Archive | books

In which I read my bad reviews

You know better. Of course, you do. You know better than to read blog posts about your book. You know better than to Google yourself. You know better than to troll a list of “best blogs” looking for your own absent name.

And you know better than to ignore the 5-star reviews and only read the 1- and 2-star reviews of your little yellow book. You know better than to measure your self-worth by the measuring sticks of another.

Of course you know this. But some days…. Well, some days, you forget or you violate your own boundaries and you do it anyway.

So this is what people think of me.

And then you sit in their thoughts. Deflated. Out of breath. Hot. Why does your face always get so hot when you feel exposed?

They’re right. Of course, they’re right.

Who do you think you are?

That hiss always comes on the heels of these moments. Who do you think you are? And in this moment, you can’t remember the answer or can’t muster the words aloud.

So this is what you do first: you walk away from the reviews, from the criticism, from the mockery, from the ways you’ve disappointed.

Then you call your sister and you call your husband. You call your friends. You get mad and dare to say it out loud. You admit that you’re hurt. You admit that you made a bad decision by choosing to read them and now you’re living with the consequences but they seem a bit too harsh in your soul.

You admit that you’re feeling vulnerable and exposed, ridiculous and small, worthless and foolish. You are trying to harden your heart so it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Somehow saying it out loud helps a bit.

But you don’t want to have a hard heart. You’d rather be hurt than impenetrable. This is the price of living without armour, of making art with your life and stories and faith: you are vulnerable.

Every attack feels personal because it’s your heart-and-soul-work. And that’s okay. You might need a bit of time before you can sort through the legit criticisms – the kind that will make you better – from the hurt. Maybe it will make you a better writer. Maybe. Reason and logic seem insufficient at the moment.

You go for a walk in the sunshine. You remember that it’s spring and so you take pictures of the pink and white trees. You hold hands with your littlest girl and stop often to look at the wonder: look, a ladybug! look, a rock! look, a cigarette butt! look, a dandelion! And you carry her treasures in your pockets (except for the cigarette butt). You tip your face to the sky and breathe deep. This is real, this is real, this is real.

You argue and defend yourself and justify to a closed computer. Then you pray and you find comfort. You keep praying like you always do, throughout your life.

You consider quitting writing but first you’d have to quit living, quit caring.

You go home and clean something. You make supper. You bath your children and quiz spelling words. You sweep the floors and put away laundry. Your life is achingly normal and today this comforts you.

Then in the night, when everyone is asleep, you run the bath and sink into the warmth. Your damp hands hold up a book you love, and the pages absorb the warmth. You read and soak until your hair is damp and curling around your neck.

You rise up out of the water and stand. You look in the mirror at your bare face and you say it out loud this time: I’m a beloved warrior

Then you go to bed and sleep.

In the morning, when you rise, you already know that you will pour a cup of tea, sit your bum in your chair, and write again. And someone will not like it. But you will write anyway and you will keep writing because this is where you find God most clearly and most profoundly, this is your sanctuary and this is your work.

Continue Reading · books, fearless, journey · 56

In which I share what I’m into :: February 2014 edition



Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey by Luci Shaw. Far and away, this was my favourite book of the past few months. Luci Shaw is underappreciated in popular Christian writing circles, I know, but this poet writes some of my favourite prose and memoir. I like to think I can write a sentence now and then but then I read Luci Shaw, who effortlessly drops phrases like “the wide straps of dark clouds” or “silky shawl of air” or “rags of snow” and I just want to bow down. This book chronicles a year of her life in her eighties as she contemplates dying, growing older, and her own faith in those days. Rich material for a rich mind. P.S. She was Madeleine L’Engle’s best friend (for my fellow devoteees).

Longbourn by Jo Baker - a mash-up of Upstairs, Downstairs sensibility using Pride & Prejudice? Take my money, madam! Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I wouldn’t re-read and regret buying it instead of just grabbing it at the library.

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor – I go through swings with Flannery O’Connor’s work – I won’t read her for years and then all of a sudden, I can’t stop for a month. That’s how things are right now. This prayer journal is so intimate, so raw. Even seeing her ambitions laid out, right alongside her prayers and her struggles, made me feel less alone. A beautiful book.

Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier by David E. Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw. If you’ve grown a bit tired of the rhetoric and unending speculation, if you’re ready to actually begin to live into that new way forward for the community of God, this is a good place to start. It’s practical and accessible. The ten critical signposts in a missional way of life are: post-Christendom, missio Dei, incarnation, witness, scripture, gospel, church, sexuality, justice, pluralism.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams. I know this is an unpopular opinion for me to confess, but I didn’t like this book. I found it ponderous and even inauthentic.

The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church by Os Guinness. This book is my first completion in our You’ve Got To Read This! challenge. I’ll have a separate post about that soon-ish but I’ll just say that I was underwhelmed and right out of the gate, I disagreed with the premise so that makes it hard to enjoy the whole book. But still – intelligent and worth reading, Brian, I’ll agree.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin. A good novel for the airplane which is exactly where I read it. Made the day go quickly, I couldn’t put it down, and it was an interesting story.


and reading

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor. I know everyone knows – and bows down before – A Good Man is Hard to Find. Rightfully so. But I still have a soft spot for The Geranium. This woman’s genius knows no bounds and coming back to her work again and again only enriches it. Earthy, real, substantial, satisfying.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Way of the (Modern) World: Or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist by Craig M. Gay. (The next book in our challenge for me. Pray for me.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food by Rachel Marie Stone.

Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz

New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry

television worth watching

I just finished Series 3 of Sherlock. It wasn’t as good as Series 2 – could anything ever compare to Irene Adler and Moriarity? – but it was still Sherlock, still brilliant, still chilling, still funny, still wonderful. And then the twist in the series finale was just WHOA. Can’t wait to see Series 4. Mary Watson is just my favourite character on television in a while.

Anxiously awaiting Series 3 of Call the Midwife! It debuts on PBS on March 30, so set your VCR. (Wait a minute – what century is this. VCR. Honestly.)

For the first time in our lives, we’re watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. We have been over late-night television for years now (even burning out on The Daily Show and Colbert Report, I’m afraid) but Jimmy Fallon’s new gig as host of this programme has us actually watching it again. It’s hilarious, smart, and earnest all at the same.

I’ve watched a fair few documentaries about food over the past months. I’ve been making a few changes in that area of my life lately due to some health stuff and so it’s been helpful.

Is anyone else missing the Olympics?

movies worth seeing

We went to see The Lego Movie on evening last week. It was funny and smart. Just a wonderful movie for the whole family. We’ll be watching it again. Joe and Anne (who are five and seven) were captivated. (“Everything is awesome! everything is cool!”)

Otherwise….yeah. I don’t really watch movies much these days, I’m afraid.

music worth hearing

Relevant is streaming John Mark McMillan’s new album Borderland here.


How They Blog podcast. A quick 20 minute podcast with interviews and tips for bloggers.

David’s Tea – my current favourites are Cream of Earl Grey and Jessie’s Tea (a rooibos with coconut and lavender)

My elliptical machine and my juicer – I know. It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore. Drinking kale and working out. Honestly.

Benjamin Hole on Instagram. Photos of a working English farm just make me so happy.

Village Books in Fairhaven, Washington. I want to live there.


So, friends, what about you?

What’s on your nightstand? What television show or movie or music has captured your imagination? 


Continue Reading · book review, books, movie review, music, What I'm Into · 24

In which I share 10 books for a cozy winter evening

When Jessica asked me to share my 10 favourite books, I floundered. Just ten? Ten books OF ALL TIME? I’m a voracious lifelong reader and so the very notion was laughable. Impossible. It can’t be done – not by me anyway. I have favourite works of literature, favourite theology books, favourite memoirs, favourite poetry books, favourite biographies, favourite children’s literature, favourites for Sunday afternoons, and favourites for Christmas Eve. But just ten favourites that encompasses all the seasons and preferences of my life? Can’t do it, Mrs. Turner.

And since I am unable to perform even the simplest of tasks to specifications, I’ve decided to narrow the field a bit to my ten favourite books for a cozy evening. My apologies.

Of course, we read books to be changed, to know we’re not alone, to be enlightened, to be educated. We read to be challenged, to have our brain stretched in a new direction, to grow up, to walk a mile in some else’s shoes, to learn.

But sometimes, especially on the cold nights of winter, I like to set aside my highest intentions and simply burrow into a good book that feels as cozy and satisfying as a freshly laundered quilt. That variety of reading makes me feel more like a person and reminds what I love first about reading – the beauty of a good story.

So here they are…. Read the rest of this post over at The Mom Creative with Jessica Turner.

To check out more of my favourite books including 10 books for tinies, click on over here.

Continue Reading · 10 Books A Day For a Week, books · 2

In which my husband and I made a deal – our “You Need To Read This!” Challenge

On New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves sitting in our living room, talking over our goals for 2014. And, of course this happened:

Brian: Let’s see…what else do I want to do this year… I think I need to read more.

Me: You do. You definitely need to read more.

Brian: Okay there, pseudo-hermit bookworm, calm down. Maybe I’ll set a goal like…. I could read one book a month. That’s do-able, right?

Me: Totally! You should TOTALLY do that.  (writes it down) Only….

Brian: What?

Me: I wish I could pick the books!

Brian: (laughing) Okay, right, Styles.

Me: I still can’t believe you managed to graduate high school in the United States without ever reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s just so wrong. You really need to read it.

Brian: I’ll only let you pick my books if you let me pick the books YOU have to read every month!

Me:….wait a minute….that’s a BRILLIANT IDEA. Let’s do it! I get to pick a book a month that you read and you do the same thing for me! We can even blog about it! Together!

Brian: I’m game. Okay….first thing you’ll need is this handy-dandy Pocket Guide to Theological Terms….



So here we are, starting off 2014 with our “You Need To Read This” Challenge. We have each carefully selected a stack of 12 books that we think the other one needs to read. Usually when we finish a book we love, we say “You need to read this!” and of course, we never read each other’s books.

My husband and I have pretty different taste when it comes to reading. I adore spiritual memoirs, fiction and literature, poetry, and narrative theology with a bit of old-fashioned fun reading like Harry Pottery or dystopian fantasty or British chick lit novels and my comfort reading of the L.M. Montgomery. Brian doesn’t read for fun (that’s what football is for, apparently) and so his reading tends towards leadership-based non-fiction or theology. In short, we never read or like the same books. Like, ever.

Every month, we’ll read a book from each other’s pre-selected stack and then blog our opposite responses together here about it. Once a month, when we post about a book, we’ll share why we picked it for each other and then what we think about it.

the besseys reading challenge

The books I picked for him to read are:

The books he picked for me to read are:

It’s clear to me that my husband has set me up to fail. I look at his list for me and, with a few exceptions, SNORE. WHERE ARE THE STORIES I NEED STORIES.

Let the game begin…

(I’m doomed.)

If you want to participate in your own, go for it. Just find a friend who has different reading tastes than you and swap a list.

If you could make everyone read just one book (other than the Bible), which one would you choose?

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Continue Reading · book review, books, brian, You Need To Read This Challenge · 70