A Reading List for Relationships

I asked and you answered. I’ve only read a handful of these books, so I’m not endorsing them or the authors, simply reporting the answers from friends, family, and followers.

I found that most of the authors suggested are white males, who as you may guess, do not hold a monopoly on healthy relationships or great sex. If you have suggestions, please let me know so I can add them to the list. In the meantime, I would strongly encourage you read outside the box!

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Which Christian dating/marriage books have either helped or misled you?

Here’s what helped.

Other helpful authors or speakers.

And these seemed to be misleading.

If you disagree with any of the characterizations above, I’d love to hear! Obviously, there’s a lot more to say on these subjects that these few authors can cover, but it’s a start. Knowing some of the authors listed, some books most likely disagree in certain ways.

I asked this question with “purity culture” in mind. I’m curious to hear if you experienced this growing up and if there were teachings or books that promoted this in your church or religious context. 

 

Living Lighter: Goals for Reducing Our Waste

“Zero waste” goals are filled with good intentions, but they can also be glazed with privilege or affluence. (Here’s a helpful article.) I recognize this. My husband and I don’t have gold coins spilling from our pockets, but even as a one-income family we do have access to a variety of resources that others may not have. My hope in sharing these goals with you is that we can encourage each other to be conscious consumers, wherever you may find yourself.

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Reducing waste keeps our environment clean and our ecosystem healthy. (Photo: Massimiliano Latella)

Here’s what we’ve worked on in the last year.

  • Recycling plastics. There are all different types of plastics. Some you can stick in the recycle bin, others you can’t! (Here’s a helpful breakdown.)
  • Recycling clothing. I’ve donated and shopped at thrift stores, but I recently learned you could recycle those old bras for a great cause! I sent mine here.
  • Glass alternatives.
    • Food storage. I save the glass jars and use them for either food storage, like tupperware, or other types of organization. I recently purchased these containers for lunches and leftovers.
    • Water bottles. Aaron gave me this glass one a few years ago and still use it everyday. I prefer this lid.
    • Straws. Glass straws are pretty and easy to use.
  • Grocery shopping. I try to avoid plastic packaging if possible, especially around produce. If necessary, Trader Joe’s and other super markets offer compostable produce bags. We also use fun reusable grocery bags, which makes the one-trip mission easier since the bags are stronger and usable more comfortable to carry. Even choosing paper over plastic is a smart move!
  • Swapping bathroom essentials.
    • Shampoo. We’ve swapped our shampoo bottles for bars! I thought the bar wouldn’t give me enough product or lather to really clean my thick hair, but I was wrong. I love it! I’ve been using this one for almost a year and a half. Aaron likes this one.
    • Body wash. These bars from Whole Foods are the bomb. When they go on sale, be sure to stock up!
    • Face wash. Aaron likes this stuff and this bar.
    • Toothbrushes & toothpaste. Bamboo toothbrushes have also been a hit. Did you know you can chew toothpaste? Aaron’s used these in the past, warning — these are a tad spendy. (I’ve seen others make their own toothpaste, but that’s a dare devil move if you ask me.)
  • Cloth napkins. I haven’t purchased paper napkins in almost 2 years. I can count on one hand how many rolls of paper towels I’ve used. Cloth napkins are really easy to make or find.
  • Cutting out red meat. The processing of red meat uses lots of water and land in a way that isn’t sustainable. (Read more.) This wasn’t super difficult as we hardly eat any beef. Some might also say that going vegan is even better on the environment. We’re not quite ready for that.
  • Supporting sustainable companies.
    • There are so many small and big business that can help you reduce your footprint. From big bulk stores to your neighborhood health and wellness store — you have options!
    • Have you heard of this zero-waste grocery delivery service??
    • We are also huge fans of the Buy Nothing Project.

Here are some new things we want to try this year.

  • Composting. I’m not sure how to attempt composting in our small apartment, but I’m up for trying if anyone has suggestions?
  • Water filter. Our friends have a Berkey water filter. They love it. Right now we have a Brita pitcher, which involves constant filter replacement. We don’t have a ton of space to spare, so we’ll look back into this once we move.
  • Other important bathroom swaps.  Someday we’ll swap our cotton swabs, moisturizers, and other bathroom essentials out for products that are more easily compostable and without plastic containers.
  • Beeswax food wraps. These are a great alternative to saran wrap. I don’t use plastic wrap a ton anyways, but I think it might be fun to try these (or make them!)

