Yesterday I stood at the coffee machine. I ground the beans for our double shots, let the machine groan as it poured them into our favourite cups as I thought absentmindedly about the Psalm I’d read and write through; I wonder how God is going to speak to me today. It struck me suddenly and with full force. I know God. And He is waiting to speak. I realised that this daily communion with God is no small thing, yet its a thing that is so accessible to us, so readily available. I imagined Him, leaning forward, his elbows resting on His knees, waiting for me to pick up my Bible—the inspired Word—and meet Him.
And then there’s the coincidence of today’s Psalm, Psalm 22. I hadn’t planned in advance to read particular Psalms on particular days. But of course, God knew… another divine ‘coincidence’ that makes me laugh and gives me goosebumps all at once. This chapter’s opening refrain are the words Jesus echoed on the cross, “God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?” The cross that we celebrate this weekend. The cross that hasn’t changed, even though the world has changed too much, too fast.
The next verse, “Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night? I can’t stop sobbing. Where are you my God?”
The entire Psalm prophecies Jesus’ death on the cross, and the victory after. The last line holds more words echoed by Jesus, his very last, as He hung there, waiting to die: It is finished.
This is why the Word became flesh, why Jesus became this living expression of the Word. He was the Word of God, but with legs to walk towards humanity, with arms to reach out to draw us in. When we feel like God is far from us, we can reach for our Bibles and find that He hasn’t gone anywhere. Because we know what it is to sob and ask, ‘God, why aren’t you listening? God, where are you?’ when our lives are messy, and our prayers don’t ‘work’ and we could die of loneliness and old wounds don’t heal. But the Word became flesh and reached out although we’re the poor and the broken, we’re invited to eat until we’re satisfied. (Psalm 22:26) The Word became flesh and drew us to the Father, and He ascended but left us His Spirit— and it all sounds crazy but I’m convinced. I’m convinced because He shows up in burning bush moments of white linen sheets hanging on the line, and a moon hanging large in a dark morning sky. I’m convinced because when I pray coincidences happen, and when I seek Him in the ancient text He invades my modern life.
And in this waiting space, this thin space where all of us hold our breath, I know that joy comes in the morning, and that He was here all along.
I hadn’t ever used fabric softener until about a year ago. I discovered it was the reason behind a friend’s clothes, that always smelled so good. And I love smells. I light double wick candles that crackle and send the warm aroma of patchouli and sandalwood into the room. I drip peppermint and bergamot essential oil into diffusers. I spray little concoctions of witch hazel and lavender over our pillows before bed. The smell of fresh baked sourdough makes me giddy, and the scent of a new book, or the Eucalyptus on a dewy morning. Scent makes the world come alive.
So, I splurged on that 900ml bottle of sweet-smelling fabric softener, and each time I carry a basket of wet laundry to the washing line I breathe in deep at it’s goodness.
Sometimes when I walk outside and the breeze is blowing the drying laundry, I catch it’s scent for a moment and it makes me smile.
Today I washed our sheets. I walked through the tunnel made by them hanging in the morning sunshine, and breathed in deeply, enveloped in the white linen, smiling like a madwoman who hasn’t left the house much lately. And you know, God has burning bushes anywhere we’re curious enough to look at a more closely, and today that bush was my white sheets drying in the sunshine.
And maybe it was because it’s Good Friday, and the thoughts of the day were lingering in my mind, but the words to that old hymn came to mind as I moved my way through the sheets, and pegged down their corners; what can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus… oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow… And I stopped, smelling the vanilla and coconut, reminded that even my best efforts of goodness will never be good enough, but Jesus will always be, and the white of the sheets was stark.
And today of course I’m reading Psalm 21 and while it is maybe about an earthly king, I look past that and see the King that went willingly to the cross. I see the One who laid down the royal crown of gold (Psalm 21:3) and let his glory garments be stripped from Him, baring it all for all of us, and all of our imperfections.
