book reviews: a thousand splendid suns

look at this cool photo i totally stole from the internets

This book. I mean.  Just.  Oh, man.  Go read it.  Right away.

There are books that you read because they’re classics. There are books that you read because they’re the popular thing these days. And then there are books that you read that reach down into your soul and grab hold, ones that become a part of who you are, of your story. This is one of those books.

I think I discovered this book on a Buzzfeed Must-Read List sometime last year (or the beginning of this one). It sounded all right, and I had heard wonderful things about the author, Khaled Hosseini. So I added it to my bookit list and didn’t think much more on it for awhile.

While visiting The Professor at the end of last month, I browsed one of the bookshelves in his house and- lo and behold!- a copy of the book was just lying there waiting to be read!

A week later I was back at home and diving into the pages. I thought it might be a good end-of-day read, something to browse through before bedtime. But it is NOT. I opened the first page and didn’t set it down until I had finished it. (okay, well, I did set it down, but only to observe responsible bedtimes for work purposes).

I drank this story.

At its core, and spanning 50 years, this is a story about two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, and how their lives intersect. It’s about the challenges faced by real women in a time and place that does not look favorably on them. The two characters deal with forced marriage, domestic violence, shame, war, fear, and helplessness, to name a few. Every page is relentless, powerful, and full of heart-wrenching realism. I finished the book near 12:30 one night, sobbing. The issues the characters are faced with are issues that real women are forced to deal with today. And I was so very and naively uninformed.

When asked why he decided to write a book based on the lives of two Afghan women, Hosseini responded:

In the spring of 2003, I went to Kabul, and I recall seeing these burqa-clad women sitting at street corners, with four, five, six children, begging for change. I remember watching them walking in pairs up the street, trailed by their children in ragged clothes, and wondering how life had brought them to that point…I spoke to many of those women in Kabul. Their life stories were truly heartbreaking…When I began writing A Thousand Splendid Suns, I found myself thinking about those resilient women over and over. Though no one woman that I met in Kabul inspired either Laila or Mariam, their voices, faces, and their incredible stories of survival were always with me, and a good part of my inspiration for this novel came from their collective spirit.

I feel, at the very least, the beginning of an awakening to the issues that women under Taliban rule are forced to endure. Banned from active life, from the ability to work, or to provide for themselves, or to protect themselves, they are essentially chattel and are given no choice in what they must face. Afghanistan, in particular, has been ravaged by internal war for decades. Add this to our current collective history involving September 11th, and we can begin to imagine just how devastating are the lives of people living there- most especially the women, who have no right, say, or control over where they live or what they do.

Wow.

What are books for if not to widen our worlds?

Notable Quotes:

And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.

‘It wasn’t so much the the whistling [of the rockets] itself,’ Laila thought later, ‘but the seconds between the start of it and the impact. The brief and interminable time of feeling suspended. The not knowing. The waiting. Like a defendant about to hear the verdict.’

Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.

…Now I have to go find all the rest of Khaled Hosseini’s books and devour those, too. I hope you start with this one.

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book reviews: passion and purity

This book was given to me by my lovely roommate Mary Alice. She’s a big fan of both Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and has read most of the latter’s books. So when, earlier this year, I told her I was looking for a few good books to read, she not only recommended this one, she handed me her copy.

The subheading for the book is Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. That sounded like the book for me, for sure.

But, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the book. I didn’t understand where she was taking her readers through most of the book. Her old journal entries, the back-and-forth love letters, even the hymns- while they were lovely and thrilling to read (who doesn’t love hearing old journal entries?), didn’t seem to add up to a lot. I found myself thinking, Wow, that was a good chapter. But I’m still not sure what she’s trying to teach me, or what I should be taking away from this. I wonder when she’s going to start talking about all the bullet points listed on the back cover…

Not to say this is not an excellent book. It is. And we’ll get into that. But I wanted to express my full opinion, from beginning to end.

