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Books + Stories
Win a Copy of Mystics and Misfits!
June 8, 2018 0

I’m giving away a copy of Christiana Peterson’s

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints!

 

 

Christiana is a friend and a gorgeous writer. You don’t want to miss her book — the writing style, the vulnerability, what you’ll learn and what you’ll experience. She writes about Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, and Simone Weil and what life in an intentional community looks like.

TO WIN a FREE COPY: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends June 13, 2018.

 


I want to leave you with an original post by Christiana Peterson here on this blog so you can get a sampling of her lovely writing.

 

Mid-way between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, an ice storm knocks out our power.

With an unseasonably warm season, this blast of icy weather has reminded me that we live in the Midwest and it is indeed winter. Our apartment, in a building we share with two other families on a farm, sits only yards from our pigs, chickens, cows, and a large community garden. The well that supplies our drinking and flushing water and the water for all the animals depends on electricity to run.

As I get cozy with my three children on the couch, we have no idea that we are only at the beginning of two and a half days without water, heat, a stove, or, gasp, the internet.

My two older children and I make a fun afternoon of it, reading and swapping books. When evening comes and the power is still out, my husband grabs his camping stove from the basement. We have a dinner of reheated turkey soup by candlelight and headlamp.

As we enjoy the momentary romance of a simpler evening, our parent-child conversations are predictable.

Did you know that when my grandparents grew up on a farm, they didn’t have any electricity?

They didn’t even have indoor toilets. Or washing machines. Or movies! They had to make their own music.

Won’t we be thankful when the power comes on tomorrow?

But the next morning, the lights are still off. The house is 50 degrees. The unflushed toilet has begun to stink. The downstairs wood floors are cold. There is no internet for the kids to watch movies, and I can’t wash the mounting piles of dishes or work on my dead laptop.

The lesson-learning on this, Day 2 without power, feels cliché. But oddly enough, I’m not thinking about how thankful I will be when the lights come back. I’m not thinking about how grateful I am to have modern conveniences.

I am thinking about St. Francis.

Before my fascination with the Saints began, I believed that Catholics prayed to and venerated the Saints because they were holier versions of us. But I’m learning that the wisdom of studying the Saints is because of their humanness. The Saints give us examples, which though exemplary, are still fully fleshly attempts to follow Christ.

I need those human examples. When the lights go out and the lessons we teach our children don’t seem to change anything, I need to hear what the Saints have to teach about following a different way, a way that took them out of the clutches of their homes, possessions, and the things that made them feel secure.

What the Saints, and St. Francis in particular, repeatedly live out is that abundance comes from a smaller life, not a larger one. The less wealth, material possessions and success there are to depend on, the wider a heart can become.

When the lights finally come on again, I am having tea with an older woman with whom I haven’t visited in over a year. We are talking about the way things were when she was a child. We are having the same conversations I had with my children. But somehow they take on more meaning when they come from her. Just as St. Francis’ story moves me, so her story, her truth, her life shapes and encourages my faith.

I clean up the mess of my thawed and stagnant house. I make no big changes in my lifestyle because of our break from electricity. But I read Richard Rohr’s words as a call to something terribly small but also immeasurably large: “You can now let Francis and Clare show you how to die into your one and only life, the life that you must learn to love.”

I long to love my life. To die into it. To be fully present in it. To not wish for more power. I long for the courage to stay with the discomforts, living into the freedom of the duties of life. Accepting that living in a small, old, house on a farm means we will lose our power sometimes. Accepting that being in community will be joyful and painful. Accepting that difficult relationships will bring out the worst in me, and therefore allow God to shine through my brokenness.

Maybe dying into my life and loving it are the same. I cannot be a Saint, but I will be a mother, a wife, a writer, a woman. And my efforts in every small human moment will add up to life, death, and love all at once.


