So, everybody’s got a story, right? No matter who they are, where they’ve been, or how they land in your life, every person you meet has got a story. On top of that, as Avis so wisely shares, “…every story has two sides, maybe more.”
The chapters we read this week are full of information, aren’t they? We get to see the challenges of going deeper in relationship with others, and the beauty of pressing through the rough spots when our differences threaten to pull us apart.
Honestly, I don’t know where to land this week. There are so many stories from these ten chapters that we can unravel and discuss together, so I’m going to hand the mic to you, and dive right into the questions for this week’s reading:
- What surprised you the most in this week’s reading?
- What was your greatest disappointment? Why?
- What one thing are you learning about yourself as we read this book together?
If you’re up for it, feel free to write more about this book club, these chapters, or something you’re learning from this experience. Write out your thoughts in the comment section, or in a blog post at your own place. If you write a blog post, feel free to link it here.
I was most surprised this week by Ruth’s confession of her involvement in foster care. I guess I was suspecting that her response was due to an extended family member’s involvement, not her own. My greatest disappointment in this week’s chapters was the continuing superficiality of the characters. I was hoping to see at least a hint of depth in Jodi, but, no. One thing I am learning about myself as we read this book together is that I am more frustrated than I thought I was at the portrayal of Christian women as superficial, shallow, sentimental people. And, yet, I have a difficult time even explaining what I mean by that. Since I don’t usually read this type of book, maybe I am unaware of books like this out there that reveal how the Word is influencing the characters, describe the process of the characters’ sanctification within the narrative, etc. (I sound like a grouch every time I respond! 🙂 )
You don’t sound like a grouch at all! I’m always grateful for your perspective, Lisa.
The first time I read this book, it was ten years ago. At that time, my life was so different and I hadn’t experienced as much of life as I have now. Reading the book this time around, I go back and forth between thinking the characters are superficial and admiring their faith. I almost said, “their simple faith,” but I don’t want to belittle their stories (even though this is fiction).
I know Christian women who live out their faith in the ways this book depicts. Sometimes it irritates me, and sometimes it amazes me. Sometimes, naive is the word that comes to mind. But then I wonder what that says about me, you know? I want to be thoughtful in my approach to faith; I want to be a critical thinker in my approach to God. That gets me trouble sometimes and, in those moments, I admire the women like the ones in this book.
On the other end of that same spectrum, however, I have a great dislike for most “Christian movies.” The stories seem fluffy and the promise of no troubles if you simply trust in God don’t line up with my real life experiences. Despite the tears and celebration at the happy endings, I find myself frustrated by what I often think is a not-so-accurate depiction of a life of faith. But, I have to remember there is a component of entertainment in those genres—they are “feel good” movies. And, God does answer prayer, sometimes even in a way that blows my mind in all the best ways.
I’ve read all the books in this series, and I’m trying to remember if anything changes with regard to your valid frustrations. I can’t remember, though. And, now I have rambled all through this comment. Bottom line? I hear you, and thanks so much for sticking with it, and for continuing to engage the conversation!
Lisa Dye Norris
Lisa and Deidra….. I continue to have frustration through reading this book and I think my primary reason is that all information is funneled through Jodi’s point of view. While not belittling the women’s faith as ‘simple’, I struggle with feelings that I am missing a piece of the information for each of the women. As I continue reading (even though all is unfolding through Jodi), I do get glimpses into the lives of the others by the sharing they are beginning to do.
I don’t think you are grouchy either, Lisa. This is what I love about a book club, hearing through others. I am seriously blessed by that and grateful, too, for the voice of the other person (people) in my ear. When I read other people’s responses, it makes me go back and think again.
Deidra, it’s a relief that I’m not the only one that doesn’t go right for the Christian movies. I just had a conversation with my husband this week that I would rather see a thought provoking “secular movie” than a feel good everything works out in the end Christian movie. Which at times makes me feel like a traitor. I know, I hope, they have good intentions. But I think it leaves opportunity for people to just hear a “feel good gospel” or guilting them into a confession of faith.
I feel the same way about most Christian movies. It’s hard to find those that portray life realistically. I even have some qualms about War Room even though it does try to show the importance and power of prayer. Like you said, though, there are times when God does answer prayer in mind-blowing ways. And to remember that these movies are also meant to entertain. Thanks for having these discussions, Deidra!
It surprises me, Jodi lives where she lives, and teaches and has no idea, what is going on in the community around her.
Oooh, how I would love for you to say more about that, Debra.
Lisa Dye Norris
Speak, Debra! It seems as if she is really consumed by the life they had living in the other community and not wanted to become invested in where she is now.
