In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been
a little reallllly quiet around this blog in April. Like, I don’t think I’ve gone this long without posting since I started this blog five years ago. WHOA. Sorry, guys. A month-long blog sabbatical was not my intention, but between attending the Festival of Faith & Writing at the beginning of April, Easter weekend, working on my book proposal again, and a loaded work schedule, this space has been neglected. Poor little blog. So sad. So alone.
But never fear! I have a comprehensive, in-depth, where-in-the-world-is-Bethany-Suckrow behemoth blog post for you today. I’ve been wanting to jump in with Leigh Kramer’s monthly What I’m Into syncroblog for forever, and since you didn’t hear from me at all this month, I thought I’d use this as a way to catch everyone up to speed.
I should be back to weekly posts starting next week, but until then, here’s what I’ve been into and up to in the month of April.
Books Read & Reading :
- The Book Thief. I could probably write a whole post just about this book, but I’ll just say that this novel is absolutely stunning. It’s YA fiction, but it’s just as powerful as any adult fiction I’ve read on the Holocaust and World War II. I was weeping by the end of it. The story is told in a very unique way, with Death as its narrator. The characters and setting are vivid, and the questions it asks about our participation in social power dynamics are really important.
- Rilke’s Book of Hours. I’ve been reading a couple pages each morning for the past few months, and it has done my heart so much good. Rilke’s words are so full of grace, and they linger in my mind long after I read them. This poem is my favorite so far.
- North of Hope. This memoir by Shannon Huffman Polson about losing her father and stepmother in a freak bear attack in northern Alaska is absolutely gripping. (Yes, you read that right. A bear attack. So horrifying and tragic. You can read the National Geographic story here.) Polson is a master with language, but also with lament as a form of writing. And actually, it was her session at Festival of Faith & Writing, “Writing as Lament” that acquainted me with her and her work. Just like her FFW session, her book is both heart-wrenching and healing.
- Found. I met Micha at the Festival of Faith & Writing, but I’ve been reading her blog for a couple years. Her spiritual memoir just released this month, so when we met at FFW I was lucky enough to get a signed copy. Found is a grace-infused story about losing prayer and finding it again through Benedictine spiritual practices. Though the circumstances of the book largely focus on spirituality through the lens of Micha’s experiences as a young mom, I’ve still found a lot to relate to in terms of incorporating prayer into my ordinary, hectic life.
My new friend Sarah Joslyn wrote about the bond we forged at the Festival of Faith & Writing for SheLoves Magazine, O, Hope. O, Sisterhood. It was beautiful and true, not just because it was about her and me, but because I think a lot of people (men and women alike) have experienced flash-in-the-pan relationships. Real friendship is so much deeper than that, but it takes a lot of trust and vulnerability to get there.
“We wept together over beauty and sadness and also because laughter sometimes has to drip from your eyes.”
Also on SheLoves, this post, What If God is a Woman Keeping Watch? is quite arresting.
“I see God as a friend in a well-worn bathrobe, God as the One who loves to hold my hands.”
And even more SheLoves loveliness (sensing a theme yet? I love that corner of the internet.), this time from Kelli Woodford, Can I See Your Belly Button?
“Somehow my willingness to let them see my imperfection up close and personal was planting seeds inside them. Seeds that would someday bloom into female relationships characterized by cooperation and trust, not competition and manipulation. Offerings they could take with them into locker rooms and beaches and classrooms and shopping malls and all the other places where the imperfect is seen as weak and where only the fittest survive.”
My friend Ben Moberg’s first post for Deeper Story, Grace for the Addict, was fantastic.
“By the third night, I snapped. ‘I can’t do it!’ I cried over the phone as I sat rocking on the dock, huffing and puffing like a little engine. Like the little addict I was.”
This post for Cup of Jo about infertility is incredibly moving, but I found this bit especially wise:
“If you’re seeking wholeness from another person—looking to your child or spouse or job—then when you encounter challenges in that relationship, you’re going to feel threatened … That’s a huge pressure on the other person. There’s no getting away from it until you decide to cut the cord and say, my wholeness is intact. It’s the most loving thing you can offer someone, because it allows you to absolutely love others and to stay stable, no matter what the circumstances are.”