The only other issue I had with this book has to do with the love story we find in it. The Jim-and-Elisabeth-Elliot love story is quite famous, and really something to behold. They waited seven years for each other. Seven years without kissing or holding hands or any of the common habits we see in modern couples today. Other than the occasional use of an affectionate nickname- a stray darling or dearest– their love letters were mostly encouragements to one another to press into the Lord for as long as He has called them to remain single and chaste. It’s a beautiful, enduring love story to read. She loved him, he felt called to remain single for the Lord (he felt there were things on the mission field he could not do/places he could not go, if married), and so he asked her to release him from her affections, even though- and this is where I take offense- he loved her. He really cared about her, he longed for her, but he felt he could not ask her to wait for him.

Wait a minute.

So he loves her- and basically says so- as well as actually saying if the Lord released him to marry, he would marry her… but he could not promise these things, so please don’t feel like you have to wait.

Okay.

While this is a lovely story of two people who remained sexually pure despite circumstances, feelings, etc… the area that I really struggled with (throughout almost the entire book) (and I kept coming back to my feelings of frustration and indignation for her) is where he should have kept his mouth shut.

Listen, if you’re a man and you feel convinced the Lord has asked you to remain single for only-He-knows-how-long, you’d best keep your mouth shut and your flirtations nonexistent if you want to be obedient. How many women can resist a man whom she has had multiple encounters with (intimate in the cleanest sense of the word), whom she is clearly in love with, and who tells her “If God would let me marry, I absolutely would marry you. I really care for you, and you have so many of the traits that I’m looking for in a wife. But God has told me to remain single for an undisclosed time, so I can’t ask you to wait for me.” VERY FEW.

Just keep your mouth shut. There’s no reason he dragged her into the responsibility of remaining single. Had he not shared his affections with her, she may have released her feelings for him and moved on. Things worked out okay (read their entire story for the truth behind this), but COME ON. It’s not her responsibility to wait for you, but that’s all she’s going to do if you tell her you would marry her if you could. That’s just selfish.

I mean.

I reeeaallly really struggled with some serious frustrations all throughout this book. I couldn’t even concentrate on the beauty of what “waiting” did for her character, or the patience she learned, or the opportunities she had to press into the Lord and learn obedience and total dependence on Him. Which are all incredible, life-changing things which we all need to learn. But I was so overwhelmed with how she should never have had to suffer through seven years of waiting for a man who MAY NOT EVER BE ALLOWED TO MARRY. Seriously. I’m still mad about it.

And I’m happy they finally married. I’m so happy their love story worked out in the end (for a little bit). I’m happy there is a beautiful story about how a girl loved a boy, and used all her time of waiting to improve her heart and character, and to bloom where she was planted.

But I cannot get over a man who dragged her through seven years of waiting without a promise in sight.

UGH.

It’s not really my place to judge someone’s relationship. I’m happy for Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and the heaven they experienced together for a few short years. But the long-suffering story they both walked through was the direct result of his lack of self-control. And it’s frustrating, because I’ve known so many men like that. I want my cake and eat it, too. You can’t have it both ways, buddy.

Well, I guess you can, but it can have some serious consequences. Not all love stories end like this one. (And even this one had a truly painful ending, even though good still came from it). (Probably due to the time she spent pressing into the Lord).

Anyway, back to the beauty of the book. Now that I have that off my chest. And I’m sorry for the rant.

Mostly sorry.

Anyway.

The entire last quarter of the book was fantastic. Full of wisdom, encouragement, and fulfilled hopes. I raced through the last few chapters, writing down some quotes to dwell on later, and trying to take in the things Mrs. Elliot had learned from all her years of growing while she waited. I found a lot of encouragement and challenge about relationships, and in particular marriage, here at the end.

I’m glad I read this book. Despite my frustrations with the choices of Jim Elliot in regards to Elisabeth (which is none of  my business anyway), I did end up learning quite a bit about waiting on the Lord in joy and movement- blooming where I am planted.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.”

“The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness and then decide, if we don’t get exactly that, that God doesn’t love us.”

“Life requires countless ‘little deaths’– occasions when we are given the chance to say no to self and yes to God. …But even little deaths have to be died just as great ones do.”

