December Book Selection for A Likely Story Book Club

Dec 1 2016

Hi All!

It’s time to reveal the December book club selection for A Likely Story Book Club, the book club for escapist fiction fans.

Now, yes, I know we technically haven’t reviewed November’s book — or October’s book — but we’re going to forgive me for that because I’m still figuring out how this whole book club thing works, and also, I’m unreliable, which, if you’ve read anything here EVER, you already knew, so it’s kind of your fault if you had other expectations.

I’m going to try a new thing this month and post the review for last month (and maybe the month before… we’ll see how it goes) at the bottom of this post. So each new month’s book announcement will include the book review from the prior month, OK? OK. It’s a plan. Also, if you ever want to participate in the ongoing book discussions, feel free to join our book club page on the Facebook. All the cool kids are doing it.

ALikelyStory

A Likely Story Book Club
Announcing: December’s Book Selection!img_2487

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
by Christopher Moore

‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.

But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

Move over, Charles Dickens — it’s Christopher Moore time.

Unlike the other books in our escapist fiction club, I’ve actually read this book. Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Jesus’ Childhood Pal is one of my all-time favorites; it’s very weird, it’s sacrilegious in all the best ways, it’s funny, and it somehow strangely honors Jesus’ example to us. The Stupidest Angel is what it advertises itself to be; an oddly heartwarming tale of murder and mayhem at Christmas. While Lamb remains my favorite of Moore’s books, The Stupidest Angel is an easy holiday read written in the bizarre tradition of the weird greats like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and, honestly, I thought we could all use something weirdly wonderful.

Enjoy!

Love,

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November’s Book Review

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

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OVERALL RATING: Using a rating scale of 1 to 5 — 1 being “this book is drivel; save yourself the time” and 5 being “this is one of my favorite books EVER, and I plan to read everything this author writes” — we rated A Girl Who Drank the Moon a collective 3.5. Cornelia Spoor rated this a 4: “4 despite the ways in which it was predictable – by the time I finished it, I was seeing it more as circularity than predictability. I would recommend it but I’m not sure *who* I’d recommend it to: my best thoughts are either a really avid young reader of any age who can manage a book of this length, and my brother & sister-in-law who are totally unembarrassed by crossing age categories in their reading. I think they’d love the poetic-ness and fairy tale-ness of it.”

thegirlwhodrankthemoonSUMMARY: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own . . .

DISCUSSION: In our A Likely Story Book Club Facebook group, we discussed the themes of adoption, spiritual context (which I didn’t expect in this book!), and the two characters who are the “Sorrow Eater” and the “Sorrow Avoider.”

I wrote, “The Girl Who Drank the Moon… discussion question #4. About the Sorrow Eater and Sorrow Avoider. Oh my gosh. This part of the book still has my brain wheels spinning, mostly because I am SUCH a Sorrow Avoider, you guys. I mean, I understand sorrow is part of life, and I even accept that I have to deal with it, but I’m not good AT ALL at that dealing. I do All the Things to Avoid Sorrow. I won’t read sad things for entertainment, no drama shows, no drama movies, no sad articles unless I plan to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I overeat. I read vampire smut. I grind my teeth. Honestly, I sometimes feel like my whole life has been an exercise in Trying to Avoid Sorrow.

“So, obviously, a book with a main character, Xan, who can’t remember why she has to avoid sorrow and the place where sorrow grows, and who is so bent on avoiding that sorrow that she never, ever questions where the babies in the woods are coming from or why they’re there, is compelling to me. And then the Sorrow Eater, who buries her own sorrow deep in her heart and covers it with hardness and keeps covering it until she literally has to eat sorrow to survive is awful and fascinating to me.”

And I love this reminder by Carmen McAlister, which I’m going to leave you with because it’s the Very Best Reminder to me today and maybe to some of you, too…

“I appreciated that the opposite of sorrow wasn’t presented as joy, but HOPE. That’s more like pre-joy. Just imagining the possibility of joy some day is enough to thwart the sorrow eater.”

Pre-joy. I’ll take it, friends. I’ll totally take it. Hope on…

B

It’s All on the Line. Like, EVERYTHING.