My friend Dianna Anderson wrote this post last week, When Personhood is Not Enough, and as usual it was so challenging and brilliant. Even better, one of my college professors told me later that week that after she read the link I posted on Facebook, she used Dianna’s post in her Group Theory class! Made this alumna SUPER proud to know that these discussions are taking place at my alma mater (an evangelical institution, no less!) And it’s also just exciting whenever I see my friends’ important work make an ever-widening impact. Well deserved, Dianna.
This post from Sarah Bessey’s week in Haiti with Help One Now, In Which the Women of Haiti Make Me Stand Straight, is so powerful :
“These girls are getting an education. These girls will be able to read a deed to make sure they aren’t getting swindled. Their backs are straight on those tiny benches. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ we ask. Nurses. Teachers, Singers. One dream after another. These girls will lift Haiti, I think.”
And Addie Zierman struck a resonant chord with me on both these posts: When Depression Comes Back and The Five Stages of (Faith) Loss.
This series from Laura Tremaine, Why I Blog, is really informative and insightful. A lot of readers don’t realize the work it takes to maintain a blog, much less one that publishes content 3+ times a week (which is why I only post once a week, if I’m lucky.) If you’re wondering how blogging works, I’d highly recommending reading her series.
Favorite film I watched this month : Philomena. I love Judy Dench anyway, but this film is so powerful and she plays her role so beautifully. Bring kleenex, and also prepare to feel consumed with rage at the course of events, because it’s based on a true story.
Not-so-favorite : The Book Thief. I don’t know, a lot of people who read the book say they love this adaptation, but it just … felt too anesthetized for a younger audience to live up to the emotional weight of the book. Anyone else have thoughts about this?
Not-even-close-to-favorite : Gravity. It’s basically a two-hour simulated panic attack.
I’ve been in a bit of a rut when it comes to music recently. I gravitate toward indie folk (Feist, Glen Hansard, Josh Garrels, Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth), but I also love some pop and hip-hop (Lana Del Ray, Justin Timberlake, Macklemore) to keep my blood pumping during quiet afternoons at work. Any suggestions?
Favorite breakfast : The promise of a happy breakfast is the only thing powerful enough to get me out of bed in the morning. In the winter months, my go-to was a variation on this Joy the Baker oatmeal recipe. Now that it’s spring, I’m craving lighter fare. My new go-to is a dollop of Greek yogurt with diced mango, honey, and a dash of cinnamon, topped with almonds. SO YUM. And don’t forget the coffee.
Favorite meals this month :
- Sushi with Abi, Karita and Sarah at Fuji Yama during Festival of Faith & Writing. The conversation was delightful, too.
- A bowl of spicy soba noodles based on this recipe from DesignLoveFest. It’s such a quick meal and it pairs so well with a rainy Monday evening and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Homemade pizza. Hubs and I both love pizza, but our tastes in pizza differ greatly. He’s Chicago-born and raised so he has STRONG OPINIONS about toppings and crust style. Having been to Italy and eaten real pizza, I’m more in favor of a thin crust/margherita style pizza piled high with veggies. So the other night we decided that instead of compromising on a woefully dissatisfying frozen pizza or splurging on takeout, we’d each make our own. WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THIS SOONER. Mine had a thin glaze of tomato sauce topped with fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, shallots, mushrooms, spinach, basil and mozzarella. Heaven on a pizza crust if you ask me.
My Whereabouts :
Festival of Faith & Writing.
Where to start? Hands down, best conference I’ve ever attended, and for so many reasons:
- Cost : I wasn’t sure I could afford the cost of attendance, but by some miracle, everything fell into place and it fit within my budget. I was able to get a discounted ticket ($170) and find a couple of friends with whom I could travel & split hotel fare. And it was SO WORTH THE INVESTMENT. The caliber and range of speakers blew my mind.
- Favorite speakers + their best quotes :
Poet Luci Shaw is such a gem. Her session, “Work that Enfaiths,” was one of my favorites, especially this quote: “Faith is an act of believing in things unseen. Therefore, the glow of last month’s writing isn’t enough. You have to renew your faith in words yet unwritten. It is an act of spiritual discipline.” That’ll preach, Luci.