“It helped to develop in my soul tensile strength- resistance to stress, the kind of strength that can bear stretching without tearing apart.”

“Don’t walk straight into [the wayward impulses of youth] and then blame God if the temptation is too great for you.”

“Charity, which is always self-giving, says ‘I grant you your rights. I do not insist on mine. I give myself to you; I do not insist that you give yourself to me.”

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops.”

book reviews: wild

This book jumped quickly from a brand-new-read to an all-time-favorite. Cheryl Strayed’s tone is at once down-to-earth and humble as well as slap-you-in-the-face honest. She doesn’t pull punches when she flashes back to the painful conversations, drug-induced sexcapades and other one-night stands, pre-divorce confusion, and the unspeakable loss of her mother that combine to rip apart her sense of self and sanity. So she sells everything she owns and embarks on a solo hike across nearly one thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I love this book for many reasons. A gifted storyteller, Strayed writes both of her past and her present on the trail with a vividness that launches her anecdotes right off the page. Most particularly, her descriptions of places on the trail and the physical trials she suffered through makes you almost feel as though you’re walking (and sometimes hobbling) right alongside her.

I found myself underlining entire sections of the book, wanting to go back and re-read pages that affected me more deeply than others. I found myself identifying with her lack of fatherly love or guidance in her early life, and with many of the self-esteem issues she certainly struggled with. Beyond even the emotional gravity of her life story, I found myself simply being drawn to the outdoors, and to the self-healing one can find there. Through her therapeutic hiking process, I discovered little bits and pieces of myself that wanted to be found on a trail somewhere. Not necessarily because I’m walking around as broken as she, but because her ability to describe nature in all its glory is exceptional.

Especially with her hiking the PCT.

I grew up in the Pacific North West and it’s a place I’ve always longed to return to. For how long, who knows. But her descriptions (especially toward the end of the book) of places I’ve been to or heard of frequently brought quite a bit of nostalgia bubbling to the surface. I told The Boy one night that I had begun dreaming of going backpacking myself in the PNW. Maybe through Oregon. It’s on my 30 Before 30 List… Well, to backpack for two nights, anyway. But a new dream had been birthed in me to hike at least from one section of a trail to another. Maybe a week’s worth of hiking. To be out in nature, off the grid, living out of whatever I can carry in my pack.

That’s the power of Strayed’s  story. She really found herself again, once she was in a place that forced her to deal with all the crap she had either fallen into or created herself. And she conveyed that journey stunningly onto the page. No wonder Hollywood is making a movie about it. (Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn2-GSqPyl0)

Notable Quotes:

The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.

It was my life, like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.

There was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared to do it.
And then there was the real live truly doing it.

Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.

book reviews: heaven is for real

This book was handed to me by a sweet lady, who is basically my surrogate grandma, just before I left her house to drive the hour and a half back home. I’m one of those weirdos who can’t just read one book at a time, so I gladly opened the front cover as soon as I arrived home and dove in. This is the first book in a WHILE that I haven’t taken notes on. I’ve spent so much time with other books on love, ministry, relationships, Jesus, etc… that reading a book that was solely a narrative was a real treat. Such a treat I finished the dang book in three days. (And this whilst working 60 hours a week!)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story of a young family in a teeny town in Nebraska whose youngest child gets seriously ill and almost dies. Two surgeries and a miracle later and the boy leaves the hospital for health and home. I recognize there was/is heavy criticism of this book (which was recently adapted into a movie), but I enjoyed it all the same.

It’s written with a sincerity and earnestness that we really don’t read much of anymore. The way the author (Todd Burpo) speaks about his wife throughout is kind, honoring, and loving. Every time he mentions his wife it is with a tangible respect. He speaks about his son Colton- the major character of the story- in a way that is at once confused and amazed. Yet not once does he assert any kind of domineering-fatherdom; he allows Colton to share plainly and honestly about his near-death trip to heaven and back.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about this book is that it is replete with anecdotes and personal family stories. Burpo didn’t pull any punches. When Colton brings up information about his great grandfather, Burpo shares personal histories of his family. There were also photos in the center of my book (which I rather liked as it gave me a more realistic image to go with the narrative).

