Saturday, January 19, 2013

My So-called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife, by Sara Horn

So, I realized only when I was 87% finished with My So-Called Life as Proverbs 31 Wife that it's the first 'wife' book I've read since I became a wife two months ago. That's just a tidbit, it doesn't reflect in any way on what I thought of the book. (But I have a few titles in the wife-book category that I hope will soon follow it - whether I post on them or not!) 

I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would. The biggest turn-off for me was the author's writing style. Each chapter reads much more like a blog post than a book. Once I was able to get past it, and understood more about the author's background, the purpose of the book and its very real impact on the author's life came through clearly. She writes, "I’ve written other books. But this book was the first one that changed me, from the inside out, as I was writing it. It’s still changing me." (From the author's Proverbs31 blog

Sara Horn is the president of Wives of Faith, a ministry she started for military wives (her husband being in the Navy) and is also an author and speaker on the subjects of faith, marriage and military life. In the beginning of her book, she hears a sermon in church one day on what a Christian wife should be, out of that well-known passage Proverbs 31:10-28. At first she is very put off by the long list of this priceless woman's accomplishments, but as she reads and rereads the passage again later, she begins to wonder if it isn't so impossible to try and follow that role model, and if she couldn't be working at it a little harder. So, her year long experiment is sparked. For the next 12 months, Sara takes those eleven verses to heart and makes following their example her highest goal. 

There's a lot in her way. Her husband is in the Navy reserves with occasional work at a local radio station, and Sara has a few free-lance writing opportunities, but during her year-long experiment they face very slim times financially. During the year, her husband has a couple of brief deployments, and she works hard at being a mother to their third-grade son and a supportive wife while her husband is away. Later in the year, she ends up taking a full-time job in a different state, which not only forces them to uproot, but throws quite a wrench in her efforts to be who she refers to as Martha31 - the woman who seemingly can do everything, all with a cheerful smile. Throughout it all, Sara questions what the modern version of this woman looks like, how she would deal with being able to land a full-time job outside the home while her husband struggles to find work, how much she delegates, and more.
It was the honesty of Sara's writing that captured me. Not only are all the emotions there, but also all the insecurity and second guessing, all the frustration and discouragement felt when it seemed like yet again she was being thwarted in her good intentions. She doesn't meet it all with perfectly demure grace, but she does have the courage and humility to learn from all the bumps and trials that her family faces. While struggling with her passionate desire to minister to women and make a difference for good in their lives, she always puts her family first and does for them what must be done. 

I wouldn't say Sara and I are at all alike - quite the contrary. She expresses early on in the book how even when she and her husband were married while still in college, she never had a strong desire to be a homemaker, while I on the other hand have wanted nothing else. She puts her family first, but she also feels pulled to work and minister outside the home, wheras I am happiest on days I don't even have to go out grocery shopping. But we do have a few things in common - the knowledge that we are redeemed by God's grace, that we have been given families to love and serve, and that serving God and putting our families before ourselves and all else is the greatest ministry we can follow. 

Incidentally, Horn is at work on another book due out this August, which I will be looking forward to reading - if I remember it seven months from now.

Anne and I both have changed

When I decided to join the Reading to Know book club 2013 over at Carrie's blog, I thought January's reading challenge would be pretty easy. But honestly - it really was a challenge. Now, I hope my Montgomery-loving friends will not disown me after this post, but I really did not enjoy revisiting her books this time around. 

It had been quite a long time since I read Anne of Green Gables, so I checked out the audio CD. I do a lot of driving these days, and it worked out nicely. I didn't have to try and cram reading time in when I was home, and it made use of the hours of driving I put in each week. It wasn't the first time I've reread Anne of Green Gables - I lost count how many times I returned to that book when I was small. But this was the first time I haven't enjoyed it. Rather, I found it a bit annoying, and discovered some issues with Anne that my younger self never noticed. What struck me most is Anne's manipulative ways. Multiple times she looks soulfully up at her elders who are flustered by her mischief and antics, and opines 'How would you feel if you were a little orphan girl, and had never ______?," and she always wins them over. She props up her history book and then has a novel on her lap, "but she never once thought of being deceitful in what she was doing!" She refuses to go to school on account of hurt pride, and is allowed to, and for years is steadfastly unforgiving to the repentant offender. And it's all done in the name of imagination.

 Now, I'm not saying Anne is all bad - she is loves deeply and, for the most part, without reserve, and is loyal to the death to those she cares for. And of course, she is still a child, so I approve of the author giving her faults at all - there is nothing I like less than perfect child protagonists. But Anne's faults, while they are not really glorified, are not properly shown to be faults, either. Frequently an outburst from Anne is smoothed over by a dramatic apology from her, a "There now, that's all right" and a smile from the adult or adults involved, frequently joined with some justification of her wrongdoing - Rachel Lind deserved to be told off. It's true, the reverend's prayers were very dull. Gilbert had been quite rude. Perhaps the author did it to prevent from being overly moralistic, like Marilla's character so often is. But a good author can give their characters faults, know them and show them to be such, without being preachy and moralistic. Montgomery fails to do that. 
So, I'm left wondering what the point of Anne really is. It's a story of a girl with too much imagination who eventually grows up into a young woman ready to set off for college. She has grown up quite a bit over the course of the book, and many of her overtly manipulative ways have vanished. She even forgives Gilbert, at long last, and she is a likable character at the end of the book. (I cannot say so much for younger Anne.) But, on the whole, Anne of Green Gables is a book that I don't really get anything out of. It no longer interests me, it does not move or teach me or give me food for thought. I have no hard feelings against it - really, I haven't many feelings at all towards it. 

There was one other Montgomery book I attempted, Kilmeny of the Orchard. I got about 1/3 of the way through and then did not allow it to encroach upon my time any longer. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In which the author determines to read again

Time ebbs and flows. When you come to the shore and the tide is midway between the rocks and the wide sandy beach, it's hard to tell if it's coming in or going out. But if you've been standing by the sea and watching the moon drag it across its allotted piece of land, and seen it come in and felt waves on your feet, you almost begin to wonder if the current will pull you in and you'll lose all track of how time is rushing on and on.
And then it slowly begins to ebb again.
I've been busy. Now, with the getting-married business well taken care of, I do believe there may be calmer seas ahead for a bit. So I went ahead and made a New Year's resolution - Read More Books. The last book I read was Bleak House, and I didn't actually read it because I only made it halfway, and then for a month there was pre-wedding madness, and then for another month there was settling-in. Truly, I've had a wonderful time - I enjoyed almost every minute of planning my wedding and have enjoyed every single minute of being married. But it's time to get reading again! I feel a book-shaped hole inside that must be filled.
So, I logged into GoodReads again (We can be friends!
This is me.) and was dismayed that the books it said I was currently reading were in fact the last books I had read - and that was two months ago. A little updating was in order, though, and I am ready to set forth on my grandiose intent to read a minimum of 50 books in 2013 - without, as my friend Heather said, resorting to Beatrix Potter. Think I can do it?
I'll have help with accountability. The book club that meets in my mother's home is continuing, for which I am most thankful. Additionally, I am jumping on board with the book club at Reading to Know, hosted by my personal friend Carrie. In January, the reading material is any and all L. M. Montgomery. I'm having a hard time deciding which books to read, but I put Among the Shadows on hold at the library- tales of the supernatural by the creator of Anne?? I must know! Additionally, I am going to try Anne of Green Gables on audio CD. I'm not a fan of audio books. But I have an hour of commute time every day now, and if it means I can get some semblance of reading time in, so be it. And if I'm lucky, soon I'll be reporting back on my reading conquests!