Challenge #23 [June 23-29]

challenge titleChallenge #23: Take the first steps to doing something you think you can’t.

If you “can’t” sew, practice straight lines and make a simple project. If you “can’t” garden, plant something. If you “can’t” home school your kids, look up a few easy activities to test drive. Tackle just a small little something that’ll get you that much closer to the big idea.

Good luck!

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My favorite quotes from “Little Women”

Best quotes from "Little Women"I just finished reading Little Women for the first time. This summer seemed like a good time to get into a few classics, and I started with Montgomery’s tale of the four sisters–mostly because I found a copy in a used book store for $4. Can’t get much better than that.

I think it was a good place to start, though. It’s a fast, easy read (my copy had both “Little Women” and “Good Wives” in one book) and a simple, engaging story. My favorite part is that there are dozens of quotable lines/sections in the book that comment on values and life in general. When fiction highlights a real truth in a beautiful way, my nerdy, word-loving heart sings. Little Women does it pretty excellently, in my opinion. I’m now looking forward to one day reading it out loud to my littles and talking about the ideas in the passages I underlined.

Because Little Women is a classic, an actual review would be pretty silly. Instead, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes. Share yours in the comments!

“We never are too old for this, my dear, because it is a play we are playing all the time in one way or another. Our burdens are here, our road is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is the true Celestial City.”

“‘I like good strong words, that mean something,’ replied Jo…”

“The patience and the humility of the face she loved so well was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecture, the sharpest reproof. She felt comforted at once by the sympathy and confidence given her; the knowledge that her mother had a fault like hers, and tried to mend it, made her own easier to hear and strengthened her resolution to cure it…”

“That is perfectly natural, and quite harmless, if the liking does not become a passion, and lead one to do foolish or unmaidenly things.”

“My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world–marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a neeful and precious thing–and, when well used, a noble thing–but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.”

“She was living in bad society; and, imaginary though it was, its influence affected her, for she was feeding heart and fancy on dangerous and unsubstantial food, and was fast brushing the innocent bloom from her nature by a premature acquaintance with the darker side of life, which comes soon enough to all of us.”

“Ah, Jo, instead of wishing that, thank God that “father and mother were particular,” and pity from your heart those who have no such guardians to hedge them round with principles which may seem like prison-walls to impatient youth, but which will prove sure foundations to build character upon in womanhood.”

More: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to the Fullest Measure [book review]

"More" book review on Hello NeverlandThis is the first book in a long time that has left me totally on the fence. I can’t decide if I love, love, love it or find it just more fuel for our broken, self-centered world. I think maybe my feelings include a little of both, but mostly love. Love with a dose of realism (or skepticism, perhaps).

Anyway, enough of my rambling. This book.

More, by Todd Wilson, is about finding your personal calling. (Um, duh, right? That subtitle gives away that much.) Wilson sets personal calling in the context of serving Christ, and he actually breaks it down into two parts: a general calling (applicable to all Christians) and your unique calling (applicable to individuals).

The general calling (which is the first part of the book) is to “be disciples of Christ who make disciples where we are.” Wilson breaks that down further into three parts that he refers to as the “be, do, and go” of calling. He does the same thing for his discussion of unique calling (which is the second part of the book).

I find the concept here to be intriguing and fairly solid. I would agree with the idea of the general calling (the great commission) for all Christians. And his be, do, go system is a good framework to use for identifying your unique personal calling, so there are some good thoughts there. Overall, I like the book and would recommend it to anyone thinking broadly about what to do with his or her life.

I did, however, have two issues with More.

First, I think the book can be taken to reinforce the idea that we all have to have this one grand calling on our lives, a specific purpose that makes us special and successful. That’s true for some people, but I would say it’s not true for most of us. We all have a calling in the sense that we have a vocation, but that doesn’t mean we’re all destined to be successful indie artists or start-up entrepreneurs. The world seems to place high value on those individuals at the moment–it’s totally trendy to own your own business, write your own book, and sell yourself to the world. But many of us–most of us–are just meant to live our lives (our simple, normal lives) well and love God and others in the middle of our commonplace routines. That’s our unique calling. And there’s nothing wrong with that–actually, that’s where true beauty is cultivated. But the world is telling us differently these days (let’s be real, it’s probably been telling us differently for all of history), and the message of More does more to reinforce that than to combat it. It’s not that I think this is a fatal flaw, but I would recommend taking it with a grain of salt. Just remember that a unique calling might not seem all that unique on the surface. It’s your own being that makes it so, because no one can do what you do quite the way you do it.

