Sometimes the Witch Gets the Prince

While looking for something in the storage room the other day, Bea and I found one last box of books from my teaching days. This one was filled with fairy tales, books on character building and feelings, and books that taught specific idioms used in the curriculum. It’s been fun rereading these favorites and watching Bea latch on to new books.

One of her favorites is The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. We’ve read it so much this past week that she already has it nearly memorized. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – two other favorites are a more traditional (though whimsical) telling of The Three Little Pigs by Steven Kellogg and The Three Little Dassies by Jan Brett. The teacher in me loves that she’s making these text-to-text connections and starting to understand the concept of retelling a story.

img_1587On Bea’s first day of preschool, she wore a shell necklace, given to her for her birthday. She wanted to look like Saoirse from Song of the Sea. When she showed her teacher, she exclaimed, Oh, I love your necklace! It reminds me of Ariel from the Little Mermaid!

Bea tried to explain that no, this was like Saoirse’s, but the teacher had no context and there were a dozen other kids wanting to show her their special outfits.

We read a lot of fairy tales in our home and we own several Disney versions of them. But we also read and talk about other versions. I want Bea to know that Cinderella is a universal tale, told in many ways, in many languages, reflecting many cultures. That the Disney version isn’t wrong, it’s just one version.

Of course, fairy tales are part of childhood. But, I read them for so many other reasons. The original versions teach empathy and bravery in ways that prepare kid for real life giants and problems. They remind us of the threads that run through a common human experience. They prepare our children for the world outside our home and our curated friendships.

As an adult, reading fairy tales has grounded my view of our world today. Frank gave me Hans Christian Andersen’s complete collection last year and I’ve been slowly reading one or two tales every night before bed. Andersen is most known for The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Little Match Girl, but this 700 page book is filled with so many more stories – stories of life and death and good and evil and morality.

Andersen’s stories remind me that life hasn’t changed all that much, when you look at the core of humanity. Powerful kings can do good or they can be evil. Working people, just living their lives, can take big risks and go on great adventures or they can contentedly stay home. Love doesn’t always win and the witch sometimes gets the prince in the end.

They’re a reminder that magic doesn’t always go the way we hope and that happy endings aren’t real life. (Or even fairy tale life, if we go by the original versions.) I find this hopeful in so many ways. To always look for the happy ending is a futile quest – sometimes life doesn’t go the way we hope and it’s disappointing. I think these fairy tales remind me of that reality and that it’s not just me.

As Bea and Elle grow, I want to make sure we read these other versions – the ones in which the Little Mermaid turns to sea foam, or the little match girl is unsuccessful and freezes on a cold night. These stories open doors to conversations of kindness and generosity and how we view our neighbor. They help us see the world as a whole, rather than as one driven by the American dream of happily ever after.

What is your favorite fairy tale? Do you like reading different versions of it?


This post is Day 24 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Remembering the Past and Learning from Experience

We were talking last week at MOPS about which strengths make us better parents. Which ones really feed into our parenting styles and/or how we connect with our kids. My top strength is Context – the need to look back to understand the present, to take a moment to orient myself in the moment.

The controversial exersaucer

One of the best parenting books I read was Baby Meets World by Nicholas Day. It’s pretty much the history of parenting – how we’ve evolved as a society to this age of paci or not; breast is best; swaddles and back sleeping. Essentially, it says that we’re doing a good job in this era of information and that we’re all good parents. (Outside of extreme cases, of course.)

It reminded me not to overthink parenting, to trust my instinct, and to remember that not too long ago formula consisted of beer and honey.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that my favorite adolescent books were historical fiction, that I majored in art history, and that I continue to lean primarily toward books that draw from history to make points about today. If we don’t remember the past, we’re bound to repeat it.

Knowing history gives me a sense of stability in what seem like these crazy times. History keeps me grounded in a heated election year, in a time when the church is experiencing growing pains, and when it seems like we’re a doomed culture.

Being grounded in history helps me in my daily life, too. I know from experience that we need to leave around 11:30 to get home for lunch. That both girls just do better when we eat at home, with little stimulus, in preparation for a quiet afternoon. This certainly doesn’t mean there are exceptions – because, life. But, it means I plan our days around what I’ve tried and know what works.

