced by the voice of my post-Vietnam father.)

My gratitude and respect for my country do not conflict with a mind that is determined to think for itself. And over the years I simply realized I could no longer in good conscience pledge allegiance to anything but God alone. Because if it came down to it I would not follow the United States of America or her leaders past the edge of my conscience. I won't, and although you clearly have your own freedom, I don't want you to either. And I certainly don't want my children to.

One thing I love about being Catholic is the degree of felt connection to fellow believers worldwide. Certainly, I hope Protestants experience this gift too, but there's something about your religious affiliation literally meaning "universal" that hammers it in. (Not to mention the fact that our central authority is outside of the United States and that most of our beloved saints are of non-American origin.) You can travel anywhere in the world this week and find a Catholic mass that will be nearly identical to the one in my central Iowa parish on Sunday morning. The Christian faith supersedes nationality, and it should always be that way.

I know that the latest news headlines with the NFL, President Trump, and the Star Spangled Banner are not the same thing, in that what's happening here is not a protest of the actual lyrics in the song. But in some ways, it is the very same thing; because another thing I love about the Catholic Church is the seriousness with which we regard the human conscience. In fact, we hold it in such high esteem that it is discussed thoroughly in the Catechism.

Let's look at a very brief slice:





1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."47

and wait for it, 'cause there's more (emphasis mine):

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.

If the actions of the football players who are taking a knee during the National Anthem were repugnant to me (they're not), I would respect the fact that they are human beings doing their best to live according to their consciences, in protest of a systematic racism that lingers after a national history of slavery and oppression of rights. Whether or not you or I would take the same course of action is frankly irrelevant.

In just the same way as I, a white middle-class mother, can be moved by my conscience to not profess devotion to country above all else while still retaining gratitude for said country, my brothers in the NFL (an organization and very idea that I deplore, by the way) have the right to be moved by their conscience to make the same sort of stand. When any human being is attempting "to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right", who can stand in condemnation of that man?

Maybe a better question- why would you?

Christians, can we honestly imagine Jesus rebuking these men for a lack of patriotism when their hearts are to draw attention to a social ill? That is not our Christ, that is a red, white, and blue god of our own making. May He remove the plank from our eyes and have mercy on our souls.

Spiced Caramel Companions (or, my fall reading list 2017)


It's been an unseasonably warm September here in Iowa but, keeping in the back of my mind how very long winter will be, I'm feeling pretty okay with it for now. Despite the summerish temps the leaves have begun falling and I'm more and more frequently spotting blazing orange trees in a sea of still-green ones. We were given a load of harvest vegetables from friends at a local farm and I happily added seasonal acorn squash to a pasta dish this weekend. (The entree turned out characteristically mediocre, so the autumn magic apparently doesn't extend so far as to transform my culinary skills.) I bought a fall-scented candle and light it every chance I get, even though the preschooler blows it out when I'm not looking and the toddler almost burned his hand on it during our glorious squash dinner. The good news is, now he can say the word "hot".

It's autumn, and here's what's going down on my nightstand.

(View the books at Amazon by clicking the covers. Links are affiliates and I receive a few cents of the purchases you make at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog!)

Just Finished Reading:

It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood
by Frida Berrigan

When we were living in Denton our housemate foisted this book upon me and I'm so glad she did. The author is the daughter of two passionate- if not highly controversial- Catholic radicals and political activists. It is both an account of her unusual upbringing in an intentional community and of her own journey navigating motherhood. What I appreciated most about her work is how respectful she is in relating her own parents unconventional family choices (they were both frequently jailed for their political demonstrations, keeping them away from their children for months at a time) while she herself has taken a different approach. It was a quick read and helped me formulate some of my own conflicting thoughts on motherhood and activism.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel 
by Paula Hawkins

I don't usually do a lot of audiobooks, other than stories for the kids in the car, but when I took a solo road trip up to Iowa from Texas to look for us a new house I picked this one up to keep the zzzzs at bay and it served it's purpose well. At this point in my life thrillers always feel a bit predictable to some extent, but they're fun and entertaining regardless. I liked it.

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning
by Simcha Fischer

I really enjoy Simcha's writing and this book didn't disappoint as she writes about the beauties and woes of Natural Family Planning in her signature "sometimes funny-sometimes slay you" style. This isn't a how-to about the logistics of learning your body's fertility signs and all that fun stuff- this is a book for folks who have been practicing NFP for a while and have big feelings about the whole shebang. Quick and easy but very valuable!

Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World
by Kelly Nikondeha

This is the adoption book that the world needed. The author is both an adoptee from birth and a mother of two adopted children, and her depth of insight is profound. While there are thankfully plenty of awesome book resources for adoptive parents in the thick of navigating our particular complex circumstances, I really haven't found a theologically-based approach to the topic of adoption other than Russell Moore's Adopted for Life, which isn't bad but frankly isn't in the same league as this one. I heartily recommend this to anyone touched by or curious about adoption, or just anyone interested in human connection in general.

Currently Reading:

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
by Marshall B. Rosenberg

I'm slowly biting through this book, and am finding it incredibly helpful. I mentioned it to my newsletter subscribers this summer, and have only become more of a fan the further I get into it. I've always considered myself pretty good at interpersonal relationships and dialogue, but two chapters into Nonviolent Communication and I was confronted head-on with the truth of how my combination of numbing my feelings and taking responsibility for the emotions of others has been seriously unhealthy to me as an individual as well as for my family dynamics. Yet there is much more here too- it really is a must-read.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J.D. Vance

This one was on my list for the summer, but I never got to it due to oh I don't know, the most complicated three months of my life? So I finally started it a few days ago and I have to say I'm a  bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong the author's family is fascinating, but I guess I thought it would be more eloquently written. (To be fair, he clarifies in the introduction that he is not a writer and is surprised that the book is in existence. I just didn't know that going in.) And I'm not quite halfway through, but I had hoped for more noteworthy commentary on the "hillbilly culture" and less details of his own life. It may be coming, but so far I'd say I'm underwhelmed.

The Violence of Love
by Oscar Romero

Up until a year ago, my husband and I had only vaguely heard of Oscar Romero, the El Salvadoran Archibisop who spoke for justice so boldly that he was murdered during a mass. But one of Eric's college students gave him this movie to watch, and we were hooked on the soon-to-be-saint right away. We ordered this compilation of his homilies this summer and are just completely smitten by his courage and clarity. He is a prophet for our times, to be sure.

Will Be Reading:

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

My friend Sarah Babbs totally killed it assessing Hulu's series based on this book and its relevance to our times. I had never heard of the book or the series before, but my interest was immediately piqued by her review. I can't wait to dig in!

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

I don't read a lot of parenting books anymore, and whether it's because parenting an atypical child has made me cynical of their content or because my life is so parenting-heavy that I want my books to be far removed from the topic, I'm not sure. But every once in awhile I come across an angle that seems life-giving, and the subtitle on this one caught my eye. I haven't read a book on parenting since Momma Zen (and I really loved that one), so I figured I'd take a whack at it.

The Art of Memoir
by Mary Karr

This has been on my list for a year or two now, but I keep forgetting about it. Regardless of whether or not I ever write a memoir, my personal experiences are always woven into my writing so this book feels apropos. I'm trying to take writing as a craft more seriously and commit to reading more to make the headway I hope for, and this one comes highly recommended.

Poverty of Spirit
by Johannes Baptist Metz

Speaking of highly recommended... okay not this one. I've actually never heard of it before, have any of you? I stumbled upon it when someone gave me the language to realize that the term "poverty of spirit" succinctly sums up a lot of the themes I write about, so then I started googling to see if there were any books on the subject. Based on its brief synopsis on Amazon, I'm expecting to love it. Plus it's pretty cool that it feels like such an undiscovered treasure!

Reading with the Kids:

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

Once we finish up James and the Giant Peach for the 12th time, this baby is next on our list. I absolutely loved it as a child and I think my boys will too, especially the 7-year-old who loves all things sciencey. I'm not as sure about the 3.5-year-old's ability to follow the plotline, but any book that is enjoyable to mama ends up delivering a pretty feel-good experience for everyone. Funny how that works, huh? ;)

Eric is Reading:

Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World
by Ken Wilber

Eric hasn't started this one yet, but it should be arriving tomorrow and my basic understanding is that its a theory of spirituality that seeks to integrate the revolutions in science and culture with the insights of the great religions. Definitely heady, but seems really necessary and timely too!


Your turn! Tell me in the comments or on Facebook what you've been reading lately, or which titles you have your eye on. I'd love to add some of them to my oft-forgotten Pinterest board of books to be read!

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)