Nov 29 2016

I’ve been hidey again these past two weeks. Partly because my burrito baby felt like the truest and best thing I had to offer the world in the wake of a haunting election, so why mess it up with more? Partly because I’ve been working hard at listening to All the People, especially the Afraid People and the Hurting People, but also to the People Who Think Very Differently Than Me because listening is a sacrament and holy. And partly because I’d convinced myself, as usual, that I have nothing to say because my thoughts are too many, and too loud, too complicated and jumbled to make sense. By now, of course, we know that last thing is my modus operandi; my M.O.; my area of expertise; my spiritual gift. And who am I to squander my talents? The Bible says whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability, and I am SUPER GREAT at self-doubt and silencing myself, so WOOHOO — look at me, rocking the heck out of that!

I have, of course, been responding to the rampant uncertainty and unkindness in all the usual ways. Panic, deep breathing, remaining calm, and panicking again in rapid succession, which is a form of prayer. Also, french fries. Also-also, a ferocity of conviction to DO MORE THINGS to help marginalized people. And binge watching the Gilmore Girls revival all in one sitting and ’til 2:00am because that’s a wise use of my time and emotional energy. (It totally is.)

I don’t know, friends; I just feel more and more like it’s all on the line again. “It,” you know? Everything. All the Things. Whatever defines me, and defines my family, and defines faith, and defines our country and communities; it’s all in need of review and unpacking and simplifying and purging and paring down to the barest essentials so we can Love Each Other Better, which is the Main Goal and the Biggest Thing and the most Of-God we get to be in the world.

I wrote once about unpacking my God box to find a truer truth.

And so it was that becoming a mother stripped me down to nothing and left me bare, exposed to my fears and my not-enoughness and my God. It was there, in that empty space, that I slowly began to unpack my Lunchables box, trying to discover whether any pieces of my God-meal matched a more significant, infinite, loving God who could sustain me… whether I could somehow mesh my easy, compartmentalized answers with my difficult, messy questions…. and whether, perhaps, I might find myself in the process.

My box was loaded with things that were striking to me in the way they didn’t fit with my understanding of a loving God. Things I was surprised I’d carried for years and in secret because I thought I would be shunned by the Church if I discarded them. Things that I thought were core to being a follower of Jesus, but which I found out… weren’t. Things like:

  • a Letter of the Law fundamentalism that’s married to mob-mentality politics,
  • “the Lord helps those who help themselves” and “love the sinner and hate the sin” and other trendy sayings that embrace a cringe-worthy sense of entitlement or judgment and, strikingly, aren’t in the Bible,
  • and the pressure to deliver the Horror of Hell story with enough conviction to scare people toward a merciful God and into Heaven

These and a thousand thousand other things stuck in my throat and became increasingly difficult to swallow. They clogged my faith and made it hard for me to breathe. And so, with the cacophony of “but you must believe these things to raise righteous children” and a great deal of uncertainty ringing in my ears, I let them go.

I let them go for the risky pursuit of an authentic faith.

You can read the whole thing here, but the crux of my current conviction is this: we’re here again, except this time collectively, and we’re flailing a little bit together. To find Love. To find Truth. To find Each Other. To find the things to hang our lives on, and to discard the things that keep us from what matters.

I’ll be writing more about this in days to come, but I’m going to have to let it leak out slowly. Incrementally. As I figure out which pieces of the boxes to unpack. Again.

Here we go, friends.

Here we go. Except I’m really glad we’re going there together.

With love as always,

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P.S. This was my face at 1:00am watching Gilmore Girls’ Fall, as messaged to my friend, Laney, lest I feel all the feels all alone.

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I just wanted to share it with you because I’m so pretty, and the point of the internet is to share pretty pics. Heh heh heh. Also, WE NEED EACH OTHER, friends.

P.P.S. Ferocity is totally a measurement of conviction. Do not even try to tell me otherwise, or I will have to tell you stories of about my mother that involve chainsaws and trees and a wireless phone and threats to call the police. Ferocity of conviction, I tell you. It’s a thing.

For America With Love: A Burrito Baby Photo Shoot

Nov 14 2016

 

I’m not pregnant.img_2364

Not even a little. No babies in my belly these days.

Nor do I have a belly tumor, so fear not, dear ones.

