Giddy Up, Eunice

“When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.” (p. 43)

I always get frustrated at blog posts and books and articles that give advice that starts with “find a _____ (church, friend, therapist, place to serve, etc.)” because they never seem to grasp just how difficult that can be. Sure, there are those to whom finding the right person at the right time has always come easy. But for most of us, it doesn’t. The “find” word is like a foreign traffic sign: Do I stop and wait? Do I go and search?

boots-49404_1280Especially when you are in a new season, where the people around you are more strangers than friends, this “find” word can be cause for despair. There’s either so many options (try going to a new doctor in a city where you know no one) or seemingly few options that are accessible for you.

However, once you have found what you are seeking, particularly when it’s a place to serve, it will nag you until you’ve engaged it.

If you’ve got a desire to minister in any way, particularly with or to other women, “Giddy Up, Eunice: (Because Women Need Each Other)” can help you find it and overcome your hesitations to jump in. Even if you’re not searching for a specific place, Sophie Hudson calls you to look around you and see how you can affect the lives of those you already touch.

In case you’re wondering, this call to “giddy up” into community with other women was inspired by women in the Bible who supported each other. Sophie examines the relationships of Elizabeth and Mary, Naomi and Ruth, and Lois and Eunice.

(Wait… who?)

Lois and Eunice are the mother and grandmother of Timothy who raised him in the faith.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

 

Oh, that Eunice.

“You know what we see in Mary, Elizabeth, Naomi, Ruth, Lois, and Eunice?” Sophie asks on pages 224-225. “We see some substance. We see some wisdom. We see some blessing. We see some intention. We see some care.”IMG_5424

This is no tired ol’ Bible study, however. In her characteristic Southern charm, this book is both deep and hilarious. Sophie has her own unique voice, but if I had to make a similar-author comparison to help you understand, this book is Annie Downs meets Jen Hatmaker meets fried chicken. In other words, if you are an elitist Yankee with no love for the word “y’all,” I’d urge you to open that mind you’re so proud of and listen up before diving into this book.  Ha! 😉

Sophie speaks from personal experience, both of being led by the older women in her life and leading young girls. This book is an especially perfect fit for those caught in this in-between, the middle generation of moms, aunts, youth leaders, and teachers, who also need the influence of their own moms and mothers-in-law and mentors and leaders. Even for us singles, we all have younger women and older women around us who have been placed in our lives for a purpose.

I know this sounds so preachy, but there isn’t a condescending or boring word in the entire book. Sophie makes her characters real and her real-life people into memorable characters. One challenge of memoir as a genre is that the writer has to convert the personalities of those they love most and know best into something that translates to the reader, so that in only a few mentions you can recall which stories or branches of the family tree these people are tied to.

I do recommend reading Sophie’s first two books after this one. “Giddy Up, Eunice” is great on its own, but there’s more history and delight and emotion you are missing out on if you haven’t read “A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon” and “Home Is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong” already. My advice? Read “Eunice” first, then go back and laugh and weep through the previous two, then read this one again.

I’m so grateful for the Eunices in my life who have made me their Timothy. And this thing doesn’t just go one way, either. As a younger woman in many contexts, I hope I’ve encouraged and taught the women in my social circles, book clubs, and small groups when I’ve been called upon to do so as well.

Maybe at this point you’re thinking, “That’s great, but this isn’t me. I’ve got nothing. I have no one.” In that case, I want you to read Sophie’s strong advice:

“If we’re truly worn down and worn out, then by all means we need to rest. … But if, for some reason, you have convinced yourself that you’re not needed any more, that your best days are behind you, that you’re not “relevant” … Stop it right now. Don’t you dare discount your importance, your influence, or your calling.” (p. 80)

You are a vital piece of someone else’s story. And chances are, you don’t have to go “find” those someones. God is faithful to weave our lives into the lives of others all on His own. We just have to be open to His call.

Giddy up, y’all.

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Looking for Lovely

Just in time for spring retreats and summer vacations, Annie Downs’ “Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter” is the perfect travel companion.

I am not traveling with it this week, purely by luck of the draw as I’ve been traveling practically every other weekend, but I know my travel-worthy books. Trust me on this. You want this with you if you’re going to be on an airplane, in a terminal, on the beach, in the car, on a comfy sofa, on a porch swing, or at a cafe somewhere (the kind where they don’t mind if you stay awhile).