I found myself being very encouraged by the thoughts and experiences of Jesus by a four-year-old. My own beliefs and theologies weren’t transformed, but I was incredibly encouraged. Colton says things like, “Jesus told me that he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.” Again, there is a just a sweet earnestness that comes out and grabs your heart from the page.

It was a good book, a quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone needing a little encouragement or inspiration.

it also goes great with a cup o’ joe

to mr. h. potter, the page, the shelf:

come at me.

A few months ago K (one of the girls I nanny) asked about reading the Harry Potter books. For weeks thereafter we went to the library to search (always in vain) for the first one. Finally she decided that she didn’t want to read them anymore- maybe she was tired of looking, maybe the moment had passed. Either way, her parents found out and told their parents, who brought the whole set home when they came to visit a couple weeks ago.

At the beginning of this past week, we decided to dive into them. I don’t know what prompted it, but one afternoon I found myself sitting in a cozy little chair in the girls’ play area downstairs with a captive audience at my feet. They had dragged over a ton of blankets and pillows, and their dog, and were waiting impatiently to hear the story. This from girls who have seen the movies and believe they already know the story. But read we did.

lots of cuddling happening here

The idea was to tackle one chapter every day- it gives us some quality “us” time, gives the girls an opportunity to discipline their attention spans, and gives us all something to look forward to. It’s always a good idea to have something that your kids/students/young ones are eagerly anticipating. I first heard this idea from PJoe’s wife Janice, who read to her children one chapter a day, every day, when they came home from school. She said they loved it and, because she stopped after one chapter, they were always waiting excitedly for the next day to come so they could find out what happens next.

I thought this was a great tool to use with Harry Potter. So on Day 1, we plowed through a surprisingly long Chapter One and concluded. Maybe because it was the first chapter, and maybe because it was a lloooooong chapter, but the girls were quite content to put the bookmark in there and move on to something else.

The next day, however, was a different story. By the conclusion of Chapter Two, both girls had forsaken the pillows and the blankets and the toys and were perched on the arms of the chair I was sitting in, reading over my shoulder and begging me to continue. I happily obliged, but had to cut it short when time ran out- we had to get to gymnastics class. Reluctantly they got up to get ready, but by the time we got back home, they were both okay with doing a different activity.

jackpot sometimes wants in on the action, too

Today we’ve spent almost the whole morning reading. A cooler summer day, I set my hammock up in the woods in the backyard and we sat and read two entire chapters together. We decided it was  a bit too chilly to stay outside, even with our hoodies, so we raced back indoors where they unabashedly demanded another chapter. So we read a third together. At this point, they were asking to read as well- they would read two full pages and then share with the other. In between they would ask me to read a bit. But I cut us off after three chapters. I had woefully failed in the we’re-only-reading-one-chapter-a-day-period challenge, and I didn’t want them to get burnt out or bored with the story. Especially since they have already seen the movie. But I think I’m losing the battle. I’ll suggest an activity or something we can do, and they both answer with, “Actually, can we just keep reading the story?” or “I’d rather read the book some more.” It’s amazing. I’m not sure if it’s amazing in a good or bad way, but so far a lot of great things have come up in conversation while reading the book:

*They’re learning the pronunciation and definition of new (and much longer) words.

*They’re learning that, while in movies you get all the answers up front, with books you have to be patient and willing to wait it out. Answers are most usually revealed later on in the story, or simply when you least expect it. V has some serious issues with this and will constantly interrupt her sister to ask questions about the plot, or about something she remembers from the movie that either hasn’t been introduced yet, or is different than what we’re reading. So they’re definitely learning there is more to a book than a movie, and often it’s a secret or a character or an entire plot line that has been left out of the film. So hopefully they’re gaining the ability to appreciate a text on its own, rather than just relying on a movie to tell the whole story.

