Rachel Held Evans

Friday Book Chats: Searching for Sunday Book Review

searching for sundayI had been eagerly waiting for Rachel Held Evans’ new book Searching for Sunday to hit the shelves ever since I heard that it was in the works. While I’m only an occasional reader of her blog, which is more issue-focused and, frankly, sometimes too abrasive for me read consistently, I was deeply impacted by her first book Faith Unraveled, which told the story of her transition from an utterly confident (sometimes judgmental) completely sure-of-her-own-rightness Christian to one who wanted to wrestle with hard questions rather than write them off. So many of her stories and experiences and reflections were uncannily similar to my own and that book was like water in the desert to my soul.

When I learned that her new book would be specifically about her loving, leaving, and finding church again, I couldn’t wait to read it. All I can say is that it was even better than I was expecting it to be. Once again, I felt like I was reading my own diary at so many moments. To the point that if someone wanted to know where I’m at with the church, I would probably just hand them this book and say, “She says it better than I could.”

For the past few years I’ve struggled with church. And even as I’ve tried to remind myself that church isn’t primarily about what I can get out of it and that not all churches are the same, I’ve felt an increased disinterest in participating in the church. This has become more of a concern recently as we prepare to move back to the US, a move which will necessitate our finding a new church. I’ve found myself reluctant to even try. By the time I finished this book, I felt understood, even validated. But I also felt hope.

In the introduction, Evans’ pinpoints the reasons for the dissatisfaction that so many of our generation are feeling with the church:

“We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff – biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice – but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask….

We can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We Millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained.

Millenials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity. We are looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus –the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.”

The rest of the book is structured around the seven sacraments – Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage – but if that sounds dull and dry, don’t be fooled. This isn’t a book of theology. This is a very vulnerable and personal story masterfully woven together with the story of the church and with some breathtaking theological truths. Take for example this profound reminder that

“…what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out, but who it lets in….

Grace got out of hand the moment the God of the universe hung on a Roman cross with outstretched hands looked out upon those who had hung him there and declared ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

Grace has been out of hand for more than two thousand years now. We best get used to it.”

Evans writes about stepping away from the church for a while as she wrestled with questions that no one seemed to want to discuss and becoming critical and cynical about the body as a whole. I saw myself in this, the way I began to feel when I went to my parents’ church or my in-laws’, or visited a new church with my husband.

“I expected the worst and smirked when I found it. So many of our sins begin with fear—fear of disappointment, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of death, fear of obscurity. Cynicism may seem a mild transgression, but it is a patient predator that suffocates hope…”

For years I found myself growing more and more cynical about the church to the point that it was sometimes a struggle for me to admit that it could ever do any good at all, and this cynicism made it very difficult for me to accept that God is still using the church today. That, as Evans’ says,

“Church is a moment in tie when the kingdom of God draws near, when a meal, a story, a song , an apology, and even a failure is made holy by the presence of Jesus among us and within us.”

I can’t claim that I agreed 100% with every single word and idea in this book, but that really doesn’t matter to me because I agreed wholeheartedly with the spirit of this book which was like an empathetic companion in my grief, an understanding friend, and sustenance for my sometimes starving faith.

To me, the most beautiful thing about this book is that while it fully acknowledges the many problems with the church, particularly the evangelical church, it also leaves the reader with hope that maybe church can still be worth it. Maybe there is still value in this broken body. Maybe there is something so essential about the church that it’s worth investing in, in spite of all her failures.

Evans concludes, “God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here. Even here, in the dark, God is busy making all things new.” 

Once after attending a service at my in-laws (genuinely lovely) church I turned to my husband and said, “I just can’t do it. If that’s what it has to look like for me to be a Christian, then I don’t want to be one. I don’t fit with the floral clad church ladies making small talk, I’m not moved by the choir, and I refuse to laugh at jokes that aren’t funny just because the pastor said them. I’m sorry, but I can’t ever do church like this.”

But this church that Evans writes about, this is a church I just might want to be a part of.

Advertisements

A Few of My Favorite Things: Big Sale on some of my Favorite Books

As most of you know I am a really big reader. When I got in trouble as a child my parents would punish me by not letting me read. It was my nightmare. This year I’ve had more time for leisure reading than in previous years, partly because I live in a city and spend a fair amount of time using public transportation. So far this year I’ve read 57 books. (Remember, I don’t have kids or a TV).