 

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Books + Stories
How Lasagna Shows Us What our Marriages are Made of
May 11, 2018 0

No matter how many years you’ve been married, marriage is a beautiful challenge. The process of two-become-one sometimes look like pure delight. Other times it feels grueling as our rough edges are rubbed off. Sometimes everything comes out over lasagna. 

I wanted to share with you a lovely book by Dorothy Greco, Making Marriage Beautiful. She offers so much hope for marriages. Making Marriage Beautiful is incredibly vulnerable, surprisingly funny, and outrageously hopeful. It’s grounded in Scripture and includes interviews with eight diverse couples. 

 

 

Making Marriage Beautiful would be a fabulous gift to tuck into your gifts for weddings. It’d be a lovely and thoughtful anniversary present, or a great resource to go through with your church small group. Here’s a bit from the book, so you know how you must go and snag a copy!

 

Surprise! We’re giving away a copy if you’re in the US. Here’s what you need to do:

*Use whatever social media platform you like

*Tag me at @aahales and be sure to tag 3 friends (I’m sure @dorothygreco would love a shout out too!)

*Use the hashtag #aahalesreads


 

 

Not Your Mother’s Lasagna

Thanksgiving was my first holiday as a married woman. With the flip of a coin, my husband and I decided to spend the weekend with his extended family in upstate New York.

On paper, our families of origin are more similar than not. Our fathers went off to the Korean War, our mothers mostly stayed at home, and we each have two siblings. But if you looked closely, you would notice significant differences, especially if you happened to stop in during dinnertime.

Meals in our WASP home were civilized affairs. We sat at the kitchen table except for major holidays and birthdays. We never raised our voices or interrupted one another and always valued the quality of food over quantity. In Christopher’s Catholic, Italian-American home, life centered around one of five strategically placed tables. The question wasn’t if you would sit at the table; it was which one. The table held epic symbolism in the Greco household.

As soon as we each claimed a spot at the dining room table, I began to realize just how different our families were. There was twice as much food as we needed, including lime Jell-O and canned green beans submerged in a thick, gray sauce. After the turkey—and two huge trays of lasagna—were ceremoniously placed front and center, the curtain went up and the opera began.

Unlike at my home, there was no turn taking or insightful follow-up questions. One person simply started talking—to no one in particular—and then another layered their thoughts on top but not before turning up the volume. Then a third and fourth jumped in, making it impossible to really listen to anyone—something I eventually learned was not a priority. I’ve never been a fan of opera and even less so when I’m thrust into it without an opportunity to rehearse my lines. This experience helped me better understand Christopher, but I was not able to extrapolate his genetically-coded mealtime expectations until we had a substantial fight not long after.

At our inaugural dinner party, we invited three couples over. Unlike Christopher’s family of origin, we only had one table that was woefully inadequate for six adults. We made do. The conversation was lively and the food excellent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening—except Christopher, who made several less-than-affirming comments about my culinary efforts.

This same scenario played out multiple times before I pointedly inquired, “Why are you so critical of how I prepare meals for guests?” He shot back, “Because you don’t cook enough food and you never put out extra sauce when you make pasta!” The fight that followed opened our eyes to a shocking reality: our family cultures had so deeply influenced our preferences, biases, and beliefs that we each reflexively judged anything different as wrong.

By normalizing our family’s customs and concluding that our version of reality was morally superior, we had become ethnocentric: in other words, assuming the inherent superiority of our culture and ethnicity. I was guilty of ethnocentrism when I harshly evaluated his family’s Thanksgiving traditions. He was guilty of ethnocentrism when he judged me as incompetent simply because I didn’t put extra marinara sauce on the table.

If we lack awareness regarding our ethnocentrism, we can become oppositional and needlessly criticize and judge one another. As my husband and I have repented of our moralizing and committed to honoring each other’s traditions, we’re less dogmatic and more grateful. Now, when I need to talk through something, Christopher no longer expects me to replicate his family’s operatic style of communication. And when we have dinner guests, I try to serve more food than I know we need because I want to validate rather than dismiss his traditions. On a good day, I even remember to put extra sauce on the table.

