Review: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

This was the first book I ‘checked out’ through the employee loaner program at the book store I just got a job at – and I’m so glad I did! I’m going to talk about religion in this post, which is something I’ve never really done before on the blog, but in the interest of being honest for myself in the future (man do I go back and read my own blog posts way too much!), this book came along at just the right time in my spiritual life, which is perhaps the thing I love most about it.

This book came in to my life at a time when I was again thirsting for Christ – stronger for ever before – and this book just put fuel on the fire. It’s Katie’s memoir about giving up everything good she had as a thin, white, pretty, smart American girl in order to move to Uganda, adopting 12 young orphan girls, and starting multiple branches of a not for profit organization that serves some of the poorest children of the community with food, education, and faith. Katie adopts not only these young girls, but also the belief that, in order for “the least of these” (as Jesus calls them) to know what Jesus’ love is like, they have to know what love is like – what it’s like to have a parent, someone bandaging your ouchies and keeping the nightmares away and laughing with you and telling you you matter. That’s what God does for us. That’s what Katie believes, and I’m overjoyed to be able to say it to you all that I believe that, too. And I don’t judge you if you don’t. I don’t condemn you if you don’t. I pray for you and I love you and I hope there’s a way I might be able to help you see what I see. That’s why it was so awesome to read Katie’s book. She see’s it. She helped show it to me.

“God reminded me how beautiful we all are to Him, after all, we were created in His own image, and He looks at me, at you, in all our sweat and dirt and brokenness, and says, “I choose you. You are beautiful.”

“The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.”

I find Katie inspirational – and her book uplifting – because it’s an example of what can happen if you get up every day and just ask “What can I do for You and Your people today, God?”. Katie founded Amazima, sponsoring over 500 Ugandan children in providing their education and school supplies, raising money for local medical treatment, and while she say’s it’s never easy, it’s truly easy to be jealous of the happiness and joy that shines from her eyes in every picture you see. I don’t know yet if my calling is to leave my life and journey to a location like Africa. I don’t think it is. But I know that my calling – all of our calling, really – is to show love. And I can do that right here in the life I’m living.

“We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

A Love that Multiplies: A Duggar Review

So, I love the Duggars. I do. I can’t help it. I understand that many don’t agree with the number of kids they’ve had, the way they’ve decided how many children to have, and many of the religious, political, or cultural viewpoints that they hold. And I get that. But here’s my caveat – they may have 20+ children, but they’re all so polite, kind, generous, and respectful. And they have faith. And they actually stick to their moral code (as zealot-y as that might be), which isn’t something that we can say about a lot of the other families we see in the reality TV world. And I don’t have any intention of having anywhere near that many children – but if my kids could turn out like the Duggar kids, I’d be exstatic.

This is actually the second book that the Duggar family has written. Their first book, written just as Anna and Josh were getting married, focused more on the practicalities of running a household that large. This second book seems to focus more on the children themselves – including separate chapters on the girls and boys and the ways in which Jim Bob and Michelle go about preparing the different genders for their roles in life. The book also goes in to how the Duggar’s encourage character and moral development, putting a special emphasis on parental attitude and how much that has to do with raising children.

I want to say a couple of things about reading this book. First, it was an incredibly quick read. It’s written from alternating first-person-perspective (meaning that the narrator always refers to themselves as “I”, but then it’s notated in parenthesis whether the “I” refers to Jim Bob or Michelle) which can get a little bit distracting at times. There were also tips and tricks on time saving and organization, as well as a couple of recipes scaled to feed the Duggar family. This book begins with the tumultuous birth of the last Duggar babie, Josie (which many of you may/probably saw on television), and discusses how that situation tested their faith before moving on to the more “practical” sections of the book. This book is VERY scripture heavy, but as a conservative Christian family, that shouldn’t surprise any reader going in to it.

I think the thing I love the most about this book is that it showed me a way that Christian child rearing can be accomplished in a way that inspires a serving heart, respect for elders, and the foundation of faith. I don’t agree with all of the Duggar’s beliefs (I’m not a conservative Republican or a Young Earth Creationist) but I am proud Christian woman just beginning to push myself to grown and expand in my faith while finding a way to keep that going life-long. I think that’s what the Duggar family is full of – Christian believers looking to be on fire for God. And I bless them in that.

It’s not literary. It’s not enlightening. But it’s inspiring, and a great look behind the biggest family on TV.