I am a huge believer in physical books and I will never give them up in favor of ebooks, but since I live in Korea right now, it’s just more practical to use a Kindle than to buy a bunch of physical books that are expensive here and that I won’t be able to bring back home with me.

The great thing about Kindle books is that there are lots of flash sales where books can drop to $2 or $3 for a few days. I keep a giant Amazon wish list that I check almost every day to see if anything on my list has gone on sale.

There is a big publisher’s sale going on right now and I noticed that many of my favorite books from this year are on sale so I wanted to share them with you. I don’t usually do posts like this (although I occasionally tweet about a good deal) but I know a lot of you are also big readers who might benefit from these sales. Hope you find something you like!

Note: I’ve just learned that prices may be different if you are visiting Amazon from Ireland or the UK (or perhaps any other non-US country). Although I live in Korea, my Amazon account is registered in the US and the prices I’ve listed are the ones on Amazon’s USA site.  Sorry if the prices are different for your country. 😦

Nonfiction

These are mostly creative non-fiction – essays and spiritual memoirs—that I’ve read this year and enjoyed.

bread and wine

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist $1.99: One of my favorite books I’ve read this year (I wrote more about what this book meant to me here) this book is about food and hospitality and about the table as a place for building community. Buy it!

 

Bittersweet

 

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist $2.99: This book of essays focuses on change and the bittersweet ways that we grow through challenges and difficulties.

 

 

 

Found

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett ($3.03). This is a story for tired Christians who need to experience God in the ordinariness of life. It particularly resonates for those of us who grew up evangelical and have always felt burdened by the need to pray more, read more, do more.

 

QuietQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ($2.99) I found this book completely fascinating. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, you must read this. It taught me so much about how I work as a highly sensitive introvert in contrast with my husband who is more strongly introverted, but is not highly sensitive. I also found her exploration of Western culture’s “extrovert ideal” so helpful in understanding the ways in which I’ve trained myself to act more extroverted. This helped me make sense of why I am 100% sure I’m an introvert, but other people sometimes seem surprised by that.

Faith unraveledFaith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions by Rachel Held Evans ($2.99): This is one of my all-time favorite spiritual memoirs and one of the best books I read this year. Evans’ story about coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away resonated deeply with me. I love that she actually articulates some of the really hard questions of life and faith in this book and doesn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God.

womanhoodA Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”  by Rachel Held Evans ($2.99): Interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative, each month for one year Held undertook one virtue for women mentioned in the Bible and tried to observe it as strictly as possible. She also interviewed women of different faith backgrounds for perspective each month (an orthodox Jew, an Amish woman, a family who practices what they believe to be “biblical marriage” through polygamy). While Held is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, this book is a very honest and gracious exploration of the nebulous concept of biblical womanhood and a very fair consideration of various points of view on the subject.

Notes from a Blue Bike:The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic WorlBlue Biked by Tsh Oxenreider ($2.99): This book is about living simply and creating the life you want to live. In many ways I was inspired by this book to evaluate and define what it is I want out of life. What are my priorities? What are the things that matter most deeply to me? What are the values I want to build my life around? And how do I make those things reality? This book is particularly applicable to people with kids since there are sections that specifically deal with education and parenting, but even being childless, I enjoyed it.

1000GIFTS

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp ($2.99). This book has been a NY Times Bestseller since it came out a few years ago and you’ve probably heard of it. I actually read this a few years ago but plan to re-read soon. It is a beautiful, challenging book about living life fully wherever you are by practicing radical gratitude.

 

Learning to Walk in the Dark

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor ($1.99): Actually I haven’t read this one yet, but I did just buy it because it’s been on my wish list since it came out. Taylor is known for wrestling with difficult topics and writing about the spiritual life in profound ways. This is a book about how God works in the dark seasons of life.

 

Leaving Church

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99): This book is Taylor’s memoir about her decision to leave her role as an Episcopal priest to become a professor. It talks about how easy it is to lose your soul in the midst of “doing ministry” and how sometimes the best place for our souls is not the place that seems most logical.

 

Altar in the WorldAn Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor ($1.99): I also just bought this one because it’s been on my wish list for months since I read so many rave reviews. This book is a follow-up to Leaving Church which was about her decision to leave full-time ministry. This book talks about learning to encounter God outside of the church.