*They’re learning patience. When V asks a twentieth question in a row and K gets frustrated because the story keeps stopping, it’s a good opportunity to discuss how books reveal answers to your questions in good time. And as much as this confuses her, it gives her a great chance to hang on to information that she doesn’t fully understand in order to apply new knowledge to the problem later. As the story unfolds and cool new stuff is revealed, she’ll suddenly burst out with, “Ohhh!! That’s why Uncle Vernon was so mean to Harry!” or whatever the case may be.

*They’re learning that sometimes authors write sentences that don’t quite make sense because they words are made up (C’mon, Hagrid! We get that you have an usual accent, but really? Do we need to read “ter” and “yeh” and “summat” a hundred times in order to get it?) (The answer is YES). And as we begin to understand that people can have different accents than us, our horizons begin to broaden. A question that came up today was (K) “Why does Hagrid say ‘was’ instead of ‘were’?” I’m hoping this leads to understanding and patience for all people, whether they talk the same as us or not.

Both girls are avid readers and love to spend a rainy afternoon by a window with one of their favorite books (I seriously love my job) (*tear*), but reading out loud (really for the first time) is giving them a new perspective on reading. They’re having to learn cadence and pacing, both with the sentences and with their breath. And reading aloud brings to attention words they have yet to see or be able to pronounce, so we get to work on vocabulary (as I said earlier).

It’s a pretty incredible experience so far, and something I’m coming to look forward to. I know it’s only been a few days, but it almost feels like we’re on a mission together- that we are trying to conquer something as a team that takes longer than an hour or two, or even a day. Coming back to a task we’ve left off somewhere in the middle the day before just feels good.

All in all I’m really enjoying the process of Reading Time with my girls. They’re enjoying it, too. I’m hoping this will keep continuing to engage them as good books and good stories always do. Reading gives you so many opportunities to have adventures or learn something new or make new old friends. It introduces you to new words, new ideas, and new places. They’re learning a lot from this time, but I have to admit: I think I may be learning even more- about children, about parenting, and techniques and tools that I want to use when I have kids of my own.

What a great book.

What a great job.

Thanks, Mr. Potter.

not quite us, but pretty close.

book reviews: love and respect

The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs

My boyfriend handed this book to me after he had completed it. He was looking to understand how he could treat me and love me better. This book was recommended to me long ago, and I had always imagined I would read it with my fiancé, right before we got married. But hearing the cool things Neil was learning about women and loving well (and how deeply some of those truths resonated with the way I felt), I thought why not go ahead and read it? Can’t hurt to learn some new truths early.

And so I did.

Although written in 2004, this book uses slightly dated lingo. To be honest, both Neil and I had to skip over some of the last few chapters in Part One. Every chapter in Part One deals with the way men and women give and receive communication signals- and how very different they are. Each chapter approached the topic from a slightly different angle so- as Neil said after I’d complained about the redundancy- different people would be hit by the information at different stages. Some people might get it right away, and others might understand after a few different stories from a few different perspectives. And that’s true. But for me, having grown up hearing about the difference in communication and love styles between men and women, the lack of new information for such a long amount of time was too much for me to handle. If I heard “pink sunglasses and hearing aids, and blue sunglasses and hearing aids” One More Time…

So I skimmed the middle few chapters and totally skipped the last couple to get to Part Two.

This is where stuff got real. The first half of Part Two was written ABOUT women FOR men. Women don’t have to read it, because they already inherently know the information. I read for curiosity’s sake and found myself singing some hallelujahs and amens. I couldn’t believe the things I have felt and struggled with for so long in relationships (both romantic and platonic) were written down right there on the page! I hadn’t been wrong to feel some of the things I’ve felt! It was incredible!! I remember underlining several areas that were so on point I couldn’t help myself- and, as a rule, I don’t write or underline anything in a book I don’t own. But I was so amazed at some of the stuff that I just had to had to had to. And then I would call Neil (or wait til he called me at the end of a long day) and gush and gush about all the things he had read in those chapters that WERE REALLY TRUE. He would always laugh and thank me for bringing certain things to his attention, and remind me that he would feel the same when I read through the chapters for women about men.

