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What I’m Into :: Summer 2014 AKA The Summer of Novels

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what i read

This has been my summer of reading novels. I decided to just read for the fun of it this summer. I have so much book research I’ve been doing and the summer has been so heavy, filled with sorrow in so many ways for so much of the world, that I flat out ran for the escape route in my reading habits. And I loved every single second of it.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes :: Thanks to a recommendation from Shauna Niequist (who never steers me wrong on novels), I decided to pick up my first Jojo Moyes novel. And then I disappeared for 24-hours while I devoured it. DEVOURED. This book was devastating. It was definitely my favourite of hers – the heroine of the novel and her family were so dear. And the questions it brought up and the conversations it sparked were so interesting. It was a runner-up for my favourite novel of the year so far, for sure.

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes – Loved it. Another one I couldn’t put down. Such a fascinating dual story. So rare that I love both stories in a dual-story novel but this one worked beautifully. Fascinating period of history, too.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes – and the last Jojo Moyes novel I read was a hard one. I struggle with infidelity as a plot point to cheer for and so I appreciated the juxtaposition of an affair to “root for” and one to despise but even so, it was fascinating and un-put-down-able, too. Needless to say, I just did two-day shipping for her latest novel.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty :: I have loved Liane Morarity’s novels since “What Alice Forgot” (still one of my favourite novels to recommend to women in the tired thirties with me.) This was probably my favourite of hers since that one – and that’s saying something. Such a great story. The characters were beautiful and real and flawed, I love each one of them and actually missed them when the novel was over.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner :: I’ve liked some of this author’s novels but others….well, not so much. This one was a quick read but fascinating. Exploring the pull of prescription meds as addiction through the lens of an over-committed mom-blogger, you read it and think you know a million women that this could happen to. And the ending was so satisfying.

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles :: I loved Sara Miles’ last book Take This Bread so much that my expectations were probably too high. But it’s a good book, really interesting. I always end up feeling a bit left out when people write about God as present mostly in cities – after all, I live in a small town in western Canada. But it was fascinating.

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright :: Book research! And so worthwhile.

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning :: A re-read from years ago. It’s Brennan at a bit more raw and angry and I still love it. You can see his processes actually happening as you read through his work.

My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman :: Beautiful and devastating, a slow read but so good.

what i’m reading now

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce :: You know me and British novels….

The Complete Book of Baby Names :: BIG SMILE

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James :: I love novels about Jane Austen, they’re my guilty pleasure. She wrote a good one a few years ago and so when I saw she had a new one out, I snapped it in.

Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright :: More book research and more perfection.

television worth watching

Besides the obvious….

My Big Family Renovation on HGTV :: Jen Hatmaker is a dear friend and I cannot tell you how tickled I am to be watching her show on the television! It just started in Canada, it’s on Thursday nights at 7 Pacific on HGTV.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyessey :: I’m slowly working my way through this show and it is blowing my mind. Absolutely stunning. I never figured I’d be someone who was enraptured by astrophysics but DAMN this is good.

Good news! Downtown Abbey starts on September 21 in the UK (and for those of us who can watch UK shows). Here’s the trailer for the new season. All I know is that Anna and Bates better CATCH A BREAK.

movies worth seeing

I have not watched anything but kid movies at home all summer long. And I’m not even sorry about it.

music worth hearing

The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger :: This gal comes out of the Bethel movement but it’s less anthemic and more introspective. Really enjoying it.

Lullaby Hymns by Katy Kinard :: I grabbed this one for one of the tinies who likes to listen to music while drifting off to sleep. But I’ve fallen in love with it – just good old hymns done beautifully. The subtitle is “for the weary soul” and that has been so true. When my soul is weary, these are the songs I want to hear.

Waiting for Mr. Darcy instrumentals from Jane Austen movies – my favourite music for writing! And only $3.99 – probably because the titles are a bit mixed up for the music but whatevs. It’s good listening.

little things i’m enjoying

San Pellegrino limonata Italian sodas

I’ve kicked almost all of my other teas to the curb for Lady Jane Grey tea – it’s like a version of Earl Grey but much lighter with citrus undertones. So perfect in the mornings.