 

Fiction

Here are a few fiction books I’ve read this year that are on sale now. Just a note – I read fiction like a writer. In other words, a book is good to me if the prose is beautiful, the characters are well-developed and the plot isn’t predictable. I appreciate novels that engage me intellectually and emotionally. When I recommend fiction books it is because I think they are well-written, entertaining, and compelling. I’m not often bothered by language, sexual content, or whether or not I totally agree with the author’s perspective. If you are easily offended by these things bear that in mind when reading my fiction recommendations.

17557750

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

 

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty ($3.99): This is the fourth book of Moriarty’s I’ve read this year and probably my favorite. I think she’s a great contemporary writer, writing about complex family relationships and suburban drama in a fresh way. Her characters are always interesting and fully-formed. This particularly novel revolves around the death of an elementary school parent at a school function, but who died and how it happened remains a mystery until the very end. It’s a fun, engaging read.

Name of the WindThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99): This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you are into fantasy at all, you must read this book. The prose is gorgeous. The world-building is phenomenal, the characters will become dear friends. I really can’t say enough positive things about this book. This is the first-person narrative of a terrifically gifted young man who grows to be the greatest wizard the world has ever seen. This is the first book in an ongoing trilogy called The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Way of Kings

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson ($2.25): This book (and the one below) are the best books I’ve read this year and also possibly the best books I’ve ever read. Definitely high up there. This is a fantasy epic that will appeal even to those who aren’t huge fantasy readers. This is a story about honor and justice and revenge. The characters are fantastic and the world with it’s various people groups and magic system, etc is captivating. If I could recommend just one book from this year’s reading to everyone I know it would be this book. (PS- If you get it, stick with it through the prologue. It’s a weird start to the book but I promise after you get past those first two chapters you’ll be hooked).

Words of

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson($3.75): This is the second book in the Stormlight Archive. It is even better than the first one. The only bad thing is that it was just released in March 2014 which means a long wait before book 3. It will rock your world.

 

Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

What I’m Into: October 2014 Edition

Happy November! Here is my October What I’m Into post. Sorry it’s a few days late! As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.

What I’m Reading:

This month I buried myself in books. It was almost an addiction – the minute I stopped reading one thing I needed to pick up something else. I couldn’t tolerate any lag-time. This was partly because quite a few books I wanted to read went on sale for kindle all at once and I bought about 8 books in just a few days and then felt like I needed to justify my purchases by reading them all immediately. But mostly it was because I was hiding from writing. I kept trying to write – blog posts and book chapters and proposals –and I kept failing to write. I started to cram all of my free moments with other people’s words so I wouldn’t have to think about my own. And this is what I read:

Speak by Nish Weiseth. This is a brand new book about the power of sharing stories. The author is the founder of A Deeper Story, a website that creates space for people to tell their stories. This was a short, quick read and I really enjoyed it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I had heard this book widely praised for a long time. I’ve read two of Moriarty’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. This book is about a woman who wakes up after a fall with no memory of the past ten years of her life. While the whole “I have amnesia” trope can feel overdone or predictable, the complexity of the characters made this a much more nuanced story instead of just a cheap plot device. This was a fun, quick read, but it also left me thinking a lot about how the little choices we make in life that can add up to change the direction of your life. Little moments can pull you somewhere you never imagined going. This book also deals with infertility in a very genuine way that I’ve never quite seen done in fiction. I’m a fan.

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott. This is a short, sweet book about what Anne Lamott considers to be her three essential prayers. I liked the idea of distilling prayer down to the core of what we are usually really praying and appreciated the reminder that simple prayers are sometimes the most powerful.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I love food books and I loved the movie version of this book. Sadly , I did not love the book version quite as much. I still enjoyed it, but frankly the author is much more likeable as she is portrayed by Amy Adams in the movie than she is in real life. (Who wouldn’t be, I guess). I just found her to be very whiny and ungrateful and she joked a lot about how mean she was to her husband and how much it sucked that she’d married her high school sweetheart and so had never been with other men, etc. The parts about cooking were definitely the best parts, but overall I’d give it a 3 out of 5.

