The Well

At other places
This year, I have a Valentine’s Date with a Parking Lot
February 13, 2018 at 8:50 am 0
This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day. The day of candy hearts, overpriced roses, and a whole host of feelings emerge on the same day that the church calendar calls us to gather in community, to reckon with our mortality, and to repent. It's just the sort of confluence that gets me thinking and writing.  
Memory is a strange thing — the way it picks and chooses what to remember, how it distorts and puts the puzzle of real life back together in its own way. On one particular Valentine’s Day in high school, I remember feeling more woman than girl, with a fancy red top. I met my boyfriend (now husband) at the bottom of the stairs, his flowers and photo collage in hand. His jaw dropped. We’d been a couple for six months, which of course is a lifetime in high school romances. That was what romantic love was then — demonstrative acts of adoration, feeling sexy, clinging to another person to save you. It was fancy dinners and longing. Love was not yet what it could and would be. It was but a shadow of what Love is. Love looks different now. This year, twenty Valentine’s Days past that one, I’m going to be spending it in the parking lot of our local elementary school because this year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Since our church plant meets at the local elementary school and we can’t get space to meet mid-week, we’re meeting in the parking lot. As the wife of the pastor, I first asked (not very nicely), “What? For real? We’re meeting in the parking lot?” Yet, I suppose it makes sense — and in a way that is about more than just scheduling. What other space is as mundane, as common, as the asphalt at a local elementary school? ... So, I will line up behind a bedraggled group of suburbanites in the local elementary school parking lot, trying to wrangle our kids so we can bring all of who we are to be marked by the reminder we too often forget: we are but dust and to dust we shall return.

Read the whole piece here, at The Well.

    If you're longing for your Lenten season to have purpose, or if you're curious about practicing Lent in positive life-giving ways, I've created "40 Ways to Love Your Suburb" and it's FREE just this week. To get it, enter your email and it'll come to you on Ash Wednesday -- whether or not you're gathering in a parking lot.

Get "40 Ways to Love your Suburb"

*Enter your email address*

At other places, Books + Stories, Faith + Vulnerability
#MamaPhD and the Delicate Circles of Relation (for The Well)
September 27, 2016 at 6:00 am 0
writer If you've been reading things I've written on motherhood, academia and this odd confluence of writing/motherhood/research/ministry, then you may have seen me use the hashtag #MamaPhD. It's after a fabulous book by the same name and so clearly encapsulates this life of motherhood combined with scholarship. I'm not in the classroom these days, but I still find that my Ph.D. matters quite a bit. Not just as some pretty letters after my name -- though I've been known to pull that out in conversation to feel "more than just a mom" (here my own insecurities are surfacing) -- but my Ph.D. matters because it is so engrained in who I am, my story, and the fact that I spent almost a third of my life (at that point) obtaining it. Today I have the lovely privilege at being over at one of my favorite new internet spots, The Well. It's a spot just for women in the academy and beyond. It's a spot that says that women can love God with all of their mind. I love that women share their stories there (from graduate school, academic vocations, and beyond), review good books, and care for our souls. We aren't just brains on toothpicks. We are whole people. And that's something that took me a Ph.D. and not teaching in the classroom to learn.  I'd be beyond thrilled if you wanted to read a bit more of my story:
We live boundaried lives. We can fight against the edges of our circles – where we come into intimate relationship with others and are responsible to them, or we can discern how to live faithful lives given those constraints. I pushed at my circle for years trying to expand it ever wider. I stewed like a petulant child — angry that my bright future was now full of dirty diapers, toddler tantrums, and my own inability to take it in stride. It would have been a valid choice to put children in daycare and to go about finding a successful job, but it wasn’t mine. And yet, I couldn’t seem to find God exclusively in the liturgy of the ordinary. Like Brene Brown says, if creativity isn’t used, it festers. I grew resentful, blamed my husband’s ministry job changes, and bought the lie that a tenure track job would satisfy all my longing for meaning and significance. Here I was, Ph.D. now in hand (9 years after I started), not in the classroom, but with three little children, and one on the way. What was I doing with my life? How could this be God’s plan?
And, I'd love to hear how you have both resisted and moved comfortably around in your own circles of relation. Go on over to The Well to read the rest // As always your support by "liking" my Facebook page and subscribing to my monthly newsletters helps. It helps me know I'm not alone and that we can share our quiet stories together. When you sign up for my monthly newsletter expect exclusive content and gifts just for you. Plus, you'll be on the cutting edge of all book-related awesomeness! Thanks friends.

Subscribe below:

* indicates required
Subscription preferences (choose ALL that apply):
  *post contains affiliate links  
At other places, Books + Stories
Cue the superhero music: Reading CAN change the world
August 16, 2016 at 10:12 am 0
Reading can change the world --

My towering bedside reading

I read a lot. Sometimes I even get to write about what I read. And since I think that reading has become both more commonplace (we always have our phones out when we have 2.5 seconds of free mental space), it's also become harder to read slowly, well, and with intention. Never fear! There's a book about that! C. Chris Smith, the editor for Englewood Review of Books, wrote a book called Reading for the Common Good. Do you wonder how reading really can change the world? Does it feel inconsequential or escapist to pick up a book these days? How might reading affect our neighborhoods and churches? This isn't about a cheesy Christian book club. This is a book that is about reorienting ourselves as a community, towards the flourishing of our neighborhoods and we can do it in small, daily, routines -- like reading. Take a look at my review over at The Well. It's geared for Christian women academics -- so as a #MamaPhD, I have a lot in common with that audience -- and yet, it's a great book to pick up no matter your vocation. Here's a snippet: Books were always my first love. As an only child, I spent my childhood wrapped in novels with the sounds of Disney’s Electric Parade on the background. It seemed only natural that my love for reading catapulted me into studying English as an undergraduate and then on to a master’s and Ph.D in literature. In all the focus on theory and dissecting novels like biology experiments, it became easy to think that reading would always (and only) serve a particular end. Pleasure and learning were subsumed into how a book was useful, how it perpetuated ideological categories. I wish I had had C. Christopher Smith’s new book, Reading for the Common Good, in those heady graduate school years as a gentle guide to reading for others. Smith’s book, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish, is the practical outworking of the Editor of The Englewood Review of Books’ previous co-authored book, Slow Church. Where Slow Church left off — advocating a return to incarnational living in church community rather than the McDonaldization of attractional churches — Reading for the Common Good continues. In it, Smith centers the local church; he writes: “For disciples of Jesus, our first and primary vocation is to follow in the way of Jesus as part of a church community.” How do individuals living their vocation within the context of their churches and communities begin to flourish? How do we slow down, invite conversation, and practice ethical, intentional discipleship? How do we learn to love the places where God has put us? Smith argues that reading buttresses the common good. In many ways it seems ludicrous that the idea of reading is a revolutionary and transformative act. Isn’t it too basic for that? For most women in the academy, reading has been part and parcel of a way of life, simply the water we swim in. // Read more at The Well! While you're at it, make sure you've signed up for my email newsletter. You get a free guide to telling your story and more goodness coming soon! --AH