Thoughts On: The Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch

“It is not the emotion of love, solely and independent, that is important. It is the people I love who hold the world steady for me.” – Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

This book is part of the reason I finally came to terms with the fact that my original purpose for this blog was no longer working, and I needed to change it up drastically if I wasn’t going to abandon this blog – and perhaps even reading – for a good long while. Hearing Nina’s story of a year spent reading a book every day for a year (literally. She stops working, cuts way back on cleaning the house, and delegates responsibilities to her family, all so she can sit in her purple armchair in her study everyday, starting and finishing at least one book) made me realize that reading wasn’t supposed to be a task or a chore – even if you’re making sure to carve out time for it every day. Reading is a life-affirming action, with the capacity to take us to different places and times and, while we’re there, teach us things about the how and now we’re living. And these lessons don’t just reside within the “classics”, but within all stories. After all, humans are a story-based creature. Long live the narrative!

“As old Aunt Elinor states in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, ‘Books loved anyone who opened them, they have you security and friendship and didn’t ask anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. Love, truth, beauty, wisdom, and even consolation against death. Who had said that? Someone else who loved books.'”

Anyway, Nina decides to read a book a day for a year a few years after her sister, Anne-Marie, passed away of cancer. Anne-Marie went from diagnosis to losing her battle with the disease very quickly, and although Nina spent the next few years afterwards rushing from place to place, person to person, trying to live double in order to make up for the life that Anne-Marie lost, she realizes that what she needs to do more than anything is to just. stop. running. To sit down and deal with the things she’s been feeling since Anne-Marie died: responsible, guilty for living, and, above all, heartbroken and missing her sister.

“Words of love will keep us warm, even through the last days of winter.”

Wow. Let me tell you. Reading about Nina’s journey through books was powerful in a number of ways. I didn’t recognize a single book title she mentions, but she made each one of them seem like a work of art, and there have been quite a few titles added to me Immediately To Be Read book pile (as opposed to my Read Soon pile or my Want To Read When I Have The Chance Between Other Books pile). But there is more to it than that. The way Nina writes about losing Anne-Marie, the pain and the feelings of guilt because she remains and Anne-Marie is gone, it was hard to read. It brought to mind thoughts of what it will be like to one day lose my mother, an inevitability that I don’t dwell on, but that frightens me more than any other possible event. There were some passages that were almost too hard to get through – moments when Nina describes the last few days she spent with Anne-Marie, both of them knowing that there wouldn’t be countless hours left or endless time to say what needed to be said. It was agonizing, but it was beautiful.

“Anne-Marie is defined by everything that she was to me…she will continue to shape me, direct me, and advise me. She pulled me toward my year of reading a books a day, spurring me on with our shared love of books and my desire to read all the volumes upon volumes that we might have read together. I have learned, through books, to hold on to my memories of all the beautiful moments and people in my life, as I need those memories to help me through difficult times.”

The second thing I loved most about Sankovitch’s writing is her ability to create multifaceted, deep, sensory-filled scenes. When she writes reflecting on her summers as a child, it’s enough to make me picture similar days of my own, and although our childhoods were spent years and miles apart, there is a kind of nostalgic longing and romanticism about remembering. Part of my love for these sections may come from the fact that, having recently graduated, and with my college town buzzing with impending summer graduation (I was a winter grad), its getting easier and easier to sink in to that year-end reminiscing that always seems to accompany the warmer weather this time of the year. Take this passage, which was one of the ones I’ve gone back to re-read about a dozen times in just a day or two:

“I remembered lying in bed at night with the windows open to let in the warm summer air. From the bed, I could hear the traffic on Gold Road and the radio playing on the neighbor’s porch. I smelled the dankness of freshly turned earth in our garden, the sweet scent our our grass, and the smoky smell of barbecues. The smells and sounds were like an invitation to me, a summons to run out and join the universe. I was older then, beyond hide-and-seek games and waiting for the ice-cream truck, but I still believed my future was limitless. I knew that the breeze coming in from the window was full of promises of adventure and love and fun, promises just waiting to be fulfilled.”

My sounds may have been railroad tracks and my sister and her friends’ hushed quiet conversation drifting up from our deck, but I know those smells she’s talking about, and I know that breeze. And the best part is, every now and then I still get that feeling of limitlessness. So damn, Nina. Way to hit that one, and just about every other not in this book, right on the head.