And this, from Sacred Rhythms by Christine Sine, on suffering; “… God uses it to bring us to a recognition of our own brokenness. We can’t find true health and wholeness unless we suffer pain and admit we need the healing and redemption Christ offers…”
So tonight, after a day of sunshine, and a wash in the ocean, I’m climbing into white sun-dried sheets that smell like vanilla, and I’m letting the suffering of this Friday sink in. I’m letting the weight of an upside down world feel heavy without trying to move on too quickly. I’m remembering that it’s okay to cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ and sit here in darkness and loneliness for a moment. Because if the Psalms are teaching me anything these days, it’s that it’s okay to sit with emotion, and to not rush to quickly from it’s grasp. We can sit at the foot of the cross, and cry for the people we miss, for the lack, for the missing, for the broken and for the unanswered in our lives. We can let the melancholy settle in our bones, as people of the Cross. And as those people, in the shroud of darkness of Good Friday, we can still carry embers of hope. Hope that the partial will be complete. Hope that the lack will be fulfilled. Hope that the broken will be redeemed. Hope that Sunday will come.
We’ve had this album and this album on repeat for weeks. We’re all singing it under our breath, or out loud.
The shower is my singing place. Our house is small, and we share a tiny bathroom with the five of us, and I’m sure my family laughs as they hear my voice rising from it’s echos. My imperfections and my tunes off-key and my made-up lyrics. Sometimes that nightly shower is the first time since the morning quiet that I’ve been able to stop. The place where, finally, I don’t have an audience of children, and I don’t have to hold it together. The mask falls with that hot water, and that which I’ve held in can be released. It’s a private place to cry. When the tears turn to praises and the turmoil turns to trust, and it all happens in the shower, as the praise rises with the steam and the tears rise with them because I know He hears and bottles each one. And there is a synchronicity that comes in the midst of doing both. Because He promises supernatural help, and as we sing in the midst of the battle, that deliverance comes. My natural isn’t enough. In fact my natural often makes a mess of things, but as this Psalm promises, by His mighty hand miracles will manifest through his saving strength.
Do we really know His saving strength? What do you do when it falls apart? Do we sing a song of trust? A trust that God will give you every desire of your heart and carry out your every plan as you go to battle. It’s right there in this Psalm. It’s a promise. Whatever battle we’re facing, He’ll bring victory. And sometimes the weapon we need to pick up is our song. Singing, for me, is a vulnerability. It’s one thing to hide my voice in a sea of them, but when it’s my voice alone standing up, reaching out without even an echo—that feels risky. But in those battle seasons I’m learning to voice my prayers, my sorries, my thoughts, even if they’re met at first with silence. Even if the shower is the only place I have to cry. Even when the lyrics don’t rise to my lips in victory, I know that as I sing, as I speak, as I share, as I fill the silence, that the victory comes. As King David sang this Psalm, His song of trust, I’ll sing too:
May we find connection in our isolation. May He remember us as He paints the moon, and let us see Him in the dancing sunshine through our kitchen windows. May he quieten us in our frazzled and worried doing, and busy trying. May we know the God who fights for us, and feel the courage of that knowing settle in our bones, so we don’t rush frantic to fix what only He can. May we see the manifestation of miracles, however small, in our every day.
It’s dark, because summer has slipped away. Even the birds are quiet still. Daniel is up first with his alarm, but I don’t hear him until I’m jolted from a dream by my body clock, and hear the clink of his spoon and bowl in the kitchen. Already I know that he’s dressed, and eating porridge. The next sound I’ll hear is the coffee machine growl to life.
I squint at the time. 5:44. I can’t keep my eyes open yet so I close them and roll over to a cool part of my pillow. He grinds and pours one shot, then the second, and I know he’s using our favourite mugs. He’ll put a lid on his to take with him when he leaves. I think vaguely that I hope the coffee machine doesn’t wake the kids, but there’s no noise from the bedrooms.
I pull myself up to sitting, and flick on the bedside lamp. I lean over to pull open the blinds too, even though it’s too dark to see anything outside. My Bible is open on my knees when he brings in the coffee to set on the bedside table, but I’m scrolling Facebook now. A goodbye kiss, the click of the front door, his car starting and the garage door lifting. I’m reading a New York Times article about Wuhan on my phone, Psalm 19 is waiting.
