right now: september 2020

Making: A blanket, a hat, and plans for the future…

Cooking: I made this soup yesterday and it’s pretty good, even though I accidentally burned the garlic by starting it on too high a heat, oops.

Drinking: HEB’s lemon sparkling water, a lot of water in general, coffee (always). It’s cooled off enough in Houston that it’s tea season again, so that’s nice. Got a very nice bottle of wine for when some friends came over last weekend and we socially-distanced hung out on the back porch, and I’m going to work on finishing the leftovers this week.

Reading: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Glorious Weakness by my Twitter friend Alia Joy

Wanting: Voting season to get here!

Looking: For a good pullover hoodie; I am taking suggestions.

Deciding: On a few future endeavors that I don’t want to discuss on my blog, haha. Nothing super major, just not fit for public consumption.

Listening: Right this minute, I am listening to the Mary Poppins soundtrack. Haven’t heard the new Sufjan album yet, but I’ll be doing some driving later this week, so I’ll give it my (mostly) undivided attention then.

Buying: Books for my friends who are having babies in the near future, plus I have the new Marilynne Robinson coming tomorrow, hooray. I also just bought some wool dryer balls, which I am weirdly looking forward to using.

Smelling: The season has changed and so has my candle scent–it’s currently Spiced Chai from Eleventh Candle Co., it’s great.

Watching: The Chef Show‘s new season on Netflix, and tonight the roommate and I watched Enola Holmes, which is delightful, I recommend it.

Wearing: Sweatpants and a t-shirt (I’m going to bed right after I finish this)

Noticing: I shouldn’t wait until 10 PM to eat dinner, yikes.

50 nonfiction books by women

Want to read more books written by women? Here are 50 titles to get you started.

  1. The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge
  2. Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales
  3. One by One by Gina Dalfonzo
  4. Party of One by Joy Beth Smith
  5. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
  6. Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
  7. The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter
  8. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
  9. Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
  10. I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  11. Everything Happens For a Reason by Kate Bowler
  12. United by Trillia Newbell
  13. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
  14. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  15. The Next Worship by Sandra Maria Van Opstal
  16. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
  17. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
  18. Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Joy Welcher
  19. Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup
  20. The Evangelicals by Frances Fitzgerald
  21. Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy
  22. His Testimonies My Heritage by a whole bunch of women
  23. Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
  24. When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
  25. Suffering and the Heart of God by Dr. Diane Langberg
  26. Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield
  27. Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr
  28. Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang
  29. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  30. Disunity In Christ by Christena Cleveland
  31. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
  32. Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn
  33. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  34. We Will Feast by Kendall Vanderslice
  35. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  36. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
  37. On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
  38. A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
  39. “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Tatum
  40. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  41. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
  42. A Woman’s Place by Katelyn Beaty
  43. Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin
  44. Handle With Care by Lore Ferguson Wilbert
  45. The Liturgy of Politics by Kaitlyn Schiess
  46. Worthy by Elyse Fitzpatrick (and Eric Schumacher, but we’ll let him in here)
  47. Be the Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Mother to Son by Jasmine L. Holmes
  50. Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson

a list of random thoughts about marfa, west texas, and road trips

  1. At some point on a road trip I have to listen to U2’s album Joshua Tree or Paul Simon’s Graceland. The former is especially great for driving 80 miles an hour through the west Texas desert.
  2. In Texas, one also must stop at a Buc-ee’s, or have you even taken a road trip? (For my non-Texas readership, Buc-ee’s is a gas station on steroids–it has the best snacks and the cleanest restrooms, and it also sells home goods like your mom would buy if she were from the Texas suburbs. And you can get 32 ounces of soda for like 99 cents. It’s the best and worst of America in one place.)
  3. I stayed at a place called El Cosmico in Marfa, in a tent with one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in and a fan and a plug for my phone charger. There are also yurts and teepees and Airstream trailers, and a couple of jackrabbits showed up and hopped around the morning I checked out. It’s very cute and the front desk will also bring you a cold Topo Chico if you want it.

4. Talking to strangers while you’re on vacation is great. I haven’t really done it before, but decided to go for it this time and it was altogether pleasant.

5. It’s always a good sign when, while you’re waiting for a coffee shop to open so you can get breakfast, a big bearded guy rolls up in a truck that’s held together by reflective tape and brings in a couple of flats of eggs. (The Sentinel in Marfa makes an excellent oat milk flat white and one of the best breakfast tacos I’ve ever eaten.)

