Amy Beth

April 22, 2014

Books I Love

On a recent weekend home to visit my family, we decided it would be a fun activity to each make a list of our top books of all time and share them with each other. That’s right. My family really is that cool.

It turned into a fun evening of sharing and discussion, and gave me a good start to my “to read” list. So just for fun, I thought I’d share my list of favorite books here – in no particular order.

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The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

I love all of the Chronicles of Narnia, but this one is probably my favorite of the series. The depiction of the creation of Narnia is  beautifully magical.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I distinctly remember checking this book out of the church library when I was a little girl (maybe 3rd grade?). I thought it seemed like a very big and impressive book. And then I read it and loved it. It was the first real “classic” I ever read and it opened me up to a whole new world of literature.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

What can I say? Anne is my kindred spirit and Gilbert is my literary crush.

Harry Potter (the whole series) by J.K. Rowling

I can’t pick just one of these to put on the list. Although I guess if I had to I would say Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Or maybe the Prisoner of Azkaban. Anyway, I can’t wait to introduce Charlie to these books someday when he’s older. Especially since he probably won’t go for Anne of Green Gables.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

One summer when I was a kid my parents decided not to spend their money on cable. So every evening instead of watching TV my mom would read aloud to us, and this was one of the books she read. It was terribly exciting. Since then I’ve read it probably 6 or 7 more times, and read every other L’Engle book I could find. I’m a big fan.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I think I read this whole book during a family vacation one summer during the long hours in the car. Scarlett got on my nerves (will she never learn?!) but Melanie was the true hero in my mind. She was a good deal stronger than she seemed on the surface.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Gothic Romance at it’s finest. Way better than Wuthering Heights. Why do they always insist on teaching that one in schools?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

When I go for a long time without reading anything more substantial than blog posts and news articles, I can feel myself losing intelligence. As Bradbury describes in this book, a world without books is a sad one.

1984 by George Orwell

This books makes me thankful for many things. Mainly that things aren’t as bad as they are in this book….yet.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Pretty gripping for a book about Puritans. It makes you think about the nature of sin and redemption, freedom and guilt.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tragic, but a good read.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

A great book to introduce young minds the the Distopian genre.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok 

I honestly don’t remember a lot about this book except that it’s about a couple of Jewish friends and I loved it. I should read it again.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

This first book of the Space Trilogy is by far the quickest and easiest of the three to read (the others get pretty dense at times), but the series as a whole is one of those that can blow your mind if you can get through it. It brings up a lot of philosophical and theological questions.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I think every romantic comedy ever made is based in some part on a Jane Austen novel, with the most popular plot being based on Pride and Prejudice. Two people who can’t stand each other falling in love? Classic.


After coming up with my list one of the biggest things I realized is that I read most of my favorite books in high school or earlier. This tells me I need to be reading more as a grown up. So I’m looking for book recommendations! What are your favorite books?

Perhaps I’ll find the time and quiet to read them someday…

April 18, 2014

Friday Finds // vol. 1

It’s a new feature on the blog! On occasionally Fridays I will share my Friday Finds with you. These are things around the web that have caught my eye or made me think. Enjoy!

I recently found the blog of illustrator Oana Befort, and immediately fell in love with her work. Her illustrations feature a lot of colorful flowers and friendly woodland animals – so what’s not to love, really?

Oanabefort bluebird

Oanabefort flowers

Oanabefort poppies

She has an Etsy shop and a Society 6 shop where you can buy prints and various items with her illustrations on them. I kind of want a new house with a bathroom just for Charlie so I can have a place to put the friendly whale shower curtain. 

Many people have already read The Overprotected Kid from the Atlantic, but I still wanted to share it. It brings out such interesting issues about how children learn and grow and play these days. There’s a huge part of me that wants Charlie to have the wild and free childhood described in this article. But at the same time, I totally feel the instinct to keep him safe by my side where nothing bad can happen to him. Finding a good balance of those two extremes will be a challenge for sure. 

Here’s a Christian take on the ideas explored in the Atlantic article from The Gospel Coalition.  It mentions how even church – a place that used to be radical in its ideas – has become a “safe” place. It doesn’t often stretch or challenge people, preferring instead to provide peace and comfort. Church isn’t often a very exciting place to be. 

Maybe [God] wants for us to pause the Serenity Prayer, lift our gaze to the nations, and get active in the role he’s given us, whether the sending church or the sent one. You have to wonder if Jesus is eager for his people to rise up, risk everything we have, and watch as his Spirit re-enchants our lives.

April 15, 2014

Be the cheerleader

I like to make observations about people in my life (that I may or may not know very well) and try to deduce the internal motivations behind their actions. From there I make broad sweeping generalizations about *all* people *everywhere* and try to find the lessons I can glean from there. Is it good to make these kind of assumptions about people? I don’t know, but I do find it helps me narrow in on the type of person I want to be, and the kind I don’t want to be.