Then a text from Daniel, “Go look at the moon.” I hesitate, the bed is warm and maybe I can see it from the window? “It’s at the end of the street” comes another text. I tiptoe past the cat flayed in the kitchen doorway and out onto dewy lawn. There’s the moon, setting at the end of the street, and ginormous. Beautiful. There’s me in my undies in the darkness, staring at the lightening sky and luminescent moon.
Then, back to the still-warm spot in my sheets, and the still-open Bible I begin to read my next Psalm. Nineteen. God’s Story in the Skies God’s splendor is a tale that is told; his testament is written in the stars. Space itself speaks his story every day through the marvels of the heavens. His truth is on tour in the starry vault of the sky, showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship. Each day gushes out its message to the next, night with night whispering its knowledge to all.
Suddenly I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge of this God who sees me. He’d painted that giant moon there just for me, because He knew I’d stand there in awe, and minutes later I’d read about Him speaking through the skies. He spoke through the moon, through the cold dew on the grass, through the streaks of pink in the cloud, straight to my heart; a reminder of his sheer magnitude, yet this personal painting of the skies, just for me.
I felt it in my chest, this inexplicable knowledge that God orchestrates my days, my hours and minutes. That nothing is a surprise to Him, nothing is missed by Him—and that He’s there, painting the skies just waiting for me to tiptoe out, lift my eyes and read His story.
“The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.”
In the church communities I’ve been a part of, Lent isn’t something that is observed or taught. I discovered it only a handful of years ago after coming across Alicia Britt Chole on Instagram, and the book she wrote; 40 Days of Decrease. I’ve picked it up each year since, for Lent—enjoying the sacredness of this long-held practice from other Christian traditions—using it as a framework of setting aside this period of time to journey towards the Cross. Towards Easter. In the slow, and often painful walk toward the joy of Sunday. Each day of the forty, Dr Chole encourages a different kind of fast: today, fast regret, or today, fast rationalism.
This year I’m learning to daily fast perfectionism. I’ve laid down my ideals of ‘getting it right’, of ‘doing it properly’ and in all of it finding a God who gives so much more grace than I have ever been able to give myself.
What a God you are! Your path for me has been perfect! All your promises have proven true. What a secure shelter for all those who turn to hide themselves in you! You’re the wrap-around God giving grace to me. Ps 18:30
That word used in this verse is ‘shield’ and in the Hebrew literally means ‘to wrap around in protection’. God Himself is our protection. And grace is a shield.
Grace shields me from the shame of not getting it right. Grace protects me from the fear of not being good enough. Grace covers me with the reassurance that God stretches heaven’s curtain open and comes to my defense (18:9), that He will reach down into my darkness to rescue me (18:16) that His love broke open the way, and he brings me into a a beautiful broad place (18:19).
My girls have favourite blankets, and now that the weather is cooling, these blankets are wrapped tightly around their shoulders throughout the day. They can’t do much with their hands when their arms are swaddled within the thick layers, but they forgo those things to be wrapped in warmth and comfort. Grace, wrap-around grace, is just like this. A thick, warm layer of it that enfolds us. All the parts of us. So the parts that feel like they need to do more, or be more are simply stilled by that enfolding, encompassing grace.
And this is a comfort in this season. Because the general rhetoric is loudly saying we should use this time of isolation to do more, to be more; to get better and fitter and launch online businesses and grow followings and online gatherings and to leap lightly and easily into our new pivoted lives and truthfully? All of it leaves me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. I can’t keep up with the Zoom calls, and I don’t want to sit in front of a screen any more than what is a necessity and for the first time ever I’m craving a normal, everyday phone call so I don’t have to have perfect hair. So when I read Psalm 18 in the still-dark morning today I took a great big exhale of relief that even the tree branches swayed beyond my windows.
I’m not fighting the wrapping up of all of the parts of me. I’ll sit here, perched high and out of reach (18:48), far from the grasp of shame or performance or striving. What would happen if we just let grace wrap us up tight? What if we let Him lead us into that beautiful broad place? It’s right here that there’s room for everyone. Here, the table is wide and there’s a blanket of grace to wrap around each of us, even if our hair is dirty and our skin is blemished.
