All I Want for Christmas is a Beautiful Mess

One of our Rising Bloggers, Deanna at The Long Run, is hosting our group this week, and she asked “What would be the best gift someone could give you this year?” 

Last week at our Sister Circle we talked about the season we are in, the season of Christmas.

The season I have newly dubbed the “Season of With.”  The celebration of the time that God decided to be “with” us in every sense of the word and sent a baby to be with and grow and live as we do.  With.

It’s also the season of being with each other.  That kind of gets lost in the hustle and rush of shopping and struggling to find just the right gift for each person on our list–a list that seems to get longer and longer–and to stay out of debt.  It seems to get harder and harder each year, doesn’t it?  Add to that the stress of events and parties and entertainment that is at this time only or you “miss out,” and it’s almost too much to bear.

But y’all, what if we’ve got it all wrong?  What if it’s not about Christmas presents, but instead about Christmas presence?  Being present, really being with someone, much in the way that God was and has been ever since.  Walking alongside some, ahead of others leading the way, and clearing the path for those to come.  Christmas presence.  The kind of being present that we should aim for all year long.

The other day the question came up: “What would be the best gift someone could give you this year?”

Ahem.  Really? Well, since you asked.

I thought about the closet upstairs I’d love to have converted into a small library.  Fleeting visions of my back porch becoming my haven, my own little spot, came and went.  Books?  Always.  Just sign me up for a book of the week club from any bookstore you choose (but I choose the book!).  Boots?  You can never have too many, can you? A new bag from ABAN?  Candles from Prosperity Candles?  Anything at all from Lisa Leonard–oh my YES!

But…..

all of these fall flat when I sit and think about them.  What I really want and crave this year, the time of year filled with darkness, very different this year yet again–what I want most is with.

It seems so selfish.  More so than the library upstairs or the back porch nook.  It is so hard to admit this is what I want because we live in a world where we are encouraged to be “strong” on our own, not to need anyone.  Vulnerability is a mess, isn’t it?

But yes, I want with.  I want to sit over a cup of coffee or hot cider or ice water and visit and laugh and be in that moment.  I want to listen to someone else’s stories and have them listen to mine.  I want to share my dreams and be encouraged and encourage another’s dreams.  I want to laugh until my sides hurt and cry until I think I have no more tears.  I want to talk about the pain and the brokenness and grief and the joy and the happiness and the crazy mixed-up life of living betwixt and between the two.  Or sometimes both at the same time.  I want to ignore all of the clocks and demands of everyday life and act as if we have all the time in the world to just be.

I garnered the courage to be honest with myself when I sat with my sisters yesterday at our Sister Circle.  We were talking about living this life with others.  How we cope, how we get past our disappointments, how we love and get through the holiday season, how we celebrate it and find joy in our days.  P shared that it’s hard for her, because her grown children automatically expect things of her.  That she will be the one to cook.  That she will buy them all a gift.  That she will always be around.  She said that what she would treasure most this Christmas or any time of the year would be for her daughter or son or grandchildren to say, “Hey, let’s meet for lunch tomorrow.”  She quickly said that she didn’t even want them to pay for the meal.  Just show her she mattered by inviting her, by wanting to spend time with her.  WITH.

I get it.  Bless her heart.

I asked Miss N how she copes with all of the seasonal events and pressures and expectations.  She shrugged and in her wise, quiet way that I’ve grown accustomed to, she said, “I just keep on working on being the person I say that I am.”

Wow.  That is a beautiful goal.  For every single person. Every single day.

And so it was that the words of these precious women I love reinforced in my heart that the best gift we can give someone else is to be with them.  Invite someone to join us for something–anything–it doesn’t have to cost money.  Ask a friend to join me for a walk.  Or lunch.  Or whatever.  The important thing is the WITH and letting them know they matter.  That we choose to be with them.  That is the greatest gift we can give anyone.