What I do have are three things:

  1. A love of burritos (where “burrito” = all the food)
  2. A special talent for pushing my belly wall to the max
  3. The knowledge that all of us — even me — are worthy of Deep, Abiding Love, exactly as we already are. Beloved. Valued. And Beautiful. ← This is a true a truth as I know.

That why I’m making the announcement today that I am having a burrito, friends. And, as we women do for all the momentous events in our lives, I had a very special maternity photo shoot to commemorate the occasion — a photo shoot we’re calling:

Not a Baby
(Just a Burrito)

I’m giving these pics to you, America and the world, because I’m pretty sure burrito babies can help make our world a better place, and Dear God in Heaven, we need the world to be a better place right about now. 

img_2359The truth is, a few months ago, things were hard at our house. They’ve been hard before — we don’t live an uncomplicated life, after all, what with the five children and myriad special needs and we parents who are stunningly imperfect — and they’ll undoubtedly be hard again. But this time, my kid was falling wildly apart, psychiatrically speaking, which is, so far, my Very Least Favorite kind of falling-apart when it comes to our children. Mental illness is a deep, deep darkness — I would know — and it’s hard sometimes to remember to wave in the dark to the others who are waiting for dawn, as well, so we can recall we never wait alone.

It’s been a tough season, and it’s not over, but we’re on an upswing lately, and we’ve triumphed the way triumph happens in real life; by taking the next right step amidst many missteps, by breaking all the way down and cobbling ourselves partly back together, by circling back to our humans, by practicing radical self care in tiny ways, by trying to get good sleep, by reading escapist novels and a few trashy ones, and by being kind and cruel and then kind again to ourselves and our people. And, of course, by eating all the french fries, which, though completely unsustainable in the long run, is one of the best damn short-term strategies I know.image-1img_2378Listen, though: Let’s acknowledge that we do not come out of tragedy or loss or grief or even a shift of expectations unchanged. We do not come out of eating all the burritos unchanged, either. Right now, I’m wearing the past season of life in my skin.

In my skin.

In my body.

I grieved. I worked hard for my kid. I ate All the Things.

And also, I am lovely.

AND ALSO, we are lovely.

Not “but we are lovely” or “nevertheless we are lovely” or “somedayif we’re very lucky and never, ever touch a burrito again we’ll be lovely.” No. Not those things at all. We come out of tragedy and grief transformed — sometimes utterly — AND ALSO we are lovely. Little and big bellies and all; we are stunning. And we are, every single one of us, worthy of deep love and celebration. From others. From ourselves.

When we know that’s true, we can learn to laugh and love a lot, and enjoy the hell out of our lovely, stunning selves.

Including during the burrito seasons.

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In conclusion, I don’t know how long the burrito belly will last. It waxes and wanes like the moon. But I’m sure going to celebrate it while it’s here.

With abiding love,

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P.S. Thanks to the crew, aka the Lovelies who attended the Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat and got roped into helping with a Burrito Baby photo shoot. Y’all are good sports.

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Photo Direction:
Kim McDonough

 

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Photography:
Emily Chlumak

 

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Make-up:
Crystal Kuttner Wolf

 

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Bra and Burrito Holders:
Carrie Zelnar Hutchinson
Angelina Littrell

 

Heartfelt and Sort of Horrible but Also Honest Prayers for America and Her People, Some of Whom Are Undeniable Assholes, Sadly on Both Sides

