Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Be Kind, Really

So many things compete against kindness. The desire for power. The desire to be right. The need to feel important. Lack of thinking our words and actions through and considering how they will make others feel. Almost everything we say or do has an impact on someone else. We should do our best to be cognizant of that fact and act accordingly.
In 2015, I learned a lot about not letting other people's actions and words determine my worth, my mood, or my value. I am much better at letting things go that aren't worthy of holding onto. I also learned that telling people the truth about their actions is deeply valuable when done in the correct manner. I have no desire to be placated or pitied. And I don't want that for others. I'm just saying, sometimes we say and do things that have zero eternal value for us and cause others pain. Let's just not do those things. And when we unknowingly do them, let's apologize sincerely and work at making sure we do better the next time.
This living thing is hard. We either get to help people along their journey's or be the stumbling block. I think we would do well to fall on the helping side.
There are so many things to argue about, disagree with, and defend passionately. These things are important. They are not more important than other people. Like, ever. Okay, if you are hanging around with someone who is harming you or themselves, you get to defend yourself and attempt to show them the light. Today, two students argued violently about what which number the table at which one was sitting is called. It changed nothing, the number of the table changes nothing for them - they were just determined to be right. Seems to me that we do a lot of knock down, drag out fighting, and name calling, and just plain meanness over things that matter less than we think they do. We gossip, we get revenge, we rub people's faces in things that would break our hearts if it was us. Let's try just not. Not doing the things that are going to make someone else feel unloved, unimportant, unnecessary. Not do the things that place a burden too big to carry on another person's shoulders. Not lash out and hurt back.
Instead let's be kind. Radically, out of the ordinary, over the top kind. Even to people who don't deserve it. Cause really, we don't deserve it either - but we sure do want people to be kind to us.
And don't go thinking it will be easy. That we can just up and be nice and thoughtful just by waking up. It's a job, really. It requires thought, and effort, and determination. Sometimes, it even turns bad on us. Sometimes people use our kindness against us and feels like crap. Still though, still, kindness wins. Promise.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book Review - The Sound of Gravel

Listen, I'm going to be honest, this book review comes with a story that is going to sound just plain crazy. In many ways, it kinda is crazy. I've tried to write the review for this blog post without the story, and I just can't. Too much of the review needs this background. So, this will be long, but hang in there with me, it is a beautiful, powerful, fascinating story.

It starts in March when I applied to be a part of Jen Hatmaker's book launch team. When author's publish a book, they need for the book to get a lot of coverage, especially in social media. So they put together teams of people to read parts of the book - sometimes even the entire book - and then promote it. Jen Hatmaker is brilliant and hilarious, so I knew I wanted to be on her team. Sadly, 5,000 other people had the same thought and the publisher told her she could only have 500. What no one could have predicted is that those of us who got "rejected" are a group of rather determined (stubborn) force to be reckoned with. Within hours of getting the rejection letter, we begin tweeting to each other and Jen responded. Before 24 hours were over, we had formed a group based off of Anna Lebaron's genius hashtag, #the4500. So much has come out of that group that I could not even begin to cover in this post. One thing that we discovered was that even as the "B" team we were really good at launching a book.

Jen's book launched officially, but our group has formed such a bond that we continue to support, pray for, and care about each other. We have created several different groups that started with members of the original #the4500, health groups, writing groups, and an entire group dedicated to launching books, #the4500launches. As we were organizing our group, our leader, Anna, again reached out on Twitter. This time to a first time author named Ruth Wariner. Here is where the story really gets crazy. Anna's father was one of two leaders of a violent, polygamist,cult. Violent as in, robbing, beating, and killing people. Anna is in the process of writing her own book about her escape from her father. The first person that Anna's father had killed was his own brother, the other leader, and Ruth's father. Naturally, there was a huge disconnect between the two families after the murder of one brother. Anna and Ruth had never met, nor spoken, before this Twitter contact.

Anna reached out to Ruth because Ruth's book is a memoir as well, of her childhood after losing her father. Incredibly, Ruth responded. Anna offered #the4500launches as a way to promote Ruth's book, The Sound of Gravel. Ruth accepted and two cousins, torn apart by horrible, tragic violence came together and presented us with this book. Only God could possibly have made that happen. Only God.

This book, The Sound of Gravel, is unlike any other book I have ever read. And I read a lot of books. From the first sentence, to the last sentence I was completely captivated. Somehow it was simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational. With grace and beauty, Ruth recounts a childhood that most of us can't even begin to imagine. There were times while I was reading that I had to stop, so difficult were the circumstances she presents. Yet, I could not leave the book unread for long because those stories were equally as compelling and powerful. Though these stories are sometimes horrific, Ruth tells them with grace, and mercy, and love. Incredibly, I never felt pity for her, instead there was just courage and acceptance and genuine joy laced throughout the book. Ruth is a masterful story teller, and her style connects the reader to each member of her family. I marvel at her indomitable spirit, her incredible ability to speak from a place of love, forgiveness and hope, and her astonishing bravery. This book speaks to the spirit of those who refuse to give in or give up. It speaks to fighting for those you love. It speaks to finding strength and using that strength to not just survive, but flourish.

The Sound of Gravel can be ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. Go to for details on ordering this book.

*I was given an advanced reader copy to read for an honest review of this book.