And the thing is, there are a lot of anyones, someones who need to hear they matter and that we choose to be with them.  My friend Mac who is camping out in the rain and cold in the woods each night.  Miss N who has family she could visit but chooses not to–haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.  T who came back the other day and shared that she is trying to get custody of her son again.  The manager at the local restaurant, who works long hours and rarely gets told she’s appreciated.  P who just wants her children to want to be with her. The student preparing for finals next week.  The young woman who drives by the hospital after work to see her Mama and then drives home to her babies with worry on her mind.  The man trying to make ends meet with each paycheck he brings home.  There are too many to list.  Because it’s all of us.  All of us want to be chosen, to know we matter, to feel that someone WANTS to be with us.

So the greatest gift someone could give me this year is the gift of with.  And at the risk of giving something that I’d like to get for Christmas, I daresay it’s the greatest gift I can give as well.  I know that it brings my heart a great big burst of joy when my sisterfriends choose to come to Sister Circle and be with each other.  It makes me sad that they might not have this outside of our group.

As we go through our days during this season and the one coming up next, may we make the extra effort and take the extra time to be with the people in our lives and those on the fringes.  May we go out of our way to let people know they matter and that they are loved.  And may we step outside our comfort zones and be with folks we might not otherwise have known.  I am convinced that the “with” of this season and of all of our days is the greatest legacy we can leave behind.

I think Rev. Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms, whose products should be added to my list of favorite things, put it best this morning with these words:

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May we all get messy as all get out today, and this whole holiday season, and everyday–loving on folks.  I can’t think of a better mess to be in.  And what better way to share Christmas everyday?  Merry Mess-Making! Go be with.

Love to all.

Thank you, Deanna, for a great question.  To read more stories about what others want the most this year, hop over to her blog and check out the links. 

The Journey Home

It’s funny what folks call home, isn’t it?  I live here at “Buckingham Bottom” as Daddy named it, but I will always call Blackberry Flats home.  Our Princess considers Japan home when she talks about it sometimes because she was born there.  Just as my sweet little neighbor friend is happy in his new place in another state–“This is my home.  I was born here.”  Mac, my friend who is once again on the streets, calls the city of Macon in general his home.  He is at home by the river, on the streets, sitting by the convenience store.  Many of our friends without a roof over their heads call Daybreak home.

Home.

Some folks are still searching.  Some feel lost and alone sitting where they have always been, surrounded by people they know.

Tonight I share with you this quote from the book “Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart” by the Women of Magdalene and Becca Stevens.  It touched all of us on Tuesday during our Sister Circle.  Each of us from different walks of life, along different paths on our journey–it spoke to each one of us.  And I hope it will speak to your heart as well.

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Tonight I ask God to sit with those who feel lost and don’t know how to begin the journey back home.  And with those who don’t even know what home looks like.  Also with those who are on the journey home through this cool, dark night.  And those who have no one else to tell them they love them or that they are enough or that they will be right there until everything is okay.  Home.

Each time Mac calls, albeit sporadically, before he gets off the phone he says, “If no one else has told you they love you today, well, Mac Carlton loves you.”

I know it’s silly, but that makes me smile and warms my heart.  He can worry me and even frustrate me, but hearing I am loved and knowing I am–that helps me feel a little less lost in the moments when everything going on gets overwhelming and hard.

May we seek to be the instruments of peace and encouragement and compassion, the compasses for those who are lost–so they can believe the trip home is possible and find their way home to love and acceptance and warmth.  Wherever that may be.

Amen.

Broken Pieces and the Beauty of the Big Picture

Ah the chaos that Tuesday brings.  Once again.

And also the joy.

Today was Sister Circle day again.  We have become quite the group.  What started out as “let me offer paper and markers so folks can doodle while we talk” has turned into an art and talk and share and help each other session.

Love it.

When I got there and was inviting folks to come in and join us, one lady laid her hand on my arm and asked, “Are you doing the beads today? Making jewelry?”  (We made bracelets and necklaces with beads last week.)

“Oh, I’m sorry, ” I replied, “but no.  We’re not.”

She looked so sad, but when I mentioned we were going to gather and do something else, her whole face lit up.  One of our other new regulars asked her to come.  I was ecstatic.