Nov 11 2016

A Prayer for America Knowing She’s Hurt and Hoping She’ll Heal but Not Being Sure of Much of Anything Right Now (and Because We Believe You, Oh God, Always Hear the Cries of Our Hearts Even When We Don’t Know Exactly Which Words to Use), We Pray in Earnest Devotion: Well, fuck.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for the Marginalized and Vulnerable and Disenfranchised, Including Those Who Are LGBTQ, Refugees, Immigrants, People of Color, Women, Unemployed, Without Education: We beseech you, oh God, to be with those who are suffering, today and every day. Help us be on the lookout for those who need a champion, a defender and a friend. May we lend our hands and hearts to raise others’ voices up to a mighty chorus that sings and signals justice and mercy at hand, and may our neighbors in danger find refuge and sanctuary, equity and equality, safety and sustenance.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for We Liberals Who Are Losing Our Everloving Minds: Dear God, we are running around like our hair is on fire. We are full — filled to the brim — with histrionics, angst and dismay. We are trying to channel our freak out into actual, practical, Real Loving Things to Do and Ways to Help the folks for whom we just prayed ^^^up there^^^, but, to be honest, we are not done panicking quite yet. When our neighbors are in danger, panicking is part of it. It’s OK. Panic, Help People, Panic, Breathe, Repeat; this appears to be the way of things when we’re made out of human and in the image of the Divine at the same time. Do help us Breathe, though, Lord Jesus, and, even more than that, help us to Conspire, which I just learned means Breathe Together. From the Latin con (with) and spirare (breathe), help us become Grand Conspirators; people who lead breathing exercises for a nation that needs to breathe Love in and breathe Love out. Breathe Love in and Breathe Love out. A Love Conspiracy all around. Also, help us to be a tiny bit less condescending and superior and insufferable even though we are correct in all of our thinking and all of our policies as You Yourself are aware. We confess we can occasionally be a teeeeeensy bit haughty, and our outrage isn’t always that much fun at parties, and we might, with your help, try listening better to our conservative friends and being less, well, dickish at times.

Lord, hear our prayer.

 

A Prayer for Our Conservative Friends Who Think We’re Sad Because Our Candidate Lost Which Isn’t the Crux of It at All But Seems to Be the Story Going Around Anyway: God protect them. Keep them safe from the red laser beams shooting from our loving liberal eyes. Lord, we know there are many, many Conservative Friends Who Mean Well, and Who Have the Very Best Intentions, and Beautiful Hearts (Really), and Who Genuinely, Deeply, Truly Believe They Are Saving Unborn Lives and the Economy and Vanquishing the Very Devil and Draining the Swamp and Heralding Hope; they do not want refugee lives lost, or people of color profiled, or disabled children huddling in fear of being beaten and shamed and mocked and ridiculed and called retarded at school, even though those things are Actually Happening. We suspect we may have more in common with our conservative neighbors than not, and that we hope for the same things, even though, God, just between us, we all know there are some who are Bigoted, Heartless Assholes. Sadly, the Conservatives do not have a corner on the Prejudice Market, or on Dogma, or on Intolerance, and, God, this sucks. It really, really bites, as we would Very Much Like to dump this all upon their doorstep. It’s our preference, we confess; BLAME THE CONSERVATIVES. And so, reluctantly, we ask you for Clarity, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and the worst and most hopeless one of them all, Self-Control, that we might hear each others’ hearts and find our common ground and turn down our laser beam strength from Death Ray to Stun, or even, because you are a God of miracles, turn them off entirely so we can keep our eyes open and on the lookout for the Image-of-Godness in all people, even the conservative and liberal Assholes. Eventually.

Lord, hear our prayer.

A Prayer for Forgiveness and Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves Which is, Like, Totally Impossible but We’re Asking Anyway: Oh, God, who is capable of Forgiving All Things, even the Most Heinous Ones, in Others and Ourselves, hard though we find that to believe, teach us your ways. Your vast, endless, bottomless and mysterious ways called Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves, and Love Our Enemies, and that Everyone is actually Our Neighbor by Your definition, even though that goal is, like, impossible and we’ll never fully arrive there. Teach us, Lord, in your Infinite Wisdom and Grace, two of the things we lack most often, to suss out humbly and truly where we have wronged our neighbors and to say those words I detested when my mother, a complicated saint, made me say them to my horrible brother even though he Maligned me and Mocked me and Punched My Thigh and was Always Completely Wrong while I did Nothing and was Totally Right, “Please forgive me.” Ugh.

Lord, hear our prayer.

And, Finally, a Prayer That We May Someday, for Real, Form a More Perfect Union Where We Gather Huddled Masses Longing to be Free and Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident — That All People Are Created Equal; That They Are Endowed by Their Creator with Certain Unalienable Rights; and That Among These are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please, Jesus? Please?

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen

If You’re Afraid and Don’t Know What to Do: #YouAreSafeWithMe

Nov 9 2016

Originally Shared on Facebook on Election Night:

It looks very much like Trump will win the White House, and my stomach is flip-flopping, alternating between butterflies and nausea, controlled as it is at the moment by the amygdala part of the brain, or Reptilian Brain — “FEAR and SURVIVAL, Beth,” it keeps repeating, “RUN. Or at least start digging the bunker! WHY HAVEN’T YOU STARTED ON THE BUNKER YET?”

