Book Review

Author, Spoken-Work Poet, Prophet

Meet Amena Brown!

I love discovering new authors. Meet Amena Brown an author and spoken-word poet.

Her book How to Fix a Broken Record released in November and it’s a keeper.

Do destructive messages ever play like a broken record in your mind? I am raising my hand.

When God heals that broken record of your soul, you’ll be ready to step into your calling, speak up for what’s right, and dance your own story of God’s grace.

Amena shares truths with an exceptional sense of humor. Her book is divided into seven sections paired with a vinyl record: love and be yourself, dating, marriage, lessons in adulting, ctrl+alt+surrender, home, searching for the groove. Funny and profound. Full of faith.

The job of a poet is to be a prophet, and it is not the job of the prophet to only say the things that make people happy and comfortable. Sometimes poets must say the hard thing, must bring up sadness and anger lingering beneath people’s sentences and actions, must dismantle work by work and brick by brick the systems that oppress anyone who bears the image of God.

I am thankful for Amena’s prophetic voice. Her debut is beautiful, like her voice. A voice I hope to hear much more of in the future.

I’m giving away a copy of How to Fix a Broken Record. Just comment below to be entered to win. How do you stop destructive messages on repeat and rest in what God can do?

A Song of Home

I love having the opportunity to share the work of powerful voices in fiction and non-fiction.

The last chapter of Pearl Spence’s story releases today, from author Susie Finkbeiner. Pearl navigates childhood through the Dust Bowl, The Great Depression, and now as a pre-teen the Swing Era. Susie is a master at writing vivid characters and Pearl is actually based on her own Grandma!

Hard times have the power to change people”

Pearl knows hard times deep down in her soul. She knows abandonment, poverty, and prejudice. What I appreciate most about Susie as an author is her ability to write what is real and hard. Her stories don’t find perfect beauty or happy endings. Yet, they always hold fast to hope.

In her Aunt Carrie and her best friend Ray, the town librarian and Opal, Pearl finds home.

 

When hard times befall us, we ask ourselves the same question.

What is home?

What is steady in hard times?

Home is who holds us in love and us them in return.

Over here at About Proximity, we navigate hard places where we desperately need God’s justice.

In the same way, Susie navigates hard through her fictional characters, place in time, and the gift of story. We are thankful for her voice and all the ways she challenges us.

Follow Susie Finkbeiner on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

What is home to you?

Meet Jessica Ronne

For those wishing for a different answer…

For those who have asked why…

For those who have cradled heartbreak and felt shattered dreams…

For those who hope through pain…

 

Meet Jessica Ronne, author of the memoir Sunlight Burning at Midnight.

As a young mother, Jessica faces the terminal diagnosis of her son. Choosing life, a son Lucas is born with a life-changing disability. His name meaning, “bringer of light.”

A few years later, Jessica’s husband Jason is diagnosed with a Glioblastoma brain tumor.

After six years of marriage, she becomes a widow with four children.

Jessica’s shares her journey with honesty. Her story is beautiful because she allows readers into her heart, the pain and the hope alike. She doubts, wrestles and pleads. She clings to her faith and the God she knows to be good. We are assured that not having all the answers can be a holy response.

In the end, two stories of heartbreak are made into something beautiful, something as unexpected as sunlight burning at midnight.

Isaiah 61:3 And provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

 

Visit Jessica at Jess Plus the Mess or via social media on Facebook or Instagram. Her family’s adventures and her unwavering faith are an encouragement to all who follow her journey.

Comment below to be entered to win a copy of Sunlight Burning at Midnight.

How do you hang onto faith in hard times? 

Hold Fragile Hope

I love Susie Finkbeiner’s writing, because her stories don’t portray life to be glossy perfection.

The endings do not tie life up with a fancy bow.

Her characters struggle. They navigate difficult times. Answers do not come easily. Faith is tested.

Somehow her words continue to hold fragile hope.

Seemed to me the God who hung the stars and spread the waters over the earth could do something so small as that.”

We live in a time that could be looked back upon as a trying period. I think we can learn so much from the voice of Pearl.

Hers was a song of hope.”

A Trail of Crumbs is the sequel to A Cup of Dust. Narrator Pearl Spence, knows enough loss to fill a lifetime. Her family has lived through the Dust Bowl and now navigates The Great Depression. In the midst of loss they leave Oklahoma for Michigan. As they establish a new home, everything Pearl knew shifts and settles uncertainly.

The storyline follows all the members of her family and how they face grief, transition and change differently.

 

Learn more about her work and previous books at susiefinkbeiner.com. The third book in the series A Song of Home releases February 2018 and takes place during the Swing Era.

If you love book recommendations, follow Susie’s ever-growing bookshelf on Instagram.

