What’s on my bookshelves…and floor

So, when I moved back in with my parents, the amount of bookshelf space available became limited.  This meant that most of my books ended up in a storage unit (along with my dishes and dining room table and other odds and ends that aren’t needed when your parents have their own dishes and dining room table).  Still, I couldn’t part with all my books, so I came up with a  super creative way of dealing with my lack of space – I’ve stacked them on the floor.

Bookshelves Yes, that is a piggy bank you see. And yes, that is a Santa suit its wearing.  One of my friends and I have a joke about Santa Pig that came about one night driving around looking at Christmas lights. It makes no sense to anyone else and that’s okay, because I really love that dumb pig.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThe blue notebook that shares space on the Santa pig shelf there was my grandmother’s. It’s chock full of Bible study notes in her own scrawling hand, and it was gifted to me, the only granddaughter, when she passed a couple of years ago.  If there were ever a fire, that notebook and that black Bible, which belonged to my aunt, are what I would grab.

Also, how cute is that boy? The framed print was a bday gift from the BFF’s mom.

Also, that tube is doggie toothpaste because I care about Harley’s oral hygiene, like the good dog-mom that I am.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAShelf two is all my Jesus-y books.  Some are books I’ve had a long time (like the Handbook of Evangelical Theology, which was the text for the theology class I took when I was nineteen, and which I don’t think I’ve opened since).  Others are newer and have met me in places of questioning and brokenness – like anything Shauna Niequist or Lauren Winner have penned, and Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, and Anne Lamott’s Grace Eventually. These are the books I keep going back to when my faith starts to feel even just a little bit shaky.  I pick up these books and I ask the authors again to tell me about God and grace and hope, and why it all matters.

The mug of markers, with the tennis ball, is leftover from my days as a Sunday school teacher when I wrote notes on a white board, less for the students and more for myself because writing always helps me stay on track. The tennis ball I confiscated from one of the boys and never gave back – oops!

And the roll of film — who knows how old that is! I haven’t used a film camera since college, so I’m betting there’s some real gems on there.  To be developed soon.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThe fiction shelf, which is seriously so sad now.  But, my C.S. Lewis stays.  He and Flannery O’Connor always stay. (I haven’t read the dragon books, but I will.)

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAWelcome to my grad school shelf!  The psychologist part of my heart has a serious crush on the brilliant Mark McMinn, who teaches out of George Fox.  You will find on my shelf every single book and pamphlet the man has ever written, because I love him.  He gets grace, and he gets the place that it has to have in the relationship between counselor and client.  Also, I have chick crush on Mary Pipher.  She said in a letter to her grad student (in the purple book), “Being a therapist is less about making a living, and more about living my life.” And this makes more sense to me than anything I read in all my years in school.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAMost of my counseling/nerdy books have to be on the floor. Since I don’t need to get to them super often, it’s okay that books on termination sessions and how to conduct a good first interview with a client stay somewhere in the middle of a stack like this.  (Beautiful Boy is one of the best books I’ve ever read, as Sheff tells the story of his son’s addiction.  It’s so very human, and I like to think that even if I hadn’t read it for a class that it would’ve had the same impact.)

The owl was given to me by one of my girls when I graduated from my Master’s program, who had  been done with youth group for a couple of years and was youth leading alongside me at that time.  It’s a crocheted toilet paper cozy, which she made simply because she thought I would find it hilarious.  And I do.

The stack in the front with the Harry Potter books are books that I have borrowed from people and need to return.  Although, I should probably make it through books 5-7 before I do that or my friend Amy will disown me.  True story. Our friendship hangs in the balance.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAIf you move the need-to-be-returned books, you find more of my nerdy theology books.  I fell in love with Thomas Merton when I was in grad school, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer has my heart.  When I read “Life Together,” my world shifted in the best way.  Church, then, became for me about befriending people and listening and finding God in the lives we’re living side by side.


So, there it is – my bookshelves…and my floor.  I have tons of stories I could share about every book, where I got it from or how it met me in a place where I needed to hear a good story.  I think maybe that’s why I love books like I do – because they breed connection.