We had several of our regulars in attendance, but T and K were not there, which again, worried me.  Relationships can be tough in any circumstance, but when you are vulnerable and in need, they can be particularly hard.  I hope they are okay.

Today we talked about the eighth principle of Magdalene from “Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart” by Rev. Becca Stevens.  “Let God sort it all out.”

The phrase alone brought nods and sounds of agreement from this group of beautiful and strong women I sat with today.  We talked about how hard it is to let go.  To wait.  To sit back and NOT try to make things happen on our own.  Somehow the conversation shifted into talking about the mindset of our culture–“I want it and I want it now.”  Fast food, waiting “too long” in a grocery store or Wal-Mart line.  The words “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” came out.  That one really hit home with me.  Needs versus wants–we talked a lot about that one and how confusing it is.  Hard stuff.

And yet so good.

In preparation for our art pieces, we took strips of construction paper and tore them into bits, focusing on tearing up the things that we had a hard time letting go of–thoughts, control, words, pain, emotions, memories, darkness, sadness, brokenness.  As we tore, we tried to really think about letting go of these things that had such a hold on us.

I even tried NOT to tear them evenly and consistently.  Really trying to improve my inner artist and work my way outside of the lines.

I really did try NOT to tear them evenly and consistently. I AM trying to improve my inner artist and work my way outside of the lines. *sigh*  There’s always next time.

We then glued our pieces together in a mosaic.  The idea is that we have all these little broken pieces in our life, and that is hard because we can’t see the big picture sometimes.  But there is One who can see it, and it is beautiful.  Broken pieces and all.

I designed a boat with my pieces.  I had it sailing on dark waters, reminding me I do actually have to leave the safety of the harbor to get anywhere or do anything.  My boat was extra big because there are people who will travel with me on whatever journey I’m on, and that is a comfort and something I need to remember, especially when the seas are stormy.

I love what came out of my sweet sisters’ minds and hearts and worked its way onto paper.  As we created, we talked and laughed and shared.  A beautiful time.

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N is definitely an artist.  She loves portraits.  When we worked with watercolors, she painted a portrait of me, which touched my heart and made me cry.  This is a mosaic of a man.  She is a very quiet, introspective soul, so it was an honor to hear her share about her work.

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B cracked me up.  As she tore her pieces, she chatted away.  “I’m not tearing mine small.  Y’all sure are tearing yours small.  I like this big.  Anyone going to tell me mine’s don’t look good?  Cause I like ’em big like this.”  I love that her pieces were bright and vivid and bold, because that is every bit who she is.  When she shared she talked about how these were her baby girl’s favorite colors, and she was making this for her.  B plans to put this on her refrigerator, as soon as she gets her “some of those things that hold them on.”  I’d smell a future project, but I don’t want to leave out those without a refrigerator or a home.  We’ll see.  I love B’s chattiness and teasing nature with these women whom she has come to know so well.

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When G shared about her mosaic, she said, “My life used to be all red, black, and blue, but now I have sunshine in my life.”  (She added the orange after she shared, almost as an afterthought, so I didn’t get to ask what that color represented.)  G went to art school for a while, so she enjoys the art in a different way.  She has a lot of pain and brokenness in her past, and I hope she was able to let a tiny bit go when she shared today. As she moved the little pieces this way and that, she said, “I just have to give it all to God and let the pieces fall where they may.”  I love that.  It is her piece in a nutshell.  Letting go. A little bit at a time.  Healing is a lifelong process, I am afraid.

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My friend, sweet P.  She is a helper.  She drives several of these ladies where they need to be, including our Sister Circle.  A quiet leader of sorts.  I wondered where she was going as she tore, but I really love her story.  Each “block” stands for a holiday and the colors are coordinating with each one.  From top left–Thanksgiving, Easter, New Year’s with all the fireworks and confetti–so colorful, Valentine’s with the pink and red, Christmas and Christmas again, and then 4th of July.  P said these are the happiest times for her as she and her family gather together many times, but especially for the holidays.  Her love of her family is evident.  I wonder if she’s the oldest–she seems to have the protective Mama Bear posture about her.  And that is one of the things I love about her.  (And it’s not just because when we talked about this, she said I did NOT look old enough to be a grandmother. Love. Her.)