This (pseudo) excerpt is from chapter two of  Making Marriage Beautiful. Excerpt provided courtesy of Dorothy Greco and David C. Cook. 

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Announcements
Mother’s Day Book Giveaway!
May 7, 2018 0

What do mothers want — a spa day, a night of sleep, a fancy brunch, jewelry? These are the things that we see on Instagram. But how about some good words that just get you?

For Mother’s Day, I’m giving away TWO books: a copy of Rachel Marie Stone’s Birthing Hope and Suzanne Stabile’s The Path Between Us

 

First, Birthing Hope. This book is part birth memoir, theological rumination on life and death, and study in family history, anxiety, and how hope shines through darkness. Rachel Marie Stone’s writing is gorgeous and you should read it just for her excellent prose.

When I had a second with her at the Festival of Faith & Writing in April, I asked her how she managed to weave together so many things and still come out with such a work of art, rather than a bunch of jumbled threads. She answered “lots of drafts,” and that she followed Marie Kondo’s advice: first take out everything from the drawer and only put back in what sparks joy. Birthing Hope is my favorite read of 2018 so far. 

If you’re into the Enneagram and you enjoyed The Road Back to You (Stabile and Cron’s first primer on the Enneagram with IVP), you’ll love The Path Between Us. (If you haven’t read The Road Back to You, pick that one up too).  The Enneagram seems to be the personality typing program du jour, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s a wonderful tool that really helps you grow into health, rather than a “take me as I am” box-you-into-a-personality.

Stabile’s latest, The Path Between Us (that also has a separate study guide!), is a wonderful start to discovering how different numbers on the Enneagram relate. It’s an absolute must to navigate your relationships — with your spouse, friends, and children (if you have those!).

And I want to give these two books: one gorgeous, the other more practical, female-authored books to ONE LUCKY WOMAN.

Yes, it’s a Mother’s Day giveaway but you don’t need to be a mother to win. All of our stories can be told as birth stories, Rachel Marie Stone writes.

 

Here’s how you enter to win:

You get an entry for each item you do. Giveaway closes on Wednesday!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Giveaway is open to anyone in the US and closes on Wednesday!

*Links are Amazon associate links, which means if you purchase a book through this link a few pennies go back to help run this website.

 

 

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Can you be a mother and be creative?
At other places
Can you be a mother and be creative?
May 1, 2018 0

I don’t know about you but I’ve had to fight for creativity — almost sometimes, it felt like too late. I see women like Maile Smucker doing it (read this wonderful piece by Shawn Smucker on making time for writing mothers) and I know that’s my story, too.

I never thought of myself as a writer — which is odd, I know, since I have a book coming out in October. But I’ve had to remember that all of me is okay to bring to the table. The analytical scholar, the feeling-focused inner child, the mother, the woman who likes leopard print, and the little girl who scrawled stories in a binder.

But motherhood — perhaps especially in this day and age (we are judged at every turn for what makes a good mother) — complicates our individual desires. Suddenly we are not just an “I,” we are “we” — a “we” more intimate than even with our spouses.

For Fathom Magazine, I wanted to explore how creativity is both something that helped bring me back to life (it birthed me anew) and also is something that always needs to be tied to our lived experience, concrete reality, and the everyday.

Here’s a sampling:

 

But what of me? I was learning what it meant to be a body, but I’d lost my mind a bit in the process. After ten years, my PhD diploma that sat rolled up in a brown paper tube with Scottish postage on it. There was a beauty in pouring oneself out again and again in milk and blood. But something was missing and I wondered if it would ever return. Could I capture light and graceful sentences when I was covered in spit up for yet another year?

My creativity had turned into sleep schedules and feeding schedules, watching what my children ate and how it affected their behavior. Trying desperately to help them to read, imagine, play, believe, all the while the daily stuff of earth began choking me.