Those chapters are really good, too. A lot of it was common sense (or, I suppose, simply just ingrained into the minds of young twenty-somethings who are immersed in modern church culture). And yet, the more I read, the more stories Eggerichs shared, the more I found myself writing down in my journal. Oh, this is what I should have done/said/acted like previously… THIS is what I can do in the future… Oh, THAT’S what that means! I have to be honest- I spent A LOT of time in prayer over ways I have disrespected men in my past, and how I want to live in a more loving and respectful way in the future. I feel like this book gave me a very clear vision of what it really means to make a vow to love someone- because love isn’t about YOU.

Part Three was the conclusion, and all about how we are meant to love and respect our spouses with or without them treating us the way we want or need. It’s all about how our motivation to love is to be obedient to the Lord. It was pretty eye-opening to look at love (and respect) through that lens.

All in all, it was a really great book. I learned a lot, and I think I’ll definitely use it as a reference for the rest of my life. I recommend it to everyone- married, engaged, dating, single. There’s a lot of truth to apply in all relationships.

But just remember- with great power (or knowledge) comes great responsibility. Don’t use this book or this information as a way to manipulate to get what you want. At its basest level, love is about other people. We love and respect and serve others for their sake, not for our own gain. So read and let love (and respect) change all our lives!

book reviews: love does

Just finished reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. A quick read and, true to its cover summary, full of whimsy.

The first few chapters were really good, but if I’m totally frank, there were a couple in the middle where I fought to keep interest. What he does in this book is share a story, funny anecdote, or random happening from his life and then equate it to things He’s learning from or about God. Some of the chapters are brilliantly written, with spot-on relatability (<– that’s a real word) (it’s not, but just go with it), but a couple chapters felt a little reaching. Like there was a great story, and a great idea about God, but they didn’t really intersect as well as he was hoping.

Passing those tiny bumps in the road, the book just kept getting better and better, and at the end of each chapter I felt myself a little more emboldened, a little more courageous, and a little more anxious to get my hands into something worthwhile. With the closing of each chapter and the nearing of the end of the book, I began to feel an urgency to get started on something and, perhaps even more powerful, I felt the possibility that I actually could do something extraordinary with my life and my time and my resources.

I think that’s the treasure that Bob Goff brings to the world, to this book, and to its readers: a “can” attitude. He makes you feel like these enormous adventures and capers he undertakes aren’t at all that out-of-the-realm of possibility. He makes you feel as though the crazy things we see people do in movies aren’t all that crazy and, in fact, we can do them. We just have to dive in. What an incredible gift to bring to the world- the gift of possibility. The gift of can. The gift of do.

His whole idea is that love is not a feeling, nor is it a word; it is an action. It’s a doing of something more, richer, crazier, because it’s too big to leave to the occasional card or gift. And I like that. It really challenges my belief system; if I say I believe in Christ and what He believes in (which is to love God and my neighbors) but I don’t actually walk that out, do I really believe in Him? If I say I adhere to an idea or a faith that asks, or demands, something of me and I never really give anything away… do I really adhere to it?

So the big question that I walk away from this book asking is: is the love I give myself, my friends, my family, my God- my world- real love… or is it just a handful of empty words and no backbone?

Really makes you think.

Notable Quotes:

If Adam is right about memories being reserved for folks who don’t do anything cool anymore, then I don’t want to just collect memories anymore. I’ve been thinking I’ll follow love’s lead and find some capers worth doing, ones so saturated with whimsy they have to be rung out like a wet towel to be understood fully.

That’s one of the things about love. It doesn’t recognize boundaries and never obeys the rules we try to give it.

Love does whatever it takes to multiply itself and somehow along the way everyone becomes a part of it. You know why? Because that’s what love does.

