Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Off My Bookshelf: "Braving the Wilderness" by Brene Brown

I finished listening to Brene Brown’s newest book, “Braving the Wilderness,” while traveling this weekend. I think I need to read it about ten more times to really let it sink into my brain and heart.

It’s interesting that I have been thinking a lot about belonging lately, about how nice it is when I enter the local yarn shop, River Wools, and the owner looks up and says, “hey, Beth,” or when I go to Wise Pies and they know my usual order. There is something so good about feeling like you belong somewhere.

What I realize from reading Brown’s book is that because I️ feel that connection I am able to live in community with people who are very different than me in other areas. Because I have moved in, moved closer to people, I am known and they are known. Now their differences don’t make us enemies. They are my friends, and make me a better person.

I can brave the wilderness of not thinking exactly like others around me because now I can see them as a person. I know their children names, their dog's breed. I like the same books, movies, etc. We have the same hobbies. I don’t have to be exactly like a person to feel a sense of belonging and friendship. Its important, in our society, to move beyond those like us and get closer to those unlike us.

Brown writes:
“True belonging is a spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find a sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”

“True belonging doesn’t require that you change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.”

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Off My Needles: 30 HATS!

I knit 30 hats in the past five weeks! My arms and shoulders were sore, but my heart was happy because I was doing what makes me the most happy. Knitting.

My friend had a table at a craft bazaar and invited me to use half of it. And I said, "YES". It was one of the scariest things I've done. I said yes to a dream. And then I got busy and knit, and knit, and knit.

The hats were soft and beautiful.I was so proud of them, but also scared that no one would like them. But I worried in vain because several people admired my work and commented on how beautiful they were. The crowd was small and mostly not the type of people who wore hats. So I only sold six.

Even though I didn't make enough money at the bazaar to cover the cost of all the yarn and pompoms, I had a blast fulfilling my dream. And I'm not one bit sorry that I have a bunch of hats to figure out what to do with or that I didn't make a boat-load of money. Why? Because I said yes to something big and scary. I said yes to a dream.

Here's what I learned. Saying yes is scary. But doing the work is life-giving. Success is found in the doing, not in the result. And now I am ready do say yes to the next dream, and it doesn't seem so frightening to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Off my Bookshelf: The Little French Bistro

This week's read was "The Little French Bistro" by Nina George. It is the story of Marianne Messman's  existential crisis that leads her to the tiny coastal town of Kerdruc, Brittany where she meets an unusual group of residents who help her to transform into her true identity because of the belief they have in her. Along the way, Marianne is transformed, as are the people of the town. Marianne learns that sometimes it takes suffering, rescue, and a different perspective to discover who we really are and that there are dreams we've either forgotten or given up on that are waiting to be revived. And sometimes it takes courage to believe we can be who we are in the depths of our souls.
Some books are so poetic that the words slow you down and whisper their way into your heart. Nina George's writing is exactly like that. Here are some of quotes that I highlighted:

"Didn't they say that beauty was a state of soul? And if her soul was loved, a woman would be transformed into a wondrous creature, however ordinary her looks. Love changed a woman's soul, and she became beautiful, for a few minutes or forever."

"A young woman's beauty makes up for her lack of intelligence; and old woman's intelligence makes up for her lack of beauty."

"Learn to love it, son. Learn to love what you do, whatever it is, and you won't have any problems. You'll suffer, but then you'll feel, and when you feel, you're alive. You need troubles to be alive - otherwise you're dead!"  

"As long as you can walk upright, you will find a walking stick. As long as you are brave, someone will help you."

"And it (life) began when you first took a risk, failed and realized that you'd survived the failure. With that knowledge, you could risk anything." 

 "One always has to consider the individual. For every person is an individual, and everyone has individual, unique reasons. And every individual counts."


Monday, October 23, 2017

Off My Bookshelf: Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is my latest read. The book is a Pulizer Prise in Letters: Fiction finalist, and rightly so because it is beautifully written.

