Friday, July 1, 2016

Summer Reading List

Summer is here! Longer days and warmer nights! We plan our vacations and school is out. As for Scott and I we have approximately 4 trips planned all to see family as well as go to Young Life Camp. So you better believe I've been reading on those planes! 

About 3 weeks ago I passed my first state exam (Laws and Ethics) to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. 

I'm ready for a little break now before I tackle my next exam so I plan to spend some time reading and (hopefully) writing! Here is what I am currently reading or have read recently: 

"The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis

I just finished this book today! Scott suggested I read it since I really liked Rob Bell's book "Love Wins". There's a lot of controversy about heaven and hell historically in Christianity and I wanted to see what this book was all about. It was really interesting. It reads like a fiction book with characters and dialogue but feels a bit like a dream or parable or allegory. Lewis' thinking was quite progressive for his time and our time alike. He seems to alude that anyone can go to Heaven. I also really like how Hell is depicted. It's not your traditional fire and darkness (which btw, how does that even work?!) with devils and pitchforks. Hell is called "grey town" and it just a cold, grey, joyless place. Lewis' whole idea is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Heaven is for everyone who wants it.

There were some parts that were confusing to me, partially because of the language and partially because it was hard to visualize what Lewis was describing. I also did not like the end but I am a happily-ever-after kind of ending gal so no surprise there.

"Self-Compassion" by Dr Kristin Neff

Dr. Neff is the "Brene Brown" for research on self-compassion. I have to say that reading all of Brene Brown's books on shame has honestly revolutionized the way I approach myself and others. Now that I understand shame, I'm excited to dive more into what it means to show self-compassion and kindness to myself. Psychologists are continuing to move away from the "self-esteem" talk and instead pursue compassion because it's proven to be more effective. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the book. It's really good but also pretty dense. She has exercises for you to practice as well which feel cheesy at first but are very helpful. I want to integrate more of her work into my therapy wiht my clients as well as in my personal life. You can also take her  Self-Compassion Test online. I scored a 2.42 which means I am on the low side of moderate as far as self-compassion goes. So there is room for growth! The quiz scores things like self-kindness, self-judgment and mindfulness and breaks it up into categories. I highly recommend taking it! 

"We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I think everyone should read this book. (yes everyone) It is a really quick read (as in you can read it in 20 minutes!) The book is based off of her TED talk which you can watch here. I'm sure everyone who reads this book will pick up something new and inspiring. As I'm already a feminist the concept wasn't new to me but I did learn some things. She raises awareness on how women are marginalized around the world today both in big acts and small ones.  I really resonated with her discussion on women's clothing. Often, to be taken more seriously as a professional, women feel pressure to dress more like a stereo-typical male. I have found this to be so true in my own life. Often I fear not being taken seriously if I dress too feminine. But if you think about the reverse, such as men dressing more stereo-typically female, they won't be taken seriously at all. It's cute and all when a girl dresses like a "tom boy" but when a boy dresses too "girly" people start to raise their eyebrows. This is so unfair and sexist. Why are we embarrassed to embrace femininity (rhetorical question here, history has clearly shown us why)

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey

Okay every now and then you just need to re-read one of your favorite books. This is my second time reading this book. It is hilarious! Tina Fey is so witty and smart. She writes about how women can be funny and still be women in her unique snarky way. (what a novel concept). I love her chapter on all the pressures women face to look perfect and I also love her chapter on being a mother. They both have me laughing out loud. 

"Brazen-The Courage To Find The You That’s Been Hiding" by Leeana Tankersley

Many of you who live in the San Diego area might know Leeana Tankersley as she and her husband and their three adorable kids reside here. She’s also the author of Found Art and Breathing Room (of which I read both). I adore her writing. I was lucky enough to be on her launch team which basically meant I promoted her book via my social media. (We all know how much I can rave about a book I love).  If you are my friend or family member you have received countless books from me or been talked into countless books by me (you’re welcome).

Anyway back to this book. I’m struggling to summarize it because it was SO good and my English language is failing me. This book talks about living without shame, coming out of hiding, being at home with yourself and knowing how worthy and loved we are. Her book talks about how to receive your identity, reclaim your voice and recover your soul. The book is peppered with her own personal stories both which are hilarious and give you the deep exhale (the “me too, thank God I’m not alone) feeling.

Mostly I loved the way she talked about her faith and God. It is very rare for me to really resonate with the way authors talk about faith. I have grown tired and weary of the way mainstream evangelical Christian authors write. This isn’t really a bash on them. In all honesty it just further cemented the idea in my head that something was wrong with me. I just couldn’t seem to relate to the way authors talked about God. And if I’m being really vulnerable, it’s been hard for me to connect with the way the majority of Christians talk about God. It’s left me feeling isolated and different. (I mean different in a way that makes you feel anxious not cool and unique).

Once I discovered authors like Rachel Held Evans and Glennon Doyle Melton I finally started to feel like maybe, just maybe, I could experience faith a different way. Maybe it was okay for me express it differently. Leeana’s words fell on me like soft warm light and set me free to listen (rather than reject) all the parts of me that felt suspicious of mainstream Christianity. She reminded me that God knows our stories and does not abandon them. God arrives in the way we will receive. She talked about how God reminded her that the Triune God transcends gender. Wowwwwwwww did I love this you guys.

I had a very similar image of God as Leeana describes in her book. (a white middle aged Dutch dude) She completely normalized why I would feel odd and uncomfortable being alone praying while this dude watched me from the corner of the room. (not very comforting) She talks about how throughout Scripture God visited people in many forms and faces such as a burning bush, a cloud, a teacher, a carpenter, a friend, a strong wind, a mother, a Savior. She talks about expanding throughout her book, (rather than clinging to staying small, we embrace big). And so since then, I have been wondering, maybe God is actually inviting me to expand my image Her beyond the white Dutch dude? (not that I have anything against Dutch dudes!)

I could go on and on, chapter by chapter on this book but I don’t want to share all it’s treasures! I want to save some so you can go out and buy the book. And if you happen to want to read more about my thoughts on the book or about one of my favorite chapters  head on over to this post about being frivolous. (and why it's awesome)

"The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart

This was such a fun novel! It’s very clever and has well-developed characters. It’s full of suspense, mystery and adventure. The book starts off with an ad in the newspaper requesting children to come take a test of intelligence. If they pass the test they are sent on a secret mission. Four kids pass the test with varying degress of intellect. I love that the author doesn’t promote one type of intellect but focuses on traits such as love, loyalty, resourcefulness and working together as a team. 

"Christy Miller" 12 book series by Robin Jones Gunn 

Yes I am re-reading a childhood favorite and have been happily transported back to my teen years! I love Robin Jones Gunn as an author. Even all these years later (15 to be exact-whoa!) I can still sense the author’s sincere love and passion for her readers and for story-telling. These are your happily-ever-after books with strong Christian themes (and trigger warning: lots of purity culture talk) As an adult I feel much more grounded reading these books and have loved being transported back to the beach, to Christy’s family and friends and all her travels. These books are completely cheesy and I honestly love them. I finished book 10 last night. #shameless #christianromance

"The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson" by Emily Dickinson and Rachel Wetzsteon

I don't know what to say about this except sometimes you need a little poetry in your life.  And do you have a theory on Emily Dickinson? There is so much mystery surrounding this woman. Did she have social anxiety? Was she a lesbian? Was she an under-cover women's rights activist? Either way her writings on nature, love and eternity are beautiful. 

What are you reading this summer? Any good recommendations?