Leave a comment to win a copy of A Trail of Crumbs.

How do you hold onto hope during hard times? 

Pray A-Z

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Meet the talented Amelia Rhodes, a speaker and author from West Michigan! Check out her free resources on prayer. Her new release is Pray A-Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community.

A verse, ideas, and a prayer accompany each topic A through Z on topics that help us uplift those in our communities. I love the range of topics: abundance, emergency responders, homeless, justice, refugees, teachers, zero prejudice.

a-zpray

How many of your meal time prayers sound like this, “Thank you God for our food. Amen.” Or you say that you’ll pray for a certain person, but in the busyness of life completely forget. Sometimes it’s just easy to have prayer block and not even know where to start when you want to talk to God.

This guide is perfect for families to use together.

  • help your kids learn about issues that affect families and people in your community
  • think of people you know that might need prayers for a specific topic
  • learn about praise, petition, and listening to God’s answers
  • consider who God is through prayers of praise
  • pray together as a family

As we pray for our communities’ deepest needs, we bring God’s light into the darkest corners. As we praise Him, we come to appreciate the glory and beauty of His creation.

We know prayer is powerful.

God hears us and longs for us to talk to him about everything.

Our communities, families and friends need to be uplifted and that is something we can give.

 

Comment below to be entered to win a copy of the book. How do you pray as a family? 

(I received a copy of Pray A-Z as a part of Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour.) 

hope.

hope

This past week was spring break in Michigan. And it snowed, rained and sleeted most of the time. It was also cloudy, dark and cold. I’m not going to lie, we were all a little stir crazy. We did read a lot. Including Josiah’s new obsession with being read the Lord of the Rings out loud. People, it takes like twenty years for the hobbits to get out of the Shire…

Whenever I struggle, I read hard books. Kris often teases me about what sad book I am reading next. I read hard books, not because they are sad topics, but because of the proximity and perspective they give me. They fill me with hope and remind me of my purpose in Christ. I want to understand the stories of people and how to make a difference. When I want to wallow in my own uncertainties, I’m reminded of how much I have been given. Speaking of wallowing, read this great piece by Janyre Tromp. She’s the author at Ugly, Beautiful Me and I think you’ll love her.

This is what I’ve been reading…
evictedEvicted by Matthew Desmond.

Homelessness in America.

 

 

 

 

$2.00 a Day Living on Almost Nothing in Americapoverty

by: Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

Extreme poverty in the United States. Low-wage labor market.

 

 

 

poverty 2The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives

By: Sasha Abramsky

Economic inequality for the chronically poor and working poor.

 

 

 

Born Survivors by: Wendi Holden born survivors

Three young women and their babies born in a concentration camp.

Such defiant hope. courage. life in the face of death.

 

 

 

SHofcoFind Me Unafraid

By: Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

Love. Loss. Hope. Kenya.

 

 

 

Keeping Hope Alivehope

by: Dr. Hawa Abdi with Sarah J. Robbins

Dr. Hawa and her daughters run a refugee camp on their family farm close to Mogadishu, Somalia. The camp has provided for nearly 90,000 refugees.

 

 

Hard things are happening in the world, but hope always prevails.

We can be part of that hope. I want very much to be.

 

What are you reading?

Also… I would love to give away my copy of Brooklyn, it is so sweet and fiction. (just leave a comment to be entered.)

 

And It Was Beautiful

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I was here. I saw beauty. I embraced it.

Kara Tippetts is the author of The Hardest Place, and co-author of Just Show Up. Her last book And It Was Beautiful offers thoughtful responses to living and dying well. Kara passed away March of 2015 after battling cancer, leaving behind her husband and four children. She blogged faithfully at Mundane Faithfulness. Where you can still read her reflections and also new material carried forward by those close to her.

After I read Kara’s work I feel my heart softening. Could I celebrate life in the midst of the long good-bye? I might not be as gracious as she was, but I hope that I could learn. I think that is what she leaves us with. Her gentle love for a savior.

She loves despite her prayers not being answered the way she would have wanted. She wrestles. Maybe we all need to be a little more transparent about how hard life can be. How disappointing, scary, sad, and just plain angering it all can be sometimes. And also beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful that we get to live for Christ here in an imperfect world.

 

She reminds us to live in a way that each breath is an Amen.

Where we are thankful for the time we are given.

Where we see God’s faithfulness to us even in the mundane.

Where we know how desperately we need community to keep going.

Where we lean into how close God is to our hearts.

 

In her last days, she read to her children as they crowded into bed with her. I’d like to share a small part of her chapter, that I feel sums up so much.

Last night we finished the chapter that ended so tenderly, the one where Harry and Ron accepted Hermione as their friend: “But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” We loved it. You see, we get it, the hard, and how you have to do it together, and how that glues you.