Second, there’s a passage where Wilson talks about God using the church in different ways throughout time. He cites a business guy, Peter Drucker, who says that businesses are generally successful for about thirty years before they cease to survive or descend into stagnation. He then applies this idea to the church. The flaw in this part of the message is perhaps more subtle, so I’ll just include the complete quote for you:

“The church is not immune from the organizational life cycle that Drucker describes. For over 2,000 years, local churches have perpetuated the movement of Christianity in thirty-year cycles. Consider the fact that not a single first-century church is still in existence, and yet every church today can trace its roots to a first-century church. This isn’t a bad thing! Each generation of believers works with God uniquely to fulfill God’s purposes in their time and place.”

No, no physical church (ie, a church building or the specific individuals) from the first century has survived. Sure, OK. But the Catholic church is the same organization it was 2,000 years ago. And perhaps all the other churches can trace their roots back that far, but only through the Catholic church, from which they separated in their initial formation. So I take issue with that statement. But there’s something that goes deeper than this. Many of those churches that have splintered and separated have some significant doctrinal contradictions. Wilson may not be saying that God is the author of those differences–he can’t be, because God can’t contradict himself–but he does seem to be saying that they’re irrelevant. I disagree. I think truth is truth, no matter what time period we’re in. And Christianity needs truth, not marketability.

This isn’t to say that any church aside from the Catholic church is wrong or that anyone who isn’t Catholic isn’t going to make it to heaven. Not at all. I just don’t think Wilson should gloss over the differences the way he does. It’s not that simple.

Aside from those issues, the book is generally pretty good. For those struggling with calling and purpose, it’d be a good resource–in conjunction with much prayer and scripture reading, of course.

What are your thoughts on purpose and calling?

Challenge #22 [June 9-15]

challenge titleChallenge #22: Do something in your community.

Attend a free event, volunteer, check out a park, or just go work in a coffee shop instead of at your kitchen table. Get out in your community and explore. Engaging with your community creates bonds and connections, and a sense of strong bonds can contribute to enhanced creativity and motivation. So get out there!

Good luck!

Tying together the past and present: writing profiles on our people

Connecting past and present by writing profiles on our people (especially helpful for teaching kids about family history)After my grandma died two years ago, I spent a lot of time flipping through her old photo albums. But, aside from my grandparents themselves or the little-kid versions of my mom and aunt, I didn’t recognize most of the people in the pictures. My mom would sometimes be able to provide a name, but in most cases that’s all I have. I never knew these people, and my grandma didn’t really talk about them. I guess we’ve never been much of a story-telling family, and our extended family is rather scattered and distant (in more ways than one). It’s my reality, and that’s OK–but still, I wish the faces in those photos held a little more meaning.

The experience has reminded me that it takes intentional effort to connect a person with his or her family history. I want my kids to know the people who have been part of my story (and, in turn, theirs), whether or not they ever have the opportunity to meet them. Obviously this means taking the time to talk about those people, tell stories, and share what people and experiences shaped me and our family. But I want there to be more to it than that.

So, I decided to work on writing profiles of various people in my life. I’m not talking about anything too fancy or complicated–just a journal entry. Something to draw on when I’m trying to remember details from way back when. Maybe something for the kids to read when I’m gone and can no longer tell them about the people in my photo albums–something that will still give them the opportunity to know their story, where and who they come from.

For now, I’m just doing these as I feel like it in my normal journal. Maybe one day I’ll copy them all into some sort of notebook or binder, so they’re all in one place. Maybe not–I kind of doubt I’ll ever be that organized. Either way, they’ll exist. And so, when I’m not here to talk about the people I knew and loved (or, maybe, didn’t), my kids and grandkids will still be able to know them.

I’m writing about our friends. Our teachers. Our bosses and coworkers. Our college roommates and the people who were in our wedding. I’m writing about some people as they were when I knew them and others as they are now (different, certainly, than how my kids will remember them). In each case, I’m just trying to fill in the details, add some depth and color to the picture.

Would you like to try this, too? Here are some things I like to include in a profile:

  • The person’s “basic stats”–name and relationship to me
  • How we met
  • How the relationship grew, where it is now
  • Anecdotes
  • The person’s relationship to my child (if applicable)
  • Any thoughts or reflections I’d like to share (or remember for myself) about the person

Some profiles are rather long, others are very short. As I write, I try to think about what I would want to know if this person were one of the faces in my grandma’s albums, and I try to answer my own questions as best I can. It’s a fun exercise, and I hope it’s one that will someday provide some value.

How do you connect (or plan to do so) your kids to their family history and/or your story?