so you want to read more

At the end of 2016 I sat down and did some goal planning. One of my goals is to read 100 books in 2017. I know what you’re thinking — I already read so much. How could I possibly read more, or even want to read more? Why would I want to read more?

Reading relaxes me.
It makes me a better writer.
It encourages my imagination.
It makes me feel deeply, and when you are sensitive that is a good outlet.

I usually set a goal each year with how many books I want to read and if I don’t make it, that’s okay. But it’s fun to have a goal. Usually by goal is between 75-85, but this year, even though I’m busy, I’m aiming to hit 100.

Whether you want to read 100 books, too, or you just want to read 1 (which I think is a totally awesome goal if that is a stretch for you!), here are some practical tips for making real progress toward your goal of reading more in 2017:

  1. Make time to read. We make time for the things that are important to us, period. Nothing drives me crazier than when someone tells me they don’t have time to read but then they start to talk about how they watched two seasons of some show on Netflix in a week. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good Netflix binge, too. After all, I am the girl who watched 5 seasons of Pretty Little Liars in a single month. But I also read 88 books that year. My encouragement is to set a daily reading goal. For you it might be one chapter, or five pages, or an hour, or during your breaks at work… Create a goal for yourself, making it attainable (if you read five minutes a week, it is not a good idea to decide to read for 120 minutes a day!), and building upon it as you go. For me, I try to read for at least an hour a day, and on days I know I won’t have tons of time, I try to read for all the spare minutes I’ve got. Even if I can only carve out a little bit of time here and there, reading is important, so I set aside time for it, every day if I can. Which leads me to my next tip…
  2. Read in your “fringe minutes.” I read a book called The Fringe Hours a few years ago and the author talks about how we have these little minutes here and there throughout our day that add up. If you have just 15 minutes to read every day, whether you’re in line at the post office or in a waiting room or taking a quick break at work, you would read for 5,475 minutes a year — that’s just over 91 hours! Even if you’re not a fast read, 91 hours will get you a couple of books.
  3. Read more than one book at once. This might not be for everyone, but it works for me. I rarely read more than one book at a time. My brain needs different plots  and story lines. Unless a book is so engrossing that I finish it all at once, I typically read several books simultaneously. That might not work for everyone, but if it does, then do it! I often keep a book in my car, something on the kindle app for my phone and iPad for those “fringe minutes,” one at work, and one in my room. No matter where I go, there’s a book, and I don’t have to take it everywhere.
  4. Read a variety of genres. This goes with number three. When I’m reading four books at once, I like to make sure they’re different genres because it helps me keep everything separate in my brain. Right now, for instance, I’m reading four books: Illuminae, the first book in a trilogy (and I am looking forward to the next two!), Claudia and the Bad Joke (as I attempt to reread all of the Baby-sitter’s Club books), Humble Roots (I’m reading this with a friend and talking about one chapter every two weeks, so it’s slooow going), and I’m listening to Jack of Diamonds while I drive. All but Humble Roots are fiction, but they’re so different. Illuminae is a dystopian space opera, Claudia and the Bad Joke is definitely low-level YA, and Jack of Diamonds is contemporary fiction with a more adventurous, action-filled plot. If you want to try to read more than one book at a time, I would l suggest starting with one fiction and one non-fiction or poetry book or a play — things that are very different.
  5. Read books you like. I like reading because for the most part I can’t wait to pick up the books I’ve had to put down in in order to sleep or to work. I rarely read books I don’t like. I’m not a book quitter (it’s totally okay if you are!) so if I start a book and hate it I will finish it, but that rarely happens because I know what I like, which admittedly is a bit of everything. The more you read, the more you will be able to hone in on things that pique your interest.
  6. There is no shame in the audiobook game. I mentioned in number four that I’m listening to an audiobook. I love audiobooks! Sometimes, I need to hear a voice when I’m reading that isn’t the voice in my head. They also make it possible to “read” while I’m driving. My brain operates at 3.2 billion miles per hour, so I usually speed my books up to 1.5x or sometimes 2x. Again, you don’t have to do that! Just find a book on Audible that has good reviews for its narrator and jump in! I also listen to books on Audible while I’m cleaning and while I’m out for a walk. Again, those fringe minutes add up. As a bonus, I find myself getting so invested in the audibooks I listen to that I look for activities that will allow me a chance to listen, so I am more motivated to fold laundry, organize shelves, and wash dishes if I’ve got a good book.
  7. Keep track of what you read. I love to track my reading on Goodreads, but I also have a ridiculously detailed spreadsheet with formulas that I’ve been using since college. I think I’m on my 13th year of the spreadsheet tracking method. WHOA BABY. It is so fun to look back and see what I’ve read and how much I’ve read. I like to analyze trends (it’s easy for me to see why there were a few years where I “only” read 44 books — I like to call those years “grad school and working full time”!). It also helps me know what to recommend to friends. I’m not great these days at writing detailed reviews like I used to, but I do try to write down a few things that made me like or dislike a book so I can tell people if they ask me.