Thank you to Kara, for gently leading us to acknowledge a God that loves, even in the hard we do not understand, who beckons us to wrap our arms around each other, because only then do we truly live.

I will be giving away a copy of And It Was Beautiful. Just leave a comment and I will draw a name. Know that I am very grateful to be living life with all of you.

 

Soul Rusting Times

blackout1

Have you heard of blackout poetry? You can see some great examples here, along with the book by Austin Kleon. Learn more about the newspaper blackout project here. Give it a try… you might find it addicting. I think I do.

This was my first try:

impossibly. a thousand feet. bone tired. my soul rusting. dark times. 

startlingly beautiful. from afar. deep. sacred place. 

 

It didn’t surprise me that an article stripped down to these words emerged. I’ve been wrestling with all kinds of tangled emotions in the last months. Soul rusting times can led to sacred places in your journey. Sometimes I just don’t want to hear that, like the Sunday morning I walked out of church and all the way home. I didn’t want to sing praise songs, when I was angry at God. You know what, he walked right home with me. He doesn’t leave us, even in our struggle. What he does in us is startlingly beautiful, even if we won’t know the depth of it all until heaven. You are there God, loving us.

 

I would love to introduce you to someone who understands this. Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She blogs regularly here. I think you will find her beautiful, thoughtful, wise and funny. Also real.

cupofdustWhy I love her as a writer is she is not afraid to tackle messy and difficult.

Her lastest novel is A Cup of Dustwhich takes place during the Dust Bowl. Pearl Spence, though only ten, is resilient in the midst of a trying and dark time. No matter where we come from, we can be assured that we are loved. You will be challenged by her voice and spirit. (best of all, Susie is currently working on a sequel to A Cup of Dust.) 

Comment here to win a signed copy of the book! How are you reminded of God loving you, even during times full of the dust of doubt?

Simple Giving

Comments 0JenniferSimpleGiving

Meet Jennifer Iacovelli, a fellow Global Team of 200 member, and writer of Simple Giving Lab and Philanthropy Friday’s. Jennifer encourages readers to give back by featuring organizations that make a difference and practical ways for readers to get involved. I appreciate the spirit of giving that she enfolds in her writing and all she does.

Her new book comes out this week, Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day

 

In her book, Jennifer outlines six models for giving from everyday acts of kindness to giving as a business model. She shows that we don’t have to put giving in a box of solely giving time or giving money. There are countless ways to shape our lives around generosity. Each chapter offers action steps and resources to encourage readers to grow in giving. She also shares the stories of many organizations and individuals.

My favorite story in the book shares Jennifer’s experience traveling with Mom Bloggers for Social Good to Nicaragua with WaterAid America. She didn’t let her experience end when she returned. An avid athlete, Jennifer trains with WolfPack Fitness. On the following World Water Day, she planned a fitness event where the workout revolved around water (pumping water, carrying water). Her group was able to raise money and awareness to support the program she visited in Nicaragua.

Take what you love and find a way to intertwine it with giving.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are at- Teddy Roosevelt

 

I have a copy of Simple Giving to give away! Comment for a chance to win.

What is your favorite and most simple way of giving back? 

jenniferiacovelli

Jennifer is a writer, speaker and consultant. She helps entrepreneurs, bloggers, and nonprofits tell their story. Her website is Another Jennifer Writing Lab. You can follow her at facebook and twitter. You can follow Simple Giving Lab at facebook and twitter. She is based in Brunswick, Maine.

Just Show Up

JustShowUp

Just Show Up, written by the late Kara Tippetts and her friend Jill Lynn Buteyn.

Kara Tippetts wrote at Mundane Faithfulness and the blog has continued on by her close friends. She also wrote The Hardest Peace and the ebook Big Love. Kara lost her battle with terminal cancer in this past spring. Her writing is full of courage and grace only Jesus could inspire.

 

How do you walk through suffering together? The answer does not come easily, because sometimes life is really, really hard, like dying of cancer when you are a young mom of four. Just Show Up talks about friendship and the simple act of being there.

Showing up means opening ourselves to suffering and it takes courage.

Showing up also means a life lived beautifully for God, even when answers feel so far away.

Kara and Jill show us how to navigate suffering in all its messiness. They show us God’s faithfulness through friendship and community. They inspire us to show up for people in our lives, even when it’s hard.

ministryofpresence

The ministry of presence. 

We might not always do it perfectly. I know I have not. The most important thing is trying to show up because it means everything.

“It may be some of the best work we do in our lives.” Kara Tippetts.

 

This week I am going to be thinking about the ministry of presence.

What does that mean to you? 

(I’ll be giving away a copy of Just Show Up)