These changes don’t happen overnight, nor are they always consistent habits. Small steps in the right direction are key. Do you have any goals like these? I’d love to hear what has or hasn’t worked for you!

Living an Unhurried Life

What would it look like to live life unhurried?

When I thought of 2019 I had this question come to my mind, especially the last word. I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in a hot minute but I was willing to consider this.

I wanted my second year of seminary to be different. I wanted to avoid burnout at all costs. Now a couple weeks into January and half way through this second year I’ve already been tempted to jump 3 steps ahead of myself. My graduation date is set and my mind can only think of all the factors involved for a post-grad move, the next apartment, the next job, the next set of bills, and so on. I ended up writing down all the things I wasn’t allowed to worry about on a post-it note and stuck it on the fridge.

If I rush through my classes, or dinner, or my conversation with a friend, then I’m really not allowing myself to enjoy that person or meal in front of me, no matter how simple the interaction seems. I want to be present with those I’m with and in the work I do, otherwise it’s all meaningless. Living unhurried is trusting God’s timing and faithfulness over my own.

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Photo: Morgan Sessions

This isn’t to say you won’t find me late and rushing to a meeting or procrastinating from day to day. (My entire life!) My point in this is to say that life is quick. We’re finite creatures. I don’t want to get so busy or overwhelmed that I miss what God put right in front of me.

It takes serious discipline to tame all the worries and focus on the task at hand. And it certainly doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a muscle you have to continue to strengthen over the course of your life since there will always be new things to do and people to see.

I working on using some of these habits to slow down and savor where I’m at. I’m not perfect at any of them, but I invite you to try them with me.

  • Going on a walk outside. (Or a few minutes of stretching. Because New England winters.) Fresh air is underrated, especially on cooler days.
  • Setting aside social media for a period of time. I deleted the Instagram app off my phone at the beginning of January. Before that I combed through my followers/following and deleted over 400 accounts that did not “spark joy” as Marie Kondo would say. It felt good. I kept Facebook, which is the next app I’ll work on separating myself from. Maybe for Lent.
  • Practicing a consistent Sabbath. Everything is finished on Saturday or I won’t look at it until Monday. Sundays are now a favorite of mine. I look forward to spending a full day unhurried with Aaron and engaging with our church community.
  • Call a friend on the phone. Yes, the actual telephone! Aaron is much better at this than I am, but I’ll get there. A perfectly good substitution for a phone call is a handwritten note.
  • Carefully crafting my week. My explanation is oversimplified and it takes some tweaking, but I started to visually organize my weeks in a way that allows me to focus on a task at a time and balances the priorities in my life. My mind and body are way more focused and I feel more “productive,” which really means I’m more satisfied with the quality of work I produce, not the amount.
  • Grocery shopping with a purpose. Since the new year our kitchen has been primary Paleo and meal planning has become even more important. It’s been a kick in the pants to plan ahead. (Have you heard the phrase, fail to plan or plan to fail?)
  • Reading book in the evening. Screens are awful. News is not a bedtime story. Get off the phone, Elizabeth. Read a damn book.

…and a (responsible) glass of wine at the end of a long day might not hurt either.

What helps you slow down?

 

A Year of Bravery

This year has been one to remember.

2018 has felt almost like a desert with long dry patches of loneliness and heartache, stress and uncertainty. There have been moments of peace, like the day Aaron came home or time spent with family. These past 12 months have pushed me to redefine what success looks like and to reconsider what my faith in God looks like in the ordinary day to day. I’ve learned more about what I cannot do, rather than what I am able to do. (I have the hunch that this is all life ever teaches us and perhaps success is found where we least expect it.)

I’d like to think that I have been brave throughout most of my life so far, but this year held a few more opportunities to test that and this was also reflected in the books I read. (This is not to say the challenges in my life are anywhere near comparable to the stories of Dorothy Day or Howard Thurman, but they have been excellent examples of strength and courage.)

