Beholding Beauty in All Its Forms

When God created his people, he put them in a garden. Before he gave the mandate to work, to be fruitful and multiply, he set them in the center of beauty, goodness, and life. It is almost as if he wanted them to be primarily people who beheld rather than produced. It didn't take long for the beauty of the best to be thwarted by the enemy though, and so absorption of the self instead of the Creator has been stealing our gaze ever since. We are still all worshippers though, some of us blindly and some of us perennially reminded to lift our eyes to a better hill, one from which our help comes. The temptation to produce our own glory instead of absorbing the glory God wants us to behold is always near to us and we must become experts in bouncing our gazes back to him. 

Here are some (hopefully) true and beautiful and good words I've read, said, listened to, and feasted upon this week. 

Listen

We listened to this short talk from Andy Crouch this past week about high friction and low friction and I cannot recommend it more highly. It has been ringing in our ears for over a week now. 

Beau Hughes is the pastor of The Village Church Denton (once a campus of my church, now a plant of it), and he shared these words with us last week. It was one of my favorite testimonies in my near ten years at TVC. 

I spoke with my friend Christine Hoover about her new book, Searching for Spring, and my own journey with waiting for marriage, babies, and just all things slow coming

Sing

This album is coming soon from Audrey Assad and you're going to want to feast on it. 

Sandra McCracken just released her newest and it's the perfect Lenten soundtrack. 

This album has been going nearly non-stop in our house the past week. 

Short Reads

This interview with Karen Swallor Prior and her husband Roy is one of the best things I read online this week. Take a few minutes and feast on it. 

A few months ago Eric Schumacher sent me the draft for this article at Risen Motherhood. It was just before our most recent miscarriage and what a blessing for both Nate and me to read. 

My friend Tony Woodlief is (thank God) writing more regularly again. This piece on parenting his new twin boys in this season of life is rich, rich, rich. Read through to the end. We all need this reminder. 

Long Reads

Nate and I have been dreaming of a big backyard garden since we first saw our property in Denver. It hasn't come to fruition yet, but we're still dreaming. This book is helping

This is a memoir written by an upstate New York farmer. She's from one side of the Adirondacks and I'm from the other, but the culture, weather, farming, people, and anecdotes are all very similar. I loved this book. 

I first read this book in high school and started rereading it again last week. I'd forgotten how perfect it is. 

. . .

I hope you find some beauty in some of these recommendations or other sources you find on your own. I hope you can still your own hand of production long enough to appreciate the gifts, minds, and works of others. And I hope, more than all that, you can lift your gaze to the good, good Father who gives every good and perfect gift in its right and perfect time and never one single moment before. 

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Seasons, Readings, Writings, and Thanksgivings

I've been a bit MIA around these parts lately. Part of that is due to our month long fast and the other things my fingers found to keep busy. Part of that is just that it's winter and winter, for me, has always been a hibernation time. I think God created the seasons for a reason and he means for us to live into them instead of living into the seasons we make for ourselves. I think part of the reason our world is so tired and hurried and anxious is because we are constantly trying to force unnatural rhythms onto life. We take vacations in the summer and fill our autumns and winters with activities galore, never minding that God designed summer for growth, autumn for harvest, winter for rest, and spring for planting. If we were to truly live into those seasons just as they are, I think we would be less prone to throw around words like "contentment" or "season of life" or "exhausted" as lazily as we do. God meant for winter to slow us down, to slow our production, to sometimes cease our growth, and to let dead things die if they must. And none of that is bad. It's just our perspective that needs to change. 

Also, though, I've been sick the past week and it's easy to talk about hibernating when you can't breathe out of your nose or your mouth and when your head feels like it's under twenty feet of water. So there's that. But also, seasons. 

I read a lot throughout January and although most of my reading wasn't online, I did read a few pieces I wanted to share with you. They might interest you too: 

I cut this one out of our Sunday Times and taped it to our fridge I loved it so much. The Poet of Light by Christian Wiman on Richard Wilbur

If you've seen Look & See: a portrait of Wendell Berry, then you probably had the same complaint I did: we hardly saw anything of Berry himself! But something I loved about the documentary was the delightful presence of his wife. Here's an article on her that made me want to be a wife like she is

This was a quiet podcast for a quiet evening, both of which I quite enjoyed. Krista Tippett interviewed John O'Donohue for OnBeing

Speakings of podcasts, Nate and I worked through this series from Beau Hughes (The Village Church, Denton) on shame. I cannot recommend it more highly. 