So today, grace is a shield, protecting me from the lie of perfection, and ushering me into a place of beauty, vulnerability and gratitude for who I am, and who God is to me. I’m wrapping it around me like my favourite blanket, and it’s holding my arms close and I sigh with relief as it envelopes me. As He envelopes me. There’s no need for perfect here.
What do you need the shield of God’s wrap-around grace to cover and protect you from today?
April is here. It’s cooler, and the afternoon sun is milder. I’m making breads and soups and I’ve pulled out the wooly throws for the couch to tuck my feet under. The suddenly crisp mornings have me reaching for knits and socks that have been tucked away since last year. The sun takes longer to rise, and my first sip of coffee is had in the grey dark, with my bedside lamp as the only illumination. That, and the Word of God. The Psalms have been lighting my path these days. I’m suddenly carrying a lot of emotion. We all are. We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a continuing outward crisis. Our lives have changed—our kids are home, we’ve lost jobs and holidays and the ability to visit family and friends. Our communities of faith are online, and our worship is hands outstretched awkwardly in our living rooms, a chorus of voices missing. And it’s a lot. It’s a lot to carry, and we’re carrying it and moving forward and teaching our kids, and cleaning our homes and working remotely, and amen-ing to sermons from our laptops. I’m here knuckles-deep in bread dough and unrolling a yoga mat and finding ways to ground my heels into a ground that’s shifting.
And in this rocking, surging uncertainty, the Psalms are steadying and sure. Their writers show us how to ride the highs and lows of tides of emotions, and reveal a God that is constant in the midst. You will answer me God, I know you always will. (Psalm 17:6) You’ll answer me when I’m overwhelmed by a uni assignment. You’ll answer me when I’m missing my friend. You’ll answer me when I brace myself to glance at our bank account. Protect me from harm; keep an eye on me like you would a child reflected in the twinkling of your eye. Yes, hide me within the shelter of your embrace, under your outstretched wings. (Psalm 17:8) This comfort, to know as we carry weight, and carry on that His eye is on us. You will answer me God, I know you always will. Maybe not in this moment when I ask, maybe not tomorrow. But we’re held in the twinkle of His eye; He sees and hears and knows and there’s the embrace to wrap us in when it’s all too much, and we can hide right there for as long as we need. So we plod towards Good Friday, our Lenten journeys near the end and the palms of Sunday trampled and losing their green. The mild April sun casting its glow, and our glowing souls in the knowing that the King still comes in the midst of uncertainty: you will answer me God, I know you always will.
* Committing to sharing my journaled thoughts here each day this week, and writing that here for accountability.
I just read my February booklist. I felt nostalgia for the Em of February who didn’t know that within a few weeks the global Coronavirus pandemic would close the libraries she works in, leaving her jobless for the moment, and sad. She didn’t know her kids would be learning online from home, that laying on the lawn in the back yard with two of her besties would be the last real hangout with any of her friends in a long time… It’s almost inconceivable, how much the world has changed. I’m so thankful for reading. We can read anywhere, any time. And now seems like a great time to let you know that with your Australian library card, you can sign up to loan e-resources like ebooks and audio books and it is the best. I love the audiobook life: long drives, tedious housework, crochet… it can all be done while reading (well listening to a book being read to you!). My kids love them too. Head to sites like https://www.borrowbox.com/ or download an app like Libby and then sign in with your library card. Your local library will still have some staff there, even though they’re not open to the public, so they can help you over the phone if you need it.
Anyway. 2020 is turning into a pretty read-y year. Here’s my March reads wrapped up and reviewed:
The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner Another historical fiction novel read for the year, set in Poland during World War II. It’s about a mother and daughter hiding in a barn, and what happens to each of them when Rosa decides that her young daughter Shira would be safer hidden within a convent. I loved the concept, and it was different to many of the novels I’ve read set in the same era. It didn’t keep me as captive as I’d expected; I wasn’t as immersed or engrossed as I’d hoped, and I think the musical element was a bit lost on me.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman This. I fell in love with Nina Hill, and claim her as my very own fictional bestie. She is smart and sassy and works in a book shop in LA… but also deals with crippling anxiety, and builds walls to keep people out. This novel was so sweet, full of witty cultural and literary references, and her cat Phil made me laugh out loud numerous times. It was just such a fun, beautiful read with a cast of loveable characters. Contemporary lit for the win!