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey. Sigh. Such mixed feelings. This is a brand new book that’s been lauded by many of the bloggers and writers I admire. It’s not a bad book. But Yancey is young. He’s even younger than I am. And honestly…it shows. This is a spiritual memoir about moving from certainty about God and faith into doubt and then back again. Much of it is about Yancey’s transition from a staunch Southern Baptist tradition to exploring more liturgical traditions, specifically the Episcopal church. His reflections on the liturgy and what it can do for us are some of the best parts of the book.  But, there are many other parts that just read (to me) as incredibly un-self-aware. The basic arc of the story is of a kid who goes to college (he went to Baylor) thinking he knows everything and then comes to understand that in fact, he doesn’t have everything figured out yet. He tries to start a church at 18 and unsurprisingly, it fails. His conversations with his friends and his questions about faith remind me of my time at Wheaton and that was very relatable for me. But ultimately he tells this long story of his time in college and how he realized he didn’t know everything as though it were a very unique and original experience. I couldn’t help feeling that this is such a common story. Most of us go to college as arrogant know-it-alls and discover that we don’t know everything. It’s called maturity. And if it had been written that way – as though he was reflecting on an experience common to young adults –I probably would have liked it better. As it was, I felt like he was trying to share a super unique story and he went into great detail about his struggles and choices and emotional conflicts. And honestly, his struggles and questions were very valid, but also very common. The best way I can say it is that in the book he was not as self-aware as he seems to think he is. He seems to still have the “I’m a special millennial snowflake” syndrome common to many of us. Also, some of the writing (particularly near the beginning) was technically poor. He switches verb tenses like it’s his job. So, I didn’t love it. I feel a little ungracious writing this, but it’s also my honest opinion.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. This is a quick, easy read about decorating and how you don’t have to have perfection to have a beautiful home. Mostly, it’s about the pictures.

Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans. I read this at the exact right time in my life. This is Evans’ spiritual memoir coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away. I loved that she actually articulated some of the really hard questions of life and faith and didn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God. That was so profound to me and has helped me come to terms with some of my questions.

Quiet by Susan Cain. This book is soooo good. It’s completely fascinating. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, you should read it. It taught me so much about how I work as a highly sensitive introvert in contrast with my husband who is more strongly introverted, but is not highly sensitive. I also found her exploration of Western culture’s “extrovert ideal” so helpful in understanding the ways in which I’ve trained myself to act more extroverted. This helped me make sense of why I am 100% sure I’m an introvert, but other people sometimes seem surprised by that.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. An easy but unremarkable read about fraternal twins who have never gotten along and come to understand each other better. No great shakes, but it was an easy read and a nice break from all my non-fiction.

I was reading The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen devotionally over the past few months, but I’ve finished it now. I am currently using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer in my devotional reading. I’m nearly finished with Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey and have a few lovely novels queued up on my kindle.

I read 10 books this month for a total of 51 so far this year. You can follow me on Goodreads if you’re into that.

Also, If you would be interested in me doing more book reviews in the future, leave me a comment and let me know, especially if there’s anything in particular you want to hear more about.

What I’m Listening To:

October has been a month of long runs preparing for a half marathon at the end of November. On long runs I like to listen to podcasts. In addition to This American Life and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! I’ve become obsessed with NPR’s newest podcast, Serial, which tells one long story over the course of many episodes. This story is a true crime investigation of a man who has been in prison for 15 years for a crime he still says he didn’t commit. It’s fascinating.

Also fascinating/moving/inspiring was Nadia Bolz-Weber’s interview for the On Being podcast. Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran priest and the author of Pastrix a book very high on my to-read list. If you get a chance, listen to this. There are some breathtaking moments.

What I’m Watching:

I’m on Season 5 of my re-watch of Gilmore Girls. I raced through the last season of Call the Midwife when it hit Netflix. I’ve also been watching and loving The Paradise on Netflix. I’m staying current with Nashville, Parenthood, Mindy Project, New Girl, Modern Family, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. We’ve also been watching old episodes of Frasier and just last night watched the first episode of the British show Broadchurch after which I immediately asked Jonathan if we could skip work today and binge-watch it, but he said no.

