Thursday, May 28, 2015

hey grieving heart

Hey there, grieving heart, I see you.

I know you by sight and by feel and by smell. I have held you shaking in my arms, salty tears streaming down my shoulder. I have seen you crack and hide and run away from the light. I have heard your cries, and I know your weariness.

I suppose there are people who believe you are an enigma, or at the very least a rarity here in this western world. Our lives abound with wealth and prosperity, and surely that should chase away the darkness. But maybe those people have never sat helpless in the NICU, waited decades for prayers that go seemingly unanswered, spent a freezing night sleeping on the streets, gotten a late night call that she's leaving again, or prayed for them when shackling shame hunts their souls again.

Oh, yes, grieving heart, I know you're real and I know you're present.

Has there ever been a generation who didn't know the bitter taste of sons and daughters marching away angry, of lonely and empty rooms, of hunger that will not subside, and of husbands or wives who wouldn't stay true?

So what's the point, then? Is all our hope and faith for nothing? Are we stupid or are we brave to ask that question, when our souls unravel as evil seems to win again?

A word of warning for you: someone's going to give you some crap advice, dear hurting heart. They will mean well, as they grope about for the reason you are in pain. Smile at them, nod, and then walk on. Job's friends meant well, too.

Others will tell you your grief is proof that life is meaningless. They will tell your God is either a sadistic warlord or He doesn't exist at all. Job's wife told him to curse God and die. There will be people who won't be able to handle your grieving, it will make them so very afraid. They will try to reconcile and end it any way they can.

But Job wouldn't take anyone's advice when what he really needed was to swallow the humbling presence of the God who let it all happen.

What kind of God says, "Who do you think you are?" when a desperate person demands answers? Maybe God needs to work on His postmodern apologetic strategies. Or maybe we need a God who reigns and wills above and beyond what we can understand. I realize that sounds like a copout, but it's at least worth considering.

I think that's the choice you'll have to make for yourself, dear friend of grief. Maybe not today, but eventually. You'll decide for yourself if the One who led you into the desert of pain is the One you will cling to for hope. Perhaps if you can be patient, you will find that life indeed springs from death, and that while the ache may never fully leave, enduring it will transform you and you will find reason to praise Him in the midst of your suffering.

And, you know what? I'm not even going to try to convince you that He is a good God. Because you'll taste Him yourself as you drink the cup He's placed in front of you. Given my own humbling cup of His will, I know God doesn't need my help to reveal His love and goodness to the heart hungering after His righteousness.

Today all I know to offer you is friendship, to sit in the dark with you and wait for Christ's new life to rise afresh in your heart an in your life. While we linger here, may this Psalm sing over us:


Where can I go from your Spirit?

   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
-Psalm 139:7-18



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

a tender marriage






There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,    
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman.

-Prov 18-19

We stood in a darkened room, surrounded by charcoal sketches made by the genius hands of Rembrandt. Friends turned almost-lovers, the air seemed to vibrate with the holiness of our destinies unfolding. I laid my head on his shoulder, and this simple, vulnerable act broke open our hearts and we just... knew.

In all the best ways, nothing would ever be the same again.

When the days become too full of decisions, disagreements, offenses, stresses, and drama, my mind returns to that hall in the Getty museum. I recall the bold, powerful strokes of dark charcoal on ancient paper. I feel again the magnetic pull of my heart toward the one man it would choose to love for the rest of my days. And I remember the choice made then to give what I could of myself and take what he had to offer of his own soul.

Every small day adds up to our own personal forever.

Love is both delicate and strong. It binds our hearts together when storms rage. Love revives us on the days we fear we will never find a safe place again. But each of us also bears a great power in the love story we write with our choices and words: we can wound too easily the ones we love.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if people could go back to the beginning, and view the years through magic glasses of the blind trust and hope they had when their hearts first dared to love. What grace would our younger souls offer to the brokenness we had not yet felt? What mercies would we lavish? How many more white flags of surrender would we be willing to raise over our lives to save the love we treasured with naive hands?