There are countless other ways to read more, but these are seven things I’m doing in 2017 to help me hit that hundred mark.

What are your reading goals for 2017? How will you meet those goals?

Auld Lang Syne

I have really been a terrible blogger this year! But can you really blame me? I’ve been traveling non-stop all year it seems, and I’ve been writing, and it’s Christmas month… YIKES. So I thought I’d just use this last post of 2016 to highlight some of the best and brightest parts of my year!

  • In February I went to the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas and I made a vacation out of it! I flew in to Dallas/Fort Worth, stayed with my friend Stefanie, drove to the conference the following day, had a great two days soaking in great teaching, went to church at Austin New Church (after having the most random flat tire ever) and met my new friend Jaclyn, and spoke with my friend Heather’s girls’ group. It was a whirlwind but I remembered so clearly why I love Texas, especially the Austin area! (I wrote a little about what I learned that weekend.)
  • Charisse turned 12 right after I got back from Austin and we threw her a rad Harry Potter themed birthday party! (Of course I wrote about that, too!)
  • Uh, maybe you heard, maybe you didn’t, but I wrote a book! (You can get Four Letter Words on Amazon!) I also had some fun writing blog posts leading up to the book’s release (although I kind of did a terrible job with the release!). You can read these posts for some four letter words and my reflections on them: heat | back | sift | rise | pray
  • Charisse started 7th grade and I realized I only have ONE more first day of school with her before I don’t take her to school anymore so I wrote a love letter to a 7th grader.
  • In September, I flew to Michigan to see a friend that I met doing the For the Love book launch get married. Several of us stayed with her and it was such a fun, carefree weekend. I’d gotten some really hard, upsetting news 36 hours before I left, news that left me in tears in on of the pastor’s offices, and leaving was so nice. My goal was to go and pretend my California life didn’t exist and that’s exactly what happened — I deleted my work email off my phone and I enjoyed the hell out of that weekend.
  • On November 1, I left for a two-week cruise to Europe and Israel and it was honestly the trip of a lifetime. The things I saw! I will post pictures and more from that trip after the start of the year.
  • Then — boom! — just two weeks after I got home from the cruise, I left again, this time to go to Missouri. I visited a friend who’d had a baby a few months earlier and it was everything the cruise was not. I slept in sweatpants and wore sweatpants and ate lots of food with cheese and snuggled my friend’s fat little baby and came home so refreshed.

I am excited for 2017. I’ve been goal planning, including using Powersheets, and I feel so confident about the goals I’ve set for myself. Some are very lofty, some are smaller, and all are very personal. Every goal is broken down into pieces and I feel like I have set myself up for a challenging and rewarding new year. I can’t wait to share my life with you (because yes, blogging more often is a goal, and I’ve got a plan to make it happen!).

See you soon, 2017! Until we meet again, here’s a little gift for you:

on grief

I haven’t picked a word of the year for a long time, but this year, I am very aware that a word has picked me.

Grief.

It’s a hard word to wear. I know that usually, when people pick their words, the words are happy. They’re cheerful and positive and inspiring.

But this word picked me.

It’s a stone I’ve carried in my pocket. It has been there for so long, wrapped in layers of gentle protection, not coming into contact with my body at all, until the day I was emptying my pockets for others to see and the wrapping fell off that stone and when I put it back in my pocket, its jagged edges tore into my flesh. I shifted it to the other pocket but the same thing happened over there.

I could have retraced my steps and found some new protective wrapping. But that felt wrong, like ignoring the problem, so I kept shifting that stone back and forth between my pockets. My skin got tougher. I got used to the way it felt. I ran my fingers over the stone every day, rubbing those edges and feeling their texture and grit under my fingertips.

One day I realized: that stone wasn’t so sharp anymore. My fingers have worn its edges down. It’s not yet smooth, but it’s getting there. One day it will be whittled down and down and down and down until it is gone and I am standing in the presence of Jesus.

But for now, I carry it in my pocket. this stone, this word, this grief.

I name it. I own it. And I refuse to fear it. I know it will go away. I know it will change, that its shape will shift countless times over the years of my life, and that it will be smaller, and some days it will feel heavier, but it will get easier to carry the more I share it and talk about it.