PS. Last year on the World Race, a lot of my squadmates ended up reading this book. They got in touch with Bob Goff and asked him to come to our final debrief in The Philippines. Being a man who does we all thought, why not? He maybe might! Unfortunately we caught him a little late in the game and he had prior commitments, BUT he sent a video to us via our squad coach Bruce, saying how excited he was about the things we’d been doing all year and how he wished he could be with us. What a man of honor and generosity! I’m not sure many people would have gone to the trouble, but even though he wasn’t there in person, not a single O Squader felt anything but excited, loved, and encouraged. When he says “let’s talk about this stuff” and gives you his number, he really means it. Thanks, Bob!

new book, old memory

I was recently given Gary Chapman’s Love as a Way of Life, the sequel to The Five Love Languages. I just opened it twenty or so minutes ago, and I’m already so inspired to live and love a different way, I had to pause and blog about it.

book1

My senior year of high school, I began my first dating relationship. And for the most part, it was awesome: we laughed a lot, he made me feel secure in him and our relationship, and I was confident of his care for me. But there was something really missing, and I didn’t know what it was. Every few weeks or so, I’d cry in his general direction that I thought we were being selfish, that we needed to be focusing on others- that our relationship should be focused on serving others. It was great that we were so happy and carefree (what else can you be in high school?), but I needed something… more.

And for a minute it would work. We would go volunteer somewhere, or just in general be on the lookout for how to serve and love people better: striking up conversations in the hallways, providing a listening and non-judgmental ear to anyone who needed it, inviting people to hang out or go to the movies or have lunch. Whatever. It was awesome for a minute.

But then we would inevitably fall back into the routine of self-focus and that feeling of needing something more would begin its slow struggle to the surface where I would, once again, cry in his general direction that I was unhappy and needed… something more.

What was I missing? Why was I staying in this cycle?

Because I was right. According to Dr. Chapman, “First, love is an attitude that says I choose to focus my life on helping others.” When my mind and heart were focused outwardly, I was being my true self, and receiving satisfaction in that thing that we were made for- relationships- whether it was a long-term or momentary one. When my focus shifted back to “us” those feelings of discontentment seeped up. My problem was that, simply as a seventeen-year-old in her first romantic relationship, I didn’t know how to juggle my feelings toward that relationship with my feelings toward the rest of the world. I was simply unprepared for how to handle life in all its complexity.

Fast-forward ten or so years, and I’m sitting in a Starbucks watching the snow outside tumbling down like a Hallmark card, and this book in my hands is confirming everything I always knew to be true and necessary. And it is such a bolster, such an inspiration to learn to handle myself and all my relationships in a way that is others-focused and serving-oriented.

Now all I need to do is live it out.

Thanks, Dr. Chapman.

in improv and in life

don’t know if you’re aware or not, but I’ve been on this trip called The World Race for the last eleven months or so. It’s been a whirlwind, let me tell you. From sleeping on the floor to bathing with 3 inches of water in a bucket to eating 18-day-old duck fetuses, this trip has been something words can’t easily describe. It takes a lot of courage, honesty, humility, and intentionality to make it through the Race alive and well, but it also takes a little something else.

The World Race has a motto, you see. It is constantly being thrown around; you hear it over and over in meetings, debriefs, sessions, and conversations. You hear it so often that it almost becomes too commonplace to mean a lot. That motto is “Say Yes.” At its very base, it is so powerful and life-changing: say yes to life, say yes to ministry, say yes when it’s hard, say yes when it’s easy to say no, say yes, say yes, say yes. A little similar to the Jim Carrey movie, it is vital to opt in to whatever life throws at you. Don’t put a toe in the water- dive, jump, cannonball in and see what happens!

This is such an important motto.

But I think it might be lacking something.

This past summer- the summer of Africa- I was reading Tina Fey’s gloriously witty masterpiece Bossypants. Sounds like a real winner, right? (Well, it is). She writes in a chapter about improvisation that the First Rule is to SAY YES. Sound familiar? She writes:

When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created.  …Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

I think that’s beautiful. “Start with a yes and see where that takes you.” She goes on to say that she finds it jarring when she meets someone whose first answer is no. Isn’t that true? Don’t we find it a little jolting when we invite someone into a conversation, into an  experience, into our home and the answer is a no? It’s like we’re joyriding down a street at top speed, laughing and feeling the wind blow through our hair, jamming out to some obnoxiously loud 80’s hair band, and all-of-a-sudden-out-of-nowhere a stop sign pops up. It’s physically disconcerting, is it not? The joyride literally comes to a complete stop. That’s the power of “No.”