Every marriage has a Rembrandt room experience. There is a hazy memory of the time bare skin first touched, of a rainy night that drew shivering souls closer, of a mountain view that opened up the possibility that this love really was different than all the others. From that memory, lost love can be found, ancient trust can be excavated, and hope can alight on hearts once again.

Once upon a time turns into happily ever after when we believe that our words and actions and choices matter, and that the most tender marriage is built one vulnerable moment of grace at a time.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

a letter to summer 2015



Hello Summer 2015,

This letter isn't meant to manipulate you or anything, but you need to know: We are counting on you.

As children, summer stretched out over us like striped awnings over a turquoise pool. It held us like a hammock strung under palm trees. Summer, for us, was playing tag with friends until streetlights came on. It was long road trips to see canyons and valleys that God's own hand carved. Summer meant fireflies in jars, tadpoles in paper cups, and frogs under bushes. It was lazy mornings watching cartoons in pajamas and late nights reading one last chapter with flashlights under the covers.

In many ways, the summers of the past made us who we are today. I'm not going to lie, Summer 2015, you have a lot to live up to around here.

Kids today, they need you to woo them into the glorious freedom of days without end sprawling out over the coming weeks. In case you didn't know, some of these kids have a hard time at school- there are bullies and tests and homework and so. much. sitting. 

Teach them to run and skip and climb, dear Summer.

Unleash the joy of reading adventure stories for pure bliss.

Give them the happy accomplishments that only you can give: learning to effortlessly dive into the pool, perfecting cartwheels down grassy hills, and how to sing and chew gum and ride a bike all at the same time.

Summer, these kids need you to be so amazing that they can't imagine why anyone would want to spend every moment of the next three months in front of televisions or playing on devices. Because somehow, we are all learning that when we can't put down our phones or turn off the TV, life is something that happens to us. But when we open our front door and step out unplugged, we make a life for ourselves.

These kids of ours need to learn to make a life out of their moments, and that is your purpose here, Summer.

I thank you in advance for this gift. And I promise to be in this with you. I will push them out the door, drive them to the pool, and hoist them up into trees. I will take them to the library and teach them how to find the books they want to read. I will play with them at the lake and paint with them at the kitchen table.

I will be your comrade in arms, sweet Summer.

And when school days beckon, I will be sad to say goodbye. But I will also be grateful, and ready to see how these children of freedom can learn the lessons they need in school days of structure and responsibility. Because that is part of making a meaningful life, too.

Somehow, the shadows of my children will grow longer and longer until they grow all the way out of this house and into the wide world. And then, Summer, you will have new lessons for me as I fill my days with new adventures (By the way, I am asking in advance for island beaches, the perfect gold sneakers, and lots of grandbabies in my pool).

But for now it's you, me, Mr. Fantastic, and these kids, making the best memories we can make.

And, as my kids would say, it's going to be epic.

xo,
Carrie

Saturday, May 16, 2015

my glamorous week in review

I live a glamorous life.

This week has been particularly sleek and upscale. I'm not trying to make everyone jealous or anything, but like the "highlights of the red carpet", "who wore it best?", and "the CDC's most infectious diseases", the details of this week must be shared.

It all started with vomit. (What good parenting story doesn't begin with vomit, though??) Indeed, Mother's Day weekend lived up to the hype, and I got to "be a mom" all weekend. I wore yoga pants and a Mossimo tank top, carried a jug of bleach around in lieu of a designer bag, washed my hands every 22.3 seconds, and rocked some sweet dark circles under my eyes as a result of the various times I slept on the upstairs sofa to make sure I could hear the gagging when it began. We will call this look "puke chic" and trademark it before Gwyneth or the Olson Twins try to claim it.

On Monday, we thought the worst was over. But, NO. The excitement had only begun.