So recently I realized, I want to be the cheerleader.

Here’s my broad sweeping generalization: I figure people fall in one of two camps when it comes to being an influence in another person’s life. The first group are the risk analyzers. When a friend/child/spouse comes to them and shares a new idea they have, or is getting ready to embark on a new phase of life the risk analyzer is… cautious. They want to make sure the person is doing the right thing and has thought this thing through. “Have you thought about this?” they ask. “But what if this happens?” they warn. Out of their love for the person they turn the idea around and around until they’ve found every flaw and pointed it out. All these flaws could bring about pain, and they want to help their friend avoid that.

But then there are the cheerleaders. When a friend/child/spouse comes to them and shares a new idea they have, or a new thing they are trying, the cheerleader is… excited! They see the potential for growth and happiness in this new idea. They see how this new thing makes their friend come alive. Out of their love for the person they listen and encourage while their friend turns the idea around and around and finds every gleaming possibility. They let their friend show them how beautiful this new thing could be.

Gleaming possibility

Both groups care. Both groups want the best for their friend. But I think one group is going about it in the wrong way. Because for every new thing in life that a person might get excited about, there is also a healthy dose of fear. People don’t really need the risk analyzers to find all the things to worry about. Most people are pretty good at worrying on their own. But a whole lot of people need encouragement, validation, and support. None of the great things in life come without some measure of risk.

So in my relationships, I hope I am the cheerleader. I hope as my son grows I can celebrate the new things with him and feel joyful as I watch him grow. I hope when my husband finds a new venture to pursue I can trust his judgement and be confident in him even when he is not. I hope when a friend tells me about something she’s hoping to do in her life, I can provide a safe and encouraging space for her to share her excitement.

I want to be the cheerleader.

April 8, 2014

When your kid is put on paper

We recently had Charlie evaluated to see if he could benefit from some speech therapy. (He can.) And we got to experience first hand the joys of qualifying for state-funded early intervention services. While I think the speech therapy will be a positive experience (Charlie loved his first session last week), I’ve had a mix of feelings about the process, from not even being sure if we should pursue it in the first place, to having to get comfortable with having someone else work with my child on a regular basis, to finding the right balance between acknowledging that he could use a little help while not doubting my own ability as a parent to give him what he needs. It’s that last one that I’d like to delve into a bit here, if you don’t mind. And hopefully by the end I can help some other mothers find that balance too.

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You see, Chris and I both taught in the public schools for a short time. It was just long enough for us to know that these types of programs have their necessary evils. Goals need to be made with a specific type of language. Questions have to be asked in ways that aren’t entirely natural. There will be acronyms for everything. We knew parts of it would probably be annoying but we figured we could get through the process without being intimidated.

But even though I knew what to expect, I realized that it’s a whole different feeling when the kid going through the process is your own. I felt like I was given a glimpse into the lives of so many other mothers who go down this road, some with kids with much bigger needs than my own, and many with much less knowledge about how these kinds of things work. Aside from the acronyms and requirements for goal writing, I think the strangest part of the process for the parent is the evaluation.

But what I want you to know today is this: your parenting is not graded based on how your child scores on an evaluation.

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It’s strange reading about your child on a piece of paper that someone else has written. Even though the evaluating therapist had gone over her findings with us and had been very supportive and encouraging in our conversation, the official report was just that. Very official and very report-like. Everything we had talked about in an easy-going conversational tone was suddenly being presented as data and fact. Even though everything on it was true, it felt like it was missing some essential components. Like how amazing and wonderful my son was, for example.

So that’s the first thing I learned: You can’t let official reports about your child make you question what you know to be true. They are written in official and impersonal jargon for a reason. He has to become a statistic to qualify for services. But that never means that he is only a statistic. And that statistic can never change his true value. It can be easy to start to question every little line of data on the report.

He can do this.
He can’t do that.
He did not demonstrate this skill.
He did this to this level.

You wonder, Is that good? Is that bad? There are no exclamation points or smiley faces on the report to indicate the evaluator’s feelings about what she wrote. And as the concerned mother that you are, you start to worry that between the lines the report is somehow judging your parenting style or the choices you’ve made. But that’s really just crazy mother brain going a little haywire. We’re so used to listening for the loving, gushing tone behind what people say about our child that when that tone is missing it feels like something is wrong.

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But the fact remains that you know your child better than anyone, certainly better than an evaluator who spent an hour with him. And in your gut you already know where he’s doing just fine, where he’s exceptional, and where he needs some help. You don’t need anyone to tell you that. You just need someone to tell the people with the official stamps of approval and funding. And they tell those things with cold, hard facts.

Facts are useful, but they aren’t really how parenting is done. So when your kid is put on paper, read the paper, know what it says, and then stick it in filing cabinet somewhere. You already know the really important stuff by heart.