*I just edited this because I forgot the movies!*

We saw Gone Girl last weekend and I thought it was really well-done. I read the book last year and actually pretty strongly disliked it because it seemed to be trying to say something deeper about marriage and relationships, etc but epic-ly failed to do so because of the nature of the plot. (When there are psychopaths or sociopaths involved you can no longer treat any of their relationships as an effective commentary on normal society.) I thought it worked so much better as a movie where you could appreciate it as entertainment without trying to extract this deep message about marriage and society.

We also saw the Maze Runner, which was entertaining as well as long as you didn’t think about it too much.

What I’m Eating/Cooking:

Soup! I got a new thermos to take my lunch to school with me and the ability to eat hot foods is rocking my world. I make a big pot of soup on the weekend and bring it for lunch every day. Last week it was my all-time favorite chicken tortilla soup. This week it’s a chicken noodle soup with no noodles and more veggies whose recipe I just made up on the fly.

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. And I put the whole thing in my crockpot, including the raw chicken. So easy. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

Also I made my mom’s gumbo this weekend (with a bit of my own flair thrown in – let’s face it, I am pathologically incapable of leaving recipes alone) and it was like heaven.

Gumbo

I also made a pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting for church yesterday and it rocked my world. I don’t have any pictures because I inhaled it.

If you want to see more of what I’m cooking you can follow me on Pinterest.

What I’m Writing:

As I said above, I’ve mostly been avoiding writing, so instead I’ve been hosting my Sex and the Church guest series here including such greats as “Can We At Least Begin By Saying the Words?” “You are not a gift to be unwrapped” a post about same-sex attraction, and a post from my hubby about how sex is both dangerous and beautiful. I also wrote two guest-posts for friends’ blogs. The first was for my friend Brett about being (or not being) a mom. The second guest post was for my friend Karissa’s Where I Found God series about finding God outside of the church.

On the Internets:

This off-color, but terribly funny post (similar to last month’s) about Women Having a Terrible Time at Parties

I loved this article from my friend Briana Meade about getting how we are not special millennial snowflakes and how we have to learn to live faithfully in the small moments of life instead of constantly thinking we are too good for ordinary. I have had to come to grips with this myself over the last few years and I think this piece is so insightful.

Glennon Melton’s challenge What if Your Life Is Already the Best Thing? is worth a read. (I adore her).

This post from Lisa Jo Baker about why women don’t need to be ashamed of needing to feel beautiful stuck with me.

And this post from my friend Karissa about quitting the writing rat-race (even thought this was technically a November post, I’m including it). I second everything she says here.

And, obviously, this:

What I’ve Been Up To:

I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November so I spend about half of every weekend running and then trying to recover from running. I frequently ask myself why I am doing this, but then I remember, hey, I’ve got these awesome shoes I’ve got to justify buying, and I soldier on.

Shoes

It’s like running on beautiful pillows made of mermaid fins.

I also recently discovered the enormous Korean cosmetic and skincare industry – I was always aware that that’s a huge thing here and that they’re supposed to be really good, but I hadn’t really tried out too many products. One day it occurred to me that I basically haven’t bought new makeup in eight years and I decided to try a thing or two. I made the thrilling and dangerous discovery that I love Korean cosmetics and skincare. The packaging is ridiculously cute and everything is so cheap! AND they give you SO MANY free samples. What’s not to love?!

Samples

Seriously. All free samples. Including that toner and moisturizer that are at least half-size products.

We recently joined a few other people to start a sort of house church here in Daegu and have been really enjoying getting to know some new people and getting to have church in a more casual and comfortable setting.

The past two weeks seem to be peak fall weather/foliage time for Korea so we are trying to get out and enjoy that as much as possible. Korea lights up like New England in the fall and I can’t get enough of it.

I was loving seeing all the baby costumes on Facebook this past weekend. Baby costumes are probably the biggest pro in my mind to having a baby. If I have kids, mine are gonna wear costumes all the time. I especially like this kid in his minion costume.

 

Oh, and I dyed my hair. I’m no longer a red-head. I’m a raspberry-chocolate head. I keep scaring myself when I pass mirrors.

What have you been into? Anything amazing I should be checking out?

 

What I’m Into: August 2014 Edition

The month of August has been a whirlwind of experiences and emotions involving more transportation than I think I’ve ever crammed into such a short time (10 flights in 19 days, two of which were 12-14 hours long). As of last night I am back in Korea. I have one more short trip scheduled for September 7-10 and after that I’ll be settling in for a much more normal routine, hopefully including more regular blog posts.

