Reading Life – July/August 2019

I feel like my reading life the last few months has been pretty disjointed. I’ve been desperately trying to finish up some books and I’ve also had to start doing all my weekly pre-reading for the kid’s school. I’ve also found myself putting aside more books than I’ve ever done. Here’s a quick recap –

Currently:

Mere Christianity (pre-read) – I read this back in college as a pretty new believer and my son is reading it later on this year as part of his school. I’m about four chapters in and I’m sort of trying to figure it out honestly.

The Road Back to You – a pastor friend gifted this to us a while back and I just threw it on the shelf to read later. I’ve read a handful of “personality” books and some about the enneagram and I just couldn’t get into it. For whatever reason, I pulled it down about 2 weeks ago and I can’t stop reading it. It’s honestly the first book I’ve ever read that really does make sense when it comes to talking about your tendencies and sort of your make up.

Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels (read aloud) – we’ve been reading through this since last year and it’s really fabulous. If you like anything about geography you would probably love it.

The Sea Around Us – (pre-read) We are reading the junior version of this and while it starts out super heavy with evolutionary ideas (some I’d never even heard of before) it’s moving into the world of the oceans and it’s really amazing so far.

Church History in Plain Language (pre-read) – my son is reading this for his history class this year. It’s a pretty readable history book and has been fascinating to see how church history weaves around “regular” history. As one who was educated with that great distinction between church and “state”, it’s really kind of neat to study history in light of the Bible – I can totally understand Paul’s letters to the new church in such a different light.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (pre-read) – I read this in high school and it’s pretty interesting. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Stevenson’s work.

The Inklings – this has been on my to-read list for like two years and I am determined to read it before the end of 2019. So far it’s totally fascinating.

Abandoned and/or set aside

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – I started this and then my Inklings book came in from the library so I had to set it aside since I own it. I was also reading two “nature” books at the same time and was getting both of them mixed up in my head.

Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal – I had to return this book to the library, but I’m hoping to get it back again soon. I really loved it and have learned so much – really just about paying attention to the world outside. The rotation of the seasons and the birds and insects that come along with those.

Everything that Rises Must Converge – this was on my to read list this year and I finally got it from the library. I made it about half way through before I decided I just couldn’t read it. I really, really want to love O’Connor, but this book was way too much for me. The stories are filled with such anger and frustration and then end when these horrible endings. It’s almost like reading stories of what people wish in their minds they could do in the midst of their anger and frustration – only they actually act on it.

Read

The Scarlet Pimpernel – this is up there as one of my favorite books ever. I really need to buy a copy to have and I want to re-read it again. It was so, so clever and just so good.

Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and Practices that Brought Peace – I really liked this book at first, but then after a while it sort of grated on me. There were some really good practices in there that I do think I’ll pick up in the midst of anxiety issues, but I’m sort of not sure what to do with this book.

Man, The Dwelling Place of God – This was a really great little book. The chapters are short, but rich and there was much to be gleaned from it. I read it over the course of a year – very slowly – and it is one to be picked up year after year and go through again. Tozer is one that can say really thought provoking and amazing things in two sentences.

Emily of New Moon – I was reading this because I wanted my daughter to read it and also because so many people say they love this series more than Anne. I’m not sure. I think I recognize more of myself in Anne and will always love those books – but I’m curious which way my daughter will lean as I see way more of Emily in her.

Beate Not the Poore Desk: A Writer to Young Writers – this was a super little book about writing. I really love reading Wangerin, he has such a conversational style of writing it is like he is sitting there with you.

I think that’s it for what I’ve been trudging through. I need to start Les Miserable, because I’m supposed to be reading it along with my son this year – he’s way ahead of me already. And I also need to start Watership Down to read along with my daughter.

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sewing: A little update

This blog has been so lacking and honestly it’s been an issue of time and an issue of just not knowing what to do with it. Here’s a little update just for the four of you that read it 🙂

Jenny Henry Designs Needlepoint Kit
Jenny Henry Designs Needlepoint Kit

I was working on an article about needlepoint and one of the artist I interviewed offered to send me a little kit. Always one to jump at the chance to try something new, I took it. I can’t say I’m totally won over into the world of needlepoint, but I did enjoy the little project.

I also finished up a custom birth announcement. I’ve got another one in my hoop and both of these were from repeat customers. It’s always a humbling thing to have someone come back and ask for another custom item.

Pink Birth Announcement w/bunny

The highlight of this one was the little pink bunny.

Pink Birth Announcement w/bunny

I’m participating in a Beatrix Potter swap and my partner’s favorite character was Benjamin Bunny. I stitched up a little bookmark for her.

Beatrix Potter Swap 2019

I’ve got a few other things in the works, but those are worthy of their own posts.

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Reading :: spring/summer 2019

It’s been a while since I did any sort of reading update. I’ve been steadily plugging along, starting too many books and not really keeping up with what I’m reading. It’s been the first summer in like the last 4 years that I haven’t had to do any trainings for upcoming teaching responsibilities, so I feel like my reading life has been wide open. I’ve tried to do a little pre-reading for my upcoming sophomore, but I keep becoming distracted by other books that are more appealing or higher on my list.