IMG_4998[1]Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter” is personal, and brings genuine emotions to the surface, but Annie’s free and funny writing style keeps it light and refreshing, even when she goes deep on self-image, quitting being a quitter, relational pain, and mental health.

This is equally true of her in-person talks at conferences and her previous books (Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter, Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have, and Perfectly Unique: Praising God from Head to Foot), but especially with a book dedicated to finding the silver linings in life’s hardships, Annie is exactly the writer you want to handle these topics.

This book is such a perfect example of why Annie’s readers and audiences walk away feeling like they are really friends with her: she is just so gosh-darn likable, even when she’s confessing her (literal and metaphorical) messes. And she doesn’t shy away from getting real with her readers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some chapters might be more difficult to read than others, depending on your issues. If you struggle to find real friendships, for example, the “My People” chapter might be hard to read without a bit of jealousy. Maybe your bitterness stings at self-acceptance, travel opportunities, the freedom of self-employment, living in such a cool city as Nashville… Pause a moment. Take those thoughts captive. Don’t give into it, dear reader. I feel like Annie would say that’s not what this book is about at all. She tells of her victories and blessings because she’s been through the messy stuff to get there. Those relationships took a long time to build; the gym she loves was preceded by years of struggle with fitness; the purpose with which she writes took much wandering in uncertainty – and on and on.

I feel like she would say to read her story as encouragement that it’s still worth pursuing “lovely” even if it takes far longer than you wanted. Don’t let comparison blind you to your own version of lovely in your own life.

In fact, that’s the point of the whole shebang. Or at least, a large part of it.

Look for it. Search, find, seek the beauty in your own pain, in the midst of the drudgery of life, in the storm of unexpected trouble, in the long anxious night.

“If you aren’t experiencing pain, you aren’t experiencing beauty. Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the light. If you aren’t allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment this fallen world has to offer, you probably aren’t feeling the fullness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer.” (p. 76)

Later on she confesses how this was true in her own story, summing up the book nicely:

“I had to be broken to be rebuilt, but breakdowns seem to often come before breakthroughs.” (p. 180)

The idea behind memoir is that it is a look back at a very personal past. Looking back in your past, what are your unexpected “lovelies” – places of victory you never thought would come, places where the divine overwhelmed you with the beauty of nature and taught you something through it, joy that came despite the threat of never-ending darkness?

Feel free to leave your answer as an encouragement to others in the comments below or post them on social media!


 

“Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.” (p. 50) 

 


 

For more from Annie, check out my interviews with her here and here.

Night Driving – Addie Zierman

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(Read this from Addie first.)

There are three things you need – “school supplies” if you will – for reading Addie Zierman’s “Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark

  1. The Elizabethtown soundtrack

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Nearby Glendale, Kentucky, taken on my Alabama-Tennessee-Kentucky road trip last summer.

I didn’t think of it until I got to the part where she drives through E-town and mentions it, but I should have put it on from the start. After all, my own year of literal road tripping through metaphorical darkness included a lot of this playlist.

Most memorable and significant was my drive away from my life in Birmingham to the uncertainty of a short season in Dallas. I put on this soundtrack and just let the memories and mourning and healing begin as I drove through small town after small town. In case you don’t recall that particular story of this past year, my parents and I loaded up my belongings in a U-haul over Labor Day weekend. I followed them alone in my car, which was very good for my soul as I processed what had just happened over the past four months. Well, the past four years, really. And like Addie, the open road proved the perfect place to ask God some big questions about where I was going. If only life were as simple as plugging an address into Google Maps. But that isn’t faith.

Addie writes that she had countless people tell her how brave she was for taking a road trip from Minnesota to Florida with a two-year-old and a four-year-old in a minivan in February 2014.

Though I have never made THAT particular trip, I do know what it’s like to drive across the country and have people tell you you’re so brave for doing it. When, in reality, it’s so much more complicated than that. When you’re only certain of one thing: that it’s the right thing to do.

But oh, it is hard.

It’s hard to leave it all behind. It’s hard to stay when things aren’t what you thought they would be. It’s hard to sit in the grief and the grittiness of daily life, knowing no matter how fast or far you drive, you can’t outrun it.

