Church of the Small Things

Does any of this matter?

This is the question that haunts me on the bad days, the days when the mundane and seemingly trivial tasks get on my last nerve.  How many times with I have the same conversations with these overly dramatic 7th graders? Why does the kitchen sink stay so full of dishes when I’m the only person living in my house?!  I thought my life was going to be more than this. And I know it is more than this, but it’s also very much just this.

The answer to the original, of course, is yes, yes it does, and that is why I am so excited for Melanie Shankle’s book, Church of the Small Things.  In this book, Shankle shares the way these small moments can be beautiful and breathtaking in their own way.

faithful

Her stories resonated with me and as I read her words I remembered many similar moments in my own life.  Like just last week when my almost two-year-old niece pulled up a chair next to me while I was watching football and put her hand on my knee.  Just an ordinary beautiful day…

The most powerful memory, however, was that of the church house group my family went to when I was young. We met every Tuesday night at a dear elderly couple’s home.  My dad played the guitar and we sang worship songs together, then the kids went into the basement while the adults did a Bible study (I mean, I guess that’s what they did) and prayed together.  We kids played outside or in the basement until we heard the host call out “Ahoy down in the engine room!” – the signal for us to come running for snack time!

That house group was my family: my honorary grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my older brothers and sisters.

I remember some Tuesdays the adults took longer than others.  As the kids got antsy, one or two of us would sneak upstairs to see what they were doing and maybe get an idea of when they would be done.  Once when it was my turn I peeked into the room and saw a woman in tears, sharing something difficult, while several others held her close and prayed.  In that moment I saw clearly what the church was called to be.

Now, over 20 years later, I am the single 30 something in a multi-generational house group.  I stay upstairs with the grownups while the kids go into the basement.  It’s come full circle for me.  My favorite part of the group, though, is the kids. Because I know full well what a beautiful thing it is they get to see each week, and I hope I am showing them the love I received.

….

All that to say — GET THIS BOOK!  Church of the Small Things doesn’t release until October 3rd, but if you preorder now (on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) you will receive some awesome gifts just for preordering.

Once you’ve ordered, fill out the form here and receive:

  • My Favorite Things ebook by Melanie Shankle
  • Church of the Small Thing Video Study Session 1
  • 4 Downloadable prints from the cover artist
  • A book themed lock screen
  • The first 3 chapters of the book so you can start reading now!
  • Coupon codes for some discounts on Melanie’s favorite things
  • 5 recipes

(And, the book usually arrives on release day when you order it this way, so that’s an added bonus.)

churchsmallthings

Advertisements

Friday Finds: 9/8/17

I don’t have a whole lot to share today – it’s been a wild week. Even today has been full of ups and downs.

Who’s excited for football?!?!  I loved this article written by Josh Jackson’s uncle.   Josh is the freshman starting quarterback for Virginia Tech and his uncle is the college football beat writer for Penn State.

I found another recipe for a fall-themed cake I want to try: Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with Pecan Praline Glaze.  It looks delicious!

And lastly, I want to recommend the current She Reads Truth study on The Sermon on the Mount. I think it’s a four-week plan, but you can start anytime.  The plan is free on their website or $1.99 on the app.  Check it out here!

Have a great weekend, friends! I will spend mine doing household chores and anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first nephew!

What I Read: August 2017

Another month has come and gone! August was jam-packed with back to school activities, but I still managed to read 10 books, although they probably had a lower average page count than other months.

Here’s what I read in August.

IMG_0915

One True Loves – Taylor Jenkins Reid (library; paperback) – This is a sweet story and excellent palate cleanser, summer read, or just something to escape the world with. I give it about 3.75/5 stars. Pages 85-93 are the most beautiful and poignant words I’ve read in a while. The whole story is worth it for that piece.

Lord, Teach Us To Pray – Andrew Murray (kindle) – I read this because my church did a 6 week series on prayer by the same name, and I’d had the book in my queue for a while. Andrew Murray is one of my favorite writers. I think I underlined something on every page.

The Lying Game – Ruth Ware (kindle, from Netgalley) – This is a good suspense novel that keeps you guessing.  I really liked one of Ware’s books, then really disliked another. This one was good for what it is, but a little formulaic, so if you’re only reading 20 books a year, pass on this one.

Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted – Shannan Martin (kindle) – a Christian-themed memoir from a popular blogger who I don’t follow.  It was interesting, but I had trouble drawing any sort of clear applications.

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance – Ben Sasse (library; hardback) – This book is fascinating! I must admit that I skimmed some of it because I lost track of time and it was overdue and I hate library fines.

