Tag Archives: review

review: Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday

searching for sunday review

Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday is about church: its triumphs and failings, its hypocrisy and grace. Rachel, like me, grew up in a well-intentioned Evangelical community where the Bible is accepted as fact and the “plain truth” is within easy reach. It’s a culture of black and white morality, where spiritual cliches are a dime a dozen, rolling off the tongue the second something happens that doesn’t jive with the accepted worldview. Naturally, it has its limitations. Suffering is not easily alleviated with a dismissive utterance of “it’s all in God’s plan.” Rachel, like me, was encouraged to have a sense of ownership over her personal relationship with Jesus and, when the questions she wrestled with in the quiet started to gain momentum – when she started to ask them out loud – the church was unequipped to answer in anything but cliches.

Rachel, like me, flailed around, trying out new churches and new denominations, but the questions burned unanswered still, and she left.

Searching for Sunday‘s framework, quite fittingly, is the Sacraments: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, and Marriage. These themes, like the Sacraments themselves, act as a jumping off point for a journey of faith. They encourage exploration and mystery; they don’t operate in spiritual cliches. One begins to realize that sometimes, the best answer to our questions is simply the space to wrestle with them. Rachel deals eloquently with this wrestling, acknowledging that the hurt sometimes makes it impossible to be in community, but always seeking the Truth of Christ’s unconditional love. She never gives up on that, and I think that’s the key to learning from the dark times in our spiritual lives. You may feel directionless, but you are moving forward if you are oriented toward love.

Searching for Sunday is memoir, but it is more than that. It’s theology. Steeped in the Gospel narratives, deeply respectful of those first disciples, and appreciative of the long, tumultuous years of violence perpetrated by and against the institutionalized church, it seeks to explore and understand what it looks like to do church now. It reminds us that Christian community was essential from the very beginning, that we don’t get to do Christian life on our own. 

Searching for Sunday gave me closure. I’d been hurt so badly by the church years ago, and I thought I’d moved on. But the truth is that I needed this reassurance that my pain was real, that my concerns were legitimate, and that the dark path I trudged through in the aftermath of leaving was not in vain. I needed someone to say, simply, “me too.”

As I sit here now with the sunshine streaming through the window and the birds singing and a cool spring breeze hitting my legs, I can tell you that I’m no longer searching for Sunday. I have found home in church community again. I am thankful for the path, and the hands that held me in the darkness, nudging me forward. I am thankful for space for the questions. I am thankful that God gave Rachel Held Evans the voice, and the heart, to tell her story, because it is my story, too.

I received an advance copy ofSearching for Sunday Searching for Sunday for review. Searching for Sunday is available for preorder here. It’ll hit store shelves this Tuesday, April 14.

*Artwork: Baptism by Ruth Catherine Meharg; used with permission.

one year in Charlottesville

One year ago yesterday, Daniel and I (and a small caravan of Daniel’s family members – mine were waiting for us in Virginia) packed up the final fragments of our possessions, got in my trusty old Saturn, and started the drive up to Virginia. I had never been to Virginia and Daniel had never been to Charlottesville. We’d rented a place with the help of a friend, but otherwise had seen nothing of our new home.

I don’t think there was a way I could have fully comprehended what this first move totally away from anything familiar would mean for us, or how it would change us. It has been lonely, exhilarating, difficult, and joyous. Daniel and I cemented our relationship here like never before. I learned to enjoy cooking for myself. I survived a winter that lasted longer than I anticipated, but not without long bouts of depression. I wrote 314 blog posts, visited lots of new places, cried innumerable times, and got caught up in the beauty of my new surroundings. I decorated (and redecorated) the apartment, made some real money selling vintage, and learned random new skills.

house by uva

August – Got a job at a local coffee shop (best job ever) / Bought pet rats / Watched a meteor shower on a farm / Saw Ralph Stanley in concert / Saw Obama on the Downtown Mall

September – Started ballet classes / Decorated the apartment / Celebrated my birthday alone / Visited Waynesboro and Staunton / Joined the Evening Choir at church