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Speaking of family, this is R’s work.  She is a part of P’s family.  Here she made a mosaic of a home with sunshine and clouds above, grass all around and a door–that is open.  Open to family and friends and whoever needs to come in.  She shared that if she had to choose one word to live by it would be “share.”  Wow.  That blew me away.  She talked about being in recovery for six years now (You Go, Miss R!) and how she has come so far from those days, and yet she has to fight it every single day of her life.  “When I was in the darkness and the brokenness, I was into everything.  But now I’m into light.”  Oh. My.  Land.  Bless her.  She has a voice with important things to say.  It is an honor to hear her share.  She talked about having peace now, and how “did you know, some folks don’t even have peace?”  B answered, “Uh huh, I want me one.”  I just love these women, every single one.  It moved me to tears when R talked about how much fear had taken from her all those years.  Like she wasn’t even really alive.  Amen, sister friend, amen.

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Miss A was the last one to share.  My new friend.  The one who had taken my arm and was so excited to come and be a part of our group.  She was so timid in the beginning, unsure if I had a certain way or certain thing I wanted her to create.  No ma’am, I assured her, you do it just how you want and it’s yours to take with you.  She smiled at that and worked so diligently.  She said that all of these colors reminded her of nature and that made her happy.  We talked about how we are made in the image of a Creator and so that means that there is an artist inside each of us–we’d shared this a couple of weeks back.  I love that her picture reminds us of that, and I adore her pieces and their lack of uniformity.  It is imperfectly perfect.  I hope she continues to find joy in it.  As she left she asked me if we would be back tomorrow.  “No, next Tuesday.”  She nodded and smiled broadly.  “I’ll be here.  I sure will.”  So thankful for her stepping away from her safe harbor and joining us today.

Today with these bold and beautiful and precious women, I sat and was enthralled.  With their stories, with the assuredness that comes from being broken but not torn, from hurt but not anger, from love not hatred.  They amaze me, and I find myself looking forward to next Tuesday, to hear what wisdom will float through the room, looking for a place to land, in the midst of laughter and Black Cherry Cola and art supplies.

Glitter.  Someone asked for glitter today.  Oh my sweet sister friends, you outshine glitter by a thousandfold with your endearing smiles and resilient spirits and your willingness to share–fried chicken, napkins, glue, and advice.  I love you.  And because of that, you shall have your glitter.  But it can never be as beautiful as that which you sprinkled on my soul today.  Thank you.

Just One Thing

When I was deciding whether or not to join Facebook three years ago, I went to the one whom I knew would shoot straight with me.  My Daddy.  As we sat together, I told him that I was thinking about signing up, but I wondered what kind of Pandora’s box I was opening.  I felt more compelled to join as my oldest was involved in activities that used Facebook as its main way of communicating.

Daddy sat for a minute and then answered, “Well, as long as you make it work for you, and you don’t work for it…..it should be all right.”

From the beginning I have kept his words in mind.  They apply to all sorts of situations.  But regarding Facebook, I’ve worked to keep myself from sitting in front of the computer for hours, keeping up with my friends’ and acquaintances’ comings, goings, breakfast menus, and all kinds of drama. I’ve learned not to obsess over what the vaguebookers are talking about.  I’ve tried to be conscientious about my “likes.”  I have to admit that because of Facebook I have found out about and been touched by all sorts of organizations and people who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place.  It has opened my eyes to so many ways to serve our world and be a good steward of all around us.  There’s so much brokenness in our world, but there are so many folks trying to help.  That gives me hope.

So this evening when I sat down for a few minutes and logged in, this was waiting on me:

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Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms and Magdalene.  From their Facebook page, here is their mission, beautifully put:

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, TN in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Rev. Stevens knows these women.  She’s talked with them, cried with them, and most importantly, she’s listened.  She KNOWS why these women are on the streets.  When she says a community has failed them, I know she is right.  And I find myself tearful, because I am one of that community.  I am one of the many reasons these women are on the streets.  “…..a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.”  That.  Breaks.  My.  Heart.  We have to stop this.