And if I borrowed a book, I promise I’ll get it back to you.   It’s in the stack.

*** I wrote this as a link-up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy, where other people are sharing what’s on their bookshelves.  It’s open for a few more days, so you bibliophile types should go share what’s on your bookshelves too.

What I’m Into – April 2013

HopefulLeigh_What I'm IntoAs I write this, I’m in Michigan, more than 600 miles from home.  I love Michigan for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of the people who’ve remained my friends even though I haven’t lived in this place in more than 5 years.  Getting together with them now is always sweet, and always fun, and always does good things for my heart. This month’s visit was extra special because my goddaughter was baptized, and when she came up out of the water her parents laid her in a towel in my arms, and I got to pronounce a blessing over her that she be someone who hears God throughout her life.  And I committed myself to this person, just two months old, and to helping her grow up in the church and in God.  And I committed to helping her parents parent well.

This visit, this month, this weekend, I have felt the weight of all of that.  This weekend is working its way into the deepest places of my heart, and I think maybe it’s helping me grow up too.


The Prayer of Owen Meaning – per the recommendation of my friend Leigh, whose been telling me I need to read this novel for two years.  It’s an awesome story of friendship and growth and faith, and I can’t say enough good things about it.  It’s long at over 600 pages, so it’s a commitment, but it’s one worth making:

“It’s a no-win argument – that business of what we’re born with and what our environment does to us. And it’s a boring argument, because it simples the mysteries that attend both our birth and our growth.”

My buddy Alise wrote a great piece at the start of the month about friendship (Why I Don’t Want Diverse Friends) and then capped off her month by speaking at a conference about friendship.  That she talks about friendship as much she does, and that she’s intentional about her friendships and why she’s making friends is exactly probably why we’re friends:

“But I want to be open to friends. Just…friends. The kind of friends who gets excited about the new season of Arrested Development. The kind of friends who can argue about feminism with me and then go for coffee. The kind of friends who stay up late at night quoting movie lines and sharing a bottle of wine. The kind of friends who know what pictures on Facebook will crack me up and is sure to tag me in them. The kind of friends who see what I’m not saying and don’t let me get away with that.

And if they’re gay or atheist or male, then that’s fine…”

Shauna Niequist, who I talk about so much it probably seems like she’s my friend and not simply an author whom I love, wrote about life around the table on Donald Miller’s Storyline blog this month. I’ve talked before about how I’m not much of a cook, but Shauna’s got me thinking about becoming one because…people and community and caretaking and Jesus:

“These are things I can’t change. Not one of them. Can’t fix, can’t heal, can’t put the broken pieces back together. But what I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present, to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That’s all any of us can do. That’s what we’re here for, the presence, the listening, the praying with and for on the days when it all falls apart, when life shatters in our hands.

The table is where we store up for those days, where we log minutes and hours building something durable and strong that gets tested in those terrible split seconds. And the table is where we return to stitch our hearts back together after the breaking.”

Rachel Held Evans wrote about why she doesn’t witness on airplanes. And all I can say is YES!:

“Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I drifted off the Romans Road and stumbled onto a bigger, wilder Gospel in which salvation is less about individual ‘sin management’ and more about God’s relentless work restoring, redeeming, and remaking the whole world.”

Addie Zierman wrote about going to a Chris Tomlin concert this month, and her experience echoes mine from February in so, so many ways:

“At the Chris Tomlin concert it’s late and I’m tired, and this is not the kind of concert I go to. But he starts singing an old hymn, and I’m singing too, and I feel it all the way through.

I am one of the broken and beloved, and I have been all this time looking for an anthem. And the one we are singing is grace.”

Jen Hatmaker wrote about knowing when to walk away – from relationships, churches, careers, friendships, expectations, roles, tasks, organizations, whatever.  She offers that we need to trust ourselves, pay attention to the red flags, and recognize there is bravery in walking away:

“Locked in a toxic relationship or career or ambition or community, the levels of unhealth and spiritual pollution can murder everything tender and Christlike in us, and a watching world is not always privy to those private kill shots. It can destroy our hope, optimism, gentleness. We can lose our heart and lose our way. And here is the key: we can pour an endless amount of energy into the chasm, and it will never matter.”