Roast beef dinners and mashed potatoes.

Knitting up this little owl tea cosy

And introducing my fall knitting project: right here, folks.

So, friends, what about you?

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

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

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read

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.

enjoying

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 this is a Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women

Gift Guide to Empower Women

when we empower a woman,

we empower a community.

According to Half the Sky Movement, “putting money in the hands of women can have a positive long-term effect on the whole family…Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land. They suffer not only from unequal access to education and training, but also from discrimination by their employers. The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay that men receive for doing the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.

But if greater income equality was achieved across gender lines, this could help decrease poverty through the generations. Studies have indicated that when women hold assets or gain income, the money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently their children are healthier. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family.”

So with that in mind, this year I’ve decided to focus my annual Gift Guide on empowering women. Every one of the shops listed here empowers, educates, affirms, supports, or employs women all around the world. They range from large organizations to small grassroots shops. I picked a favourite from each shop myself but don’t let my pick fool you – there’s a lot of good stuff in each of these shops, even for the men in your life!

Hill Tribers

My friends Jessica Goudeau and Caren George run Hill Tribers along with Burmese refugee women. Hill Tribers was born out of friendship and grew into informal meetings, ESL classes, children’s activities, mentorship, education, support, and a gorgeous shop filled with hand-woven fashion and jewellery. Hill Tribers have helped more than 30 refugee women and families earn a combined total of more than $25,000 of supplemental income.

My pick: Kachin Earrings Tatted Paisleys in Gold $23.93 I have the orange style of these earrings and I cannot wear them without being stopped on the street by people asking where to buy them.

Krochet Kids

Their mission is to empower people to rise above poverty. Through their efforts, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future in creating gifts that give back.  The products created abroad have been well received here at home and the collaboration of our staff and beneficiaries around the globe has created a sustainable cycle of employment and empowerment. My friend, Sarah Goodfellow, and her husband, Blake, work with Krochet Kids in Peru.

abbot

My pick: The Abbott overnight bag $79.95 Features some great details such as leather straps, and incredible patterns that make this bag an instant classic. I have had my eye on this bag for a year now and it is time.

Noonday Collection

Noonday offers you the opportunity to use your purchasing power to create change in the world {while looking really good along the way}. Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans. Orphan care and prevention remain a core value. Noonday believes every child belongs in a family and they work to alleviate poverty and economic orphan crisis through entrepreneurship.

My pick: Annie’s Feathered Earrings $32 Hand cut leather in festive feathered shapes lend a breezy feel to your look. Made in India. Also loved the Crescent Moon Earrings.

My pick: Nahuala Rectangle Trays (set of 3) $36 Made in Guatemala. A set of three trays made by a family operated carpentry shop in Guatemala. Add a rustic touch to any room. Their use is as versatile as your imagination!

fashionABLE

The fashionABLE mission is to create sustainable business for Africans so they will not become dependent upon charity, but instead earn the dignity of a job. While FashionABLE offers opportunity to everyone, their primary focus is on empowering women.  Through your purchase, you are ABLE to provide opportunity, and a woman is ABLE to have a new choice.

My pick: Eden Scarf $52. Heavier weight  scarf. Super soft scarf with traditional Ethiopian-based pattern throughout. Handmade in Ethiopia. Ridiculously soft 100% cotton

Trades of Hope

Trades of Hope empowers women to create sustainable businesses worldwide. They want women to realize their potential as world changers, business owners, dream creators, and heroes of their own stories. So many women live in poverty, not because they lack abilities, but because they lack opportunity.  Some women have been rescued from sex slavery. Others are raising handicapped children alone. Some are in war torn countries and others have AIDS. These women have never had the chances we’ve had, yet they are just like us in so many ways. They love their families and hope and dream of a better life for them.