Reptilian Brain is, to put it kindly, a freaking freaker who freaks.

I’d like to wallow a little, even though I promised not to. To grieve. To be sad. To rage.

But there isn’t time, friends.

Let me repeat: THERE IS NOT TIME TO INDULGE THE FULL WALLOW.

Listen. Reptilian Brain wants us to keep freaking the hell out. Reptilian Brain NEEDS us to do this. Reptilian Brain LIVES for this shit. But Reptilian Brain also (literally) shuts down our ability to do higher thinking. And, interestingly, higher thinking is required in order for kindness, gentleness and love to flourish. Higher thinking is required for us to think outside of ourselves.

Please understand — if it was up to me and Reptilian Brain over here, we would RELISH the opportunity to FREAK OUT and keep right on freaking. Wallowers R Us, friends. For real. Also, Reptilian Brain enjoys bourbon, and the two of us would like nothing more than a large glass of that stuff right now.

Reptilian Brain: WALLOW NOW. Gentleness and kindness another time.
Me: SOLD, Reptilian Brain. You so totally get me.

But I’m not kidding when I say there isn’t time.

There isn’t time because, while people like me who are white, cisgender, college educated, English speaking, suburban, dual income American citizens who have never once worried about whether my children will go to bed hungry… or whether I will be shunned or beaten or killed for my sexual or gender identity… or whether I will be summarily accused and sentenced for the color of my skin… or a whole host of other things…, there are millions of people in our country tonight who are worried not just for their livelihoods but for their lives.

The privileged people like me can take time to rage.

The privileged people like me can take time to analyze.

The privileged people like me can take time to wonder and wallow.

>>But there isn’t time because there are immigrant families tonight who are afraid they’ll be separated, and children who cling to mothers they fear they’ll lose.

>>There are refugees in desperate need of a safe place to land who will be turned away because there’s about to be less room in the American inn.

>>There are LGBTQ teens who have long suspected there is no place for them in this country who will believe this proves it and who will harm themselves.

>>There are Islamic families who will feel they have to hide and keep their heads down and who won’t know how to protect their kids as they walk to and from school.

>>There are precious people who live with disability, like two of my own kids, who are bewildered about how it’s possible they can be mocked and bullied by a man who is then handed the reins to the presidency.

These people needs us right now, friends; we do not have time to indulge our Reptilian Brains. Maybe later. We can set a date and throw our amygdalas a right rager of a party.

Right now, though, our friends need us. And, make no mistake, the marginalized and belittled and disenfranchised ARE the friends of all who believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves and that EVERYONE is our neighbor, like Jesus and Mr. Rogers said.

{{Our friends need to know where the safe spaces are.}}

We have to send the message loud and clear before we indulge our own outrage, so the disenfranchised will know where they can turn.

I’ll go first: You are safe with me, friends. I will guard your hearts. I will champion your place in this world and this country. I will work for your physical protection. I will not stand silently while you are harmed. You are safe with me, and I will fight for more safe places for you, too.

{{You do not go it alone.}} #YouAreSafeWithMe

I stand by what I said about how my family and I will be reacting to this election: We are going to be kind. We are going to look for ways to Invite People In. We are going to be people who hope. And we will work together to make a bright future a reality, putting our energy toward creating the country we wish we had, rather than lamenting its loss.

But first I need you to know, you are safe here, friends.

#YouAreSafeWithMe

With my whole heart,
Beth

P.S. Whether you share this post or the #YouAreSafeWithMe hashtag or express yourself another way, please find a way to send a message of safety and solidarity to those who need to hear this now.

P.P.S. I usually allow for a rather wide diversity of thought on this page and on my blog. On this post and those to come, I will allow for a diversity of kindness only. Meaning I’ll shut anything else right down. This is my online living room, and those who are kind are welcome in it. <3

How to Prepare for Election Day

Nov 4 2016

Friends, this was supposed to be a post rating last month’s Escapist Book Club book, Leviathan, which I planned to have to you 5 days ago and is now, sadly, overdue.

Also, this was supposed to be a post introducing our November Escapist Book Club book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which I planned to have to you 4 days ago and is officially overdue, as well.