October – Attended the Black Voices Gospel Choir concert / Dressed as a flapper to attend a Halloween party / Fell in love with Cafe Au Lait / Survived Frankenstorm

luray caverns

November – Toured Luray Caverns and Woodstock, VA when Daniel’s dad was in town / Discovered the Saunders-Monticello trail / Hosted Thanksgiving for my friends and sister / Visited Carter Mountain Orchard / Attended the Tree Lighting ceremony

December – Saw snow / Went to Baltimore for the first time / Celebrated Christmas with Daniel’s mom and sister / Got a 50mm lens

January – Started Style Wise / Visited llamas at my friend’s farm / Wrote some poems

snow day

February – Questioned everything (the cold darkness of winter seeped into my heart) / Found meaning in practicing Lent / framed Daniel’s great grandparents’ marriage certificate

March – Presented a homily and got Freshly Pressed / Had a snow day / Visited Richmond / Celebrated Easter

April – Started a new job / Went to the Tom Tom Festival / Visited Jacksonville for my sister’s graduation

blue ridge moutains

May – Had an article published for Relevant Magazine / Questioned everything / Went to Richmond for Memorial Day weekend

June – Visited Skyline Drive for the first time

July – Traveled to Baltimore for a family event / Celebrated Independence Day in Harrisonburg / Visited Baine’s in Scottsville / Celebrated Daniel’s and my 3 year wedding anniversary / Wrote a guest post for a friend’s blog / Explored the Virginia countryside

Phew! I know the above summary is more for me than for readers who are interested in actual writing. So where am I one year later?

In some ways, I feel like I’m starting from the beginning. I have a full time job that I’m still adjusting to, a good friend is moving away, and many of the social activities I enjoyed in the fall have been made unavailable to me due to work hours. I like myself better and I love Virginia, but I’m more homesick than I anticipated; it’s starting to hit me how much we’ve missed out on in the development of our friends’ lives due to distance and busy schedules. To be enveloped by the mountains can be a comfort, but it also serves as a visible sign of our isolation. Because, as much as we’ve tried to reach out, to branch out, we still feel alone much of the time. Life never gets easier.

But overall, I’m pleased that we moved to Charlottesville. I could settle down here and stay for a very long time. I hold out hope that things will get better soon.

uva chapel, leahwise.com

unrelated statements

blue glass and twigs

Sorry for the silence this week. I’ve been stuck inside and haven’t felt particularly inspired to write anything. We had two inches of snow on Friday, but my camera battery died. I ventured out in the evening with my film camera instead. I’m sure I’ll be pleasantly surprised by whatever I captured 6 or 7 months ago on the beginning of the roll when I go get it developed later this week.

I got in a minor car accident last weekend and have been anxiously awaiting the verdict so that I can move past the whole, stupid event.

As I’ve repeated here, I’ve been feeling melancholy for several weeks, likely due to the cold, sometimes dreary, weather. At the women’s small group I attend, one asked why we insist on running our lives at the same, steady rate in the winter months when other mammals take a break. That question and subsequent conversation helped me calm the inner voice that told me I wasn’t trying hard enough. The fact is that I’m cold and I feel under the weather almost every day. I need to give my body a break. As a result of that breakthrough, I’ve experienced a better, more efficient week overall.

I also bought a tea kettle. I’m addicted to its steam whistle and have been having a nice cup of earl grey every afternoon.

We attended our church group’s monthly potluck last night. As always, I found myself inspired and greatly amused by the various conversations in which I partook. Each time I get to know someone a little bit better. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to socialize in a low stress setting. I needed it.

Today I plan on listing several items on ebay and etsy, so keep a lookout.