It feels appropriate to pick up blogging again with my monthly re-cap of What I’m Into. As usual, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post. I like to read through posts by other bloggers from this link up for ideas of new things to read, watch, listen to, make, think, and do. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check out some of the other bloggers on her link-up.

This Month in Numbers:

75,000 (at least) calories eaten

25,000 miles traveled

600 pictures taken

15 times I cried this month (I’ve been feeling a lot of feelings. And hey, only 3 of those were ugly crying).

11 American restaurants visited

10 flights taken

8 lbs gained

7 movies watched

6.25 books read

5 countries traveled through

4 days without luggage

4 trips to Target, just to bask in its glow

2 monkeys that sat on me

 

What I’m Reading:

I admit, my reading this month was a little all over the place, from really light fluffy books to spiritual memoirs to investigative non-fiction. But that’s the beauty of books, really. There’s something for everyone. (Or in my case, something for each of my personalities).

Three wishesThree Wishes, Liane Moriarty. Like other books I’ve read by this author, this book was a perfect relaxing read. Part domestic drama and part romance – easy reading but with more complex characters than many beach-reads and a plot that was a little predictable without being stupid. Also, this book is about a set of adult triplets, two of whom are identical and one who isn’t. I actually know someone who is part of a set of triplets like that and I’ve always thought that dynamic was unique and interesting.

 

AttachmentsAttachments, Rainbow Rowell. During last month’s What I’m Into link-up people kept mentioning Rainbow Rowell so when I saw this book on sale for kindle I decided to try it. Told mostly through email correspondence, this book was light, easy, and feel-good. You could almost read it in one sitting. There was nothing particularly compelling about it, but it was sweet.

 

 

 

womanhoodA Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans. Somehow, I had never gotten around to reading this book in its entirety even though I read a lot of Rachel’s other writing and have read excerpts of it. I’m glad I finally read it. It was interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative all at once. Each month Rachel tackled one biblical virtue for women and tried to observe it as strictly as possible. She also interviewed women of different faith backgrounds for perspective (an orthodox Jew, an Amish woman, a family who practices what they believe to be “biblical marriage” through polygamy). While Rachel is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, this book is a very honest and gracious exploration of the nebulous concept of biblical womanhood and, I found, a very fair consideration of various points of view on the subject. I was particularly moved by the chapter that explored the iconic Proverbs 31 woman, evangelical saint of womanhood, and learned how in the Jewish tradition it is the men who learn this poem in order to recite or sing it to their wives as a blessing.

Love DoesLove Does, Bob Goff. Goff has a lot of great stories. And I absolutely love the core message of this book – that real love is active. That we shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and live a big, loud life loving others. That we shouldn’t let the constraints of others’ expectations or even, sometimes, practicality, keep us from dreaming God-sized dreams. But, Goff doesn’t address the fact that many of his stories of jet-setting around the world at a moment’s notice are only possible because he has a stable, well-paid job as an attorney and has both the finances and flexibility to do these things. I find Goff’s spirit infectious and inspiring, but this is not the first time I’ve closed a book like this frustrated, wishing the author would at least acknowledge that their circumstances aren’t universal. I want someone to tell me what it looks like to live that kind of life when you work a regular job making 25k with two weeks of vacation time a year. Because that is reality for most of us.

FreefallFreefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons. I wanted to like this book. I really did. I deeply respect the author’s honesty in talking about her struggle with severe anxiety and panic attacks in the midst of trying to do ministry in a new city and raising young children. My problem was that I just couldn’t really understand what she was saying changed for her. I know this kind of book requires extraordinary vulnerability, but I felt that she talked around her issues rather than naming them directly and this made it very hard for me to understand what it was that changed in her life and brought transformation.

OmnivoreThe Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan. This book follows the food chain from one end to the other for four different meals. The industrial food chain which produces the McDonald’s chicken nugget (which, you will learn, is largely composed of corn, rather than chicken). The industrial organic food chain where grass-fed beef and non-chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used to mass-produce organic food for places like Whole Foods. The local organic food chain where all of the food is raised locally using sustainable practices and intentionally not traveling far from where it was produced. And finally a meal from a forager’s food chain where all of the food was personally grown or collected by the consumer. This book was fascinating and enlightening and convicting and will certainly challenge you to think about where you food is coming from and what you are putting into your body from an ethical standpoint more than a health one. I genuinely think this book will impact my food choices in the future. (After Korea of course. Because frankly right now I feel good about myself if I get home from the store with anything resembling what I was looking for).