Sometimes brave faith is actively not running away, gathering your community around you in mutual brokenness, and putting on a quirky cult-classic chick flick of a movie that you’ve watched a hundred times with a dozen different friends.

And sometimes, brave faith is putting on said movie’s soundtrack and hitting the road.

2. A highlighter

Well, not so much a highlighter specifically, but a willingness to engage your own story as you read and make your copy as ragged as the elements of your past it might bring to the surface. I just want to make sure you are prepared for dog-eared pages, notes in the margins and neon-yellow streaks (and maybe a tear stain or two if you’re the cry-while-reading type). NightDriving_Infographics1

What I’m trying to say is, through telling her story, Addie might make you reflect on your own. How you would tell it to a stranger. That messy, twisted journey of sunshiny new faith to doubt to apathy to peace. As we Whovians like to say, time (and thus, faith) is non-linear. It’s not a strict cause to effect. “It’s more like a great big ball of timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly… stuff.”

And if there is any true way to describe a relationship with Jesus lived out over a long period of time, it’s wibbly-wobbly.

At least, mine is. I venture Addie would say the same. And the people she meets up with or mentions along the route.

3. Time

Maybe you won’t read the whole book in one afternoon like I did. In fact, I’d advise taking intentional breaks. It’s one of those books you need to digest. To take a step back from at points and let it soak so you don’t read it like a magazine story or a simple anecdote. Behind every detail recalled is a scene-setting morsel, making it all the sweeter when you realize along with her what was really going on under the surface.

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One of my many road trips across Texas.

“How do we know God is real?” 

Addie engages with this question throughout the book, first posed at a large teen ministry conference in her youth group days. If you’ve read her previous, “When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over,” you know how that story goes. But this book is more about having faith that He is, in fact, real, but not being able to feel Him. It’s about what Barbara Brown Taylor describes as “the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season” (“Learning to Walk in the Dark,” p. 9).

Indeed, “Night Driving” feels like the practical application or, perhaps, one woman’s journey of living out Taylor’s book. They are companions: one a mentor, an experienced clergywoman with laugh lines and reassuring hands and a ready cup of coffee. The other a fellow young adult, navigating what Christian life looks like after the fires of honeymoon-passionate faith have receded into silence and loneliness and desert places.

“Desert places.” We always used that term in my on-fire days. Namely, in the context of the popular worship song. I still love the song, but what I didn’t know back then was that there is a difference between anxiety and spiritual attack, between depression and not “doing enough for God.” I knew what it was to struggle back then, but the real desert place was still to come.

There’s a lesson to be learned in these true spiritual dark places, where we need to rest our performance-driven, controlling, anxious hearts and simply let the season change. Say yes to a wander through the wilderness. Learn to walk in the dark. Put our keys in the ignition and do a little night driving.

Night-Driving-Synchroblog

Linking up with the “Night Driving” synchroblog today. Head over to Addie’s blog to read her post, others’ reactions, and to add your own story. From her post:

So tell about your dark places. The ones that you have chosen, or the ones that have chosen you.
What did you learn? What did you not learn?
Are you there now? What does it feel like? What is the most frightening part? What is the most comforting?
What mysterious have you touched on as you’ve fumbled around in this unfamiliar place?
What things became your touchstones when the lights went out? Were they what you expected?
I know it’s all a little vague. (Darkness usually is.) Go anywhere you like with these prompts, or go completely off topic.
Start here, if you need a place:
It was dark when __________________________.
You wouldn’t believe what I saw.

5 Memoirs to Look Forward to This Year

Y’all. There are so many good books coming out this year.

Seeing as I’ve been a bit MIA since OCTOBER, I’m doing some re-imagining of what this blog will look like in this new season. You see, that last post was inspired by a job offer. In the end, I moved from sunny, sweaty Texas to the frozen snowglobe that is Illinois. I now live very close to a train station that can take me into Chicago any time I like. I have lovely co-workers who know how to play hard and work hard. And I spend more time editing.

Which means I don’t spend time reading and writing about books for work anymore.

But there are SO MANY good ones. As I said.