Currently

Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal by D. Kline. :: I’m not really sure how this ended up on my reading list, but so far it’s been pretty interesting. It does cause to one to harken to the simplicity of a farming life and even the Amish life; especially with all the crazy political junk going on.

Phantastes by G. MacDonald :: I’m reading this because apparently it was one of C.S. Lewis’ favorites. I have to admit it’s rather odd and it might not be the best book to read before falling asleep – partially because it is sort of putting me to sleep and partially because I’m not sure I’m awake enough just before bed to really appreciate it.

Beate Not the Poore Desk: A Writer to Young Writers by W. Wangerin Jr :: This book is awesome. I’ve loved all of it and I really love Wangerin. I’ve only ever read his non-fiction, so the jury is out on whether I’d like his fiction, but I completely “get” his writing voice and love it.

Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and Depression by JP Moreland :: I quickly ordered this one when I realized the topic. I’m about halfway through and it has been really encouraging and full of many different ways to combat anxiety attacks. I appreciate his perspective of how the church needs to be in more conversation about anxiety/depression, but also his recognition that sometimes it takes more than prayer and sin confession to overcome this struggle. Medicine is not an evil.

On Hold

I started a few books and they are on hold for various reasons, some because we are on a school break, some because they were due at the library again and some just because I start too many books.

You Learn by Living by E. Roosevelt, In the Land of the Blue Burqas by K. Mccord, The Lifegiving Table by S. Clarkson and Tending the Heart of Virtue by V. Gurolan

Read

Kingdom of the Blind by L. Penny :: I really want to like Louise Penny because I feel like every mystery lover does, but I really am not a huge fan. She’s ok when I’m in the mood for a mystery and don’t have one, but really I just don’t love Gamache and the characters. This one was better than the other one I read, but still not a fan.

1984 by Orwell :: this was a pre-read for my high schooler. He was interested in reading this and I hadn’t read it since high school, so I felt like it was due time for me to read it again. There were some things in it that I didn’t remember at all, but overall it was super scary to read it in these times of history revision/erasure and just all the other lack of individuality (despite everyone crying out for it) and just our inability to respect other peoples differing opinions.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by K. Morton :: this was another one that had been on my list for a while and another author that people tend to rave over. I really felt like I slugged through the first half of this book; maybe even the first 3 quarters. It did ramp up a little in the end, but man the ending was horrible. I finished this and 1984 on the same day and it was totally depressing. Both of them had super depressing endings.

The Night Gardener by Auxier :: this is a youth book and it’s by the guy that wrote Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I really loved this. I had read many reviews that mentioned how good it was and it really was. My daughter was not so convinced.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Callahan :: this is the story of Lewis and Joy and was our book club choice for July. It was eh; so- so. There were parts of it I really appreciated and enjoyed and then parts of it that I thought were sort of unnecessary . She really takes license with the love story between the two of them and that kind of made me uncomfortable. Callahan is also a very flowery, descriptive writer so that was mildly annoying. Honestly, romance novels are not my thing so maybe that was my utmost issue. It was a good and interesting story and apparently she consulted a fair bit with Joy’s son and there were many tidbits in there that I had no idea about that were interesting.

The Curve of Time by Blanchet :: this is probably my favorite book so far this spring/summer. I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of a widow living on the coast of British Columbia who would take her children sailing all summer in the area between Vancouver Island and the rugged coastline. It’s a crazy area where the Pacific Ocean tides come through and mix with the freshwater rivers coming down from the mainland. I wish I was a mother like this; wild and free and able to just take off and go on adventures. I’m so not.

Persuasion by Austen :: People had been telling me for years to read this Austen, mostly because Emma is hands down one of my favorite books. This did not disappoint, but honestly I still love Emma.

Next up…

I don’t know what’s next. I really need to get busy and make a list because I know I have tons of pre-reading I need to start for school. What are you reading this summer?

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Book Review {Lincoln in the Bardo}

I requested Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders from the library merely because it had been mentioned on some podcast a while back. I couldn’t even remember why I had put it on my wish list, but I realized when I opened the book that this was going to be a very different read from anything I had ever read before. To begin with, I had no idea what the “bardo” was and I realized pretty quickly that I better figure that out before I continued. The second thing was the writing style. Reviewers describe Saunder’s writing as a “non-traditional narrative”. It is written as a series of quotes from the 300 plus characters in the book. Daunting and strange as this was, I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. 

The Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist word describing a place between life and death. It wasn’t until I was nearly at the end of the novel, that I realized that I had been reading this novel about being lost in a place between life and death during the season of Lent.

The essence of this entire story centers around the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Willie becomes ill and passes away and Lincoln’s grief is palpable. He is clearly not at peace with anything in his life and the death of his young son wages a war within him much like the war that is beginning to rage up around him between the North and the South.

But Willie does not just pass on to heaven, but ends up in the Bardo with all the other souls that are lost there. Immediately Willie’s frustration with where he is is clearly evident; only he doesn’t know where he is; he thinks he is still living. He sees his father coming to visit his “white house” and yet when he tries to crawl into his father’s lap he merely passes through him. He is distraught, because this man who had so often cradled him and brought him peace and comfort doesn’t even realize he is there.