The next episode will be called "CSI Cedar Park: Crazy Dog meets Boy". I will give you only the facts: Two of my boys decided to ride their bikes around the neighborhood. A man was leaving for work. The man's dog sprinted straight out the front door when it opened and bit one of my boys on the ankle as he rode by. After a neighborhood search, we found the owners for the dog. The dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The dog is now in quarantine at the vet to make sure he isn't rabid, and my son's wound is being watched carefully for infection. This is a wonderful way to make friends in a new neighborhood, by the way. I believe The Saturday Morning Post once had Norman Rockwell paint a picture of some neighbors chuckling over a bite wound as Animal Control rolled up and took the dog away. (Unexpected Bonus: We have now actually lived a piece of endearing Americana!)

By Thursday it seemed like life was smoothing out. (Haha! Weren't we cute to think that?)

The morning started so calmly: coffee, bible, cozy sofa blankets. Then Mr. Fantastic headed out the door for a breakfast meeting with some community group leaders from church. He called me out into the garage. I was expecting a new Maserati with a big red bow, of course, but instead he wanted to show me the PILES OF MAGGOTS covering the garage floor. The thousands of little cutie pies had somehow crawled out of our trash can as a result of the storm the night before. He was very sorry, but he had to go eat lemon poppyseed pancakes and turkey sausage at Mimi's with super awesome human beings instead of ridding our home of vile insects. Kiss, kiss! Have a great day, Sweetie!

I learned lots about maggots that day. They kind of crunch when you step on them. They hide under everything in the garage, so you will also have to remove every. single. thing. from the garage. (Feel free to BURN IT ALL if you need to. No one will dare to judge you.) Also. sweeping them into one area only works for a few minutes, because they quickly crawl away. You have to be fast to clean up maggots, you guys. Slackers won't succeed. Bring your A-game and try not to think about what you're actually doing while you're doing it. Also, the fun is never over. Once you think you're done, you'll see more maggots, and have to reclean everything at least twenty times. These creatures are the opposite of leprechauns and fairies: they are everywhere and they bear zero magical sparkle secrets. (Unexpected Bonus: Some nice "me time". The kids wanted no part of this glamour-filled experience.)

Once I was done I soaked in a bathtub of bleach and actually ran myself through the washing machine twelve times. It was the only way I could be allowed to to re-enter society.

By the afternoon, most of the maggot shock had worn off, and I was off to an appointment at the dermatologist. This portion of the glamorous story was similar to an episode of "ER", except from the later seasons without George Clooney, when no one wanted to watch it any more.

Because I have a complexion one step darker than "glow-in-the-dark" and one step lighter than "ghost-like", I get to have a stranger closely examine my skin for possible cancer problems all the time. For those of you who actually have melanin in your skin, you are really missing out on a good time. The dermatology "full body scan" is exactly like going to a spa, except not at all. Sure, you get to be mostly naked in front of perfect strangers, but that is where the spa-likeness ends. There is no "tribal beats and pan flute" music to soothe you as you are "examined". There are injections at both places, yes, but no one offers you cucumber water or a discount on a manicure next time after your biopsy is taken. You leave the spa feeling and looking way better, and you leave the dermatologist feeling and looking like a Frankenstein-type science experiment. The spa is far superior to the dermatologist, and yet they are similar in outrageous cost. Capitalism is baffling.

I have worn SPF a bazillion since I was in the womb, so you'd think I would be fine. But no, the same day as the maggots, I got to be sprayed with liquid nitrogen repeatedly and have some skin removed from my arm. The best part of this is that Boy 3 kept saying I got my face "lasered off" all night. I love him to infinity. (Unexpected Bonus: free bandaid in the "swag bag".)

By Friday, I was pretty sure the drama must be over. Alas, I am too adorable for words.

Because by Friday afternoon, there was more vomit. (What good parenting story doesn't end with vomit, though??) As I was pouring a bowl of puke down the drain all I could think was, "Don't throw up, don't throw up. don't throw up." because that is all anyone ever thinks when they are cleaning up vomit. (Unexpected Bonus: I did not throw up.)

The moral of the story is two-fold: First, The drama is never over. Second, the glamour of motherhood is overwhelmingly underwhelming.

This week, I hope we have long, boring, bug-free, bite-free, doctor-free days sitting (in the shade, for goodness sake) by the pool, free of the vomit that seems a little too common around here.