And there are so many other heartbreaking ways that we, as a community, have failed.  There are children who are hungry every weekend, when their weekday programs are closed.  Too often I shop for my own groceries and forget to pick up something for their weekend backpacks until I am home and it’s too late.  *whispering* I am so ashamed.  There are programs that take care of the hard stuff.  All I have to do is throw some extra groceries in my cart.  And I can’t even do that as often as I should.

A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend who works with a ministry that helps people who are homeless and in need with all kinds of resources–health, education, emotional support, job training and so much more.  We were lamenting about our friend who is now in a transitional program a couple of hours away.  He needs friends there.  Who are NOT in his program.  Who can visit him and take him to lunch and just let him know he’s important to them.  It’s a little hard to do from three hours away.  Phone calls can only do so much.  He needs to be looked in the eyes and to see that he’s Someone in the eyes of others.   My friend sighed and said she sees the same thing locally.  So many people come to her and want to “help,” but unfortunately, this means they have well-intentioned suggestions about how to do things or they come once and never come back.  There have been far too few who have wanted to offer what is needed most.  Relationships.  These people who have been failed already by the system, their families, their communities, by us–what they need most is a relationship.  To matter to someone.  To have someone to cheer them along.  To care for someone and be cared for in return  To have someone to love them when they fall.  Because they will at some point.  We all do.  This is what Jesus of the Good Book was all about.  Why aren’t more folks, especially those who follow him, jumping at the chance to be a part of something like this?

Some kind people offer prayers for these kinds of situations–these people without homes, these women who can barely eke out an existence on the streets, these hungry children and so many other broken and raw circumstances.  They ask God for an answer, for healing, for a solution.

Well, just a couple of posts behind Rev. Stevens’, I saw this one from a wonderful program that serves folks in need in North Carolina:

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Oh dear.  I was afraid it was something like that.

Because if God’s plan is us, that means I have to do more than read a Facebook post and think good thoughts for those folks.  I have to do more than be sad.  I have to get mad and get busy.  I have to find my passion and work for change.  And this is the kind of change I can actually get on board with.  And today, I did get mad.  Again.

My seventeen year old was looking at something that shows big sales on different websites.  She had clicked on a website that sold purses.  She has a thing for bags, and as most of hers come from the GW Boutique, therefore helping folks, I’ve decided to find it endearing.  (And it might be genetic.  Ahem.)  As she looked on the site, “window shopping”, I heard her sharp intake of breath.

“One of these purses is $10,000,” she said quite indignantly.  “Now that makes me wanna just slap somebody.”

Amen.

Y’all, I am not perfect.  My cup (and my closet and my pantry) overfloweth and much of it is my own fault, and I know I need to cut back.  So much of this frustration is with myself too. That I have so much when there are folks with less than nothing…..it feels so wrong.  When we live in a world, in a country, where women and men are living on the streets, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse and non-human ways of existing, no matter if it’s because of addiction or loss of income or what–IT. IS. WRONG.  Their voices were silenced along the way.  We don’t know their story before they became addicted, so how can we possibly condemn them for it?  All I know is I am so lucky that I had a home and family to go to when my world fell apart many years ago.  Not everyone has that.  We should not be in the business of pointing fingers but rather about the business of opening our arms.  In love.  In welcome.  In acceptance.

To all.

That means to those who are low in spirit, whether in jail, on the streets, or living next door.  It also means to the children who are ahead of us in line at the grocery store as well as the children who never see a grocery store…..or enough food in their own homes. It means taking time to figure out what makes us mad.  And working to change it.  No single person can fix it all or can even help in every broken situation.  But if each one of us did just one thing–built a relationship with just one person who was in need–I don’t know that it would fix everything, but I do know that we’d be able to see a difference.  And offer hope and set an example for those behind us.  To do just one thing.