Also-also, I just realized I never named the winners of the August giveaway of several St. Jude (Patron Saint of Chaos and Impossible Causes) charms, which are still in my wallet. On the bright side, I told you I’d give them away eventually, so I anticipated my own failure to finish things in a reasonable timeframe, and this one is not, therefore, technically overdue. #WINNING

Speaking of Chaos and Impossible Causes, I need to do all these things plus 467 more, but I’ve decided to be gentle with myself, instead, because these are Strange Times we’re living in. Strange Times full of verbal civil war here in the U.S., and in our churches and families, as we fight for Who’s In and Who’s Out, Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong, who deserves a place at the table and what the definition of “place” and “table” are, anyway.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric. It’s easy to turn to defending my positions which are the Right Positions, and Well Thought Out, and are, obviously, the positions that Love and Defend People Best. It’s easy to be cocky and believe the articles and pundits and theologians who support what I already believed. Self-congratulation and confirmation of my own brilliance are very sweet, after all.

Please understand I’m not suggesting there aren’t things worth fighting for or people in desperate need of defending. We will, with our words and our actions and our votes and our hearts, determine the course of the future together. The future I want for my children and the children of my momrades around the globe is crystal clear; physical safety, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, education, food, shelter, clothes, equality, an end to discrimination, and doors wide open to the marginalized and disenfranchised to give them sanctuary and succor; a table defined as the Whole Planet and a place at that table overflowing with bounty for every single one. I will absolutely continue to champion these ends with all the tools at my disposal.

But…

But…

But…

I’m also working hard to keep my ears and eyes wide open, and my hands cupped loosely to receive communion — the breaking of bread and sharing of wine with the people of grace and of grime, who are all of us, in remembrance of sacrifice and redemption and the fact that we don’t do this work alone. I’m working hard to keep ears and eyes and heart as wide open as the door that leads to my table where I maintain there’s always — always — room for one more, like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia or Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, which, though they appear to be finite, have magical room and infinite space inside.

I’m working hard to listen to the arguments and the underlying pain and the deep-seated fears of those with whom I disagree, and I am striving to understand the convictions of my friends who think differently than me. This is the Hardest Work I’m doing these days — this listening to understand rather than listening to defend — this choice to be kind — because my base nature, of course, would rather Defend My Territory than hold it humbly and gently. I am fierce, you see; it’s in my nature. I am fierce and determined and articulate and stubborn. I have a strong sense of What’s Right and What’s Wrong, and I long for Justice and Mercy in equal measure, and for Love Incarnate to be made known to all people. Unfortunately, I can also be Wrong or Misunderstand or Only Have Part of Someone’s Story, which has been one of the more tragic lessons of adulthood. A real bummer, I tell you, but a lesson I’m trying to absorb, that I don’t know everything and must become a lifelong learner and a friend, rather than one who charges in with accusations and diatribes.

So here’s what we’re going to do to prepare for this Election Day, those of us who are uneasy with our Facebook feeds and who hope for a better conversation to begin in our nation, in our world, in our churches, in our families, and in the secret places of our hearts.

img_2165First, we are going to make a giant vat of chicken soup. We need healing, friends, and chicken soup, in every culture, is the beginning. You can add noodles. You can pop open a can of Campbell’s. You can throw in rice and ginger and garlic and salt. You can use a spoon or slurp it straight from the bowl. If you’re vegan, you can substitute veggie stock, but I’m telling you, we’re all having soup at the table. Soup all around to fortify us and soothe us and remind us we seek health and restoration one to another.

Then, after chicken soup, we are going to practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Chicken soup.
Then we pursue goodness.
That’s the order.

We will succeed. We will be so good at this, friends.

And then we will fail.

And then we will try again, on repeat, and succeed and fail because we are made out of human, and we are made in God’s own image — human and divine, magic and mess, grace and grime, mixed and mingled together.

Self-control will be the worst; I’m just saying this now so we all have clear expectations. I, for example, keep waking up to find piles of candy wrappers on my nightstand; my goal to eat zero Halloween candy isn’t going well. Also, I keep researching every Horrible Thing shared on Facebook about Hillary Clinton and finding the Snopes.com articles to refute them. <– This is not actually helpful, FYI, and it will Change No One’s Mind. It does, however, reinforce that I Think All the Very Best Things and also Am Right and also Am Doing Stuff to SAVE THE WORLD from CERTAIN DISASTER like Posting My Fab Thoughts on the Facebook. Which is to say, I assuage my fears, which are legion when I let them take the reins, and my anger by calling out the fact that the Other Side is Mired in Fear and Anger, and I ignore my own hypocrisy. It’s FUN, friends; everyone is doing it.