Also, I'm getting myself some of those lemon poppyseed pancakes. (Unless the Maserati finally shows up.)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

when you're done being the mom your kids deserve



The boy woke me up in the dark stillness of midnight and breathed little sobs and moans. We climbed the stairs and he held his tummy and sat next to the toilet waiting for the worst to be over. He cried and moaned and asked God why he had to be sick.

I listened to boy-becoming-man prayers in the dark, as he told God he wanted to feel better. I began to tell him the stories of when he had tiny hands and little words. He sat there on the bathroom floor and I wove the stories of us into a blanket to cover us and distract us from the awful midnight sick.

This child of mine is growing up, and when everything goes wrong he still cries out for me first. But when it becomes unbearable, he wants God, too. I'm not sure I could find a more encouraging sight on Mother's Day weekend than his beautiful, widening soul.

Somehow, in the middle of all the things we get wrong, there are very important things that we are getting right. 

Twelve years ago, I wanted so much to be the best mom, to be patient and kind and sweet and precious. I wanted them to marvel at how I was just the kind of mom they really wanted. I wanted my children to grow up unscathed by their mother's inadequacies. I thought anger and frustration were the enemies, and if I could slay those dragons, well, then I would be the mother my children deserved.

I thought what they needed was a better version of me. But they didn't. Kids just need a mama to be a mama: sit with them, tell them to take their fingers out of their nose, read to them, laugh with them, give them some snacks, cry with them, listen to them.

My kids are going to grow up and tell their friends that their mom is straight-up crazy sometimes. They will have the same chance all kids get to lovingly roll their eyes behind my back and ignore my frantic advice to wear more sunscreen, drive more carefully, take their vitamins, and FOR GOODNESS SAKE BE KIND TO EACH OTHER! 

I'll let God be the one who is perfect. I'll just wait up on the sofa watching Gilmore Girls when they go to concerts with their friends, and if they miss curfew I'll go all psycho and text their friends some awkward bear-skin rug baby photos until they get home. I'll be the one embarrassing them with my giant floppy hat, shouting their name, and using a blowhorn as they receive their diploma at graduation. When they're in college, I'll ask them all the time about sex and if they plan to get in the game any time soon. If they seem unsure, we'll have a nice chat about STDs, what a job at Chick-Fil-A really pays, and how much babies cost. I will be obnoxious and in their business and it will be the best thing ever. They will hate it and they will love it and when they have their own kids, they'll finally get it.

The bottom line is this: I'm not going to be the mom they deserve, or even the one they want me to be, I'm simply going to be me: the mom God gave them.

After all the sick was done, that boy of mine sat beside me in the hallway and leaned his head on me. He sighed heavy and relieved, and said, "I love you, Mom. Thanks for being with me."

Then he went back to his bed and I went back to mine.

My eyes saw almost-man-sized feet trek down the hallway, but in my heart they wore Thomas the Train slippers and could still fit in my hand. As I slid into my own cozy bed, I thought of all the late nights we have ahead of us as these kids grow up.

I was grateful for my pillow and for the sleep.

I'll need my rest. It's all going to go way too fast.

Monday, May 4, 2015

on race, church, diversity, and all the love

For a long time now, a few thoughts have rolled about in my head, like a heavy load in the trunk of your car, waiting for a hard right turn to thump them against the wall of the trunk space so they can be remembered.

These thumping thoughts are about race and culture and the belonging birthed by the love God has given us.

I will start at the beginning.

I am a white woman, married to a white man, with white children, raised in middle class mostly-white America. Despite feeling a bit objectified by men at various points in my life, I have never known the disadvantage of being the "wrong" race or the "wrong" nationality or the "wrong" religion.

God has a great deal to say about race and culture and loving people who aren't like you. The whole of the gospel is wrapped up in God's own love for people very unlike Himself.

It would be easy for me, from the comfort of my suburban home, to live like injustice isn't real and everyone has been given the same kind of life I have been given. But I have heard too many people's stories to even consider that a real possibility.