I had no story for a liturgy born from the body, for words that started and stopped, for grace that could drip, drip, drip even amongst dirty diapers and endless laundry. I felt guilty. So many women longed for babies and my cup runneth over.

But I was drowning.

So, a few years into motherhood, with four children aged six and under, I sat on our old greenish couch and began writing into the ether. I started a blog. There was no pressure: no grade, no one telling me what I’d forgotten, no one reading or looking over my shoulder. My husband bought me a WordPress theme and a domain name and booked me a seat on a plane to a writers conference—all to find that girl who longed to fly.

Read the rest at Fathom Magazine. 

 

 

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Parenting is Hard. Win a copy of parenting book: First Ask Why!
Books + Stories
Parenting is Hard. Win a copy of parenting book: First Ask Why!
April 19, 2018 0

 

Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Shelly Wildman.

She’s the mom of three adult daughters and she’s written a parenting book not because she has it all together, but because she’s asked some good questions.

It’s called First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God through Intentional DiscipleshipAs a mother to four young kids, I’ve already learned a ton from Shelly’s book and I want you to have your very own copy!

Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of  First Ask Why (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel. Connect with Shelly at her website or on Instagram and Facebook. You can still preorder First Ask Why at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kregel.com since it comes out on April 24th.

Read more below to find out about the book and how to win!


 

Instead of managing our children’s behavior, Shelly Wildman says we need to first ask why.

To enter to win a copy of her book — which is perfect for parents of children who are tweens and younger — all you need to do is subscribe below. (If you’re already subscribed, comment on this post instead.)


 

Shelly was so kind to answer a few questions. Read on to find out more about the book!

 

 

Writing about parenting can be a powder keg—people have pretty strong opinions about raising kids. Why did you choose to write a parenting book?

I kind of feel like I didn’t choose to write a parenting book, but that the book chose me. (Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) I fought writing it for a long time because I knew I wasn’t a perfect parent—I had messed up so many times that I didn’t feel qualified to write this book. I still don’t. But the idea kept nagging at me for so long that I finally felt like God might have been pushing me to do it.

 

What makes your book different from other parenting books?

So many parenting books are “how-to” books. They seem to say, “Just follow these ten steps and here’s what you’ll get in the end.” But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

  • Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?
  • Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?
  • Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.

 

 

 

What was your lowest parenting moment?

You mean besides that time I locked my one-month-old in the car? (True story!)

I think my lowest moments were the times I let my daughters down. When I betrayed their trust by sharing too much with others. Or when I didn’t fulfill a promise I had made. Parents can feel their kids’ disappointment, which hurts so much. But more than that, too many disappointments lead to mistrust or a lack of respect, and I never wanted that to happen.

That said, parents are human. We do mess up. We do let our kids down. And those are the times we have to humble ourselves with our kids and apologize, sincerely. We need to let our kids know that we don’t always do things perfectly or say the right things or even parent correctly. But that we need grace and the help of God as much as they do.

 

Who do you hope will read this book and what do you hope they will gain?

I hope parents with kids of all ages will read this book, but especially parents of younger children. I hope grandparents will read this book. And I hope it sparks lots of discussion between husbands and wives, moms groups, or even small groups in churches.

My hope is that parents will come away from reading this book with a stronger sense of their purpose as parents and that they might gain a couple of new ideas that they can implement in their own family. I also hope people will read the last chapter very carefully and prayerfully. The last chapter of the book is on letting go, and it’s a concept that I think is becoming lost a little bit today. It’s so hard, but it’s so important, even when your children are young, to start thinking about letting go. We’ve got to be parents who demonstrate faith in God’s sovereign work in the lives of our children.

 


Is your appetite whetted for a book that will help you ask all the good and hard questions so you can intentionally disciple your children?

To win the book, all you need to do is enter your email (or comment). 

 

Giveaway will end on April 24, 2018.

Share with all your friends who could use some love on their parenting journey.

If you can’t wait you can order First Ask Why right now!

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