Snow Child is the story of Jack and Mabel, a childless, middle-aged couple, who moved to the harsh 1920's Alaskan wilderness to farm, escape their sad past and begin anew. When a mysterious child, Faina, appears one winter, the couple creates a special bond with this strange child as she comes and goes from their life. The story is woven together with moments of joy, sadness, grief, and magic - a fairy tale for adults.

Here are three of my favorite quotes from the book:
"You did not have to understand miracles to believe in them, and in fact Mabel had come to suspect the opposite. To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers." -page 204
"In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees." -page 251
"We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That's where the adventure is. Not knowing where you'll end up or how you'l fare. It's all a mystery, and when we say any different, we're just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?" -page 258

Monday, October 16, 2017

Off My Bookshelf: "The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Johanna Gaines


My daughters and I made a quick girl's trip to Arlington, Virginia over the weekend for a cousin's wedding. The outdoor wedding was magical. Lights were strung from tree to tree lighting the darkening yard. Red and yellow leaves clung to the trees, providing all the decorations needed. The bride glowed. There was a lot of laughter and joy. It was a beautiful celebration.
The drive took us ten hours there and ten back, providing plenty of time to listen to the audio book "The Magnolia Story" by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino. I've watched a few seasons of Chip and Joanna's show, Fixer Upper. (I was late to the game and just discovered it recently.) I, like everyone I talk to, love Joanna's design style and Chip's antics. I especially appreciate the way Chip and Joanna interact and work together. When I found out they narrated teh book I knew I wanted to listen to it instead of reading it. I wasn't disappointed, and laughed my way back to Indiana. Their story is one of love thriving through hard work, difficult times and building a business together. Their differences have made each other stronger, brought out the best in each other. I admire their courage, energy and commitment.
....And now I want to redecorate.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Off My Bookshelf: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This week I finished the memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance, a book about growing up the descendant of Appalachian grandparents who relocated to southern Ohio only to find poverty and dysfunction followed them. Living in the Midwest, I live around many people like J.D.'s family. Drugs, poverty, child neglect, lack of higher education, lack of well paying job opportunities and hopelessness are all issues my own city and county deal with regularly. I was glad to be able to view these problems from an insider's perspective. It gave me more empathy toward my neighbors and their children. Like Mr. Vance, I don't see simple answers for these problems, but that doesn't mean we can't work to find some solutions. I encourage you to read "Hillbilly Elegy" to try to understand the problems lower to middle-class midwest citizens face in our country.

Here are two quotes from the book that I highlighted,

"As a teacher at my old high school told me recently, 'They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.'" -page 138

"I don't believe in transformative moments, as transformation is harder than a moment."  -page 189 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Where Is My Focus?

When I took this picture I was just snapping away. It wasn't until later that I realized my phone decided to focus on the leaves and rain drops in the background. But I actually like it better because I find the greens to be brilliant and the rain drops striking.

Sometimes what's hiding in the background deserves our attention the most.

I'm learning that I've spent too much time focusing on the wrong things. I should have been asking,

"Who is hurting?"
"What needs do they have?"
"How can I help?"

 Instead I focused on myself. I looked out at the world and asked,

 "Do you like me?"
"Do you want to be my friend?"
"Am I good enough?" 

And then I judged myself as insufficient- not beautiful enough, strong enough, smart enough, well-spoken enough- and the list goes on and on. But honestly over the years I come to realize that the people I meet don't care what I look like. They just want to know if I see them, really see them.

Over the past few years, because of circumstances in my life, I haven't been serving at my church the way I always had before. And I've felt guilty even though I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be, even though the time I freed up from church service was used to minister in different ways, and even though I've grown closer to God than ever before. I was focusing on what I imagined others expected of me, and not on how God wanted to use me.  What I've found is that God is opening my eyes to people and situations I never had the time to pay attention to before. It's liberating to see that I can be used by God in new and exciting ways.

So what's in the background that you need to be focusing on?