Let’s wear down those stones together, my friends. Let’s rid ourselves of the piercing pain of grief ignored.

Quick Lit, episode 1!

Every month there’s a Quick Lit post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, a site I like to read because of book recommendations. I make no promises that I’ll do this regularly, but I’m going to try to participate frequently because it’s a fun and low-pressure way to share what I’ve been reading (which feels like lots and lots of stuff). So, here are some quick reviews of the last four books I’ve finished, all in October.

29414954The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. I like Amy Schumer, but don’t watch tons of her standup because it makes me cringe, and I’m definitely harder to embarrass than most. I started reading this book while I was sitting at Barnes and Noble one day and it was making me laugh, and then I looked it up and discovered that Amy reads the audiobook. I bought it with some Audible credits I had not yet used. I will say two things: one, it definitely made me cringe in certain points. Amy does not mind using words for genitalia (a word I never thought I’d use on this blog) that I don’t even think, let alone say. And two, this book was laugh-out-loud funny. I made myself have a stomachache from the laughter too many times to count. Amy writes about light-hearted stuff but also serious things as well and I thought it was overall a really great book.

29527139All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth. I saw several people post about this memoir on social media so I grabbed a copy of it and oh my gosh, it left me breathless. I wanted to devour it in one sitting but I had to put it down at times because it reminded me painfully and beautifully of my own book. It felt like a comfort read in that I just got it. Edie has a story that seems crazy to believe, and she tells it with raw honesty that makes you root for her the whole way through.

 

18596375Made for More by Hannah Anderson. My friend Deeann and I have been reading this book together since March or April and I just finished it a few weeks ago. We’ve been discussing a chapter roughly every other week and it’s been so enjoyable. Anderson writes about us being imago dei, made in the image of God. What she says isn’t exactly new, but the ways in which she says it are refreshing and encouraging. This book is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read and is unlike any book about women’s identity that I’ve read.

26890725Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. I got this as a Book of the Month Club selection (pst! use this link and get 30% off your own BotM membership — and a free tote bag, too!). It’s the story of two girls, now women, who’ve been friends for more years than not. One is getting married and they have to navigate the complexities of friendship amidst their own changing lives. I actually really liked this one, although I could not stand the way the f-word was used to reference sex. But I liked the characters and their respective arcs and thought the storytelling was solid.

That’s it for this month! What have you guys read lately, especially things you’ve loved? I love a good book recommendation!

up for the adventure

I have a countdown app on my phone because I love a good countdown. Recently I added a really fun one: a European cruise! I leave in 22 days, and I added it to the app about four weeks ago. It’s been a whirlwind four weeks and it still doesn’t feel like I am actually going. I feel like I will wake up the day we’re supposed to leave and it will all be some crazy dream.

I have this thing where I call my grandma from the airport. I do it almost every time because it’s a place where I am free from all distractions and can have a good catch up session with her. I called her recently from my house to wish her a happy birthday and to tell her about the cruise. She told me, “Oh Krista! You are such a go-getter!” I chuckled and agreed with her and didn’t think much of it until later.

It’s been a week since we had that conversation and I’m still thinking about it. I feel like I lead a pretty boring life, but I have spent the last week thinking about the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen and I am only starting to begin to understand that for someone who grew up the way I did, I have done a lot of amazing things. Well, honestly compared to most people I’ve done a lot of amazing things.

I’ve been to Africa. I’ve been to Central America. I’m going to Europe and Israel. I’ve flown to Missouri, Texas, Idaho, Alabama, Colorado, and Hawaii. I’ve driven to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I’ve driven to Idaho through Nevada and Utah. I have seen so little of this world, yet so much compared to so many.

I didn’t fly for the first time until I was 18 years old. I had graduated high school and was going to El Salvador on a mission trip. That’s right, my first travel by air was to a different country. I’d been to the airport dozens of times, nearly every summer as a teenager to pick my cousins up from the airport when they flew in to stay with their dad and his wife, my aunt. But I had never gotten on that plane myself until an early morning in August 2001.

I felt exactly one time before 9/11 happened. And I didn’t fly again until many years after that, when I went to visit people in South Africa. So my second flight? Also to a different country. A few years later I felt alone for the first time to Missouri to visit a friend. And every year since then, I’ve flow a few times a year, mostly to visit my friends, sometimes for work.

I don’t love flying. But I love the experiences I’ve had, so it’s worth a six-hour flight to Hawaii or a 24-hour series of flights to South Africa. What good is that fear if I cannot push beyond it?

That’s really what I want to write about — not flying but fighting fear.