So I have joined a launch team or two in hopes that I can still tell you about authors I love and books I enjoy on a regular basis. I don’t promise to post a lot, but more than never, so that’s an improvement. 😉

I am going to attempt to figure out Amazon affiliate links, but promise to always tell you the truth about what I thought. In Texas, they call it “shooting straight.” That’s what I aim to do here (pun intended, as always).

Lindsey Stirling

IMG_4901[1]With a title like “The Only Pirate at the Party,” how can you not be in love with this book before even cracking open the cover? I am especially looking forward to diving into this one, which I’ve had on my bookshelf for over a month now after attending a book signing party. Lindsey is a phenomenal performer – known for her fantastic YouTube videos as a dancing violinist – but she is also known to her fans as a woman of faith, loyalty and courage, standing for her beliefs even when it’s not the cool thing to do.

Release date – January 12

 

Sophie Hudson

Speaking of Southern sayings, one book on my Amazon wishlist is Sophie Hudson’s “Giddy Up, Eunice: (Because Women Need Each Other)” about our relationships as women. I love the way Sophie writes about her Southern culture and family. I first discovered her while living in Birmingham and was lucky enough to hear her speak to our office book club about her last book, “Home Is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong.” It’s a delight. Her first book, “A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon” is the one that hooked me, however. Snatch ’em up and be prepared to laugh, cry, and cook something fried with bacon.

Release date – June 7

 

Annie Downs

Annie Downs won me over a long time ago with her books “Perfectly Unique: Praising God from Head to Foot” and “Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter” and “Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have.” I had the privilege of interviewing Annie twice for MORF (here and here) and meeting her at a Girls of Grace event. Let me tell you, this girl is the real deal. She is funny and authentic and has a brave heart, especially when it comes to sharing the hard parts of her story so others don’t feel so alone. And really, that’s what this list is all about.IMG_4998[1]

I can’t wait to read her latest, “Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter.” I’m honored to be on her launch team for this book, though I haven’t had a chance to dive in yet. I’ll let you know in a future post how it was, but I have no doubt it’s going to be another homerun. After all, confetti poured out of the package when I received the ARC, so that’s a sign right there.

Release date – April 5

 

Glennon Melton

When I heard the blogger and author behind Momastery was coming out with a new book –  Love Warrior: A Memoir – one that was more revealing than anything she had posted before, one that told the story she had refrained from sharing thus far – I had to at least see what it was about.

Well, as a wife and mother, she obviously has a story that involves marriage and parenthood.

But it’s more than that. Just like her blog (which is why I read a blog with “mom” in the title). It’s about what she calls the “brutiful” life – beauty in the brutal. It’s about being a woman in a world hellbent on destroying us.

Glennon

Release date – August 30

 

Addie Zierman

A while ago, one of my favorite bloggers and internet friends, Addie, messaged me on Twitter. She was coming out with a new book and knew her first one, “When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over” had really resonated with me. (I was pretty enthusiastic about my support on social media. haha It’s one of those books you just can’t stop sharing quotes from!) Addie asked if I wanted an ARC of IMG_4920[1]Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark” and shared the vision behind it. Friends, I had to remind myself to keep breathing when I read that book summary. Once again, though the literal details were different, the spiritual and emotional elements were eerily close to home. I told her “Yes, of course!” but I was really thinking “Oh, thank God. It’s not just me who has been through these things and felt these things.” But that’s what I love about Addie. She can write her own story with vulnerability and devastating honesty, yet her readers never feel pity or judgment for her. Only “You too? I’m not alone!”

Release date – March 15

 

I’m specifically looking forward to these books because they are the “what now” after the storm comes. Like last year’s “Rising Strong,” where Brené Brown followed up on “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” She said a lot of people had read the book, dared greatly, then were left saying “now what? Where do we go from here?”

And I think that’s important with memoir especially. At least, memoir that shares a life lesson or spiritual journey. It’s important to get down in the pit and wrestle with our demons, but once we’ve been there and emerged, victorious or not, bruised and bloody, how do we walk away? How do we keep that fight in our hearts going strong and not hit rock bottom again? Or maybe we do. How do we get up and forgive ourselves?

I think a lot of those books will “go there” with varying levels of intensity. Plus, we’ll explore some fiction like Erin Hicks and Megan Beam’s The Last Beholder series. Join me on a reading adventure this spring and summer as we read them together!