Tuesday, January 29, 2013


:descriptor of me by my 13 year old daughter

I want to know who I am.  Not just who I think I am or tell myself I am, but who I really am and who God made me to be.  To help me explore that concept, I bought a journal and asked people I love and trust to use this journal to tell me how they see me.  It is my hope that their words will sink into my heart and eat away at the lies that I have allowed to live and breathe there for years.

I let my immediate family write first.  Amongst A's descriptive words of me was the term "dress-wearer."  Its truth made me smile.  I love dresses.  And skirts.  I have for years.  I can remember wearing dresses in high school, when all of my friends favored jeans.  Don't get me wrong, I wore jeans, I just wanted some dresses to mix things up.

Over the years, I've weeded the pants from my wardrobe until a few years ago I gave them all away at a clothing swap.  I just don't like wearing pants.  I'm short and curvy, not long and lean.  Dresses and skirts are more flattering and more comfortable.  Dresses have the added bonus of being an easy choice in the mornings - there's no choosing a blouse or belt to match my pants - just pick a pair of boots and throw on a dress - decision making over.

I started this post with the idea in my mind that it would be a lighthearted one that encourages you to smile a bit at my idiosyncratic ways of wearing dresses or skirts year round - no matter the heat, cold, rain or snow.  But that just wasn't working.  I was stalled and couldn't see a way forward, so I saved and waited.  Today I realized why - I was missing the bigger truth that lies behind the description "dress-wearer."  And there is a bigger truth there than my desire to minimize morning decisions.

The truth is that I have fought my way to my current sense of style.  I've cycled through years of wearing what my mother wanted me to wear, wearing what my friends were wearing, what made me fit in and what I needed to for my job.  It was only in my mid-thirties that I began to really think about what I wanted to wear and what felt best on my body.  Some clothes make me feel constricted or exposed, so why would I want to wear them?  Others make me feel like I am pretending to be someone I'm not.  But the right outfit feels like slipping into a second skin.  The right outfit can make me feel feminine, confident and ready.

I think the key was that I started to not only ask myself what I wanted to wear, but to actually listen to my heart.  I've received push back or comments from people along the way.  A friend once complained that I always seemed more dressed up than she did.  When she said it, I felt ashamed that I would make someone else feel they were under-dressed.  But looking back, I think my motivations were and are pure.  I do tend to be on the dressier side, but not because I'm competing with others.  I just want to feel good in what I wear.

In the interest of honesty, I want to admit that the right outfit can also make me feel armored for my day.  I hate to go to certain parts of town if I'm not dressed the right way.  In places where I feel like I stand out for not being enough (pretty enough, thin enough, wealthy enough), I want the armor of the right dress and boots because it makes me feel like the glances that come my way will skim over me rather than penetrate and wound.

None of my daughters are currently drawn to dresses.  Even on Sundays, they opt for a pair of jeans without holes rather than a dress for church.  When she was between 5 and 8, B wore dresses quite often.  She's always been a strong and active child, so it made me smile to see her climb a tree or walk a creek in a dress.  It also encouraged me to see her wear what appealed to her with little regard to what others were wearing.  There has always been so much to learn from my children.

A, B and K each picked their favorite mom dress

I don't know how my wardrobe will evolve in years to come, but I hope it will evolve.  Because I hope I'll change and grow and be willing to let those changes show on the outside as well as in my heart and soul.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


1 a : precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F


It doesn't snow a lot in Southern Alabama.  Almost never, in fact.  So when I moved to Nashville in college and experienced  my first true snowfall, it was a complete novelty to me.  That first snowfall was in early March, well past the time when most Tennesseans have given up hope of seeing snow.  You can never count on having snow during a Nashville winter and it comes when you least expect it.

This winter has been







searingly cold

wetter still

And there has been nary a flake of snow.

Sometimes the absence of a thing makes you realize what that particular thing brings into your life.  As I've longed for snow, I've paused to consider just what it is I miss.

I want crisp white flakes
To look outside and see not grass nor leaves nor asphalt
Only white.
I want to wake to an outdoor blanket
Of the kind that does not warm, but silences instead.
I want the quiet
of a snow day.
I want pancakes
and hot chocolate
and stories read aloud under blankets.
I want the beauty
and the stillness
and to see the world in a brand new way.