So much of my life I lived in fear — fear of what others would or could do to me (physically or mentally or emotionally), fear of getting hurt, fear of being just like the people who hurt me. For a long time, that fear is what kept me down, and then, not long after I graduated high school, the fear became what drove me.

Something shifted. I wanted to do big things and be an amazing person and I realized that everything I was afraid of was what was going to hold me back. But I didn’t fully know how to fight through those emotions and it wasn’t until after I got put on academic probation for the second time while in college that the old fears fell away and the new fear told hold.

I was suddenly passionately afraid of failure.

I didn’t want to live like my birth mother did.

I didn’t want to struggle in a dead-end, minimum wage job.

I didn’t want to always long for adventure but never have the means to go.

I wanted to see people and places. I wanted to live a life that I was proud to look back on. I wanted to say, “I’m so scared right now but I am going to push through this.” And that is exactly what I did.

You guys. That is HARD. It still is hard! It is so much easier to let the fear dictate my life and plans. Fear makes it easy to say no. Fear makes me rationalize settling for less than my dreams and the things I want to chase. It is easier to be afraid than it is to be brave, but the thing about bravery is that it’s like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger and bigger it gets.

These days, I don’t live free from fear, but I have learned to see my fearful attitudes when they first begin to take root and I have learned how to crush them.

I think about how when my book first came out and people began reading it. I was terrified that it was in people’s hands and people’s brains because it was every sad and awful secret I could carry. I was afraid of what it would like for someone like me to work at a church. I was afraid people would look at me and think of me as less. They knew me as a young woman in the church. There would going to know we as a little girl and a teenager consumed by sin. How would, I feared, people reconcile the Krista now and the Krista then?

But I pushed through because God told me to be obedient. And the rewards of that obedience have been so rich. I have had countless women share their own stories of abuse and sexual assault with me. I have cried alongside of and walked through painful pasts with friends. And if I had let that fear win, none of that would have happened.

So when I’m walking on the streets of Israel in just a few weeks, standing where Jesus stood, I will remember that He called me to live a life beyond the fear. Whether that’s flying or writing a book, I am so glad He’s made me up for the adventure.

they have to get out into the world

arrangedpoem

Find a bright room, an uncluttered desk
so you can drive onto the frontier of writing.
Beautiful blank pages:
our letters cross
our gentlest strokes
of darkness upon light.
It veers from non-sense verse
to the most tedious of novels
and back
in just a breath.
Yet being my own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend.

Stay up late with the dictionary.
Comb every word (for sparks and silk) from ancient root to tender tip.
They have to get out
into the world —
who knows what will become of them?

“I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said.
“Take a deep breath and hold
words shy and dappled, deer-eyed in herds
and everything is pure imagination.”

I love words, bright words up and singing early.
I love smooth words.
I watch them waterski
across the surface
and torture a confession out of it.

I need help.
I want my life back.
Work is what you have done
and suddenly you’re through, arraigned yet freed
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Spend the next two mornings
working on a good title.


When I was in college, I was a writing tutor for my last year. It was such an awesome time and gave me so much clarity about what I wanted (and didn’t want) to do as a career. One of the things we had to do when tutored was take an independent study course. Throughout that semester, we had several papers to submit and one of them was allowed to be a creative piece. Of course I jumped at that idea.

I thought and I thought and I thought about what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something different, and then I remembered this assignment from my high school creative writing class. We took the first line from a poem and used it to start a poem of our own. What if, I thought, I did that, but every line of the poem I would write was taken from other poems?

I printed out dozens of poems about writing. Right away, I saw lines I knew I wanted to use in this new poem. I cut every line up and painstakingly arranged and rearranged the slivers of paper into a poem. I capitalized some words, made some lowercase, and altered some punctuation, but the words are in their original order. And I fell in love with my finished product.

I came across it recently when I was looking for papers to share at my book launch party and since I am a terrible blogger, I thought I’d post it here because I really love reading it. It reminds me so much of the current season I’m in when it comes to writing and that’s good. I want constant reminders of why I love what I hope will some day be my full-time job and career.

I’ve listed the poems with links to them in their entirety below (whenever possible; this was written in 2007 and some of the links are expired and I can’t find copies of the poems online).


“Blank Beauty by Judith Pordon

“The Author To Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet

“Introduction to Poetry” by Bill Collins

“Lesson 23: How to tell if your poem is really any good” by William Francis

“Writer’s Anonymous: A 3 Step Program” by Quentin Huff

“Free Verse” by Sarah Kirsh

“For the young who want to” by Marge Piercy

“From The Frontier of Writing” by Seamus Heaney

“How To Write A Poem” by Xanthe Smith

“When I Met My Muse” by William Stafford

“Writer” by Joe Wenderoth

“Pretty Words” by Elinor Wylie

love letter to a 7th grader

Dear Charissie,

Today I dropped you off for your first day of 7th grade. I won’t lie, I cried a little after I finally got out of the madhouse that is the streets surrounding your school. I didn’t cry because I was so sad to be dropping you off but because I am just in awe of the wonderful person you have become and are in the process of becoming. What a joy! What a gift it has been watching you blossom.