My picks: Baja Bible Case $24 Comes with a great handle for carrying your Bible, and is nicely lined for all the little bits of papers. This product is made by Guatemalan women who have pasts telling of abusive and poor conditions, now owning their own businesses and working towards an amazing future.

Vibella Jewellery

I was introduced to Vibella through my friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee, who shares my passion for Haiti’s women.  ViBella artists have created beautiful necklaces and Christmas ornaments and purses — all of them beautifully handcrafted as Christmas gifts for your mamas, daughters, aunts, teachers, next-door neighbors … or yourself. 

DISCOUNT CODE: newhouse. <——That is really important!

maddy

My pick: Maddy Necklace $$29.95 The Maddy Necklace is an incredibly unique piece asymmetrically designed with a gold upcycled plastic bead, multifaceted black beads, copper accent beads and large leaf pendants on a copper chain. Pair with the Maddy Earrings. Length: 17.5″ Handmade by women in Haiti.

Global Mothers

Global Mothers seeks to strengthen the connection between women in North America with women in the Global South through the shared bond of motherhood. When a mother in North America purchases a product to care for her child, she is in turn caring for another child in the Global South by providing valuable income for that child’s mother.

My pick: Pixie Rattles. $17 These bright crochet pixies brighten any nursery! Choose from an assortment of colours. 100% Cotton, Machine washable and Handmade in Bangladesh.

Imagine Goods

Imagine Goods partners with vulnerable and marginalized people around the world to make products that, in many cases, give them the first fair wages they’ve ever received. Imagine Goods takes a close look at the entire chain of people who are involved in making their products, particularly in Cambodia. Are they earning a living wage (enough to meet their basic needs)? Are they being empowered? Their tag line is “Sustainable Supply Co.” because they believe that when we buy a product, the cost of the item should be able to sustain every person connected to it with a living wage. 

My pick: The Lucy Skirt $34. The Lucy skirt is reversible! A wrap-around skirt with a super-flattering line, it falls just right and can be adjusted to fit you perfectly. This fabric is hand-picked from locals in the open-stall markets of Phnom Penh — one more link on the sustainable (and dignifying) supply chain.

Open Arms Shop

Every year, thousands of refugees flee oppression around the world and face resettlement. To help them avoid the trap of poverty, Open Arms employs them at a living wage and uses repurposed t-shirts to create one of a kind scarfs and skirts for sale.

openarms

My pick: The Claudina Long Skirt $42 I adore long skirts – so comfy and a step above my usual yoga pants while I’m running around with the tinies all day. Repurposed jersey knit, lined. Featuring modern-cut construction with a contemporary feel. Pull-on styling with flattering lettuce hemming. Designed with a figure-enhancing wide waistband with built-in elastic. Made in USA.

International Princess Project

The International Princess Project avocates for women enslaved in prostitution in India, restores their broken lives, and empowers them to live free. What started with just six women sewing in a single room has grown to over 150 women and girls employed by one of International Princess™ Project’s three sewing centers in India. With every PUNJAMMIES™ purchase, the dignity and freedom of a woman is reinforced and the future in India gets a little bit brighter. The vision is for thousands more! Together, we can bring light to some of the darkest corners of India.

punjammies

My pick: Leela Punjammies  $25. I adore pajamas and these are gorgeous. Super-soft, light-weight cotton pajama bottoms with printed border. Made with hope in India. (I adore pajamas).

Raven + Lily

Raven + Lily currently helps employ marginalized women in Ethiopia, India, Cambodia and the United States at fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, healthcare, education, and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. Every product from Raven + Lily is handmade, fair trade and eco-friendly.

My pick: Teavy Upcycled Black Pocket Cardigan $119

 

And now: a few books…

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Here are a few – of many more I could name! – books that will empower, educate, affirm, or support the women in your life.

Jesus Feminist by yours truly….

A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

Harvesting Fog by Luci Shaw

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith (I SPEAK FOR MYSELF) edited by Enuma Okoro and Erin Lane

A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together by Jerusalem Greer

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans

Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer by Jan L. Richardson

What gift would you add to this list? What gifts do you buy with an eye on empowering women?