This is the hardest thing about tax season and kids. Each year is so different. I can’t learn from the past because what worked last year most likely won’t work this year. Part of my survival as someone who thrives on context is also learning adaptability. It’s a reminder that, while we should focus on our top strengths, remembering to balance with other “lesser” strengths is important, too.

If you’ve done StrengthsFinder, what’s your top strength? How do you balance your strengths with reality?


This post is Day 23 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Review: Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield

Unlike D.L. Mayfield, I always knew I wouldn’t make a good missionary. I never felt “called” to participate in a short-term trip in high school or college and I was often uncomfortable with certain practices of experience trips. Friends who are lifelong missionaries reminded me that not all are asked to live their lives on a mission field – many are needed to have regular jobs, to write checks of support for missionaries, to pray for them and have guest rooms for respite. Missions doesn’t look the same for everyone.

_200_360_book-2009-coverIn her debut book, Assimilate or Go Home, D.L. Mayfield chronicles her journey of young zealous missionary to a life of gracious missional living. This is a memoir done well. Mayfield’s essays are cohesive and a good balance of personal insights, observations from the field, and constructive critique of the church’s view of missions.

Mayfield always knew she wanted to be a missionary and assumed that some foreign, impoverished country is where she would end up living. Surprisingly, she ended up ministering to her neighbors in low income apartments on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Her idealism fades as the reality of poverty hits: Most refugees have made somewhat of a lateral move when coming to the United States, just barely surviving. The systemic cycle of poverty is much more complex than any overarching government program can fix. Even foster care, when you know the families of the children being removed, becomes a deeper question than simply giving kids a “better” home.

Mayfield grapples with hard questions – ones she lives with on a daily basis. Her honesty is refreshing. She is living out idealism that most of us can’t fathom and she doesn’t sugar-coat the experience. But she doesn’t quit, either. She and her family are committed to living this life among the poor, of being good neighbors, of practicing the ministries of cake and video games and showing up.

I appreciated her thoughtful, gracious examination of life as a missionary. Her essays told an overarching story and I felt like I learned a lot about the lives of people right here in my own country that I never really thought much about. I would recommend this book to anyone who has worked as a missionary – at home or abroad – and anyone working with those who live on the margins.

What’s your view of missions and missional living? Have you ever been a missionary – either short or longterm?

(I decided to include this review as part of my Write 31 Days challenge of Live Your Strengths, as it seemed to fit so well into this past week of Connectedness.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


Read Your Strengths: Books that Reflect Connectedness

I could fill pages and pages of books that reflect Connectedness. Pretty much any piece of fiction will foster a new understanding of someone’s story. Well written fiction opens doors, not only to other worlds, but to very real events in our own world. The empathy created by reading these stories connects us to a bigger picture.

But, nonfiction can do the same. Many lines between my choices and my world have first been started through a well-researched book. So, this roundup is a bit of a mix. Some fiction, some nonfiction. All these books helped me see the world around me in new ways. They created empathy and even changed the choices I was making.

Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline
I’ve written about this one before, but it is such an interesting read. Cline delves into the world of fast fashion and the social, economic, and environmental impact a $5.00 t-shirt has on our society. The idea of disposable fashion is filling our landfills and contributing to slave-like conditions in developing nations. What I most appreciated about this book is that Cline gives a practical, doable action plan at the end.

Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano
This was perhaps my favorite book of 2015. A collection of short stories, Galeano takes us through mythology from cultures around the world. He fictionalizes true events and reports others with accuracy. If finding connections is not your first instinct, this book draws those lines clearly, eloquently, and with grace. Galeano reminds us that our stories are interwoven, since the beginning.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
This book was a powerful argument against eating meat. What I loved most about it is that Foer wants us to convert to vegetarianism and he isn’t subtle about that argument in his book. He is brutally honest and well-researched about where our meat comes from and the agony we inflict on creatures to feed a habit. This book made me relook at what it really means to steward this earth and what God meant when he put humans as caretakers of animals.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This collection of letters to Dear Sugar, Strayed’s advice column for The Rumpus, is filled with stories from people of all backgrounds. What I love most is Strayed’s grace-filled advice to her readers. Even the ones who get tough love get it with a heavy dose of humanity. Her responses are also a reminder of the power of storytelling and how, if used well, can be a connector. This book brings out the grittiness of humanity but also restores my faith in human goodness.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his son, this is a powerful, intimate look at what it means to be a black man in America. This book helped me understand the underlying frustration to so many of my neighbors. Frustration that has, in the past few years, reached a boiling point. This book is a reminder of why we want to keep those feelings boiling – until something changes, this systemic problem isn’t going away. Regardless of how you feel about the handling of current situations, this book will help create empathy and remind those of us with the privilege of not experiencing daily racism why things must change.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I just have one book left to read by Adichie, I love her writing so much. Adichie uses the power of fiction to draw the reader into other cultures, to teach history and sociology, while creating a safe distance for processing. This book particularly, helps the reader understand immigration a bit more. We follow Ifemelu from America back to Nigeria and all of the reverse culture shock that happens as a result. It was a reminder of the difficulties of leaving a home country, but also of the complex situation of returning. Adichie also drives home that immigrating to a new country is deeply complex, more so than anything seen on the surface.

What are some of your favorite books that have helped you connect to a different belief or way of thinking?


This post is Day 21 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Connected Consumerism

Yesterday we talked about voting with your dollars and how we each have our own ways of connecting with our purchases and through our lifestyle choices.

Because not everyone sees the connections between our choices and a greater world impact, I thought I’d share a few of the things we do as a family. These are by no means the only way to do life or the most perfect list, but it may be a starting point if you’re looking for a way to make more intentional choices.

1) Thoughtful Donations
I was going through Elle’s drawers the other day and found so many baby blankets, mostly slightly used or new. With each girl, we received new blankets. I have my favorites but some just went unused. (Perhaps this is also due to having summer babies?) I was thinking, with winter coming, I should donate them sooner or later.

Usually, I drop off our donations at the goodwill – there’s one on the way to my parents, so it’s easy. Since this donation was so specific, I decided to do a little bit of research. I found an organization (WeeCycle) that inspects and sorts baby items and then donates them to the appropriate partners. This more specific way of donating seemed like a better option – one in which our things would go to families with the greatest need.

This took a little more time but I’m glad to connect the things we had to people who have a deeper need.

nrNyraiVLpgTZHBhSZMMWbC-09AL5HcRd82sfBEN35U2) Gifts from Fair Trade Organizations
With the holidays approaching, I often turn to Fair Trade organizations for my gifts, especially for people who have everything. My two favorites are Ten Thousand Villages and Mercy House Global. Ten Thousand Villages is great, especially if you live near a brick and mortar store. I love browsing their items and finding beautiful new surprises. Mercy House Global hosts subscription services like the Fair Trade Friday box and the Bracelet and Earring of the Month clubs. These are gifts that keep giving, not only to your recipient but to the women whose lives are impacted by Mercy House’s mission.

3) Farmer’s Market
This is certainly seasonal, but we are fortunate to have a farm stand down the road that’s open every day from the end of July through early October. The people who run the stand collect produce from local farms and then sell it. It’s an easy way to lessen the distance between our purchases and the producers. Yes, we can find “Colorado Proud” labels at our grocery store, but this feels a little more personal.

4) Microloans
We have been longtime supporters of Kiva micro loans, though now you can find quite a few organizations specializing in them. What I love best about supporting Kiva is that you are helping build a business. When your loans is repaid, you have the option of withdrawing the funds or relending. In the six or so years that we’ve been lending through Kiva, we’ve only had a couple of defaulted loans. I love reading the biography, giving to an area of the world with great need, and following the progress of our lender.

Where are some of your favorite places that support connections? How do you live intentionally connected to the world?


This post is Day 20 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Voting With Your Dollars

One of the hardest things about having Connectedness as a strength is being married to someone who doesn’t see the lines that connect us to our world. It’s not that Frank is insensitive or doesn’t care; it’s that it’s not as intuitive for him. When I get fired up about a cause, he’ll listen but it takes a lot more for him to commit to a new way of living.

Fair Trade dress

I have a friend who lives out her ideals. Her clothing is vegan and fair-trade; her food is thoughtfully chosen; she drive an old, gas efficient car, though bikes most places. She is outspoken about social justice causes and often reminds me of a different point of view. Her energy for living her causes fully is inspiring, and exhausting.

