Every day becomes
second chance at happiness
I choose you always
become what you make
the reality of your
Accepting the truth
honesty defeats the doubt
Every day becomes
second chance at happiness
I choose you always
become what you make
the reality of your
Accepting the truth
honesty defeats the doubt
The first day of summer coincidentally also begins the weekend. As another season starts, I recommend these fun stories that take place during the summer. They have an easygoing flow yet still have depth as the characters face new circumstances and face the heat.
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen: This book came out this month, just in time for summer. Emma Saylor finds herself reuniting with a grandmother she hasn’t seen since early childhood. As she connects with cousins at North Lake, where her parents met, she discovers more of her deceased mother’s history. In turn, she learns how to root her identity to grow into her future.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: With a character going by a similar name in a similar storyline (even the same state) to Sarah Dessen’s latest, this Sarah’s novel follows Emily Benedict as she ventures to her grandfather’s house in Mullaby, North Carolina. She too reconnects with the community of her mother’s past and finds a connection to another family. Learning about her mother’s past, she overcomes some generational obstacles in a magical setting.
The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks: Ronnie also returns to North Carolina, this time to stay with her dad for the summer. Having struggled since her parents’ divorce, she grows in her new scenery as she develops stronger roots with her father. Between the summer, the beach, and a love interest, Ronnie experiences the ocean’s beauty, waves, and tides.
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O’Neal: Baker Romola welcomes her stepdaughter-in-law to her home and develops a new relationship as she aims to save her bakery. As they grow closer, Romola examines her own roots. A summer she spent with her aunt as a teenager shapes her future familial relationships.
Jamie Ivey vulnerably shares her faith story in If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. Though raised as a Christian, Ivey’s life took some unexpected turns. She doesn’t sugarcoat her choices and their consequences as she sees where they have taken her, and it shows her courage and faith to face the inevitable judgment again. Overall, the reflection reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles or doubt. Christians don’t always live up to their expectations of themselves or each other, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t continue to lift them up again with grace. Ivey’s vulnerability encourages me to trust someone, even if in writing, with my own story. Sharing how God transforms us opens an honest connection where we can all learn how to walk in better faith, and Ivey does that as she invites readers to do the same.
2018, A.J. Finn, angst, Anne of Green Gables, authentic, best of, books, career, Christian fiction, Circe, classic, connection, dreams, faith, family, Fiercehearted, Greek mythology, growth, healing, high school, Holly Gerth, How to Walk Away, imagination, innocence, isolation, Jenny Han, Katherine Center, kindness, L.M. Montgomery, literature, Madeline Miller, Maggie O'Farrell, mental health, mystery, obstacles, opportunities, perspective, progress, R.J. Palacio, Rachel Hauck, relationships, resiliency, strength, The Woman in the Window, The Writing Desk, This Must Be the Place, thriller, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, wonder, YA
Happy New Year! As we begin a fresh calendar year, I want to share my top reads from 2018. That way we can start our reading lists with good titles and a reminder of the plethora of wonderful reads awaiting us.
Cheers to another great year of reading!
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies took me on a tour of human emotion and experience and Indian culture when I read it for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club earlier this year. I enjoyed each short story in this collection. Though they only show a glimpse into each character’s life, I got a good sense of their depth. Lahiri gave me insight into the experience of holding two cultures as part of your identity, and it showed the importance of connection and community. I highly recommend this book for not only an enjoyable read but for a way to gain a greater understanding of situations you may not experience yourself so you can have a greater empathy when you meet someone who has.
The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.
My best friend and I recently have read and discussed Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for our long distance book club, and it has led to some fun discussions about boys and high school and life. The story follows Lara Jean as she adjusts to life at home with her younger sister and father after her older sister heads to Scotland for college. During that time, the letters Lara Jean wrote to her previous crushes find their way from her private hat box to the boys’ mailboxes. She discovers the deliveries subsequently develops her ability actually to talk to the boys.
My high school friends and I resembled Lara Jean a lot in our lack of conversations with boys. Sure, we talked about them; we just didn’t exactly talk to them. However, we did slip anonymous cheesy love poems into boys’ lockers for fun. We enjoyed giggling while writing them and then watching the recipients’ faces as they read. We eventually progressed from there to have a couple dates and boyfriends in the groups.
Lara Jean has to face what we all have to face: learning the art of conversation and connection. She writes letters to express her feelings and her disappointments that nothing develops between her and her crushes. Once they get into the hands of the crushes, she sees that they lead to connections. From there, she learns to navigate the hopes, embarrassments, thrills and disappointments of talking to boys. As she gets to know a couple of them, she deciphers who she can trust and who might have the potential to become more than a crush.
Whether for friendships or relationships, we all have to brave the unknown and start conversations with people. As we get to know people who may have similar interests or in whom we have an interest, we can develop those relationships. Lara Jean finds a reminder of the importance of the connections around her, ranging from having new conversations with her sister to maintain their closeness after she leaves for college to admitting to her old crush she used to like him. We don’t know what depths a relationship may hold until we start conversations. Even with familiar ones, we can gain even more from maintaining the connection. So here’s to facing the unknown and the discomfort of continuing conversations to keep us connected.
I received an advanced reading copy of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner from BookishFirst in exchange for a review.
I really have enjoyed taking a trip through history by reading this book. Though I can’t imagine what experiencing the Spanish Flu epidemic 100 years ago, much less compounding those great losses with those of the war during the same period, I can relate to the three sisters’ life dilemmas. They go through tough experiences and loss, and they maintain a personal strength as well as a strong connection with their family.