Continue Reading · books, christmas, Jesus Feminist, social justice, What I'm Into, women · 29

In which I share what I’m into for September 2013

What I'm Into Sept 2013 :: Sarah Bessey

books i read

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Like most alumni from the emergent movement of a decade ago, I’ve loved Nadia’s voice and prophetic life for years now. I was so looking forward to her book that I worried I’d make her a victim of impossibly high expectations. But Nadia’s book is even better than I could have imagined. Pastrix is profane, gritty, honest, real, and sacred. It makes me fall in love with both Jesus and the Church all over again. She’s a good cure for a cynic. A bad-ass and a regular pastor and mother all at once, she’s a much-needed voice for us today. I loved this book and underlined it mercilessly.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider. This was an advanced reader copy and I loved it. I am drawn towards the practices of simple living while being equally intimidated by the adherents and my own love for coffeeshop Americanos and use of disposable diapers for our babies. But Tsh blends storytelling with ideas and inspiration, without devolving into “tips and tricks” or lists. She shares her own journey – filled with wisdom, I might add – and opens the door for the rest of us to set out on our lives.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I didn’t love it as much as What Alice Forgot, but it’s still a plain old good novel. And I love good page-turning novel.

Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next #2) and The Well of Lost Plots (#3) by Jasper Fforde. I love this weird and hilarious series. I haven’t loved a postmodern novel since Douglas Coupland but these are up there, let me tell you. Fantastical, witty, hilarious, complex, and weird.

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. Absolutely loved this book. This is one of my favourite stories in Scripture because I’ve always thought of it in terms of the Father, not the younger son. I have the utmost respect for Dr. Keller, and this slim book deserves status as a classic. Beautiful, moving, grace-filled, accessible, and so true.

When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey. I finally gave up on this one. I wanted to like it so much but I just couldn’t seem to get into the story, I’m afraid.

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander) by Diane Gabaldon. I started this series with a lot of hope but I’m afraid I’m crapping out on this one. Just not into it.

books on my nightstand right now

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) by David E. Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw

Things Your Mother Never Told You: A Woman’s Guide to Sexuality by Dr. Kim Gaines Eckert (this is an advanced review copy)

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

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

television worth watching

michelle_dockery_downton_abbey_-_p_2013

Downton Abbey series 4 has started in the UK!

It’s been a good start to the series. Don’t worry – no spoilers here. But I think the ground-work has been laid for a good series and, let’s face it, no one ended up laying on the road bleeding from the ear so I’ll call that a win.

As discussed on my Facebook page, North American audiences CAN in fact watch Downton Abbey now. Here’s what you do: download the app TunnelBear to your computer. Turn it on and set it to the UK setting. Go to ITV Player and start streaming Downton. (Or, in my case on Sunday afternoons, every single episode of Relocation, Relocation ever made.) It may ask you for a post code, you can put in whatever UK post code you like.

I am probably the only person in the world who has never watched Breaking Bad and has zero interest in it. I am notoriously sensitive to violence on screen, I’m afraid. I know, it’s very uncool of me, but that’s the truth.

movies i’ve watched – in or out of the theatre

We received an advanced copy of Disney’s The Little Mermaid new-to-Blu-Ray Diamond edition this month. I loved that movie as a teenager, and it was fun to finally introduce it to Anne. Going back to my sensitivity to violence and fear, I tend to make her wait longer than most of her friends for certain movies and so, at seven, this was her first time watching it. It was such a fun afternoon together. Sometimes anticipation makes things even better.

in my ears

There is a new Gungor album out. And so I Am Mountain is pretty much it for a few weeks now.

best stuff i pinned

Grammar Grumble Mugs at The Literary Gift Company. I mean, seriously. “I am figuratively dying for a cuppa.” Best ever.

Jane Austen boxed postcards – yes, please.

So, friends, what about you?

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

linked up with Leigh for What I’m Into this month.

Continue Reading · book review, books, What I'm Into · 29