My longed-for snow may not come this year.  Given our weather thus far, I am not optimistic.  So maybe on the warm, wet and dreary days of winter, I will come back to this post and read my word picture of snow.  For 2013, that may have to suffice.

May your winter bring you time to savor this season of hibernation and hidden growth. And if you have snow, relish it for all it brings and for its ability to help you see things anew.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


3: characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence

Last night my husband had an evening work event.  I decided to take full advantage.  I made a dinner he doesn't like (chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches), read my own book in a quiet house as my girls each read their latest library finds and finished reading Jason and the Golden Fleece to my girls before bed.  As the coup de grace, I put them all to bed at 8:30 (with instructions for lights out at 9 for the older two) and then... climbed into bed myself.  I often fantasize about going to bed as soon as my children are tucked in, but I never do it.

I planned well.  I grabbed my book, my bottle of water, my phone (in case J called on his way home) and the iPad (in case I finished my book and wanted to watch a Dr. Who).  About five minutes after settling in with the heating pad on and my book in hand, J got home.  He peered questioningly into our bedroom as he opened the door.

"Oh, I'm awake," I said cheerfully.  "I just decided to do what we always talk about but never do: I came to bed as soon as I said the girls' prayers.  Want to join me?"

So he did.  While he watched Alabama play Kentucky, I finished my oh-so-delightful book.  Then we talked and laughed and cuddled and went to sleep.

It felt decadent and completely self-indulgent.  There were chores I could have been doing.  (Putting away a post-grilled cheese griddle, for one.)  But for once I decided all of those chores could wait. 

Let me try that again, more honestly this time. 

I decided (once again) that all of the chores could wait and that I (for once) would not feel guilty about letting them wait.  Instead of squandering the time not spent cleaning my kitchen on Facebook or playing games on my phone or the iPad, I used the time to sink into a book that was just what my soul needed.  It didn't feel like a waste.  It felt honest and good.

A few days ago a high school friend posted as her status on Facebook, "Wonders sometimes if I should have spent a little more time being selfish........"  It's a valid question for most moms to ask.  Should I be carving out time to take care of myself?  I know that I should.  Because when I'm not intentional about making time to care for myself, my mind shuts down anyway.  I find myself unable to concentrate, choosing TV over a book, playing an inane word game online or doing any number of things to simply kill time and numb out.  As an Enneagram 9, I am more prone to this behavior than most, to be sure.  But I suspect there are others who can relate to this.  We aren't meant to take care of others to the exclusion of meeting our own needs - at least not for sustainable periods of time.

Sometimes a little decadence is in order.  Whether that translates as a massage, lighting a candle and grabbing a good book or a night out with your girl friends, I think taking time to feed our souls is important.  Please don't think I speak from a place of one who has it together.  I regularly fail to actually feed my soul the things it needs - sometimes my soul is on a starvation diet, other times it's subsisting on the soul's equivalent to beans and rice.  But every once in a while, I have a night like last night - a night where my soul feasted on the things it needed most.  I can't do it every night.  Ballet will return to its regularly scheduled programming.  The tasks to be done will scream too loudly.  Things will inevitably call me away from the warmth and comfort of my bedroom and a good book.

But here's what I cling to: at least at this point in my life I know what decadence looks like for my soul.  I know that an evening spent relishing the quiet between the covers (of both a book and my bed) is what I sometimes need.  That, at least, is progress: knowing what I need.

What's decadence for you?  What feeds your soul in the cold and gray moments?

Whatever it is, may you seek it, find it and relish it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


2 b : to mark (as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine

I turned 40 forty-one days ago.  I know this with such precision because last night I marked the event with a 40 years + 40 days party.  While I had the idea for this party over a year ago, I struggled with its execution.  I had been in a such a dark and lonely place I wasn't sure I could summon the effort to prepare my house, the food, myself.  But when I talked it over with J and he asked me what I really wanted, the answer my heart gave was to have the party.  So we had the party.  And J made it all so very easy for me by telling me to hire a caterer, pay a housekeeper and buy cupcakes.  These things made a world of difference.  I found myself able to read a few chapters of my current book before guests arrived last night - unheard of on a party day.  Logistically, it all went well once I made the decision to move forward.