Agree! She does seem to be living in her former neighborhood still. I have this feeling a lot when reading about her.
I agree Debra! It reminds me of the belief that missionaries should be sent to other countries but what about the cultures here around us?
Oooh, how I would love you to say more about that, Debra!
Lisa Dye Norris
Greetings all! What surprised me most was Avis’ story about she and her husband’s cancer journey. I am appreciating the relationship developing between the group, as they are going below the surface to consider some deeper and more meaningful issues. I am aware that things have to move in a less-than-typical manner because we are not getting the full scope of all characters and we have to read between the lines for those ‘voices’ that are not directly spoken from the characters’ points of view.
This week, I am enjoying how open Yo-Yo is to ask questions about believing. Hearing much of Yo-Yo’s conversation is leading me to learn how to take more time to listen to how others share their faith and not be so quick to add my own insight about my understanding of faith from my experiences.
I’m kind of with you, Deidra. There is so much stuff in this section it’s hard to know where to start. I meant to participate more with these discussions, but I got really busy. I’m finally caught up in the reading.
I think what surprised me the most in this section was that Avis, who always seemed so proper, always holding it together, really let loose in telling her cancer story. But I think it was an ice breaker of sorts for her. Up to this point we don’t know much about her at all. Now we find out that she also lost her husband to cancer. Sometimes I find myself being like Avis in the sense of always being ready to pray for someone else, but not sharing my own struggles. I think I’m getting better about that now. Everyone has struggles and we need each other.
One thing I liked is how the author brought out through Yo-Yo’s questions that not everyone is familiar with the words and phrases we throw around as Christians. Too often we assume everyone knows what we are talking about, but many don’t have a clue. It shows how we need to be more ready to listen to others and hear their stories no matter how different from our own they may be. Also that we should not judge others by what we see. We don’t know what all is hidden under the surface and what heartache they may be hiding.
When the reason was made known for Ruth’s comment about children may be better off with the foster parent, it helped show light on why she made that statement. I love how Avis comes in and shows that both of their stories are valid and both worth praying about.
There is a lot we don’t know about many of the characters but I think the author does a good job of making us want to know more. I haven’t finished the book yet, so I don’t know what comes next.
As I read through the book I see my younger self as being a little like Jodi in that I wasn’t really too informed about people different from me. I just kept to my Christians friends, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. Through the years, though, God has opened my eyes to realize that every person is important. I don’t have to be afraid to share my faith, I just have to live out my faith in ways that show God’s love and be willing to listen, jot judge.
Some of the adults in my life as I was growing up led me to believe that drinking, dancing and smoking were wrong, so I avoided people who did those things. I was shy and didn’t know how to relate. I probably would have been just like Jodi when she confronted her husband about the beer. In fact, I was even surprised as a young married mom when a pastor who helped us move into our new home pulled out some beer. I’m past that now and we enjoy wine and my husband drinks beer. (I would drink beer but never acquired a taste for it.) I no longer see it as being wrong although my mom is still very adamant about it.
I know that Jodi does seem very immature at times, but when you are brought up in a culture telling you that certain things are wrong when they are just opinions, it’s very hard to shake that kind of thinking. I think that Jodi is slowly changing and becoming more open, but it takes time. Maybe this is what the author is trying to show. You don’t change your thinking overnight.
I hope this isn’t too long. LOL Guess I just wanted to get the thoughts out and join the conversation.
Yes! the dynamic that Yo-Yo brings with her innocent questions when we so often speak “Christianese”. I was a little impatient with Jodi’s impatience with Yo-Yo and her questions.
Yes, a lot of stories this week. The characters are all becoming 3-dimensional now. Love that!
1. Surprised me the most – Dignified and professional Avis getting the giggles and finally allowing herself to share a funny, personal story. (Also, a not-so-funny bit of news.)
2. Disappointed me – the invitation to the rave slipping in like that. Why? I just want to throw a big, protective blanket over all kids. Also, it’s such a step of faith to open your home and welcome people. It’s so much easier (but not healthier) to insulate oneself, not become involved. Opening yourself to relationship allows for so many good things to happen. I don’t like that it also opens the door for bad things. Love involves risk. All kinds of love involve risk.
3. One thing I’m learning about myself as we read together – I miss having a group to meet and pray with. I’m going to start praying about that and see what presents itself.
Marilyn, I completely agree with your notes on opening up to relationships, and that love involves risks. I’ve often gotten in trouble with my husband for wanting to invite others I’m acquainted with but don’t know well, to stay in our spare bedroom for a weekend when they needed it. Or for trying to move us to a part of town where people don’t look like me. (He’s latino so our neighborhood doesn’t look like him to begin with.)