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister This was so different, and I’m glad I went in with no expectations! I don’t usually love magical realism, especially when it’s set in modern day, but somehow this story was woven so well. Emmeline lives on a remote island with her father. We don’t know why they’re there, but it’s all she can remember. He keeps a wall of bottles—scents captured inside—and the mystery surrounding them, the secrets of their past, is what propels the story forward. I loved the second part of the story, as Emmeline grows up, and the people she begins to be surrounded by but the ending #facepalm. It wrapped up too quick, and almost felt like a completely different book!
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold I listened to this one on BorrowBox, on a recommendation from one of my colleagues. It was so interesting, and not what I expected at all. Rather than being at all about Jack the Ripper, it focused in on the Victorian era itself, the way families lived, and the difficulties they faced in England during that period. It was the era that produced writers from the likes of Charles Dickens, and George Eliot, and it completely makes the late 1800’s come alive—with it’s work houses and scarlet fever … this book served to bring Victorian England alive, and gave voice to the women and their families who lived there.
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel “This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decision on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands. Who trusts you to know what’sgood and right and then to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up – if with your incomplete contradictory information you make the wrong call – nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.” Frankel’s writing is magic, the way she captures the universal struggles and hesitations and worries of parents is incredible. The best part is that we get to know each of the five children, the parents and their love stories, their failures and faults and they’re all so real. As is the issue of gender dysphoria. Reading a book like this will almost certainly make you a more empathic person.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel I know, lets read a novel about a global pandemic that sweeps the world and kills 99% of the population, in the midst of our own global pandemic, which we’re in a season of social isolation for. If it wasn’t for our own very real global events I don’t know if this book would have held my attention. It’s rambling and fumbling, taking us back and forth pre and post pandemic, following a cast of characters with either too much detail, or not enough. The idea was interesting, but it was just a little on the slow side for me, and just wasn’t really the story I was hoping for. In saying that, 20 years post pandemic was interesting to read about, and a bunch of people living in an old airport was an intriguing idea. I just wished for… more?
So. Are y’all reading a whole lot more these days? Any recommendations for me?
I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!
John 14:27 TPT
The definition of yield in this context is this: to give way to arguments, demands, or pressure.
The thing that I’ve learned about fear in my thirty five years on the planet is that it’s a bully. And the voice of fear is pretty loud right about now. The world feels unsteady. And out we try to step, wobbly and quivering, because there’s the global unthinkable and the personal inconceivable, and the wide world is collapsing, and I’ve already witnessed enough world-collapse this year and it’s no joke. Fear is no joke.
It’s a bully. I’ve seen friends crippled by anxiety, unable to eat, to rise, to function. She said it felt like she’s literally fighting a heavy boulder just to get out of bed, and my breath shallowed at the thought. I’ve fought chest pain and insomnia, and constant nagging worry. In the dark I’ve tossed and turned, trying to shake the harassment from my ears, trying to drown it out with thoughts of the inevitable dawn. Fear is a bully—it will argue its case, demand you to pay attention and squeeze you until you can’t breathe. It lurks in the shadows, it basks in the pit of your stomach, it whispers in the early hours of the morning. Fear floats past your face like the scent of someone you can’t quite place and the collective stench of it pervades our news feeds, conversations and dominates our thoughts. Even when we’re trying to drown it out. Fear is the virus and it multiplies in isolation.
But we can’t let the what ifs hold the power. The peace I know is robust enough to push back. The peace I know is feisty, courageous. The peace I know stills the shaking ground around me. The peace I know is founded on the Word, and the Word is a Person who fights for me. The peace I know is not the fragile kind. It doesn’t give way to fear, it holds its ground and fear discovers there’s no way around. This peace is unyielding. It refuses to give way to arguments or demands or pressure.
It doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t there. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a fight. But the peace is there for us to grab hold of, if we’d only stretch out our arm that far, and hold on tight. I’ll take hold of it all, with both fists—when the sweat streams and the tears fall, and my muscles ache and my arms shake, still I’ll hold on, I’ll not yield. Instead I’ll be courageous.
Today for me, courage looks like not watching the news. It looks like showing up, when you’d rather be hiding away. It looks like bringing a gift when you’d rather bury it. It looks like making a decision about where I’ll search to find the peace my soul craves—the Word or the world? (Hint, the world is cray cray). It looks like declarations of faith and favour, and easing my kids’ anxiety about the big stuff with a simple dinner around our kitchen table.
Courage looks like refusing to worry about any moment other than the one we’re in.
Courage looks like gratitude in the face of the unknown. Because this is not the end of the story. Hold tight, don’t yield to fear. Breathe.
I’ve been a devourer of books this month. Last week on my day off, after I took my youngest to school, I eyed my current novel and thought just one more chapter. Two hours later I finished the novel, and carried its characters with me for the rest of the day. I’ve been running again so audio books have been my favourite. I find it difficult to sit and read non-fiction for long periods—they’re just not as entertaining and easy to read, so audiobooks are a great way for me to consume them. School has gone back so I’ve been reading with Amie. We’re almost finished Pippi Longstocking and we’ll watch the movie on the weekend.
I’m glad it’s been a big reading month, though, because life is about to get exceptionally busy. This crazy girl has just gone back to uni to do a Graduate Diploma in Information and Library studies. Part time, but on top of part time work and and a full time life. So, maybe the next few months will be quiet reading months as I get through the semester.
Here’s my Feb reading round-up:
Roar by Cecelia Ahern Okay, this one I’m in two minds about. Firstly, I’ve never been a fan of short stories. I feel frustrated that they end so soon—I need more damnit, more background, more time with the characters. This compilation of short stories was no exception. Secondly, I feel like they became tiresome. Always centred around ‘the woman’, a different woman in each, but still a nameless woman. I love the imagination behind each of the stories, and their fantastical nature, like the hole that literally opens up when you feel embarrassed and the woman who finds herself in it, and the woman who grows wings and actually flies, and the woman who returns her husband to the market she purchased him from 40 years prior… there is no lack of imagination, but nor is there a lack of subtlety in each of the messages. They seemed a bit obvious, which meant I didn’t have to think, or wonder or analyse. I appreciate the feminist sentiment, the ‘lets all band together and appreciate the diversity of women’ but it was still too clean-cut, and neatly packaged for me to swallow.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano I like Edward a lot. I like how perceptive he is to the people around him, and to his own internal struggles. I like the story, and the simple way Napolitano tells it, without fanfare or overt suspense or thrill. I like the complex relationships between the characters, and the fact that we got to know the others on the plane too. “The air between us is not empty space.” – Ann Napolitano, Dear Edward
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard This one took me a couple of months to get through, despite it’s small size. Each small essay packs a punch in the form of rich prose and insight into this writing life—as obsessive, curious and frustrating as anyone who pursues writing knows it to be. It’s not a how-to guide, but more analogy, life, observations and experience of the author. “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better.” – Annie Dillard
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary This novel moves up to one of my favourites. I read the blurb months ago, and instantly knew I’d fall in love with the story, and I’m so glad it didn’t let me down. It has all the trims and trappings that make chic lit so fun and easy to read—a strong protagonist, who is complicated and loveable, and has equally complicated and loveable friends. It had a sweet romance, that began with post-it conversations. And it had deeper, more intense themes like emotional abuse and gaslighting, and all of the suspense and grip that makes you unable to put it down. I’m in love.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker Firstly, wow. Secondly, I highly recommend listening to this one on audiobook, read by the author. Her voice, accent, language, pronunciation—it was stunning. She brought Celie to life. It won a Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1983 and I think it’s just as poignant today, in the context of an age of Black Lives Matter, and even in Australia where our racial progress is still in infancy. Aside from it’s importance, it is a beautiful and redemptive story. Hard to read in parts, confronting and heartbreaking, yet stunningly hopeful. It is rich in observations of life, and profound. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” – Alice Walker, The Colour Purple