Should I care to limit my world to those who look just like me, it would also be easy to make that happen. Staying with people who share the same cultural influences and ideals is easier than trying to understand someone who is different, and let's be honest- risking being misunderstood by someone who is different than you is scary as any hell-on-earth you can possibly imagine. 

The temptation to stay with people who are just like you is, I admit, alluring. We all seem to come hard-wired with the same desire: to be known and to belong. Frankly, the odds of achieving this goal are better with people who look like you, like what you like, eat what you eat, and do what you do. Commonalities breed comfort.

It has been a grace and a mercy that God has chosen to give me such a colorful menagerie of friends and influences in my life. Between college roommates who taught me words like "ashy" and "crunk", to early motherhood BFFs who shared their challenges in raising biracial children with me, to current friends who let me hold the pain and fear that racism has visited upon them and their families, I have learned there is more joy in loving and being loved by people with whom you have very little in common than having a million friends who are just like you.

Love like that changes you.

Love like that may mean that when your four year-old daughter asks for an American doll, you show her the catalog and silently pray she doesn't pick the one that looks just like her- especially if it just so happens that her genetics have given her hair and eyes that fall right in line with the media's ideal definition of "beauty", and you don't really want to explain the lie of that yet.

It also may mean that when your white son zips his sweatshirt up and puts the hood over his little blond head, you feel a stab of pain, and even a little guilty. It may almost feel like you're getting away with something, because your friend's black son has to be warned about where that "look" is appropriate, while your son can wear whatever makes him happy wherever he wants to wear it.

It may mean that when you're sitting in a Dallas restaurant waiting for your husband to arrive, and there is only one black family in the entire place, you notice. And it may mean you will want to go tell them you see it, and offer to buy them their dinner for being so freaking brave.

It may mean that you don't buy a house in a neighborhood because there are multiple Confederate flags waving proudly in yards and the sight of that symbol makes you nauseated.

It my mean that you intentionally give your children books to read with characters and people who are not like them, because sometimes learning empathy begins by caring about fictional characters who are unfairly persecuted for being different, or by admiring real historical figures who rode in front seats or fought wars for all the right reasons or peacefully marched to Washington to prove a point to the whole world.

It may mean that when you don't understand something that is not your own racial culture, you call your friend and desperately ask the vulnerable question, "Am I acting like a boring white girl?? Tell me the truth. I can take it." And then when she laughs and tells her husband what you just said, you will adore her. And when they tell you that they love you even though that's exactly what you are acting like, you will love them even more.

But most of all, being a white girl who has been blessed by the love of all these different shades of beautiful people has meant this, for me:  When, on the Sunday after the rioting in Baltimore, your pastor-husband and the other elders of your church pray for that city so far away, you get down on your knees and cry the deep, sobbing gulps that God Himself pours into your soul. Because in the end, you aren't a just white girl from middle-class anywhere; you are just a human who has only one thing of true value in life: LOVE

And you find that you love a whole city that you don't know. You love the broken souls, the tired fighters, the weary mamas, the dreamers of peace, the angry sons, the scared little sisters, and the daddies who simply don't know what to do anymore.

You will find that being a white woman from middle-class America is a beautiful thing about who God made you to be, but it will never be the most important part of who He made you to be. And down there, on your knees, you will feel so close to Him and His love for the world, you will know that He has His hand on all of us, guiding us through the chaos of our humanity.

There is no doubt, we are living in a painful time. We are experiencing the pains of many years of injustice, all at once, it seems. It's hard. And for those who have not realized that all of this has been going on for generations, it's shocking to take it in so fast.

I choose to believe that these are birth pains, though. My hope is that the tearing is making space for a new thing to pass into our world: a new empathy, a new justice, a new era of peace, a new day when love will change more hearts than we can imagine right now- because right now all we know is that it hurts so much.

I don't know what your racial background is, or where you grew up, or what has happened to make you feel the way that you do about people who are different than you. But I do know that you are loved. First, you are treasured and adored by God. Hopefully, you are also loved by the people around you. But I also know that you are loved by people who you may not even know, who are on their knees praying for you, for your city, for your family, and they can't wait to meet you and prove that their love is true. 