I am so proud to be your big sister. I am just honestly so proud to know you. I’ve known lots and lots of kids your age throughout my life and I have to say that you are the most amazing of them all. I feel like when someone first said the phrase “march to the beat of your own drum,” they had you in mind.

It’s mind-boggling how much that phrase applies to you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are so apologetically authentic in who you are. There’s no real box you fit into at all — you have friends in all kinds of groups, your interests are crazy-varied, and your humor is ridiculous. You are both a tomboy and a little girly at times. And you’re perfect. I wouldn’t wish you to be any other way. I want lots of things for you in the future, but more than anything else I want you to remain undefined by the world.

When I dropped you off, I said all of the things I always say when I get to take you to school, whether it’s the first day or the hundredth: have a great day, learn something, I love you. But because today feels heavier and more significant than usual, I added a few new ones this year: be brave, be kind, be the best Charisse you can be. You rolled your eyes a little at me as you gave me a kiss and a hug, but those are my three wishes for you, three things I am praying for you this school year.

Be brave, my sister. It takes such courage to be brave. I hope you can be brave with your life so others learn from you how to brave with their lives. I hope you are brave in big ways but also in small ways, in ways that only you can fully understand and appreciate. I pray you are brave when others are mean or fearful or hurtful. I pray that you’re brave and you take risks, even if it means you will fail sometimes. Be brave enough to try and fail, because you’ll be brave enough to grow.

IMG_6283

Be kind, my lady man. There is enough cruelty in this world. You can contradict that poison with your gentleness, your compassion, and your love for others — it all comes from your kindness, your healing words. I’ve seen you do this with your friends. Keep doing it, every day. It is who you are and it is and will continue to make a difference.

Be the best Charisse you can be, my Charissie. You weren’t meant to be any other person. You weren’t meant to be like Heidi or Jane or Jader or Emma or anyone else but you and I love you exactly as you are. I tell our broken-hipped, noodle-necked Penny-dog all the time, “I wouldn’t want a Penny-dog any other way because it’s what makes you you” and even though you’re not a dog, the same applies. You are authentic because you embrace yourself fully. Be the best you. Don’t settle for less or for being someone else. Don’t let others convince you that you need to change.

I read a book recently called The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. White describes a scene where the main bird, Louis, is flying for the first time.

Louis was more excited than he had ever been. “I wonder if I can really do it?” he thought. “Suppose I fail! Then the others will fly away, and I will be left here all alone on this deserted pond, with winter approaching, with no father, no mother, no sisters, no brothers, and no food to eat when the pond freezes over. I will die of starvation. I’m scared.”

In a few minutes, the cob glided down out of the sky and skidded to a stop on the pond. They all cheered. “Ko-hoh, ko-hoh, beep beep, beep beep!” All but Louis. He had to express his approval simply by beating his wings and splashing water in his father’s face.

“All right,” said the cob. “You’ve seen how it’s done. Follow me, and we’ll give it a try. Extend yourselves to the utmost, do everything in the proper order, never forget for a minute that you’re all swans and therefore excellent fliers, and I’m sure all will be well.”

They all swam downwind to the end of the pond. They pumped their necks up and down. Louis pumped his harder than any of the others. They tested the wind by turning their heads this way and that. Suddenly the cob signaled for the start. There was a tremendous commotion — wings beating, feet racing, water turned to a froth. And presently, wonder of wonders, there were seven swans in the air — two pure white ones and five dirty gray ones. The takeoff was accomplished, and they started gaining altitude.

Louis was the first of the young cygnets to become airborne, ahead of all his brothers and sisters. The minute his feet lifted clear of the water, he knew he could fly. It was a tremendous relief — as well as a splendid sensation.

“Boy!” he said to himself. “I never knew flying could be such fun. This is great. This is sensational. This is superb. I feel exalted, and I’m not dizzy…

I was thinking about you and then a song called “Born to Run” came on the radio. I heard the lyrics, “Baby, we were born to run” and I thought about you and then Louis as he flies for the first time.

You weren’t born to run, my Goosie.

You might be scared to try that first time, but baby, you were born to fly. I am watching your body take flight, and let me tell you, sister, it is superb.

You are my greatest joy.

Love forever,
Sissy