At first glance, I dislike jumping between perspectives, especially when it goes beyond two (this one has four). Yet I find Meissner does a good job making each character clear and interlacing the perspectives to get the story’s full picture. Especially as the book progresses, I enjoy the distinct characters and their various ages.
This book gives a great glimpse into a tough part of history. I feel as though I have lived vicariously through this family and now have a greater understanding of the time and its turmoil as well as its blessings remaining in the ashes, as the girls learn.
This weekend I’m catching up on NBC’s hit tearjerker This Is Us, and the second episode doesn’t disappoint. Filled with touching moments, especially between characters who haven’t been as close previously, it captures the difficulty and depth of developing a family. Randall and Beth further contemplate fostering a child. Through Randall’s doubt and Beth’s persistence in their discussions, they demonstrate the uncertainty in family connections and the communication necessary to develop those connections. They show triumph over uncertainty and difficulty to connect leads to the development of strong family ties.
Randall knows firsthand what it feels like to struggle through childhood. As the adopted child of the Big Three triplets and only one of a different race, he knows how easy it can be to feel separated. He also has witnessed the effects of parents’ problems on children; his adoptive father Jack struggled with a drinking problem passed down from Jack’s father, a problem that stirs conflict within Jack and Rebecca’s marriage and family, and, his biological father struggled with drug problems and ultimately died from cancer. Randall understandably fears not feeling equipped to deal with a foster child who may have been abused in some way (Beth at first guesses he feels nervous about answering the question about his family history of alcoholism and drugs). As Beth points out, they didn’t know what they would get when they had their two daughters.
Their discussion and their potential to know beforehand whether a child would have the difficulties of healing from abuse or difficult medical histories intrigued me. As Bev points out, people generally don’t know what problems may arise related to their children or their preparedness to parent. Life, and families in particular, face a lot of uncertainty. Yet Randall’s life proves that the uncertainty and challenges can be overcome. Perhaps some of Randall’s perfectionism and hard work ethic stem from a desire to prove himself worthy. It also fuels him to work to stay connected with his family despite the difficulties. Ultimately, in this episode, we see how Beth’s insistence to continue their discussion until completion of the foster care questionnaire demonstrates how communication can further deepen and develop family connections. She does not let Randall give up, and together they progress their goal to broaden their family.
Beth’s story arc in this episode also shows how connections can develop even where they don’t have much depth already. She informs Randall that she does not find his brother Kevin funny and that she does not care to watch the recording of Kevin’s show The Manny. Kevin knows their relationship does not go deep, but he still seizes his chance to be there for her and his brother. Beth finds herself in Kevin’s room backstage and shares her frustration with Randall. Rather than remove himself to give Beth space, Kevin chooses to stay and communicate. As she divulges their plans to adopt, Kevin sees Beth’s need for understanding and connects with her through a humorous background story Beth didn’t previously realize connected them. It serves as a point for them to start deepening their friendship as well as encouragement for Beth to not get discouraged in her journey with Randall to become foster parents.
As usual, this episode makes me tear up at the touching depth to these characters and their situations. They remind me that with effort and communication we can all develop deeper connections with family. Their strength does not come without difficulty. Opportunities always exist to connect as well, whether they be with family members who have been around for years or with ones who may not have joined yet. Like Randall and Beth, we should not let fear of uncertainty steer us away from developing those ties.
no money, no rent
no way to meet ends
yet you daydream away
hoping somebody else tends
a day laid in bed
a blanket blocking out
no light streaming in
inspiration to move about
until I’m invited again
a smile lift lips
as you start to arise
head resting on my hips
my lap brings comfort
the presence you need
to embrace the real you
as that desire you feed
a connecting you bring
to go deeper you crave
what you hold dearly
you still can save
July 20, 2017
childhood, children, church, class, comfort, connected, connection, counseling, depression, despair, doubt, emotional hurt, environment, family, forgiveness, fulfilled, fulfilling, hope, hopeful, hopelessness, innocence, life, loss of innocence, opportunity, pain, protection, safe, shame, therapy, wounds
Some of this involves forgiveness, including myself as well as family members and people in my past. The main root of these layers comes from some painful childhood experiences as well as generally chaotic and sometimes unsafe environments in the past. Those events extended into loss of innocence and shame of having been harmed (and from not sharing) and thoughts of how life could have been or could be different “if only…”. My first main step is opening the door where I have locked away all the pain so I can finally let some of it go and become free. Then as I uncover specific details and wounds, I can break their hold of me.
Ultimately, I will reach a point where I don’t believe the doubting voices in my head and will feel like I can confidently pursue my goals and feel worthy of myself, my efforts, my contributions to the world. I can also break the unconscious vows I made to myself in attempts of protecting myself from further pain. I have vowed not to make children experience what I did as a child, thus making it impossible for me to know if I even want children. Once I let that go, I can see that I can still have a fulfilling family and create a safe and happy home environment (the latter of which I have accomplished as I made my own home in college but have later realized it also includes self imposed isolation as a family of one). In turn, allowing myself to have what I block in the interest of protection gives me an opportunity to lead a more fulfilling and connected life, built up by being plugged in.
Hopelessness may lead to more despair and self-pity, even self-hatred. Yet I have hope that as I unwrap those layers and leave them somewhere that’s not a shadowy party of my heart (as seemingly comforting as they can trick my mind into feeling with their familiarity), I can wrap myself in more positive life experiences and be better equipped to weather the difficult ones.