I know that for some people a love like that seems like a trap. It is the weak and humble who are able to receive that kind of love easily. Most of us feel the need to be harder, stronger, and brave enough not to need to be accepted by others. But, that kind of love is real, and it will be there, waiting for the day you are ready to test it out.

If you live in Austin, and you want to see a love like that up close; if you want to marvel at the way a bunch of people love each other despite the way they often don't agree on much besides how great their God is and how blessed they are to be together, come visit us at Mosaic Church. 

We certainly don't hold a monopoly on this kind of amazing love, though. Look around and you will find many churches like ours, who believe that what is different about us is less vital than what we have in common in Christ. Once you find those people, cling to them and love them and let them love you back. I promise, you will never be the same, and it will always be worth it.

Because we were all made for love, to be known, and to belong. And that is the thought that will thump the loudest for all eternity.

Friday, May 1, 2015

what i'm reading: summer reading lists for the whole family



Even though it isn't actually summer break yet, yesterday I took the kids to the library for the books we will use to kick off our summer break next week.

We checked out about fifty books, everything from new novels to classic Newberry winners, books about China and Paris, picture books, and even some graphic novels. I let them pick whatever they want (although I do check for inappropriate content by looking up unfamiliar novels on commonsensemedia.org). I also hunt down recommended books and beloved books I want to share with them. I keep my phone handy and scour book lists for their age groups.

Then I scoot out of the children's area and go in search of fiction for myself.  I am always reading several classic novels and non-fiction books at home- Bronte, Austen, Fitzgerald, as well as books about church, God, psychology, travel, etc. But the library is the best place to grab fiction that I will only want to read once.

When we leave the library, we are weighed down with several bags full of books. By the time we get home, the delicious sound of silence has wrapped around us all, and each of us has entered new worlds inside the pages we hold in our hands.

This is a slice of heaven on earth.

Libraries are so important. Reading is vital to the growth of our character, our souls, and our ability to live well. If you don't believe me, or want to know why books are vital, this article in The Guardian eloquently expresses all the reasons why we need to be readers, raise readers, and make literature a priority.

All four of our children love to read. The keys to doing this have been fairly simple: there are books everywhere in our house, we consistently read a book aloud as a family, Mr. Fantastic and I read in front of them, they bring books with them to boring places where they will have to sit quietly and wait, and we have limited their media usage.

Reading is addictive in all the best ways. If someone tells me they don't like to read, I know it's just because they haven't had the right book put in their hands yet. I believe in the joy of books like I believe in the joy of a beautiful sunset: it's always there waiting, you just need to give it proper attention.

That said, here is a list of some of our favorite books for summer reading lists. Feel free to take it with you to the library and fill up your own book bags. I hope you have a summer full of reading!

Picture Books:
Tacky the Penguin Helen Lester
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
The Day the Crayons Quit by Mo Willems
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz
Tallulah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novack
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh

Early Readers:
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant
Fancy Nancy by Jane OConnor
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems

Read Alouds:
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
All of A Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
The Giver by Lowis Lowry
The Willoughbys by Lowis Lowry
Cheaper By the Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgsen Burnett

Younger Fiction:
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
All of A Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Hank the Cowdog by John R Erickson
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon  by Grace Lin

Older Fiction:
The Ruby Redfort Series by Lauren Child
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Dragon Keepers Chronicles by Donita K Paul
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Bud, Not Buddy by Christpher Paul Curtis
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Adult Non-Fiction:
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
A Million Little Ways by Emily P Freeman
The Angry Book by Theodore I Rubin
In Season by Wayne Jacobsen
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Switch on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf
Stuff Parisians Like by Olivier Magny
Problems, God's Presence, and Prayer by Michael Wells
The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
Savor by Shauna Niequist
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
The Four Loves by CS Lewis
Love Does by Bob Goff

Adult Memoir:
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

Adult Fiction:
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Telling of the Bees by Peggy Hesketh
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline