Wednesday 22 June 2022

#bookreview: These Numbered Days | Anna E. Collins

These Numbered DaysThese Numbered Days by Anna E. Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What does it mean to stay?

Annie Wolff has returned to Snohomish after eight years to make sure that her now-teenage children, Connor and Grace, are doing okay and are being taken care of by their aunt and uncle after the death of their father. She plans to quietly check on them, and then just as quietly leave--but her plans are thrown into disarray when Connor confronts her and asks her to stay.

So she stays, while planning to leave again. Yet the longer she stays, the more she finds that the picture-perfect family she'd always imagined for her estranged family is far from the truth. And the more secrets she uncovers, the more she realises that as broken as she is, she may still be the best person to take care of her children.

These Numbered Days is a story about living with depression. There's a bleakness that seeps out of Annie's point of view, revealing the dark days of her past. There's a sense of hopelessness, of knowing that this curse runs through the women in her family, and the expectation that one day it's going to take over Annie's life as well and there is nothing she can do to stop it.

And yet, it's also a story of hope and grit. Of fighting for better days, fighting for herself and for her family. It isn't a smooth journey. With every step forward comes a new setback. But with every setback, Annie finds a new way forward--with the support of her children and her landlord, Wic Dubray.

What I loved most about this book was the family dynamics. It isn't perfect--in fact, many times, it feels like they just keep breaking apart. But there is a raw honesty in how they try to reconnect with each other despite their hurts and imperfections. I'm a fan of second chances and third chances and all the chances--and this story is really about that: finding the strength to forgive and support each other, not holding their past failures against them.

I wasn't so stoked on the romance, but that was mostly because I'm just going meh, does there really need to be a romance? Must she really have a man in her life to be complete?

Yet the truth is, she doesn't have to do it alone.

You don't have to be perfect to stay.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday 13 June 2022

#musicmonday: There Is a River | Jars of Clay

for all of your tears

are the wages for things you have done

and all of those nights

spent alone in the darkness of your mind

give it up, let go

these are things you were never meant to shoulder

Wednesday 1 June 2022

#bookreview: Buried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God's Call | Susan Harris Howell

Buried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God's CallBuried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God's Call by Susan Harris Howell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buried Talents was birthed from the question: If God calls women to pastor, why don't more churches have women leaders? 

And so Susan Harris Howell sets out to tell us why, or in her own words: to expose the subtle forms of socialization that pull women away from, and move men toward, leadership.

The title is tied to the parable of the talents and draws on Kristina LaCelle-Peterson's book, Liberating Tradition: Women's Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective, which asks:
"Would the returning master of the household be mollified if the excuse for burying one's talent was, 'I got married', or 'My husband didn't want me to'?"
Chapters 1 to 3 cover what gendered socialization looks like in the different stages of growth from childhood to adulthood, how it affects the development of a child (whether male or female), and simply how pervasive it is even if it is unintentional. Even where parents may proactively reject gendered socialization in the home, by the time a child goes out into the world, they will be exposed to such messaging. It can also be as subtle as what stories get highlighted in the media, where "Men are the norm; women, the exception. Men accomplish in ways that are notable; women, not so much."

One thing I found myself ruminating over in these chapters was the point Howell made about identity and how many women, especially in church settings, do not have an identity of their own--because boys are told that achievement is a worthwhile goal in and of itself, but girls are often told that whatever they do, they will need to sacrifice it for their spouse. Why then pursue something only to have to give it up? She ties this back to the Fall, saying that "the imbalance in the husband-wife relationship is the natural consequence of sin", later saying:
"In the light of this interpretation, men feeling good about themselves when they are better than women, and women not using God-given abilities to their fullest in order to please men makes perfect sense. "
That's one interpretation I have not really considered before.

Chapter 4 is a fictional case study of how gendered socialization often plays out in real life. I found it to be very realistic --but felt that a concluding paragraph might have helped me understand what these stories were for. As it is, they just...ended and were never referred to again. And so...?

Chapters 5 to 7 offer suggestions and practical steps on how to overcome gendered socialization starting with the home and our personal lives. It also covers the wider societal spheres of church, work, and businesses, and how one can actively push back against gendered messaging, sometimes by just being persistently present.

I think I expected a little more exposition or teaching on what the Bible says about gender equality, but Howell's target appears to be egalitarian Christians; in talking about building a support network, Howell does advise readers to consider whether [a complementarian] church is the best place to serve, worship, and grow. It's also not written specifically to women--some of the suggestions cover how husbands can support their wives and work towards an equitable arrangement that ultimately allows both of them to live their callings.

While Buried Talents is written for Christians and is published by a Christian press, I felt that it could also be read and appreciated by a general readership that is working towards gender equality at work and in the home. Though there are some sections that are specifically targetted towards Christians and the church (especially in relation to pastoring or church leadership), almost everything else is generally applicable to pursuing gender equality and more women in positions of leadership: just exchange "God's call" for "dreams" or "ambitions".

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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