Behold the Dreamers – Imbulo Mbue (kindle) – I’d been meaning to read this one for a while, but then Oprah picked it for her book club, which meant it took a long time for my hold to come through on Overdrive.  I liked it, but it’s not the best immigrant story I’ve read this year.  Maybe I would have liked it more before all the hype.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land – Monica Hesse (audiobook) – This is the true story of a Bonnie and Clyde pair of arsonists who set nearly a fire a day over a span of several months in Accomack County, Virginia. Hesse covered the arsons for the Washington Post, and tells the story as if it were happening in real time.  I loved it!

The Stars Are Fire – Anita Schreve (library; hardback) – this book is set in Maine in the 1940s.  A summer drought is made worse by a series of serious wildfires that ran up the Maine coastline and left many small towns in shambles.  This novel follows the plight of one young woman trying to save her young family.  It was an enjoyable and quick read, though I could have done without some of the plot points.

Humility – Andrew Murray (kindle) – I should probably just continually read and re-read this one.

Hush (Eishes Chayil) – Eishes Chayil is a pseudonym for an unnamed writer. The word is Hebrew for “woman of valor”.  Eishes Chayil tells the dark story of rape and incest in her Orthodox Jewish community – a crime even her parents tried to cover up for years.  This was a difficult read for a book sold as YA.  I appreciated the story but my total ignorance about the culture made reading it a laborious task as the customs and vocabulary were completely foreign to me.

I will most likely reach my goal of 100 books sometime in September or October, so I am way ahead of schedule.  My goal for the next two months is to only read books I already own but haven’t read yet.  If a library hold comes in, I will read it, but I will not spend any money on books.

What have you been reading lately?

 

Friday Finds: 8/25/17

Today’s Friday Finds will be a quick one!

First, what did y’all think about Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do”?  Personally, I find it a bit creepy, but I look forward to hearing the album.  She’s changed so much since “Tim McGraw“.  I’m feeling a little nostalgic.

And while we’re thinking of the old Taylor, here’s a fun quiz:  Which Taylor Swift Era Best Describes You?  I got “Red.”

So the eclipse happened and I was really excited until I wasn’t.  I knew 88% vs. 100% totality wasn’t ideal, but I thought I’d get a lot more than I did.  I am so jealous of all those people who got to see the real thing.  Emily P. Freeman’s words are so relatable:  When the Eclipse is Underwhelming…

I hope I can figure out a good 2024 road trip.  I’m astounded by the ways God reveals Himself to the world.

And here’s another Pretty Cool Eclipse Story about a woman who was born during a solar eclipse and then gave birth during one.  I wondered if the eclipse would increase the number of women going into labor the way full moons and new moons do.  I hope someone is running that data.

And lastly, a recipe I am dying to try: Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  I love a good bundt cake/pound cake, but this one isn’t compliant with my diet.  I’ll save it for the next time I’m baking for a crowd.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday Finds: August 18, 2017

I’m just going to start by saying there’s nothing fun about this Friday Finds post.  I am just wrecked over the ridiculousness that is happening in our country right now (and has been happening for way too long).  I’m sick over it.

Therefore, this post is going to be a list of thought-provoking articles and podcasts I’ve found lately.  I tried to add some of the more nuanced discussions, however, there is absolutely no nuance in the issues we are facing.  There is no gray area when it comes to white supremacy.  This is just wrong. wrong. wrong.  It’s disgraceful.

Some Articles:

Let’s begin by defining some terms: What Christians Should Know About the Alt-Right

A Few Thoughts from Timothy Keller

For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies

How Black Lives Matter Changed My Theology

The Monuments Must Go – an open letter from the descendants of Stonewall Jackson.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee’s descendants have made similar remarks.  In fact, both of those men worked diligently for reunification in the later years of their lives and wanted all symbols of the Confederacy to be disposed of permanently.

White Debt – and yes, we are talking about reparations.

Let’s Talk about Whiteness

And while we are talking about speaking up for the oppressed, have you heard what is happening in Iceland?  This is a tragedy, and we’d be naive to think it isn’t also happening in America.

Some Podcasts:

“White Supremacy is Spiritual Bondage” – a great message from The Gospel Coalition’s podcast.

Truth’s Table Podcast – I just started listening to this a couple weeks ago.  Here’s the description from their website: “We are Black Christian women who love truth and seek it out wherever it leads us. We have unique perspectives on race, politics, gender, current events, and pop culture that are filtered through our Christian faith. So pull up a chair and have a seat at the table with us.”  The episode entitled “Respectability Politics Reimagined” is brilliant.

Pass the Mic – Pass The Mic is the premier podcast of the Reformed African American Network. Tune in every week for engaging discussions and high profile interviews addressing the core concerns of African Americans biblically. Notable episodes: “A Biblical Theology of Race” and “Current Events: Charlottesville”.

 

Friday Finds: August 4, 2017

I’m back!!! Amy, this is for you.