I know I can get overwhelmed with information and causes. I have to be guarded as I take in information and process what I’ve learned. Some of this is because it really is impossible, as someone who lives in America where anything I want or need is at my fingertips, to fully research and track every purchase I make. It’s not financially feasible nor is it emotionally feasible.

Just like I’m learning to be picky about what I read, I’m learning to be picky about how I connect with the world.

When I was pregnant with Bea, I researched the best organic, fair trade baby items. I registered for these pricy blankets and onesies and received thoughtful items from Target. It only took a month or so into motherhood to see how disposable children’s clothing is. Spills, stains, and growth spurts are our reality. It’s not that I ever threw away clothes, but I realized that spending $50 on a cute dress to be worn a handful of times just didn’t make sense.

Even now, Bea wears her clothes out. Her leggings have holes and her dresses are paint stained. We are in a phase of being rough on clothing. And I’m learning that this is part of life. I need to balance how I view the purchases of these things.

It’s similar with our food purchases. Some things are non-negotiable. Others, we just don’t have the capacity to worry about everything.

The connected perfectionist in me has a hard time letting go. I want to be like my friend, to champion every cause! I’m also connected enough to know that while my non-negotiable items may not be the same for others, their non-negotiable aren’t the same for me. Maybe, in this game of baby steps, we kind of balance each other when we all choose a particular cause.

I think the key, though, is to be aware of something. Maybe organic food just isn’t your thing or your wardrobe is mostly bought on sale at Target. Maybe your cause is buying a side of beef from a cow you’ve seen raised or eating vegetarian as a response to factory farming. Maybe you make your own clothes or buy locally. Whatever the cause, I think it’s important to have one area of consciousness. One place where you put your money where your values lie.

Maybe one day, we’ll all have the resources and energy to champion all the causes. Until then, I like to think that we’re in this together, each playing our own small part.

What’s your non-negotiable cause? Where do you vote with your dollars?


This post is Day 19 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Sharing Faith By Living It

Like most Christians my age, I have stories of being wounded by the church. Of being unheard, unmet, unappreciated. I’ve been lucky enough (blessed enough?) to always have an intervention at just the right moment. A community who loved me for me or a pastor who recognized my gifts. Small groups who connected me to a larger picture.

For many of my friends and peers, that divine intervention didn’t happen and, for a variety of reasons, left the church.

I’ve often wondered what has kept me. These days, community can be found outside the walls of the church. Spirituality can be deep and profound, regardless of religion affiliation. God can be found in so many places – in nature, at dinner with friends, through solitude and quiet. Why keep the identifier of Christian, especially with such mixed meanings of the word floating around.

According to StrengthsFinder,

The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries (pg 73).

This is true. No matter how hurt I’ve been or how little I’ve trusted other Christians, at my core, my faith has remained strong. It was never a question of leaving Christ or the greater church.

Something I find interesting is how we as humans approach life’s mysteries. Some of us find the answers in our faith; others in studying science and natural law; others in an unnamable mystery of the universe. But, no matter how religious or agnostic you are, we all seek these unanswerable answers. We all wonder and look and hope to find a deeper meaning to our lives here.

I’ve never been a good evangelizer. Even at my most fundamental, I recognized the idea that the best way to share faith is by living it. I remember being embarrassed while working at a Christian camp one time, admitting that I had never “led anyone to Christ.” This admission made me feel like a failure.

I haven’t kept in touch with any of the campers I had in my care that summer, but I know that none of them went forward on the altar call night. Perhaps that week together shaped their faith – I don’t know. What I do know is that I connected with them and listen to them and played with them for a week. We built a trust and friendship for a week and that was good.

I wonder how our world would look if we held our beliefs a little looser – whatever those beliefs are. I have definitely met what my friend calls “evangelical atheists” – people who preach atheism as strongly as any revival minister. But what if we all committed to recognizing our humanness, to living our faith the best we can, and letting others see the fruits of our beliefs.

I wonder if we would get more converts? My guess is that we may have more peace.

How do you share your faith – posts on Facebook, walks in nature, quiet living, preaching from the pulpit? How do you interact with those whose beliefs are different?


This post is Day 18 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.