Embracing the Meantime: Making the Most of It

Enjoying a book and leisurely afternoon in the afternoon light of Central Park
Enjoying a book and leisurely afternoon in Central Park

For much of the last year and a half, I have lingered in a strange space of utter heartbreak and stubborn joy.

The job descriptions I have wanted more than any other in life have been to be a wife and a mother, but things have not gone according to my carefully laid plans. With that, I have had to reconsider everything I assumed for how I would live my life in my late twenties into my thirties. Piece by piece, I have been slowly letting go and burying the things I held onto so tightly.

Grief is a cycle – it comes in seasons and waves and is not always predictable. In order to not let my disappointment consume me, I have had to actively choose to sit down each day and list the blessings in my life. What is present in my life today that makes me smile? What do I get to do that I could not (or not as easily) if I woke up today as a mom?

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My Top 10 Reads of 2013

I am a book addict.

I have a handful of friends who are always asking me, “So what are you reading?” They know this is probably my favorite pastime, and is a quick way to cut past the small talk and start discussing ideas that really matter to me. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books I read this past year, in hopes that you’ll share yours!

10. Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis with Beth Clark
I read Katie’s story on my Vision Trip to Uganda this fall, and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing. Katie left the comforts of the traditional trajectory for American kids, foregoing college and moving to Africa, adopting 13 children along the way. Her story is an eye-opener for what Ugandan life is like, and the faithfulness of God who leads us on the most incredible adventures if we are willing to listen and say “yes.”

9. A Million Miles in A Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Like all of Miller’s books, this book is so relatable. Don gets to a turning point during the process of his best-selling book Blue Like Jazz becoming a movie where he realizes… he isn’t a very interesting character. The big idea is that we must become active protagonists in our own stories, making hard choices and spurring on change. We can’t wait for great stories to happen to us. We have to help write them.

8. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
A powerful allegory that imagines what Heaven and Hell might look like after death, and whether or not we can make the choice to live in God’s presence or choose separation after death. I think what I enjoyed most is how closely it was asking similar questions to those in Rob Bell’s controversial Love Wins, yet I have yet to meet a person who declares Lewis heretical!

7. Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner
Winner is a superb and candid writer. I love basically everything she pens. This is her telling of leaving her Jewish faith because she “falls in love” with Jesus. What was most compelling to me is how her Jewish roots inform her Christian faith, and her struggle to find the rhythms of a new religion.

6. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
This is basically RHE’s answer to A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically. She tries to live a full year by either the literal text or traditional practice of the Bible’s instructions to women. I was both moved and appalled by some of the practices relating to “biblical” womanhood. In the end, there isn’t just one definition of what “biblical” womanhood looks like, and thankfully, there is so much freedom in Christ. Also, I’m pretty sure Rachel Held Evans has started me down the path of becoming a Christian feminist.

5. All Is Grace by Brennan Manning
Want my advice? Read everything Manning has ever written. This is Manning’s autobiography, penned at the end of his life of alcoholism and relentless pursuit of Jesus. The depth to which he understands the gospel is utterly humbling, and serves as a much-needed reminder that not one of us is perfect.

4. 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth
This is the history of and argument for keeping Sabbath, and what it might look like for us. I read this during a related sermon series at church, and was really convicted by Sleeth’s arguments to slow down. What stuck with me most was that they don’t participate in commerce at all on Sabbath, and as a family they have specific practices to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
This is Wilson’s record of “spending a year trying to sing in the morning, clean [her] closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun.” I read this in January to kick off the year on the right note, and was inspired by how the small choices made great difference in Wilson’s life. The biggest takeaway was the reminder that gratitude completely transforms our attitude, and if we want to be happy, we need to choose it every day.

2. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I can’t sing the praises of this book enough. Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher, and her books and viral TED Talks are transformative. The lesson this book taught me was to take notice between the messages of “I am bad” verses “I did something bad.” The first is shame, the second is guilt. Shame attacks the core of who you are, but guilt passes. This book has absolutely changed my inner dialog with myself, and I have no doubt this impacts the way I interact in the workplace and someday raising kids.

1. Love is An Orientation by Andrew Marin
This book feels like a love letter written to my family. It is balm on our wounds, and hope for the future. This is Marin’s story of how at one time, he was a homophobic bible-thumper… and then his three best friends came out to him over the course of three months. He eventually moved into the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago and has committed to build intentional relationships with the gay community there. This book isn’t about proving anyone right or wrong, but stepping into the middle, into the tension and to encourage questions. Marin asks readers to put aside their presuppositions and listen. I am eternally grateful that he wrote this book – it has helped me come to terms with my own deeply rooted prejudices and encouraged me to love well, and love better.

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This year I attempted to rotate through non-fiction, fiction, and ‘Christian living’ but as you can see, I didn’t really succeed. Memoir-style books have become my favorite, and it’s hard for me to break out of my genre of choice. I barely read any fiction this year and really want to change that in 2014! I miss being lost in a completely different reality.

What were your favorite reads this year? What was the one book you were always recommending to others and why? What should I add to my list?