I had such good intentions about actually posting this summer, but clearly failed.  I spend so much time sitting at my computer at work that I prefer to never open my laptop at home unless I need to pay bills.  That being said, every month one of my goals is to blog more and I really do want to accomplish that at some point.

Here are some “finds” I’ve enjoyed this summer.

  • Knitting – I’m not actually very good at it, probably because I only end up doing it once every few years when I make a baby blanket.  This summer gave me the opportunity to do it again (thanks, pregnant friends) and I remembered how much I love “creating” something with my hands. I’m currently working on an afghan for myself. It’s the first thing I will have made and kept!
  • The GIPHY feature on my iPhone – I’m having a blast sending GIF only texts with my sisters.
  • More podcasts – I’ve found several new good ones this summer and now I have too many in my queue.  I either need to unsubscribe from some or be at peace with not listening to every episode of every show. Some of my new favorites include The Gospel Coalition’s Word of the Week and Real Crime Profile.  I also recently started listening to Ben and Ashley’s Almost Famous Podcast (they interview other Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants and talk about the show).  Another fun one if you are nostalgic for the TV Show “Reading Rainbow” is “LeVar Burton Reads” – each episode he reads a short story.  It’s fantastic.
  • This sweet story about a couple growing their family – you have to read the last sentence – it’s hysterical!
  • This News story out of Ocean City, MD.  This is my nightmare.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Check back next week!

What I Read: July 2017

As I was reflecting on this past month as a reader, I was pleasantly surprised by both the total number of books I completed and the number of books I actually liked.  I read a few toward the end of the month that I really did not enjoy and I feel like I’m in a reading funk.  Fortunately, they really weren’t all bad.  🙂

july reads

Here’s what I read in July:

Where They Found Her (Kimberly McCreight) – a fast-paced suspense novel. It wasn’t my favorite but those who love this genre will enjoy this one.

When We Were Worthy (MaryBeth Whalen) – releases September 12, 2017 – LOVE this book.  Whalen’s writing gets better with each release, and this story arc was quite a departure from her beach romance novels.  This centers around the aftermath of a tragedy in a small town.  So good!

The Sound of Gravel (Ruth Wariner) – this is Wariner’s memoir of growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico, her struggles and eventual escape.  I found it so fascinating – the reader can feel her personal heartbreak and trauma, and, later, her triumph and redemption.

Finding Your Voice: What Every Woman Needs to Live her God-given Passions Out Loud (Natalie Grant) – I love Natalie Grant as a singer, but this book was disappointing.  The message was great, but the writing was weak and redundant.

The Dry (Jane Harper) – This is the first in what will be a series about a detective named Aaron Falk.  I enjoyed it, but it isn’t the must-read novel of the month.

When Dimple Met Rishi (Sandhya Menon) – This one came highly recommended.  It’s a YA novel about two children of immigrants from India who discover their parents have essentially already arranged their marriage.  It had many endearing qualities, but I didn’t love it.  It seemed a bit too cheesy and unrealistic.

Dreamland Burning (Jennifer Latham) – This is another YA pick and I was so impressed. The story is set in Tulsa, OK, and flips back and forth between the race riots in 1921 and the present day.  Latham shows the ways race relations in Tulsa have and haven’t changed and breathes new life into an often overlooked event in history.

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) – My third YA of the month, although the language and events in this book make me a little wary of calling it that.  It seems very “adult” to me, but maybe I was overly sheltered in my younger teen years.  The title comes from Tupac’s explanation of the term T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E – “the hate u give little infants f***s everyone”.  Starr Carter is our narrator in this story, and through her eyes we watch a young black man be killed by a police officer, and then witness the response of the black community in the months that follow.  Intense. Painful. Powerful.

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (Shauna Niequist) – I wanted to like this book. I really did.  Some of the essays resonated with me, but for the most part, I was SO BORED.  Sorry, fans of Shauna!

Girl in Snow (Danya Kukafka) – released August 1 – The publisher sent me this to read and review so I did but it was AWFUL.  Terrible. Don’t read it. I don’t even want to tell you about it.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (Fredrik Backman) – Two of Backman’s books are on my all time favorites list (A Man Called Ove and Beartown), but this one never hooked me the way his others did.  I’m sure there are many who would enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.

We  Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) – This was really more of a short story/essay based on a TEDtalk by the author.  Drawing from her experiences as a child in Africa, data, and simple logic, Adichie shows us that feminism is good for everyone.  Success doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.  What’s good for women is good for humanity.  I liked it.

I’ve now read 76 (!!!) books this year.  At this rate, I will hit 100 in mid September, far ahead of the last couple years.  My goal for the year was 100, so I’m excited to see where I end up.

As always, I’d love your recommendations, if you have them. 🙂