I hope you took a few minutes to read Rachel Denhollander's words at the conclusion of the Larry Nassar trial. This is a great follow-up interview at Christianity Today with her

I subscribe to Poetry Foundation's Poem of the Day feed and you might want to as well. Listening to poetry is such a good discipline. Reading it is fine and good too, of course, but poetry is lyrical and best experienced heard. 

Also, I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who support Sayable on Patreon and who have downloaded the e-books. I have gotten so many messages from you saying you're being encouraged by the work there. That means so much to me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I am only 30 away from 200 supporters on Patreon, at which point I'll be starting to coach a small writing group. Details about it will come after that point, but I will say there will be an application process and it will be opened first to Patreon supporters. I will only be able to invite 20 people into the group (which will last between 12-16 weeks, still undecided on that), so if you are at all interested you'll need to begin preparing a 300 word non-fiction writing sample (on anything). There will be a cost for participation in the group, but it won't be astronomical, just to cover my time coaching. I read through my tentative plan to Nate last week and started getting pretty excited about this endeavor. Everything we'll be doing has been part of my process of becoming a better writer, thinker, and receiver of criticism. I hope it helps each of you as well. Again, more details on that after we reach 200. Grateful for each of you. 

 View from the sickbay. Harper is under there somewhere...and Nate, I think. 

View from the sickbay. Harper is under there somewhere...and Nate, I think. 

Link Love for the Journeying People

It's been weeks and maybe months since I've shared some things I've read around the Internets. I know no one reads blogs anymore (that's what they say) but sometimes I happen along a blog or seven or an article or two that I think more people ought to read. I love the blogging format for what it is: an opportunity to invite the world into today's thoughts. It's one of the reasons I won't quit anytime soon (even though they say no one reads blogs anymore). I love knowing here, today, right this minute, this is how I see the world. It may change in two years or twenty, but for a moment, this slice of life is served up. 

So for that reason I'll also keep reading a few blog sites, a regular rotation of what my soul needs to feast on: other writers stumbling along in words and life, offering their crumbs or delicacies or finest fare for those in need. I need too. 

Winn Collier has this Advent reflection

Bethany Douglass on Thoughts for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Parent. I am not an overwhelmed homeschool parent, but I know many of you are. I was glad to see the grace in this and you might need it today. 

Again, not a mother, but this advice is for every Christian. Carolyn Mahaney on her Biggest Mistake as a Mother

Nate and I are eating the words of Wendell Berry in spades these days. This piece on him resurfaced recently and I loved it. The Hard Edged Hope of Wendell Berry

The Mainliner who Made [Russell Moore] More Evangelical. One of the things I like best about Russell Moore is how widely and out of his camp he reads. This piece is proof. (And I love Buechner too.)

This reflection on the Wendell Berry documentary, Look and See, is from Brett McCracken and I've thought about it so many times since I read it. Wendell Berry is a Dandelion Man

This blog from Timothy Willard on the Value of Retreat is just necessary for all of us. 

I hope even just one of these pieces encourages you, makes you think, or challenges you this week. These writers are all inviting us into their process, thoughts, and sacred spaces. I hope you find comfort or rest for your soul when you join them. 

Also, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to my Patreon supporters. Many of you pledged a simple dollar a month but I want you to know: that dollar a month means the world to me. It says to me that money is tight, but you care about me and you care about Sayable. It says, I don't have much, but such as I have give I thee. It says, like the widow with two mites, you're giving what you can. I just wanted you to know that small act of generosity means millions to me. That's not hyperbole. I mean it with all my heart. Thank you. 

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Link Love and Some Beauty for Your Tuesday

Now that most of the United States got themselves in a flurry for the total eclipse and found themselves sorely disappointed when it turned out to be merely a partial eclipse for most of us (Anyone? Just me? I don't do science good.). And now we're all tired of memes and funky glasses and is Total Eclipse of the Heart on repeat in anyone else's head? I wanted to share with you Annie Dillard's classic essay on her experience of watching a total eclipse. I can only imagine mine would have been similar if I lived within the totality region (Good news, in seven years it'll hit a bit closer to home.). Here's her essay, take twenty and read it slowly

One of my favorite writers from Image Journal's blog, Good Letters, has come through with another soft piece that landed in all the right places for me. Even though our situations are different, I find myself in a similar season of subtraction. Entering the Age of Subtraction. 