Here is a complete list of the 60 some books I read this year. (Isn’t Goodreads cool?) Sixty is quite a few, averaging a little more than a book a week, but I sure didn’t keep that pace. I reread several books. I fell deeper in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and Liturgy of the Ordinary and my perspective and understanding of Divided by Faith’s message and methodology shifted. Below are some books that really caught my attention.

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Photo: Joyce McCown

 

In no particular order, these books shaped my 2018.

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

This is a small, but powerful book that helped continue to shape my understanding of racial reconciliation. I recommend this to anyone and everyone.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom’s brave journey through the Holocaust emphasized human dignity, prayer, and forgiveness. I read it in one sitting.

The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

I wrote a paper on Dorothy Day’s spirituality this past semester knowing little to nothing about her. She is one of my new heroines; she was incredible! This book is her autobiography. She wrote for a living, so just in case you fall in love with her, there are so many more chances to read about her life and faith.

The Story of Christianity, Volumes 1 and 2 by Justo Gonzalez

I believe studying church history made the difference for my faith. These books are easy to read volumes that are very engaging and well written. The chapters are pretty short, which I found helpful.

The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor

I love just about anything put out by the Gungors. Lisa’s story is so beautifully written. I cried and laughed. In some ways it felt like she had been writing to me. I also read this in one evening. I couldn’t put it down.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

This book made more sense after getting married and walking through some other pain.  I sobbed all the way through. In contrast to The Problem of Pain, this book doesn’t try to make reasonable arguments about suffering. (Pain isn’t reasonable.) This story reveals how Lewis understood and handled his own grief after losing his wife.

Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee

These stories are more common than white evangelicals might like to acknowledge. Lee’s book validated my own experience as a woman in the church. (!!!) The stories she presents are real and worth your time.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This book is important. There is also a documentary based on this book, as well as another book written in response titled Half the Church.

The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah

If you have not yet critiqued your Christian faith, or perhaps you have lost hope for evangelical Christianity, I would recommend this book. Rah is convicting, but also hopeful.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is a fictional story that captured my attention from the start. I haven’t read other books by this author, but I would dare believe this is her best book. This book made me squirm and at some points I wanted to throw my book across the room. This story is incredibly moving and all too real. The ending is unexpected, but worth it. Easily one of my favorites.

There are many other books I could have listed, but selected just a few that impacted me in specific ways. Each story was full of courage, despite the cost of sharing their experience or the pain of loss in their lives. Their examples dared me to be brave. Challenge yourself to read something out of the box in 2019 or find a reading challenge that keeps your eyes open for authors of color and stories of a different culture or ideology. Let me know what you find!

What did you read this year? 

Grateful

Thanksgiving can be a complicated holiday to celebrate. I’ll keep it simple. Here are 10 things I’m grateful for.

  1. My faith, which has more questions than answers these days.
  2. Aaron’s presence at home. Last year we weren’t as lucky.
  3. A family who embraces our polished & raw sides and still says, “I’m proud of you.”
  4. Books, books, books! Reading has been transformational for me this year. (Again.)
  5. Morning light.
  6. Meals shared with friends or family.
  7. A New England fall and the associated cozy, wool socks.
  8. Photo albums at Grandma’s house.
  9. Free laundry machines.
  10. My application to graduate has been submitted. The end is almost in sight!

What are you thankful for?

We spent our Thanksgiving holiday in California and Arizona. It was smokey from the fires, but we still explored Sacramento, Sequoia National Park and (somewhat) enjoyed the 10 hour drive to Phoenix. I’m happy Aaron was able to meet several of my cousins and almost all my aunts and uncles during this trip. For a fairly last minute decision, it worked out well.

As a wrap up this fall semester in the next couple weeks, I’m amazed at how fast these classes flew by. I’m working through one of my final projects, research on Dorothy Day’s spirituality, so please keep me in your prayers as I complete all the things on my metaphorical desk! I recently applied to graduate, which means spring graduation is right around the corner. I’m so grateful I’ve been able to work through these subjects and study in such a beautiful place.

Grace and peace,

Elizabeth