Still, self-control; I’m going to work on practicing it. And I will also practice being gentle with others and myself when we fail spectacularly at it. And I’ll work on being kind and good when I’d rather feed my fear. And at being patient with the fact these things will take, literally, forever + divine intervention.

Here is how we are going to prepare for Election Day:

We are going to make the soup.

We are going to eat the soup.

We are going to be the people of love.

We are going to be the people of joy.

We are going to be the people who work relentlessly for peace.

We are gong to be the people who champion our neighbors which begins by listening to them, which is horrible and difficult but still true.

We are going to be the people who will move through the next week bravely and boldly and compassionately, and our light will not be extinguished by alarmist, fearful rhetoric which seeks to steal our joy.

OK? OK.

Sending love, friends,

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P.S. Wishing us all the best.

A Follow Up on the Time Traveler’s Wife (and a Book Suggestion for Those More Emotionally Mature Than Me… Which Is, Like, All Y’all)

Oct 29 2016

OK. We’ve made an important decision about The Time Traveler’s Wife which is that I am not emotionally mature enough to read it. It’s like spending days and days in art museums or limiting screen time for my children; I wish I was that kind of person, but I’m not.

I probably should have also told you that I have a Long History with tragic, triumphant stories, and it’s not pretty. I read The Chamber by John Grisham, for example, in 1995 a few months after Greg and I got married. Sitting with me on our horribly uncomfortable but very practical and strangely durable navy couch the day I finished, Greg learned the hard truth that his new wife hurls tragic books across the room and into the fireplace after holding them above her head, brandishing them like a Scottish broadsword wielded by William Wallace on his way to battle the British, and shrieking unintelligible war cries with tears tracking down her face. For a man who was raised by calm parents, it was something of a shock, and I’m not sure he ever quite recovered. On the bright side, though, Greg’s wife is adorable, guys. And none of this comes even close to the phone calls I had to make to my friend, Melissa, the times I decided to watch Legends of the Fall and The Notebook while home alone. I don’t remember all the details, but I do know the situation involved sobbing, a fetal position, and Melissa hollering through the phone, “TURN IT OFF, BETH; it does NOT get better. STOP RIGHT NOW!”

So, you know. Not gonna finish The Time Traveler’s Wife or ever find out how it ends, even though that’s what a reasonable person would do. This way, I can leave Henry and Claire blissfully suspended in their 20’s, desperately in love, happy, and having lots of sex. I expect a thank you note from them any day now.

Unfortunately, my friend Heidi is now concerned she has broken me and that I’ll never be friends with her again. To set the record straight, a) I was broken WAY before the Time Traveler’s Wife, b) I am reading extremely smutty vampire books to make up for the terror and angst TTW has caused so will be fully recovered shortly, and c) I never give this kind of crap to people unless I adore them. Crap-giving and laying blame are my love languages. And also cheese. And fresh salsa with paper thin corn chips. So we’re good, Heidi, et al. Swearsies.

With love,

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P.S. For those of you who are fans of tragedy and triumph, however, I do have an actual REAL suggestion, which is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I read The Sparrow before I discovered I’m not emotionally mature enough to read tragedy and triumph. Kind of like how Dumbo flew before he discovered the feather wasn’t actually magic. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Sparrow is the book, next to the Bible, that has had the most spiritual impact on me in that it gave me words and images to express disenchantment and disillusionment with theology and the church — and a way to restructure my thinking about both — at a time when that was critical to my faith journey. The Sparrow is fictional. It’s sci fi (but only ostensibly). And it’s deep and complex and enthralling and magical and terrible and true. I commend Father Emilio Sandoz to your care should you choose to bring him to life by reading this book; be gentle with him, and kind. He’s my friend, and he deserves our great compassion when we bear witness to his story.

“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.” <– Sounds fun, right??

P.P.S. Thanks for letting me fly my broken, weirdo flag in front of you all… aka, my “I’m Made out of Human” flag. You’re the greatest.