But with the power of “Yes” possibilities are endless.

Ms. Fey continues her rules of improvisation with one of the most important things I have ever heard: the rule is “not only to say yes, but YES AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.” If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures,” now we’re getting somewhere.”

She says, “To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute.”

And this is what I think World Race’s motto is missing. “Say yes” is really only the first step to a lifetime process. As Ms. Fey proves, if you only say yes and then wait for whichever way the wind will blow, you sit in a stalemate until someone else decides to make a move (or begin a new game, as this metaphor would suggest). If you instead choose “Yes AND” you actively join the conversation, the opportunity, the experience. You contribute. You give a little piece of yourself to whatever is being created.

I’ve said yes multiple times on this Race. But I’ve also stopped shortly after that. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re opting in just because you showed up someplace, or you stayed a little longer, or you went somewhere with someone. But unless you are actively engaged, little difference is made whether you are there or not.

The last rule of improv, as Tina Fey teaches, is to “MAKE STATEMENTS: a positive way of saying ‘Don’t ask questions all the time.’ … Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. Whatever the problem, be a part of the solution. Make statements with your actions and your voice.”

So first we must opt in, second we must add a piece of ourselves, and third we must be bold. If we’re constantly apologizing, or rerouting, or attempting to stop the flow and explain a difference in perspective, then this beautiful watercolor tour de force we are forging and shaping grinds to a halt. So there’s a difference of opinion. So someone mistook what you meant for what actually came out of your mouth. So what? If hurt is not being had, go with it! Tina says, “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” Otherwise known as “beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident.”

So to you new or current Racers who might be reading this and thinking, “Why on earth am I reading a World Race blog about improvisational acting??” Because you’ve made it this far and you might as well finish.

And also because these rules work both in improv and in life. This is my challenge, my encouragement, and my prayer: Say Yes AND. Opt in to anything and everything, but then contribute something of your own. Play a part in whatever is happening. Engage in whatever role is available and leave a part of yourself there. Don’t just show up and wait for someone else to take the reigns, or tell you where to stand, or when to say your lines. You don’t need a cue card; you don’t need a stage manager whispering your lines to you. Take it upon yourself to engage. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be captivating. Be exactly who you are, and leave your mark on the world. But first you must decide to make that leap.

all quotations are taken directly from Bossypants, by Tina Fey, available at most bookstores, and online at amazon.com, as well as all kinds of other online book order places. you should google it.
this has been a public service announcement. thank you for your attention.

mid’monthly montage: philippines edition

originally posted at http://andimoore.theworldrace.org

the things blog…

Reading
*
The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis. It’s much slower this time than the first time I went through it. But the creation of Narnia was much more magical.
*Allegiant, Veronica Roth. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to read this and I did and I AM DYING. Read the series.
*A Dance With Dragons, George R.R. Martin. I figure it’s time to complete the circle. At least, what we currently have of it…

Watching
*I watched Miracle 4 or 5 times…
*I’ve been really into “Family” genre movies this month.

Listening
*lots of PJoe sermons. I’m trying to catch up to the church, so I can be on par for when I get home.

Eating
*THE BEST FOOD OF THE RACE.

Ministries
*skits/songs at church
*leading Kids Klub services
*weeding the huuuuuuge pineapple patch (where giant spiders live)
*ATL (Ask the Lord…wait for His prompting… and then go do it

*building relationships with the people we meet in the village or on the beach
*cleanup for typhoon damage (and we might be doing more typhoon-related stuff later on… hopefully)

Loving
*all the kids/youth here. they are AMAZING
*the food. oh my gosh, the food
*the women who do threads of hope (and having them teach me cool things!)
*having pet monkeys
*living on the most beautiful beach
*swimming in the crystal clear aqua and navy ocean

Not Loving
*it’s sooooooo hot. that’s the only thing i don’t love about this place
*except for the GIANT BUGS (including spiders and other terrifying things)

Looking Forward To
*spending every moment fully present here
*going home next month!
*christmas (it’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the yeeeeaaar)