I’m with everyone, so many stories! I enjoyed getting to know more of the personalities of the group, but at the same time had a little trouble keeping up since it all came at once. Avis’ comment that every side has two stories, maybe more, hit home with me. It’s a reoccurring theme in my life that I am trying to live intentionally, and remember that even the people that I don’t automatically get a long with, or have hurt me, have their own stories.
1. I’m also surprised at Avis sharing her experience. But not the timing she chose to share it, and what an encouragement it was to Chanda. I admire her vulnerability there, but also how she was able to open up in a light hearted way and share humorous stories about it.
2. Disappointments – two things with Jodi. i understand her background with alcohol and wanting to be careful, but it aggravates me when I read how pushy she is with her husband. I grew up in a culture where alcohol was completely off limits and a sin. And as an adult have learned how to be responsible and that it’s okay to enjoy it, but would not intentionally put another that I know struggles, in an uncomfortable situation. I think that her husband teaching her children what it looks like to drink responsibly is a great example, that she is not seeing because of her fear that the past will repeat itself. My other disappointment here is her comments on the cultures she is finding herself in. I nearly drool at the thought of participating in a Yada Yada group with all the back ground they have. But she seems to want to control how the group functions and make sure she gives the right impression, a very “older brother” perspective I think. And it especially hit home when she mentioned working with her kids from all different cultures. I think that white americans tend to push their own agenda of “this is how things work” even when going abroad, I witnessed it in my own travels abroad. And I just think she is missing out on a sweet opportunity to celebrate each kid and their culture.
3. What I’m learning about myself… is reconfirming that I would love to have a more diverse circle of friends. I haven’t figured out how to make it happen without approaching an acquaintance and saying “I want you to be my African American/Indian American/Pakistani American friends. I want to know you and learn from you, and share life.” without it coming across as an a white american girl doing a social psychology experiment, or coming in with solutions. Because I don’t have the solutions. But I have sincerity in my heart to have those types of relationships. I’m very sensitive to “projects” and don’t want someone to feel like I’m making a project of them.
Deidra, I”m loving the book, and the discussion in the comments.
Thank you so much for hosting this book club, Deidra. 1) A few different things surprised me, but I’ll share here that I was surprised that the state could lose Florida’s daughter’s paperwork. I mean, completely lose it… so that a little girl could go “missing” for five years. And then, Stu, who didn’t even work for DCFS, could find her. That whole scene surprised me. 2) I was disappointed that Jodi put two and two together about meeting Florida (when she was begging for money) and mentioned it in front of the entire group. I think a discovery like that should have been discussed between Jodi and Florida first in private… it was Florida’s story to tell – not Jodi’s. 3) I’m learning that I still must discipline myself to see another’s perspective. I must discipline myself to look beyond my own bias and view a situation from someone else’s eyes.
Yes! I’d forgotten about Jodi telling that to the whole group. I wanted so much to get her aside and whisper, “no, no, no, don’t say it in front of everybody.”
A lot going on in these chapters! 1)I too, was surprised by Avis’ story, at least the part about the smiley face. It seemed out of character for what we know about her so far in the story. 2)Jodi continues to be a disappointment. I won’t go so far as to say I don’t like her, but based on what we know about her – her and her husband purposefully moving into this part of town, being married for 20 years, and having two teenagers, I just expect her to be more mature. I was also disappointed in Florida’s response, but I realize the situation is probably too raw for her to be able to think about others involved. Hopefully, we will see her grow here. 3)Hmm, I’m going to have to give this question some thought! and get to reading the next ten chapters! Yikes!
What surprised me most this week was the scene in which Jodi had her nails done at Adele’s. Emotion just welled up inside me all of a sudden, and I was just struck with the feeling that I wanted to get down on my knees and wash Adele’s feet. We never really know others until we are at the place when we allow ourselves to see what is HARD to see, do we? It was hard for me to “see” this scene, but also beautiful. Adele’s gritty grace was unexpected beauty!
The greatest disappointment was that Jodi seems to still get so tangled in the little stuff, with so much grand glory happening all around her. And maybe I felt a little convicted about that tendency in my own life… How does it happen that one minute I am just praising God for his goodness, and the next rolling my eyes about the trash not taken out by one of the sweet blessings he has entrusted to my care?
And finally, I am learning that I often make things too complicated. My favorite line so far of the book is, “The wall I put between us…I am sorry. Can you forgive?” (ch. 27). The formula to break down the walls is often that simple: own my sin, repent of it, and extend my hand in hope. Whether it works every time, or not, it is a necessary process if I really want to follow Jesus. I want to remember, and practice, this principle.
Reading along with this community is making me read with greater introspection! Thanks!