I don’t pretend to know what your one thing is.  I’m not even sure what mine is yet.  But I do know that we need to start living like we mean it, and that we each need to have that one thing, that one relational thing.  Maybe it’s checking on a friend who’s having a hard time, offering to help a new mom who is overwhelmed, maybe it’s talking with someone in a doctor’s waiting room or using your gifts and talents to create something for someone in need.  I have no idea what your “one thing” could be.  But I do know this–it will feel right.  It might take you outside of your comfort zone for a bit, but it won’t be painful.  As the great theologian and writer Frederick Buechner wrote:  “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”  It will look different for each one of us.

I also know that when you and I each do our one thing, it will not end there.  We must be brave and intent in our mission, giving generously and loving fiercely.  For as Mr. Buechner also wrote, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

Just one thing.  It’s a start.

On my Bedside Table

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I was inspired by the book I was given yesterday to get my reading act together.  As we wind down our “official learning” school year, and shift into mostly reading, I thought I’d get my “wish list of reading” put together for summer.

Before I get started on my rather lengthy and somewhat intimidating list (focus is a little hard these days), I thought I’d look back at what I have been able to read lately.  Just to remind myself I can.  *sigh*  I used to be able to read all the time.

Last book read:

Tornado by Betsy Byars–I read this one aloud yesterday morning to the littles.  We got all comfy and listened to the timely story of Pete, the farmhand, who gathered in the storm cellar with the family and told stories of his dog Tornado to keep their minds off the storm.  I really liked this one.  A lot.  So did the littles.

Before that:

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran and Barbara Cooney–I love this one.  But then I’ve already told y’all that.

And before that:

The Invisible Girls: A Memoir by Sarah Thebarge–Another excellent read.  The story will change how you look at people as you go through your day.  And how you can change your world.

I really haven’t read much in completion before those three.  At least not since last year.  In looking around here at my plethora of books, I was thinking.  People sometimes will ask you who your favorite author is.  That is hard to say depending on the mood I am in or what genre I’m reading at the time.  But if someone were to ask me, what author has affected you the most?  Easy.

Karen Spears Zacharias–I’ve read all of her books except one. (She also writes over here.)  She is the author of Hero Mama, also published as After the Flag Has Been Folded, Where’s Your Jesus Now?, Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? (‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV),  and A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.  She has also written Benched: Judge Rufe McCombs, which is in my to be read stack of books.  Each one of her books has affected me, challenging how I think, what I do about what I think, and how bringing justice in this world requires each and every one of us taking a stand.  She’s a strong woman whom I was delighted to meet over a year ago.  I love her as a person and a writer.  If you want to have your world turned upside down and a fire lit under you, go find one of these books and set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time.  Each one of these was hard to put down.  I read Silence in its entirety in less than 24 hours after I got it.  And everyone was fed and clothed as required.  Even though you know the ending, you find yourself not believing that it’s actually going to end like that.  And then she puts making a difference in the reader’s lap.  GREAT BOOK.  If you’d like to know a little more about these books and their amazing author, watch this interview.  It was done when she visited us last May.

So on to my stack of to be reads–these do not include the ones on my wish list that I have yet to find at our local used bookstore or at the library.

Sitting on my bedside table:

Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling by Becca Stevens–I love Thistle Farms and the Magdalene project.  Rev. Stevens is doing some amazing things, and these women are healing and getting stronger.  You can check them out here or find them on Facebook.   Here are the words I read that made me HAVE TO HAVE this book.

From Rev. Becca Stevens' facebook page

From Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh–This book was recommended by Karen Spears Zacharias.  More than once.  Yes ma’am.  It’s getting read in the very near future.  The plight of young people aging out of the foster care system has been weighing on my heart and moving me to take action.  This book tells the story of Victoria, an eighteen-year-old who has been emancipated from the system and tries to find her way.  I look forward to reading this and seeing where this will lead me on my journey.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans–Our Wednesday book group started this book back in January.  I was so excited about it.  Unfortunately the HospitalStay and life’s circumstances intervened, and I haven’t been able to get back to it.  Our group had a blast reading this, and I know I will too.

Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite–Another recommended by Karen Spears Zacharias.  She and Ms. Hite are going on tour together this fall with new releases for each of them.  I want to read this one in preparation for the tour.  I am hopeful we can host them in our area, just as we had Karen down last year for her Silence tour.  I’ve already learned that if Ms. Zacharias says it’s a good read, it’s a GOOD read.

Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain–A collection of stories and essays written after the death of his wife and one of their daughters.  This was recommended by a good friend, and I was able to acquire it through the old bookstore I love so much.  In the title story, Satan writes a letter to his fellow archangels about the inconsistencies of human religious faith.  Oh yes, this is going to be good.

The Saddlemaker’s Wife by Earlene Fowler–I was at the library last week, picking up a book on reserve from our princess’ reading list, when I wandered over to the new release section.  Because, you know, I don’t already have enough books here to read.  As I looked around, I saw the name–Earlene Fowler.  My chest tightened, and I took a deep breath to calm my spirit.  She was one of Mama’s favorites, and old habits are hard to kick–my first thought was, has Mama read this one?  Does she know about it? When I came around, I decided to check it out.  I used to read Ms. Fowler’s Benni Harper mysteries years ago, and I really enjoyed them.  When I read the blurb, I realized this was not in that series, but the sequel to The Saddlemaker’s Wife, which they did not have.  Nor could I request it at the time.  My favorite bookstore to the rescue again–I have a much loved copy here to read.  And remember Mama.  I do wonder if she read this one.  She wasn’t able to focus much on books and stories the past couple of years, so I really can’t be sure.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings–My Aunt tells the story of my Daddy taking her to a bookstore in downtown Macon and getting this book for her.  She fell in love with reading.  So of course I had to find a copy.  And I will read it one day too.  It will remind me of Daddy, and his little sister.  He used to tell me about them piling up in his bed and him reading to her when she was little.  Precious.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly–When we were doing a major cleaning to prepare for our out of town company a couple of weeks ago, we went through Aub’s books.  We found some to give away, and I found some that I want to read.  This is one of them.  The cover is gorgeous.  I know, I know.  So I read the blurb–the story of an 11 year old girl in 1899, growing close to her grandfather and managing in a household with six brothers.  Sold.  I just know it will be delightful.  (Total sidenote–but the author has the same name as my eighth grade history teacher, whom I adored–what do you suppose…..?)

pic of calpurnia tate 2

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason–Another one of my “cleaning up” finds.  I don’t know anything about it, except that one reviewer compared it to the works of Madeleine L’Engle.  Stop right there.  No further recommendation needed.  We’ll see.

Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters–this was my surprise treat that I got yesterday from my cousin.  I’m already 1/3 of the way into it.  Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t been able to get her reading groove back very easily.  I’ve heard grief will do that.  But with this book, the book is hard but the reading is easy.  If that even makes sense.  It is really eye-opening and heart-breaking and hope-filling.  A good book, one that I have a feeling will be another life-changer.

Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg–My Wednesday book group started this one several weeks ago.  I have missed being with them the past few months, so I grabbed a copy, read some on Wednesday morning and joined them after lunch.  Ms. Feinberg sets out to close the gap between the ancient world and our own.  She visits with a shepherdess, farmer, beekeeper, and vintner, seeking to find the connections.  Really, really interesting.  I’m still working on it, but I highly recommend this one.

So that’s the stack.  I have a couple on reserve at the library, waiting on those to come in.  And there are two that I am most looking forward to getting soon–

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman–newly released by the author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  That book was so wonderful, I cannot wait to read her next one.  (So yeah, if you haven’t read that one, you might want to.)  I guess it will always be special because it’s one Mama and I both loved and talked about together.

Mother of Rain by Karen Spears Zacharias–This won’t be released until this fall and I CANNOT.  WAIT.  A work of fiction about folks in the Appalachia area.  I am so looking forward to this one.  I will also read Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field in preparation.  She said that was a good idea, and she hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

So, on this beautiful summer Sunday, after we visit with our friends at Daybreak this evening and pour a little coffee and a lot of sweet tea, I will come home and grab a book off the stack and get started.  Today I am thankful I don’t have to set the alarm for tomorrow morning.  I have a feeling it might be a late night…..and a whole summer of them.  Lots of books, so little time.