Sarah Bessey wrote a piece on the “theology of staying,” and this woman is speaking my language! I swear, I have said these same things to my closest friends over the last two years, and have even written my own blogs about why I made the choice to say.  Sarah, however, says it better than I ever could:

I used to live the Gospel beautifully in my own head; I thought about it all the time. But the radical act of staying put, the theology of place, the making of my own home, is teaching me–the over-thinker–that thinking isn’t quite the same thing as doing.  My intentions and beliefs and pontificating about community matters not one iota if I am not engaged in living out the reality of it.


Castle, Psych, and the Mindy Project.

My friend Beth and I went and saw 42, the movie about Jackie Robinson, because I love baseball and Beth loves me.  And it was so much better than I expected! Harrison Ford does a rockin’ job as the curmudgeon owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he proves to be as likeable as he’s ever been.  Also, the team dynamic among the Dodgers as Robinson joins the team is really interesting to see play out.  I have new found affections for Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.

42 movie poster


I’m officially obsessed with The Weepies.  How have I not heard of them until now?!

A good friend texted me lyrics to this Matt Redman song this week.  Because I know my friend and I know that when she heard this song and thought of me that she also prayed for me, this song is my new favorite.

Tattoos and all

His fingers intertwined with mine, he turned my wrist upward, so that my tattoo was facing him.  He traced it with his thumb and with a smirk on his lips and twinkle in his eye, he asked, “Why’d you get the pi symbol?”

Thank God for the smirk and the twinkle or I’d have hit him.  Because we’d talked about that tattoo on one of our first dates and we’d bonded over the meaning we found in the ink that colored our skin.  And he knew it bothered me when people mistook the Hebrew letter for a math symbol that means nothing to me.


My family was never big on tattoos and when I was in college and started joking about getting one, my dad, The Colonel, stipulated, “Not while you’re living in my house!” So, when I moved out and started grad school, I got my first tattoo.  It’s small, on my left wrist, covered by a Band-Aid when I walked out of the tattoo parlor. But, it’s an ichthys, and it stands for Jesus, and it reminds me in my darkest moments that the One who is Love loves me: Jesus, anointed, God, Son, Savior.  Sometimes I run my thumb over it while I’m praying; I can’t help it.


Tav tattooA couple of years later, the pastor of the small church delivered a sermon from Ezekiel, a real fire and brimstone type about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ that was, I think, supposed to fire us up to evangelize and pass out tracts and invite people to church.  But, when he talked about the men commanded to go out and “put a mark on the people” who were grieving for the sin of the people in Jerusalem, and he explained that the mark was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and that it really distinguished people who stood for truth and were “zealous for God,” I was fired up to get a new tattoo.

And so, that’s the tattoo on my right wrist, the one that looks like the pi symbol, but is really the Hebrew letter tav.  It marks me as zealous, as grieving for the broken world, as inspired to make a difference.  It reminds me that God’s heart breaks too, that He wants better for the world and for His people and for all people.  And let’s be honest, it touches on that part of my rebel’s heart that wants to walk with with God, but believes that fire and brimstone sermons and passing out tracts aren’t the steps He’s taking.

Instead, I think the steps He’s taking are the ones that draw us into a deeper knowledge of who He is.  And for me, this meant walking into a tattoo parlor with my college roommate, sitting in a chair, and having Bible study with the tattooist while she put the mark on my arm.



That’s the thing about my tattoos that I’m coming to appreciate now that I have them:  They’re giving me really organic ways to connect with people, like the tattoo artist and, say, the nice boy who holds my hand and also has tattoos.  And I get to talk about God in a non-aggressive, non-threatening way with people who may not know Jesus because, really, I’m just talking about my tattoos.

And so, maybe for the first time ever, I’m walking with God confident in Him and comfortable in my own skin.  Tattoos and all.