6. Marfa is an interesting mix of arty hippie liberals and working class people who are probably driving out to oil fields or farms or ranches or the local state parks to make a living. You can tell where the well-off part of town is and where the not-well-off part is. I didn’t get to go to the art galleries and shops that have made the town somewhat famous–a lot of them were closed either because it wasn’t the weekend or because of COVID–but you can kind of feel the flavor of the place anyway.

out of

on valleys, or: how i almost passed out on the side of a mountain due to my own stupidity

Houston sits in the flat part of Texas–I like to tell people that our only topography comes from highway overpasses. It’s easy to forget that on the other side of the state, millions of years ago, the earth crashed into itself and left hills and mountains at the site. They’re not as big and awe-inspiring as their western cousins, the Rockies and Cascades, but they’re stouter and a little more gnarly in a way. They live in Cormac McCarthy country; how could they be otherwise?

I went to Marfa earlier this week, Sunday through Tuesday (I just got in last night, I will write more about the town proper later). Monday I drove for half an hour down to Davis Mountains State Park and decided to go for a hike. The trailhead started at the top of one of the mountains and I parked my car there. I hadn’t drank a lot of water the day before, but I took a bunch with me, and snacks, and figured since I got on one of the shorter trails I’d be okay.

There were some beautiful views–there’s a taller spot there that I swear looks like Weathertop from Lord of the Rings–and I got some really good pictures (I will do a photo dump later). The other hikers on the trail and I had some pleasant, if somewhat inconsequential, conversations. In the silences in between, I kept thinking about the people who came through this country with no trails, no paved highways, no cars, just wagons and horses, a train if they were lucky. (I think you have to be a pretty hardy person to live in the small towns of west Texas now; imagine coming through before air conditioning existed.)

Somewhere along the line, though, I took a wrong turn–I thought I was turning around to go back to my car and about halfway through I thought, huh, I think I’m getting lower. And I was starting to get shakier as the sun was getting hotter, until I found myself on a bridge in the valley at the base of the hill, on the opposite side of the trail from where my car was. I turned around to try to get back up, but about three switchbacks in my heart was beating really fast and really hard and I could feel myself kind of freaking out.

I don’t know if I’m going to get out of here without something bad happening, I thought.

You’ve kind of been in a valley for a while, haven’t you? I heard, or felt, the way that I can never tell exactly what sense I’m experiencing when the Holy Spirit says something to me. You’re going to need some help out. Sometimes the object lessons are a little too on the nose, but there you have it.

And then: Amanda, I have never not been with you.

Have you ever been thankful no one else was around because you were a shaky, sweaty mess who was now crying on the side of a mountain? Just me?


I went back down and ended up in an RV parking area, and I’m here to tell you that sometimes angels look like a retired couple from Arlington who take one look at your sorry behind after you ask them if they can give you a ride back up the mountain to your car. Jeff and Trish, if you ever find this, I owe you a million, and thanks.

All to say, take more water than you think you’ll need in case you take a wrong turn, but also, sometimes you need help out of the valley back to the top so you can go home.

right now: july 2020.

Making: Decorations for my friend’s hybrid baby shower next weekend (some folks in person, some on Zoom). Lots of origami cranes.

Cooking: Not…a ton? Making a lot of tuna salad sandwiches and toast this week.

Drinking: The tropical cherry flavor of Target’s brand of sparkling water–new one for me, but it’s pretty pretty good.

Reading: Almost done with How to Be Antiracist, about 1/3 through Compassion & Conviction. I have a couple of books on hold because for some reason my brain doesn’t want to read lately, but I’m going to try to blitz through those two this weekend and then try to play catchup.

Wanting: For it to be the 16th so I can head out on vacation already. I’m going out to the west Texas desert for a couple of days (not really roughing it; I’m staying at El Cosmico in Marfa) during the Perseid meteor showers. Also wanting people to just properly wear their freaking masks in public, for Pete’s sake.

Looking: For my sunglasses and sunblock, which have mysteriously gone missing.

Deciding: On a few things that I don’t want to discuss in public! (How’s that for intriguing?)

Listening: Trying in vain to catch up on my podcasts. Old Avett Brothers.

Buying: Boring things, mostly. I did just buy a cooler, though, so that’ll come in handy.

Watching: The West Wing (I am somehow only in the second season). I think I might blitz through Fleabag while my roommate’s out of town (so I can cancel my Amazon Prime subscription…).

Wearing: Right now, pajama shorts and a t-shirt. Honestly, I’ve been wearing t-shirts and shorts and tanks and jeans and leggings for the past few months and I don’t know what I’m going to do when we go back to whatever the next version of normal is and I have to start wearing real clothes again. (I was wearing something like normal clothes during the workday at the very beginning of COVID and honestly it lasted for like a week.)

Noticing: …I really need to clean off my desk.

right now: june 2020

Making: this, in a plummy purple

Cooking: all the time, of course, like everyone, but nothing super-memorable. Chicken, veggies, rice, you know.

Drinking: coffee (my default answer); trying to drink more water; Bishop Cider Co.’s Mango Habanero Cider (it’s good. can’t really tell the habanero’s there except for the smallest hint of a sting)

Reading: How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy; Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord by L. Michael Morales. I blitzed through a bunch of stuff last month, all fiction, and my brain wanted to switch back to nonfiction.