Mind Over Clutter by Nicola Lewis Look, I’m still exploring minimalism, and still slowly working my way through my home and decluttering. I hunt down these types of books to keep me motivated, but yet nothing has had the impact that Joshua Becker’s book had (read my thoughts here). This one’s focus is on organising your clutter: get more baskets, go through your magazines often, shove things in the cupboard nicely, make more space, get some more baskets, try different tubs, make it a pretty space with another basket, and why not buy a new candle to make the space really fressshhhh. Okay it’s not that bad but nowhere does she address the reasons for our cluttered homes in the first place—she’s primarily talking to well-off people who don’t need to address their spending habits and are happy to continue to accumulate stuff but need some help on how to store all of this stuff so that they are not stressed out by it. It’s practical and somewhat helpful, but not what I was hoping for.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid Look, if you ever need a book recommendation, I feel like Reese’s Book Club will never let you down. This was brilliant, in both storytelling, and depth. I love that the characters are not one-dimensional. I love that it calls out the ‘white saviour’—we will never know what it’s like to be a person of colour, we will probably always do and say the wrong things, we probably are not as self-aware as what we think we are. It’s about white privilege and class and gender and race as well as being about humanity—how do we decide what to do with our lives? How do we be happy for our friends when they surpass us? How do we come to terms with unmet expectations of ourselves? This book is intelligent. It reads like light-hearted chick lit (which is why I flew through it way too fast) but is heavy with social commentary and authenticity.
So there you have it. I’m just happy that this month (as opposed to January) contained a few books that I’ll love forever and ever.
Tell me what you’re reading/hoping to read in March?
I’ve been running again. I’ve always hesitated to call myself a runner, because I know so many more legitimate runners—the ones who run 100km marathons… or even 40km marathons, or even half marathons! My few runs a week, in my mind, didn’t count. Recently though, I shared this photo of myself on Facebook, after a run (yeah, this one looks 100% better than my passport photo, thank you Instagram filters!) and a friend replied telling me she’s been running almost daily for months and feels amazing.
A run every day?! How far do you run? I ask her. Oh, it varies, mostly three kilometres, she replies. Occasionally I’ll do six. Okay… how long do you run for? Only about 20 minutes each time. What?!
What had formed such a strong idea in my mind that a real run must be at least 5km? That unless I sweat it out for 45 minutes, it doesn’t count. Why didn’t I ever feel as accomplished just going for a 3km run, a quick 20 mins? Why did I have such a go big or go home attitude? What’s wrong with staying small, and consistent?
Since I freed myself from the idea that I needed to do a big 30-40 minute run for it to count (count for what, and to whom I have no idea!), I’ve run more often than I ever have. Because I don’t have to psych myself up, or scrounge up extra time. It’s just 20 minutes, I tell myself. It’s only a 3.5km circuit. Or, it’s just to the boat ramp and then back again.
And I’ve been consistent now for weeks. I snatch a moment here or an early morning there. I tie my sneakers and jog at my own pace, for whatever distance I decide—I have no desire to run a marathon, I just want to run off my thoughts, plod out some prayers, get some fresh air and return with a good dose of happy endorphins. And I do. And the kilometres mount up and before I know it I’ve run 10k in less than a week.
So maybe staying small, is a win, because small and regular is better than big and… never. Because if I’m honest, the idea that something needs to be big, and impacting and perfect actually immobilises me from trying, from beginning, from just doing. And if staying small is what it takes to give me the courage to try, without the pressure of perfection, or an unreachable and unattainable result, then I’ll stay small and stay home.
Staying small means I pick up my journal in the morning without the pressure of scratching pages and pages; just write a sentence or two. It means I can sit down to read my Bible, and know that reading a couple of verses actually does count, because I’m practising a daily slow that stills the hustle. Staying small means that, though I may not have a whole day to spend with an individual kiddo, I can sit at the kitchen bench and give them an undivided 20 minutes, often. It means that simply reworking some leftovers for dinner the next night is small, and easy, but it helps me to consistently provide homemade meals and avoid takeaway.
So, I’m happy to stay small, and come back home, if it means I keep showing up in all the ways that matter.