Note: The was written as a part of a synchroblog at A Deeper Story, where other cool people with cool tattoos are sharing their stories. Make sure you check it out!

What I’m Into – January 2013

HopefulLeigh_What I'm IntoExcuse me, but how is it already the end of January?  One month down in 2013, and I feel stuck in the mire.  My head is still so foggy and confused by the transition that came to me at the end of last year, 2013 is already teaching me to be kinder to myself.  I suppose you can say that’s what I’ve been into this month when it all boils down: self-care.

Again, I’m joining up with my friend Leigh for her monthly What I’m Into lovefest, which means I can break down all this self-care into neat little categories.


Shamelessly, I’ve been reading the Nikki Heat novels made famous in the TV show Castle.  While not great literature, they’re fun, quick reads.  And my guess is that if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll be a fan of the books.

Also, because my brain feels like it needs a little exercise, I’ve started reading the Blackabys’ Spiritual Leadership and Mark Noll’s Scandel of the Evangelical Mind. Both of which are helping me answer a bunch of questions rolling around my head about how church works…or should work…or why it isn’t working…or something like that.  (I told you: foggy and confused.)

In the blogosphere, I’ve found a kindred spirit in Shauna Niequist this month.  She’s wrote a great piece about coming back to Prayer, Rest, and Self-Care and another about how committed she is to living at an Anti-Frantic pace.


Shamelessly, I’m watching the Bachelor again.  My friend Amy and I have decided that my lackluster love-life is a direct result of my not being crazy.  Because according to cultural norms evidenced on the Bachelor, if you want to win a guy’s affections you have to be cuckoo-bananas with a side of wackadoo. And it doesn’t hurt if you’re catty, self-destructive, and cool with hanging out in a bikini. Awesome.

Also, the season finale of Parenthood was so good!  It was probably a mistake to watch it at the gym though, because crying in public is just so unbecoming.


Great band covering great hymns: Sojourn, Before the Throne.

Also, lots of Imagine Dragons. How does this song not get stuck in your head?


I’m working out even more this month, and I’m starting to notice the payoffs. I’m just about at the half-way point to my healthy goal-weight. And I can almost lift the 42 lb kayak over my head without assistance.  Bring on Spring!

What I’m Into – December, 2012

HopefulLeigh_What I'm Into

Dude, what a month December has been.  I’ve been so busy revamping my life that I haven’t had much time for books or TV or movies.  Revamping my life is what I’ve been into in December, because I refuse to go into the New Year weary and ragged.

And though I haven’t had a ton of time for movies or books or TV, it’s not going to stop me from linking up with my buddy Leigh for this month’s “What I’m Into” sharefest.   So…


I’m still working my way through all things Ann Rinaldi, this month taking down “Time Enough for Drums.”  Another great one about the Revolutionary War and about finding love (romance, friendship, and family) in chaos.

And for Christmas, my aunt got me a couple of books on kayaking.  She says she wants me to be prepared before I put my boat in the water, but I got distracted by the discovery that you can build your own wooden kayak. One day, my friends, you’ll see that that in the “doing” section of a warm-weather “What I’m Into” post.


With all the Christmas specials on TV this month, I haven’t been watching much.  Admittedly, my Castle obsession has only gotten worse and I’ve been back-tracking to catch the episodes from early seasons that I’ve missed.

At the beginning of the month, in those late night hours that are really very early morning, I got sucked into a documentary on MTV called Catfish and have subsequently been watching Catfish: the TV Show.  It’s about people who meet and fall in love online, and the train wrecks that happen when they meet in real life and one of the people isn’t who they presented themselves to be on Facebook.  (I take solace in the fact that my guilty pleasure is not Teen Mom.)

And for the first time in many moons, I went to the theater, dropped $10 on a ticket, and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Since I read the book in 6th grade and pretty much think Tolkein is the most boring writer in the history of the world, I was glad not to have remembered much of the plot when I saw the film.  I could actually enjoy it and enjoy it I did – minus the Orcs; they’re just creepy.