I hope you have a nice Sunday and a satisfying week.

month in review: January ’13

January flew by despite being full of ups and downs. The weather was cold, then hot, then cold again, and my brain chemicals didn’t know how to react. I was really hard on myself for being lazy and depressed, but I came out of it and now I’m on an emotional upswing.

cardinal

This month, I (and sometimes Daniel):

  • attended two concerts at Mockingbird before it closed down
  • reached out to a band about joining them as a vocalist
  • contacted a local photographer to look into assistant opportunities
  • started a Fair Trade blog; I’m really proud of it
  • witnessed a friend’s marriage dissolve
  • went on several walks (one, two, three, four)
  • became obsessed with Trader Joe’s (that’s worn off a bit now)
  • attended a swing dance lesson and Sock Hop
  • took a lot of photos
  • survived a couple snow days
  • attended a game night
  • started modeling for my online shop
  • experienced record sales at my online shop
  • wrote three poems
  • finished decorating the library
  • got the mullet trimmed off my outgrown pixie cut
  • felt insignificant
  • felt proud
  • watched a lot of The Wire
  • wore many layers
  • was almost always cold
  • bought a digital scale for mailing orders from home
  • talked to some llamas
  • visited many thrift stores
  • nurtured new friendships

snow

How’d I do with my 4 Simple Goals?

  1. Grow my online business: things have been looking up. I use new bookkeeping software that helps me keep track of fees, purchases, and revenue.
  2. Put money in savings every month: I should be able to do this as soon as I deposit my paycheck.
  3. Buy fair trade/ second hand as often as possible: I think I’ve stuck to this.
  4. Travel to a new place: we visited an antique mall in Ruckersville; that kind of counts.

Hope you had a fun, productive first month of the year.

review: Erzulie Cosmetics Cream to Powder foundation

organic foundationI discovered Erzulie while searching for organic skincare options on etsy and have been using their products for several months now. Recently, I purchased the Mineral Cream to Powder Foundation in Light on the seller’s recommendation. I have used it every day for the past few weeks, so I think it’s time to review it.

You should know before I start that I have sensitive, combination, acne-prone skin that gets very dry in patches during the winter months. I turned to organic skin care initially in order to avoid artificial fragrances, but there are so many other benefits (and there are so many great products) that I’ve stuck with it for additional reasons.

My rating: 4/5

Pros:

  • blends really well into skin
  • provides even, medium coverage
  • easy to apply
  • seems to last all day (at least when set with powder)
  • unscented
  • not greasy

Cons:

  • provided sponge is poor quality
  • a bit shiny without the addition of powder
  • texture makes it hard to maneuver inside compact
  • makes dry skin more pronounced due to nature of application

I used Erzulie Liquid foundation before trying this kind. I like the coverage this provides better, but the liquid is a bit easier to use. I use a nice quality thick sponge applicator for this instead of the provided pad. I knocked off a point due to the poor quality provided applicator and the firmness of the product. If it were a bit wetter, I think it would be easier to apply.

In conclusion, I will continue to use Erzulie Cream to Powder Foundation and will likely buy it again once I run out of my current supply.

movie recommendations

We’ve watched a few enjoyable movies lately. The thing that struck me most about all of them is that they presented an ethical message – a practical purpose for the narrative.

source

  • Take This Waltz: (Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen); Williams’ character writes for a tourism agency and her husband is a budding chef. The movie follows her through marital and personal doubt. The characters and their anxieties are easy to identify with and the message is an important one. I also really enjoyed the cinematography. If you prefer to avoid sexual content and nudity, you should be aware that there is plenty in the film. You should watch it anyway.
  • Bernie: (Jack Black); Bernie is the (sort of) true story of a beloved citizen of a small Texas town. I know my description is vague, but I went into it having no idea what it was about and I think that made everything much more exciting. I love Jack Black, and this role, although comedic, is more nuanced than many roles he’s played. It reminds me of a short story we read in my Narrative Ethics class; it does an excellent job of exposing how thoroughly narrative can alter our worldviews.
  • The Five Year Engagement: (Jason Segel, Emily Blunt); The film was written and produced by Segel. As the title suggests, the narrative rests on the premise of a five year long engagement, examining why engagements can last such a long time and how they affect a couple. It’s a comedy, but like most contemporary comedies, it has a fair dose of trauma and desperation. The film offers a similar message to Take This Waltz.

It’s refreshing when filmmakers understand their role in creating and informing our morality. All three films are contemplative and realistic. All acknowledge that people are imperfect, that lives are messy and complicated, that, though we may not deserve it, we all need forgiveness.