My heart was not so compliant.  After months of silence from God, I finally began to hear the still, quiet voice I have missed so much.  And one of the first things he said to me was that maybe the people in my life see me better and more accurately than I see myself.  That planted the seed for a journal that joined last night's festivities.  On a table in the living room sat a leather journal with my favorite pen atop it.  Friend after friend took a turn sharing how they see me and what they see in me.  Amongst my last thoughts last night before I fell asleep was the gift that it was to have friends willing to sit at a party writing in a journal for me - not exactly your typical party behavior.

Yet the journal idea almost didn't happen.  Between the seed planting stage and its fruition at my party, I worried that I was merely shirking my own responsibility to learn who exactly I am.  Was it wrong to try to see myself better by asking others how they see me?  In the midst of my indecision, I shared the idea with a trusted group of friends - the Ish Girls (so named because we want to be Christ-ish).  They were encouraging - one said the words would only penetrate my heart when I was ready, another said I can only go about learning who I am in the way that suits me - trying anything else will be fruitless.

I've only read a few entries in the journal.  They aren't appetizers to be consumed quickly, but a series of feasts to feed my soul.  When I tried to take a similar approach to opening my birthday gifts by stretching it out for several days, there was a general outcry from my children.  So the gifts were opened in just two sessions - leaving me overwhelmed at how well my friends know and love me.

Also overwhelming was the word "celebrate."  It just kept coming up.  Several friends said in their RSVP that they were looking forward to celebrating me.  Now, I love to have parties.  I'm much more of a party-thrower than a party-goer.  That's because when I host a party, I know everyone there, I like everyone there and I love seeing all of the disparate parts of my life come together.  But I don't have parties in order to be the center of attention.  I don't have them to celebrate myself.  I have them to celebrate all of the wonderful people we know and having a home we can share.  The idea of celebrating myself is, in fact, a little frightening.  But it kept coming up - which always means I should stop and listen.

When I imagined this 40 years + 40 days party, I thought I would pick a charity and have friends donate in my honor - or find some other way to make the focus on something other than just me.  But as I pondered those ideas, I felt that same still, quiet voice say to me, "No.  Let this be about you.  Just you."  Hmm.  Really?  "Yes."  Every time I prayed about it or even just thought about it, I could not get away from the idea that this party was mean to celebrate me.  This required much setting aside.  Setting aside my own expectations.  Setting aside the judgment others would have about me.  Setting aside my traditional mode of operating, whereby I deflect attention from myself.

A few days before my party, a friend e-mailed to say her plans had changed and she couldn't make the party.  In my reply, I confessed my fear of the word celebrate.  She replied, in part, "You are honoring the truth that God in you is real, good, and something to treasure. I will pray for you, as I know it isn’t comfortable. These things he leads us to rarely are. The things he asks are often what we would never choose for ourselves in our own willpower, but you are brave, and I see that in you even when you don’t see it yourself."

Did you see that word brave?  I did.  It stood out to me like it was written in neon.  I had never even thought about celebrating myself as being brave.  I was just trying to walk where God was pointing me, even though it wasn't where I expected to go or how I expected to get there.  When I stop to think about it, that is a pretty good definition of bravery.

So I am trying to be brave, to read the words of my friends with a heart that is ready to receive, to keep my eyes open to seeing who I really am.  I tried last night to celebrate with a clear conscience and willing heart and I will confess it was fun.  And therein, I suspect, lies much of the lesson - that our bravery in listening to God's direction leads us to joy and celebration.

Monday, January 14, 2013


1 : to give a false appearance of being, possessing, or performing

Sometimes I love how honest my children are - the good, the bad, the ugly- they let it all hang out in front of their father, their sisters and me. 

This morning was a slow one.  We have had gray day upon gray day with more rain than anyone in their right mind wants.  While it wasn't raining this morning when the alarm went off, it was gray (again).  So I hit snooze a time or two or three.  The end result was that I headed out the door for my walk nearly 45 minutes past my target time.  If that late start wasn't enough to slow our Monday down, I decided to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.  By the time we sat down to light some candles together and do Jesus Calling, I was feeling the pressure to get our school day started.  Instead of rushing through our quiet time, I took a deep breath and went slowly.  My theory was that a few more minutes spent in quiet wouldn't put us that much later than we already were and they might do far more to help us than hinder us.

Here were the words that awaited us:

Everyone wants to look good.  You want to wear the right clothes, fix your hair just so, and say just the right things.  It's easy to clean up your outside, and make your friends think you have it all together on the inside.  You can fool a lot of people that way.  But not Me.  I see straight through you.  I understand who you really are, and I love you.

Talk to Me about your struggles, about the times when you feel that you just aren't good enough.  Little by little, I will take those struggles and turn them into strengths.  You don't have to pretend or put on a show with Me.  Just be yourself.  There is nothing you can do - or not do - that will stop Me from loving you.  (Jesus Calling for Kids, January 14)

Last Friday, I had explained to the girls that they could use their quiet time bracketing our devotion to ask God for the grace they need.  So this morning, I suggested they might ask God for the grace to see a place where they pretend and the grace to change.  "I can't do that!" B exclaimed.  "All I do is pretend.  You know the pin I have on my backpack?  The one that says, 'I just want people to accept me for who I pretend to be.'?  That's me!  I can't stop pretending.  I could never do that."  Her words and her response were to true and authentic that they made me catch my breath and say quietly to her, "Maybe you could just ask God for the grace to see one way you pretend.  You don't even have to ask for the grace to change it.  Just to see it."

The interesting thing about this interchange is that I think B is very authentic for a child her age, especially a female child.  How many 11 year olds know immediately that they are pretending for other people?

I turned 40 nearly 40 days ago.  I've been thinking a lot about this decade I'm just beginning and what I hope it will teach me.  I think my 30s taught me about my body - its gifts, its limitations, its importance as a part of who I am.  As I read elsewhere today:

The feminine body can be seen as a cauldron of transformation. Her body turns things into other things—her body turns a love act into a perfect little child. Yet, in her heart, she knows SHE did not do it. All she had to do was to wait and eat well, to believe and to hope for nine months. This gives a woman a very special access to understanding spirituality as transformation—if she is able to listen to her own experience and her own body. (Richard Rohr)

My 30s helped me see my body for all it could really do.  I hope my 40s will help me see who I really am.  Not who I think I am, based on what other people have told me over the years, but who I really am.  We all pretend, sometimes consciously, sometimes habitually.  Sometimes we pretend for so long that we don't know we're pretending any more.  We think that's really who we are

It's like someone has on a pair of sunglasses and tells you something about yourself.  You grab the sunglasses to see yourself that way and end up wearing them for the next thirty years.  Along the way, you add other sunglasses, reading glasses, an assorted miscellanea of glasses.  The next thing you know, you're looking at yourself through all of these lenses, left with no idea whether these filters apply to you or not.

It's hard to let go of these filters.  They've been a part of us for so long that we don't recognize them as something we've picked up along the way.  Like a tree that encounters a power line, we just grow around them, taking them into us and making them part of us.  So we certainly need grace to not only identify them, but remove them and see clearly.  I'm guessing if this is a task for my 40s, I will be lucky to accomplish it before I turn 50.  I have much unlearning to do before I can actually start learning correctly who I am.

All I can do is keeping asking for the grace to see where I'm pretending and hope God's mercy eventually reveals who I am underneath it all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


:the size of the steps I am taking of late

I feel like I am finally on my way out of the desert, but instead of striding confidently to an oasis, I am trying to take very small steps, so as to not lose my way.  One small step has been taking time after breakfast with my daughters to have a tiny bite of Jesus Calling sandwiched between silence and candles.  For many (better) parents, this may seem like a very small step indeed.  But my daughters are as different spiritually as they are in every other aspect.  Want-to-get-it-right A likes devotionals that give her the answers to how to live her life the "right" way.  Want-to-never-be-told-what-to-do B hates devotionals that point her in one direction.  Can't-hold-a-train-of-thought-to-save-her-life K just needs something short.  I am most like B in this regard, so I decided that if I've been able to read the adult version of Jesus Calling for over a year and enjoy it, perhaps this would be a book to try.  It's short, meeting K's requirement.  It's direct, meeting A's.  But it's not directional, much to the delight of B and I.  So far, we are all enjoying it.  

There have been tweaks along the way.  I found out the first morning that you can't let your children eat cereal for breakfast and read them a devotional while they eat.  They can't hear you over the crunch.  A's cereal sat there getting soggy because she wanted to do the right thing and didn't tell me to wait until she'd eaten.  So we try to finish breakfast and then each light a candle.  Silence before or after the devotional was another question I had.  Each girl wanted something different, so we do silence on both ends.  (The not eating breakfast during silence helps everyone concentrate and enjoy the silence that much more.)  I'm not changing the world or my life by adding this little segment to our day, but I have desired something like this for years and this it the first small step I've taken that hasn't led me straight off a cliff with children protesting as we slide down the hill.

Small step number two is adding running back into my thrice weekly morning walks.  The stress fracture that wouldn't heal has finally healed.  (I remain certain that stubborn fracture has a great big spiritual lesson wrapped up in it, but I am equally doubtful as to what I was supposed to learn.)  I've been gradually phasing out of wearing my brace and gradually walking more consistently and for longer distances.  So yesterday I threw caution to the wind - along with a quick pray flung up to heaven - and ran for a few minutes.  My ankle didn't give out and seems fine today, but I am loathe to re-injure myself, so I am taking it slow.  Tomorrow's walk may remain a walk, with additional running left until Monday.

Small steps can be frustrating for me.  I can be slow to act, but once I act, I'd like the benefits, thankyouverymuch.  This going slowly, trusting that even one peaceful day of Jesus Calling is worth it, is hard.  My daughters aren't suddenly fighting less.  They aren't quoting scripture.  They are still exactly who they were - and so I am, sadly.  But my hope is that these tiny small steps will eventually lead us all to someplace new and lush - a place where ankles are whole and healed, where God can be felt and heard, where our eyes are open to seeing who we really are.

Maybe taking small steps instead of giant leaps will help me remember my own smallness and be thankful for it, instead of resenting the limitations it brings.  Maybe small steps will keep the fear at bay and allow me to keep moving instead of hiding under a rock (which I sometimes very much want to do).  Maybe sometimes the only step I can take is a small one and that is just OK.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


:the destination for A's 13th birthday trip

Christmas morning, all of the presents in the Truss home had been opened when I told A to look behind the tree.  There she found an overnight bag with a red bow around it.  Inside?  Two wrapped boxes, one inside the other.  The final box contained two tickets to the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker in Chicago.  She laughed.  She cried.  She explained to her sisters what the Joffrey is.

A while back, J and I decided the perfect way to celebrate each girl's 13th birthday was an overnight trip.  When I found out Chicago's Nutcracker continued past Christmas Day, I thought it would be the perfect surprise for A.  Now that the plan is out, K and B have already asked about whether their birthday trips could be to London or Russia.  I quickly set some parameters, including that "overnight" requires the trip be in the continental United States.  I'm too old (and wise) to take an overnight trip to Europe.

A and I left early the day after Christmas.  When we landed, we headed straight to one of my favorite places - the Art Institute.  I had let A choose our first destination and was thrilled when this was her selection.  The biggest selling point to her were the Thorne Rooms.  She actually gasped when she heard she could see them in person.  A few years ago, she read The Sixty-Eight Rooms which is set partially in the Thorne Rooms.  While we weren't able to shrink down to miniature size and sneak around the rooms like the characters in her book, it was still pretty cool to walk along and look at them together.

After the art museum, we walked to our hotel, where Anna promptly started journaling in the journal she bought at the Art Institute.  We then did something I rarely enjoy - we shopped - at H&M, Macy's and more.  And we just walked around and enjoyed being in a city so much larger and more city-like than our own.  A was delightful and delighted the entire time.  We talked about what we liked - being able to walk everywhere.  What we didn't - some very crowded stores.  And what baffled us - is an eight story Macy's really necessary?

We spent the evening in bed, watching the Kennedy Center Honors, so that A could see the ballet portion.  As we sat there companionably, it struck me how much this child broadens my horizons, even as I set out to broaden hers.  Sure, I introduce her to taxis, airplanes and room service, but she inspires me to hop a flight in order to see a ballet (and watch some on television, to boot).  I am thankful for who this child is becoming.  She's humble, grateful for new experiences and easy to be around.  I like her.

The next morning, we ordered room service.  A thought this was a huge treat and relished the experience.  Afterwards, we debated whether to head to the Field Museum or do some more shopping before the matinee.  A was undecided.  She didn't really want to take a taxi over to the museum and wasn't sure she felt up to more shopping.  (Can you tell she's my child?  One afternoon of that was enough.)  When I suggested maybe we should walk over to Barnes & Noble and read, she lit up.  Our choice was made.  The icing on the cake was that it was snowing as we walked over.  A snow flurry in Chicago is considerably heavier than a Nashville snow flurry.  It was a delight to experience it.

While reading at Barnes & Noble, A experienced what may have been her favorite moment of the trip: a stranger mistook her for a college student.  In the stranger's defense, we were at the B&N on DePaul's campus.  But my then-twelve year-old thought it was hilarious and flattering that someone thought she was old enough to be in college.  As we sat in the cafe sipping our hot chocolate and coffee, A daydreamed about what it would be like to live in Chicago, study at the Joffrey and make her way.  She's great that way, this child.  She dreams, but she tries to think things through at the same time.  Even in her fantasy, she knew she would need a part-time job to supplement any ballet income.  So we conjured up a job at the bookstore for her and kept dreaming.

When we finally arrived at the ballet, it was all we had hoped for.  The theater was gorgeous, the cast amazing, my daughter inspired, all of which left me content and happy.

A asked me last night what I was going to say about her in her birthday post.  This year, I find myself hesitant to tell you who she is.  More and more, she is taking ownership of that herself and that is as it should be.  To me, she is so much potential - some of it realized, some of it untapped.  She is more than I ever could have imagined and will become so much more in the remaining years she spends in my home.  She is a joy to be around and can still make me roll my eyes in exasperation.  She's on the threshold between childhood and adulthood and it's a gift to watch her make the transition.  She's thirteen and I'm thankful to be her mom.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


: knowledge or understanding of one's own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations

If I have one rule as a parent, it is this: Know Your Children.  I am not, and hope never to be, a one-size-fits-all parent.  Perhaps this is because my children are each so different from one another.  When B was little, I quickly found that discipline methods that worked with first-born A were not going to do the trick with  her bolder, second-born sister.  Yet even if my children were more similar in their styles and needs, I think I would still make it my mission to know them well.  Partly because I think this is the only way I know to parent well and partly because this is what delights me most: seeing them turn into people I never could have imagined.  I have always loved learning and being a student: my job now is to study my children and help them become who they are meant to be.  Thankfully, I have wise and thoughtful friends who are similarly committed to knowing their children.

(As an aside, are any two children really alike?  I have a theory that God makes our children so different from one another so that we can love them equally.  If I had three daughters similar in nature and aspect, it would be difficult to love them well.  It is their very uniqueness that enables me to love them freely and equally.)

I not only want to know who my daughters are, I want them to know who they are.  This may sound simple, but I think the world does a great job of confusing us about this.  It throws obstacles at us, forces lenses over our eyes and distracts us with minor details that prevent us from seeing the whole beautiful picture of who we are.  In an effort to help my daughters see themselves, a few years ago I started a small tradition of making my final Christmas gift a list.  Haven't you always wanted a list for Christmas?  Each girl gets a list of adjectives describing her.  The list's length is determined by their age.

This year brought challenges and changes for each of my daughters, so I thought carefully about what I've seen in them before offering them the following:

Thinker (and sometimes over-thinker)

Aware of others' needs (sometimes)

Willing to try new things
Cares for others' needs
This year I tried to include a few qualities that are both blessings and burdens for my daughters.  It is good that A thinks things through, but that can become a burden when she plays an endless loop over and over in her mind.  This is something I am not so good at: showing my children where they fall short.  I am much more naturally an encourager than a coach.  I am more apt to gloss over a deficiency than shine a light on it and help my daughters see it more clearly.  Sadly, with myself the opposite is true.

I turned 40 a few weeks ago and I think what I want most for this new decade of my life is self-knowledge.  I'd like to understand my capabilities and true self better than I do today.  I'd like to see myself without the various sets of glasses I've acquired over the years: those glasses that tell me who I should be or who someone wants me to be, but that distort my vision and prevent me from seeing myself truly. 

So who am I?  Feel free to offer your own word or two.  I would consider it a gift.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


1 : one that is treated or regarded with special favor or liking

In early December, the Ish Girls (my Bible study, named after the book Ish and our desire to be Christ-ish) got together to share our favorite things.  The rules were simple: buy something you love - one of your low-cost favorite things - for each of the other seven women.  We started this tradition last year and loved it so much that we did it again in the spring, without even having Christmas as an excuse.  Both times previously, I knew immediately what to give.  I had clear cut favorite things.  This time, I struggled to find something.  Not because of the price limit, but because I simply couldn't think of anything that delighted my heart.  And I wanted these gifts to be from my heart.

One night, less than a week before our gift exchange, I was telling J my dilemma.  "Your favorite thing?" he asked.  "That's easy.  Buy books."  He was right.  2012 has not been an easy year.  I've struggled and continue to struggle.  But books have been a constant.  They've been a source of comfort, encouragement, companionship or escape.  So I went through my Goodreads list and selected several 5 star books to share with my friends.

Writing has been a struggle, too.  I haven't wanted to be negative and have felt burdened by the old Southernism "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  There have been many days when I haven't felt like I have anything nice to say.  So I've chosen silence.  But I think I need to write.  I need to begin again and find a way through, by putting some of my thoughts and feelings into words.  I'm not much for resolutions, but I think I know myself well enough to know I need to make time for some creative outlets or I will implode. 

As an attempt to step forward in faith that I will eventually find writing to be a gift and not a burden, here's my first post of 2013: my favorite books of 2012.  Links will take you to my Goodreads review of each book.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson - I went to an Enneagram conference in September and heard Russ Hudson speak.  I immediately came home and requested every book of his that the Nashville library owned.  This one did not disappoint.  If you've read other books on the enneagram, but haven't made the time for this one, I highly recommend it.  It will leave you understanding yourself and others better.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - I read this book right around the time we sold our house.  It was a stressful time of getting our house of ten years emptied and show-ready, so this memoir of a brave Dutch woman during World War II helped me try to keep my own struggles in perspective.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - a lush, magical book.  I can't think of this book without having vivid black and white images scroll through my mind.  It's a visual feast wrapped in a fascinating story with an unexpected ending.

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr - I expected this book on contemplative prayer to give me pointers or direction on how to be more contemplative in my prayer.  What I got instead was affirmation.  Much of what Rohr described was (at that time) my own experience.

Why I Wake Early and Thirst by Mary Oliver - poetry is not my first love.  But I fell in love with Mary Oliver's poems.  She talks of the love of God and the love of nature having a long conversation in her soul.  These books will forever describe the spring of 2012 for me.  They were lenten companions that described and affirmed my own experience.

Wonder by RJ Palacio - an unexpected book about a startling subject.  A boy with severe facial abnormalities enrolls in public middle school.  His experiences are as stunningly difficult as surprisingly sweet.  Wonder reminds us that life is about both beauty and pain.

No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel - how powerful are words and stories?  If you tell yourself something vehemently enough, does it become your reality?  This novel set in WWII tells the tale of a village who chose to pretend the war was not raging around them.  Would the lie spare them pain or cause them more?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - one of the most honest books about life and how to live it I've ever read.  The subject matter is hard - teens with cancer - but Green treats it with an authenticity that was both heartbreaking and heartening.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - if you're an introvert, or you know and love an introvert, this book is a must read.  Cain does an excellent job of explaining how our culture is set up to not only serve but foster and reward extroverts.  And she shows the things we're missing out on because of this.

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron - one of the first books I read in 2012.  I knew nearly twelve months ago that this would be one of my favorite books of the years.  I can imagine the hills of Rwanda, the hope of a young runner and the harsh realities of war.  It's a book of dreams seized, realized, deferred and destroyed.  Well worth your time.