Jeff Chu was another festival favorite. His session, “In Praise of Bias,” shook me up in all the best ways, from making me weep as he read an essay about his mother making a meal for him and his husband to challenging me with thoughts about bias in the media. “A country gets the media it deserves,” he said, and I think he’s right. If we want a media that tells truer, more empathetic stories, then we need to be better consumers.
Eliza Griswold read several poems from her new book, “I Am the Beggar of the World,” a collection of poems by Afghan women. This one stopped my heart: “You sold me to an old goat, Father / May God strike you down / I was your daughter.”
Sharon Garlough Brown is a novelist and spiritual director. Her session on “Writing as the Beloved,” addressed common spiritual obstacles for writers and ways to overcome them. Her thoughts on envy and scarcity were especially challenging, and I’ll be blogging about what I learned from her next week. Stay tuned!
Anne Lamott also spoke at FFW, and you know what an Annie fangirl I am. “Art is about bringing good drinking water to a very thirsty world,” she said, and it’s so true. Her words have quenched my desperate spirit so many times.
And I loved Richard Foster‘s thoughts on the ethics of accurate language : “Using precise language can be a radical act of peace-making.” And this one: “Truth that is poorly expressed leaves us spiritually impoverished.”
- Community : But perhaps the best aspect of the conference was the community. Writers are, by nature, a rather isolated bunch. Festival of Faith & Writing brought us all together where we could sympathize with and encourage one another in our craft. I soaked up the rich conversations and chances to connect with all these wonderful people face-to-face. A few highlights:
Lunch with SheLovelies :
Dinner with Twitter peeps :
Reconnecting with Rachel Held Evans (we met the first time at STORY 2012) :
Hanging out with these two beautiful women. Meet my wonderful FFW travel buddies, Sarah Joslyn and Cara Strickland, whom I love dearly. We had an ah-maz-ing time together before, during, and after the festival. I even took them to my favorite spot on Lake Michigan on our drive back from FFW. And now I miss them like crazy. WHY DON’T I LIVE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST?! *sniffles*
Hiking with Kelli Woodford. Kelli and I met face-to-face for the first time at FFW, but we met up again the following Friday to hike through Matthiessen State Park together on a beautiful, warm spring day. It was so life-affirming to walk and talk for hours together about life, faith, and all sorts of randomness. I hope it happens again soon.
My Writing :
As I mentioned before, I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon this month, but it’s not for lack of writing. Some things are moving forward with my book, so it’s requiring all my attention right now as I write and edit, write and edit. I’m still in the proposal-refining stage and it’s vey time-consuming and some days I feel like it’s never gonna happen. But the way I see it, it’s like putting the scaffolding in place so that eventually the artist can get up there and paint. Not my favorite part, but it’s good, necessary work.
Things I love :
All the blooms. Spring, I’m so glad you’re finally here.
Other random favorites :
This shirt, a gift from Sarah Joslyn. She literally gave me the shirt off her back. She was wearing it on the Sunday after FFW and noticed me staring at the neckline detail in fascination (because hello, brass studs + navy blue shirt = totally rad). The next day she handed it to me and said she wanted me to have it because I liked it so much. What?! So I made her do a clothing swap with me. She took a tunic of mine in exchange, but I really feel like I got the better end of the deal. No one will care if I just wear it all day every day forever and ever, right? Because then I can have her with me always.
This lemon yellow Le Creuset mug, one of a pair that I received as a thank you gift from Cara for letting her travel with me to FFW. They’re so cheery and their color matches the heritage cocotte that my in-laws gave me for Christmas! Other than my Le Chat mug, I think these are probably my favorite.
My new haircut. That’s right, I gave my mane a little chop this month. It was close to the middle of my back, and now the shortest layers are just below my clavicle. It’s kind of a messy, wavy, long bob. I love it. It was uncharacteristically spontaneous of me to get it cut like this (I tend to be really neurotic about my hair, a story for another post). I’m so happy with it!
So that’s where I’ve been this month, friends. Props to any of you that actually read this whole thing. Stay tuned for a new post or two next week, and some excitement coming later this month. If you actually liked my What I’m Into post for Leigh’s syncroblog and want to see more round-ups like this in this space, say so in the comments. I’d do it again if I know people will read it! And tell me what you’ve been up to in April.
What were your favorite books, blogs, films, music, food, outings and other randomness this month?