Willie is not alone in this Bardo, there are some 300 other voices that readers hear from throughout the novel, but none are as intriguing as the trio. This trio has clearly been stuck in the Bardo for longer than they even know. They become distraught over the idea of Willie being stuck in this purgatory and they know that if they do not relieve him of this place there will be no peace. The recognize their previous failure with a young girl and come together in order to prevent the same happening with Willie. For the first time the trio come together and begin to hope for something better than this place. If not for them, at least for this boy who doesn’t deserve to be stuck there.

At first glance, this is a book about death. Even worse it is a story about being stuck in a purgatory – a death but not death. But in retrospect, I think it is a story about life. Just as the season of Lent is in a sense a season of death, ultimately it is a season pointing us back to life. We sit in the darkness of our sin and in that darkness we realize how bright the Light is that is coming.

My pastor is a Hamilton fanatic and his Easter Sunday sermon centered around the quote from a Hamilton song: “Dying is easy. Living is hard.” Sitting there, surrounded by the glory of the resurrection, I immediately thought of this story. 

Death was easy for these souls because they didn’t really have a choice. Willie died because there was no cure for his sickness despite everything the doctors tried. Others died in accidents or from battles.  It was easy for them to stay in the Bardo – this in between place. There was a sense of safety there. What scared all of them most was the passing on to the place of “eternal living.” Periodically people around them would just disappear in this earthquake of leaving and this leaving was completely frightening to them. 

It is the same for us. This world that we live in, it isn’t a Bardo, but it is still an in between place.  As a believer, I know that a new Eden is coming. When I see the brokenness surrounding me, I know deep in my soul that this is not what God meant for this world. We live in a dystopian focused world. We look around and fall into just accepting that this is all there is. It is easy to see the evil and then lose hope in the future, because we think the future is tainted and filled with danger.

Living is hard because we strive for comfort. We are all terrified of pain and suffering. Our culture is filled with a million things to distract us from considering the sorrow that we are surrounded with. Those in the Bardo continued “living” on as they could within the confines of their ghostly shapes. They played tricks on one another, they traveled in and out of people, they were angry and selfish with those that took up residence in their “sick boxes”. 

They did everything they could to distract from their suffering and from those around them. They did everything they could to keep themselves from considering how to move on. 

They did everything they could to prevent Hope.

Regret moves in, keeps us stagnant and blinds us to Hope. So we stay in the place of death. We stay in our own Bardo; a death of dreams, death of what could have been, death of expectations. This death is easier than living. It is the same sort of darkness that Lincoln was stuck in and couldn’t pass through because of the death of Willie. It’s the same darkness that Willie was stuck in and couldn’t pass through until he admitted he was dead.  It is the same sort of darkness and death that those in the Bardo were in. In order to pass on to the next place, they had to look past their fears and accept and say the word of truth – that they were no longer living and in that acceptance they were able to move on. They had to hope.

This is the Gospel. When we admit that there has to be more to life than this broken world we finally come to realize that there is a way for us to have hope. There is someone who is the essence of this Hope. He chose to walk through the darkness, he chose a death and a passing through – but he passed through and rose again. 

Every Sunday our church serves the Lord’s supper and our pastor reminds us that we do have a future and we do have a hope. We take this meal as a group, surrounded by fellow believers. But unlike those stuck in the Bardo refusing to admit they are stuck, we take the bread and the wine recognizing that we have all made a choice to believe. Every time we take that meal, we choose to rattle the world around us and break the idols that we use to protect us from the darkness. 

And instead we choose the Light that breaks through.

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sewing life :: new stuff

It feels like forever since I’ve actually finished a new embroidery project. I’ve been in a total creative funk. Partially due to this year being stretched in so many other ways and partially reeling with the fact that my eyes just aren’t what they used to be.

hope dresden plate
sunshine dresden plate

I’ve been longing to do a series of hoops based off of the paper pieced Dresden plates idea. I spent most of the last few months stitching these circles together and finally was able to embroidery the quotes in the middle and finish them all up.

boldness dresden plate
rocky top dresden plate

I live in Big Orange Country so I knew I needed to do at least one orange related hoop and I’ve long been wanting to do another yellow “You are my Sunshine” hoop.


In addition, I also finished up a little baby quilt for a friend’s newest little girl coming soon. My friend is from South Carolina and I stumbled upon this collection on Hawthorn Supply called “Charleston” and figured it would be a perfect fit.

Charleston Baby Quilt Front

I wanted colors that weren’t screaming girl, but just a simple feminine vibe. I’m sort of wishing that I would have chosen a different solid besides the white.

Charleston Baby Quilt Back
Charleston Baby Quilt

I pretty much followed the tutorial in School of Sewing for making the squares and I’m totally sold on this type of quilt to get rid of scraps for sure. It was super quick to piece together and I could see many more quilts happening this way. Binding a quilt has probably become my most favorite thing to do though. I could probably sit and bind quilts all day. It’s the most tension relieving thing ever.

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