Awesome finds on Noisetrade again this month.  JJ Heller released a sampler of 8 of her songs, 3 of which are new songs to be found on her March 2013 release called “Loved.”  And if these 3 songs are any indication, it’s going to be a good one!  Also, for a short while, Donald Miller shared his audiobook Through Painted Deserts, which recounts his experience of roadtripping from Texas to Oregon with his buddy Paul in a beater Volkswagon van. It should shock no one that his story of friendship and self-discovery resonated with me.


I joined a gym and started working out with a trainer last month, so I’ve been working out regularly, eating smarter, and generally having a good time getting healthy.   In this vain, I’ve started training for a half-marathon and running more than I ever have in my life.  And I’m seriously considering giving the Warrior Dash a go with my uncle and my cousin in May, but given the amount of mud involved, I’m less excited about that idea.  I like being clean so very much.

So, poll time:  to be a warrior or not? And what’s your favorite workout music?

What I’m Into – November, 2012

HopefulLeigh_What I'm IntoNovember was time for family, both of blood and of choice.  I spent a lot of time on the road too, listening to podcasts and reading novels I haven’t had time for until now.  As such, it’s the perfect time for me to jump on board my blogger friend Leigh’s  What I’m Into link up.   Leigh regularly posts about the things she’s into, and because of it I’ve been introduced to new bands (The Avett Brothers) and new books (too many to name) and have found someone to chat with about the goings-on in the TV world of the Bravermans (NBC’s Parenthood).

What I’m Into has been a cool way to connect with someone over a shared love of music and movies and books and writing and a plethora of other things.  And since I’m all about anything that connects people to one another, I’m all about playing along and hoping that you guys also find yourselves connecting.

Now…let’s have some fun:


When my family was sorting through my aunt’s worldly possessions after her death earlier this year, I was allowed first crack at her books.  It was like mining for gold. She was a language arts teacher for older elementary school (4th -6th grades), and she collected classic, well-told stories. As such, I was introduced to the historical novels of Ann Rinaldi, and I have been devouring them since March.  I read 3 this month:  Juliet’s Moon, An Acquaintance with Darkness, and Or Give Me DeathOr Give Me Death is about Patrick Henry’s family, and told from the perspective of his daughter, gives the account of how they survived his absence at the beginning of the Revolution while their crazy mother was locked in the basement.  (And let’s not kid ourselves, the psychology of the family dynamic, though fictional, was fascinating to my psychologist self).

What’s been the coolest part of the Rinaldi novels is that it has given my friend Amy and I something really nerdy to talk about.  I mean, we’ve camped out in her living room for hours, her baby taking turns sleeping on our chests, dissecting the nuances of these novels.  (Okay, so we spent more time cooing and watching the baby, but still…when I finished Juliet’s Moon and was baffled by the weirdness of it, Amy was my go-to. And I will always love her for that.)

My Tuesday Night Bible Study girls and I have been reading Christine Caine’s Undaunted, and I recommend it if you want to be blown away by the story of woman who has experienced the worst that life has to offer and has maintained a deep faith that God is good and is in the business of changing the world for the better.  It’s challenging to say the least. And if nothing else, she will definitely open your eyes to the tragedy of human sex-trafficking that is plaguing the women of the world right now.

And I’ve been obsessed with Addie Zierman’s blog, How to Talk Evangelical. She wrote a great piece yesterday about “Church home,” and her story is so similar to my own that it’s a little bit scary. I finished and I sent her a tweet, but what I really want is to sit down with her and have a cup of coffee, coming together as two women who love Jesus and the church and have a lot to say about both.


I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’ve been on a bit of an ABC’s Castle bender lately.  Probably because it’s been syndicated and every Wednesday is a marathon on TNT.  And probably because the main character is a writer, who’s quick with the puns and the snark, and something in that appeals to me.  I can’t possibly imagine why.

