Favorite Acts of Beauty: Volume 2

I'm linking up today with Leigh Kramer's "What I'm Into." Visit her page and read some of the other link ups. Heck, do your own if you're so inclined.

What I'm Into

Books

For some reason, I had trouble finishing a single book in November. Well, there actually is a reason: I've been reading bits of so many books that I haven't finished any of them. I nearly finished one but it was on December 1st. I'm going to count it anyway.

The one book I finished:

Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

As Toni Morrison says, "this is required reading." Winner of the 2015 National Book Award, this is a letter to Coates' teenage son. But really, it's a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, eye-opening (can I say any more cliche book review words?) look at Coates life growing up in Baltimore, and what his experience, parentage, history, and education have shown him about "a systemized, ubiquitous threat to 'black bodies' in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration." (Jon Foro) Those who have wondered why so many are so heartbroken about the many recent killings of African Americans by the police should read this. I don't have anything clever to say about it because I think I just need to listen instead.

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Other books

I'm usually a fiction kind of a girl. But I've been on a Saint kick lately. Can you be on a Saint kick? I think so. It's a bit like a food craze except it's a lot healthier for you.

What led me to the saints? Well, really, it was the coloring pages my daughter brought home from school and possibly a garden statue.

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I'll explain.

My 1st grader goes to a Catholic School. We are not Catholic. We didn't grow up Catholic. But I love the Catholics. And I'm growing to love their saints. When my daughter brought home a coloring page for the celebration of Therese de Lisieux, the "little saint," I was hooked. What a lovely celebration of the minutea, of the small life, of the little flowers that are at the back of garden. After that, I found an old wooden statue of St Francis in my grandmother's garden (we were cleaning out her home) and I adopted him, both as a garden ornament and as my patron saint.

In that vein, I wrote a piece at Good Letters, an Image Journal blog about trying to be a mystic and a mom. Spoiler alert: it's not going well.

But still, I press on. Here are the saints and mystics I am reading about. I'm not promising to finish all of them: sometimes they can be a bit tedious. After all, they didn't have anything else to do right?*

Francis of Assisi: the Essential Writings by Jon M. Sweeney

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Waiting for God by Simone Weil

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The Interior Castle by St Theresa of Avila

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*Just kidding. I know the saints did a lot of stuff like nursing lepers, pilgrimages, preaching naked (St. Francis at least). And depriving yourself of food takes away a lot of your energy too.

TV

We don't watch much around here. Not from any moral stance but really, the only free moments for TV are at bedtime. And then, we just fall asleep. Having said that, my husband and I can usually sneak in one or two episodes of our recent favorite British import:

Doc Martin

I've read the terms "socially awkward," "socially inept," and "rude" to describe the brilliant surgeon who's sudden fear of blood leads him to a small coastal town where he becomes the GP (General Practitioner) and encounters all manner of quirky but well-meaning locals. But really, my favorite term is "dyspeptic." Not sure what it means but the word sounds like a belch. Doc Martin would be disgusted.

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Music

Sara Groves' album "Floodplain": can't say enough about this album which covers depression, anxiety, children growing up, marriage, doubts, second guessing, and more.

The Liturgists' "Oh Light": The Liturgists are a collection of many artists but this particular song is sung by the members of the band Gungor. A welcome addition to the small selection of albums just for Advent.

Judy Collins' (feat Willie Nelson) "When I go": seriously, listen to it. It's beautiful.

Texas and Oil Paintings: I Am From

My grandmother's painting I am from Nana’s oil paintings imitating the Impressionist masters from Russian matryoshka nested dolls and Great Aunt Laverne’s tea cup collection

I am from a house atop Cat Mountain with the best sunsets and the sound of cars on the highway below lulling me to sleep at night

I am from the Hill Country and roads cut through limestone populated with cedar trees whose bark peels off like an old skin

I’m from eccentric introverts and too many gifts at Christmas from Heatherly and Elena who made me the middle sister from dad traveling overseas too much doing lots of good things for other people.

I’m from “this too shall pass” and “we have not earned any of the things we have” and "if the Lord wills and you see me again" before every parting From “Where are you going my little one” sung every night by Mama before bed til I cried from the grief of leaving her one day.

I’m from every song, even commercial jingles, sung together in tight harmonies

I’m from Connecticut and Scotland but not really because I’m from Texas Texas Texas down to great and greater grandparents  who gave birth in one room houses in Cleburne and made sweet potato biscuits and black eyed peas at New Years.

From Anna Christie’s drowned husband and Otis from Sweden whom she raised as her own when his mother died in childbirth From Papa who left home at fourteen, spent three years as a POW in Java and went back to Japan after the war to be a missionary

From diaries written with pre-teen tears about how I'm too fat, fears of death, glass miniature bric-a-brac, rock and shell collections displayed in wooden cubby shelves on my bedroom wall, from the only time I ignore Mama’s call for dinner or food on any kind is when I’m reading in bed

Now I am from uncaulked baseboards, grimy from years of bringing the outside in from the smell of fertilizer and fish immulsion mixed with cooking tomatoes Now I am from the maple trees tapped every year for syrup and boiled down in a black cauldron in the white winter woods from poems written at the narrow creek that bends round from here to the wider streams

Now I am from a tanned farmer whose tender loving hands are often cracked and running with dirt, blood and rain from a fairy who feeds the chickens in her princess dress and muck boots from a cuddly Tom Sawyer who waves at Daddy driving by in the tractor while holding his dinosaur to his chest

Now I am from a community of idealists, hippies, peace-loving Mennonites And I am not one of them but I am because I am also from Jesus. And he has been there from the beginning.

I am synchroblogging with SheLoves Magazine today with their series on "I am From." You can read more or link up here.