It has been a glorious October, full of crunchy yellow leaves under foot and crisp, dry weather. My trips out of the house were wonderful. I saw my boy in his first Harvest Festival at school. I’d forgotten how entertaining it is to watch small children, who forget what they are supposed to be doing and just enjoy seeing their parents in the audience. One little girl was dancing in her own little world during the songs, and my boy was waving at me excitedly whenever he saw me. I was so glad I was well enough to go.
My other trip out was to the seafront. It was what Winnie the Pooh would describe as a blustery day, with the wind whipping up so hard and fast it made my hair fly and hit my face, the leaves were dancing in spirals in the air. It was the kind of weather when you feel like you’ve been exercising, even from just being out in it, because of all the fresh air. It was the perfect temperature: the air crisp without being cold, and the sun still gently warm. My boy seemed to be energised by the wind, running like a crazy thing and whooping with laughter. I watched him run and scoot on his scooter, and then Jon got a kite out, so I took photos while my little boy danced with the wind, trying to catch the kite as it flew. On the horizon the turquoise waves jumped with the wind, everything on God’s green earth moving to the same beat. It was altogether delightful, and I thought for the 1000th time what a blessing it is to live near the sea.
I have read some amazing books this week. I recommend them all enthusiastically – except for one (see if you can spot which one!)
- Consent-Based Parenting – Abby Norman
My friend Abby has just delivered a stonking TEDx talk on rape culture, and the importance of teaching our kids and teens the concept of consent. Last year her post, “The Day I Taught How Not to Rape” went viral. It’s well worth reading. Her class was baffled as to why some High School kids had been convicted of raping a girl at a party, and asked, ‘How was it rape? She was not awake to say no’. This just illustrates why this kind of book is so needed: our teens have somehow grown up without any understanding of what rape really is, and recent prominent rape cases in the news just go to show how huge an issue this is.
This short book expands on her TEDx talk, and is the perfect length for a quick read: I read it in one sitting and it took me about 30 minutes. It is simply brilliant. Abby’s premise is simple: everyone is in charge of their own bodies, so let’s go for an enthusiastic yes, and respect when people say no. Abby is an engaging and vivacious writer, and her arguments are cogent and persuasive, and her advice is practical.
As a parent, I found it really helpful to consider the ways in which I communicate to my child that he is not in charge of his own body (for example, when my boy says ‘ha ha ha! stop it!’ when I tickle him, I now just stop, right away, because I want him to know that he has the right to control what happens to his body, even if it looks like he’s enjoying it.) Some people seem to have been confused by the title and think that ‘consent based parenting’ means parents getting consent from children to do anything at all, but this is a misunderstanding: consent based parenting means teaching kids that their bodies belong to them and that you have to ask permission to touch someone else’s body. This book is a must-read for all parents and teachers, and the great thing is that it’s cheap, and so short you can read it in under an hour, and put the principles in place right away. Highly recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
- Play Through the Bible – Alice Buckley
I will write a longer post later on the blog, explaining just what this book has meant to me, because Alice’s method of teaching the Bible to children was a complete revelation to me, and meant that I could suddenly have conversations with my preschool son about the Bible in a way I never could before. There are so few people who know how to communicate the Bible well to young children, and Alice Buckley is incredibly gifted in this area. (Do check out her Nativity resources on her website).
Here’s the promo video:
The idea is that it takes you through the book of Luke, with a preschooler-friendly retelling of the Bible story and a ‘recipe book’-style selection of activities that you can do with your preschooler that will help them engage with it. It’s not a ‘read a bedtime story’ kind of book, but a ‘helpful resource’ kind of book. Whatever your child is into: craft, drawing, role-play, messy play, there will be an activity to suit them, which means that it is really adaptable and you can personalise it for your child, and the stories link into the Beginner’s Bible, so you can have continuity there.
Alice recommends that you take one week to do each story, so that the activities are spread throughout the week, and the story gets retold and reinforced. If I had had this book when my boy was little (even 1 year) I would have definitely been doing it at that stage, because it is so easy to adapt, and brilliant even for very young children or children with special needs. It makes learning about Jesus fun, and enables you to bring spiritual matters into the everyday. This is a must-buy for any Christian parent who wants to teach their young child the Bible, (especially preschooler age, 2-4 years old). Above all, this book shines with love for Jesus, and makes it exciting for children to encounter him in these stories. I suspect there will be a lot of Christian parents getting this as a Christmas present this year. Highly recommended. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
- The Interior Castle – Theresa of Avila (1577)
I bought the book Top 7 Catholic Classics, an e-book which contains Theresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, St John of the Cross, and is as cheap as chips. It’s a fascinating book – a nun writing on what it looks like to get closer to God. In many ways it feels very current: a self-help book to work through all seven mansions and get closer to God, focusing on the feeling of experiencing God’s presence, and the ‘favours of God’ that she describes sound like the modern equivalent of the charismatic experience of being slain in the Spirit. In many ways it’s very similar to contemporary charismatic evangelical books. In other ways, it feels very foreign: an emphasis on despising yourself and your sin, loving and desiring God in almost sexual language, wanting to escape life or lose your life so that you can be closer to God, longing for persecution or sickness so you can share in Christ’s sufferings. I found myself wishing that I had a biography of her life so that I had a clearer idea of the contextual conversation she was speaking into.
The good parts: it has short chapters, and some really lovely metaphors hidden in there that describe a relationship close to God. She’s not as wordy as some of the other authors of her time – her language feels quite down to earth, and I did enjoy feeling like I was sitting in the cell of a no-nonsense and slightly formidable 16th century nun. The bad parts: I struggled with some of her comments about sickness, and the ‘weakness of women’, but the biggest problem was its rambling nature. The disadvantage of reading a book in the middle of the compendium on a Kindle is that there is no way of knowing how long it can be, and this is one of those books where it would really, really help to know that the end is in sight. I thought there were only five mansions, and when I got to the sixth, I lost heart. I must confess, I’m on the 7th chapter of the 7th mansion, and I may just call it quits.
It’s a good read for a refreshing perspective on our need for humility, and if you can find a book with quotes from Theresa, they will be worth reading, but the book as a whole was just a bit too – long. She’s a refreshing and imaginative writer, but she’s also a nun sorely in want of an editor. If you can read the whole thing and enjoy it, I salute you – you have more patience than me. Get Top 7 Catholic classic for £3.99 from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, or the single volume of The Interior Castle for just £0.37 from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Memoir and fiction:
- Wild – Cheryl Strayed
This is the story of a twenty-something girl who had several personal tragedies, hit rock bottom, and decided to do something radical to change her life. Despite not being an outdoorsy, hiking sort of girl, she signed up to walk the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), a demanding 1,100 mile hike across several mountain ranges in the West coast of America, and as she walks and is exposed to the wildness of nature, the wildness of her heart begins to heal. One of my friends described it as ‘the perfect memoir’, and I could see why: it has the combination of the best kind of travel writing together with an interesting back story, plus some bears and rattle snakes for good measure. Her tone is smart and funny and almost immediately likeable, and like the trail that she is walking, it is long but thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended – read it before you see Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed (there is a film). Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
- Somewhere between water and sky – Elora Ramirez
This is the eagerly-awaited sequel to Every Shattered Thing, Elora’s Young Adult-style (think The Fault in Our Stars) story about a girl caught up in sex trafficking. Every Shattered Thing is an excellent book, but it is also dark, and so I was relieved that although the sequel is just as gripping and likeable as the first, it is not quite as dark. It is set in California, where Stephanie has relocated in order to live a normal life and try to come to terms with all that has happened to her. It asks the interesting question: If you’ve escaped abuse, what do you do when the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sets in, and the memories derail you? Can you ever escape your abuse?
It is a book about friendship, and hope, and healing, and I found it an incredibly helpful resource in understanding how it feels to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The writing is engaging and vivid, and Elora is a master of maintaining a tense and exciting plot, and there were some parts that were so gripping I just couldn’t stop reading – I read the whole thing in just three days. I loved it, and can’t wait for the next instalment. Highly recommended. (If you missed the first one, I reviewed it here, and you can buy both for Much Cheapness). Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, and check out Every Shattered Thing from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
I’ve been Spotifying it up, and listening to Ed Sheeran, Taize chants, Paloma Faith (really good album!), and indulging in a few guilty pleasures: Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, and Jessie J. My feminist instincts kick against the song, ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J (“your girlfriend may be beautiful, but hey! pick me! I’m so sexually AVAILABLE!”) but darn it all, it is such a great tune. Whenever I hear it I just want to dance. Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989 is not on Spotify, and I think her strategy may be working, because I’m really tempted to get it. Get it from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Two cities, both alike in dignity, where we lay our scene (little Shakespeare joke there) – both beginning with G, both very good programs, but very different in plot. Grantchester – an comforting hourly whodunnit set in Cambridge, just after the war, with a borderline-alcoholic vicar who is also a sleuth. What’s not to love?
Gotham, in contrast, is the anarchic city before Batman became Batman, when Bruce Wayne is just a newly orphaned crying boy, and is the Last of the Good Guys policeman, trying to do the right thing in a corrupt police force. Scary and dark, but oh-so-gripping.
I’m sucked into another season of X Factor, and think the standard is respectably high this year. I’m enjoying Andrea, Lauren and Fleur, and Jay James is also growing on me as a wannabe Chris Martin.
On the blog
We listened to the God and Suffering stories of Newell Hendricks, Nell Goddard, Caiobhe and Tim Kreider; I freaked out about diary planning, traumatised my son by showing him Toy Story, and kicked off quite the discussion in the comments, reflected on Cinderella and suffering, and was blown away by the huge response to my post on disability and the church for She Loves Magazine (at time of writing this, it has been shared 170 times on Twitter, and almost 900 times on Facebook!) I was honoured to be link-loved by Sarah Bessey and Sunday-Superlatived by Rachel Held Evans. Thank you all!
Linking with Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into.
Over to you:
- What have you been into this month?