Wanting: to go hang out and read somewhere that is not the house; barbecue; to figure out what to do next in terms of everything going on in the world

Looking: at my own soul–on a podcast a while back I heard this term, I can’t remember what it is exactly, but basically it’s being vulnerable, but about the things that you don’t need to be vulnerable about so you have the appearance of being vulnerable without, you know, actually doing work on things you need to do work on. ANYWAY I am very guilty of that, and while my blog’s not the place to spill my guts everywhere, I need to be better about being honest with people.

Playing: entirely too much Disney Emoji Blitz

Deciding: which books to buy for my friends who are having kids (I have four friends who are pregnant and all due in the latter part of this year)

Wishing: it wasn’t so blasted hot

Enjoying: the fact that this is a short work week, hurrah

Waiting: to hear back from someone I’d contacted a couple of months ago…

Wondering: when in the world I’m going to go back to the office–working from home is starting to take a mental toll on me

Loving: writing this blog post–I’m trying to be better about writing and it feels good to be sitting here writing to y’all, all four of you that actually read this

Pondering: a couple of things re: my future–praying through some church-related and job-related stuff

Considering: trying again with the bike (I bought one that was too short for me; I need to go get fitted properly for one)

Buying: maybe too many books, which is a thing I never thought I’d say

Watching: The Great on Hulu; Central Park on Apple TV+; The Final Table on Netflix; all of the Disney movies on Disney+

Hoping: people come to their senses re: COVID and re: systemic racism in America

Needing: to get up and drink more water, I think…

Smelling: the same candle as last month (Fresh Cut Flowers from Eleventh Candle Company

Wearing: jeans and an Old Navy t-shirt, just like high school and college

Admiring: all of the people who are finding ways to love their neighbor and direct their outrage into lament and grace

on mission

I went to a prayer walk the other night. Like pretty much everyone I know right now, I am trying to speak up and take action about racism and police brutality in this country, and as a Christian I figure prayer is as important as anything right now, so I went, with my roommate and her boyfriend.

The walk was organized by a local ministry that does work in underserved neighborhoods, mostly predominantly Black ones. It’s led by white guys. The walk was led by white guys. They talked about how the African-American community needs our help, and framed it in terms of crime and poverty and brokenness.

I don’t doubt that they’re doing good work, honestly, and I believe they’re sincere in their desire to help. And the exercise was a good reminder that there really is a spiritual element to everything going on; I believe there is a demonic presence involved. But the whole time I kept thinking, So when are we going to prayer walk with our middle-class, educated Black neighbors?

Non-Black brothers and sisters, Black people are not our mission field. They’re not our service project. Underserved communities tend to be predominantly Black, and there are historical reasons for that, but now is not the time to conceive of ourselves as saviors; now is the time to de-center ourselves and let them take the lead. Now is the time to step back and shine a light on the work they’ve been doing for literally centuries.

things i want to remember from the pandemic, part 2.

If I read or hear the phrase “unprecedented times” again, I’m going to break something.

Use up your greens first.

It is okay to be not okay.

But it’s also okay to be okay. (I have trouble with this one more, believe it or not.)

Re: the Enneagram–the 4’s core sin is envy, and boy howdy has that been showing up in spades the past few months.

The Enneagram Institute’s email this morning, which kicked my butt: “What would it be like if you did not think that everything is a referendum about you?”

Not wearing a face mask out does not make you look cool and macho; it makes you look like a selfish dumbass.

Not totally pandemic-related, but it turns out that living sand dollars eat iron ore (found in sand) so they can weigh themselves down and not float away in the bottom of the ocean.

things i want to remember from the pandemic, part 1.

How scarily easy it is for me to stay by myself even though I know that I need other people in order to stay sane, much less be a person that follows Jesus.

People we deemed “essential” during an emergency got treated as though they were expendable or replaceable by people and corporations; I will not be surprised if this leads to demands for labor reform.

This did not affect all of us equally. We were not in this together; we were in it in our respective neighborhoods and incomes and jobs with people of similar socioeconomic status and that worked out better for some of us than others.

Left to my own devices, I eat way too many carbs.

I’m so glad I own stock in Netflix.

It is remarkably easy to give money, less so to give myself.

It is remarkably easy for me to forget that I have a body and that I need to take care of it unless someone is around to see me do so.

I don’t think I ever want to live alone again unless absolutely forced to.

Internet communities are still communities. But I hope I never take for granted the people I can actually sit next to and hug and eat dinner with and have conversations that aren’t mediated by pixels and light and glass with.

Because Communion is a sacrament–that is, it is a physical sign of a spiritual reality–it is actually doing something to you and in you, and going without it is a real bummer.

We have forgotten to teach people that they need to act for the greater good instead of chasing their individualistic desires and hungers, whoops.