As I have been for the last two seasons, I’m hopelessly hooked on NBC’s Parenthood.  I’m not proud to admit this, but I actually rush home from Bible study to catch up on what’s happening with the Bravermans.  It’s the greatest combination of sentimental and hilarious, and I find myself hysterical with laughter and tears by the end of every episode.

But, my absolute favorite show as of late is NBC’s Go On.  Matthew Perry returns to sitcom TV as Ryan King, a widower who finds himself in a support group for people who are grieving.  And while it doesn’t sound like it would be, it is hands down the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV since Perry and Friends went off the air in 2004.


This is the part where I give you a list and let the music and the artists speak for themselves:  Audrey Assad (always!), The Lumineers, and Page CXVI.

I’ve also been keeping regular tabs on Noisetrade because they are offering (for free!) a boatload of really great Christmas albums: Sleeping at Last, Over the Rhine, Fiction Family, Sufjan Stevens, and a great sampler called Fireside Songs that features the music of JJ Heller, Katie Herzig, Ben Rector and other really great singer/songwriters.

Also, one of my favorites, Shauna Niequist, delivered a message a Willow Creek Church earlier this month called Iron Sharpens Iron from Proverbs 27:17 that highlights the beauty of trust and truth-telling in friendships – “The idea is that the people we live with are changing and shaping us, making us better, making us more like Christ.”   I swear I’ve listened to the podcast four times already.


After a season of really intense care-taking for other people, I have decided to take up a hobby: kayaking.  And without even putting the boat in the water yet, I am obsessed.

For Christmas, my parents bought me an Emotion Glide 9.8 ft lime green, one-person kayak.  We pick it up from REI on Monday.

And the thought of being able to grab the boat and an oar and ignore my cell phone and be on the water makes me, probably for the first time ever, wishing winter would pass and spring would come, like, next Tuesday.

So now, you tell me: what are you into?  And if you happen to be into kayaking, please tell me what your must-have item is that isn’t the boat or the oar.  

Saving Me

She sat in the front seat of my Vibe, angry and fuming after a break up with a boy who didn’t treat her kindly.  We were on our way to a girls’ night, so there wasn’t much time to delve into all of the details, but I knew enough to share with her from my heart about my own experience after breaking up with a boy who didn’t treat me kindly.

Two years later and she’s moved away and isn’t riding in the Vibe, but we’re still emailing about who we’re dating. Now the conversations are different.  Maybe because we’re both older, maybe because the guys we’re seeing now treat us more than kindly, maybe because we’ve experienced God’s faithfulness in our brokenness.  Whatever the reason, our emails inevitably shift from boys and dating, to being open in those relationships, to being open in our personal relationships with God.  That this is the pattern we find ourselves in makes my heart fill up with love for her and for our friendship and for God.  And today, that’s saving me.


She’s 19, she’s in college, and she’s so one of “my girls.”  She hasn’t sat in my Sunday school class or across from me at Starbucks in more than a year, and most of our contact these days happens over Facebook.  But, I’m still so proud of her, as if I were still involved in the day-to-day way that she lives her life.  She works hard in her classes, and takes her studies seriously.  She’s thoughtful about the kind of artist and person she wants to be in the world.  She and her boyfriend model a healthy, God-centered relationship.  And even though she has deeply invested relationships with other people, her relationship with Jesus is the most important.  And that reality bleeds through every post and text and email.

That I got to walk with her through her last two years of high school, that I got to sit with her and share coffees and pastries and real conversations, that I was invited into the deepest hurts of her life and allowed to help her figure out how to handle them with the love of Christ is a gift from God himself.

That she is not the only young woman who trusts me with her hurts, and wants me to celebrate her joys, and who thinks I’m cool enough to hang out with even though I try to stick to a ten o’clock bedtime is an overwhelming blessing.

Today, the emails I exchanged with one are filling me up with love not only for her but for the others.

Today, love for them is pointing me toward Love Himself.

And today, Love is saving me.

This post was written as part of Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog, “What’s Saving You Today.”  That’s fancy blogging lingo that basically means a bunch of brave, honest people are writing about the same topic.  Join the fun!