I’m currently a quarter of the way through The Goldfinch, so look for my quick review of that next month. While visiting home I picked up a few physical books I already owned but had had to leave behind so those are next up for me though I’m not sure what order I’ll read them in yet. Those books include Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, I am also eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s release of Tana French’s new book, The Secret Place. I am a huge fan of hers.

What I’m Watching:

Besides racing through episodes of Veronica Mars, and (embarrassingly) all of Lipstick Jungle, all that flying meant lots of opportunities to watch movies. Before the trip we saw Guardians of the Galaxy which I enjoyed, but probably not quite as much as my husband who saw it two days in a row. On various planes I saw the Veronica Mars movie, Rio 2, and The Other Woman (Which I mostly slept through). I also re-watched Divergent and part of The Amazing Spiderman 2, and some episodes of Big Bang Theory. In America I went to the movie theater twice, once to see The 100 Foot Journey (which I ADORED – a movie about food, set in France. Recipe for perfection.) And I saw Daniel Radcliffe’s new rom-com What if? which I also loved because it was feel-good, but also quirky and endearing, which are my favorite kinds of light movies. In Bali I was able to buy a copy of the Fault in Our Stars which I watched last night and which resulted in the 3rd of my ugly-cries this month in spite of having read the book and knowing the ending. I loved the book and the movie was a good representation.

What I’m Eating:

Besides the copious amounts of restaurant food we ate in America (Bloomin’ Onion from Outback, Chili’s southwest eggrolls, Chipotle burritos, and an extravagant, delicious steak dinner with my family) we also got to eat some amazing Indonesian food while in Bali.

At home I baked two cakes, one was this lemonade cake that became a favorite of mine a few years ago.

Lemonade Cake

Image from: cookinglight.com Click photo for recipe!

The other was the absolute best carrot cake in the world from my mom’s recipe.

I also had at least 7 different kinds of ice cream. I tried to rank them for you, but it was impossible. So I will just list them. If you have an opportunity to eat any of these, do it!

Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate chip
Graeter’s Coconut Chocolate Chip
Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone
Bluebell Magic Cookie Bar
Bluebell Red Velvet Cake
Bluebell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core

Are you drooling yet?

You can follow me on Pinterest for other things I’m cooking/eating.

What I’m Writing:

This has been a quiet month on the blog though I did have the opportunity to celebrate the birth of our dear friends Josh and Laura’s daughter, Genevieve, in this post. And I asked for you to share your stories of how the church talks about sex here. I am planning to curate a series of guest posts on this topic, so if you are interested in contributing, please let me know! (lily.e.dunn at gmail.com)

Supposedly, a slightly revised version of my 4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex article was reprinted in the newest edition of Relevant’s in-print magazine, though I haven’t actually seen it. But hey, somewhere my name is theoretically in print!

I’m  working on an article for Explore God  though I’m not sure in what capacity it will be used and I have a few guest posts set up for this fall. By the beginning of August I was beginning to hit a wall with writing, feeling drained and tired and stuck with the projects I was already working on, but I’m hopeful that the combination of time away and the coming fall weather will rejuvenate me.

What I’ve been up to:

Our grand adventure included 5 days visiting my family.

My family at our fancy dinner.

My family at our fancy dinner. Aren’t they really, really ridiculously good-looking?

Five days visiting Jonathan’s family, during which my best friend flew out to Ohio to see us.

best

I don’t always make this face… but when I do it’s because I’m with Christina.

And an amazing few days in Bali where we got to see some beautiful parts of this glorious world, stay in a gorgeous villa (that was cheaper than a Motel 6), drink coffee that was once civet cat poop, and also hold this monkey.

IMG_5517

Entrance to our villa. It was like being a queen.

 

Sunset at Tanah Lot

Sunset at Tanah Lot

IMG_5612

Just chllin’ like a villain with our boy Marcus. (I feel certain that’s his name).

We’ll be sure to get a full post with a lot more pictures up soon over at Two Sore Thumbs!