Also, because Image Journal redid their website and it's so much more readable again (Hoorah!), I'm going to recommend another recent piece from their blog, simply titled Miscarriage.

The most notable thing about this piece from Elyse Fitzpatrick is the order in which she lists her advice. Too many burgeoning writers begin with number three without considering—or putting their writing forth for consideration by honest folks—her first point. I'm not a Writer, but I Write. 

I love this quote my friend Mason posted on his site. 

Finally, Erin Loechner, has this poetic piece on injustice, naming, and experience. It's beautifully written. 

 I'm determined to make, buy, borrow, or steal the makings of this wreath this fall. I love it. I don't know where this one in particular is from, I just have it saved on my  Pinterest board, D I R T . 

I'm determined to make, buy, borrow, or steal the makings of this wreath this fall. I love it. I don't know where this one in particular is from, I just have it saved on my Pinterest board, D I R T

Link Love and a Thank You

Every summer I take a minute and say thank you to all of you. When I started the first iteration of Sayable back in 2001, I was writing at LiveJournal on a beast of a computer in a closet of the library of the home I lived in. Our family was falling apart at the seams, I was six hours from everything I had known my entire life, my brother was just killed in an accident, and my parents were about to go through one of the worst divorces and custody battles I've ever seen.

I had no idea what I was doing plucking away at those grey boxy keys sixteen years ago, writing words about strawberries and a poem I loved and mourning and the color green. I had no idea that Sayable was going to become one of the most sanctifying agents of my life, that on her I would wrestle through doubt, faith, life, the gospel, church, theology, relationships, humiliation, shame, fear, regret, joy, pain, sorrow, celebration, and more. I did not know that she would also be a place where I would come to see the goodness of Father, the sufficiency of the Son, and the help of the Holy Spirit. I did not know how faithful and gentle and kind and loyal all of you readers would become. And I could never have known, most of all, what a gift Sayable would been to me. I hope she has been that to you, but I know she has been that to me. So really, in a way, by writing here for you, you have given me the gift of listening, and I'm so grateful to you. 

I have Sayable set up so she doesn't get comments, but so you can email me instead, and I do this on purpose. I don't want Sayable to be a place where discussion happens as much as I want it to be a place you take what you read here and discuss with people in your own life, agreements or disagreements. I also don't want to need your affirmation in order to feel the legitimacy of writing—comments and analytics can often become this for bloggers. I also want you to know, I read every single email that comes in. There are a lot of them, hundreds of thousands of them, and I read every single one. It is one of my greatest sources of ache that I do not have the margin to reply to all of them—I carry that burden gladly because I think it's good for one who communicates to know it is not to a vast unknown, but to specific people with specific cares and concerns and joys and fears. You are people. You are not just the Internet. 

And I am grateful for you, every one of you. By name, from just this week so far: Deb, Sharon, Carol, Emma, Beth, Rob, Megan, Jeffery, John, Alyssa, Carol, Emily, Grace, Alana, Mike and Pat, Amy, Lottie, Ellen, Steve, Mike, Wendy, Edward, Fran, Joy. I read all of your words today and I ache to respond. And last week, all of those words more of you wrote, and the week before, and month before. All of the words, I read them, thank you for trusting me with them. I can only respond to a few of you, but I do want to say thank you. 

Sayable is for you. It is first and foremost for God, but I hope someday you think to yourself, 'Man, I read something a few years ago that really stuck with me, that helped me to see God and myself better. I can't remember who wrote it and it doesn't really matter, because my sight is so consumed with Christ partially because of those words." I hope you can't remember the name Sayable and certainly not my name, but you remember the name and renown of God. That would make all those years of plucking away on gray boxy keys worth it to me. 

Today I wanted to share the writings of some others. You won't have to mine very deep to find something beautiful and true and good in each piece. Enjoy! 

Seven Ways to Love Your Pastor

Adult Children of Divorce

(Wo)men of the Word

The Inner Ring

Finding Peace at Home

On Living in Two Worlds at Once and Paul's Inconsistencies 

Nate and I are reading these books this week: 

Just Mercy

The New Jim Crow

A Great Reckoning

Davida's Harp

 I love you, but I did not take your  advice , and I painted our fireplace white this week. I love it. I'm so happy with it. 

I love you, but I did not take your advice, and I painted our fireplace white this week. I love it. I'm so happy with it.